The Struggle Is Real…

Ephesians 6:12-13 (NIV)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

We have studied this passage before, but I would like to revisit it again because conflicts within human relationships are inevitable. And I want us to consider this scripture within the context of close relationships. Our innate human nature is to be focused on our own physical needs and emotional desires. And while it is not inherently wrong in to seek our own well-being; to exert a self-centered will on other people in the process can be a source of contention and disagreement. And the ensuing conflict will have to be navigated or negotiated in order to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Cf. Ephesians 4:3)

What Paul shares with us here is some insight into the source of our interpersonal conflicts … that they may not always be in the natural or physical realm (against flesh and blood); rather, Paul asserts that when we have struggles against with one another, the issue is most likely a spiritual one … a spiritual battle, if you will. And so, the fight is not necessarily with the person in front of you; rather, it is against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil that can exert themselves in our minds and through our bodies (actions). I believe this knowledge should cause us to pause and think before we react to what another person is saying or doing. For example:

Matthew 16:21-23 (NIV)

From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

While Peter may have been well-intentioned in his feelings and how he addressed Jesus in that moment of emotion; Jesus clearly indicated that he was wrong. And Jesus told Peter that his concerns were misguided by spiritual forces of evil … by Satan himself. Thus, a conflict ensued and Jesus used the occasion to teach the disciples a profound lesson in spiritual warfare:

Matthew 16:24-26 (NIV)

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?

Likewise, Paul goes on to speak about the “armor of God” and its protection against the spiritual forces of evil. (Cf. Ephesians 6:14-16) He taught that our only offensive weapon against evil is the sword of the Spirit – which is the Word of God. (Cf. Ephesians 6:17) And Paul affirmed that prayer in the Spirit … on all occasion with all kinds of prayer and requests … was essential to inflict offensive maneuvers against the spiritual forces of evil. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Cf. Ephesians 6:18) Yes, when someone gets adversarial with you … pray for them! Seek counsel from the Word of God! And remember that disciples of Christ Jesus must deny themselves … take up their crosses … and follow Him. In a sense, this means you give up your right to be “right” because Jesus taught us to give and expect nothing in return; when offended to turn the other cheek; and to love and pray for our enemies.

Matthew 5:38-45 (NIV)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

Note Verse 45 – “that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” A child of God … born of the Spirit through the Word … will follow Jesus and put His teaching into practice. And this is what Peter instructed in his epistle as well – encouraging believers to understand that we, too, will suffer like Jesus as we follow in His footsteps:

1 Peter 3:8-18 (NIV)

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

I believe it is clear that offenses will come. There will be differences and disagreements between people … even people of faith. But if it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Cf. Romans 12:18) For Jesus taught us to pick up a cross of suffering for ourselves and to follow Him … “that we may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conform to His death,” as Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10. For even if you should suffer for what is right … you are blessed. So, stand your ground, and pray! Pray in the Spirit! Yes, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people! Love, bless, and pray for those who oppose you! For the battle is a spiritual one … and in the end, the battle belongs to the Lord.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

When You Are Tempted…

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

James 1:12-15 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 8:2-5 (NIV)

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

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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

Walk By The Spirit…

Galatians 5:16 (NIV)

So, I say walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.

In Leviticus 11, Moses has been instructing on the practices of consecration … separation from the world in order to be a distinct people for service to God. In the context, Moses is revealing dietary ordinances distinguishing between clean and unclean animals – what is acceptable for consumption and what has been deemed detestable. And for our purpose today, the issue is not what foods we can eat or avoid; rather, the issue is discerning between clean and unclean … between holiness and unrighteousness. Thus, we see warnings and admonitions as Moses proclaimed the Word of God and wrote: “Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them.I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground.I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” (Cf. Leviticus 11:43-45)

Notice the phrases: “Do not ….” Do not defile yourselves. Do not make yourselves unclean. These speak to our own conduct … our own behaviors … the fulfillment of our own desires as opposed to what God has ordained and purposed for us. And this issue of holiness has been the challenge for humans since the beginning. In Genesis 6:5, we read: “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” His displeasure with humans was so great that God caused a Great Flood of the earth to eliminate its wickedness – sparing only Noah, his family, and a remnant of the animals. Yet, what do we read afterwards as Noah built an altar to the Lord and offered sacrifices in worship? “The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in His heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Cf. Genesis 8:21) Interesting that despite the rainbow and the revealed mercy of God, the condition of the human heart still remains unchanged….

