Be Completely Humble…

Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Our Verse of the Day continues with the theme of humility as an inherent quality of servant leadership. As you recall, after their Passover Meal in the upper room, Jesus was teaching and instructing His disciples to practice an attitude of humility and servanthood like His own. Jesus asserted if you desire to be first … in a position of leadership … then you need to put yourself last and be a servant to all. (Cf. Mark 9:35) Then we looked at some practical ways to exercise humility and a servant’s heart that Paul offered us.  Here we find some additional instruction from Paul on the desired character of believers.  I will reprint it along with the surrounding context of the passage for your reference:

Ephesians 4:1-7 (NIV)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

What we find in this passage are several key points related to servant leadership:

  1. Servant Leadership may come with a high price … for Paul is was imprisonment for his devotion and loyalty to Christ Jesus.
  2. Servant Leadership is inherent to living a life worthy of the election to salvation and eternal life that we have received as a gift from God.
  3. Servant Leadership requires our conduct to be completely humble; gentle; patient; longsuffering; loving; etc. Think fruit of the Spirit…. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23)
  4. Servant Leadership is concerned about unity … making every effort to encourage unity and the bond of peace among believers.

Paul will continue to explain how servant leaders are equipped according to the grace Jesus determines to apportion (or give) to us:

Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)

So Christ Himself gave (the offices or roles of ) the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip His people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ (the Church) may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

What Paul is saying here is that Christ Jesus determines (selects and ordains) who HE places as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers over HIS people.  These are roles or offices … leadership positions … that Christ GAVE for the benefit and edification of HIS people (the Church). Their purpose is to equip believers for ministry in order for the Church to grow, AND to bring unity in the faith and in the knowledge of Jesus in order for believers to mature and to attain the fullness of Christ. And the leaders that He has placed in these positions are not to seek being “first” or being “the preeminent” in His Body; rather, they are to be humble and to consider themselves “last” by being “servants to all”. Yes, be aware of those who appoint themselves to positions of leadership in the Church. 

There is only one FIRST … our Lord Jesus!  He is the First and the Last!  The Alpha and the Omega.  The Beginning and the End.  He is the head of the Body, the Church. (Cf. Colossians 1:18) According to the grace of God, all of us who have been saved through faith, have been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.  But those Christ Jesus has GIVEN to leadership over His Church are to be “servants to all”.  And those who are given specific roles as leaders to the Church should seek to fulfill their responsibilities with all humility and excellence – keeping in mind that leaders are to build up His people and equip them for works of service….

If you have been appointed by Christ Jesus to a leadership role within the Church, then let our Verse of the Day be a quick guide on how to conduct yourself in the “position” you have been appointed to fulfill.  Remember, the Lord Jesus gave you to His Church for a reason. If that thought does not humble you, I am not sure what will.  Being given to minister to the Church does not make you the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven; rather, consider this parable that Jesus shared with His disciples:

Luke 17:7-10 (NIV)

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So, you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

It is exercising the humility that comes with your appointment that will reveal the attitude of your heart:

Matthew 18:1-5 (NKJV)

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

Luke 9:46-48 (NIV)

An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside Him. Then He said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

Being a leader at the appointment of Christ Jesus will require you to be the least and a servant to all … but in doing so, you will produce much fruit to the glory of God the Father and our Lord Jesus.  I pray we will always remember these words Jesus spoke: I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (Cf. John 15:5-8)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. ~ Matthew 23:11-12

Love Your Neighbor…

Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

So, in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Our Verse of the Day reminds us of what we have heard since childhood – known as the “Golden Rule.” Instilled within us was the adage: “Treat other people the same way you want them to treat you.”  You will find this same message recorded in Luke 6:31 as well. This relational concept stems from the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” found in Leviticus 19:18. Jesus quotes this OT passage in His teachings found at Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31, and Luke 10:27. But Jesus goes on to explain that love is the essence of what all the Law and the Prophets were revealing from God.

The Apostle Paul affirmed this teaching in his epistles:

Romans 12:9-11 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV)

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Galatians 5:13-15 (NIV)

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

The Apostle Peter confirmed the same instruction:

1 Peter 1:21-23 (NIV)

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV)

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

And the Apostle John preserved for us the spiritual depth of this command: To love one another as Jesus has loved us:

John 13:34-35 (NIV)

“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.”

