The Struggle With Unbelief…

Isaiah 43:11-12 (NIV)

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

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

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

There are so many Scriptures that come to mind regarding unbelief:

Deuteronomy 1:30-33 (NKJV)

30 The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32 Yet, for all that, you did not believe the Lord your God33 who went in the way before you to search out a place for you to pitch your tents, to show you the way you should go, in the fire by night and in the cloud by day.

Psalm 78:52-58 (ESV)
52 Then He led out His people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. 53 He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid, but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. 54 And He brought them to His holy land, to the mountain which His right hand had won. 55 He drove out nations before them; He apportioned them for a possession and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents. 56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most-High God and did not keep His testimonies, 57 but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow. 58 For they provoked Him to anger with their high places; they moved Him to jealousy with their idols.

Matthew 21:28-32 (ESV)

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

John 12:37-50 (ESV)

37 But although Jesus had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Cf. Isaiah 53:1) 39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” (Cf. Isaiah 6:10) 41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him. 42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. 44 Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not only in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”

John 14:5-11 (ESV)

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

Hebrews 3:1-19 (NIV)

1 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are His house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope. Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’

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

So, I think the point has been made here regarding the seriousness of unbelief.  And I think it stems from our own human pride … that somehow we think that we know more than God on how things are supposed to be … how He is supposed to govern His Kingdom … how He should do things the way we think He ought to do them.  Rather than believe what God has revealed, we want to question Him regarding what He has not revealed. In my observation, I believe God has revealed Himself sufficiently for humans to believe in Him.  We just tend to be stubborn and resist because of our human will … the inclinations of the thoughts of our hearts … and the inability to trust Him with the “unseen”.  Well did the inspired writer of Hebrews define the concept of faith: “Now faith is the substance (confidence) of things hoped for, the evidence (assurance) of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 – NKJV)  And Paul asserts that what may be known about God is plain to see because God has made it plain to us.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen; being understood from what has been made so that people are without excuse. (Cf. Romans 1:19-20)

I think about what Jesus said to Thomas after His resurrection: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (Cf. John 20:29) Thomas had been with Jesus for three years.  He saw the miracles.  He heard the sermons.  He knew Jesus personally.  Yet, he did not believe the testimony of his fellow disciples concerning the resurrection.  I find that interesting … knowing that we can exhibit the same behaviors when fellow Christians share their testimonies about what God is doing in their lives.  It is not just a matter of a skeptical attitude; rather, I think it becomes a manifestation of a hardened heart … calloused by our own paradigms of who we think God should be. But God said: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Cf. Isaiah 55:8-9) Instead of trying to out maneuver God, perhaps we should just simply believe Him based on what He has already shown us. “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known.” (Cf. John 1:18)

So what is the application? Well, here is what my heart is telling me:

Deuteronomy 13:4 (NIV)

It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him.

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Romans 10:9-10 (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. 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.

Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

1 John 3:23-24 (NIV)

And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.

Isaiah 43:10 (NIV)

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.”

Acts 1:8 (NIV)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The issue for each generation is FAITH!  And so we are called to be witnesses … to give our testimony of FAITH.  To me, the issue is what you believe based on who you believe? Isaiah prophesied, “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1) Paul responded: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17) And so, if we want to reach our generation with the hope of salvation, it will require us to not only believe the message about Jesus Christ but to share His message with others. If necessary, we should use words; but otherwise, we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, as the testimonies of our faith. This means to love others as Christ has loved us … just as He commanded us. (Cf. John 13:34) And so, the genuineness of our faith shall be revealed through love….  We need to stop doubting and believe Jesus! Those are my thoughts.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

REJOICE!!!

Joel 2:23 (NIV)

Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.

Rejoice in the Lord your God! As I read that phrase … my thoughts wandered over the past several weeks and months.  I had to ask myself, have I rejoiced in the Lord my God?  In the midst of trials and troubles … as pandemic restrictions and cultural chaos continue in our nation and around the world … have I stopped a moment to intentionally rejoice in the Lord? The word rejoice means to feel or show great joy or delight.  I have to admit that I have not “felt” great joy or delight lately when I look at the tribulation in the world around me.  But maybe that is the point.  Perhaps, I’m looking at the wrong things.  Maybe my focus should be on something that does bring excitement, joy, and delight to the heart….

