Witnessing Without Words – 1 Peter 3:1-2

Witnessing Without Words Only Works In Marriage

1 Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.

Simple Submission

What’s the quickest way for a wife to win over her husband to God?  When she submits to him as leader of the home, he will be won over.  No amount of words can replace the simple act of reverential submission.  When a wife submits to her husband, there is a special provision that God makes for her so that her husband’s heart connects to her and God.

Won Without Words

When a husband’s wife submits to him, he feels appreciated and fulfilled.  His desire to step up to the plate as the head of the household is aroused, and he will be convicted by the Holy Spirit if he does not know God, as her Godly behavior will point out his less than Godly behavior.  He will be in a position to be won over by her conduct.  No amount of words can convince a man, but the simple act of submission of his wife can do this.  He will become curious as he is convicted, and ask what happened?  His heart will then be open to the words that were previously merely bouncing off of him.  While this does not guarantee that a man will respond correctly, it certainly sets the stage for the Spirit of God to prepare his heart for what both you and God desire – his obedience!

Beautiful Behavior

Actions speak louder than words.  When a wife acts in a Godly manner, she is able to influence her husband in ways that were previously unavailable to her.  He will be willing to listen as he ponders her behavior, and may be more open to coming to church, reading from the Bible, and other spiritual activities that nagging and gentle rebuking had no effect in the past.  It is so true that you catch more bees with honey than with vinegar…

Powerful Purity

When a wife is acting in purity, it does something to a man.  It awakens a desire to be worthy of that purity.  A man may even break down in shame when his wife is acting in purity and he is not.  He may very well need to see the proper example before he is able to start desiring purity in his own life.  And while there are cases where a man may simply reject God as he sees his wife display purity in her life, this will give him every opportunity to see out God as the pattern of holiness is displayed before him.

Respectful Reverence

And men do respond to respect.  It is their love language.  Just as women need to feel loved in order to grow and prosper in God, men need to feel respected in order to grow properly and prosper in God.  A man will be influenced more by the respect of his wife than a million words by her in helpful assistance.  Respect will resonate within him, and allow the wife to connect with him in a way that she may not have been able to connect before.  It opens a door and shows him that He needs to respect God and his wife in return.  That usually begins the process of reconciliation between him and God.

A Qualifying Question

Wives, let’s ask a question:  Am I respecting my husband in such a way that he sees how he should respect God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are able to do more than we could ever desire.  Please help me to respect others in the way that they need to be respected.  Help me to respect You as the best and highest example of love for men.  Help me to live a life that is submitted to You and to others.  Help me to overcome any difficulties that I may have that would hinder my ability to submit to You and to others.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

 

Home Security and God – Psalm 127:1-2

If God Is Not Involved In Every Aspect Of Life, Don’t Expect Success

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat-
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

Count the Cost

28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,”

In everything we do, we should count the cost.  Whether it is building a home, constructing a tower, starting a business, or any other endeavor, counting the cost is a natural and normal thing to do.  We should determine if we are willing to (and able to) spend the necessary time, talent, and treasure to see the vision be completed.  In this passage, the Psalmist indicates that it is foolish to even build a house if the Lord God Almighty isn’t involved in building it.

God owns everything:

The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.

for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.

1 The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it on the seas
and established it on the waters.

Time after time, God takes credit for OWNING all things, including US.  When we fail to take this into account, we are in effect telling God that WE own ourselves, or our property, or our money, jobs, children, abilities, and anything else that we falsely lay claim to owning.  God, instead of making us accountable for OWNING these thing, in His great wisdom and mercy, only makes us accountable for MANAGING these things.  By doing so, GOD is responsible for ensuring that we, as managers, are provided with the proper resources to take care of HIS things.  We, in and of ourselves, have no way to create our own resources to take care of anything!

[A lesson in futility, all sarcasm intended] If you ever want to take care of YOUR own things, feel free to create matter from nothingness.  Then, form and refine it into whatever useful shape you desire, and God will certainly acknowledge that what YOU have created is YOURS, and not HIS.

Safe and Secure

Many people have home security systems installed to ward off burglars and would-be-thieves.  Those who have money to spend on armed security guards do so as a heightened level of protection for the assets that they manage.  The Psalmist rightly concludes that if God is not protecting the city (or even the home), those who watch for danger watch in vain.

Locks keep honest people honest – Unknown Author

If someone is determined enough, and they have sufficient resources, they will be able to thwart any security measures that are taken in order to obtain what they secretly (or openly) envy and desire.  Security measures are meant to deter people from attempting to steal, or interrupt them in the act of stealing.  But if God is watching over the house or the city, the thieves will surely look for other, easier marks, or be thwarted in their attempts.*

But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.

Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight – Origin Unknown

Even if you are watching over everything, day and night, you may not be fully prepared to deal with the resources that the enemy has brought to bear against you.  The only sure way to know that you and what you manage are safe is to make sure that the Sovereign Lord of the universe is watching over what He has placed in your care.

