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

Great Is Your Reward…

Matthew 5:11-12 (NIV)

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

In our Verse of the Day, Jesus gives His followers some insight on what being a devout believer will entail. Our profession of faith in Jesus will come at a cost … it will require a sacrifice. But our Lord Jesus affirms our devotion to Him comes with a blessing … a great reward in heaven … salvation and eternal life!

Matthew 5:1-12 (NIV)

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Luke 6:17-26 (NIV)

17 Jesus went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of His disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch Him, because power was coming from Him and healing them all. 20 Looking at His disciples, He said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets. 24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. 25 Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

When we look at these two presentations of the Sermon on the Mount, we see unexpected teachings of how true relationship with God is defined. Luke, true to his literary form, provides additional contextual commentary along with the recording of some contrasts (woes) that were spoken by Jesus. What we get here is a radical picture of what discipleship means in addition to a glimpse of the blessedness that following Jesus will produce in our lives. And I will note that Jesus did not say: “Blessed are those who have great possessions or sufficient finances….”

Jesus teaches that to be truly blessed in this life, to have intimacy with Him, we need to be emptied of all the things that the world seeks. He calls us to see the depth of our spiritual need … to mourn over our sin and disobedience … to weep over our self-centeredness and lack of compassion … to hunger and thirst for righteousness … to be more gracious and forgiving of others … to advocate for unity and peace … to seek holiness and humility in our hearts and lives … and to be willing to suffer for His Name and the Gospel.

I believe that who you and I will become in Christ, as we abide in Him, will be the outcome of sacrifice and suffering. Jesus told His disciples: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Cf. Matthew 16:24-25; Mark 8:34-35; Luke 9:23-24) John recorded a similar discourse: “Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:25-26) And Luke records the following teaching of Jesus that affords us further detail on the matter:

Luke 14:26-30; 33 (NIV)

26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? 29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, 30 saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ 33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

Jesus indicated that there would be a real cost to discipleship; and He admonished followers to consider that cost before they began to follow Him. My initial thought was: “Is there really any choice?” Jesus preached radical ideas that challenged the religious paradigms of His time. So, when He asked His disciples if they wanted to leave Him as others had done, Peter answered: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Cf. John 6:67-69) Indeed, no matter what we might “perceive” is the cost of believing and following Jesus, I think it is clear that we must give up everything for His sake! Yet Jesus has assured us of “great reward” for doing so. As the Apostle Paul expounded:

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NKJV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

If we look at what is happening around the world, even within our own nation, the cost of being a believer and worshipper of Christ Jesus is becoming more apparent. And I believe the historical record of persecution serves witness to this precedent. From Stephen to present-day martyrs scattered across the globe, those who have died for their faith in Jesus testify of the ultimate sacrifice that could be required of any believer.  And I sense we are challenged to ask ourselves if we are willing to do the same. As Paul told the Philippians: “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him….” (Cf. Philippians 1:29) And Paul challenged Timothy: “So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:8) All these thoughts call for introspection … as we consider the cost of allegiance, devotion, and faith. Jesus asks us to believe Him … to trust Him at His word … with everything.  And it is my prayer that we will do so….

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 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. ~ Jesus            (John 15:18-19)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Show Me The Love…

John 14:23 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

Our Verse of the Day shares the imperative of obedience to the teaching of Jesus. We call His teaching “discipleship” – the process of training so that we become disciples or followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is clear that love for Jesus is the primary motive for the keeping of His teachings and commandments. And as I continue to ponder His Word, I’m not sure what other method or mechanism we have as believers to demonstrate our love for Him. It is the obedience that comes from faith (Cf. Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26) that expresses our sincere, heartfelt love for Father and Son. This is what Jesus told the disciples: “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (Cf. John 15:10-12)

Throughout the theological history of the Jewish faith, keeping the commandments (teachings) of God has been essential to the covenant relationship God desires with His people. We find this especially developed in the Book of Deuteronomy. “Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:1) “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Cf. Deuteronomy 7:9) “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Cf. Deuteronomy 11:19) The themes of teaching and training … giving instruction for righteous living is inseparable from the giving of the Law. We were created in the image of God; and He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son! (Cf. Genesis 1:27; Romans 8:29)

You will find these themes in the Psalms written by David, and further expounded upon in the Proverbs taught by Solomon. Note the exhortations to observe and faithfully follow sound teaching:

Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. 5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Psalm 119:66 (NIV)

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.

Proverbs 3:1-2 (NIV)

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.

Proverbs 6:20-21 (NIV)

My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.

