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

A Heart of Wisdom…

Psalm 90:12

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Our Verse of the Day has impressed on me the necessity of getting still before the Lord and spending some quite time alone with Him each morning before starting the day. If we want to hear from God, then we need to consider having a time be quiet and away from any distractions. Yes, we need to be willing to listen for the voice of truth to fill us with wisdom for the day ahead….

Psalm 90, as we have seen in previous study, is entitled A Prayer of Moses – the Man of God.  It begins Book IV of the Psalms (90-106).  The theme of this Psalm reflects on the temporal existence of human life and the eternal being of God our Creator.  The writer observes: “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” (Verse 10) Indeed, what any of us will experience in this life is uncertain at best.  For me, this past year has been a prime example of enduring the unexpected; and I have been reminded to keep life in perspective … to understand that our time on this earth is finite and uncertain. To apply this understanding to our hearts will afford us the wisdom needed to have full, productive lives for the glory of God.  It will cause us to be more intentional to live each day for the purposes of God … to carry out our Kingdom assignments with passion and diligence.

I believe God wants us to simply to recognize that each day of life is a precious gift! Regardless of our individual circumstances, it is to be received with thanksgiving and used for accomplishment of the good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) I especially like how Paul articulates the idea: “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 (reasonable service).” (Cf. Romans 12:1) In view of God’s mercy reminds me of another passage of scripture.  It speaks to the deepest hope of each day of life: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion: therefore, I will wait for Him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him: it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. (Cf. Lamentations 3:22-26)

Indeed, we need perspective. We need wisdom.  And so, I pray that we will be vigilant to practice the spiritual disciplines that will keep us intimate with the Lord … abiding in Him and He in us.  Let us resolve each day to spend personal time with God in prayer; to study and meditate upon His Word; and to minister our gifts and talents to those we encounter along the journey.  Let us be the instruments of healing and deliverance that God desires His servants to be. Yes, let us be intentional to be His Body in this world in 2023! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. ~ Psalm 143:8

Word of God Speak…

Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Our Verse of the Day continues to emphasize the Word of God and its power to change the thoughts of our hearts. It has the power to transform our lives … affording us the knowledge of God and His will! Indeed, its importance cannot be emphasized enough because it is how God reaches out to us through His Spirit to come to a knowledge of the Truth! Perhaps the instruction of Paul can help us out in this regard:

1 Corinthians 2:9-14 (NIV)

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— 10 these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 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. 12 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. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual truths with Spirit-taught words. 14 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.

We have learned from Paul: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16) Peter affirmed: “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:21) The writer of Hebrews enlightened: “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.” (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-2) And John proclaimed: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” (Cf. John 1:1-4)

And so, this is the key point I have found to be my guide: “Embrace what Jesus has revealed through the words He received from the Father!  He is the Living Word … alive and active! It is His words that bring discernment and judgment into our hearts! Yes, He alone, is our salvation!

John 8:25-32 (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 me29 The One who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” 30 Even as Jesus 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.”

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. 46 I 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 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.”

As I meditate on these things, my thoughts recall what Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus … His praises to God for the spiritual blessings we receive through His Son … our Lord Jesus Christ:

Ephesians 1:3-14 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For He chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In Him we were also chosen (made heirs) having been predestined according to the plan of God who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.

And so, I join with Paul in his prayer: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Cf. Ephesians 1:17-19) Indeed, the great power of transformation is found in the Word of God! It is our light in the midst of this dark world! Amen.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away. ~ Jesus

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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, 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. ~ Isaiah 55:10-11

Be Transformed…

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

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.

