Blessings of Obedience – Psalm 128

Obedience To God Results In Blessings By God

1 Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in obedience to him.
2 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4 Yes, this will be the blessing
for the man who fears the Lord.

5 May the Lord bless you from Zion;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
6 May you live to see your children’s children-
peace be on Israel.

Revel in Reverence

Obedience is a word that is treated like the plague.  Very few people want to be obedient.  To be obedient means that there may be (most likely will be) great sacrifice, pain, and personal loss in a person’s life.  Jesus likened obedience to love:

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.

Obedience to the word of God brings about the circumstances necessary to transform the lives of men and women into the character and capacity of Jesus:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

In obedience we find freedom.  And in freedom, we find joy and peace.  God greatly desires that we be free from the bondage of sin so that we can have the freedom to follow Him:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The difference between obedience and legalism is that obedience leads to freedom, and  legalism leads to bondage.

Bountiful Blessings

Obedience has its own rewards, apart from the joy of knowing that God is pleased with how you are living your life.  Obedience brings and abundance of blessings.  God is faithful and rewards those who seek after Him in obedience.  There are many blessings to be found in obedience.  The Psalmist lists several.

Wonderful Wife

The man who is obedient to God will have a wife that is fruitful.  Children are a blessing and a reward from God.  Additionally, the wife of an obedient man is most likely following in his footsteps, and is obedient to God and to him as well.  Everything that she does will pour forth out of her joy in Jesus and her husband.  She will be able to trust in her husband, and show him the respect that he desires and deserves, because she will already be showing God the respect that He deserves through obedience.  Her hands will be busy, and she will be fruitful in all that she does.

Chosen Children

When a man is obedient to God, his children will most likely follow suit.  Children model their parents, whether they want to or not.  They learn by watching our example.  And when it is real to them, they will embrace it as they taste and see that the Lord is good.  They will grow in grace and righteousness before God, and will be a blessing to their parents.

Powerful Prosperity

In obedience, those who follow God will be prospered.  God looks to the future and the spiritual rather than the present and the physical.  And while He desires that we prosper here on Earth, He has an even stronger desire that we prosper in Him.  Obedience produces the character that God desires in His children in the same way that parents desire that their children obey them.

Better the poor whose walk is blameless
than the rich whose ways are perverse.

After all, in obedience, we are afforded great, abundant, and valuable wealth:

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

Long Life

Obedience to God gives us wisdom, and God grants long life to those who seek Him in obedience.  They will live a full life, and be afforded the opportunity to see their grandchildren grow.  Their heritage will be available to be a blessing to them, and they will rejoice that God has given them the opportunity to witness it and to participate in their upbringing.  This is not an iron-clad contractual promise, but rather a generalization that bears out in our experience as we live long and prosper on the Earth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I seeking obedience to God, or His blessings?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have greatly blessed me in that You have revealed Your Son, Jesus Christ to me, and have given me the faith to believe in Him and to follow Him.  Thank You for all that You are, and all that You do.  Give me a heart of obedience so that I will be like Your servant David, who heart was continually turning or turned towards You.  Help me to overcome my sin so that I would be able to be even more obedient to Your word and Your will.  Give me clean hands and a pure heart that I might yield all that I am and all that I have to You in worship.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

National Security and God – 2 Kings 6:8-12

Seek Knowledge And Wisdom From The One Who Knows The End From The Beginning

8 Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.”

9 The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” 10 So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.

11 This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”

12 “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”

Ways of War

Throughout history, there have always been enemies of nations. Whether the leaders of the nation were God-fearing or not, the enemy of our souls, Satan, plants seeds of envy, distrust, discord, hatred, greed, and murder in the hearts of those who would exalt themselves over God, and refuse to acknowledge that God and God alone placed them in power.

When a nation goes to war, there are many efforts that go into preparing for it:

  • They send spies among their enemies to gather intelligence to plan their attacks
  • They may launch campaigns of information warfare against their enemies to demoralize the nation and cause fear and discord
  • They may send warriors to be embedded in the midst of the nation in an effort to stage attacks that would cause dissension, fear, and panic
  • They gather their armies together to overwhelm their chosen enemies by cunning or overwhelming force
  • They try to destroy their enemies by introducing immorality among them to get them to destroy themselves from within

Superb Surveillance

The key to all of this is having the necessary intelligence to plan attacks. It does a nation no good to launch an offensive against a place that they believe to be of strategic importance, only to later learn that those troops were fooled, and while they were preoccupied, the opposing side surrounds them and defeats them.

In the world of technology, we still use human spies to gather intelligence of every type. Using computers, specialized data-analytics software is used to arrange the overwhelming volume of data into specific patterns that can be used to determine trends and eventually accurately predict the outcome of your subject’s efforts. We now call it data mining. We even spy electronically on voice and data communications, GPS signals, web searches, anything we can get that will help us in our efforts to predict what is coming next.

We even use small “bugs” that gather information and either send it to us wirelessly, through the electrical system of a building (high-frequency signals over the low-frequency carrier wave of electricity in the wires), or devices that just gather data to be picked up later (like the hard drives in today’s modern printers, computers, Internet of Things [IoT], etc). Nations even wage cyber warfare against corporations, individuals, and governments, stealing proprietary data and communications through the use of malicious software, and social engineering – the exploitation of human nature.

All of these efforts are used to get the best and most accurate information possible to make decisions. But in the (even somewhat recent, as well as distant) past, these data-gathering techniques were not always possible. But there was always one source of information that was completely accurate, reliable, and invaluable.

Infallible Information

In this passage, the prophet Elisha would warn the king of Israel of the plans of his enemies, in this case, the king of Aram. Elisha would hear from the Spirit of God what Aram was going to do. This shouldn’t surprise us, since in the Bible, it is said that God knows what words will be on our lips before they even leave our mouth.

God is truth. There is no lie upon His lips. Anything that God tells us is absolutely, positively, the most unbiased, accurate description of reality that we can receive. God routinely told (and even now tells) His prophets of what is to come:

1 When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. 2 Elijah said to Elisha, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to Bethel.”

But Elisha said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

3 The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

Yes, I know,” Elisha replied, “so be quiet.”

4 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here, Elisha; the Lord has sent me to Jericho.”

And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So they went to Jericho.

5 The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

“Yes, I know,” he replied, “so be quiet.”

Tried and True

Time and time again, the prophets of God, as inspired by God, told the people what He wanted them to say. The true prophets of God knew God’s will and what was to come. God didn’t tell them everything, but what He wanted them to know. The king of Aram was in distress. In his confusion, he asked his officers who in his ranks was on the side of Israel.

God thwarts the plans of the wicked. He foils the plans of the nations. He has declared Himself sovereign, and overthrows the learning of the wise. God has declared of His righteous ones:

16 “See, it is I who created the blacksmith
who fans the coals into flame
and forges a weapon fit for its work.
And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc;
17 no weapon forged against you will prevail,
and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
and this is their vindication from me,”
declares the Lord.

Patterns of the Past

The reason that we fail is because we refuse to remember our past. George Santayana said the following: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” When we do not look to our past, we will certainly repeat our mistakes. We can only learn if we study the lessons that the past teaches to us. God had His people erect stones of remembrance because He knows that we are a forgetful species, and as a sign to future generations what God has done for us.

In our case, He was gracious enough to have His people record the deeds of the past in His book, the Bible. Anyone who wishes to grow wealthy in knowledge and wisdom would be wise to remember George Santayana’s comments and read the Bible to glean lessons from its rich history.

Simple Success

A note to any leaders who believe that they know the One True God, YHWH, and follow His ways:

Read the Bible. Learn from the past. As clearly indicated here, do you want to be safe? Do you want to know what your enemies are doing? Do you want to keep your citizen’s information private, except that which impacts National Security? Give your life to God. Believe God, obey God, and it will be credited to you as righteousness.

Ask God to send His prophets to you so that you may receive Godly counsel. Surround yourself with them. Heed their wise counsel. Turn from your wicked ways, and turn to God. Repent and weep over the sins of your nation. Make it your sole desire in life to serve God, and to serve those you have been placed over (and not yourselves or anyone else). Be Servants in Charge, and lead your people in righteousness. THEN God will reveal your enemies’ bedroom secrets to you (as well as their troop positions, spies, cyber-warriors, strengths, weaknesses, weapons, defenses, and strategies), tell you which of your citizens are enemy-terrorists who plot against you and your nation, and what you can do about it. And you will be shielded by the most powerful person in the known universe and beyond – The Lord God Almighty.

(And remember what happens when you don’t ask the Lord God Almighty beforehand about a matter.)

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: Where do I go for my information?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I pray that you will forgive my nation for its many sins. Help us to turn our hearts towards You. I pray for those whom You have placed in leadership over me in my nation. Give them strength, wisdom, and knowledge to do all that You want them to do. Help them to completely yield their lives to You. And I pray, Lord God, that You would send Your prophets to them to give them wise counsel, and to help them know the necessary information in order to protect my nation from its enemies, and Your enemies. Forgive me for my sins, and help me and my family to live for You, Lord God. 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 formatting.  Additionally, the prophet first reported for this scripture was Elijah.  The correct prophet for this scripture is Elisha.

Press on Towards Christ – Philippians 3:12-14

We Have Not Yet Arrived

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Aggressively Advance

Paul had a form of tunnel vision.  It was the intentional, singular goal in his life – that he press on towards Christ.  Paul realized that the distractions of life would pull at him, and try to derail his efforts, keeping him from doing what God had determined before time began that he should accomplish:

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

Each of us has a calling from God to do what God has planned in advance for us to accomplish.  We must strive with every ounce of energy in our bodies to do that which God desires for us to accomplish for, and in, His name.

Awaiting  Arrival

Many people would look at the ministry of Paul and say that Paul had arrived, that he had advanced as far as he could spiritually, was mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  But Paul reminds us here that he himself recognizes that he has not yet arrived.  Paul can only see one thing – Christ and Him crucified.  Paul is in the process of allowing God to nail everything that is not of God that is still in Paul to the cross of Christ.  Paul still has a sin nature he inherited from Adam, and that causes him distress:

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Forget the Former

Paul has a secret weapon that he uses effectively and mightily in the war on his flesh: He forgets what is behind.  When we dwell on the past, we are not able to focus on the future.  The past holds us in its grip, reminding us of our failures (guilt and shame), as well as our successes (pride and haughtiness), and traps us in a mental loop where we are unable to see clearly what we are doing or where we are going.  Paul reminds himself that he is forgiven.  You are forgiven!  All that you have ever done, are doing, and will do, is forgiven by God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

The ordinance of baptism is not only sign of obedience to God and to that world that you are now identifying with Christ rather than the world, it is designed, symbolically, to represent the cleansing of your sins, shedding all of the dirt of your past.  Practically, this act is designed to remove from your conscious and subconscious, all traces of guilt and shame for what has gone before.  When we go under the water, then come back up, our conscience is completely clean.  We feel new, and the burden of what was has been removed from our shoulders:

12 “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him.

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’ [Emphasis mine]

The blood of Christ washes our sins away.  Baptism washes the psychological effects of our sin away.  When we are baptized, we can feel that God has cleansed our conscience, and from there move forward.  If you have not been baptized because:

  • You have heard that it is legalism (it’s not – obedience to God is not legalism, it is the act of  gratitude and respect towards your Father in Heaven)
  • You have heard it is not required for salvation (it isn’t – the thief on the cross was not baptized, yet Christ promised he would be in his kingdom [also look at Joel 2:32].  Requirements are just that – absolute, inviolable precursors needed to ensure success)
  • You have heard that you don’t have to be obedient in this command

then I highly recommend that you find someone who is willing to baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit so that you can receive the blessing that comes both from obedience and the cleansing of your conscience!