It is clear from Scripture (and personal experience) that humans have a sinful nature … a propensity and capacity (human will) to separate ourselves from God rather than drawing ourselves to God. Sin separates us from God. Sanctification draws us to God. So, if we intend to respond to this command from God; if we want to be holy (set apart) because our Father and Creator is holy, then we need a solution to our innate inclination towards evil within our hearts. And this concern brings me to what Paul exhorts in our Verse of the Day: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Let’s look at our verse in its surrounding context:

Galatians 5:13-25 (NIV)

13 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. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Citing Leviticus 19:18) 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

From this passage, we can readily understand that the acts of the flesh stem from every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart. Such behaviors … such human conduct … define the sin which separates us from intimacy with God. And so, to walk in the Spirit … to live under His perpetual influence … it is necessary to be filled with His abiding presence. The Holy Spirit must indwell you in order for the process of holiness to be ignited in your heart. And this leads me to Jesus! Jesus sends the gift of the Holy Spirit to indwell the one who believes in Him … and receives Him. This is the abiding, personal relationship that Jesus taught His disciples … and teaches us even now in our generation:

John 15:1-12 (NIV)

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes (cleans) so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “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. 6 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. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. 9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 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. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Powerful words … powerful affirmation! God in His mercy, to address sin within the human heart and to remove its deception and corruption of our souls, sent His Son, Jesus, to this earth to rescue us … to redeem us … to deliver us from the power of sin and its penalty: Death! (Cf. Romans 6:23) Christ paid the ultimate penalty of sin for us on the cross! Every drop of His precious blood was poured out for us. He was the Lamb of God slain to atone for our sin. (Cf. 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10) Why? Because God is Holy! And to be in relationship with Him, we must be holy according to His command. And Jesus is the One who consecrates and sanctifies us before God. When we are in Christ, when we belong to Him, we receive His power over sin. As the Apostle Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3)

My friends, God is calling His people … His children to holiness! Yes, the Father is calling all who desire to intimately know Him … who want to become His children … to sanctification and holiness through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Because He has said, “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Holiness begins when a person places his or her faith in Jesus Christ; and it is manifested through the fruit of the Spirit. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Indeed, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. ~ 1 John 1:6-8

Set Your Hope on Jesus…

1 Peter 1:13 (NIV)

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming.

Our Verse of the Day comes from quite an interesting passage. Let’s put it in the context:

1 Peter 1:3-16 (NIV)

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Citing Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2)

What a profound statement of theology that Peter has presented here. I see several key points in this passage; and I think the best approach is to simply outline those points for us to consider:

1.         First of all, praise is to be given to God the Father! Indeed, we should always come before the Father in reverence and honor and adoration – to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth! (Cf. John 4:24)

2.         His mercy has afforded us a new birth. (Cf. John 3:3)

3.         The result of this new birth is a living hope … brought into existence through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (Cf. 1 Timothy 4:9-10)

4.         This new birth provides us access to an inheritance that is everlasting and reserved in heaven for believers. (Cf. Ephesians 1:13-14, 18-19)

5.         Our faith in Jesus Christ is protected by the power of God until that salvation is ultimately revealed. (Cf. Colossians 1:11-12; Ephesians 4:30)

6.         This is cause for great rejoicing even though we are afflicted with the trials and tribulations of the world. (Cf. James 1:2-3)

7.         But God allows challenges and hardships to shape us … to prove the authenticity of our faith toward Him. (Cf. James 1:12; Hebrews 10:22-23)

8.         Your genuine faith will be rewarded at the time of His revelation. (Cf. Hebrews 10:35)

9.         Though we have not physically seen Jesus, the Son of Man, we are convinced of His Being and presence in the Spirit. (Cf. John 16:28)

10.       This “knowing” Jesus through faith … abiding in His Presence … fills us with a joy unspeakable that is filled by His glory. (Cf. John 16:19-22; John 17:13)

