Persevere In Faith…

James 1:2-3 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Our Verse of the Day is probably familiar to most of us since we have referenced it in a few studies. Still, it is always a timely reminder that the circumstances and hardships we encounter in life have purpose; and I think we need to have spiritual perspective in those moments. We will all face trials of many kinds in this life.  Some trials will be inflicted by others who sin against us.  Some will be self-inflicted through falling into temptation or making unwise decisions. And some trouble will simply be the result of natural or spiritual forces beyond our control.  We can do nothing to change our genetic codes. Nature itself often inflicts hardship and brings suffering to people. And demonic influences are quite active to suppress the truth of God and to oppress those who come to Him through faith in Jesus.

But regardless of the source of the tribulations we encounter, I think there is one lesson God wants us to learn: TRUST HIM!  All these situations will test or challenge our faith, but the goal our Heavenly Father has in mind is for us to persevere in faith.  Through patient endurance and through the obedience that comes from faith, we demonstrate whether our faith in God is authentic or genuine. As we have already studied, Peter articulates this truth quite well:

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NLT)

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by His great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation (a living hope),and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. RejoiceThere is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So, when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.You love Jesus even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls.

I believe this powerful exhortation is the same truth that James focused on here in his epistle: perseverance in faith! Remember, Jesus told His disciples (and us), “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart (have courage)! I have overcome the world!” (Cf. John 16:33) Likewise, the Apostle John confirms: “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.” (Cf. 1 John 4:4) And, again, “For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Cf. 1 John 5:4-5) So, it is the strength of our faith that produces in us the capacity to walk through and overcome the trials we will endure in this life.

James 1:4-8 (NIV)

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

I hope these scriptures will encourage you as you face the trials and temptations that life brings.  Always remember God is faithful; and He wants to develop a strong and genuine faith in you and me. And I believe that He allows troubles in our lives to accomplish this very purpose! He is not against us. He is for us! As Paul attested: “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” (Citing Psalm 44:22) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the heavens or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Cf. Romans 8:35-39 NLT)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. ~ Romans 5:1-5

When You Are Tempted…

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

James 1:12-15 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

Deuteronomy 8:2-5 (NIV)

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

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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

A Child of God…

Galatians 3:26-28 (NIV)

So, in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Our Verse of the Day has some theological implications that should not be ignored … nor is the text ambiguous. Simply stated, for a person to be a child of God, he or she must be in Christ Jesus through faith in Him. Compare this assertion from Paul with the declaration of John:

John 1:10-13 (NIV)

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right (authority or power) to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God.

Our “right” to become children of God was GIVEN by Jesus Christ through receiving and believing in Him! We do not have the right to claim that we are children of God except that it has been given us through the authority of the Son. In addition, John records of the teachings of Jesus regarding how those who reject Him are not “legitimate” children:

John 8:31-47 (NIV)

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. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.” 39 Abraham is our father,” they answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.” “We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God Himself.42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Wow! Being physical children of Abraham does not in itself confer the right to become children of God. Jesus said, IF you were Abraham’s children, then you would do what Abraham did. So, what did Abraham do? What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Cf. Romans 4:3) A person has to believe God at His Word to become His child through the adoption of sonship (as we have seen in previous studies). Even John the Baptist said to some in the crowds coming out to be baptized by him: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Cf. Luke 3:7-9)

It follows that a true child of Abraham is one who believes God. And to believe God means to believe in the Son that He has sent – Jesus! As the Apostle John wrote:

1 John 5:1-5 (NIV)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. 2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

What we see in these passages of Scripture is the understanding that humans have the opportunity or capacity to become “children of God” through the “transformation” that comes from receiving Jesus … from believing in His name and through abiding in Him. When we are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; there is a spiritual birth or transformation (rebirth process) that occurs within our inner beings that produces a “child of God”.  Thus, we are born-again through the Spirit of God when we receive Jesus and believe in Him! Indeed, a child of God is something that we become through Christ alone! We are “adopted” by the Father because we abide in His Son. There is no alternative … no other “process” offered in Scripture for us to become “children” of God. Paul was given the ability to articulate this theological concept in practical terms for us:

Romans 8:14-17 (NIV)

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory….

