Say It Again: REJOICE!

Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Our Verse of the Day begins a short section of final exhortations to the body of believers at Philippi. (Cf. Philippians 4:4-9) Paul gave them some great points of consideration for their continued walk with the Lord; and I  believe his intent was to encourage them to trust God in all things as they live out the Christian life….

Why does Paul intentionally repeat his exhortation to the Church? Why is the expression of joy in our Lord Jesus so essential to our well-being? To me, it goes back to the level of intimacy that we experience in our relationship with Him. When we contemplate what Jesus did for us on the cross … to bring atonement (not just forgiveness, but ATONEMENT) for our sin … well, there just really are no words that can truly express the deep gratitude we feel in our souls for His merciful gift. Jesus reconciled us to God and granted us eternal life in Him, so our gratitude is really offered as JOY in all of its myriad forms of human expression. To rejoice in God our Savior is an expression of thanksgiving for Jesus and all He has done for us!

Indeed, it was His indescribable love that allowed the nails to be driven into His hands and feet … while we were sinners and lost without any hope of redemption. (Cf. Romans 5:8) Through Christ Jesus we receive full atonement and salvation … freedom from the power of sin … release from condemnation, guilt, and shame … and granted the gift of eternal life. Yes, Jesus initiated the most wonderful relationship with us that will ever be known or experienced as humans. He is the author and finisher of our faith! (Cf. Hebrews 12:2)

My friends, if we cannot find JOY in the LORD … if we do not feel moved in our spirits to REJOICE in the God of our salvation … there is something deeply wrong and we need to examine ourselves. If you have lost the spirit of joy in your heart, spend some quiet time with Jesus each day and meditate on all He has done for you.  I assure you He has not left you nor forsaken you.  He is ever-present and simply waiting for you to come and rest in Him again…. (Cf. Matthew 11:28)

So, I join with Paul this morning to stir our hearts and to remind us to rejoice in the Lord in all ways; … encouraging us to express our joy before the LORD with boldness! Joy IS our offering of thanksgiving for the redeemed lives we have received through Him. May we ever praise and worship our Lord Jesus with joy unspeakable and full of glory! I will say it again: Rejoice!

Psalm 51:11-12 (NIV)

Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Psalm 95:1-2 (NIV)

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song.

Isaiah 12:2-3 (NIV)

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord Himself, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Proclaiming Jesus!

Colossians 1:28 (NIV)

He is the One we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

As I think about the work of evangelism … our Kingdom assignments to share the Good News … to make disciples of all nations … to baptize believers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit … and to teach believers to obey everything that Jesus taught and commanded; let us make sure that our message is focused and clear. In our Verse of the Day, Paul is adamant that JESUS is the One we proclaim!  So, let’s look at the context and see the basis on which Jesus should be the only One we proclaim:

Colossians 1:15-29 (NIV)

15 The Son (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in Him (Jesus) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the Body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Jesus), 20 and through Him (Jesus) to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His (Jesus) blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds as reflected in your evil behavior. 22 But now God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the Gospel. This is the Gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. 24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His Body, which is the Church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the Word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the One we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end, I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Think about what Paul is saying regarding the Gospel message – that we are to “strenuously contend” to share the message about Jesus! HE is the ONE we proclaim! And in the larger passage, we see there is a lot about Jesus for us to proclaim! Indeed, what is most important to share with others is what the Word of God says about Him … not necessarily our own personal theologies. The focus is not to be on you or me; rather, the focus is to be on Him. It is WHO HE IS that has transformed you and I into believers … and that is who we have become.  Sharing the stories of our born-again experiences … our salvation … will place the emphasis on the One who saved us!

