Thanksgiving For Giving…

Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Our Verse of the Day instructs us to give thanks to God through the name of Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is right for us to always be giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Cf. Ephesians 5:20) So, let us joyfully give thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of Light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Cf. Colossians 1:12-14)

Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV)

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Oh, what wisdom the Apostle Paul has shared in his epistle to the Colossian believers!  He instructs us to be thankful … to live in accordance with the lavish grace and redemption we have received in Christ Jesus … and to always give thanks to the Father through Him!  As we studied yesterday: just as we received Christ Jesus as Lord, so we should continue to live our lives in Him.  And so, look at the examples of HOW we should live as God’s chosen people! Yes, whatever we say or do, all is to be done in Jesus’ name to the glory of God the Father.

In this context, I feel compelled to share this word from God that resonated with me during my quiet time this morning. I want to draw our attention to the thanksgiving that comes from giving:

2 Corinthians 9:6-15 (NIV)

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good workAs it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” (Citing Psalm 112:9) 10 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Oh, I think that the Spirit of God wants to impress upon us a spirit of generosity!  He desires for us to be generous in the kindness of our words for the ministry of the reconciliation … and in the accomplishment of all He has called us to do for the needs of others. For in the acts of freely giving of our abundance to the poor and freely giving of ourselves as living sacrifices, there is an overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God! Yes, our Heavenly Father will be praised for the obedience that accompanies our confession of the Gospel of Christ … and for our generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.

My friend, do not be reluctant or afraid to be generous with what God has graciously provided you. God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work – prepared in advance for you to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) I believe that the most important outcome of generosity is the overflowing of thankfulness that will be offered to God! Yes, every act of giving creates an opportunity for thanksgiving and praise to be lifted up to our Heavenly Father in the name of our Lord Jesus! Indeed, thanks be to God for His indescribable gift … the gift of generous hearts! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV)

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

The Will of God…

1 Peter 2:15-16 (NIV)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

Yesterday, we studied a prayer that asked for being filled with the knowledge of God’s will. And I thought, after reading our Verse of the Day, that we can simply look in the Word of God to find specific revelations of His will for our lives. Our verse is an example of several unequivocal declarations of God’s will found in scripture; and I will share some others for your reference:

1 Peter 2:15 (NIV)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 (NIV)

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like unbelievers, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister….

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)

16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 1:3-5 (ESV)

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luke 7:29-30 (NKJV)

29 And when all the people heard Jesus, even the tax collectors declared the righteousness of God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by John.

These passages tell us that the will of God for us is to do good; to be sanctified; to rejoice always; to pray without ceasing; to give thanks to God; to fulfill the calling of God on our lives; and to receive the baptism of repentance. Paul declared that his calling to be an apostle of Christ Jesus was by the will of God. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1) So even though we might not always have complete knowledge of God’s will, we CAN still act and operate on what we do know. The least we can do is respond to the knowledge of God’s will we already have available to us. Yes, I think that just doing the few things revealed here will position us to have greater intimacy with God as we continue “to be filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Often, I have heard people express concern about “missing” the will of God. When I reflected on my own attempts to discern and fulfill the will of God for my own life; what I discovered is that I was chasing after my own hopes and dreams at times. I was not giving consideration to what had already been revealed to me in His Word. Then it occurred to me, that perhaps I should focus on and pursue the things that I do know already; rather than be worried or idled while waiting for some new revelation from God.

I remember sharing my anxieties with a former pastor about the decision to move my family to a different state for a new job. He told me, not to agonize over whether to go or to have ultimate certainty of the “rightness” of the decision. Pastor Sam shared, “Sometimes the Holy Spirit simply moves us to take a new step of faith. He shared, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:8) Then he said, “Where you go … what you do … is not always the most important aspect of your decision; rather, wherever you go – just take root and bear fruit. That is always the will of God for our lives.” His wisdom has stuck with me through the years … perhaps it will speak to you when those type of decisions come to your life.

God’s will for us is to do the good works for which we were created in Christ Jesus to do before the foundation of the world. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) God’s will for us is to be baptized and sanctified – set part for service to Him. God’s will for us is to rejoice, pray, and to give Him thanks all the time. God’s will for each of us is to exercise our spiritual gifts and fulfill our role within the Body of Christ. (Cf. Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12) When I look at these things, none of them have anything to do with where I live; what occupation I have; who I should marry; or those types of decisions because His will and purpose for me will always be for me to be obedient in any of those contexts….

