His Love Endures Forever…

Psalm 136:1 (NIV)

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever…

Though Thanksgiving Day has passed and we have entered the Season of Advent in preparation for the arrival of the Son of God … we have reason each day to give thanks to the LORD. Indeed, when we declare, “God is good,” there is a response we usually receive, “All the time!” Indeed, God is good all the time … and all the time, God is good! He is merciful and gracious because “His love endures forever!” So, I pray we will keep thanksgiving ever before us each day of life. If we see the sun rise, let us fall to our knees and give thanks to the God of heaven for another day to serve Him … and to love one another as He commanded.

If you have a moment today, spend a few minutes and read the entire Psalm 136 as it recounts the myriad of ways God has manifested Himself to humankind. Indeed, He has revealed Himself through supernatural acts on behalf of His people. The link above is for the NIV, but I have reprinted the New Living Translation (NLT) below:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to Him who alone does mighty miracles. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to Him who made the heavens so skillfully. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to Him who placed the earth among the waters. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to Him who made the heavenly lights— His faithful love endures forever.
The sun to rule the day, His faithful love endures forever.
And the moon and stars to rule the night. His faithful love endures forever.

10 Give thanks to Him who smote the firstborn of Egypt. His faithful love endures forever.
11 He brought Israel out of Egypt. His faithful love endures forever.
12 He acted with a strong hand and powerful arm. His faithful love endures forever.
13 Give thanks to Him who parted the Red Sea. His faithful love endures forever.
14 He led Israel safely through, His faithful love endures forever.
15 But He hurled Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea. His faithful love endures forever.
16 Give thanks to Him who led His people through the wilderness. His faithful love endures forever.

17 Give thanks to Him who struck down mighty kings. His faithful love endures forever.
18 He smote powerful kings— His faithful love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites, His faithful love endures forever.
20 And Og king of Bashan. His faithful love endures forever.
21 God gave the land of these kings as an inheritance— His faithful love endures forever.
22 A special possession to His servant Israel. His faithful love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.
24 He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of Heaven. His faithful love endures forever.

In addition, here are some links to some wonderful passages that I believe will bless you:

David’s Song of Praise                                             1 Chronicles 16:7-36

Glorious Presence of the Lord                                2 Chronicles 5:7-14

Defeat of the Armies                                                2 Chronicles 20:20-24

A Song for the Sabbath Day                                    Psalm 92

Songs of Joy and Victory                                         Psalm 118

Perhaps, you might write your own Psalm and list all the ways that God has expressed His steadfast love to you…. When you are finished, read it out loud and declare it to your heart in the hearing of your ears. You might be surprised at how powerful giving thanks can be….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Thanksgiving and Praise…

Psalm 100:4-5 (NIV)

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.

As we celebrate this Day of Thanksgiving, our Verse of the Day reminds us of the preeminent reason for giving thanks – our merciful, gracious, compassionate, faithful, and loving Father!  When we consider all that God has done for us … bringing us peace and reconciliation through His Son … we need to keep His mercy and grace in perspective. His lovingkindness should be at the forefront of our thoughts each morning when we awake. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.

You and I are “this” generation! His faithfulness has extended through the ages even unto us! So, yes, take a moment to give Him thanks … exalt Him and give Him the glory due His Name! Spend some time with the Father who sought you from afar and brought you near … who demonstrated His love for you through Christ Jesus … who made plans to prosper you and give you a hope and a future. He has restored what the locusts have eaten … and what the enemy has stolen. He has supplied all your needs according to His riches in glory. He has healed your brokenness … and said “no more sorrow … no more pain.” He has released you from the bondage of sin! He has refreshed and restored your soul! He is the One who has affirmed, “The old has gone … the new has come!” He is the One who is alive forevermore … the Alpha and the Omega!

Yes, enter His gates with thanksgiving in your heart and enter His courts with praise! In humility and gratitude, bow before His presence … before His throne of grace to receive what you need. Surrender your heart and enter into His glorious rest! Oh, indeed, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is worthy of our thanksgiving and praise both now and forevermore! 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

Who Will You Serve?