Our Verse of the Day is another very familiar verse for most of us. Sometimes we just need a good “word” from God to address what we are experiencing in the moment. Too often, I think we rely on our own thoughts or patterns of thought to guide our decisions and choices without even considering whether our paradigms are aligned with the purposes that God has for our lives. Perhaps, we allow the narrative of the day or the wisdom of this world to shape or influence our thoughts more than we realize. Or maybe we are so filled with spiritual pride that we fail to consider the veil it casts over our minds to see ourselves or our kingdom roles with proper perspective. Whatever the case, Paul affords us some great advice to get back on track: Reject the patterns of this world; reset your mindset with the Word of God; and then align with the Will of God….

So, I want us to look at some other practical advice given in scripture to address the need to correct our thinking from time to time. And while the whole counsel of the Word of God should be utilized, I think there is some particularly useful meditations and instructions found in the Wisdom Literature, and Proverbs 19 in particular to assist us. I have reprinted it here and emphasized several of them here for our consideration:

Proverbs 19 (NIV)

1     Better the poor whose walk is blameless than a fool whose lips are perverse.

2        Desire without knowledge is not good—how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

3        A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the Lord.

4        Wealth attracts many friends, but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them.

5        A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free.

6        Many curry favor with a ruler, and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.

7        The poor are shunned by all their relatives—how much more do their friends avoid them! Though the poor pursue them with pleading, they are nowhere to be found.[a]

8        The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

9        A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will perish.

10     It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury—how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!

11     A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

12     A king’s rage is like the roar of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.

13     A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.

14     Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.

15     Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless go hungry.

16    Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life, but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.

17     Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward them for what they have done.

18     Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death.

19     A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty; rescue them, and you will have to do it again.

20     Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.

21     Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

22     What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar.

23     The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.

24     A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!

25     Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.

26     Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother is a child who brings shame and disgrace.

27     Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

28     A corrupt witness mocks at justice, and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil.

29     Penalties are prepared for mockers, and beatings for the backs of fools.

When you survey these observations of human behaviors, you realize there is light and truth in the conclusions Solomon reached. Indeed, these precepts can transform and renew our minds. One of the verses I found useful was Verse 20: Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Yes, the counsel we might receive from godly men and women can be invaluable; and yet, I am reminded about listening to those around us with diligence and discernment. Consider the implication of this verse:

Acts 17:11 (NIV)

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

The point here is that even the preaching and teaching of the Apostle Paul was “fact-checked” as we would call it in our modern culture. They wanted to know if the teachings and instructions of Paul aligned with the Holy Scriptures. And I think we need to apply the same principle as the Berean believers. Not every theological position or doctrine purported to be “Christian” that is being taught from pulpits today imparts correct wisdom or application when it is examined against the whole counsel of the Scriptures. It is important that as we listen to godly counsel and accept spiritual disciple, we need to be wise and examine the Scriptures as well … to see if what has been communicated is indeed a good “word”. Even now, I am reminded of the concerns that John referenced in his first epistle:

1 John 2:18-27 (NIV)

18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24 As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what He promised us—eternal life. 26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it (His anointing) has taught you, remain in Him.

My desire is to encourage you to simply let the Word of God speak directly to your own heart. As David penned: “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Cf. Psalm 25:5) Let the Holy Spirit be your interpreter and guide into all truth. and He will confirm the Word. (Cf. John 16:12-14) Indeed, God speaks to each of us through His Word … providing us what we need individually to be transformed and to renew our mindsets. And that is my prayer for you … asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.” (Cf. Colossians 1:9-10)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Abounding In Love…

Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV)