My friends, I pray that as you begin your day, you will be encouraged to better understand your relationship with God the Father as His child.  No one will ever love you with the depth or passion of love that God has for you through Jesus Christ. Receive His love this morning! Believe in His love for you this morning! It will change your thoughts about who you are in Him.  You are His beloved child … and there is no greater feeling than knowing you are loved by God.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure. ~ 1 John 3:1-3

A Changed Faith…

Luke 1:68-70 (NIV)

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to His people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David (as He said through His holy prophets of long ago)

As part of the Christmas story … we have the parallel narrative surrounding the birth of John the Baptist, who would be the forerunner to announce the coming of the Messiah to Israel. He would be known as the herald, a prophet of the Most-High God; the one who would announce Jesus as the Messiah … the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world … at the appointed time. So, I think we need to review the birth of John the Baptist, and the prophetic word spoken over him by his father, Zechariah.  Our Verse of the Day is the beginning excerpt of that longer “Song of Zechariah.”

Luke 1:57-80 (NIV)

57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

Zechariah’s Song

67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to His people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn (symbolizes a strong king) of salvation for us in the house of His servant David 70 (as He said through His holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— 72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember His holy covenant, 73 the oath He swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve Him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, 77 to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” 80 And the child grew and became strong in the Spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

This is an incredible prophetic word from the father of John the Baptist at the time of his birth.  Not only did Zechariah declare the role of his son to be the forerunner to announce the coming Messiah (Anointed One) and His role to effectuate salvation for the Jewish people, he proclaimed the covenantal prophesies that would be fulfilled in the Messiah. This is a portion of New Testament scripture that we do not want to miss or overlook. The Christmas narrative as well as the foundations of the message of Christ (how we come to faith) are being laid here in the Gospel record. It is important for us to see the covenant promises of God as they advance between Abraham and King David and the coming Messiah. The role of John the Baptist is to “prepare the way (for the coming) of the Lord” – as prophesied in Isaiah 40.  Remember, there is a multitude of prophesies converging on the Advent of Jesus Christ; and John the Baptist was ordained by God to open of hearts of people to the coming reality. John initiated a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and told the people to believe in the One coming after him, that is, in Jesus. (Cf. Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; and Acts 19:4)

What is our takeaway? I see the application in this: There is a Second Advent foretold … the Second Coming of Jesus!  Daniel prophesied: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Cf. Daniel 7:13-14) And the Gospel writers affirmed that when Jesus spoke about the “end times,” He declared: “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Cf. Matthew 24:30-31; Mark 13:26-27; Luke 21:27-28) In the Gospel of John, Jesus said He would go and prepare a place for us; and He promised to come back and take us to be with Him so that we might be where He is. (Cf. John 13:2-3) And Peter asserts: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise (to return), as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (Cf. 2 Peter 3:9)

And therein lies the application. The time is growing short and the final curtain call is being drawn.  The Lord Jesus wants everyone to come to repentance! Yes, whosoever will must ready themselves for the coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory!  And so, we the Church, have a role to play just as John the Baptist did at the First Advent.  Our role is to “prepare the way (for the coming) of the Lord!” We must urge those who do not know Jesus that the hour of repentance is now! He Is Coming Soon! It is time for the Prodigal to repent and return to the Lord. It is time for the Remnant Church to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people! (Cf. Jude 1:5) The TRUTH has drawn a line in the sand. It divides and separates light from darkness! The LIGHT has already come! His name is Jesus! Yes, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Cf. John 1:3) When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Cf. John 8:12) And, “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)

As believers, we have a mandate to enter the time of harvest. (Cf. Luke 10:2) And just as Paul testified before King Agrippa, so we must fulfill our role as the Church … as servants who follow Jesus … to go where Jesus is. (Cf. John 12:25-26) Even now, I hear these same words resonate in my spirit: “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to themto open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Cf. Acts 26:16-18)