1 John 3:10-11 (NIV)

This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1 John 4:11-13 (NIV)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.

So, I pray we will take this message to heart as we prepare for His Coming.  I pray we will make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. I pray we will be proactive in our communities to show the love of God to others … bringing the Good News of Jesus to fill their hearts with the knowledge of the truth: “For God so loved the world.” Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

 If you fulfil the royal law according to the scripture that says, you shall love your neighbor as yourself – you do well. ~ James 2:8

When You Are Tempted…

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Our Verse of the Day encourages us to continue the pursuit of holiness for our lives. Let’s break it down and examine it in more detail:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.

No matter what you are going through … no matter what you face in the battle against sin in your life … there is someone else who has waged the same fight. The sinful human nature is common to the human life we experience here on earth. And if you have been “overtaken” by the sin that so easily ensnares you (Cf. Hebrews 12:1), know that you are not alone. What you have allowed to become a stronghold in your life is common to all mankind. And I believe the greatest temptation that has overtaken any human is the sin of “unbelief.” I think when most sin occurs is when we are most vulnerable to its deception and we have fallen into faithlessness toward God. Yes, when we ignore His invitation to intimacy, we lose the awareness that God sees all! David asked: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Cf. Psalm 139:7) Indeed, there is no place we can go outside of His presence. When we wander from God, we do not leave His presence; rather, we abandon His divine power and His hand upon our lives. Unbelief weakens us! It renders us powerless to overcome sin rather than being mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. Yet, there is an answer to this plight of temptation!

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

The reason temptation can overtake us is because we try to fight the battle in our flesh and not in the Spirit realm. Our weapons to resist and flee are not natural but spiritual! And those weapons are fasting, prayer, and the sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God! (Cf. Ephesians 6:17) Paul instructs us to put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil (temptation) comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and after we have done everything, to stand. (Cf. Ephesians 6:13). Even Jesus was not exempt from being tempted by Satan when He was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness! With every high and lofty arrow of temptation aimed straight for His heart, Jesus responded to Satan with Scripture: “It is written….” (Cf. Matthew 4:1-10) So, do we know the Word of God well enough to fight or resist temptation? Are we spiritually armored up to do battle and to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ? Spiritual warfare is real, my friends! And on the battlefields of our minds and hearts, the war will be won or lost….

God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.

I think far too often we lose battles and wave our white flags of surrender because we have not prepared ourselves for the war. When we “cave to crave” we have not yet reached what we can bear. Remember, God will not let us be tempted (tested) beyond what we can bear! So, what happens? Why do we sometimes fail? I believe James gives us some insight:

James 1:12-15 (NIV)

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

So, we see that temptation comes from within our hearts. We just examined the condition of man – when the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. (Cf. Genesis 6:5) David asked, “Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? (Cf. Psalm 20:9) Paul observed that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23) And John asserted: “If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us.” (Cf. 1 John 1:10) We need clean hearts and right spirits in order to find the path to victory!

What an encouragement to know that even when we are tempted … even when we are weak or faithless … God is still faithful to us. Indeed, His kindness is always intended to lead us to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) David found that place of repentance; and we would do well to carefully observe His confession. I encourage you to read Psalm 51 … but this excerpt is what came to my heart: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Cf. Psalm 51:10-12) And John affirmed, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (Cf. 1 John 1:9)

But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

The truth of the matter is you and I will be tempted. The text does not read, “But IF you are tempted….” No human being is or has ever been without temptation. It has become part of our human experience since the transgression of Adam and Eve. And even though God showed Himself mighty to deliver His people, they still wandered and rebelled against Him. God demonstrated His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) And yet Jesus asked, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Cf. Luke 18:8) Faith is essential in this battle against temptation, because faith determines whether or not we will engage our human will to resist each temptation that comes. I am reminded what Moses wrote:

Deuteronomy 8:2-5 (NIV)

2 Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. 6 Observe the commands of the Lord your God, walking in obedience to Him and revering Him.

