Raptured…

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NIV)

For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

Paul shares a great prophetic word with the church at Thessalonica as an encouragement for the believers there:

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV)

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

And Paul’s words should encourage us as well!  For Paul speaks of the Second Coming of Christ; and he confirms what the Apostle John would affirm: “Look, He is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of Him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Cf. Revelation 1:7) Indeed, there is a resurrection we have already experienced in Christ Jesus… a new birth through the Spirit of God … when we were raised with Christ from spiritual death. (Cf. Romans 6:3-5) But Paul and John both declared another resurrection … a resurrection of the dead that will take place at the return of our Lord Jesus … His Second Advent.  As Paul explained:

1 Corinthians 15:42-52 (NIV)

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. 50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

I am reminded that Jesus Himself affirmed that there will be a resurrection: “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? (Quoting Exodus 3:6) He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Cf. Matthew 22:30-32) The Apostle Peter would also share these same words of encouragement:

1 Peter 1:3-9 (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 deadand into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for youwho 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.

Oh, I could keep citing more Scriptures regarding the certitude of our resurrection … our inheritance reserved in heaven through faith in Jesus Christ. But I hope the few I have shared are sufficient encouragement for you! We were given by God to His Son, Jesus, to receive this very gift of His grace.  And this is the message of the Gospel we believe and have been commissioned to share with others!  One final truth that I must share are the words of Jesus spoke to Martha before He raised her brother, Lazarus, from the dead:

John 11:21-26 (NIV)

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?

All I can conclude is that there is no resurrection apart from Jesus. He IS the resurrection and the life! He is the author and sustainer of all life! He is the Alpha and the Omega … the beginning and the end … who formed us and created us for His pleasure and for His own glory. (Cf. Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11) Whatever ideas or thoughts we might have about life or death must ultimately conform to His Word. And so, I am greatly encouraged by His Word to us. I am at full peace with His Word … 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 …  even my faith…. (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:12)

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

In God I Trust

Psalm 56:4 (NIV)

In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

This could be a timely word for us as we watch the unprecedented civil disobedience and violence that has gripped several of our cities across the nation.  Though many people sought to peaceably demonstrate to express their heartfelt outrage over what occurred in Minneapolis; the anarchy that has erupted through those whose hearts and minds are bent on destruction is beyond words.  Why have so many people seemingly lost their ability to conduct themselves with respect for others? And just how are riots and mayhem going to resurrect the life of an innocent man? What causes a law enforcement officer to subdue a person with such wanton disregard for their life? In the end, we cannot turn to evil to right an evil …  any more than hate will ever resolve hate.  O, God help us and give us wisdom and discernment in these troubled times….

Beyond understandable human emotion … what we are witnessing now is evil … demonic evil. “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come….” (Cf. Mark 7:21) And, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” (Cf. John 3:20) Only now … there appears to be no fear of exposure.  The lapse of moral conscience is evident. The evil intents of the heart are no longer concealed.  It is on our televisions and social media 24/7 in full view….

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

1 But mark this: There will be perilous times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

James 3:13-16 (NIV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

So a few thoughts came to mind when I read this verse:

Romans 12:16-18 (NIV)

16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

1 Peter 3:10-13 (NIV)

10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 They must turn from evil and do goodthey must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (Cf. Psalm 34:12-16) 13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 

Luke 12:2-5 (NIV)

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. “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.

Regardless of the circumstances and events going on in our world, we are to trust in God and to not be afraid. We need to pray for those who are hurting … the family and friends of George Floyd.  And we need to pray for our civil authorities and law enforcement.  It is disingenuous to characterize all law enforcement based the horrific conduct of a few individuals.  So pray for those in law enforcement who will be called to righteous engagement against the anarchy that has erupted and spread. Yes, we need to pray for peace within our communities and for the governing authorities to protect all people from lawlessness and evil….

Romans 13:1-5 (NIV)

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. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 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.

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

An Everlasting Love …

Psalm 103:17-18 (NIV)

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

Our verse today affords us some theological precepts for covenant relationship with God; and I think we should examine these concepts a little deeper.