Pointedly Proceed

Paul was straining towards what is ahead.  His sole focus was to keep his eyes on Christ, and continue to arrange his life in such a manner that he was passionately pursuing his own sanctification as well as the mission that God had provided to him.   Paul sought to please the Lord in everything he said, thought, and did.  He did not always succeed, but rather than live in the past, Paul strove towards the future and his goal: honoring his Lord Jesus Christ in all that he did and all that he was.

Gazing toward the Goal

The key to doing all of this is to keep our eyes focused solely upon Jesus.  There is a refrain in an old hymn that puts this in perspective:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What am I doing to press on towards the goal?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, may all praise and glory be unto the Lord God Almighty, who is worthy.  I thank You for Paul’s life as an example of how to live in a way that honors and glorifies Your name.  Thank you for showing me that perfection in this life is not possible, but it is You that looks at the hearts of men, and gives grace and mercy to all of us who fail, even though we strive with all of our hearts to obey You in everything You have said.  Grant me the strength to forgive myself, and help me to keep my eyes upon Jesus, so that I would always look forward, and leave the past behind.  Father, I know it is Satan who tries to get me to dwell in my past.  Help me to let go of the past.  And Father, I ask that you would help me to better understand how baptism cleanses my conscience.  Give me clean hands and a pure heart, unaffected by my past, that I can strive with the singular purpose of love and obedience in following Jesus.  Amen.

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

Called to Suffering – Acts 9:16

Can God Trust You With Suffering?

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

Carefully Called

We can rejoice that God does not do things at random:

Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.

God, omniscient, knows all things, and has a plan that is coming to fruition.  He carefully selects people for what He wants them to do.  He said the following of King David:

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

Many people were called by God for different purposes.  Some were to lead God’s people as judges, prophets, or kings.  Others were called to be intercessors, such as Esther.  Still others were called to discipline the Israelites through conquering them and enslaving them.  In every case, it was God who called them for His specific purpose, in His specific timing, for His greater glory.

Providential Purpose

God has purpose in everything that He does.  God does not waste any opportunity.  What appears to us to be random sequences of events are actually the carefully placed trellis that leads those who climb up it to where God wants and needs them to be.  We are but a mist, here today, and gone tomorrow.  We do not have the luxury of divine perspective with regards to long periods of time, because the average life span of a human being is seventy years, eighty if God is gracious.  We are unable to see the intertwining connectivity of timing and events, and to see the tendrils of connectedness between seemingly unrelated events and how and where they will intersect with one another in a tsunami of repercussions.

In all things, God has specific purposes for what He has called us.  Each of us are to play a part in it.  Paul likens this to being parts in a body, each one with unique features but that are part of a greater whole, contributing to or inhibiting the growth and health of the whole.  In everything, there is purpose.  God places purpose in His creation to reveal to us that He is full of purpose, and that we are to play a part in the purposes of God.

Heavenly Hardship

One of the most difficult, yet needed, purposes for God’s plan is people who have been chosen to be examples.  Some have been chosen by God to be examples of what is good.  Others have been chosen to be examples of what is not good.

For example, Able, the son of Adam and Eve, was chosen as an example of what we should do because he made the right offering before God.  Conversely, Cain, another son of Adam and Eve, was chosen as an example of what we should not do because of his offering before God, and his subsequent actions in regards to his offering’s rejection by God.

We need to keep in mind that the student is not above the teacher.  And Jesus Christ, the very best example that the Lord God Almighty could have sent to us experienced divine hardship on a scale that none of us can even comprehend.  He suffered and experienced great hardship throughout His life, but always with the attitude that God the Father had purpose in His hardship, and that in being yielded to the Holy Spirit, His life would glorify God.

One of the most difficult hardships to be given by God is the hardship of suffering.

Severe Suffering

No one likes to suffer (unless they are mentally deranged).  Suffering produces pain in our lives, and makes our lives so difficult that we can barely function.  At times, suffering can be so severe that we are incapacitated by it, and truly cannot even function.  Ask a person who is recovering from ninety percent of their skin being burned off in a fire if they are able to function.  The answer is obvious – until they are healed, they cannot.

God called His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to ultimate suffering for us.  As payment for our sins, not only was the burden of our sins – every sin that every human being ever committed past, present, and future – laid upon his shoulders as He hung on the cross at Calvary, God withdrew His presence from Him, and He experienced complete and total separation from the presence, provision, and protection of God in complete and total isolation with that burden placed upon Him in ultimate pain and agony.  Let it never be said that our salvation is free; it is freely given to us, but the cost was unimaginable.

Sometimes people are called to severe emotional suffering.  They have survived rape, torture, abuse, war, and other unspeakable circumstances.  The scars of these events will affect them for ages to come.  But they have been called as witnesses to the power, grace and glory of God as He leads them out of the bondage that such devastation has caused.

Sometimes people are called to severe physical affliction.  Most people have experienced some type of physical affliction, whether it is sickness or a broken bone.  But God has called some to suffer, not for days, months, or even years, but DECADES of life with pain that would cause the average person to curl up into a fetal position in the corner and bemoan their life (take a look at the life of Job for better clarification on this).  Ask people who have trigeminal neuralgia what it is like to live where, possibly every few seconds, or every second, it feels like someone is striking your face with the full swing of a baseball bat.  This particular affliction is also called “the suicide disease” because people would rather take their own life than live with the consequences of it.

In some cases, such as Lyme’s disease, it can not only be a painful, life-sucking, energy-draining, body-wasting disease, it can cause great misery.  Pain can be medicated away, even with morphine drips.  But misery is in an entirely different category.  Being in a state of extreme misery for any extended period of time will have a person begging God to take their life.  And when the pain and the misery go on day after day, year after year, DECADE AFTER DECADE, and the person is a disciple of Jesus Christ, whom it appears God has forsaken in their disease and time of need, what are they to do?

Total Trust

God has called these particular people to suffering as example to others.  Suffering (and the hardship that comes with it) produces character, and character produces hope.  Hope, in the sense that the Bible uses the word, is not wishful thinking, but rather a reasoned and sound expectation that some future event will occur.  In this, disciples of Christ have hope that God will work all things to good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  The purpose is to trust that Almighty God is sovereign, that He has a plan, that He has not forsaken those who suffer hardship, and be an example to others that in their pain and hardship, God is real and is able to get them through their trials as well.

When these great saints of God are called to severe suffering, and show complete and total trust through it, it is a powerful message to those who do not believe in God that there must be something that is helping those who are suffering to believe.  It is evident to most people who, in light of this type of suffering, there is no circumstance in the world that can force a person to believe that their suffering has purpose and is worth enduring apart from the sovereign grace and power of Almighty God.

Total trust in God yields great fruit, both in the life of the one suffering, and in the example provided to those who need an example to continue on in their own difficulties.  God loves it when we trust Him through these difficulties.  David spoke of this in Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The trust goes two ways.  We are to trust God, because He and He alone is completely trustworthy.  But God also trusts us.  To those whom He has placed the terrible burden of suffering, He trusts them to properly display that trust right back at Him.  The more hardship God brings into your life – and that which is NOT caused by your own sin, actions, or as consequences of your life choices – the more that he is trusting you for something great.

There is a story that goes something like this:

A man was at a lumberyard watching the lumberjacks move mighty trees from the forest down the river to where they would be sawn for wood.  At a junction in the river, there was a lumberjack who, every now and then, would direct one of the large trees floating in the water down a smaller path of the river.  There appeared to be no difference in the appearance of the trees, so this seemed odd to the man.  The man then asked the lumberjack directing these trees down the river what he was doing.

The lumberjack told the man the trees he was directing down the smaller path were from the very top of the mountain.  They received the most abuse from the weather, and they were constantly buffeted by the wind, rain, and snow.  These mighty trees looked like the others, but because of the abuse they took, along with the fact that they had not broken in the process, were of exceptional quality.  The wood had a much finer grain, and when used by carpenters, made the very finest furniture and brought the highest price on the market.  They were destined to be used by the most skilled artisans in the land for the most sought after projects, and were to be displayed in the most coveted of places because of the beauty that grew in them due to the hardship of the weather.

And just as the trees in this story brought praise to the artisans that used them with their great skill, so will the hardship in our lives be used by God to bring Him the maximum amount of glory, and be useful for displaying His craftsmanship and character.

Glorifying God

The end result of everything that God has done in the past, is doing now, and will do in the future, is to bring glory to Himself.  He and He alone is worthy of all glory, honor, praise, power, dominion, and strength.  He alone is The Great I AM, providing for our every need, displaying His love and infinite power to all who would take notice.

When a person is willing to be used by God for this purpose, God will use them mightily in ministry and to display His glory.  There is no greater honor than to be used by God in this way, as Jesus Christ demonstrated to us on the cross at Calvary.  But are we willing to go through the difficulty and hardship that is required to bring about the changes necessary to properly display what God has planned in His heart for us to show the world?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I willing to allow God to bring hardship and suffering in my life to fulfill His plans and purposes for me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your word is perfect, and Your will and character are perfect as well.  You have shown throughout Your word that You can be trusted with everything, for You are perfect in every way.  Father, help me to endure suffering and hardship as discipline.  Help me to gain Your perspective on my circumstances so that I may be willing to be used by You for the calling that You have placed upon my life.  Help me to be faithful to You throughout the process so that during the trials, and when I come out on the other side, You will be shown rightly to all who watch.  Guard my heart against bitterness through the process, and fill me with Your peace and power that all things You have planned would come to pass.  This I ask in the precious name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

 

 

Carnal Christianity – Genesis 13:12-13

We Are To Pitch Our Tents Towards God, Not Towards Sodom

12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

Choose Carefully

Each of us will eventually be faced with a choice.  When we reach that fork in the road, we will have to choose which way we should go.  And though there may be more than two choices, there is usually one good choice, and not-so-good choice.

Lot was given first pick of where he would like to go.  Rather than choose the land as far from sin as possible, he chose the fertile plains near Sodom and Gomorrah.  In itself, choosing this direction is not evil.  However, we must be very careful when we choose to dwell near evil, because constant exposure to wickedness can deaden our revulsion to it.

In today world, in Western Culture, we have reports where people are being raped and murdered, and rather than help the innocent victims, like the Good Samaritan, people turn the cameras of their smartphones on and, in wonder, record the wickedness of men, only to later post the videos of the encounter on such file-sharing services as YouTube, hoping that it will “go viral.”  In a world where people would willingly allow unspeakable evil happen to their neighbor to generate ratings on their YouTube channel, they have become inured to the effects of evil.

The path to desensitization is a slow and insidious process.  Once we become desensitized to something, we can properly justify its existence, and if we are not careful, embrace it as normal, natural, socially acceptable, and then preferable.  Let’s look to the life of Lot to see how “pitching our tents towards Sodom” can lead a person from revulsion to acceptance and “tolerance.”

Parked in the Periphery

When the groups of men of Abram and his relative Lot became so large that there was quarreling between the two group, Abram told Lot to choose a direction and he would go in the other.  Lot chose the fertile plains towards Sodom, and “pitched his tents towards Sodom.”

When we intentionally head towards wickedness, we need to be particularly careful that we are not influenced by our situation.  We are called to be light and salt.  But we must not be deceived:

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Lot, in choosing what appeared to be the more verdant land that promised to greatly prosper his family, chose an area near a people who participated in great wickedness.  This would eventually lead to his family’s downfall.

