Thankful For His Kingdom…

Hebrews 12:28 (NIV)

Therefore, since we are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe…

Our Verse of the Day affords us another perspective with regard to the expression of our thankfulness – to worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. The inspired writer connects these expressions of thanksgiving and praise to our Sovereign Lord who has given us an inheritance … an enduring Kingdom! Let’s review our verse in its context:

Hebrews 12:22 (NIV)

22 But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 to Jesus the mediator of a New Covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him (Moses) who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from Him (God) who warns us from heaven? 26 At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” (Citing Haggai 2:627 The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Citing Deuteronomy 4:24)

My friends, we definitely have so much to be thankful for in our lives! As our Verse of the Day declares, let us be thankful for the Kingdom of God we have received in our hearts through Christ Jesus … a Kingdom that cannot be shaken or moved … a Kingdom wherein peace, righteousness, truth, and love abides in us. For Jesus said, “The Father has been pleased to give us the Kingdom!” (Cf. Luke 12:32) So, let us worship the Father in the Spirit and in Truth … with deepest reverence and holiness! Yes, let us ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name! (Cf. Psalm 29:2; 96:7-9) Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Jesus responded to Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.” ~ John 3:3

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. ~ John 3:5

Thanking God For You…

1 Corinthians 1:4-5 (NIV)

I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—  

I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—  

As we enter the second day of this week of Thanksgiving, our Verse of the Day is a call for us to offer our thanksgiving to God for other believers. The Apostle Paul often began His epistles with an expression of gratitude toward the believers in the churches who he had mentored during his missionary journeys. Here are a few examples:

Ephesians 1:15-16 (NIV)

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

 Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:3-4 (NIV)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NIV)

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 (NIV)

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

Philemon 1:4-6 (NIV)

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all His holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.

Notice how these passages have some common elements.  First, Paul assures the churches that he is praying for them all the time.  He expresses this discipline in prayer as “always”, “continually”, and “not stopped.” Secondly, we observe that in his prayers, Paul is giving thanks to God for these believers … and specifically for their faith in Jesus Christ. In addition, Paul typically commends HOW their faith and service to God is evident by their love for one another.  Indeed, it is their love generated by their faith that Paul is so grateful to see coming to fruition! Their response to the grace of God is ample cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving, and Paul is inspired to let them know.

So, I see an application for us to consider … and I believe we should ask ourselves some questions:

  • “Do I give thanks to God for other believers who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ?”
  • “Do I appreciate their gifts, talents, and service to Jesus Christ as members of His Body?”
  • “Am I grateful for their fellowship and love as expressions of their faith in Him?”

As I pondered these questions, I found myself feeling appreciation and gratitude for other believers and their labors of love toward people through the ministries of the Church. And I have, from time to time, expressed my thanks to them for their devoted service. But as I think of Paul’s example, continual giving of thanks to God for my brothers and sisters in Christ, I find myself falling short of this ideal. Yes, I must confess that thanksgiving for others during my prayers has not been often enough; and I think that, perhaps, I have been missing an essential focal point of prayer. I am convicted and convinced that I should never cease remembering the Body of Christ throughout the world, nor should I ever cease to mention those who attend our local assembly in my prayers. Paul has made it clear that it is important to be faithful in sincerely giving thanks to God for their lives, their gifts, their service, and their love….

So, in this season of Thanksgiving, I pray that we all will remember this fundamental truth: that in Christ we form one body … His Body. Though we are many members, each individual member belongs to all the others. (Cf. Romans 12:4-8) And as Paul instructed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” Thus, in light of this context, I believe it follows that we should continually give thanks to God for each other during our daily time of prayer. Yes, let us make this our practice … to remember each other and to express gratitude to God for each other in our prayers as often as possible.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

A Call To Praise!

