Thanksgiving For Giving…

Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Our Verse of the Day instructs us to give thanks to God through the name of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is right for us to always be giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf. Ephesians 5:20) So, let us joyfully give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of Light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Cf. Colossians 1:12-14)

Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Oh, what wisdom the Apostle Paul has shared in his epistle to the Colossian believers!  He instructs us to be thankful … to live in accordance with the lavish grace and redemption we have received in Christ Jesus … and to always give thanks to the Father through Him!  As we studied yesterday: just as we received Christ Jesus as Lord, so we should continue to live our lives in Him.  And so, look at the examples of HOW we should live as God’s chosen people! Yes, whatever we say or do, all is to be done in Jesus’ name to the glory of God the Father.

In this context, I feel compelled to share this word from God that resonated with me during my quiet time this morning. I want to draw our attention to the thanksgiving that comes from giving:

2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (NIV)

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good workAs it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” (Citing Psalm 112:9) 10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Oh, I think that the Spirit of God wants to impress upon us a spirit of generosity!  He desires for us to be generous in the kindness of our words for the ministry of the reconciliation … and in the accomplishment of all He has called us to do for the needs of others. For in the acts of freely giving of our abundance to the poor and freely giving of ourselves as living sacrifices, there is an overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God! Yes, our Heavenly Father will be praised for the obedience that accompanies our confession of the Gospel of Christ … and for our generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

My friend, do not be reluctant or afraid to be generous with what God has graciously provided you. God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work – prepared in advance for you to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) I believe that the most important outcome of generosity is the overflowing of thankfulness that will be offered to God! Yes, every act of giving creates an opportunity for thanksgiving and praise to be lifted up to our Heavenly Father in the name of our Lord Jesus! Indeed, thanks be to God for His indescribable gift … the gift of generous hearts! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV)

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Thanksgiving and Praise…

Psalm 100:4-5 (NIV)

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.

As we celebrate this Day of Thanksgiving, our Verse of the Day reminds us of the preeminent reason for giving thanks – our merciful, gracious, compassionate, faithful, and loving Father!  When we consider all that God has done for us … bringing us peace and reconciliation through His Son … we need to keep His mercy and grace in perspective. His lovingkindness should be at the forefront of our thoughts each morning when we awake. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.

You and I are “this” generation! His faithfulness has extended through the ages even unto us! So, yes, take a moment to give Him thanks … exalt Him and give Him the glory due His Name! Spend some time with the Father who sought you from afar and brought you near … who demonstrated His love for you through Christ Jesus … who made plans to prosper you and give you a hope and a future. He has restored what the locusts have eaten … and what the enemy has stolen. He has supplied all your needs according to His riches in glory. He has healed your brokenness … and said “no more sorrow … no more pain.” He has released you from the bondage of sin! He has refreshed and restored your soul! He is the One who has affirmed, “The old has gone … the new has come!” He is the One who is alive forevermore … the Alpha and the Omega!

Yes, enter His gates with thanksgiving in your heart and enter His courts with praise! In humility and gratitude, bow before His presence … before His throne of grace to receive what you need. Surrender your heart and enter into His glorious rest! Oh, indeed, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is worthy of our thanksgiving and praise both now and forevermore! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

How To Be Blessed…

Psalm 1:1-2 (NIV)

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law, day and night.

Our Verse of the Day affords us some advice on how to experience a blessed life. The state of blessedness or contentment in life is centered on delighting ourselves in our Creator … God the Father … and the reality of His being and nature. God is Spirit. God is Light. God is Love. Yes, God IS (I AM). And He has lovingly revealed Himself to His creation through creation itself … through the presence of His Spirit … and through His Word.  So, I want us to examine the full context of Psalm 1:

Psalm 1:1-6 (NIV)

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law, day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

BLESSED IS

I think we should understand this concept of being or feeling blessed. The definition here connotates the idea of happiness; bringing pleasure or contentment; well-being. We could render the text: HAPPY IS; CONTENT IS; FORTUNATE IS.  But BLESSED also signifies something or someone being made holy; sacred; consecrated; or sanctified. There is an idea of receiving God’s favor in response to faithfulness – a resolve to follow His commandments, laws, and statutes as an act of love and worship. You can compare the use here with those declarations Jesus made in His “Sermon on the Mount” (Cf. Matthew 5-7)

