I Want to KNOW What Love Is

1 John 3:16 (NIV)

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.

After His resurrection, there is a period of 40 days that Jesus continued to minister to His disciples before His ascension into heaven.  It was during this time that Jesus used occasions to teach the disciples about the realities of His supernatural, eternal presence.  He expounded on all the prophetic scriptures that revealed His identity; and He emphasized the ordained purpose of His life … the reason for which He was sent. Our Verse of the Day captures a great truth that Jesus desires each one of us to attain from our personal encounter with Him; namely, the truth of God’s unfathomable love for those He created in His image …  and all of His creation. Indeed, we find this truth repeated in the inspired writings of the New Testament authors.  John wrote: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. (Cf. John 3:16) And Paul wrote: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8)

What the Apostle John affirms here is that the sacrificial death of Jesus is how we KNOW what love is!  Jesus Christ defines the love of God in terms that we have yet to fully comprehend. Yet, Jesus assures us that this truth can be known and understood by us. Consider the following text:

John 17:20-26 (NIV) ~ Excerpt from the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus

20 “My prayer is not for them (the apostles) 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. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Yes, we CAN know God and know His love because of Jesus Christ … His Son.  The veil covering the holy place in the temple was torn in two … opening our access … revealing our capacity to know the God who created us in His image.  And what Jesus was sent to do was to reveal the Father and to make Him known.  Because of Jesus, we can know God … His Being and His passionate love for us!  Paul understood this revelation; and his prayer for the Ephesian believers encompassed a deep, heartfelt desire for them (and us) to KNOW “this love that surpasses knowledge.”

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp (comprehend) how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

What is the lesson for us? God has spoken His love for us. God has revealed His love for us. God has shown and demonstrated His love for us. All the Father asks of us is to believe in His Son and to love one another as He has loved us! His will is not mysterious or unknown. His expectation of those created in His image can be understood. The reciprocation of His love can be offered. The only question for us is whether we truly desire in our hearts to make it actual in our lives.  For love requires us to humble ourselves … to subdue own wills … to exalt God above all else. And Christ Jesus, who ascended into heaven to become our High Priest before the throne of God, has demonstrated what this submission entails.  Indeed, “the Son, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Cf. Philippians 2:6-8)

When we humble ourselves and surrender our wills to become obedient … to pick up our cross daily … to die to sin … to believe God at His Word … to see God through the person of Jesus; I am persuaded that we will intimately experience this love that surpasses knowledge and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  We will have the capacity to love others as we have been loved. Indeed, that is the purpose of God for our lives … to complete His love.  The Apostle John shared these insights with us.  And so, I will close and recite this familiar passage for today:

1 John 4:7-17 (NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Fool and The Foolish

Psalm 14:1 (NIV)

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

Perhaps it was a play on words – April Fool’s Day – but our Verse of the Day sheds light on a real issue that we face in the proclamation of the Gospel. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Unbelief is the opposition of the spiritual forces of darkness … and the greatest transgression of all! Does it not speak to the times we are living in this current generation? Scripture has a great deal to say about foolish people … and the consensus of the truths presented is that those who are fools, those who act foolishly, separate themselves from God and from His blessings. There are several passages in Scripture that corroborate the same message that reverence for God is the beginning of knowledge, but foolish people despise wisdom and instruction. (Cf. Proverbs 1:7)

Psalm 14 (See also Psalm 53)

1 The fool (a morally deficient person) says in his/her heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. 2 The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. 4 Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the Lord. 5 But there they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous. 6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge. 7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

Proverbs 1:20-33 (NIV)

20 Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; 21 on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: 22 “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? 23 Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. 24 But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, 25 since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, 26 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you— 27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. 28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, 29 since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. 30 Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, 31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. 32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; 33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

Here in Old Testament wisdom literature, we see an emphasis on the knowledge of God … of the awareness and understanding that He is real and expresses Himself to us and reveals Himself to us.  God has made Himself known through His Creation … through His Word … through His Spirit.  But the fool outright rejects the existence of God.  The fool walks in unbelief and denial of the truth. But the Spirit of God is active through the Word of God.  “Indeed, the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before Him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12-13) Yes, if someone wants to receive wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One, we must first repent at His rebuke.  THEN He will pour out His thoughts and make known His teachings. But there is consequence for those who continue to reject Him:

Matthew 7:21-29 (NIV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, 29 because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Matthew 25:1-13 (NIV)

1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with Him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 12 “But He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ 13 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

In both of these passages, we see the word “foolish” use to describe people who encountered Jesus … who knew Him … yet they did not remain steadfast to His word. The foolish were among those who heard His words. They understood what He was saying; and yet, they did not put them into practice. It was not a matter of misunderstanding; rather, it was an attitude of indifference on the part of the hearer.  The prompting of the Holy Spirit for repentance was rejected.  I wonder who they called on when their lives came to ruin? Likewise, the virgins knew the Bridegroom would be coming for the marriage supper of the Lamb. But they had not prepared themselves for His arrival. They were foolish due to their complacency…. And the Apostle Paul warned of the darkness and deception of foolishness as well:

Romans 1:18-25 (NIV)

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

As I indicated above: Any lapse in faithfulness equates to foolishness. But unbelief in God … in His Word … in His Majesty and Holiness … defines the fool! The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” And unbelief separates the fool from God. The fool neither glorifies nor worships God nor does the fool give thanks to Him. Their hearts are darkened … rebellious … and filled with iniquity. Paul will go on to further explain in Romans 1:28-29 that God gives the fools “over to a depraved mind so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity.” So there is a difference between acting foolish and being a fool. Perhaps this is why Jesus warned that anyone who says to a brother or sister in Christ, “You fool!” – will be in danger of the fire of hell. The word has a clear definition and meaning when the context of Scripture is applied to it….

I share this “insight” because we might consider that a prodigal is a ‘fool’. But I think the prodigal (and many of those whose faith is weak) may better be described as “acting foolishly” … behaving as though God is not around or not watching their lives. Perhaps they forget, but God is very aware! “From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind;from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth—He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” (Cf. Psalm 33:13-5) Yet God is still calling out to them! Through His Spirit … through His Church, the Lord Jesus is reaching out to the prodigals … to those who are acting foolishly … to those who have turned their hearts away from God … and He is crying out to them: Stop! Watch! Return! For surely God is stopping the earth in its tracks at this very moment of history! And I believe He is telling all of us to stop … to “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Cf. Psalm 46:10) And I believe Jesus is telling us as well to watch! “Watch therefore, for your do not know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Cf. Matthews 25:13) And as the world watches, I believe He is proclaiming: “I AM He!”

Every prodigal has the opportunity to turn from the darkness that has taken hold and deceived them. Indeed, Light has come! “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (Cf. John 3:21) And so now is the time for the prodigal to return…. Now is the time of repentance … the time to change direction … the time to forsake foolishness … the time to respond to the Spirit of Wisdom. It is time to walk in the light as He is in the light … so that we have fellowship with one another … because the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. (Cf. 1 John 1:7) This is the message for prodigals and to all who have become foolish. We, the Body of Christ, have been chosen to be witnesses! We are to lead out those who have eyes but are blind and those who have ears but are deaf. We have been anointed to preach the good news; sent to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim liberty to those who are captive; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God…. (Cf. Isaiah 61:1-3) But we must do so with gentleness:

2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NIV)

20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

So how do we avoid foolish and stupid arguments … and the quarrels they produce? How can we be gentle to those whom we pray God will grant the gift of repentance? Well, what led you and I to repentance? Was it not the kindness of God? (Cf. Romans 2:4) And so, let the redeemed of the Lord tell their stories! Share how you cried to the Lord in your trouble and how He saved you and gave you peace. There are no doctrinal arguments for your testimony … because the love of God surpasses understanding. It cannot be argued or explained. It can only be experienced and shared. So share your own authentic encounter with Jesus Christ, and let the Holy Spirit take it from there…. I encourage you to read Psalm 107. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those He redeemed from the hand of the foe,those He gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south….”

A Prodigal Excerpt:

17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. 18 They loathed all food (bread of life – word of God) and drew near the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. 20 He sent out His Word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave. 21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind. 22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.