O Church, do you not know that we have been given a SECOND CHANCE to be HIS Church? Indeed, this is our assignment for this time … for this generation … to prepare this people for His coming … to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. How I pray we will use every opportunity we have been given to “prepare the way of the Lord” for His Coming! Let us, our generation, now be the voice of one crying out in the wilderness of this culture. Yes, I pray that we will not fear but will be bold and courageous for such a time as this….  Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Overflowing with Thankfulness…

Colossians 2:6-7 (NIV)

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

A life changed by coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ is a life characterized by thankfulness! As Paul described in our Verse of the Day, our hearts should “overflow” with thankfulness … with humble gratitude … for the One who saved us and set us free from the condemnation of sin! For we have not been appointed to the coming wrath for those who are rebellious and disobedient; rather, we have received salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:9) Indeed, our thankfulness should abound with the highest praise:

Ephesians 1:4-10 (NIV)

4 For God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, 5 He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. 7 In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 God 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.

2 Corinthians 4:13-15 (NIV)

13 It is written: “I believed; therefore, I have spoken.” Since we have that same Spirit-given faith, we also believe and therefore speak, 14 because we know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to Himself. 15 All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Hallelujah! As believers we have great reason to be thankful for the riches of His lavish grace! And so, I pray we will take a moment to give our Lord Jesus overflowing praise today … and every day! Indeed, let thanksgiving abound to God for all He has done! For He chose us in Christ before the creation of the world and made us His handiwork; created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Yes, let us continue to live our lives in Christ, rooted and built up in Him through the faith we have been taught by the Word and received through the grace of God. Let everything we do in service to our Lord overflow with thanksgiving! In His Saving Name, I pray. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Do Not Love The World

1 John 2:15-16 (NIV)

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.

Our Verse of the Day was cited in the commentary when we looked at the topic of the “idolatry of self” a few days ago. To me, this additional reminder is not coincidence; rather, I believe it confirms that the Holy Spirit wants us to address this spiritual concern in our lives. We need to take some time for introspection and let the light of the Spirit illuminate whatever lies in our hearts that is taking precedence over our relationship with God. Ask yourself, what do I prioritize above intimacy with God? As I have shared before, we cannot view God as simply a “part” of our lives … the “religious aspect” of our lives. No, God is either everything, or in essence, He is nothing….

I think our verse points out what is the primary deterrent to intimacy with God: we set our affections on the world or the things of the world. As John asserted, “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.” This can be a difficult truth to recognize within ourselves, so it is necessary for us to guard our minds and hearts in order to discern when we are about to cross the line…. Although we live in this fallen and sinful world, we have been “called” out of the world – meaning we do not live in accordance with the world … its patterns of thought or its earthly wisdom. As John points out for us, everything in the world as it pertains to sinful human nature does not come from God. It comes from the world and from within our physical bodies.

One of the key precepts taught by Jesus related to this spiritual concern is that He calls believers out of the world.  Jesus told His disciples, “I have chosen you out of the world.” And so, once we are IN Him, we no longer belong to the world, its deception or darkness, its allures or enticements.  In fact, Jesus asserts that our calling out, our separation from the things of the world, will be the reason the “world will hate us.”

John 15:18-19 (NIV)

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

John 17:13-17 (NIV)

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them to live in accordance with the truth; your Word is Truth.”

The Apostles understood this separation from the world … our sanctification unto God … and its imperative to a life of faith. Consider these inspired instructions:

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

1 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. 2 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.

1 Corinthians 2:11-12 (NIV)

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.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV)

The god of this world (Satan) 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.

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

James 3:13-18 (NIV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

When John tells us not to love the world or anything in it, we need to consider the consequence he shares as well: “If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is NOT in them.” The implication here is that we will love our lives IN this world more than we love the One who created it for our habitation. Peter wrote: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning.” (Cf. 2 Peter 2:20) The Apostle James goes even further in his exhortation:

James 4:4-5 (NLT) – Italics are mine.