BLESSED IS the person who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly…

Happy, content, and consecrated is the person who does not live according to the world culture or its system. This draws attention to whom we associate … our peer group … our friends. Do we allow ourselves to blend into the “progressive” culture and to be morally influenced by it? “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:18-20) 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) Above all, we should seek the counsel of the LORD. (Cf. Job 12:13; Psalm 16:7; Psalm 32:8; Psalm 73:24; Psalm 119:24; Isaiah 11:2)

BLESSED IS the person who does not stand in the way of sinners…

Happy, content, and consecrated is the person who is not enticed with the lifestyle of sinners. The path of sinners leads them to destruction … and there are many who travel along this broad road. (Cf. Matthew 7:13) Those who follow Christ Jesus are called to live holy and godly lives – especially in light of His imminent return. (Cf. 2 Peter 3:11-12) As Paul affirmed, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 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.” (Cf. Galatians 5:16-21)

BLESSED IS the person who does not sit in the seat of the scornful…

Someone who is scornful shows contempt, disdain, or derision toward another person. They openly express dislike, disrespect, or mockery – often filled with derision or indignation. Such people are known as “scoffers” and represent much of the irreverent, disrespectful, contemptuous behavior we witness within the “progressive” culture. And I believe much of the contempt and vitriol we witness is directed at people of faith, and in particular, those with Christian values. While we know that Jesus warned us persecution would be experienced by believers (Cf. John 15:20); I believe it will not be long before we will be voicing what even the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 119:86: “All your commands are trustworthy; help me, for I am being persecuted without cause.”

Before we look at the resolve believers will need to not be deceived by the world or its demonic influences, I would like to point out the downward moral decline we can see unfolding in this passage. The downward path away from God begins with walking (being shaped and influenced by) or joining ourselves with ungodly people. Hanging out with the wrong crowd and trying to “belong” can set a person on course of trouble and self-destruction. As Paul warned, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14) And then standing (being still and stationary) with that same crowd and participating in their unrighteous lifestyle can take hold of that person; and they begin lose a moral conscience about their conduct or behavior. As Paul warned, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Cf. Romans 1:21) Finally, the descent into sin will culminate in a defiant, rebellious, unrepentant attitude. The person found sitting (committed and engaged) in the crowd of scoffers will become openly hostile and against God or anyone who expresses faith in Him. I think we see this demise of the culture happening right now and all across the world. As Paul warned: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Cf. Romans 1:32)

And Paul warned, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (Cf. 1 Timothy 4:1) Further, Paul affirmed: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:1-5) This looks like a prophetic description of what we are witnessing within a culture that is embracing those who walk, stand, and then sit in the depravity of sinful human nature….

BLESSED IS the person who makes their delight in the law of the Lord (Word of God) … who meditates on it day and night.

What can a person do to avoid the broad road that leads to destruction? The Psalmist indicates that we should delight” ourselves in the law of the Lord and “meditate” upon His Word daily. This is the key to the happiness and contentment of a life consecrated to God. As King David affirmed: “Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in His commands.” (Cf. Psalm 112:1) Yes, what we find in the Word of God is wisdom, knowledge, understanding, counsel, strength, and reverence for His Holiness. We find the path to receive the fullness of His grace and favor … the blessings of reconciliation, salvation, and peace. Indeed, His Word is a lamp to our feet and a light for our path. (Cf. Psalm 119:105)

And so, I pray that this Verse of the Day will continue to inspire us to read the Scriptures and the whole counsel of His Word. I pray that we will deeply ponder what the Word of God imparts and reveals to us about our sanctification; and I pray it will encourage us to walk by the Spirit so that we will not gratify the desires of our sinful human nature. Indeed, what a comfort and blessing it is to know that our Sovereign God … Father and Creator … wants to bless us and to have intimacy with us through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He watches over the way of the righteous … He is the One who sustains us! Let us give Him all the praise and thanksgiving … glory and honor.  In Jesus Name, I pray. Amen. 

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Your Word is Light…

Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light unto my path….

