Remember His Atonement…

Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

As I read our Verse of the Day, the thought of ATONEMENT came to mind. Yes, its message prophesies a promise from the Lord we need to remember … a message we desperately need to hear … the gracious promise of forgiveness! And the Father has given us this assurance: Forgiveness has been granted to us through the atoning sacrifice of His One and Only Son upon the cross! So, yes, I want us to spend some time in remembrance of His Mercy … His Sacrifice … His Love … His Forgiveness … His Atonement for the redemption of our lives.

I think of King David who understood the mercies of God when he declared: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on His children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. (Cf. Psalm 103:8-14)

Indeed, I am reminded of all the prophets who foretold this work of God … His desire to redeem our hearts … His plan of reconciliation. And centuries later, as eyewitnesses of His majesty and glory … His life, death, and resurrection, the Apostles confirmed and testified of the fulfillment of this Good News in Christ Jesus. I think of Romans 5:8 and its affirmation: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And I think of 1 John 4:10 which proclaims: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Thus, we can see that the mercy of God and the love of God are inseparable in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus! His blood was poured out for us, and His once-for-all sacrifice was all-sufficient to obtain eternal atonement for us! Hallelujah!

The inspired writer of Hebrews articulated:

Hebrews 10:11-18 (New Living Translation)

11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest (Jesus) offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins for all time. Then He sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 13 There He waits until His enemies are humbled (subdued) and made a footstool under His feet. 14 For by that one offering He forever made perfect those who are being made holy. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For He says,16 “This is the New Covenant I will make with my people after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” (Quoting Jeremiah 31:33) 17 Then He says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” (Quoting Jeremiah 31:34) 18 And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.

While there is no more sacrifice to be offered for sin, we sometimes fail. In spite of great intention and personal effort to be obedient, we sometimes entertain temptation, engage in sinful behavior, and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23) This is an especially grievous issue for those who belong to Christ Jesus and have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires … for those who strive to live by the Spirit and endeavor to keep in step with the Spirit. (Cf. Galatians 5:24-25) As the inspired writer of Hebrews admonished: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 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?” (Cf. Hebrews 10:26-29)

Oh, how I thank God for His mercy and forgiveness when I fall short!

1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us.

John 3:19-21 (NIV)

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 these passages, the Apostle John reveals to us the reasons why confession of our sin is required. The light of God’s Word causes us to recognize our trespasses, feel conviction, and respond in repentance. He asserted: “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light!” Why? Because we understand that His light exposes us! We can no longer deceive ourselves to believe that our sins and trespasses can be hidden. Though physical darkness removes the ability of anyone to see, even darkness is as light before God. (Cf. Psalm 139:12) He is the God who sees us. (Cf. Genesis 16:13) King David said, “The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord is on His heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; His eyes examine them.” (Cf. Psalm 11:4) Thus, we cannot walk in darkness or deliberately continue to sin and then claim to live by the truth. The truth reminds us that what we have done has been done in the sight of God. His Holiness has been offended. His love and mercy have been taken for granted. His heart has been wounded. His Spirit prompts us to confess and agree with God that His judgment of all sin is righteous and just. (Cf. Psalm 51:4; Romans 3:4)

His Word reminds us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness! We must walk in the Light because Jesus is the Light. We must live by the Truth because Jesus is the Truth! And if we ever stumble in darkness … we who live by the truth are compelled to come into the light. As the inspired writer penned: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:16)

A Final Thought:

If you ever need a good example of how to sincerely confess your sin, I would encourage you to read the full confession of David found in Psalm 51.

Father God, we thank you for your precious gift of forgiveness! We worship you, Sovereign Lord, for your merciful atonement of our trespasses and iniquities! Though our sins are like scarlet, you have made them as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, you have made them like wool. The blood of your Son, Jesus, has cleansed us from ALL our sins and unrighteousness! In view of your great mercies, we offer ourselves as living sacrifices … holy and pleasing to you … for this is our true and proper worship! (Cf. Romans 12:1) Through Jesus, we offer you a continual sacrifice of praise … the fruit of lips that openly profess His Name! In humble gratitude, we will do good and share with those in need – for these are the sacrifices that please you! (Cf. Hebrews 13:15-16) Yes, may we love as you have loved us … and forgive as you have forgiven us. In the powerful name of Yeshua our Messiah, I pray! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Willing Spirit…

Psalm 51:12 (NIV)

