Verse of the Day – 02/26/19

1 John 4:9

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.

I know we have covered this specific verse in the commentaries … probably numerous times.  I want to think that since it has been sent out today, there is an anointing on this Scripture that we need to grasp and embrace.  We read this verse.  We quote this verse.  But do we really KNOW this verse?  Do we really receive this love that surpasses all human understanding?  Can we?  God showed His love.  God demonstrated His love.  It is revealed and found in His Son, Christ Jesus!  But do we truly understand this?

Last night, during my prayer time, I became overwhelmed with the thoughts … the mental images … of His crucifixion.  A visage of blood trailing down sunken cheeks … a piercing crown of thorns penetrating His brow … jagged tears of flesh … whip-inflicted wounds … covered every inch of His back.  The magnitude of unconscionable, demonic-filled physical torture that Jesus endured was beyond my imagination. I was overcome. I began to weep in my spirit….

And then He spoke to me, “I endured this for you!” I was speechless.  I trembled.  In that moment, Jesus reminded me … that He knowingly and willingly went to this Roman cross of death. (Cf. John 10:11-18) God sacrificed His own life … His own blood … according to His own plan and purpose.  Jesus died to reconcile me to God the Father.  He paid the debt of sin for me.  I am redeemed.  I am purchased by His blood.  Not because I was good or worthy or merited His favor.  No, He died for me to show me the greatness of His love … to set me free from the ultimate cost of sin within the human heart.  He did that for me!  He did that for you!  Why?  So that we might truly live through Him! I am convinced there is no true life outside of life within Christ Jesus.  Jesus proclaimed, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) We either believe Him at His word … or we arrogantly reject the sacrificial death He suffered to bring us eternal life. “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise Him up on the last day.” ~ Jesus (John 6:40) “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” ~ John (1 John 5:11)

This is a hard message.  This is hard to understand because it is not rational to the human mind.  I feel like Paul … when he expressed this message to the Corinthian Church:

1 Corinthians 2:1-3

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony (mystery) about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 

But this IS the message of this verse, and for that matter, all of the Holy Scriptures. The Son had to do this for us! It was required by God, and He sent Jesus into the world for this purpose.  At the appointed time in history … at the appointed place of birth … in the chosen nation of inheritance … for the appointed children of God. Our Savior Jesus was slain for us … for the forgiveness of our sins … ordained by God the Father before the foundation of the world.

Can I leave you with a passage of Scripture from the Prophet Isaiah?  I believe he can best orate what I am trying to share here and he foretold the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah 700 years in advance! I just think God wants us to focus on this message – maybe as we prepare ourselves and our hearts for the season of Easter:

Isaiah 53

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem. Surely, He took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression (From arrest) and judgment He was taken away. Yet who of His generation considered that He was cut off from the land of the living; that He was punished for the transgression of my people? He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death, though He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the Lord makes His life an offering for sin, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in His hand.

11 After He has suffered, He will see the light of life (see the fruit of His suffering) and will be satisfied; by His knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give Him a portion among the many, and He will divide the spoils with the numerous because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/23/19

Proverbs 14:22

Do not those who plot evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness.

Perhaps this is a timely passage for me to consider in light of the previous commentary (Verse of the Day – 02/20/19) that I sent out regarding the principles of forgiveness.  In response, a friend wrote me and questioned my thoughts about “righteous anger” stating, “It was not wrong or sinful for me to be angry or upset about what had occurred.”  She further added, “Anger is not a “sinful” emotion; we just need to consider how to express it in a righteous way.” 

Well, the response and this Verse of the Day captured my attention. So I began to search what the Word of God shares with us regarding the emotion of anger and its sinful effects if allowed to be harbored within our hearts.  There were a couple of passages that immediately came to mind so let’s start there:

Ephesians 4:25-27 (ESV)

26 Be angry and do not sin (Cf. Psalm 4:4); do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

Psalm 4:4 (ESV)

Be angry, (the connotation here is to tremble or be agitated) and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. 

So the implication here is that anger is a natural, raw human emotion we experience. And although we can feel anger regardless of its provocation, we are admonished to not allow anger to cause us to sin.  We are called to “think it through” in our own hearts and be silent.  Rash words spoken in anger can kindle a fire. (Cf. Psalm 39:3; James 3:5-6) Anger can easily lead to an opportunity for the devil to deceive us; accuse us; diminish our relationship with God; or worse – drive us to sin against the anyone who provoked the anger within us.  I think about the story of Cain and Abel where God confronted Cain about his anger.  Interesting that Cain was initially upset with God … provoked or agitated because God did not accept his grain offering.  But Cain allowed his unrestrained anger to drive him to murder his brother, Abel.