Psalm 103 is a beautiful meditation of David. In its 22 verses, he explores the foundations and depths upon which intimacy with God is established.  Here we find David speaking to his own soul … addressing his inner being with truths about the nature and character of God that can only be understood and appreciated by the soul.  As God is Spirit, our relationship with Him must be in the spirit realm … in a transparent form where nothing is hidden and truth abides.  Psalm 103 invites us to think deeply and introspectively about the God who created us and His relationship with us:

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—
Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever;
10 He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on His children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;
14 For He knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 The wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlastingthe Lord’s love is with those who fear Him,and His righteousness with their children’s children—
18 With those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

19 The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His word.
21 Praise the Lord, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will.
22 Praise the Lord, all His works everywhere in His dominion. Praise the Lord, my soul.

(Verses 1-6)

I really glad that David began this Psalm with praise for the nature of God.  He tells his soul, “Praise the Lord.” In my view, David “commands” his soul to praise God as he unfolds the “reasons” for doing so.  He says to himself, “Do not forget all the benefits that the Father has bestowed your life.” God forgives ALL your sins and heals ALL your diseases.  He redeems your life from the pit … the dark abyss of sin.  He crowns you … He intentionally places His love and compassion upon you.  His favor promotes good things to bless your life.  He works righteousness and justice for those who have been oppressed by others….  And that is just the beginning of how God acts on our behalf.  I’m reminded of what Paul wrote with similar zeal: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Cf. Ephesians 3:20-21)

(Verses 7-13)

David now continues to explore how God manifests His character.  God revealed His ways to Moses and displayed His works among His covenant people.  From what has been reveal and demonstrated, David concludes that the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  David observes the kindness of God in that He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  David senses in his soul that the love of God … the forgiveness of God … the compassion of God surpasses our ability to comprehend.  Again, I’m reminded of what Paul wrote with great passion: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Cf. Romans 8:38-39) Indeed, the love of Christ Jesus for us … which surpasses knowledge … encompasses all the fullness of God.  (Cf. Ephesians 3:18-19)

(Verses 13-18)

David shares that what He experiences in His relationship with God is special.  The intimacy he has come to know with the Creator … the benefits of fellowship with God the Father … is for those who fear Him! Indeed, His great love is for those who fear Him. (Verse 11). The Lord has compassion on those who fear Him (Verse 13).  Yes, His love is with those who fear Him … with those who keep His covenant … with those who remember to obey His precepts. (Verses 17-18) As David wrote in another Psalm: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge (trusts) in Him.Fear the Lord, you His holy people, for those who fear Him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Psalm 34:8-10) To fear the Lord is to exalt and reverence Him.  And we can only do so through faith … in spirit and in truth. (Cf. John 4:23-24) It is through faith that we are joined with the Father. “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. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) There are no benefits for life; there are no rewards except for those who fear the Lord … for those who keep His covenant and obey His command.

(Verses 19-22)

David concludes this meditation within his soul with a declaration of the sovereignty of God.  His throne is established in heaven! His Kingdom is the only authority throughout the universe He created. And this conviction ignites praise and worship within David again.  David sees that ALL creation is subjected to the Lord God. ALL are commanded to obedience … ALL are enjoined to worship the Almighty God!  His Word … His Will … His Works have been revealed to ALL creation. So David commands his soul, “Praise the Lord!”  And, perhaps, we should do so ourselves this morning as well. For the soul of every living being WILL bow before Him; and every tongue will acknowledge Him. (Cf. Isaiah 45:22-24; Romans 14:10-12; Philippians 2:9-11)

So here is the application I have found.  I cannot know the blessings or rewards of the Creator apart from an intimate relationship with Him. And it is a covenant relationship that He initiated (for He knows how I am formed and He remembers that I am dust) and conferred upon me through His Son, Christ Jesus. The Apostle John explains, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:10) As Paul wrote: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) So, there is nothing I have done to earn it or deserve it … but I am compelled in my innermost being (my soul) to respond to His irresistible grace and love with great reverence. For I am convinced that His desire for relationship with me is knowable. And the thought of such love overwhelms me!