So rather than looking for the will of God in a specific context … perhaps becoming paralyzed with indecision about whether to move or change a job or develop new relationship; I think we would do better to base our decisions and choices on what God has revealed in Scripture. Maybe we should ask, “How will this decision affect my ability to ‘take root and bear fruit?’ How will this decision enhance my desire to walk in the revealed will of God?” This means we need to read God’s Word to know His will. This means that we do not look for answers from the world; rather, our transformation to obedience comes from a renewal of our minds … a reset of our mindset. Paul exhorts us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Cf. Romans 12:2)

In Matthew 6:25-34, when Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you,” I believe He was speaking about the pursuit of God’s will for our lives. The kingdom of God is based in His sovereign authority (His will); and it follows that seeking to do His will (obedience) must come first … regardless of the context or circumstances we have been given in life. But then, God promises to grant all us the things which pertain to our needs. So, I think we need to realize there is a difference between His will and our needs (desires). I believe the obedience of faith in Jesus must come first! But as you do the will of God, watch as He unfolds and reveals His specific will in your situation and circumstances. (Cf. Psalm 37:3-6) When you seek the will of God, watch as He causes “all things to work for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Cf. Romans 8:28) And remember, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose (will) that prevails.” (Cf. Proverbs 19:21)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Hebrews 10:36

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

1 Peter 4:19

Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

1 John 2:16-17

16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

All Scripture is God-Breathed…

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

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

Our Verse of the Day is one we have studied it before, but perhaps we need a reminder of how important the Holy Scriptures are to our daily walk with God. Let’s put the verse into context. Paul has just warned Timothy how there will be terrible times in the last days, and he describes how people without the indwelling Holy Spirit will behave toward God and other people. So, Paul encourages Timothy to consecrate himself through knowledge of the truth in order to withstand the “perilous times and persecution” that will surely come. Paul writes:

2 Timothy 3:14-17 (NIV)

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

There are a few points that Paul makes here that I would like us to note:

1. From infancy (from childhood), Timothy has known the Scriptures. So, one question would be – how did this happen? How would a little child be exposed to the Word of God? We might find the answer in 2 Timothy 1:5 where Paul shares, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” The implication is that the Scriptures were read and taught to Timothy as a child by his mother and grandmother – which resulted in his coming to faith in Jesus Christ. If there is no other takeaway – I hope you can see the importance of teaching your children the Bible and its influence upon their lives….

2. All Scripture is God-breathed. What does this mean – God breathed? We might find the answer in 2 Peter 1:21 where he declares: “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets (holy men of God), though human, spoke from God as they were carried along (moved) by the Holy Spirit. And the writer of the Book of Hebrews asserts the following: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son….” (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-2) Jesus knew and quoted Scripture – saying “It is written ….” If there is no other takeaway – I hope you can see the reliability of the Bible to be your guide into the heart and mind of God….

3. Paul shares the purpose of Scripture – why it was given by God and why it has been recorded for us: “It is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Scripture has a great purpose in guiding us to faith in Jesus Christ and teaching us what is right … what God expects of His people. It sets us apart to serve God in the manner that He reveals in His Word. As Paul explained, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) If there is no other takeaway, I hope that you can see the benefit of reading the Bible to understand what God desires from our lives.

I’m not sure what else I could add to our verse for today; but I think that I could characterize it as the Readers’ Digest Abridged Version of Psalm 119. Although it is quite long, Psalm 119 contains meditations on the excellence of the Word of God that I believe will stir your heart and reinforce what Paul shared with Timothy regarding the Scriptures. Likewise, we could even reduce this admonition to a single verse of Scripture quoted by the Lord Jesus: “It is written: “Man shall not live on bread (food) alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Cf. Matthew 4:4) Here Jesus is actually quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. The implication is that the Word of God (spiritual food) is just as life-sustaining to our spirits as natural food is for our physical bodies. Yes, both are essential to a full and healthy life as God our Creator has purposed for His treasured possession. (Cf. Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6, 14:2, 26:18, 33:19; Psalm 135:4)

These are the reasons that I try to share Scripture with you each day. This is why we stay focused on the Word of Life. The Word of God is able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. This is why we study to grow and be filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all wisdom and understanding as the Spirit gives. (Cf. Colossians 1:9) “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it discerns the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12)