You adulterous people! You who are unfaithful to the covenant of God. Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. Do you think the Scriptures have no meaning? They say that God is passionate that the spirit He has placed within us should be faithful to Him. His Holy Spirit within us opposes our envy of the world….

It is clear that we cannot prioritize the gratification of ourselves above the gratitude that is due our Creator! And I believe this shift of spiritual orientation and understanding begins at the moment of rebirth. When we are born of the Spirit, the things of this world become meaningless. Paul asserted, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) The “new” means we are no longer held captive to the things of this world. We are no longer prisoners to the darkness of sin. Light has come! We have been set free of those things in order for His love to dwell within us! In a sense, our separation from the world is the evidence of our new creation in Christ Jesus.

A person is not going to overcome world unless he or she is born of God; and a person cannot be born of the Spirit except through putting their faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. It is our faith in Him that empowers us to be victorious and to overcome the world. (Cf. 1 John 5:2-4) Yes, it is through the obedience that comes from faith that we will be set free from the things of this world! Jesus said, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’” (Cf. Luke 9:23) If we will deny ourselves … if we deny our flesh and its sinful nature … we will not love or pursue the things of this world; rather, we will become devoted followers of our Lord Jesus and experience the love of the Father in all of its fullness…. I pray each of us will take up the cross of obedience each day as our act of worship … as a demonstration of our love for the Father. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. ~ Romans 1:25

So, don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and He will give you everything you need. ~ Matthew 6:31-33

You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. ~ James 4:2b-3

Competent and Confident

2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

As I read our Verse of the Day, my first thought was to ask myself a question: “Do I feel competent as a minister of the New Covenant?” And then I asked another question: “Do I feel confident as a minister of the New Covenant?” As believers, I think each question should be explored because we are parties to the New Covenant that was mediated through the blood of Jesus. (Cf. Luke 22:20) We are recipients of its promises. We are bound to its terms and conditions. And in it we are given authority to invite others to join the agreement (confession) through faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed, there is an expectation for us to live out and to share the Gospel of Christ so that others might become parties to the New Covenant as well….

The context for our verse is part of a larger defense that Paul makes to the Corinthian Church regarding his authority in preaching the Gospel … his apostleship as a minister of the New Covenant established through Jesus Christ. Paul has been dealing with “church discipline” matters, and it has ignited questions within the church regarding his leadership, teaching, and approach. Further, it has become a personal struggle for Paul to endure the pain of rejection after working so diligently to bring the brothers and sisters at Corinth to maturity in Christ. Therefore, I encourage you to read 2 Corinthians 1-4 to have a better understanding of what is happening as well as Paul’s response.

I think we need this context to understand the assertions Paul made to the Corinthians as he administered the truth to them. His confidence in doing so was not within himself or his own abilities. His confidence came from the trustworthiness of Christ Himself! Paul did not doubt the absolute certainty nor sufficiency of what Christ fulfilled through His death on the cross … the eternal atonement for our sin! In Him we received mercy and grace. Through Him we are raised to new life … we are born again! Faith in Jesus gives us the confidence we need to become ambassadors for Him and ministers of the New Covenant.

Likewise, we need to note that our competence or ability to minister to others comes through Jesus Christ. He alone is our sufficiency, qualification, and adequacy. There should be no question about “feeling” competent; rather, faith understands that the source of our abilities … our courage … our strength comes from Him who was victorious over death. Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes….” (Cf. Romans 1:16) And the power to proclaim the Gospel comes from the same source! As Paul affirmed, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Cf. Philippians 4:13) And, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)

With these thoughts in mind, let’s go back to discourse of Paul on evangelism:

2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (NIV)

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

2 Corinthians 3:1-6 (NIV)

1Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.4 Such confidence (trust, reliance, certainty, assurance) we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent (sufficient, qualified, adequate) in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence (sufficiency, qualification, adequacy) comes from God. 6 He has made us competent (sufficient, qualified, adequate) as ministers of a New Covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

I want us to focus on the Verse 6 a moment and ask some tough questions. Do you believe that you are a “competent” minister of the New Covenant? Do you believe the message of the New Covenant established by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should be shared with others? If you do not feel confident in your own understanding of the New Covenant, what would help you achieve more knowledge? If you do not feel confident in sharing the message of Jesus Christ, what would help you overcome your concerns?

