Renew Your Mind…

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.

Sometimes we just need a good “word” from God to address what we are experiencing in the moment.  Often we rely on our own thoughts or patterns of thought to guide our decisions and choices without even considering whether our paradigms are aligned with the purposes God has for our lives. Perhaps, we allow the narrative of the day or the wisdom of this world to shape or influence our thoughts more than we realize. Or maybe we are so filled with spiritual pride that we fail to consider the veil it casts over our minds to see ourselves or our kingdom roles with proper perspective.  Whatever the case, Paul affords us some great advice to get back on track: Reject the patterns of this world; reset your mindset with the Word of God; and then align with the Will of God….

So I want us to look at some other practical advice given to address the need to correct our thinking from time to time. And while the whole counsel of the Word of God should be accessed, I think there is some particularly useful meditations and instructions found in Proverbs 19, so I have reprinted it here and emphasized several of them here for our consideration:

Proverbs 19 (NIV)

1 Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.

Desire without knowledge is not good—how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.

Wealth attracts many friends, but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them.

A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free.

Many curry favor with a ruler, and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.

The poor are shunned by all their relatives—how much more do their friends avoid them! Though the poor pursue them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found.

The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will perish.

10 It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury—how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!

11 A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

12 A king’s rage is like the roar of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.

13 A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.

14 Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.

15 Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.

16 Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life, but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.

17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done.

18 Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.

19 A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again.

20 Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

22 What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.

23 The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.

24 A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!

25 Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.

26 Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother is a child who brings shame and disgrace.

27 Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

28 A corrupt witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil.

29 Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools.

When you survey these observations of human behaviors, you realize there is light and truth in the conclusions reached.  And one of the verses I find most useful is Verse 20: Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.  Yes, the counsel we can receive from godly men and women can be invaluable; and yet,  I am reminded about listening to those around us with diligence and discernment. Consider the implications of this verse:

Acts 17:11 (NIV)

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

The point here is that even the preaching and teaching of the Apostle Paul was “fact-checked” as we would call it in our modern culture. They wanted to know if the teachings and instructions of Paul aligned with Holy Scripture. And I think we need to apply the same principle as the Berean Jews. Not every theological position or doctrine purported to be “Christian” being taught or shared impart correct advice or wisdom when examined against the whole counsel of the Scriptures. So as we listen to advice and accept spiritual disciple … let us be wise to examine the Scriptures as well … to see if what has been communicated is indeed a good “word”.

So I encourage you today to simply let the Word of God presented here this morning to speak to you directly.  I think some of the ones I highlighted for us will resonate with us more than others, but the point is that God indeed speaks to us individually through His Word … providing what we need individually to be transformed in order to renew our minds. Even now, I am reminded what the Apostle John has affirmed for us:

1 John 2:18-27 (NIV)

18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24 As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what He promised us—eternal life. 26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it (His anointing) has taught you, remain in Him.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Struggle With Unbelief…

Isaiah 43:11-12 (NIV)

I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.

When we reach the point in the history of Israel that the Prophet Isaiah is born, and he is called to fulfill his role in the Kingdom of God, we are several centuries past the exodus of the people from the land of Egypt under the appointed leadership of Moses. And in our passage, we find God still pleading with His people to believe in Him … to trust Him … to place their faith in Him – the “I AM”. God revealed Himself to His people through mighty and miraculous events; signs and wonders; judges, kings, and prophets; and yet, there is a continual call from the Spirit of God to “see” Him and to “know” Him.  And as I reflect on this message this morning, I recognize that our current generation seems to struggle with the same issue: Faith!  How many millennia have come and gone that multitudes of human beings have resisted to acknowledge or believe in our Creator?

Moses struggled with the unbelief of God’s people even after the great parting of the Red Sea and their supernatural deliverance (salvation) from the pursuing armies of Pharaoh. We find the same issue of unbelief under the leadership of Joshua after crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land. It continued under their Judges, under Samuel, and during the reign of the Davidic Kings.  Restoration leaders like Ezra and Nehemiah urged the people returning from the judgment of exile to believe and to restore their faith and worship toward God. The major and minor Prophets spoke as the mouth of God – “I AM Here!” “I AM He!” “I AM!” Indeed, this apparent veil of unbelief was the very reason that Jesus, the Son of God, was sent into the world. We are commanded to believe in Jesus for redemption and eternal salvation; and yet, Jesus had to rebuke even His disciples for their unbelief at times. What gives? Why are humans so resistant to believe … so rebellious against the knowledge of God?