And so, I hope our Verse of the Day will encourage you and I to keep at it … to persevere in our pursuit of truth so that might be transformed by the renewing of our minds and conformed to the image of Christ Jesus. Yes, I pray we will all continue to diligently seek God through His Word so that these we might live worthy of the Lord Jesus and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work. (Cf. Colossians 1:10) God wants us to know what He expects and to discern His will for our relationships with Him and with one another. So, let us to be diligent and devoted in our study time … in our training time … and in our spiritual correction time. Indeed, let us delight ourselves in the Lord through His presence found in His Word….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Planning Ahead…

Proverbs 27:1 (NIV)

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

Our Verse of the Day speaks to the uncertainty of life. Too often, we assume that the physical life we experience in the here and now will continue without interruption and without interference. But as we have observed over the past couple of years, the unknown continues to grab our attention and cause us to question what the future holds. It reminds us that life is uncertain … our future is not guaranteed. It admonishes us to not be arrogant or make too many assumptions about our lives … because we truly do not know what a day may bring. The Apostle James, perhaps, had this proverb in mind when he wrote:

James 4:13-17 (NIV)

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Did you see the caveat in Verse 17? There is a good that we know we ought to be about doing; but failure to do it puts us in a status of sin … of missing the mark and high calling of God. I think what James is saying here it that our planning for the future should not set aside or ignore the good works that God has purposed in advance for us to do. We should be incorporating our Kingdom assignments into everything we do on a daily basis … for we do not even know what will happen tomorrow.

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

So, the key point here is that tomorrow is not promised to any of us, so we are to make the most of our time here on earth … serving God and His Kingdom. As Paul advised; “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Cf. Ephesians 5:15-17) Likewise, Paul tells us: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Cf. Colossians 4:5-6)

Heavenly Father, I pray this morning that we will develop a balanced view of ourselves and the lives that you have given us. Give us perspective and wisdom to understand that our physical lives are but a vapor … a mist. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Cf. Psalm 90:12) For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:7) Yes, I pray that we would spend less time planning for the temporal and devote more time engaging in the eternal. I pray, O Lord, that we would avail ourselves more for the purposes of your Kingdom … to multiply the inheritance of your grace and salvation … to build up treasure in heaven that will never fail or be taken! Indeed, the true riches are the souls of those you bring into our lives and lead to your throne of grace … where you will encounter them with your presence … to heal and to redeem and to restore. O Lord, may we conform our life plans to your purposes. Yes, Lord, change our hearts and our mindsets to will and to act in order to fulfill Your good purpose. (Cf. Philippians 2:13) And I ask all these things in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Here are some additional verses for you to consider as you begin your day:

Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT)

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.

Proverbs 19:20-21 (NLT)

Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.

Isaiah 48:17 (NLT)

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.

Silence the Foolish

1 Peter 2:15-16 (NIV)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

As I read our Verse of the Day, I began to think about the significance of its message for believers – both for 1st Century Christians and for us in this current generation as well. I believe Peter affords a challenging insight into how we should conduct ourselves in a world that we have been called out of by the Lord Jesus.  So I have reprinted a larger section of the passage to give us the context:

1 Peter 2:11-23 (NIV)

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the unbelievers that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” (Cf. Isaiah 53:9) 23 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.

I have emphasized the “applications” I want us to see and consider.  First, Peter states it is the will of God for us to “do good”.  Righteous conduct is not optional for Christians.  We are to do what is right in all situations. This includes both our actions and our words! And the reason is that by doing good we should silence those who in essence oppose God.  It is good conduct that God seeks in us.  We are to show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, and honor the highest offices of government which God has established.  And if we should suffer for doing good, and endure it, this is commendable before God.  Peter goes on to provide the example of our Lord Jesus in how to conduct ourselves in the face of opposition.  We should not return insult for insult.  We do not retaliate; rather, we wait upon the Lord who said: “It is mine to avenge. I will repay.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30)

Deuteronomy 32:34-41 (NIV)

34 “Have I not kept this in reserve and sealed it in my vaults? 35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” 36 The Lord will vindicate His people and relent concerning His servants when He sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free. 37 He will say: “Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in, 38 the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up to help you! Let them give you shelter! 39 “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. 40 I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: As surely as I live forever, 41 when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.

