Light Has Come…

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.

As I think about the divisions and struggles in various areas around our nation, I sense a common theme permeating those situations and circumstances; and I believe our verse today identifies the root of the evil we continue to witness: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” I think this resistance to the light of the Gospel and the plan of salvation offered by God to His created beings (humans) stems from a lack of wisdom and discernment.  As Paul elaborated: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) We think of light or enlightenment as the “wisdom” that comes from God. And as we have learned:

The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.  (Proverbs 9:10)


The fear (reverence) of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death. (Proverbs 14:27)

Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear (reverence) of the Lord evil is avoided. (Proverbs 16:6)

These are just a handful of verses that speak to the “requirement” of a close relationship with God in order to have access to HIS knowledge and wisdom for life … because He is the Father of creation. All LIFE exists through Him, in Him, and for Him. And His BEING is manifested to the world through His Son – Christ Jesus!  The Apostle John eloquently articulates this truth:

John 1:1-14 (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through Him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. 11 He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. 12 Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Apostle Paul tells us: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) And so, this is the problem that we see in our world … the lack of discernment and acceptance of the things that come from the Spirit of God. Perhaps this is what prompted Paul to write that 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. (Ephesians 6:12) So it seems to me the solution for the lack of discernment … the battle against deception … is to receive the light that comes from the Spirit of God.  And to receive God’s wisdom and knowledge, we must receive His Spirit.

John 3:3-8 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again … (born from above).” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You (everyone) must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

So now, let’s look at our Verse of the Day in the surrounding context, and I believe we will find the real solution to the roots of evil upending communities within our nation and around the world:

John 3:16-21 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s One and Only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil20 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.

Well, the solution to the discord, hatred, and division between people is the love of God … a love so deep and profound … and it can only be understood and received through Jesus Christ.  Whoever believes in Jesus for salvation will be changed by His light and live according to the truth He has revealed.  Jesus declared, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) When people encounter Jesus, they will find peace and unity through His love and grace. And I believe is why the Church has been commissioned to be ambassadors for Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) And Paul has given us who believe instruction in this regard … even to the relationships that should exist among believers.

Romans 15:1-7 (NIV)

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please Himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Quoting Psalm 69:9) For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Why is this important?  Well, if believers cannot even get along with each other … if there is no peace or unity among ourselves … what kind of message are we sending to unbelievers for whom Christ also died? How can we bring praise to God if we bite and devour each other? (Cf.  Galatians 5:15) If we cannot have the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, we will be ineffective ambassadors in my estimation. People watch what you do more than hearing what you say. Jesus gave us this commandment: Love each other as I have loved you. (Cf. John 15:12) So, we need to humble ourselves and our personal attitudes. Since Christ accepted us, He will accept those who come to Him even as we did … sinners saved by grace through faith. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) The key here is encouraging and building up the faith of others! Indeed, Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith! (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) “Consequently, faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

It is my hope we will see how this all fits together….  If we want to change things in our communities, we need to begin with change in our own hearts so that our lives are transformed and empowered … so that our local church is united and brings praise to God … so that our character and message is credible to an unbeliever. This is what love can do! If we want to emulate the mindset of Jesus, then we must deny ourselves, take up our cross each day, and follow Him. (Cf. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23) Then our light will shine like a city on a hill. It cannot be hidden. (Cf. Matthew 5:14) Maybe the light we manifest in the world will have the impact needed to change minds, thoughts, and hearts of unbelievers. For when we come to a knowledge of the truth, we will begin to walk in it … live by it … and be conformed to the image of Christ.  That is the desire of God for each one of us.  As Jesus affirmed, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Suffering For The Gospel…

Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

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

I wanted to share this verse from the other day, but I have held up because of time constraints and I wanted to add some context and comment.  The topic Paul addresses here is “suffering” and its intended spiritual purpose in our lives.  Paul shares his insight from the tremendous amount of personal suffering that he endured; especially after becoming a believer and follower of Christ. I thought we might put this passage in the larger context to better understand this purpose:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but let us also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 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! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

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

Romans 8:18-25 (NIV)

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

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

1 Peter 2:19-23 (NIV)

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

So Paul enjoins us to “glory in our sufferings” for the sake of Christ.  For it produces perseverance of faith … Christ-like character … and affirms the hope for which we seek an intimate relationship with God.  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) And so, I think it follows that without suffering in our lives, we will not develop confidence in our hope or assurance through our faith.  In other words, suffering is part of a necessary process to attain a faith that pleases God. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) Faith is believing God … and trusting Him even in the midst of our suffering….

