You Are My Fortress…

Psalm 59:16-17 (NIV)

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.

Our Verse of the Day is a beautiful excerpt from Psalm 59.  David wrote this Psalm when King Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.  If you read the entire Psalm, you will see the context is plea for deliverance from his enemies.  It is a petition for God to deal with his enemies and to bring consequences for their evil intent.  But at the end of his pleas, David sings praise and thanksgiving to God for His power, love, and protection.

Though I find little eloquence or poetic language used in this Psalm, I do find a message of reliance upon God … a sense of dependence upon God … and a profession of faith and trust in His vindication.  My observation is that David sees God as sovereign and in control of the situations he faces, and He trusts God to protect him. David praises God because He is trustworthy to meet his needs; and he conveys two important aspects of how to exercise our faith when we are under duress: Prayer and Praise!

David reminds us to shift our focus from our circumstances to the power and purposes of God. “I will sing of Your strength.” This inspires me to remember that His power and strength are available to me. The resources of heaven are only a prayer away when I feel helpless to change the circumstances that I am going through. It reminds me that God provides His strength and grace to endure the situation and to persevere in faith. “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” (Cf. Isaiah 40:29) And Paul affirmed, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” (Cf. Philippians 4:13) And in 1 Corinthians 1:25, Paul shared, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” Yes, “God strengthens us with all power according to His glorious might so that we may have great endurance and patience.” (Cf. Colossians 1:11)

So, when you come under duress or under attack; when you face physical, emotional, or spiritual battles; when you feel overwhelmed and anxious about things beyond your control and it seems that nothing is going right in life (at least not according to your desires or expectations); simply ask God to deliver you! Share with God your concerns … your feelings … your hurts … your disappointments … your needs. There is an overarching purpose God is using in each situation or season of your life; and His purpose is to deepen your faith in Him … to build a foundation of trust in Him … to increase your reliance upon Him. As Paul affirmed: “We know that in all things that God works for the good of those who love Him; for those who have been called according to His purpose. (Cf. Romans 8:28)

And then … remember to praise Him. Praise Him because He is your fortress … your place of refuge. Praise Him because He is your strength.  You can rely upon Him to bring you through it!  He has promised to never leave you nor forsake you.  Trust Him!  God has your back … and He loves you far beyond all you can imagine or conceive. Yes, I am thankful that David was transparent and shared his own personal experiences to encourage us. I hope each of us will seek God with the same boldness that David did. You might just be surprised at what honest prayer and joyful praise might do in your life

My friends, we do not have to be shaken with all the problems and troubles that come into our lives. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. (Cf. Romans 8:37) So, I encourage us to embrace God’s love for us; to receive His strength through the Spirit; and to express in our hearts the delight of His fulfilled promises. Yes, sing of His strength! Yes, sing of His love! He is your fortress … your refuge … your strength! The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. (Cf. Proverbs 18:10) Indeed, your very prayers to Him acknowledge His sovereignty over your life and place you in a position of submission … of trust … of faith. Yes, God is glorified when you enter His presence and seek Him for every need and aspect of your life. That is His purpose … because He does not want to be a part of your life; He desires to be your life. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken. (Cf. Psalm 34:17-20)

Immanuel – God With Us…

Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel.

This prophetic word from Isaiah is probably familiar to most of us.  It is often associated with the miraculous conception of Jesus … through the power of the Holy Spirit upon Mary, a young virgin maiden, as recorded in Luke 1:26-38. Indeed, its fulfillment was accomplished through the birth of our Lord Jesus.  Let’s take a deeper look at the prophetic passage and its context:

Isaiah 7:10-17 (NIV)

1 When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it. Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub (whose name means a remnant will return) to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field. Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “‘It will not take place, it will not happen, for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’”

10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And Isaiah said, “Hear then, O House of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (which means God with us). 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!”

So, we see that King Ahaz, a king of Judah, was in a defensive battle against Pekah, the king of Israel, and Rezin the king of Syria, who had joined forces to lay siege to Jerusalem. The issue for King Ahaz was his lack of faith … his failure to trust God and His Word. Oh, how that resembles many of us in times of crisis and uncertainly … when we are feeling distress from our situations and circumstances.  I find it interesting that the Lord even prompted Ahaz to ask Him for a “sign” … for a “confirmation” of His Word. But Ahaz refused to ask … and so the Lord decided to give Ahaz His own sign of assurance. Thus, we have received this everlasting word from God: “He is with us!”