1 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle Peter leads us into a call of praise to God our Father for the gift of His Son … our Lord Jesus Christ. And look at the reason we are called to give Him praise: “In His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” A new birth … to be “born again” … means we experience an authentic encounter with Jesus Christ that produces a “living hope” of resurrection and “inheritance” of eternal life.  Let’s look at the larger passage for context:

1 Peter 1:3-16 (NIV)

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He (Holy Spirit) foretold the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

This is a powerful passage of Scripture from the Apostle Peter, and I want to think about the power of praise in our lives. Indeed, praise and worship produces power upon and within the believer. Praise and worship are what will get us through the difficult times and trials in our lives because God supernaturally uses it to fill us with the power we need to build our faith and to overcome. Notice in Verses 6 and 7 what Peter shares about suffering due to the obedience that comes from faith: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Perhaps, Peter reflected back on when Jesus taught about the trials believers would face for putting their faith in Him. Jesus had likewise encouraged steadfastness in faith. Jesus encouraged His followers to rejoice and be glad when you encounter hostility for your faith in Him. As we discussed, Jesus taught: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me (or my name). Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Cf. Matthew 5:11-12)

Have you ever wondered why the new birth … being born again of the Spirit of God must come first? The Apostle John records what Jesus taught about this experience:

John 3:1-8 (NIV)

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” 3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again.4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely, they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water (the Word) and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So, it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

We see from this passage that the “born again” experience is spiritual – conceived in the Word of God and brought forth by the Spirit of God. Our spiritual birth in Christ Jesus is the beginning of new life … real life … true life … which is what God has purposed for us since before the foundation of the world. Jesus declared: “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent. (Cf. John 6:29) So, when faith in Jesus Christ is formed … when we receive Him and believe in Him, we then receive the right (the authority) to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor a human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (Cf. John 1:12-13)

Without this new birth – we do not have the indwelling Spirit of God. No one can declare “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3) It follows that we must be born again before we can be filled with the “living hope” accomplished through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we must be born again before we can become a child of God … a child who is “eligible” to receive an inheritance … the inheritance of eternal life. Eternal life is His gift to those who are His own; and I will note what Peter shared about this new birth – it is given to us because of the “great mercy” of the Father. Without His mercy … without His grace … we are unable to believe in the One He has sent. Our faith in Jesus Christ is truly a merciful gift!

Ephesians 2:1-9 (NIV)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

So what shall we conclude? What is the application for us?

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 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.

It is my prayer that our Verse of the Day has conveyed something much deeper for us to meditate upon. I hope we can earnestly declare: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Oh, how I pray that we will “joyfully give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of Light. For He has rescued (saved) us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption – the forgiveness of sins.” (Cf. Colossians 1:12-14)

Yes! Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Follow God’s Example…

Ephesians 5:1 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children…

Our Verse of the Day continues to focus on the theme of love as the full expression of what it means to walk with God. At first glance, I was intrigued by this one sentence verse. Parsing it out, I saw two key points that I wanted to explore: “God’s example” and “as dearly loved children,” so I read further to Verse 2.

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Key Point 1: We just needed to go one more verse to nail “God’s example” for us to follow. We are to walk (live) “in the way of love”! And our example of this “way” is our Lord Jesus Christ. His way of love is sacrificial in every aspect of relationship – first and foremost as the atonement for our sins … but also as a covering for offenses. (Cf. Proverbs 10:12; Proverbs 17:9; 1 Peter 4:8) As Paul shared: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Gone is the idea that we extend love to others after they have “earned” it. Gone is the notion that we only express or demonstrate love to another person because we feel like (based on our own determination) he/she deserves it. God’s example looks deeper than our transient emotions and human feelings.

1 John 4:7-12 (NIV)

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.

Key Point 2: Did you see it? Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God! “As dearly loved children” comes to life for us here. We did not become children of God until we were born of God; and that did not happen until we received Jesus as Lord and Savior. (Cf. John 1:12-13) So a child of God, by definition, loves in the same manner that God loves them. And the text says we are “dearly loved”. That speaks to the intimacy of our relationship with the Father we experience through Christ Jesus. And so, let us continue to look at how the Apostle John further articulates this “way of love” for us:

1 John 4:15-21 (NIV)

15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because He first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

I encourage you to read further into Ephesians 5:1-20 (Link to Bible Gateway Provided Here). I want to draw your attention to how Paul contrasts walking in the way of love with our former conduct as unbelievers. Before we encountered the love of God through Jesus Christ, we were unable to walk in perfect love. Paul illustrates this and provides us with practical, concrete examples of the tension between light and darkness … between love and the absence of love. Just as light exposes the darkness, so the love of God exposes the behaviors we exhibit as humans that are unloving, unkind, and therefore, unholy. And it is imperative for us to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can truly walk in the way of love. Christ Jesus lived the sacrificial love the Father has in mind for each of us to imitate. And He challenges believers with this spiritual standard: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Cf. Luke 9:23) James and Peter weighed in on this instruction as well. James: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (Cf. James 3:13) And Peter: “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:22)

