Blessing of God – Psalm 91:14-15

Deliverance Comes from the Lord

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord,
“I will rescue him; I will protect him,
for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

Loving the Lord

The very first part of this passage is dependent upon us.  We are to love the Lord.  Jesus tells us:

23 … “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.

No matter what we say, or how emotionally passionate we are for God, if we are not obeying His teaching, we are not loving Him.  Obedience to God and His Word is the key and cornerstone of love.  And we will see how love is manifested in our lives in these two ways:

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails…

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

Obedience also is seen in how we react when we are told by God that we are to do something.  God greatly desires immediate obedience (just as we do with our children):

10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him.

Receiving Rescue

When we acknowledge God’s name – through the expression of His holy character in our lives – God says that He will protect and rescue us.  There are many people in the world who claim the name of Christ, yet live lives that are indistinguishable to the person who says that they hate God and embraces the world and its views.  The psalmists tell us:

The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

1 Rescue me, Lord, from evildoers; protect me from the violent, 2 who devise evil plans in their hearts and stir up war every day. 3 They make their tongues as sharp as a serpent’s; the poison of vipers is on their lips.

Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you.

 Providential Protection

When we call on God’s name, He promises to protect us.  Although He protects us, He does so:

  • Within His plan,
  • In His timing,
  • For His glory

Sometimes that may mean that we are martyred.  Sometimes that means that we are kept from the consequences of other people’s sin.  Sometimes that is the protection of our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  But we need to have an eternal perspective when looking at this promise.  For instance:

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: When we are seeking God’s rescue and protection, are we loving God in the way that He asks us to love Him?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for your Word, and for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for my sins.  Thank You for all that You provide, for every breath, all that I have, all that I can do, and even the ability to think is a gift from You.  Father, I am surrounded on all sides by situations and people who threaten me.  Rescue me from evil, Father, for I hate it as You do.  Display in me and through me Your love.  Help me to be immediately obedient when I see things in Your Word that I require adjustment in my life so that I will be in alignment with it.  Guard my heart, and protect me from my enemies, for I love You, and greatly desire to acknowledge Your name and character to all the world.  Remember me Lord – act divinely upon my behalf.  Cover me with Your protection, and may Your peace surround me and protect my thoughts and emotions as I cease striving and watch You work in these circumstances.  This I pray in the precious and mighty name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Judges 7:2-8

God Plus You > All The Known Universe

2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ 3 Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.'” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”

5 So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” 6 Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

 Required Resolve

God is looking for a people who will trust in Him and gather their strength from Him.  When Gideon was tasked with convening the army that would destroy the Midianites, he sent for the fighting men of Israel.  They replied, but not all were up to the task.  God reduced the size of the army by giving the fearful an opportunity to bow out.  God wants us not only to show up, but to trust in Him and overcome our fear through our trust in Him.  We need to have resolved in our hearts that God will provide whatever we need, since God has called us to the task.

Solemn Selection

“Not all who are called are chosen.”  God then indicated that there were STILL too many people in Gideon’s army.  It is a shame to Israel that God would say that because they had so many people in the army that they would boast after victory that they had delivered themselves by their own hands.  God is looking for confident but humble people, knowing the true source of their strength and victory.

it is still amazing that after more than two-thirds of the gathered men went home, God declared there were still too many people!  How counter-intuitive this must have seemed to Gideon!  Usually the largest, best-trained, best-armed, best-prepared army wins the battle.  But God was letting Gideon know and understand that the battle did not belong to him, but rather, the battle belonged to the Lord:

“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

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

Divine Deliverance

After God thinned the army even further, he chose only three hundred men for Gideon’s army.  Gideon must have felt overwhelmed and afraid, even though he knew it was the Lord that had called him to this purpose.  God placed fear into the hearts of the Midianites, and they feared the name of Gideon. When the Midianites heard the trumpets and battle cry of Gideon’s army, they cried out in fear, and began to kill each other as they fled.

Gideon’s army of three hundred water-lapping soldiers didn’t have to lift a finger; all they had to do was stand strong in the face of the enemy.  And God delivered the Israelites from the Midianites, as the other Israelite men faithfully pursued the Midianites and destroyed them.  God also tells us:

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I standing strong in the Truth, with complete trust in the Lord?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You provide for all of my needs.  Grant me strength today when opposition comes against me.  Remember me – act divinely on my behalf, that I may overcome all fear and valiantly take a stand for You.  Remember me in my weakness, and drive all fear from my heart, for there is no fear in perfect love.  Regardless of the foes against me, whether they surround me, or any emotional issues that I may experience, grant me peace in my heart that I may honor and glorify Your name in these battles.  This I ask in the precious name of Jesus, Amen.