God took His people into the wilderness and then He led them through it. God caused His people to hunger … and then He fed them. So, I think it is important for us to realize the testing and trials that the Lord allows are not temptations; rather, they are used to expose the truth of what lies within our hearts. As Peter explained: “These (trials) have come so that the genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:7) And James encouraged: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (Cf. James 1:2-4)

My friends, we will all be sifted! We will all be subjected to temptation … in order to test the sincerity of our faith! But let me encourage you, that even now, Jesus sits at the right hand of God and He is interceding for us. (Cf. Hebrews 7:24-25) God may send you into the wilderness, but He will lead you through it. God may allow you to hunger and thirst, but He will fill you and sustain your life. God may allow Satan to sift you with temptation to test the genuineness of your faith, but Jesus will intercede for you so that your faith may not fail. Praise Him!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” ~ Psalm 119:11

Follow God’s Example…

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 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.

Our Verse of the Day brings a challenge to us as believers in response to having placed our faith in Jesus. We have been born again of the Holy Spirit; and we have been GIVEN the right (authority) to become children of God and to receive “adoption to sonship”. (Cf. John 1:12-13; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5) And because we love the Son, we love the Father who sent Him. This is why we are dearly loved children of God. But this love did not originate with us; rather, it is our response to His love for us. (Cf. 1 John 4:19) And so we are called to walk in the way of love – in the same manner as Christ loved. Then, Paul goes on here to briefly summarize how His love was demonstrated: “He gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

This theme reverberates throughout the New Testament writings of the apostles. Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Indeed, it is central to our response to the grace of God and a commandment of Jesus Himself. In John 13:34, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Likewise, in John 15:12, Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” There is no ambiguity here. His command does not require theological research or debate. But maybe the guidance of Paul to give us descriptive and practical ways of demonstrating love to one another would be helpful….

As I thought about the many passages in which Paul addresses the demonstration of love, I kept coming back to the guiding principle where he wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 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. (Romans 12:1-3) You see, love is rooted in mercy. It is in the light of mercy that we see love manifested. Think of a new born baby. It is completely helpless and defenseless upon entrance into the world. Yet mercy demands that care and nurture to be provided – behaviors we would consider a profound demonstration of love. The “living sacrifice” of parents becomes evident from the moment of birth. So, in the same way, God cares for us. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13)

Paul will continue through Romans 12:3-21 to bring full definition to love in action; but I think the conclusion for us is that love in its highest expression is sacrificial. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) Love begins with sacrifice. It means to give something of higher value in return for something of lesser value. It means to suffer loss. This was the principle of the sacrificial system of the temple – where the people would present a highly valued animal (first born, unblemished) to be slaughtered as a sin offering to God according to the Law. Yet, incredibly, in His mercy for our helpless sinful human condition, God decided to sacrifice His best … His all … His only begotten Son as a sin offering for us … to fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law. (Cf. Romans 8:3-4)

Jesus is God’s example of love.  His love is merciful … it is gentle … it is kind and considerate … it is compassionate … it is forgiving.  Paul explained the excellence of His love in this manner: “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.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) And Jesus explained: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” (Cf. John 15:9-10) And so we see that our love for Jesus is rooted in our obedience to Him … just as He was obedient to the Father.

Philippians 2:1-8 (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 God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

So, what is the application? If you want to love others as God in Christ Jesus has loved you, then your life too must be sacrificial. And, further, your sacrifice must be your very best! Love must be sincere … not half-hearted. Love is the most excellent way! Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) Yes, I believe this is what God is calling us to do in our generation … at this appointed time in history … as His remnant church! We are called to be “living sacrifices” to those who are helpless; to those who are defenseless; to those who are orphans and widows; to those who are abused and mistreated; to those who are prodigal; those who are lost and without God. Yes, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.” (Cf. 1 John 4:17)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~ 1 John 4:8

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. ~ 1 John 4:20

A New Year … A New Thing…

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

This is what the Lord says— He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Happy New Year! Our Verse of the Day is a great one to start not only the New Year … but the new vision of ministry for our community. Look at what the Lord declares through His prophet, Isaiah, to us:

Speaking to the descendants of Israel (and to us as well), the Almighty God who worked miraculous signs and wonders among the people to free them from slavery in Egypt, declares: “Forget about those former things … and do not dwell upon the past.” What? God … the Great Deliverer … who saved His chosen people is telling their descendants to give those incredible deeds no further thought? But, why? The “stories” of God’s power … His presence … His protection … His provision … should be remembered, right? They should be “seared” into our collective memory. They should be revisited and recounted as a memorial. God spoke through Moses and said to the people: “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:9) And He spoke through King David to admonish the people: “My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old — things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done.” (Cf. Psalm 78:1-4)

Yet, centuries later, God spoke through Isaiah and said, “Forget the former things and do not dwell upon the past.” I said to myself, “There has to be something I’m missing here. So, I decided to look at the passage in its surrounding context….”

