Abounding In Love…

Psalm 86:5 (NIV)

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.

Our Verse of the Day is a great reminder that God really does love us! Despite our sins and failures, God declared in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Why would God do that for us? Because He remembers His covenant forever … the promise He made … for a thousand generations. (Cf. Psalm 105:8) Yes, the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God … slow to anger … abounding in love and faithfulness. (Cf. Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 103:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2) Do you see the diversity of biblical writers who affirmed this same truth?

Psalm 103:13-18 (NIV)

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. The life of humans is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. 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.

God desires us to be holy. He wants us to be perfected … yet He knows how we are formed and remembers that we are but dust.  In our human state, we will not fully attain the holiness that God requires. But in His love and compassion for His children (those who fear Him), God has provided salvation for us!  God sent His Son, Jesus, so that through Him we might be saved, covered by His holiness, and given His perfect righteousness. Yes, His righteousness is imputed to us through faith! (Cf. Romans 4) For if salvation were possible within ourselves or through our own deeds, then there would be no need of a Savior…. But God, who is rich in mercy, demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8)

I believe there is someone who needs to hear this truth again! Someone here needs assurance that God truly loves them. I say to you, “Do not look at your circumstances. Whatever you might be enduring at this moment will not separate you from the love of God.” (Cf. Romans 8:35-39) My child, my friend, my brother or sister in Christ; I can assure you through the trustworthy Word of God … You are loved! The Father says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” (Cf. Jeremiah 31:3) So I urge you, seek the heart of God! Do not dismiss or forsake the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience; rather, understand His kindness is intended to lead you to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) For who among any of us can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin? (Cf. Proverbs 20:9)

Yes, I love this Psalm because it draws us to our loving, gracious, and forgiving Lord. It is a prayer that looks to the faithfulness of God in our lives. It prompts us to entrust ourselves to God … it affirms His mercies and compassion … and it encourages us to worship Him who alone is worthy of praise and honor and glory. Indeed, let the inspired prayer of David speak directly to you and be the cry of your own heart this morning:

 

Psalm 86 – A Prayer of David.

Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God;

Have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.

You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name.
10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.

11 Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.
12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.

14 Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God; ruthless people are trying to kill me— they have no regard for you.
15 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did.
17 Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May He send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May He remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the Lord grant all your requests. ~ Psalm 20:1-5

Be Completely Humble…

Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Our Verse of the Day continues with the theme of humility as an inherent quality of servant leadership. As you recall, after their Passover Meal in the upper room, Jesus was teaching and instructing His disciples to practice an attitude of humility and servanthood like His own. Jesus asserted if you desire to be first … in a position of leadership … then you need to put yourself last and be a servant to all. (Cf. Mark 9:35) Then we looked at some practical ways to exercise humility and a servant’s heart that Paul offered us.  Here we find some additional instruction from Paul on the desired character of believers.  I will reprint it along with the surrounding context of the passage for your reference:

Ephesians 4:1-7 (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. There 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. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

What we find in this passage are several key points related to servant leadership:

  1. Servant Leadership may come with a high price … for Paul is was imprisonment for his devotion and loyalty to Christ Jesus.
  2. Servant Leadership is inherent to living a life worthy of the election to salvation and eternal life that we have received as a gift from God.
  3. Servant Leadership requires our conduct to be completely humble; gentle; patient; longsuffering; loving; etc. Think fruit of the Spirit…. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23)
  4. Servant Leadership is concerned about unity … making every effort to encourage unity and the bond of peace among believers.

Paul will continue to explain how servant leaders are equipped according to the grace Jesus determines to apportion (or give) to us:

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)

So Christ Himself gave (the offices or roles of ) the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ (the Church) may be built up 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.

What Paul is saying here is that Christ Jesus determines (selects and ordains) who HE places as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers over HIS people.  These are roles or offices … leadership positions … that Christ GAVE for the benefit and edification of HIS people (the Church). Their purpose is to equip believers for ministry in order for the Church to grow, AND to bring unity in the faith and in the knowledge of Jesus in order for believers to mature and to attain the fullness of Christ. And the leaders that He has placed in these positions are not to seek being “first” or being “the preeminent” in His Body; rather, they are to be humble and to consider themselves “last” by being “servants to all”. Yes, be aware of those who appoint themselves to positions of leadership in the Church. 

There is only one FIRST … our Lord Jesus!  He is the First and the Last!  The Alpha and the Omega.  The Beginning and the End.  He is the head of the Body, the Church. (Cf. Colossians 1:18) According to the grace of God, all of us who have been saved through faith, have been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.  But those Christ Jesus has GIVEN to leadership over His Church are to be “servants to all”.  And those who are given specific roles as leaders to the Church should seek to fulfill their responsibilities with all humility and excellence – keeping in mind that leaders are to build up His people and equip them for works of service….