The Apostle Paul urges us: “Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!” And I love the context in which we find this encouragement:

Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such thingsWhatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

I think there is a message here for us.  Do not be anxious about anything; rather, we should take our cares and concerns to God in prayer with thanksgiving. One might ask, “Why with thanksgiving before you even know the outcome or answer to the prayer?”  Well, think about what God has already done in your life….  Consider His faithfulness!  He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) Yes, we should think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy.  We should set our minds and hearts on God and the love He lavishes on us through Christ Jesus!

Romans 8:35-39 (NIV)

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Quoting Psalm 44:22) 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Oh, we have so many reasons to rejoice in the Lord!  From A to Z we can rejoice in Him:

Rejoice in His abundance.

Rejoice in His anointing.

Rejoice in His atonement.

Rejoice in His authority.

Rejoice in His baptism.

Rejoice in His beauty.

Rejoice in His blessing.

Rejoice in His calling.

Rejoice in His comfort.

Rejoice in His compassion.

Rejoice in His covenant.

Rejoice in His creation.

Rejoice in His cross.

Rejoice in His deliverance.

Rejoice in His discipline.

Rejoice in His election.

Rejoice in His encouragement.

Rejoice in His eternal life.

Rejoice in His faithfulness.

Rejoice in His forgiveness.

Rejoice in His freedom.

Rejoice in His gentleness.

Rejoice in His gifts.

Rejoice in His glory.

Rejoice in His grace.

Rejoice in His healing.

Rejoice in His holiness.

Rejoice in His intercession.

Rejoice in His intimacy.

Rejoice in His justice.

Rejoice in His kindness.

Rejoice in His kingdom.

Rejoice in His liberty.

Rejoice in His life.

Rejoice in His light.

Rejoice in His longsuffering.

Rejoice in His love.

Rejoice in His mercy.

Rejoice in His name.

Rejoice in His omnipotence.

Rejoice in His omniscience.

Rejoice in His peace.

Rejoice in His presence.

Rejoice in His promises.

Rejoice in His protection.

Rejoice in His provision.

Rejoice in His purpose.

Rejoice in His quiet.

Rejoice in His redemption.

Rejoice in His restoration.

Rejoice in His resurrection.

Rejoice in His righteousness.

Rejoice in His sacrifice.

Rejoice in His salvation.

Rejoice in His sovereignty.

Rejoice in His testimony.

Rejoice in His truth.

Rejoice in His unity.

Rejoice in His victory.

Rejoice in His wisdom.

Rejoice in His word.

Rejoice in His yoke.

Rejoice in His zeal.

So, perhaps, we should spend less time on what we see … and rejoice in who we know.  He is everything that matters most.  So, again I say, Rejoice!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Outward Appearances…

1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Any of us can fall into this kind of behavior.  We are human.  We have natural biases that are filtered through our own life experience and upbringing.  We make assumptions.  Draw conclusions.  And yet, too often, we do so without full information or facts.  It happens to holy men of God like the Prophet Samuel.  It happens to each one of us….

Samuel had been charged by the Lord to begin the search for a replacement for King Saul.  God had rejected Saul because of his disobedience.  So God directed Samuel to the Bethlehem to anoint the new king.  We find the story here:

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (NIV)

1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?” Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

As Samuel learned, we should hesitate to make decisions based on outward appearances … based on our own imperfect assessments or generalizations of people’s inner thoughts and beings.  And the lesson here is that God sees people and situations differently than we are able to see them sometimes.  The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. We would be wise to follow His methodology before we assess and judge and act on perhaps flawed determinations.  But even more, we would be wiser still if we waited upon the Lord in order to discern what He has determined and ordained. We can be too hasty in wanting to move and act on our own decisions when God is wanting us to slow down and wait for Him to provide clarity and wisdom according to His own counsel and purpose. The goal is to use wise judgment, and we need to seek the counsel of the Lord in order to do so….