There are so many Scriptures that come to mind regarding unbelief:

Deuteronomy 1:30-33 (NKJV)

30 The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet, for all that, you did not believe the Lord your God33 who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.

Psalm 78:52-58 (ESV)
52 Then He led out His people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. 53 He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid, but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. 54 And He brought them to His holy land, to the mountain which His right hand had won. 55 He drove out nations before them; He apportioned them for a possession and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents. 56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most-High God and did not keep His testimonies, 57 but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow. 58 For they provoked Him to anger with their high places; they moved Him to jealousy with their idols.

Matthew 21:28-32 (ESV)

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the Kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

John 12:37-50 (ESV)

37 But although Jesus had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Cf. Isaiah 53:1) 39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” (Cf. Isaiah 6:10) 41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. 42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. 44 Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not only in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”

John 14:5-11 (ESV)

Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does His works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Hebrews 3:1-19 (NIV)

1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are His house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’

11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

So, I think the point has been made here regarding the seriousness of unbelief.  And I think it stems from our own human pride … that somehow we think that we know more than God on how things are supposed to be … how He is supposed to govern His Kingdom … how He should do things the way we think He ought to do them.  Rather than believe what God has revealed, we want to question Him regarding what He has not revealed. In my observation, I believe God has revealed Himself sufficiently for humans to believe in Him.  We just tend to be stubborn and resist because of our human will … the inclinations of the thoughts of our hearts … and the inability to trust Him with the “unseen”.  Well did the inspired writer of Hebrews define the concept of faith: “Now faith is the substance (confidence) of things hoped for, the evidence (assurance) of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 – NKJV)  And Paul asserts that what may be known about God is plain to see because God has made it plain to us.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen; being understood from what has been made so that people are without excuse. (Cf. Romans 1:19-20)

I think about what Jesus said to Thomas after His resurrection: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Cf. John 20:29) Thomas had been with Jesus for three years.  He saw the miracles.  He heard the sermons.  He knew Jesus personally.  Yet, he did not believe the testimony of his fellow disciples concerning the resurrection.  I find that interesting … knowing that we can exhibit the same behaviors when fellow Christians share their testimonies about what God is doing in their lives.  It is not just a matter of a skeptical attitude; rather, I think it becomes a manifestation of a hardened heart … calloused by our own paradigms of who we think God should be. But God said: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Cf. Isaiah 55:8-9) Instead of trying to out maneuver God, perhaps we should just simply believe Him based on what He has already shown us. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known.” (Cf. John 1:18)

So what is the application? Well, here is what my heart is telling me:

Deuteronomy 13:4 (NIV)

It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him.

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

1 John 3:23-24 (NIV)

And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.

Isaiah 43:10 (NIV)

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.”

Acts 1:8 (NIV)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The issue for each generation is FAITH!  And so we are called to be witnesses … to give our testimony of FAITH.  To me, the issue is what you believe based on who you believe? Isaiah prophesied, “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1) Paul responded: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17) And so, if we want to reach our generation with the hope of salvation, it will require us to not only believe the message about Jesus Christ but to share His message with others. If necessary, we should use words; but otherwise, we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, as the testimonies of our faith. This means to love others as Christ has loved us … just as He commanded us. (Cf. John 13:34) And so, the genuineness of our faith shall be revealed through love….  We need to stop doubting and believe Jesus! Those are my thoughts.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Rest In God…

Psalm 62:1 (NIV)

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him.