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Our Verse of the Day comes from Psalm 51, and it is an intense confession and lamentation of David – prompted after Nathan the Prophet confronted him regarding his adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequent act to have her husband killed in battle. I encourage you to reference the story in 2 Samuel 11-12. In the final verse of that chapter we read, “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”

Though he was a man who pursued the heart of God and experienced intimate spiritual relationship with Him, David fell into great temptation. He committed adultery; and then afterwards, a murder as the consequences of his sin spiraled out of control.  In that time … in that moment … it is clear that David did not guard his heart nor fear God. Indeed, the consequences of his actions had far-reaching effects on his relationship with God and those around him. And so, Psalm 51 captures the outpouring of his confession and repentance before God.  David expresses that God desires faithfulness from us … righteousness and holiness … even from the moment of our conception. David asks God for cleansing, healing, renewal, and reinstatement of the fidelity he had violated. And from his prayer, we learn it is a broken spirit … a broken and contrite heart … that our loving and compassionate Father will use to restore us to Himself.

In his confession, David acknowledges not only his transgressions, but he observes in Verse 4 the following concerning his sin: “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight; so You are right in your verdict and justified when You judge. David asserts that his sinful actions against other people were indeed sins against God Himself! Further, He agrees that God’s judgment of his sins is righteous and just. David continues in his prayer to seek forgiveness and cleansing of his sins: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” And it is here that we find the context of our verse today….

To fear God is the beginning of wisdom; and reverence establishes the foundation for our obedience and faithfulness to Him. Like David, we can too easily become focused on ourselves, our own inner desires, and the allure of worldly things. Indeed, there is so much “pleasure” available that it can be challenging to our faithfulness. And the battle between light and darkness … between truth and lies … only seems to be intensifying in this world. Since we are caught in the torrent of spiritual warfare, it is understandable that we might become distracted and operate in the flesh. The deception and confusion can give rise to all kinds of temptations … enticing us to make bad decisions under the circumstances. If ever there was a time to guard our hearts and put on our spiritual armor (Cf. Ephesians 6:10-18), it is now in these latter days.

I see our Verse of the Day as a reminder of the constant struggle we face on the journey of faith. Any sin or transgression in our lives not only displeases the Lord, but there are profound consequences. We quench the Spirit who is working within us (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:19) … and we grieve the Spirit who has sealed us unto the day of redemption. (Cf. Ephesians 4:30) We are robbed of the “joy” of our salvation, and we begin to isolate ourselves from God in guilt and shame. Indeed, we dishonor the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to atone for our sins, and we separate ourselves from the presence of God through His Holy Spirit. Our capacity to love one another and minister to others is diminished because we have compromised ourselves….

As we meditate upon these thoughts, I hope that we will spend some time for introspection. As David did, let us kneel before the Father and pray: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Cf. Psalm 139:23-24) And as John affirmed, “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all (every) sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us. (Cf. 1 John 1:5-10)

Though our transgressions may not rise to the level that David committed, it is certain that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) So, it is my hope that as we examine ourselves before God, we will join David with repentant hearts as the Lord reveals our transgressions. For God is willing to purify us and to restore our joy. He is faithful to do so. Because of His mercy and grace, He will give us a willing spirit to live worthy of Him. As Paul wrote: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Cf. Galatians 5:24-25)

My friends, I believe the Father is calling our hearts to confession and repentance today so that He might restore the joy of our salvation! Let us humble ourselves in reverence. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Cf. Hebrews 4:16) And I am reminded of what Paul asserted: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13) So, let us be diligent to guard our hearts and minds so that we do not fall prey to our enemy the devil – who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:8)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

What Are You Afraid Of?

Proverbs 29:25 (NIV)

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

I like the message of our Verse of the Day. It speaks to the core of faith and how we experience fellowship with God. Fear of man … fear of people will prove to be a snare. And fear will inhibit and immobilize our faith. I believe faith releases the divine power that we have already been given in Christ Jesus. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) Like the conflict we experience between our flesh and our spirit, so goes our struggle between fear and faith. Whatever transpires in our lives, we need to trust God for the outcomes. God is for us and He has equipped us to accomplish His will for our lives….