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

2 Timothy 1:6-13 (NIV)

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. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 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 GodHe 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.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Obey My Teaching…

John 14:23-24 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Our verse has prompted me to revisit the theme of teaching and discipling. Discipling is the process, through teaching and training, of making disciples or followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our verse today, we see Jesus equating our love for Him with the keeping of His teachings and commandments. And as I continue to ponder His Word, I’m not sure what other method or mechanism we have as believers to demonstrate our love for Him.  It is the obedience that comes from faith (Cf. Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26) that expresses our sincere, heartfelt love for God.  This is what Jesus has emphasized to us: “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15)

Throughout the theological history of the Jewish faith, keeping the commandments (teachings) of God has been essential to the covenant relationship God desires with His people.  We find this especially developed in the Book of Deuteronomy. “Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:1) “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Cf. Deuteronomy 7:9) “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Cf. Deuteronomy 11:19) The themes of teaching and training … giving instruction for righteous living is inseparable from the giving of the Law.  We were created in the image of God; and He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son! (Cf. Genesis 1:27; Romans 8:29)

You will find these themes in the Psalms written by David, and further expounded upon in the Proverbs taught by Solomon. Note the exhortations to observe and faithfully follow sound teaching:

Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord,  teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Psalm 119:66 (NIV)

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.

Proverbs 3:1-2 (NIV)

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.

Proverbs 6:20-21 (NIV)

My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.

Proverbs 7:1-3 (NIV)

My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

But another aspect of keeping the teachings of Christ in our hearts is sharing them with others.  Knowing and understanding the Word of God, and its application to the obedience that comes from faith, is something that we have been commanded to share and teach as well.  We studied this last week: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Cf. Matthew 28:18-20) And, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (Cf. John 15:20)

So, as we observe what has been happening in our world over the past several months, the call the teach, train, and disciple unbelievers is just as critical as it was in the apostolic period of early Christianity. We are seeing and experiencing a great spiritual awakening in this present generation … looking for a new apostolic age to emerge from the remnant Church that has been called forth in these latter days to reach the lost. Yes, “Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise (to return), as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9) Stepping up and taking our place in His Body and exercising the spiritual gifts we have been given for the building of the Church is what the Spirit is leading and guiding us to do!

Paul, in his epistles, was quite adamant on the necessity of teaching and discipling those who come to faith in Jesus:

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.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 (NIV)

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Titus 2:1-15 (NIV)

1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Teach slaves (employees) to be subject to their masters (employers) in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good. 15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

So what is the application for us? I think the message is straightforward: Observing … Keeping … Obeying … the teachings and commands of God is how we demonstrate our love for Him.  To obey is better than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) And we are to worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth. (Cf. John 4:24) The emphasis is on truth … to be genuine, honest, and sincere.  Not only should we be transparent before God in our obedience to Him, the truth of our love should be readily apparent to others. Our light (our understanding of what Jesus taught us) should be evident before others, that they may see our good deeds (obedience of His commands) and glorify our Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16) And we should be able to teach these things as well. As Paul taught, there are practical ways to live out the Gospel message and to walk in the obedience that comes from faith.  And so, I pray that we will endeavor to not only be disciples but to disciple (teach) others as we have been commanded to do…. 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Delegated Authority…

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As I think about this familiar passage … the last words Jesus spoke as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew … I sometimes wonder if these words preceded those recorded for us in the Book of Acts.  Somehow I see the parting words of Jesus as a continuous narrative before His ascension into heaven; and His commandment to proclaim and share the Gospel so that others might come to faith (Cf. Romans 10:17) is quite clear:

Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)

16 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Acts 1:4-11 (NIV)

And being assembled together with them, Jesus commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Jesus said ALL authority had been given to Him by the Father … both in heaven and on earth! And why is this important for us to understand? Because there is no higher authority in all of creation than the authority bestowed upon the Son by the Father. As Jesus declared, “I and My Father are one.” (Cf. John 10:30) This signifies His sovereignty over all creation. Nothing is allowed to happen except that it passes through His will.  And we should be comforted by that knowledge in as much as His incomprehensible love is manifested through His will! This is why the people who encountered Jesus during His life on earth perceived His authority when He spoke and taught. (Cf. Matthew 7:29; Mark 1:22; Luke 4:32). With authority, Jesus commanded unclean spirits to leave those oppressed and afflicted by them … and they obeyed Him. (Cf. Mark 1:27; Luke 4:36)