David said the love of God is everlasting with those who fear Him. His compassion is on those who fear Him. So I am quite motivated to understand this “fear” … this “reverence” … for God our Creator. To show reverence is an intentional act; and it encompasses how I regard God with the highest honor and deepest respect. Shall I not humble myself, and repent, and submit to Him in faith? Shall I not observe His commandments which reveal His will? God said, “Keep my commands and follow them. I am the Lord.” (Cf. Leviticus 22:31) Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15, 14:21; 15:10) Shall I not worship (love) in the manner that God has ordained? Obedience demonstrates our love. Obedience reveals truth. And obedience is better than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) Isaiah recorded, “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (Cf. Isaiah 29:13) But Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (Cf. John 4:24) To be sure,  reverence must be sincere. And so love must be sincere. Genuine love cannot be hidden.  God did not hide or conceal His love for us. Thus, we should not hide or veil our love for Him. Love must be evident to all. “And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.” (Cf. 1 John 3:23)

Well, I hope that something said here will resonate with your soul. What King David imparted in his Psalms is prophetic of the intimate relationship God desires with us in Christ Jesus. Indeed, the grace of God we know and experience in Christ Jesus should elicit an overwhelming desire within us to love and adore Him … which is manifested in truth through obedience. Reverence IS obedience … because the New Covenant has not been written on tablets of stone; rather, through the blood of Jesus it has been written on our hearts.  The Covenant of Love is this: God loves us and we love Him.  God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) In return, we demonstrate our love for God in this: Keeping His commandments. (Cf. 1 John 5:3)

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

Sent To Save…

John 3:17 (NIV)

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

This verse is perhaps the greatest news to share with anyone who is struggling with their past failures and feeling unworthy of the redemption and reconciliation God the Father has offered to us through Jesus Christ!  Self-condemnation can be a vicious stronghold to break if our concept of a God is one of judgment and wrath alone.  To be sure, Scripture reveals both the judgment and wrath of God … but both are reserved for those who reject Christ Jesus … and do not place their faith in Him.  Indeed, this verse declares the kindness and love of God so that each person is given the opportunity to repent of their sins and failures.  Let’s look at this verse in context:

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 evil. 20 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.

God sent Jesus to be the atonement for the sins of the world. That is the purpose for which God gave Him.  It is the atonement of His blood that we are to believe and receive … to place our faith in Him and to proclaim His self-sacrifice as all-sufficient to pay our sin debt … to redeem us from the condemnation of sin.  Whoever believes in Him is no longer condemned! They have been set free … forgiven … released.  They are no longer under the law of sin (Cf. Romans 7:23-25) … but now abide under the law of liberty! (Cf. James 1:25) So the application here is to believe!  Believe the testimony of God regarding His Son whom He sent to be our Savior. “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? (Cf. Romans 2:4) As the Apostle John expounded: when we reject the testimony of God about His Son, Jesus, we have in essence called God a liar….

1 John 5:9-12 (NIV)

We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which He has given about His Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made Him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about His Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

God does not want us to live under the weight of condemnation, but God has made it clear the decision that each human must make about Jesus.  Believe and receive eternal life OR reject and remain in condemnation.  God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) A person is not condemned for what they have done … the sin they have committed … or their failure to live up to the moral law God has decreed; rather, a person remains under condemnation for rejection of God’s grace … for refusing the forgiveness and redemption He has offered to us through the death of His Son.  Think about it a moment.  God willingly sacrificed His One and Only Son for the sin of the world.  Jesus is the only atonement God would accept because of His own holiness.  The blood of an animal sacrifice is insufficient to purge sin. (Cf. Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 66:1-4; Hebrews 10) So when a person rejects what God has done … what has God ordained for true life in Him … He allows that person to receive the condemnation they refused to have propitiated on their behalf. When a person rejects Jesus Christ … they reject the Father as well. (Cf. John 5:22-24; 1 John 2:22-23) It is not a loving God that sends a person to hell; rather, it is a loving God who makes provision for a person to be saved from the condemnation and wrath of sin. That provision is His Son … Jesus!

Romans 8:1-10 (NIV)

1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesusbecause through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

Do you know anyone who feels condemned or has fallen into self-condemnation?  Share this good news with them!  God has made provision to remove all condemnation through Christ Jesus. Let condemnation be replaced with conviction! Yes, let conviction bring confession … so that we agree with God that His word and righteous decrees are holy and just. Oh, there is hope for the sinner who feels condemned! There is freedom for the captive and the broken-hearted! For the kindness of God is intended to lead us to repentance! God sent His light into the world, and His light has overcome the darkness! (Cf. John 1:5) Let us share that light with whoever will believe…. Amen.

