The Path of Most Resistance

1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle Peter gives us some straightforward advice regarding the issue of temptation and how to “resist” it. First of all, Peter cautions us always to be vigilant. We need to be alert and clear thinking … knowing that temptation(s) is an incessant battle for each of us. He probably recalls the night of Jesus’ betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had asked the disciples to “keep watch with Him” as He went to a secluded area to pray. “Then He (Jesus) returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter, “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Cf. Matthew 26:40-41)

Second, Peter provides an excellent metaphor regarding our adversary … the devil. Peter describes him as a roaring lion on the “constant prowl” seeking a target … a victim … to devour with his lies. And it is clear that Satan oppresses and opposes those who have placed their faith in Jesus. Paul said we are not ignorant of the devices, schemes, or methods that Satan uses to draw us into temptation and to suppress our testimony through victorious living. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 2:11) Both James and Paul admonish us to consider the following aspects of temptation:

James 1:12-14 (NIV)

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NIV)

12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Further, we should understand that our “battle” with temptation is not always against our flesh or sinful human nature. We need to acknowledge that there are spiritual forces of darkness and evil that require internal spiritual fortitude to withstand. We are called to oppose and strive against the culture and the influence that the devil has over this world:

Ephesians 6:10-13 (NIV)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

So, Peter urges us to resist the devil by standing firm in our faith. As James advised us: “7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (Cf. James 4:7-8) In both cases, we are instructed to “resist” or “withstand the action” of the devil. We are to “strive against” or “oppose” what Satan throws our way. As Paul instructed, “We should take up the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Cf. Ephesians 6:16) Thus, it is our faith that becomes the victory over temptation. As the Apostle John affirmed, “This is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Cf. 1 John 5:3-5)

A final observation is that Peter connects the aggressive actions of the devil with the sufferings of believers throughout the world. Sometimes our “trials” are the struggles we face with temptation; however, the hardships and sufferings we endure could be those which come in the form of reviling and persecution for our faith in Jesus Christ. This is especially true in areas of the world where Islam is dominant and intolerant of Christianity. But even this is becoming the norm of modern culture – as God is relegated from public consciousness and moral values plummet into the abyss of sin. But Paul foretold us that this would be the case:

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

It is my prayer that we as believers will heed the spiritual insights that the Apostles have shared with us in their inspired writings. May we be alert, sensible, and logical as we observe the signs of the times and the moral decline of our culture. We need to resist, oppose, and strive against compromise with the culture around us … and realize that we will most likely suffer in some manner for doing so. As Jesus taught during the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Cf. Matthew 5:10-12) Be encouraged and remember the Lord said: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish.” (Cf. Isaiah 41:10-11)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Waiting For Answer…

Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Are you going through a time of indecision … feeling uncertain or unsure? Have you been praying about the matter and pouring your heart out before God in the secret place? Do you feel like your faith is weak? You are not alone. We have all been there; and maybe, some of us are in this experience at the current moment. It was a place that King David found himself at times. And I am glad that he “journaled” his experiences and the meditations of his heart for our encouragement. In our Verse of the Day, we see how David turned to God in times of distress. We sense his confidence in the care and compassion of God. He affords us a glimpse of how God worked in his life and blessed him with inner peace and assurance. And so, David reminds us to seek the face of God; to rest in His omniscient wisdom and judgment; and to wait on His will and purposes to prevail in and through our lives.

Psalm 27 (NIV)

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked advance against me to devour (slander) me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. 3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. 4 One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. 5 For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sanctuary and set me high upon a rock. 6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; in His sanctuary I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. 7 Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. 8 My heart says of you, “Seek His face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. 9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. 11 Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations. 13I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

This is a recurrent theme in the writings of David, so I want us to be captured by it and let the concept of “waiting” inspire our faith as well:

Psalm 33:10-22 (NIV)

10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance. 13 From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; 14 from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth— 15 He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. 16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. 18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. 20 We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. 21 In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. 22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 37:1-9 (NIV)

1 Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; 2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. 3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: 6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. 7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who wait on the Lord will inherit the land.

Psalm 130:1-8 (NIV)

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; 2 Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. 3 If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. 5 I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. 6 I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. 7 Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. 8 He Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

It really does not matter what is bothering or troubling us. God is fully aware of our situations and circumstances. He truly desires for you and me to seek Him … because we do not have His knowledge or understanding. It is His wisdom and counsel we want to access – because we believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) I think waiting for the answer and the direction to come from God is what stretches and grows our faith the most. We need to be patient with God just as He is with us. It is about our relationship with Him – first and foremost! It is about our trust in His love, goodness, and justice.