Joshua 24:15 (NIV)

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Our Verse of the Day is one that has always been a personal favorite because of its call to decisive action. Each of us face choices and decisions every day that reveal our deepest convictions about who we have determined to serve in our lives. I would venture to say that the choices we make are not between the one true God and the false gods of the Amorites; rather, our decisions usually come down to choosing between God and the god of self.

From the beginning chapters of Genesis to the triumphant return of King Jesus in Revelation, the rebellion and disobedience of mankind has been a constant theme. Not long after Moses had led the Israelites on dry ground through a miraculously divided Red Sea … after a myriad of powerful miracles had been performed before their very eyes in the land of Egypt; the people fell into idolatry and worshipped a golden calf in the wilderness. Likewise, not long after Joshua had led the Israelites into the Promised Land … after a myriad of victorious battles achieved by God before their eyes; the people fell into worship of other gods in the lands they had conquered.

Oh, but before we shake our heads in disbelief at their behavior … before we judge those who experienced the mighty miracles of God and His powerful presence and then fell back into their old patterns of indifference and disobedience; we might ought to review our own walks with God after we encountered Jesus and surrendered at the cross of salvation and received the promise of eternal life. While I do not worship or serve “foreign gods” as presented in the context, it does challenge me to examine the idolatry that can exist in my own heart … which is idolatry of the most insidious form.

When we choose our own wills above the will of God, we have decided and declared that we will serve ourselves rather than our Creator. And that is the battle we all face … the conflict between the physical (the flesh) and the spiritual … between light and darkness … between good and evil.

So, I believe we need to determine each morning when we wake up who we intend to serve for the day. We need to strategize through prayer how we will navigate the struggle of exercising our wills versus submitting to the will of God. This tension is the struggle between self-indulgence and self-discipline. We either disregard the revealed will of God, or we submit in obedience to His Word. Paul describes this internal conflict at length in Romans 7, and I encourage you to read his discourse.

Romans 7:22-25 (NIV)

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature (my flesh) a slave to the law of sin.

In Verse 24, Paul asks, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” And he answers the question in Verse 25. Our deliverance, the victory, is found in our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus declared, “If the Son sets you free, you, you are truly free!” (Cf. John 8:36) Peter concluded, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these (His glory and goodness) God has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them (His promises) you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3-4) And John provided this insight: “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. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (Cf. 1 John 2:15-17)

Here we see, that doing the will of God is key. Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Indeed, a person will not experience freedom over the power of sin in their life until their faith in placed in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for sin. It is our obedience to His commands that demonstrates our love for God. (Cf. John 14:15; 21) John affirmed: “In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome,for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 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) Yes, we must be intentional and choose to love Jesus and to abide in His Word. This is why we must abide in Him: for apart from Jesus, we are powerless and can do nothing. (Cf. John 15:5-12)

As Moses affirmed: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” (Cf. Deuteronomy 10:12-13) And, “The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 13:3b-4) Yes, and Joshua confirmed the same: “Be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to keep His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Cf. Joshua 22:5)

So, I believe the Spirit is telling us to choose whom we will serve … whether the god of self or the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is calling us to determine in our hearts whether we will choose obedience to His will or whether we will follow the dictates of our own deceptive hearts. I am reminded of the encouragement that Paul shared: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation (testing) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted (tested) beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, (tested) He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:12-13) And what is that way out? The Word of God! When led into the wilderness, every temptation Satan presented to Jesus was answered and rebuffed with Scripture. (Cf. Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13) Indeed, our only offensive weapon for engaging in this spiritual battle is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Cf. Ephesians 6:17)

Final Thoughts:

The thought came to me that I should identify with John the Baptist. I remembered that after his encounter with the Lord Jesus, John confessed: “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” (Cf. John 3:30) Indeed, He must be Lord over our lives! Jesus cannot merely be a “part” of our lives because He IS our complete life when we are born again of the Spirit. So, I encourage you to consider what this verse speaks into your heart … and urge you to meditate on how God would have you respond to His Word. Perhaps, like me, you will discover the need to intentionally choose (each and every morning when you awake) whom you intend to serve for the day – the Lord or yourself. Yes, we choose either to be wise or to be foolish based upon our obedience to the Word of God. And so, I pray that we will choose to be wise … to turn from the idols of ourselves and to serve the living and true God. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9) Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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!

