The Faithfulness of God – Micah 7:18-20

God ALWAYS Keeps His Word

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

Perfect Pardon

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

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

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

Faithful Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

Abated Anger

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

Moved to Mercy

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

God’s mercies renew every morning:

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

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

Fully Faithful

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

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

Profound Pledge

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cherish Commandments

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

Prolong Presence

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

Peace and Prosperity

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

Labor in Love

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

Noble Name

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Prayers Are Hindered – 1 Peter 3:7

The Best, Sure-Fire Way For A Husband To Hinder His Prayers Is…

7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Doctorate Degree

Peter counsels men to live with their wives as a family, not as a “tyrant” or “lord of the universe”.  Many men believe that because they are the head of the household, that they are the “dictator-in-chief”.  But God says:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Rather than taking on the role of “overlord of the galaxy”, men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  He DIED for her:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

Men should learn their wives, studying them like a student in post-graduate studies takes the time to learn their subject so well that they are eventually awarded a Doctorate Degree.  In the same way, men should study their wives and know them so well that they know just about everything about her.  If you know your wife, you will be better prepared to understand how she will respond to any set of circumstances, and know her likes/dislikes, hot-buttons (the things that trigger a strong, emotional response that should be avoided at ALL costs), and everything else that she responds to.

In other words, live with her in an amicable way, showing deference to her preference whenever possible…

Radical Respect

Do you like to be treated with respect?  What man doesn’t?  If men want to be respected by their wives, should they not respect their wives as well?  How does a man respect his wife?  He lays down his life for her:

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

For a man to respect his wife, he must love his wife.  Not the way that he thinks of love, but how she thinks of love.  That’s why men must put in the time and effort to get their Doctorate Degree in their wives.  In order to love your wife, you must first understand how she perceives love.

To be sure, romance novels, television, and culture portrays this version of love in such a way that the man somehow has mental telepathy and is able to discern out of thin air the very thoughts of the woman of his affection and then responds with lavish gifts grand entries, always dressed just right,and always saying just the right words to give her that feeling that she is intimately known and cherished.  Good luck with that.  While ideal, the Bible says:

For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

But that doesn’t mean that a person isn’t able to reasonably guess if they understand how to interpret the clues…  (Ladies, this is a HINT:  Don’t be coy:  Yes means yes, and No means no.  Mixed signals may seem like a good idea to test whether a man truly knows their woman, but is God ever deceitful* to test us?)

Holy Heir

Women are heirs with men in the kingdom of God.  They are to be treated as the weaker vessel, not as inferior.  Silk is strong, soft, luxurious, and great for making sheets, shirts, and other items.  Steel is strong, hard, durable, and bright.  However, most people would never consider wearing steel wire braided into cloth for underwear (except as body armor, and only with something a little more soft underneath that…).  In the same way, silk, although strong (spider silk is at least as strong as steel cable in the same diameter…), is not as durable.  Femininity (not militant feminism, as defined in culture) is to be treasured for its soft, supple, warm embrace.  To despise it because it is “weaker” is foolish.

Gracious Gift

God has given His gracious gift of salvation to both men and women, and makes not distinction of separation between them (with regards to respect, for God is not a respecter of persons):

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Since God has done this, should men not treat women as equal but different?

Powerful Prayers

And here is the consequence.  For men who are married, do not expect that God will listen to your prayers if you are not “being considerate as you live with your wife.”  God will not tolerate a man who professes that he knows God, and then treats his wife in a disrespectful, unloving way.  That is the surest way to slam close the doors of heaven for prayer.

Husbands, if your prayers seem to be hitting the ceiling and bouncing right back down, consider that you may need to re-evaluate your relationship with your wife.

Wives, if your husband is trying to reconcile and show you love, will you forever despise him for his mistakes, never forgiving him for his errors?   Will you spurn him to punish him because you are hurt?  Do you want his prayers to be answered by God (what if he is praying for you…)?  If so let God work in him to change him, and take it upon yourself to help your husband to know you better.  Men are terrible guessers.  Be direct; it may not feel romantic, but it certainly will help your husband to better understand your needs.  (And remember – just because every other woman in the UNIVERSE can understand your needs and desires merely by the way that you ask questions with nuance doesn’t mean that your husband has the God-given ability to discern these things [even if the men riding in shining armor on horses in books and movies appear to be able to do so]…)  Also remember, once your husband starts to submit to you and love you like Christ loves the church, God will answer his prayers, especially if they are to reconcile you to him

A Qualifying Question

Husbands, let’s ask a question:  Am I loving my wife as Christ loved the church?

Wives, let’s ask a question: Am I communicating my needs and desires clearly and concisely in such a way that my husband will be able to  clearly understand them?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have made men and women different yet equal.  Each have a unique perspective with strengths and weaknesses.  Help me, Father, to fulfill my role in every relationship in a way that shows both love and respect.  Help me to submit to one another in Christ, displaying before the world the peace and servant’s heart that Jesus Christ displayed when he washed the disciples’ feet.  Show me how to better serve and communicate with my family, and the family of the church body.  Help remove any stronghold of thought that the world, the flesh, or the devil has placed in my head and heart that has taken root that may be hindering my relationships with others.  Help me to put Your love on display for all to see.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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


Notes: This blog has been edited for spell errors and clarity

*Here is a hypothetical situation in the form of a conversation:

Wife: Do you feel like eating out tonight?

(What she REALLY means: “I have had a tough day.  The last thing that I want to do is slave over a hot stove for the next hour or so in order that we can have a morsel of food.  Why don’t we get out and have a romantic night on the town?  I’m going to play the Romantic Guessing Game with you now.  Be on guard – you are being TESTED!  And you better pass if you want me to be affectionate with you later…”)

Husband (response 1):  Not really

(What he REALLY means: “I had a long day at work.  The last thing that I want to do is go home, shower, drive for an hour, wait for an hour, then eat at a restaurant that is over-priced with so many people talking and distractions everywhere…   All I want to do is go home and relax my brain…”)

Husband (response 2): Sure, where would you like to go?

(What he REALLY means: “Sure.  Where would YOU like to go?” BTW, most men won’t turn down the opportunity to eat at a restaurant unless there is something dire going on in their life that is sucking the very life out of them, or they are financially destitute at the time…)

Wife: Oh, anywhere will be fine.

(What she REALLY means: “You know perfectly well where I like to eat.  Pick the romantic restaurant with flowers, music, entertainment, and coziness that I have already picked out in my mind, [restaurant q], so that I can feel loved and appreciated by you.”)

Husband:  OK, how about [restaurant x]?

(What he REALLY means: “OK, how about [restaurant x]? [Wow!  She is letting me pick!  How very gracious of her!]”)

Wife: No, I don’t really want to go there

(What she REALLY means: “OK, it’s time to flex those romantic muscles.  Think REALLY hard, and empathically sense which restaurant I have already picked out in my mind, because we are so emotionally tuned together, and I know you will be able to guess it right because YOU LOVE ME SO MUCH…”)

Husband:  Uh, OK. How about [restaurant y]?

(What he REALLY means: “Uh, OK.  How about [restaurant y]?”)

Wife: (sounding a little dejected) No, I really don’t want to go there.

(What she REALLY means: “I can’t believe you didn’t empathically guess right!  Maybe we aren’t as emotionally close as I thought we were…  I’ll give you another try [deep sigh…]”)

Husband:  All right.  How about [restaurant z]?

(What he REALLY means: “How about [restaurant z]?”

Wife: (Sounding depressed) Never mind.  Let’s just whip something up here at home.

(What she REALLY means: “How could he be such an unfeeling oaf?  Could I have been ANY MORE OBVIOUS that I wanted to go to [restaurant q]?  Does he even know ANYTHING about me?  He NEVER picks the right restaurant when we play Romantic Guessing Game.  He must not really care about me.  I guess I’ll just be the dutiful wife and slave over the oven to feed him, the unromantic buffoon…”)

A better way this conversation could have gone…

Wife: I have had a tough day today.  I would really like to get dressed up and go the that nice, fancy restaurant, you know, [restaurant q].  That would really make me feel loved and appreciated.

(What she REALLY means: “I have had a tough day today.  I would really like to get dressed up and go the that nice, fancy restaurant, you know, [restaurant q].  That would really make me feel loved and appreciated.”)

Husband: Gorgeous, I love you so much!  Of course that would be fine with me!  Let me get showered, shaved, and spruced up for you, my beautiful buttercup!  AS YOU WISH

(What he really means: “I love you so much that I will offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God as my spiritual act of worship.  You have shown me your preferences, and given me a deeper understanding into your heart, which I am trying to learn and discern as part of my Doctorate Degree training that I am deeply engaged with you.  Now that I know exactly what you want, I can act on that and make it happen, for I know that it will bring great joy to you, even if I am tired and exhausted.  I want to submit to you, and am willing to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure that you feel loved by me.  I look forward to meeting your emotional, relational, and physical needs as you reveal them to me clearly.  Thank you so very much for letting me know!”)

 

 

Character Development – 2 Peter 1:5-11

You Will Know Them By Their Fruit

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

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

Creating Character

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

Character progresses through four stages:

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

Powerful Properties

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

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

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

Always Advancing

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

Becoming Blind

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

Confirm your Calling

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

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

Rich Reward

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Motivation for Discipline – Proverbs 13:24

Spoiled Children Are Like Spoiled Food – They Leave A Bad Taste In Your Mouth

Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Worldly Wisdom

Everyone seems to have a word of wisdom.  Time-honored advice that has worked for them, and others who passed it on to them.  Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge for the betterment of mankind.  And the world, the flesh, and the devil seem to constantly pour out their versions of wisdom.

With children, wisdom from the world and the devil appears to be hands-off parenting.  “Be their friend; give their opinions, no matter how bizarre, the same weight as your own, and let them guide the way; after all, they are the future!”

The world does so at their own peril.  For children learn by observing and doing what pleases them.  The implied morality that human beings supposedly have – that we are inherently good – is believed and embraced.  And any correction to the natural learning cycle of children is no longer the imparting of wisdom, but rather considered an impediment and abuse.  After all, should not the child be able to decide for itself how it should think, act, and respond to the world?

Learning Love

The first fallacy of hands-off child-raising is that children, by their very “innocent nature”, implicitly know love and how to love.  But observe any child left to his/her own devices, and watch just how manipulative, conniving, scheming, self-centered, self-absorbed the child will become.  Rather than Timmy on the classic “Lassie” TV show, the child instead begins to resemble Damian in “The Omen“.

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Children need training.  They need to both be trained through instruction and correction, as well as having a solid example of behavior in the form of character that is congruent with what is being said.  Children are natural hypocrisy detectors.  Their “radar” is tuned to check what they hear against what they observe.

Love does not come naturally.  It makes no sense to love anyone else if there is no direct benefit to yourself.  Self-preservation and self-fulfillment are the goals of the untrained, undisciplined mind.  Even in adulthood, the world behaves in the same way:

  • Get as much of the pie as you can, because no one will help you out
  • Be concerned with yourself first and everyone else later (if it is convenient for you and your plans)
  • The strong should rule over the weak

Godly love does none of these things.  Godly (agape) love is

  • Patient
  • Kind
  • Does not envy
  • Does not boast
  • Is not proud
  • Is not rude
  • Does not insist on its own way
  • Does not rejoice at wrongdoing
  • Rejoices with the Truth
  • Bears all things
  • Believes all things
  • Hopes all things
  • Endures all things
  • Doesn’t fail

Children, left to their own devices, will not embrace this type of character.  They must be taught character.  The first part of learning is accepting the correct role of authority in one’s life

Accepting Authority

Correction helps us to accept the rightful authority over our lives.

An old friend of mine had a nephew whose father was wild.  In a stunning, emotional scene where the child’s mother was allowing the father to see his son one last time (she had won full parental responsibility and the court ruled that the father would no longer have any rights [or financial obligations] towards the child), the father’s parting words to his son were astounding.  He basically said, “Son, you don’t have to listen to anyone, not even me.  Be your own man.”  His parting words were calculated to do the maximum damage that he could so that the child’s mother would have the most difficult time raising him up.

Years later, the uncle of that child and two of his friends took this child on their annual pilgrimage to a famous amusement park.  There were three sets of hawk-eyes trained on that young man, now just a little before the teenage span of his life.  Rather than hold the young man’s hand (and embarrass him in front of strangers), these three men kept a watchful eye on the young man.  The child, who had never had the opportunity to visit this amusement park, was in wonder at all of the sights before him.  The three men watching him were diligent in keeping their eyes on this child.

