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.
This is a good word for us! And I invite you to read the entire chapter of Amos 5. The Prophet admonished the people to “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.” In light of the current discord in our nation, it is imperative for believers to guard our hearts and our emotions; and to keep our focus on the Sovereign Lord. Paul, and the other apostles, lived during a time of excessive government control and oppression of people. Yet, he advised the following: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.” (Cf. Romans 13:1-3) This might seem counterintuitive when we observe oppressive policies being promoted at the highest levels of government, and strangely, a large percentage of citizens insisting upon those policies. Yet, we are urged to trust God above all else and to do what is right….
When Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans, the evils of Nero and the persecutions that his government inflicted upon Christians, had not yet reached their climax. Paul was later executed under Nero, and during his reign, Nero intensely persecuted Christians – especially within the city of Rome. The Roman emperors who succeeded Nero in the centuries following were even worse at times in their treatment of Christians until the conversion of Constantine. During this period, the atrocities of Diocletian also come to mind. So the trials and sufferings for following Jesus are nothing new; and as we look to the end of the age, we can expect the irrational hate toward believers to continue and intensify. Peter, also executed during the reign of Nero, wrote to believers and provided similar counsel to us:
1 Peter 2:11-17; 21-23 (NLT)
11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when He judges the world. 13 For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, 14 or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. 15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you.16 For you are free, yet you are God’s servants, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. 17 Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king. 21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. Jesus is your example, and you must follow in His steps. 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 23 He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. Instead, He entrusted Himself to God the Father, who always judges fairly. (See Isaiah 53)
The point is that even in the face of great injustice, the apostles admonished believers to submit to the authorities over them and to reverence the sovereignty of God. This is not to say that believers do not engage in civic matters at all; rather, we are to hate evil, love good, and maintain justice in the courts. We are to be the light of the world! The light we have received from God is not to be hidden from the culture; nor should we be silent when the truth of God and His Word should be proclaimed. (Cf. Matthew 5:14-16) But we are to do so with grace and love. As Paul urged Timothy: “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose the truth must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will change their hearts (grant them repentance) leading them to a knowledge of the truth. Perhaps, then, they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:23-26 NLT) Yes, this is why we PRAY for those in authority over us!
So in all this, we are to conduct ourselves as subject to the governing authorities just as we are subject to the throne of Christ Jesus – to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given. So I join with Paul who wrote: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-4)
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.
Our verse today speaks to the uncertainty of life. Too often, we assume that the physical life we experience in the here and now will continue without interruption and without interference. But as we have observed over the past few months, the unknown continues to grab our attention and cause us to question what the future holds. This proverb admonishes us not be too arrogant or make too many assumptions about our lives … because we truly do not know what a day may bring.
The Apostle James, perhaps, had this verse in mind when he wrote:
James 4:13-16 (NIV)
13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.
I do not believe this passage is denouncing the purposes of “planning” for the future; rather, James is focused on an arrogant attitude and not being mindful of God in those processes. It is the boastful, prideful attitude of an invincible spirit that James calls into question. “Your life is but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” We need to keep perspective … a view of life that is dependent upon the grace of God working in us and through us. Indeed, our “plans” should be aligned with God … with His Will and His Word as we attend to the purposes for which He created us. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) This should be the basis of our planning – completing the good works which God created us in Christ Jesus to do. As King Solomon observed: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)
Luke 14:25-33 (NIV) – Planning for the Cost of Discipleship
25 Now great crowds accompanied Jesus, and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.33So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
I think a key principle to planning for the future is to begin with the cost of discipleship. If we overlook what it will take to pursue a life solely focused on pleasing our God and Creator; we are probably hindered with excessive pride or arrogance. And the Apostle John addresses how to hone our focus: “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. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (Cf. 1 John 2:15-17) So, yes, we need to be careful not to be deceived by the world and its desires. We need the wisdom and discernment that comes from the Word of God to ultimately understand how to do HIS will in our lives.