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

Stewardship from God – 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Wealth is a Trap; The Wise Put Their Trust in God.

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Warning of Wealth

To those whom God has seen fit to provide much, much is required.  The provision of great wealth can cause people to being to trust in it rather than in God.  Their wealth is what they turn to when they have problems in life.  And wealth CAN extricate a person from many issues in this world.  Indeed, most people who have wealth trust not in God but in the security that they are well provided for.  Jesus said:

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Since God owns all of the silver and the gold, as well as the Earth, and everything in it and on it, He is able to provide for our every physical need as well as our spiritual and emotional needs.  The wealthy need to be careful to remember where their wealth truly comes from, lest they forget and attribute themselves as the source.

Sharing is Caring

God has trusted much with the wealthy, but with great privilege comes great responsibility:

But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Since everything belongs to God, we are merely stewards of it.  And the rich have been blessed greatly by God with material wealth.  They must judiciously use it to further the Kingdom of God, rather than to merely spend it on their own pleasures.

You can only do three things with wealth:

  • You can save it (or grow it into greater wealth)
  • You can spend it
  • You can give it away

In this passage, God indicates that part of the responsibility of wealth it to give it away.  The steward entrusted with wealth is required to be seeking God with all their heart to know what God’s will is for His wealth.  Whether it be charities, ministries, the indigent, or whatever God places upon their hearts, they are to be faithful in managing and administering the wealth entrusted to them.

Firm Foundation

When we are obedient to God, we are assured that we are laying up treasure in Heaven rather than treasure here on Earth, where moths and rust destroy.  For where our treasure is, there also is our heart.  Those who have been provided much must seek God for direction in how to manage what they have been provided.  ALL of us must do this, but the ones who have been provided much have a greater burden upon them for their increased responsibilities given to them by God.

Many people have said that they would not mind being given that kind of responsibility.  However, are they able to manage the little God has provided to them?  If not, what would they do with that much more responsibility and wealth?  We are each given what we are able to manage.  If we are faithful with little, we will be faithful with much.  Indeed, we should turn our attention to the giver of the gifts rather than the gifts themselves.  And pray for the rich, for they need much help to be put all things in balance.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we being faithful with what little we have been entrusted with?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the giver of all good gifts.  Thank You for providing me with what I have.  Give me direction, strength, and ability to manage all that has been provided so that it honors and glorifies You.  Help me to be free from envy when I have little, and to be free from pride when I have much.  You own everything, and I am merely a steward of it.  All that has been provided to me I dedicate to You for Your purposes.  Direct my paths and guide my ways that the outcome would be fruitful.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

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

Character of God – Genesis 17:23

God Is Character Driven, Not Emotion Driven

On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him.

Character Counts

Aren’t you glad that God is driven by perfect character?  Imagine a universe where God, rather than keeping His promises, did whatever He felt like doing?

  • Moses cries out to God to part the Red Sea.  God COULD have said to Moses, “You wicked and unbelieving generation!  I should let you all die at the hands of Pharaoh.  I am angry enough to just start over again with ANOTHER flood and choose a new Abraham.”
  • When David said, “I have sinned” after Nathan confronted him about Bathsheba and Uriah, God COULD have said, “I am so disappointed in you!  I raised you up from the lowliest of positions to the highest position in the land, but now I am filled with such sorrow.  I’ll find another king to use.  You are no longer useful to me because I am tired of you.”
  • When Saul of Tarsus was murdering Christians in the name of God, The Lord Almighty COULD have said, “Saul, You disgust me because you are killing my people.  It is now time to face judgement for what you have done.  Your life is required of you.  I’ll find another person to use as my twelfth apostle.”

God ALWAYS keeps His promises.  If He didn’t, why would we follow that God?  How is a capricious, moody, deceiving God worth following?  If God deceived us, why should we call Him Holy?

The good news for us, as we know, is that the character of YHWH is perfect, and everything that He does conforms to His perfect character.  So when God says He is The Way, The Truth, and The Life, we can believe it, rejoice in it, own it, be secure in it, and draw close to God through it.