Romans 12:9-19 (NIV)

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

Hebrews 10:26-35 (NIV)

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

So, I pray that we will embrace the will of God for those who believe in Him. His will is for us to “do good” as a testimony to those who oppose Him. God has given salvation and eternal life to those who believe; and He will judge those who are disobedient … those who disdain the blood of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ … those who resist and insult the grace of the Holy Spirit. Yes, God will judge His people.  We just need to do what is right and let God take care of the rest! So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Knowledge of His Will

Colossians 1:9 (NIV)

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives….

This is one of my favorite verses … contained in a larger passage that captures a model prayer of Paul.  I have found this prayer quite useful because it contains intercessory petitions and supplications that always align with the will of God.  And as the Apostle John affirms: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (Cf. 1 John 5:14) So let’s look at the overall prayer in context.

Colossians 1:3-14 (NIV)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the Gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf, and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of light. 13 For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Some Notes:

Note that Verse 9 states “we have not stopped praying for you all.”  And then it emphasizes, “we continually ask God….”  To me, the context urges us to pray often for the people of God … for believers everywhere … because of their faith and love in Christ Jesus.  It is a prayer of encouragement, and this is what we ask or petition of God: “To fill His people with the knowledge of HIS WILL through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”  Indeed, this is a powerful request because it presses for revelation, and it activates the faith of believers to accomplish the purposes (works) of God that He has ordained for the Body of Christ to fulfill.

Note that Verse 10 provides the reason that we should ask God to fill believers with the knowledge of His will: So that we may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way:

            a.         By bearing fruit in every good work

            b.         By growing in the knowledge of God

            c.         By being strengthened with all power according to HIS glorious might

            d.         By exercising great endurance and patience in your faith

            e.         By giving joyful thanks to the Father

Note that the overall prayer is for the knowledge of God to fill believers in order for them to accomplish specific outcomes that will please the Lord. And Paul gives us some practical instruction on HOW to please God:

Romans 8:5-8 (NIV)

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Romans 14:17-19

17 For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. 19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification (support).

A Final Thought:

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (NIV)

1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you His Holy Spirit.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Do What He Says…

James 1:22 (NIV)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

We have read this verse many times I’m sure.  And as the Spirit has been encouraging us to be in the Word and studying it; this is the call to “do what it says”.  All the reading and studying in the world is not going to replace action and putting the Word into practice.  I am reminded (and convicted) by what Jesus said as He concluded His “Sermon on the Mount” recorded in the Gospel of Matthew:

Matthew 7:21-29 (NIV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, 29 because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

In the context, it is those who do the will of the Father that will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  And the words of Jesus have taught us what the will of the Father is: “To believe in the Son whom the Father has sent.”  When asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:28-29) This is the teaching we are to put into practice – the exercise of putting our complete trust and faith in Jesus. But then, in order to grow in our faith, there are disciplines that we will follow to bring us to maturity in Christ.  We take root in a local assembly in order to be equipped for ministry. We exercise our spiritual gifts through good works so that we are putting His teachings into practice. This is how faith becomes effective and productive!  As James would remind us:

James 2:14-18 (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. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

So it is important for us to active in our faith and engaged with those around us. Jesus made it clear that when we serve others, we are serving Him.  For Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:26) So we need to be where Jesus is and serving as Jesus would. For we are His Body in the world.

Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV)

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.41 “Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

This passage does not teach that salvation is based on our good works; rather, this expounds on the things that we are saved by grace to be doing for the glory of God! Remember, “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. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-10) So we have been saved to serve.  That is the point!  We serve with grace as we proclaim the light of truth through the Gospel.  This is what I believe it means when James tells us to get busy and serve.  If our faith does not activate us to be serving others, it is essentially no faith at all and we deceive ourselves if we think otherwise.

So let’s be about the Father’s business!  There is a world around us that is broken and hurting … searching for the answer we have received by grace through faith. The opportunities are not hard to find. The question is whether we are looking for them. Maybe it is time for us to be more intentional. To be sure, we should always share Jesus with our words. But as we all know; actions will always speak louder than our words. So I pray we will “be” Jesus to those who need Him more than ever before.  And I hope that thought will challenge us in the days ahead….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Finish The Race!