This verse resonated with me this morning….  I think all of us are looking for some form rest these days … some measure of peace when interpersonal conflict abounds and people seem to harden their hearts against one another.  One thing is for certain, we cannot control the emotions or feelings of others. And so, we can only turn to the One who is able to bring rest and peace to our souls.  I have reprinted this short Psalm for us:

Psalm 62

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress; I will never be shaken. How long will you assault me? Would all of you throw me down—this leaning wall, this tottering fence? Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. Selah Yes, my soul, finds rest in God; my hope comes from Him.Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress; I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. Surely the lowborn are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath. 10 Do not trust in extortion or put vain hope in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them. 11 One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, 12 and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”; and, “You reward everyone according to what they have done.”

What I find in this Psalm is the declaration of God as the source of rest for our souls.  He is the place of strength … of hope … of refuge and deliverance.  No matter what happens in our lives, we will all eventually come to the knowledge that the power of rest belongs to God alone. He is the Sovereign King over all creation. Only He can move mountains. Only He can change hearts. Only in Jesus Christ can we find true rest…. Yes, only through faith in Him will peace ever abound in our souls:

Matthew 11:25-30 (NIV)

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Hebrews 4:1-13 (NIV)

1Therefore, since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faithNow we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (Quoting Psalm 95:11) And yet His works have been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere He has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” (Quoting Genesis 2:2And again in the passage above He says, “They shall never enter my rest.” Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This He did when a long time later He spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Quoting Psalm 95:8) For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their labor, just as God did from His. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

So we see that “rest” can only be found in submitting ourselves to God … surrendering ourselves to the obedience that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  There is no work we can perform that will bring reconciliation with God … no work that we can perform that will bring atonement for our sin or rebellion.  Rest in the finished work of the Son of God … the One whom the Father sent is all we can do.  This is what Jesus declared and affirmed before His death on the cross: “It is finished!” (Cf. John 19:30) For the work Jesus completed signifies the rest which God entered on the seventh God when He ended His work which He had done. (Cf. Genesis 2:1-3) Indeed, Jesus was the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world! (Cf. Revelation 13:8) And it is clear that we are in the “Day of Rest” because it remains “Today” in which those who believe may enter His rest….

I believe the application here is for us to enter His rest … today. The Lord is telling us to refrain from labor or exertion.  He is telling us to wait upon Him! (Cf. Psalm 27:14) He is telling us: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Cf. Psalm 46:10) For in rest we shall find peace. Yes, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Oh, He is the God of Peace. Indeed, “May God Himself, the God of Peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) And like Paul, I pray: “Now may the Lord of Peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Living In Uncertainty…

Proverbs 27:1 (NIV)

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

Our verse today speaks to the uncertainty of life. Too often, we assume that the physical life we experience in the here and now will continue without interruption and without interference.  But as we have observed over the past few months, the unknown continues to grab our attention and cause us to question what the future holds.  This proverb admonishes us not be too arrogant or make too many assumptions about our lives … because we truly do not know what a day may bring.

The Apostle James, perhaps, had this verse in mind when he wrote: 

James 4:13-16 (NIV)

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

I do not believe this passage is denouncing the purposes of “planning” for the future; rather, James is focused on an arrogant attitude and not being mindful of God in those processes.  It is the boastful, prideful attitude of an invincible spirit that James calls into question.  “Your life is but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  We need to keep perspective … a view of life that is dependent upon the grace of God working in us and through us.  Indeed, our “plans” should be aligned with God … with His Will and His Word as we attend to the purposes for which He created us. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) This should be the basis of our planning – completing the good works which God created us in Christ Jesus to do. As King Solomon observed: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

Luke 14:25-33 (NIV) – Planning for the Cost of Discipleship

25 Now great crowds accompanied Jesus, and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

I think a key principle to planning for the future is to begin with the cost of discipleship. If we overlook what it will take to pursue a life solely focused on pleasing our God and Creator; we are probably hindered with excessive pride or arrogance. And the Apostle John addresses how to hone our focus: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (Cf. 1 John 2:15-17) So, yes, we need to be careful not to be deceived by the world and its desires.  We need the wisdom and discernment that comes from the Word of God to ultimately understand how to do HIS will in our lives.