Gathered at the Gates

After Lot had been captured and later rescued by Abram, we later see that he was sitting in the city gates.  This was the prominent position where the elders of the city would gather.  Lot, as a believer in the Lord God Almighty, should have been of great influence in the land.  He was now a part of the city elders, the equivalent of being on City Council.  He had every opportunity to talk to the people, but as we will see, the people did not heed his example, and later would threaten him for even suggesting that they abstain from abject wickedness.

Lot was no longer in the periphery, he was an active part of the community, and actually making decisions for the community.  On the surface this would appear to be an ideal situation.  But let’s look at how much the people actually respected and revered his position of authority with them:

Total Toleration

Lot’s place was now at the city gate.  He was in the thick of things.  He could either be an influence for good, or “go with the flow” and  “go along to get along” so that he wouldn’t rock the boat and possibly damage the economic benefits that came with such a position and influence.  Let’s see exactly how much he had influenced the culture:

4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

9 “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

We can see that they, in their wicked and insatiable desires, immediately classified him as a foreigner, and an obstacle to their carnal desires.  They actually threatened to do worse to Lot than they had planned to do to the angels.  It is interesting to note that they are making a comment about Lot’s attitude towards their behavior.  Note that they say, …”and now he wants to play the judge!” (emphasis mine).  He apparently had not said a thing to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah about their wickedness.  He would have been soundly trounced and driven out of there had he said a single word that offended them.  Their reaction conclusively shows that he remained quiet about their lifestyle until now.  We can only speculate as to why.  But the Bible does say:

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

But now let’s look at Lot’s reaction.  While protecting visitors was of utmost importance in the culture regarding hospitality at the time, rather than rebuking them, he offered his two daughter’s to them to be ravaged with their peculiar predilections.  While it is true that in Lot’s time women were not thought of as highly as they are today in Western culture, this was an abomination – to sacrifice your own children.  Would it not be better to protect your family, and go down swinging?  Lot compromised by potentially harming his innocent family in order to try to maintain peace and the hope of still living among people who might very well have done unspeakable horrors to his innocent children.

Lot had been influenced by the culture rather than influencing the culture.  There is always the danger that, when living in the midst of cultural decay, we adopt the attitudes of what we see around us as acceptable, and don’t even realize how deeply we have been affected by wickedness until a time of desperation and great trial comes upon us.  It is only then that we will see how we will respond.  Which training and beliefs will win through the trial – the teachings and beliefs in Almighty God, or the Godless beliefs of the culture we have CHOSEN to live in?

Paul indicated that we are to separate ourselves from the world.  This is not to separate us physically from the world, but rather to separate our values, beliefs, morals, and actions from what the world system teaches.  As we go about our ways, we must constantly be in communication and communion with our Lord Jesus Christ and walk yielded to the Holy Spirit of God, lest we find ourselves slowly being sucked into culture, and eventually, indistinguishable from it.

When we reach this stage – where the way we act is indistinguishable from the world around us – that we find that we have become carnal Christians.  We are no longer disciples of Christ, but rather holding on to a semblance of piety, spouting belief in the holy word of God, and perhaps even memorizing the word, but not allowing its power to transform our lives into the character and caliber of people as befits us as image-bearers of God:

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- 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

Final Forbearance

When we get to this stage, we are confronted by a holy, almighty God:

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I influencing culture, or is culture influencing me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are a holy God, and cannot stand sin in Your presence.  Examine my heart, Lord God, and see if there is any wrongdoing in me.  Show me my transgressions, and expose any inroads that the enemy has purchased in my soul.  Help me to see how egregious this is to You, and to be shocked again at the vileness of sin.  Give me a right perspective that aligns completely with Your heart and Your word.  Let me not go my own way, but rather purchase gold refined by Your fire, so that I may be restored to You.  Help me to be a powerhouse influence in culture.  And if that costs me dearly, so be it.  I would rather be hated by men and near to You than to be loved by men and spewed out of Your mouth.  Help me to fight the emotional battles that need to be fought, and provide me with the strength to have solid footing when there are consequences for speaking up for You.  I announce to the world this day that my allegiance is with Almighty God, and not culture.  Do with me what You will, I already know my eternal future.  Let me say to the world, “come with me that you may have life, and have it super-abundantly”, and know in my heart that You are sovereign over all, Lord God.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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Walking with God – Isaiah 50:10-11

Do Not Walk In Your Own Light

10 Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the word of his servant?
Let the one who walks in the dark,
who has no light,
trust in the name of the Lord
and rely on their God.
11 But now, all you who light fires
and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
go, walk in the light of your fires
and of the torches you have set ablaze.
This is what you shall receive from my hand:
You will lie down in torment.

Reverential Respect

God asks us a question, and reminds us of how we should respond to Him. He qualifies that the advice He is about to give is for those who, first and foremost, fear Him. In this context, the fear of the Lord is a reverential respect of the Lord God Almighty. This is not the fear of absolute destruction, but rather a reasoned trust in someone who is far more knowledgeable, powerful, and faithful than ourselves. God not only uses this type of fear as a qualifier, but also lists another qualifier – those who obey the word of His servant.

Obedience to Orders

Obedience is a key aspect to the fear of the Lord. Obedience indicates belief in both our intellect and our heart. It would be disingenuous to say that we believe something then not act on it. While there may be times when circumstances prevent us from doing certain things (it would be hard to buy something you need on sale if you have no money, or go somewhere if you are in a coma…), we act upon what we believe. Obedience is an outward sign of acknowledgement of the authority of another. God calls us to obedience to Him. Disobedience is sin. In this manner, He is calling those who believe in His name – His character. And to all who believe God, it is credited to them as righteousness.

Ambling in Absence

In an interesting twist, Isaiah talks about walking in darkness. While we are told that the word of God is a light for our feet and a lamp for our path, this is a situation where the word of God is not shedding sufficient light to show you how to proceed. Here is an example:

  • You have a choice between two job positions, and both seem as though they will honor God, yet each one has a drawback. Which should you choose?

There will be times when God’s word does not shed enough light on your situation to make it clear how you should respond. When that occurs, you are walking in darkness. God may even withhold his peace from you in this time of darkness. That is a scary place to be.

Complete Conviction

And when you face this time of abject darkness, God tells us to trust in His name – His character – and rely upon Him. God desires that we have complete and total trust in who He is, especially when circumstances are against us. He may even do something that seems cruel and punishing – God may do the opposite. And when He does that, when there is no promise that He will help, and then the opposite happens in answer to every prayer, that can be devastating. You may begin to ask, “Does God even care?” It is in darkness that our faith is made stronger. In every case where we are walking in darkness, it is always better to wait upon God than to take matters into our own hands.

False Fire

God warns us about making our own fire and walking about in it. We can come to conclusions apart from God that are devastatingly wrong. Additionally, we will be out-of-step with God’s timing. EVERYTHING is about timing. If you doubt this, watch what happens when someone puts milk in a pot on medium heat, and walks away. If they don’t pay attention to it, they will receive a brand new kitchen! – the old one will burn down, and likely take the rest of the structure with it.

When we walk outside of the light of God – His timing and direction – we will not only miss the blessings that He has in store for us, but we may very well receive something that has terrible consequences. When we walk in our own light, we are, in effect, telling God with our actions that we don’t trust Him, and we can do it all by ourselves:

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Tumultuous Torment

God then promises what our reward will be for disobeying Him, turning our back upon Him, distrusting Him, and “doing things our own way.” We will receive torment from His hand. That is a powerful statement. Rather than receive His blessing, we will receive torment. Think carefully about that. God takes this very seriously. He is a holy God, upright and just in everything that He does. He does not take insolence and outright disobedience lying down. God may give you exactly what you ask for. And it will be torment, delivered from His just and holy hand.

Just as a very young child asking for an orangutan as a pet should be told “No!”, we need to trust in the wisdom of Him who is all-wise, all-knowing, and completely faithful. For if we don’t, and we decide to reject the Lord after He has graciously been faithful in all things, we will certainly deserve what we get. Don’t allow your circumstances to control your emotions and permit them to inform your intellect. Instead, trust in the Lord, and allow your intellect to direct your will, and force your emotions to be in obedience with God’s holy word – no matter how painful, devastating, and crushing your circumstances may be. For God will provide everything you need in the time that you need it to get through everything in life – “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: How do I respond when I am walking in darkness?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your Son is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the light that we need to seek and follow. He is the only way to You. Help me to trust in You and Your perfect character as my circumstances grow dim, and seek to destroy me. Help me to find comfort and encouragement in the lives of Job and Joseph, whose circumstances just kept getting grimmer every day, but who never stopped trusting in Your perfect character. Give my heart hope and peace in the midst of my trials, and help me to secure the emotional damage that the enemy inflicts ever painful, agonizing second that I am called to endure my trials. Guard my heart against all bitterness, and help me to grow in love. Help me to respond to my tormentors the same way that Jesus responded to His. This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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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.

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Announcing the Announcer – Luke 1:76-80

John The Baptist Would Prepare The Way For The Messiah

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

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

Proclaiming the Prophet

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

Prepare a Path

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

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

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

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

Speak of Salvation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burn Brightly

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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Trust in God – Matthew 1:18-25

Sometimes Trusting God Will Place You In Very Awkward Situations

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

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

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

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

Social Scandal

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Husband

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

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

Angelic Announcement

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

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

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

Faithful Father

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Bearing Fruit for God – John 15:6-8

Remain In Christ To Bear Great Fruit For God’s Glory

6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Wasted Wood

God is the master gardener.  He carefully prunes His vines, removing the dead portions of branches to make them more profitable, and when necessary, removing the dead wood from the vine.  Just as any gardener will tell you, it is never good when you have to remove entire branches from your plants.  Although necessary in order to ensure the survival of the plant, it impacts the plant and lowers the productivity of your investment.  Branches that are dead to the vine become a liability, and are good for nothing except to be burned in the fire.  We need to keep this in mind, for most of us are wild branches grafted into the vine.  And if God will prune out the native branches, how much more so will he for the grafted ones!

Favors Fulfilled

Jesus says something very profound here.  If we remain in Him, God will grant whatever we ask of Him!  Part of that is because when we are in Christ, we are walking in the same way that He did – in complete submission and obedience to the Holy Spirit of God.  As such, we are in the position to be used by Him to execute the plans and purposes that God desires to accomplish. We are other-focused, with our eyes on Jesus and the cross.  When we are focused in that manner, the requests that we make will be to ensure that God’s will be done here on Earth as it is in Heaven.  God certainly would grant any request that fulfills His plans and purposes.

The second part is that when we are submitted to God as Jesus was to the Holy Spirit, we will only be seeking what is good.  Self-centered prayers and desires will not dominate our thoughts, and we will put down the attempts by the enemy as he attempts to distract and derail our efforts by placing selfish thoughts in our minds.  If the enemy can distract us from fulfilling our purpose that God has planned, he is successful in doing the only thing that he can – to keep us from properly bearing the image of God.  And when that happens, we are not bringing glory to God.

Glory to God

Jesus points out that the purpose for granting our requests IS to bring glory to God.  It is not for our comfort, self-fulfillment, emotional happiness, material enrichment, or any other purpose than to bring glory to Himself.  God and God alone is worthy of glory.  We have been tasked with doing His will to bring glory to His name.  God will do everything He can to make sure that we are successful in our attempt to submit in obedience to Him for this purpose.  Anything that we ask that God has planned and desires will be granted:

1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Decidedly Disciples

When we are submitted in obedience to the Holy Spirit, we will bear much fruit in season:

1 Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither-
whatever they do prospers.