As we have seen, Paul declared that his competence in preaching the Gospel “comes from God.” And He is our source as well! Paul states, “God has MADE us competent as ministers.” Any idea how God did so? If we look at the life of Paul, we see his zeal for the Law and study of the Scriptures as the foundation for His competence; however, Paul was not an “ambassador” of the New Covenant until his encounter with Jesus Christ. His experience with the risen Lord changed everything!

Acts 26:15-23 (NIV)

15 Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the Lord replied. 16 “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” 19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; thus, I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to His own people and to the Gentiles.”

And so, I encourage each of us to consider our own competence. As believers, each of us has had an encounter with Jesus Christ. It may not have been a blinding light from heaven … but it was the light of His presence and His Spirit that captured us nonetheless. And the glorious revelation of God’s love, mercy, and grace washed over us as the spiritual new birth produced in us our new life in Christ. And we have never been the same since Christ entered our hearts and sent His Spirit to indwell us. “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.” (Cf. 1 John 4:13)

So, what might be inhibiting our competence to be ministers of the New Covenant like those who came before us? If through the past couple of millennia there had been no one “competent” to preserve the Word and to proclaim the Gospel, would we have even come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Even in the first century, there was a sense of urgency to protect the light and truth of God revealed to us through His Son. Consider what Jude wrote: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” Perhaps there is hesitancy on our part because we still have questions about our own faith or what it is based upon. Maybe there is a lack of confidence in our knowledge that stems from a lack of spending time reading and meditating on God’s Word. Ultimately our faith is based on our confidence in the Word of God.

A Final Thought:

John 15:5-8 (NIV)

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Apart from Jesus … apart from the power of His indwelling Spirit … we can do nothing. That means we cannot be “competent” as ministers of the New Covenant if we do not have an intimate relationship with Him. We have to be empowered and equipped; and that comes from His Holy Spirit. I have observed in my own walk with Christ, that the more time I spend studying and meditating on the Word of God, the more time that I spend in prayer; the more confident I become with WHO I know. And, like Paul, I am coming to the place in my life … in my walk … where I consider everything else worthless compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus!” (Cf. Philippians 3:8) So, I cannot communicate or demonstrate with “competence” WHO Jesus is or WHAT Jesus accomplished without truly knowing Him and abiding in Him! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Path of Most Resistance

1 Peter 5:8-9 (NIV)

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle Peter gives us some straightforward advice regarding the issue of temptation and how to “resist” it. First of all, Peter cautions us always to be vigilant. We need to be alert and clear thinking … knowing that temptation(s) is an incessant battle for each of us. He probably recalls the night of Jesus’ betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had asked the disciples to “keep watch with Him” as He went to a secluded area to pray. “Then He (Jesus) returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter, “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Cf. Matthew 26:40-41)

Second, Peter provides an excellent metaphor regarding our adversary … the devil. Peter describes him as a roaring lion on the “constant prowl” seeking a target … a victim … to devour with his lies. And it is clear that Satan oppresses and opposes those who have placed their faith in Jesus. Paul said we are not ignorant of the devices, schemes, or methods that Satan uses to draw us into temptation and to suppress our testimony through victorious living. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 2:11) Both James and Paul admonish us to consider the following aspects of temptation:

James 1:12-14 (NIV)

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 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. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (NIV)

12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to bear, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Further, we should understand that our “battle” with temptation is not always against our flesh or sinful human nature. We need to acknowledge that there are spiritual forces of darkness and evil that require internal spiritual fortitude to withstand. We are called to oppose and strive against the culture and the influence that the devil has over this world:

Ephesians 6:10-13 (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.