Our Verse of the Day aligns with our continued look into the wonderful things found in the Word of God. I feel compelled to reprint a few of the 22 stanzas of Psalm 119 for us to see our verse in some additional context. Although the exact author of Psalm 119 is unknown, most scholars have proposed it was written by David, Ezra, or Daniel.  Each of these proposed authors suffered serious hardships in their lives, and the Psalmist engages that theme to demonstrate how he endured his suffering through a deep trust in God because the truths he learned from the holy scriptures. Ultimately, we know that the author of this psalm and all the holy scriptures is the Holy Spirit! (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21) So, I hope you will find the following stanzas uplifting and inspiring for your own faith….

ב Beth

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your Word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 12 Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. 13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

ה He

33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end for its reward.  34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. 35 Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. 36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your Word.  38 Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. 39 Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. 40 How I long for your precepts! In your righteousness preserve my life.

ט Teth

65 Do good to your servant according to your Word, Lord. 66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands. 67 Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now I obey your Word. 68 You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. 69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart. 70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law. 71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. 72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

ל Lamedh

89 Your Word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. 90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. 91 Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. 92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. 93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. 94 Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. 95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes. 96 To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.

מ Mem

97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. 98 Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. 100 I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. 101 I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your Word. 102 I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. 103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore, I hate every wrong path.

נ Nun

105 Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. 106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. 107 I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord, according to your Word. 108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws. 109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. 110 The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts. 111 Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. 112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end … for their enduring reward.

פ Pe

129 Your statutes are wonderful; therefore, I obey them. 130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. 131 I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. 132 Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. 133 Direct my footsteps according to your Word; let no sin rule over me. 134 Redeem me from human oppression, that I may obey your precepts. 135 Make your face shine on your servant and teach me your decrees. 136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.

I just love how the Word of God itself has been exalted throughout Psalm 119.  Again, I highly encourage you to read the entire Psalm. It expounds on the blessings of living in accordance with the commandments, laws, statutes, ordinances, decrees, precepts, promises, and principles found within the sacred writings authored by the Holy Spirit. The whole counsel of God can be discovered within the pages of the Bible … the riches of wisdom and understanding and knowledge to guide us into all Truth! As the Word of God is affirmed, the character (nature) of God Himself is revealed. Indeed, He is righteous, trustworthy, truthful, faithful, unchanging, eternal, and holy!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

What Do You Desire?

Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Our Verse of the Day is probably a familiar verse to most of us. We often cite it with expectation that God is going to fill our lives with all the things we value and enjoy. Right? Well, perhaps we should pause and look further at the context and intent of what David is imparted when he penned these thoughts.

Verses 1-4

In this Psalm, David considers the age-old question of why evil people seem to prosper and flourish while those who endeavor to live righteous lives often experience suffering and hardship. I sense that the Psalm was written as an encouragement to the people of God not worry or fret over this matter. And it is probably a good message for us to contemplate in light of the current tension, conflict, and discord going on in our nation right now. David begins: “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither … like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

But as we read past these verses and look into the meditation that follows, David widens our perspective to envision life beyond current circumstances. He encourages us to live with a view of eternity, and he redirects us to set our hope in the everlasting purposes of God … not just what we observe or experience in the present. He affirms that there will be a time of judgment and recompense which will be accomplished on God’s timetable. To me, this confirms that most of the tension we encounter in this world is the conflict between light versus darkness. John observed: “This is the verdict. Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (Cf. John 3:19) Paul articulated: “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.” (Cf. Ephesians 6:12) Still, we understand that God is sovereign even in the midst of whatever wrongdoing He permits mankind to inflict on one another. And we know that light will ultimately prevail because God is Light. (Cf. 1 John 1:5)

Verses 5-11

5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: 6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. 7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. 10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. 11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. (Cf. Matthew 5:5)

In these and the following verses, David goes on to describe how the behavior of godless people will be judged and recompensed. Their wicked schemes will only return upon themselves. Wrongdoers will ultimately suffer the consequences of their actions. But the righteous will abide under the care of the Lord … and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster, they will not wither; in days of famine, they will enjoy plenty. (Cf. Verses 18-19) And consider this encouragement: “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; others will see that their children are blessed. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones. (Cf. Verses 23-28)

Even though we observe that God allows darkness to operate in this fallen world, He is with those who fear Him. The Father loves those who are just, righteous, and faithful. “The heavens proclaim His righteousness, for He is a God of justice.” (Cf. Psalm 50:6) As Paul affirmed: “God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Cf. Romans 2:6-10) Yes, it is clear that God will reward each person according to what he or she has done. (Cf. Jeremiah 17:10; 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12) So we are exhorted by David, the Prophets, the Apostles, and our Lord Jesus Christ, to commit ourselves to do what is good and righteous … to trust in the Lord always … and to wait for Him and His reward.