Since we are the branches and Christ is the vine, we are expected to bear fruit for Christ when He wants us to, in or out of season:

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

God is full of grace and mercy.  But if/when we continually refuse to bear fruit for the one who gives us nourishment and provides for our every need, eventually He will prune out the dead wood.  And for those who respond to His desire to bear fruit, He will prune the dead portions of the branch so that the rest of the branch will grow and bear fruit, thus honoring and bringing glory to God.  And when we bring honor and glory to God by bearing fruit for Him at His request, we show that we truly are His disciples.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I willing to bear fruit out of season for God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown great compassion towards me in bringing me to Your Son.  Grant me the strength and desire to bear much fruit for You.  Help me to be prepared to do all that You require of me so that I may bring glory to Your name.  Help me to be a better disciple, and grant me the ability to submit and obey Your word more and more each and every day.  Forgive me when I fail and succumb to selfishness desires.  Guard my mind and my heart against the plans of the enemy, and give me the character to consistently turn towards You in every circumstance that You permit in life, for You are Sovereign Lord over all creation.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Obedience to God – Psalm 81:11-16

Victory Comes Through Obedience

11 “But my people would not listen to me;
Israel would not submit to me.
12 So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts
to follow their own devices.

13 “If my people would only listen to me,
if Israel would only follow my ways,
14 how quickly I would subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes!
15 Those who hate the Lord would cringe before him,
and their punishment would last forever.
16 But you would be fed with the finest of wheat;
with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”

Learning to Listen

Listening to God is not one of the stronger qualities of mankind.  For millennia, we have ignored the commands of God and have gone our own ways.  For us, obedience seems to be a fleeting concept, just out of the reach of men, beckoning to us yet remaining elusive with the draw of every other manner of pleasure, satisfaction, and fulfillment.  The flesh, the world, and the devil intentionally sabotage every effort at obedience through their incessant cries for attention.  Their efforts are like delicious chocolate dangled in front of the faces of children with obedience like plates of broccoli, brussel sprouts, and kale in warm butter and garlic just outside their reach.  As children, we know what we like, and we grab what we can, not realizing the error of our ways until it is too late.

God beckons to us to listen to Him and obey Him.  Obedience and faithfulness of our hearts have been two of His primary tasks since Adam and Eve.  They were given only one command, yet even then they could not even be obedient in that.  Given the option to partake in the forbidden fruit, we often give in to our desires in a moment of weakness, unable to resist the sumptuous and easy bait lying in front of us.  But God desires that we ignore the bait, and desire Him more.

Choices have Consequences

And when we continually fail to develop self-restraint and self-control, we spiral out of control and allow our desires to control us, rather than the opposite.  Cain, in a fit of rage when his offering was rejected by God, lashed out at the only one he could – he murdered his brother Able, who provided the accepted offering.  And so murder was born into the world of men.  As we mature, we learn more and more that there are consequences with our actions.  We may ignore them, or emotionlessly calculate the risks versus the rewards of them.  And when we do so repeatedly, without seeking God, He gives us over to our stubborn hearts.

How terrible is it to be ruled by our every desire.  When people are ruled by their emotions, they make horrible decisions.  They injure and kill their neighbors.  They burn down their neighborhoods.  They steal and rob from others.  The strong quickly overpower the weak and lord their power over their victims.  And as they continually allow themselves to be fueled by their emotions, there is no end to the depth of their depravity.

Veritable Victory

God gives us hope in the form of a promise.  When we are obedience, we will experience victory.  We will have victory over our sin.  We will have victory over our enemies.  And our enemies – also the enemies of God – will experience the punishment in the form of judgment by God for what they have done.  We cannot expect God to punish our enemies while we are participating in the exact same behavior that they are.  God does not show favoritism among men.  Victory can only come through obedience and submission to God.

Do you want your enemies to be brought to justice?  Do you want an end to your torment?  Do you want to have victory regardless of our your circumstances?  Be obedient to God who gives victory not only over our enemies by also over our own sin nature.  It is only then that we can live in a way that truly glorifies God and brings Him honor.  No matter the end result of our circumstances, obedience and submission to God are the only way to ensure our victory over our own nature.

Lest we forget, Jesus Christ was completely obedient to God and fully submitted to His Spirit, yet even He had to suffer on the cross for us.  But his victory was OVER death, and his reward was to sit at the right hand of God, given the world as His footstool, to reign in everlasting glory.

Rich Reward

God also promises to reward us for obedience and submission to Him.  When we, AS A PEOPLE, submit ourselves to God in obedience, He brings peace and prosperity to our nation:

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.

No longer will we suffer under economic duress.  No longer will we be pursued by our enemies.  God will bring peace and prosperity:

When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.

And as mentioned in this Psalm, He will also do the following:

But you would be fed with the finest of wheat; with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing my stubborn heart to overpower my desire to be obedient to God in submission to His Spirit?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown me in Your word the importance of obedience and submission, and the nature of my heart.  You have given me a heart of flesh for a heart of stone when I believed You and your word.  Help me to keep my heart from hardening in this time of great trial and tribulation.  Soften it so that it would be more receptive to Your gentle nudging.  Give me the desire, patience, and ability to carefully listen to Your voice.  And when I hear You through Your word and Your still small voice, give me a heart like Abraham so that on that very day I would be completely obedient to Your will and desire.  Strengthen me and keep my heart from going cold due to the increase of lawlessness in the world.  Protect me from my enemies and from myself, for each day it becomes harder and harder to do what is right.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

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?

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?

Government and God -Daniel 1:8-17

Which Is Right In God’s Eyes: To Obey Man, Or God? You Be The Judges!

8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. 9 Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

Acquiesce to Authority

At some point in our lives, each of us will be faced with a most difficult situation:  the leaders that have been placed over us will either enact laws that require us to disobey God, or we will be told by them to do something that we know to be contrary to the will of God.  When faced with this dilemma, we will each need to make a decision on how to address the issue.  For some, it will merely mean that they will lose their job/position/status in their society.  For others, it may mean that they will lose their lives, and possibly the lives of their other family members, friends, acquaintances, and perhaps everyone they know.

The most difficult part is that we have been given a directive by God through His Apostle Paul:

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Whom, then, will you serve?

Father First

The life of Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (also known as Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) serve to give us guidance on how to live our lives in a world and culture that doesn’t know God, and that demands that we follow the rule of man rather than the rule of God.  In each case in the lives of these men, they placed God first in their lives.  And in each case, God blessed them for their obedience:

  • When asked to defile themselves with the King’s food, they offered an alternative – eating simple vegetables.  God blessed them with favor in the eyes of their captors.
  • When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were commanded to bow down before the king and worship him when they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, they respectfully declined, and declared before the king that they must obey God.  Thrown into the fiery furnace, God protected them and even the king gave glory to God.
  • When Daniel was told that he could only pray to the king, he continued with his practice of praying to God.  Thrown into the lion’s den, God shut the mouths of the lions until the ones responsible for placing him there were brought forward and placed in the same situation.  They did not fare as well as Daniel…

In each and every case where Daniel and his friends placed God first and obeyed God, the Lord God Almighty blessed and protected them, even when faced with what appeared to be certain death.  John helps us to remember that fear has to do with punishment, and that perfect love casts out all fear.  We are to live our lives in such a way that our enemies see no fear in us.  When they see that, it will be a witness to them that God is who He says He is.  It is then that they will experience fear.

Divine Delegates

But what about the leadership of men?  Does not God delegate his rule and authority over men to other men that He puts into place?  How do we reconcile submitting ourselves to the ruling authorities because God has instituted all authority and rebellion against what God has established is rebellion against God in the light of evil overseers?  In each case, God must come first.  And although God does institute all authority on Earth in men, we are to obey God first, and then obey men.

How do you obey a leader like Kim Jong-un, who lives at the expense of his people (to the point that they are trying to boil the bark of trees for food and are starving to death)?  Or Adolph Hitler, who attempted to murder all of God’s people, the Jews?  Or Ali Khamenei, who requires that anyone who does not pray to his god to be summarily executed by beheading?

In each of these situations (and many others throughout the world today and in the past) we are faced with leaders that scripture tells us God has placed in power, yet oppress or destroy their own people, and especially God’s family.  The Bible provides us with an answer, albeit one that provides little consolation to the present pain and suffering that is being endured by those who find themselves in these situations:  The just shall live by faith.

Trust in the Trinity

This was the cry of the Reformation.  Each of us must remember that regardless of the situation that we find ourselves in, that we are to trust in the Lord God Almighty and Him alone for the strength to endure and deliverance through our trials.  Paul notes in writings that he has had much, and little.  And God had taught him to be content no matter his circumstances.  In the same way, we must trust in the Lord God Almighty – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – that through our adversity and the terrible trials that we face, that the purpose is that God will be glorified.

When we take on the mindset that life is about us and our pleasure or ease of living, we have bought into the culture’s ideals.  For we are created to worship God and to bring glory to His name.  Nowhere in scripture does it say, “Once you become a Christian (or the disciple of Jesus, to be more precise) your life will become easy, and I will make you wealthy and protect you from any and all difficulty.”  On the contrary – when we become disciples of Christ, our lives are upended.  We have given Almighty God the tacit, willful approval to do whatever He wants to do in our lives.  And His purpose is to conform us into His image through sanctification.

The second half of Hebrews Chapter Eleven tells us of the saints that have gone on before us.  Many were raised up (like Daniel and his friends).  Others were martyred for their faith.  Some were driven from society to live their lives in solitude in caves and other places apart from the men who lived in darkness and despised the light of God.  In each and every one of their lives, there was a tell-tale aspect that needs to be highlighted.  Each and every one of them had faith in God, believed what God said, and it was credited to them as righteousness.

Royal Reward

Although Daniel and his friends were rewarded by God with Earthly accolades, positions of authority, power, and wealth, God has rewarded them with a far greater reward – eternal life.  In this life, we must strive to remember that the reward that we seek is the one in Heaven, not here on Earth.  For the disciple of Christ, we should be looking forward to hearing these simple words from our brother and Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  This is the reward and praise that each of us should seek.  If God sees fit to provide us with additional reward on Earth, that is nice, but not needed.  For do any one of us want to gain the whole world just to lose our souls?

We can rejoice that God is a God of justice.  And when evil men have been placed in authority over us, we can rest assured that God will take care of them in His time.  For this is what evil leaders have to look forward to:

5 indeed, wine betrays him; he is arrogant and never at rest. Because he is as greedy as the grave and like death is never satisfied, he gathers to himself all the nations and takes captive all the peoples.

6 “Will not all of them taunt him with ridicule and scorn, saying, “‘Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion! How long must this go on?’ 7 Will not your creditors suddenly arise? Will they not wake up and make you tremble? Then you will become their prey. 8 Because you have plundered many nations, the peoples who are left will plunder you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

9 “Woe to him who builds his house by unjust gain, setting his nest on high to escape the clutches of ruin! 10 You have plotted the ruin of many peoples, shaming your own house and forfeiting your life. 11 The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it.

12 “Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and establishes a town by injustice! 13 Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing? 14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies! 16 You will be filled with shame instead of glory. Now it is your turn! Drink and let your nakedness be exposed! The cup from the Lord’s right hand is coming around to you, and disgrace will cover your glory. 17 The violence you have done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and your destruction of animals will terrify you. For you have shed human blood; you have destroyed lands and cities and everyone in them.

18 “Of what value is an idol carved by a craftsman? Or an image that teaches lies? For the one who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. 19 Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.”