So I believe, the application for us is to see the necessity of prayer and intimate time with God as we evaluate our hopes and plans for the future. As the Prophet Isaiah advised: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6) As King David reflected when he was in the wilderness of Judah: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) Indeed, it is a critical time to seek the face of God as never before … as we see the times and tribulation the world has entered. And not only should we seek and plan our lives in accordance with His purposes, but we need to trust Him with our whole heart. “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the Rock Eternal.” (Isaiah 26:4) For He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Chronicles 28:20; Hebrews 13:5)
I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.
We have another Psalm to engage our thoughts today…. This Psalm was written by a faithful follower facing death (Verse 3). He explains his thought processes on how to deal with this situation. First of all, he affirms his love of God and why he loves Him. “I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.” And then the Psalmist affirms his faith: “Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.” Let’s look at the larger context:
Psalm 116 (NIV)
1 I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. 2 Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.
3 The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow. 4 Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”
5 The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. 6 The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, He saved me.
7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.
8 For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, 9 that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
10 I trusted in the Lord when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”; 11 in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”
12 What shall I return to the Lord for all His goodness to me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. 14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants. 16 Truly I am your servant, Lord; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains.
17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord. 18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people, 19 in the courts of the house of the Lord— in your midst, Jerusalem. Praise the Lord.
The inspired writer was in great distress and sorrow as he faced the thought and reality of the grave. I think there is something here for us to ponder as we face our own mortality and the challenging days ahead of us. When we feel overwhelmed, fearful, and anxious … when we come into circumstances and situations where we despair of life … this Psalm reminds us that the Lord hears our cries for help and mercy. The Psalmist affirms The Lord is gracious and righteous and full of compassion. The Lord protects us even from the unknown. We can rest completely in Him! He delivers us from the fears of death … from the sorrows of life … from the paths of sin. So what shall we return to the Lord for all His goodness to us?
Lift up the cup of salvation He has given us in Christ Jesus.
Call upon the name of the Lord.
Fulfill our oaths and promises to the Lord.
Serve the Lord with all of our hearts.
Offer the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.
Heavenly Father, we thank you this morning that you hear our voices … that you hear our cries for help … when we become overwhelmed in our thoughts, anxieties, and fears. We love you because you listen and move to quiet our souls and to give us assurance that you are ever present in times of trouble. So we call on you for deliverance and strength when we become weary. We thank you because you are gracious, righteous, and full of love and compassion for us. You are our song! You are our praise! And we shall call upon your name all the days of our lives! So we shall serve you with all of our hearts. We will fulfill our desires to live according to your Word. These are our offerings to you, O God. In the name of our Savior Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
I always loved this verse of encouragement … how we can trust God … how God is there for us just as He was for His people Israel … how He will strengthen, help, and uphold us in times of adversity or suffering.