With these things in mind, I encourage you to revisit the implication of Verse 4. I believe to take delight in the Lord is to love Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength … to trust and obey Him … to encounter His unfailing love, abiding grace, and peace … to love one another as He has loved us … to serve Him through offering our bodies as living sacrifices … to live worthy of Him and to please Him in every way. When we take delight in the Lord, He will GIVE us the desires of our hearts. But what are the desires of our hearts? In the context of the entire Psalm, I think we have learned that the desire of our hearts should be focused on His promise of reward … of His blessing in this life as well as the everlasting life that awaits us. Yes, our eternal inheritance … His faithful and true promises … these are the rewards for perseverance in faith! “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) Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (Cf. John 14:1-4) Yes, to be with Lord Jesus forever IS the desire of our hearts! For He gives true life to those who abide in Him and delight themselves in Him!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what He promised us—eternal life. ~ 1 John 2:24-25

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. ~ 1 John 5:11-12

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. ~ Jude 1:20-21

Read The Instructions!

Isaiah 48:17 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

Our Verse of the Day has a very insightful message for us: God Himself is the One who teaches us! He knows what is best for us, and He instructs us in the path that we should take for our lives. After all, He is the One who created us! So why do people ignore Him? Why do people resist the Holy Spirit? (Cf. Acts 7:51) In Isaiah 48, the prophet expounds on the matter in great detail. You can click on the link to read the full chapter.

Isaiah 48:16-19 (NIV)

16 “Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.” And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with His Spirit. 17 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. 19 Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be blotted out nor destroyed from before me.”

The Lord declares: “I AM HE; I AM the first and I AM the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together.” (Cf. Isaiah 48:12-13) We need to keep this perspective in mind: God is our Creator and our lives were created for HIS glory. Yet, it is evident that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23) We can see our lives and the people of our nation are in desperate need of redemption. The question is: “Will we heed His instructions? Will we walk in the direction He has shown us?” The Lord pleads with us to keep His commands so that our peace will be like a river – our well-being like the waves of the sea!

Our Verse of the Day reminds me of the purpose for which we study the Word of God and endeavor to follow its wisdom and instruction. His Word teaches us what is best for our well-being; offers us wisdom to guide our decision-making; and affords us the knowledge to experience peace and blessing in our lives. Yet sadly, we can see the great lament God expressed over the unwillingness and disobedience of His people: “If only you had paid attention to My commands….” And what did Israel experience for her disobedience? What should those who disregard the Word of God expect in our own generation? I wonder, “Will our nation receive the same judgment as ancient Israel for its unrighteousness and disobedience?” The following confessions of the Prophets should awaken our own hearts:

Jeremiah 3:24-25 (NIV)

24 From our youth, shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our ancestors’ labor— their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters. 25 Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the Lord our God, both we and our ancestors; from our youth until this day, we have not obeyed the Lord our God.”

Jeremiah 44:20-23 (NIV)

20 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, both men and women, who were answering him, 21 “Did not the Lord remember and call to mind the incense burned in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem by you and your ancestors, your kings and your officials and the people of the land? 22 When the Lord could no longer endure your wicked actions and the detestable things you did, your land became a curse and a desolate waste without inhabitants, as it is today. 23 Because you have burned incense and have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed Him or followed His law or His decrees or His stipulations, this disaster has come upon you, as you now see.”

Daniel 9:3-19 (NIV)

3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. 7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws He gave us through His servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. “Therefore, the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything He does; yet we have not obeyed Him. 15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. 17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

So, I pray we will take their admonitions to heart this morning. I pray we would examine our hearts and carefully consider the instruction of God for our lives. I believe our Lord Jesus wants those who abide in Him … His Body … to declare the instruction of God and to disciple people in the direction He has commanded for us to go. What is best for us? What is the direction He leads us to go? Well, first and foremost, Jesus instructed: “The work of God is that you and I believe in the One who He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) And Jesus affirmed: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6) Likewise, the Apostle John affirmed this message in his Gospel record:

John 3:16-26 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

In light of this solemn message, and what I believe the Holy Spirit has taught us, I want to offer up a prayer of repentance not only for myself, but for our nation as well:

O Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame – the people and the generations before us are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. We have not wholly kept your covenant … we have not worshipped you in the Spirit and in Truth. In our nation, we have bowed down and worshipped the idols of ourselves with all forms of greed and covetousness. Our people have exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. (Cf. Romans 1:25) We have shed innocent blood for our own sinful desires, and sacrificed our children on the altar of convenience. We have oppressed the destitute and ignored the afflictions of the widow and the fatherless. We all, like sheep, have gone astray. Each of us has turned to our own way of iniquity. (Cf. Isaiah 53:6) But Lord, you have said: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14) And so, we your people humble ourselves before you Lord; and we ask for your forgiveness on our collective sin. Have mercy on us, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out our transgressions. Wash away all our iniquities and cleanse us from our sin.For we know our transgressions, and our sin is always before us. Against you, you only, have we sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Create in us pure hearts and renew steadfast spirits within us. (Cf. Psalm 51:1-4, 10) In Your Name, Lord Jesus, I pray for our nation to repent and return to you. I pray we would keep your laws and statutes and commands. Yes, I pray our people will repent, renounce, and remove all wickedness from within our hearts and cleanse all iniquity from this great land you have given us. And I ask for our governmental leaders and those in authority to repent as well, and to administrate righteousness and to legislate with justice in accordance with your Word. Like Daniel, I plead: Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because of your people who bear your Name. In Your Mighty and Holy Name, I pray. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Bread of Life

John 6:35 (NIV)

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

I am happy this verse appeared this morning because it reminds us WHO is the source of our life.  The metaphor of “bread” or “food” in some translations is used to connote “sustenance” or what sustains life.  Jesus declared!  He did not whisper or just casually mention His identity as our “sustenance” for life.  He proclaimed “I AM” the One who sustains you!  I will be THE LIFE within you!  When you come to me, you will never go hungry.  When you believe in me, you will never thirst.  Jesus said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through me. (Cf. John 14:6) So I want us to grab hold of what Jesus has declared to us: “I AM the bread of life.”  Jesus is sufficient! He is all we need to know for a fulfilled life as we sojourn in faith here on earth….

John 6:25-40 (NIV)

25 When they found Him on the other side of the lake, they asked Him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” 26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. 27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on Him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.” 28 Then they asked Him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” 29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.30 So they asked Him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 “Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.” 35 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty36 But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. 37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

So I pray that we will always abide in WHO sustains our lives. It is Jesus and Him alone! He was sent by the Father from heaven to be our life-giving bread … the sustainer of our being.  Indeed, it is through Him that we are born-again to new life and become a new creation! We are His affection … His delight … His treasured possession! In Jesus, we will not be lost; rather, we will be raised up at the last day.  He has promised!  He has declared it! And we have to do is believe and offer the fruit of thanksgiving…. Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

How to Be Blessed

Psalm 1:1-2 (NIV)

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night.

Our Verse of the Day opens the Book of Psalms with a pointed observation about our behavior and conduct with respect to our relationship with God and those around us.  The first word is “Blessed”.  In the context, this word refers to a state of enjoying happiness, pleasure, contentment, or favor. And so, it follows, that the person who follows the instruction provided here will experience such a state of being in their life.  So let’s exposit this passage further.

Blessed is the one who does not:

1.         Walk in step with the wicked

2.         Stand in the way that sinners take

3.         Sit in the company of mockers

Blessed is the one who:

1.         Takes delight is the Law of the Lord

2.         Meditates on His Law day and night

The Psalmist asserts that in order for a person to experience a state of happiness, contentment, and favor in life, he or she must consider the contrasts of mindset that are presented to the reader.  The admonition ultimately notes the difference between a person who consecrates themselves from unholy conduct through obtaining a knowledge and understanding of God. If you have the time, I encourage you to read Job 28 for a discourse on the origin of wisdom – the ability to discern between two paths of action.  It concludes: “And He (God) said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28) I surmise that King David and his son, Solomon, both embraced the instruction of this ancient source when each concluded: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.” (Psalm 111:10) And: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

As we have mentioned before, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7) So we must have a source of knowledge and instruction available to us in order to correct our course if we should ever wander into the path of the wicked (walk); begin to desire or entertain sinful behavior (stand); or embrace those who oppose God and His righteous commands (sit).  The Apostle James articulated this sequence of the inclinations of the thoughts of the heart quite well when he wrote: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived (walk), it gives birth to sin (stand); and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death (sit).  I think there is a similar analogy found in Romans 1:18-28 where Paul describes the path of descent (walk, stand, sit) into a place of total darkness; and it can happen in the human experience when there is no reverence for God….