Acts 20:24

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

What an interesting personal assessment Paul gives here in this verse: “I consider my life worth nothing to me.”  He goes on to provide some context for his statement – which I think is important for us to include so that the value of his life … our lives … is put into better perspective.  Up to this point in Acts:20, Luke has been documenting the missionary journey undertaken by Paul and the evangelical opportunities for ministry afforded to him along the way.  It has been a fruitful journey, but there have been hardships and challenges in the midst of preaching the Gospel and discipling elders in the churches he labored to establish.  This is the backdrop when we reach Verse 22.

Acts 20:22-24 (NIV) – Paul is speaking

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

This is a more useful context to understand what Paul meant regarding the “worth of his life.”  It was not that Paul thought his life had no value; rather, it was a comparison to the calling of preaching the Gospel and completing the “job” which he had been “assigned” to do.  I think this is the more salient point for us to consider.  Each of us has a life given to us by the grace and will of God.  I say will of God because if He did not ordain for you to be conceived, then you would not exist.  Likewise, I say the grace of God because if He had not orchestrated a course around all of the threats and obstacles to your life, you would not continue to be here.  In short, our lives are miracles on many levels of contemplation, and we have been allowed our own free will to navigate it towards meaning and purpose within our mortal limitations.

When we find Christ Jesus … when the testimonies of the Apostles and the Word of God convince our souls of the Truth, a new dimension of life enters our existence.  Our spirits … our beings are born again!  Our concept of “self” is radically altered with the knowledge of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We are changed!  The old has gone, the new is here! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17) And so the value or worth we placed on our previous existence is changed as well.  What we thought we valued for our lives becomes replaced with a “purpose” of far more significant value … eternal value.  Our lives, hidden in Christ, have a new motivation … to live worthy of the Lord and to please Him in every way and to be productive in His Kingdom for His glory!

I think when Paul said, “I consider my life worth nothing to me,” I believe he was referring to his former life and the former meaning he had placed on it.  In light of his authentic encounter with the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul was radically changed and his new life in Christ took on a “life of its own” … a life lived in the context of a close, personal relationship with Jesus and his new assignment to be an ambassador of the Gospel in all its fullness and truth.  In essence, Paul was saying that nothing (prison or hardships) would deter him from completing the good work he was created in Christ Jesus to do, which God had prepared in advance for him to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And he expressed this in terms that we can relate in a way to communicate that whatever the risks of following the Lord Jesus and accomplishing His will for my life is more important … of great value … than my own inward, personal aspirations for this experience of life.  It represents a complete surrender to the will of God, and I believe this is an important principle for us to embrace in our journey of faith….

As Pastor Steve shared during his sermon Sunday morning about the life of Joseph (Cf. Genesis 37-47), he observed that Joseph from a youth had a life within the will of God, and yet, Joseph suffered being ridiculed, mocked, abuse, threatened with murder, sold into slavery (human trafficked), lied about, imprisoned, and forsaken, before he finally came to the place of accomplishing what God had purposed in advance for his life.  Surely, all of these horrific hardships and challenges tested his faith in God, yet he remained steadfast in his belief in the ultimate goodness and love of God. The entire time, Joseph was within the will of God, yet his life was far from “perfect” from a human perspective.  Yet Joseph spiritually understood that God was ever present in his life to bring about His will … His good purpose … and with perseverance he awaited it in faith.

Genesis 45:4-8 (NIV) 

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  8 So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God

Genesis 50:15-21 (NIV)

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

As we contemplate the visions and dreams God has instilled in our spirits for our lives … as we seek significance, purpose, and meaning for our lives … let us remember both Joseph and Paul – who despite tremendous opposition and hardship – went on to complete their respective roles in the Kingdom of God.  They did not consider their “own” lives worth anything compared to the rewards of faithfulness to what God called them to do.  And the application of these biblical lessons is for us to persevere in faith to accomplish the work God has given each of us to do in Christ.  As the writer of Hebrews suggested:

Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

So I pray that each of us will run the race; reach the finish line; and receive the reward – the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (Cf. James 1:12) I pray we will remain courageous and steadfast in the pursuit of the visions and dreams God has given each of us to guide our journey of faith … and to bear much fruit to the glory of God the Father.  I encourage you to read John 15:1-17.  As Jesus shared with His disciples (and with us), we must remain (abide) in Him in order to bear fruit.  Further, we should understand that the Father will “prune” us in order to bear even more fruit; and that in Christ Jesus we were chosen (appointed) to bear fruit and that it should remain….

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!