When we speak about the wonderous works of God … the loving deeds of the Lord … we proclaim the will of God and rejoice in Him. This is our invitation … this is the invitation of the Lord: “To taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Cf. Psalm 34:8) And I love the metaphors the writer used in Psalm 107. Some wandered … some sat in darkness … some became fools … and some were tested with the storms of life. I encourage you to mediate on what each metaphor is revealing to our own hearts … for we can each see a reflection of ourselves in each one! We, too, had spiritual oppression and opposition to overcome. And in truth we conclude: “For we have all been saved by grace through faith … and this is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God … not of works so that none of us can boast.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9)

When it comes to ministering to the prodigal, gentleness and kindness are the themes that come to my mind. They are not to be treated as fools who believe there is no God; rather, they just need to come to their senses … to see the light of life … to see Jesus … to encounter “I AM He.” I believe the return of those called by His name is happening as we speak … as we pray for their repentance. It will occur not because we have elegant orators, anointed prophets and teachers, or because we are endued with the power of the Spirit; rather, I believe it will occur because of sincere love manifested through our lives. Oh, please do not misunderstand me. To be sure, the anointings and gifts of the Holy Spirit have their ordained roles for the building and equipping of the Body under the headship of Christ Jesus, but I truly sense that it is genuine love that must fill the Church first.  Love is HOW the Word of God through the Spirit of God will bring the prodigals home…. So, I will end with this thought:

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 (NIV)

1If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

What Does God Require?

Micah 6:8 (NIV)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God

Keeping with the theme of our response to God and His offer of salvation to the world, this OT Verse of the Day addresses the same theological concept.  God has made known to us His Being.  He has revealed His Way, His Truth, and His Life in His Son, Jesus. The salvation offered by God requires a response to this revelation … to His Son! And God has made it clear that He expects His creation to respect and revere Him. 

Micah declares: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” And the Prophet Isaiah admonishes: “Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” (Cf. Isaiah 1:16-17) Both prophets have expressed the heart of God and His will for our conduct … our response to Him.  The Apostle James reasoned:

James 2:14-24 (NLT)

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? 17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” 19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? 21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” (Cf. Genesis 15:6) He was even called the friend of God. (Cf. Isaiah 41:824 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

And we should just simply look at what Jesus taught in this regard:

Luke 6:43-49 (NLT)

43 “A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 44 A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. 45 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say (and do) flows from what is in your heart. 46 “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t DO what I say? 47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house right on the ground, without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

So, this is the application … the challenge to us that I see in our Verse of the Day: Put Faith into Action! Make it genuine! We can talk about ministry for others, but doing ministry is what matters. It is the faith-generated response to our salvation! Indeed, in view of God’s mercy, we should offer ourselves as living sacrifices – holy and pleasing to God. (Cf. Romans 12:1) As Paul explained to believers in Ephesus: “We are God’s workmanship. He has created us in Christ Jesus to do the good works which He planned and prepared for us long ago.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Yes, faith is about “doing” the works of God … not for merit or His favor to receive salvation; rather, it energizes our “response” to His mercy and redemption and salvation that He accomplished for us in His Son, Christ Jesus. So, I pray that we will truthfully be about the Father’s business in 2021 … preparing ourselves daily in prayer and bible study to be “vessels for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:21)

James 1:21-25 (NLT)

21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are deceiving yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Have a Blessed Day!

How to Be Blessed

Psalm 1:1-2 (NIV)

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night.

Our Verse of the Day opens the Book of Psalms with a pointed observation about our behavior and conduct with respect to our relationship with God and those around us.  The first word is “Blessed”.  In the context, this word refers to a state of enjoying happiness, pleasure, contentment, or favor. And so, it follows, that the person who follows the instruction provided here will experience such a state of being in their life.  So let’s exposit this passage further.

Blessed is the one who does not:

1.         Walk in step with the wicked

2.         Stand in the way that sinners take

3.         Sit in the company of mockers

Blessed is the one who:

1.         Takes delight is the Law of the Lord

2.         Meditates on His Law day and night

The Psalmist asserts that in order for a person to experience a state of happiness, contentment, and favor in life, he or she must consider the contrasts of mindset that are presented to the reader.  The admonition ultimately notes the difference between a person who consecrates themselves from unholy conduct through obtaining a knowledge and understanding of God. If you have the time, I encourage you to read Job 28 for a discourse on the origin of wisdom – the ability to discern between two paths of action.  It concludes: “And He (God) said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28) I surmise that King David and his son, Solomon, both embraced the instruction of this ancient source when each concluded: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.” (Psalm 111:10) And: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

As we have mentioned before, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7) So we must have a source of knowledge and instruction available to us in order to correct our course if we should ever wander into the path of the wicked (walk); begin to desire or entertain sinful behavior (stand); or embrace those who oppose God and His righteous commands (sit).  The Apostle James articulated this sequence of the inclinations of the thoughts of the heart quite well when he wrote: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived (walk), it gives birth to sin (stand); and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death (sit).  I think there is a similar analogy found in Romans 1:18-28 where Paul describes the path of descent (walk, stand, sit) into a place of total darkness; and it can happen in the human experience when there is no reverence for God….