I’m reminded of something our Lord Jesus said regarding fear, and I think it might be helpful to revisit it here:

Luke 12:4-12 (NIV)

4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him. 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Understand the context here. Jesus has been teaching His disciples and the gathering crowd about the issue of hypocrisy – meaning we appear to be someone outwardly to others, yet inwardly we are someone different and oftentimes opposite. Jesus taught there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. In other words, God knows everything … every thought … every word … every deed ever done in His sight whether other people are aware of the truth or not. We tend to hide our inner persons from others out of fear. Fear of exposing our true inner person … fear of expressing our true nature … fear of exposing our sins … fear of creating disappointment or rejection in relationships. But Jesus asserts, we have the wrong perspective of ourselves and the reality of God’s omnipresence. Perhaps, hypocrites can hide the truth from others … but not from our all-knowing, all-seeing Father who created the universe and everything in it. We might deceive ourselves and essentially lie to others … but we cannot deceive God. (Cf. Job 13:9)

So, Jesus, in a loving way, says that you and I need to have a proper perspective … a spiritual perspective of things. He tells us not to fear other people or what they might think, but to fear God and what He already knows … the One who will judge us based on the truth and not on appearances. And if any of us would give that careful thought, I believe we would agree that we truly need a Savior … an Advocate … to intercede for us on that day when we stand before God. (Cf. Romans 14:10-11) Our Lord Jesus calls us to believe in Him … to enter into an intimate relationship with Him … knowing that He is the only way to the Father. (Cf. John 14:6) We are called to live our lives based on truth … to be transparent with others just as we already are before God … and to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Lord Jesus – who redeems us to walk in the light as He is in the light. (Cf. 1 John 1:7) As the Apostle John wrote in John 3:20-21, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 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.”

Here are a few other scriptures to guide your meditation on this matter:

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? ~ Psalm 56:3-4

In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me? ~ Psalm 56:10-11

This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 17:5

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Exposed…

John 3:20-21 (NIV)

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 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 our Verse of the Day, the Apostle John affords us some interesting insight into the hearts of people who disdain the light of the Gospel and deny the truth of God. John states, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” Let’s examine the broader passage for context here:

John 3:16-21 (NKJV)

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.

When Jesus declared “I am the light of the world,” the context was related to the exposure of sin. I will reprint the narrative here for us:

John 8:2-12 (NKJV)

2 Now very early in the morning Jesus came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say about her?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear them. 7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” 12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Light. It shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot prevail against it. Darkness cannot overcome light. (Cf. John 1:4-5) Evil will not overcome good. And so, if we want to live in the truth … we must live in the light of Christ Jesus. When you and I step into the light of His holiness, every shadow of sin within our hearts is exposed. We come to the knowledge that God has seen everything we have ever done … heard every word our lips have ever uttered … known every thought our minds have ever conceived. Indeed, nothing can escape His notice because truth is the standard to which each of us will be held accountable. Those are very sobering realities we need to ponder….

John indicates that those who desire to live in the truth WILL come to the light of God … they will come to Jesus so that the darkness in them will be exposed and removed. The Prophet Jeremiah asserted, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure (desperately wicked). Who can understand it? (Cf. Jeremiah 17:9) But this is not something for us to fear; rather, exposure is something to embrace. The light of Jesus inspires our confession and repentance; and these forge a path to redemption, deliverance, healing, and freedom! Yes, I believe it is the fear of our inner darkness being expose that withholds the fullness God intends for us to experience in Him. Healing. Deliverance. Salvation. These all begin with exposure to light … and they can be experienced when we see the path of truth emerge from the trails of darkness we have traveled on. If we truly want liberty and wholeness in our lives, we must come into the light of God through Christ!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. ~ Psalm 56:13

Blessed are those who have learned to worship You, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. ~ Psalm 89:15

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. ~ Isaiah 9:2

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. ~ Ephesians 5:8

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. ~ 1 John 1:7

Teshuva – Time to Return!

1 John 2:1 (NIV)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

Our Verse of the Day deals with the issue of sin in our lives.  I find it interesting that this topic was presented today on Rosh Hashana … and the beginning of Teshuva (10 Days of Repentance) before Yom Kippur … the Day of Atonement.  I plan to observe these special days of reflection; and I think it would serve us well to look deeper into the context as well as other scriptures that lead us to confession, repentance, and obedience….

1 John 1:5-10 Through 1 John 2:1-6 (NIV)

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.

