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

Walk By The Spirit…

Galatians 5:16 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

Galatians 5:13-25 (NIV)

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Citing Leviticus 19:18) 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

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

John 15:1-12 (NIV)

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

Powerful words … powerful affirmation! God in His mercy, to address sin within the human heart and to remove its deception and corruption of our souls, sent His Son, Jesus, to this earth to rescue us … to redeem us … to deliver us from the power of sin and its penalty: Death! (Cf. Romans 6:23) Christ paid the ultimate penalty of sin for us on the cross! Every drop of His precious blood was poured out for us. He was the Lamb of God slain to atone for our sin. (Cf. 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10) Why? Because God is Holy! And to be in relationship with Him, we must be holy according to His command. And Jesus is the One who consecrates and sanctifies us before God. When we are in Christ, when we belong to Him, we receive His power over sin. As the Apostle Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3)

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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

A Child of God…

Galatians 3:26-28 (NIV)

So, in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Our Verse of the Day has some theological implications that should not be ignored … nor is the text ambiguous. Simply stated, for a person to be a child of God, he or she must be in Christ Jesus through faith in Him. Compare this assertion from Paul with the declaration of John:

John 1:10-13 (NIV)

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right (authority or power) to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God.

Our “right” to become children of God was GIVEN by Jesus Christ through receiving and believing in Him! We do not have the right to claim that we are children of God except that it has been given us through the authority of the Son. In addition, John records of the teachings of Jesus regarding how those who reject Him are not “legitimate” children:

John 8:31-47 (NIV)

31 To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” 39 Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God Himself.42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Wow! Being physical children of Abraham does not in itself confer the right to become children of God. Jesus said, IF you were Abraham’s children, then you would do what Abraham did. So, what did Abraham do? What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Cf. Romans 4:3) A person has to believe God at His Word to become His child through the adoption of sonship (as we have seen in previous studies). Even John the Baptist said to some in the crowds coming out to be baptized by him: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Cf. Luke 3:7-9)

It follows that a true child of Abraham is one who believes God. And to believe God means to believe in the Son that He has sent – Jesus! As the Apostle John wrote:

1 John 5:1-5 (NIV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

What we see in these passages of Scripture is the understanding that humans have the opportunity or capacity to become “children of God” through the “transformation” that comes from receiving Jesus … from believing in His name and through abiding in Him. When we are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; there is a spiritual birth or transformation (rebirth process) that occurs within our inner beings that produces a “child of God”.  Thus, we are born-again through the Spirit of God when we receive Jesus and believe in Him! Indeed, a child of God is something that we become through Christ alone! We are “adopted” by the Father because we abide in His Son. There is no alternative … no other “process” offered in Scripture for us to become “children” of God. Paul was given the ability to articulate this theological concept in practical terms for us:

Romans 8:14-17 (NIV)

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory….

My friends, I pray that as you begin your day, you will be encouraged to better understand your relationship with God the Father as His child.  No one will ever love you with the depth or passion of love that God has for you through Jesus Christ. Receive His love this morning! Believe in His love for you this morning! It will change your thoughts about who you are in Him.  You are His beloved child … and there is no greater feeling than knowing you are loved by God.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure. ~ 1 John 3:1-3

I Will Not Be Afraid…

Psalm 118:5-6 (NIV)

When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

I am excited about our Verse of the Day! I have always loved Psalm 118 and its message of reliance upon the Lord.  The opening verse reveals the foundation on which our relationship with Father God is established. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.” Yes, because God is faithful (Cf. Deuteronomy 7:9; 32:4), we give Him thanks and exalt Him for His great love toward us! King David was keenly aware of this incredible intimacy God desires to have with those who love Him. His unfailing love is the anchor of their faith and why it rests completely in Him! God invites us to trust Him in everything with our entire being … no matter what our eyes may see or how life circumstances appear. This is what moved David to seek God and His help in times of trouble.  Indeed, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. (Cf. Psalm 46:1)

Psalm 118:5-9 (NLT)

In my distress I prayed to the Lord; and the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the Lord is for me; He will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

