Great Is Your Reward…

Matthew 5:11-12 (NIV)

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In our Verse of the Day, Jesus gives His followers some insight on what being a devout believer will entail. Our profession of faith in Jesus will come at a cost … it will require a sacrifice. But our Lord Jesus affirms our devotion to Him comes with a blessing … a great reward in heaven … salvation and eternal life!

Matthew 5:1-12 (NIV)

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:17-26 (NIV)

17 Jesus went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of His disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all. 20 Looking at His disciples, He said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

When we look at these two presentations of the Sermon on the Mount, we see unexpected teachings of how true relationship with God is defined. Luke, true to his literary form, provides additional contextual commentary along with the recording of some contrasts (woes) that were spoken by Jesus. What we get here is a radical picture of what discipleship means in addition to a glimpse of the blessedness that following Jesus will produce in our lives. And I will note that Jesus did not say: “Blessed are those who have great possessions or sufficient finances….”

Jesus teaches that to be truly blessed in this life, to have intimacy with Him, we need to be emptied of all the things that the world seeks. He calls us to see the depth of our spiritual need … to mourn over our sin and disobedience … to weep over our self-centeredness and lack of compassion … to hunger and thirst for righteousness … to be more gracious and forgiving of others … to advocate for unity and peace … to seek holiness and humility in our hearts and lives … and to be willing to suffer for His Name and the Gospel.

I believe that who you and I will become in Christ, as we abide in Him, will be the outcome of sacrifice and suffering. Jesus told His disciples: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Cf. Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24) John recorded a similar discourse: “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 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 12:25-26) And Luke records the following teaching of Jesus that affords us further detail on the matter:

Luke 14:26-30; 33 (NIV)

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

Jesus indicated that there would be a real cost to discipleship; and He admonished followers to consider that cost before they began to follow Him. My initial thought was: “Is there really any choice?” Jesus preached radical ideas that challenged the religious paradigms of His time. So, when He asked His disciples if they wanted to leave Him as others had done, Peter answered: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Cf. John 6:67-69) Indeed, no matter what we might “perceive” is the cost of believing and following Jesus, I think it is clear that we must give up everything for His sake! Yet Jesus has assured us of “great reward” for doing so. As the Apostle Paul expounded:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

If we look at what is happening around the world, even within our own nation, the cost of being a believer and worshipper of Christ Jesus is becoming more apparent. And I believe the historical record of persecution serves witness to this precedent. From Stephen to present-day martyrs scattered across the globe, those who have died for their faith in Jesus testify of the ultimate sacrifice that could be required of any believer.  And I sense we are challenged to ask ourselves if we are willing to do the same. As Paul told the Philippians: “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him….” (Cf. Philippians 1:29) And Paul challenged Timothy: “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:8) All these thoughts call for introspection … as we consider the cost of allegiance, devotion, and faith. Jesus asks us to believe Him … to trust Him at His word … with everything.  And it is my prayer that we will do so….

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. ~ Jesus            (John 15:18-19)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Seek Me … Find Me … Trust Me

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Our Verse of the Day affirms the timeless message of trusting in God.  Are you worried about your life? Fearful that you will have enough food or clothes to meet your needs? Dreadful that the rent or mortgage payment will not get paid and you will lose your shelter? In His teachings recorded for us in Matthew 6, Jesus assures us that God is absolutely concerned about every aspect of our lives and we can trust Him for provision of every need.  I will reprint the context for your reference and contemplation:

Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Notice in the verse it states, “… and all these things will be given to you as well.” The implication is that everything that you and I need for our physical lives comes from God … these are given to us by God. And so, it follows that we should seek the One who “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:17) God said, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Cf. Jeremiah 29:13) The key here is searching for God with all of our hearts! This is what the Lord says to Israel: “Seek me and live! (Cf. Amos 5:4) And He declares the same promise to you and me. Apart from God there is no life … and with Him there is no anxiety or fear. He is the Lord our Provider – Jehovah Jireh. Amen.

So, I encourage you to let faith have its way in your life. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Cf. Proverbs 3:5-6). Indeed, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Cf. Psalm 9:9-10) The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in Him…. (Cf. Nahum 1:7) That is the message for us today! Indeed, let each of us declare: “In You, Lord my God, I put my trust.” (Cf. Psalm 25:1)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

My salvation and my honor depend on God Most High; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him,

for God is our refuge. ~ Psalm 62:7-8

When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? What can man do to me? ~ Psalm 56:3-4; 10-11

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. ~ Jeremiah 17:7-8

From Suffering To Hope…

Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I find it interesting that our Verse of the Day is an excerpt from the passage that I posted yesterday for our study.  The topic Paul addresses here is “suffering” and its intended spiritual purpose in our lives. Paul shares his insight from the tremendous amount of personal suffering that he endured; especially after becoming a believer and follower of Christ. I thought we might put this passage in the larger context to see this purpose:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of GodNot only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hopeAnd hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodlyVery rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Notice the end goal of suffering is “hope”! And hope does not put us to shame. Why? Because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. It is our reconciliation with God through the death of His Son … through the atonement made by His blood … that produces the hope of eternal life within us! It is this reconciliation through the suffering of Christ that demonstrates the power and depth of God’s love for us! And I believe this is the context in which we should view our own suffering in life. Paul indicates that we should glory in any suffering that is encountered for our faith in and devotion to Jesus Christ….