Isaiah 41:8-14 (NIV)
8 “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, 9 I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. 10 So do not fear, for I am with you;do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you;I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 11 “All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. 12 Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. 13 For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. 14 Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
Look at the context for a moment. Those who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced … those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish … those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. God said we are not to fear! “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me, declares the Lord.” (Cf. Isaiah 54:17) And I think it is important for us to remember, “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.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5) And this makes perfect sense to me because the only offensive weapon that we have in this spiritual battle is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. (Cf. Ephesians 6:17) “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Cf. Hebrews 4:12)
If we want to elevate faith and alleviate fear in our lives, then the Word of God must our resource! For it is the power of God to strengthen you and help you! His Word will uphold you, and through it the Holy Spirit will guide you into the truth. It is the truth you will need to refute every tongue that accuses you … to confound those who oppose you … to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God. You need to know the truth so that you can withstand those who want to suppress the truth by their wickedness. (Cf. Romans 1:18) Indeed, I sense that the human conflicts, chaos, and violence we see in our nation is not about the alleged issues of rights, equality, or justice. If you look deeper into the agendas and ideologies that have emerged, you will see that the true battle is a spiritual one between those upholding truth and those suppressing truth … between obedience and disobedience of God’s commands … between His marvelous light and the veil of darkness. Yes, the strife is a sin problem at the core. (Cf. Genesis 6:5) It is the movement and goal of those that want to worship the creature rather than submit to and worship the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. (Cf. Romans 1:25)
Romans 1:28-32 (NIV)
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
If you think about it, the list here addresses much of what we are seeing on our televisions and on social media. It is understandable that what we have witnessed has caused concern and even fear. But I feel we need to have spiritual perspective on what is happening and the “real” source of the conflict that seems to be growing at exponential speed over the last several months. The issue is that those who want nothing to do with God or His righteousness have found a cover and a narrative to exploit for their own purposes. And the danger is that these people want to impose their godless views on everyone else through whatever means at their disposal … including suppression of speech; opposition to authority; and violence when needed to eliminate anyone who disagrees with their world view. I think that only through knowledge of the truth, and its proclamation through the Body of Christ, will we be able to shine as the light of the world … a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. (Cf. Matthew 5:14) This is what we have been called (saved) to do: to let our light shine before others that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16)
Well, I hope through these reflections that we will all take pause and pray for discernment in these turbulent times. I mostly think we need to see the events of 2020 as a wake-up call to the Church … to the people of God. The Body of Christ needs to repent of its “lukewarm” attitude and get back on the mission for which Christ Jesus is the Head! We need to understand that the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot “see the light” of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4) And this is why the culture war is so intense! We need to realize that true believers are the remnant light for this world, and while it is day we must be working. Night is coming when no one can work. (Cf. John 9:4) And really, what an exciting time it is for us to be living in these pivotal times for the Kingdom of God! We should not fear the world; rather, we should all the more reverence our God and Creator who deemed us trustworthy to live in this hour upon the earth … and to serve Him during such a time as this! Oh, we need to be faithful … not fearful … because He is with us. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Cf. Joshua 1:9) Indeed, it is time to be about the Father’s business….
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? ~ Romans 8:31
I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame.
As I think about our time of corporate prayer last night, I find this Psalm to be an incredible affirmation of the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness to those who love Him. For those who were gathered last night, I think you will agree that this Psalm captures what our hearts experienced before the presence of the Lord. I will reprint its reflective words for our reference:
Psalm 138:1-8 (NIV)
1 I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; before the “gods” I will sing your praise. 2 I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your unfailing love and your faithfulness, for you have so exalted your solemn decree that it surpasses your fame.3 When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me. 4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord, when they hear what you have decreed. 5 May they sing of the ways of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord is great. 6 Though the Lord is exalted, He looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, He sees them from afar. 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life. You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes; with your right hand you save me. 8 The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever— do not abandon the works of your hands.
It is important for God’s people to “pray without ceasing” and to seek even greater intimacy with the Lord. Though we have always been admonished to continually pray at all times, there seems to be a heightened sense of urgency that has been revealed to His Church to emphasize the intercessory power of prayer. As we contemplate the times in which we live, we need to embrace that prayer changes things … mostly because it inwardly changes our hearts to align with the heart of the Father. It softens and molds our hearts to see the brokenness, oppression, injustice, and darkness that has over taken the lives of so many people around us. God deeply wants to bring healing and hope; forgiveness and salvation; liberty and life to the world … but most often His work is done through people. This simply means the people He uses to address the evils in our world must have willing hearts to do the work needed. Believers need to press into the presence of God until we, like David, can proclaim: “When I cried out, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul!” Indeed, it is prayer that prepares us to be bold … to be courageous … to be servants to those God is calling to Himself…. Jesus shared this perspective with us:
Matthew 9:35-38 (NIV)
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”
Luke 10:1-3 (NIV)
10 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. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.