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Royal Law

Romans 12:10 (NIV)

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

We continue to have verses sent in reference to relationships between believers.  These are always great reminders when we might feel otherwise.  The Apostle John was quite direct on the matter when he wrote:

1 John 4:20-21 (NKJV)

20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

Both Paul and James give us practical ways to demonstrate love.

Romans 13:8-10 (NKJV)

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Galatians 5:13-15 (NKJV)

13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

Galatians 6:1-3 (NKJV)

Brothers and sisters, if a person is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

James 2:8-9 (NKJV)

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

But even outside the church, our relationships with unbelievers are to be filled with grace and salt. As Paul encouraged, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:18) If we are Spirit-filled, we will bear the fruit (the nature) of the Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-26 (NKJV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

And, yes, kindness is on the list!  And I believe it is kindness that will do more for the Kingdom of God than any other virtue.  Why? Well, to me, kindness is the greatest expression or manifestation of the other fruit of the Spirit.  Love, peace, goodness, gentleness, and self-control are all directly expressed through kindness.  Kindness is inherent in longsuffering and faithfulness. And kindness is shown toward others because of the joy we have in our hearts … the joy of our salvation and the deep desire we have to see others come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  If it was the kindness of God that led us to repentance (Cf. Romans 2:4), then I think the kindness we extend to others should have the same intent.  Indeed, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (Cf. James 2:13)

Well, if you are struggling with loving other people as God sees them … especially those you consider most unlovable … I hope these Scriptures will give you some renewed encouragement to love … as God in Christ has demonstrated His love for you.  Love does not condone sin; rather it atones for it. Love does not remove the consequences caused by sin; rather, it forgives (releases) the offender.  As Paul instructed: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8)  I pray that we will all strive to keep love at the forefront of our thoughts so that our actions will follow….

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

No Divisions Among You

1 Corinthians 1:10 (NIV)

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Paul had to deal with matters of division within the church at Corinth; and it is one of the first issues that he addresses in his epistle to the Corinthian believer.  I read the entire chapter to find context for our verse, and I found the broader theme of Christian living and relationship building presented.  Paul opens his letter with enduring words for these recipients of his apostolic writing; and for all believers everywhere who have responded to the Gospel message. Paul continues … expressing thanksgiving for believers and for the grace they have received through Christ Jesus; and then he assures them of the faithfulness of God to preserve them in fellowship with His Son – Jesus Christ our Lord.  His message is one of great encouragement not only for believers in the First Century, but also for us in this current generation.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 (NIV)

1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be His holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him (Jesus) you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

I could mediate forever on the faithfulness of God … how He will keep me “firm to the end”.  Notice that it is work of God that accomplishes this result … this outcome … “to stand without fault on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  That day is coming soon as we can surmise from all that is happening in the world around us.  That God is faithful is a recurrent theme of Scripture:

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:9)

He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong; upright and just is He. (Deuteronomy 32:4)

For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. (Psalm 57:10)

I will praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, my God; I will sing praise to you with the lyre, Holy One of Israel. (Psalm 71:22)

Who is like You, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and Your faithfulness surrounds You. (Psalm 89:8)

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. (Joel 2:23)

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

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.The One who calls you is faithful, and He will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. (2 Thessalonians 3:3)

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)

Oh, indeed, we serve a faithful God!  We should join with the Apostle Jude in his benediction: “Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without fault in the presence of His glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25) God is faithful to those who believe and trust in Jesus … the One whom the Father sent. And it is important for us to cultivate and grow our faith in Him. For Jesus is the Head of His Body – the Church!  It is in Him we are united! It is in Jesus, our most faithful High Priest, that we find redemption and resurrection … reconciliation and restoration.  It is His work in us that bring us together … to unite us in thought and faith!  This is why Paul exhorts believers to not allow divisions among ourselves.