And we know that His authority was challenged and doubted by the religious leaders. Jesus was confronted and questioned by the chief priests and elders asking, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” (Cf. Matthew 21:23; Mark 11:27-28; Luke 20:1-2) Now Jesus responded to these questions with a question of His own … regarding the authority given to John the Baptist. Was it given from heaven or self-imagined? And when they would not answer, Jesus stated that He would not reveal the source of His authority either. So there is a lesson for all of us to learn as Jesus Himself reveals the authority given to Him by the Father:

John 12:48-50 (NKJV)

48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”

John 14:9-11 (NKJV)

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

John 17:1-3 (NKJV)

1 Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given HimAnd this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

John 19:7-11 (NKJV)

The Jews answered Pontius Pilate, “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.” Therefore, when Pilate heard that saying, he was the more afraid, and went again into the Praetorium, and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power (authority) to crucify You, and power (authority) to release You?” 11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power (authority) at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

When Jesus was questioned about His identity, Pontius Pilate asserted that he had the authority to crucify Him.  But Jesus responded that Pilate could have no authority except that it had been given to him by God. This assertion is true for us as well. We have no authority over anyone or anything except that it has been granted (given) by God! And now we see Jesus proclaim that ALL authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him by the Father. Yes, the authority of Almighty God … Creator of heaven and earth … has been delegated to the Son of God, Jesus. And what an incredible thing is should be for us to realize is that Jesus has delegated His authority to US … to those who love Him and keep His commands!  Let’s read about it:

Luke 9:1-6 (NKJV)

1Then Jesus called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseasesHe sent them to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece. “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” So they departed and went through the towns, preaching the Gospel and healing everywhere.

Luke 10:1-9; 17-20 (NKJV)

1 After these things the Lord appointed seventy-two others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The Kingdom of God has come near to you.’

17 Then the seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Wow! The One who has been given ALL authority has delegated authority to us … His Church! And I wonder … just as Pastor Steve did during his sermon this past weekend … who among the Church is exercising the authority we have been given by our Lord Jesus? Who is proclaiming the Kingdom of God is near?  Who is healing the sick? Who is casting out demons?  Who is exercising power over the enemy in these latter days?  These are questions each of us as believers need to ask of ourselves? When Jesus sent disciples out into the field He told them, “The harvest if plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” (Luke 10:2) So He is asking us now: “Who is willing to go out into the harvest field now?  Who is sharing the Gospel and healing the sick and taking authority over demonic forces?” He has given us the authority! Are we going to exercise the authority we have been given … or stand on the fence and watch as the harvest field is plowed under into darkness?

Indeed, the Church needs to be awakened and exhorted! The harvest is our responsibility … and we have been given the authority to carry out our responsibilities! The question is whether we have the individual and collective will to fulfill His mandate to go and make disciples of all nations.  Perhaps we should begin with the nation in which we live … the state … the county … the town … the local community. Perhaps we should look within our own neighborhoods … maybe we should start with our own households and exercise authority over the one who wants to steal, kill, and destroy our families! The battles we need to fight are 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) “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

So I pray we will be moved in our spirits to begin exercising the spiritual authority we have received from our Lord Jesus Christ. For we were created in Christ Jesus to do good works which the Father prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) God has not asked us to say or do anything that He has not equipped us to do through His Word or empowered us to do by His Spirit. As the Lord spoke to Joshua, so I believe He is speaking to us in our generation: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Cf. Joshua 1:9) Yes, let us put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand.  Let us stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waists, with the breastplates of righteousness in place, and with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, let us take up the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Let us take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And let us pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, let us be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Cf. Ephesians 6:13-18) I ask all these things in the powerful name of Jesus.  Amen….

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Week!

Do What He Says…

James 1:22 (NIV)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

We have read this verse many times I’m sure.  And as the Spirit has been encouraging us to be in the Word and studying it; this is the call to “do what it says”.  All the reading and studying in the world is not going to replace action and putting the Word into practice.  I am reminded (and convicted) by what Jesus said as He concluded His “Sermon on the Mount” recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:

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.