If you have been appointed by Christ Jesus to a leadership role within the Church, then let our Verse of the Day be a quick guide on how to conduct yourself in the “position” you have been appointed to fulfill.  Remember, the Lord Jesus gave you to His Church for a reason. If that thought does not humble you, I am not sure what will.  Being given to minister to the Church does not make you the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven; rather, consider this parable that Jesus shared with His disciples:

Luke 17:7-10 (NIV)

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So, you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

It is exercising the humility that comes with your appointment that will reveal the attitude of your heart:

Matthew 18:1-5 (NKJV)

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

Luke 9:46-48 (NIV)

An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside Him. Then He said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

Being a leader at the appointment of Christ Jesus will require you to be the least and a servant to all … but in doing so, you will produce much fruit to the glory of God the Father and our Lord Jesus.  I pray we will always remember these words Jesus spoke: 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. 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. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (Cf. John 15:5-8)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. ~ Matthew 23:11-12

A Servant of All…

Mark 9:35 (NIV)

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Our Verse of the Day continues our call to humility, and I used it in a previous commentary.  Jesus taught that if you want to be a leader … if you want to be first … then you have to put yourself last.  A leader is expected to be a servant … a servant of all.

Mark 9:30-36 (NIV)

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because He was teaching His disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and after three days He will rise.” But they did not understand what He meant and were afraid to ask Him about it. They came to Capernaum. When He was in the house, He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child whom He placed among them. Taking the child in His arms, He said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the One who sent me.”

What I find fascinating concerning the argument over who was the greatest in the group of disciples is that the matter came up on the heels of their failure to heal a boy possessed by an impure spirit. Jesus had rebuked them for their lack of faith … even though He had given them power and authority to perform such signs and wonders. (Cf. Mark 9:14-29) Nevertheless, they were apparently enamored with their “power” to exercise authority over physical affliction, illness, and demonic oppression. One can sense that these giftings began to fill them with spiritual pride. It would seem they were misguided with self-importance because of the power and authority given to them. So, Jesus had to correct their wrong thinking. Their gifts were given to serve other people … not themselves or to affirm their own spiritual egos. Their gifts were given to draw people to the divine source of power manifested through those gifts and to confirm the truth of the testimony of God concerning His Son. Spiritual gifts are about Jesus … and not about us.

How easy it can become to glory in our spiritual gifts rather than to exalt the One who gave them. Jesus cautioned the disciples to keep their attitudes in check … to remain humble even while operating in the supernatural. This is evident from the narrative below:

Luke 10:17-20 (NIV)

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

It is not always about what we do or how we serve the Lord Jesus. It is simply about Him … His Name … His Identity … His Love which surpasses all understanding! As Jesus stated, we should rejoice in our salvation through Him! The gifts of the Holy Spirit are the tools He uses through us (His servants) to show forth His power and glory … so that the Gospel is seen and heard in truth by unbelievers! Gifts confirm your authority to speak the truth – not to exhibit some sort of superiority over others. Spiritual gifts manifest your heart is obedient to the One who called you and gifted you to serve one another in love. And Jesus role-modeled this “unorthodox” approach to spiritual leadership with His disciples:

John 13:1-17 (NIV)

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For He knew who was going to betray Him, and that was why He said not everyone was clean.

When He (Jesus) had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than His master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent Him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Think about this scene for a moment.  Jesus has just humbled Himself like an ordinary servant to make an important point with His disciples.  Jesus had just taught them that He and the Father are One; and yet, Jesus demonstrates that He is willing to serve out of reverence to the Father who sent Him into the world.  Servants are not greater than their masters.  Messengers are not greater than the ones who send them.  And that is what His disciples were to become … SENT ONES or Apostles.  Likewise, we are sent ones … sent for the same mission … to share the good news of Jesus Christ. We are not greater than the One who has called us and sent us on this mission.  Therefore, we are to follow the example of Christ – and be servants of all! Paul, as usual, shares some very practical advice on HOW to be a servant:

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

As believers we are called to be “servants to all”. This is our job description as followers of Christ.  We are to be ambassadors of the good news found in Jesus Christ … as though God were making His appeal through us. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) Paul did the most incredible work in this regard, and he urges us to follow in his footsteps. Yes, we as believers have been ordained to join the “legacy of witnesses” who have testified to the truth that is found in Christ Jesus! We came to faith because of hearing the message of Jesus Christ that was preached to us and we received it in our hearts.  We were born again of imperishable seed through the living and enduring Word of God. (Cf. 1 Peter 1:23) And like the Apostles before us, we have been “sent” to serve living in our generation.

