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

Worship In Spirit and Truth

John 4:24 (NIV)

God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in Truth.

I love our Verse of the Day (yesterday) because it addresses two great points about worship.  Jesus taught that our worship of God must be specific and intentional Specific addresses that worship must be spiritual.  Intentional addresses that worship must be sincere.  To explain spiritual matters in practical terms, I usually turn to the Apostle Paul for his insight:

Romans 12:1 (New International Version)

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.

Romans 12:1 (English Standard Version)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your (rational) spiritual worship.

Romans 12:1 (New American Standard Bible)

Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 

Romans 12:1 (New King James Version)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable (rational) service.

I reprinted several translations of Romans 12:1 because I want you to get a sense of how diverse the Greek is translated in this passage.  Regardless of how the relationship to worship is presented (i.e., true and proper worship; rational or reasonable; or spiritual worship), all the passages agree that acceptable worship to God is the presentation of yourself … your body as a living and holy sacrifice.  In other words, true and reasonable worship through our physical beings is how spiritual worship is manifested. And Paul indicates to us that true worship is sacrificial in nature and holy in motivation.  Acceptable worship means we have set ourselves apart (think consecration or sanctification) to serve God and His Kingdom in these vessels He has given us – that is our human bodies.

Perhaps easier said than done, but spiritual worship … true worship is ultimately manifested through a sacrificial offering of “surrendered” selves to God.  It means everything we are in our inner being is focused on pleasing Him and doing His will.  That requires submission, but not to religious rites or human rules; rather, it requires a reverent fear of our Holy Father – who saved us and called us to be holy just as He is holy. (Cf. 1 Peter 1:16) It means that we must deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. (Cf. Luke 9:23) It means to do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than what animal sacrifices were to represent. (Cf. Proverbs 21:3)

Isaiah 29:13-14 (NIV)

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Therefore, once more, I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish; the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”

My friends, worship is not something we can pretend.  Worship is specific … it is intentional. It is not following a prescribed set of rules or ritual taught by organized denominations or hierarchies.  Worship is the sincere, rational expression of the intimacy between you and the Father through Jesus Christ. The closer you draw to Him … the more you submit to Him … the more you will abide in Him (and He in you). (Cf. John 15:4-10) Worship becomes a natural expression of your physical life in Christ. Everything you do in your body, as a living sacrifice, becomes Spirit led and will bear the fruit of the Spirit. As such, worship will never be contrived; rather, it will be an outpouring of the wellspring of life within you…. 

Indeed, God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him both in the Spirit and in Truth.  Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” ~ Matthew 4:10

Humble Yourselves…

James 4:10 (NIV)

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Our Verse of the Day might be short, but it has a profound theological application for us. Let’s look at the context first:

James 4:1-10 (NIV)

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people (those unfaithful to covenant with God)! Don’t you know that friendship with the world (desiring the things of the world) means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that He jealously longs for the spirit He has caused to dwell in us? But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (Cf. Proverbs 3:34) Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.

When we look at our verse in context, it takes on deeper meaning and challenges us to look at the issues of humility and submission. James begins with the desires of our own hearts. He exposes the intensity of desire by describing the “carnal” behaviors associated with it … when personal desires exert themselves above what God wills for us. Sometimes our own desires drive us to murder or kill (and that could be with the tongue). Sometimes our own desires drive us to quarrel and fight. Sometimes we believe that God should grant us what we pray for, but we have asked Him with wrong motives in our hearts. What we want is often self-gratifying and not God glorifying! James describes all of these behaviors as “friendship with the world” because they come from the desires of our flesh … and not from the Spirit of God. And when a believer acts in these ways it creates “enmity with God.” He or she is in opposition to what God has called them to be in Christ Jesus.

James confronts believers who have allowed themselves to be filled with everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life— because these come not from the Father but from the world. (Cf. 1 John 2:16) He admonishes us to submit ourselves to God and to resist temptation and to flee from what will destroy intimacy with God. James calls for repentance … a change in direction … a change in our mindset lest the enemy gain a foothold; and then become a stronghold. James advises that if we desire something for ourselves, then we are to humble ourselves before God and allow Him to grant it according to His own will and purposes. Indeed, our Lord Jesus afforded the greatest examples of what humility before the Father should look like.

Philippians 2:3-11 (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. 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! 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.

John 13:3-5; 12-17 (NIV)

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.