When we pray … we “ask” the Lord. And here Jesus tells us to “ask” the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field. Why? There is a vast multitude of people to be brought into the Kingdom of God, but there are few who are willing to work and make it happen. When Jesus said ask, it was not about asking the Lord to send someone else; rather, it was about asking Him to become one of the workers. “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Cf. Isaiah 6:8) Oh, my personal prayer is be bold and courageous … to say, “Here I am. Send me!” What is your prayer? When we pray and ask the Lord Jesus to change hearts and to change lives … to change the world … just what are we expecting Him to do? Exert His divine, supernatural authority and power? Indeed He will, but I believe He will do it through His people. Right? Are we not His Body in the world? Are we not the ones supposed to do the work in His harvest field?
James 2:14-17 (NIV)
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
1 John 3:16-18 (NIV)
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
So I encourage and challenge us to think more deeply about the role of prayer in our lives and in our walk of faith. It is one thing to ask God to do something about the suffering in this world. It is quite another to ask Him for boldness and courage to be a worker in His harvest field. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Indeed, as His Body, we have been appointed to go into the harvest field. As Paul admonished, we have been asked to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is our true and proper (spiritual) worship. (Cf. Romans 12:1) We have been anointed with spiritual gifts to serve. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11) And we have been empowered with boldness. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) Yes, it is prayer that will get each of us to that place of alignment with the heart of God to accomplish His work.
One final thought. How often have we heard people ask, “Why does God allow suffering in this world?” Perhaps, you have asked this or a similar question. I know that I have. But the answer I have received was quite unsettling. God asked, “Why do you allow suffering?” I had to stop and deeply consider His response to me. Do I allow suffering? How have I done so? Well, in a word: “Inaction.” Yes, inaction is the opposite of what James and John admonished us to do. Indeed, there are many actions we can take to address the problems of this world if we will but take time and look for the opportunities. So, we need to get bold and get busy! “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Cf. Galatians 6:10)
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. ~ John 13:34-35
The Lord will keep you from all harm— He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
I am glad this verse came up this morning as the events of this world unfold and fear continues to be a dominate influence over our lives. Perhaps our collective perspective should shift from what we see to what we do not see. For this is the essence of our faith … the assurance of our faith … what the Spirit enables us to see through Christ Jesus our Lord:
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (NKJV; KJV)
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (NRSV; ESV; NASB)
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (NIV)
It is not with physical eyes only that we can see what is happening in our world. Through faith, we are able to see with spiritual eyes … the eyes of our hearts having been enlightened with the Word of God … that we might see what God has revealed to us. And God appointed Paul to expose and articulate the ongoing mysterious and deceptive work of Satan (even within the Church) since its inception during Pentecost:
2 Thessalonians 2:1-12 (NIV)
1Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness (Sin) is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt Himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that He sets Himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming Himself to be God.
5 Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 6 And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth and destroy by the splendor of His coming.
9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the Truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
Powerful words for us to consider! Powerful revelation as to what lies ahead … as physical, natural forces merge with spiritual forces of darkness to rusher in the coming of the lawless one! Even now there are public displays and satanic marches in our cities to promote and hasten this coming “One World Order” that has been prophesied. Is it true? Did they actually occur yesterday with the solar eclipse? Are these stories just made up? Well, in the context of what has been happening already this year, you will have to determine for yourself what is real … if you can with so much deception being purveyed in the mainstream and social media outlets…. Where is TRUTH when you need it most?
