Think About These Things…

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

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 things.

Ever find yourself stuck in a negative thinking pattern? I know that I have; and sometimes I have struggled to get out of its ditch. But what is the source of negative thinking? Why does it overtake us at times? I believe one of the reasons is unfulfilled expectations. We expect something to happen, and when it does not come about, we feel disappointed. We might feel rejected when a relationship becomes severed. We might feel hurt when that new job opening at work was not granted and given to someone else. Such situations can cause our emotions … our flesh … to take hold of disappointment and allow it to fester into bitterness, or perhaps, even anger….

Sometimes negative thinking is rooted in low expectations and feelings of worthlessness. A person could believe that life is too hard, unfair, or unkind, and might not expect that any degree of happiness in this life is attainable. There are very real situations such as extreme poverty, oppression, the effects of violence and abuse, which can easily discourage or obscure reasons for hope. Yet, some of the most emotionally and spiritually healthy people that I have met in life have suffered these types of situations and circumstances. People I have met in third-world countries, who endure personal hardships beyond my imagination, have truly inspired me with their faith, joy, hope, and love. What causes their countenance to shine under such conditions? What changes low expectations or unfulfilled expectations into attitudes of gratitude? I believe it stems from how we choose to think about the contexts of our lives … the thought patterns that express our relationship with God.

In our Verse of the Day, Paul provides us some exhortations to elevate our thinking patterns, and it encourages us to not be unduly swayed by the temporal circumstances of this life. Things did not always go the way Paul wanted them to go. He bore a “thorn in the flesh” which he pleaded to the Lord to heal … but He did not remove it. Paul did not allow even this unfulfilled prayer request to sever his relationship with the Lord. He eventually learned there was a greater reason to keep it in place … to humble him … so that he might better understand the power of Christ to overcome our weaknesses. (2 Corinthians 12:6-10) Paul suffered many things at the hands of those outside the church … as well as inside the church. Yet, Paul stayed focused on the hope of the resurrection. Paul declared, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Cf. Philippians 3:10-11) Yes, in spite of the sufferings and disappointments he experienced, Paul would write:

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 things. Whatever 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.

Our thought life is critical to having a positive, emotionally healthy outlook. The thoughts of our hearts are manifested in the exercise and expression of our faith. And though some of us might have been victims of unconscionable violence, abuse, hatred, cruelty, oppression, or injustice; our thinking patterns do not have to take up permanent residence in the darkness of those experiences. There may be deep wounds and visible scars … profound emotional or spiritual brokenness … justifiable anger … yet, in Christ Jesus we can find the healing and deliverance we need! In Jesus, we have access to a sanctuary of peace for our souls. Jesus is our refuge of light and hope! He is the peace of God which transcends all understanding.

I think the greatest precipitator of negative thoughts within our hearts are the emotions and memories that form during human interactions which fail to meet our expectations for love, acceptance, respect, trust, devotion, and so forth. Beyond physical interactions with others are the words we use to express our thoughts, ideas, and emotions. There are words which can speak love and affirmation into the heart of another. But more often than not, we tend to dwell on the words which cause piercing wounds to our souls. Harsh words spoken in haste … demeaning words spoken in hate … words spoken that inflict emotional, and possibly, spiritual harm. Such words reveal the inner thoughts of our fallen humanity. And so, I think it is important to examine and address our attitudes and mindsets which can have a more positive impact on our relationships:

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Jesus knew first-hand the sorrow of humiliation; the dejection of being misunderstood; the painfulness of rejection; and ultimately the trauma of psychological and physical abuse. But on the cross of impending death, we find Jesus still interceding for us: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Cf. Luke 23:34) And despite the suffering and hardship that Paul endured to spread the Gospel, he did not let his mistreatment from the words or actions of others keep him from the zealous pursuit of intimacy with Christ. Paul allowed the transforming power and example of Christ to change the attitudes of his heart … and it is evident that his new way of thinking changed how he related to others.