1 Corinthians 1:10-17 (NIV)

10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

The point Paul is making here is that leaders appointed by Christ to serve His church should not be the focus of attention; rather, they should be recognized as servants to His church.  Yes, we are to submit to those in authority over us in the church.  Yes, we are to follow their example of faith and righteousness. But the purpose of this “submission” is to train and facilitate the same mindset toward Christ our Lord and Savior!  The role of the church is to serve one another in love … and through unity to become a mature, vibrant outreach to unbelievers. Paul explains this purpose in further detail in his Letter to the Ephesians:

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NIV)

11 So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

The Preeminent One of the Church is Christ Jesus Himself!  Those appointed to serve the church and to equip believers for works of service are ordained by Him specifically to bring unity in the faith and in the knowledge of Jesus.  Their role is to facilitate maturity so that each believer (each part) does its work.  The key concepts here are maturity and unity.  Any believer who places a church leader above Christ Jesus (the Head) has misplaced “allegiance” for sure.  Further, anyone appointed by Him to serve in offices of leadership to the church should serve in all humility … not arrogant in spirit … not boastful or puffed up … and not to be seen and praised by people. Even the angels who minister to us will not allow us to worship or pay homage to them! (Cf. Revelation 19:10; 22:9)

Remember that to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.  And for everyone to whom much is given (entrusted), much will be asked and required. (Cf. Luke 12:48) The Five-Fold ministry leaders have been ordained to serve in a manner that equips and facilitates believers to worship Jesus Christ … not to promote themselves.  In Ephesians 4:1-6, Paul admonished, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peaceThere is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  To be sure, there is only one Lord and one Faith … one God and Father of all!  It is all about Him!

For unity to be effectuated in the church, the command to have a humble spirit cannot be dismissed at all.  ALL have turned aside; they have together become corrupt.  There is none who does good; No, not one. (Psalm 14:3; Psalm 53:3; Romans 3:12) For ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23) All people are subject to the same judgment which came from one offense and resulted in condemnation. (Cf. Romans 5:12-16) In fact, all that we have in Christ: all mercy and grace … all wisdom and knowledge … all favor and blessing … redemption and forgiveness … light and life … ALL have been given to us through Christ Jesus.  Paul challenged, “Think of what you were when you were called.”  Think of it!  Recall the moment you were called … when you surrendered your rebellious heart to the Spirit of God … when you encountered Jesus and came to faith in Him … the moment you were born again through the power of God.…  Think of what you were … who you were….  It should humble you deeply….

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV)

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

But, “Let the one who boasts … boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on the earth; for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Cf. Jeremiah 9:24) Yes, we ought to humble ourselves because God chose you and I to believe in the One whom He sent!  God chose you and I for redemption … for salvation in Christ.  It is because of Him that we are in Christ Jesus! Jesus said, “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” (Cf. John 6:39) How amazing is that knowledge … that promise? Oh, it gets better! “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (Cf. John 10:29) And, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” (Cf. John 17:9) Finally, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” (Cf. John 17:24) Oh, our God is faithful to us because He chose us … He gave us to Jesus! Let this Scripture be embedded in our hearts:

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

No one can boast!  No sinner made saint in Christ can boast in anyone or anything except HIM….  We humble ourselves through the obedience of faith; and we take our place in His Body as He has appointed us … according to the grace He has apportioned to us.  And the anointing given to each one of us (as determined by the Holy Spirit) is for the edification of the church not for ourselves as individual parts.  As Paul explained:

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (NIV)

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common goodTo one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.

Our Verse of the Day addresses the need for unity within the church … peace and single-minded among believers who form the body of Christ.  There should be no divisions … no one who elevates another believer above Jesus, the Head of the Church.  In Christ Jesus, there no denominations … no denominators or divisors! Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. Oneness can only be realized in Christ. So let us be open to the personal expression of grace given to each believer.  Let us embrace and encourage the work of each member (part) to serve and glorify our King.  The diversity of the Spirit we have received was given for the common good.  As long as we seek the common good and the bonds of peace … we will be seeking the unity of the Spirit. You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. (Cf. Galatians 5:13) “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Cf. Romans 15:2) “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Cf. Psalm 133:1)

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

God is the “Why”

Romans 11:13 (NIV)

How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!

When we looked at Psalm 103 last week, we talked about the mysteries of God … what we can know of God … and what remains unknown.  Here Paul emphasizes the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!  Yes, there is a vast wealth of knowledge that we as humans … as created beings … will not ever be able to attain. Yet, that point should not be a hindrance to faith.  To me, it is the unknowable things we are able to observe and experience as living beings that draw us to our Creator.  It is our ability to comprehend that God knows infinitely more that makes us unique … that drives our quest as human beings to pursue knowledge and understanding of created things … that draws our attention to Him.  Indeed, it is the unknowable that builds the foundation of faith.  Here are some additional Scriptures for us to consider:

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Romans 8:24 (NIV)

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?

