Provision From God – Psalm 146:6-10

God Is The One Who Supplies All Of Our Needs And The Needs Of Others

6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
the sea, and everything in them-
he remains faithful forever.
7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
8 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

10 The Lord reigns forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the Lord.

Capable Creator

God is a most wonderful creator.  He created the heavens and the Earth.  Every day he paints the sky with clouds and the light of the Sun.  He continually creates as life abounds of every type, knitting together children in their mother’s wombs, causing seeds to burst forth from the ground to grow into plants, and eggs hatching to become other creatures.  There is no aspect of life that God is not intimately involved.

Faithful Forever

God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  And He has shown Himself faithful in every aspect of His character.  Because God is love, He cannot be unfaithful in anything.  God’s love always seeks out the betterment of others, and His word will never pass away.  His faithfulness is a sign that He can be trusted, and that His character is rooted in goodness and righteousness.

Compassionate Caregiver

As creator, God is also compassionate towards His creation.  He especially shows this aspect of His character in how He upholds the cause of the oppressed.  When men (and women) seemingly abandon others, God rises up to defend their cause.  God created ALL men and women in HIS image, and He assists the oppressed among us, as well as feeds the hungry.

Freedom Fighter

God desires that no one be a prisoner to sin.  He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to come and free the captives.  Even those who have been wrongfully imprisoned by men can have their souls freed by God.  Physical imprisonment cannot stop God from freeing men for eternal relationship with Him.  God will go to great lengths to set the captives free, bending Heaven and Earth to do so when someone seeks Him out with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.  And if God so chooses, He can free them physically as well.

Rejoicing in Righteousness

Part of God’s very nature is righteousness.  He is greatly pleased when He sees it, because His very existence is bathed in it.  It resonates true with Him, and He rejoices when He sees His children walking in righteousness.  Just as a parent is proud of their child when they are being polite towards others and living a life of serving others in joy, so does God when we do the same.

Helpful Hospitality

The Psalmist reminds us that God has a special place in His heart for the foreigner among us.  To be sure, God is referring to the foreigners who are among us lawfully.  God gives the sword to rulers to punish those who refuse to obey the law.  Civil disobedience is only tolerated by God when the rulers of a nation are using laws to oppress the people, obfuscate the truth, and deny lawful image-bearers of God their freedom.

God provides great hospitality towards the foreigners among us, as well as the fatherless and widows.  God does not forget those people who are unable to provide for themselves.  He fully expects the righteous among us, whom He has blessed with plenty, to help those in need.  And while He expects this of us, He does not expect us to give out free food and cash to lazy, indignant, self-righteous, and discontent people purveying a victim mentality:

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.

Just Judge

God is not indifferent to the suffering of people.  Neither will He put up with wickedness:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

God is righteous, and although wicked people may be allowed to continue on in their wickedness for what appears to humans to be an eternity, God is giving them every opportunity to change their mind and be saved.  Although it is a burden upon us when wicked people oppress us, and may even cost us our livelihoods, the material possessions that God has provided to us to manage, and perhaps our very lives, we are sheep being led to the slaughter, witness for God, so that the wicked might turn towards God.

And if they do not, let your heart be at rest.  For in death, they will surely pay in full for what they have done here on Earth.  Jesus came to pay our fine, but in refusing payment, they will endure for all eternity the punishment that is justly received since they cannot pay the price to redeem themselves.

Righteous Ruler

The Lord God Almighty reigns forevermore in Heaven upon His throne, rightfully in His play of power and glory, overseeing all that He created and ruling in righteousness as He pleases.  Let us not forget the sovereignty of God, and the wonderfully good implications that His righteous rule entail.  For nothing can happen in the universe without the express prior knowledge and permission of Almighty God, who is righteous, protector, provider, overseer, and master over all.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Where do I go first when I am in need?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show Yourself to be righteous in all that You do, even in allowing the wicked to prosper.  Help me to have a perspective that places You in Your proper role in all things.  Give me the wisdom to recognize in my darkest situations that You are right in the center of them.  Help me to be Your eyes, ears, hands, and mouth as other struggle in their daily lives.  May Your light show through me that people will be drawn to the light and seek freedom from darkness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

The Rewards of Righteousness – Proverbs 21:21

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

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

Rewards of Righteousness

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

Linked with Love

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

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

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

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

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

Long Life

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

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

Powerfully Prosperous

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heavenly Honor

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

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chastisement by God – Habakkuk 1:5-11

God Will Use Evil Nations To Chastise His People

5 “Look at the nations and watch-
and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
that you would not believe,
even if you were told.
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.
7 They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves
and promote their own honor.
8 Their horses are swifter than leopards,
fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong;
their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like an eagle swooping to devour;
9 they all come intent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind
and gather prisoners like sand.
10 They mock kings
and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities;
by building earthen ramps they capture them.
11 Then they sweep past like the wind and go on-
guilty people, whose own strength is their god.”

Crisis Counseling

In the verses just before these, Habakkuk asks a profound, appropriate, and Godly question:  What are you going to do about the wickedness of Your people, Lord?

2 How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
3 Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
4 Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.

God answers Habakkuk’s cry for intervention by the Lord with an answer that he did not expect, and one that would cause us all to take pause – He declared that He would raise up the Babylonians to conquer His people.  Habakkuk and the rest of us were most likely expecting a different response, something like, “I know it is difficult to watch, but I will surely turn the hearts of the people back to me, and all will be healed and restored, and there were be great joy and celebration of the people as they give their lives back to Me.”  Instead, Habakkuk now gets to hear about God’s plan to conquer Israel and enslave His people.

Careful Correction

The people Israel, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, have had a tendency throughout history to wander off the beaten path to pursue their own desires.  God had shown them in the past that they should follow Him, in good times and bad.  However, Israel has required repeated correction.  Gentle rebukes by the prophets of God were met with stoning (they lashed out at the messengers because they couldn’t do it to God Himself, it would appear).

Time and time again, God increased the severity of hardships He placed on His people to get them to turn from wickedness and turn back to Him, the only Holy and Righteous God that exists.  But Israel, after turning back to God, quickly prospered, and then just as quickly went their own way.  And just as a human parent becomes annoyed when they spank a child and see in their eyes that, even during their correction, they are planning their very next act of rebellion, God took it up a notch.  They would be enslaved by the Babylonians.

Creative Chaos

It was bad enough to be “spanked” by God, but by the Babylonians?  That is like taking your child to the local bully guild, and then saying to them, “OK, beat up my child, he certainly deserves it.”  It was not only a rebuke by God, but humiliation as well.  Not only was God withdrawing His protection from His people, but using the equivalent of today’s modern gang-banger drug lords to do it.  God’s description of the Babylonians should give us pause:

  • They have no sense of law (God gave the Israelites the Law of God, something that they were very proud of)
  • They promoted their own honor (God warned against pride and haughtiness.  Rather than chastise the Babylonians, He was using them to chastise His people)
  • They were a violent people (God wanted the Israelites to be a people, and was using violence, antithetical to their law, to chastise the as well)
  • They mock kings and rulers (God’s law showed the Israelites to be respectful of authority.  God would use this very thing against them as a rebuke, since they themselves refused to honor and glorify God)
  • They were idol worshipers (they worshiped their own strength, rather than the One who gave it to them.  Again, a serious rebuke to the people who were told to worship God and refused to honor Him)

God would introduce chaos into their lives through a most stinging rebuke – a people who God would not immediately judge for doing even worse things than they were doing.  God is perfectly capable of bringing people back to Himself with love and kindness.  But when a people refuse the very love and kindness that are offered to them, what can be done?

