In God I Trust

Psalm 56:4 (NIV)

In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?

This could be a timely word for us as we watch the unprecedented civil disobedience and violence that has gripped several of our cities across the nation.  Though many people sought to peaceably demonstrate to express their heartfelt outrage over what occurred in Minneapolis; the anarchy that has erupted through those whose hearts and minds are bent on destruction is beyond words.  Why have so many people seemingly lost their ability to conduct themselves with respect for others? And just how are riots and mayhem going to resurrect the life of an innocent man? What causes a law enforcement officer to subdue a person with such wanton disregard for their life? In the end, we cannot turn to evil to right an evil …  any more than hate will ever resolve hate.  O, God help us and give us wisdom and discernment in these troubled times….

Beyond understandable human emotion … what we are witnessing now is evil … demonic evil. “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come….” (Cf. Mark 7:21) And, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” (Cf. John 3:20) Only now … there appears to be no fear of exposure.  The lapse of moral conscience is evident. The evil intents of the heart are no longer concealed.  It is on our televisions and social media 24/7 in full view….

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)

1 But mark this: There will be perilous times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

James 3:13-16 (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, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

So a few thoughts came to mind when I read this verse:

Romans 12:16-18 (NIV)

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 everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

1 Peter 3:10-13 (NIV)

10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 They must turn from evil and do goodthey must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (Cf. Psalm 34:12-16) 13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 

Luke 12:2-5 (NIV)

There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him.

Regardless of the circumstances and events going on in our world, we are to trust in God and to not be afraid. We need to pray for those who are hurting … the family and friends of George Floyd.  And we need to pray for our civil authorities and law enforcement.  It is disingenuous to characterize all law enforcement based the horrific conduct of a few individuals.  So pray for those in law enforcement who will be called to righteous engagement against the anarchy that has erupted and spread. Yes, we need to pray for peace within our communities and for the governing authorities to protect all people from lawlessness and evil….

Romans 13:1-5 (NIV)

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

Be Strong and Courageous

Joshua 1:9

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.”

I thought this verse tied in well with our previous one.  Note the intensity – “Have I not commanded you?”  The implication here is that the Lord commands us to be strong and courageous.  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline! (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) Therefore, do not be afraid.  Do not be discouraged.  The Father is always with us … wherever we are. You can never really leave His presence anyway. Where would you go trying to do so? He observes everyone on earth; His eyes examine them. (Cf. Psalm 11:4) And we have the sure promise of Jesus who said, “ And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Cf. Matthew 28:20b)

I have noticed in Scripture that whenever an angel spoke to a human, some of the first words spoken are “do not be afraid.”  And when Jesus came to the disciples in the boat, walking on the water, they were terrified.  But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”  (Cf. Matthew 14:26-27) I am reminded how the Apostle John wrote for us: “There is no fear in love; but perfect (complete) love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”  (Cf. 1 John 4:18) When you love God … you trust God. And when you trust God … you do not fear Him in the sense of being afraid or tormented; rather, you fear Him in the sense of awe, reverence, adoration, and sincere love.

God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. (Cf. Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5) So based on His promise, I pray we will trust Him at His Word.  I pray we will understand that the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid. I pray we will embrace Him … move where He is moving … work where He is working … with confidence! 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. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:12) Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? (Cf. 1 Corinthians 6:19) And look at what the Spirit of God does within us and through us:

1 Corinthians 12:1-14; 27-31 (NIV)

12 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of languages,  and to still another the interpretation of languages11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines. 12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized with one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

2Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in other languages? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet, I will show you the most excellent way….

When we come together as the Body of Christ … when we operate in the gifts, the services, and the workings of the Holy Spirit as He distributes and determines for each of us individually … I am not sure what there would be for us to fear at all.  Though the enemy and the powers of darkness will come against us,  Jesus said He would build His Church and the gates of hell (Hades) would not prevail against it. (Cf. Matthew 16:18) If God be for us, who can stand against us?  (Cf. Romans 8:31) Indeed, what do we have to fear? His victory has already been won!  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Cf. John 16:33) Yes, it is through the Spirit of God that we have power to be light in the world … to be His witnesses … to live worthy of Him in all godliness.  For if we walk by the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.  Yes, if we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. And let us not become conceited (with our spiritual gifts) therein provoking one another and envying one another. (Cf. Galatians 5:16, 25-26)