11.       You experience this joy because faith in Jesus Christ will be rewarded with the salvation of your soul. (Cf. Isaiah 25:9; 61:10)

12.       This salvation through the Messiah was prophesied by holy men of old … prophets who foretold the sufferings of the Messiah and His resurrection. (Cf. Hebrews 1:1; 2 Peter 1:21)

13.       They prophesied by the Spirit of God for the benefit of those who would live after them.

14.       The prophesies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ … of which the Apostles (anointed by the Holy Spirit) have fully preached to us. (Cf. Acts 8:40; Acts 14:6-7, 20-21; Acts 26:19-20; Romans 15:19-20; 2 Timothy 4:17)

15.       In this context, we are admonished to pay attention to the Word of God … to respond to it … and to set our hope on it. (Cf. Colossians 1:3-6)

16.       Therefore, faith in Jesus Christ will give birth to a new creation. The old has gone, the new is here. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17)

17.       The new creation … the new being … will no longer continue in the evil desires and old behaviors of a sinful person. (Cf. Romans 6:12; Colossians 3:5; 2 Timothy 2:22; 2 Peter 1:4)

18.       And such were all of us at one point in our lives. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23; 1 Corinthians 6:11: Ephesians 4:24)

19.       Since we have been created in Christ Jesus (Cf. Ephesians 2:10), we are called to be holy people … set apart for the work of God.

20.       Holiness, or sanctification by the Spirit, is a process … that will lead us into greater intimacy with Christ. (Cf. John 15:1-12)

Well, I hope this little breakdown of the passage will help you think through all that Peter is sharing with us. His theology and admonition are wonderful; and his message is corroborated by the writings of other apostles as the references (links) were provided to show. In light of the prayer and fasting we have undertaken to focus on and exercise self-discipline, I think this call to holiness is quite timely. I pray that each of us will seek greater intimacy with Christ with minds that are prepared for action and exercise self-control; setting our hope fully on the gracious salvation we will receive when Christ Jesus is revealed at His Coming. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in Him. And now, dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming. ~ 1 John 2:27-28

I AM the Vine…

John 15:5,8 (NIV)

“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. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Our Verse of the Day provides one more “I AM” declaration to us to ponder: I AM the Vine!  It is a great metaphor to communicate to us our absolute dependence upon Jesus for life itself!  What Jesus is teaching is that we are simply branches … an extension of Him who is the root … the foundation … the core being of the vine that God (the sole Gardener) planted for Himself.  Branches do not sustain the root or the structure of the plant; rather, they are an expression of the internal seed … of its DNA if you will. Branches arise out of the vine … extend its breadth and height … and provide positions where fruit can be formed and harvested. Indeed, a grapevine is the perfect picture of our relationship with Christ Jesus and reflects how we are to abide and function through that relationship….

John 15:1-12 (NIV)

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes (cleans) so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain (abide) in me, as I also (abide) in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain (abide) in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain (abide) in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain (abide) in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothingIf you do not remain (abide) 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 (abide) in me and my words remain (abide) 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. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain (abide) in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain (abide) in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain (abide) in His love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

I see some key concepts for us to consider from this teaching. One is that we must abide or remain in Jesus. We must live in Him and He in us through His Spirit. And how do we know if He is living in us?  We will be bearing fruit … much fruit. If you or I are not bearing the fruit of His Spirit … I believe it can be concluded that we are not abiding in Him. Fruit bearing is not a decision or an option; rather, righteousness and bearing fruit is the outcome of abiding in Jesus. We cannot help but bear the fruit of the Spirit in and through our lives when we abide in Jesus and He in us. As Paul in his experience affirmed: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Cf. Romans 8:9) Just as Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

So, what is the fruit of the Spirit we will bear as branches of the vine?  Paul tells us in Galatians 5:22-23 the following: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance (longsuffering), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” And though this fruit will be manifested in different varieties, each unique fruit derives its expression from its seed which bears the image of Christ Jesus. The Apostle John exhorted: “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. (Cf. 1 John 2:3-6)

Question?  Do we live as Jesus did? Well, if we obey His Word and abide in Him, we are empowered to do so. The Apostle Peter affirmed: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) And to receive that divine power (the Holy Spirit), we must come to Jesus and abide in Him … in order to bear much fruit as He appointed us to do … as we were created in Him to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Remember, it is for the Father’s glory that we bear much fruit and show ourselves to be disciples of Christ. So, let each of us take delight in being a branch in the vine! You and I are in ordained positions to be nurtured and nourished … to grow and spread out … and to bear fruit!