Day of Distress

When we refuse God’s gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) nudges and rebukes, God resorts to the “bend your back” beat-down methodology.  God will allow another nation to thoroughly cause distress in the lives of His people.  And He does this for both the righteous (those who believe God) and the unrighteous (those who refuse to believe God, and through their sin, obscure the truth about God in their actions, words, and thoughts).

In the past, it was the Babylonians who were feared.  In today’s world, the new Babylonians are the Fundamentalist Adherents to Islam.   The F.A.I. have no fear – they strap bombs to themselves, their children, and anyone they can to cause the maximum amount of fear and disruption in society.  They behead, mutilate, rape, and disfigure anyone that has the impudence to oppose them and their belief system.  They pour acid on the faces of women who they accuse of disobedience to their laws.  They accuse women of sexual infidelity if a man rapes her, and her word is so despised, she needs several male witnesses to testify on her behalf that she was not at fault.  In all things, they act in ways that they believe honor their god, but that are, in God’s eyes, absolutely abhorrent.  They are promised great rewards in eternity, and are guaranteed entry into their heaven if they die while killing their enemies.  Only YHWH, the one true God, in His sovereign will, can change the mind of someone who is convinced that murdering others brings glory to their god.

God has been raising them up for more than a millennia now, and God blesses the fruit of their women’s wombs, while the rest of the world experiences barrenness and strife.  Their hatred of anyone who is not like them is amazing and appalling, and their adherence to the idea that the end justifies the means should place us all on guard (take a look at what is going on in Europe, especially Great Britain, France, and Germany…).  Any group of people who believe that what they do, no matter how cruel, evil, heinous, and despicable, is honored by their “god” because it advances the agenda of their “god”, is a people who should be watched and guarded against.  Just like the Babylonians more than two millennia ago, these people are the new force of evil that God is raising up to chastise the nations.  And they are very effectively chastising the nations even now.

Regal Rescue

YHWH, the one true God, is a God who is our strength and our rescue.  He is able, and willing, to rescue us from our every difficulty.  And just as God sent Jesus Christ to rescue us from our bondage to sin, He will rescue us again when we turn towards Him and away from sin:

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.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I doing anything that would justify God bringing His chastisement upon me, my family and my nation?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your judgments are holy and righteous.  Everything that You do is right and good.  Father, forgive me for my sins.  Forgive my nation for its sins against You.  Father, because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of most is growing cold.  Forgive us for not better guarding our hearts against such wickedness, and for not speaking up when we had the opportunity.  Give me the courage to do what You desire me to do when faced with injustice.  Help me to encourage my family, my neighbors, and my nation to turn to You, worship You, and live our lives for You.  And when You send Your holy judgment upon us to chastise us, remember me, and keep me and my family safe from Your anger.  This I ask In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Repentance and God – 1 Kings 22:11-13

Our Hearts Should Be Broken Over Our Sin And The Sin Of Our Nation

11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his robes. 12 He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Akbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: 13 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.”

Great Grief

King Josiah became king after two very wicked kings before him.  For fifty-seven years, Israel has been plagued with rulers who perpetrated great evil in the land.  King Manasseh, his grandfather, did great evil in the eyes of the Lord, leading the people to worship other gods:

1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. 3 He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. 4 He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put my Name.” 5 In the two courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. 6 He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced divination, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.

King Amon, his father, did so much evil in the sight of the Lord, and was so offensive to the people, that he only reigned two years before his own officials assassinated him:

19 Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem two years. His mother’s name was Meshullemeth daughter of Haruz; she was from Jotbah. 20 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as his father Manasseh had done. 21 He followed completely the ways of his father, worshiping the idols his father had worshiped, and bowing down to them. 22 He forsook the Lord, the God of his ancestors, and did not walk in obedience to him.

23 Amon’s officials conspired against him and assassinated the king in his palace. 24 Then the people of the land killed all who had plotted against King Amon, and they made Josiah his son king in his place.

When Josiah heard the words written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes.  This was an ancient Hebrew practice to show great anguish and grief over some situation.  Josiah’s heart was grieved when he learned that the people were not obeying the Lord.  Rather than continue in the practices of his father and grandfather, he turned his heart from sin and to God.

Supreme Sorrow

Josiah experienced great sorrow when he realized what he and the people had done.  It is interesting that Josiah had not read, nor even seen, the Book of the law until he was age twenty-six, and a copy of the Book of the Law was found in the temple where he had ordered work to be done.  How great must the evil had been, when no one had the Book of the Law to provide them with guidance?  His heart mourned in sorrow for both his own sin, and the sin of his people.

Josiah had the heart of a servant-leader.  His heart was responsive to the word of the Living God.  And he had the reactions that each of us should have when we realize that we have sinned against a holy and mighty God:

  • He was grieved by his sin
  • His soul was filled with sorrow
  • He mourned over his sin
  • He sought the Lord for help

Seek the Savior

Josiah didn’t just have an emotional response.  He called upon five people to inquire of the Lord to find out what he and his nation should do.  We have the scriptures of Almighty God as a testimony for us and to guide us in how we are to conduct ourselves before God.   We have been instructed to seek out God and to repent of our sin.  The first part of this is to confess our sin before God.  The second part is to turn away from sin and turn towards our most gracious and merciful Lord and God.

Confess Carefully

Josiah had instructed several people to inquire of the Lord on his behalf.  He recognized the need to confess his sin before God, and to learn how to turn back towards God.  We must each confess our sins before God.  Paul indicated that the reason that many of the people were sick and had fallen asleep (God had taken their physical lives) was because they were partaking of Communion improperly.  They were not judging their sin rightly, and taking communion without confessing their sin and repenting of it.

Many people in the church today take communion and give very little thought to how they are living their lives.  They take it more as an expected part of the liturgical service, and don’t give it the gravity that it rightly requires.  When we take communion improperly, we are, in effect, bring down God’s judgment against us!   We each need to carefully examine the scriptures to see what God has to say about this, and take this as seriously as a Holy God would take it.

The western church, in particular, has a tendency to place great emphasis on the grace and mercy of God as a sign of His love for us.  And God certainly IS full of grace and mercy, even to the point of sending His one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins.  But there is often a lack of balance between His grace and mercy and His holiness and righteousness.  God cannot condone sin nor have it in His presence.  Until we realize just how offensive sin is to our Most Holy God, we will not see our sin in its proper place.  God is complete in all things, and He is balancing His holiness with His grace.  Should we not give sin the same weight as Almighty God does?  Should we not consider the cost that God bore to enable Him to give us grace?

Delay Disaster

God was gracious, and because Josiah’s heart had responded to the word of God, He delayed the disaster that He had sworn to bring upon the His beloved nation Israel because of their great sin until after Josiah had passed away.

Since we have been the recipient of great grace through the innocent shed blood of the One and Only Son of God, we receive His grace.  But God will discipline us mightily if we think that we can go on sinning because His fountain of grace covers us.  We are not to live our lives walking on eggshells, worried that every little sin will bring disaster and discipline from Almighty God upon us.  But in the same vein, we should not be surprised if we are disciplined with sickness, hardship, and even death (falling asleep) if we fail to take the time to rightly judge how we are living our lives and then partaking in communion.

When we partake in communion, we are, in effect, showing through this ordinance of the church that we are identifying with the life of Christ, who is the bread of life, and whose blood is pure.  When we go to take communion, we are, in effect, saying that we are walking in the same manner as Christ walked, identifying with Him in every way.  Christ lived a perfect life, submitted to the Holy Spirit, never once sinning.  Sin is abhorrent to God, and sin in our own lives should be just as abhorrent.  We can live free from fear, but only if we take the time to review our lives and see if we are walking in the way.