Ephesians 4:22-27 (NIV)

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

There will always be disappointments in our lives. There will always be the failure of others to meet our expectations. There will always be situations and circumstances which God will allow to test our faith. So, when discouragement comes … when frustration arises … when bitterness or anger attempt to take root, Paul encourages us to think on better things – to take the higher road and a proactive approach regarding our thoughts – to follow the example of our Lord Jesus who suffered all these things and more. Paul advised: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things:

True:              Sanctify them by the Truth; Your Word is Truth. ~ John 17:17

Noble:             But noble people make noble plans, and by noble deeds they stand. ~ Isaiah 32:8

Right:             The word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does. ~ Genesis 4:7

Pure:              Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. ~ Psalm 51:10

Lovely:           How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! ~ Psalm 84:1

Admirable:    If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is admirable before God. ~ 1 Peter 2:20

Excellent:       And yet I will show you the most excellent way of love. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:31

Praiseworthy:            We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done. ~ Psalm 78:4

Paul urges us to meditate on these types of thoughts. Indeed, we will find the healing and deliverance we need when we seek what is true; moral; good; pure; attractive; and praiseworthy. When we do so, we demolish the strongholds of brokenness, unforgiveness, bitterness, and anger in our lives. Yes, we equip ourselves to take every negative thought captive to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5) So, I pray these scriptures will empower you with wisdom and perspective to reduce the negative thinking and its unhealthy impact on your life.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. ~ Colossians 3:1-3

Strive For Full Restoration…

Galatians 6:1 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

Restoration! I will say it again. Restoration! That is the call upon our lives as believers! God restored us to Himself through our Lord Jesus; and it will be no different for anyone else. This is the point of ministry: to heal brokenness; to deliver the captive from darkness; to urge reconciliation with the Father; to restore lives to fullness and wholeness. We who live by the Spirit of God dwelling within us are commissioned to facilitate reconciliation and restoration of those who are caught, trapped, or ensnared in sin. And, Paul adds, we are to do so with gentleness … knowing that we ourselves at one time were enslaved to our sinful human nature.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 2:1-5 (NIV)

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 flesh (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.

Paul wrote: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1) I think part of being a living sacrifice to others is being a vessel of healing and restoration … helping others experience the power of Jesus’ resurrection and to receive deliverance by declaring the truth of God’s will for our lives … yes, even our sanctification. We are not to pass judgment on others entangled in sin; rather, we need to pray for them and lead them to Jesus … the only Savior!  Jesus warned us not to be self-righteous or to have an attitude of condemnation towards other people. And Paul, likewise, confronts our inner propensity to elevate ourselves above others:

Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)

“Do not judge (condemn), or you too will be judged (condemned). For in the same way that you judge (condemn) others, you will be (condemned), and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Romans 2:1-4 (NIV)

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment (condemnation) on someone else, for at whatever point you judge (condemn) another, you are judging (condemning) yourself, because you who pass judgment do (or have done) 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 (or have done) the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment (condemnation)? 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?

This is the truth that we as the Body of Christ must remember: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (Cf. John 3:17) And it follows that Christ Jesus did not send His disciples into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through the life-changing light of the Gospel message! Yes, we who live by the Spirit are to be agents of reconciliation … resurrection … and restoration!  If we minister in gentleness and conduct ourselves with kindness, I believe we will be more effective in leading others to repentance and to the eternal life found in Jesus!  Indeed, as we have become recipients of God’s mercy and grace, let us extend that same mercy and grace to others.  Let us love one another as we have been loved by God in Christ. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. ~ 2 Corinthians 13:11

Ask For Wisdom…

James 1:5 (NIV)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Yesterday, our Verse of the Day challenged us with this instruction for prayer: Ask, Seek, and Knock! And we referenced this current Verse of the Day in our study. Jesus taught that prayer is the spiritual gift we have been given to have access – access to Him and access to the Father Himself. Not only did Jesus encourage prayer and teach His disciples how to pray, He modeled a life of prayer and often sought opportunities to spend quiet, intimate time with the Father. As believers, we too should ask, seek, and knock as we kneel before His throne of grace. Indeed, God desires intimate time with each of us and to come before Him in prayer! 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)