So what is the application?  I hope each of us will check our hearts … our prejudices … our judgments of others based on their outward appearances.  For there is an inner person … an inner being … a soul that God created … that lies within that human body in front of you.  He or she is unique, valued, and loved by God whether we see it for ourselves or not. Just as we received the merciful love of God, so He wants all people to come to repentance and to a knowledge of the truth. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) The people we tend to judge and condemn based on appearances are the very people many of us were ourselves. Paul addressed this very issue:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)

 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 2:1-6 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 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. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 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. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Jesus warns us of hypocrisy! He asserted, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Cf. Matthew 23:27-28) We need to remember WHO made us clean … WHO sanctified us … WHO justified us with His own blood of atonement.  Jesus did not look on our outward appearance and reject us; rather, He loved us and gave Himself for us. He cleansed our inner hearts and healed our inmost beings! That is how God looks at people! That is how we are supposed to look at people! We need to look at them with hope … and offer the hope of salvation found in Jesus alone. So let us do all we can to look passed the appearances of people and see the inner brokenness that needs Jesus to heal them.  I think that is the lesson the Spirit wants to teach us today.  Amen….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Powerful Word of God…

Romans 1:16 (NIV)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

When I read this familiar passage, so many thoughts come to mind about the importance of sharing the Gospel … the Good News about Jesus Christ … to whosoever will listen and believe.  Why is this so important? Well, Paul answers that question: “Because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”  There are two key points here regarding the Gospel: Power of God and Salvation! The power of God is His Word. He spoke creation into existence! (Cf. Genesis 1) And so, in order for a person to come to faith and receive salvation, the Word of God (the message about Jesus) must be heard and understood. I think of salvation in this context: “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, this is how are we created in Christ Jesus – it is through the Word of God … spoken through the prophets and in these last days through His Son.  (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-3)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.(John 1:14)

For the One whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. (John 3:34)

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life. (John 6:63)

Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death. (John 8:51)

There are a multitude of Scriptures that emphasize the creative power of the Word of God; but we can begin to see with just these few I have shared that true life is received in Christ Jesus.  Life … eternal life is formed in us as we hear His words, listen to them, and apply them to our hearts.  And I love this pronouncement from God through the Prophet Isaiah: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Cf. Isaiah 55:11) Indeed, God has ordained that His Word … His Son … shall bring forth salvation.  As Jesus affirmed: “I know that His command leads to eternal life.  So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me say.” (Cf. John 12:50) So the issue is believing and trusting the Word of God … coming to a knowledge of the truth … and placing our faith in Jesus Christ.  And faith comes from hearing the message as Paul shares in Romans 10:

Romans 10:9-17 (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 (Jesus) will never be put to shame.” (Quoting 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.” (Quoting 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!” (Quoting Isaiah 52:7) 16 But not all the Israelites accepted the Good News. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (Quoting Isaiah 53:117 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Oh, I hope that I am carefully articulating this train of thought for someone here who has been trying to connect the dots. I pray a veil is being lifted right now for you to comprehend that it is the Word of God that creates you in Christ Jesus. “For you will be born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:23) You become a new creation in Him!  The old has gone and the new is come! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) This is how Jesus will encounter you and reveal Himself to you because you believe the Gospel and come to Him in faith!  Oh, I pray that you will believe this report … that you will experience His light piercing through the veil so that you “see Jesus” … that you experience His zealous love for you …  that an intimate relationship is forged! Yes, and know that today a multitude of prayers are being offered up for you … that intercession is being made for you. And I decree these words over you: “The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Cf. Zephaniah 3:17) Even so, Amen!

Lord Jesus, you have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68) You are the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through you. (John 14:6) So, I pray your Word will go forth and accomplish the thing for which you have sent it.  I pray that your Word will speak new life into the one here who is diligently seeking you with their heart.  Reveal yourself to them.  Encounter them as only You can do, and set them free. Let doubt and desperation turn into peace and joy.  Let your presence and your love overwhelm them.  Let them hear you singing over them.  Let your Spirit bring assurance to their heart.  Let them know that they are saved! In Your Mighty Name, I pray.  Amen….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Praise and Prayer…

Psalm 138:2 (NIV)

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

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

Psalm 138:1-8 (NIV)

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

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

Matthew 9:35-38 (NIV)

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

Luke 10:1-3 (NIV)

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

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

James 2:14-17 (NIV)

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

1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)

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

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

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

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. ~ John 13:34-35

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Compassionate Father

Psalm 103:13 (NIV)

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him….