Abounding In Love…

Philippians 1:9-11 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (NIV)

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

1 Corinthians 10:23-33 (NIV)

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

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

Philippians 2:1-5 (NIV)

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

God IS Love…

1 John 4:16 (NIV)

And so, we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

Our Verse of the Day gives us a glimpse into the purpose for which “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son….” (Cf. John 3:16)

Sometimes I think most people today just really have a hard time understanding and accepting an eternal truth that God has been speaking into His creation – HIS LOVE! There are folks who give little thought to our Creator much less His Being or His Nature. But the Apostle John, an eyewitness and beloved disciple of Jesus, shares with us his encounter and experience with the love of God through His Son. So, let’s read this familiar verse within the surrounding context:

1 John 4:7-21 (NIV)

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because He first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

So, what we learn from John is the foundation on which love itself rests: GOD. We cannot see love any more than we can see God, but we see the purpose of love and how that is manifested in our human experience. We cannot see love any more than we can see the wind, yet we can observe its effect and know that it is just as real as something we can see. The Word of God declares to us both truths about the nature of God: God is Spirit (John 4:24) and God is Love (Cf. 1 John 4:8,16). These qualities or attributes define the core of His Being, and the Father has chosen to reveal them to us.  My thought is that we need to understand love both as a spiritual force recognizable through its physical manifestation.

But the message here runs deeper.  John tells us that we can KNOW and RELY upon the love God has for us.  Its spiritual truth is SEEN in Jesus Christ!  Indeed, His love is trustworthy and undeniable; and it moves us to live like Jesus in this world.  God intends that love is to become the core of our own being in Christ … in order that His love will be completed … yes, be perfected in those who become the visible love of God in this world.

As the Body of Christ in this world, we are called to abide in Jesus like branches in a vine. We are appointed to be like Jesus and conformed to His image through the power of His love for us. As Verse 19 above asserts: “We love because He first loved us.” So, it follows that until we encounter the love of God through Christ Jesus, we cannot complete His love in the world. Without faith in the finished work of atonement Jesus accomplished on the cross, we will not come to know or embrace what He taught us: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34) Indeed, I believe we will only come to know true love when we come to know Jesus … both as Lord and Savior.

So, I will pray over us this morning as Paul did for the Ephesians.  I pray that the love of God sent to abide in us through His Spirit will bring us to the fullness of love that He desires to be completed in each believer:

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. ~ 2 Timothy 1:7

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Have The Same Mindset…

Philippians 2:1-2 (NIV)

Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Our Verse of the Day continues to exhort us regarding our relationships with one another … as brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus and representing the Body of Christ in this world. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is speaking to us and reminding us of the imperative to be Christ-like in all that we say and do.  I have always loved the teaching of the larger passage written by Paul to the Philippians, so I will reprint it for our meditation today:

Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; 7 rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As I think about this passage and its message to conform to the image of Christ Jesus, I cannot help but remember what the Apostle John exhorted regarding this same theological theme.  I have reprinted his words for your convenience as well:

1 John 2:3-11 (NIV)

We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining. Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

Father God, by your Spirit you are prompting us to examine our hearts and our mindsets … to consider the thoughts of our hearts once again. What we claim about ourselves and what is manifested by our conduct MUST be consistent if we claim to walk in the light of truth.  Without sincere love for one another, we continue to walk in darkness. Indeed, whoever claims to live in Him MUST live as Jesus did. And so, I pray the confessions of our hearts today are sincere before You. As You determine, renew our minds and transform us to no longer be conformed to the pattern of this world (Cf. Romans 12:2); rather, create in us pure hearts, O God, and renew steadfast spirits within us! (Cf. Psalm 51:10) For it is the desire of our hearts to be conformed to the image of Your Son; and we repent of any conduct that is self-centered, unloving, unkind, unfaithful, inconsiderate, disgraceful, or unworthy of You. We look to the abiding grace of Jesus to help us love one another as He has loved us.  In the name of Jesus … the Name above every other name … we pray. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Fill The Earth … With Love

Psalm 119:64 (NIV)

The earth is filled with your love, Lord; teach me your decrees.