So, Peter urges us to resist the devil by standing firm in our faith. As James advised us: “7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (Cf. James 4:7-8) In both cases, we are instructed to “resist” or “withstand the action” of the devil. We are to “strive against” or “oppose” what Satan throws our way. As Paul instructed, “We should take up the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Cf. Ephesians 6:16) Thus, it is our faith that becomes the victory over temptation. As the Apostle John affirmed, “This is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Cf. 1 John 5:3-5)

A final observation is that Peter connects the aggressive actions of the devil with the sufferings of believers throughout the world. Sometimes our “trials” are the struggles we face with temptation; however, the hardships and sufferings we endure could be those which come in the form of reviling and persecution for our faith in Jesus Christ. This is especially true in areas of the world where Islam is dominant and intolerant of Christianity. But even this is becoming the norm of modern culture – as God is relegated from public consciousness and moral values plummet into the abyss of sin. But Paul foretold us that this would be the case:

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (ESV)

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

It is my prayer that we as believers will heed the spiritual insights that the Apostles have shared with us in their inspired writings. May we be alert, sensible, and logical as we observe the signs of the times and the moral decline of our culture. We need to resist, oppose, and strive against compromise with the culture around us … and realize that we will most likely suffer in some manner for doing so. As Jesus taught during the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Cf. Matthew 5:10-12) Be encouraged and remember the Lord said: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish.” (Cf. Isaiah 41:10-11)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

What Do You Desire?

Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Our Verse of the Day is probably a familiar verse to most of us. We often cite it with expectation that God is going to fill our lives with all the things we value and enjoy. Right? Well, perhaps we should pause and look further at the context and intent of what David is imparted when he penned these thoughts.

Verses 1-4

In this Psalm, David considers the age-old question of why evil people seem to prosper and flourish while those who endeavor to live righteous lives often experience suffering and hardship. I sense that the Psalm was written as an encouragement to the people of God not worry or fret over this matter. And it is probably a good message for us to contemplate in light of the current tension, conflict, and discord going on in our nation right now. David begins: “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither … like green plants they will soon die away. Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

But as we read past these verses and look into the meditation that follows, David widens our perspective to envision life beyond current circumstances. He encourages us to live with a view of eternity, and he redirects us to set our hope in the everlasting purposes of God … not just what we observe or experience in the present. He affirms that there will be a time of judgment and recompense which will be accomplished on God’s timetable. To me, this confirms that most of the tension we encounter in this world is the conflict between light versus darkness. John observed: “This is the verdict. Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (Cf. John 3:19) Paul articulated: “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.” (Cf. Ephesians 6:12) Still, we understand that God is sovereign even in the midst of whatever wrongdoing He permits mankind to inflict on one another. And we know that light will ultimately prevail because God is Light. (Cf. 1 John 1:5)

Verses 5-11

5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: 6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. 7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. 8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. 10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. 11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. (Cf. Matthew 5:5)

In these and the following verses, David goes on to describe how the behavior of godless people will be judged and recompensed. Their wicked schemes will only return upon themselves. Wrongdoers will ultimately suffer the consequences of their actions. But the righteous will abide under the care of the Lord … and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster, they will not wither; in days of famine, they will enjoy plenty. (Cf. Verses 18-19) And consider this encouragement: “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; others will see that their children are blessed. Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones. (Cf. Verses 23-28)

Even though we observe that God allows darkness to operate in this fallen world, He is with those who fear Him. The Father loves those who are just, righteous, and faithful. “The heavens proclaim His righteousness, for He is a God of justice.” (Cf. Psalm 50:6) As Paul affirmed: “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; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Cf. Romans 2:6-10) Yes, it is clear that God will reward each person according to what he or she has done. (Cf. Jeremiah 17:10; 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12) So we are exhorted by David, the Prophets, the Apostles, and our Lord Jesus Christ, to commit ourselves to do what is good and righteous … to trust in the Lord always … and to wait for Him and His reward.