Emotions Evolve

God follows this model:

  1. God’s Intellect (mind) directs His Will.  Since God is all-knowing, wisdom should be our guide.
  2. God’s Will then submits to His Intellect
  3. God’s Will then directs His Emotions
  4. God’s Emotions then submit to His Will

The devil likes to corrupt everything that God has established.  So the devil tries to convince the world that they should “listen to their heart” and ignore their intellect – their conscience (con=”with”, science=”knowledge”) – and reality.  After all, the emotions make us “happy”, and we all want to be “happy”!  So the devil instructs the world to follow this paradigm:

  1. Man’s emotions should direct his will.  Man’s emotions don’t lie to him and we are heartless if we don’t listen to them.  What will others think of us?
  2. Man’s will then submits to his emotions
  3. Man’s will then directs and informs his intellect.  After all, facts don’t matter, logic doesn’t matter – just follow your heart, and you will be fine!
  4. Man’s intellect then submits to his will.  Man wants to be liked by others and cares very much about what others think about him.  “Peer pressure” is the defining influence in our lives, therefore rules and logic have  no place when we feel comfortable with what we are doing.  So we “justify” it in our intellect, and don’t let anyone convince us otherwise – we are listening to our hearts!  We are at the apex of understanding!  We have transcended facts and logic!  We have evolved into a higher plane of thinking!  We are now superior to everyone and anyone else!  Don’t you feel better about yourself now?

Our emotions are about as stable as a small boat in the ocean.  One minute we are happy, fine, enjoying ourselves, and the next moment, someone says something or something happens to us, and we go on an emotional roller-coaster as the waves break over the sides of the boat.  Our emotions are the shakiest foundation upon which we should base our decisions.  Yet, isn’t that how most people make decisions today?

Intellectual Intrigue

Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.  The scripture says that very day Abraham circumcised all of the males with him.  Abraham was serious about what God had to say.  He was obedient!  He didn’t pass it through a committee; he didn’t have everyone vote on it; he didn’t stop and ponder how he felt about it; he didn’t question God about why anyone would alter their body in such a painful fashion; he just obeyed.  His intellect directed his will, and his will told his emotions to line up with the intellect, and he did what was required of him quickly and without argument.  Is that not how we should respond to the Word of the Living God?

Here is a non-exhaustive list comparing character driven vs. emotion driven people:

Character Driven Emotion Driven
What are my responsibilities? What are my rights?
Be there on time Cancel because something better came up
Learn all about the job Wing it
Submit to others Do it my own way
Do the work to best of my ability Do the minimum amount of work needed

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I Character Driven, or Emotion Driven?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I will sing praises to You, for You are holy, righteous, just, but full of mercy and grace. You do everything that You say that You will do, and we can rest in full assurance that Your promises will be upheld by You.  Your character is perfect, and you do not change like shifting shadows.  Father, mold me, shape me, and change me so that my character matches Yours.  Help me to walk in way that Jesus walked when He was with the disciples.  Guard my ways, and help me to always do what I say I will do.  Strengthen me when my emotions rise up like a flood and threaten to drown me.  Provide me with Your peace as I seek to be obedient to You.  This I ask and pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Faith in Christ – Hebrews 11:35-38

No Servant is Greater Than His Master

35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

Faith Followed

Are you being persecuted for your faith in Christ?  Rejoice!  You are in good company!  You have been found worthy!  Most of us, when reading about faith the book of Hebrews, want to dwell on the earlier portion of Hebrews 11.  But since Christ suffered for His faith, we shall suffer also.  Following Christ in many nations is worthy of the death penalty.

Here in America, a country founded on Christian principles (Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence), we embarked on an experiment in liberty that afforded to its citizens great freedom (especially of religion, not just worship) through the idea that people who are able to self-govern themselves through the belief in accountability to God don’t require draconian authority over them to live civilly in society.  When this occurs, the founding fathers of the United States of America reasoned, it was possible that such a level of freedom was achievable.  It should be very evident now, that in light of the people of the United States of America throwing off the yoke of Christ for the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, that such a government is untenable, the citizens will (and do) selfishly seek to codify in law government favoritism towards their particular desires, passions, and industries at the expense of the liberty of others.  As such, Christians are now being persecuted for living out their Christian faith in accordance with the freedoms that they were promised in their founding document of law.  But rejoice!  Here is how we should respond:

You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

Creating Character

Faith helps us to endure all of the trials of life.  And when we endure, we gain character:

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

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

Sometimes it is tough when we are going through trials that test our faith (especially at night while we sleep).  But you can be confident that God will never leave you or forsake you, for His character is perfect.  And since God will not allow you to be tempted (tested) beyond your ability without providing a way, there is always a glimmer of hope – even if that means your release from trouble is when you go to be with Him in glory.  God may place circumstances in your life that overwhelm you.  However, this usually happens when He is trying to get your attention.  But let’s not forget that many have been tortured and murdered for their faith.  And in those trials, God can give you peace beyond comprehension to help you through the difficulty.

Faith Fortified

When we are suffering for our faith, we are told to rejoice!   For as we surrender to God in our suffering, it strengthens our faith in Him to be able to get us through it.  Jesus said that only a little faith is needed to accomplish mighty things:

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

If only a little faith is required to move mountains, and that nothing will be impossible for us, what great and mighty things does God want to accomplish through us that would require the great faith and trust that comes through enduring our trials as we walk with Him?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Do I merely endure my trials, or does my faith mature in reverential trust and fear of God with joyful expectancy of what God will do next in my life?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, my strength is failing as I wait expectantly for You to act in these dark and evil days.  Give me the strength to go on so that I will not faint as I wait for my character growth to be completed in the crucible of trials.  Help me to trust You as a young child trusts their parents, completely and without reservation, as these fleeting difficulties are worked out by You, for I know that You are sovereign, and nothing happens without your express prior knowledge and approval.  Help me to soar like an eagle, for I feel grounded, unable to even spread my wings.  Comfort me in my sorrows and difficulties, and guard my heart with Your peace, that no weapon formed against me shall prosper.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

 

Perspective of God – Matthew 25:21-22

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

In another stunning turn of events, Jesus turned the tables on those who would follow the letter of the law on the outside, but refused to change on the inside. The Pharisees were notorious for following the letter of the law without allowing the law to change their hearts; and in doing so, they broke the spirit of the law.  Jesus makes it clear here that God wants us to follow both the letter and the spirit of the law.

In just this one chapter of scripture (Matthew 5:27-48) , there are no less than five additional places where Jesus provided clarification regarding the letter of the law and the spirit of the law:

[Adultery]
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

[Divorce]
31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

[Oaths]
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

[Eye for an eye]
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

[Love for enemies]
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

In each case, Jesus show how we should act when the law is brought into account.  Our sin nature desires what benefits itself most.  It is natural, in our old nature, to merely outwardly obey what the law requires.  We can easily overlook the deeper nature of what is required of us when we just seek to be justified in our perceived fulfillment through a minimalist attitude regarding obedience to the law.

Jesus was so upset with this from the religiously pious leaders that he called them white-washed tombs with dead men’s bones inside.   That is an interesting analogy!  What an insult that must have been to the pious leaders – that they were tombs, places where physically (but in this analogy, spiritually) dead people were placed.  And, appearing squeaky-clean on the outside, giving an appearance of cleanliness and holiness, they were instead filled with the rotting (spiritually dead) corpses that if touched, would make one ritualistically unclean for worshiping God.

Another example of this is a man who claims to know God. He is a very nice guy to all that he encounters, and appears to be of good moral character.  Due to a workplace accident, he is on disability.  He works as many side jobs as possible (perfectly OK), and asks for cash only when performing the work (still perfectly OK).  However, he doesn’t report the additional income he earns from these side jobs to the government so that his benefits are not reduced.  And while we all chafe at egregious taxation, he fails to take into account what Paul said in Romans 13:1-2,6-7:

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

We can easily deceive ourselves into making a righteous justification for just about everything we do that is counter to the Word of God in the name of “circumstantial difficulty”.  This is where moral relativism creeps into our lives.  And once we start down that path, we can then justify everything we do, and then fail to realize just how far short of the glory of God we are becoming.