1 Corinthians 2:7-10 (NIV)

No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”– the things God has prepared for those who love Him— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NIV)

17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

So what is important to know? I would like to encourage all of us to seek wisdom and knowledge as King Solomon did.  These are the things God desires us to know:

Proverbs 2:1-8 (NIV)

1My son (or daughter), if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.

Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

You see, if we really want to know more … if we truly desire wisdom and knowledge … we should focus ourselves on the fear of the Lord!  The fear of the Lord is deep reverence for Him.  And that deep reverence issues from knowing that God is the Creator of all things.  Despite all the advances of astrophysics and quantum theory and the like; the expanse of the universe and all the formations and motions and phenomenon are still a mystery as to origin and perpetuation.  Despite all the advances of medical science, our own formation into being inside the womb is still essentially unknowable. Oh we might know HOW the processes sequence to form a human being, but we do not know WHY those processes work. I submit that God the Father … the Creator … is the WHY! The WHY of the I AM Designer is hidden from us.  It is our knowledge of the HOW that intrigues us to search deeper for the WHY!  I hope that I am articulating this in a comprehensible manner….

What I believe is that God is more concerned with human knowledge of Him and a desire to have an intimate relationship with Him than whether we understand the how all “being” came into existence.  We will never know the answer to that question … because we are not God.  We are created.  Created for His pleasure.  Created to have relationship with Him … with one another … and yes … with creation itself.  The writer of Hebrews reminds us that “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.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) Perhaps, this is why the Prophet Isaiah admonished: “Seek the Lord while He may be found;   call on Him while He is near.” (Cf. Isaiah 55:6) And as Paul preached to the Athenians:

Acts 17:22-28 (NIV)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, He Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’”

Again, I think that what Moses wrote is sufficient for us to apply: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” What God HAS revealed is sufficient for us to know Him … His nature … His character … His will … and to enable us to follow His law. (Cf. Deuteronomy 29:29) As Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) Indeed, there is enough knowledge to know that God exists and that He loves us! And we can trust that knowledge when we believe in Jesus … the One He sent … the exact representation of His being. (Cf. Hebrews 1:3) Maybe this will afford new meaning and insight to a final thought I had: “ Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Cf. Matthew 6:33)

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Mighty Warrior

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

This is quite an intriguing verse for us to ponder.  And, of course, we should examine it within the surrounding context…. I encourage you to read the entire chapter.

In Zephaniah 3, the prophet is dealing with the “character” of the city of Jerusalem, and its inhabitants in general. Even more pointed, he calls out the princes, judges, prophets, and priests – leaders of the people and exposes their hardness, impenitence, and shamelessness.  The prophet indicates that these people knew better (the Lord being among them); who taught them through His Word and warned them of judgment and punishment through His Prophet if repentance did not ensue. Yet despite His attempts at correction; Jerusalem remained unrepentant, and God declared a day of wrath would come upon them.  Yet, the prophet reveals the heart of God is to preserve those who fear Him … the remnant who trust in the name of the Lord … who clothe themselves in righteousness. When God gathers and restores His people, we see how compassionate God is with those who love Him … the excitement He “feels” for them … the grace He lavishes upon them … and the restoration He will initiate for all that was lost!

To me, this chapter (and this verse in particular) is a reflection of how God longs for His people to seek and respond to Him. God delights in our obedience more than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) His commandments are intended for wisdom and light. His discipline is for our understanding and correction. His presence is for our protection; and His power is for our salvation! Think about how awesome the love of God is that He will rejoice over you with singing!  Now consider some related parables that Jesus taught:

Luke 15:1-7 (NIV) Parable of the Lost Sheep

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Luke 15:8-10 (NIV) Parable of the Lost Coin

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Luke 15:11-31 (NIV) Parable of the Prodigal Son

17 “When he came to his senses, the son said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to rejoice.