Although love is spiritual, it will always express itself in the physical or natural. The Father expects us to imitate Him, to be conformed to the image of His Son, and walk in the way of love. Love is to be the expression of our faith in Jesus … the outcome or fruit of the Holy Spirit who lives within us. Indeed, every fruit of the Spirit is rooted in love.

1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

2 John 1:6 (NIV)

And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.

I just feel impressed that the Spirit of God is very concerned that we as believers not only hear the command to walk in love, but to make it actionable in our lives. As I have shared before, God saved us … created us in Christ Jesus to do good works which He prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) We have been saved to serve! This is His call on the life of every believer! We just need to be obedient as opportunities and divine appointments to share the love of God with others come our way. As the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews urged: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds….” (Cf. Hebrews 10:24) Indeed, being the love of God in this world is the responsibility and purpose of the Church. We are called to be the physical expression of God’s love to the world … and I pray we will do so with intentionality as we see the Day approaching….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Links to Bible Gateway for Additional Study on The Way of Love:

1 Corinthians 13

Romans 12:9-21

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.

When I read our Verse of the Day this morning, I couldn’t help but smile. If you’re getting to my age or older, this verse is a treasured promise of God. As I look back over the years of my life, I know that it has always been God who has sustained me each day and carried me through each one. And as I move forward towards the age of retirement, and I reminisce about the years since I become a new creation in Christ, I find this word from God more comforting with each day that passes. It declares the faithfulness of God throughout our lives … from birth to old age. He is intimately engaged in each of our lives for the duration … whatever He has determined and ordained for us.

So, I want to share with you my personal testimony that God has never failed me nor forsaken me on this journey He set before me. And I am most confident that His presence and guidance in your life will be no different. He is steadfast and faithful even when we have not been in our walk with Him. God calls us to confession … to agree with Him that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness. (Cf. 1 John 1:9) Yes, I pray you will take every opportunity to pour out your heart before the Lord and receive what you need … the mercy and grace to keep moving forward….

We all 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) Oh yes, 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!

And as you move through peaks and valleys of your life … the highs and lows … the triumphs and failures, KNOW that God, the God who intentionally created you, will sustain your life! He will heal you! He will save you! He will carry you through the fire and flood. For God declares to you in His Word that you are precious to Him in every way … you are loved and cherished as the apple of His eye! (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:9-11; Psalm 17:7-9; Zechariah 2:7-9) You need to hear that truth! You need to receive that Word from the LORD this morning! “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (Cf. 1 John 3:1)

So regardless of your age, I pray you will know that God is with you every step of the way. He has always 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 the faithful and true One! (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!

One New Humanity…

Ephesians 2:19 (NIV)

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household…

Our Verse of the Day addresses a theological concept that uses metaphorical language to explain how our relationship with God as non-Jewish followers of Christ is “equivalent” to the natural born relationship of God with His chosen people … His treasured possession.  Let’ look at the context:

Ephesians 2:1-22 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which He put to death their hostility17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.

I think Paul gives us a brilliant explanation of how Christ Jesus has joined together both Jew and Gentile believers into one body … one temple … one dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.  This is how He established a unity of the faith handed down from Abraham through His descendants.  The hostilities between Jewish and Gentile believers have ceased in Christ. Our diversity has been transformed into unity within the Body of Christ … for Jesus accomplished reconciliation and peace with God for both peoples through the cross. Paul presents a similar narrative in his Letter to the Colossians:  

Colossians 1:15-23 (NIV)

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 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. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds as demonstrated by your evil behavior. 22 But now God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

I encourage you today to meditate on what Christ Jesus has done … the unity of faith He has established to bring peace and reconciliation to all peoples. Remember, “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. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Cf. Galatians 3:26-29)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Diversity In Unity

Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

A couple of weeks ago (August 13th), I cited our Verse of the Day in the commentary regarding our identities as new creations in Christ Jesus. So perhaps we are called again to reflect on this topic further. In a world that appears to be fixated on the differences in our human and physical characteristics, I find it disheartening how our “diversity” can be used to create divisions between cultures and nations rather than to facilitate and encourage the unity God desires for people. To me, our Verse of the Day looks to “unity within diversity” because our “oneness” is the desire of God for those who abide in Christ Jesus. Let’s look at the surrounding context:

Galatians 3:26-29 (NIV).