20 The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What do I do when faced with evil leadership?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy and there is none like You.  You raise up leaders and you remove them from their lofty positions.   It is You who is sovereign over everything that is created – everything on the Earth, beneath the Earth, above the Earth, and the Earth itself.  Nothing is outside of Your reach and grasp, and everyone must give an accounting of themselves before You.  Father, You have shown Yourself to be full of mercy and grace, providing for my every need.  Remember me today, Father, as I struggle with the trials of life.  Grant me the strength to endure, the wisdom to be disciplined by these lessons, and the opportunity to give You glory and speak of You to any and all who will listen.  Thank You, Father, for reminding me that You are in control, and that my treasure is where my heart is.  May it always been with You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Galatians 3:10-13

The Righteous Shall Live By Faith

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

Crushing Curse

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

Live the Law

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

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

Fulfilled in Faith

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

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

Righteous Redeemed

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

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

Christ Crucified

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Victory in Jesus – Joshua 6:1-5

Obedience Is The Key To Victory

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

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

Overcoming when Overwhelmed

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

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

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

Powerful Perspective

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

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

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

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

Obedience Overcomes

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

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

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

Faithful Followup

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

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?

Judgment by God – Isaiah 1:18-23

There Is Always Hope For The Wayward

18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

21 See how the faithful city
has become a prostitute!
She once was full of justice;
righteousness used to dwell in her—
but now murderers!
22 Your silver has become dross,
your choice wine is diluted with water.
23 Your rulers are rebels,
partners with thieves;
they all love bribes
and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
the widow’s case does not come before them.

Right Reasoning

The Lord calls us to come to His point of view.  The ESV translates this part, “‘Come now, let us reason together’, says the Lord”.  God is calling us to see things from His perspective.  He is calling us to settle the matter in our minds.  We have warped views of all things because of our inherent limitations:

  • An inherited sin nature from Adam
  • A severe lack of knowledge of the state of the universe and its truths
  • Personal prejudices and the coloration of events filtered through our experiences.

We are unable to rightly see what is truly going on around us, or even within us.  The heart is deceitful above all.  Since we cannot rightly interpret our own true intents and motivations, how can we expect to rightly interpret those of others, especially a holy and perfect God?  Therefore, God calls us to come to His point of view.

Faithful to Forgive

God promises us forgiveness when we believe Him.  Believing God is always credited to us as righteousness.  God calls us to repentance and promises that our sins will be washed as white as snow, though they were as scarlet as the blood we shed every time we sin.  For the only proper payment for sin is the lifeblood of the sinner.  God is always faithful to forgive when we come to Him in repentance.  We can be assured of that.  And He goes on to show how He rewards.

Reward for Respect

When we are obedient, He will give us the good things of the land.  This is not to say that a single individual will receive it, but rather the people of the land as a whole.  When a land’s people are obedient to God, they desire to follow His law.  And when all of the people of the land follow the law, crime literally disappears.  Strife and hardship between neighbors vanish, as we love our neighbors as ourselves.  We are then able to work together for the benefit of all and reap the rewards of peace, for God will make even our enemies to be at peace with us when we are obedient to Him.

Reward for Rebellion

And when we refuse the blessing and offering of forgiveness of God, then a much more terrible reward is to be expected.  God has promised that He would devour the land with the sword.  The very enemies that He would have made to live in peace with us will overcome us in war.  Death, rather than life, will be the result of rebellion.  For God cannot tolerate sin unchecked.  And for any nation that claimed to be of God, that is particularly egregious to Him.

Israel was chosen by God to bring the Law to the people and to display the glory and character of God to the nations.  They failed in that.  And now, most recently, the failed experiment in self-governance that is/was the United States of America, is facing the very same judgment of God.

The Puritan Pilgrims’ Mayflower Compact was dedicated to God.  The USA as a nation was birthed in the belief that a righteous, self-governing people would be able to live in freedom and prosperity with a minimum of interference of governing authority, for in self-policing and self-governance, little oversight would be needed except to protect the innocent from those who refused to self-govern themselves in righteousness and holiness towards God.  For it is only through the restraint of  sin by fear and obedience to God that we are able to govern the terrible passions that sin has created within us.

When Rulers are Rebels

What follows is a tragic list of what happens when our leaders no longer follow the One True God in holiness and submission to His Spirit:

  • The leaders prostitute themselves to evil
  • Justice is replaced by murder
  • What was once valuable has become corroded and tarnished
  • Their strength and values have become diluted and worthless
  • Those who are charged with meting out justice become partners with thieves
  • They love bribes and seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the people entrusted to oversee them
  • The most vulnerable of society that have a special place in God’s heart – the widows and the orphans – are left without justice and help

This has happened in Israel, and is now happening in the United States of America.  It is never too late to repent.  As a nation, both Israel and the USA need to come to their knees, confess their sins, seek the face of God, turn from their wicked ways, and mourn over the sins of its people. Only then will God heal their land and begin to bless them has He once did.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living in such a way that my actions are in agreement with my stated profession that God’s ways are righteous and just?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your mercies renew every morning, and I thank and praise You for your patience and compassion that You show me every day.  Father, forgive me of my sins.  Grant me the strength and ability to walk in Your holy way, that I would turn from sin and turn towards you.  Forgive the leaders of my nation, Father, and I confess their sins to You.  We are an obstinate, stiff-necked people who are selfish and thing of no one and nothing but ourselves and our own pleasures.  Forgive us, Father, and help turn the hearts of those who claim to be Yours but live their lives completely independent of Your will back to humbleness and obedience to Your word.  And should they fail to hear Your call, and choose wickedness over righteousness, give me the strength to live by faith in You, for You and You alone have justified me through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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

Identity in Christ – Acts 9:3-6

Be Found In Christ

3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Proliferate Persecution

For nearly two thousand years, the disciples of Christ have been facing persecution of unimaginable nature.  Beaten, tortured, dismembered, crucified, impaled while covered in tar and set on fire while still alive, the list of brutal physical measures taken against the disciples of Jesus go on and on (for a better look, read “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs“).

Even two thousand years ago, the public ruination of disciples occurred.  They were called cannibals (because of the unfounded belief of transubstantiation with the communion bread and wine), and often had their property seized.  One of the most effective ways to punish someone was to remove their economic ability to flourish.  It caused them to be far less effective in ministry (now having to work doubly hard just to get food let alone shelter), as well as sending a message to others that if they were found that way, they too would receive the same punishment.

Additionally, with the seizure of assets, the people persecuting the disciples became richer, and had better resources at their disposal to persecute others.  In the United States of America, it has been found that some police departments would profile people who had property and assets that they coveted in order to use the drug laws as a hammer to defraud victims of their property.  It made them very rich, and very feared.

Coupled in Christ

The good news is that we are IN CHRIST.  There is something subtle here.  Notice that Jesus asks Saul why he is persecuting HIM.  He doesn’t ask why Saul is persecuting disciples, or Christians, or followers of the way.  Jesus asks why Saul is persecuting Him.  In the eyes of God, for all intents and purposes, we are joined to God in a way that is like marriage, where the two become one flesh.

Jesus views His disciples as part of Him.  There is no distinction between us and Him.  We ARE Him, in His eyes.  As the image-bearers of Christ, we are joined to Him in such a way that what we do and say is as if He said and did it.  It is imperative that we live our lives in such a way that God is glorified.

Found Faithful

God gives Saul a command – to go into the city where he will be told what to do.  Notice that God doesn’t say “repent!”.  He gave a command to be obeyed.  As followers of Christ, we have been told by Jesus that if we love Him, we will obey His commands.  Since we are found to be in Christ, we must live and act as Christ did while on Earth.  He was completely submitted to God, and obedient to all of His word.  In order to be found faithful, we too must be obedient to the word of the Living God.  For it is in obedience that we are found faithful, and then properly displaying the character of God.

Always remember that you are His image-bearer, His ambassador to the world.  An ambassador has the trust to act in the name of the one who sent him, as well as the authority of him as well.  We would do well to remember the awesome privilege and responsibility we have been graciously given so that we won’t abuse it.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I being a proper ambassador for Christ?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have been more than gracious and merciful to send Your Son to be crucified for our sins.  You have joined us to You, and have given us great privilege and responsibility.  Father, help me to do all that You have planned for me to do.  Help me to remember that I am in Christ, and that I have the authority in Christ to do what You have commanded.  Help me to remember that when I am persecuted, it is not because of me, but because of Jesus whom they hate and despise.  Help me to remember that I was once like them, and to have compassion and mercy upon them for the sake of Your Holy name.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Judgement of God – Psalm 9:19-20

God’s Judgement Is Upon Us

19 Arise, Lord, do not let mortals triumph;
let the nations be judged in your presence.
20 Strike them with terror, Lord;
let the nations know they are only mortal.

Just Judgement

God is just, and He will not allow a nation to continue in iniquity without bringing judgement in a swift manner.  Throughout all time, God has judged nations and eventually destroyed them when they refused to repent.   No nation or kingdom has gone on forever without being judged by God.

In just a short period of time, less than two and a half centuries, the United States of America is being judged.  Since God is the one who judges, He first sends warnings to the nations to repent.  Jonah was sent to Nineveh.  The prophets were sent to Israel.  God has been faithful in giving the nations the opportunity to repent.  And when they do not, He begins to throw warning shots across their bows.

Total Terror

For the United States, there were two World Trade Center bombings.  The first failed, and the second succeeded.  The people in the US, after the second bombing, filled churches seeking God, for God had put terror into their hearts.  They began to seek God.  But like Nineveh, the people very quickly abandoned their fear when God relented, and went right back to what they were doing.

Solomon was right when he declared that there was nothing new under the sun.  People behave the same today as they did thousands of years ago.  Millennia of experience is lost upon us because of the curse of sin.  And even with the full and complete revelation of God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ, people still turn a blind eye to what they have been shown.  The hearts of men easily forget, and need to be reminded that God is holy.

Righteous Reminder

God sends us reminders that we are only mortal.  Our perception of time lures us into a false understanding of our mortality.  It is only when we are faced with death, or watch another face it, that we begin to contemplate our own mortality.  So God gives us reminders that we are but a wisp of smoke, a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow.  We are only promised today.  We need to remember that at any time, God may demand an accounting of our lives and bring us home to Him.  That is why it is all the more important as time grows short that we yield ourselves to His Spirit so that we may be found doing what the master has commanded us to do.  Let us walk by faith and not sight, for the just shall live by faith.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I walking by faith in the path that God has chosen for me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for the many reminders to provide in Your Word that You are holy and are to be feared and revered.  Father, help me to honor you in all that I think, say, and do, that others would praise Your holy name.  I seek to walk with You, and greatly desire to do Your will.  Regardless of how other behave, remember me in my walk that You would be glorified.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Combat Training With God – Luke 6:46-49

Practice Makes Perfect

46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Lord, Lord

Many call themselves Christians.  Jesus is looking for disciples:

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.

Anyone can claim to be a Christian.  Many will go out into the world and do “great and mighty things,” but they have failed to understand the cost of discipleship:

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

Jesus has asked us to be obedient to his commands:

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.

Finally, Jesus had the following to say about those who would cry to Him, “Lord, Lord”:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Rooted in Rock

Christ is the solid rock of our salvation.  Any who build upon Him builds upon a solid and sturdy foundation.  When we are obedient to Jesus, regardless of the pressures of the world around us, we can overcome and live out the imputed righteousness that Jesus has provided to us through His perfect, shed blood.  This does not mean that everything will go well for us in this world – remember the faithful in Hebrews 11 who were rejected by the world, and yet the world was not worthy of them.  Jesus spoke about this:

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.

23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your
reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.”

