Love The Lord Your God…

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NIV)

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Our Verse of the Day recites the first and greatest commandment! I thought that I would provide us the surrounding context because Moses elaborates on the theological concept of love for God being rooted in obedience to God….

Deuteronomy 6:1-9; 20-25 (New Living Translation)

These are the commands, decrees, and regulations that the Lord your God commanded me to teach you. You must obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, and you and your children and grandchildren must fear the Lord your God as long as you live. If you obey all His decrees and commands, you will enjoy a long life. Listen closely, Israel, and be careful to obey. Then all will go well with you, and you will have many children in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone (or the Lord our God is one Lord). And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

In the future your children will ask you, “What is the meaning of these laws, decrees, and regulations that the Lord our God has commanded us to obey?” Then you must tell them, “We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with His strong hand. The Lord did miraculous signs and wonders before our eyes, dealing terrifying blows against Egypt and Pharaoh and all his people. He brought us out of Egypt so He could give us this land He had sworn to give our ancestors. And the Lord our God commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear Him so He can continue to bless us and preserve our lives, as He has done to this day. For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands the Lord our God has given us.”

It is clear that our love for God is demonstrated through our obedience to God. Moses repeated this theme in his inspired writings – noting that there is blessing for obedience; and after him, Joshua continued with their emphasis:

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NIV)

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

Deuteronomy 11:13-16 (NIV)

So, if you faithfully obey the commands that I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul— then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them.

Joshua 22:4-6 (NIV)

Now that the Lord your God has given them rest as He promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to keep His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul. Then Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their homes.

I think these passages of Scripture are quite important for us to observe because Jesus quoted them in His teachings and responses to the religious authorities during His time of ministry on earth. Jesus confirmed that our devotion to God through obedience to His commands is imperative to have an intimate relationship with Him:

Matthew 22:35-40 (NIV)

One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Citing Leviticus 19:18) All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Mark 12:28-31 (NIV)

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked Him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus answered, “The most important one is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. (Citing Leviticus 19:18) There is no commandment greater than these.

Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Citing Leviticus 19:18) “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

I believe the Holy Spirit wants to impress upon us this message of the obedience that comes from faith. The will of the Father is that we believe in His Son … the One He sent into the world to save us.  As the Apostle John wrote and affirmed:

1 John 5:1-5 (NIV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and keeping His commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you. ~ John 14:15-17

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

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

Called To Be Holy…

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV)

But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Our Verse of the Day brings a solemn reminder that we are to be holy just as God is holy! This means we are set apart unto God. This means God is the center of our being. This means we seek intimacy with God in order to be like Him in holiness. There are several Scriptures that address this call to holiness … and the word sanctification comes to mind as I write.

When we think about the word HOLY, the idea is rooted in something dedicated or devoted to the service of God. As a concept, HOLY is a state of being … consecrated with the intent of not allowing itself to become corrupted or impure.  There is a deep sense of purity … like gold refined through intense heat to remove its dross.  It is how we describe the person and presence of God, our Creator. He is Holy. He is Perfection. He is Pure and Unapproachable Light. He is Spirit. Perhaps we could explore what Paul wrote on the subject:

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (NIV)

3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 (NIV)

13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as first-fruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our sanctification, our walk toward holiness, is the expressed will of God. Paul connects that sanctification or holiness entails abstinence from sexual immorality; however, holiness goes far deeper into the inclinations and motives of our hearts. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but to holiness. And this is what we are drawn to pursue through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, God chose us for salvation and sanctification. And note how Paul articulates this process – the Holy Spirit works to separate us from the world unto God … and His work begins when we believe the truth. In fact, Jesus prayed for our sanctification! Look at this passage as Jesus prayed to the Father:

John 17:13-19 (NIV)

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the Truth; your Word is Truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

When we believe the Word of God … and put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ … this is only the beginning of our sanctification. It is the moment that holiness is birthed in our hearts. We are born-again – not of this world or of the flesh – but we are born of God through the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God … Truth. As Peter explained: “For you have been born-again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:23) And I think the Apostle Paul explains the underlying conflict in this process quite well:

Romans 8:5-11 (NIV)

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. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. 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. 11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.

