What No Human Mind Conceived

1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love Him—

Our Verse of the Day has profound significance for the prophetic word concerning the Gospel and the work of salvation for which Jesus was sent by the Father into this world to rescue us … to redeem us … to save us! When I look at the world around me, I am encouraged by the hope of the Gospel and the promises of God.  In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul affords us some context into why he quotes Isaiah 64:4. So I would like to take a look at what the prophet heard from God and then see how Paul applies it to our faith in Christ….

Isaiah 64:1-9 (NIV)

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him. You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember your ways. But when we continued to sin against your ways, you were angry. How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. No one calls on your name or strives to lay hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us and have given us over to our sins. Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Do not be angry beyond measure, Lord; do not remember our sins forever. Oh, look on us, we pray, for we are all your people.

As I read this portion of Scripture, I realized that more context was needed, so I went back and read Isaiah 62 and Isaiah 63 to understand more of the plea before God to make His presence known. Isaiah presents a picture of the coming wrath of God, His Day of Vengeance, and the reason for His indignation; but then he shifts focus to reflect on the redemption and salvation of those who are called by His name. He speaks of the vindication of God’s people and the coming Savior (Messiah) who will accomplish it. There are allusions to the rebuilding and restoration of Jerusalem … the dwelling place of God among His people. This certainly provided more context as I approached our Verse of the Day because I believe Isaiah was trying to emphasize how God works on behalf of His people … even when they are not always able to comprehend what He is doing for them.

In Isaiah 62:5, the prophet could foresee a restored relationship between God and His people. He described it as a marriage: “As a young man marries a young woman, so shall your sons marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” This imagery made me think of Christ and His bride – the Church. Jesus would use this same metaphor to describe the intimate nature of His relationship with believers. (Cf. Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:34-35) And Jesus uses it as well to speak about His future coming (when the bridegroom who was taken from them returns) in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Cf. Matthew 25:1-13).

In addition, Paul applied this same metaphor to express the relationship of believers with the Lord Jesus. In Ephesians 5:25-32, Paul admonished: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy; cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church (a glorious bride), without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of His body. “For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Citing Genesis 2:24) This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the Church.

And therein lies what I believe is the connection to our Verse of the Day.  The mystery of Christ and His Church … the relationship between the Son of God and His Bride. It is no longer a mystery! God has revealed this wisdom and insight to the hearts of believers through His Holy Spirit. I love how Paul articulates the mystery:

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (NIV)

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” (Citing Isaiah 64:4) — the things God has prepared for those who love Him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 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. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” (Citing Isaiah 40:13) But we have the mind of Christ.

When those who place their faith in Christ Jesus are born of God, they receive the Holy Spirit as an indwelling part of their being … the seal of their redemption. And the Spirit instills the life and mind of Christ within us! As Jesus taught: “When He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me that which He will make known to you.” (Cf. John 16:13-15)

When Paul asserted that “we have the mind of Christ,” I believe he is referencing the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit; likewise, no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. Yet, God has given us His Spirit to know these things … yes, the deep things of God! He enables us to understand His will … the Gospel … the life purpose of Christ Jesus … His plan of redemption and salvation … His great mercy and love … His gift of eternal life. All these things are understood through the Spirit and cannot be discerned without Him. This is why the Scriptures … the Word of God … becomes alive in us as the Spirit guides us into all the truth!

When Isaiah prophesied: Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him, I think his vision was set upon the coming Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan! If you turn back one more chapter and read Isaiah 61, I think you will agree. Jesus quoted its first three verses when He began His public ministry as a declaration of His identity … as the One whom the Father has sent to the world to fulfill this prophetic word. Indeed, the Gospel has been hidden from ancient times, but God revealed it to the Prophet Isaiah beforehand … and it has been fulfilled through the life of our Lord Jesus! “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Cf. 1 Timothy 1:17)

My friends, we have been empowered to understand the deep things of God … the know the things that God has freely given us … namely the experience of redemption and eternal life within His Son. Indeed, no one can truly appreciate and embrace what God has given us except that the Holy Spirit makes it known to them. He is the One who shares the mind and thoughts of our Savior with us; and those thoughts are expressed in His Word! I believe it is imperative that we study the Word of God in order to know His thoughts … to receive His wisdom … to understand His passionate love for us. It is His Spirit that makes us aware of His presence within us … which is truly the greatest mystery for us to ultimately conceive!  Oh, Father, thank you for revealing what no mind could have ever conceived: the mystery of Yeshua Hamashiach – Your Only Begotten Son! He was the Word from the beginning (Cf. John 1:1) … the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world! (Cf. Revelation 13:8) … the faithful bridegroom coming for His bride. (Cf. Revelation 19:7) Lord Jesus be exalted forevermore! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” (Cf. Isaiah 65:17) for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. ~ Revelation 21:1-3