Another thought that came to mind is that these I AM claims reveal an emphasis that I had not really considered; namely, each I AM statement requires an interactive response on our part. Let me explain. Here Jesus chooses the metaphor of a vine. He is the “true” vine and we are the branches. There is a connection … an intimate relationship between us. What is the invitation or response? Abiding – in order to bear fruit. We cannot produce any fruit except that we abide in Him. It provides great word imagery; and I thought that perhaps I should apply this same idea to the other “I AM” declarations we have studied.

For example, John 6:35 reads: Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.” What is the invitation or response? Eating – in order to be filled! For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. In John 6:51, Jesus stated, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

Jesus declared, “I am the light of the world.” What is the invitation or response? Following – in order to leave the darkness! In John 8:12 we read: When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus declared, “I am the gate.” What is the invitation or response? Entering – in order to receive salvation. In John 10:9 we read: I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

Jesus declared, “I am the Good Shepherd.” What is the invitation or response? Knowing – in order to hear HIS voice. In John 10:14-15 we read: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection and the life.” What is the invitation or response? Believing – in order to experience eternal life! In John 11:25-26 we read: “Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

I believe you get the point. And I am excited that these patterns were shown to me in my study. I encourage you to consider each “I AM” claim Jesus made and to consider your own personal response in order for His declarations to have application for your life. Can you anticipate a response for “I AM the way and the truth and the life?(Cf. John 14:6) What is the invitation or response? And what about “I AM the Alpha and the Omega?(Cf. Revelation 1:8; 21:6; 22:13) What is the invitation or response? Indeed, I believe you will find this exercise both enlightening and faith building…. If you have the time, please send me your responses to the study exercise.  I would be interested in your thoughts….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

I AM the Resurrection…

John 11:25 (NIV)

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…

Most of us are familiar with the story that underlies our Verse of the Day. The circumstance is Jesus raising (resurrecting) his friend Lazarus from death. But before this miraculous event, Jesus has a conversation with Martha, a sister of Lazarus, where He discloses another “I AM” claim regarding His identity.  Let’s read the passage for context:

John 11:11-27; 38-44 (NIV)

11 After Jesus had said this, He went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 17 On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” He said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When He had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

Who has ever witnessed a person who was dead for four days being brought back to life? It is unthinkable … incomprehensible! And yet, this is the eyewitness account John has declared to us. Lazarus was restored to life in front of a crowd of people. The unbelievable happened right in front of their eyes. Can you imagine? What would you or I have thought in that moment? Would we have bowed down at Jesus’ feet and worshipped Him on the spot? Would we conclude in our hearts and minds that God sent Him? Should our reaction be any different when we see the supernatural occur before our eyes even now in our generation?  What did Jesus tell Martha? He said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?

And equally unimaginable is the response of the religious rulers upon hearing of this supernatural power of God being exercised through Jesus. John 11:53 bluntly states: “They plotted to kill Him.” Seriously? And their rationale? “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” (Cf. John 11:47-48) Really? They were more concerned about preserving their religious tradition and their personal glory than experiencing the power and love of God in their lives and His glory?

Yet, I have seen this same rationale … this same phenomenon in the Church today. I see the manifestations and work of the Holy Spirit being suppressed by many of the religious leaders within the modern Church … especially here in America. There are some who assert that the signs of the Holy Spirit and supernatural works ended with the Apostles. Yet, how can that be? Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Cf. Hebrews 13:8) Jesus is still performing miracles before our very eyes. Jesus is still raising the dead to new life. He is still healing the sick, comforting the broken hearted, and setting the captive free. There are thousands upon thousands of testimonies to these wonders throughout the world!