Vain Ventures

Man has, for millennia, toiled under the sun (and with the right resources, under the moon as well…) to gain wealth.  We work our fingers to the bone trying to make enough money to provide for ourselves and our loved ones.  This is especially prevalent when evil people are at the helm of the country who secretly (and sometimes even OPENLY) desire to ruin the economy and makes the citizens of their dominion their slaves.  When this happens, we slave away and have nothing to show for it, even when we are carefully planning finances and frugal in spending what little money is earned.

A famous song captured this quite succinctly:

…You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter, don’t you call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store… – Merle Travis, “Sixteen Tons

The author of Ecclesiastes, Solomon, puts it this way:

22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

Satisfying Sleep

And on the note of minds not at rest at night, it is God and God alone who gives us restful sleep at night.  It is God who helps us to sleep soundly without worry.  God tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and He will provide for our every need.

However, God does test us in our sleep through our dreams:

Though you probe my heart,
though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil;
my mouth has not transgressed.

In everything we do, we need to be mindful that it is God who gives us what we have, including our time, talent, and treasure.  Everything belongs to God, and we have an obligation to God to acknowledge that everything, including us, are His.  Management of what God has placed into our care is a great privilege and honor, and if God has chosen others to manage more desirable aspects of His creation, or greater portions of it, we should not envy our neighbor, for they will be held more accountable for what they do with it, and God provides to us exactly what He knows we are able to effectively manage.  After all, He is the one who gave us whatever ability we have to manage in the first place!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do I acknowledge God’s sovereignty and ownership of everything, including myself, in how I manage what God has placed me in charge?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are gracious in Your dealings with me.  Your mercies renew every morning, and You show me mercy and grace with exceedingly larger measure each day.  Father, please help me to manage all that You have placed under my care with the utmost of respect and ability that I may honor You.  Help me to be like Joseph, in whom his enemies could find no fault as he managed Pharaoh’s vast empire.  Give me the correct attitude towards what I have been entrusted so that it will be used for Your honor and glory.  Help me to turn from the worldly cultural teachings regarding acquisition, ownership, and management, and look to You and Your word for wisdom and ability so that You would be honored.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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


Notes:

*In a true story that was told at a church, there was a serial rapist on the loose in a city.  No one could identify the man, because he brutally murdered all of his victims so no one could identify him.  One night, a woman was walking down the street alone.  The serial rapist saw her, but didn’t attack.  She got a good look at him, especially his face.  A few minutes later, another woman came down the street alone, and he abducted her in his usual way with his usual methods.  When the police found the second woman’s body, they began to ask around, and discovered that the first woman had been in the vicinity of the area where the second woman had been abducted near the time of her abduction.  When they questioned her, she was able to give an accurate description of the man that she saw, who the police later arrested and charged.  During interrogation, when the police asked the man why he didn’t take the first woman, he declared in exasperation, “Are you kidding?  There were two of the largest guys I had ever seen in my life, on her left and her right.  I would have been a fool to try to take her with them around!” If God is protecting you, evil people will seek other marks.

Announcing the Announcer – Luke 1:76-80

John The Baptist Would Prepare The Way For The Messiah

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

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

Proclaiming the Prophet

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

Prepare a Path

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

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

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

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

Speak of Salvation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burn Brightly

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Obedience to God – Psalm 81:11-16

Victory Comes Through Obedience

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

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

Learning to Listen

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

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

Choices have Consequences

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

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

Veritable Victory

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

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

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

Rich Reward

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Christian Households and God – Colossians 3:18-21

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

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

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

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

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

Orchestrated Order

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

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

Wisdom for Wives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and the three primary attack vectors:

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

Help for Husbands

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

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

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

Coaching for Children

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

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

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

Failings of Fathers

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

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of presentation:

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

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

Victory with God – Psalm 60:9-12

God And God Alone Is The One Who Brings Victory

9 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
10 Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us
and no longer go out with our armies?
11 Give us aid against the enemy,
for human help is worthless.
12 With God we will gain the victory,
and he will trample down our enemies.

Divine Direction

David asks a very interesting question:  Who will be able to lead David and his men to their objective and goal, and bring them to the fortified city to do battle?  David knows the answer to this question, for it is God and God alone who gives true direction and victory over the enemy.  David’s use of rhetorical questions should comfort us and give us instruction, for we too should ask ourselves questions that help us to remember our training in times of difficulty.

When faced with any type of difficulty, we should always seek God first in prayer.  For it is God and God alone who can answer those prayers, provide the information needed to overcome our difficulties, and provide the strength and resources to be victorious.

Reinforcements Rejected

David acknowledges that God had been withholding his protection and provision because of the sin of the people.  This is very serious, and cannot be overstated enough.  We need to remember that when just ONE member of the body is in pain, the whole body is in pain.  Each and every one of us must do our part to ensure that we are not hindering the progress of the rest of the body.