Love The Lord Your God…

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NIV)

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

Deuteronomy 11:13-16 (NIV)

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

Joshua 22:4-6 (NIV)

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

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

Matthew 22:35-40 (NIV)

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

Mark 12:28-31 (NIV)

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

Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)

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

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

1 John 5:1-5 (NIV)

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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

Worship In Spirit and Truth

John 4:24 (NIV)

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

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

Romans 12:1 (New International Version)

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

Romans 12:1 (English Standard Version)

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

Romans 12:1 (New American Standard Bible)

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

Romans 12:1 (New King James Version)

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

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

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

Isaiah 29:13-14 (NIV)

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

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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

The Struggle Is Real…

Ephesians 6:12-13 (NIV)

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

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

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

Matthew 16:21-23 (NIV)

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

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

Matthew 16:24-26 (NIV)

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

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

Matthew 5:38-45 (NIV)

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

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

1 Peter 3:8-18 (NIV)

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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

When You Are Tempted…

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

James 1:12-15 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 8:2-5 (NIV)

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

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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

Know The Truth…

John 8:31-32 (NIV)

To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

In our culture, it seems that many people have become uncertain of what is true. Indeed, it can be difficult to know what is truth and what is not when there is so much deception being promulgated around the world.  It comes in so many forms: misrepresentations; information filtered with slanted biases; half-truths; withheld information; and just down right lies. It could, in some cases, be unintentional, but I think in the majority of the time, people intend to deceive and manipulate others for their own purposes, personal gain, pride, or their own narcissism.

One thing that I believe we can all agree on is that there is a great confrontation going on in our nation and in the world between the truth and falsehood … between light and darkness.  We see it being played out every day in the media; on social platforms; and in our conversations with others.  And the intensity seems to have escalated during the past 2-3 years.  What can we make of all this conflict?  What can we be certain of in these unsettled and uncertain times in which we live? Well, Jesus affords us some insight with our Verse of the Day: 

John 8:25-36 (NIV)

25 “Who are you?” they asked. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have much to say in judgment of you. But He who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from Him I tell the world.” 27 They did not understand that He was telling them about His Father. 28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” 30 Even as He spoke, many believed in Him. 31 To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.33 They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” 34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

I believe we can conclude that the teaching of Jesus is truth. In fact, the whole Word of God is affirmed by Jesus to be truth! What Jesus said and shared with the world is what the Father instructed Him to do.  The Apostle John declared, “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. (Cf. John 1:14; 1:17) When we believe in Jesus … when we trust Him at His Word … we will know the truth! And it is the truth that will set us free from lives of sin and rebellion.  Indeed, when Jesus prayed for His disciples and for those who would believe in Him because of their testimony, He asked the Father to sanctify them to live in accordance with the truth; and then declared: Father, Your Word is Truth! (Cf. John 17:17) So, if we need a standard by which to know and judge what is truth, Jesus has confirmed the truth for us.

So, the best counsel I have for anyone who wants to discern what is truth in these turbulent times is to look into the Word of God, to look at Jesus, and come to the Light of the World. Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (Cf. John 12:46) And when asked by Pontius Pilate during his trial, Jesus responded: “The reason that I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (Cf. John 18:37) And we need to understand that Jesus promised to fill us with His Holy Spirit … the Spirit of Truth – who will guide us into all the truth. The Advocate will not speak on His own; rather, He will speak only what He hears – and He will tell us what is yet to come.” (Cf. John 16:13) Perhaps this is what prompted the Apostle John to write:

1 John 4:1-6 (NIV)

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Could this instruction for our spiritual discernment be made any clearer? To me, John is quite eloquent as he provides us the guidance to discern between truth and falsehood. And I am convinced this “test” of the spirits can afford us all the clarity we need to evaluate what false information is being propagated throughout the world now. My friends, it is imperative for us as believers to have a foundation of truth … the Word of God … both in our minds and in our hearts. It will equip us and empower us to navigate through the deception and darkness that permeates the culture of this world. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the sight of God. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 3:19)

Jesus said His followers would be in the world but not of this world.  He taught, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (Cf. John 15:19) And Paul advised: “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) And James affirmed: “God chose to give us birth through the Word of Truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all He created. (Cf. James 1:18) And so, I just felt impressed to remind us of all these things….