In the context, it is those who do the will of the Father that will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  And the words of Jesus have taught us what the will of the Father is: “To believe in the Son whom the Father has sent.”  When asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:28-29) This is the teaching we are to put into practice – the exercise of putting our complete trust and faith in Jesus. But then, in order to grow in our faith, there are disciplines that we will follow to bring us to maturity in Christ.  We take root in a local assembly in order to be equipped for ministry. We exercise our spiritual gifts through good works so that we are putting His teachings into practice. This is how faith becomes effective and productive!  As James would remind us:

James 2:14-18 (NIV)

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

So it is important for us to active in our faith and engaged with those around us. Jesus made it clear that when we serve others, we are serving Him.  For Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:26) So we need to be where Jesus is and serving as Jesus would. For we are His Body in the world.

Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV)

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.41 “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

This passage does not teach that salvation is based on our good works; rather, this expounds on the things that we are saved by grace to be doing for the glory of God! Remember, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-10) So we have been saved to serve.  That is the point!  We serve with grace as we proclaim the light of truth through the Gospel.  This is what I believe it means when James tells us to get busy and serve.  If our faith does not activate us to be serving others, it is essentially no faith at all and we deceive ourselves if we think otherwise.

So let’s be about the Father’s business!  There is a world around us that is broken and hurting … searching for the answer we have received by grace through faith. The opportunities are not hard to find. The question is whether we are looking for them. Maybe it is time for us to be more intentional. To be sure, we should always share Jesus with our words. But as we all know; actions will always speak louder than our words. So I pray we will “be” Jesus to those who need Him more than ever before.  And I hope that thought will challenge us in the days ahead….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

My Refuge and My Shield

Psalm 119:114 (NIV)

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

So I may sound like a broken record, but it appears the Holy Spirit wants to continue to emphasize this truth with us; namely, that God is our refuge and our strength as He has declared in His Word to us!  Yes, we hope in His Word because that is how we KNOW through faith that He is with us … He surrounds us … He protects us!  Let’s just look at this section of Psalm 119 for the immediate context:

Psalm 119:113-120 (NIV)

ס Samekh

113 I hate double-minded people, but I love your law.
114 You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.
115 
Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!
116 Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.
117 Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees.
118 You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their delusions come to nothing.
119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross; therefore I love your statutes.
120 My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.

In a world where we feel surrounded by chaos and confusion and conflict and coercion and cancel there is a place of refuge and strength for believers. His name is Jesus! I did not say there is a place of hiding because we are not called to hide from the world; rather, we are to be His light in the world.  We are to be that city on a hill where it cannot be hidden. (Cf. Matthew 5:14-16) We need to remember the prayer of Jesus when He prayed for all believers:

John 17:13-21 (NIV)

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 

Jesus wants us IN the world, but He prayed for God to protect us … to be our refuge from the evil one. So, we do not ignore what is happening in the world or stick our heads in the proverbial sand. Believers have been called … we are sent into the world to testify to the truth! That truth is God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (Cf. John 3:16-19) Yes, we are to engage the world with the light of the Gospel … with truth of the Word. That is all we can do … even though we know that believers will be hated for it:

John 15:18-27 (NIV)

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ (Cf. John 13:16) If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (References to Psalms 35:19; 69:4) 26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father—He will testify about me27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

So we need to know the Word of God. We need to know the Truth. And we do know – if we believe Jesus is the Christ, receive His sacrificial atonement for our sin, and become a new creation in Him. And through the Advocate who comes to indwell us, we receive wisdom and discernment. The Apostle John has elaborated on this for us:

1 John 4:1-6 (NIV)

1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from Godbut every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the worldThey are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Do you see it?  Every spirit (that would be referencing a human spirit) that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.  This means that a person has received the Spirit of God through placing their faith in Jesus Christ. Then John goes on to refer to believers as “children who are from God.” Again, the emphasis is on having the Spirit of God within us because he affirms “the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  Yes, the Spirit of Truth is greater … He is more powerful than the spirit of falsehood. Why? “For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (Cf. 1 John 5:4) It is through faith in Christ we have overcome darkness and deception. Indeed, the Spirit of Truth has set us free! But the god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4)

So believers should forever praise God for His mercy … for His gift of grace that removed the veil from before our eyes that we might see the light of the Gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  It is only by His grace that our eyes were opened and we were enabled to come to faith in the blood atonement He provided through Jesus. By His grace we are forgiven.  By His grace we are accepted. By His grace we are received into eternal life …  ONLY because of Jesus and no other reason. “ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) If this does not humble us as believers, I’m not sure what will. I am reminded what Peter asserted in 1 Peter 4:17-18, “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the Gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (Cf. Proverbs 11:31) Indeed, how can we ever doubt the compassionate love God has demonstrated? His love is our refuge!  His love is our strength!  His love is our everlasting hope! His love is revealed through His Word! And, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Cf. John 1:14)