Just as the Father sent Jesus into the world so that we might believe in Him; the Holy Spirit was sent in His Name to indwell believers so that we might be empowered to continue His work and to bring glory to the Father. Before His ascension into heaven, Jesus said to His disciples: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Cf. Acts 1:8) Paul affirmed: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-disciple.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) Jesus declared, “Abide in me, as I also abide in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must abide in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (Cf. John 15:4-5) And Paul affirmed, “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” (Cf. Romans 8:9b)

Oh, how I pray in these last days that the Church will awaken to these truths! Jesus Christ is risen! He is seated at the right hand of God! (Cf. Luke 22:69; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1) Indeed, our Lord Jesus gave His disciples power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and He sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick. (Cf. Luke 9:1-2) After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go. And Jesus said: “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects Him who sent me.” The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Jesus replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Cf. Luke 10:1; 16-20)

Some of the ancient manuscripts have this ending passage from the Gospel of Mark:

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen. (Cf. Mark 16:15-20)

Well, I will close with the same question that Jesus asked Martha. “Do you believe this?” Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? Do you believe that Jesus continues to perform His supernatural work today so that people will believe the Father who sent Him?  I am convinced that He still does! My own life is a testimony of the One called me out of darkness into light … who performed miracles of deliverance, healing, and salvation within me. Yes, let us celebrate and rejoice in the author and the redeemer of life. “I AM the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Cf. Revelation 1:8)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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!

Your Word is Light…

Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

Your Word is a lamp for my feet and a light unto my path….

Our Verse of the Day aligns with our continued look into the wonderful things found in the Word of God. I feel compelled to reprint a few of the 22 stanzas of Psalm 119 for us to see our verse in some additional context. Although the exact author of Psalm 119 is unknown, most scholars have proposed it was written by David, Ezra, or Daniel.  Each of these proposed authors suffered serious hardships in their lives, and the Psalmist engages that theme to demonstrate how he endured his suffering through a deep trust in God because the truths he learned from the holy scriptures. Ultimately, we know that the author of this psalm and all the holy scriptures is the Holy Spirit! (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21) So, I hope you will find the following stanzas uplifting and inspiring for your own faith….

ב Beth

How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your Word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 12 Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. 13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

ה He

33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end for its reward.  34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. 35 Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. 36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your Word.  38 Fulfill your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared. 39 Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good. 40 How I long for your precepts! In your righteousness preserve my life.

ט Teth

65 Do good to your servant according to your Word, Lord. 66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands. 67 Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now I obey your Word. 68 You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. 69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart. 70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law. 71 It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. 72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.

ל Lamedh

89 Your Word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. 90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. 91 Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you. 92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. 93 I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. 94 Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. 95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes. 96 To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.

מ Mem

97 Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. 98 Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. 100 I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. 101 I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your Word. 102 I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. 103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore, I hate every wrong path.

נ Nun

105 Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. 106 I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. 107 I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord, according to your Word. 108 Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws. 109 Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. 110 The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts. 111 Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. 112 My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end … for their enduring reward.

פ Pe

129 Your statutes are wonderful; therefore, I obey them. 130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. 131 I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands. 132 Turn to me and have mercy on me, as you always do to those who love your name. 133 Direct my footsteps according to your Word; let no sin rule over me. 134 Redeem me from human oppression, that I may obey your precepts. 135 Make your face shine on your servant and teach me your decrees. 136 Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.

I just love how the Word of God itself has been exalted throughout Psalm 119.  Again, I highly encourage you to read the entire Psalm. It expounds on the blessings of living in accordance with the commandments, laws, statutes, ordinances, decrees, precepts, promises, and principles found within the sacred writings authored by the Holy Spirit. The whole counsel of God can be discovered within the pages of the Bible … the riches of wisdom and understanding and knowledge to guide us into all Truth! As the Word of God is affirmed, the character (nature) of God Himself is revealed. Indeed, He is righteous, trustworthy, truthful, faithful, unchanging, eternal, and holy!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

God of Wonders…

Job 37:5-6 (NIV)

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’

I thought our Verse of the Day had a great message as I watched the gale bent trees and wind driven sheets of rain outside my window – the forces of Hurricane Nicole as it passed through our area. It reminded me again of the sovereign power of God displayed in creation, and this truth resonated even deeper today.  Coming from the Book of Job, I realized that I had not read this particular book in a while, so I thought that I would at least read this chapter and catch up on the wisdom of my patient, suffering friend. However, Chapter 37 was just a continuation of a “rebuke” directed at Job from his friend, Elihu, that had started earlier at the beginning of Chapter 35. So, I spent some time reading these chapters. Although we find at the conclusion of the Book of Job that Elihu and two other friends were misguided in their assessment of Job’s character and his relationship with God, I think their insight and contemplations about the character of God should not be ignored or dismissed. If we look at the discourse of Elihu, we can still glean some inspiration from him that will impact our theology.

