Reverence Through Fellowship…

Ephesians 5:19-20 (NIV)

Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Verse of the Day looks into aspects of our fellowship and interaction with one another in the Church.  Paul spends considerable time discussing relationships Ephesians 5, so I thought it might be good to reprint this portion of his letter to provide the context for what Paul is instructing us. To me, several of his points are connected to the last few verses that we have recently studied:

Ephesians 5:1-21 (NIV)

1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. 4 Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. 5 For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. 7 Therefore do not be partners with them. 8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. 14 This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Notice that our conduct with one another is to be “imitators of God” and to “walk in love just as Christ has sacrificially loved each of us.” What we do … how we behave around and toward one another is to be marked with the utmost concern, reverence, and respect for the dignity of others – as contrasted with our former way of life and conduct when we were lost and without of the light of the Spirit. We have been redeemed (saved) from darkness and called to leave our lives of dead works and to be wise … to make the most of every opportunity to be instruments of light in this dark world. And where do we find this wisdom?  How do we attain it? “The fear of Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Cf. Proverbs 9:10)

Proverbs 8:12-14 (NIV)

12 “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. 13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. 14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have insight, I have power.

Proverbs 14:26-27 (NIV)

26 Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. 27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death.

Proverbs 23:17-18 (NIV)

17 Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. 18 There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

Indeed, our lives are to be characterized by worship (reverence) for God – being filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. We are to sing and make music from our hearts unto the Lord; always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And note Verse 21 – that we are to submit ourselves to one another out of reverence for Jesus Christ. The NKJV translates this verse: “submitting to one another in the fear of God.” Thus, we can see that submission to each other within the Body of Christ is an act of reverence for God; and humility is the fear of the Lord. (Cf. Proverbs 22:4) I think these verses also confirm that love for one another is “how” we can demonstrate our love (worship) for God. (Cf. 1 John 3:11, 23; 1 John 4:7, 11, 12)

As you begin your day, I encourage you to consider how your conduct towards others – especially those of the household of faith – reflects your relationship with God. These Scriptures indicate how we behave and interact with others is indicative of our walk with Jesus Christ. For we were once darkness, but now we have received the light of the Lord. Therefore, we are called to live as children of light and to find out what pleases the Lord. My prayer is that we will do so. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Planning Ahead…

Proverbs 27:1 (NIV)

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

Our Verse of the Day speaks to the uncertainty of life. Too often, we assume that the physical life we experience in the here and now will continue without interruption and without interference. But as we have observed over the past couple of years, the unknown continues to grab our attention and cause us to question what the future holds. It reminds us that life is uncertain … our future is not guaranteed. It admonishes us to not be arrogant or make too many assumptions about our lives … because we truly do not know what a day may bring. The Apostle James, perhaps, had this proverb in mind when he wrote:

James 4:13-17 (NIV)

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Did you see the caveat in Verse 17? There is a good that we know we ought to be about doing; but failure to do it puts us in a status of sin … of missing the mark and high calling of God. I think what James is saying here it that our planning for the future should not set aside or ignore the good works that God has purposed in advance for us to do. We should be incorporating our Kingdom assignments into everything we do on a daily basis … for we do not even know what will happen tomorrow.

I do not believe this passage is denouncing thoughtful “planning” for the future; rather, James is focused on an arrogant attitude and not being mindful of God in our planning. It is the boastful, prideful attitude of an invincible spirit that James calls into question. “Your life is but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” We need to keep perspective … a view of life that is dependent upon the grace of God working in us and through us. Indeed, our plans should be aligned with God … with His Will and His Word as we endeavor to accomplish the purposes for which He created us. “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) Yes, this should be the basis of our planning – completing the good works which God created us in Christ Jesus to do….