Proverbs 7:1-3 (NIV)

My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

I find our message quite straightforward: Observing … Keeping … Obeying … the teachings and commands of Jesus is how we demonstrate our love for Him and the Father. Yes, to obey is better than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) Indeed, we should be transparent before God regarding our obedience to Him; and the truth of our love should be readily apparent to others as well. Our light (our understanding of what Jesus taught us) should be evident before others, that they may see our good deeds (obedience of His commands) and glorify our Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16) As Paul taught, there are practical ways to live out the Gospel message and to walk in the obedience that comes from faith. And so, I pray that we will endeavor to not only be disciples, but to disciple (teach) others as we have been commanded to do….

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Living In Uncertainty…

Proverbs 27:1 (NIV)

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

Our verse today speaks to the uncertainty of life. Too often, we assume that the physical life we experience in the here and now will continue without interruption and without interference.  But as we have observed over the past few months, the unknown continues to grab our attention and cause us to question what the future holds.  This proverb admonishes us not be too arrogant or make too many assumptions about our lives … because we truly do not know what a day may bring.

The Apostle James, perhaps, had this verse in mind when he wrote: 

James 4:13-16 (NIV)

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

I do not believe this passage is denouncing the purposes of “planning” for the future; rather, James is focused on an arrogant attitude and not being mindful of God in those processes.  It is the boastful, prideful attitude of an invincible spirit that James calls into question.  “Your life is but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  We need to keep perspective … a view of life that is dependent upon the grace of God working in us and through us.  Indeed, our “plans” should be aligned with God … with His Will and His Word as we attend to the purposes for which He created us. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) This should be the basis of our planning – completing the good works which God created us in Christ Jesus to do. As King Solomon observed: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21)

Luke 14:25-33 (NIV) – Planning for the Cost of Discipleship

25 Now great crowds accompanied Jesus, and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.

I think a key principle to planning for the future is to begin with the cost of discipleship. If we overlook what it will take to pursue a life solely focused on pleasing our God and Creator; we are probably hindered with excessive pride or arrogance. And the Apostle John addresses how to hone our focus: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (Cf. 1 John 2:15-17) So, yes, we need to be careful not to be deceived by the world and its desires.  We need the wisdom and discernment that comes from the Word of God to ultimately understand how to do HIS will in our lives.

So I believe, the application for us is to see the necessity of prayer and intimate time with God as we evaluate our hopes and plans for the future.  As the Prophet Isaiah advised:  “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6) As King David reflected when he was in the wilderness of Judah: “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1) Indeed, it is a critical time to seek the face of God as never before … as we see the times and tribulation the world has entered. And not only should we seek and plan our lives in accordance with His purposes, but we need to trust Him with our whole heart. “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord Himself, is the Rock Eternal.” (Isaiah 26:4) For He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 31:6-8; Joshua 1:5; 1 Chronicles 28:20; Hebrews 13:5)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Teach Your Children Well…

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

This is a favorite verse for many reasons.  First, I have found it to be true in my own life.  I was raised in a Christian home like many of us.  But in my teenage years and early adulthood, I went through a period of apathy and unconcern for the things of God.  I knew He was there, and I prayed on occasion, but I did not have a personal relationship with Him.  To be honest, I did not know how to have that kind of abiding relationship.  Yet, God in His kindness, led me to repentance and granted me salvation at the age of 29.  And my life has never been the same since that night I knelt at an altar and gave my life to Christ….  He redeemed my life and directed my steps to the path of life … the path taught to me as a child before I ever understood it.

I also like the King James translation of this verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  To me the key word here is “train”.  We must be diligent to teach our children the Word of God.  We spend hours reading to our children when they are toddlers and pre-school … giving them a head start in life and education.  How many of those books are bible stories … planting seeds of faith in their hearts from the earliest age? As adults we know and understand that learning is life-long.  It is so important to start our children with the knowledge of God while their minds are sponges and their hearts receptive.  Even Jesus exhorted His disciples regarding children coming to Him:

Matthew 10:13-14 (NKJV)

13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Mark 9:36-37 (NKJV)

36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

Luke 18:15-16 (NKJV)

15 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.

There is a great connection between how we raise our children to be drawn to Jesus and how their lives will enter the Kingdom of Heaven … regardless of the bends and turns they experience along the Way. It requires great patience. It requires intentionality. What does the text say? “Then little children were brought to Him….”  We need to bring our children to the Lord Jesus.  We need Him to put His hands on them and pray over them. And Jesus wants us to receive children in His name. There is nothing more precious than a child … and children are greatly treasured by our Heavenly Father.  So, I pray we will consider this lesson that Jesus taught: “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Cf. Matthew 18:2-4)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!