Our Verse of the Day is a great reminder and builder of faith. When we see what is happening in our nation and the world, it is difficult to see how the earth is filled with love of God. A Psalmist once asked: “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation. (Cf. Psalm 85:6-7)

Indeed, in Christ Jesus, God HAS shown us His unfailing love. This is the work of God … this is His decree: “To believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Indeed, His great love is ever-present if we would but open our spiritual eyes to see and comprehend it!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Cf. John 3:16)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8)

This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  (Cf. 1 John 4:10)

These are just a few of the vast number of scripture verses that declare the love of God for us. Yes, the earth is filled with His love, and we have received this passionate love through Christ Jesus. And so, as servants of Jesus, we are to abide and remain in His love:

John 15:9-17 (NIV)

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

I am hopeful we will see a relevant application of this Old Testament verse. As the Body of Christ in this world … His love should fill the earth through us! What a great challenge and responsibility for us to fulfill! Yet, we are able. We are equipped! “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) So I pray we will embrace this opportunity for the Church to fill this world with the love of God … to accomplish the work set before us with confidence and zeal! Yes, I believe that God brought us into the world and saved us to serve for such a time as this! Let us be faithful to the call. Let us be aligned with His will! And I pray you and I will be looking for our divine assignments each day to reveal the love of God with every person we encounter….

These are my thoughts and prayers this morning.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

I Want to KNOW What Love Is

1 John 3:16 (NIV)

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

After His resurrection, there is a period of 40 days that Jesus continued to minister to His disciples before His ascension into heaven.  It was during this time that Jesus used occasions to teach the disciples about the realities of His supernatural, eternal presence.  He expounded on all the prophetic scriptures that revealed His identity; and He emphasized the ordained purpose of His life … the reason for which He was sent. Our Verse of the Day captures a great truth that Jesus desires each one of us to attain from our personal encounter with Him; namely, the truth of God’s unfathomable love for those He created in His image …  and all of His creation. Indeed, we find this truth repeated in the inspired writings of the New Testament authors.  John wrote: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. (Cf. John 3:16) And Paul wrote: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8)

What the Apostle John affirms here is that the sacrificial death of Jesus is how we KNOW what love is!  Jesus Christ defines the love of God in terms that we have yet to fully comprehend. Yet, Jesus assures us that this truth can be known and understood by us. Consider the following text:

John 17:20-26 (NIV) ~ Excerpt from the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus

20 “My prayer is not for them (the apostles) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Yes, we CAN know God and know His love because of Jesus Christ … His Son.  The veil covering the holy place in the temple was torn in two … opening our access … revealing our capacity to know the God who created us in His image.  And what Jesus was sent to do was to reveal the Father and to make Him known.  Because of Jesus, we can know God … His Being and His passionate love for us!  Paul understood this revelation; and his prayer for the Ephesian believers encompassed a deep, heartfelt desire for them (and us) to KNOW “this love that surpasses knowledge.”

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp (comprehend) how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

What is the lesson for us? God has spoken His love for us. God has revealed His love for us. God has shown and demonstrated His love for us. All the Father asks of us is to believe in His Son and to love one another as He has loved us! His will is not mysterious or unknown. His expectation of those created in His image can be understood. The reciprocation of His love can be offered. The only question for us is whether we truly desire in our hearts to make it actual in our lives.  For love requires us to humble ourselves … to subdue own wills … to exalt God above all else. And Christ Jesus, who ascended into heaven to become our High Priest before the throne of God, has demonstrated what this submission entails.  Indeed, “the Son, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Cf. Philippians 2:6-8)

When we humble ourselves and surrender our wills to become obedient … to pick up our cross daily … to die to sin … to believe God at His Word … to see God through the person of Jesus; I am persuaded that we will intimately experience this love that surpasses knowledge and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  We will have the capacity to love others as we have been loved. Indeed, that is the purpose of God for our lives … to complete His love.  The Apostle John shared these insights with us.  And so, I will close and recite this familiar passage for today:

1 John 4:7-17 (NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!