Job 37:1-16 (NIV)

1 “At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place. Listen! Listen to the roar of His voice, to the rumbling that comes from His mouth. He unleashes His lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth. After that comes the sound of his roar; He thunders with His majestic voice. When His voice resounds, He holds nothing back. God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ So that everyone He has made may know His work, He stops all people from their work. The animals take cover; they remain in their dens. The tempest comes out from its chamber, the cold from the driving winds. 10 The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen. 11 He loads the clouds with moisture; He scatters His lightning through them. 12 At His direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever He commands them. 13 He brings the clouds to punish people, or to water His earth and show His love. 14 “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. 15 Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes His lightning flash? 16 Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of Him who has perfect knowledge?

In this particular passage, we can find truth regarding the majesty and power of God as it is displayed in familiar scenes of our physical existence. I love the imagery that Elihu uses to describe tempestuous weather … the experience of flashing bolts of lightning and the thunderous sonic booms that shake us afterwards. He entertains the reactions of both man and creatures; and he attributes these workings of nature to its Creator – God Himself. We can observe the mysterious and the miraculous in nature and never quite understand how it all works or how it all fits together. Seriously, do we really understand rain? Do we really understand the wind and its movement? Oh, scientists and meteorologists might explain “how it works,” but I think they fail to expound on “why it works.” I believe the “why” is the inherent wisdom and knowledge of God. Indeed, our Father has ordained and designed every detail of creation for His own purpose and pleasure.

As I meditate on these things, what amazes me the most is that God delights to share His creative pleasure with mankind. King David mused: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Cf. Psalm 8:3-5) How incredibly wonderful it is that we can view the starry expanses of the universe, the majestic heights of mountains, the beauty of windswept canyons, and intricacies of wave sculpted coastlines – their awe-inspiring vistas filling our eyes with amazement and our hearts with the knowledge of His perfect splendor….

So, yes, I invite you to revisit some of the colorful, poetic language found in the Book of Job … and really throughout much of the “wisdom” literature compiled in the Scriptures. People, moved by the Holy Spirit, captured a wealth of understanding about God as they contemplated and meditated on His creative works. I think, sometimes, we just are too busy in our lives to stop and notice … or to ponder the incredible design of creation and every detail within it. Maybe this verse is a reminder to stop for a moment and receive the joy of knowing everything was created for our enjoyment and delight as well. Indeed, what a gracious and loving Father we have to love and worship in return for this experience of life! So, I pray that today we will be encouraged to spend time with our Heavenly Father and to give Him thanks for the lovingkindness He displays toward us through His Creation….

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. ~ Genesis 1:1

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Competent and Confident

2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

As I read our Verse of the Day, my first thought was to ask myself a question: “Do I feel competent as a minister of the New Covenant?” And then I asked another question: “Do I feel confident as a minister of the New Covenant?” As believers, I think each question should be explored because we are parties to the New Covenant that was mediated through the blood of Jesus. (Cf. Luke 22:20) We are recipients of its promises. We are bound to its terms and conditions. And in it we are given authority to invite others to join the agreement (confession) through faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed, there is an expectation for us to live out and to share the Gospel of Christ so that others might become parties to the New Covenant as well….

The context for our verse is part of a larger defense that Paul makes to the Corinthian Church regarding his authority in preaching the Gospel … his apostleship as a minister of the New Covenant established through Jesus Christ. Paul has been dealing with “church discipline” matters, and it has ignited questions within the church regarding his leadership, teaching, and approach. Further, it has become a personal struggle for Paul to endure the pain of rejection after working so diligently to bring the brothers and sisters at Corinth to maturity in Christ. Therefore, I encourage you to read 2 Corinthians 1-4 to have a better understanding of what is happening as well as Paul’s response.