Being a believer is why you and I labor for the Gospel and serve in the Kingdom of God. Like Paul, our transformation from living in darkness to abiding in the glorious light of the Gospel is what drives us to proclaim Jesus. And Paul laid out a compelling argument to encourage us to share the Gospel:

Romans 10:9-15; 17 (NIV)

 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” (Citing Isaiah 28:1612 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Citing Joel 2:3214 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Citing Isaiah 52:717 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Faith comes from hearing … hearing the Word of God … renewing our minds to the truth about Jesus Christ and no longer being conformed to this world. (Cf. Romans 12:2) Jesus has called His followers (believers) out of the world; and He enjoins us to share His life changing, life giving teaching with others. If “hearing” is the operative word for coming to faith, then our “speaking” is imperative!  So, I pray we will be about the Father’s business as His ambassadors! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) 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)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Today – Hear His Voice…

Psalm 95:6-7 (NIV)

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care. Today, if only you would hear His voice….

Our Verse of the Day is a call to worship! Through worship we understand who God is … and we discover who we really are. We are His creation … His people … the sheep of His pasture … the flock under His care and provision. Notice how everything we are is dependent on who He is! Father God is the LORD our Maker … the LORD our Creator! God is sovereign over all His creation; and yet, He permits humans to rebel against His revealed will. (SMH) Why would God allow such resistance and rebellion within us? Does the answer not ultimately come down to His desire to receive a genuine, true, free expression of love towards Him for who He is? If God forced us to love Him or worship Him, of what value or glory would that be to Him? When we are intentional and exert our personal wills in submission to His will, that is the worship the Father seeks. (Cf. John 4:24)

Isaiah 45:22-24 (NIV)

22 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. 23 By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. 24 They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are deliverance and strength.’” All who have raged against Him will come to Him and be put to shame.

Romans 14:10-12 (NIV)

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” (Paul is quoting Isaiah 45:23) 12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV)

9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and 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.

Our bowing … our kneeling … our acknowledgment and confession … is the fruit of submission that Father God seeks in us. It is of our own volition that we do so … compelled by His irresistible mercy and grace. Yes, it is His lovingkindness that leads us to repentance! (Cf. Romans 2:4) Jesus taught: “If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” (Cf. John 14:15-17)

Indeed, it is through submission, obedience, and reverence, that we demonstrate our love for God and receive the blessing of His covenant of love with us. (Cf. Daniel 9:4) Jesus promised: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father; and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (Cf. John 14:21) “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” (Cf. John 15:10)

I want to encourage you to read the entire Psalm 95 today. Let it speak to your heart and inspire you to worship the Great King! Today if only you would hear His voice!  Yes, do not harden your heart or let it go astray … and miss the “rest” He has promised to those in covenant relationship with Him.  We have been admonished that the response of sincere faith is reverence and worship! Jesus, our Lord and Savior, has called us to believe in Him and to follow Him. Following Him means that we will deny ourselves and embrace the suffering of the cross. (Cf. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23) Indeed, Jesus told His disciples: “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, I pray we will hear His Voice while it is today … and do what He says! Amen.

So Now You Know …

Have a Blessed Day!

I Want to KNOW What Love Is

1 John 3:16 (NIV)

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.

After His resurrection, there is a period of 40 days that Jesus continued to minister to His disciples before His ascension into heaven.  It was during this time that Jesus used occasions to teach the disciples about the realities of His supernatural, eternal presence.  He expounded on all the prophetic scriptures that revealed His identity; and He emphasized the ordained purpose of His life … the reason for which He was sent. Our Verse of the Day captures a great truth that Jesus desires each one of us to attain from our personal encounter with Him; namely, the truth of God’s unfathomable love for those He created in His image …  and all of His creation. Indeed, we find this truth repeated in the inspired writings of the New Testament authors.  John wrote: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. (Cf. John 3:16) And Paul wrote: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8)

What the Apostle John affirms here is that the sacrificial death of Jesus is how we KNOW what love is!  Jesus Christ defines the love of God in terms that we have yet to fully comprehend. Yet, Jesus assures us that this truth can be known and understood by us. Consider the following text:

John 17:20-26 (NIV) ~ Excerpt from the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus

20 “My prayer is not for them (the apostles) 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. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Yes, we CAN know God and know His love because of Jesus Christ … His Son.  The veil covering the holy place in the temple was torn in two … opening our access … revealing our capacity to know the God who created us in His image.  And what Jesus was sent to do was to reveal the Father and to make Him known.  Because of Jesus, we can know God … His Being and His passionate love for us!  Paul understood this revelation; and his prayer for the Ephesian believers encompassed a deep, heartfelt desire for them (and us) to KNOW “this love that surpasses knowledge.”