So, the key point here is that tomorrow is not promised to any of us, so we are to make the most of our time here on earth … serving God and His Kingdom. As Paul advised; “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Cf. Ephesians 5:15-17) Likewise, Paul tells us: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Cf. Colossians 4:5-6)

Heavenly Father, I pray this morning that we will develop a balanced view of ourselves and the lives that you have given us. Give us perspective and wisdom to understand that our physical lives are but a vapor … a mist. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Cf. Psalm 90:12) For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:7) Yes, I pray that we would spend less time planning for the temporal and devote more time engaging in the eternal. I pray, O Lord, that we would avail ourselves more for the purposes of your Kingdom … to multiply the inheritance of your grace and salvation … to build up treasure in heaven that will never fail or be taken! Indeed, the true riches are the souls of those you bring into our lives and lead to your throne of grace … where you will encounter them with your presence … to heal and to redeem and to restore. O Lord, may we conform our life plans to your purposes. Yes, Lord, change our hearts and our mindsets to will and to act in order to fulfill Your good purpose. (Cf. Philippians 2:13) And I ask all these things in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Here are some additional verses for you to consider as you begin your day:

Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT)

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.

Proverbs 19:20-21 (NLT)

Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.

Isaiah 48:17 (NLT)

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.

Great Is Your Reward…

Matthew 5:11-12 (NIV)

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In our Verse of the Day, Jesus gives His followers some insight on what being a devout believer will entail. Our profession of faith in Jesus will come at a cost … it will require a sacrifice. But our Lord Jesus affirms our devotion to Him comes with a blessing … a great reward in heaven … salvation and eternal life!

Matthew 5:1-12 (NIV)

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:17-26 (NIV)

17 Jesus went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of His disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all. 20 Looking at His disciples, He said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

When we look at these two presentations of the Sermon on the Mount, we see unexpected teachings of how true relationship with God is defined. Luke, true to his literary form, provides additional contextual commentary along with the recording of some contrasts (woes) that were spoken by Jesus. What we get here is a radical picture of what discipleship means in addition to a glimpse of the blessedness that following Jesus will produce in our lives. And I will note that Jesus did not say: “Blessed are those who have great possessions or sufficient finances….”

Jesus teaches that to be truly blessed in this life, to have intimacy with Him, we need to be emptied of all the things that the world seeks. He calls us to see the depth of our spiritual need … to mourn over our sin and disobedience … to weep over our self-centeredness and lack of compassion … to hunger and thirst for righteousness … to be more gracious and forgiving of others … to advocate for unity and peace … to seek holiness and humility in our hearts and lives … and to be willing to suffer for His Name and the Gospel.

I believe that who you and I will become in Christ, as we abide in Him, will be the outcome of sacrifice and suffering. Jesus told His disciples: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Cf. Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24) John recorded a similar discourse: “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:25-26) And Luke records the following teaching of Jesus that affords us further detail on the matter:

Luke 14:26-30; 33 (NIV)

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

Jesus indicated that there would be a real cost to discipleship; and He admonished followers to consider that cost before they began to follow Him. My initial thought was: “Is there really any choice?” Jesus preached radical ideas that challenged the religious paradigms of His time. So, when He asked His disciples if they wanted to leave Him as others had done, Peter answered: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Cf. John 6:67-69) Indeed, no matter what we might “perceive” is the cost of believing and following Jesus, I think it is clear that we must give up everything for His sake! Yet Jesus has assured us of “great reward” for doing so. As the Apostle Paul expounded:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

If we look at what is happening around the world, even within our own nation, the cost of being a believer and worshipper of Christ Jesus is becoming more apparent. And I believe the historical record of persecution serves witness to this precedent. From Stephen to present-day martyrs scattered across the globe, those who have died for their faith in Jesus testify of the ultimate sacrifice that could be required of any believer.  And I sense we are challenged to ask ourselves if we are willing to do the same. As Paul told the Philippians: “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him….” (Cf. Philippians 1:29) And Paul challenged Timothy: “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:8) All these thoughts call for introspection … as we consider the cost of allegiance, devotion, and faith. Jesus asks us to believe Him … to trust Him at His word … with everything.  And it is my prayer that we will do so….