God has withheld his blessing from His people before just because ONE person was sinning.  Imagine that – the entire nation of Israel was denied victory in battle because ONE person was sinning!  It is important that we remember that sin affects not only us, but those around us as well.  Let us search our hearts daily to see if there is any wrongdoing within us, and ask the Lord God Almighty for His help in overcoming it and to repent of it.  None of us should ever want to be the stumbling block for the rest of the body…

Plea for Progress

David pleads with God for help in overcoming his adversaries.  We need to always go to God with our concerns and needs.  Even though God already knows them, and is preparing the answer to the prayers we have not yet even prayed, we must do our part in this by being obedient to God and submitting ourselves through prayer in humility.  God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.  Let us follow the example of David and humble ourselves before God, asking Him for the victory.  Let us trust in God and God alone for all victory.  And He will lift up our heads.

Recognizing Refuse

David also acknowledges that the help of man is worthless.  When faced with any issue, God greatly desires that we come to Him first, for He is all-knowing and all-powerful.  He desires to bless us with His grace and mercy, and teach us more about His character through our dependence upon Him through our trials and difficulties.  God desires that we deepen our relationship with Him during these times.

When we seek out men for help before God (and God may very well send us to others for advice, strategy, and resources, but only once we have sought Him out earnestly in prayer), we are in effect saying that God cannot help us, so we have chosen to men to help us.  This is greatly disrespectful towards God, given His clear instruction throughout scripture showing us that He desires to be the first consulted.  David recognizes that the help of man without the express prior approval and selection from God is utterly worthless.  One angel of God could wipe out every army on Earth.  Why would we seek out men and their strength when God can bring to bear LEGIONS of angels to assist us in our needs?

Heavenly Help

David now confirms what he already knows – that victory belongs to God and God alone.  It is only with the help of God that we will be truly victorious.  God has brought to bear great and mighty assistance to those in need, and will do so again.  It is God and God alone who can do this.  We cannot remind ourselves enough of this, for the truth shall set us free, and drawing close to God is always beneficial.  It is then that He gives us His peace and opens His storehouses of provision and protection to His people:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I face difficulties, who or what do I go to first for help?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You show me again and again in Your word that You desire that each of us come to You first for all of our needs.  Forgive me Father when I go to others first who are wise.  You have all of the answers, and are sovereign over all creation.  It is You who provide victory and assign wise counselors.  Help me to stop listening to the world, the flesh, and the devil, who want to keep me from You and Your help and rely on myself and others.  Give me the desire to always seek You first in all things.  You have provided wise counsel and leaders to guide us, but it is You who are first in everything.  Blessed be Your name forever and ever, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Galatians 3:10-13

The Righteous Shall Live By Faith

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

Crushing Curse

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

Live the Law

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

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

Fulfilled in Faith

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

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

Righteous Redeemed

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

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

Christ Crucified

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

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

Submit To God And The Ruling Authorities

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

Obey Orders

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

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

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

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

Follow in Freedom

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

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

Respect even Reprobates

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Warning from God – Revelation 3:14-18

Be On Fire For God

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

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

Neither Frost Nor Fire

God sees us as we truly are.  In the last days, there will be a great falling away – a great rebellion.  The fire that was in the church to be holy and set apart for Him will fade.  The church will be in a state of indifference, possibly due to the circumstances that surround them that cry out that there is no hope.  In Christ, there is always hope.  God tells us through James that we should submit ourselves to God, resist the devil, and he will flee.  When we are on fire for God, we are doing everything that we can to submit to God.  We should also resist the devil.  And wait for God to do His part and make the devil flee.

Don’t be lukewarm.  God doesn’t like us lukewarm.  He would rather that we be hot or cold.  Be on fire for the one who saved you, lifted you out of the murky depths, and placed you cleaned up on dry ground.  Submit yourself to the one who is able to strengthen you and provide for you.  And no matter what the devil throws at you, remember that God will not allow you to be snatched from His hand.  You may have to suffer greatly, but He always comes through, even if in death.

Self-Sufficiency

Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  How true that is!  Material wealth has a way of leading people into a false sense of security that it will provide for their every need.  Money can buy many things, and when we have a lot, we can forget that it is God who is providing everything for us.  In that, we begin to trust in money, and forget the one who gave it to us.  Additionally, we forget to depend upon God for our every morsel of food, for our every breath, and for all things in general.

It is only by following the example of Jesus, in complete submission to the Father, that we are able to overcome our desire or belief that our wealth will provide for us.  When we forget that it is God and not wealth that provides, we become spiritually poor, naked, wretched, and blind.  It is then that we become spiritually impoverished.