The application is to delight in the Word of God … to meditate on it constantly. The revelation of His Will through His Word is how we come to a position of reverence. “In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome,for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (Cf. 1 John 5:3-4) Likewise, as Paul admonished: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Cf. Romans 12:2) Indeed, if a person wants to be blessed in life, he or she will have to realize that the path to happiness, contentment, and favor lies within the wisdom and authority of God’s Word!  When we submit ourselves to Christ Jesus as Lord and Savior, the journey of faith begins and we will experience blessing as God has intended since the beginning.

Psalm 1 (NIV)

Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Silence the Foolish

1 Peter 2:15-16 (NIV)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

As I read our Verse of the Day, I began to think about the significance of its message for believers – both for 1st Century Christians and for us in this current generation as well. I believe Peter affords a challenging insight into how we should conduct ourselves in a world that we have been called out of by the Lord Jesus.  So I have reprinted a larger section of the passage to give us the context:

1 Peter 2:11-23 (NIV)

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the unbelievers that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” (Cf. Isaiah 53:9) 23 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.

I have emphasized the “applications” I want us to see and consider.  First, Peter states it is the will of God for us to “do good”.  Righteous conduct is not optional for Christians.  We are to do what is right in all situations. This includes both our actions and our words! And the reason is that by doing good we should silence those who in essence oppose God.  It is good conduct that God seeks in us.  We are to show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, and honor the highest offices of government which God has established.  And if we should suffer for doing good, and endure it, this is commendable before God.  Peter goes on to provide the example of our Lord Jesus in how to conduct ourselves in the face of opposition.  We should not return insult for insult.  We do not retaliate; rather, we wait upon the Lord who said: “It is mine to avenge. I will repay.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30)

Deuteronomy 32:34-41 (NIV)

34 “Have I not kept this in reserve and sealed it in my vaults? 35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” 36 The Lord will vindicate His people and relent concerning His servants when He sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free. 37 He will say: “Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in, 38 the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up to help you! Let them give you shelter! 39 “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. 40 I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: As surely as I live forever, 41 when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.

Romans 12:9-19 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Hebrews 10:26-35 (NIV)

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

So, I pray that we will embrace the will of God for those who believe in Him. His will is for us to “do good” as a testimony to those who oppose Him. God has given salvation and eternal life to those who believe; and He will judge those who are disobedient … those who disdain the blood of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ … those who resist and insult the grace of the Holy Spirit. Yes, God will judge His people.  We just need to do what is right and let God take care of the rest! So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Eternal Perspective…

1 Peter 1:24-25 (NIV)

For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.

I love this verse because it affords us some spiritual perspective on how to view this gift of human life we have received from God.  In this opening chapter of his first epistle, we see Peter contrasting the temporal circumstances of our lives with the eternal inheritance that awaits us in heaven. He presents a comparison of things that are “perishable” with those that are “imperishable”. This is a common prophetic message shared by the apostolic writers of the New Testament. “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, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 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. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Peter 1:3-6)

Indeed, as we walk this journey of faith, we come to a knowledge of this truth: “Through Him (Jesus) you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:21) Jesus is the originator (author) and completer (finisher) of our faith. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) Yes, with confidence and conviction, we can affirm His declaration: “I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6) And I feel that these points of reference can provide a useful context for us to examine the larger context of our verse:

1 Peter 1:17-25 (NIV)

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners in exile here (or as sojourners on earth) in reverent fear18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the pure heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” (Quoting Isaiah 40:6-8) And this is the Word that was preached to you.