Genesis 4:3-8 (NIV)

In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

There are numerous lessons we could dive into here, but the most obvious is that the emotion of anger was fueled by jealousy … and jealousy led to hatred … and hatred led to murder.  My point was and continues to be that anger is dangerous … even so-called “righteous” anger.  Feelings of righteous anger have caused some so-called Christian Activists to bomb abortion clinics; gay clubs; etc. in the pretense of “moral duty”.  So plotting revenge … plotting evil in response to feelings of anger or any other emotions it might evoke can lead to all sorts of sinful conduct … and in these types of situations … dishonor and bring reproach to the name of Christ Jesus.

Revenge is not an acceptable strategy or response when we feel harmed by the actions of others and become angry.  There are several Scriptures that address the imprudence of seeking revenge.  Here are two that come to mind:

Leviticus 19:18

“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Romans 12:18-20

18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:3520 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Cf.  Proverbs 25:21-22)

The believe the Apostle James afforded us some wisdom for us on this topic. While we are prone to anger for whatever reason and to whatever degree, James asserts that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  Our mouths will too easily ensnare us.  Our relationships are too at risk from the effect of anger expressed in its various forms from words to weapons. 

James 1:19-21

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

Well, we can find the words “anger” and “angry” used in Scripture over 400 times depending on the translation.  As I sampled them, most of uses referenced people in conflict or the “anger” of God.  Of course, we know that ascribing human emotions to God (known as anthropopathism) is really more of a language of accommodation through which an infinite God reveals Himself to finite man. It is used to explain our understanding of God … His nature, character and attributes … in human terms.  Though God does not change with emotions like humans often do, I believe as our Creator He knows the range and depth of emotions that humans feel. And God has allowed inspired writers to pen these “attributes” in emotional, relational terms to express or communicate His “feelings” toward sin … toward His creation … and toward His people in particular.  While this language of accommodation is useful, I believe if we want to observe the “actual” emotions of God we can simply look to Jesus and come to some rational conclusions on what God “is like”.  Jesus did express what we would describe as anger in the Temple court when he drove out the money-changers. (Cf. Matthew 21:12-13) I suppose it would have been viewed as “righteous” or “justifiable” anger, but the more important aspect would have been to reveal the heart of God. Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.”  (Cf. John 14:7-11)

So, I think our best response to anger – whatever its source – is to “plan what is good”.  We need to already have our “response” to anger already in mind … and not be caught off guard.  It is in preparedness we will find love and faithfulness not only for God but for each other.  No doubt, anger is going to be felt within us.  It is our human nature.  But what we do with it next in that moment is the point of this commentary.  I would rather “confess” anger than “express” anger because there is too much risk for Satan to seize our weaknesses and use them against us.  Unrestrained (undisciplined) anger can lead to a multitude of sins.  As God cautioned Cain, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”  I pray we will not let anger however we might consider it (healthy, justified, righteous, or otherwise) become an open door to sin.  Remember, Peter urged to be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:8)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/20/19

Proverbs 17:9 (NIV)

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.

Our passage comes from the Book of Proverbs.  There is definitely a great message here for us … however hard it might be to implement.  Although I read this verse on Wednesday morning, I did not have time to write any commentary – thinking that I would do so later in the day.  As it turned out, later in the day, I found myself listening to one of my employees recount a telephone conversation with a client who was “in a rage” and berating some of our employees as well as verbally assaulting me to this subordinate.  Needless to say, I became quite incensed.  I simmered (no probably boiled is a better description) the rest of the day … repeating the matter to others (mostly immediate family) and then prayed about the matter that night … wondering what had happened to my relationship with this client that I and a couple of my devoted employees would be so denigrated.  I will share more in a moment about my prayer time; but to finish, I was rushed to get ready and off to the office on Thursday morning for an all-day staff meeting … and then I worked at the office afterwards until about 7:00 p.m.  Yesterday, I had a tooth extracted, so I am just now getting back to this particular Verse of the Day.