About three hours into the first day of this weekend-long trip, some sound caught the attention of all three men.  They looked away for a mere second or two.  But that was all that was needed.  The child, who was watching the men carefully, realizing his opportunity to be free from the control and authority of these men, bolted into the thick crowds.  Almost an hour later, the young man was found, greatly enjoying the freedom from oversight by those who had been placed in authority over him, unaware of the dangers that his “dash to freedom” placed him in.  Because this young man had the tendency to bolt like this, corrective action needed to be taken.  In this case, the weekend-long trip was cut short, as the risk was just too great.

When we refuse to accept the rightful authority of the ones who have been placed in charge over us (not only men, but also God), we set ourselves up for the opportunity to be placed in a situation where the outcome is less than desirable.  And like the young man’s story above, not every “dash to freedom” results in dire consequences.  But we fail to recognize the danger that we are in, because we are unable to see every aspect of life as it unfolds around us.

Readying for Responsibility

Correction readies us for greater responsibility.  As we accept correction of those who are in lawful authority over us, we begin to be prepared for greater responsibility.  Just as you wouldn’t give the keys of the $500K Ferrari to the 14-year-old wild-child, neither will God give us responsibility when we are not ready.

When God calls us, He then equips us.  But this is after careful preparation:

  • Joseph was prepared as a slave for more than a decade before God called him to save the entire world from famine
  • Moses was prepared for forty years as shepherd before God called him to shepherd his people into the promised land
  • The twelve disciples of Christ were prepared for three years (including Paul, who had his own three-year preparation with Christ in the desert before being released) by Jesus Christ Himself.

We need to be open to correction in order to grow and be prepared for greater responsibility.

Careful Correction

The manner of correction is just as important as its intensity and timing.  The strong-willed child will defiantly say, “I would rather DIE than have to submit to you!”  And the child is truly fully prepared to make good on that statement (it is NOT an idle threat).  What to do?  How do you prepare a child such as this so that they will be ready to be released from your care and supervision and then solely under the supervision of Almighty God?

God Himself will provide the manner, attitude, words, and consequences for training such a child if we allow Him to and invite Him to do so.  Some children appear completely compliant.  Those are the dangerous ones.  They seem OK, but what is really going on inside?  Are they compliant to get their way, or are they compliant because they desire to accept the authority over them?

God sees our hearts as they truly are.  And He is more than capable of applying the “rod of correction” to each of us in such a way that we will not soon forget it.  What works for you wouldn’t necessarily have any impact on me.  And what works on me might just irritate and turn you away from God rather than have the desired effect.

In any case, correction is necessary, for if we are permitted to continue on in our ways, we will surely pass the point where our consciences are seared, and we won’t even realize the deep depths of darkness that our lives slip quietly into until the terrible moment when circumstances reveal the true depravity of our souls.

Properly Prepared

God is the one who knows best how to guide, correct, and instruct each and every one of us at any age or stage in our lives.  We need to go before Him to receive instruction and correction.   The hyper-grace community of believers may be just as surprised as the legalists when they go before Almighty God saying, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?”  And our Lord Jesus Christ will reply, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

God disciplines us as His childrenAnyone who is not disciplined by God is NOT one of His.  Surely, if God disciplines us, should we not then discipline our children as well?  And what then shall we say of our motivation behind discipline?  Is it truly “child abuse”, as culture tell us, or is it loving care as we use it as a preparatory method for bringing about the fruit of righteousness?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I accept discipline properly?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, may Your holy name be praised.  Thank You for disciplining me so that I would not bring dishonor to Your name.  Thank You for showing me, through Your discipline, that I am one of Yours.  Thank You for the opportunity to grow in truth and righteousness.  Thank You for the opportunity to bear fruit in accordance with righteousness rather than selfishness.  Thank You, Father, for Your many lessons, painful as they are.  And I pray, Lord God Almighty, that should I be in the position of administering these lessons to others in a parental, governmental, judicial, and/or business environment, that You would guide me as to the best way to do so.  Help me to adhere to Your word, and to reject culture where culture conflicts with the truth.  Give me courage, resources, and assistance where necessary to defend Your tried and true methods against the rebellion of society towards You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Order vs. Chaos – 1 Corinthians 14:26-33

God Infused Order Within Everything In The Universe

26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

Crazy Chaos

Paul was addressing the use of the spiritual gifts in worship in this passage.  The children of God were eager to use their gifts, but their eagerness tended to cause chaos when they gathered together.  Rather than build up the body, the gifts were causing chaos through cacophony.

Imagine a busy airport with everyone talking to each other.  The noise would have been deafening and confusing.  Or imagine being in a room with two hundred televisions, all set to different broadcasting stations, all at the same volume, all at the same time.  It would be nearly impossible to focus on just one of them with so many other streams of visual and audio information bombarding us, each demanding that we pay attention to them.

Chaos would be the rule.  The author of chaos and confusion is Satan.  God is truth, and the truth does not seek to cause confusion, but clarity in thought.  Truth takes the chaos and puts it into order.  Chaos can drive us crazy.  Truth pulls us out of the maelstrom and places us upon the solid Rock of Jesus, where the buffeting of chaos cannot touch.

Power in Peace

Paul attempted to address this with order in worship.  By limiting the number of people speaking at one time, it would be possible for the body to focus on what was being said, and that would result in the body being built up.  When the body is built up, working together in harmony, and focused upon the singular goal of yielding themselves to the Holy Spirit, order comes out of chaos, and the power of God is manifested through his people acting in unison.

Sovereign Signature

While we might say that these things are good for us as we relate to one another, what about the rest of creation?  Did God deem it proper to include order in the rest of creation? How about the things that exist outside of the physical universe?  Let’s take a look at the universe first.

The Golden Ratio

There is a special number, a ratio, that appears to exist in just about everything.  From the way that DNA spirals, to the way that plants’ leaves grow on the stalk, to the spiral arms of the galaxies, to the formation of crystals, and the spins of subatomic particles, there is a commonality in all of it.  The number is known as the Golden Ratio.  You can see it everywhere you look.  It appears in all of nature.  It is believed that the Golden Ratio may play a part in the human perception of beauty.

God left us a huge clue in both visually observable and non-visually observable (that which is too small to see with the naked eye) nature of all things.  God left us a signature that everything was created with purpose, and that it was the result of an ordered, intellectual pursuit rather than just random happenings.

Hierarchy of Angels

Paul clues us in to the structured order of ranks of angels, in this case, fallen angels:

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

The Trinity

There is structure in the Trinity.  The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God, yet each one has purpose and responsibility within their relationship to each other.  The following is not an exhaustive list of this order, but a very primitive overview to show that there is order within:

  • The Father oversees and judges
  • The Son creates and redeems
  • The Holy Spirit indwells, empowers, exhorts, consoles, convicts, counsels, exalts and points us to Christ

Each are co-equal as God, but each have different assigned roles.  And in this, there is great order and unity.  There is no dissension in the Trinity, only unity and order.

Course of Collapse

Careful observation of nature shows that there is another order.  There is a universal tendency for all things to move from an ordered state to an un-ordered state.  In other words, all matter moves from order to chaos.  Iron, in the presence of water, will always rust.  Rust, without some extraordinary measures, will never “degrade” back into pure iron and whatever other elements are released.  Bodies decompose after death.  Wouldn’t it be interesting if we poured chemicals into a vat, and slowly the chemicals interacted and formed a new body!

God has designed the universe to have universal, observable laws.  Laws like gravity, inertia, mathematics, and truth.  Each of these, without outside interference, will always give the same answers when they are probed.  Two plus two will always equal four, all things being equal (no outside interference).  Matter is attracted to planets (as opposed to being repelled by them).  An object in motion will stay in motion if there are no other forces exerted upon it.  We accept these as laws, and rely upon their very dependable, repeatable nature.

Imagine what would happen if the Earth no longer orbited the sun.  Imagine what would happen if the laws of inertia and gravity were nullified.  Imagine if gases, like our atmosphere, were to suddenly and without notice, change temperature and volume, with no discernible pattern.  There would be pandemonium and chaos.  Our world, and everything in it, on it, and above it, would be in constant flux.  We would be in constant panic, perishing left and right, with no ability to control or predict how the very things that we rely upon to live would contribute to our eventual, and very swift, destruction.

Love and the Law

If we look at the Law of God, the Law that God gave Moses for the people, each of the Ten Commandments deal with our relationship with others – our interactions with God and each other.  Whether it is obedience to God, or righteous conduct with others, these Commandments should guide our interactions.  Each of them is based in love.  In (agape*) love, there is peace and harmony.  This brings order into our lives.  Love fulfills the law because the law is designed to point to Love as the principle that governs perfect order in the universe.  Love brings order to chaos, and provides the right environment for the flourishing of relationship and conduct between us all.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Does order or chaos occur when I get involved?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are glorious in all of Your ways.  Please help to bring order to my chaos.  Teach me what I can do to help stand strong in the waves of difficulty that occur when the enemy sows discord and anarchy in people.  Keep me strong, and guard me in all my ways.  Help others to see Your love through the order that occurs when disciples of Christ act in unison.  Help me to be a part of order rather than chaos, and to be yielded to the Holy Spirit as Your Son, Jesus Christ, was yielded to Him when Jesus walked the Earth nearly two thousand years ago.  Thank You, Father, for instilling order in Your creation and Your commands, that I would have structure and stability in my ways.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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


  • The word agape is one of four Greek words that describe love (agape, eros, philia, storge).  This type of love has three defining characteristics – it is unconditional (no strings attached), sacrificial (requires that the giver make personal sacrifice over self to show love to another), and volitional (an act of the will, not emotion).  This is Godly love – love that is born from the desire to see another person prosper, grow, be nourished, and succeed ahead of our own selfish desire.

The Rewards of Righteousness – Proverbs 21:21

The Intellectual Pursuit Of Anything Pales In Comparison to Reaping The Rewards Of Experiencing It

Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

Rewards of Righteousness

The disciples of Christ read in the word of the Living God that we are to live lives in righteousness.  (Self-)Righteousness is not required because we have been adopted into the family of God as sons and daughters.  We receive our righteousness though belief in Jesus Christ, made possible by His perfect life, death, and resurrection on the cross.  His shed blood covers our sin, and we are clothed in His righteousness.  Our sanctification is the application of our imputed (legally acquired) righteousness in how we live our lives in holiness before God.  Righteousness (in this case, the pursuit of sanctification) has its own specific rewards.  We can rest assured that God both rewards faithfulness as well as punishes wickedness.  The author of this Proverb, however, links love with righteousness

Linked with Love

Love is THE defining aspect of God’s holiness and righteousness.  A person cannot be righteous without displaying agape love – a love that is volitional, sacrificial, and unconditional.  The two greatest commandments in the Law are:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love [agape] the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love [agape] your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Notes in brackets added for clarity.)

Without love, we cannot be righteous.  And righteousness, or even exercising spiritual gifts without love is worthless:

1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

When we pursue righteousness and love, we are shown* that we will find three things – Life, Prosperity, and Honor.

Long Life

The very first promise is that we find life.  But we don’t just find life here on Earth – we find Eternal Life with God in His kingdom.  As we pursue righteousness and love, freed from the bonds of sin by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, we are obeying God’s will for our lives.  We find spiritual life in abundance:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Powerfully Prosperous

Most people use their physical eyes to see the world.  God challenges us to see with our spiritual eyes and listen with our spiritual ears:

But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

All Earthly wealth will eventually rot and burn, but spiritual wealth has made us wildly rich:

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

When we have eyes that see and ears that hear, we recognize that we are being made prosperous in heavenly treasures.  And while God may or may not prosper us here on Earth, our reward will be great in Heaven as we pursue righteousness and love.

Heavenly Honor

There is but one note of praise that every disciple of Christ desires to hear.  That praise is not from men, but from our Lord Jesus Christ when we go to be with Him:

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Those who pursue righteousness and love labor for the reward of praise from a most holy God.  It is the greatest honor for God, as our master (for we each should be a doulos** to our Lord) complements us in being faithful to His commands.  This is the equivalent of the highest form of accolade and accomplishment possible.  This is the Heavenly equivalent of getting a Grammy Award in music, or a Nobel Prize, or a Congressional Medal of Honor.  It is the highest achievement possible in our field of endeavors.