When He had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Mark 10:42-45 (NIV)

Jesus called the disciples together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Oh, what this world could be … what the Body of Christ should be … if we would just submit ourselves to God and humble ourselves before Him. As Jesus taught, “All 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) Throughout the Scriptures, God asks His people, those who He called to be His own, to humble themselves! And I believe humility begins with reverence for God; understanding that His Will and His Word have final authority over all He created, including us! God is sovereign; and we are to obey the Lord our God in all that He has commanded us. As Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 8:3, “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.” Likewise, God opposes the proud … those who would exalt themselves. For the proud do not seek God; in their thoughts there is no room for God. (Cf. Psalm 10:4) As King Solomon observed, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Cf. Proverbs 11:2) And, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Cf. Proverbs 16:18)

Lord, I pray that we your people will humble ourselves under your mighty hand. For you will not yield your glory to another … and whoever exalts themselves will be humbled. You, Lord, are the potter; and we are the clay in your hands. You, O God, determined in advance the works you have prepared for your people to accomplish. You, O Lord, appointed gifts for your people as you determined. What you chose for one you did not choose for another … so that we might submit ourselves to one another … so that we might serve one another in love as you taught us. So, I pray Lord, that we will respond to this wisdom you have given us in Your Word … that we, your children, might be meek and lowly in heart … that we might not think more highly of ourselves than we ought. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. Let us exercise our gifts according to your grace so that You, and You alone, are exalted! In your Sovereign Name, I pray. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Therefore, humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand so that He may lift you up in due time. ~ 1 Peter 5:5-6

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

Shine Like Stars…

Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the Word of Life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

Our Verse of the Day is a good word for us because it brings into focus the need for us to be mindful in how we relate to one another within the Church.  By Church I mean not only the local assembly where we attend, but also the entire Body of Christ throughout the world! Paul admonishes us: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, as children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”  He speaks of an attitude or mindset that we should have within ourselves … following the example our Lord Jesus modeled for us:

Philippians 2:3-16 (NRSV) – Imitate the Humility of Christ

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that you have in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world16 It is by your holding fast to the Word of Life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 

There are some other Scriptures that come to mind when I look at how our Lord Jesus handled conflicts with people:

Isaiah 53:3-7 (NRSV)

He (the Messiah) was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and sorrows … and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces. He was despised, and we held Him of no account. Surely, He has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the punishment that made us whole and by His bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.

Matthew 27:11-14 (NRSV) (See also Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-9)

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor (Pontius Pilate); and the governor asked Him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12 But when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, Jesus did not answer. 13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14 But He gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

1 Peter 2:21-23 (NRSV)

21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” 23 When He was abused, He did not return abuse; when He suffered, He did not threaten or retaliate; rather, He entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly.

It is clear that when we act or respond in humility to real or perceived wrongs, we follow the example of Jesus as He dealt with those who mistreated Him.  He did not grumble or argue.  He did not engage in verbal retorts or assaults.  He did not retaliate against those who bore false witness against Him. When scourged and physically abused, Jesus did not return abuse for the suffering inflicted upon His body. No, Jesus entrusted Himself to the Father … to the One who judges rightly. The Apostle Paul weighs in on this issue as well; and I think he affords us some additional insight:

Romans 12:9-20 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 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)

So why are we taught to deny ourselves and pick up our own crosses each day? Why are we urged to have these qualities … these attitudes or mindsets to guide our character and conduct?  In short, the answer is LOVE!  This is what sincere love in action looks like! This is how genuine love manifests itself! “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) Indeed, we need to learn to love as Jesus loved! As Jesus said, “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.” (Cf. John 13:34-35)

Oh, how I pray that each of us will be diligent to reflect the love of God through the example that Jesus has shown us. I pray we will embrace the mindset of Christ within our hearts.  That is what will impact our nation and the world.  This is what will bring about healing and deliverance. This is how the world will know we are HIS disciples … when we love others as Jesus has loved us!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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

What Is Required?

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 Verse of the Day from the Old Testament addresses the same theological concept.  God has made known to us His Being.  He has revealed His Way, His Truth, and His Life through His Son, Jesus. The salvation offered by God requires a response to this revelation … a response to Jesus! And God has made it clear that He expects His creation to respect and revere His Son. 

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.”

Here is the message 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 our faith-informed 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, to demonstrate our “response” to His mercy and redemption. So, I pray that we will truthfully be about the Father’s business in 2023 … 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) Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says! ~ James 1:21-22

His Mercy Endures Forever…

Romans 12:1 (NIV)

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.

Our Verse of the Day has been included in past commentaries, and its inspired instruction has proven timeless. Perhaps, today, it is a reminder for each of us to sincerely contemplate the mercy of God we have received through our Lord Jesus Christ. When we understand the tremendous gravity and impact of His incredible mercy, it should inspire us to extend the same depth of mercy to those around us….

Here are some other scriptures that bring the mercy of God into view:

Nehemiah 9:28-31 (NIV)

28 “But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion, you delivered them time after time. 29 “You warned them in order to turn them back to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, of which you said, ‘The person who obeys them will live by them.’ Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. 30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit, you warned them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you gave them into the hands of the neighboring peoples. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

Psalm 103:8-14 (NKJV)

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. 10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward 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 pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear Him. 14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.

Micah 6:6-8 (NIV)

With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God. Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 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.

Ephesians 2:1-5 (NIV)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh (sinful nature), and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

So, I think we could “paraphrase” our Verse of the Day in this manner: “Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy toward us, let us extend sincere mercy to one another – which requires a sacrificial mindset to be holy and pleasing to God – for this is our true and proper worship.”

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Praise the Lord! Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. ~ Psalm 106:1

I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live. ~ Psalm 116:1-2

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.

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!