When we walk in sin without even attempting to overcome it we are in effect sullying the very robe of righteousness that Jesus bled and died to provide for us.  Why be sanctified if grace covers all sin, you might ask?  Because we are to put on our wedding clothes, white as the driven snow, as a bride in anticipation of the bridge groom, prepared to be received by Him in joy in our spotless white attire.

When we walk in the Spirit, yielded to God, we will be filled with the fruit of the Spirit.  And love is the ultimate expression of God.  When we love God, our neighbor, and one another, we are fulfilling the law, just as Christ fulfilled the law with His perfect and holy life.  We will not need to be disciplined if we discipline ourselves in right judgment, and turn from sin by turning towards God.  By walking in the Spirit, we are delaying judgment and discipline in our own lives.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What do I do when I sin?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I ask that You give me a heart so sensitive to righteousness that sin would make me nauseous.  Help me to immediately, and without reservation, seek You when I find myself in a situation where I feel pressured to act in disobedience to You and Your known will for me.  Help me to immediately seek You and overcome the pull of all sin in my life.  Guard my heart against all wrongdoing, and give me a heart that seeks You and rejoices in You and Your holiness and righteousness.  Forgive me for my many sins.  Help me to enumerate them to You.  Bring to mind every sin that I have not confessed to You, that I may bring it out into Your perfect and holy light, that they would be known to me.  Grant me the strength and grace to leave them at the cross, and to walk in Your holy way.  Do whatever is necessary, and provide the situations needed, so that I can practice walking in holiness before You.  You have promised to never leave nor forsake me, and I call upon You now, Lord God Almighty, to make good on this promise so that I can worship You in holiness with clean hands and a pure heart, and take communion with peace in my heart, knowing that my walk pleases You.  This I pray in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

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

Priests of God – Malachi 2:1-9

A Warning To Priests To Be Holy Before The Lord

1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. 2 If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.

3 “Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. 4 And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty. 5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin.

7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. 8 But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the Lord Almighty. 9 “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

Coming Curse

The prophet Malachi gave a warning to the Levitical priests.  Because of their unrighteousness, God would turn their blessings into curses.  This would be the sign that God used to show the people that He would not tolerate their immoral behavior.  It is a terrible thing when the people who are responsible for administering the law do so in such a way that God’s name is disgraced.  With great privilege comes great responsibility, and God assured the people that He wouldn’t turn a blind eye to what was going on.

Regal Reverence

God expected His priests – the people who administered the law and provided instruction to the people – to be holy before Him, righteous and blameless (not sinless, for everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God).  God would reassure the people that He took his covenant with Levi seriously, and that He would not allow the corrupt priests to dishonor His holy name nor their position.

Tell the Truth

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…”  Jesus was the embodiment of the word of the living God.  He was truth personified.  Everything that He said was truth, and their was no deceit on His lips.  The priests were to act as the spokespersons for God, and they needed to tell the truth to the people.  When the priests were deceitful, and warped the word of God towards their own ends, they were in effect marring the image of God.

God does not take this lightly.  Jesus has had the harshest words of criticism for those who have been entrusted with guiding the people who follow Satan as their father:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

What a terrible thing it was then when the priests of God, the descendants of Levi, turned from God and turned towards Satan, and allowed falsehood to come to their lips.  This should be a wake-up call to all who are called by God to be priests, even of the order of Melchizedek, to speak only the truth.  God is truth, and there is no falsehood in Him.  The priests of Melchizedek must also walk a life where truth is their native tongue, that they may honor God in their speech and actions

Honorable and Holy

The covenant that God had with Levi and his progeny was a covenant of reverence towards God.  The Levitical priests were to be honorable and holy before God.  They were required to keep themselves from unclean things, and to wash and prepare in special ways before they would offer the sacrifices of the people to God.

Although everyone is held to the same standard for what they do, the priests were held more accountable before God because of their position and influence that God had provided to them.  God expected much more from them, for they understood the law and what God required.  Their knowledge and position demanded a higher standard of adherence to God’s requirements to be holy before Him.

Partiality in Precept

And one of the worst things that the priests did was to subvert the justice of God.  They showed partiality in the law.  It is very similar to allowing the Former Secretary of State of the United States of America to disseminate classified information through unlawful means to be exonerated from the penalties associated with that crime, while people of lesser stature were jailed and fined for far less serious crimes of a similar nature.

When partiality of the law is encountered, the faith of the people in justice dwindles, and the holiness of God is tarnished.  The people may attribute false characteristics to God, because the very people God has chosen to display his righteousness and justice have, in treason to God, perverted justice and dishonored His name.  And their blessing will be turned into curses.  God may be so greatly offended that He would divinely intervene in the election of officials of a nation to show His displeasure and place people who would fear Him and restore faith of the people in His good name, even through people who have sinned greatly against Him.  For God is able to forgive and use people who are willing to serve Him and yield to Him.

And to those who hate and despise the God of the Bible, and refuse to acknowledge His name and character by profaning His name through their actions and speech?  God will turn their blessings into curses, and bring ruination upon their families for generations.  Learn, therefore, you leaders of the world, that God will not tolerate your injustice and hatred forever.  God is being gracious, and giving all of you the opportunity to come to Him.  You are cordially invited by Almighty God to participate in His gracious offer to repent of your sins, and to be cleansed by the precious shed blood of the Son of God.  Avail yourselves of this opportunity while you still have it.  Do not delay, lest you find yourselves one day in that dire situation where you no longer have the opportunity to voluntarily do so, and face the white throne judgement of God, rather than the grace and mercy that God extents to you now.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I properly reflecting the holiness of God in word and in deed?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You call out to us day and night, and woo us to You with your kindness, compassion, grace and mercy.  Help me to turn from all of my wicked ways so that I would instead embrace Your holiness and righteousness.  Grant me the ability to desire with my whole heart to honor and glorify Your name.  And help me to submit myself to Your Holy Spirit, that in the same way that Christ yielded Himself to You, that I would yield myself to You as well.  Forgive me of my sin, and be Lord of my life, for You are perfect, and everything that You do is right.  You know what must need to be done, and I pray that You would give my every thought, word, and deed in Your righteousness, for You and You alone deserve all of the glory and honor that comes from what You do through me.  This I ask in Jesus’ Precious and Holy Name, Amen.

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

Weakness Before God – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

God Uses the Weak To Shame The Strong

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Poor Position

Most of those called by God have been called from lowly positions.  God did not call Pharaoh, but rather Daniel.  It is noteworthy that even His Son, Jesus Christ, was born into this world in such lowly circumstances as among animals.  God generally calls those of simple circumstances because when He uses us, it is recognized that it is His power working through us rather than anything special about us.