Here we see the juxtapositions of perishable and imperishable … temporary and eternal. Our temporary bodies are perishable. We are like the grass that soon withers.  But our spiritual beings are imperishable.  Our souls, reserved for resurrected bodies, will inherit eternal life. Paul addressed this issue of faith as well:

1 Corinthians 15:35-57 (NIV) – The Resurrection Body

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being” (Quoting Genesis 2:7); the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (Quoting Isaiah 25:8) 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (Quoting Hosea 13:14) 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I realize that we could probably delve deeper into the theology, but I hope what is presented here will stir your thinking further on the temporal versus the eternal.  I believe how we envision the eternal will impact how we live in the present.  And this is the message of the Gospel:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) To perish is both a concrete physical and a potential spiritual reality. But to be clothed with the imperishable, one must be IN Christ Jesus.  Only in Him will we experience the immortal … the imperishable … and the eternal. Yes, the eternal is why we are commissioned to be ambassadors for Christ … to go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the truth! So it is important that every person comes to understand what is required to receive eternal life. And here is the instruction: “ Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

And so, I want to leave us with these two thoughts for application:

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

1I 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, 4who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NIV)

24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

A God Who Confides…

Psalm 25:14-15 (NIV)

The Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them. My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.

This verse spoke to me; and as I contemplated its message, it awakened me to a simple truth that perhaps should have always been apparent.  In Verse 14, David asserts that God confides in those who fear Him. The use of the word “confide” here has some strong implications.  As a transitive verb, it means to impart a secret with trust; to share something with another in confidence.  One definition put it this way: “To entrust; commit to the charge or knowledge of another.”  The English Standard Version (ESV) renders the translation: “The secret counsel of the Lord is for those who fear (reverence) Him, and He makes known to them His covenant.”  To me, this indicates “what” God reveals to those who love Him is His will, His promises, and His faithfulness!  And, perhaps, this affords a reason as to why so many people do not understand the love of God.  They simply do not fear (reverence or worship) Him.  It brings to mind this Scripture: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

The context of Psalm 25 gives this verse additional meaning.  David declares that his hope, his confidence, and his trust are in God alone. And, therefore, David asks God to teach him and guide his life under this covenant relationship God has revealed. He asks for mercy and forgiveness for all the sin in his life; knowing that God is loving and faithful towards those who keep His covenant. And so David affirms that God makes (an active, ongoing process) His covenant known and that he will experience deliverance and salvation from the God of love:

Psalm 25:4-15 (NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good. Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. 10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of His covenant. 11 For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. 12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. 13 They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land. 14 The Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them. 15 My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.

But as I read Verse 15, another passage of Scripture came to mind.  I wonder if you see any parallels in terms of personal relationship with God as presented in Psalm 25:

Hebrews 12:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily ensnares us. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son.” (Quoting Proverbs 3:11-12) Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Indeed, Father God delights to train those who love Him … those who fear Him in reverence and keep His covenant.  His covenant of love, that He has declared and made known through Christ Jesus, brings us to a genuine desire to share in His holiness. As the Apostle John affirmed: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when it is made known (when Christ appears) we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure (holy). Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that Jesus appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.” (Cf. 1 John 3:1-6)

So, I believe the application is clear. God has made known Himself and His will to us through His Word … spoken through His holy prophets of old, and in these last days, through His Son. (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-2) The New Covenant, revealed through His Son, the Messiah, has been declared and sealed. It cannot be changed! Indeed, the immutable atonement of our sin through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone; it is the righteousness and faithfulness of God revealed. (Cf. Romans 1:16-17) It is not veiled except to those who do not know God … those who do not reverence or worship the Father. As Paul has asserted: “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.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) So we need to be engaged in the spiritual battle … become intercessory prayer warriors … because the veil of darkness and the spirit of deception has invaded the minds of multitudes. As Jude exhorted us:

Jude 1:17-22 (NIV)

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Verses 22-23 probably refer to those in the church who are being influenced by false prophets and teachers (Cf. Matthew 7:15; 24:11; 24:24; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1). Those who begin to question the authority or veracity of Scripture; who begin to lose sight of “Apostolic truth,” “the most holy faith,” and “the faith once and for all given to the saints.” Believers must be proactive, not just reactive, in the protection and restoration of weak brothers and sisters. This verse is an admonition not to accept false teachers or doctrines of demons; but rather, to show the need of compassionate love and grace toward those who lack discernment or begin to waver in the faith. We are called to restore prodigals to the righteousness of God through faith (Cf. Romans 1:17).  We are to “snatch” or rescue unbelievers from a life of rebellion and the fire of judgment. (Cf. Isaiah 4:4; 66:16; Jeremiah 5:14; Amos 7:4; Malachi 4:1; Hebrews 10:27; 2 Peter 3:7) Yes, there is a need for us to tell unbelievers that whoever believes in Jesus is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (Cf. John 3:18)