Isaiah 43:1-21 (NIV)

1 But now, this is what the Lord says— He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Sheba in your stead. 4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” 8 Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf. 9 All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble. Which of their gods foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, “It is true.” 10 “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. 11 I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. 12 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. 13 Yes, and from ancient days I am He. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” 14 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “For your sake I will send to Babylon and bring down as fugitives all the Babylonians, in the ships in which they took pride. 15 I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.” 16 This is what the Lord says—He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

Oh, I see the broader lesson now … because the context is the Babylonian Captivity that God brought upon His people because of their rebellion, sin, and disobedience! They had broken His covenant with them; and so, they were taken from the land of their inheritance … from the city of Jerusalem … from the temple of God’s presence. The people knew God! They knew His power! They knew His holiness! They knew His statutes and ordinances! They knew His great love and outstretched arm bidding them to return to Him! Yet, despite the faithfulness of God, they refused to worship Him and keep covenant with Him. God allowed them to go into captivity for their sin and judgment for their unbelief. Still, God, in His unfailing love, announces that His former covenant … manifested through the Law and commandments and sacrificial practices … would soon fade away. Behold, He is doing a new thing! He is forming a new covenant … manifested through His Spirit! And this announcement was affirmed through the Prophet Jeremiah as well:

Jeremiah 31:23-34 (NIV)

23 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity, the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: ‘The Lord bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.’ 24 People will live together in Judah and all its towns—farmers and those who move about with their flocks. 25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” 26 At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me. 27 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord. 29 “In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ 30 Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge. 31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

What are the former things to forget? What is past that we should not dwell upon? I think, perhaps, it is the captivity that sin brought into our lives. And I think the captivity experience served a greater spiritual purpose to bring us closer to God. It warned of judgment and consequences. It revealed our need for deliverance and freedom from the darkness and oppression of sin. Jeremiah 31:3 recalls, “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” And Paul affirms this same truth in Romans 2:2-4: “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So, when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on others and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

Yes, the lovingkindness of God brings us to the realization that He does not want our sin, rebellion, or disobedience to rule over us or to imprison us so that we are separated from His presence. We were powerless to escape our captivity! Why? Because we remembered the former things … our worthless deeds … our trespasses … our rebellion and ungodliness. In self-condemnation, under the Law, we were powerless to be judged righteous before a Holy God! We were imprisoned by the thoughts of wrath held in reserve for those oppose God. But God said, “I will reveal a better plan … and unfold My plan of redemption!” It is His love … His mercies … His kindness … His New Covenant … that will prevail:

Romans 5:6-11 (NIV)

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 8:1-10 (NIV)

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh (sinful nature), God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

Please forgive my long-windedness! If you have read this far, “God Bless You!” I felt like I needed to establish a foundation for the application … an application for such a time as this … for the year of Healing and Deliverance! To me, this passage is really about those who have left God … who have wandered … who have left home … who have squandered their inheritance. God is NOT telling the wayward or the lost to forget about His power … His presence … His protection … His provision over their life … or the lovingkindness that He has shown them; on the contrary, He is saying forget the former things that sent you into captivity. Understand that the Old Covenant was powerless because it was weakened by your flesh. “See, I am doing a new thing,” declares the Lord. I am making a way for you through the wilderness you have traveled! I am bringing you water in a dry and thirsty land! Come to Me all you who are burdened with your past … your guilt and shame. Forget it! I will give you rest for your soul. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Cf. Hosea 6:6) Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (Cf. John 8:36) And Paul affirmed: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!”