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Faith in Jesus Christ changes everything … because to be in Christ means we have been born-again of the Spirit of God. This new birth makes us children of God; and as new creations in Christ, we no longer conform to the patterns of this world. (Cf. John 1:12-13; 3:3-8; 2 Corinthians 5:17-19; Galatians 6:12-15) Yes, in Christ we are spiritual creations … the workmanship of God the Father … and He has ordained for our identities in Him to be formed apart from our physical characteristics … our ethnicities … our biological determinants … or our social status. And collectively, the new creation God has formed through His Spirit is the Church … the Body of Christ … and we are members of His Body and belong to one another. (Cf. Romans 12:4-5) It is this connectedness that unifies us in Christ Jesus. Our diversity is neutralized through our interdependent function within the Body. Indeed, what should distinguish believers IS our unity!

Paul gave an insightful speech in the Areopagus at Athens, Greece. His discourse is captured for us in Acts 17:22-34. What led me there in my study was his commentary on the common origin of mankind and the sovereignty of God over human life:

Acts 17:24-28 (NIV)

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything. Rather, God Himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one blood He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from any one of us.28 ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’

What I want to focus on a moment is Verse 27 and its implications. We know from Genesis 1:27 that “God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” (Cf. Genesis 5:2) And I think we can reasonably infer that our gender distinctiveness was designed for reproductive purposes along with its spiritual applications for intimate relationship with God. Likewise, we know that from the original union (one blood) all the physical diversity of mankind has developed over the millennia. Our physical characteristics are quite diverse; and yet, we are genetically and reproductively compatible as a unique form of life God designed us to be. As mankind has reproduced and migrated over the earth, distinct peoples and cultures formed and settled into diverse geographic regions and nations. And what Paul helps us to see and understand is that God planned and purposed this phenomenon. Speaking of the course of human history, Paul asserts that God “determined their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” Thus, the diversity of mankind that we observe has been sovereignly designed by God! But what we may not have realized is the reason for it: “So that people would seek God and reach out to Him and find Him.”

I find that statement quite powerful … the assertion that the purpose of human diversity is to draw us closer to God. Somehow, through our ethnic and cultural differences, God planned to inspire people to “seek Him”. Fascinating! The very richness of human biological expression that has so often divided us is actually the very mechanism God has purposed to unite us! And when a person finds Jesus, the One whom God sent, he or she finds God! As Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” (Cf. John 14:6-7) Yes, in Christ, all of our differences and identities are set aside through the unity of faith. So let us make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Cf. Ephesians 4:3-6)

A Final Thought:

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” ~ Revelation 7:9-10

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Silence the Foolish

1 Peter 2:15-16 (NIV)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

As I read our Verse of the Day, I began to think about the significance of its message for believers – both for 1st Century Christians and for us in this current generation as well. I believe Peter affords a challenging insight into how we should conduct ourselves in a world that we have been called out of by the Lord Jesus.  So I have reprinted a larger section of the passage to give us the context:

1 Peter 2:11-23 (NIV)

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the unbelievers that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 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.” (Cf. Isaiah 53:9) 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.

I have emphasized the “applications” I want us to see and consider.  First, Peter states it is the will of God for us to “do good”.  Righteous conduct is not optional for Christians.  We are to do what is right in all situations. This includes both our actions and our words! And the reason is that by doing good we should silence those who in essence oppose God.  It is good conduct that God seeks in us.  We are to show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, and honor the highest offices of government which God has established.  And if we should suffer for doing good, and endure it, this is commendable before God.  Peter goes on to provide the example of our Lord Jesus in how to conduct ourselves in the face of opposition.  We should not return insult for insult.  We do not retaliate; rather, we wait upon the Lord who said: “It is mine to avenge. I will repay.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30)

Deuteronomy 32:34-41 (NIV)

34 “Have I not kept this in reserve and sealed it in my vaults? 35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” 36 The Lord will vindicate His people and relent concerning His servants when He sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free. 37 He will say: “Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in, 38 the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up to help you! Let them give you shelter! 39 “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. 40 I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: As surely as I live forever, 41 when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.