And God will not only honor us there.  When we pursue righteousness and love here on Earth, He will acknowledge us among men as well, regardless of our circumstances.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What will my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, say to me when I am reunited with Him in glory?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is You who raise people up and bring people low.  You alone are sovereign Lord over all.  Thank You for adopting me as Your child.  Please help me to grow in grace, love and righteousness, that I may honor and glorify Your name.  Show me what I am to do, for You already have prepared my work for me in advance.  Help me to submit myself to you as Jesus submitted to You.  Watch over me, and use me as You see fit.  I look forward to my report from You when I will be joined with You in glory.  Help me to have the best report that I can.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Please Note:  This blog has been edited for clarity (changes have been made in the first paragraph to provide better insight into the difference between the imputed righteousness of Christ and the pursuit of sanctification [holy and righteous living in the presence of God]).

* The proverbs are not promises, but rather generalized truths about life and spiritual matters.  We are able to glean great wisdom and insight from their truths, but it is not proper to interpret the proverbs as being absolute promises.  God is still sovereign, after all…

** A doulos is a slave, but not in the ordinary sense of the word.  Slaves had no say whatsoever in their situation.  A doulos was a slave who was freed by his master, but loved that master so much that he begged his master to take him back as his bond-slave.  The doulos‘ ear was pierced by an awl on the door, and everyone would recognize that mark as one who loved his master and voluntarily submitted to him because he was treated so well.

In a spiritual sense, the word doulos speaks to the willingness of the disciples of Christ to submit themselves to the Holy Spirit, being freed from the bondage of sin, and voluntarily submitting themselves to the commands of their Savior.

Many of the Epistles in the New Testament were written by those who identified themselves as a doulos of Christ.

The Sovereignty of God – Psalm 104:10-16

God’s Love Is Displayed In His Sovereign Provision

10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds of the sky nest by the waters;
they sing among the branches.
13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers;
the land is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
14He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate-
bringing forth food from the earth:
15 wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
16 The trees of the Lord are well watered,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.

Sprouting Springs

Water is an interesting substance.  It sustains life through hydration.  When heated, it can be used to generate electricity, and when frozen, it is the only substance known to mankind that expands in size, rather than contract into a smaller space.  By forming ice, God protects the creatures beneath the seas and oceans from being crushed beneath the very fluid that enables them to survive.  Ice also protects the waters beneath from the ravages of cold weather.  Even the Eskimos use ice to protect themselves from the harsh winter winds.

Water apparently has a mind of its own.  In Genesis, we see the waters covering the face of the Earth.  It is not until the Lord God Almighty tells it that it must recede that it goes where it should underground.  It is the Lord who determines where the boundaries of the waters are by saying where they can go and go no farther.  Wisdom bears witness to the sovereign creation of God, and that God has set boundaries on the waters of the Earth.

And it is God who brings forth water from the Earth to provide for all of creation.

Creatures Content

The beasts of the field are provided with the liquid that keeps them alive.  The birds above build their nests around water to ensure that they have easy access to the life-sustaining liquid.  God shows his love by providing for the needs of every creature on Earth.  He does not withhold his blessing upon them, except when He is rebuking man through drought.

Even creatures in the desert, where water is scarce, are provided for by Almighty God.  He has given them the ability to survive in these areas and even to thrive.  His provision continually demonstrates His love for all that He created.  He shows wisdom in the careful planning that went into the design of all creatures that live during their appointed times and at their appointed places and provides for their every need.

Sovereignly Satiated

The Psalmist also indicates that the land itself is satisfied with the sovereign provision of the Lord God Almighty.  The mountains are watered by His hand and command.  The land is satisfied with water.  If you ever doubt this, go somewhere after an intense drought has ravaged the land.  The land forms deep cracks and looks terrible.  But once the Lord waters the land again, it softens and gives up its nourishment to the plants that God had placed upon it.  And when God continually provides for the land, the plants thrive, and the creatures abound.

Furnish Food

It is the Lord God Almighty that provides the grass for the cattle.  He continually provides the water that allows the plants to survive and thrive.  It is He who gives them their sustenance.   But God is the one who also provides us with plants for our food.  Prior to the flood (say, where did all that water come from, anyway?), God had given all of the seed bearing plants as food for man.  He is the one who provides for our every need and desire.  It is God who furnishes us our food, and satisfies us with nourishment from His Earth.

Supplying Sustenance

God does not only provide for our minimal needs of existence; He also provides for those things that make our hearts glad.  In the picture provided here, the Psalmist shows that it is God who provides us with wine to gladden our hearts, and oil to protect and soften our skin.  He also provides bread that fills our stomachs and noses with aromas and flavors that far exceed the minimum required to sustain life.

Imagine that the only thing available to eat was gruel with no salt (now imagine the Israelites eating manna for forty years without spices or herbs…).  Imagine eating that for every meal, day in and day out.  It is God who provides the seasonings for us to make wonderful meals.  The flavors and aromas of the vast cornucopia of produce and grains, let alone the spices and herbs, can provide a potential plethora of palatable provision.  And it is God who shows us how to make all of these different variations of meals to satisfy our hunger and thirst.

God does not merely want us to survive; He wants us to thrive, and to experience the majesty of all that He created so that we, in wonder of the work of His hands, would give Him all of the glory and praise that He so rightly deserves.

Provision for Plants

God not only provides for the land, and all of the creatures on it, He also provides for the plants.  Every time it rains, especially when we have more rain that we think we need, and while we long for the weather to break, and the sun to shine upon us again, God is providing the vital liquid that sustains the life of every plant.  And every time we see rain, we are seeing the supernatural provision of Almighty God for His plants, His creatures, and His land.  God waters His plants just as we do when they are thirsty.  And God replenishes the water in the rivers and lakes for all of the teeming life that He placed in them.

In everything, God is constantly providing for the needs and desires of all that He created.  He does not turn His back on us, His land, His creatures, nor His plants.  He continually refreshes them with the fruit of His labors, and watches in contentment as His creation thanks Him and returns praise for the mighty works of His hands.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I see the mighty provision of God in all that He does?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, the heavens declare Your glory, power, infinite wisdom and knowledge.  And I praise and rejoice in You that You have provided so much for me to have.  Even when I am destitute in money and worldly possessions, I have You, and with You I am rich beyond blessing.  Help me to recognize, as I contemplate the workings of Your creation, just how much You love me and all that You have made.  Help me to gain deeper insight into the greatest aspect of Your character that You display for everyone to see – that You love all that You have made, and rejoice in it.  Help me to remember that You and You alone are sovereign over all You have made, and that You do not abandon that which You start, but rather see everything through to its very end.  Give me wisdom that my eyes might see, and ears might hear, all that You are communicating to me through Your word and Your world.  This I ask in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

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

 

 

Discernment and God – Philippians 1:9-11

Perfection In Love Provides Discernment For What Is Good

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

Lengthening Love

Paul was given, as part of his gifting by the Holy Spirit, a heart to see the people of God grow in their knowledge and discernment. Paul recognized that since God is love, increasing in the very defining characteristic of Almighty God would provide the perfect place for the development of knowledge and insight into the wonderful character of our Creator.

As we grow in love, we grow in the understanding and capability to actively participate in the character of God, and therefore to know Him experentially. This gives us the opportunity to increase in our discernment of what is good and proper. Love fulfills the law, and love shows us the way to what is good. For of every good giving and every perfect gift, love is the most powerful and lasting of them all.

Increase Insight

Paul desires that we develop the insight into the character and experiential knowledge of God. It is not merely enough to learn about something. To truly understand it, you must embrace it and experience it. It them becomes real for you, and as you practice anything, its nuances and the depths of its virtues become apparent.

For instance, it may look wonderful to jump from an airplane, free-fall for a while, and then pull the cord to release the parachute to glide gently to the Earth. This all looks good, fun, and liberating, but until you actually do it, you won’t experience the thrill of free-fall, the wind against your face, the buffeting of the air against your body, the temporary feeling of liberation from gravity, and the majesty of seeing the land beneath you from a great height.

You won’t experience the nuance of controlling the parachute with your controls, moving left and right, leveling and directing your glide, working with and against the currents of the air, and the moment of truth as you try to gently end your flight without causing harm to your body as you either suddenly or slowly decelerate your fall with your feet and legs. It only becomes real to you when you do it. Words cannot truly describe what the body must experience. And words cannot truly describe what the spirit must experience as well.

Develop Discernment

As we exercise our spirit through the practical application of love, we will have the wonderful opportunity to increase our capacity to discern what is good. Exercising love provides the circumstances in which we can more fully understand and discern what is good and right. This gives us the perspective of wisdom – the practical application of knowledge – that helps us to grow spiritually wise.

Discernment is a vital tool in the life of a disciple of Christ. Discernment provides the filter through which paths can be assessed to end in good or evil. Discernment give the disciple insight to grow in love and the character of Almighty God. Without discernment, we will fall for every trick of the enemy, and find ourselves ruined, and possibly find our faith shipwrecked:

1 Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites,
because the Lord has a charge to bring
against you who live in the land:
“There is no faithfulness, no love,
no acknowledgment of God in the land.
2 There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
3 Because of this the land dries up,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky
and the fish in the sea are swept away.

4 “But let no one bring a charge,
let no one accuse another,
for your people are like those
who bring charges against a priest.
5 You stumble day and night,
and the prophets stumble with you.
So I will destroy your mother-
6 my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.

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

Filled with Fruit

The fruit of righteousness comes from and through the experiential knowledge of following Jesus Christ – obeying His commands.  When we obey Jesus, we yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit has He did when He walked the Earth two thousand years ago.  And when the Holy Spirit of God indwells us, and we give Him permission to work in us and through us, we will be filled with the fruit of the Spirit:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Producing Praise

When we are walking in the spirit – being filled with the fruit of the Spirit by the One who provides the fruit, we live a life that bring glory and praise to Almighty God.  As we bear fruit in accordance with the will of God, we develop discernment concerning both how to bear fruit, and what we should avoid in order to bear more fruit.  Just as an arborist prunes trees so that the dead wood no longer burdens the tree, and increases the available nutrients for the good branches, so does discernment help us to stop feeding the dead wood in our lives.  It is only when we are bearing the fruit of the Spirit that we are living a life that is correctly modeling our divine calling and nature as image-bearers of Almighty God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: Am I increasing in the insight and discernment by allowing the Holy Spirit of God to bear fruit through me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is the greatest honor to bear fruit for You.  You have given me life as a branch unnaturally attached to the vine, grafted in for Your pleasure.  You prune my dead wood, and help me to grow and bear even more fruit for You.  Help me to recognize the dead wood in my life, and to deny it any thought or energy.  Help me to let it die, and be pruned off, so that I would grow in grace, wisdom, and discernment of what is good, proper, and holy.  Help me to be sustained by Your nourishment, for You provide for all of my needs.  Guide me in the way I should go, and help me to do all that You have planned for me to do in Your will and Your way.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

The Holiness of God – Psalm 101:1-4

God’s Love Is Tempered In Holiness

1 I will sing of your love and justice;
to you, Lord, I will sing praise.
2 I will be careful to lead a blameless life-
when will you come to me?

I will conduct the affairs of my house
with a blameless heart.
3 I will not look with approval
on anything that is vile.

I hate what faithless people do;
I will have no part in it.
4 The perverse of heart shall be far from me;
I will have nothing to do with what is evil.

Just Judge

Almighty God is a loving God, full of mercy and grace.  He showers all of us – (unrepentant) sinners and saints alike – with mercies that renew every morning.  He shines the sun on all of us, and allows the rain to fall for all of us.  God woos us with His kindness, and declares His character through His creation.

God also is a holy judge.  He cannot stand sin in His presence.  He has been on task, calling all of us to repentance with His love.  But there comes a time when, after we have been continually wooed by His goodness and mercy, that He will instead give us His justice.

Clean Character

David greatly desired to know God’s character, and to participate in it.  He recognized the holiness of God – the complete and total absence of wrongdoing in God’s character – as something that was important to God, and important to him.  David recognized the need for personal holiness – a separation from sin and a separation to God.  David greatly desired to live a blameless life before God.  In the Psalms, many which were written by him, including Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, he declares:

1 The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

2 The Lord looks down from heaven
on all mankind
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

David recognizes that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  No one but Jesus Christ ever lived a perfect, sinless life on Earth.  David greatly desired to live in a way that shunned sin, and embraced holiness, in light of his fallen nature.