Throughout His Word, God affords us insight into His nature and character.  God is holy; and He has ordained for us to be holy. His commandments communicate how sincere love is the standard. Yet, God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness; and forgiving of the disobedience, rebellion, and sin committed against Him. God knows how we are formed and remembers that we are but dust. (Cf. Psalm 103:14) He knows we are imperfect, but His desire is that we would but turn our hearts toward Him and respond to correction. This is the message God has sent to His people through all generations; and in these last days, He offers this grace to those who will place their faith in Christ Jesus – His Son … the One whom He sent!  Every prodigal … every wayward sheep … needs to know the Father will rejoice over them when they return to Him. Jesus said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost!” (Cf. Luke 19:10) And that purpose has not changed.  The will of the Father has not changed.  Jesus has commissioned His Church to be His Body upon the earth.  He charges every disciple … every follower … to “go and make disciples of all nations.” (Cf. Matthew 28:19)

So, I pray that as we meditate upon the Word of God brought to us by the Prophet Zephaniah, we will see its relevance in historical terms and its application for us today.  God rejoices over those who respond to His correction.  He delights in those who repent and place their trust in the name of the Lord. Yes, the Father is concerned for each lost soul He sent Jesus to find and save! In Zephaniah 3, I believe we can see a picture of Jesus – who has taken away our punishment and turned back our enemy.  We can see He is for us; and we should no longer fear the surrounding armies.  He is our Savior … the Mighty Warrior who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) In His love, He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing! Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. (Cf. Luke 12:32) Even so, Lord, your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…. Amen.

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Work of Your Hands…

Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

I find Psalm 139 one of the most insightful meditations on the nature of God. I thought it would be useful for us to discuss our verse in the broader context of the full Psalm. David considers the sovereignty of God: His omniscience … His omnipresence … His omnificence … His omnipotence.  David captures the essence of each attribute and personalizes it; meaning, he brings perspective on how we as created beings can relate to our Creator in personal terms. So I have reprinted it here:

Psalm 139 For the director of music. Of David. A Psalm.

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful – I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
17 How amazing are your thoughts concerning me, God! How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Wow!  Such a powerful meditation … filled with humbled emotion.  When I read this Psalm, I feel overwhelmed with the divine power and presence of our Creator … a God who expresses deep concern and love for a mere speck of dust on a speck of solar dust traversing through one of billions of interstellar spirals within the infinite expanse of what we call the universe…. Yes, like David, I find such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Yet, this infinite God is an intimate being.  He knows each of us … every detail from conception through all the days ordained for each one. The gift of life each one of us receives is wholly an experience of grace … which is why we should feel nothing less than deep reverence for Him.  Our lives are 100% in His hands from beginning to end whether we desire to accept this truth or not. There are no surprises for God. Nothing has ever happened or will happen in your life that He is not aware.   He is unmoved, unshaken by anything within His created order.  Stars are formed … and they are scattered in supernova fashion.  Galaxies spin and collide to produce new formations. This brings to mind another Psalm in which David shares additional perspective on our purpose with the created order.  Again, the emphasis becomes focused on our relationship with God:

Psalm 8

1 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

David appeals to that inner knowing we can experience when we are at a loss for words … when only our spirits can express with groans what our hearts feel.  It is in that quiet contemplative moment we ponder: “Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him? Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” (Cf. Psalm 144:3-4) King Solomon, David’s son and successor, often contemplated the observance of creation and its profound mystery as the manifestation of a personal, relational Creator. God enables human beings to see the handiwork of His Word in all of its majesty; yet, we cannot find out the work that God does from beginning to end. (Cf. Ecclesiastes 3:11) And Solomon wrote: “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the spirit enters the body being formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things. (Cf. Ecclesiastes 11:5) I think the mysteries of God and His Creation are designed to intrigue us and to activate our faith in Him. 

But for all the awe-inspiring mystery and visual splendor of creation we can observe, there is a greater work of God in our inner being that should rapture our hearts like nothing else: “To believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Jesus implored people to believe in Him! He said to know Him is to know the Father! To abide in Him is to abide in the Father! Indeed, Jesus embodies the eternal love and passionate concern of God for all who are created in His image. Jesus answered the question David asked: “What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You visit him? Jesus asserted, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me.” (Cf. John 6:38) Jesus shared, “I have come that people may have life, and have it to the full.” (Cf. John 10:10) And Jesus declared, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness” (Cf. John 12:46) I have to emphasize here that Paul explained how those who believe in Jesus are the handiwork or workmanship of God: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10).  Indeed, all of creation exists for the pleasure of God.  As the Apostle John recorded in the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 4:8b – 11 (NIV)

Day and night they never stop saying: “‘Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ (Cf. Isaiah 6:3) who was, and is, and is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will (for your pleasure) they were created and have their being.”