As we enter this week and reflect on fathers and fatherhood; I am most grateful for our Heavenly Father … and for His compassions upon His children … upon those who fear (reverence) Him.  As Paul wrote:

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Indeed, we all need compassion and comfort when we are distressed … oppressed … afflicted … or in physical, emotional, or spiritual pain.  It is part of our human experience … perhaps so that we can see and recognize the God of all comfort! And as we endure these experiences, we learn the grace of comforting others.  Indeed, God has shown His compassion since the Creation.  Jesus had great compassion for people as well. It is His nature … just as He is love.  Again, I am reminded of the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  Jesus shared, “But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Cf. Luke 15:20) Oh, that is the depth of compassion we have received from God … and it reflects the acts of compassion that we should extend to one another….

So, I pray we will let compassion reign in our hearts as we minister to those who are in brokenness … to those who are ensnared in the darkness and deception of this world … to those who have wandered from the faith and experiencing a change of heart.  Oh, the Father is waiting, to celebrate their change of heart!  He is the Father of compassion! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Prayer of Moses

Psalm 90:2, 4 (NIV)

Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

I always love reading the Psalms!  So many provide comfort and a time of wonderful meditation. Others, Like Psalm 90, challenge our perspective and perception of God.  This particular Psalm is titled: A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.  I think it is important to have this in mind to provide more context for the theology presented and the language used.

Psalm 90

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return, O children of men.”
A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death— they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered.

We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11 If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due Your Name.
12 Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.

So we see in the Psalm, in this Prayer of Moses, the holiness, majesty, and sovereignty of God contrasted with the sinfulness, weakness, and mortality of man.  Yet, within this contrast we find the anticipation of compassion … the assurance of unfailing love … and the restoration of personal relationship with the Lord God.  I see this prayer as a call to understand that Father God is the Creator … and we are the created … His children.  And how we enter relationship with God is predicated upon a humble spirit that respects, honors, and reverences Him.  That we can even have an intimate relationship with God has been ordained by Him in the first place. Why? Because He created us in His image … so that we might have the capacity to know Him.

A focus on Verses 8-12 afford us a great opportunity to gain perspective. Our days here on earth are limited; and this knowledge in itself should lead us to wisdom. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.” (Cf. Psalm 111:10) It has been the rebellion of His children that has evoked His anger … His wrath.  Both of these terms convey the emotions that we would feel under the same circumstances. Indeed, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Cf. Proverbs 9:10) And this Prayer of Moses leads us to these conclusions that King David and King Solomon share in their inspired writings.

Well, a different Psalm … with a solemn message for us to consider … is what we might need to hear.  I will finish with this thought:

Deuteronomy 31:14-30 (NIV)

14 The Lord said to Moses, “Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, where I will commission him.” So Moses and Joshua came and presented themselves at the tent of meeting. 15 Then the Lord appeared at the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the tent. 16 And the Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. 17 And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?’ 18 And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.

19 “Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them20 When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their ancestors, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant. 21 And when many disasters and calamities come on them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.” 22 So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites.

23 The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.” 24 After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, 25 he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord: 26 “Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. There it will remain as a witness against you27 For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the Lord while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! 28 Assemble before me all the elders of your tribes and all your officials, so that I can speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to testify against them. 29 For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In the latter days, disaster will fall on you because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord and arouse His anger by what your hands have made.”

 The Song of Moses

30 And Moses recited the words of this song from beginning to end in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel:  (You will have to turn to Deuteronomy 32 to read The Song of Moses).

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

An Everlasting Love …

Psalm 103:17-18 (NIV)

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

Our verse today affords us some theological precepts for covenant relationship with God; and I think we should examine these concepts a little deeper.