When I first read this verse, my thoughts wandered to all the times I’ve felt stressed out (hard pressed in the translation).  And I think my “go-to” response has generally been to “cry out to the Lord” … meaning to pray to Him.  There will always be dilemmas to navigate. There will always be questions we want answered.  Why is this happening, Lord?  Why is this happening to me?  Like King David, we find can ourselves in the midst of great battles – distressed by difficult situations or circumstances and surrounded by an unseen enemy … fear. Somehow, David knew prayer would bring the presence of God into his personal circumstances. Prayer would be a channel for receiving discernment and wisdom from an all-knowing and all-loving God. So, no matter what we are facing, we need to remember that prayer should always be our first response. David expressed deep trust in God throughout His inspired writings. And I pray that each of us come to the place in our own walk of faith to profess: “Into Your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. (Cf. Psalm 31:5) It foreshadows the final words that Jesus cried out from the cross: “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” (Cf. Luke 23:46) In this prayer, we express the utmost trust in our God and Savior!

When David prayed, the more immediate benefit was that the Lord “brought him into a spacious place.”  Other translations rendered it “broad” or “large” place.  Metaphorically, David experienced a change of mental disposition.  God helped him find perspective in his circumstances. When all David could see was the immediate pressing problem in front of him, God helped him see the larger, broader picture … the view from a higher altitude.  And that is what David needed to relieve his stress … and more importantly … to calm his fear. In Verse 6, David comes to understand (through his time of prayer with God) that “the Lord is with him.”  What a wonderful and powerful affirmation to receive when you and I become stressed out, worried, or fretful. God is with us! His Name is Emmanuel! Indeed, God is for us! We are more than conquerors through Him who loves us! (Cf. Romans 8:31-39)

The surrender of ourselves has always been a challenge for the human heart; and I believe it is the lack of sincere trust in our Creator that leads us to fear and paralysis. The Father urges us to rely upon Him and His strength to face the troubles of life … to entreat Him to rescue us when the battles come and grow fierce. And God will demonstrate the faithfulness of His love toward those who love and wholly trust Him.  His Word declares His faithfulness:


You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our Savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas. ~ Psalm 65:5


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


But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. ~ Psalm 86:15


O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies! Where is there anyone as mighty as you, O Lord? You are entirely faithful. ~ Psalm 89:8


He has remembered His love and His faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. ~ Psalm 98:3

Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago. ~ Isaiah 25:1

So, the Lord must wait for you to come to Him so He can show you His love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for His help. ~ Isaiah 30:18


Rejoice in the Lord your God! For the rain He sends demonstrates His faithfulness. Once more the autumn rains will come, as well as the rains of spring. ~ Joel 2:23

For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. ~ John 1:17


God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:9


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

My friends, the Lord is ever faithful to you! You can trust Him in all circumstances of life! As Peter advised, “Cast all your anxiety upon because He cares for you!” (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7) And remember, “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.” (Cf. Isaiah 54:17)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1:9

I Will Come Back…

John 14:1-3 (NIV)

“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.”

We have been celebrating the First Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ; and now our Verse of the Day leading us and stirring our hearts toward His Second Coming! What a great affirmation of the hope to prepare our hearts for the New Year! It is the promise of the Lord Jesus to prepare a place for us … reserved in heaven … and then return to “take” us to be with Him. Notice His affirmative statement: “I will come back and take you….” This is not some empty promise. It is intentional in every aspect. We do not know when that day or hour will come. (Cf. Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32) But we do know for certain that it will happen! For “God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill? (Cf. Numbers 23:19)

Jesus said He is going to His Father’s House to prepare a place for us there. That it an interesting statement in itself.  What does Jesus intend to prepare?  Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. (Cf. John 1:3) For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. (Cf. Colossians 1:16) Yet, the One who created all things said He needs to go and prepare a place for us BEFORE He returns to “take” us there. Fascinating! The possibilities of what Jesus is doing … of what He is preparing … are beyond the imagination. Yet, what we do know is that He made a promise to come back … to return and to take us to where He dwells so that we can be with Him. As Gabriel, the angelic messenger declared to Mary: “No word from God will ever fail.” (Cf. Luke 1:37)