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

In our Verse of the Day, I believe we encounter a different concept with regard to the impact that knowledge and discernment have upon our redemption. We typically think of wisdom, understanding, and depth of insight, as the role of the Holy Spirit for our walk as born-again creations. Indeed, He is our guide into all Truth. He is our Advocate … our Helper … our Comforter … who teaches us all things and reminds us of everything Jesus taught His disciples. (Cf. John 14:26; 15:26) Yet here, Paul appears to assert its impact on the growth and maturity of our love as followers of Christ. He prays for our love to abound … for the love within us to grow and mature and bear fruit … in response to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Why is this important?  Well, Paul states the purpose of his prayer is “so that we may be able to discern what is best and to live in a consecrated position for the soon return of our Lord Jesus. We know the primary goal of our life in Christ is to love God and to love one another. But love is not just a matter of the emotions; rather, to be effective and productive for the Lord, we must use our intelligence and exercise discernment. And so, I think Paul is praying not only that the Philippians continue in their outpouring of sincere love, but he is encouraging them to operate in love that exercises knowledge and moral discernment. Paul indicates that love directed by intelligent, moral decisions will manifest itself as the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ … as the completion of God’s love that brings Him glory, honor, and praise! (Cf. 1 John 4:11-17)

As I pondered the issue of moral discernment and how the Holy Spirit impacts our capacity to love more deeply, I recalled some passages where Paul discusses whether our interactions with others are beneficial or harmful.  I believe these selections represent practical applications of how our love for both God and others abounds (increases) with knowledge and depth of insight:

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (NIV)

12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.” The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” (Citing Genesis 2:2417 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in Spirit. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.

1 Corinthians 10:23-33 (NIV)

23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others. 25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” (Citing Psalm 24:1) 27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? 31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

As love abounds in our redeemed, transformed hearts … as it matures in outward expression to those around us, such love always seeks and endeavors to operate in the Spirit of Christ.  It requires us to “discern what is best.” As Paul asserted: “I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” I think this mindset is essential if we intend to share the truth in love. As Paul would later instruct the believers in Philippi:

Philippians 2:1-5 (NIV)

Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus….

My friends, when we love as Jesus loved us and gave Himself for us, we will be filled with the fruit of righteousness in our lives. Its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. (Cf. Isaiah 32:17) We will no longer be conformed to the pattern on this world; rather, we will be transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Cf. Romans 12:2) And I think this is Paul’s ultimate desire – that when we stand before God in the judgment, our lives will have been filled with the spiritual fruit of righteousness that comes from Jesus Christ – produced by the Holy Spirit. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) And then, the Father will receive all the glory and praise! “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Removing the Veil…

1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV)

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.

Our Verse of the Day brings an important point to the table regarding our mission to share the Gospel with those who do not know the truth. Paul explains: “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.” In 1 Corinthians 1:18-19, Paul wrote: “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Citing Isaiah 29:14) And Paul observed in another place, “Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3-5)

Therein lies the challenge that we also faced before we came to faith in Jesus; and it is the same issue for someone who is not ready to receive the message of hope and salvation. And so, we are to be servants to unbelievers for Jesus’ sake. That is our commission … our marching orders from the Lord. We are to love others as we have been loved. We are to speak the truth in love; and we are to be salt and light in this world … to be Jesus in this world. That is why I believe it is imperative that we work together with the Holy Spirit to prepare the soil of hearts God has called to salvation. What I mean is that we should be in fervent prayer for those who need salvation to be receptive to what the Spirit of God is prompting them to hear in their heart. We need to pray for spiritual ears to hear … for the spiritual eyes of hearts to be opened to see the Gospel. Indeed, the preparation of prayer is more important than our words in the beginning of leading someone to Christ….

So, this morning, I challenge each of us to be in prayer for someone who needs to see the light of the Gospel; the good news that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, within their heart. Pray that they will not seek the wisdom of this world … which is foolishness in God’s sight … and ask the Lord to unveil and reveal the truth to them. In other words, the Spirit must do the prompting and leading … for it is HE who guides us into all truth. Yes, “When He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide 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.” (Cf. John 16:13) For you and I cannot enter the heart of a person, but we can let our light so shine before them, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16)

Father, You call our hearts in prayer this morning for the lost and the prodigal.  We ask and pray that You will remove the veil of darkness from their hearts so that the light of the Gospel will shine before them.  We ask You, Holy Spirit, to reveal the Truth to their hearts so that they would receive Jesus into their hearts and atonement for their sins … redemption and reconciliation … deliverance and healing … grace and peace … within their souls. Yes, we pray in the Mighty Name of Yeshua Hamashiach (Jesus the Messiah), Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