Insulated Inspection

David sought to shield his eyes from evil.  He did not desire to look upon anything vile.  The eyes, for most people, contribute a significant portion of all stimuli.  Men, in particular, are wired to react to what they see.  David purposed in his heart to keep his eyes from intentionally dwelling upon wickedness.

In Western culture today, the focus of advertising on television and the internet has a tendency to focus on sexual immorality.  And that is because sex sells.  The ironic aspect of this is that it is culture that both bombards men day in and day out with messages of promiscuity and satisfaction in lewdness and unfaithfulness and vilifies him if he consumes their product.  Once a man has taken the bait, and partakes of this “eye candy” and the forbidden fruit, the very culture that baits him with it are the very first people to turn on him, call him vile and degenerate, shun him, and destroy his good name.

David recognized this danger, and did his very best to keep his eyes from intentionally wandering towards that which would cause him difficulty.  It should be noted that the one time he failed, when he looked upon Bathsheba, he sinned mightily and paid a most dear price for it.

Despise Disloyalty

The desire for personal purity helped David to hate what faithless people do.  They wallow in their own sin, reject the law of Almighty God, and revel in their wanton disobedience to the One who created them and calls them back to Himself.  David does not hate the wicked, but hates what the wicked do.

It is important to make the distinction between hating someone and hating their actions.  It is especially important to make this distinction, for evil people will try to manipulate others by calling their own aversion to holiness and your disagreement with their thoughts, words and deeds as somehow being related to their personal identity and not to their personal ideology.  Unless we, as a culture, can separate what a person does from who a person is, we will be sucked into a violent maelstrom that threatens to pigeonhole everyone into accepting what is vile in order to avoid being perceived (and therefore accused in the public arena) as being racist, bigoted, and hateful people.

Somehow, people in their quest to be free from the responsibility that comes as a result of being created by God, even and especially to be His image-bearers, have lost their personal identity and replaced it with personal ideology.  In other words, you can no longer disagree with someone based on their thoughts and words without somehow casting an aspersion on their race or heritage.  The evil person tries to insist that the two are inextricably intertwined, thus forcing a person to accept their ideas in order to accept them as people, for to reject their ideas, in their mind, is to reject them and their value as human beings.

Purge Perfidy

David desires to have nothing to do with evil.  He goes to great lengths to prevent its influence and actions in his life.  He so greatly desires this removal from evil, he wants to place the perverseness of people as far as he can from his heart.  David loves people, and was called by God to be a shepherd over them as king by the prophet Samuel.  Yet David, in his role as king and judge, would not permit evil to flourish under his watch.

We too are to rid ourselves of the perverse things that so easily entangles us in sin.  There should be an active desire, fueled by the Holy Spirit, and guided by the word of the Living God, to separate ourselves from what is evil in the sight of God and separate ourselves to what is good in the sight of God.  Until we do this, we are, in effect, actively courting that which is offensive to a holy, sinless, and perfect God.  For people who claim to know God and claim to be His friends, this should never happen.  What true friend actively goes out of their way to cause others intentional pain and trouble apart from trying to strain the relationship?  But thanks be to God, for He is full of grace, mercy, and love!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  While seeking the grace and mercy of God, do I also in the same measure seek His holiness in personal practice?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a holy and just God.  You cannot look upon sin, yet You continually shower Your goodness and provision upon all who live.  Father, please help me to understand the depths of Your holiness, so that I can better understand why You hate sin so much.  Give me a hatred of my own sin, and help me to see it as You do.  Prepare my heart to do whatever is necessary to honor You, and to throw off the stench of my sin.  Help me to see it as I would rotting, decaying garbage.  I praise You, O God, for you have taken my sin from me and cloaked me with the righteousness of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to keep His cloak of righteousness from being stained by my moral failings.  Help me to bear up under Your trials as my sanctification prepares me to walk in holiness before You.  Help me to remember that You are a just judge, and that You will not tolerate willful sin from me anymore.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

The Love of God – 1 John 4:19-21

Love One Another, For God Has Loved You

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Lasting Love

God’s very character is love, for God IS love.  So, which love is John talking about?

  1. agapao – This is the love of God.  It is the love that is unconditional, sacrificial, and volitional (born of the will rather than emotion).  This is love that is born from the heart, that supersedes emotion, and is lasting regardless of circumstances.
  2. phileo – Also known as brotherly love, it a love that is born from strong emotional bonding, as love born through years of friendship and trials together.  This is the type of love that is shared between close people, such as when soldiers go into combat, and come out as “brothers in arms”
  3. eros – This is the word where we get our word “erotic” from.  And it has the same meaning
  4. storge – This is a familial bond type of love, such as between spouses, parents and children, or brothers and sisters and/or cousins.

In this passage, John refers to agape love.  God has loved us with a lasting, eternal love.  The love that God shows to us is born out in the death of His Son, who died for us while we were yet sinners.  God consistently shows His love towards all of us insofar as He gives us every opportunity to be reconciled to Him.  He doesn’t withhold the sun or rain from any of us, and He pours out His grace and mercy upon us every moment of our lives.

John also points out that the reason that we are able to even engage in agape love is because God shows us how to love in this manner.  He is the ultimate example for how we are to treat one another, and by implication, that we need an example because we are unable to completely and properly model this type of love ourselves.  It should be noted that God did provide women with an innate ability to love others selflessly in both duty and desire.  Mothers especially are capable of loving their spouses and children regardless of how they feel about them.  But because of our sin nature, they are unable to model this love in its purest form.

Lack of Love

John warns us that if we cannot agape love others who we can see, we are certainly unable to love God who we most certainly are unable to see.   Our love is to be on public display, not carefully concealed in our minds, wrapped up in how we feel.  Unrequited love is not really love at all.  Love is used in the verb form specifically to show us that we need to act upon it to give it power.  If we do not express our love in actions, we relegate the word love, and any emotions, desires, or accompanying mental states to the status of that of a trophy placed in a closet.  It is pretty to look at, but has no real value.

And if we cannot show love to others, we are certainly not showing love to God.  Some may say that they love God, but hate people.  By implication, you cannot love God and hate people, because people are image-bearers of God.  If a person hates people, they are hating the one who created them.  We cannot love God without loving people as well.

Clear Command

Because of the extraordinary outpouring of love of God, we are to love one another as God loves us.  In order to experience God, we must partake in God’s character.  This is what transforms us into His image – the alignment of our character with the character of God.  This occurs through the indwelling, power, and motivation of the Holy Spirit in our lives to conform us to the likeness of God through the word of God.  Without experiencing the character of God, we will be unable to grasp and take hold of the lessons needed to move the intellectual understand of God into a practical expression and experiential knowledge of the character of God.  We must therefore love as God loves, for we are image-bearers of God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I loving the disciples of Christ as God has loved me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show me through Your constant display of mercy and grace that You are love personified.  Thank You for modeling love to me.  Help me to love others as You love me.  Transform my heart – all that I am – into a better representation of Your character.  Help me to forgive others and myself that I may love as You love me.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

The Love of the Lord – Psalm 118:1-7

The Love Of God Is Forevermore

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.

2 Let Israel say:
“His love endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say:
“His love endures forever.”
4 Let those who fear the Lord say:
“His love endures forever.”

5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord;
he brought me into a spacious place.
6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?
7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper.
I look in triumph on my enemies.

God is Good

God is immutable – He cannot change.  His steadfast character is one of the many reasons that we can praise Him:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

God showers us with His goodness.  He does not withhold His goodness, but lovingly showers all of us with His mercy and grace:

44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

God is good because He can be nothing else.  Men look upon God with the imperfect lens of their experience, tainted by sin, with hearts hardened by trials, and question the goodness of God.  Yet God still is good, regardless of our circumstances.  If we look at God through the lens of pain and suffering, we are likely to see something that is not correct.  Pain blinds us to the true nature of God.  We must remember that God sees everything clearly and with the proper perspective, while we see through a glass darkly.

Love of the Lord

The author of this psalm tells us three times in row that God’s love endures forever.  We can be assured of that because God is good, God is love, God is eternal, and God never changes:

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.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

God lavishes His love upon everyone on the earth.  He provides all of us with breath in our lungs.  He does not withhold the rain or the sun from us (although the clouds might seem to do that…).  God pours out from His very nature a level of love, provision, and care that none of us would ever be able to do in His place.  God is so other-focused, that it would be impossible for Him to do otherwise.  God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to be a sacrifice for us.  Dying for someone is the ultimate expression of love.  And God so loved us, that He died for us while we were still sinners, in full rebellion against Him.  God’s love, if we can truly see even a fraction of it, is beautiful beyond description.

Royal Refuge

God hears our cries for hope.  All who trust in Him will find refuge under His mighty arms and in His character.  God is our shield:

But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.

God is our refuge and our strength.  He knows our difficulties, and invites us to come in to Him and allow Him to be our protector and shield.  He is able to shelter us through our storm.  He does not always make the storm cease, but rather is with us, protecting us, as the storm batters us and tears at us, trying to cause us to lose hope.  But God is able to calm the storm, and see us through any difficulty.  Even when God is disciplining us severely, He will provide a way to shelter us:

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

God’s refuge may seem odd, and may even cause us some distress, but God protects us in a fashion that brings the maximum glory to His name.  He will use everything that He does to bring glory and honor to Himself, which He rightly deserves.

Powerful Protection

God is sovereign over all.  No one and nothing can happen to us that He does not have the final authority to approve or veto.  We can see this throughout His holy word.  One of the best illustrations of this can be seen in the life of Job.  Satan, who was required to give an accounting of himself before Almighty God, had to request the permission before he could ever touch Job, his family, or the possessions provided to him by God.  There is nothing that happens to us that God has not sovereignly pre-approved.  God provides protection from men, from nature, and from demonic forces as He sees fit.  Anything that happens to us has been sovereignly approved, and God will protect us through it.

Total Triumph

In all of our trials, God is the one who makes us victorious.  God is our helper and our friend.  He will cause our righteousness to shine forth like the sun.  God will give us victory over our enemies, and exalt Himself through us while He brings shame upon those who would oppose Him, His plans, and His people.  God will give us victory, for we have victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ.  No weapon formed against us shall prosper.  God will provide for our every need.  And even if we are to be martyrs – witnesses unto death – God provides for us in that in Him, when we are absent from the body, we are present from the Lord.  And once all is completed, we will live triumphantly in joy, with no more pain or tears, to always be in the presence of Almighty God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I remember the steadfast love of Lord when I am in the midst of my trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You lavish Your love upon me every second of every day.  Help me to find strength in my joy in You.  Every morning Your mercies renew, and they humble me before You.  Grant me Your protection through my trials.  Provide for me as many years of gladness as You have given me in sorrow.  Help me to humble myself before You, and I pray that You would lift my head up.  You have already given me victory over the strongest enemy of my soul – the drowning chains of sin.  Father, help me to always praise You, for Your character is steady and displays Your love constantly and consistently.  Help me to turn my eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face.  Lift my soul out of sorrow, and grant me eyes to see the wonders that You are doing even now, preparing for a day of miracles that surround me each and every moment.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Love of God – 1 Peter 1:22-25

Love One Another

22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,

“All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.

Preparation for Purity

Throughout the Bible, there is a recurring theme – obedience.  It takes different forms, but keeps reappearing.  When Abraham believed God, it was credited to him as righteousness.  When you believe something, you act in accordance to your belief.  If we have faith, we will be obedient.

There is an intimate relationship between faith and obedience.   James says that faith without works is dead.  The works come from obedience to the belief in faith.  It is the obedience to what faith teaches us that leads to the works that God desires for us to accomplish – the works that He has prepared for us to do since before the creation of the universe.

Peter now ties purification – sanctification – to the obedience of truth, which is the word of God.  Our faith dictates that we believe the word of God, and therefore, our obedience to it will bring about our purification.  And when we are obedient, God will make His home in us, and we in Him.

Lavish Love

There are four Greek words for love, and this one is agape.  We are to love unconditionally, volitionally, and sacrificially.  Here we see “one another” used again.  We are to love one another deeply from the heart.  When we see “one another”, we are to take it as if the other person is The Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  We can be assured that when we love one another as Christ has loved us, we will indeed be lavishing love upon each other.  Jesus never held back His love for us, and neither should be hold back our love for one another.