When Jesus prayed for His disciples and for those who would believe in Him through their testimony, the Gospel of John recorded these words:
John 17:13-21 (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 to live in accordance with 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. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Yes, we have been sanctified … set apart for service to God. We have been equipped with the Truth of God’s Word and His indwelling Spirit. This is “how” we are no longer OF the world … and this is also “why” we have not been taken out of the world. Jesus empowers His people and sends them to be the light of the world … HIS Light! And did you notice that He prayed for the Father to “protect us from the evil one.” And does His prayer not align with the prophetic word of King David who wrote the Psalm 121 that we are receiving today? Even now, I am reminded again, and I encourage you to read the entire Psalm 91: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most-High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” (Verses 1-2)
When we dwell in the shelter of the Most-High God … when we abide in Jesus Christ and He in us … we have a refuge and a place of rest! We do not have to be or feel distressed. We have a strong tower and a fortress. Indeed, Father God is our Protector, our Provider, and our High Priest! He is protecting us from the evil one … the lawless one who is coming … so that we will not be deceived or receive powerful delusion to believe the lies of Satan! We have been sanctified by the Truth! And God has not given us a Spirit of fear but a Spirit of power and love and self-control! (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) And I emphasize “self-control” because if we reactively engage with those who are blinded to the truth … those who manifest themselves with malicious, riotous, and destructive behaviors after the pattern of Satan … we will not shine as light in the darkness if we fail to exercise self-control over our own emotions. “Instead, let us be speaking the Truth in love … so that we will grow into become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Jesus Christ.From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Cf. Ephesians 4:15-16)
Romans 2:6-11 (NIV)
6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” (Cf. Psalm 62:12; Proverbs 24:12) 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.
Romans 12:16-18 (NIV)
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Ephesians 6:11-13 (NIV)
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 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. 13 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.
Remember, Jesus has already declared, “I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.” ~ Matthew 16:18
The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.
Several of you had responded to my email that I sent on Saturday … sending prayers and well wishes about the spiritual battle(s) that I have been facing. First of all, I send my heartfelt gratitude to those who have been praying and interceding … regardless of whether you let me know. I am blessed to be surrounded with your love and concern. So I wanted to let you know one of the battles that I have been fighting in the Spirit … and to share the praise report that I alluded to in my email. The victory of prayer and spiritual warfare that I received from the Lord is found in our Verse of the Day….
“The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.”
You see, I received news late Friday night that my son, Eric, and his wife, Shelby, had a life-changing encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ! Yes, both have been born-again of the Spirit of God – and their names are now written in the Lamb’s Book of Life! Yes, Hallelujah! Yes, Amen! Yes, I give thanks to God that He removed the veil of darkness from their eyes that they might see the Light of God in Jesus Christ! They are no longer of this world or live in the wisdom of this world. These Scriptures come to mind:
1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (NIV)
18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Cf. Isaiah 29:14) 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
2 Corinthians 4:1-6 (NIV)
1Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5 For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” (Cf. Genesis 1:3) made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)
1As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Cf. Luke 15:10) So, like the father of the Prodigal Son (Cf. Luke 15:11-32), I invite you to rejoice with me … “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So we are celebrating and grateful to God! And I encourage every one who is praying for their prodigal … for their children who have wandered from the faith … to persevere in prayer before the Father. For those the spiritual battle is intense … the battle belongs to Lord! Ask for the “veil” to be removed from their eyes … that they too might become wise and see the light of God in Christ Jesus. Yes, continue to watch and pray! And I pray that I will be celebrating your victories with you soon….
When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people; if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
We have heard this passage from 2 Chronicles quoted several times since the Coronavirus Pandemic began; and I saved it for today: Our National Day of Prayer! Although I realize this is being sent out quite late in the day, I hope it will impact our thoughts and attitudes about prayer everyday….
I believe the context of 2 Chronicles 7 is important for us to review. Beginning with Chapter 1 of 2 Chronicles, we learn about the heart of King Solomon and his prayer for wisdom. God granted the request along with wealth, possessions, and honor. Then beginning in Chapter 2, the narrative shifts to preparations for the building of the Temple, and construction begins in Chapter 3. The furnishings are reviewed in Chapter 4, and the entire work was completed in Chapter 5 when the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the innermost sanctuary (Holy of Holies) of the temple. There were sacrificial offerings and worship, and the manifested glory of God filled the temple as a cloud…. I invite you to read this historical account when you have the time….