Superior State

God chooses the simple over the wise.  He chooses the insignificant over the influential.  He chooses the common over the noble.  God reveals that He cares about all people, and uses the simple, common, poor, ignored, and otherwise passed over in the eyes of the world to do the most amazing things.  Moses, chosen of God, wasn’t useful to Him in Egypt, but only after he had become a shepherd for forty years.  Shepherds were considered the lowliest of professions.  It was only after finding himself in these circumstances that God used him mightily.  While many of us desire wealth, fame, or rank in society, the superior state for being called and used by God is to be ordinary:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

Becoming Better

God is able to use the ordinary to do the extraordinary.  When we are in Christ, He becomes our wisdom – our righteousness, holiness, and our redemption.  We no longer operate through our own power, but rather through the power of Him who called us.  God uses the lowly and the despised to shame the powerful and important, for all glory belongs to God and God alone.  When we begin to believe that we alone are responsible, we begin to become prideful.  Nebuchadnezzar discovered this at his own great peril.  Even after being warned by Daniel the prophet, Nebuchadnezzar still believed in his heart that everything that had been provided to him was of his own strength and doing.  After being humbled by God by living as a wild creature for seven years, God restored Nebuchadnezzar who then gave glory to God:

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

Let’s ask a question:  Am I content being seen as weak in the eyes of men?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are able to use the despised and lowly things of this world to shame the powerful and desired.  Thank You for giving me the opportunity to be used by You for Your purposes.  Help me to be strong in You, for Your strength is provided to me when I am weak.  Help me to boast only in You, for it is You who enables me to be strong in the face of adversity.  Help me to be the person that You desire me to be, so that I would be able to be used by You.  Anything done in my power is tainted by sin, but anything done by You through me will last the testing of time and fire.  Help me to yield myself completely to you so that all that You desire to do through me will be accomplished.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

The Grace of God – Isaiah 26:7-11

The Wicked Don’t Recognize The Grace Of God

7 The path of the righteous is level;
you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous
smooth.
8 Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws,
we wait for you;
your name and renown
are the desire of our hearts.
9 My soul yearns for you in the night;
in the morning my spirit longs for you.
When your judgments come upon the earth,
the people of the world learn righteousness.
10 But when grace is shown to the wicked,
they do not learn righteousness;
even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil
and do not regard the majesty of the Lord.
11 Lord, your hand is lifted high,
but they do not see it.
Let them see your zeal for your people and be put to shame;
let the fire reserved for your enemies consume them.

Smooth Sailing

It is the Lord God Almighty that smooths the difficulties of life for the disciple.  God will make the path of the righteous straight, and set them on course because they have believed in Him and believe what He says.  God is sovereign, and He promises to take care of the righteous and their ways, and watch over them as they live their lives for Him.

Delightful Desires

When a person believes God, the path of righteousness becomes a joy to them.  Previously, righteousness would stand in the way of wicked, blocking them from their heart’s desires.  Now, righteousness becomes the very desires of their hearts.  They cannot help but desire to walk in righteousness before God.  He Himself places this desire in our hearts, and we now, with the stink and stain of sin removed, can fully embrace and recognize the beauty of righteousness.

We desire it so much that our souls long for it.  After walking with God for a little while, we seek righteousness out as though it was water and we are thirsty in the desert.  Only righteousness, and the presence of our Lord, can quench our immense thirst.

Wickedness Wastes

The wicked, however, even when presented with the grace of Almighty God, still do not realize its value.  They do not learn righteousness from it, because they are still blinded by their sin.  Even when the wicked are placed in a community of the righteous, they continue to do what they do, rather than learn the ways of righteousness.

There are people who believe that if you place people who have ethics and morals that are corrupt in amongst people who have good moral fiber and a strong work ethic, that somehow the ethics, morals, and desire to participate in jobs that benefit themselves and society will rub off on them and spur them on to greatness.  But the exact opposite almost always happens.  The people who are transplanted instead begin the corruption of the community, and the community suffers rather than the individual being rehabilitated by contact and proximity to exemplary behavior.

The only way that it will work is if there is a desire by the transplanted people to embrace the ideals and culture of where they are moved.  Otherwise, no change is possible.  That is the result of our human condition.  We are not able to escape it apart from the finished work of Jesus on the cross.  It is only then, being freed from the bondage of sin by the blood of Jesus, that we are able to obey God and love Him.

Pending Peril

Not only are they unable to see and seek righteousness, the wicked do not even see the hand of God raised above them, ready to invoke and inflict judgment upon them.  They are unaware of the signs because they cannot see them.  Sin so fully blinds us that we walk around in a stupor, doing what we know is wrong, yet unaware that consequences are soon to follow.

One of the effective strategies for luring criminals into traps by police is to send them letters indicating that they have won something.  Greed is so powerful in their lives, that they willingly show up at the phony storefront to claim their prize, only to find that their prize is a trip to prison.  Greed blinded them to their need for obscurity and overwhelmed them with a false sense of security, masking the true nature of their circumstances.

Consumed through Conflagration

And when people absolutely refuse to accept the truth, God send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie.  He helps them to harden their hearts, for they refuse to listen to the One calling to them and trying to plow the soil of their hearts for the planting of seeds.  Hearts hardened by life will reject the seeds of grace and mercy, and will eventually provide the very opportunity to receive the wrath of God rather than the grace of God.  And once we die, it is too late.  So if you hear the voice of the Lord calling you to repentance, heed it now while He may be found.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I in a position where my heart can hear what God desires to tell me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have poured and continue to pour out your grace and mercy upon me each and every day.  Your mercies renew every morning.  Great is Your faithfulness.  Help me to guard my heart against the difficulties of life so that I will not become embittered by my circumstances.  Help my heart to soften, that I may be in a better position to hear what You have to say.  Father, I pray that the hearts of the unbelievers would be softened as well, so that they might hear and be able to embrace Your love, grace, and mercy.  Help them, Lord God, for as Your word says, they will be consumed by your wrath if they do not repent.  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?

Cries for Justice – Psalm 74:18-23

God Is A God Of Justice As Well As Compassion, Grace, And Mercy.

18 Remember how the enemy has mocked you, Lord,
how foolish people have reviled your name.
19 Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts;
do not forget the lives of your afflicted people forever.
20 Have regard for your covenant,
because haunts of violence fill the dark places of the
land.
21 Do not let the oppressed retreat in disgrace;
may the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Rise up, O God, and defend your cause;
remember how fools mock you all day long.
23 Do not ignore the clamor of your adversaries,
the uproar of your enemies, which rises continually.

Remembering Rancor

God is a God of justice.  He will not forget His holiness or righteousness.  When faced with people who hate God and seek the ruination of His people, it is alright to ask God to remember their rancorous actions.  God knows everything, but when we cry out to Him for help, we confirm His righteousness and agree with it.  God is also a God of mercy and grace.  We need to keep everything in balance.

Appeal for Assistance

God hears our cries for assistance and intervenes on our behalf.  He is not deaf to our appeals for intervention nor does He wish us undue harm.  We must also remember that in everything God is a God of timing.  And the difficult situations we find ourselves in at the moment may be necessary for some greater part of His plan.  More than once God has used the suffering of His people to bring about the conversion of an unbeliever through their dedication and faithfulness to God, regardless of their circumstances.  Be faithful in praying for help from the unrighteous, and be prepared to wait for His timing.

Completing the Covenant

God has not forgotten His covenant with us.  He is unable to forget it.  It is not wrong, however, to ask Him to remember it.  We appeal to God’s character as we ask for His help.  When we do so, we are magnifying and confirming His character and our faith in God’s righteousness.  We should never give up hope while waiting for God’s timing, and continually remind ourselves of His faithfulness by appealing to His character – that God is unable to break His covenants.

Remembering Righteousness

In times when it seems that God will not defend Himself against the attacks of the enemy, we must remind ourselves of God’s righteousness.  And while in the present time the pain and suffering seem unbearable, it is for our sanctification that God permits these trials in our lives.

God has not forgotten about His righteousness, nor has He shed it.  He is waiting for us to grow and believe in His character regardless of our circumstances.  God will mete out justice for the ones who reject Him continually, regardless of the opportunities that they have been provided.  And many times, the destruction of the righteous are used as an opportunity for the unrighteous to repent.