So I believe, the application for us is to see the necessity of prayer and intimate time with God as we evaluate our hopes and plans for the future.  As the Prophet Isaiah advised:  “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6) As King David reflected when he was in the wilderness of Judah: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) Indeed, it is a critical time to seek the face of God as never before … as we see the times and tribulation the world has entered. And not only should we seek and plan our lives in accordance with His purposes, but we need to trust Him with our whole heart. “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the Rock Eternal.” (Isaiah 26:4) For He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Chronicles 28:20; Hebrews 13:5)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

A Call To Praise…

1 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.

There is a solemn decree for praise today!  And we have every reason to give our praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  Praise Him for His GREAT mercy!  Praise Him for His gift of New Birth!  Praise Him for our Living Hope!  He is alive!  He is alive!  Alive forevermore! Amen!

1 Peter 1:3-16 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He (Holy Spirit) foretold the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

This is a powerful passage of Scripture from the Apostle Peter, and I want to think about the power of praise in our lives.  Yes, praise endues power upon and within the believer.  Praise and worship are what will get us through the difficult times and trials in our lives because God supernaturally uses it to fill us with the power we need to build our faith and to overcome.  Notice in Verses 6 and 7 what Peter shares about suffering due to the obedience that comes from faith: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Perhaps, Peter reflected back on when Jesus taught about the trials believers would face for putting their faith in Him. Jesus had likewise encouraged steadfastness in faith. Jesus encouraged His followers to rejoice and be glad when you encounter hostility for your faith in Him. “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me (or my name). Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Cf. Matthew 5:11-12) And I think we can add a verse of wisdom from King Solomon here as well: “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.” (Cf. Proverbs 29:25)

The application of all these verses is to examine the genuineness of our faith. “What do we honestly believe about God? “Do we trust His Word as the authority for our lives?” “Do our words and deeds align with our profession of faith?” Jesus said God is Spirit, and He is seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.  (Cf. John 4:23-24) It seems apparent to me that Genuineness … Honesty … Sincerity … Truth … is what will prevail and endure before our holy and righteous God and Savior.  Jesus exhorted His disciples, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him.” (Cf. Luke 12:4-5) So yes, God has been quite merciful toward us … and His mercy should lead us to walk in the truth all the more. His gift of repentance is granted to align us with the truth and His purposes. Indeed, as Peter declared: “In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” And as Paul wrote: “Do we have no regard for the goodness, forbearance, and patience of God; not realizing that His kindness is intended to lead us to repentance?” (Cf. Romans 2:4)

And so I pray, that God would reveal to each of us any areas of repentance in which we need to engage ourselves. Yes, let us repent of spiritual indifference; slothfulness; timidity; hardness of heart; resentment; bitterness; unforgiveness; and of anything else that hinders our energy or capacity to praise and worship God in Spirit and in Truth!  Indeed, we are urged by the mercies of God to present ourselves as living sacrifices; holy and acceptable to God – for this is our true, spiritual worship.  And let us not conform to the pattern of this fallen world; rather, let us be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Then, when we are tested, we will discern what is the will of God – His good, pleasing, and perfect will. (Cf. Romans 12:1-2) Yes, I pray our faith will deepen in response to the opportunities God affords us through various tests and trials….

One final thought:

Colossians 3:1-17 (ESV)

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming upon those who are disobedientIn these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, bondservant, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing, psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Light Has Come…

John 3:20-21 (NIV)

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

As I think about the divisions and struggles in various areas around our nation, I sense a common theme permeating those situations and circumstances; and I believe our verse today identifies the root of the evil we continue to witness: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” I think this resistance to the light of the Gospel and the plan of salvation offered by God to His created beings (humans) stems from a lack of wisdom and discernment.  As Paul elaborated: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) We think of light or enlightenment as the “wisdom” that comes from God. And as we have learned:

The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.  (Proverbs 9:10)


The fear (reverence) of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death. (Proverbs 14:27)

Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear (reverence) of the Lord evil is avoided. (Proverbs 16:6)

These are just a handful of verses that speak to the “requirement” of a close relationship with God in order to have access to HIS knowledge and wisdom for life … because He is the Father of creation. All LIFE exists through Him, in Him, and for Him. And His BEING is manifested to the world through His Son – Christ Jesus!  The Apostle John eloquently articulates this truth:

John 1:1-14 (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through Him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. 11 He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. 12 Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Apostle Paul tells us: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) And so, this is the problem that we see in our world … the lack of discernment and acceptance of the things that come from the Spirit of God. Perhaps this is what prompted Paul to write that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12) So it seems to me the solution for the lack of discernment … the battle against deception … is to receive the light that comes from the Spirit of God.  And to receive God’s wisdom and knowledge, we must receive His Spirit.