O Lord, how I pray that your servants will diligently go out into the streets, alleys, roads, and country lanes to share Your word of hope and encouragement … your forgiveness and reconciliation … your power of healing and deliverance … the freedom of your everlasting covenant of love. Only through you, Jesus, can we receive the Holy Spirit that does not make us slaves to fear again … the Spirit that brings about our adoption to sonship so that we can in truth become children of God who cry out, “Abba!” “Father!” Oh, I pray Lord Jesus, that your people would be vessels of your kindness … leading others to repentance … so that whosoever is captive will come to You and find rest for their souls. Lord, may they hear Your voice saying: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Come To Me and Rest…

Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

As the New Year approaches … a year declared to be a time for deliverance and healing, I believe our Verse of the Day aligns our thoughts with this mission of the Church.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Cf. Matthew 11:28-30) Yes, what every soul needs the most is to rest in Jesus!  He will lift the burdens of life from our shoulders. His yoke is easy; and Jesus will exert the greater strength when pulling that wearisome load with you.  You do not have to carry the burdens of life alone….  He is Healer! He is Deliverer! He is Redemption! He is Salvation! He is Restoration! He is Peace! He is Resurrection! He is Rest!  Indeed, the true compassion and love of God for you and I will not be found anywhere else other than Jesus!

Is this not the most perfect verse for the Church to summon those who have grown tired, burdened, and weary? Is that not the state of the unbeliever? Is that not the state of every prodigal? Herein lies the message of the Church to a lost world … the message we should declare to everyone who has wandered … to every lost and scattered sheep! Our Great Shepherd … the Good Shepherd … is calling His sheep to come home. Jesus says to each one: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest….

This brought to mind the Prophet Isaiah and his prophetic invitation to reconciliation with God:

Isaiah 55:1-4 (NIV)

1 Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. 4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples.

And this is the message Isaiah foretold us to take to the unbeliever, the lost, and the wayward:

Isaiah 55:6-11 (NIV)

6 Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is My Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

This is the word that God has sent for us to declare to those who are burdened and wearied and captive to thoughts of futility … to thoughts of unworthiness … to overwhelming thoughts of guilt and shame. God declares that His thoughts are not those thoughts. God declares He will have mercy on them … and will freely pardon! God declares His ability to overcome our inability. And His Word will not return void of accomplishment. Behold, we ourselves are fruit of the Gospel! For Isaiah foretold this great hope of healing:

Isaiah 57:15-19 (NIV)

For this is what the high and exalted One says— He who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. 16 I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me— the very people I have created. 17 I was enraged by their sinful greed; I punished them, and hid my face in anger, yet they kept on in their willful ways. 18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, 19 creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”

God knows all. There is nothing hidden from His sight! God has seen their ways, but He will heal them. He saw us and healed us! The Lord abides with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit. He will revive! He will restore! Yes, He will heal the brokenness in each of us! He will remove the deception and disillusion of sin! He will provide salvation! He will give eternal life! All these benefits – all these blessings are found in Christ Jesus! (Cf. Psalm 103) These are the messages of hope we must speak to those who are lost, isolated, and in need of His unfailing love….

It all starts with an invitation! Jesus said, “Come!” He was sent to seek and to save that which was lost. That is you and me. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) It is the open invitation God has ordained for us to share with the poor in spirit … the broken-hearted … the spiritually blind … and the weak in faith. We are commanded to go out into the streets, alleys, roads, and country lanes to find the wayward … the lost and scattered sheep who are weary and burdened and seeking rest for their souls. There is no rest apart from Jesus. There is no reconciliation except through Him. This is the appointed message we need to share. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (Cf. John 3:16-18)

So, I pray that we will be faithful in our resolve and relentless in our mission to bring hope to those who are without hope. I pray that as healing and deliverance become our focus for the coming year, we will discipline ourselves to be studying the Word of God … growing in the knowledge of His will. Indeed, His will is for us to rest in the finished work that Jesus accomplished on the cross for us. Oh, may we help others to experience the rest that we enjoy as believers…. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Do Not Forget His Benefits…

Psalm 103:1-2 (NIV)

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—

Our Verse of the Day has stirred my heart this morning. I cannot think of a better starting point for intimacy than PRAISE. Our Lord Jesus is worthy of all praise! Yes, with my inmost being, I will praise His holy name and remember His lovingkindness towards me. And with praise comes thanksgiving and a time of prayer … a time of solitude in the quiet place where there are only two voices. Indeed, for me, there is no better time than when I first awake in the morning to be alone with God … to read His Word and to let His presence breathe life and light into my soul. “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” (Cf. Psalm 63:1)

Psalm 103

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.

6 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 everlasting the 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.