God is a just God, and justice will prevail.  Let us never cease to remember His character, nor fail to appeal to it in times of trouble or even our own destruction.  In all things, may God be given glory, praise, and honor, even in our cries for His justice.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: When faced with difficulties that overwhelm us, am I being patient, waiting upon God’s timing, and appealing to His character as faithfully as He is faithful?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have said that You will never leave us nor forsake us.  In this time of great injustice, remember me.  The oppression of the righteous is overwhelming me.  I am being crushed on all sides.  Remember the evil of my enemies, O God.  In righteousness, deliver me from their injustice, for You are a just and holy God.  Do not let their actions crush my spirit, but renew my spirit within me.  Restore unto me the joy of my salvation, and be merciful to all who oppress me, for they know not what they are doing.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Leadership with God – Psalm 71:1-2

Pray For All Who Are In Leadership Over Us.

1 Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
2 May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.

Judge with Justice

The author of this Psalm cries out to God that He would divinely place justice in the king.  In governments that are not monarchies this would go to the one who was in charge of overseeing the law of the land.  We too should cry out to God that He would place true justice in the hands of those who would wield it correctly.  Far too often have people in this era been forced to endure either the misapplication of justice, or even just a lack of it.

When justice leaves a country, it begins to fall apart.  It crumbles from within.  Evil and petty tyrants come to power, and are brought down as well.  Power is then seized by bullies and people whose moral compass points counter to justice.  It is our duty to cry out to God for leaders who are just.

Rein in Righteousness

But not only should they be just, they should be righteous as well.  Justice cannot be correctly meted out without the proper frame of reference with which it can be done so in righteousness.  And although we all claim to want a justice system that is “fair”, it is mercy and grace that we seek when we are being accused of breaking the law.  “Fair” implies merely that the law is applied consistently.  But consistently applying the law unjustly does it no credit.

Only in righteousness can justice truly be meted out.  And righteousness requires mercy and grace.  For without compassion, justice is cold, harsh, and cruel.  It may not distinguish between self-preservation and premeditated murder when a person’s life is ended.  And wicked people will attempt to usurp blind justice to do their bidding.  We need only to look at the life of Jezebel, the queen of King Ahab, to see this:

1 Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.”

3 But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.”

4 So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” 7 on his bed sulking and refused to eat.

5 His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?”

6 He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’”

7 Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. 9 In those letters she wrote:

“Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 10 But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”

11 So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. 12 They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 13 Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. 14 Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned to death.”

15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” 16 When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.

17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 18 “Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. 19 Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’”

20 Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!”

“I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. 21 He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. 22 I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’

23 “And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’

24 “Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.”

25 (There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. 26 He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.)

27 When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.

28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.”

Creating a Chiasm

Now comes the interesting part.  Many of the writers of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible used a form of literary prose known as the Chiasm, or Chiasmic structure.  This is where two or more ideas are paralleled in a stepping stone fashion.  This has been used to juxtapose opposites, or to show the outcomes or natures of two different, but interrelated subjects.

In this case, the author of this Psalm chooses to show the theoretical or ideal of two subjects – Justice and Righteousness – in comparison to the practical application or implementation of them.  The Chiasm looks like this:

Righteousness – Judge in
with the sonrighteousness
/\
Endow Justice Justice
with the King for the afflicted

Notice how the on the left side of the Chiasm that the subject matter is to be endowed – it is the “ethics” of the situation that is being highlighed.  On the right side, it is the execution of those “ethics”, or practical “morality”, that is requested.  This type of prose can be found throughout scripture, and gives us insight to what the authors intended.  Without understanding this structure, it would appear that the author may either be rambling or just merely repeating themselves.  If taken chronologically, it could lead to some very incorrect conclusions about prophecy and other events.  But it is designed for a specific effect:  the juxtaposition of two parallel thoughts with the first thoughts from front to back, and with the constrasted thoughts being presented back to front, giving us a clearer view of the subject matter when compared to each other.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I give out justice in the same manner that I desire it?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Praise be to Your holy name.  Thank You for Your insights to justice and righteousness that You provide to me through Your word.  You have revealed that You are perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  Your justice is tempered by Your mercy and grace.  Because of Your compassion, You did not destroyed me when I first sinned against You, but rather two thousand years ago sent Your Son to be my perfect sacrifice.  Help me to better understand Your character, and to display it to the world, for You have been gracious and merciful to me when I deserved justice.  Apart from the finished work of Your Son Jesus Christ on the cross, I would still be in my sin.  Thank You Lord Jesus!  I love You very much!  Help me to show that love through obedience to Your word and displaying Your character in my thoughts, words, and deeds.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Hebrews 12:1-3

Never Give Up, Never Surrender! (To Sin)

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Discard Detritus

The author of Hebrews reminds us to throw off anything that would hinder us in our spiritual pursuit of Almighty God.  Each  of us have issues that are both unique and common, in that we each have trouble spots in our lives that not everyone else has, but that others similarly face and have faced. These issues impede us from our spiritual growth.  For some, it may be the temptation of alcohol.  Others may be sucked in by sports.  Still others by lust.  The list goes on and on.  And while not everyone suffers from these, many do and have, and struggle even to this day with them.

We are reminded to throw these things off.  Is there something in your life that just won’t go away, something that gets you in trouble each and every time that you encounter it?   It is time to bring it to the body, so that others can pray for your deliverance from it:

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

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.

Run the Race

The Olympic Games were very popular during the time when the author of Hebrews wrote this letter.  The imagery of the games would have been known and understood by all who had read it.  They had seen the training and effort that the participants who entered the games had endured in order to prepare for their opportunity to win their events.

We need to have in our minds the same mindset that the athletes of that day had – a complete and total focus on the goal.  They trained not only their bodies but also their minds for the sole purpose of doing the very best that they could in their field of endeavor.  The proper term is discipline.  They disciplined their bodies and minds.

In modern Western thought, discipline appears to be a pejorative, something that impedes a person from obtaining the desires of their hearts, and interfering with their pleasure and self-fulfillment.  But it is quite to the contrary; discipline helps us to eschew that which does not intentionally drive us towards our goal.  We cull the desires and behaviors that are at odds with our intentions and purposes and distract us from our pursuits so that we will be positioned to reap success from our endeavors.

We need to apply these same techniques and recognize their effectiveness as we learn spiritual discernment so that we can set aside the things that hinder us from completing our objectives.  When we are willing to do this, and allow the Spirit of God to provide us with the strength and endurance to overcome the emotional pain that this type of loss generates, we are able to fully embrace our freedom from sin and say “NO!” to it.  Every time we say “NO!” to sin, we grow a little stronger in our resistance to it.

Ask anyone who has quit smoking tobacco “cold turkey” how difficult it was.  The body rebels against the intentional withholding of the chemicals that brought pleasure and comfort and order with it.  The body rebels, and we may get irritable, the physical being greatly desiring what it is being deprived.  Withdrawal is never pretty, and it is the same way with spiritual withdrawal.  But such courses of action are necessary in order to grow and to regain control of that which we ceded to external stimuli and pressures.  And when we come in contact with other people who are doing what we used to do, the body cries out in a desperate attempt to ensnare the person again.  That is why it is sometimes so difficult for ex-smokers to be around smokers, and for recovering alcoholics to hang around drinkers.

Guide our Gaze

In this case, we have our goal in our sight – Jesus Christ is the one with whom we fix our gaze upon.  It is His example that we need to keep in sight as we move away from sin and move towards righteousness.  When we take our eyes off of the goal, it is easy to become sidetracked, blindsided, and fall back to old patterns of behavior.  It is hard enough trying to break a habit without having people constantly offer the very substance or circumstance that you are trying to avoid.