Through the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord told Ahaz to keep calm and not to fear. The Lord promised him the plans Aram, Rezin, and Pekah would not succeed. The Lord admonished him: If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’” But we learn from 2 Kings 16 that Ahaz did not believe the Lord, heed His Word, or follow His instruction; rather, Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, “I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” And Ahaz took the silver and gold found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace and sent it as a gift to the king of Assyria.The king of Assyria complied by attacking Damascus and capturing it. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death. (Cf. 2 Kings 16:7-9) Even worse, Ahaz went on to desecrate the temple with an altar like the one used to sacrifice to idols in Damascus. Unlike King David, Ahaz did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.

Why is this story important? Why is this prophecy of the sign God provided … a virgin giving birth to a son who would be “God with us” so crucial to our faith? For me, King Ahaz provides a solemn reminder of how our lack of trust in God and His Word leads to serious consequences.  He tells us not to fear. God tells us to believe Him. He assures us, “I AM with you.” And it is clear that if we do not stand firm with Him in faith, we will not stand at all.  Yes, there are consequences for disobedience. It will lead us into deception and darkness … it will lead to separation from God.

When we see Jesus as the fulfillment of Immanuel – God with us, then we will understand why the Apostle John wrote: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” And, “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 1:1, 14) Likewise, the inspired writer penned: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being….” (Cf. Hebrews 1:3) And Jesus affirmed, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (Cf. John 14:9) So here are some assurances we have from the Scriptures regarding the presence of God in our lives:

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:8

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Hebrews 13:5

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.”

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Whoever you are reading this today, the Father wants you to know – He is with you! He is for you! God has demonstrated His love for you in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) Indeed, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:10) My friend, this is your sign! This is the day of salvation! If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.  Do not be like King Ahaz and turn from God and His Word to you; rather, embrace it … embrace Him … embrace the truth that He will never leave you nor forsake you.  And, “If God is for you, who can be against you? (Cf. Romans 8:31)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

You Must Listen to Him…

Deuteronomy 18:15 (NIV)

The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to Him.

What a great verse for us during this season of Advent. We have been discussing the prophecies of the Coming One … the Messiah. We have been looking at the anticipation of the people for the Messiah for the past couple of weeks. We have examined the “I AM” claims of Jesus. Now, our Verse of the Day presents a prophetic word from Moses found in the OT Book of Deuteronomy. And we find its application … its fulfillment in Christ Jesus. Look at what Moses asserts: “A prophet like me!” This prophet would be a “leader” over the people. The Lord God will raise up (or exalt) this prophet. And Moses admonishes the people to “listen to Him.” Let’s look at the verse in its immediate context:

Deuteronomy 18:15-19 (NKJV)

15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ 17 “And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.

In surveying the Old Testament prophets that came after Moses, were there any that met the criteria: “a prophet like me?” Joshua (Yeshua in Hebrew) was certainly a great and mighty leader of the people who came after Moses. His name in Hebrew (same as Jesus in the Greek) indicates that he was a “savior” or “deliverer” of the people. Yet, Joshua did not fulfill the prophecy. He functioned in the role of leader, but not in the role of prophet. If we consider the major and minor prophets, we find that most functioned in the role of prophet, but not that of leader. So, to be like or similar to Moses, the Prophet to come would need to function in both roles as he did.

To me, King David, would have functioned in both roles because we have records of his prophetic role in the Psalms for example. Yet, King David, did not identify himself as “that prophet to come.” For King David himself anticipated and looked for the Messiah who would come … who would be savior of the people and ruler the world under the hand of God. In Psalm 110:1, David wrote of the Messiah’s reign: The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” So, who could this “prophet to come” be? It was a question that people asked for centuries. And when Jesus “arrived” there were people who asked Him, “Are you THAT Prophet? Consider this passage after Jesus had fed the 5000:

John 6:13-15 (NKJV)

13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Matthew 21:10-11 (NKJV)

10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?” 11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

Matthew 21:45-46 (NKJV)

45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that Jesus was speaking of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.

Mark 6:14-15 (NKJV)

14 Now King Herod heard of Jesus, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.” 15 Others said, “It is Elijah.” And others said, “It is the Prophet, or like one of the prophets.”

Mark 8:27-29 (NKJV)

27 Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, “Who do men say that I am?” 28 So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Messiah (Christ in the Greek).”

Luke 7:11-19 (NKJV)

11 Now it happened, the day after, that Jesus went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried the body stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And Jesus presented him to his mother. 16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.” 17 And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region. 18 Then the disciples of John the Baptist reported to him concerning all these things. 19 And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?