But it is Chapter 6 that sets the stage for our call to prayer. Here, Solomon addresses the assembly to bless them and then offers a public prayer of dedication. He expounds that the Temple cannot contain the God of Heaven; but Solomon asks that God be attentive to the prayers and supplications offered before Him there, and to hear from heaven … to forgive, to judge, to heal, to restore, and to show mercy. What you will note in his prayer, is the acknowledgement that people will sin against God – for there is no one who does not sin. (Verse 36) But the holiness of God has to address the issue of sin. There is an expectation of repentance on the part of people and forgiveness on the part of God. And this interaction is what occurs during prayer. God judges the sin … but He is sovereign to justify the repentant sinner….
In Chapter 6, as Solomon prayed, there is a list of the judgments or afflictions that he shared as examples:
1. When anyone wrongs their neighbor and is required to take an oath before the altar
2. When the nation is defeated by an enemy because they have sinned
3. When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned
4. When famine or plague comes to the land; blight or mildew; locusts or grasshoppers
5. When enemies besiege in the cities; whatever disaster or disease
Solomon goes on praying, asking the Lord God to be responsive to prayers offered:
1. When the foreigner (outsider) come and pray toward the Temple, grant their prayers for Your glory
2. When the nation goes to war against their enemies … grant their prayers and uphold their cause.
3. When people sin and repent … forgive and restore them.
Beginning in Chapter 7, when Solomon finished praying, the text states that “fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple! What a powerful manifestation … revelation of God in response to prayer! The people saw the power of God fall, knelt with their faces to the ground, worshiped, and gave thanks to God. And then an incredible time of sacrifice and worship followed these events over the next seven days. And this sets the stage for our verse:
2 Chronicles 7:11-16 (NIV)
11 When Solomon had finished the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had succeeded in carrying out all he had in mind to do in the temple of the Lord and in his own palace, 12 the Lord appeared to him at night and said: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices. 13 “WHEN I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. 16 I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.
Did you note the word “when” in Verse 13? It indicates that God will engage or allow His natural creation to bring affliction to His people. We could view the ensuing suffering and consequence as judgment for sin; but perhaps, the purpose of God is to recapture our attention. Maybe these things “happen” because of sin … our sinful nature … and God wants us to recognize we have offended Him; that we have transgressed His commandments and need to repent. He desires us to repent, to seek forgiveness, and to receive restoration. It is not about what God allows to happen to us; it is about our response to God’s correction and discipline! It is about our hearts … our sorrow … our reverence and love for God. Whatever happens … whatever we observe or encounter in our physical life … it should prompt reflection and repentance and restoration in our spiritual life. As Solomon prayed:
2 Chronicles 6:28-31 (NIV)
28 “When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when enemies besiege them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come, 29 and when a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people Israel—being aware of their afflictions and pains, and spreading out their hands toward this temple— 30 then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive, and deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know the human heart), 31 so that they will fear you and walk in obedience to you all the time they live in the land you gave our ancestors.
What you and I do in prayer … how we respond to God in whatever situation or circumstance He brings into our lives … impacts relationship with Him and reflects our faith in Him. It means that we should keep a humble spirit and attitude. It means that we should realize we are not perfect and need to repent and confess our sins to Him. God wants us to carefully observe His commands … and to endeavor to fulfill His will in our lives. (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:6; 11:22) But when we fail, we need to see it. We need to recognize it and respond in humility and transparency. As the Apostle John affirmed: “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (Cf. 1 John 1:9) Father God wants us to enter His presence and to seek Him. He is willing to hear … willing to forgive … willing to heal. But His response is conditional. It is conditioned upon our willingness to humble ourselves; to pray; to seek His face; and to turn from our sinfulness. This is the key to effectiveness in prayer. This is the message for the Prodigal … for the wayward and lost! God wants the attention of His people, and He will allow adversity to accomplish His desire.