Well, I hope we see that watching in hope and waiting in patience are integral to a life of faith. I believe these are the mechanisms through which faith grows and matures. Indeed, I pray that through the maturation of our faith, we will see His Kingdom come and His Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2) Yes, waiting on the Lord will strengthen our hearts; increase our trust in Him; impact our confidence and boldness in service to God; improve the godliness of our decisions; and influence our effectiveness as the Body of Christ to establish the will of God on earth as it is in heaven. Those are my thoughts of my heart this morning….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Here are a few more passages to assure us that waiting on God is the right decision at any given moment:

Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong! Wait for the Lord, and He will avenge you. (Proverbs 20:22)

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore, He will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for Him! (Isaiah 30:18)

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore, I will wait for Him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:22-26)

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength. They will soar on with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)

Dealing with Unbelief…

Isaiah 43:11-12 (NIV)

I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.

When we reach the point in the history of Israel that the Prophet Isaiah is born, and he is called to fulfill his role in the Kingdom of God, we are several centuries past the Exodus of God’s people from the land of Egypt under the appointed leadership of Moses. In our Verse of the Day, we find God still pleading with His people to believe in Him … to trust Him … to place their faith in Him. God revealed Himself to His people through mighty and miraculous events; signs and wonders; judges, kings, and prophets; and yet, there is a continual call from the Spirit of God to “see” Him and to “know” Him. And as I reflected on this message this morning, I recognized that our current generation seems to struggle with the same issue: Faith! How many millennia have come and gone that multitudes of human beings have resisted to acknowledge or believe in the Creator … our Heavenly Father?

Moses struggled with the unbelief of God’s people even after the great parting of the Red Sea and their supernatural deliverance (salvation) from the pursuing armies of Pharaoh. We find the same issue of unbelief under the leadership of Joshua after crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land. It continued under their Judges, under Samuel, and during the reign of the Davidic Kings. Restoration leaders like Ezra and Nehemiah urged the people returning from the judgment of exile to believe and to return to their faith and worship of God. The major and minor Prophets spoke as the mouth of God – “I AM Here!” “I AM He!” “I AM!” Indeed, I believe their unbelief was the very reason that Jesus, the Son of God, was sent unto His own; and yet, even the disciples had to be rebuked for their unbelief at times. What gives? Why are humans so resistant to believe … so rebellious against the knowledge of God? There are many Scriptures that come to mind regarding unbelief:

Deuteronomy 1:30-33 (NKJV)

30 The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet, for all that, you did not believe the Lord your God, 33 who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.

Psalm 78:52-58 (ESV)

52 Then He led out His people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. 53 He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid, but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. 54 And He brought them to His holy land, to the mountain which His right hand had won. 55 He drove out nations before them; He apportioned them for a possession and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents. 56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most-High God and did not keep His testimonies, 57 but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow.
58 For they provoked Him to anger with their high places; they moved Him to jealousy with their idols.

Matthew 21:28-32 (ESV)

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the Kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

John 12:37-45 (ESV)

37 But although Jesus had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Cf. Isaiah 53:1) 39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” (Cf. Isaiah 6:10) 41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. 42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. 44 Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not only in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness.

John 14:5-11 (ESV)

5 Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.” 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does His works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

Hebrews 3:7-19 (NIV)

7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear His voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So, we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Well, I think the point has been made here regarding the seriousness of unbelief. And I think it stems from our own human pride. Somehow, we think that we know more than God on how things are supposed to be … how He is supposed to govern His Kingdom … how He should do things the way we think He ought to do them. Rather than believe what God has revealed, we want to question Him regarding what He has not revealed. In my observation, I believe God has revealed Himself sufficiently for humans to believe in Him. Paul asserted that what may be known about God is plain to see because God has made it plain to us. 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. (Cf. Romans 1:19-20)

The challenge for each generation has always been unbelief … intermittent doubt … wavering faith! Well did the inspired writer of Hebrews define the concept of faith: “Now faith is the substance (confidence) of things hoped for, the evidence (assurance) of things not seen.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:1) And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He reward those who earnestly seek Him. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) Isaiah prophesied, “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Cf. Isaiah 53:1) And I am reminded that God declared: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. 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)

Instead of trying to second guess or out maneuver God, perhaps we should just simply believe Him at His Word. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known.” (Cf. John 1:18)Indeed, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His Being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.(Cf. Hebrews 1:1-3a)

I think about what Jesus said to Thomas after His resurrection: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Cf. John 20:29) Thomas had been with Jesus for three years. He saw the miracles. He heard the sermons. He knew Jesus personally. Yet, he did not believe the testimony of his fellow disciples concerning His resurrection. Even now, I recall the words of Jesus to Martha at the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  (Cf. John 11:25)