John 7:40-43 (NKJV)

40 Therefore some from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Messiah.” But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people because of Him.

Fortunately, we have the Apostle Peter who affirms for us that Jesus was indeed that Prophet spoken of by Moses:

Acts 3:17-26 (NIV)

17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders (concerning the crucifixion of Jesus). 18 But this is how God fulfilled what He had foretold through all the prophets, saying that His Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that He may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive Him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything He tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to Him will be completely cut off from their people.’(Cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-19) 24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. 25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’(Cf. Genesis 22:18) 26 When God raised up His servant, He sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

For me, the key application here is this message: “You must listen to Him!” Compare these two passages:

Deuteronomy 18:18-19 (NKJV) – The Lord is speaking to Moses

18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I will command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.

John 12:47-50 (NIV) – Jesus is speaking to the people

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 day. 49 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, Jesus IS that Prophet spoken of by Moses who was to come into the world. And this creates a very solemn decision for every person to make when the Gospel is presented: “Will I embrace the command of God to believe in His Son?” Or, “Will I reject and not accept Jesus or His words?” Remember that Jesus declared, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Cf. John 14:6) Those who believe in Jesus are set apart or sanctified to serve Him and the Kingdom of God. Those who do not believe in Him remain in darkness. “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (Cf. John 3:19)

Jesus is God’s gift to us … to the world … to be celebrated at Christmas and always! “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Cf. Romans 6:23) “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) Yes, His free gift is salvation and eternal life in Christ Jesus! His gift can only be received or rejected. And that is why it is important to share the good tidings of great joy … the Gospel … the message about Jesus. “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Cf. Romans 10:17)

So let us commit, especially during this season of the Advent, to proclaim the birth of the Son of God … to share His identity and His fulfillment of Scripture … to declare our own testimonies of how Jesus encountered and changed our own lives … and to encourage others to seek Him while He is near. Let us fervently pray that those who need healing, deliverance, restoration, and salvation, will respond and open the door of their hearts to Jesus. And may the Church be the vessel Father God uses to reach their hearts. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Petitions, Prayers, and Intercession

1 Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

Our Verse of the Day was included in the commentary of our study on Romans 13:1 a few days ago.  So, I will not spend much time on it today.  I will reprint three primary passages that focus on our relationship with governing authorities for your review:

Romans 13:1-7 (NIV)

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by GodConsequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

1 Timothy 2:1-7 (NIV)

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

1 Peter 2:13-17 (NIV)

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.

With these references in mind, I again urge you to vote in the elections being conducted today!  This is a constitutional right that we still have the freedom to exercise, and I encourage you to do so.  Continue to pray for those in office as well as those seeking office.  Pray they will be servants of God as they fulfill the responsibilities of their offices. Ask God to fill them with the knowledge of His will through all wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. (Cf. Colossians 1:9) Then, perhaps, we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Finding Peace

Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

A few days ago, we were talking about experiencing the peace of God. It appears that our Verse of the Day today is a follow-up … another look at the path of peace for our lives. I could not help but notice the parallels between the two verses:

Those who love your law have great peace, and nothing can make them stumble. (Psalm 119:165)

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)

 Great peace! Perfect peace! Both appear to be connected with our mindsets … our thought life and experience of faith. Those who love the law of God … those who meditate on the word of God will find peace and joy. Indeed, those who have placed their faith and trust in God will experience His gracious peace! Have you found this to be true in your own life? I think at this point in my life, I am experiencing the greatest peace I have ever known … despite the myriad of uncertainties and spiritual forces of evil that assault our world. This peace I feel inside is something that extends beyond faith … even though it is deeply rooted in it! It is a “knowing” trust in God that I have found within me … as opposed to a “hoping” trust. I’m not sure that makes sense to anyone, but it is the best way I know to describe it at the moment. I have come to the place in my journey that I know … that I know … that I know … God is very God! I no longer “hope” that He is true. As the inspired writer asserted: “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.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:6)

So, our Verse of the Day affords us a repeated word of encouragement … an intentional word for His peace to indwell us.  It reminds us again of the promise of peace for those who trust in the Lord. We live in a fallen world where it is hard to find peace. And we know there is no peace for the wicked – for those who practice unrighteousness. (Cf. Isaiah 48:22; 57:21) As the Prophet Isaiah noted: “Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood. They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways. The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace.” (Cf. Isaiah 59:7-8) And though people are looking for … longing for … praying for peace; we have to realize that the peace we seek will not be found in the world. Indeed, there is a peace that only God can provide … that only He, the God of Peace, can embed within our hearts. True peace will only be found in His Son, Christ Jesus! For Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is and forevermore will be our peace…. (Cf. Isaiah 9:6-7)