The Word of God teaches us that we should not be afraid to approach God at any time. Indeed, we are encouraged to approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Cf. Hebrews 4:16) The Apostle John, to encourage us in prayer, said: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him. (Cf. 1 John 5:13-15) But, as we studied yesterday, there is an issue we should consider in this regard – our motives. Sometimes when we ask, we do not receive, because we ask with wrong motives that are self-centered and focused on our own personal gain or pleasures. (Cf. James 4:3) Thus, it is clear that we must ask in accordance with the will of God. Even Jesus taught the disciples to pray in this manner: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven….” (Cf. Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4) It is important that we understand prayer is the spiritual mechanism God uses to align our wills with His will.

With these thoughts in mind, let’s look at our Verse of the Day a little more: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Here we are encouraged to ask God for wisdom to help us make the right decisions. If you are in the process of making a decision concerning your life, your family, your vocation, your location, your relationships, the use of your time, talent, or treasure; you should spend time in prayer before the throne of God. Why? Because there you will receive wisdom … there you will find confidence and assurance for the decisions you need to make. There you will find a compassionate Father who will give you the wisdom and discernment you seek. And note how James states that God will be generous! He will not reproach us for asking Him for wisdom; rather, He will pour it out on those who love Him and seek to do His will here on earth as it is in heaven….

So, I encourage anyone who is struggling with a decision (great or small), to enter their quiet place and kneel before the Father. In fervent prayer, ask God for wisdom. Ask Him for knowledge, ideas, solutions, needs, resources, or anything concerning you. But be sure to ask Him how the decision you need to make will align you with His will for your life. Inquire how the Father and the Son will be glorified by your decision. The answers you receive should fulfill both His will and His glory. And then you will have confidence He has heard you … and know that you have received what you asked. And so, I will close with this passage, because I think it demonstrates the power of prayer:

John 11:38- 45 (NIV)

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” He said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So, they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When He had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Therefore, many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in Him.

The Father “heard” Jesus because He prayed according to the will of the Father! And God’s will is for people to believe in Jesus. Likewise, His prayer for this incredible miracle was for people to see the glory of God. Indeed, God was glorified through what Jesus prayed to happen through the resurrection of Lazarus – many people came to faith in Jesus and believed in Him! And so, I pray these two specific purposes will be the first thoughts of our hearts when we come before God in prayer. For the Father will give the wisdom and understanding needed for our prayers to be aligned with His will and to bring Him glory. Where we live … where we work … and the relationships we build through life … are just contexts for us to discover what truly matters to God. When you ask, seek, or knock, the wisdom you are requesting is really how to align your decisions with serving God and exalting Him with your life. When our motives in prayer are God centered and focused, I am confident He will hear us.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

God said to Solomon, “Since this is your heart’s desire and you have not asked for wealth, possessions or honor, nor for the death of your enemies, and since you have not asked for a long life but for wisdom and knowledge to govern my people over whom I have made you king; therefore, wisdom and knowledge will be given you. And I will also give you wealth, possessions and honor, such as no king who was before you ever had and none after you will have.” ~ 2 Chronicles 1:11-12

Ask … Seek … Knock

Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Our Verse of the Day is probably quite familiar to most of you.  Jesus is teaching and imparting various spiritual lessons to those gathered and following Him. His “Sermon on the Mount” is found in Matthew Chapters 5-7.  If you have the opportunity this week, I would encourage to take some time to read it again.

Matthew 7:7-11 (NIV)

Ask and it will be given to you; Seek and you will find; Knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!