To become holy or sanctified is an intentional process. The Apostle John affirmed, “Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.” (Cf. 1 John 2:6) I believe it is intentional on the part of Father God for us to be conformed to the image of His Son (Cf. Romans 8:29), and that is why He has given us His Spirit. Likewise, I believe it must be intentional on our part to submit ourselves to the obedience that comes from faith. John asserted, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” (Cf. 1 John 3:9) Indeed, obedience is what produces the outcomes of holiness within us.  It is what compels us to reverence God … to worship God … and to serve God! Obedience is how we demonstrate our love to God. (Cf. John 14:15, 21) We pursue sanctification because we want to please God out of our love for Him; and I believe submission and obedience is how we can attain it….

My friends, I pray we all will take the call for sanctification to heart. Let us deny ourselves as symbolized in fasting; and let us sanctify our hearts through prayer and intimacy with the Lord. This is what the Father desires for His children to be! The time has come for authentic relationship with God … and this requires our sanctification. For without holiness, no one will see the Lord. (Cf. Hebrews 12:14)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His child.” (Citing Proverbs 3:11-12) Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His Holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. ~ Hebrews 12:4-11

Where Is Your Heart?

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

As I thought about our Verse of the Day, and its challenge for us to have a more eternal perspective on life, I think the wisdom and application we might gain from Jesus can be summed up in a word: TRUST. Jesus wants our faith in Him to be genuine … to be honest and sincere. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Cf. Hebrews 11:1) Therefore, when we are confident in His provision of all that we need to sustain us, this mindset expresses our trust in Him and not in ourselves or our abilities.  Let’s look at the passage in the broader context of His “Sermon on the Mount”:

Matthew 6:19-34 (NIV) – (See also Luke 12:22-34)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your (spiritual) eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your (spiritual) eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness (spiritual blindness), how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life (or a single cubit to your height)? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For unbelievers run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well34 Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

The inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews encourages us as well to remember these promises of God to His people:

Hebrews 13:5-8 (NIV)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Citing Deuteronomy 31:6) So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Citing Psalm 118:7) Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

When we worry or fret about things beyond our control … when we look at our temporal circumstances more than we look to our eternal Savior, it reflects something about the depth of our faith.  I believe Jesus is teaching us that we need to hold onto Him more than we hold onto our abilities.  We need to trust Him above all else, and our trust can be seen in where we place our attention. Sometimes our attitudes toward money can undermine our faith.  Paul observed this issue of the human heart and wrote: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:10)

John understood the lessons that Jesus taught, and he likewise admonished us to place our complete trust in the One who created: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (Cf. 1 John 2:15-17)  And James shared these sharp words with us: “You unfaithful people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (Cf. James 4:4)

My friends, as we walk forward in faith in 2023, I encourage all of us to do a heart check with regard to our attitudes about money.  Jesus said, “Where your treasure IS, there your heart will be also.”  And He illustrated His point using parables like: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (Cf. Matthew 13:44-46) What an awesome word pictures for us to consider!  Paul encouraged Timothy to address this issue when he wrote: “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment.Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Lord Jesus, I pray that you would give each of us wisdom and perspective on what to value most in our lives.  Open our spiritual eyes to see that our attitudes about money truly reflect on our faith in you, and therefore, our love for you!  Help us to understand that you are to be treasured above all else … that our lives are to serve you with ALL that you have given us. Remind us as you did our ancestors, to realize that it is You who gives us the ability to produce wealth … the power to be successful. (Cf. Deuteronomy 8:18) Yes, we are to be faithful with what you have entrusted to us. And I pray that we would honor you and trust you … and be faithful to you as you have been faithful to us.  In your Glorious Name I pray!  Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!