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. ~ Jesus            (John 15:18-19)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Talk The Walk…

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)

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.

In our Verse of the Day, Paul admonishes believers to exercise self-control with our mouths … and surely that is some sound advice. Foul language has no place in our lives and it is certainly unbecoming to a believer. Your Christian testimony is diminished … perhaps even disregarded before others when you cuss, curse, or use vile words. If what you have to say to another person does not encourage, teach, instruct, or build them up, then it is probably best not to say anything at all. To be caustic, demeaning, or demoralizing does not reflect reverence, love, or respect for God … nor another human being. The Apostle James also had some sharp words to address this issue:

James 3:2-11 (NIV)

2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

In His own teachings, Jesus weighed in on how we speak to one another. He exhorted: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, (Citing Exodus 20:13) and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ (an Aramaic term of contempt) is answerable to the council. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Cf. Matthew 5:21-22) Indeed, it is clear that the words we speak are significant to our walk with God and exert tremendous influence on our relationships with others. As Solomon observed: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Cf. Proverbs 18:21)

I believe the application for us is evident. So, if the use of coarse joking, foul language, or demeaning and abusive words is a stronghold in your life, I pray you would consider the instruction of these men of God. Let your talk reflect your walk! God and the people around you will be much happier if you would endeavor to encourage and build others up. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Romans 15:5; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Hebrews 12:14)  Yes, exercise self-control and choose to use words of kindness, gentleness, peace, patience, forgiveness, and love. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Humility – The Right Attitude

Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

We have read and discussed our Verse of the Day before. It ties well to the theme that we have been studying the past week; and it challenges us to view the command to love one another through the lens of humility. To be humble in our interpersonal actions with others is another way we emulate and facilitate the love of God. Again, we have Jesus as our role model. And it is actually His example that Paul will reference as the spiritual standard for humility. He urges us to have the same mindset (attitude) as Christ Jesus. Here is the larger context for us to consider:

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

1Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; 7 rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!

I always love reading from the Book of Philippians and the instructions that the Apostle Paul laid out for the body of believers there. His practical advice on what conduct and how it should be manifested in a Spirit-filled believer was needed … and it is certainly applicable to the Church in these latter days. I see these key points in the text:

1.      Our mindset is to be the same as Christ Jesus. Our motivation … our drive … our passion is to be like Him.

2.      Though God is Spirit, we understand His nature as God through Jesus in a physical form … made in human likeness.

3.      We, made in the image of God and also in human form, are to take on the nature of a servant just as Jesus did.

4.      We have been “saved to serve,” and it is this humble nature that equips us to do so with love.

5.      Obedience is the mechanism through which we achieve this humble nature to walk in love.

The application is for us to develop an attitude … a mindset … a servant’s heart and nature … that will value others above ourselves. We should not only consider our own interests, but focus on the interests and needs of others. And I love the exhortation Paul wrote to Titus in this regard:

Titus 3:1-8 (NIV)

1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. 3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

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. ~ Colossians 3:12-13

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Have The Same Mindset…

Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV)

Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Our Verse of the Day continues to exhort us regarding our relationships with one another … as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and representing the Body of Christ in this world. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is speaking to us and reminding us of the imperative to be Christ-like in all that we say and do.  I have always loved the teaching of the larger passage written by Paul to the Philippians, so I will reprint it for our meditation today:

Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; 7 rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As I think about this passage and its message to conform to the image of Christ Jesus, I cannot help but remember what the Apostle John exhorted regarding this same theological theme.  I have reprinted his words for your convenience as well:

1 John 2:3-11 (NIV)

We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

Father God, by your Spirit you are prompting us to examine our hearts and our mindsets … to consider the thoughts of our hearts once again. What we claim about ourselves and what is manifested by our conduct MUST be consistent if we claim to walk in the light of truth.  Without sincere love for one another, we continue to walk in darkness. Indeed, whoever claims to live in Him MUST live as Jesus did. And so, I pray the confessions of our hearts today are sincere before You. As You determine, renew our minds and transform us to no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world (Cf. Romans 12:2); rather, create in us pure hearts, O God, and renew steadfast spirits within us! (Cf. Psalm 51:10) For it is the desire of our hearts to be conformed to the image of Your Son; and we repent of any conduct that is self-centered, unloving, unkind, unfaithful, inconsiderate, disgraceful, or unworthy of You. We look to the abiding grace of Jesus to help us love one another as He has loved us.  In the name of Jesus … the Name above every other name … we pray. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

What Does God Require?

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

Keeping with the theme of our response to God and His offer of salvation to the world, this OT Verse of the Day addresses the same theological concept.  God has made known to us His Being.  He has revealed His Way, His Truth, and His Life in His Son, Jesus. The salvation offered by God requires a response to this revelation … to His Son! And God has made it clear that He expects His creation to respect and revere Him. 

Micah declares: “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.” And the Prophet Isaiah admonishes: “Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Cf. Isaiah 1:16-17) Both prophets have expressed the heart of God and His will for our conduct … our response to Him.  The Apostle James reasoned:

James 2:14-24 (NLT)

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? 21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” (Cf. Genesis 15:6) He was even called the friend of God. (Cf. Isaiah 41:824 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

And we should just simply look at what Jesus taught in this regard:

Luke 6:43-49 (NLT)

43 “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 44 A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. 45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say (and do) flows from what is in your heart. 46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t DO what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

So, this is the application … the challenge to us that I see in our Verse of the Day: Put Faith into Action! Make it genuine! We can talk about ministry for others, but doing ministry is what matters. It is the faith-generated response to our salvation! Indeed, in view of God’s mercy, we should offer ourselves as living sacrifices – holy and pleasing to God. (Cf. Romans 12:1) As Paul explained to believers in Ephesus: “We are God’s workmanship. He has created us in Christ Jesus to do the good works which He planned and prepared for us long ago.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Yes, faith is about “doing” the works of God … not for merit or His favor to receive salvation; rather, it energizes our “response” to His mercy and redemption and salvation that He accomplished for us in His Son, Christ Jesus. So, I pray that we will truthfully be about the Father’s business in 2021 … preparing ourselves daily in prayer and bible study to be “vessels for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:21)

James 1:21-25 (NLT)

21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are deceiving yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Have a Blessed Day!

Worth More Than Sparrows

Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

At first glance, our Verse of the Day provides us encouragement as Jesus shares how the Father values each one of us.  The idiom or metaphor of numbering the hairs on our heads indicates that the Father knows us intimately.  He is aware of our every problem, every need, every situation … and is concerned about every aspect of our lives. As David noted, “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken. (Cf. Psalm 55:22) And Peter recounted this truth when he wrote: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7)

But what I found challenging is the surrounding context in which our passage is found.  I’ll reprint it here for us:

Luke 12:1-12 (NIV)

1 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to His disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

“I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.  11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

This larger context creates some theological tension for us. First, we are warned about the deception of hypocrisy in our lives. Jesus indicates it will be exposed. Then He shifts to “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more; rather, fear the One who has authority over your eternal destiny.  Yes, fear Him!”  Then we are assured that God knows us intimately and we are valued, and He encouraged, “Do not be afraid.”  Then we are admonished regarding our profession of faith and its determination of our forgiveness. I mean, there is a lot to consider here. The question is whether each one of these “teachings” are connected to the other, or if they are simply being presented by Luke as a “list” of teachings that Jesus was communicating to those who gathered to hear Him … similar to how we see various Proverbs being presented.