Surviving Seed

Peter reminds us that we are like seed, to die and grow and bear fruit.  And the fruit that we bear is imperishable.  The seed we sow will take root  and grow, and bear more seed.  For the word of God does not come back void; it always has its intended effect upon the soil of the heart.  If the soil has been prepared, it will yield back one-hundred fold.  If the soil is hard and dry, it may not yield any seed at all.  Either way, our seed is being manifested from soil that has grown deep roots that are drinking deeply from the living water of God.  And, through brokenness and yielding to the Holy Spirit, the seed being born is from Him.

Perfectly Permanent

We know that we are like a mist.  We appear for a short while, fragile yet beautiful.  Yet in a short while, the mist is no more.  But since it is the word of God that is within us, and we are being obedient to the word of God, it is the word of God that will endure.  The obedience of faith leads to the permanence of the seed, for the seed does not come from us, but from the word of the Living God, and God endures eternally.

If the seed is from us, and not from God, it will not stand the test of time, for anything that we do in the flesh, and not in obedience to the Spirit of God, will burn up like wood, hay and stubble.  Only that which was planted by the Spirit of God will endure the test of time, trial, and fire.  The only way to ensure that our work will stand the tests is to be sure that God is the one working through us, for God is eternal, and His work lasts forever.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: Am I allowing God to show His love through me in my obedience to Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  You endure forever.  You have no beginning, and no end.  All that You do lasts for eternity.  Help me to yield myself to You completely in obedience to Your word.  Guide me and guard me as I am being pulled by my own evil desires to embrace that which does not come from You.  Help me to cling tightly to You, so that in obedience to Your word, You will bear Your fruit through me.  Help me to be a useful tool for You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Restoration by God – Psalm 90:13-17

May God Remember and Restore His People In Their Afflictions

13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us-
yes, establish the work of our hands.

Compassion for Crushing

Moses was a man who spent so much time, and time spent so closely with God, came back from his meetings with God with his face glowing.  Moses, in this psalm, implores Almighty God to relent from His affliction upon the people.  They had been afflicted for so long, that a generation of people had lived and died in affliction, only seeing difficulty, and never seeing rest.

Moses cries out and asks that God would have compassion on His people, and relent from His anger.  How much do we do each day, whether in commission or omission, that angers God?  Our affliction is often brought upon us as a character building exercise.  We need to both remember that God is for us, and that we aren’t yet ready.  It is OK to ask God to relent and to show us compassion.  We are but a wisp of smoke, here now, fragile, and quickly dispersed.

Lavish Love

Moses asks that God satisfy us by lavishing His love upon us.  In the Western World, consumerism and competition vie for our efforts to earn more money to buy more things to supposedly satisfy and satiate our desires.  The only real satisfaction we receive is when we are reconciled to God, and we experience His peace through His Love.  It is only then that our restless hearts can be satisfied, and only with the love that He provides.

When we are satisfied by our relationship in God, we are much more able to experience joy in our hearts.  We know in our minds that everything that God says is true.  It is only after experiencing the truth of God’s love, and the truth of His word as it becomes real to us through experience, that we are truly able to tightly grasp our Savior, and cling to Him with joy and contentment.  It is only then that we can set aside the desires to accumulate wealth and power and importance and other things that the world offers.  For it is in the gentle, loving embrace of our Savior and Father and constant Companion that we are able to truly be satisfied.

Reciprocal Response

Moses goes on to ask God to grant us a time of gladness that is in exact proportion to the time that we have spent in affliction.  This may seem a little odd, as most people spend only a short time in affliction.  But ask anyone who has been afflicted with difficulty for more that a decade, and they will tell you how difficult and life-changing it would be to be rid of their affliction, and to receive a commensurate time of gladness following the trial.

Oh, what joy that would be!  To not only be rid of the constant pain that wounds and reminds us of its power in our lives, but that there can come a time of gladness.  For when a person deals with prolonged pain, suffering, and misery (especially misery), it can seem that the time of gladness will not come until the sweet separation of the spirit from the body in death.

Generational Good

Moses asks that God lavish His love and compassion not only onto this generation, but to each successive generation of people as well.  It is very important to parents that their children have every opportunity to thrive and survive, and generational, continual oppression through the wrath and anger of God and cause sane men and women to want to give up hope.  But if their children can continue to receive the bountiful blessing that they have received, even late in life, the pain, suffering, and misery was worth it.

Establish Efforts

One of the ways that Moses asks that God blesses His people is to establish the work of their hands.  Imagine that everything you did, no matter how spectacular or seemingly good, was immediately wasted or produced not real results.  What if everything that you did had no lasting meaning.  It is one of the most discouraging things that can happen to a man is to realize that all of their efforts came to nothing – that everything they did and worked for had no meaning.

While we should all find our meaning in Christ, men are wired to also find meaning in the successful labors of their hands and hearts.  When that comes to nothing, it can have a devastating effect upon people.  Moses therefore asks God to establish the work of God’s people’s hands, that they can look back upon their efforts and see that they did not waste their life and energy in vain.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  How do we cope with constant, unending, unyielding affliction?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, everything that You do is right, and You can do no evil.  Give me strength and courage as I remember Your character, for my affliction in great, and my suffering severe.  Have compassion upon me, Lord, and relent from Your anger towards me.  Though You use these trials to shape and mold my character, I ask that You remember me – act divinely upon my behalf – and restore me as You did Job once my trials have been completed.  Please do not leave me in my affliction without recourse, for I hope to believe that there is relief apart from death.  And once You have finished Your work  in these trials, I ask, Lord God, that You give me as many years of joy and gladness as you have sorrow and misery.  Remember me through all of this, Lord God.  Amen.

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

Love of God – 1 John 3:1-3

God Is Love And Lavishes It Upon Us

1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Love Lavished

Have you seen the love lavished upon us by God Almighty?  Every breath we take is a gift from Him.  Every material possession that we have is given to us by Him.  The ability and opportunity to work with our hands to provide something for the poor is a blessing from Him.  And now, through the birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, we have been given an even greater gift – to be called the children of God.

Called Children

It is no fun to be an orphan, or to live in a family where there is abuse, lies, deception, and derision.  But that is exactly what we had when we were children of our old father, the devil.  He lies to us, berates us, demeans us, and tries very hard to convince us that we are worthless.  He does everything in his power to keep us from properly bearing the image of God.

But God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, has not given us the greatest gift – adoption into His family.  God’s love for us was so powerful, that He sacrificed is One and only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, that we could become His sons and daughters.  It is said that identity is the strongest form of persuasion.  God has attempted to persuade us into coning back to Him through identity as His sons and daughters.  But not everyone will heed the  call.

Some will Spurn

The world does not know Him, nor even want to know Him.  Blinded by the efforts of our enemy, hindered by the inherited nature passed on by Adam, and enticed by our own evil desires, the world around us revels in sin even as they hate it.  Unable to break free of its grip, and unable to be relieved of the pain and suffering it produces, the world continues to spiral out of control and give in to the very nature that they hate.

The world, under control of the enemy, hates to have their deeds exposed to the light.  Darkness encompasses them, and they desire to stay there, fearful and loathing themselves.  It is only the power and blessing of God and His word that can change the attitude of spurning into yearning.

Unrestricted Unveiling

And given the opportunity to know the one and only true God, He has chosen to unveil his true nature when His One and Only Son returns in glory.  At that time, we will see Him as He truly is, for we will be transformed and will be like Him.  We will finally see Him fully and know Him fully, just as He fully knows us now.  At that time, nothing will be withheld.  The full beauty, power, majesty, glory, and nature of the Son of God will be revealed to His children, as well as those who are not His children.  Those who have spurned Him will cry and mourn, and seek to flee the perfect light that will shine and penetrate all of creation.

Preparation in Purity

And for those of us who have hope in Him, we are to purify ourselves, just as He is pure.  God has given us the gift of the residence of the Holy Spirit within us to guide us, guard us, teach us, reveal His word to us, and prepare us in purity as the day of the Lord approaches.  The time is drawing near, and the signs of His coming are at hand.  Take the time to know what to look for, and look up, for your salvation draweth nigh.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I prepared for the imminent return of my Savior?

A short prayer for preparation:

Father in Heaven, You never cease to draw me close to You.  Help me to embrace You in the times of difficulty as well as the times of ease.  Strengthen me for what is to come, and help me to purify myself that I may be found prepared when Your Son, Jesus Christ, returns.  Show me in Your word the sign of His coming, and give my heart the sense of urgency that it needs to yield to You in all things.  Thank You, Father, for the love that You shower down and lavish upon me in everything that You do and say.  Help me to remember Your love when emotional pain from my hardships tries to overwhelm me.  Guard my heart against bitterness and anger, and fill me with Your love.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Unity In The Body – Ephesians 4:1-6

Strive For Unity Within The Body Of Christ

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Live Life

Paul reminds us here how to live the good life – we must live it in a manner worthy of the calling that we have received.  Our calling – generally – is to deliver the message of salvation to every people and nation:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Our calling – specifically – is to be the part of the body that God desires us to be by using the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit has empowered us with to serve God:

1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

As living sacrifices, we are to live our lives in complete submission and obedience to God, giving Him the honor and glory that He so rightly deserves.  When we live our lives in this way, we are living the “good” life – a life that is worthy of the calling that we have received.

Soft and Submitted

We are to be gentle and humble in our ways.  This is exactly the same way that Jesus described Himself:

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.

When we are gentle towards others, and have learned restraint so that we do not allow our emotions and desires to control us, we are able to do what we have been called to do.  Because of our sin nature, we find ourselves at odds with what we know is right.  We must learn to become more like Jesus.  And Jesus, realizing that we could not grasp God, submitted Himself to the Holy Spirit as an example for us.

Lavish Love

Unity can only be achieved through love in the bonds of peace.  For true agape love – unconditional, volitional, and sacrificial love – comes through submission.  We are to submit to one another in Christ.  When we do this, the world will know that we are His disciples.  Love binds us together in unity; for if we are seeking the good and welfare of others first, selfishness, pride, and discord will diminish and die.

Unparalleled Unity

Paul goes on to tell us how to be unified by reminding us that there is only unity in oneness.  He gives us seven examples:

  1. One body
    • The great spiritual divide among all the denominations should not exist.  We are all part of the same body of Christ, separated only by geography.  When we do not have unity in the body, we are separating ourselves from one of the greatest strengths that we have – unity of oneness.  When there is corruption, we are to address it.  And if those who sinning refuse to repent, we are to follow the Matthew 18 principle of church discipline.
  2. One spirit
    • There is only one spirit.  Not all paths lead to God – that is Universalism.  Jesus has told us that He and He alone is the way, the truth, and the life – no one comes to the Father except through Him.  And as Jesus is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, we are to be one with them and with each other.
  3. One hope
    • Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.  The words of the hymns shed light on the great truths of the word of God.  We have one hope, and our hope (complete and justified trust) is placed only in Jesus.
  4. One Lord
    • Who is lord of you life?  Who calls the shots?  There is a bumper sticker that has been seen that says, “God is my co-pilot.”  If that is the case, then you are in the wrong seat on the plane.  Lord is a word that invokes the understanding of absolute and unconditional authority of someone over another.  Jesus should have that authority – He has earned it.  If we live our lives the way we want to, then we claim lordship over it, usurping His rightful authority over us.
  5. One faith
    • We have but one faith – faith in Jesus Christ, and His work on the cross, taking our sins and giving us His righteousness in exchange.  Faith in anything or anyone else is futile, for there is only one name under heaven given to mankind to be saved, and that name is The Lord Jesus Christ.
  6. One baptism
    • There is only one baptism.  We are baptized in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Spirit, into eternal life in Christ.  Baptism into anything or anyone else is futile.  We are unified in that there is only one baptism.
  7. One God and Father
    • Finally, we are reminded by Paul that there is only one God and Father.  Jesus has warned us that God the Father is the only true Father.  Everyone else is under the control of Satan.  We are unified by having God as our One and Only Father.