Calamitous Collapse

All who do not build on Jesus Christ are building on ground without a firm foundation.  Nothing that we build on apart from Jesus Christ will stand.  If we go our own ways, and do not yield ourselves to the guidance and counsel of the Holy Spirit, we will utterly fail.  We may even have approval of those around us, but Jesus had this to say:

24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.”

In all things, we need to be sure we are building upon the firm foundation that is Jesus Christ.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I building upon rock or sand?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for Your word, and the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Thank You for Your patience, love, grace, and mercy.  Help me to be obedient to Your word, that I would build upon the solid rock of Jesus. Show me the way in which I should go, and what I should do, that I may honor and glorify You.  Help me to realize when I am going my own way, and to immediately come back to You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Obedience to God – Micah 6:6-8

Do What Is Required Of You

6 With what shall I come before the Lord
and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
with calves a year old?
7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

Sacrifices Scorned

A rhetorical question is asked by the prophet Micah.  What sacrifice is acceptable to God?  What can be offered for the sin of the soul?  The sacrificial system was set up in Levitical Law to show that there was a price that needed to be paid for sin.  The price was originally the life-blood of a creature – it’s very life was demanded.  These sacrifices pointed to the final, substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus’ perfect blood.

But God’s people had become prosperous, and the impact of the sacrifices were lost on the people.  After all, if you sinned, all you needed to do was to offer your sacrifice, and everything was OK.  The breaking of one’s heart over sinning against God had been dulled.  Even in the Christian churches today, we lean heavily upon the grace and mercy of God.  The impact of sinning against a Holy God doesn’t seem to grasp us as it once did when we were first saved from our sins.  It is only as we recognize the Holiness of God, and His view of sin, that we again realize the impact that sin has in our lives.

Micah even puts forth as a type of sacrifice something that was loathsome to God – the sacrifice of the firstborn.  This was a type of sacrifice that was required by false gods.  This was egregious to God, and should have startled those who heard and read these words.  But the Israelites had often worshiped both God and false gods.  We must always remember that God has required a specific sacrifice from us – Obedience.

Royal Requirements

Micah now points out the sacrifice of obedience:

  • To Act Justly
    • When we act justly, we are not taking advantage of our neighbors, but rather we are doing all things with them in mind.
    • Justice is one of the recurring themes in the Bible.  The people of God seem to lack the ability to give justice to those who need it most.  We have been warned by God to mete out justice, or the One who is Just will judge us.
  • To Love Mercy
    • The first inclination of human nature is to retaliate when we are wronged.  But God’s mercies renew every morning.  We need to adopt the character of God as we grow in our faith.  Mercy is a Godly characteristic that integrates with justice.  It is the tempering force that encourages peace and tranquility in relationship between two people.  It is the olive branch that helps to mend relationships and encourages friendship.  To withhold mercy is to promote the eventual severing of the relationship.  This does not mean that we should enable wicked people by excusing their behavior; we are to show mercy to help them see the goodness of God.
    • Even within marriage, God allowed divorce only in certain circumstances, and only because of the hardness of human hearts.
  • To Walk Humbly with your God
    • God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.  When we are humbled before God, He is able to shape us, guide us, and use us for His purposes.  Humbleness is a Godly characteristic that is antithetical to western culture, which now promotes self over all.  Western culture promotes pride in advertising, music, literature, art, and just about every facet of the human experience.  Humble people are looked upon as doormats by others who seek to elevate themselves at the expense of those who will not (or cannot) do the same.
    • Only in humility are we able to be in right relationship with not only God but with man as well.

Each of these points towards relationship with God – Justice, Mercy, and Humbleness.  If we seek to draw close to God, we should embrace these and put them into practice.  Since Christ is our final and complete sacrifice for sin, we have nothing else to present to God for our sin, for nothing else is needed.  Let us embrace these Godly characteristics as we draw close to the One who sacrificed His one and only Son to reconcile us to Him.  It is only proper that we offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, as our spiritual act of worship.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I broken by my sin, or do I take the blood of Christ for granted?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for the sacrifice of Your one and only Son on the cross for my sins.  Thank You for Your mercy and grace.  Help me to see my sin in the same way that You see it.  Help me, Father, to be broken when I sin, that the hardness of heart that comes with sin would not infect me.  Help me to love justice, mercy, and walk humbly before You.  May Your character be found in me as I am on display for the world to see.  Strengthen me as I walk with You today.  Help me to draw close to You through Your word and Your spirit.  Guide me in all that I do.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Combat Training With God – 2 Timothy 2:3-6

Be Engaged In The Work Entrusted To You

3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. 5 Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.

Equally Engaged

No one is above their master.  Jesus suffered at the hands of the very people that he was trying to bring the message of salvation – God’s people!  We have been charged with spreading the Good News to every nation and people.  We are going to experience the same resistance and, in some cases, the same persecution that He experienced.

No matter how many times we hear this, we need to hear it again and again.  God had directed the Israelites to build monuments of stone in certain places to remind them of what He had done for them.  When children would ask what the monuments were for, the parents were to explain it to their children.  It was also there so that the parents wouldn’t forget what God had done for them either.

Imagine being led by a pillar of smoke by day, and a pillar of fire by night FOR FORTY YEARS.  Imagine walking in the desert in circles FOR FORTY YEARS and your clothing and shoes NEVER WORE OUT.  Imagine gathering manna every day FOR FORTY YEARS in the desert where God provided all the food, shelter, and water that you needed.  And now imagine that the same people who witnessed this amazing power of God FOR FORTY YEARS so quickly forget His wonderful provision to them.

It would appear that we have the memory equivalent to that of gnats.

Committed to the Commander

In the same way that a soldier is committed to his commanding officer, we are to be committed to our commanding officer – Jesus Christ!  This requires discipline and the ability to do what our commander says.  To the extent that we listen to our Commander-In-Chief will be to the extent that we are successful in completing the missions that we are assigned.

And just like in the military, promotions and better assignments come to those who are obedient in their callings.  The committed military person doesn’t get involved in civilian matters, because they are dedicated to military matters.  In the same way, those who are Christ’s don’t pursue the pleasures and desires of this world, but instead pursue the instructions of Christ.  And like military members, we can be called at a moment’s notice to serve in whatever capacity that Christ desires us to serve – whether temporarily or permanently, often relocating our family to our deployment site.

Don’t Disqualify

Just as in the world of sports, we are not to cheat our way to success.  Jesus was given the opportunity by Satan to have what He was competing by submitting to Satan.  This would have been cheating.  God had rules in place that Jesus needed to follow in order to accomplish the goal that was set before Him in order to achieve complete success.

Moses learned this the hard way when he was faced with an obstinate and forgetful people.  God was trying to reveal Himself in a greater way to Moses when He asked him to speak to the rock to bring forth water.  This was far different from the previous method of striking the rock with his staff.  When Moses, in a fit of anger, disobeyed the revealed will of God by striking the rock twice with his staff, he forfeited his life early, and was not able to see the people that he had shepherded for forty years enter into the promised land.  Keep in mind that Moses appeared with Elijah on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus.  Nonetheless, ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES.  Disobedience is not looked upon very kindly by God.  There is always a penalty for disobedience.

It is only by obeying the rules that we win the race.  Jesus said that many will come to Him saying, “Lord, Lord”, but He will turn them away because of disobedience:

  21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!‘”

When tempted to go around what appears to be obstacles by doing what is specifically delineated as wrong in order to avoid pain, suffering, or a perceived delay in timing, remember that Jesus didn’t take the easy road.  And by doing so, He won the keys to Death and Hell for us.  It took a long time, effort, and pain.  Jesus willingly submitted Himself to all of this and more for us.  Should we not do the same for Him?

Receive the Reward

Paul planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the increase.  The use of agrarian principles to illustrate spiritual truths was widespread because the people at that time would have fully understood the implications of what was being said.  They lived it each and every day.  The farmer should receive the reward for his effort.  Paul was planting and watering the seeds of Godliness in Timothy as well as his grandmother and mother.  Paul had laid his hands upon Timothy, apparently with other elders, and God has provided Timothy with his spiritual gifting.  Timothy was to teach others.  Their spiritual growth and resulting efforts would be reflected back upon Timothy as he sowed and watered their seeds.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: When engaged in my work, am I following the rules?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for Your love, patience, and persistence with me as I try to obey You and do Your will.  Thank You for Your many mercies that renew every morning.  Thank You for showing me the Truth, and giving me the opportunity to do Your will.  Thank You for freeing me from the bondage of sin, and giving me the freedom to follow and obey You.  Thank You for revealing Your Son to me.  Help me to do all that You have instructed me to do, in the way that I should do it, so that it would honor and glorify Your name.  This I ask in the name of Your Precious Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Romans 8:12-14

Live According To The Spirit.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

Outstanding Obligation

God greatly desires that we keep our obligations.  His very character is one that ensures that any promise that He makes is kept.  We can trust His word, no matter what.

Because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, we have an obligation to God – to stop living by the flesh.  When we live by the flesh, we are suppressing the Truth, and bring shame upon our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Fleshy Failure

We live by the flesh when we listen to our desires rather than to the Spirit of God.  When we seek to bring about the fulfillment of personal pleasure rather than obedience to God, we are setting ourselves us for failure.  Adam and Eve did this very thing when they disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden and ate the fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil.  We do the same when we seek out our selfish desires rather than the express will of God.

We have available to us the whole counsel of God, yet we often ignore it as we seek to alleviate the pain or pressures of this life in following our desires.  We are told that the heart is deceitful.  We must therefore rely upon the Holy Spirit to guide us in all things.  When we begin a path of ignoring the Holy Spirit of God in order to follow our own desires, we are setting ourselves up to spiritually die.

Spiritual Superiority

God reminds us that if we put to death the flesh by the Spirit, we will live.  This is accomplished through reading and applying the Word of God under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit of God. He will lead us into all righteousness, for He knows all things.  When we put to death (starve) the flesh, we are feeding the spirit.  And when we feed the flesh, we are starving the spirit.  Whichever one you feed, that is the one that grows.

God says that if we are led by the Spirit of God, we are His children.  Jesus has told us that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  We need to follow in His footsteps.  We can only do that if we submit ourselves to the Spirit.  Jesus did the very same thingJesus said that if we love Him we will obey his commands.  Jesus also said that He is the vine and we are the branches.  The branches receive nourishment from the vine, and cannot live on their own.  Let us be known as the children of God by how faithfully we are obedient and submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit of God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we feeding the flesh or are we feeding the Spirit?

A short prayer of preparation

Father in Heaven, I thank You for Your Word and Your patience with me.  Show me in Your Word how to put to death the deeds of the flesh.  Empower me to live according to Your Word, and strengthen my spirit that it would submit to You.  Help me to starve my flesh from its evil desires, and to desire You.  Fill me with a sense of purpose as I kill off that which does not conform to Your image, for all change is painful.  Help me to deal with the consequences of obedience, that I may not flinch in the face of opposition or with any loss that may occur.  Show me your beauty and grace as I move closer to You.  This I ask in the precious name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

The Timing of God – Mark 6:46-52

God Arrives in the Fourth Watch of the Night

47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

Training Through Trials

Everyone goes through trials.  Some trials seem longer and more difficult than others.  The worst ones are where you feel like you are fighting for your very life.  Your circumstances are pulling at the very fabric of your soul, and your strength has been depleted by non-stop battering.  You feel like just after a fresh gulp of air the waves come crashing over your head, and you get water for what you thought was your next breath.

The disciples were fighting for their very lives.  Life on the Sea of Galilee could be very dangerous.  Storms would often appear out of nowhere, and for a small fishing boat, capsizing in the water at night with high waves was a terrifying thought.  But we need not be terrified by our trials, for God is sovereign and has everything under control.