So let’s ask ourselves the question: Am I following the letter of the law, or the spirit of the law?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, our hearts are filled with deceit, and we deceive ourselves when we merely follow the letter of the law.  Father, cleanse me now of all unrighteousness.  Show me where I have this attitude in my heart, and bring it into the light so that the light would dispel the darkness.  If this is rooted in bitterness of spirit from an experience of my past, please remove it, no matter how painful it is.  Help me to heal, and to avoid this attitude in my life.  Guard my heart, and keep it until the great and terrible day that Your Son, Jesus Christ, returns in Glory to claim what is His, and bring judgement on all that refused Him in life.  Bless not only me, but all who struggle with this issue.  This I ask in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

 

Combat Training with God – Romans 13:1-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul goes on further in the chapter to say this:

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

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

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

Paul takes this even further:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally, like Habakkuk was told,

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Walking with God – Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

This is a very famously quoted passage in scripture.  But there’s more here than meets the eye.  The NIV translates the first part of this as “But those who hope on the Lord…” from the Hebrew uqui, meaning “and ones being expectant of”.  However, the Septuagint indicates a different translation.  The words “wait upon” in the Greek is hupomenontes.  It means “to bear up under trial” and has the meaning of “being stretched (when enduring through a trial).”  When we are in the crucible of trials, God stretches us to our very limits, but doesn’t allow us to break.  When we are stretched, we can be extended, like a rubber band, but we spring back, and unlike the rubber band, we are stronger than when we started.  We renew our strength after the trial is over.  When we are enduring it, God gives us the strength to endure, for He will not allow us to be tempted without giving us the ability, or provide options, to overcome iteven if it means fleeing.

The other interest aspect of this is that when we walk, it is indicated that we might faint.  The Christian life is a very challenging one.  As we grow in Christ, we become more aware of His holiness, and the path seems straighter and narrower every day.  It takes great strength to continually walk in a manner pleasing to God.  But thanks be to God for sending Jesus, who in turn sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us and empower us!

Rejoice!  God gives you the ability to walk with Him, even when the day-to-day trials of life wear us down, sap our strength, and put us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in a place where we feel at any moment we will just pass out from exhaustion.  Cry out to the Lord, and receive new strength!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are Almighty God; may all honor, glory, strength, power, and dominion be Yours forever, Amen and Amen!  You give me hope when there is no reason to hope, and strength when my strength fails.  Father, I humbly come to you in brokenness.  Help me in my circumstances.  Provide a way for your servant to overcome.  Grant me success this day.  Bless my enemies, and may Your kindness in this draw them to You.  Open doors that I cannot open, and fight these battles, Lord.  I need You Lord God, and greatly desire Your fellowship.  Help me to overcome, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

A Calling of God – John 9:4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Obedience to God – John 14:15 (AMP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

The Holiness of God – 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.

God takes things very seriously. When Moses struck the rock twice to bring forth water after God had told him to speak to the rock, it cost him a blessing – going into the Promised Land. But God still held Moses in high regard – Moses appeared with Jesus and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Do we take the things of God as seriously as He does?  Notice the observation by Paul that some of the believers were weak and sick and had fallen asleep (their bodies died) because they were taking communion without discerning the body of Christ.  If you believe this to be the case for you, read James 5:14-16 and be obedient to the Word of God to resolve the issue.

God calls Himself Holy in His Word time and time again.  Here are three instances:

The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (carm.org) defines Holiness as:

Holiness is a quality of perfection, sinlessness, and inability to sin that is possessed by God alone. As Christians, we are called to be holy (1 Pet. 1:16). But this does not refer to our nature. Instead, it is a command of our practice and thought. We are to be holy in obedience (1 Pet. 1:15). God has made us holy through His Son Jesus (Eph. 1:4, 1 Pet. 2:9).

Holiness is being set apart FROM sin, and set apart TO God.  So, let us take some time today to set ourselves apart to God.  When we do that, we will be setting ourselves apart from sin.  Let us take some time before we take communion to discern whether we are in the faith.  Cry out to God to show you any sin in your life; acknowledge what He shows you (if anything) and repent.  Then, with clean hands and a pure heart, we can confidently take communion in joyful celebration!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are Most Holy.  We fail to even begin to recognize how Holy You are.  You have told us in Your word that if we saw Your face, we would perish.  Help us to grasp the extent of Your Holiness, so that we can rightly discern ourselves as the Body of Christ.  Prepare our hearts for holy communion.  Forgive us our sins.  Cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Instill within us such a sense of Your presence that we are better able to humble our hearts before You.  You take this so very seriously; please help us to do the same.  Please do not discipline us in Your anger, but renew your mercy, for we are in desperate need of it.  Thank You, Lord God, for Your faithfulness in all things.  Amen.

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

Healing with God – James 5:14-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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