Psalm 103 is a beautiful meditation of David. In its 22 verses, he explores the foundations and depths upon which intimacy with God is established.  Here we find David speaking to his own soul … addressing his inner being with truths about the nature and character of God that can only be understood and appreciated by the soul.  As God is Spirit, our relationship with Him must be in the spirit realm … in a transparent form where nothing is hidden and truth abides.  Psalm 103 invites us to think deeply and introspectively about the God who created us and His relationship with us:

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—
Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,
Who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever;
10 He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on His children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;
14 For He knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 The wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlastingthe Lord’s love is with those who fear Him,and His righteousness with their children’s children—
18 With those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

19 The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His word.
21 Praise the Lord, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will.
22 Praise the Lord, all His works everywhere in His dominion. Praise the Lord, my soul.

(Verses 1-6)

I really glad that David began this Psalm with praise for the nature of God.  He tells his soul, “Praise the Lord.” In my view, David “commands” his soul to praise God as he unfolds the “reasons” for doing so.  He says to himself, “Do not forget all the benefits that the Father has bestowed your life.” God forgives ALL your sins and heals ALL your diseases.  He redeems your life from the pit … the dark abyss of sin.  He crowns you … He intentionally places His love and compassion upon you.  His favor promotes good things to bless your life.  He works righteousness and justice for those who have been oppressed by others….  And that is just the beginning of how God acts on our behalf.  I’m reminded of what Paul wrote with similar zeal: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Cf. Ephesians 3:20-21)

(Verses 7-13)

David now continues to explore how God manifests His character.  God revealed His ways to Moses and displayed His works among His covenant people.  From what has been reveal and demonstrated, David concludes that the Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  David observes the kindness of God in that He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  David senses in his soul that the love of God … the forgiveness of God … the compassion of God surpasses our ability to comprehend.  Again, I’m reminded of what Paul wrote with great passion: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Cf. Romans 8:38-39) Indeed, the love of Christ Jesus for us … which surpasses knowledge … encompasses all the fullness of God.  (Cf. Ephesians 3:18-19)

(Verses 13-18)

David shares that what He experiences in His relationship with God is special.  The intimacy he has come to know with the Creator … the benefits of fellowship with God the Father … is for those who fear Him! Indeed, His great love is for those who fear Him. (Verse 11). The Lord has compassion on those who fear Him (Verse 13).  Yes, His love is with those who fear Him … with those who keep His covenant … with those who remember to obey His precepts. (Verses 17-18) As David wrote in another Psalm: “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge (trusts) in Him.Fear the Lord, you His holy people, for those who fear Him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Psalm 34:8-10) To fear the Lord is to exalt and reverence Him.  And we can only do so through faith … in spirit and in truth. (Cf. John 4:23-24) It is through faith that we are joined with the Father. “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) There are no benefits for life; there are no rewards except for those who fear the Lord … for those who keep His covenant and obey His command.

(Verses 19-22)

David concludes this meditation within his soul with a declaration of the sovereignty of God.  His throne is established in heaven! His Kingdom is the only authority throughout the universe He created. And this conviction ignites praise and worship within David again.  David sees that ALL creation is subjected to the Lord God. ALL are commanded to obedience … ALL are enjoined to worship the Almighty God!  His Word … His Will … His Works have been revealed to ALL creation. So David commands his soul, “Praise the Lord!”  And, perhaps, we should do so ourselves this morning as well. For the soul of every living being WILL bow before Him; and every tongue will acknowledge Him. (Cf. Isaiah 45:22-24; Romans 14:10-12; Philippians 2:9-11)

So here is the application I have found.  I cannot know the blessings or rewards of the Creator apart from an intimate relationship with Him. And it is a covenant relationship that He initiated (for He knows how I am formed and He remembers that I am dust) and conferred upon me through His Son, Christ Jesus. The Apostle John explains, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:10) As Paul wrote: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) So, there is nothing I have done to earn it or deserve it … but I am compelled in my innermost being (my soul) to respond to His irresistible grace and love with great reverence. For I am convinced that His desire for relationship with me is knowable. And the thought of such love overwhelms me!