“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own? “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” ~ Luke 16:10-13

Hate Evil … Love Good

Amos 5:14-15 (NIV)

Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

Our Verse of the Day continues the call to repentance and to righteousness. In Amos 5 we read his lament about what is going on in Israel at that time in history. There is injustice occurring. The rulers and authorities are oppressing the poor while they maintain exorbitant standards of living for themselves at the expense of the people. In their piety, these self-righteous religious leaders think they have close relationships with God. However, Amos calls them out. He said, “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. THEN, the Lord God Almighty will (in truth) be with you … just as YOU say He is. These self-deceived religious leaders think God is with them, yet Amos exposes their hypocrisy. Said another way, “You say that God is with you, but in truth, He is not and will not be with you unless you seek good and not evil.” In essence, their conduct is labeled evil and religious self-deception has overtaken them….

If you read the remainder of the chapter, God pronounces His judgment of their sinful conduct … just as God has carried out His judgments upon Israel throughout its history. Why? Because of their rebellion and disobedience … because of their hypocrisy. God does not delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices that are nothing more than token worship. God is not with those who merely give Him lip service. God is not with those who offer blemished and defective sacrifices. God is not with those who commit injustice … who oppress the poor or do evil. David said, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) We cannot pretend anything before God and then believe that He is with us. “God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in TRUTH.” (John 4:24) So Amos is calling out religious hypocrisy for what it is. You cannot serve yourself and think that you are serving God….

The application of this Word to our hearts should be evident, but I will state it: God has and will always judge sinful conduct. Rebellion, disobedience, and evil conduct has no place or inheritance in the Kingdom of God … you can be sure! (Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:8-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5) And even James wrote: “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?” (Cf. James 2:5) These verses we have been receiving are wake up calls! They are sent to confront us … to challenge us … to direct us into the way of love. “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the Law.” (Romans 13:10)

So, I pray we will think deeply about the implications of this prophetic word spoken to Israel because it applies to us today as well … in this moment of history. As the Prophet Micah affirmed: “The Lord does not change!” (Cf. Malachi 3:6) Therefore, let us examine our hearts as God urged His people of old to do. “Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord. (Cf. Zechariah 1:4)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!


Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for He guards the lives of His faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. ~ Psalm 97:10 (NIV)

The fear of the Lord is to hate what is sinful. I hate pride, self-love, the way of sin, and lies. ~ Proverbs 8:13 (NLV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. ~ Romans 12:9

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

God’s Final Word…

Hebrews 1:1-2 (NIV)

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe.

Our Verse of the Day has been cited quite often in various commentaries over the past year, and now it is our verse to consider on its own.  Yesterday, we examined the prologue of the gospel account written by the Apostle John … and I think that the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews simply affirms this truth.  In John 1:14 he wrote: “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” And Hebrews 1:1 asserts that Jesus spoke the final words revealing the will of God and asserts His ordained authority to do so….

As I think about the revelation of God Jesus communicated as His Son, I think it is important to observe what Jesus said about the words He spoke to the disciples … and shared with the Jewish people … even with us who believe in Him based upon their eyewitness testimony and anointed remembrance. (Cf. John 14:26) Jesus is quite direct about the gravity of hearing His Words … following His teachings … and putting them into practice.  In fact, Jesus declares that His Words will judge us on the last day….

John 5:24-26 (NIV)

24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself. 27 And He has given Him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man.

John 12:44-50 (NIV)

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the One who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the One who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. 47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that his command leads to eternal life. So, whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

John 14:10-11 (NIV)

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.

John 14:23-25 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Mark 8:37-38; Luke 9:25-26 (NIV)

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their soul? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

Luke 6:46-49 (NIV)

46 Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Not only has Father God spoken to us through the Prophets … beginning with Moses … He has clearly spoken to us through His Son, our Lord Jesus! And it is imperative that we listen to His voice … hear His words … and obey them! This is how we demonstrate our love for Him.  As Jesus said: “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 15:7-8) Indeed, His Word must remain in us through the Holy Spirit in order for us to be effective and productive in the Kingdom of God.  So, let us keep ourselves in His Word each day. Yes, let us do our best to present yourselves to God as ones approved, workers who do not need to be ashamed and who correctly handle the word of truth.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:15)

A Final Thought:

John 5:36-40 (NIV)

“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has Himself testified concerning me. You have never heard His voice nor seen His form, nor does His word dwell in you, for you do not believe the One He sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:23)

Give Praise to the Lord…

1 Chronicles 16:8 (NIV)

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.