With these things in mind, I encourage you to revisit the implication of Verse 4. I believe to take delight in the Lord is to love Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength … to trust and obey Him … to encounter His unfailing love, abiding grace, and peace … to love one another as He has loved us … to serve Him through offering our bodies as living sacrifices … to live worthy of Him and to please Him in every way. When we take delight in the Lord, He will GIVE us the desires of our hearts. But what are the desires of our hearts? In the context of the entire Psalm, I think we have learned that the desire of our hearts should be focused on His promise of reward … of His blessing in this life as well as the everlasting life that awaits us. Yes, our eternal inheritance … His faithful and true promises … these are the rewards for perseverance in faith! “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:6) Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (Cf. John 14:1-4) Yes, to be with Lord Jesus forever IS the desire of our hearts! For He gives true life to those who abide in Him and delight themselves in Him!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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. And this is what He promised us—eternal life. ~ 1 John 2:24-25

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. ~ 1 John 5:11-12

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. ~ Jude 1:20-21

God’s Plan For You…

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future

Our Verse of the Day is very familiar to most of us. It is often memorized and quoted as an encouragement to people who have lost direction for their life … who have suffered hardship or challenges in life … who have started wondering if God even really has a purpose for them or if there is any hope for change in their circumstances.  When someone is going through tough times like these, I can see how this message of hope for the future would resonate and cause us to personalize it.

But this verse, more often than not, is taken out of its context for a remnant nation ordained to emerge from the hardships brought about through divine judgment. I think it has been misapplied to afford a sense of hope, comfort, and assurance in our personal relationship with God rather than being looked at in its immediate context. And while I want to feel that God has great plans and a purpose for my life (and He does), this is not necessarily the correct verse to quote or convey it. So, I would like us to look at the whole context surrounding the verse to see the thought I am trying to develop here:

1 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. (This was after King Jehoiachin and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the skilled workers and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.) He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It said:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place (Jerusalem). 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

15 You may say, “The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,” 16 but this is what the Lord says about the king who sits on David’s throne and all the people who remain in this city, your fellow citizens who did not go with you into exile— 17 yes, this is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. 18 I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth, a curse and an object of horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them. 19 For they have not listened to my words,” declares the Lord, “words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either,” declares the Lord.

Now that we have context, I believe it is apparent that Jeremiah was speaking to the exiles sent to Babylon for the judgment of Israel and Judah … to those who would be held captive there for 70 years. It is quite important to note that this was ordained by God due to their disobedience and unfaithfulness to Him; but His promise is for redemption and restoration.  And I believe it should be understood that the message was intended to let those who persevered in faith would see a better future than their current situation.  In other words, the prophetic word spoken to this remnant people was intended to convey that God would rebuild and restore after their time of exile.  And so, I think there is a prophetic parallel to the generation in which we live. Though we are entering a time of judgment for the sin of this nation, perhaps for the sin of the world, there is a hope and a future for believers as well. His name is Jesus … the merciful Savior … our rock and our refuge.  He is our salvation … our living hope and future.

My purpose this morning is not to dissuade you from declaring Jeremiah 29:11 over your own life.  I simply want us to remember the broader context of the verse and its meaning in the broader context of the community of believers … the Church. Regardless of what happens in our lives, the Father has a plan for His children … external life in Him through His Son, our Lord Jesus. Go back and look at the promises God made in Verses 12-14Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Those are His plans for everyone who desires to be faithful to God and to leave the captivity of sin! And we leave it through repentance and placing our faith in Jesus. The declaration of Jeremiah 29:11 truly applies to all who come to Jesus and believe in Him for full restoration….

I think Paul has best expressed the thoughts that I have endeavored to convey:

Romans 8:28-39 (NIV)

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose29 For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Citing Psalm 44:22) 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!