How to Be Blessed

Psalm 1:1-2 (NIV)

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

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

Blessed is the one who does not:

1.         Walk in step with the wicked

2.         Stand in the way that sinners take

3.         Sit in the company of mockers

Blessed is the one who:

1.         Takes delight is the Law of the Lord

2.         Meditates on His Law day and night

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

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

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

Psalm 1 (NIV)

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

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Shabbat Shuvah…

1 John 2:1 (NIV)

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

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

Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

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

Romans 2:1-11 (NIV)

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

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

Psalm 62:11-12 (NIV)

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

Proverbs 24:10-12 (NIV)

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

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

Hosea 14

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

Joel 2:15-27 (NIV)

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

And so, I pray that we will surrender our hearts today and seek the face of God in repentance. For He has said: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (2 Chronicles 7:13-16) Yes, the people of God, need to humble ourselves … we need to turn from our own wicked ways … and consecrate ourselves to the Lord. Then will He hear our prayers and supplications for our homes, for our communities, for our churches, for this nation … to forgive and heal our land. Yes, our sins and the sins of this nation can be covered.  We have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One.  It is His blood … the blood of atonement that redeems and restores us to the Father! That is the message of The Return! “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Master Teacher…

Isaiah 48:17 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

I love this verse and the wisdom it imparts to us … the reminder we need each day of who God is and how He engages with us – His people:

Isaiah 48:16-19 (NIV)

16 “Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.” And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with His Spirit. 17 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. 19 Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be blotted out nor destroyed from before me.”

Our Father declares He is the Lord our God … our Redeemer and the Holy One!  The Lord declares: “I AM HE; I AM the first and I AM the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together.” (Isaiah 48:12-13) We need to keep this perspective that God is indeed our Creator and our lives were created for HIS glory. As we come to understand that all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), we see our lives are in desperate need of redemption. We realize our lives are in full need of correction … a great salvation that we cannot provide for ourselves. It requires a sovereign act of forgiveness that can only come from the One who created us … through whom we receive the gift of His Holy Spirit to indwell us.

And here is the message: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you … who directs you in the way you should go.”  Do we heed His instructions?  Do we walk in the direction He shows us?  The Lord pleads with us – Keep My Commandments and your peace will be like a river … your well-being like the waves of the sea!  What more could He say?  What more should He say? The Covenant of Love … the New Covenant … are forged in the obedience of faith. So how does the relationship of discipleship with Christ work?  Consider this one pivotal lesson Jesus taught through humble, personal demonstration:

John 13:12-14 (NIV) – At the Last Supper

12 When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

Oh, that every person would look to Jesus … the Master Teacher … the Light of the World … the living, everlasting Word of God … to teach us what is best for us and to direct us in the Way we should go!  What would be the outcome?  Peace and well-being flowing like a river within us!  What did Jesus say? “Whoever believe in me, as Scripture has said, river of living water will flow from within them.”  The Master Teacher said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the Rock.” (Cf. Matthew 7:24-25) And, “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.” (Cf. John 14:26) Even now, I am reminded of what the Apostle John affirmed in this regard:

1 John 2:18-29 (NKJV)

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. 28 And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.

1 John 3:24 (NIV)

The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.

1 John 4:13 (NIV)

This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.

Yes, God has assured us that we can KNOW what is best for us and the direction we should go! We can know these things because He Himself teaches us these things through His Word by the Holy Spirit He has given us in Christ Jesus.  Peter spoke to this when he affirmed: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) And the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews asserted: “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) And Paul addressed discernment of spiritual knowledge as well:

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 (NIV)

10 These are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 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. 12 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. 13 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. 14 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. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” (Quoting Isaiah 64:4) But we have the mind of Christ.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!