I think we need this context to understand the assertions Paul made to the Corinthians as he administered the truth to them. His confidence in doing so was not within himself or his own abilities. His confidence came from the trustworthiness of Christ Himself! Paul did not doubt the absolute certainty nor sufficiency of what Christ fulfilled through His death on the cross … the eternal atonement for our sin! In Him we received mercy and grace. Through Him we are raised to new life … we are born again! Faith in Jesus gives us the confidence we need to become ambassadors for Him and ministers of the New Covenant.

Likewise, we need to note that our competence or ability to minister to others comes through Jesus Christ. He alone is our sufficiency, qualification, and adequacy. There should be no question about “feeling” competent; rather, faith understands that the source of our abilities … our courage … our strength comes from Him who was victorious over death. Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes….” (Cf. Romans 1:16) And the power to proclaim the Gospel comes from the same source! As Paul affirmed, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Cf. Philippians 4:13) And, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)

With these thoughts in mind, let’s go back to discourse of Paul on evangelism:

2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (NIV)

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

2 Corinthians 3:1-6 (NIV)

1Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.4 Such confidence (trust, reliance, certainty, assurance) we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent (sufficient, qualified, adequate) in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence (sufficiency, qualification, adequacy) comes from God. 6 He has made us competent (sufficient, qualified, adequate) as ministers of a New Covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

I want us to focus on the Verse 6 a moment and ask some tough questions. Do you believe that you are a “competent” minister of the New Covenant? Do you believe the message of the New Covenant established by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should be shared with others? If you do not feel confident in your own understanding of the New Covenant, what would help you achieve more knowledge? If you do not feel confident in sharing the message of Jesus Christ, what would help you overcome your concerns?

As we have seen, Paul declared that his competence in preaching the Gospel “comes from God.” And He is our source as well! Paul states, “God has MADE us competent as ministers.” Any idea how God did so? If we look at the life of Paul, we see his zeal for the Law and study of the Scriptures as the foundation for His competence; however, Paul was not an “ambassador” of the New Covenant until his encounter with Jesus Christ. His experience with the risen Lord changed everything!

Acts 26:15-23 (NIV)

15 Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the Lord replied. 16 “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” 19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; thus, I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to His own people and to the Gentiles.”

And so, I encourage each of us to consider our own competence. As believers, each of us has had an encounter with Jesus Christ. It may not have been a blinding light from heaven … but it was the light of His presence and His Spirit that captured us nonetheless. And the glorious revelation of God’s love, mercy, and grace washed over us as the spiritual new birth produced in us our new life in Christ. And we have never been the same since Christ entered our hearts and sent His Spirit to indwell us. “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.” (Cf. 1 John 4:13)

So, what might be inhibiting our competence to be ministers of the New Covenant like those who came before us? If through the past couple of millennia there had been no one “competent” to preserve the Word and to proclaim the Gospel, would we have even come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Even in the first century, there was a sense of urgency to protect the light and truth of God revealed to us through His Son. Consider what Jude wrote: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” Perhaps there is hesitancy on our part because we still have questions about our own faith or what it is based upon. Maybe there is a lack of confidence in our knowledge that stems from a lack of spending time reading and meditating on God’s Word. Ultimately our faith is based on our confidence in the Word of God.

A Final Thought:

John 15:5-8 (NIV)

5 “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. 6 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. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Apart from Jesus … apart from the power of His indwelling Spirit … we can do nothing. That means we cannot be “competent” as ministers of the New Covenant if we do not have an intimate relationship with Him. We have to be empowered and equipped; and that comes from His Holy Spirit. I have observed in my own walk with Christ, that the more time I spend studying and meditating on the Word of God, the more time that I spend in prayer; the more confident I become with WHO I know. And, like Paul, I am coming to the place in my life … in my walk … where I consider everything else worthless compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus!” (Cf. Philippians 3:8) So, I cannot communicate or demonstrate with “competence” WHO Jesus is or WHAT Jesus accomplished without truly knowing Him and abiding in Him! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!