David said the love of God is everlasting with those who fear Him. His compassion is on those who fear Him. So I am quite motivated to understand this “fear” … this “reverence” … for God our Creator. To show reverence is an intentional act; and it encompasses how I regard God with the highest honor and deepest respect. Shall I not humble myself, and repent, and submit to Him in faith? Shall I not observe His commandments which reveal His will? God said, “Keep my commands and follow them. I am the Lord.” (Cf. Leviticus 22:31) Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15, 14:21; 15:10) Shall I not worship (love) in the manner that God has ordained? Obedience demonstrates our love. Obedience reveals truth. And obedience is better than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) Isaiah recorded, “The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (Cf. Isaiah 29:13) But Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (Cf. John 4:24) To be sure,  reverence must be sincere. And so love must be sincere. Genuine love cannot be hidden.  God did not hide or conceal His love for us. Thus, we should not hide or veil our love for Him. Love must be evident to all. “And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us.” (Cf. 1 John 3:23)

Well, I hope that something said here will resonate with your soul. What King David imparted in his Psalms is prophetic of the intimate relationship God desires with us in Christ Jesus. Indeed, the grace of God we know and experience in Christ Jesus should elicit an overwhelming desire within us to love and adore Him … which is manifested in truth through obedience. Reverence IS obedience … because the New Covenant has not been written on tablets of stone; rather, through the blood of Jesus it has been written on our hearts.  The Covenant of Love is this: God loves us and we love Him.  God demonstrates His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) In return, we demonstrate our love for God in this: Keeping His commandments. (Cf. 1 John 5:3)

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Mighty Warrior

Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

This is quite an intriguing verse for us to ponder.  And, of course, we should examine it within the surrounding context…. I encourage you to read the entire chapter.

In Zephaniah 3, the prophet is dealing with the “character” of the city of Jerusalem, and its inhabitants in general. Even more pointed, he calls out the princes, judges, prophets, and priests – leaders of the people and exposes their hardness, impenitence, and shamelessness.  The prophet indicates that these people knew better (the Lord being among them); who taught them through His Word and warned them of judgment and punishment through His Prophet if repentance did not ensue. Yet despite His attempts at correction; Jerusalem remained unrepentant, and God declared a day of wrath would come upon them.  Yet, the prophet reveals the heart of God is to preserve those who fear Him … the remnant who trust in the name of the Lord … who clothe themselves in righteousness. When God gathers and restores His people, we see how compassionate God is with those who love Him … the excitement He “feels” for them … the grace He lavishes upon them … and the restoration He will initiate for all that was lost!

To me, this chapter (and this verse in particular) is a reflection of how God longs for His people to seek and respond to Him. God delights in our obedience more than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) His commandments are intended for wisdom and light. His discipline is for our understanding and correction. His presence is for our protection; and His power is for our salvation! Think about how awesome the love of God is that He will rejoice over you with singing!  Now consider some related parables that Jesus taught:

Luke 15:1-7 (NIV) Parable of the Lost Sheep

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Luke 15:8-10 (NIV) Parable of the Lost Coin

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Luke 15:11-31 (NIV) Parable of the Prodigal Son

17 “When he came to his senses, the son said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to rejoice.

Throughout His Word, God affords us insight into His nature and character.  God is holy; and He has ordained for us to be holy. His commandments communicate how sincere love is the standard. Yet, God is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness; and forgiving of the disobedience, rebellion, and sin committed against Him. God knows how we are formed and remembers that we are but dust. (Cf. Psalm 103:14) He knows we are imperfect, but His desire is that we would but turn our hearts toward Him and respond to correction. This is the message God has sent to His people through all generations; and in these last days, He offers this grace to those who will place their faith in Christ Jesus – His Son … the One whom He sent!  Every prodigal … every wayward sheep … needs to know the Father will rejoice over them when they return to Him. Jesus said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which is lost!” (Cf. Luke 19:10) And that purpose has not changed.  The will of the Father has not changed.  Jesus has commissioned His Church to be His Body upon the earth.  He charges every disciple … every follower … to “go and make disciples of all nations.” (Cf. Matthew 28:19)

So, I pray that as we meditate upon the Word of God brought to us by the Prophet Zephaniah, we will see its relevance in historical terms and its application for us today.  God rejoices over those who respond to His correction.  He delights in those who repent and place their trust in the name of the Lord. Yes, the Father is concerned for each lost soul He sent Jesus to find and save! In Zephaniah 3, I believe we can see a picture of Jesus – who has taken away our punishment and turned back our enemy.  We can see He is for us; and we should no longer fear the surrounding armies.  He is our Savior … the Mighty Warrior who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) In His love, He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing! Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. (Cf. Luke 12:32) Even so, Lord, your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…. Amen.