That is probably enough context for us to get the picture. All sin is unbelief or disobedience at its core. If we live in sin, we live in darkness. But if we live in God, we walk in the light. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. As John stated, we must “live as Jesus did” in order to have fellowship with Him. This is HOW we KNOW are in Him. The conviction of sin within us is the evidence that we have offended God … that we have displeased Him. And so, the call to holiness … to the consecration of ourselves to God is the goal. Therefore, confession of sin is necessary … it is required in order to be cleansed and purified by God. And John shares with us the great news that Jesus is our advocate with the Father in order that we might receive forgiveness and be reconciled for our offenses, but John will continue to admonish us with regard to habitual sin:

1 John 3:4-10 (NIV)

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that He (Jesus) appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

I believe we truly need to examine our attitudes toward sin. All too often, we excuse it … rationalize it … or justify it as “being human” or “God understands”. No one is perfect … I get that. But are we conscious of the offense and disgrace that sin brings to God? Do we grieve in our souls when we grieve the Holy Spirit … when we quench the Holy Spirit … when we offend and wound Father God? How often are Christians called “hypocrites” because of their conduct? I see bumper stickers that read: “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.” While the statement is true in a sense … the tone is quite misleading as though grace “excuses” sin. Just to be clear … the grace of God does not excuse sin! The grace of God covers its consequences (See Romans 6:23) … covers it with the precious blood of a perfect sacrificial lamb … atones for sin … and reveals the wrath God “feels” toward it. No, we cannot continue to sin nor be dismissive of the behaviors and habits we have allowed to become the strongholds in our lives. A person born of God … a believer … cannot go on sinning. It is quite unconscionable to treat God with such irreverence if indeed we have been born of the Spirit.

Romans 5:6-10 (NIV)

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 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!

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Being born of the Spirit is the reason we have the capacity to reign in the sinful human nature. As 2 Peter 1:3 declares: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” And godliness should be the desire of a heart that is wholly surrendered to God. Someone once said that we have to hate our sin more than we love God if we truly want to attain holiness. But we cannot attain it in our own strength or power. As Jesus shared with His disciples, “What is impossible with man is possible with God. (Cf. Luke 18:27) It is the Spirit of God who changes our hearts so that the inclinations of the thoughts of our hearts can be made righteous. That is why we are admonished to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:5)

As we meditate on these scriptures and the observance of Teshuvah … the “return” … to turn our hearts toward God, I pray we will see what today is all about for the people of God. The call of repentance is the sound of the shofar – calling an assembly of people united in fasting and prayer before God. Yes, I pray that we will surrender our hearts today and seek the face of God in repentance. For He has said: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 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. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:13-16)

Indeed, WE, the people of this nation, need to humble ourselves … we need to turn from our own wicked ways … and consecrate ourselves to the Lord. Then will He hear our prayers and supplications for our homes, for our children, for our communities, for our churches, and for this nation. Then He will forgive and heal our land. Our sins and the sins of this nation can be covered! We have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One. It is His blood … the blood of atonement that redeems and reconciles us with the Father! That is the message of The Return! So let us repent and return to our first love! “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (Cf. Psalm 95:6) Amen….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Links to Bible Gateway for Jewish Readings During Teshuva:

Hosea 14:1-9 (NIV)

Joel 2:15-27 (NIV)

The Fool and The Foolish

Psalm 14:1 (NIV)

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

Perhaps it was a play on words – April Fool’s Day – but our Verse of the Day sheds light on a real issue that we face in the proclamation of the Gospel. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Unbelief is the opposition of the spiritual forces of darkness … and the greatest transgression of all! Does it not speak to the times we are living in this current generation? Scripture has a great deal to say about foolish people … and the consensus of the truths presented is that those who are fools, those who act foolishly, separate themselves from God and from His blessings. There are several passages in Scripture that corroborate the same message that reverence for God is the beginning of knowledge, but foolish people despise wisdom and instruction. (Cf. Proverbs 1:7)

Psalm 14 (See also Psalm 53)

1 The fool (a morally deficient person) says in his/her heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. 2 The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. 4 Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the Lord. 5 But there they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous. 6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge. 7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

Proverbs 1:20-33 (NIV)

20 Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; 21 on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: 22 “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? 23 Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. 24 But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, 25 since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, 26 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you— 27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. 28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, 29 since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. 30 Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, 31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. 32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; 33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