The passage is focused on our prayer time and quiet time before God.  The key principle is that we “ask” God for our needs, and that He is a loving and faithful Father and will give “good gifts to those who ask Him.”  Even the order of the action words in Verse 7 forms an acronym of the word “ASK” as shown:

            A         Ask

            S          Seek

            K         Knock

I believe Jesus is encouraging us to take “action” when in prayer. In prayer we are asking God for His help; seeking wisdom for our questions and concerns; and knocking on the doors of possibilities for answers to be provided.  But part of the deal is that we must believe God will answer prayer and do so in a manner that is “good” for us.  That might not always be what we think God should do or how He should answer our prayers…. The Apostles, as other inspired writers of Scripture, urge us to ask and seek God in prayer for our needs.

Note some of the insight surrounding prayer that James affords us:

James 1:5-7 (NIV)

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

James 4:1-3 (NIV)

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Paul was not afraid to seek God and to ask Him for “good things”. Here are some examples of powerful prayers that serve as models for us:

Ephesians 1:16-19 (NIV)

I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, 19 and His incomparably great power for us who believe.

Ephesians 3:15-21 (NIV)

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Colossians 1:9-12 (NIV)

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the kingdom of light.

And, of course, John encourages us to trust in the character of the Father and the Son to answer our prayers:

1 John 3:21-23 (NIV)

Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He (Jesus) commanded us.

1 John 5:13-15 (NIV)

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.

What are some of your take-aways from these passages?  Mine are that we should ask in faith; ask according to His revealed will; and have confidence before God that we will receive. We know God is generous and good, but what we ask and how we ask and the intimacy of our personal relationship with God appear to affect answers and outcomes to our prayers.  I believe we need to examine ourselves in these areas of our walks. If we ever come to the conclusion that God does not hear, perhaps the problem is not God at all….

Jesus instructed us to simply ASK.  If we will keep His commands; do what pleases Him; and ask according to His will – He will hear us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.  So, let’s start asking for the conviction to consecrate our lives to God.  Let’s start praying for holiness to be the fervent passion of our hearts.  Let’s start resisting the devil who lies and deceives and tempts us with unbelief. Indeed, let’s start submitting ourselves to God wholly and completely … knowing that our gracious Father knows how to give good gifts to those who ask Him.  Amen!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” ~ Luke 11:10-13

Do Not Be Deceived…

Galatians 6:7-8 (NIV)

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Our Verse of the Day is connected with the last few we have studied.  To me, the Spirit is trying to focus us on the sincerity of our hearts … the genuineness of our faith. We will all stand before Father God … at the judgment seat of Christ; and we will account for the truth of our lives – which has always been known by God. His Light will expose every hidden thought and act of darkness within us on that Day! (Cf. Luke 8:17; 1 Corinthians 4:5; Hebrews 4:13) What we often fail to remember is that “Day” will be the day of our passing or the day of our resurrection. And we do not know the day nor the hour when that will occur. (Cf. Matthew 24:36; 25:13; Mark 13:32)

Therefore, Paul admonishes us to consider our manner of life – what we do and how we interact with others; and he advises us to not deceive ourselves by comparing our hearts and lives with others.  As Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?” (Cf. Jeremiah 17:9) Paul is telling us not to deceive ourselves. God sees and knows everything about us … what we say and what we do every moment we are breathing. We are foolish if we think He does not see:

Genesis 16:13 (NIV)

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

Job 11:11 (NIV)

Surely, He recognizes deceivers; and when He sees evil, does He not take note?

Job 31:4 (NIV)

Does He not see my ways and count my every step?

Psalm 33:13-15 (NIV)

The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling, He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

Psalm 94:7-11 (NIV)

They say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.” Take notice, you senseless ones among the people; you foolish people, when will you become wise? Does He who fashioned the ear not hear? Does He who formed the eye not see? Does He who disciplines nations not punish? Does He who teaches mankind lack knowledge. The Lord knows all human plans; He knows that they are futile.

1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

This is the message we have heard from Him (Jesus) and declare to you: God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. 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. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.