I believe this is the message the Spirit of God is sending forth: “If you want peace in your life, have a mind that is steadfast and a heart that believes in the truth of God’s Word!” These will be the key to experiencing His peace within. Yes, look for that perfect peace that comes through faith in Christ Jesus. Keep your eyes fixed upon Him. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) Indeed, “ Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” (Cf. Proverbs 4:25-27) As the Psalmist affirmed: “Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.” (Cf. Psalm 112:6-8)

My friend, God IS who He claims to be in His Word! We absolutely have nothing to worry about at all! So, rest in His peace…. Our Lord Jesus told us not to fret or worry about anything in our lives. We have His assurance that Father God passionately loves us, and that He knows everything we need. (Cf. Matthew 6:25-34) Yes, let us receive this full assurance because Jesus said, “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.” (Cf. John 14:27) And the Apostle Paul affirmed: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Cf. Philippians 4:6-7)

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

Cloud of Witnesses…

Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

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 entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…

Sometimes we can struggle with our faith … wondering if God is listening or even cares about our situations and circumstances.  We face difficulties and challenges with illnesses, finances, relationships, etc.  How do we keep things in perspective and trust God to be with us during these times? 

Our verse today reminds us that we are surrounded by a great number of witnesses.  Hebrews 11 is filled with the stories of people who persevered in faith despite the hardships and sufferings that they faced in life. And so, we can be encouraged by their examples.  “All these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise. God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”  (Cf. Hebrews 11:39-40) The promise is received in Jesus Christ.  The promise is eternal life with Him….

The inspired writer urges us to put aside anything that hinders us … and the sin which so easily ensnares us.  What could that be?  Well, it could be strongholds of sin, attachments of darkness, etc.  But I think the sin of “unbelief” is what so easily ensnares us in our journey of faith.  We simply begin to doubt or fail to trust God at His Word.  Our adversary, Satan, is a liar and a deceiver.  And if he can lure you into questioning the truth of the Word of God, he will do whatever it takes to make you question God, His love, and His promises….

So we are admonished to stay the course … to persevere and finish the race of faith. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. (Cf. Hebrews 10:36)

As the Apostle James wrote, “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.” And,  “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. (Cf. James 1:3-4; 12)

And remember, we should always be looking to Jesus … fixing our eyes upon Him who is the author and finisher of our faith. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) For we know and are confident that He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Cf. Philippians 1:6)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Obedience to the Spirit

Matthew 1:20-21 NIV

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:18-25

This passage caught my attention because of the implications associated with Joseph’s obedience to a Spirit-filled dream.  We often talk about the humble obedience of Mary when she responded to the Angel Gabriel as recorded in Luke 1:38,“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”  And, for sure, she is a role model for us.  But sometimes we overlook how Joseph responded an “angel of the Lord” in a dream.  Let’s look at this passage in context:

Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet, did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, (Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua (Yehoshua in Hebrew – sometimes shortened to Yeshua) , which means the Lord saves) because He will save His people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

What if Joseph had not been obedient to the angelic vision or dream?  What if he proceeded to divorce Mary?  What if she had been stoned for her supposed “adultery” as required by the Law?  If Joseph had not protected Mary and “covered” her … if Joseph had not been obedient to the commandment he received in the dream … the outcome of a different decision would have changed history.  The couple would not have traveled to Bethlehem together for the census … and the prophecy of the Messiah being born there would not have been fulfilled.  The ripple effect of unfulfilled prophecy from that point forward would have been insurmountable.  Joseph could not have predicted the impact of his decision on generations to come any more than Adam and Eve could have predicted or understood the impact of their disobedience and transgression upon all mankind.  It is a fascinating scenario to ponder….

But to me, the application here is really for us to consider our own obedience to God … His Word … His commands as these are communicated to us through the agency of the Holy Spirit.  Do we heed the Word of God?  Do we discern His clear direction to us? Do we hear but then respond with a disobedient heart?  And when we fail to believe God has spoken to us (because I’m pretty sure every one of us has been hesitant to believe when an authentic spiritual encounter has occurred) – do we ever think about the consequences of our disobedience on future generations?  It is quite sobering to see how these examples in Scripture have revealed how human obedience or disobedience changed the course of human history … and eternity as well.