With spiritual habits, we are constantly bombarded by the devil and his minions to go back to life that we were living.  His calls to return are like daggers that zap our strength and feed the monster we are trying to starve to death.  And like anything else in this life, what you feed will grow, and what you starve will die (eventually).  Some things die long, slow, painful, soul-crushing, whining, loud deaths.  But die they must.  Remember to keep your eyes upon Jesus, our Redeemer, the one who shed His blood so that we could be free from our monsters.  Put the monsters in the dungeon where they belong, and make sure you don’t feed them – the enemies of our souls will try to do all that they can to feed and water them when we aren’t looking or ready for it.  Carefully planned ambushes that we don’t see coming are often the demise of the most well-intentioned Disciple.  Discernment keeps our spiritual eyes aware of our environment as we allow the word of God to light the path for our feet.

Wave off Weariness

Finally, we need to keep our eyes upon Jesus so that we can remember the strength that He had through submission to the Holy Spirit to endure all that God had preordained Him to endure for our sake.  We must always keep heart, even when our flesh and emotions fail us.  For long after our physical strength is exhausted, it is only through determination of heart that we are able to hold on and endure, pressing forward to the goal.  Most of us have not resisted to the point of bloodshed.  Let us remember the price that was paid, and determine in our hearts that the One who endured all of our sins upon the cross is worthy of fighting until our very last breath leaves our body, and we go into glory.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I feeding or starving the monsters I am trying to slay?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your Son Jesus Christ has shown me the way to victory.  Give me wisdom and discernment to avoid the circumstances that would overwhelm me and cause my spiritual demise.  Help me to starve the monsters of sin that seek to overcome my soul, and give me the strength to resist them with Your word and Your strength when I am faced with them.  Help me to avoid the pits and ambushes of the enemy so that I will be best positioned to grow in Your word and Your ways.  And when there is no apparent way out, help me to remember the option that Joseph took when faced with the overpowering strength of Potiphar’s wife – help me to flee the situation so that I may not become entangled in it.  This I ask and pray in the name of your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, 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?

Holiness of God – Matthew 21:12-13

Do Not Profane What Is Holy

12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.'”

Righteous Rebuke

Jesus was not a wimp.  He was gentle and humble of heart.  But when He saw that His Father’s temple courtyard was being used in a manner that was disrespectful and counter to its intended purpose – to provide a space where the people could come to worship His Father, He reacted.  He overturned the money tables and benches of people who changed a place of worship into a place of profit.

To be clear, it is not that Jesus was against people making a profit with their labor.  It was the use of something holy in a profane way that was so egregious to Him.  They had taken a place that was meant for worship and defiled it by selling their wares.  God was to be glorified in this place, and yet the sellers of merchandise dared to use what was dedicated to God to line their own pockets.  God is genuinely jealous of what is His.  He will not allow us to prostitute ourselves to sin when we have been dedicated to His purpose.

Practice Prayer

Jesus had informed the ones who had defiled His Father’s house that they had maligned what God had declared was holy – set apart to him and set apart from the world.  The merchants did not care that the temple was to be used for prayer – for holy communication between man and God.  They only saw the opportunity to make some money providing the service of the easy availability of sacrificial animals to those who would come and worship.

We would do well to remember that we are now the temple of God.  And we are not just the temple courtyard; our bodies are the naos of God – the holy of holies.  God has declared us to be holy through the righteousness of Christ.  It behooves us to use our bodies in a manner that befits its station and purpose.  Otherwise, we will be responsible for defiling what God has made holy.

Design Destroyed

Not only were the merchants impeding the worship of God by their very presence with their wares, they were taking what was holy and making it worldly through their practices.  They had no regard for the things of God nor His holiness.  In making the temple courts their marketplace, they turned what was to be honoring God into profit.  Not only that, they would often have dishonest scales, robbing the people, and charging prices that were absurd for goods.  Rather than even offer their merchandise at a fair price, they sold their items at great cost.  The cost of convenience was steep.

We should be wary of those who seek to profit by using what God has declared as holy to line their own pockets.  And while the workman is worthy of his wages, it is not right to peddle the word of God for the purpose of profit.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I using my body as a temple of God or for some other purpose?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You delight in Your children, and greatly desire for us to seek You in prayer.  Help me to separate myself from the world, and draw close to You.  Keep me from the desires that would use my body in such a way that it would profane Your name.  Guard me against the desires of the world, the flesh, and the devil, that I would reflect Your glory for all to behold.  Watch over me this day, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Justice of God – Isaiah 59:14-15

The Lack Of Justice Displeases God

14 So justice is driven back,
and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets,
honesty cannot enter.
15 Truth is nowhere to be found,
and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

The Lord looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.

Justice Jilted

Evil people seek to position themselves as far from justice as they can get.  Their works demand justice, and they seek to thwart the righteous by escaping what they deserve.  Darkness hates the light, and justice has a tendency to restrict evil from its effects.  Evil would prefer that justice turn its eyes away from their works so that they would not reap what they sow.  In that, those who are tasked to ensure that justice is meted out are threatened or outright bullied into submission, driven back from its rightful place in society.

Righteousness Rejected

Once justice is displaced, the people reject righteousness, because their love grows cold in the darkness of the wickedness that grows in the vacuum.  The only path to success when righteousness is rejected is to embrace evil.  The righteous will stand at a distance, for wickedness will turn its full force of anger and vitriolic hatred towards anyone brave enough to approach the wicked.

In the United States of America, as long as a person agrees with the wicked societal and political positions and stances that are prevalent, regardless of the person’s past indiscretions, they are left alone.  But when any deviation from that worldview is presented, the people who once shielded them become their biggest critics and cry out for their humiliation and destruction.  Labels of hater, bigot, hypocrite, and many others are relentlessly spoken about that person, until their character is fully assassinated.

Yet we are called to display God’s character.  In Jeremiah 29:7:, God calls the righteous to pray for and seek peace and prosperity wherever we are:

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

Truth Trounced

As this turning towards evil progresses, truth is attacked as well.  Moral relativism gives birth, and truth can no longer be heard, because, after all, what is truth?  Truth is rejected by those who prefer the power that historical revisionism provides to them.  If you can change what a person believes about the past, you can skew how that person views future events.

Take, for instance, the viewpoint that being of a specific race (color of skin caused by hereditary genetics) somehow magically makes a person “underprivileged”, “oppressed”, “victimized”, “downtrodden”, “targeted”, and any other number of emotionally charged words; it will have a tendency to affect how a person views events.

Predator and Prey

The innate need for unity in purpose forces evil to destroy that which cannot coexist with its ideology and worldview.  Truth and lies cannot commingle.  Those who live in lies despise the very thing that exposes their actions for the evil practices that they are.  Truth and righteousness are then hunted down and extinguished by the unrighteous, so that they will not be reminded of evilness within them.  Wicked people seek to salve their conscience, because their conscience conflicts with their goals and agendas.  Or, as we have seen with the LGBT community, it is not enough to merely tolerate the differences of opinion in viewpoints – everyone MUST agree with and publicly endorse their viewpoint, or be destroyed for their “insolence” in rejecting “the enlightened view”.

Almighty Annoyed

God is never pleased when the vehicles that He created to display His character, honor, and glory refuse to act in the manner for which they were created.  God is greatly displeased when Truth, Righteousness, and the shunning of evil are sought out and destroyed for doing exactly what they were meant to be doing – displaying Almighty God’s character and His love, mercy, grace, and righteousness.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we suppressing the truth with unrighteousness?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are very patient with us given the state of the world today.  Your word says that Your mercies renew every morning, but there will come a time when You can no longer be found.  Father, work in the hearts of those whose evil predisposes them to shun Your light.  Help their hearts to break over their sin.  Show them the price that needed to be paid in order to redeem us to You.  And guide each of us towards truth, justice, and righteousness.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

 

Love Like God – Matthew 5:38-42

Love Fulfills The Law

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

Remove Resistance

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

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

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

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

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

Roman Rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genuine Generosity

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

 

The Justice of God – Isaiah 33:22

God Is a Righteous Judge

For the Lord is our judge,
the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is our king;
it is he who will save us.