A Final Thought:

Note that we are ordained to be witnesses … to give our testimony of God: His Revelation … His Salvation … His Proclamation. As Paul affirmed: “Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Cf. Philippians 2:9-11) Remember, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Cf. Romans 10:17) And so I think for us to be effective, we cannot be wavering in our faith. If we want to reach our generation with the hope of the Gospel, it will require us to not only believe the message about Jesus Christ, but to put faith into action. We are called to persevere in our faith … to be steadfast and to trust in the Lord forever. And though our faith will be tested and refined throughout our journey, let us remember that we can 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)

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!

Fanning the Flame…

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV)

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

Our Verse of the Day is taken from 2 Timothy and I want to spend some time on the commentary this morning. For your convenience, I have reprinted the larger passage so that our verse can be understood in its context:

2 Timothy 1:1-14 (NIV)

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. 4 Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of God.9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

This passage is full of theological material for us to ponder and pursue in our walk with Christ Jesus. Paul, in this letter to Timothy, is exhorting Timothy to “keep the faith” as he imparts his final words before execution in Rome. And so I think we would be wise to observe his instructions and to consider some applicable questions for self-examination. For example, Paul commends Timothy in Verse 5 for having “sincere faith” and being “Spirit-filled” (Cf. Verse 6). But notice with regard to the Holy Spirit, Paul “reminds” Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God.” What does this mean in practical terms? There is an implication that we have the capacity to “moderate” the work of the Holy Spirit. This verse reminds me of an alternate interaction with the Spirit of God found in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 where Paul in his instructions to the church exhorts: “Do not quench the Spirit.” So I see this “igniting” and “quenching” of the Holy Spirit as something intentional on our part; and I think we should be attuned to our relationship with the Spirit in this regard. According to Paul, we are to “be fired up in faith through the advocacy of the Holy Spirit and not quenching the power He produces within us.” Note what Paul says in Verse 7: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” And Verse 8, I believe, connects the power of the Holy Spirit to “the testimony about our Lord Jesus” or the sharing of the Gospel. Similar to Verse 12, Paul professes with boldness: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Cf. Romans 1:16)

As we look further at the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives (the power of God within us); notice that Paul invites Timothy, and implicitly all believers as well, to join him in suffering for the Gospel. (Cf. Verse 8) What does suffering for the Gospel mean? What does that entail in practical terms? How does the Holy Spirit empower us to do so? Well, I think we can look at a passage of Scripture where Paul describes his suffering in detail:

2 Corinthians 11:21b-29 (NIV)

Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Here Paul shares about the physical, emotional, and spiritual hardships he has suffered as an ambassador for Christ in sharing of the Gospel of salvation. And while the context is really intended to be a defense of his apostleship to the Church, it does speak volumes as to the Spirit-filled power Paul received and harnessed (fanned into flame) in order to endure “suffering for the Gospel”. Paul understood that suffering produces perseverance … perseverance produces character; and character produces hope. (Cf. Romans 5:3-4) Suffering for the Gospel was the experience of all the Apostles. Consider some of the record we have from the Book of Acts:

Acts 5:12-21; 25-28; 40-42 (NIV)

12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed. 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.” 21 At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.

25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. 27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

40 His speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

Although it might seem that I have wandered from our Verse of the Day, I do have a point connected with this discussion of the Holy Spirit … because we need divine power in order to be witnesses … in order to share our testimony of Jesus Christ. Why? Because believers will suffer disgrace and be persecuted … and in some parts of the world be killed … for professing faith in Jesus! Jesus Himself foretold that suffering for His Name would happen to His followers. (Cf. Matthew 5:11-12; Matthew 24:9; Luke 21:12; John 15:20)

So Paul focuses on two issues in his letter to Timothy: “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” As the Apostle Jude wrote, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” (Cf. Jude 1:3) There can be no compromise … no adulteration of the Gospel or its message. And it will take the full power of the Holy Spirit to guard that deposit of faith within us … to defend it … and to proclaim it to the nations. Consider what Paul preached to the churches in Galatia:

Galatians 1:3-10 (NIV)

3 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

We need the power of the Holy Spirit within us to not only share the Gospel but to live it ourselves. The righteous shall live by their faith. (Cf. Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11) The Gospel includes the crucifixion – the death of Jesus Christ who bore the penalty for our sin – but it also speaks to our own crucifixion and death to the power of sin. (Cf. Romans 6:5-7) As Paul shared in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Cf. Galatians 5:24-25)