James has this to say about our trials:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Trial of Trust

When fighting for your life in a trial isn’t enough, it seems that God adds insult to injury by letting us struggle through it for a very L O N G time.  We cry out to God, but often He doesn’t seem to answer immediately.  We wait and wait (and wait some more), and no help comes.  This is the trial of trust.

God has this way of showing up in the fourth watch of the night.  The night back in the time of Jesus was set up in four – three hours segments:

  • First Watch: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Second Watch: 10:00 – 12:00 pm
  • Third Watch: 1:00 – 3:00 am
  • Fourth Watch: 4:00 – 6:00 am

The fourth watch was the longest watch of all.  Most of the night had already passed, and through exhaustion and anticipation of daylight, it made the fourth watch go very slow.  Jesus had seen in the night that the disciples were struggling, but waited until just before dawn to go out to them.  This allows our faith to be tested, to see if we really believe that God is going to intervene and help us with our needs.  This is the secondary trial of trust – patience.

Strategic Support

Jesus has a tendency to wait until the very last minute to come and help us with our problems.  He is trying to show us where we are in our understanding of His sovereignty, character, and love for us.  By denying us immediate relief, we must decide whether we can trust God to act as our situation becomes more bleak second by second.

As you feel like you are trying to stop tumbling down a mountainside, you can see the cliff in front of you that drops thousands of feet.  Unable to stop, you fight for your life.  It is just before you go over the cliff, or sometimes after you start falling, that God will intervene.  He does not do this to cause us emotional harm, but to give us the opportunity to trust Him more.  If you have prayed that God would help you to trust him more, expect these types of trials to enter into your life.  This is about on the same level as praying for patience.

Regardless, it is the timing of the response that careful attention should be paid.  God has a plan much larger than our myopic short-term vision.  Each and every moment is moving towards an unstoppable event – the second coming of Christ, and the end to sin.  We need to remember as we are in the storm that God’s timetable isn’t always ours.  That is why “trust and obey” is our only way…

Stopping Storms

When God does calm the storm, we are often just as amazed as the disciples were when Jesus stepped into the boat and everything calmed down.  Jesus demonstrates that He is sovereign over all.  Sometimes, the storm doesn’t stop until we pass away into glory, but nonetheless, the storm stops.  We can be assured that whatever our problems are, God is working through His plan to bring glory to His name.  For there is no purpose of God that can be thwarted, and God works everything to good for those who love Him.

Regardless of the emotional, financial, and/or physical damage that the storm has wrought, we can confidently rest in the knowledge that when God does come, He will help us to pick up the pieces.  And we will have the scars to remember His help, and never forget what we went through to get there.  It is also important that we don’t allow our hearts to be hardened by our training through trials.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we trusting in God’s goodness, mercy, and grace as we are fighting for our lives in our trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are full of mercy and grace, and your mercies never cease, but renew every morning.  Grant me patience as I trust in You to deliver me through my trials.  Help me to overcome through perseverance, so that I may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  Give me the strength to endure the trials I am facing, and guard my heart against the attacks of the enemy as they taunt me and tell lies about You.  Father, help me to remember Your word, that Your promises will never be far from my heart or my lips.  For You have promised to never leave me nor forsake me.  You have promised to work all things to good for those who love You.  You have promised that none can snatch me out of Your hand.  I will stand on Your promises, oh God, so that Your name may be glorified and magnified, regardless of the outcome of the trials.  This I ask in the precious Name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Matthew 7:21-23

Obedience is the Key to Discipleship

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

Only Obedience

Anyone who would call themselves a disciple would be obedient to their master.  Disciples would follow along behind their master and copy everything they did.  They would even copy how they went to the bathroom.  In the time of Jesus, disciples would want to learn EVERYTHING about their masters so that they could replicate their success.  Obedience is more than just mentioned in scripture – it is a foundational principle of discipleship:

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.

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.

He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

“We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

Knowledge without obedience is a trophy.  It sits on the shelf of your mind, gathering dust, pretty to look at, but of no real value to the one who ignores its commands and calling.  Sanctification comes through obedience to the Word, not just knowing the words.  A person can read every book and manual on how to create software through coding.  But if they never put it to use, how much software do you think will come out of it?

Wasted Works

We are declared righteous through the perfect blood of Jesus.  Our works are as filthy rags.  It is only through submission to the Holy Spirit that He is able to do His work through us.  We may try to do great and mighty things in God’s name, but it is us who are doing it rather than God through us.

Works do not ingratiate us with God.  God desires relationship with us.  When we have that relationship, we are in tune with what God wants to do with us and through us.  Many will say that they have been doing things for God.  But what they are really doing is going off on their own.  People may see the miraculous, but we are also told that Satan will perform signs and wondersSatan has already performed false miracles.

Anything that we do in the flesh will be counted as hay and stubble, and will burn up when tested by fire.  It is only what God does through us that will withstand the test of fire and be shown to good and lasting.

Character Counts

Without obedience, we will go and do our own thing.  We will not experience sanctification, nor will we, through relationship and the Word of God, be transformed into the character of God.  We will not be able to experience Him, and who He is, if we are not obedient to His Word and His Spirit.

God will rightly declare us evil in His sight if we do not obey Him.  Without character and relationship, all of the works in the world will be meaningless.  If anyone tells you that your good works will get you into heaven, be forewarned that Jesus has already addressed that heresy:

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

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we being obedient to God, or trusting in our “good works”?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You for the example that You have given to me in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me Father that I may live a life of total obedience and submission to Your will.  Help me to humble myself that I may be totally obedient to Your Word and Your will.  Remove from me the desire to rebel, and replace it with a desire to serve.  Strengthen me in my walk today that I would learn and grow in Your grace and mercy.  Show me the way everlasting, and forgive me for my many sins against You.  Help me to turn from sin and turn to righteousness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Wolves Among The Sheep – Jude 3-4

Beware Of Those Who Are Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

Foundational Faith

As God’s people, we should rejoice and hold sacred the charge that has been given to us – the message of salvation from sin and reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ our Savior.  We are told to contend for the faith, and also to have an answer for anyone who would ask why we believe what we believe.

And while we don’t have the full picture, we should still learn and grow in our faith through the doctrines that have been laid out for us in Scripture.  Just as a soldier without a gun will be caught off-guard when faced by their opponent in war, so are Christians who don’t pick up their Bible, read it, learn it, and live it.

The sad part about the introduction to this short letter by Jude is that the invasion by the enemy into the people of Christ had begun just a few short years after Jesus was among them.  Although the apostles and the primitive church started in near spiritual purity, opportunity was seen by those whose father is the devil, and they promoted (and even to this day promote) themselves as beacons of light.  Paul had praised the Bereans for their trust-but-verify attitude, and they checked EVERYTHING that Paul said against scripture to see if it was true.  Regardless of who we listen to, we should do the same.  The enemy is planting tares in with the wheat.

Troublesome Tares

Tares are a plant that, when first sprouting, appear identical to wheat in appearance.  It is only after they begin to mature that the difference is noticeable.  Tares in the Church have an interesting appearance.  Although they look right at first, there are subtle differences.  When the church service is over, and during the week, their actions and words in public do not seem to match up with their profession of faith.  Great caution should be taken as they are evaluated, because the babes in Christ will act the same way as they are throwing off their grave-clothes.

But tares are different.  When confronted, they will say things like: “I’m just a babe in Christ” (even though they have been “walking with God” for more than a few years); “Don’t judge me – you aren’t the Holy Spirit”; “I’m working on that” (when they have been working on it for 20+ years, and there is no indication that they are even trying to address the particular issue).

Tares will also become proud, especially if they have successfully conned the sheep of God into believing that they are one of them and believe that the sheep can trust them.  Watch for such things as belligerence and turning on the people who approach them with a proper Biblical viewpoint.  “Attack your attackers” is a common way tares shut down people who come too close to unveiling them.  By turning the attention to the other person (and almost always in public, even if they were confronted in private), they try to place peer pressure on the one who confronted them.  But the person who confronts must be strong, even if the person is powerful enough and influential enough to have the person who confronted them removed the them from any office they hold in the church, or are asked to leave the church.

Penetrating Perversion

The tares desire to change the views of the sheep to their way of thinking and away from Biblical ways of thinking.  In just one specific example, within the Protestant churches there is a movement to allow the attitude of sexually desiring people of the same chromosomal pairings to be accepted not only as normal in the church, but also to promote them into leadership positions.  They have successfully moved the sheep away from the Word of God, even though there are multiple scriptures that refute this position:

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.  26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

When the people of God agree that the current cultural position on any subject is more relevant than God’s position, they have strayed from the faith, and should be brought back with the Word of the Living God.  If they refuse (see Matthew 18:15-20), then no longer treat them as fellow brothers or sisters in Christ until they have repented.

Doctrinal Destruction

In doing these things, they say that God is love and grace.  Since all of our sins are moved as far as the East is from the West, they promote that God surely understands our circumstances and will surely give us grace as we engage in sin.  We just need to work on other areas of life first, and if we don’t get to that one before we die, we’ll be just fine.

We will be judged by what we know, and what we did with what we know.  We can either choose to accept that all scripture is God breathed, or not.  When we love our sin more than our Savior, we are in big trouble.  When our spiritual leaders say it’s OK to sin, and that God will forgive us because grace abounds, people flock to the message because they no longer have to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Jesus.  This is a great abuse of grace.   People begin to lose their sense of the Holiness of God when they choose to openly sin, refuse to be obedient, and rely on the grace of God.  God views that as insolence.  And human parents tolerate that about as well as God does.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we carefully vetting what we hear from everyone to ensure that it is scripturally sound?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are full of mercy and grace. Your mercies renew every morning.  Father, please help me to be obedient to what I have been shown by You in scripture, and grant me mercy and grace when I fail.  Father, show me any areas where I am falling short, and help me to have the strength to overcome them.  Give me a sense of urgency in addressing sin in my life, regardless of the outcome, for I know that You are sovereign, and that I can trust You in all things.  Help me to have proper discernment when others tell me what You have shown them, so that I will not be misled into bondage or sin.  Guard my heart against the unrighteousness of the wolves in sheep’s clothing that the enemy has planted as tares among the wheat.  Protect me from them that I may honor and glorify Your name.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Humbled by God – Jonah 1:17

It Is A Terrible Thing To Fall Into The Hands Of The Living God

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

Angry Answer

Jonah was faced with, in his mind, an impossible situation:  Preach destruction to a people that he wanted God to destroy, knowing that God would show them mercy.  Rather than proceeding with God’s plan, Jonah fled in the hopes that he would not be embarrassed should God relent of his stated position to destroy Nineveh, also greatly desiring the destruction of his enemies.

The sailors who drew lots to determine who was responsible for their difficulties determined it was Jonah.  When confronted with his disobedience by the sailors, Jonah does something odd.  Rather than repent, or tell them to take him to a port near Nineveh, he instructs them to throw him overboard!  He would rather die, drowning in the water, than be responsible for the Ninevites repenting to the Lord.

Powerful Provision

God calmed the storm immediately after Jonah was thrown overboard.  Not only did God relent against the ship and crew, they began to fear God and worship Him.  God, rather than destroying Jonah, wanted to bring about some character refinement in him, and instead of letting him drown, sent a fish to swallow him.