Spiritually Sparse

In our spiritual wasteland, we aren’t even aware of our need for God.  But He counsels us to buy from Him Gold refined in Fire.  Only God can provide the spiritual currency that will clothe us from the shame of sin, and blindness of spiritual sight, and the poverty of spiritual darkness.  He is able to provide, for Jesus has died on the cross and paid for it with His blood.  Let us never forget the price that was paid, and where we came from.  The church in the last days will forget for whatever reason, and God will spew them out of His mouth.  Let us not forget:

12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I hot, cold or lukewarm towards God?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have done so much and continue to do so much for us that we cannot conceive the magnitude of Your great mercy and grace.  Forgive me, Father, for my many sins.  Help me to be on fire for You so that I would recognize my condition and further yield myself to You.  Help me to humble myself in Your presence, and lift me up so that I may do all that You would have me to do.  And when You provide physical riches to me, guide me in managing it for Your glory.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Wisdom of God – James 3:17

Show Your Wisdom Through The Way You Live Your Life

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Pointed Progression

Paul takes care to show that each of these is part of a progression.  They happen in order for a reason – they are the building blocks of love.  If at any point we are stuck in a relationship, we should see where we are on this scale to determine if there is something that we are not doing correctly.  Of course, there are going to be times when the other person or nation will not respond to love.  Even so, we should assure ourselves that we are doing what is right in the eyes of God.

Perfectly Pure

God is holy, and His motives are always pure in nature, as well as other-focused.  Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, we need to carefully consider our true, deep, inner motives to determine if we are doing what we are doing for the right reasons.  Once we establish that we are properly motivated, we can then gauge how we are interacting with our neighbors and our enemies in order to determine if we intentionally or unintentionally causing friction.

Because the ways of God are foolishness to those who reject God, this dichotomy will naturally cause friction, tension, and sometimes even breaks in our relationships with others, including those who are/were closest to us.  That is why Jesus said:

32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

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

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

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

40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

Passionately Peaceful

Peace – it is heavenly!  We say that, but do we really think about it?  Peace allows us to build and strengthen our relationships with one another.  We need the blood of Christ to provide us peace with God.  It is only through peace that we can really flourish in the endeavors that we set our minds and hands to.

And when we are not at peace, tensions rise between people and between nations.  People are then unable to completely devote themselves to what they are doing, as they need to keep one hand on the job, and one on their weapon.  And then it is only through the grace of God that we are able to get anything accomplished.

Carefully Considerate

Once we have established that our motives are correct and that we are seeking peace with others, we can then take the time to consider the needs, wants, desires, and motivations of others.  We can then be considerate towards them.  In showing consideration towards others, it will draw us into tighter relationship.

When driving, do you appreciate it when other drivers show consideration towards you when they are faced with the option of not doing so?  Has anyone recently provided you the opportunity to merge into traffic when they didn’t need to?  Have they held a door for you when your hands were full of packages or children?  Consideration towards others is the extension of the olive branch of peace towards others.

While there are some that will indignantly scoff at a considerate gesture as though they somehow rightly deserved it, most people’s hearts will soften when it is offered in good faith.  Some may even thank you.  Considering the state of the world today, depending on what era the person grew up, they may also be grateful, or surprised that consideration is being shown today.  Be a light in the world…

Singularly Submitted

Jesus said,

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

We need to be submitted to God in order fully embrace wisdom.  Paul had this to say about submission to one another and to the Holy Spirit:

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

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

It is through submission to others that we are able to wisely interact with them.  As we become more wise, we will become more submitted.  And as we become more submitted, we will become greater:

26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—

Moved to Mercy

It is only after we get to this point that mercy, as a life-style, makes sense.  The first inclinations of our heart is to seek justice, and for many, vengeance.  But God is merciful, and vengeance is His and His alone.  Mercy is much easier to give when you have received it yourself.  Remember the mercy that God has shown you, and replicate success.  To truly gain wisdom, and flourish in relationship, it is necessary to show mercy to others.  Mercy is often the tool that God uses to break the hearts of others.  Is that not what we want to occur?  That the hearts of others would be broken towards sin, and that they would reconcile through the shed blood of Jesus Christ?  In this, it truly is good to be the enabler!

Wonderful Works

Now that we have paved the way, we are ready to bear fruit through our works.  Our attitudes towards God and others is correct; we are properly submitted to God and others; we are now showing the fruit of the Spirit.  Since we are submitted to God, He can do all that He desires to accomplish through us.  As tools in the process, rather than the taking the role of the craftsman, the fruit will be pure and good, untainted by our hands.  These are the works that will endure throughout eternity, as they were accomplished by God through us and not our own desires, which bear the taint of our sinful nature.

Inconspicuously Impartial

Since God is not a respecter of persons, we should not be either.  This is a further refinement of character and the wisdom of God, which IS His character!  When we experience the character of God, we become more like Him, and fulfill what He purposed in us to be – His image-bearers.  There is one last thing to consider – are we being truly sincere in what we are doing?