Will we be obedient to His call to share the Gospel with those God has chosen for salvation? Are you and I willing to wash feet?  Are you and I willing to become all things to all people so that by all possible means we might facilitate their coming to faith in Jesus Christ … and therefore be saved … bringing glory to the God who saved us?  What are we willing to do for the sake of the Gospel? These are the questions of “servant leadership.”  Indeed, we must humble ourselves to answer them as Jesus did…. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. ~ Mark 10:42-45

Worship In Spirit and Truth

John 4:24 (NIV)

God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in Truth.

I love our Verse of the Day (yesterday) because it addresses two great points about worship.  Jesus taught that our worship of God must be specific and intentional Specific addresses that worship must be spiritual.  Intentional addresses that worship must be sincere.  To explain spiritual matters in practical terms, I usually turn to the Apostle Paul for his insight:

Romans 12:1 (New International Version)

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 (English Standard Version)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your (rational) spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1 (New American Standard Bible)

Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

Romans 12:1 (New King James Version)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable (rational) service.

I reprinted several translations of Romans 12:1 because I want you to get a sense of how diverse the Greek is translated in this passage.  Regardless of how the relationship to worship is presented (i.e., true and proper worship; rational or reasonable; or spiritual worship), all the passages agree that acceptable worship to God is the presentation of yourself … your body as a living and holy sacrifice.  In other words, true and reasonable worship through our physical beings is how spiritual worship is manifested. And Paul indicates to us that true worship is sacrificial in nature and holy in motivation.  Acceptable worship means we have set ourselves apart (think consecration or sanctification) to serve God and His Kingdom in these vessels He has given us – that is our human bodies.

Perhaps easier said than done, but spiritual worship … true worship is ultimately manifested through a sacrificial offering of “surrendered” selves to God.  It means everything we are in our inner being is focused on pleasing Him and doing His will.  That requires submission, but not to religious rites or human rules; rather, it requires a reverent fear of our Holy Father – who saved us and called us to be holy just as He is holy. (Cf. 1 Peter 1:16) It means that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. (Cf. Luke 9:23) It means to do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than what animal sacrifices were to represent. (Cf. Proverbs 21:3)

Isaiah 29:13-14 (NIV)

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. Therefore, once more, I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish; the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

My friends, worship is not something we can pretend.  Worship is specific … it is intentional. It is not following a prescribed set of rules or ritual taught by organized denominations or hierarchies.  Worship is the sincere, rational expression of the intimacy between you and the Father through Jesus Christ. The closer you draw to Him … the more you submit to Him … the more you will abide in Him (and He in you). (Cf. John 15:4-10) Worship becomes a natural expression of your physical life in Christ. Everything you do in your body, as a living sacrifice, becomes Spirit led and will bear the fruit of the Spirit. As such, worship will never be contrived; rather, it will be an outpouring of the wellspring of life within you…. 

Indeed, God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him both in the Spirit and in Truth.  Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” ~ Matthew 4:10

The Struggle Is Real…

Ephesians 6:12-13 (NIV)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

We have studied this passage before, but I would like to revisit it again because conflicts within human relationships are inevitable. And I want us to consider this scripture within the context of close relationships. Our innate human nature is to be focused on our own physical needs and emotional desires. And while it is not inherently wrong in to seek our own well-being; to exert a self-centered will on other people in the process can be a source of contention and disagreement. And the ensuing conflict will have to be navigated or negotiated in order to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Cf. Ephesians 4:3)

What Paul shares with us here is some insight into the source of our interpersonal conflicts … that they may not always be in the natural or physical realm (against flesh and blood); rather, Paul asserts that when we have struggles against with one another, the issue is most likely a spiritual one … a spiritual battle, if you will. And so, the fight is not necessarily with the person in front of you; rather, it is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil that can exert themselves in our minds and through our bodies (actions). I believe this knowledge should cause us to pause and think before we react to what another person is saying or doing. For example:

Matthew 16:21-23 (NIV)

From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

While Peter may have been well-intentioned in his feelings and how he addressed Jesus in that moment of emotion; Jesus clearly indicated that he was wrong. And Jesus told Peter that his concerns were misguided by spiritual forces of evil … by Satan himself. Thus, a conflict ensued and Jesus used the occasion to teach the disciples a profound lesson in spiritual warfare:

Matthew 16:24-26 (NIV)

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Likewise, Paul goes on to speak about the “armor of God” and its protection against the spiritual forces of evil. (Cf. Ephesians 6:14-16) He taught that our only offensive weapon against evil is the sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God. (Cf. Ephesians 6:17) And Paul affirmed that prayer in the Spirit … on all occasion with all kinds of prayer and requests … was essential to inflict offensive maneuvers against the spiritual forces of evil. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Cf. Ephesians 6:18) Yes, when someone gets adversarial with you … pray for them! Seek counsel from the Word of God! And remember that disciples of Christ Jesus must deny themselves … take up their crosses … and follow Him. In a sense, this means you give up your right to be “right” because Jesus taught us to give and expect nothing in return; when offended to turn the other cheek; and to love and pray for our enemies.