And so, the point here is about self-deception.  We need to be honest with ourselves.  We need to be transparent before both God and man.  God sees us even if we are able to hide the truth from others!  God knows us even if we are able to hide our actions from others! And Paul warns us that whatever we sow … we will reap – both physically and spiritually. That is the bottom line! Everything we say or do has an effect on ourselves and most likely on those around us. And God sees it all! Now, let’s put our Verse of the Day into its surrounding context so we can see some additional application:

Galatians 6:1-10 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

When I looked at our verse in the surrounding context, I began to see something different – something that I had not really considered before regarding sowing and reaping.  Most of the time I’ve only considered the outcome of what sowing to my own flesh would produce … how it would please me. I did not think about the impact of what I sowed to my own flesh (sinful nature) on others.  For example, if I were to broadcast the sin of another person, not only do I harm them emotionally and spiritually, I am reaping destruction within my own heart. Why? Because I am not loving that other person as Christ Jesus has loved me.  We are to comfort each other and encourage one another. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:11) We are to carry each other’s burdens. To do otherwise is to disregard the command of Christ to love one another and to be filled with sanctimonious pride. And we know that God will oppose the proud. (Cf. James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5) I started to think about what Paul said about us judging others of their sin:

Romans 2:1-3 (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 (See Romans 1:18-32) 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?

When we sow to the flesh, the consequences impact not only ourselves but those around us … often in ways we might not see … or deliberately ignore.  It is a road that leads to destruction and we are urged to forego the temptation. But then Paul asserts there is an alternative – to “sow to please the Spirit”.  He instructs that our conduct … our thoughts and deeds … should be cultivated in a mindset to please the Holy Spirit. When we sow to please the Spirit, our objective is to bare the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) But do you realize that this fruit is the outcome of what we sow into the lives of other people?  Look at each of the nine fruits listed. Every one of them is relational; otherwise, they have no meaningful context or purpose for being produced! I truly think Paul was writing with this in mind when discussing the concept of reaping and sowing. I believe doing good … sowing the seeds of spiritual fruit into the lives of others is the harvest that the Lord is seeking to reap through us. In this way we fulfill the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Cf. James 2:8)

So, I pray each of us will thoughtfully consider what sowing to our own flesh really produces and who it ultimately impacts. Sin not only hinders our walk with Jesus; it discredits our testimony with others – which ultimately dishonors the Savior who redeemed us with His own blood.  Again, we have been called to holiness; to be conformed to His image. (Cf. Romans 8:29) And, “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.” (Cf. Romans 12:2) Indeed, Paul has warned us not to be deceived or to deceive ourselves … or somehow be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3) Indeed, let us get serious and sow to please the Spirit so that our lives in Jesus will bear the fruit of the Spirit.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” ~ Matthew 12:35-37

Persevere In Faith…

James 1:2-3 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Our Verse of the Day is probably familiar to most of us since we have referenced it in a few studies. Still, it is always a timely reminder that the circumstances and hardships we encounter in life have purpose; and I think we need to have spiritual perspective in those moments. We will all face trials of many kinds in this life.  Some trials will be inflicted by others who sin against us.  Some will be self-inflicted through falling into temptation or making unwise decisions. And some trouble will simply be the result of natural or spiritual forces beyond our control.  We can do nothing to change our genetic codes. Nature itself often inflicts hardship and brings suffering to people. And demonic influences are quite active to suppress the truth of God and to oppress those who come to Him through faith in Jesus.

But regardless of the source of the tribulations we encounter, I think there is one lesson God wants us to learn: TRUST HIM!  All these situations will test or challenge our faith, but the goal our Heavenly Father has in mind is for us to persevere in faith.  Through patient endurance and through the obedience that comes from faith, we demonstrate whether our faith in God is authentic or genuine. As we have already studied, Peter articulates this truth quite well:

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NLT)

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by His great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation (a living hope),and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. RejoiceThere is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So, when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.You love Jesus even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls.

I believe this powerful exhortation is the same truth that James focused on here in his epistle: perseverance in faith! Remember, Jesus told His disciples (and us), “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart (have courage)! I have overcome the world!” (Cf. John 16:33) Likewise, the Apostle John confirms: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (Cf. 1 John 4:4) And, again, “For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Cf. 1 John 5:4-5) So, it is the strength of our faith that produces in us the capacity to walk through and overcome the trials we will endure in this life.