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp (comprehend) how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

What is the lesson for us? God has spoken His love for us. God has revealed His love for us. God has shown and demonstrated His love for us. All the Father asks of us is to believe in His Son and to love one another as He has loved us! His will is not mysterious or unknown. His expectation of those created in His image can be understood. The reciprocation of His love can be offered. The only question for us is whether we truly desire in our hearts to make it actual in our lives.  For love requires us to humble ourselves … to subdue own wills … to exalt God above all else. And Christ Jesus, who ascended into heaven to become our High Priest before the throne of God, has demonstrated what this submission entails.  Indeed, “the Son, who being in very nature 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 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!” (Cf. Philippians 2:6-8)

When we humble ourselves and surrender our wills to become obedient … to pick up our cross daily … to die to sin … to believe God at His Word … to see God through the person of Jesus; I am persuaded that we will intimately experience this love that surpasses knowledge and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  We will have the capacity to love others as we have been loved. Indeed, that is the purpose of God for our lives … to complete His love.  The Apostle John shared these insights with us.  And so, I will close and recite this familiar passage for today:

1 John 4:7-17 (NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

To Live Is Christ….

Philippians 1:21 (NIV)

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

We have an interesting statement from Paul this morning.  What does it mean “to live is Christ and to die is gain?” Well, let’s look at the entire context and gain some insight.  We need to remember, that Paul wrote this letter while in prison … in chains.

Philippians 1:19-26 (NIV)

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

To live is Christ – This simply means that everything you do in this life should be for Christ. If you go to school, it’s for Christ. If you work, it’s for Christ. If you get married and have a family, it’s for Christ. If you serve in ministry, play on a team, whatever you do, you do it with the mindset that it is for Christ. You want Him to be exalted in every aspect of your life. As Paul taught in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” The reason this should matter is because by exalting Him with your life, you can be intentional and create opportunities for the Gospel to go forward. When Christ is exalted in your life, it can open the door for you to share Him with others.

To die is gain – What could be better than living for Christ, being salt and light to this world, and winning people to the kingdom of God? As crazy as it sounds, Paul asserted death is better. Look how Paul stated it in Verses 22-24: “If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” If you can really grasp what Paul is saying here, then you will truly understand the meaning and context of Verse 21. For Paul to keep living would be beneficial for the Church and everyone else to whom he ministered. He could keep serving them and be a blessing to the Body of Christ. (That’s to live is Christ). 

I think we should bring into the context the sufferings Paul endured. Remember Paul was in prison when writing this letter; and with all of the challenges and suffering he faced, Paul probably felt that as great as it is to serve Christ in this life, it was better to die and go be with Christ forever. Yet, I think even this supposition should be balanced with what Paul stated in Verse 20: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”  Do you see the hesitation? This is not doubt, but there is always an element of fear.  It is really a prayer for “sufficient courage” that Christ would be exalted in his body, whether by life or by death. He does not want to be ashamed either way; rather, Paul wants to be bold in either situation that might transpire under the circumstances. So this does not mean you should want to die, it just means that your ultimate desire is for Christ to be exalted in you whether by life or by death.  Indeed, we are to die to sin, and we have to understand that physical death for a Christian is not the ending, but the beginning of a new experience to be in the tangible presence of Christ in eternity.

Anyway, these are provocative thoughts; and I encourage you to look further into your own sense of what it means to live for Christ Jesus and to die for Him.  My prayer is to align with Paul … to hope that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness (courage), Christ will always be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!