Inherent with giving thanks to God is the offering of praise to Him as the expression of our gratitude! And we can do so in two ways: vertically and horizontally. While I think, for the most part, we are comfortable to express our praise directly to God during individual prayer time, or perhaps, during corporate worship; I believe where we might not feel so “bold” is sharing our thanks and praise in front of other people outside of family or church. Our Verse of the Day encourages us to “proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” This level of exaltation goes beyond our homes and our local assembly. We are to declare the life of God within His people to everyone … everywhere. Let’s look at this verse in the immediate context when David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Tent (Tabernacle); offered sacrifices; and appointed congregational worship leaders:

1 Chronicles 16:7-36 (NIV)

7 That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner:

8 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done. 9 Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. 10 Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 11 Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. 12 Remember the wonders He has done,His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced, 13 you His servants, the descendants of Israel, His chosen ones, the children of Jacob. 14 He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth. 15 He remembers His covenant forever, the promise He made, for a thousand generations, 16 the covenant He made with Abraham, the oath He swore to Isaac. 17 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: 18 “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.” 19 When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, 20 they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. 21 He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake He rebuked kings: 22 “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” 23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim His salvation day after day. 24 Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples. 25 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods. 26 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 27 Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His dwelling place. 28 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before Him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. 30 Tremble before Him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. 31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” 32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! 33 Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the Lord, for He comes to judge the earth. 34 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. 35 Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.” 36 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.”

I know this was a lengthy passage of Scripture, but I find it so expressive and powerful! I believe it truly captures the heart of thanksgiving and describes its foundations for worship. Yes, and note in Verse 7 how David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner!  This is our blueprint for praise and worship! So, I pray these thoughtful, inspired instructions of David will encourage us to find liberty of expression not only during times of congregational worship … but will fill us with courage and boldness to express the praises of God with others who cross our paths. Indeed, we need to get out of our comfort zones and tell everyone what HE has done … declaring His faithfulness not only in the lives of His people before us, but in our own lives as well!

Yes, give praise to the Lord and proclaim His Name! His Name is a strong and mighty tower … a shelter like no other … and it alone has the power to save! As the Prophet Joel foretold, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Cf. Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13) And as Peter declared: “There is no other name under heaven given among mankind by which we must be saved.” (Cf. Acts 4:12) Indeed, what a beautiful, wonderful, powerful name … is the name of Jesus! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Singing With Gratitude…

Colossians 3:16 (NIV)

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.

Our Verse of the Day was tucked in the middle of two other verses we have focused on this past week of Thanksgiving.  While it has been cited in prior commentaries, I still want us to reflect on its focus: singing to God with gratitude in our hearts.  Yes, singing psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, is another form of expression of gratitude and thankfulness. And the reason we are filled with overwhelming gratitude is the gracious and merciful life transformation we have experienced through Christ Jesus … our Lord and Savior! I think the Apostle Paul articulates this incredible life change we have received so well within the foregoing context of our verse:

Colossians 3:1-17 (NIV)

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedientYou used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

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.

Indeed, every one of our hearts should be overwhelmed by what God has done for us through Christ Jesus.  We should exalt and sing with the deepest gratitude and the highest praise from our hearts for His wonderous love!  Oh, I think of the following scripture that details the reason for our passion:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but let us also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

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

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.

So, yes, let us sing to God with gratitude in our hearts!

Come let us worship our King!

Come let us bow at His feet!

He has done great things!

See what our Savior has done.

See how His life overcomes!

He has done great things!

He has done great things!  (Great Things ~ Phil Wickham)

Father God, I cannot contain the joyful gratitude I feel in my heart. I sing to worship you … to declare your praise … to rejoice in your salvation! Yet, who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare His praise? (Psalm 106:2) So I pray, “Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise! (Psalm 51:15) Oh, how I thank you Father, that you have chosen me in Christ Jesus to declare praises unto you … because you called me out of the darkness into your marvelous, glorious light! Indeed, I will sing: “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name! (Psalm 103:1) Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!