John 3:3-8 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again … (born from above).” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You (everyone) must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

So now, let’s look at our Verse of the Day in the surrounding context, and I believe we will find the real solution to the roots of evil upending communities within our nation and around the world:

John 3:16-21 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s One and Only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Well, the solution to the discord, hatred, and division between people is the love of God … a love so deep and profound … and it can only be understood and received through Jesus Christ.  Whoever believes in Jesus for salvation will be changed by His light and live according to the truth He has revealed.  Jesus declared, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) When people encounter Jesus, they will find peace and unity through His love and grace. And I believe is why the Church has been commissioned to be ambassadors for Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) And Paul has given us who believe instruction in this regard … even to the relationships that should exist among believers.

Romans 15:1-7 (NIV)

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please Himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Quoting Psalm 69:9) For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Why is this important?  Well, if believers cannot even get along with each other … if there is no peace or unity among ourselves … what kind of message are we sending to unbelievers for whom Christ also died? How can we bring praise to God if we bite and devour each other? (Cf.  Galatians 5:15) If we cannot have the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, we will be ineffective ambassadors in my estimation. People watch what you do more than hearing what you say. Jesus gave us this commandment: Love each other as I have loved you. (Cf. John 15:12) So, we need to humble ourselves and our personal attitudes. Since Christ accepted us, He will accept those who come to Him even as we did … sinners saved by grace through faith. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) The key here is encouraging and building up the faith of others! Indeed, Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith! (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) “Consequently, faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

It is my hope we will see how this all fits together….  If we want to change things in our communities, we need to begin with change in our own hearts so that our lives are transformed and empowered … so that our local church is united and brings praise to God … so that our character and message is credible to an unbeliever. This is what love can do! If we want to emulate the mindset of Jesus, then we must deny ourselves, take up our cross each day, and follow Him. (Cf. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23) Then our light will shine like a city on a hill. It cannot be hidden. (Cf. Matthew 5:14) Maybe the light we manifest in the world will have the impact needed to change minds, thoughts, and hearts of unbelievers. For when we come to a knowledge of the truth, we will begin to walk in it … live by it … and be conformed to the image of Christ.  That is the desire of God for each one of us.  As Jesus affirmed, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Suffering For The Gospel…

Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I wanted to share this verse from the other day, but I have held up because of time constraints and I wanted to add some context and comment.  The topic Paul addresses here is “suffering” and its intended spiritual purpose in our lives.  Paul shares his insight from the tremendous amount of personal suffering that he endured; especially after becoming a believer and follower of Christ. I thought we might put this passage in the larger context to better understand this purpose:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but let us also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Notice the end goal of suffering is “hope”!  And hope does not put us to shame. Why? Because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. It is our reconciliation with God through the death of His Son … through the atonement made by His blood … that produces the hope of eternal life within us.  It is this reconciliation through the suffering of Christ that demonstrates the power and depth of God’s love for us!  And this is the context in which we should view our own suffering in life. Paul indicates that we should glory in any suffering that is encountered for our faith in and devotion to Jesus Christ….

Romans 8:18-25 (NIV)

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope. 21 For the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

There is an intricate relationship between suffering and hope for us to evaluate and to embrace. For we know that Christ Jesus, Son though He was, He learned obedience from the things that He suffered. (Cf. Hebrews 5:8) And Peter reminds us that suffering for doing good will be inevitable. Just as Christ Jesus suffered for us, we as believers have been called to follow in the example of His steps.