Here in Old Testament wisdom literature, we see an emphasis on the knowledge of God … of the awareness and understanding that He is real and expresses Himself to us and reveals Himself to us.  God has made Himself known through His Creation … through His Word … through His Spirit.  But the fool outright rejects the existence of God.  The fool walks in unbelief and denial of the truth. But the Spirit of God is active through the Word of God.  “Indeed, the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before Him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12-13) Yes, if someone wants to receive wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One, we must first repent at His rebuke.  THEN He will pour out His thoughts and make known His teachings. But there is consequence for those who continue to reject Him:

Matthew 7:21-29 (NIV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, 29 because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Matthew 25:1-13 (NIV)

1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with Him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 12 “But He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ 13 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

In both of these passages, we see the word “foolish” use to describe people who encountered Jesus … who knew Him … yet they did not remain steadfast to His word. The foolish were among those who heard His words. They understood what He was saying; and yet, they did not put them into practice. It was not a matter of misunderstanding; rather, it was an attitude of indifference on the part of the hearer.  The prompting of the Holy Spirit for repentance was rejected.  I wonder who they called on when their lives came to ruin? Likewise, the virgins knew the Bridegroom would be coming for the marriage supper of the Lamb. But they had not prepared themselves for His arrival. They were foolish due to their complacency…. And the Apostle Paul warned of the darkness and deception of foolishness as well:

Romans 1:18-25 (NIV)

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

As I indicated above: Any lapse in faithfulness equates to foolishness. But unbelief in God … in His Word … in His Majesty and Holiness … defines the fool! The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” And unbelief separates the fool from God. The fool neither glorifies nor worships God nor does the fool give thanks to Him. Their hearts are darkened … rebellious … and filled with iniquity. Paul will go on to further explain in Romans 1:28-29 that God gives the fools “over to a depraved mind so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity.” So there is a difference between acting foolish and being a fool. Perhaps this is why Jesus warned that anyone who says to a brother or sister in Christ, “You fool!” – will be in danger of the fire of hell. The word has a clear definition and meaning when the context of Scripture is applied to it….

I share this “insight” because we might consider that a prodigal is a ‘fool’. But I think the prodigal (and many of those whose faith is weak) may better be described as “acting foolishly” … behaving as though God is not around or not watching their lives. Perhaps they forget, but God is very aware! “From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind;from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth—He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” (Cf. Psalm 33:13-5) Yet God is still calling out to them! Through His Spirit … through His Church, the Lord Jesus is reaching out to the prodigals … to those who are acting foolishly … to those who have turned their hearts away from God … and He is crying out to them: Stop! Watch! Return! For surely God is stopping the earth in its tracks at this very moment of history! And I believe He is telling all of us to stop … to “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Cf. Psalm 46:10) And I believe Jesus is telling us as well to watch! “Watch therefore, for your do not know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Cf. Matthews 25:13) And as the world watches, I believe He is proclaiming: “I AM He!”

Every prodigal has the opportunity to turn from the darkness that has taken hold and deceived them. Indeed, Light has come! “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.” (Cf. John 3:21) And so now is the time for the prodigal to return…. Now is the time of repentance … the time to change direction … the time to forsake foolishness … the time to respond to the Spirit of Wisdom. It is time to walk in the light as He is in the light … so that we have fellowship with one another … because the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. (Cf. 1 John 1:7) This is the message for prodigals and to all who have become foolish. We, the Body of Christ, have been chosen to be witnesses! We are to lead out those who have eyes but are blind and those who have ears but are deaf. We have been anointed to preach the good news; sent to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim liberty to those who are captive; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God…. (Cf. Isaiah 61:1-3) But we must do so with gentleness:

2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NIV)

20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

So how do we avoid foolish and stupid arguments … and the quarrels they produce? How can we be gentle to those whom we pray God will grant the gift of repentance? Well, what led you and I to repentance? Was it not the kindness of God? (Cf. Romans 2:4) And so, let the redeemed of the Lord tell their stories! Share how you cried to the Lord in your trouble and how He saved you and gave you peace. There are no doctrinal arguments for your testimony … because the love of God surpasses understanding. It cannot be argued or explained. It can only be experienced and shared. So share your own authentic encounter with Jesus Christ, and let the Holy Spirit take it from there…. I encourage you to read Psalm 107. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those He redeemed from the hand of the foe,those He gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south….”

A Prodigal Excerpt:

17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. 18 They loathed all food (bread of life – word of God) and drew near the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. 20 He sent out His Word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave. 21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind. 22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.