Lord Jesus, you are our refuge and strength because You have given us your Spirit … the Spirit of Truth … to indwell us and fill us with Your abiding presence and love.  Only in You is the wisdom and knowledge of God made known. Only in You is the great love of the Father fully expressed and experienced in our hearts. You are the true light that gives light to everyone. Oh, that the light you have given to us might be received in every heart. Oh, that every soul would come to your life …  the light of all mankind. (Cf. John 1:4) For You are the Living Word in which we hope and find shelter. You are the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through you. (Cf. John 14:6) And so I pray that we, your children, would be your image in this world just as you are the image of the Father. You have sent us into the world just as the Father sent You into the world. And so, I pray that through our lives and testimonies that your kindness will lead more people to repentance. I pray that your great love, which is rich in mercy, will bring life to those who are dead in transgressions. Oh, that your grace, Lord Jesus, would abound as your people proclaim the light and hope, the joy and peace, the truth and love of the Gospel … so that no one would perish but come to a knowledge of the truth and receive eternal life in you.  This is my prayer, Lord, and I ask in Your Great Name.  Amen….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Light Has Come…

1 John 1:7 (NIV)

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.

Good Afternoon!

Earlier this week, we looked at how believers are called to be light in the world.  The Apostle John spent considerable time on this theological issue in his gospel as well as the epistles that he wrote.  In 1 John, we find this declaration that God is Light … as another attribute of His nature.  Let’s look at it in context:

1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

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) sinIf 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.

I find this passage deep … and quite convicting. Verse 6 is very direct about how our relationship with the Father is dependent upon His light.  You and I cannot be wavering in our practice of faith when it comes to abiding in God.  We either live in the light of truth under its full conviction; or in essence, we have no relationship with God.  John asserts we cannot walk in the darkness and still claim that we have fellowship with God.  It is an “all light” or “no light” proposition as I read it….  But here is the wonderful outcome:  If we walk in the light of truth; we not only have fellowship with God but also with one another.  Just think of how much better our nation and world would be if each person lived in the light of truth.  There would be fellowship instead of division, conflict, and strife, among us.  As I shared in our last lesson, our country is not divided upon political lines; rather, it is divided between light and darkness.  But if we walk in the light … we will have fellowship with one another.  Think about it….

What is so interesting about light is that it is necessary for sight.  We cannot see anything in darkness. There must be light to illuminate darkness for our physical eyes to have the benefit of vision. The same is true for our spiritual eyes. As we studied, Paul affirmed, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4) And why is spiritual light so important?  It exposes the darkness of sin!  John addressed this issue as well because it is at the heart of why God sent His Son into the world … the core message of the Gospel:

John 3:19-20 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

With this in mind, we can better understand when Jesus declared: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Cf. John 8:12) And later Jesus would state, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (Cf. John 9:5) The connection we need to make here is that Jesus is still in the world … right now!  You might ask, “How?” Well, He lives in each believer and abides in them through His Spirit to form the Body of Christ … the Church. It is the purpose and mission of the Church to be the light of the world.  (Cf. Matthew 5:14) But here is the problem we can face with unbelievers: “If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.” We cannot be light if we ourselves walk in darkness. It is hypocrisy! We just deceive ourselves! Light is going to expose all sin! Light is going to expose darkness! As Paul exhorted, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Cf. Romans 6:1-2)

Now what is the application? When we share the Gospel with others, I believe a major point to share is the liberation that comes with light.  The knowledge of the truth is what sets a person free. (Cf. John 8:32) Sin and darkness holds a person captive, but Jesus was sent to be the light of life:

Isaiah 42:6-8 (NIV)

“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.

Isaiah 61:1(NIV)

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners (the blind).

Jesus declared that these prophetic words were fulfilled in Him. (Cf. Luke 4:16-20) He is the Good News!  He is the Healer of brokenness!  He is the liberator of those held captive in darkness and sin! In Him is life, and that life is the light of all mankind! (Cf. John 1:4) This is what we need to be sharing with the prodigals and unbelievers! Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” (Cf. Romans 1:16) And before his death, Paul reflected on the necessity of sharing the Gospel in his parting instructions to Timothy … which has been preserved for our admonition as well:

2 Timothy 1:6-14 (NIV)

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. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline8 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. 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.

