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!

A Father Rejoices

Proverbs 23:24

The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in Him.

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there!

I love the truth of this verse and it resonates so deeply.  Indeed, the father of a righteous child has great joy! Indeed, a man who fathers a wise son (or daughter) rejoices in him (or her)!  Righteous. Wise. Faithful. These are the qualities I believe every father desires to instill in his children. What could possibly matter more to a man than to see his children living in the light of the Truth? This verse reminds me of another favorite. Written by the Apostle John: “It gave me great joy when some believers came and testified about your faithfulness to the truth, telling me how you continue to walk in it. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (Cf. 3 John 3-4)

When I contemplate my own life, and the legacy I hope to leave my children, I pray the most important “take away” they will receive from me will be a legacy of faith in Jesus Christ.  I have found that nothing else truly matters in this life except our fellowship with God and our love for Him … and accordingly … our sincere love for one another.  Leading our children to faith in Jesus Christ and discipling them in the faith is the greatest demonstration of real love that I could ever imagine to impart.  Why?  Because I know they will not have or experience abundant life or fulfilling love apart from Him.  If we love and cherish children as God ordained for men to do, then it follows that we must bestow upon them the best gift possible … the love of God through His Son … the only hope of eternal life!

I am sure that most of us have failed to be consistent in our own journeys of faith at times over the years … and our examples have not always been the best in difficult situations or personal challenges.  But in whatever way we have fallen short of being God’s best for the building of our children’s faith, know it is never too late to redeem the time or to express a sincere desire to continue the walk together going forward.  And so, do not hesitate to humble yourself and ask your children to look beyond the sins … the missteps and mistakes made along the way … and assure them that you have endeavored and will always strive to love each of them as you have been loved by God through His Son.  Yes, remind them that God is their true Father … and that His love is perfect, full of grace, and abides forever.

Well, I apologize if I sound too emotional this morning. It is hard for me not to feel emotional on Father’s Day because the love and joy I feel from having children and grandchildren in my life is overwhelming! The delight of fatherhood has been a precious and treasured gift from God; and I want to savor this occasion with thanksgiving for the honor and privilege of being an earthly father.  This morning, I told my children how extremely proud I am of each of them … their awesome accomplishments … and the incredible impact each of them already have had upon this world.  Likewise, each one of your children and grandchildren will make this world a far better place and bless others with their unique gifts, talents, and expressions of love.  So I pray this morning that every father will be grateful for the blessings of their children; and I pray our Heavenly Father will fill each of you with His unending grace and His unfailing love!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Be Effective and Productive

2 Peter 1:5-8 (NIV)

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our Verse of the Day comes from 2 Peter and we have studied this passage before.  As Peter urges, we are to be “growing” in our faith; building upon the foundational truths we have learned from the Word of God. Adding these qualities and allowing them to be fruitful through our lives will “keep us from being ineffective and unproductive.”  I often wondered why Peter did not present his thought as a positive assertion; but perhaps, it makes a greater point with this phrasing.  If we are growing and adding to our faith – the phrasing implies we cannot help but be effective and productive in Kingdom work. These qualities will keep you from “failure”. They will safeguard you!  The thought being … an active faith is necessarily a “fruit-bearing” faith.  It WILL keep you and I from being ineffective and unproductive – the implication being that a stagnant faith weakens us.

But I have to point out that faith is really more of a journey than a destination for us.  It is born and then it must grow into maturity.  Consider this analogy: Infants and toddlers cannot be effective or productive in the work force.  Minor children are not so much contributors either.  But as humans continue to physically grow and mature, we find our passions and our talents and bring these to the marketplace for the benefit of ourselves and the communities in which we live.  Well, likewise, faith requires a similar process of maturation.  Adding to it … growing in it … continually increasing our knowledge and understanding of God, His will,  and His purposes for our lives, should move us into greater exercise of our faith.  Through faith that is matured and deepened, we are equipped to find our spiritual passions, gifts, and talents … and bring these to the Church for the benefit of fellow believers and for witnessing to non-believers whom God has called us to be His evangelists.

So I pray that our desire is to grow in faith … in order to be effective and productive in the Kingdom of God as He has ordained for us. “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. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Be Strong and Very Courageous!

Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

So I’m on my lunch break and reading this verse….

Okay … so I’m going to go out on a limb here … but how timely is this verse for each of us?  I ask that with the conviction that each of us has something God has been pressing us to do in obedience … in faith … and we just need one more “push” to do it.  Do you need this word of encouragement today?  Yes! And we all do!  Faith is what equips us to be strong … to be courageous!  Faith overcomes fear … it defeats discouragement.  Faith convinces us God is ever present.  He is with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you. Since God is for us – we need to embrace the truth of this Scripture.

But, as usual, I see something here that caught my attention.  Something that I had not considered before and I want to share it. Look at the first sentence:

Have I not commanded you?

Wow!  Have you ever considered that God commands you and I to be strong and courageous?  Is that not the key to walking forward in obedience to whatever He has called us to do?  And when God gives us something to do for Him, will He not empower us to accomplish it?  Look at the surrounding context of this verse:

Joshua 1:1-9 (NIV)

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

These are some powerful assurances and promises of God.  They were spoken to Joshua – but I believe they have been written (recorded) for our hope and encouragement as well.  God has given us good works to do … which He prepared in advance for us to do.  (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And He commands us to be strong and very courageous.  He commands us to “exercise our faith.”  Strong means we flex our spiritual muscles.  Courageous means our will is engaged and expectant of a victorious outcome.  Oh, there are battles ahead and there are challenges and oppositions to face; but God promises to never leave us nor forsake us.  And I believe this strength and courage God commands us to exercise is connected to what we studied just last week: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7) He is not the Spirit of fear.  The Holy Spirit empowers us and equips us to accomplish the purposes of God in and through our lives.  He fills us with the love of God. He imparts to us sound minds to understand what we need to do and how to conform our will to what God chose us in Christ Jesus (as His Body) to complete….

So I pray we will consider this thought today: “God has commanded me to be strong and courageous.”  God has said, “Do not be afraid and do not be discouraged.”  I pray we will apply this Word to our hearts and to the situations or circumstances that God has engaged us to be His instruments.  Whatever the Lord God has called you to do … just do it!  And know that God is with you to accomplish His will.  Amen!  

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!