1 Peter 2:19-23 (NIV)

19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. (See Isaiah 53 regarding the suffering of Christ)

So Paul enjoins us to “glory in our sufferings” for the sake of Christ.  For it produces perseverance of faith … Christ-like character … and affirms the hope for which we seek an intimate relationship with God.  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) And so, I think it follows that without suffering in our lives, we will not develop confidence in our hope or assurance through our faith.  In other words, suffering is part of a necessary process to attain a faith that pleases God. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) Faith is believing God … and trusting Him even in the midst of our suffering….

So I pray that we as believers will come to place in our walk with God to embrace the trials of suffering that will come along in our lives.  As we have learned, suffering produces tremendous spiritual growth in us … deepens our faith and trust in God and His character … and ultimately produces the obedience that comes from faith.  And so, those are the worthy goals that accompany the suffering and affliction. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

2 Timothy 1:6-13 (NIV)

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of GodHe has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. 11 And of this Gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Shabbat Shuvah…

1 John 2:1 (NIV)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

Yesterday and today, in Washington, D.C., there is a gathering … there is a call for the Body of Christ, the Church, to “RETURN” to the Lord our God!  The message is for repentance to fall upon every believer … for being too casual about sin … for being lukewarm in our hearts … for leaving our first love.  Indeed,  our concern should be about our own sins … the sin of apathy, the sin of hardness, the sin of injustice,  the sin of selfishness, the sin of pride, and yes, all the secret sins that lie within our hearts – yet exposed before God. As we point our fingers at the world around us, know that more fingers are directed at ourselves.  It reminds me of some familiar Scriptures that we know, but often fail to apply to our own hearts:

Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

1 “Judge (Condemn) not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment (condemnation) you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck (of sawdust) in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Romans 2:1-11 (NIV)

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

Psalm 62:11-12 (NIV)

11 One thing God has spoken,   two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, 12     and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”; and, “You reward everyone  according to what they have done.”

Proverbs 24:10-12 (NIV)

10 If you falter in a time of trouble,   how small is your strength! 11 Rescue those being led away to death;  hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”  does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it?  Will He not repay everyone according to what they have done?

As we think about these words of judgment, they fall upon an appointed day.  For today is Shabbat Shuvah or the Sabbath of Return!  It is the Sabbath that falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  And in Hebrew, the word Shuvah is the root of the word teshuvah … which means “repentance”!  And that is the core concept of what today is about for the people of God. The call of repentance is the sound of the shofar – calling an assembly, a people united in fasting and prayer before God. The Scriptures read in the synagogues today are reprinted below for us:

Hosea 14

1 Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.” “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; 6 his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. People will dwell again in His shade; they will flourish like the grain; they will blossom like the vine— Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon. 8 What more has Ephraim to do with idols? I will answer him and care for him. I am like a flourishing juniper; your fruitfulness comes from me.” Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

Joel 2:15-27 (NIV)

15 Blow the trumpet (shofar) in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” 18 Then the Lord was jealous for His land and took pity on His people. 19 The Lord replied to them: “I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. 20 “I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.” Surely He has done great things! 21 Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! 22 Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. 23 Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. 24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. 25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm— my great army that I sent among you. 26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. 27 Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.

And so, I pray that we will surrender our hearts today and seek the face of God in repentance. For He has said: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 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. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (2 Chronicles 7:13-16) Yes, the people of God, need to humble ourselves … we need to turn from our own wicked ways … and consecrate ourselves to the Lord. Then will He hear our prayers and supplications for our homes, for our communities, for our churches, for this nation … to forgive and heal our land. Yes, our sins and the sins of this nation can be covered.  We have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One.  It is His blood … the blood of atonement that redeems and restores us to the Father! That is the message of The Return! “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Persevere In Faith…

Hebrews 10:35-36 (NIV)

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.

Our verse this morning is a call to persevere in faith.  Though we see a world in tribulation on many fronts, we know there a great victory ahead of us!  The inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews provides an encouraging word for us, the remnant Church, to keep moving forward as the Day of the Lord approaches.  The righteous shall live by faith, for the Lord does not take pleasure in those who draw back in fear or lose their confidence and trust in Him.  In faith, we are to forge ahead….