When I read some other commentaries on Luke 12, I could not find a consensus on the issue I posed.  Some commentators broke out each “discourse” within Luke 12:1-12 as I have outlined them here into separate “small sermons.” The idea is that each topic has its own application as we allow these teachings of Jesus to impact us. Notice how Jesus begins each “topic” with the words: “I tell you.” To me this indicates a separation of thoughts or messages; however, I find here an overall theme of how our relationship with God is to be viewed, understood, and expressed. And, perhaps, that is what our application should be … understanding that our fellowship with God through the Lord Jesus must be based on truth and sincere faith. We do not have to be afraid of our future if we reverence God and place our complete trust in Christ Jesus His Son … whom He sent to reconcile us to Himself.  To me, this is the core message being taught by Jesus.  Jesus is affirming that we can trust Him, but we must be humble and honest in our willingness to confess Him as Lord! When tested, and we will be tested, the evidence of sincere faith will be manifested to all.  Our true faith will be exposed and will be seen by those around us … as it is already known to God.

So this is an important lesson for us to embrace.  The truth will always be exposed in the light.  There is no place for hypocrisy with God.  We deceive ourselves if we think our hidden sins are not known.  We might fool people, but we will never fool God.  He knows and sees all things done.  And so, perhaps, that is the warning for us to fear God … the One who has authority over our eternity after our physical death here on earth.  Our faith is being tested each day … each situation … each choice or decision we make for ourselves.  So we must view our relationship with God in this context of truth and light.  God knows each of us intimately; and He desires us to know Him intimately as well.  So honesty is the place to start.  If repentance is indicated, then follow through.  As John advised: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make God out to be a liar and His word is not in us.” (Cf. 1 John 1:8-10)

Lord Jesus, your words challenge us today.  As we consider what you are teaching, I pray that each of us will self-examine our hearts and see the truth you have brought to light.  I pray we will follow the prayer of David when he confessed the sin that he tried to hide. David was exposed, but he determined to repent and restore His fellowship with you.  I pray each of us will find the same honesty and courage to return to you and be reconciled when your Spirit convicts us of hypocrisy and dishonesty.  Against you and you alone we sin, and nothing is hidden from your sight.  Teach us to fear you, O Lord.  Let obedience be our reverence.   

Psalm 51:1-12 (NIV)

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

May our hearts embrace the teachings of Jesus. May our hearts repeat these words of David. Yes, may our hearts be sincere so that we will walk in the truth.  In Jesus Name I pray, Amen….

I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. ~ Psalm 119:14

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Every Knee Will Bow…

Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV)

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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

John 1:1-4; 14 (NIV)

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

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

Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)

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

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

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

Isaiah 45:22-24 (ESV)

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

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

Isaiah 48:9-11 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The “Platinum Rule”

Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

We just talked about this yesterday.  Message unchanged….  There is a definite call to humble ourselves and to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think … as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Cf. Romans 12:3) This reminds me of when Jesus taught His “Sermon on the Mount” and said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” (Cf. Luke 6:31) Perhaps, a “Platinum Rule” should read: “Treat others in the same manner that God has treated you in Christ Jesus.”  I think that raises the bar a notch….

We need to remember that God has been more kind, more gentle, more longsuffering, more patient, more forgiving, more compassionate, and more loving towards us than we ever tend to be towards one another; yet, we are made in His image and called to live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) So this brings me back to two key passages:

Galatians 5:22-26 (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

It is only by the Spirit of God living within us that can ever hope to attain the godliness He desires within each of us.  And a person does not receive the Holy Spirit except that he/she believes in Jesus Christ … placing their faith in His life, death, and resurrection for the assurance of this gift. As Peter affirmed (and I often quote): “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) And indeed, we need the power of God to bear the fruit of the Spirit in our relationships with one another.  I can see no other conclusion for a believer … a child of God.  As John emphasized in His epistle: “Dear friends, let us love one another … for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and know God.” (Cf. 1 John 4:7)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!