Look at these additional examples of prompt obedience to the Spirit:

Matthew 4:18-22 (NIV)

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there, Jesus saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.

Acts 9:19-21 (NIV)

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name?

Acts 16:9-10 (NIV)

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Revelation 1:10-11 (NIV)

10 On the Lord’s Day I (the Apostle John) was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

What if the disciples had not followed Jesus?  What if Paul disregarded his experience on the road to Damascus?  What if the missionary team with Paul had not ventured into Macedonia to preach the Gospel in obedience to the vision?  What if John had not written the Book of Revelation as he was commanded through the Spirit?  Perhaps we should ask ourselves similar questions:  What if you or I do not fulfill the commands given to us through the Spirit?  What if we disregard our roles within the five-fold ministry established by Jesus Christ for His Church? (Cf. Ephesians 4:11) What would be the impact of our disobedience on others who are seeking God and led to the local church?  What will be the impact on future generations if the Body of Christ does not function as it was designed and intended by the Lord Himself?  Well, look at the current world culture and ask yourself that same question?  Look at modern day Turkey.  All the churches that we read about in the Book of Revelation do not exist there anymore. Turkey (Asia Minor) is 98% Muslim now….

Joseph reminds me why faithfulness to the Word of God is so important.  Joseph reminds me why obedience to the Holy Spirit is so crucial.  Joseph, like Adam and Eve, reminds me how the impact one decision can forever alter the future course of events.  So I asked myself this evening, what decisions will I make when prompted by the Spirit to act or intervene with others?  Will I be obedient? What consequence will there be if I am disobedient?  Is disobedience worth the risk of one soul being lost because I did not respond “at once”?

I believe this is where the intersection of intimacy with Christ and responding in obedience to the Spirit find their fulfillment in the Kingdom of God.  This is why I have stayed up past midnight to ask these questions … to write this commentary.  I simply want to be obedient because I do not know what the eternal consequences might be if I choose to ignore the Spirit of God or be disobedient to Him.  Someone needs a wake-up call on the obedience of faith … and I believe it is me!  Maybe these are thoughts you have considered as well … and tonight I think we should thank God for Joseph and his inspiration to respond in obedience….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Does God Know You?

Job 23:10-11 (NIV)

But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold. My feet have closely followed His steps; I have kept to His way without turning aside.

Did you know that the Book of Job is the oldest one in the compilation of the Holy Scriptures? Biblical scholars believe Job to be a contemporary of Abraham in the Ancient Near East.  The importance of this story of Job is that it provides us with some amazing insights into the relationship between God and man. Job delves into the many questions each of us have probably already asked of God along the way of our own faith journeys.  We often wonder why “bad things happen to good people,” and Job probes the purposes and will of God in afflictions and sufferings. So I like this excerpt from Chapter 23 because it does raise some personal questions for us to examine as we walk with God through this experience of life:

But He knows the way that I take.

Job asserts that God knows him … knows him intimately. Ask yourself: “Does God know the way that I take?”  Because He is God, the obvious answer is, “Yes.”  But what are the implications of His omniscience?  Does it impact the way we conduct ourselves – understanding that God sees us … that we are continually before Him even though we cannot see Him?  Does it mean that God has already determined the course we will take in life?  Then how does “free will” interact in this process?  Fascinating to ponder … but we should take a deeper look at this issue. Are we consciously desiring to please God with the decisions we make in our walk each day?

When He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

Job asserts that when God evaluates him (tests his faith) that he will pass the test!  How do you feel about that kind of boldness?  Would you consider it arrogant?  Yet Job appears to have complete confidence in his faith toward God.  Do you ever question the steadfastness of your own faith?  Why?  Note that Job is forward looking in his statement: “WHEN God has tested him.”  Job sees testing as a given.  He expects it!  So I believe we should, too.  And the “coming forth as gold” does not necessarily mean that he passed every test that he endured.  We most likely have not and will not either. However, I believe it does mean that Job expected God to refine him in the processes of testing such that the final outcome of his life would be purity or holiness toward God….  Think about that one for personal application if you will….

My feet have closely followed His steps.