Solely Sincere

Most people recognize when you are sincere in your dealing with them.  And most people desire – secretly or openly – that other people be sincere with them.  This breaks down the barriers that are put up when we appear to be acting in a self-serving manner.  Sincerity is respected by people.  God shows us the greatest of respect in that in everything He is completely sincere.  As God’s image bearers, this should affect our interactions with others and with God.  Reciprocity of sincerity is expected.  When we don’t act in sincerity, our witness is tarnished, and our relationship with God is harmed.  When we rely upon God and His goodness and sovereignty, we are able to be sincere in all that we do, say, and think towards others and towards God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I becoming wise as I participate in God’s character as His image-bearer?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have revealed Yourself to us both through Your Word and Your Son.  Teach me the ways of wisdom so that You will be honored and glorified by my thoughts, actions, and speech.  Help me to revere You more each and every day, and show me Your wisdom through Your word.  Help me to realize the value of wisdom, and to see its value as I participate in Your character.  And may You be glorified as I bear Your image properly.  Keep me from harm, and strengthen me as I persevere through trials and tribulations.  Please prepare me so that I will be the spotless bride, ready for the bridegroom at the appointed time.  And Father, I pray that the Lord Jesus Christ would come, and come soon!  Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Romans 8:12-14

Live According To The Spirit.

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

Outstanding Obligation

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

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

Fleshy Failure

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

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

Spiritual Superiority

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

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

A Qualifying Question

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

A short prayer of preparation

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

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

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?

 

Family Living by God- Ephesians 5:21-24

Jesus Submitted Himself to the Holy Spirit

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Sacred Submission

Paul starts this section on family living with a very provocative statement: that ALL of the body of Christ should submit to the REST of the body of Christ.  Unity within the body of Christ CANNOT be obtained unless we are willing to submit ourselves to one another.  He prepares the reader with this for the next big challenge – that wives should submit to their husbands, and not only submit; but submit to them as they submit to Christ.

God has created within Men and Women certain traits that have been corrupted by the fall of Adam in the garden of Eden.

  • Men – by nature – understand how to respect each other
    • They can live in a state of quasi-harmony with each other in respect.
    • They do not have agape love embedded into the DNA of their brain.  As a result, they will tend to do things that show respect to others, but they may not necessarily show love to others.
    • This can be seen in the business world, and even in gangs.  Men are risk-takers, and do things that tend to benefit themselves.  When men do things to each other, they have a sense of respect when it happens, understanding the need for certain situations, but then say, “It’s nothing personal – it’s just business.”
    • This can come off as being aloof, uncommunicative, unloving, dispassionate, emotionally distant, and relationally cold.
  • Women – by nature – understand how to agape love each other
    • They can live in a state of quasi-harmony with each other in love.
    • They do not have respect embedded into the DNA of their brain.  As a result, they will tend to do things that show love to others, but they may not necessarily show respect to others.
    • This can be seen in the family, and even in women’s gatherings.  Women are natural communicators, and seek the best for others at their own expense.  They are protective of others, and are wonderful for showing love and raising children.  When something needs to change, they often use their communication skills to spark a controversy (repetitive criticism can sometimes be seen here) because women want wholeness in relationship, and will respond to that with compassion and a heart to reconcile the relationship.  Their natural sensitivity helps them to stay connected and desire smoothness in relationships.
    • This can come off as a critical spirit, gossiping, and nagging.

Wives are told to submit to their husbands, and this is very difficult for them, especially if they don’t have respect for them, or see them failing as leaders of the family.  How can a person submit to another person that they don’t respect?

Because of this issue, Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands as they submit to Christ.  This is the hardest thing they will need to do in marriage.  But it can also be the easiest thing to do in marriage.  Paul next tells us why this can occur.

Household Headship

God is a God of order.  There is order in the Trinity:

  • God the Father is the head of the organization, but submits to God the Son and God the Holy Spirit
  • God the Son submits to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit
  • God the Holy Spirit submits to God the Father and God the Son
  • Someone has to be in charge for the purpose of accountability and to establish a hierarchy of authority so that order can be established and maintained.

In the same way, there is hierarchy of order within the family:

  • The husband is the head of the organization, but submits to his wife (and any children).
    • He is a servant-leader, who is charged with bringing about the spiritual growth of his wife and children, teaching them the things of Christ and revealing to them the Word of the Living God.
    • He is charged with taking care of them and providing for them physically, financially, and spiritually.  God has placed this burden upon his heart, and he eagerly seeks to meet this goal.
    • It is a terrible thing when he rebels against this and abandons servant-leadership to become self-centered.
  • The wife submits to her husband (and any children).
    • She has an advisory role in the organization, able to see things about people and situations that the husband is unable to see because of his giftedness.  Her input is very valuable, and should be given great consideration by her husband when making decisions.
    • She is in tune with the needs and desires of all affected people in the organization, and can provide balance and unity between husbands and children.
    • It is a terrible thing when she abandons this and cultivates a critical spirit that does not encourage and love but rather verbally reminds others in her care of their shortcomings, often in anger, fueled by the memories of all of the other similar things that happened to her that flood into her mind during the situation.
  • The children submit to the husband (father) and wife (mother).
    • They are adults-in-training, and don’t have the skills yet to be independent of them.  They should carefully consider their parent’s advice and decisions.  When both the mother and father are acting in the role of servant-leader, they are taking their children’s best interests at heart, and are making decisions that are meant to be beneficial to everyone involved.
    • Children are born needy and selfish.  If left alone, they would do great harm to themselves and others.  It is only through the care, teaching, and correction by their parents that they are able to train themselves away from this natural-born state.  But it is just as important that they acknowledge and submit themselves to God so that they can overcome these tendencies.
    • Sometimes, decisions made by their parents may not appear to the children to be in their best interest.  An example of this is when they have to move because the father and/or mother has lost his/her job, and now are going to be separated from the safety and security of everything that they have known until now.  What they fail to grasp is that if the family stays, they may become homeless and encounter all of the difficulties associated with that particular life situation. They may not grasp that this would be far worse than if they moved.
    • It is terrible when they rebel against the authority of their parents (in the Lord). One example of this is when the children seek to do them as much harm as possible to get back at them in retaliation for feelings they may experience when their desires are not immediately granted (the entitlement generation syndrome).

When the order that God has imposed is followed by the family organization, there can be unity within it.  When a husband (fathers) submits himself to Christ, he is listening to the One who Omniscient, Omnipotent, and Omnipresent.  God has everyone’s (including the family’s) best interests at heart and will direct the husband (father) in the ways that the family should go.

When this occurs, he will display the love of God to his family, and it will be much easier to respect him in his role.  They should remember that he will be held accountable by God for the success or failure of the family organization.  While individuals have free will, and they certainly can rebel against both God and the husband (father), he will be held accountable for his submission to God and obedience to what God has directed him to do.

If a husband (father) is seeking God with all of his heart, mind, soul, and strength, it should be a joy for his wife to respect him and submit to him in all things, for in doing so, she is both submitting to the one placed in authority over her by God, as well as to God Himself as He works through His servant, the husband (father).  When the children (if any) see this relationship being displayed, their unity and Christ-likeness should fill them with a sense of safety and security and fill them with joy, knowing that they are loved and respected, and that their best interests are being kept in mind in all things.

When a wife submits to her husband, even (and especially) when he doesn’t deserve it, she is fulfilling her obligations with regard to the organization.  This must be done in love and without a critical spirit.  When this occurs, her love and respect for him will be used by the Holy Spirit to convict him and bring him back into line where he should be.  This is to be done with tender and tearful prayer by his wife, so that God would get a hold of him and help him to be the man of God that he is called to be.  Once that occurs, it will be a joy to submit to him.

A definition for submission of wives to husbands was once described as wives being willing to duck so that when God throws a right-cross at the family leadership, it lands firmly upon their husbands.

A Qualifying Question

For wives, let’s ask the question:  Are we submitting to our husband as the church is supposed to submit to Christ, with great respect and joy (even and especially if he doesn’t deserve it)?

A short prayer of Preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is a difficult thing to do what is the opposite of my nature to do.   Father, give me strength and guidance in every area of my life.  Help me to be who You made me to be.  Give me peace as I fulfill my role that You have provided for me.  Help me to see Your perspective in all things, and to love and respect my family the way that desire.  Show me where I need to change, that I may grow in You, and be an example for others.  Watch my ways, and keep me from sinning against You.  You have called me to be Holy – to be set apart from sin, and set apart to You.  Only You can bring that to fruition.  Encourage me when I feel frustrated, and remind me of Your goodness, mercy, grace, and compassion that I may lean upon them and show them to others, even when I am experiencing great trials.  This I ask in the name of Jesus my Lord and Savior, Amen.

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

Unity in Christ – Philippians 2:1-2

Be One in the Spirit and of One Mind

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Edifying Encouragement

When we are united with Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and we are encouraged by Him as we seek to draw close to God.  He helps us by giving us strength that we do not have to do things that no one else under their own power would be able to do – to love our enemies and pray for those that persecute us; to forgive others; to shun evil; to love God; to restrain ourselves; and to glorify God.  As we do all of these things, the Holy Spirit provides the encouragement to learn and grow in God’s character.

Spiritual Sharing

As we partake of the Holy Spirit’s strength, power, desires, we begin to share in His peace and we spiritually prosper.  We see the work of the Spirit in others, and share in His love, grace, and mercy.  He helps to unify us with the Body of Christ in mind and in spirit so that just as parts of the body function together as a whole to enable a person to perform tasks such as walking, lifting, writing, carrying, and other common tasks, the body of Christ is able to accomplish the tasks that have been assigned to us to do.