I like how the Living Bible and the New Living translations have captured the message of Verses 22-23. So I will end with the thoughts inspired by their interpretations:

Jude 1:22-23 (The Living Bible)

22 Try to help those who argue against you. Be merciful to those who doubt. 23 Save some by snatching them as from the very flames of hell itself. And as for others, help them to find the Lord by being kind to them, but be careful that you yourselves aren’t pulled along into their sins. Hate every trace of their sin while being merciful to them as sinners.

Jude 1:22-23 (New Living Translation)

22 And you must reprove those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Light Has Come…

John 3:20-21 (NIV)

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

As I think about the divisions and struggles in various areas around our nation, I sense a common theme permeating those situations and circumstances; and I believe our verse today identifies the root of the evil we continue to witness: “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” I think this resistance to the light of the Gospel and the plan of salvation offered by God to His created beings (humans) stems from a lack of wisdom and discernment.  As Paul elaborated: “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.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) We think of light or enlightenment as the “wisdom” that comes from God. And as we have learned:

The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)

The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.  (Proverbs 9:10)


The fear (reverence) of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death. (Proverbs 14:27)

Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear (reverence) of the Lord evil is avoided. (Proverbs 16:6)

These are just a handful of verses that speak to the “requirement” of a close relationship with God in order to have access to HIS knowledge and wisdom for life … because He is the Father of creation. All LIFE exists through Him, in Him, and for Him. And His BEING is manifested to the world through His Son – Christ Jesus!  The Apostle John eloquently articulates this truth:

John 1:1-14 (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through Him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. 11 He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him. 12 Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 14 The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Apostle Paul tells us: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) And so, this is the problem that we see in our world … the lack of discernment and acceptance of the things that come from the Spirit of God. Perhaps this is what prompted Paul to write that 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. (Ephesians 6:12) So it seems to me the solution for the lack of discernment … the battle against deception … is to receive the light that comes from the Spirit of God.  And to receive God’s wisdom and knowledge, we must receive His Spirit.

John 3:3-8 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again … (born from above).” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You (everyone) must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

So now, let’s look at our Verse of the Day in the surrounding context, and I believe we will find the real solution to the roots of evil upending communities within our nation and around the world:

John 3:16-21 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s One and Only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Well, the solution to the discord, hatred, and division between people is the love of God … a love so deep and profound … and it can only be understood and received through Jesus Christ.  Whoever believes in Jesus for salvation will be changed by His light and live according to the truth He has revealed.  Jesus declared, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) When people encounter Jesus, they will find peace and unity through His love and grace. And I believe is why the Church has been commissioned to be ambassadors for Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) And Paul has given us who believe instruction in this regard … even to the relationships that should exist among believers.

Romans 15:1-7 (NIV)

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please Himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” (Quoting Psalm 69:9) For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Why is this important?  Well, if believers cannot even get along with each other … if there is no peace or unity among ourselves … what kind of message are we sending to unbelievers for whom Christ also died? How can we bring praise to God if we bite and devour each other? (Cf.  Galatians 5:15) If we cannot have the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, we will be ineffective ambassadors in my estimation. People watch what you do more than hearing what you say. Jesus gave us this commandment: Love each other as I have loved you. (Cf. John 15:12) So, we need to humble ourselves and our personal attitudes. Since Christ accepted us, He will accept those who come to Him even as we did … sinners saved by grace through faith. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) The key here is encouraging and building up the faith of others! Indeed, Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith! (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) “Consequently, faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

It is my hope we will see how this all fits together….  If we want to change things in our communities, we need to begin with change in our own hearts so that our lives are transformed and empowered … so that our local church is united and brings praise to God … so that our character and message is credible to an unbeliever. This is what love can do! If we want to emulate the mindset of Jesus, then we must deny ourselves, take up our cross each day, and follow Him. (Cf. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23) Then our light will shine like a city on a hill. It cannot be hidden. (Cf. Matthew 5:14) Maybe the light we manifest in the world will have the impact needed to change minds, thoughts, and hearts of unbelievers. For when we come to a knowledge of the truth, we will begin to walk in it … live by it … and be conformed to the image of Christ.  That is the desire of God for each one of us.  As Jesus affirmed, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Shabbat Shuvah…