When we speak about the wonderous works of God … the loving deeds of the Lord … we proclaim the will of God and rejoice in Him. This is our invitation … this is the invitation of the Lord: “To taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Cf. Psalm 34:8) And I love the metaphors the writer used in Psalm 107. Some wandered … some sat in darkness … some became fools … and some were tested with the storms of life. I encourage you to mediate on what each metaphor is revealing to our own hearts … for we can each see a reflection of ourselves in each one! We, too, had spiritual oppression and opposition to overcome. And in truth we conclude: “For we have all been saved by grace through faith … and this is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God … not of works so that none of us can boast.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9)

When it comes to ministering to the prodigal, gentleness and kindness are the themes that come to my mind. They are not to be treated as fools who believe there is no God; rather, they just need to come to their senses … to see the light of life … to see Jesus … to encounter “I AM He.” I believe the return of those called by His name is happening as we speak … as we pray for their repentance. It will occur not because we have elegant orators, anointed prophets and teachers, or because we are endued with the power of the Spirit; rather, I believe it will occur because of sincere love manifested through our lives. Oh, please do not misunderstand me. To be sure, the anointings and gifts of the Holy Spirit have their ordained roles for the building and equipping of the Body under the headship of Christ Jesus, but I truly sense that it is genuine love that must fill the Church first.  Love is HOW the Word of God through the Spirit of God will bring the prodigals home…. So, I will end with this thought:

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 (NIV)

1If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Let’s Settle The Matter…

Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

I was first intrigued with this verse and its message of redemption.  We see in the metaphors a work of cleansing and forgiveness … and in the context there is a decision for people to make with regard to this offer of redemption.  The choice is to either be willing and obedient or to be resistant and rebellious.  As I read the entire Isaiah 1 this morning, I could not help but ponder on its theme of rebellion against God and its presentation of His correction or discipline for the insolence of Israel. I think this is a reflection of our own nation in this hour of history; and I believe the people of God should heed its instruction to examine ourselves in its light.

Isaiah 1 ~ A Rebellious Nation

The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

 The Problem

Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the Lord has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil.

The Consequence

Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. Daughter Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a cucumber field, like a city under siege. Unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah. 10 Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11 “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!

The Solution

16 Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. 17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. 18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; 20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The Reason

21 See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her— but now murderers! 22 Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. 23 Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them. 24 Therefore the Lord, the Lord Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares: “Ah! I will vent my wrath on my foes and avenge myself on my enemies. 25 I will turn my hand against you (the faithful city) I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities. 26 I will restore your leaders as in days of old, your rulers as at the beginning. Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.” 27 Zion will be delivered with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness.

The Disobedient

28 But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the Lord will perish. 29 “You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks in which you have delighted; you will be disgraced because of the gardens that you have chosen. 30 You will be like an oak with fading leaves, like a garden without water. 31 The mighty man will become tinder and his work a spark; both will burn together, with no one to quench the fire.”

Wow!  Do you agree there might be some parallels for the Church … the Body of Christ … to consider?  Does the Lord not discipline those whom He loves … as a Father the child He delights in?  (Cf. Proverbs 3:16) Have our prophets not quoted: “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) Yes, I think the application for believers is to humble ourselves and to seek the Lord in repentance and brokenness. The prayer of our hearts should be to learn to do right; to seek justice; to defend the oppressed; to take up the cause of the fatherless; and to plead the case of the widow … because these expressed issues on the heart of our God. These are the responsibilities of the Church! And so, I am reminded of what Paul wrote in this regard:

Romans 12 ~ A Living Sacrifice

“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. 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. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. 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 everyone. 18 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. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Each one of us has a personal decision to make each day. Jesus instructed: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Cf. Luke 9:23) The choice is to either be willing and obedient … or to be resistant and rebellious. So I hear the Father bidding us the morning: “Come now … let us settle the matter.”

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~ Jesus.

Choose You This Day…

Joshua 24:15 (NIV)

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Our Verse of the Day challenges us to make a life decision … to choose whom we will worship and serve. Will it be the gods of this culture in the land where we are living? Or will it be the Lord … the Most-High God … the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? As I think about what is happening in our nation, I marvel at the similarities Israel faced in its historical challenges to be the people of God. Israel had its share of enemies, and so the current turmoil we face as a nation should not come as a surprise for believers who struggle to preserve a nation under God – where righteousness, justice, and truth might prevail. A friend invited me to read Psalm 83; and I saw a prayer emerge in the context that I wanted to share with you:

 Psalm 83 ~ A Song. A Psalm of Asaph.