I believe the Second Coming of Jesus is what should be capturing our hearts now. His promised return is what should be motivating our own preparation and sanctification for that moment. His declaration here should be enough to convince our hearts – IT WILL HAPPEN! And I believe the Apostle Paul was quite confident when he wrote: “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (Cf. Corinthians 15:50-53)

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Faith does not doubt or fear. Faith is confidence in what we hope for, the assurance of what we do not see. (Cf. Hebrews 11:1) And He foretold us signs that would appear as the day approaches. He said, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” (Cf. Luke 21:28) The NKJV translates it – “look up and lift your heads….” I like that imagery because it reminds me some other passages of Scripture:

Acts 1:6-11 (NIV)

6 Then they gathered around Jesus and asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9 After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”

Revelation 1:7-8 (NIV)

7 “Look, He is coming with the clouds,” (Cf. Daniel 7:13) and “every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of Him.” (Cf. Zechariah 12:10) So shall it be! Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Yes, there is a hope! There is a promise! Jesus said, that He would come and take us to be where He is … to a new place … to an inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven! And we would be wise to lift our heads every day in anticipation of His coming. Yes, this is a time for us to deeply consider the reality of His Second Coming!  So, I will close with the Epilogue of The Revelation for us:

Revelation 22:12-20 (NIV)

12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. 14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. 16 I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” 17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. 18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll. 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Come To Me and Rest…

Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

As the New Year approaches … a year declared to be a time for deliverance and healing, I believe our Verse of the Day aligns our thoughts with this mission of the Church.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Cf. Matthew 11:28-30) Yes, what every soul needs the most is to rest in Jesus!  He will lift the burdens of life from our shoulders. His yoke is easy; and Jesus will exert the greater strength when pulling that wearisome load with you.  You do not have to carry the burdens of life alone….  He is Healer! He is Deliverer! He is Redemption! He is Salvation! He is Restoration! He is Peace! He is Resurrection! He is Rest!  Indeed, the true compassion and love of God for you and I will not be found anywhere else other than Jesus!

Is this not the most perfect verse for the Church to summon those who have grown tired, burdened, and weary? Is that not the state of the unbeliever? Is that not the state of every prodigal? Herein lies the message of the Church to a lost world … the message we should declare to everyone who has wandered … to every lost and scattered sheep! Our Great Shepherd … the Good Shepherd … is calling His sheep to come home. Jesus says to each one: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest….

This brought to mind the Prophet Isaiah and his prophetic invitation to reconciliation with God:

Isaiah 55:1-4 (NIV)

1 Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. 4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples.

And this is the message Isaiah foretold us to take to the unbeliever, the lost, and the wayward:

Isaiah 55:6-11 (NIV)

6 Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is My Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

This is the word that God has sent for us to declare to those who are burdened and wearied and captive to thoughts of futility … to thoughts of unworthiness … to overwhelming thoughts of guilt and shame. God declares that His thoughts are not those thoughts. God declares He will have mercy on them … and will freely pardon! God declares His ability to overcome our inability. And His Word will not return void of accomplishment. Behold, we ourselves are fruit of the Gospel! For Isaiah foretold this great hope of healing:

Isaiah 57:15-19 (NIV)

For this is what the high and exalted One says— He who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. 16 I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me— the very people I have created. 17 I was enraged by their sinful greed; I punished them, and hid my face in anger, yet they kept on in their willful ways. 18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, 19 creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”

God knows all. There is nothing hidden from His sight! God has seen their ways, but He will heal them. He saw us and healed us! The Lord abides with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit. He will revive! He will restore! Yes, He will heal the brokenness in each of us! He will remove the deception and disillusion of sin! He will provide salvation! He will give eternal life! All these benefits – all these blessings are found in Christ Jesus! (Cf. Psalm 103) These are the messages of hope we must speak to those who are lost, isolated, and in need of His unfailing love….