Ephesians 6:10-17 (NIV)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 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. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have tribulation. But be courageous! I have overcome the world.” ~ John 16:33

Called To Be Holy…

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV)

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

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

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

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (NIV)

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

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 (NIV)

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

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

John 17:13-19 (NIV)

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

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

Romans 8:5-11 (NIV)

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of His Spirit who lives in you.

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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

I Have Told You…

John 16:33 (NIV)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

When I read our Verse of the Day, I thought that it might be good to get some context. “I have told you these things….” What things? I want us to go back and look at what Jesus told His disciples that we might need in order to better understand the peace we can have in Him. When you read through the Gospel of John, you will find a great emphasis on the things that Jesus told His disciples. The Apostle John brings the words and teachings of Jesus to life in a way that draws us closer to Him … that makes Him personal and relatable. The intermittent commentary of John explains what is happening as Jesus speaks with heavenly wisdom and earthly conviction. And near the end of His ministry, as He prepared Himself and His followers for the cross, Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.” (Cf. John 8:28) And we have further affirmation of this testimony when John recorded:

John 12:44-50 (NIV)

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

Indeed, there are many things Jesus told His disciples which were recorded in prior chapters of this Gospel. Although I have reprinted some excerpts for us below, I encourage you to read Chapters 13-16 to view the entirety of what Jesus imparted in order to better understand His assurance of peace in the midst of the tribulation and persecution that will come to us who follow Him….

In John 13, we read about the Last Supper and Jesus preparing His disciples for the imminent events that were about to occur and would culminate in His arrest, trial, and crucifixion. He forewarned the disciples of what would take place, especially after He was gone; and He wanted to give them comfort and hope when afterwards they would eventually become scattered and lost in the confusion caused by His horrific death. Jesus began with these words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

John 14:1-4 (NIV)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You 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.”

John 14:15-18 (NIV)

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know him, for He lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

John 14:25-29 (NIV)

25All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. 28 “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.

John 15:9-11 (NIV)

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

John 15:18-21 (NIV)

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.

John 16:1-5a (NIV)

All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them. I did not tell you this from the beginning because I was with you, 5 but now I am going to Him who sent me.

John 16:19-20 (NIV)

19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask Him about this, so He said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

John 16:33 – Verse of the Day

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

There is more that could have been included from these chapters, but I believe these excerpts will afford you the context of the prophetic words Jesus is sharing with His disciples … and with us as well. Jesus poured out His heart … His love and concern … knowing what the disciples would soon be facing. He wanted them (and us) to know that they can have peace in Him … even after He is no longer physically presence on earth. Jesus forewarns that we will have trouble in this world because of our faith and devotion to Him. But He adds, “Be of good cheer! I have overcome the world.” We can take heart in His victory and comfort in His provision of grace to us. It is our intimacy with Jesus that will ultimately manifest itself as peace.

And so, as we face the physical troubles and spiritual challenges of the new year ahead, I pray that we will remember what Jesus told us: “In Him we can experience peace.” No matter what the trial or hardship might be, Jesus will give the grace to endure it … the power to overcome it … and the assurance of peace while we are in it … if we will but wholly trust Him at His word. Indeed, to experience peace in this world of tribulation, believers must cling to every word spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ. For there is nothing Jesus said, shared, or taught that did not come from the Father. And I am reminded that Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” (Cf. John 6:63)

My friends, let Jesus speak into your heart today! I am confident you will find the peace you need for the coming year and the inspiration to know Him with a greater passion! I will close with these final thoughts:

Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV)

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Come To Me and Rest…

Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

As the New Year approaches … a year declared to be a time for deliverance and healing, I believe our Verse of the Day aligns our thoughts with this mission of the Church.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Cf. Matthew 11:28-30) Yes, what every soul needs the most is to rest in Jesus!  He will lift the burdens of life from our shoulders. His yoke is easy; and Jesus will exert the greater strength when pulling that wearisome load with you.  You do not have to carry the burdens of life alone….  He is Healer! He is Deliverer! He is Redemption! He is Salvation! He is Restoration! He is Peace! He is Resurrection! He is Rest!  Indeed, the true compassion and love of God for you and I will not be found anywhere else other than Jesus!