O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God. See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish. “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.” With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you— the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites, Byblos, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre. Even Assyria has joined them to reinforce Lot’s descendants. Selah. Do to them as you did to Midian, as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon, 10 who perished at Endor and became like dung on the ground. 11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna, 12 who said, “Let us take possession of the pasture lands of God.” 13 Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind. 14 As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze, 15 so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm. 16 Cover their faces with shame, Lord, so that they will seek your name. 17 May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace. 18 Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

Yes, we can and should pray without ceasing … seeking the face of God for righteousness and justice to return to our land. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Cf. Ephesians 6:12) Indeed, the battle is spiritual; and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4) And as we pray, I think we would be wise to examine ourselves and our attitudes as we come before the Lord.  Let us remember how God admonished His people Israel:

2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (NIV)

13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 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 land15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.

The call of God upon our hearts and lives is to be children of light! (Cf. Ephesians 5:8) Asaph, a Psalmist, wrote: “Blessed are those who have learned to worship you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” (Cf. Psalm 89:15) The Prophet Isaiah urged: “Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Cf. Isaiah 2:5) So, it follows that we must deal with our own sin and darkness first. This scripture enjoins us to humble ourselves and pray and seek God and turn (repent) from our own sin.  THEN God will hear and forgive and heal! The Apostle John spoke to this issue as well:

1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

This is the message we have heard from Him (Jesus) and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.

So the application here is to prepare our hearts for prayer first. As Isaiah admonished, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Cf. Isaiah 59:1-2) The people of God are being called to repent … to return to our first love – Jesus Christ. (Cf. Revelation 2:4). As David confessed, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Cf. Psalm 51:17) I think these are the requisite actions needed if we want to be productive and effective for the Kingdom of God. And so, I believe our deepest pursuit in prayer should first be sincere reverence for God and a passion for holiness within ourselves. Then we can emerge from our times of prayer empowered to serve the Lord as His Body. He will afford us discernment and discretion on how to engage a culture of unbelief; and He will equip us to better minister to those who respond. Yes, we can invite them to choose whom they will serve … as we choose to serve the Lord.

Some final thoughts:

Hebrews 12:14 (NIV)

14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

2 Timothy 2:22-26 (NIV)

22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)

14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and innocent, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Shabbat Shuvah…

1 John 2:1 (NIV)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

Yesterday and today, in Washington, D.C., there is a gathering … there is a call for the Body of Christ, the Church, to “RETURN” to the Lord our God!  The message is for repentance to fall upon every believer … for being too casual about sin … for being lukewarm in our hearts … for leaving our first love.  Indeed,  our concern should be about our own sins … the sin of apathy, the sin of hardness, the sin of injustice,  the sin of selfishness, the sin of pride, and yes, all the secret sins that lie within our hearts – yet exposed before God. As we point our fingers at the world around us, know that more fingers are directed at ourselves.  It reminds me of some familiar Scriptures that we know, but often fail to apply to our own hearts:

Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

1 “Judge (Condemn) not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment (condemnation) you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck (of sawdust) in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Romans 2:1-11 (NIV)

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

Psalm 62:11-12 (NIV)

11 One thing God has spoken,   two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, 12     and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”; and, “You reward everyone  according to what they have done.”

Proverbs 24:10-12 (NIV)

10 If you falter in a time of trouble,   how small is your strength! 11 Rescue those being led away to death;  hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”  does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it?  Will He not repay everyone according to what they have done?

As we think about these words of judgment, they fall upon an appointed day.  For today is Shabbat Shuvah or the Sabbath of Return!  It is the Sabbath that falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  And in Hebrew, the word Shuvah is the root of the word teshuvah … which means “repentance”!  And that is the core concept of what today is about for the people of God. The call of repentance is the sound of the shofar – calling an assembly, a people united in fasting and prayer before God. The Scriptures read in the synagogues today are reprinted below for us:

Hosea 14

1 Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.” “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; 6 his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. People will dwell again in His shade; they will flourish like the grain; they will blossom like the vine— Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon. 8 What more has Ephraim to do with idols? I will answer him and care for him. I am like a flourishing juniper; your fruitfulness comes from me.” Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

Joel 2:15-27 (NIV)

15 Blow the trumpet (shofar) in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” 18 Then the Lord was jealous for His land and took pity on His people. 19 The Lord replied to them: “I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. 20 “I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.” Surely He has done great things! 21 Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! 22 Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. 23 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. 24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. 25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm— my great army that I sent among you. 26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. 27 Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.