So in our prayer time, let us humble ourselves and seek God while He is near. While we are still and focused, let us repent of every sin that offends and separates us from intimate fellowship with God. And let us give thanks to God for Lord Jesus Christ … for His atoning sacrifice and redemption. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; yet God did not leave us in a desolate place of hopelessness. God is far too concerned about the destructive power of sin and its assault our well-being. So He laid the iniquity of us all upon His Son to rescue us from the dominion of darkness and to bring us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. (Cf. Isaiah 53:6; Colossians 1:13) Yes, let us praise God today for His mercy and grace. And may we fear God with all reverence and walk in the obedience of faith. As Paul urged: “Whatever happens, let us conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ. (Cf. Philippians 1:27)
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him. ~ 1 John 5:14-15
We have been talking about being faithful in prayer; and this verse reviews some appropriate parameters of prayer….
First of all, we need to realize that asking God for anything must certainly be aligned with His will. For why would God grant anything that is contrary to His will and desire for us? Think about that for a moment. He allows or permits us to have thoughts and to conduct ourselves against His leading, guidance, and the precepts of His Word. But if we ask Him to do so in prayer, it is not something that He will grant us. No, John tells us that we must ask according to His will and He will hear us….
Therein lies the challenge for us. If we want to know if our prayers will be answered … if we want to have confidence when approaching God in prayer … the key will be to know His will! This means we need to have an understanding of what the will of God might be in order to have confidence that we will receive what we ask. So some thoughts arise here as I mediate on this verse. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, we learn that God is to be approached with reverence and to acknowledge His authority over heaven and earth:
Matthew 6:9-13 (NIV)
9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
Luke 11:1-4 (NIV)
1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Our Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one’”
What is the difference between “your kingdom come” and “your will be done?” Is not His kingdom … His sovereign rule in accordance with His will? I sense that asking for His kingdom to come so that His will is done is the point … the application. The kingdom of God must first come to our hearts in order for our thoughts to be changed so that our behaviors (conduct) will change. We know Jesus as Savior but we know Jesus as Lord also. We must surrender all to Jesus if we are to ever to know His will and to ask according to it. So what John shared is consistent with what Jesus taught…. Paul weighs in on this point as well; explaining that the intercessory prayer of the Spirit is in accordance with the will of God.
Romans 8:26-27 (NIV)
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
So what would be some examples of approaching God according to His will? Do we have anything explicit in the Word of God to guide us in prayer according to His will? Well, the Bible is filled with the will of God – expressed as His commandments, statutes, ordinances, and precepts. And we know that with the law comes the knowledge of sin (Cf. Romans 3:20) because sin is the transgression of God’s law by definition. (Cf. 1 John 3:4) Paul reasoned that whatever is not of faith is sin. (Cf. Romans 14:23) So when we sin, we are not acting in accordance with the will of God. Thus, God will not answer a prayer that leads to sin; rather, His desire is for our obedience … our holiness.
2 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV)
8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not willing that any should perish, but that everyone should come to repentance.
John 6:29 (NIV)
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.”
John 6:40 (NIV)
For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (NIV)
3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the unbelievers, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you His Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-19 (NIV)
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.
1 Peter 2:15-16 (NRSV)
15 For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish.16 As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil.
So, I am confident that anyone who prays to be obedient … to repent and believe in His Son … to receive salvation through Jesus will receive answered prayer. I am sure that anyone who prays for sanctification will experience that process in their heart. I am certain that God receives our thanksgiving and praise in prayer. And I believe when you pray to do the right thing, God will hear you. But what about prayers and requests that are improper … even asking in opposition to the will of God? The Apostle James addressed this matter when he wrote:
James 4:1-4 (NASB)
1What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? 2 You desire (lust) and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4 You adulterous people, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
It is probable that if we ask anything according to our own will, God will not be inclined to hear. Unless our personal will conforms to the revealed will of God, John indicates that God will not hear that prayer. Silence is the response … the answer. Indeed, James indicates that prayers focused on ourselves or our worldly passions are in opposition to God and offensive to Him. He compares such prayers to infidelity and unfaithfulness. The Prophet Isaiah makes similar commentary:
Isaiah 59:1-3 (NIV)
1Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear. 2 But your iniquities have separatedyou from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you,so that He will not hear. 3 For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wickedness.