1 John 2:1 (NIV)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

Yesterday and today, in Washington, D.C., there is a gathering … there is a call for the Body of Christ, the Church, to “RETURN” to the Lord our God!  The message is for repentance to fall upon every believer … for being too casual about sin … for being lukewarm in our hearts … for leaving our first love.  Indeed,  our concern should be about our own sins … the sin of apathy, the sin of hardness, the sin of injustice,  the sin of selfishness, the sin of pride, and yes, all the secret sins that lie within our hearts – yet exposed before God. As we point our fingers at the world around us, know that more fingers are directed at ourselves.  It reminds me of some familiar Scriptures that we know, but often fail to apply to our own hearts:

Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

1 “Judge (Condemn) not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment (condemnation) you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck (of sawdust) in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Romans 2:1-11 (NIV)

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 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.

Psalm 62:11-12 (NIV)

11 One thing God has spoken,   two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, 12     and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”; and, “You reward everyone  according to what they have done.”

Proverbs 24:10-12 (NIV)

10 If you falter in a time of trouble,   how small is your strength! 11 Rescue those being led away to death;  hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”  does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it?  Will He not repay everyone according to what they have done?

As we think about these words of judgment, they fall upon an appointed day.  For today is Shabbat Shuvah or the Sabbath of Return!  It is the Sabbath that falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  And in Hebrew, the word Shuvah is the root of the word teshuvah … which means “repentance”!  And that is the core concept of what today is about for the people of God. The call of repentance is the sound of the shofar – calling an assembly, a people united in fasting and prayer before God. The Scriptures read in the synagogues today are reprinted below for us:

Hosea 14

1 Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.” “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; 6 his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. People will dwell again in His shade; they will flourish like the grain; they will blossom like the vine— Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon. 8 What more has Ephraim to do with idols? I will answer him and care for him. I am like a flourishing juniper; your fruitfulness comes from me.” Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

Joel 2:15-27 (NIV)

15 Blow the trumpet (shofar) in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” 18 Then the Lord was jealous for His land and took pity on His people. 19 The Lord replied to them: “I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. 20 “I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.” Surely He has done great things! 21 Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! 22 Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. 23 Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. 24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. 25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm— my great army that I sent among you. 26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. 27 Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.

And so, I pray that we will surrender our hearts today and seek the face of God in repentance. For He has said: “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. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (2 Chronicles 7:13-16) Yes, the people of God, need to humble ourselves … we need to turn from our own wicked ways … and consecrate ourselves to the Lord. Then will He hear our prayers and supplications for our homes, for our communities, for our churches, for this nation … to forgive and heal our land. Yes, our sins and the sins of this nation can be covered.  We have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One.  It is His blood … the blood of atonement that redeems and restores us to the Father! That is the message of The Return! “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

He Watches Over You…

Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV)

I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

I have always loved this Psalm and the message it projects through vivid metaphors. It is a short Psalm, so I want to reprint it for us here:

Psalm 121:1-8 (NKJV)

I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip — He who watches over you will not slumber;
Indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you — the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

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.

The imagery produced here affords us with great truths regarding the care and concern God has for His people … the pinnacle of creation.  The hills or mountains represent the majesty and strength of God because they are visual reminders of His power.  But then notice how the psalmist moves his focus to personal engagement. The help God provides us is personal and ongoing.  The Father does not let you out of His sight. He will watch over your life. The Lord is your constant companion … your covering … your refuge. The Lord will keep you from all harm as He watches over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

I don’t know about you, but I need to embrace this assurance each and every day. I need to keep this knowledge at the forefront – that God is with me and watching over me and that He never ceases to protect me. So I encourage each of us to speak and to declare the faithfulness of God during our times of personal prayer. Thank the Lord for His ever-present help in times of trouble. Acknowledge that He keeps you close … as the apple of His eye. (Cf. Psalm 17:8) Yes, the one who dwells in the secret place of the Most-High God shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (Cf. Psalm 91:1) So, I pray that you and I will take comfort in His provision and take rest in His presence. Remember, the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. (Cf. Proverbs 18:10)

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NIV)

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Quoting Deuteronomy 31:6) So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Quoting Psalm 118:6-7)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!