Romans 8:18-25 (NIV)

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope. 21 For the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

There is a correlation, an intricate relationship between suffering and hope for us to evaluate and to embrace. For we know that Christ Jesus, Son though He was, He learned obedience from the things that He suffered. (Cf. Hebrews 5:8) And Peter reminds us that suffering for doing good will be inevitable. Just as Christ Jesus suffered for us, we as believers have been called to follow in the example of His steps.

1 Peter 2:19-23 (NIV)

19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. (See Isaiah 53 regarding the suffering of Christ)

So, Paul enjoins us to “glory in our sufferings” for the sake of Christ. For it produces perseverance of faith … Christ-like character … and affirms the hope for which we seek an intimate relationship with God. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:1) And so, I think it follows that without suffering in our lives, we will not develop confidence in our hope or assurance through our faith. In other words, suffering is part of a necessary process to attain a faith that pleases God. “And 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) Faith is believing God and trusting Him even in the midst of our suffering….

2 Timothy 1:6-13 (NIV)

6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God. 9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. 11 And of this Gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

It is my prayer that we as believers will come to a place in our walk with God that we will embrace the trials of suffering that come with the journey of faith. As we have learned, suffering produces tremendous spiritual growth in us … deepens our faith and trust in God and His character … and ultimately produces the obedience that comes from faith. Indeed, those are the worthy goals that accompany suffering and affliction. “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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!

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!

I Will Sustain You…

Isaiah 46:4 (NIV)

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Well, if you’re getting to my age or greater, this verse is a treasured promise of God.  Even as I look back over the days of my life, I know that it has always been God who has sustained me each day and carried me through them. We need to be reminded that the Father created us and He takes responsibility for us.  He loves us with an everlasting love and provides for all our needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Cf. Philippians 4:19) The Lord Jesus taught us: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and everything else you need will be added to you.” (Cf. Matthew 6:33) For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Cf. Hebrews 13:5) I can surely testify that God has been good to me all the days of life!  He has rescued me! He has redeemed me! Jesus paid it all! All to Him I owe!

So regardless of your age, I pray you will know that God is with you every step of the way. He always has been with you … and He always will be with you … even until the end of the age! Yes, He invites us to trust Him … to put our complete faith in Him. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” (Cf. Romans 10:11) The Lord Jesus is a faithful and true! (Cf. Revelation 19:11) He is our refuge and our strength … an ever-present help in times of trouble…. (Cf. Psalm 46:1)

For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’ ~ Isaiah 41:13

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

God Listens…

Psalm 116:1-2 (NIV)

I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.

We have another Psalm to engage our thoughts today…. This Psalm was written by a faithful follower facing death (Verse 3).  He explains his thought processes on how to deal with this situation.  First of all, he affirms his love of God and why he loves Him.  “I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.”  And then the Psalmist affirms his faith: “Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.”  Let’s look at the larger context:

Psalm 116 (NIV)

I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.
Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, He saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

10 I trusted in the Lord when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”; 11 in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”

12 What shall I return to the Lord for all His goodness to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants.
16 Truly I am your servant, Lord; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord— in your midst, Jerusalem. Praise the Lord.

The inspired writer was in great distress and sorrow as he faced the thought and reality of the grave. I think there is something here for us to ponder as we face our own mortality and the challenging days ahead of us. When we feel overwhelmed, fearful, and anxious … when we come into circumstances and situations where we despair of life … this Psalm reminds us that the Lord hears our cries for help and mercy.  The Psalmist affirms The Lord is gracious and righteous and full of compassion.  The Lord protects us even from the unknown. We can rest completely in Him! He delivers us from the fears of death … from the sorrows of life … from the paths of sin.  So what shall we return to the Lord for all His goodness to us?

Lift up the cup of salvation He has given us in Christ Jesus.

Call upon the name of the Lord.

Fulfill our oaths and promises to the Lord.

Serve the Lord with all of our hearts.

Offer the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.

Heavenly Father, we thank you this morning that you hear our voices … that you hear our cries for help … when we become overwhelmed in our thoughts, anxieties, and fears.  We love you because you listen and move to quiet our souls and to give us assurance that you are ever present in times of trouble. So we call on you for deliverance and strength when we become weary.  We thank you because you are gracious, righteous, and full of love and compassion for us. You are our song! You are our praise!  And we shall call upon your name all the days of our lives! So we shall serve you with all of our hearts. We will fulfill our desires to live according to your Word. These are our offerings to you, O God. In the name of our Savior Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Eyes on the Lord…

Psalm 16:8 (NIV)

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Psalm 16 has always been one of my favorites … and our verse is taken from there.  I want to just go ahead and reprint the entire Psalm for our reference:

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

There are many petitions and supplications contained here … but we also see praise and thanksgiving within the context as well.  The themes that I see are to take refuge in the Lord; to keep our eyes fixed on Him; and to trust in His provision of everything we need for life. He alone is our security. He alone is our rest. He is our eternal portion and inheritance.  We have nothing except what He has given us to enjoy.  I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart is instructed. He has made known to me the path of life! He has filled me with joy in His presence! Eternal pleasures at His right hand!

Father … we thank you for your pleasant word to us.  We thank you for the encouragement and the strength your word provides us.  Our hearts are glad! Our lips sing praises to your Name!  We can rest under the shadow of your wings and trust in your abundant provision. To you we look for redemption of our bodies … the promise of eternal life through your son, Christ Jesus.  We worship you for who you are and for all you have done for us. Our joy and delight are in you! So, Lord, help us to keep our eyes fixed upon you … upon Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) For it is in His Name … the name above every other name … that we pray.  Amen….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!