Romans 12:9-19 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Hebrews 10:26-35 (NIV)

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

So, I pray that we will embrace the will of God for those who believe in Him. His will is for us to “do good” as a testimony to those who oppose Him. God has given salvation and eternal life to those who believe; and He will judge those who are disobedient … those who disdain the blood of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ … those who resist and insult the grace of the Holy Spirit. Yes, God will judge His people.  We just need to do what is right and let God take care of the rest! So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

He Does Great Things…

Job 37:5-6 (NIV)

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’

As I read our verse this morning … I smiled inside and appreciated the reminder: He does great things beyond our understanding!  Indeed, “Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as His counselor?” (Cf. Isaiah 40:13; Romans 11:34) As the Prophet Isaiah shared: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Cf. Isaiah 55:8-9) We simply cannot know the intelligence or expressive power of our Creator!  All we can really do is marvel at Him … gaze into the heavens at His glory … or lie still in deep silence and listen to our own heartbeat! These sensory experiences weave a tapestry of reverence within our hearts for our Heavenly Father and for His Son … our Lord Jesus. “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 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. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Cf. Colossians 15-17)

But I think the greatest thing our God has done beyond all understanding … at least from my point of view … is to show each one of us in no uncertain terms: “You are loved!” Like David, sometimes it is difficult for us to understand the love and compassion of God. Sometimes doubts arise within us as we consider our own being in the light of what is known of His eternal power and divine nature. (Cf. Romans 1:20)

Psalm 8 (NIV)

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:
All flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,
The birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

But the Apostle John assures us: “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.” (Cf. 1 John 3:1) Indeed, the love of God reaches to the heavens; His faithfulness reaches to the skies. (Psalm 36:5; Psalm 57:10; Psalm 108:4)

1 John 4:9-10

This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very 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.

Oh, I pray this morning that we will take hold of this truth and believe this truth!  God loves His people more than His own life! It’s incomprehensible to us because we are the created ones, but our Creator made us in His image because of His great love. Psalm 89:1 says, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.” “For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.” (Psalm 86:13) “For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 117:2) “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:22)

A final thought for the Day!  May this passage also remind you of who you are in Christ and how greatly you are loved:

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Teach Your Children Well…

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

This is a favorite verse for many reasons.  First, I have found it to be true in my own life.  I was raised in a Christian home like many of us.  But in my teenage years and early adulthood, I went through a period of apathy and unconcern for the things of God.  I knew He was there, and I prayed on occasion, but I did not have a personal relationship with Him.  To be honest, I did not know how to have that kind of abiding relationship.  Yet, God in His kindness, led me to repentance and granted me salvation at the age of 29.  And my life has never been the same since that night I knelt at an altar and gave my life to Christ….  He redeemed my life and directed my steps to the path of life … the path taught to me as a child before I ever understood it.

I also like the King James translation of this verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  To me the key word here is “train”.  We must be diligent to teach our children the Word of God.  We spend hours reading to our children when they are toddlers and pre-school … giving them a head start in life and education.  How many of those books are bible stories … planting seeds of faith in their hearts from the earliest age? As adults we know and understand that learning is life-long.  It is so important to start our children with the knowledge of God while their minds are sponges and their hearts receptive.  Even Jesus exhorted His disciples regarding children coming to Him:

Matthew 10:13-14 (NKJV)

13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Mark 9:36-37 (NKJV)

36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

Luke 18:15-16 (NKJV)

15 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.

There is a great connection between how we raise our children to be drawn to Jesus and how their lives will enter the Kingdom of Heaven … regardless of the bends and turns they experience along the Way. It requires great patience. It requires intentionality. What does the text say? “Then little children were brought to Him….”  We need to bring our children to the Lord Jesus.  We need Him to put His hands on them and pray over them. And Jesus wants us to receive children in His name. There is nothing more precious than a child … and children are greatly treasured by our Heavenly Father.  So, I pray we will consider this lesson that Jesus taught: “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Cf. Matthew 18:2-4)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!