Is this not the most perfect verse for the Church to summon those who have grown tired, burdened, and weary? Is that not the state of the unbeliever? Is that not the state of every prodigal? Herein lies the message of the Church to a lost world … the message we should declare to everyone who has wandered … to every lost and scattered sheep! Our Great Shepherd … the Good Shepherd … is calling His sheep to come home. Jesus says to each one: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest….

This brought to mind the Prophet Isaiah and his prophetic invitation to reconciliation with God:

Isaiah 55:1-4 (NIV)

1 Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. 4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples.

And this is the message Isaiah foretold us to take to the unbeliever, the lost, and the wayward:

Isaiah 55:6-11 (NIV)

6 Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is My Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

This is the word that God has sent for us to declare to those who are burdened and wearied and captive to thoughts of futility … to thoughts of unworthiness … to overwhelming thoughts of guilt and shame. God declares that His thoughts are not those thoughts. God declares He will have mercy on them … and will freely pardon! God declares His ability to overcome our inability. And His Word will not return void of accomplishment. Behold, we ourselves are fruit of the Gospel! For Isaiah foretold this great hope of healing:

Isaiah 57:15-19 (NIV)

For this is what the high and exalted One says— He who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. 16 I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me— the very people I have created. 17 I was enraged by their sinful greed; I punished them, and hid my face in anger, yet they kept on in their willful ways. 18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, 19 creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”

God knows all. There is nothing hidden from His sight! God has seen their ways, but He will heal them. He saw us and healed us! The Lord abides with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit. He will revive! He will restore! Yes, He will heal the brokenness in each of us! He will remove the deception and disillusion of sin! He will provide salvation! He will give eternal life! All these benefits – all these blessings are found in Christ Jesus! (Cf. Psalm 103) These are the messages of hope we must speak to those who are lost, isolated, and in need of His unfailing love….

It all starts with an invitation! Jesus said, “Come!” He was sent to seek and to save that which was lost. That is you and me. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) It is the open invitation God has ordained for us to share with the poor in spirit … the broken-hearted … the spiritually blind … and the weak in faith. We are commanded to go out into the streets, alleys, roads, and country lanes to find the wayward … the lost and scattered sheep who are weary and burdened and seeking rest for their souls. There is no rest apart from Jesus. There is no reconciliation except through Him. This is the appointed message we need to share. “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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 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.” (Cf. John 3:16-18)

So, I pray that we will be faithful in our resolve and relentless in our mission to bring hope to those who are without hope. I pray that as healing and deliverance become our focus for the coming year, we will discipline ourselves to be studying the Word of God … growing in the knowledge of His will. Indeed, His will is for us to rest in the finished work that Jesus accomplished on the cross for us. Oh, may we help others to experience the rest that we enjoy as believers…. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

I AM the Gate…

John 10:7-10 (NIV)

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

As we continue to look at the “I AM” claims of Jesus, our Verse of the Day brings another focus of His identity for us to consider during this season of Advent.  Jesus declared that He is the GATE for God’s people (sheep); and I believe the purpose is to signify that He is the “entry point” or “opening” for us to enter to the field of true life … eternal life.  Some translations use the word “door” in place of “gate” in the verse, but either word evokes the concept that He is the place of “entrance” that God has provided for us to receive abundant life.

When Jesus foretold His disciples that He would soon be leaving this world, He affirmed to them, “You know the way to the place where I am going.” But Thomas questioned Jesus and said to Him, “Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”  Jesus answered him and said, “I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:4-6) So even in this context, Jesus continued to affirm that He is the entrance, door, gate, or way to enter into the place that He has prepared for those who love Him….

I just love these parables … these spiritual metaphors that Jesus used to communicate His divine identity to the people. The imagery is easily understood and relatable.  I know this scene firsthand as my grandfather raised sheep on his farm; and I can remember him calling them from the hillside to gather them and lead them through a gate into another pasture or to the barn.  Indeed, they knew the sound of his voice.  My presence would sometimes startle them, but they would come to my grandfather and follow him because they knew him.  I often think about those youthful days whenever I read this passage of scripture because it resonates with my experiences on the farm….

Again, as we meditate on Jesus during this season of Advent, it is my prayer that His “I AM” claims will fully reveal to us WHO was born in Bethlehem that calm, silent night. The Son of God … the Word of God … became flesh and made His dwelling among us. He was sent by the Father to be the supreme witness of His Being … to reveal His Identity … and to bring us to faith in the GREAT I AM! Indeed, Jesus is everything He claimed to be, and all we need to do is believe Him.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being…. ~ Hebrews 1:3