Hebrews 10:19-39 (NIV)

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light (of the Gospel), when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised37 For, “In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But the righteous will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who draws back.” (Quoting from Habakkuk 2:3-4) 39 But we do not belong to those who draw back to destruction, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Philippians 3:12-21 (NIV)

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ21 who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.

So I pray that we will take such a view of things.  Spiritual warfare is being waged all around this world – not just here in our own nation.  By faith, we need to press forward and be engaged. As Paul declared: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12) And this is what the Lord says: “The Word of God (the sword of the Spirit) shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Cf. Joshua 1:8-9)

Some final thoughts and exhortations from the Apostle Paul:

1 Timothy 6:11-16 (NIV)

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in His own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To Him be honor and might forever. Amen.

2 Timothy 1:6-10 (NIV)

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-disciplineSo do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.

2 Timothy 4:1-8 (NIV)

1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

REJOICE!!!

Joel 2:23 (NIV)

Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.

Rejoice in the Lord your God! As I read that phrase … my thoughts wandered over the past several weeks and months.  I had to ask myself, have I rejoiced in the Lord my God?  In the midst of trials and troubles … as pandemic restrictions and cultural chaos continue in our nation and around the world … have I stopped a moment to intentionally rejoice in the Lord? The word rejoice means to feel or show great joy or delight.  I have to admit that I have not “felt” great joy or delight lately when I look at the tribulation in the world around me.  But maybe that is the point.  Perhaps, I’m looking at the wrong things.  Maybe my focus should be on something that does bring excitement, joy, and delight to the heart….

The Apostle Paul urges us: “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!” And I love the context in which we find this encouragement:

Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such thingsWhatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I think there is a message here for us.  Do not be anxious about anything; rather, we should take our cares and concerns to God in prayer with thanksgiving. One might ask, “Why with thanksgiving before you even know the outcome or answer to the prayer?”  Well, think about what God has already done in your life….  Consider His faithfulness!  He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) Yes, we should think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy.  We should set our minds and hearts on God and the love He lavishes on us through Christ Jesus!

Romans 8:35-39 (NIV)

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Quoting Psalm 44:22) 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Oh, we have so many reasons to rejoice in the Lord!  From A to Z we can rejoice in Him:

Rejoice in His abundance.

Rejoice in His anointing.

Rejoice in His atonement.

Rejoice in His authority.

Rejoice in His baptism.

Rejoice in His beauty.

Rejoice in His blessing.

Rejoice in His calling.

Rejoice in His comfort.

Rejoice in His compassion.

Rejoice in His covenant.

Rejoice in His creation.

Rejoice in His cross.

Rejoice in His deliverance.

Rejoice in His discipline.

Rejoice in His election.

Rejoice in His encouragement.

Rejoice in His eternal life.

Rejoice in His faithfulness.

Rejoice in His forgiveness.

Rejoice in His freedom.

Rejoice in His gentleness.

Rejoice in His gifts.

Rejoice in His glory.

Rejoice in His grace.

Rejoice in His healing.

Rejoice in His holiness.

Rejoice in His intercession.

Rejoice in His intimacy.

Rejoice in His justice.

Rejoice in His kindness.

Rejoice in His kingdom.

Rejoice in His liberty.

Rejoice in His life.

Rejoice in His light.

Rejoice in His longsuffering.

Rejoice in His love.

Rejoice in His mercy.

Rejoice in His name.

Rejoice in His omnipotence.

Rejoice in His omniscience.

Rejoice in His peace.

Rejoice in His presence.

Rejoice in His promises.

Rejoice in His protection.

Rejoice in His provision.

Rejoice in His purpose.

Rejoice in His quiet.

Rejoice in His redemption.

Rejoice in His restoration.

Rejoice in His resurrection.

Rejoice in His righteousness.

Rejoice in His sacrifice.

Rejoice in His salvation.

Rejoice in His sovereignty.

Rejoice in His testimony.

Rejoice in His truth.

Rejoice in His unity.

Rejoice in His victory.

Rejoice in His wisdom.

Rejoice in His word.

Rejoice in His yoke.

Rejoice in His zeal.

So, perhaps, we should spend less time on what we see … and rejoice in who we know.  He is everything that matters most.  So, again I say, Rejoice!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!