Touching Tenderness

The Spirit of God gently and tenderly guides us in God’s ways.  He does so with great tenderness. Isaiah says this very well:

A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

God desires that we all grow to become mature and complete.  His tenderness in this process shows His willingness to have this happen, as we are fragile.  We aren’t called sheep because we have the strength and certainty of a lion or a bear.  We are easily scared and discouraged, and great tenderness is needed by God to fan the flames of our spirit to continually desire to follow Him, especially as we are trampled by the world and the devil.

Comforting Compassion

And when we are trampled, God greets us with His great compassion, placing His arms around us and giving us comfort in His peace.  Without His great compassion towards us, we would stay broken, unable to do anything of value, and wallow in self-pity as the world and the devil rejoice at their victories – just as they did when they subdued Samson.

Unique Unity

It is very seldom that people can get together and be truly unified in mind and in purpose.  When that happens, a unique opportunity presents itself:

1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

There is great power in unity.  When we put aside our personal differences, and all work towards the same goal with unity of mind and spirit, there is very little that can stop us.  God confused the language of the people during the time of Babel to stop them.  But God greatly desires that the Body of Christ be united in mind and spirit so that we can do great things:

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

Jesus was able to do great things because He was united in mind and spirit with God the Father through submission to God the Holy Spirit.  And we are told to submit to God as well as to one another.  When we do this, we begin to experience the unique unity of spirit that God greatly desires for us.

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I experiencing unity with God and His people the way that God wants me to experience unity?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, I greatly desire to be united in mind and spirit with You and Your people.  Show me where I am not submitting to You and to them, that I may humble myself and repent of my independence from both You and them.  Help me to be Your servant, that I may serve others as well.  Give me the heart of a servant, and deepen my dependence upon You for all things.  Father, I pray that You would work in Your people, that all of us would desire unity with You and within the body of Christ.  Forgive us for our petty infighting and ridiculous stubbornness to hold onto ideas that divide rather than unify.  Help us to agree to disagree on all points that are not doctrinal or salvation dependent.  Help us to grow in each other and You that we may put Christ firmly and uniformly on display for all the world to see.  This I ask in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Submission to God – Colossians 3:1-4

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The world, the flesh, and the devil all vie for the attention of our thoughts.  If they can just persuade us to take our eyes off of Christ, we can be led astray.  Paul provides us with the framework for preventing this, in that our lives are hidden in Christ.  Our thoughts should be continually towards the things of God.  We are also told where our treasure is, there are our hearts also.

Time and time again, we are distracted with the troubles of life.  Even when we are focused on God, tragedy seems to occur to cause us to take our eyes off of the object of our affection, and be focused in the here and now of trials and tribulations.  It takes great self-control to refocus on the things that matter, as the threat of pain, suffering, and loss loom over us in those moments.  We are directed (both imperative commands!) to set our hearts and set our minds on things above.  It is an act of the will, contrary to our natural inclinations.

It is an act of submission of the will to God that enables us to make this unnatural change in our thought lives.  In everything, Christ submitted Himself to the Father through submission to the Holy Spirit.  In the same manner we need to submit ourselves the same way to the Holy Spirit.

So, let’s ask the question:  How well are we submitting to the Holy Spirit?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we are so easily distracted by the difficulties of life.  Give me strength today to have a heart that is steadfastly focused upon Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Remove the veneer of importance from those things that try to grab my attention, and place everything in its proper place, so that You are honored in everything.  Guard my heart, and help me to submit to Your perfect will.  This I ask in the precious name of your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Combat Training with God – Romans 13:1-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul goes on further in the chapter to say this:

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

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

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

Paul takes this even further:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally, like Habakkuk was told,

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

A short prayer of preparation:

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

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

Stewardship with God – Ephesians 5:15-16

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

The great equalizer of man is time.  Everyone gets exactly 24 hours in a day (unless it is their time to give an accounting of themselves to God), and can manage that time any way they choose.  Like the parable of the bags of gold, God has given us various amounts of material wealth, and gifts as well to use for His purposes and to bring glory to His name.

These can be summarized as follows:

Time

  • Every second of every day, we choose how to apply ourselves.  Some watch TV for hours on end; others play video games;  some invest in their family;  some in their job; others in pursuits that bring them pleasure or to fulfill their obligations; some choose carousing and sleep.  Lastly, there are those that invest in God’s kingdom for God’s purposes during God’s timing.
  • We cannot ever get even a second of time back.  Once it is spent, whether for good purposes or not, it is spent; it becomes one less second that we have left in the life that God has provided to us.  Use your time wisely.