A Just Judge

God is a just judge.  He judges from the perspective of righteousness, for He is perfect in every aspect of character.  The Bible tells us:

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

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.

We should rejoice that God is just.  We can be assured that in His justice, there is no fear – for there is no fear in love.  We don’t need to fear a just judge if we are doing right; it is only when doing evil that we need to fear.  And how much more should we fear God as our judge than mere human judges if we are doing evil?

The Law of Love

As a just judge, God gives us laws to establish His authority over us, and to act as a mirror with which we can properly see ourselves and who we really are, not just how we think we see ourselves, or how we portray ourselves to others.  God established just one law when it was just Adam and Eve on the Earth.  He established the Ten Commandments with Moses.  He provided the Israelites the expanded version of law in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.  And he shows us that in Christ, love fulfills the law:

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.

Kind King

God is a king, and He is our king.  God is also love personified.  Since God is love, and love is kind, we know that we have a kind king.  God shows this to us insofar as He does not immediately destroy us when we sin.  A harsh king – the idea of God from the world’s perspective – shows Him as an angry old ogre with His finger just above the “smite” button, just waiting for us to fail so that He has the opportunity to press it.

God shows us His love and kindness through the willingness to allow His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins, so that we can be reconciled to Him.  He patiently waits for us and woos us to come and reason with Him – to see His perspective on all things.

His kindness is shown through His mercy and grace.  Only the kindness in love would allow such a holy God – set apart from all sin and unrighteousness – to tolerate us as we come to our senses and accept the free gift of His Son Jesus Christ’s perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection as payment for our sin.  When we view the cross of Calvary from His perspective, we can come to no other conclusion.

Sovereign Salvation

Only a life of perfect obedience could be the acceptable payment for sin.  And God provided that Himself through His Son Jesus Christ.  Salvation comes from the Lord, for He is able to save, and desires that all be saved.  Rejoice in your salvation!  It came at a very great price.

When taking communion with the Saints of God, remember who it is that is your King, that we may properly discern the body of Christ.  Prepare your heart before you go to worship.  Seek your King with all your heart.  Read His Holy Word.  Be sanctified and adorned as the beautiful bride that He seeks.  Do not be asleep:

for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  As we reap the benefits of grace and mercy, are we really seeing God as a Just Judge?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You reveal Yourself to us through Your Word and through our lives.  Help me to remember Your Holiness.  Give me a better appreciation for Your hatred of sin.  Help me to keep in mind that no one can see Your face, for we would surely die if we did.  Thank You for Your grace and mercy.  Help me to see my sin as You see it.  Guard me and guide me in all my ways.  Help me to prepare my heart that it would be in a proper state to take communion every day and at all times.  Help me to be consecrated to You and Your purposes, that I would be useful as a holy vessel.  You have already declared that I am a naos – the holy of holies.  Help me to live up to that.  Give me a better understand of You as my King.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Leadership of God – Acts 13:22

Have You Considered My Servant, 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.’

Lasting Loyalty

David was a man who was loyal to God.  No matter what he did (good or bad), he always returned to God.   David always saw God in front of him.  David experienced Jesus at his right side as his companion.  In the New Testament, Jesus used the Greek word akoloutheo (to walk shoulder to shoulder, step for step) to describe how we should walk with Him.  David experienced that companionship, and was loyal to God.  Even when being confronted with his sin concerning Bathsheba, David experienced righteous indignation concerning the theft of a man’s only lamb by another.  Despite all of David’s failures, David always returned to the Lord.  This is why he was a man after God’s own heart.

Let’s take a closer look at David’s indiscretions.

Soaked in Sin

David was by no means perfect.  None of us are.  But God saw fit to show us a record of what had occurred so that we could learn from it.  Here’s a short list of the failures of David:

  • David was a murderer
    • David murdered Uriah – a Godly man, one of the mighty men of David, husband of Bathsheba – after he refused to go and be with his wife while the men were at war.  David tried to get Uriah to be with his wife to cover her pregnancy after being raped by David.
  • David was a rapist
    • David stayed home when he should have been with his army when it went to war.  He watched Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop (she couldn’t get away from the prying eyes of the neighbors?).  David so desired her that he had her brought to him, where he had his way with her.  No woman at that time would have refused the king, regardless of whether she wanted to have sex with him or not – he could have her killed.  Pure and simple, it was rape, even if she consented out of obedience to the king.
  • David was an adulterer
    • Bathsheba was married to Uriah.  David knew his mighty men, and Uriah the Hittite was one of them.  Since David was married, having sex with a woman he wasn’t married to was committing adultery.
  • David was a hot-head
  • David was a liar
    • David, when he lived among the Philistines, would report back to Achish (son of Maok king of Gath) that he was raiding the Negev of Judah, the Negev of Jerahmeel, or the Negev of the Kenites.  However, he was actually raiding the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites.  He made sure no one was alive to tell of his activity to ensure his ruse was upheld before Achish.
  • David was a deceiver
    • When David fled to the land of Achish, the people there were concerned about David because he had slain thousands.  David greatly feared Achish, and pretended to be insane.  He drooled and made marks on the door of the gate.  This was hardly the way a King should ever act (unless God drives them insane)!
  • David ordered a census of Israel, even after being warned by Joab not to do so.  God was displeased with this.  This prompted God to give David a choice of punishment:
    • Three years of famine
    • Three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you
    • Three days of the sword of the Lord—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel.
    • David threw himself on God’s mercy.  God chose the plague option, and SEVENTY THOUSAND Israelites died in the plague that ensued before God relented.
  • It should be noted that the Bible reports that David did right in the sight of the Lord all the days of his life with the exception of Uriah the Hittite.

Repeatedly Repentant

In every instance, even when his heart had grown hard and/or he justified himself, David ALWAYS repented when he was confronted with his sin.  David would weep and fast before God in repentance:

Even when David was confronted with his sin in public by Nathan, David confessed his sin and repented.

Troubling Times

David lived in troubling times.  How many of us can say that the leader of our nation sent all of the Special Forces looking after us to kill us?  David was the recipient of that – for YEARS.  David dealt with famines, war, political intrigue – even being forced to leave the country when his son Absalom conspired against him to usurp the throne.

Troubling times should send us to our knees to seek God for help, and to confess and repent of our sins.  But Israel, as well as us, would only do that for a short period of time.  We go to God for help; then when help arrives, we forget that it is God who helped us, turn our backs on Him, and go about living our lives just as we did before.

I cannot even imaging how frustrating that must be to God – even though God is patient and perfect.  Even He gets angry at continued disobedience.  I guess it would be like the brother- or sister-in-law who knocks on your door asking you for money, only to spend it on alcohol and drugs and partying rather than get their life straightened out.  Every time they knock, you know how it is going to end.  And it does.  I imagine it would be like that…

Evicting Evil

Choosing the lesser of two evils for office seems to be a commonplace situation in United States’ politics.  Christians have this ideal in their mind that the only person worthy of being over them is some who is perfect like Jesus Christ.  And while that is certainly an ideal candidate, it is rather short-sided, given the fallen nature of man.  EVERYONE has skeletons in their closet.  It was once said that we might act a bit better if we had a television monitor affixed behind one of our shoulders that played back everything we were thinking (and now is the right time to shudder if you aren’t already doing so…).

This is what God told Samuel to forewarn the people when they cried out to God for a human king:

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 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.”