James 1:4-8 (NIV)

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

I hope these scriptures will encourage you as you face the trials and temptations that life brings.  Always remember God is faithful; and He wants to develop a strong and genuine faith in you and me. And I believe that He allows troubles in our lives to accomplish this very purpose! He is not against us. He is for us! As Paul attested: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” (Citing Psalm 44:22) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the heavens or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Cf. Romans 8:35-39 NLT)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:1-5

Love Your Neighbor…

Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Our Verse of the Day reminds us of what we have heard since childhood – known as the “Golden Rule.” Instilled within us was the adage: “Treat other people the same way you want them to treat you.”  You will find this same message recorded in Luke 6:31 as well. This relational concept stems from the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” found in Leviticus 19:18. Jesus quotes this OT passage in His teachings found at Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, and Luke 10:27. But Jesus goes on to explain that love is the essence of what all the Law and the Prophets were revealing from God.

The Apostle Paul affirmed this teaching in his epistles:

Romans 12:9-11 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

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

Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV)

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 peace.

Galatians 5:13-15 (NIV)

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. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

The Apostle Peter confirmed the same instruction:

1 Peter 1:21-23 (NIV)

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV)

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

And the Apostle John preserved for us the spiritual depth of this command: To love one another as Jesus has loved us:

John 13:34-35 (NIV)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

1 John 3:10-11 (NIV)

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1 John 4:11-13 (NIV)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.

So, I pray we will take this message to heart as we prepare for His Coming.  I pray we will make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. I pray we will be proactive in our communities to show the love of God to others … bringing the Good News of Jesus to fill their hearts with the knowledge of the truth: “For God so loved the world.” Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

 If you fulfil the royal law according to the scripture that says, you shall love your neighbor as yourself – you do well. ~ James 2:8

When You Are Tempted…

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

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.

Our Verse of the Day encourages us to continue the pursuit of holiness for our lives. Let’s break it down and examine it in more detail:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.

No matter what you are going through … no matter what you face in the battle against sin in your life … there is someone else who has waged the same fight. The sinful human nature is common to the human life we experience here on earth. And if you have been “overtaken” by the sin that so easily ensnares you (Cf. Hebrews 12:1), know that you are not alone. What you have allowed to become a stronghold in your life is common to all mankind. And I believe the greatest temptation that has overtaken any human is the sin of “unbelief.” I think when most sin occurs is when we are most vulnerable to its deception and we have fallen into faithlessness toward God. Yes, when we ignore His invitation to intimacy, we lose the awareness that God sees all! David asked: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Cf. Psalm 139:7) Indeed, there is no place we can go outside of His presence. When we wander from God, we do not leave His presence; rather, we abandon His divine power and His hand upon our lives. Unbelief weakens us! It renders us powerless to overcome sin rather than being mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. Yet, there is an answer to this plight of temptation!

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

The reason temptation can overtake us is because we try to fight the battle in our flesh and not in the Spirit realm. Our weapons to resist and flee are not natural but spiritual! And those weapons are fasting, prayer, and the sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God! (Cf. Ephesians 6:17) Paul instructs us to put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil (temptation) comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand. (Cf. Ephesians 6:13). Even Jesus was not exempt from being tempted by Satan when He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness! With every high and lofty arrow of temptation aimed straight for His heart, Jesus responded to Satan with Scripture: “It is written….” (Cf. Matthew 4:1-10) So, do we know the Word of God well enough to fight or resist temptation? Are we spiritually armored up to do battle and to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ? Spiritual warfare is real, my friends! And on the battlefields of our minds and hearts, the war will be won or lost….