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

Just The Right Time

Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

This passage from Romans 5 is still as powerful today as it was when the Apostle Paul penned it for the Church.  Verse 8 is quite profound, and it gives us a clear understanding of the depth of God’s love for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us … the ungodly … those without hope of salvation! Indeed, Jesus was crucified because we are all sinners! “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23)

Psalm 14:2-3; Psalm 53:2-3; Romans 3:11-12

The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside. They have together become corrupt; there is none who does good … No, not one.

God saw our condition … our state of darkness … our need for salvation! But we are assured: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Cf. John 3:16) “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:9-10) And as Paul concluded: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Cf. Romans 8:38-39)

God has manifested, demonstrated, and confirmed His love for us!  The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us! (Cf. Romans 5:5) How could anyone ever doubt the love of God? The love of God provided His own Passover Lamb as a sin offering for us! You can readily see this presented and prophetically revealed in Genesis 22 which tells the story of when God tested Abraham with the sin offering (sacrifice) of Isaac (his first-born and only son of Sarah) on Mount Moriah. The narrative reveals the intense faith Abraham had in God … a faith demonstrated by a sincere love and trust in God such that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son in obedience to the command he had received:

Genesis 22:6-13 (NIV)

Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram (behind him) caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

But unlike Isaac, who was bound by his father and then placed on the altar for sacrifice, Jesus was willing to die.  Indeed, it was for this purpose that He was sent by His Father. And Jesus was not bound and then placed on the cross of sacrifice; He was nailed to it after He had been violently abused, brutalized, and humiliated.  And here is the explanation that Jesus gave before the betrayal and trial and execution ever occurred:

John 10:14-18 (NIV)

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

A thought just came to mind.  There is a song by a band named Foreigner entitled: I Want to Know What Love Is. The chorus goes: “I want to know what love is, I want you to show me. I want to feel what love is, I know you can show me.” If a person made this his/her prayer to God, I believe God would respond: “I have shown you what love is.  You can know what love is.  You can feel what love is.  I have demonstrated my passionate, everlasting love to you and for you.  I have made known my love for you. His name is Jesus!”  The Apostle Paul prayed that believers would know this love:

Ephesians 3:16-19 (NIV)

16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He (God) 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 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.

Yes, we can know the depth of His love … even though it surpasses our comprehension….  The Apostle John affirms this same knowledge:

1 John 4:10-16 (NIV)

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.

Indeed, “God has delivered us from the power (dominion) of darkness and transferred (brought) us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love,  in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He (Jesus, the Son) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Cf. Colossians 1:13-15) And this is the reason for the cross. Jesus is the revelation of the heart of God: of rescue … of redemption … of resurrection … of reconciliation. God sent His Son to accomplish ALL of these things because He loves us! Yes, the cross of Christ was ordained! It was commanded by the Father.  It was His will. The Lamb of God was slain before the foundation of the world. (Cf. Revelation 13:8) And what does He require?  A Response. Repentance. Reformation.  He says to us: “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.” (Cf. Romans 12:2) And, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when He is revealed. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. Instead, just as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct;for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:13-16)

We remember the cross because it is an eternal symbol of God’s love for His creation.  We remember the cross because it is where Jesus was sent by the Father to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins … even the sins of the whole world. (Cf. 1 John 2:2) We remember the cross because there is, therefore, now no condemnation for our sins. (Cf. Romans 8:1) But I pray we are reminded: “Jesus Himself bore our sins in HIS Body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:24) As Paul asked: “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Cf. Romans 6:2) And Paul exhorted: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” (Cf. Colossians 3:2-4)

I truly want us to remember the purpose of the cross … the crucifixion … that God would send His Son to die for us. I believe the purpose is evoke a response; and I think Paul articulates the response that God desires from each of us quite well:

Romans 6:1-14 (NRSV)

1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sinFor whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 The death He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

So, I will close with this passage:

Luke 9:23-24 (NIV)

Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!