Job asserts that He has stayed in step with God and His will has been revealed to him.  Remember, Job lived long before Moses gave the Ten Commandments, so the basis on which Job made this assertion is unclear.  However, we do know there would have been an oral tradition at a minimum from the time of Adam until Abraham.  There were customs and traditions of worship shaped by the faithful remnant of each generation. I like to think that Abraham and Job both shared a profound understanding of what it means to “believe” God.  And written sources from the period which were “morally instructive” and incorporated the wisdom given by God.  The Apostle Paul even wrote about the “natural” knowledge of God all people should possess in his Letter to the Romans:

Romans 1:18-20 (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.

If you think about it … there is a natural, innate knowing that God exists … that He created us … that He wants relationship with us … and that He communicates and reveals His purpose and will to man through His Spirit … His Word … and in these last days through His Son.  (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-2) I think, bottom line, we just need to listen!

I have kept to His way without turning aside.

Job asserts that He has not wavered in his faith or in his conduct based upon the obedience of faith.  Again, I find Job to be quite bold in his claim because I’d say few of us have been that “perfect” in our walk with God.  Maybe you have self-discipline of Job … but I have stumbled along the way and turned aside from time to time.  Yet, God in His grace has brought me to repentance and disciplined me as needed to correct my waywardness.  The writer of the Book of Hebrews gives us some insight (and comfort) along these lines:

Hebrews 12:4-11 (NIV)

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.” (Quotes 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 holiness11 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.

Nevertheless; righteous Job … patient Job … remained obedient to the way of the Lord.  He turned neither to the right nor the left but made his path straight.  He was steadfast.  And God was pleased with Job … and found delight in him.  So I’m not sure the question is whether or not we have turned aside at any point in our walk with God (whether presumptuously or otherwise); but rather, “Is your relationship with God like one would have with their father?”  Do you receive chastisement or discipline from God with the same respect or reverence you would from an earthly father?  Though imperfect, our earthly fathers did what they thought best to guide us in godly or acceptable behavior. But our Heavenly Father is perfect in His manner with us.  He is the most trustworthy person we can have in our lives.  And we can expect that He is going to discipline us out of His great love for us….

Well, I might have let my thoughts ramble a bit too much, but even a few verses from the Old Testament can move us … can stir us … and help us see how God has always ordained for us to live righteous lives and to pursue His holiness.  He designed us … He created us in His image to enjoy life itself … life as He defined it and intended it for us … abiding in Him and He in us.  How I pray each of us will fully grasp that we can have a life of fellowship with God like Job did.  And this life is found in His Son. For without Jesus, there is no life. (Cf. 1 John 5:11-12)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Conundrum of Comparison

Psalm 73:25-26

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

This excerpt from Psalm 73 is often quoted, but have you read the entire Psalm to see its context.  It has a great message regarding our attitudes towards those who do seem to prosper in this world … yet do not know God nor have a faithful relationship with him.  Too often, we compare our financial situations with others who seem to “prosper” more than ourselves. In doing so, we walk a dangerous line and fail to see the greater blessing of trusting God and serving Him with our lives. When Asaph, the Psalmist, went into the sanctuary of God, he discerned the end of the unrighteous and took hope in the resurrection to come for the righteous.  He concluded in his supplication before God:

Psalm 73:23-28 (ESV)

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand.  24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength (the rock) of my heart and my portion forever. 27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. 28 But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

It is probably best not to make comparisons with others because to do so often provokes envy and misguides our hearts. We can be enticed to covet things we do not have … not considering what we do have in Christ Jesus is far better than any riches this world might have to offer. As Paul wrote:

1 Timothy 6:6-12 (NIV)

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/27/19

1 John 3:18 (NIV)

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

No matter how much we profess to love God or to love one another, the evidence of love is in the actions taken to demonstrate it.  God not only tells us that He loves us, but God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8).  John reminds us here that actions speak louder than words.  Even Jesus requires action on our part to show or demonstrate our love for Him: “If you love Me, keep my commandments.” (Cf. John 14:15; 1 John 5:3) Yes, love is a verb! Love is service oriented. Love is something we “do”.  (Love is: 1 Corinthians 13).

On a similar note, I am reminded that the Apostle James frankly addresses this point with regard to our faith.  Faith is not profession alone either.  No matter how much we “believe,” the evidence of faith is in the actions that demonstrate it as well.  Here James distinguishes between faith as a concept and faith as a reality:    

James 2:14-17 (NIV)

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

I pray that our Verse of the Day will challenge us to “live” like we “love” and to “befriend” like we “believe”.  As Paul challenges us:

Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

I urge you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (spiritual worship). And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

And as a reminder, I will reprint this verse for us as well:

1 John 4:20-21 (NKJV)

20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!