Talent

  • What gifts has God given you?  Are you a word-smith?  An artist?  A teacher?  An athlete?  A scientist?  A pastor?  God has given us all gifts that can be used to further His purposes, or squander on our own lives.  The Holy Spirit has also provided you with Spiritual Gifts.  What a tragedy when someone with a great gift refuses to use it!  Imaging the world today if Marie Curie chose to write limericks?  How about if Albert Einstein chose to play tiddlywinks?  Or, Christopher Columbus decided to make rock gardens?  What if Martin Luther chose to tan leather?  You have talents!  How you choose to use them, or not, is up to you…
  • For most people, working at a job – whether their own business or in the employ of someone else – is a daily need and responsibility.  God has provided you with talents that, when used for Him, will bring differing levels of wealth in compensation for the efforts applied, risks taken, and perceived value by others for your skills.  The Holy Spirit has placed within you special talents in addition to your other talents.  Find the one (or ones?) that give(s) you such great joy that you cannot wait to go to work!  Remember that the Sabbath was made for man – God intended for work to be so satisfying that we might forget to set aside some time to worship our creator!  Don’t believe culture – find what God has placed in you and live a more rewarding life!
  • Even if you are scrubbing toilets, do it with all your might as unto the Lord.  Others will notice your diligence, and will provide you with better opportunities to make them more money (if they are wise).

Treasure

  • Whether you inherited money, make it from working, get it from a charity, or receive it from the government, you have been entrusted with wealth.  Even if you have no money, the fruit of your labor is your treasure.  Be aware of what treasure you have, so that you can honor God with it.
  • Remember that money is merely a medium of exchange – it allows you to freely trade the fruit of your efforts for the efforts of others in goods and services.  Use it wisely.
  • If you don’t have money, barter your goods and services well.
  • Some people want to win the lottery.  Why?!?!  It came from the backs of the poor, the destitute, and math-challenged people looking for a quick fix to their financial woes.  Unless a person has experience in managing great wealth, they are more likely to abuse it, and end up worse once the money is gone than when they were before they received “the blessing”.  Who would want to have to give an accounting to God for what they did with it?

When we bring these three things – Time, Talent, and Treasure – into submission to God, our lives will begin to become more focused and effective.  God rewards faithfulness in stewardship with more responsibility.  And with more responsibility comes greater reward – not just worldly wealth, but treasure in heaven – when it is used for God’s purposes.

So, let’s ask the question:  How effectively am I managing the Time, Talent, and Treasure God has provided to me for His purposes?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, we praise You for You are wonderful.  We thank You that You have seen fit to permit us the opportunity to work, and to use skills to create and flourish.  Father, we are humbled that You provide this knowing that we mess things up.  I pray that You will show me, Father, how I can better use these resources to bring glory to Your name.  Reveal in me the talents You have placed in me that will bring me joy when used in Your service.  Help me to make any adjustments in life to fulfill this calling that You have given me, and fill my heart with joy knowing that doing this pleases You.  Forgive me, Father, for I don’t like change, and uncertainty causes me anxiety.  Remove these things from my heart that I may  die to self, pick up my cross, and follow Jesus with complete abandon.  This I ask in the name of Your Perfect Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

Unity with God – Ephesians 5:21

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ouch.  There’s that word – submission.  Yielding your preferences, desires, goals, way of doing things – to someone else.  Admit it – it’s HARD to submit.  We greatly desire to have our own way.  Very few things chafe us more than having to do something someone else’s way, especially if we are certain our way is better.

But we see something else at work in the Bible.  When Jesus put on flesh (became fully human and fully God), He submitted Himself to the Holy Spirit, became nothing, and took on the nature of a servant.  Jesus also said that in order to become the greatest among us, we should become a slave in serving others.  We are also to submit ourselves to the ruling authorities.

Mutual submission helps us to grow in character to become more like God.  There is a sense of submission to each other of each of the three persons in the Trinity.  Additionally, as we interact and submit, we are constantly being refined – “Iron sharpens iron.”  Mutual submission to one another in the body builds a unity within the body that cannot exist elsewhere, for it is not possible with us, but through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  As we submit to one another, we are becoming one in purpose.  People will know we are Christians when we love one another.  And love does not seek its own interests, but the interests of others first (the JOY principle – Jesus, Others, You, in that order…).  Since God IS love, do we not demonstrate this when we love one another?   Paul says that we should devote ourselves to one another.

Imagine how winsome the Church, the Body of Christ, would look if ALL Christians submitted ourselves to one another?  No more division would exist between us!  The world would see a unified front of love extended inward AND outward.  People might actually WANT to become a Christian by our example, rather than be turned off by division and rancor within our own ranks.  Families would grow in love and grace as they submit to one another in Christ as well!

So, let’s ask the question.  Are we submitting ourselves to one another?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have shown us in Your word that submission is a good thing, unlike what the world and culture make it out to be.  Submitting to one another In Christ draws us closer to You, and reveals Your nature to the world.  Help us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds through Your word.  Change us into what we should become, that glory would be brought to Your name.  Help us to shed those things that hinder us as we try to better reflect your glory and light in a dark and unbelieving world.  Grant us mercy and grace as we struggle with these things, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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