And so, I pray that we will surrender our hearts today and seek the face of God in repentance. For He has said: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 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. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (2 Chronicles 7:13-16) Yes, the people of God, need to humble ourselves … we need to turn from our own wicked ways … and consecrate ourselves to the Lord. Then will He hear our prayers and supplications for our homes, for our communities, for our churches, for this nation … to forgive and heal our land. Yes, our sins and the sins of this nation can be covered.  We have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One.  It is His blood … the blood of atonement that redeems and restores us to the Father! That is the message of The Return! “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Worth More Than Sparrows

Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

At first glance, our Verse of the Day provides us encouragement as Jesus shares how the Father values each one of us.  The idiom or metaphor of numbering the hairs on our heads indicates that the Father knows us intimately.  He is aware of our every problem, every need, every situation … and is concerned about every aspect of our lives. As David noted, “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. (Cf. Psalm 55:22) And Peter recounted this truth when he wrote: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7)

But what I found challenging is the surrounding context in which our passage is found.  I’ll reprint it here for us:

Luke 12:1-12 (NIV)

1 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to His disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.  11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

This larger context creates some theological tension for us. First, we are warned about the deception of hypocrisy in our lives. Jesus indicates it will be exposed. Then He shifts to “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more; rather, fear the One who has authority over your eternal destiny.  Yes, fear Him!”  Then we are assured that God knows us intimately and we are valued, and He encouraged, “Do not be afraid.”  Then we are admonished regarding our profession of faith and its determination of our forgiveness. I mean, there is a lot to consider here. The question is whether each one of these “teachings” are connected to the other, or if they are simply being presented by Luke as a “list” of teachings that Jesus was communicating to those who gathered to hear Him … similar to how we see various Proverbs being presented.

When I read some other commentaries on Luke 12, I could not find a consensus on the issue I posed.  Some commentators broke out each “discourse” within Luke 12:1-12 as I have outlined them here into separate “small sermons.” The idea is that each topic has its own application as we allow these teachings of Jesus to impact us. Notice how Jesus begins each “topic” with the words: “I tell you.” To me this indicates a separation of thoughts or messages; however, I find here an overall theme of how our relationship with God is to be viewed, understood, and expressed. And, perhaps, that is what our application should be … understanding that our fellowship with God through the Lord Jesus must be based on truth and sincere faith. We do not have to be afraid of our future if we reverence God and place our complete trust in Christ Jesus His Son … whom He sent to reconcile us to Himself.  To me, this is the core message being taught by Jesus.  Jesus is affirming that we can trust Him, but we must be humble and honest in our willingness to confess Him as Lord! When tested, and we will be tested, the evidence of sincere faith will be manifested to all.  Our true faith will be exposed and will be seen by those around us … as it is already known to God.

So this is an important lesson for us to embrace.  The truth will always be exposed in the light.  There is no place for hypocrisy with God.  We deceive ourselves if we think our hidden sins are not known.  We might fool people, but we will never fool God.  He knows and sees all things done.  And so, perhaps, that is the warning for us to fear God … the One who has authority over our eternity after our physical death here on earth.  Our faith is being tested each day … each situation … each choice or decision we make for ourselves.  So we must view our relationship with God in this context of truth and light.  God knows each of us intimately; and He desires us to know Him intimately as well.  So honesty is the place to start.  If repentance is indicated, then follow through.  As John advised: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make God out to be a liar and His word is not in us.” (Cf. 1 John 1:8-10)

Lord Jesus, your words challenge us today.  As we consider what you are teaching, I pray that each of us will self-examine our hearts and see the truth you have brought to light.  I pray we will follow the prayer of David when he confessed the sin that he tried to hide. David was exposed, but he determined to repent and restore His fellowship with you.  I pray each of us will find the same honesty and courage to return to you and be reconciled when your Spirit convicts us of hypocrisy and dishonesty.  Against you and you alone we sin, and nothing is hidden from your sight.  Teach us to fear you, O Lord.  Let obedience be our reverence.   

Psalm 51:1-12 (NIV)

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

May our hearts embrace the teachings of Jesus. May our hearts repeat these words of David. Yes, may our hearts be sincere so that we will walk in the truth.  In Jesus Name I pray, Amen….

I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. ~ Psalm 119:14

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!