Oh, how I pray that every heart would receive and respond to the manifold revelations of God … through His creation … through His Word … and through His Son!  For His creation reveals His eternal power and divine nature. (Cf. Romans 1:20) His Word reveals His will and purpose. (Cf. Isaiah 46:10) And His Son reveals the exact representation of His being. (Cf. Hebrews 1:3) In addition, we are surrounded by such a great cloud of faithful witnesses! “Therefore,let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  (Cf. Hebrews 12:1-2a)  I have long felt convicted that the “sin that so easily entangles” is the sin of unbelief or a lack of faith. Why? “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Cf. Romans 14:23) And while I realize the context of Romans 14 explores the matter of conscience concerning food, the spiritual principle is there nonetheless.  Evaluate any specific sin, and you will discover its origins in darkness. As the Apostle John wrote: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (Cf. John 3:19)

So what is the application here?  What is the conclusion?

First, God has revealed Himself through His Creation.  He has manifested His incredible attributes:

His Omniscience                    He is the Knower of all things                   Psalm 139:1-6

His Omnipresence                  He is the Being of all things                      Psalm 139:7-12

His Omnificence                     He is the Creator of all things                   Psalm 139:13-18                                

His Omnipotence.                   He is the Authority of all things.              Psalm 139:19-24

Second, God has revealed Himself through His Word.  He has manifested His desire for relationship with us from Genesis through Revelation.

Third, God has revealed Himself through His Son.  He manifested His everlasting, immutable love for us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Yes, there is a multitude of mysteries we will never understand in this life. The mysteries of God will forever remain in our quest for understanding because there is knowledge too high for us to attain. But Moses attested: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 29:29) Yes, it is clear that our Father wants us to know Him through what He has revealed through His creation … His Word … and His Son.  To me, it is no mystery that God exists … that I AM is Spirit … and that He cannot be seen with human eyes. Yet, the Father has ordained for us to see Him through the eyes of faith alone … with spiritual eyes and ears to discern and know Him.  And the greatest visual image we will ever have of the Father is His One and Only Son … Jesus.  Jesus embodied the Word of God. Indeed, He is the living Word of God! (Cf. John 1:1-5) Jesus declared, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Cf. Matthew 5:17)

If people would consider these truths in their hearts, what can be known of God should move their hearts to repentance and reverence.  God has made known His covenant of love … His compassion … and His desire for fellowship with those He created in His image. Yes, God has visited us and even borne the judgment for our sin of unbelief upon the cross. The purpose of all His works is this: God wants us to believe in the One He sent.  It is only through faith in Jesus that we will come to perfect faith in God the Father.  It is only through Jesus that we will understand the unsurpassed love of God … the riches of His grace … and the desire of His heart for our sanctification and holiness.  Through faith in Christ, we become new creatures!  The old is gone.  The new has come. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) We become the handiwork of God! And this is the message we need to share with the prodigal, the wayward, and the lost: “Consider all that God has made known, and believe in the One He sent!” The Lord God declares: “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. 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. Yes, and from ancient days I am He. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” (Cf. Isaiah 43:10-13)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The “Platinum Rule”

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

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

We just talked about this yesterday.  Message unchanged….  There is a definite call to humble ourselves and to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think … as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Cf. Romans 12:3) This reminds me of when Jesus taught His “Sermon on the Mount” and said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Cf. Luke 6:31) Perhaps, a “Platinum Rule” should read: “Treat others in the same manner that God has treated you in Christ Jesus.”  I think that raises the bar a notch….

We need to remember that God has been more kind, more gentle, more longsuffering, more patient, more forgiving, more compassionate, and more loving towards us than we ever tend to be towards one another; yet, we are made in His image and called to live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) So this brings me back to two key passages:

Galatians 5:22-26 (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

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

It is only by the Spirit of God living within us that can ever hope to attain the godliness He desires within each of us.  And a person does not receive the Holy Spirit except that he/she believes in Jesus Christ … placing their faith in His life, death, and resurrection for the assurance of this gift. As Peter affirmed (and I often quote): “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) And indeed, we need the power of God to bear the fruit of the Spirit in our relationships with one another.  I can see no other conclusion for a believer … a child of God.  As John emphasized in His epistle: “Dear friends, let us love one another … for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and know God.” (Cf. 1 John 4:7)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!