Like Timothy, and all of the earliest disciples and apostles of Christ, we are to join with them in proclaiming, and yes, suffering for the Gospel. For it is Christ Jesus who has destroyed the death that comes from darkness. He is the One who has brought life and immortality to light through His sacrificial love and life. It is this Gospel … this Good News … we are to manifest to the world.  And if we should suffer for sharing the light of the truth, then we simply join our Lord Jesus, the Apostles, Paul, and all those who have devoted their lives to the making the love God known in this world. Jesus said, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (Cf. John 15:20) Peter addressed this issue as well:

1 Peter 4:12-19 (ESV)

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory (power) and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or even as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a follower of Jesus, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (Here Peter is quoting Proverbs 11:31) 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

So, here is the conclusion.  Let us walk in the light as He is in the light!  We must abide in His light in order to have fellowship with God and one another.  If we walk in darkness, we will not have fellowship with God nor one another. That is why we must receive and share the light of life which has been given to us in Christ Jesus. The light of God will bring us to the unity of faith and knowledge of the truth.  And it is the truth that we must guard with our hearts…. Let us not be ashamed of the Gospel; rather, let us convey it in truth.

Mark 8:34-38 (NIV)

34 Then He (Jesus) called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the Gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Do Not Be Afraid…

Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)

So 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.

I always loved this verse of encouragement … how we can trust God … how God is there for us just as He was for His people Israel … how He will strengthen, help, and uphold us in times of adversity or suffering.

Isaiah 41:8-14 (NIV)

“But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. 10 So 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. 11 “All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. 12 Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. 13 For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. 14 Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

Look at the context for a moment.  Those who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced … those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish … those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all.  God said we are not to fear! “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” (Cf. Isaiah 54:17) And I think it is important for us to remember, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5) And this makes perfect sense to me because the only offensive weapon that we have in this spiritual battle is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. (Cf. Ephesians 6:17) “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Cf. Hebrews 4:12)

If we want to elevate faith and alleviate fear in our lives, then the Word of God must our resource! For it is the power of God to strengthen you and help you! His Word will uphold you, and through it the Holy Spirit will guide you into the truth. It is the truth you will need to refute every tongue that accuses you … to confound those who oppose you … to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.  You need to know the truth so that you can withstand those who want to suppress the truth by their wickedness. (Cf. Romans 1:18) Indeed, I sense that the human conflicts, chaos, and violence we see in our nation is not about the alleged issues of rights, equality, or justice.  If you look deeper into the agendas and ideologies that have emerged, you will see that the true battle is a spiritual one between those upholding truth and those suppressing truth … between obedience and disobedience of God’s commands … between His marvelous light and the veil of darkness.  Yes, the strife is a sin problem at the core. (Cf. Genesis 6:5) It is the movement and goal of those that want to worship the creature rather than submit to and worship the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. (Cf. Romans 1:25)

Romans 1:28-32 (NIV)

28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

If you think about it, the list here addresses much of what we are seeing on our televisions and on social media.  It is understandable that what we have witnessed has caused concern and even fear. But I feel we need to have spiritual perspective on what is happening and the “real” source of the conflict that seems to be growing at exponential speed over the last several months. The issue is that those who want nothing to do with God or His righteousness have found a cover and a narrative to exploit for their own purposes.  And the danger is that these people want to impose their godless views on everyone else through whatever means at their disposal … including suppression of speech; opposition to authority; and violence when needed to eliminate anyone who disagrees with their world view.  I think that only through knowledge of the truth, and its proclamation through the Body of Christ, will we be able to shine as the light of the world …  a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. (Cf. Matthew 5:14) This is what we have been called (saved) to do: to let our light shine before others that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16)

Well, I hope through these reflections that we will all take pause and pray for discernment in these turbulent times. I mostly think we need to see the events of 2020 as a wake-up call to the Church … to the people of God.  The Body of Christ needs to repent of its “lukewarm” attitude and get back on the mission for which Christ Jesus is the Head! We need to understand that the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot “see the light” of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4) And this is why the culture war is so intense! We need to realize that true believers are the remnant light for this world, and while it is day we must be working. Night is coming when no one can work. (Cf. John 9:4) And really, what an exciting time it is for us to be living in these pivotal times for the Kingdom of God!  We should not fear the world; rather, we should all the more reverence our God and Creator who deemed us trustworthy to live in this hour upon the earth … and to serve Him during such a time as this!  Oh, we need to be faithful … not fearful … because He is with us. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Cf. Joshua 1:9)  Indeed, it is time to be about the Father’s business….