I love the opening verses of this Psalm … and I love its message: Praise the Lord and do not forget all of His benefits! It reminds me of a similar verse which reads: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation! Selah (Psalm 68:19 – NKJV)

All too easily, I think, we can slip into complacency and take for granted all of the benefits and blessings God has given us to enjoy. We can readily forget God’s everlasting faithfulness and His covenant of love which He remembers for a thousand generations. (Cf. 1 Chronicles 16:15) And so the David recognizes that praise and worship are always in order … and he reminds us to never forget the gracious and merciful love of God. As I pondered on this reminder, I reviewed some passages that its writers determined were crucial to not forget:

Deuteronomy 4:5-6; 9-10 (NIV)

5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when He said to me, “Assemble the people before Me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere Me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”

Deuteronomy 8:10-14 (NIV)

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws and His decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

2 Kings 17:35-39 (NIV)

35 When the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, He commanded them: “Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. 36 But the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the One you must worship. To Him you shall bow down and to Him offer sacrifices. 37 You must always be careful to keep the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands He wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. 38 Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. 39 Rather, worship the Lord your God; it is He who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.”

Psalm 78:1-8 (NIV)

My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old— 3 things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done. 5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which He commanded our ancestors to teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. 7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands. 8 They would not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to Him.

I’ll stop there with these Old Testament passages for us to consider. The theme I keep reading is do not forget the deeds of God on behalf of His people nor forget to observe the commands of God in order to enjoy the life He intends for us. Further, I see the obligation to recount the deeds of God and to teach His commandments to our children and to their children so that “they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands.” So, I think we should be diligent to read and know for ourselves all the counsel of God’s Word in order to live it and to share it with generations to come. It is the deeds of God that demonstrate His power and sovereignty – His worthiness of honor and worship. And it is through our obedience to His commands that we demonstrate our reverence and love for God.

Yet, I feel like “do not forget” is a negative approach to fellowship with God. To me, it speaks of a passive faith … an “afterthought” faith. If we are diligent in our reading of the Bible and prayer time, then our intimacy with God should cause us to “remember” His deeds, His covenant, and His benefits as an active, integral part of our relationship. We would be ever mindful of His faithfulness, His trustworthiness, His grace, love, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, and forgiveness. In fact, when I switched my concordance search to the word “remember” I discovered a call to exercise my faith in a more proactive manner:

Exodus 20:8

Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.

Numbers 15:39

Remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.

Deuteronomy 8:2

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands.

Deuteronomy 8:18

Remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

Deuteronomy 15:15

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today (to be generous).

1 Chronicles 16:12

Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced….

Psalm 77:11

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

Psalm 119:52

I remember, Lord, your ancient laws, and I find comfort in them.

Isaiah 46:9

Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

Lamentations 3:19-23

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 9:6

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

2 Timothy 2:8

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.

Hebrews 10:32

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering.

Hebrews 13:1-2

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Remember to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Hebrews 13:7

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

James 5:20

Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Jude 1:17-18

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.”

Revelation 3:3

Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

I realize that I have been exhaustive with these verses of “remembrance”; but I wanted to make a point for myself and to share it as well. There is so much to remember in our walk with the Lord Jesus; and I think that draws attention to the necessity of intimacy with Him. We must be actively engaged; fruitfully abiding in the Lord … if we want to see the harvest of faith that He desires to produce in us. We all need constant reminders … daily encounters with the Lord to stay focused. We need to hear His still, small voice amidst the noise of life … and that requires a time of quiet and purposed silence if we are to remember who we are in Christ … if we are to receive instruction, wisdom, and power to accomplish the good works which God prepared for us to do.

So, I encourage each of us to “remember” to spend purposeful time with God each day … both alone and in community with fellow believers. Let this be our resolve as we enter the new year. I firmly believe that God is calling us to greater intimacy with Him … not only to receive His “benefits” but to share these blessings with the lost sheep of this world. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. As His heart, hands, and feet in this world … we are commissioned make that happen. Let’s get to work!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Thanksgiving For Giving…

Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

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

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

Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV)

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (NIV)

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

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV)

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

Thanking God For You…

1 Corinthians 1:4-5 (NIV)

I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—  

I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—  

As we enter the second day of this week of Thanksgiving, our Verse of the Day is a call for us to offer our thanksgiving to God for other believers. The Apostle Paul often began His epistles with an expression of gratitude toward the believers in the churches who he had mentored during his missionary journeys. Here are a few examples:

Ephesians 1:15-16 (NIV)

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

 Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:3-4 (NIV)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NIV)

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 (NIV)

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

Philemon 1:4-6 (NIV)

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all His holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.