The application is to delight in the Word of God … to meditate on it constantly. The revelation of His Will through His Word is how we come to a position of reverence. “In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome,for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (Cf. 1 John 5:3-4) Likewise, as Paul admonished: “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, if a person wants to be blessed in life, he or she will have to realize that the path to happiness, contentment, and favor lies within the wisdom and authority of God’s Word!  When we submit ourselves to Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, the journey of faith begins and we will experience blessing as God has intended since the beginning.

Psalm 1 (NIV)

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

REJOICE!!!

Joel 2:23 (NIV)

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

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

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

Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV)

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

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

Romans 8:35-39 (NIV)

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

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

Rejoice in His abundance.

Rejoice in His anointing.

Rejoice in His atonement.

Rejoice in His authority.

Rejoice in His baptism.

Rejoice in His beauty.

Rejoice in His blessing.

Rejoice in His calling.

Rejoice in His comfort.

Rejoice in His compassion.

Rejoice in His covenant.

Rejoice in His creation.

Rejoice in His cross.

Rejoice in His deliverance.

Rejoice in His discipline.

Rejoice in His election.

Rejoice in His encouragement.

Rejoice in His eternal life.

Rejoice in His faithfulness.

Rejoice in His forgiveness.

Rejoice in His freedom.

Rejoice in His gentleness.

Rejoice in His gifts.

Rejoice in His glory.

Rejoice in His grace.

Rejoice in His healing.

Rejoice in His holiness.

Rejoice in His intercession.

Rejoice in His intimacy.

Rejoice in His justice.

Rejoice in His kindness.

Rejoice in His kingdom.

Rejoice in His liberty.

Rejoice in His life.

Rejoice in His light.

Rejoice in His longsuffering.

Rejoice in His love.

Rejoice in His mercy.

Rejoice in His name.

Rejoice in His omnipotence.

Rejoice in His omniscience.

Rejoice in His peace.

Rejoice in His presence.

Rejoice in His promises.

Rejoice in His protection.

Rejoice in His provision.

Rejoice in His purpose.

Rejoice in His quiet.

Rejoice in His redemption.

Rejoice in His restoration.

Rejoice in His resurrection.

Rejoice in His righteousness.

Rejoice in His sacrifice.

Rejoice in His salvation.

Rejoice in His sovereignty.

Rejoice in His testimony.

Rejoice in His truth.

Rejoice in His unity.

Rejoice in His victory.

Rejoice in His wisdom.

Rejoice in His word.

Rejoice in His yoke.

Rejoice in His zeal.

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

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

He Watches Over You…

Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

I have always loved this Psalm and the message it projects through vivid metaphors. It is a short Psalm, so I want to reprint it for us here:

Psalm 121:1-8 (NKJV)

I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip — He who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you — the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm — He will watch over your life;
The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

The imagery produced here affords us with great truths regarding the care and concern God has for His people … the pinnacle of creation.  The hills or mountains represent the majesty and strength of God because they are visual reminders of His power.  But then notice how the psalmist moves his focus to personal engagement. The help God provides us is personal and ongoing.  The Father does not let you out of His sight. He will watch over your life. The Lord is your constant companion … your covering … your refuge. The Lord will keep you from all harm as He watches over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

I don’t know about you, but I need to embrace this assurance each and every day. I need to keep this knowledge at the forefront – that God is with me and watching over me and that He never ceases to protect me. So I encourage each of us to speak and to declare the faithfulness of God during our times of personal prayer. Thank the Lord for His ever-present help in times of trouble. Acknowledge that He keeps you close … as the apple of His eye. (Cf. Psalm 17:8) Yes, the one who dwells in the secret place of the Most-High God shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (Cf. Psalm 91:1) So, I pray that you and I will take comfort in His provision and take rest in His presence. Remember, the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. (Cf. Proverbs 18:10)

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NIV)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Quoting Deuteronomy 31:6) So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Quoting Psalm 118:6-7)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!