God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

I think far too often we lose battles and wave our white flags of surrender because we have not prepared ourselves for the war. When we “cave to crave” we have not yet reached what we can bear. Remember, God will not let us be tempted (tested) beyond what we can bear! So, what happens? Why do we sometimes fail? I believe James gives us some insight:

James 1:12-15 (NIV)

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

So, we see that temptation comes from within our hearts. We just examined the condition of man – when the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. (Cf. Genesis 6:5) David asked, “Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? (Cf. Psalm 20:9) Paul observed that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23) And John asserted: “If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us.” (Cf. 1 John 1:10) We need clean hearts and right spirits in order to find the path to victory!

What an encouragement to know that even when we are tempted … even when we are weak or faithless … God is still faithful to us. Indeed, His kindness is always intended to lead us to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) David found that place of repentance; and we would do well to carefully observe His confession. I encourage you to read Psalm 51 … but this excerpt is what came to my heart: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Cf. Psalm 51:10-12) And John affirmed, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (Cf. 1 John 1:9)

But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

The truth of the matter is you and I will be tempted. The text does not read, “But IF you are tempted….” No human being is or has ever been without temptation. It has become part of our human experience since the transgression of Adam and Eve. And even though God showed Himself mighty to deliver His people, they still wandered and rebelled against Him. God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) And yet Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Cf. Luke 18:8) Faith is essential in this battle against temptation, because faith determines whether or not we will engage our human will to resist each temptation that comes. I am reminded what Moses wrote:

Deuteronomy 8:2-5 (NIV)

2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. 6 Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to Him and revering Him.

God took His people into the wilderness and then He led them through it. God caused His people to hunger … and then He fed them. So, I think it is important for us to realize the testing and trials that the Lord allows are not temptations; rather, they are used to expose the truth of what lies within our hearts. As Peter explained: “These (trials) have come so that the 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.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:7) And James encouraged: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Cf. James 1:2-4)

My friends, we will all be sifted! We will all be subjected to temptation … in order to test the sincerity of our faith! But let me encourage you, that even now, Jesus sits at the right hand of God and He is interceding for us. (Cf. Hebrews 7:24-25) God may send you into the wilderness, but He will lead you through it. God may allow you to hunger and thirst, but He will fill you and sustain your life. God may allow Satan to sift you with temptation to test the genuineness of your faith, but Jesus will intercede for you so that your faith may not fail. Praise Him!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” ~ Psalm 119:11

Shine Like Stars…

Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the Word of Life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

Our Verse of the Day is a good word for us because it brings into focus the need for us to be mindful in how we relate to one another within the Church.  By Church I mean not only the local assembly where we attend, but also the entire Body of Christ throughout the world! Paul admonishes us: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, as children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  He speaks of an attitude or mindset that we should have within ourselves … following the example our Lord Jesus modeled for us:

Philippians 2:3-16 (NRSV) – Imitate the Humility of Christ

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that you have in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world16 It is by your holding fast to the Word of Life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 

There are some other Scriptures that come to mind when I look at how our Lord Jesus handled conflicts with people:

Isaiah 53:3-7 (NRSV)

He (the Messiah) was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and sorrows … and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces. He was despised, and we held Him of no account. Surely, He has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the punishment that made us whole and by His bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.

Matthew 27:11-14 (NRSV) (See also Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-9)

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor (Pontius Pilate); and the governor asked Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12 But when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, Jesus did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14 But He gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

1 Peter 2:21-23 (NRSV)

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When He was abused, He did not return abuse; when He suffered, He did not threaten or retaliate; rather, He entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.

It is clear that when we act or respond in humility to real or perceived wrongs, we follow the example of Jesus as He dealt with those who mistreated Him.  He did not grumble or argue.  He did not engage in verbal retorts or assaults.  He did not retaliate against those who bore false witness against Him. When scourged and physically abused, Jesus did not return abuse for the suffering inflicted upon His body. No, Jesus entrusted Himself to the Father … to the One who judges rightly. The Apostle Paul weighs in on this issue as well; and I think he affords us some additional insight:

Romans 12:9-20 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 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. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Citing Deuteronomy 32:3520 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Citing Proverbs 25:21-22)