So our application question is this: “Are you fanning into flame or quenching the Holy Spirit within you?” Are you “suffering” through putting sin to death in your members in order to experience His sanctification of your body? (Cf. Romans 6:12-14) Are you suffering because you actively proclaim the Gospel and its truth? “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him….” (Cf. Philippians 1:29) You and I cannot afford to quench the very source of power we have been given to endure the suffering; and yet, if we do not “stoke the fire” of the Holy Spirit within us … we are in essence allowing Him to “smolder” and eventually become extinguished in our lives. There will be no power to remove the stronghold of sin in our lives; and there will be no desire or urgency to share the Gospel with others. The Spirit gives birth to our spirits. (Cf. John 3:6) The Spirit gives life (Cf. Romans 8:10); the Spirit gives wisdom and understanding (Cf. Colossians 1:9); and the Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control. (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)

John the Baptist gave this testimony about Jesus: “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loosen. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” A final question: “How do we fan into flame this “fire”? How do we ignite the power of the Holy Spirit within us? Well, first you have to receive the Holy Spirit – and only those who believe in Jesus … who place their faith in Him will ever receive this gift. However, to engage the Spirit in your life, I believe this is achieved through fasting, prayer, and reading the Word of God. Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” (Cf. John 6:63) So we have to humble ourselves and yield our wills to the Holy Spirit so that we do not “quench” His presence within us. And by exercising these spiritual disciplines and submitting ourselves to Him, we can experience the Spirit-filled life Jesus intends for us to live. So I hope you will meditate on all of this Scripture and determine if you are igniting or quenching the Holy Spirit in your own life. And here are some ways you can know:

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

2 Peter 1:3-8 (NIV)

3 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. 4 Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Wait For The Lord

Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Are you going through a time of indecision … feeling uncertain or unsure? Have you been praying about the matter and pouring your heart out before God in the secret place? Do you feel like your faith is weak? You are not alone. We have all been there; and maybe, some of us are in this experience at the current moment. It was a place that King David found himself at times. And I am glad that he “journaled” his experiences and the meditations of his heart for our encouragement today. We see how David turned to God in times of distress. We sense his confidence in the care and compassion of God. He affords us a glimpse of how God worked in his life and blessed him with inner peace and assurance. And so David reminds us to seek the face of God; to rest in His omniscient wisdom and judgment; and to wait on His will and purposes to prevail in and through our lives.

Psalm 27 (NIV)

The Lord is my light and my salvation—    whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—    of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour (slander) me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sanctuary and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; in His sanctuary I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord. Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek His face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me. 11 Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. 12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations. 13I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

This is a recurrent theme in the writings of David, so I want us to be captured by it and let the concept of “waiting” inspire our faith as well:

Psalm 33:10-22 (NIV)

10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance. 13 From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; 14 from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth— 15 He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. 16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. 18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. 20 We wait in hope for the Lord;  He is our help and our shield. 21 In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. 22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.

Psalm 37:1-9 (NIV)

Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who wait on the Lord will inherit the land.

Psalm 130:1-8 (NIV)

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in His word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. He Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

It really does not matter what is bothering or troubling us. God is fully aware of our situations and circumstances. What He truly desires is for you and I to seek Him … because we do not have His knowledge or understanding. It is His wisdom and counsel we want to access – because we believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6)   I think waiting for the answer and the direction to come from God is what stretches and grows our faith the most. We need to be patient with God just as He is with us. It is about our relationship with Him – first and foremost! It is about our trust in His love, goodness, and justice. And so, here are a few more passages to assure us that waiting on God is the right decision at any given moment:

Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong! Wait for the Lord, and He will avenge you. (Proverbs 20:22)

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him! (Isaiah 30:18)

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:22-26)

So what is the application for us?  Well, I have concluded that watching in hope and waiting in patience are the genetic material of faith. I believe they are the spiritual molecular processes through which a mustard seed of faith can sprout and grow into the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade. (Cf. Matthew 13:32; Mark 4:31; Luke 13:19) Indeed, I pray that we will let our faith grow to become the Kingdom of God within us; because through the maturation of our faith, we will see His Kingdom come and His Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2) Jesus said, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31) And, “The Kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the Kingdom of God is within you.” (Cf. Luke 17:20-21) So, perhaps, we should begin to see how our faith in God can grow into His Kingdom within us. Yes I pray that faith will begin to “rule” in our hearts … which will influence our decisions … which will impact our relationships … which will improve our effectiveness as the Body of Christ to establish the will of God on earth as it is in heaven.  Those are my thoughts….  

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

But those who wait on the Lord Shall renew their strength. They will soar on with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:31)