In each of these, Paul reiterates that there is unity in being one together.  As there is only One of each of these, there cannot be division.  If there is division, then we must be in disagreement with at least one of these, for if we are in agreement on all of them, there cannot be anything BUT unity.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have made it possible for us to live in unity with one another.  Show me Your heart, that I may be in tune with it.  Help me to live in harmony and unity with those You have claimed as Your own.  Help me to submit to the Holy Spirit as well as one another that You would receive honor and glory from it.  Show me where my pride is interfering with Your will, and bring is under Your control, so that I may be humble and gentle in spirit.  Help me to learn restraint and give grace to others in areas that do not conflict with the core truths of the faith.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Faith in God – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

Christ Will Not Come Again Until The Great Falling Away…

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

Separate Speculation

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

Remember the Rebellion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Witnessing for God – Matthew 10:34-39

Choose This Day Whom You Will Love

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own
household.’

37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

Agitation and Accord

From the moment a person chooses to believe God and follow Jesus, their life will be irrevocably changed.  People that they once had great relationships with may now become their bitter enemies.  War will ensue where peace had prospered.  And although we are told that, to the best of our ability, we should be at peace with everyone, we will encounter people who view our change of allegiance from Satan (and the world) to God as a declaration of insanity and hatred towards them.

Many people will not be able to understand that disciples of Christ are not people who are now members of a cult.  In their minds, that is how they are perceived.  One moment, they are drinking, carousing, swearing, doing everything that everyone else is doing (right or wrong), and suddenly they become Mr. or Mrs. “goody-two shoes”, declining to participate in activities once considered dear, acceptable, and pleasurable by everyone else.

In the eyes of the world, you have become an enemy of the state – your very actions now show that not only can you not be trusted because you are changing, but that someone or something has remarkable remarkably changed your life, and in their eyes, usually for the worse.  They don’t want to know what it is, because they may begin to get “sucked-in” and have to give up their way of life.  They may also be concerned that in the grey areas of life that they live, you may now have to “rat them out” if they do something that is a bit unlawful.

In their eyes, you have declared war on them and your relationships.

Family can turn Foul

Even the most stable of relationships can be affected.  Jesus lists several familial relationships that may be strained or even broken because of your sudden love of God:

  • Fathers and Sons
  • Mothers and Daughters
  • In-laws and their children’s spouses

Fully expect there to be some resistance by any who have not given their lives to Christ.  Most people in culture believe that family comes first.  And when you give your life to Christ, they may feel as though you have broken this “unwritten” rule of relationship.  The fact is, when you give your life to Christ, you are – in effect – changing your allegiance from your biological family to your spiritual family.

Love the Lord

Your identity has now moved from your biological family to your spiritual family:

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Additionally, we are to love Christ more than anyone or anything else:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

In this short passage, it seems to indicate that we must hate our family.  This is not the case!  This is a form of hyperbole – Jesus is merely pointing out that our love for Him should be so strong and secure that our love for our other family members should look like hate in comparison.  We are to love them, but we are to love God even more!

Bear your Burden

This next part of the passage is very similar to the instructions that Jesus gave to His disciples elsewhere:

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

We are to bear our burdens and do so with joy.  The Lord God Almighty has replaced our heavy burden of trying to earn our way into Heaven through good deeds (impossible) to merely believing upon the finished work of Christ on the cross for our sins.  Grace and mercy are ours if we decide to accept them.  And in doing so, we must be obedient to God and His word, for we do not wish to rebel against the one who gave their lives His life for ours!

And while obedience to God (which some call works or legalism) does not grant entrance into the kingdom of Heaven, it does show that we love God, even more than our very own lives.  For if we love our lives (the way that we want to do things, living in a way that pleases us rather than pleases God) we will lose them.  If we lose our lives (living them in such a way that they are pleasing to God, regardless of the consequences and outcome of that level of devotion to Him) for His sake, we will gain them:

23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living my life in such a way that, by example, it is a powerful witness to how much I truly love God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given me eternal life through the shed blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to live life in such a way that it is a powerful witness to others of You and Your word.  Help me to witness in both actions and words, that both would be in harmony and unity with Your will.  Help me to overcome any sorrow or anger when others who were once considered my friends turn against me because of my love for You.  Help me to have a heart of compassion towards them, and I pray that You will powerfully prepare the soil of their hearts so that the seeds of salvation would take root and flourish in them.  Help me to always remember that You come first, no matter what.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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


This blog has been edited for clarity, spelling, and other errors.

Christian Households and God – Colossians 3:18-21

The Family Is Attacked By The Enemy Because It Displays The Order And Submission Of The Trinity

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Orchestrated Order

There is order in the family just as there is order in the Trinity.  The order shows that the participants are co-equal but with different roles.  In this case, the order is that the husband has a role of authority over the wife and children.  The wife has the role of authority of advisor to the husband and authority over the children.  The children have the role of learning the roles of authority of the wives and husband.  The husband’s role is not one of tyrannical dictator, but rather the orchestrater of the plans and purpose of the family unit towards success in all things they set out to accomplish under the watchful and guiding efforts of the Spirit of God.

The key – the glue that holds this all together – is mutual submission.  Without submission, the family as a God-appointed organization will fall apart and fail.  The good news is that the Bible shows us how there is perfect submission in the Trinity of God, and to watch Jesus Christ’s example of this to learn the skills of submission and obedience to ensure the survival of the Family.

Wisdom for Wives

Paul starts out his instructions for Christian households with the hardest yet simplest command first – that wives submit to their husbands.  The enemy hates the concept of submission.  This can be seen in the first chapters of the first book of the Bible – Genesis – when the serpent plants seeds of doubt as to the character and nature of God in the ears of Eve, telling her that God is withholding something precious and valuable from her – the ability to be like God.  And the curse of sin reflects this, since women now desire the role of their husbands in family and life – to be in charge over everything.  And while it is certain that there are women who are more than capable of wielding authority (take the God-appointed judge of Israel Deborah for example…), the role assigned to women is as man’s helper.

The desire to serve self over others is key to sin.  When we desire to serve ourselves at the expense of others, we reject the love that God desires each of us to understand and obey:

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘”

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

God is love.  He desires that each of us display his love – agape love – towards others and Himself.  God has wired women to be able to display this type of love to others.  It was only fitting then that the enemy would try to corrupt what God instituted in the beginning.  Satan, hating God, unable to touch God, did the only thing he could – he tried to get women to stop loving, and in this particular case, convince Eve to stop submitting to God and her husband.  By eating the forbidden fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, Eve chose self-glory and abandoned her God-given role as the beacon of love and submission that she was intended to be.

Jesus Christ, as part of His mission on Earth, was to set straight our understanding of the Father by displaying Him (His character) to the world.  And Jesus did so through submitting to the Holy Spirit of God and the Father.  He did this to show us that this was how it was to be in the beginning.  It is only through submitting to the assigned and ordained roles that God places each of us in that we properly reflect His order and completion.

When women submit to their husbands through the execution of their innate ability to display unconditional, volitional, and sacrificial love towards their husbands in a respectful, submissive manner, they radiate the message that God intended and bring Him greater glory, restoring that which is lost to selfishness through the three primary influences:

  1. The Flesh
  2. The World
  3. The Devil

and the three primary attack vectors:

  1. The Lust of the Eyes
  2. The Lust of the Flesh
  3. The Pride of Life

Help for Husbands

Paul goes on to give husbands the key through which they are able to enable their wives to reach their full potential in Christ – to love them.

This is a simple concept that is not innate within men.  Men are wired for respect, not love.  Ask men whether they would rather be respected yet hated, or loved and disrespected, and most men would choose the former over the latter.  God recognizes this, and gives husbands the key to their wives’ hearts – they must love (agape) them as Christ loves the church, laying down his life for hers.

When husbands love their wives, they are putting their wives’ best interests over their own.  They are looking to ensure that their wives are taken care of first, and that their needs are fully met.  When husbands love their wives in this manner, it is easy for their wives to submit to their husbands and respect them – the wives are being placed above the husbands in all things except for his duty to God.  What wife can complain that her doting, loving husband who seeks the best for her when he is acting in this manner?  Is this a cause to hate, despise, ridicule, nag, and otherwise disparage and disrespect him?  May it never be so!

Coaching for Children

God gives children a simple directive (the verb hupakouete is an imperative command) – obey your parents in everything.  This is a training that will yield a great harvest of righteousness in the lives of children.  Obedience to their parents sets a pattern that will translate to obedience to God.  Additionally, obedience teaches submission.

When children allow themselves to be taught through obedience and submission, they are more likely and able to transition these skills into their adult lives.  And as mentioned above, submission is the key to the hearts of both men and women.  Obedience is the hallmark of love towards God.  In all of this, these two skills prepare you to live life to its fullest.

When children refuse to be trained by submission and obedience, we see the fall its ignoble display.  Seeking to grasp the forbidden fruit, it is not until long after the taste of the fruit leaves the mouth that the consequences of those decisions begin to haunt the one hungry for self-fulfillment.   But thanks be to God in Jesus Christ, for His blood atones for all our sins, and gives us the second chance no one deserves.

Failings of Fathers

There is a final warning to fathers concerning their children.  In the pursuit of training up a child in the way they should go, Father are to be very careful that their desire for respect is kept in balance with the needs of the children to grow and learn.  Fathers don’t have the innate ability to gauge when they are being too strict.  In their minds, obedience should be complete and immediate – a show of respect.  But just as anyone learning a new skill will tell you, it takes time and practice get good at it.

And while fathers need to be on their guard so that they don’t exasperate their children in their attempts to guide and teach them, they should also be wary of the manipulative sinful nature of all children to appear outwardly compliant while inwardly harboring hate, bitterness, and dissent.  Relationship is the key to influencing your children.  A child is more likely to respond to a parent that has a solid relationship with them than one who thinks their father either doesn’t care about them or won’t make time for them.

There is a story about a man and his son that goes something like this: a man and his son went fishing for a day.  They cast their bait out on hooks, but the fish just weren’t biting.  They finally went home, and each wrote in their diaries.  The man wrote,”We didn’t catch a thing all day.  The day was a complete waste of time.”  The son wrote, “I spent an entire day with my dad.  It was the best day of my life!”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we submitting to each other in our families the same way that Christ submitted to the Father and the Holy Spirit?

A short prayer of presentation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown us Yourself through the life of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Grant me the ability to submit to You completely and without reservation, that I may serve You in the manner that You desire and be obedient to Your every command.  Help me to accept the role that You have assigned to me in my family.  Give me the strength, wisdom, and words so that I can fulfill Your will as You greatly desire.  Help me to overcome my innate, sinful tendencies that I may embrace Your goodness, compassion, mercy, and grace, and help my family to succeed so that it will be a beacon on a hill to all who see.  May others praise You because of the example of my family.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Marriage and God – Titus 2:1-8

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

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

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

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

Creative Chiasm

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

Older Women – Young Women
/\
Older Men Young Men

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

Mature Men

Paul indicates that older men should be taught the following:

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

Wise Women

Paul also urges that older women be taught the following:

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

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

Little Ladies

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

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

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

Growing Guys

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

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

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

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

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

The choice is ours.

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

The Difference Between Trophies and Treasures – James 1:22

Obedience Is The Key To Victory

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Trophy or Treasure

When is a treasure a trophy?  When it no longer has any real, useful value.  Treasures have value because they are desirable AND useful.  Trophies are a symbol of some level of achievement.  And while some trophies do have value, they are usually placed on a shelf or some other public or private area of display where people can only observe them.  They are rarely used because their primary purpose is to be observed, not used.

In the Information Technology field, there are people who are called “badge collectors”.  These are people who go out and get trained in some specialized aspect of the use of technology.  These people read books and take the tests necessary to obtain certifications from respected accreditation firms to show that they know and understand how to use particular aspects of technology.

However, they do absolutely nothing with it.  As a result, their skills in these fields atrophy, and are pretty much worthless in the real word.  They usually obtain these “paper certifications” to look impressive, or to obtain jobs in fields where accreditation is highly respected and sought after.  But these people only look good on the outside; their skills are far from complete, and lack depth in both knowledge and capability that only comes from using the skills in the real world.  And although these people are able to pass the tests, the resulting certification is not even worth the paper that it is printed on.

When we read the word of God – perhaps even study and memorize the word of God – and do nothing with it, it is like a trophy that sits on a shelf.  It looks pretty, and may bring back memories that result in emotional satisfaction, yet do no real good in our lives because it just sits there.  A person can purchase a Ferrari and put it in a warehouse where it is maintained and people can look at it, wishing that they owned one.  However, merely owning one without ever driving it relegates that very beautiful, expensive, and useful tool of transportation into trophy status.

