Give Praise to the Lord…

1 Chronicles 16:8 (NIV)

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.

Inherent with giving thanks to God is the offering of praise to Him as the expression of our gratitude! And we can do so in two ways: vertically and horizontally. While I think, for the most part, we are comfortable to express our praise directly to God during individual prayer time, or perhaps, during corporate worship; I believe where we might not feel so “bold” is sharing our thanks and praise in front of other people outside of family or church. Our Verse of the Day encourages us to “proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” This level of exaltation goes beyond our homes and our local assembly. We are to declare the life of God within His people to everyone … everywhere. Let’s look at this verse in the immediate context when David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Tent (Tabernacle); offered sacrifices; and appointed congregational worship leaders:

1 Chronicles 16:7-36 (NIV)

7 That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner:

8 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done. 9 Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. 10 Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 11 Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. 12 Remember the wonders He has done,His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced, 13 you His servants, the descendants of Israel, His chosen ones, the children of Jacob. 14 He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth. 15 He remembers His covenant forever, the promise He made, for a thousand generations, 16 the covenant He made with Abraham, the oath He swore to Isaac. 17 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: 18 “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.” 19 When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, 20 they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. 21 He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake He rebuked kings: 22 “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” 23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim His salvation day after day. 24 Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples. 25 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods. 26 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 27 Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His dwelling place. 28 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before Him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. 30 Tremble before Him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. 31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” 32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! 33 Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the Lord, for He comes to judge the earth. 34 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. 35 Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.” 36 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.”

I know this was a lengthy passage of Scripture, but I find it so expressive and powerful! I believe it truly captures the heart of thanksgiving and describes its foundations for worship. Yes, and note in Verse 7 how David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner!  This is our blueprint for praise and worship! So, I pray these thoughtful, inspired instructions of David will encourage us to find liberty of expression not only during times of congregational worship … but will fill us with courage and boldness to express the praises of God with others who cross our paths. Indeed, we need to get out of our comfort zones and tell everyone what HE has done … declaring His faithfulness not only in the lives of His people before us, but in our own lives as well!

Yes, give praise to the Lord and proclaim His Name! His Name is a strong and mighty tower … a shelter like no other … and it alone has the power to save! As the Prophet Joel foretold, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Cf. Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13) And as Peter declared: “There is no other name under heaven given among mankind by which we must be saved.” (Cf. Acts 4:12) Indeed, what a beautiful, wonderful, powerful name … is the name of Jesus! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Thankful For His Kingdom…

Hebrews 12:28 (NIV)

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

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

Hebrews 12:22 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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

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

Thanksgiving For Giving…

Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Our Verse of the Day instructs us to give thanks to God through the name of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is right for us to always be giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf. Ephesians 5:20) So, let us joyfully give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of Light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Cf. Colossians 1:12-14)

Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Oh, what wisdom the Apostle Paul has shared in his epistle to the Colossian believers!  He instructs us to be thankful … to live in accordance with the lavish grace and redemption we have received in Christ Jesus … and to always give thanks to the Father through Him!  As we studied yesterday: just as we received Christ Jesus as Lord, so we should continue to live our lives in Him.  And so, look at the examples of HOW we should live as God’s chosen people! Yes, whatever we say or do, all is to be done in Jesus’ name to the glory of God the Father.

In this context, I feel compelled to share this word from God that resonated with me during my quiet time this morning. I want to draw our attention to the thanksgiving that comes from giving:

2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (NIV)

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good workAs it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” (Citing Psalm 112:9) 10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Oh, I think that the Spirit of God wants to impress upon us a spirit of generosity!  He desires for us to be generous in the kindness of our words for the ministry of the reconciliation … and in the accomplishment of all He has called us to do for the needs of others. For in the acts of freely giving of our abundance to the poor and freely giving of ourselves as living sacrifices, there is an overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God! Yes, our Heavenly Father will be praised for the obedience that accompanies our confession of the Gospel of Christ … and for our generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

My friend, do not be reluctant or afraid to be generous with what God has graciously provided you. God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work – prepared in advance for you to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) I believe that the most important outcome of generosity is the overflowing of thankfulness that will be offered to God! Yes, every act of giving creates an opportunity for thanksgiving and praise to be lifted up to our Heavenly Father in the name of our Lord Jesus! Indeed, thanks be to God for His indescribable gift … the gift of generous hearts! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV)

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Overflowing with Thankfulness…

Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

A life changed by coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ is a life characterized by thankfulness! As Paul described in our Verse of the Day, our hearts should “overflow” with thankfulness … with humble gratitude … for the One who saved us and set us free from the condemnation of sin! For we have not been appointed to the coming wrath for those who are rebellious and disobedient; rather, we have received salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:9) Indeed, our thankfulness should abound with the highest praise:

Ephesians 1:4-10 (NIV)

4 For God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, 5 He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. 7 In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 God made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:13-15 (NIV)

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore, I have spoken.” Since we have that same Spirit-given faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to Himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Hallelujah! As believers we have great reason to be thankful for the riches of His lavish grace! And so, I pray we will take a moment to give our Lord Jesus overflowing praise today … and every day! Indeed, let thanksgiving abound to God for all He has done! For He chose us in Christ before the creation of the world and made us His handiwork; created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Yes, let us continue to live our lives in Christ, rooted and built up in Him through the faith we have been taught by the Word and received through the grace of God. Let everything we do in service to our Lord overflow with thanksgiving! In His Saving Name, I pray. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Call To Praise!

1 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

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

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

1 Peter 1:3-16 (NIV)

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

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

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

John 3:1-8 (NIV)

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

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

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

Ephesians 2:1-9 (NIV)

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

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

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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!