It all starts with an invitation! Jesus said, “Come!” He was sent to seek and to save that which was lost. That is you and me. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) It is the open invitation God has ordained for us to share with the poor in spirit … the broken-hearted … the spiritually blind … and the weak in faith. We are commanded to go out into the streets, alleys, roads, and country lanes to find the wayward … the lost and scattered sheep who are weary and burdened and seeking rest for their souls. There is no rest apart from Jesus. There is no reconciliation except through Him. This is the appointed message we need to share. “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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 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.” (Cf. John 3:16-18)

So, I pray that we will be faithful in our resolve and relentless in our mission to bring hope to those who are without hope. I pray that as healing and deliverance become our focus for the coming year, we will discipline ourselves to be studying the Word of God … growing in the knowledge of His will. Indeed, His will is for us to rest in the finished work that Jesus accomplished on the cross for us. Oh, may we help others to experience the rest that we enjoy as believers…. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Light For Revelation…

Luke 2:28-32 (NIV)

Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

I hope everyone had a Blessed Christmas and a wonderful time with family and friends during the holidays. We have celebrated the season of the First Advent … the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; but I want to take a closer look at the agency of the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of the Word of God. I’ll reprint a larger passage as the context for our Verse of the Day because I think there is an application for us:

Luke 2:22-35 (NIV)

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” (Citing Exodus 13:2), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”(Citing Leviticus 12:1-8) 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, Simeon went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Throughout the nativity story, we have seen the agency of the Holy Spirit in full power and display. Mary conceives a baby through the power of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist is filled with the Holy Spirit even from conception as well. Elizabeth prophesies through the Holy Spirit concerning the obedience of Mary and her faith in the power of God. Joseph, through the Holy Spirit, believes the angel of the Lord he sees in a dream and takes Mary to be his wife. Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies at the birth of his son. And in our passage, we see Simeon moved by the Spirit and entering the temple to behold what had already been revealed to him by the Spirit. And I wonder, why were all these people convinced of what the Spirit of God had spoken or revealed to them? Why were they so confident and obedient to their encounters with Him?

To me, the most compelling reason is they were open to the mysterious and supernatural because of their knowledge of the Word of God. And I believe it all began with this prophecy from the Book of Isaiah. Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you all a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel (which means God with us). (Cf. Isaiah 7:13-14)

When the angel Gabriel encountered Mary and spoke to her concerning the birth of a son, he explained “the Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most-High will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Cf. Luke 1:35) Mary did not have to understand how the power of God would accomplish it, she just trusted God at His word. I think in her soul, she knew God had chosen her to fulfill this specific prophetic word. And with boldness of faith, Mary responded to the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” (Cf. Luke 1:38) Have you ever been in that place where you knew that God was fulfilling a prophetic word in your life? How did you respond?

And what of Joseph? Let’s turn to Matthew to look at His encounter with the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 1:18-24 (NIV)

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law (a righteous man), and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Citing Isaiah 7:14) 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

To me, this is another powerful testimony of someone who knew the Word of God … and its prophetic significance. Like Mary, after an explanation that the Holy Spirit was working in their lives to fulfill the will of God, Joseph was obedient to the call of God upon his life. Like Mary, Joseph did not have to understand how the power of God operated, he just trusted God at His word. I think in his soul, Joseph knew God had chosen Mary to fulfill this specific prophetic word. And with boldness of faith, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him. He had no idea what it meant or what would ultimately transpire, but Joseph knew it was best to believe God and be faithful….

In our verse, it is apparent that Simeon was well aware of the prophetic word of God concerning His Messiah. And by revelation of the Holy Spirit, Simeon knew that he would lay eyes upon the Messiah before his own death occurred. Isn’t it interesting that Simeon was looking for a child? He was at the temple when parents would be presenting their 8-day old sons for circumcision and consecration to God. What were the chances that day would be the exact day when Simeon was moved by the Spirit and went into the temple courts? Had Simeon heard the miraculous story told by the shepherds just a few days ago? Surely, he knew the prophecy of Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me One who will be ruler over Israel whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Yes, Simeon was looking for the Messiah. It was just a matter of time….

So here we are nearly 2000 years later with a different anticipation. We are looking for the Second Advent of Christ to be fulfilled. And what prophecies have already fallen into place? What “sign” has the Lord Himself given us? Is there some other assurance we feel is needed to convince us His Word will come to pass? What else might be needed? Well, as I thought about these questions, I remembered Matthew 24:14 when Jesus declared, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Interestingly enough, with all of our modern technology, this still has not fully occurred. And then I thought of this parable that Jesus told, and I feel moved to share it here:

Luke 14:1, 7-24 (NIV)

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, He was being carefully watched.