God often wants to do more with us and through us that we would like.  We sometime fight Him kicking and screaming, because our flesh interferes with our obedience.  And, as in the case of Jonah, it was so much so that he forgot to take into account the lives that were with Him, to the point that he probably didn’t really care if the sailors died with him.  But even in that, God provided for both the sailors’ safety, and for the safety of Jonah.  We can be assured that God will provide for us in our time of need.

Contemplative Confinement

Imaging the stench of being in the belly of a fish for three days and nights.  Jonah was so angry and distraught with what God was asking him to do, that it took him THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS before he could bring himself to repent.  How much anger would that take?  It must have been something very powerful to compel Jonah to wait so long in such a difficult situation.

Most likely, a root of bitterness had taken great hold in Jonah’s heart towards the Ninevites.  God will often use a situation where we are called to be compassionate towards, and reach out to, our enemies to remove a root of bitterness that grown within us.  Jonah’s root was very well entrenched.  How many of us would have waited THREE DAYS AND NIGHTS to finally surrender to God?  Most of us would probably, in that miserable condition, have surrendered in the first few minutes.

Regardless of the situation that we find ourselves in, God will use the perfect situation to humble us in our pride, anger, bitterness, or whatever situation that we have that causes us to act contrary to the will of the Living God.  For it is only God who is able to get us to see ourselves for who we really are, and to provide opportunity for reflection and repentance.  We can only hope it won’t take being in the belly of a fish to do it.

Awesome Acknowledgement

And out of these trials comes a greater understanding and acknowledgement of the character and nature of God.  Jonah’s prayer to God shows that He yields to God’s sovereign rule in his life:

1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 2 He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
3 You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
4 I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
5 The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.

7 “When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

8 “Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.'”

When we come out of the other side of our humbling, we will praise, honor, and glorify God in Heaven for who He is and for our salvation through the difficulty.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  What does it take from God to help us to change our minds and humble ourselves before Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are able to humble the proud and bring low all who resist You.  You are full of mercy and grace, patiently dealing with me in Your own way.  Help me to not resist Your discipline, Lord, but rather to embrace it and be changed by it so that You would be glorified.  Help me to remove all resistance to You in my heart, that You would have unfettered access to the deepest, darkest regions of my soul, places where even I dare not visit.  Shed Your perfect light in all of the areas of darkness, and redeem what was lost by me through sin and pride.  Show me what You desire of me that I may do it, and do it with a cheerful heart, knowing that it is Your will.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Family Living by God – Ephesians 6:1-4

Children are Adults-in-Training.

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Righteous Request

Paul encourages children to obey their parents.  The rebellion started when Adam rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden.  It continues today with children.  No one is immune, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  The fallen nature of man gives us a presence of mind to think that we know better than our elders.  And although information is abundant, and children see themselves learning much faster than their parents, the lack of depth and breadth of knowledge, coupled with inexperience, growing brains, and raging hormones, yields a perfect storm that blinds them to the value of wisdom.  And in today’s generation, how a person feels is more important than facts, and held to be more valid than critical thought and sound judgement.  This further witnesses to the need for children to listen to and honor their parents.

Holy Honor

Children who honor their parents bring great glory to God.  It shows that they are fulfilling their designated role, and helps to display the unity of the family.  Additionally, when children honor their parents, they help the learning process along by displaying self-control, learning obedience (a skill that transfers to their relationship with God), and it makes the job of the parents that much more easy.  This reduces the burden on the parents and allows them to fulfill the designated roles assigned to them by God.  Although children may not initially see how honoring their parents is honoring God, as they mature and their minds grow, they will be able to see the wisdom in this.

Particular Promise

Paul indicates that a promise is attached to this Commandment, and that children benefit from doing this, rather than it being just a rule to follow.  With experience comes wisdom, and the life lessons learned by children through honoring their father and mother will yield a harvest of righteousness later on.  This wisdom will assist them in making decisions that will have a positive impact not only in their lives, but in the lives of people with whom they interact.

If parents attempt to impart wisdom in financial matters to their children, and the children honored them by following the examples provided, even if they didn’t necessarily understand why they were doing what they were doing, the results from that would speak for themselves, and show the wisdom of the decisions.  This could include setting aside money for retirement at an early age, budgeting, using self-restraint and purchasing what they need instead of what they want.  The application of restraint in this area in life would keep them from the pitfalls of debt and monetary indentured servitude.  Most children cannot appreciate being debt-free, owning a house and a car, and having all of their income going into a bank account instead of living paycheck to paycheck until they are actually in that situation.  The pain of self-denial and self-restraint may take years to reap a benefit.

Avoiding Angst

Because fathers are wired to respect and not to love, displaying love does not come naturally to them.  This can lead to conflict as they seek to impart discipline (not punishment but self-control) in their children.  Paul sees the danger and warns fathers that their efforts with instruction and correction can exasperate their children.  Fathers often expect that the children should learn the lessons fast and adhere to their principles immediately.  When children aren’t able to (and sometimes not willing to) do this, the father’s reactions, speech, and discipline can cause a child to just want to stop listening.  The child may feel that no matter what they do, it just won’t measure up.

Fathers must take great care to distinguish between a child’s true intentions – whether they are truly trying to obey their parents, or whether they are engaging in the manipulative feinting of exasperation in order to avoid discomfort in the tasks and lessons being imparted.  Children are master manipulators, being instructed by the world and through the whispers of the devil as he tries to tear apart the family.  It is only the Word of the Living God that can break the power of these evil influences.

And even in all of that, children have free will.  Even the most dedicated, loving, and encouraging father may run up against a child that absolutely refuses to learn the lessons provided (think Oppositional Defiant Disorder).  Someone with ODD doesn’t care if you punish them.  They live to be in opposition to you, and everything you stand for.  This is a strong-willed child who, understanding the repercussions for their reactions, would rather lose their life and liberty than to obey.  The need to be in control and to throw off the yoke of authority is so strong in them that they truly would rather die than to listen.  These children often become expert in the art of manipulation.  They lie with a straight face, telling falsehoods to even get their parents imprisoned just so that they can be free from their authority, or anyone who would attempt to exert authority over them.  Their conscience is seared, and their own personal desires justify any actions that they take.  They often know the exact outcome of what their actions will have on the adults that they malign, and have no compassion towards them or their circumstances once the effects of their plans have taken effect.

Scripture provided a recourse for this in the Old Testament that many today would think harsh and possibly cast a shadow over the grace and mercy of God.  This solution was needed in order to showcase that first and foremost, God is HOLY:

18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

The Trials of Training

Oh, the trials and tribulations of training a child…  Especially during the teen years…  It can sometimes seem like herding cats, or grasping oil in your hand – a fruitless effort.  The good news is that it is not fruitless.  Everything that you impart, whether the child grasps and runs with it or not, is being stored in that wonderful sponge of a brain.

Scripture also tells how they should be trained:

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

Parents are not to make carbon copies of themselves.  They are not to plan their child’s life from cradle to grave.  Rather, they have been instructed to “train up” the child in the way they should go.  This is difficult, as it requires the parents to recognize what God has placed in the child and then nurture it.  These characteristics can be the polar opposition of what was in the parent.  This then requires great prayer, research, submission to God, and following God’s teaching as the parent may not have any knowledge or expertise in the child’s God-given bent and abilities.

Image a family where both parents are scholars and spend most of their time reading books and watching movies.  Now imagine a son who is constantly moving, and loves to jog, play football, soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, and every other conceivable sport.  The parents are to encourage this in their child so that the child can fulfill what God has placed in them to glorify Himself.

If the parents just try to turn this child into an academician, the child will lose heart, and suppress what is in him to do what God has not necessarily gifted the child to do.  This would require the parents to either go outside their comfort zone to be a part of their child’s life, or involving a trusted and respected mentor to help their child to excel in their strengths.  In either case, training up the child in the way they should go would prove to be challenging and counter-intuitive to what they know.

A Qualifying Question

For children, let’s ask the question:  Are we honoring our mother and father the way that God wants us to?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, give me strength as I walk with You today.  Help me to understand my role that You have assigned to me.  Regardless of my age, help me to honor my mother and father, that it would be pleasing to You and bring great glory to You.  Show me the way I should go, and provide the people who are mentoring me through life the ability, knowledge, and wisdom to help me to become the person that You desire me to be.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Leadership with God – Psalm 2:10-12

An Open Letter to All Who Are Called to Leadership by God

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Wise Warning

God sets the tone for these passages with a warning to all leaders.  God specifically mentions kings, then more generally mentions rulers.  All authority comes from God.  There is no authority that exists that is not expressly instituted by God, for God is Sovereign over all creation.  Anyone who is wise will take heed of and allow their heart to ponder His warning to them.

Solemn Service

The Lord God Almighty asserts His Sovereignty and commands those who have been placed in leadership over others to serve Him with (reverential) fear.  God has stated that He is ruler over all.  Just as those who are in leadership over men expect them to heed what they decree, so also does the Lord God Almighty.  Every ruler should celebrate that they are just a link in the chain of leadership over us, rather than the head, for who can rule alone wisely that is not omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent?

As leaders consider their role and position in the chain of leadership, they should do so with trembling.  We are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  In the same way, leaders should carefully consider their actions as they are accountable to the One and Only God who is in authority over them and requires them to be obedient to Him.

Royal Recognition

Leaders are to “kiss the son”.  Matthew Henry points out that we should kiss the son not in way that betrays Him like Judas, but rather with a kiss of adoration and religious worship.  All are to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord.  Every knee show bow and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord.  We can choose to bow the knee now in praise, adoration, and obedience, or we can bend it later in front of the white throne seat of judgement.  The choice is ours.

Angered Answer

Those that choose it ignore their place in leadership and go on to be a “Lone Ranger” will suffer the consequences of their actions.  Just as we expect our children to obey us, God expects us to obey Him.  And when we are disobedient, especially with regards to the usurpation of power and authority by leaders from that which God grants to them over His people, there are grave consequences.

Pride goes before destruction; a haughty spirit before a fall.  Leaders that refuse to accept God’s authority and leading in their lives face eventual destruction.  This will manifest itself in their removal from office by the hand of God through people, circumstances, disability, or even death.  Their destruction is foretold by the one who placed them in leadership to being with.  They rebel against God at their own peril.

Those who rebel will be held accountable by God.  We should pay attention to the past, for God has warned us of what He does to the disobedient:

15 The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar.

In times past, it was kings like Nebuchadnezzar that were used as tools of God’s wrath.  Now, it is the fundamentalist adherents to Islam that God is using as tools to implement His wrath.

Beatific Blessing

Finally, God pronounces a blessing upon all who take refuge in Him.  When leaders take refuge in God, they will be protected and blessed by the One is able to save and protect them.  Some trust in weapons, and some trust in armies, but wise leaders trust in the Name of the Lord God Almighty.  When leaders of a nation yield themselves to the God of Creation, and celebrate His sovereign authority, they are protected and blessed:

Let us read about the confession of a leader that was humbled by God and then blessed:

33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion;
his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 All the peoples of the earth
are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
with the powers of heaven
and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
or say to him: “What have you done?”

36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question.  Are we taking God’s warning to leaders to heart, given that all of God’s people are called to be priests of a royal priesthood, and are therefore leaders?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You provide us with the opportunity to be leaders in every aspect of life.  We lead not only our families, but are often called to greater responsibility in our jobs and in government.  Watch over us and help us to fulfill all that You have planned for us in the roles that You have placed us.  Father, keep me humble that I may not rebel against You.  Help me to have a heart that greatly desires and seeks to know You and Your will for every aspect of my life.  Empower me and strengthen me as I seek to honor You and bring glory to Your name.  May all praise, honor, glory, strength, power and dominion be Yours forever and ever, Amen.

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