Matthew 5:38-45 (NIV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

Note Verse 45 – “that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” A child of God … born of the Spirit through the Word … will follow Jesus and put His teaching into practice. And this is what Peter instructed in his epistle as well – encouraging believers to understand that we, too, will suffer like Jesus as we follow in His footsteps:

1 Peter 3:8-18 (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. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. 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) Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

I believe it is clear that offenses will come. There will be differences and disagreements between people … even people of faith. But if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Cf. Romans 12:18) For Jesus taught us to pick up a cross of suffering for ourselves and to follow Him … “that we may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conform to His death,” as Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10. For even if you should suffer for what is right … you are blessed. So, stand your ground, and pray! Pray in the Spirit! Yes, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people! Love, bless, and pray for those who oppose you! For the battle is a spiritual one … and in the end, the battle belongs to the Lord.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Humble Yourselves…

James 4:10 (NIV)

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Our Verse of the Day might be short, but it has a profound theological application for us. Let’s look at the context first:

James 4:1-10 (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. You adulterous people (those unfaithful to covenant with God)! Don’t you know that friendship with the world (desiring the things of the world) means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that He jealously longs for the spirit He has caused to dwell in us? But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (Cf. Proverbs 3:34) Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

When we look at our verse in context, it takes on deeper meaning and challenges us to look at the issues of humility and submission. James begins with the desires of our own hearts. He exposes the intensity of desire by describing the “carnal” behaviors associated with it … when personal desires exert themselves above what God wills for us. Sometimes our own desires drive us to murder or kill (and that could be with the tongue). Sometimes our own desires drive us to quarrel and fight. Sometimes we believe that God should grant us what we pray for, but we have asked Him with wrong motives in our hearts. What we want is often self-gratifying and not God glorifying! James describes all of these behaviors as “friendship with the world” because they come from the desires of our flesh … and not from the Spirit of God. And when a believer acts in these ways it creates “enmity with God.” He or she is in opposition to what God has called them to be in Christ Jesus.

James confronts believers who have allowed themselves to be filled with everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life— because these come not from the Father but from the world. (Cf. 1 John 2:16) He admonishes us to submit ourselves to God and to resist temptation and to flee from what will destroy intimacy with God. James calls for repentance … a change in direction … a change in our mindset lest the enemy gain a foothold; and then become a stronghold. James advises that if we desire something for ourselves, then we are to humble ourselves before God and allow Him to grant it according to His own will and purposes. Indeed, our Lord Jesus afforded the greatest examples of what humility before the Father should look like.

Philippians 2:3-11 (NIV)

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! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

John 13:3-5; 12-17 (NIV)

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.

When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Mark 10:42-45 (NIV)

Jesus called the disciples together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Oh, what this world could be … what the Body of Christ should be … if we would just submit ourselves to God and humble ourselves before Him. As Jesus taught, “All those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Cf. Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14) Throughout the Scriptures, God asks His people, those who He called to be His own, to humble themselves! And I believe humility begins with reverence for God; understanding that His Will and His Word have final authority over all He created, including us! God is sovereign; and we are to obey the Lord our God in all that He has commanded us. As Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 8:3, “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.” Likewise, God opposes the proud … those who would exalt themselves. For the proud do not seek God; in their thoughts there is no room for God. (Cf. Psalm 10:4) As King Solomon observed, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Cf. Proverbs 11:2) And, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Cf. Proverbs 16:18)

Lord, I pray that we your people will humble ourselves under your mighty hand. For you will not yield your glory to another … and whoever exalts themselves will be humbled. You, Lord, are the potter; and we are the clay in your hands. You, O God, determined in advance the works you have prepared for your people to accomplish. You, O Lord, appointed gifts for your people as you determined. What you chose for one you did not choose for another … so that we might submit ourselves to one another … so that we might serve one another in love as you taught us. So, I pray Lord, that we will respond to this wisdom you have given us in Your Word … that we, your children, might be meek and lowly in heart … that we might not think more highly of ourselves than we ought. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. Let us exercise our gifts according to your grace so that You, and You alone, are exalted! In your Sovereign Name, I pray. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Therefore, humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand so that He may lift you up in due time. ~ 1 Peter 5:5-6

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