7 When Jesus noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, He told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 12 Then Jesus said to His host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” 15 When one of those at the table with Him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the Kingdom of God. 16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yokes of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Why this parable? Well, think about it a moment. The parable is in reference to “the feast in the Kingdom of God.” Perhaps, this is similar to the Parable of the Wedding Feast recorded in Matthew 22 where Jesus spoke to them and said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding….” Of course, here we understand that the servants were the prophets of God sent to Israel to invite them to the marriage banquet of God. However, the invited guests “were not willing to come.” They (the invited guests) all alike began to make excuses explaining why they were too busy to be bothered … though God had made elaborate preparations for them to come and enjoy. So, the king determine that his banquet should be filled with anyone who had not been originally invited … and so He ordered His servants to go out into the streets, alleys, roads, and country lanes to find people who might actually desire a seat at the table and appreciate His generous kindness….

From this parable, I believe there is another “prophecy” that needs to be fulfilled before the Second Advent occurs! Indeed, there is a banquet in preparation and there are new invitations being sent out! The Bride of Christ … His Body … the Church is making herself ready for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb! Oh, yes, when Jesus arrives to take us to be with Him … where He is (Cf. John 14:3), that Great Supper will be ready and waiting. And I believe that those who are led by the Holy Spirit … are indeed the servants whom God has called … whom Christ has appointed … to invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. Yes, God has ordained for us to minister to the poor in spirit … to those who live in brokenness … to those who live in darkness … and to those unable to walk in faith. We have been called and anointed to love and to bring healing and reconciliation just as Christ Jesus did for each of us.

Like Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Simeon, Anna, the Apostles, the disciples, and all those who have been obedient to the faith and mission of the Church since the Day of Pentecost, we too must know and be obedient to the Word of God through the power and anointing of His Holy Spirit. And so, I pray the work of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the First Advent will continue to work in us and through us to fulfill the Second Advent! And I believe that work is to invite … to fill up the banquet hall for the feast in the Kingdom of God – that Great Supper of the Lamb! We do not have to understand how the power of God will accomplish His work; we just need to trust God at His word and be obedient to the command of the Lord. I pray that within our innermost beings, we will know that we know God has chosen us to fulfill His prophetic word. And with boldness of faith, I pray each of us will respond, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.”

Revelation 19:6-9 (NIV)

6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the Wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) 9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

Revelation 22:6-7 (NIV)

6 The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent His angel to show His servants the things that must soon take place.” 7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus ~ Revelation 22:20

A Changed Direction…

Luke 2:1, 4-5 (NIV)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. So, Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 

Our Verse of the Day addresses a change of circumstances in the Advent Story that served to fulfill the prophetic words of Micah surrounding the location for the birth of the Messiah.  Micah 5:2 foretold: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Let’s read the narrative Luke provided for the nativity…

Luke 2:1-21 (NIV) ~ The Birth of Jesus

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be bornand she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He was conceived.

I love to imagine the scenes of this story unfolding and sensing the disruptive circumstances placed on the young expecting couple.  I admire them for their faith, their obedience, and their trust in God throughout the entire ordeal – thrust upon them at the most inopportune time. I wonder if they knew it had to be this way – that the birth of their son had to occur at “the set place.” Did they consider the prophecies of scripture as they packed their belongings for the journey south to the City of David? Were they excited about how God had orchestrated these events according to His will? It really is hard to imagine if they understood the significance of this turn in the road … their lack of resources to make the journey … and Mary so close to delivery. I feel so humbled when I think of them … the hardships they endured. Yet, I somehow believe they were so close to God in those circumstances and felt a great peace within themselves.  Somehow, they knew in their hearts the sovereignty of God was trustworthy. Perhaps Mary recalled the what the Angel Gabriel had spoken to her: “No word from God will ever fail.” (Cf. Luke 1:37)