Notice how these passages have some common elements.  First, Paul assures the churches that he is praying for them all the time.  He expresses this discipline in prayer as “always”, “continually”, and “not stopped.” Secondly, we observe that in his prayers, Paul is giving thanks to God for these believers … and specifically for their faith in Jesus Christ. In addition, Paul typically commends HOW their faith and service to God is evident by their love for one another.  Indeed, it is their love generated by their faith that Paul is so grateful to see coming to fruition! Their response to the grace of God is ample cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving, and Paul is inspired to let them know.

So, I see an application for us to consider … and I believe we should ask ourselves some questions:

  • “Do I give thanks to God for other believers who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ?”
  • “Do I appreciate their gifts, talents, and service to Jesus Christ as members of His Body?”
  • “Am I grateful for their fellowship and love as expressions of their faith in Him?”

As I pondered these questions, I found myself feeling appreciation and gratitude for other believers and their labors of love toward people through the ministries of the Church. And I have, from time to time, expressed my thanks to them for their devoted service. But as I think of Paul’s example, continual giving of thanks to God for my brothers and sisters in Christ, I find myself falling short of this ideal. Yes, I must confess that thanksgiving for others during my prayers has not been often enough; and I think that, perhaps, I have been missing an essential focal point of prayer. I am convicted and convinced that I should never cease remembering the Body of Christ throughout the world, nor should I ever cease to mention those who attend our local assembly in my prayers. Paul has made it clear that it is important to be faithful in sincerely giving thanks to God for their lives, their gifts, their service, and their love….

So, in this season of Thanksgiving, I pray that we all will remember this fundamental truth: that in Christ we form one body … His Body. Though we are many members, each individual member belongs to all the others. (Cf. Romans 12:4-8) And as Paul instructed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” Thus, in light of this context, I believe it follows that we should continually give thanks to God for each other during our daily time of prayer. Yes, let us make this our practice … to remember each other and to express gratitude to God for each other in our prayers as often as possible.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Suffering For Doing Good

1 Peter 3:18 (NIV)

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

In our Verse of the Day, Peter articulates some essential aspects of the Gospel – the message of Jesus Christ. But I think it is important for us to put this verse in its larger context in order to understand and appreciate why Peter mentions the suffering of Christ in this verse. Beginning at 1 Peter 3:8, Peter reviews the expected conduct of believers and how we should interact with one another … even to the point of “suffering” for doing what is good. Remember in 1 Peter 2:15, we studied that “it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” These may be the same people who consider us “foolish” when we “do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.” On the contrary, Peter tells us that we are expected to “repay evil with blessing”.  Let’s check it out:

1 Peter 3:8-18 (NIV)

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (Citing Psalm 34:12-16) 13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear (or their threats); do not be frightened.” (Citing Isaiah 8:12) 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

I think what Peter is driving at here is that suffering for righteousness … suffering for our faith in Jesus Christ … is to be expected. As Jesus had already told His disciples: “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” (Cf. John 15:20) Therefore, it is important that we revere Christ as Lord and follow His commands. We need to do what is right … even if it hurts or brings hardship or suffering to ourselves. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. And perhaps that is the point. Our “reserved” response to others who are “ignorant of the truth” might actually convict them of their own evil … it might actually “bring them to God” just as the “kindness of God in Christ led us to repentance.” (Cf. Romans 2:4)

Jesus taught these same principles in His “Sermon on the Mount”:

Matthew 5:9-12 (NIV)

9 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 6:22-23; 27-30 (NIV)

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.

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

And Paul affirms the same principles that we should follow in this regard:

Romans 12:14; 17-21

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

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

In light of these additional passages, it is clear that Peter is leading us into what it means to exhibit Christ-like conduct. And in doing so, he entertains the probability that we also, in doing what is right, will be treated by the world as Christ was treated. I hope these insights will resonate and give us more thoughtful strategies on how to deal with those who do not know God … who have not been reconciled with Him through Christ Jesus … and who might be hostile toward you and me for our “good conduct.” As Jesus encouraged, we should rejoice and be glad. We will be blessed because our reward in heaven will be great! Let that be our hope when suffering comes our way for putting those things Jesus taught into practice … as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!