Does any of this look familiar today (income taxes, the draft, property taxes, business regulations, Title IX, Affordable Care Act, the list goes on and on…)?  Remember – we get the rulers that we deserve.

While Christians have this ideal candidate in their head, we need to be practical as well as idealistic.  Let me ask you a question:  would you want David, a man after God’s own heart, to lead you?  If so, why?  If not, why not?  Imagine what the headlines in the United States media (let alone world media…) would look like if David were to be nominated today to be President of the United States of America:

  • “Murdering rapist to set the tone”
  • “Racist Zionist will destroy us all”
  • “Polygamy is all the rage again!”
  • “Philandering Faker Muses about Marriage”
  • “Dictators R Us”
  • “Warmonger will start WWIII”
  • “Least politically correct person on Earth to vie for President”
  • “Will David force everyone to believe in and worship his god?”
  • “Will the United States rebuild the Temple in Israel again?”
  • “David, the insane wanderer: can we ever believe anything he says?”
  • “David unable to tell the truth – story at 11:00”
  • “Murdering Rapist – Is David above the law?”
  • “Some animals are more equal than other animals”

God can use anyone to do what He wants.  He will wrestle with them if they need it.  They don’t need to be perfect.  God can get ahold of anyone.  So what should we look for in a candidate?

  • They do what they say
  • They are consistent
  • They will follow wise advice
  • They choose wise advisors
  • They stand on principle
  • They uphold the law
  • They follow the law
  • They act justly
  • They take responsibility for their failures
  • They can rebound from failure
  • They learn from their mistakes

Careful Consideration

Please keep all of this in mind should you have the awesome opportunity to be a part of selecting those who are in leadership over you.  Many are not afforded this great privilege.  Take the time to know and evaluate the people who are presented for candidacy.  No one is perfect.  Don’t rely solely on the opinions of others – be a Berean!  Do the research!  Your very life may depend on it.

A Qualifying Question

So, let’s ask ourselves a question:  Is my list of qualifications for an ideal leadership candidate unrealistic?

A short prayer of preparation:

 Father in Heaven, You have given us the wonderful opportunity for hindsight through the lives of Your people.  Help me this day to have a realistic idea of what Your candidate should look like.  Help me to not set goals that are so high as to be impossible.  Father, help me to overcome my disgust at my leaders for what they have done, and trust in You to bring about Your plans through them.  Father, I trust You in all things, for You are sovereign over all creation.  Help me to choose the leaders that You will appoint over me.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

CorrectionBathsheba was originally married to Uriah, not David, when she was raped by David.  It was only after the murder of Uriah by David that she became David’s wife.  This error has been changed in the text from the original version of this blog.

 

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?

 

Sanctification by God – Matthew 7:1-2

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

When we are first saved, we are like Lazarus coming out of the tomb – we still have our grave-clothes on.  Our stinking, smelly rags that cover the fresh aroma of Christ.  We have been made alive in Christ, and yet our outer appearance is that of a dead man.  Immediately, we begin to change.  Attitudes, likes and dislikes are moving in different directions, and we may not even be aware of them until we realize that we no longer do or say certain things, and begin to desire other things.  As the “grave-clothes” are removed, we begin to look different as our changed nature becomes more apparent.

But there are some grave-clothes that just seem to stick with us for a very long time.  In the culture of this age, in the United States of America, one of these is being critically judgmental.  Oswald Chambers says in “My Utmost for His Highest” that this attitude makes it impossible to enter into communion with our Creator because of how hard it makes us and where it places us – as superior to others.  It would appear that everyone wants to be right; and as we judge others, we fail to rightly judge ourselves.

The brain is interesting.  When we develop patterns of thought, it creates real grooves in our brain that direct thought patterns.  And we need to fight against that to create new grooves in our brain (transformation through the renewing of our mind by repeated exposure to the Word of God).  The problem is, that like a scratched vinyl record (does anyone remember those?), the needle may stay in the same groove.  We need to force the needle – the thought process- of our brain into a different area so that a new groove can be made.

When there is something in our lives that is deeply ingrained, it may seem impossible for us to change it.  That is when we need to confess this to God, and ask Him to supernaturally address the issue.  God generally does this in one of two ways:

  • He supernaturally and instantaneously removes the desire from us
    • Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord!  You are delivered!  Now walk in that deliverance…
  • He consistently and repeatedly puts us in situations where we can practice creating a new groove in our brain (a new pattern of thought and action) to replace the one we want expunged (He disciplines us).
    • This is never fun.  It is also why many seasoned Christians will warn younger Christians to give careful consideration to the consequences of praying for patience.
    • Be careful what you pray for – you might just get it!
    • If you ever pray for patience, you should expect that God will send the meanest, nastiest, angriest, rudest, most irritating, most ignorant, verbally violent, and socially unpalatable people into your life to help you to put on Christ (love) in the form of patience.
    • Just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that we don’t need it or shouldn’t ask for it.  Once we are disciplined, it will bring a great harvest of righteousness.

So let’s ask the question:  are we critically judgmental of others?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I thank You today for the love that You show me when You discipline me.  Please do not discipline me in Your anger.  You are able to rightly discern my innermost thoughts and motivations.  Show me the true nature of what I am doing.  Search my heart, Lord, and see if there is anything displeasing to You in it.  Purge me from it, for my desire is to live this life in righteous obedience to You and Your Word.  Give me strength to endure the trials necessary to sanctify my mind.  Remove from me those desires and attitudes that in any way interfere with my walk with You.  Guard me on all sides, and may Your righteousness show through me that others will be attracted to You.  Bring glory to Your name, and help me to be humble when You shine.  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?

Forgiven by God – Ephesians 4:32

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 61:1-3

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

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

The 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?

A Promise of God – Ephesians 1:13-14

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

What a wonderful gift!  That the blessed Holy Spirit would take up residence within us!  He whose power raised our Lord Jesus Christ up from the grave abides in us.  We often can feel alone, but Christians should never say that – God is ever present within us, praying for us, comforting us, empowering us, and convicting us (among other things).

Paul indicates elsewhere that we should respond by being holy.  He exhorts us to consider that, because of the indwelling of the Spirit of God, we ought to respond in a correct way.

I Corinthians 6:12-20 states

12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

The word “temples” is especially interesting.  In Israel, the Solomon temple had four parts to it (from outside to inside):

In it was the Temple building itself:

  • The Holy Place.
    • This was also known as the Temple, and
  • The Most Holy Place (or Holy of Holies).
    • This is where the Ark of the Covenant was kept behind the veil, which was the seat of God’s power and presence.  The only person permitted to enter here was the Jewish High Priest, and only once a year, in order to offer the sacrifice of the people to God.  God took this so seriously that if the High Priest didn’t perform the ceremony properly, God struck him dead.  It was a practice at that time for the High Priest to tie a rope around his waist, so that in the event something went wrong, they could pull his body out of the Holy of Holies.  Otherwise, they would have to wait a year for the next High Priest to remove it…

The Greek word for the Holy of Holies was naos.  This is the same word that Paul uses in this passage to refer to our bodies as temples.  We are not the entire temple, or any less-important part the the temple – we are the Holy of Holies!  Because we have the imputed righteousness of Christ, God Himself can reside within us.  Wow.

So, in light of God’s glory and grace, how are we treating our naos?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, you have done the unthinkable and prepared our bodies as Holy Temples for your presence.  You have cleansed us of all sin, and with the righteousness of Christ, provide us with the Holy Spirit.  Teach us the ways in which we should go.  Help your servants to remember not just who You are, but who we are supposed to be.  Strengthen us this day, Lord, that we would treat these bodies – our thoughts, words, and deeds – in a manner worthy of being a naos.  This we ask in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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