The Bible says that the word of God is alive:

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

God fully intends for us to use the word of God in our lives to be a transformative force that molds us into who God wants us to be – a new creation in Christ.  Romans 12:1-2 states:

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

There are atheists in the world right now that have memorized the word of God and can recite it perfectly, yet have not been touched or altered by it.  For them, it is used as a reference tool to attempt to refute the positions and understanding of those who actually believe that the word of God is the truth and put it into action.  Photographic memory and retention of what is read, seen, or heard, is no substitute for the active implementation of knowledge into action, which then provides wisdom.  Knowledge without the ability or desire to use it creates hubris rather than skill or ability.  Knowing the value of Pi to the billionth digit is interesting but useless unless it is used in some way with math and science.

When we listen to the word of God and don’t apply it in our lives, we deceive ourselves into believing that we have accomplished something great, when in fact nothing has been accomplished.  We become deceived because the tool has not been allowed to do what it was intended to do with the raw materials (in this case our minds) – turning something that is raw and unfinished into something that is beautiful and useful.

The wise person that actually does what it says reaps a bounty of righteousness through the process of sanctification.  The word of God purifies us by exposing that which is dross through the repeated application of trials so that the impurities within us are brought to the surface and removed, leaving that which is beautiful and preparing it to be useful.

Raw iron ore looks like, and is about as useful as, the rocks that they are until it is melted down, and the impurities are removed.  It is not very valuable because the metal does not possess the qualities and characteristics that allow it to be changed into malleable alloys and shapes that ARE useful until it is purified.  God specializes in taking the rock ores that are our lives and, through sanctification brought on by trials, removes the impurities and allows us to be molded into shapes that are useful to Him.

Each of us has a choice to allow God’s word to be effective in our lives.  The ones that do what it says (obedience) are the ones that show that they love God.  And when we are obedient, God makes His home in us and prepares us for the return of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, to His rightful place of rule as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Trophy or treasure – the choice is yours.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Is the word of God a trophy or a treasure in my life?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown us through Your word that obedience to Your word shows that we love You.  You have already shown through the crucifixion of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for our sins that You love us.  Help me to be transformed and molded into the shape that is most useful to You, Lord God.  Remove the dross in my life that is preventing me from being transformed and purify me of all impurity.  Help me to show You that I love You through obedience to Your word.  Help me to ensure that Your word is a treasure to me, and not a trophy.  This I ask 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?

Love of God – 1 Corinthians 13:4

Nothing Is Impossible With God

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

Patient Persistence

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

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

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

Keeping up Kindness

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

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

Evading Envy

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

Banning Boasting

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

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

Purging Pride

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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


This blog has been edited for spelling errors.

Combat Training with God – 1 Peter 2:13-17

Submit To God And The Ruling Authorities

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Obey Orders

One of the toughest things to do is to obey the orders of a person who is evil.  The conundrum is that we are told to do what is right, but also to submit ourselves to the ruling authorities.  This can sometimes put us at odds with what we are told to do by man and God.

Jesus set the example by always doing what His father wanted Him to do.  We too should choose to follow God rather than man when there is a conflict between the two. Peter himself faced this dilemma when He was arrested for preaching the good news by the Sanhedrin.  Peter’s retort to them sets the stage for us:

But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!

In this case, Peter and John were talking to men who professed belief in the One True God.  In today’s world, where many governments are atheistic, or are promoting Secular Humanism, they don’t have the background to rightly judge who to follow – they believe that they should be followed regardless of how evil their commands are.  Yet we, as believers, must give an accounting of ourselves as well as the unbelievers before God once we are called home.  Live in such a way that you can give a good report – obey evil rulers only to the point where their commands do not interfere with God’s.  Otherwise, do as Peter and John did – obey God when the conflict arises, and leave the consequences of that action upon the shoulders of Almighty God.

Follow in Freedom

Since the Son has freed us, we are free indeed!  But that doesn’t give us the right to use our freedom to act as a shield for evil.  We should never say, “I can do this because I know God will forgive me.  I am forgiven for all my sins past, present, and future, so I can do whatever I want.”   This dishonors God, and casts a light upon His character when His ambassadors act in a way that is counter to the One that has sent them.

Freedom in Christ is freedom from the bondage of sin.  Since we are freed, why would we then intentionally put ourselves in a position where sin can cause us difficulty?  It is better to suffer in righteousness than to have pleasure and ease in sin.  Freedom is meant to give us the opportunity to follow God, not our own evil passions.   When we refuse to self-govern, God will send oppressive rulers to govern over us and bring us back to a place of humility and submission.

Respect even Reprobates

It is a cultural thing to say that respect is earned.  If respect is earned, then when someone acts in a way that does not deserve respect, we may feel as if we can treat them as though they are contemptible.  This degrades the impact that disciples of Christ have on the world, for God loves all of us, and seeks us all.

We must give respect, even and especially when it is not deserved by a person’s actions.  This keeps intact their quality as an image bearer of God, regardless of how they choose to bear God’s image.  That doesn’t mean that we excuse the behavior.  We can hate the behavior, but love the person.  Show respect to those who are evil, but be wary of their intents.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I obeying the laws and directives of those in authority over me when they are not in direct conflict with God’s law, regardless of how silly or difficult they may be?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is extremely difficult to obey the directions and laws of people who are evil and intent upon my destruction.  Give me the strength to bear Your image properly before them and others.  Help me to honor You when any conflicts arise.  Please give me grace and mercy as I struggle to do what honors You when I am placed in situations where no matter what I do, it will be viewed as wrong by the world, and used to destroy my reputation, character, finances, and even my ability to live.  Guard me in all my ways, and help me to display Your character in the most difficult situations, even if that means that I will lose my life.  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?

Promise of God – Psalm 100

God’s Love Endures Forever

1 Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Wonderful Worship

One of the best opportunities that God has given us is to worship Him.  Human beings were made to worship.  We will always worship something or someone, whether it is God, ourselves, someone else, or something else.  There is a deep cry within the human heart to worship, and we will worship whether we realize it or not.

God has made us, and we can worship Him in song and praise.  It is only natural that we seek to give Him praise since He is the author of all good things.  Before Adam sinned, God declared that all He had made was good.  We should be grateful for that in song and praise.

Additionally, since God has redeemed us as His people, we can rejoice that we have fellowship with the one who created us.  Jesus has won back what Adam has lost, and in that, we can as children go before His throne with our petitions and praise.  It is a wonderful thing to be able to praise the One who has released us from prison and will gather us home with Him.  We can even reach out to God as Paul and Silas did after being stripped of their clothing and being severely beaten with rods and flogged.  Let nothing interfere with your praise of Almighty God.

God is Good

Regardless of the circumstances going on in the world, God is good.  Many times we question that when terrible circumstances such as loss, injustice, pain, and suffering occur.  However painful these are, they are merely the cost and effects of sin.  Yet still, God is good.  He is unable to be anything else but good.  His character endures forever, for God does not change like we do.  And when devastating circumstances appear in our lives, we can be assured that God has not changed, but merely is allowing us to develop perseverance.  And may it have its effect, that we would be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Lasting Love

God’s love never fails, for God is love.  When we feel abandoned or afraid, we can remember that God is love.  When great and wonderful things are happening in our lives, let us remember that God is love.  For this is immutable – God loved so much He gave his only Son, and that since we have believed upon Him, we have eternal life.  We have been given this promise, and can rejoice in the one who made it for He is faithful.

Forever Faithful

In a world that is giving itself over to moral relativism and secular humanism, we can rejoice that God is faithful.  Every promise He has ever made God will fulfill.  We live such short lives that many times we don’t see the fruit of the promises that God has made.  But even in that, we can look back and see that God is faithfully keeping His promises, just as He promised, at the appointed time that He promised (when provided).  His faithfulness should bolster our faith in Him and give us reason to trust Him through all of the difficulties in life.  Let us remember God’s faithfulness as we go out into the world today and see so many people show their faithlessness in broken promises and outright evil.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Is my heart full of praise and worship for God when I am enduring crushing trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I praise and worship You for You are worthy of it and so much more.  May my heart cry out to You for You are good regardless of my circumstances.  In all things, may You be glorified and Your holy name praised.  Help me to praise You when I am downtrodden and it feels like You have forsaken me, for You have promised to never do that.  Help me to patiently wait for You and Your deliverance from my circumstances, for You are always faithful.  Strengthen me in my weakness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Love Like God – Matthew 5:38-42

Love Fulfills The Law

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Remove Resistance

When we are offended by someone, our first human inclination is to retaliate.  the Israelites were permitted by law to do unto others as had been done unto them:

22 “If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”

19 Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury.

16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, 17 the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, 19 then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

These rules were designed to help the Israelites think before they acted.  If they had intentionally inflicted harm upon someone, the same harm would be inflicted upon them.  But rather than deter them from doing harm to their neighbor, it was used to exact vengeance upon wrongdoers.  Once the Roman occupation of Israel took place, they faced an interesting quandary:  how would they apply the law to an occupying force that was oppressing them?

Roman Rules

Jesus was trying to address the attitudes of their hearts.  He told them not to resist an evil person – and the Romans were indeed acting evilly towards them.  With regards to turning one’s cheek, it needs to be placed in context:

This specifically refers to a hand striking the side of a person’s face, tells quite a different story when placed in it’s proper historical context. In Jesus’s time, striking someone of a lower class ( a servant) with the back of the hand was used to assert authority and dominance. If the persecuted person “turned the other cheek,” the discipliner was faced with a dilemma. The left hand was used for unclean purposes, so a back-hand strike on the opposite cheek would not be performed. Another alternative would be a slap with the open hand as a challenge or to punch the person, but this was seen as a statement of equality. Thus, by turning the other cheek the persecuted was in effect putting an end to the behavior or if the slapping continued the person would lawfully be deemed equal and have to be released as a servant/slave. (Source)

In the case of being slapped, the person slapping was giving a great insult to the one being slapped.  This was often seen in that time by the Roman soldiers who felt above the ones they had oppressed.  But when a person turned the other cheek, if they were slapped again, they would be seen as an equal.  The Roman soldier would never want that to occur, and the abuse would stop.  Jesus was showing submission as a way to show the attacker that they were not in control of them.  It was meekness in action – strength under control.  It also showed love, in that they did not retaliate – even in their heart.

In the case of being sued, the person suing is trying to cause the other person financial hardship.  Jesus was showing that true righteousness – love – overcomes all.  The cloak was one of the most valuable possessions that people had at that time.  It kept them warm at night, and was supposed to be returned by sunset if it was used in pledge (on deposit for some transaction).  Jesus was showing that if a person was trying to wrongfully take from you what God had provided to you, rather than give it over reluctantly, hand it over to them as well as your cloak, that it would show compassion towards that person.  Now instead of them oppressing you, you have shown them generosity of a nature that was unheard of.

In the case of traveling one mile with someone, Jesus was referring to Roman law that allowed the conscription of subjugated people to be required to carry their equipment for them one Roman mile (Source).  Jesus, in His characteristic approach to things, indicated that the person forced to act as a porter for the Roman soldier should do it for two miles.  This indicated that there was a love and concern for the other person, rather than a dutiful action that could result in bitterness.  Each of these illustrations was designed to both address issues that were unbearable at that time to the Jews in order to show them where their hearts were, and where they needed to be.

After all, the best way to destroy your enemies is to turn them into your friends.

Genuine Generosity

Lastly, the Jews would not lend to people that they didn’t think could repay them.  On the surface, that is just “good business”.  But God had instructed them before to be generous, as He was generous to them.  God also promised to bless them and the work of their hands and all they did if they gave freely:

7 If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

In each case, Jesus was dealing with an attitude of the heart.  The occupation by Roman soldiers was indeed oppressive to the Jews, but they forgot that God loved them even though they acted as enemies towards Him.  Evil people often try to exert themselves over us, and deprive us of what we have, whether it is out of hate, spite, greed, perceived need, or whatever is driving them.  And the poor will always be among us.  Let us remember that God lifted us out of the mire and muck, and cleaned us off with the perfect, sinless blood of Jesus.  The next time someone throws evil your way, respond in the character of God – Love them as God loves you.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I responding to evil with love the same way that God responded to me when I was acting evilly towards Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me great love in that You revealed Your Son to me.  You have picked me up, cleaned me off, and given me access to You.  Your love, mercy, and grace abound.  Father, help me to respond to people who treat me wrongly.  Give me the strength and ability to show Your love to them so that all would see Your character and glorify Your name.  Remember me when I feel slighted, and help me to honor You by acting in love.  Help me to not be a doormat for evil people’s feet, but rather to respond in love to their insults, injuries, and actions.  Guard my heart against all bitterness as I endure the increase in lawlessness that grows every day.  Help me to keep my eyes upon You that Your glory would drown out the tyranny that I face.  This I ask in the precious name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

 

Combat Training with God – Matthew 5:43-48

Love One Another As I have Loved You – Jesus

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Lavishing Love

God showers us with His love every moment of every day.  From every breath that we take, to the greatest of accomplishments made, God is helping us with every little thing.  He sought us and bought us with the redeeming blood of Christ.  For some, He sought them for decades before they came to Him.