Yes, Jesus arrived! His advent is sure and well documented. And we know on this side of history all that transpired in His life … the purpose for which He was sent by God … and His final words: “It is finished….” (Cf. John 19:30) His birth … His life … His resurrection … changed the course of human destiny forever. And it happened because Mary said, “Yes.” She responded to Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Cf. Luke 1:38) Likewise, Joseph said, “Yes.” “He did what the Angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” (Cf. Matthew 1:24) The plan of salvation ordained before the foundation of the world continued to unfold because of their obedience and faith! And I believe we have been called to follow their example … to walk in their footsteps. Yes, I believe the Father desires each one of us to respond “Yes” to His Son, Jesus! As Jesus affirmed, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Then, we are to follow Him. As Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:26) Oh, what great lessons we continue to find in the Christmas Story!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Changed Decision…

Matthew 1:20-21 (NIV)

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

As we look at the various pieces of the Advent puzzle, I continue to see applications that I did not really notice before … though I have read the stories many times.  Our Verse of the Day is one of them that impressed me with a thought I would like to share, but I will broaden the passage a little more: 

Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the Law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Cf. Isaiah 7:14) 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus.

The Apostle Matthew gives us a glimpse into the human dynamics of what was taking place as God prepared to send His Son into the world … to be the Savior of the world. We can only imagine what was going through Joseph’s mind when Mary broke the news to him about the supernatural visit from the angel, Gabriel, and his explanation of what was taking place and why.  It seems too improbable; yes, unbelievable; and in the moment, I would assume heartbreaking for Joseph. Still, there is something about the character and innocence of Mary that raised questions.  Joseph knew her heart and the strength of her faith in God. Was Mary telling the truth? Had she indeed found favor with God? But … this is not the way things were supposed to be….

As Joseph ponders … as he prays and seeks God for answers … as his tears and heartache overwhelm his soul, Joseph determines that he must separate from Mary and divorce her.  Yet, because he loves her so deeply, he feels compelled to do so in a private manner. He does not want to ridicule her or expose her to public stoning for the offense of adultery. Joseph asks again, “Why has this happened?” This is not the way things were supposed to be….  But after he had considered this decision, Joseph is encountered by the Lord as well.  In dream, he received the revelation needed to resolve the conflict within. At the right time … God’s time … through prayer and patience, Joseph was given insight and knowledge that would lead to a better course of action.  He DID what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

What I see as an application here is the need to be prayerful and patient when we are confronted with life-changing decisions to make. Whether it is a decision concerning a relationship, a vocation, a location, or an inner temptation; we are advised to seek the face and the heart of God the Father AND to not be impulsive in our reactions to what has given rise to the need for major decision-making in our lives. Too often we can let our emotions in those circumstances “incite” us to make impulsive decisions that could ultimately lead us in a direction away from God’s will.  Think about the choice Joseph considered. What if he, in a rage of jealousy, had marched Mary up to the public square and told the townspeople that she had committed adultery and cast the first stone is accordance with the Law? How would history have been impacted by that decision?  Go back even further. What if Eve had not opened the door of the knowledge of good and evil? What if Adam had exercised obedience and prevented Eve from doing so? Indeed, decisions have consequences! So, it is imperative that we spend time in fasting and prayer; that we stay spiritually prepared; that we patiently access the necessary information to formulate a response, BEFORE we make decisions that could have unanticipated long-term consequences….

So, I pray that we would heed the Word of God, its instruction and the examples it affords us to make wiser decisions for our lives. Let us remember that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Cf. Proverbs 9:10) And Lord, if we lack wisdom, give us courage to ask you. For your Word says that if any of us lacks wisdom, we should ask You because you will give it generously to all without finding fault. (Cf. James 1:5) I pray, even as Paul prayed, asking that You, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, our glorious Father, would give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know Him better. (Cf. Ephesians 1:17) Yes, I continually ask God to fill each of us with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. (Cf. Colossians 1:9) May we ever be prayerful and patient as we seek your face and embrace your heart to do your will through every choice and decision that we make in our lives. Indeed, I pray that we will be as Mary and Joseph … wholly surrendered to Your plans and promises for our lives. In Jesus’ Name … the Name the angel told Mary and Joseph to give our Lord and Savior … I pray. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!