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? ~ Romans 8:31

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Every Knee Will Bow…

Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV)

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.

Our Verse of the Day is a solemn declaration of the supremacy of Jesus Christ and the exaltation due Him.  To surrender and submit ourselves to the authority and sovereignty of Jesus Christ is the will of God the Father because He is glorified through His Son…. I would like us to take a closer look at Jesus … the exalted Son of God … to whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given by the Father. (Cf. Matthew 28:18) We can start with the Gospel of John and his introduction of Jesus to the world:

John 1:1-4; 14 (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 14 The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

With this Scripture in mind, I want us to look at our verse in its context:

Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature (in the form of) God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature (the form) of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest placeand gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,to the glory of God the Father.

In this context, there is a focus on humility and submission to one another; and the purpose is to exhort us to be of the same mindset as Christ Jesus.  And then Paul introduces the surpassed example of Christ showing how genuine humility should be manifested among ourselves. For God the Creator to appear in the form of a Son of Man, made in human likeness, is an incomprehensible act of divine humility in itself.  As John articulated it – “the Word of God became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” It is because of this extreme humility that Christ Jesus willingly took upon Himself (even so far as to experience human death upon a cross) that God the Father exalted Him to the highest place and position of authority.  Perhaps, this is the part of the reason why Jesus taught: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Cf. Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14) The Apostle James admonished, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (Cf. James 4:10) And, Peter likewise taught, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that HE may lift you up in due time.” (Cf. 1 Peter 5:6) If God humbled Himself to reach us, then we should humble ourselves in our relationships with one another.

But the other lesson that I see is the exaltation of Christ Jesus.  Because of His death upon the cross … because His own blood was shed as an atoning sacrifice for the remission of our sins … Jesus is most assuredly worthy of our adoration, worship, and praise.  His name is above every other name! As Peter declared, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Cf. Acts 4:12) And so, God the Father has ordained 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, for His own glory.  And we have seen this same call for worship declared through the Prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 45:22-24 (ESV)

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23 By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance (shall confess to God).’ 24 “Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to Him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against Him.

Indeed, every soul ever created by God WILL bow before Him!  Every tongue WILL confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  Every person who has rejected God and the Son … who have rebelled and raged against Him … will come before Him and be ashamed. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10) There is no one who will be exempt. For He has said, “I am the Lord, that is my name; and my glory I will not give to another nor my praise to idols.” (Cf. Isaiah 42:8) Yes, God will be worshipped because He will not give His glory to anyone:

Isaiah 48:9-11 (NIV)

For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely. 10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.

It is clear to me that all people … of every tribe, of every language, of every nation … will one day bow before the throne of God and worship Him. The issue is whether we will do so now while we are alive through our own free will … or whether a person will be “required” to do so when they stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  It WILL happen because Father God has declared it, and He is sovereign over all things.  God desires everyone … whosoever will believe in Him … to declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light. (Cf. 1 Peter 2:9) His lovingkindness leads us to repentance and to a knowledge of the truth! Therefore, it is urgent for all people confess Jesus Christ as Lord now … while it is still called today. “For just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.” (Cf. Hebrews 9:26-28)

So I pray each soul will come to the knowledge of God and make their confession of faith. And I pray the church, the Body of Christ, will work as His ambassadors to lead others to the truth … so that repentance and reconciliation will come to those who respond to the Gospel. “For we must work the works of Him who sent Jesus while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.” (Cf. John 9:4) And let us be humble and gracious as we encourage the lost to seek the only One who can save them.  Let us deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow Jesus. (Cf. Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23) Jesus said, “ If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (Cf. John 12:26)