To the crowds that Jesus was teaching (the Jewish people), they had the law to help guide them.  Leviticus 19:18 stated:

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

This left a lot of wiggle room, since it only mentioned “anyone among your people”.  The Israelites took this to mean that it ONLY applied to them, thus giving them the opportunity hate their enemies.  But Jesus died for all people:

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

Lest we forget, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  And God wants us to display His character for all to see.  Since that is the case, we must love others as God loves them.

Favoritism Forbidden

God shows us that He does not show favoritismJesus died for all; the sun doesn’t only rise on the good (wouldn’t that be an odd sight – if sunlight only fell on the people and their property who were good?  What a dark place the Earth would be!); and the rain doesn’t just fall on the property of the righteous.  God, through His creation and His love, provides for everyone these basic things as an example of His character.

We are quick to love those who are easy to love, and usually not so quick to love those who are difficult to love.  Yet God loves us all.  Peter learned this with the centurion Cornelius and his family.  After God manifested His favor upon them, Peter stated:

…I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism

Otherworldly Outreach

Even the pagans love their own.  We are shown that we need to love with the love of Jesus.  He walked completely out of His way to see a Samaritan woman at a well.  Loving our enemies and people who are hard to love is a Godly characteristic that we all need to display.  We don’t need to go to the deepest, darkest regions of unexplored Africa to do this; we simply need to love the people who we come in contact with.  If we only spend time with our friends and family, how can we display the love of God to people that need to be reached?

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (emphasis and bold added)

Reaching “all nations” starts with your own.  It starts with your own community, then surrounding areas, and wherever you may travel.  It was once said, “If you aren’t engaging in mission work at home, please don’t export that somewhere else.”

Carefully Complete

The phrase, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” can be difficult to understand, since none of us are perfect, and even after we are redeemed by God, we still occasionally sin, whether by sins of commission or omission.  But we need to have a proper reference for this.  In the Greek, the word for “perfect” is teleioi, and is literally translated as mature, complete.  It infers a completeness, and that completeness, with regards to the character of God, is perfection.  Let sanctification through trials complete its work in you that you would be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we loving those who are difficult to love the way that Jesus asks us to love them?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are perfect and complete in all Your ways.  Help me this day that I would be transformed by the renewing of my mind with Your holy word and with the trials that You allow in my life that I would be complete like You.  Strengthen me and soften my heart that I would learn the lessons needed for maturity in life and in faith.  Please have mercy upon me, for all discipline seems unpleasant as I go through it.  Give me a better sense of Your love for others as I encounter an increasingly wicked people everyday.  Help me to engage them, and to show them Your love, regardless of the outcome.  For even Your Son, Jesus Christ, died at the hands of those He was trying to reach.  Show me the straight and narrow path that I would walk on it and see the light of Your Glory.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Loyalty of God – Ruth 1:16-17

God Will Never Leave Us Nor Forsake Us

16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

Lasting Loyalty

There is something very special about loyalty.  It can’t be bought, and it is highly sought after by most people.  We may have good friends, but when our circumstances become bleak, will they scatter?  Ruth, a Moabite,  was different from most people.  She clung to Naomi and loved her dearly.  She pledged herself to Naomi in a way most of us would not do.  Even the disciples (with the exception of John, and possibly Peter) scattered when Jesus was arrested.

Ruth displayed for us the loyalty that God has for us.  God has said numerous times in His word that He was with us:

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

Long-suffering Love

It takes great patience to persist in a friendship.  Ruth had this patience with Naomi.  She stood by Naomi through good and bad.  Even when Naomi changed her name to Mara (which means bitter), Naomi never left her and was her constant companion.

God has unimaginable patience with us.  We have been given a down-deposit when we accepted Christ of the continual companionship of the Holy Spirit.  He is very loyal.  We have also been told not to grieve Him.  The Holy Spirit stays with us regardless of where we go, what we do, or how we think.  We should always remember His love for us as we stumble through life, tripping over sin and falling flat on our face.  The good news that this is the perfect position from which to humbly seek God in repentance.

Faithful Friend

But it isn’t duty that Ruth felt that bound her to Naomi.  It was friendship.  Ruth saw the Godliness of Naomi and wanted to be her friend.  Her friendship with Naomi was so powerful that she pledged herself as Naomi’s companion.  God has been treating us like a friend even before we come to His Son.  Through the lens of eternity, God sees us as we will be, not as we are, and treats us that way now.

Jesus died on the cross for sinners who hadn’t even been born yet by our reckoning of time.  But to Jesus, He sees the end from the beginning, and treated us as His most precious friends, dying for us on the cross.  And just like Ruth, who said that even death could not separate her from Naomi, Jesus conquered death so that we could be with Him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we being as faithful and loyal to God as He is to us in our friendship with Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me through Your word just how faithful and loyal You are.  You have never broken any of Your promises.  I thank You for Your patience in my life as I seek to honor and obey You.  Forgive me of my sins, and help me to turn to You and Your ways as You reveal them to me.  Help me to be loyal and faithful to You in all that I think, say, and do, that Your character would be on display as a light on hill.  Remember me as I walk in the world, for my feet keep getting dirty with the attitudes, thoughts, desires, and ways of those who do not know You.  Wash me in Your Word and in the precious perfect blood of Your Son, that I may be washed clean and renewed.  This I ask in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Family Living by God – Ephesians 5:25-33

Husbands Have Great Responsibility

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Lavishing Love

Christ poured out His love for the church by devoting His life to it.  He gave His life up for her in that He allowed Himself to be crucified on the cross for her.  Jesus poured out His life in ministry through teaching, healing, and preparing the disciples in what we would call “training the trainer” lessons.  In all of this He gave up any desires that He had for His own life, and devoted Himself to preparing and helping the disciples to be effective in their ministry.

In the same way, husbands are to lay down their lives, goals, ambitions, dreams, and whatever is part of self to devote himself to his wife.  Yes, husbands need to work (all Christians should be in some sort of labor, whether it is in the workplace, or in the home.  Anyone who says that working in the home is easy hasn’t really tried it by giving their full devotion to it…), but they should be doing their very best to ensure the success of their wives in what they are doing.

If you want to see your wife put a smile on her face, watch what happens when she realizes that you are devoting yourself to her success.  She thrives on love.  Study her to see what makes her feel most connected to you and emotionally engaged.  Then,give her so much of it that she is bursting!

Proper Preparation

All of God’s people are called the bride of Christ.  His job was to make us holy.  He did that through His death, burial, and resurrection, offering His sinless blood for our sins, His righteousness for our shame. He washed us through the living water that springs out of the Word of God.  He transforms our minds as we read the Word of God.

In the same way, husbands are to prepare their wives as well, being the spiritual leader of the organization that is the family unit.  Husbands do that through love.  When husbands love their wives, their wives are more open to their leading.  The only way that this will successfully occur is if their wives feel loved (emotionally engaged and connected).

Consider the Context

Husbands are to take into consideration that it would be hypocritical to love their wives less than they love themselves.  When the two became one flesh, this does not only mean physical intimacy, but also spiritual intimacy and oneness.  It is a unity of minds, direction, purpose, and intent.  Selfishness – the deficiency of showing love to others – is unthinkable in this context.

The husband now should put as much care and maintenance into helping his wife as he does himself.  Without that, there is an imbalance in the relationship that is like driving a car with one front wheel out of alignment.  As you try to drive straight ahead, the car will pull to the side that is out of alignment.  In order to go anywhere fast and safely, that wheel has to be put back into alignment so that both front tires are working together in unison for the purpose and direction they are instructed to go by the person behind the wheel.  And the person behind the wheel should be Jesus Christ if both spouses are Christians.

Husbands need to remind themselves that it is just as important to see to the needs of their wives as it is to see to their own needs.  The only way that this can happen on a regular basis and in an appropriate way is for husbands to die to themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Christ.  Following means walking alongside shoulder to shoulder, step for step.  And how did/does Christ love His bride?

Total Togetherness

And the two shall become one flesh.  This is an amazing thing.  Two people who have different backgrounds, interests, likes and dislikes, habits, ways of thinking, and physical needs, come together for the purpose of changing, unifying, and sanctification.  They begin to change from the mental state of taking care of self to taking care of another.  They morph from two separate identities into a more singular identity, where they consider themselves extensions of each other.  The process can become so complete that they even begin to look like each other – their facial expressions become nearly identical, they may even wear the same color clothing when they go out, they smile the same way, they become a singular unit in a singular purpose in a singular direction.  That is very powerful.

Mighty Mystery

What a delightful thing!  That the family – the relationship between husband and wife – is to be considered a reflection between Jesus Christ and the church, His bride.  Paul takes the opportunity to remind us that the relationship between husband and wife is indicative of the relationship between Christ and the church.  We can draw many parallels, but in the spiritual realm, there is this melding as the bride is drawn out of her shell and begins to fully blossom as a beautiful flower as love is poured into her and she draws close to him.  She becomes confident and strengthened, emboldened by the support of her husband.  As love is poured into her, her fears diminish, she is overwhelmed with security, and love begins to overflow out of her heart.  It blesses everyone that she meets as they are the recipient of that magnified love.

Delight and Deference

Oh, the key to every successful marriage! L O V E and R E S P E C T.

  • Husbands need to feel RESPECTED
    • When a husband feels respected, he draws out of his shell and performs to the best of his ability.  His internal need – respect – is fulfilled, and he is able to perform and respond in the maximum capacity that God has provided to him. He will be able to engage his wife emotionally, and he will feel that he is able to open up to her more.
    • When a husband does not feel respected, he will withdraw, and may not be able to engage emotionally.  His thought process may be, “Why should I open myself up emotionally and be vulnerable if all I hear is criticism?”  Since he longs to be respected, he may even pour all of his time into whatever activity provides that (usually his job, where he is respected by his peers and superiors).  If he then encounters a woman who is respectful, compliments him on his prowess at work, and lets him know he is doing well – not criticizing him – he may be at great risk for moral failure.
    • Wives, do you want your husbands to open up to you and engage you at every level in every aspect of your life?  Show your husband respect, whether or not YOU feel he deserves it.
  • Wives need to feel LOVED
    • When a wife feels loved (even if husbands are loving her to death from their perspective, unless she FEELS it, it really isn’t going to have any effect…) she will begin to come out of her shell.  She will engage her husband, and be able to show him the respect that he greatly desires.  She will be more forgiving, smile more, do more – even desire to please him – and be better prepared to engage her husband physically.
    • When a wife does not feel loved, she will withdraw, and will not be able to engage physically.  Since she longs to be loved (feel emotionally connected), she will be like a flower that hasn’t been watered, and is drying up.  If another man begins to water that flower – engage her in conversation, compliment her, say and do things that lift her spirits and engages her emotionally – she may be at great risk for moral failure.
    • Husbands, do you want your wives to open up to you and engage you in every aspect of your life?  Ensure that your wife feels loved, whether she deserves it or not.
  • The negative cycle where men feel disrespected and women feel unloved can be broken by just one person making the decision to act counter to how they feel.  Someone has to start.  It might as well be you!

A Qualifying Question

For husbands, let’s ask the question:  Are we loving our wives as Christ loves the church?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are perfect in all of Your ways.  Everything that you do is righteous, and You can do no evil.  Help me to better understand Your plan and purpose for marriage.  You have declared me to be Jesus Christ’s bride, and You pour out Your love on me all the time.  Your mercies renew every morning.  You never leave me nor forsake me.  I am more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus.  I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  Help me to truly understand all of these things, and to comprehend the depth and width and height of the love that You have for me.  Help me to show your love to others, especially in my family.  Guard and guide me in this that I may reflect Your love and my responsibilities in the role that You have called me.  This I ask in the precious name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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