As I read this verse again today … I was reminded how my emotions and attitude had gotten the best of me earlier this week.  Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.  Although this client and I are not “close” friends, we have known each other for 25 years.  And regardless of the level of affinity, I always want to consider myself someone who would endeavor to “foster love” toward anyone … someone who would always strive to demonstrate Christian character in all circumstances … someone who would endeavor to cover over an offense of any magnitude.  But I have to confess, this circumstance has taken me a couple of days to get there, and I regret that my immediate attitude was not more Christ-like.  Pondering this verse again reminded me of the convictions I felt during my prayer time Wednesday night while the incident was still fresh in my mind.  And I am “repeating the matter” here only to share the spiritual lessons I learned through this experience:

Sometimes it is best to remain silent when we become charged with emotion.  Unfortunately, in my “anger” over what had transpired with my employee, I called the client an “explicative” that describes the hind side of a donkey.  I regret the lapse of character in front of an employee who has otherwise seen a more noble display of leadership. I was ashamed because it felt no different to me than if I had done so in front of my children. Yes, we are adults. Yes, we are humans. Yes, the employee most likely overlooked my indiscretion in the heat of the moment.  But NO; I should be mindful not to bring the slightest potential reproach to our Lord Jesus nor be flippant about a seemingly harmless, understandable show of emotion. In truth, I was the opposite of what Jesus expected me to be. I was out of character.  Though Spirit-filled … that was my character none the less in that moment. So I had to question the inclinations of my own heart.  Why was I so quick to anger … when it should have been slow to anger? (Cf. Proverbs 15:18; 16:32; 19:11) And, besides, we had just reviewed this passage from Matthew 5 a week or so ago:

Matthew 5:38-45 (ESV)

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

As I prayed Wednesday night and “repeated the matter” to God, He reminded me of my need for repentance. The Lord reminded me of His faithfulness to me my entire life.  I thought about His Word: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” (Cf. Psalm 103:8) I felt convicted and realized that I have been called to be merciful, gracious, and long-suffering towards others.  I am expected to “foster” or promote love. Yes, someone I had expected to respect me for my faithful service to them had hurt me.  Yet, in my complaint, God showed me a greater truth – the hurt that I felt in that moment was no different than the hurt or disappointment God feels when I fail to be faithful to Him and His Word.

In his epistles, Paul often reminds us of how we should conduct ourselves with others. And notice in the following passage how our failures to conduct ourselves in a right manner causes us to “grieve the Holy Spirit” who dwells within us.  Perhaps the conviction I felt Wednesday night was the expression of grief by the Holy Spirit:

Ephesians 4:29-32 (NIV)

29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

So in my prayer time, forgiveness was the recurrent theme.  God has forgiven me … I need to forgive others.  If I want to facilitate love in and through my life, forgiveness is a great place to start. Forgiveness does not dismiss what happened. It does not condone the hurt caused. Rather, forgiveness simply releases the person from any debt. Jesus paid my sin debt.  I should choose to do the same with others who wrong me.  As Paul instructed us: “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:5)

Dr. David Jeremiah of Turning Point wrote: “The hardest part of forgiving another person is acting like the offense never occurred. But that is what forgiving someone means – restoring relationships to the status they had before the offense took place.  It’s one thing to say, “I forgive you,” but it’s another to act like all the effects of an offense are completely erased.” Yet, we need to realize that is how God has forgiven us.  (Cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 10:16-18) The offense I felt from the lips of a friend absolutely pales in comparison to the offenses and transgressions I have committed against the One who created me, loved me, and saved me according to His great love.

Micah 7:18-19 (ESV)

18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

So I pray that each of us would consider the depth of forgiveness we have received in Christ Jesus … and remember that we have been called to forgive others in the same manner as the Lord forgave each of us.  However difficult to put into practice, we have to remember that forgiveness is the foundation of our relationship with God.  Without His forgiveness, we would have no life within us at all.  As Paul wrote: “When we were dead in our sins and under the power of our flesh, God made us alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it (our legal indebtedness) away, nailing it to the cross. (Cf. Colossians 2:13-14)

 It might sound strange, but I am somewhat grateful that this offense and a slip of my tongue has jolted me with a greater truth – there is no offense committed against me that could be greater that the offense of my own sin before God.  The sins of mankind required a sacrifice no one but God Himself could offer to atone for it. (Cf. 1 John 4:10-11) So I am thankful for this reminder as I continue to learn how to “foster” love as Jesus taught us to do. Again, as Paul wrote, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another.  If any of you has a grievance against someone, forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Cf. Colossians 3:12-14)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!