And so I will finish with this thought: Jesus declared that He was sent to seek and to save the lost. (Cf. Luke 19:10) So as His Body … His presence in the world … we must continue His mission.  Jesus has left the ninety-nine and is searching for the one that is lost.  That is where He is … and that is where His servant will be also.  Each of us who know Jesus as Savior and Lord were saved to serve … are sent to be workers in the harvest. We could double His harvest right now if each one of us would reach just one unbeliever.  So I challenge myself, and I encourage you to consider it as well, to set sight on just one person you know is not saved and get focused … get intentional … and be steadfast. Enter into devoted prayer and intercession for that one person and be patient. Yes, be present and available to them. Engage them when opportunities are presented. Let your conversation be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer them. (Cf. Colossians 4:6) Let your light shine before them so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16) This is how we humble ourselves with the same mindset of Christ; this how we serve in hope to prepare them for an authentic encounter with Christ Jesus. We prepare the soil and plant seed; we fertilize and water. But it is God who gives the increase for harvest. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:7) So let us be authentic witnesses of His love, grace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and faithfulness.  Let us demonstrate the joy of our salvation and the self-discipline we exert through the Spirit of God to be obedient to faith. Then, let us pray in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth. (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:25) I hope these ideas will encourage you in your pursuit of lost sheep.  “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Cf. Galatians 6:9)

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. ~ Colossians 2:9-10

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Praise and Prayer…

Psalm 138:2 (NIV)

I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame.

As I think about our time of corporate prayer last night, I find this Psalm to be an incredible affirmation of the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness to those who love Him.  For those who were gathered last night, I think you will agree that this Psalm captures what our hearts experienced before the presence of the Lord.  I will reprint its reflective words for our reference:

Psalm 138:1-8 (NIV)

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise. I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame. When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me. May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord, when they hear what you have decreed. May they sing of the ways of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord is great. Though the Lord is exalted, He looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, He sees them from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me. The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.

It is important for God’s people to “pray without ceasing” and to seek even greater intimacy with the Lord. Though we have always been admonished to continually pray at all times, there seems to be a heightened sense of urgency that has been revealed to His Church to emphasize the intercessory power of prayer.  As we contemplate the times in which we live, we need to embrace that prayer changes things … mostly because it inwardly changes our hearts to align with the heart of the Father.  It softens and molds our hearts to see the brokenness, oppression, injustice, and darkness that has over taken the lives of so many people around us.  God deeply wants to bring healing and hope; forgiveness and salvation; liberty and life to the world … but most often His work is done through people. This simply means the people He uses to address the evils in our world must have willing hearts to do the work needed. Believers need to press into the presence of God until we, like David, can proclaim: “When I cried out, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul!” Indeed, it is prayer that prepares us to be bold … to be courageous … to be servants to those God is calling to Himself….  Jesus shared this perspective with us:

Matthew 9:35-38 (NIV)

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”

Luke 10:1-3 (NIV)

10 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

When we pray … we “ask” the Lord.  And here Jesus tells us to “ask” the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field. Why? There is a vast multitude of people to be brought into the Kingdom of God, but there are few who are willing to work and make it happen. When Jesus said ask, it was not about asking the Lord to send someone else; rather, it was about asking Him to become one of the workers. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Cf. Isaiah 6:8) Oh, my personal prayer is be bold and courageous … to say, “Here I am. Send me!” What is your prayer?  When we pray and ask the Lord Jesus to change hearts and to change lives … to change the world … just what are we expecting Him to do? Exert His divine, supernatural authority and power? Indeed He will, but I believe He will do it through His people. Right? Are we not His Body in the world? Are we not the ones supposed to do the work in His harvest field?

James 2:14-17 (NIV)

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)

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

So I encourage and challenge us to think more deeply about the role of prayer in our lives and in our walk of faith.  It is one thing to ask God to do something about the suffering in this world.  It is quite another to ask Him for boldness and courage to be a worker in His harvest field. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Indeed, as His Body, we have been appointed to go into the harvest field. As Paul admonished, we have been asked to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is our true and proper (spiritual) worship. (Cf. Romans 12:1) We have been anointed with spiritual gifts to serve. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11) And we have been empowered with boldness. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) Yes, it is prayer that will get each of us to that place of alignment with the heart of God to accomplish His work.

One final thought. How often have we heard people ask, “Why does God allow suffering in this world?”  Perhaps, you have asked this or a similar question.  I know that I have.  But the answer I have received was quite unsettling.  God asked, “Why do you allow suffering?” I had to stop and deeply consider His response to me. Do I allow suffering? How have I done so?  Well, in a word: “Inaction.” Yes, inaction is the opposite of what James and John admonished us to do. Indeed, there are many actions we can take to address the problems of this world if we will but take time and look for the opportunities. So, we need to get bold and get busy! “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Cf. Galatians 6:10)

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. ~ John 13:34-35

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!