So what is the application here? Confidence in prayer stems from confidence in faith! Anyone who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) We cannot be double-minded or waiver when we approach God in prayer. James gives us this admonition: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”(Cf. James 1:5-8) Likewise, James instructed: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
As we can see, doubt or unbelief can be as great a hindrance to prayer as any other sin. So, trusting God at His Word … asking according to His Will … and believing you have what you ask are great steps to take when it comes to prayer. This is what Jesus taught as well: “So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” Indeed, our prayers will be heard when we position ourselves within these parameters of prayer that God has revealed to us. And I hope this study will encourage you in your prayer time. Be bold and courageous … and believe!
So Now You Know….
Have a Blessed Day!
1 John 5
Faith in the Incarnate Son of God
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 6 This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement. 9 We accept human testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God accepts this testimony. Whoever does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because they have not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.
16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.
18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. ~ Romans 12:12
Perhaps our verse is a timely word … as events continue to unfold that bring us ever closer to our day of full redemption … complete salvation. Paul urges us to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. I cannot think of any greater advice for believers in these days of disorder and darkness. For what we sense in our spirits is very real; and Paul explains these feelings in some detail … that we might understand and find comfort in the love of God who will work all things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose:
Romans 8:18-28 (NIV)
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope. 21 For the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, with those who have been called according to His purpose.
While all three of these exhortations are important to practice, I especially want to encourage all of us to be faithful in prayer. Yes, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to pray for you when you are not sure what to pray or how to pray. For the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans … but God understands what is being said and what is in your heart so that your prayer will be in accordance with His will. And His will is to cause all things to work for our good. What has been meant for evil … God Himself will work for good in your life and mine. Yes, the Lord Jesus will bring us through this present darkness and fulfill His promise. He will come! He will return for us! At the right time … when all hope might seem lost … Jesus will appear and we will meet Him in the air. Those who have died will be resurrected … and those who are alive will be changed.
John 14:1-6 (NIV)
1“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.”
John 11:21-27 (NIV)
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.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NIV)
13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Luke 21:25-36 (NIV)
25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
Yes, Jesus told us to ALWAYS be on the watch … and to pray two petitions:
1. That we may be able to escape all that is about to happen
2. That we may be able to stand before the Son of Man
Jesus also taught us to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Cf. Matthew 26:41) And Paul urge believers to: “Devote yourselves to prayer – being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message … so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ….” Yes, we need to be faithful in prayer for those who preach the Gospel … for those who will be persecuted and imprisoned for preaching the truth in love … for those who will be sharing the light of God with others … that each will articulate and proclaim it clearly! And we should be wise in the way we act towards non-believers and make the most of every opportunity we have to share the love of God. Our conversation should always be full of grace and seasoned with salt so that we may know how to answer everyone. (Cf. Colossians 4:2-6)
Indeed, the day is approaching. It is a time for faith to triumph over fear. It is a time for us to be faithful in prayer for the prodigals … for the wayward and the lost. It is a time for harvest … for the Word of God to be preached … for the message of Christ to accomplish faith unto salvation. “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (Cf. 1 Peter 4:17) So let us heed these words of Jesus:
Luke 12:35-40 (NIV)
35 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when He comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for Him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when He comes. Truly I tell you, He will dress Himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. 38 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if He comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. 39 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.”
So Now You Know….
Have a Blessed Day!
Living Sacrifices to God
12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is yourreasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Serve God with Spiritual Gifts
3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let usprophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Behave Like a Christian
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Lord. 20 Therefore, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.