So why are we taught to deny ourselves and pick up our own crosses each day? Why are we urged to have these qualities … these attitudes or mindsets to guide our character and conduct?  In short, the answer is LOVE!  This is what sincere love in action looks like! This is how genuine love manifests itself! “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) Indeed, we need to learn to love as Jesus loved! As Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35)

Oh, how I pray that each of us will be diligent to reflect the love of God through the example that Jesus has shown us. I pray we will embrace the mindset of Christ within our hearts.  That is what will impact our nation and the world.  This is what will bring about healing and deliverance. This is how the world will know we are HIS disciples … when we love others as Jesus has loved us!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Walk By The Spirit…

Galatians 5:16 (NIV)

So, I say walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

In Leviticus 11, Moses has been instructing on the practices of consecration … separation from the world in order to be a distinct people for service to God. In the context, Moses is revealing dietary ordinances distinguishing between clean and unclean animals – what is acceptable for consumption and what has been deemed detestable. And for our purpose today, the issue is not what foods we can eat or avoid; rather, the issue is discerning between clean and unclean … between holiness and unrighteousness. Thus, we see warnings and admonitions as Moses proclaimed the Word of God and wrote: “Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them.I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground.I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” (Cf. Leviticus 11:43-45)

Notice the phrases: “Do not ….” Do not defile yourselves. Do not make yourselves unclean. These speak to our own conduct … our own behaviors … the fulfillment of our own desires as opposed to what God has ordained and purposed for us. And this issue of holiness has been the challenge for humans since the beginning. In Genesis 6:5, we read: “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” His displeasure with humans was so great that God caused a Great Flood of the earth to eliminate its wickedness – sparing only Noah, his family, and a remnant of the animals. Yet, what do we read afterwards as Noah built an altar to the Lord and offered sacrifices in worship? “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in His heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Cf. Genesis 8:21) Interesting that despite the rainbow and the revealed mercy of God, the condition of the human heart still remains unchanged….

It is clear from Scripture (and personal experience) that humans have a sinful nature … a propensity and capacity (human will) to separate ourselves from God rather than drawing ourselves to God. Sin separates us from God. Sanctification draws us to God. So, if we intend to respond to this command from God; if we want to be holy (set apart) because our Father and Creator is holy, then we need a solution to our innate inclination towards evil within our hearts. And this concern brings me to what Paul exhorts in our Verse of the Day: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Let’s look at our verse in its surrounding context:

Galatians 5:13-25 (NIV)

13 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. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Citing Leviticus 19:18) 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 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.

From this passage, we can readily understand that the acts of the flesh stem from every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart. Such behaviors … such human conduct … define the sin which separates us from intimacy with God. And so, to walk in the Spirit … to live under His perpetual influence … it is necessary to be filled with His abiding presence. The Holy Spirit must indwell you in order for the process of holiness to be ignited in your heart. And this leads me to Jesus! Jesus sends the gift of the Holy Spirit to indwell the one who believes in Him … and receives Him. This is the abiding, personal relationship that Jesus taught His disciples … and teaches us even now in our generation:

John 15:1-12 (NIV)

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes (cleans) so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Powerful words … powerful affirmation! God in His mercy, to address sin within the human heart and to remove its deception and corruption of our souls, sent His Son, Jesus, to this earth to rescue us … to redeem us … to deliver us from the power of sin and its penalty: Death! (Cf. Romans 6:23) Christ paid the ultimate penalty of sin for us on the cross! Every drop of His precious blood was poured out for us. He was the Lamb of God slain to atone for our sin. (Cf. 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10) Why? Because God is Holy! And to be in relationship with Him, we must be holy according to His command. And Jesus is the One who consecrates and sanctifies us before God. When we are in Christ, when we belong to Him, we receive His power over sin. As the Apostle 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)

My friends, God is calling His people … His children to holiness! Yes, the Father is calling all who desire to intimately know Him … who want to become His children … to sanctification and holiness through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Because He has said, “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Holiness begins when a person places his or her faith in Jesus Christ; and it is manifested through the fruit of the Spirit. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Indeed, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. ~ 1 John 1:6-8