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/28/19

2 Timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.  Another Translation: For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Our Verse of the Day revisits some direction and guidance that the Apostle Paul shared with Timothy.  As you probably know, Timothy was a young convert who had sat under the teaching of the Apostle Paul “as a true son in the faith” – 1 Timothy 1:2. I think that in many ways, Timothy represents each of us who have struggled with theological and doctrinal questions as we mature in our faith and grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus.  In his letters to Timothy, Paul often offered insight and wisdom to Timothy who needed encouragement to remain steadfast when challenges and hardships occurred along his own journey of faith.  Here we find Paul explaining the gift and power of the Holy Spirit … and what believers should expect from Him.  I’m going to reprint the verse in its surrounding context:

2 Timothy 1:1-14 (NIV)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine (honest, sincere, transparent) faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 to which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

13 Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 14 That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

Well, this passage is filled with many exhortations, but the key point I believe we need to understand is Verse 7.  When we come to faith in Christ Jesus and are born-again of the Spirit, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  We are sealed for the day of redemption. (Cf. Ephesians 4:30) And the Spirit we received is not a spirit of fear; rather, it is a spirit of power … of love … and of a sound mind.  Maybe we should break that down:

Spirit of Power:

Micah 3:8 (NIV)

But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression, to Israel his sin.

Acts 1:8 (NIV)
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

1 Corinthians 2:4 (NIV)

And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power

People, in general, are in pursuit of power – power over their own lives, but often, power over others.  But the power of the Holy Spirit appears to be more associated with the preaching, teaching, and sharing of the Gospel – the message about Christ Jesus revealed within the Word of God.  The few examples I cited above are indicative of this function.  Through the Holy Spirit, power is given to proclaim the Gospel.  Power is necessary to go beyond reading the Bible to living out and proclaiming its truth.  Why?  Well, consider how timid you and I … Christians in general … are in this current age?  Do we not keep our Christianity to ourselves because of fear of confrontation, intimidation, or persecution?  It is not popular to take a stand based on the Word of God or you’ll be labeled narrow minded, bigoted, racist, unloving, just to name a few kinder labels..  But the Gospel was not always received or believed then … and it certainly is not much better now.  Paul is telling Timothy (and us) that we have received a Spirit of Power … that overcomes this fear and intimidation.  And the implication is that we need to harness that power to be effective witnesses for Christ.

The Spirit gives us power to be bold and courageous – to be fully convinced of the truth we have received through Christ Jesus so “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ.” (Cf. Ephesians 10:14-15) The Holy Spirit gives us power to be passionate about what we believe … and He guides our walk with wisdom toward those who are lost and ensnared in the culture of this world.  The Holy Spirit gives us power to recognize and redeem every opportunity that presents itself to share the Gospel; and He empowers us to guard words with grace and to season the conversation with salt so that we might know how to answer others with their questions or their assaults. (Cf. Colossians 4:5-7)

Spirit of Love:

Romans 5:1-5 (NIV)

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance (endurance); and perseverance, godly character; and godly character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

1 Peter 1:2-23 (NIV)

22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere (honest, genuine, transparent) love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of perishable seed but imperishable, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.

The Spirit gives us the ability to know the love of God has for us in Christ Jesus AND the ability to love one another in deed and truth.  The Spirit endues us with power to fulfill the commandments of God: To love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength … and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is through knowing the love of God that we are enabled to love one another as He has loved us.  Love is the motivation for the power we receive through the Spirit.  Love for others is demonstrated through sharing the Gospel of Truth with them … both with words and with actions. (Special Topic – Love: See 1 Corinthians 13)

Spirit of a Sound Mind:

I looked up the definition of “sound mind”.  Here are some of the definitions I found:

  • To be sane or rational;
  • To have the capacity to think, reason, and understand oneself;
  • To mentally calm and self-confident in your actions.

I like these descriptions of a “sound mind” because too often people inside, and especially outside of the Church, tend to associate Spirit-filled believers with “craziness”.  There have been different labels used such as “charismatics”, “holy rollers”, “snake handlers”, “Jesus freaks” to describe what I would simply characterize as “fervent or passionate”. But I think Paul wants Timothy (and us) to know that Spirit-filled believers are sane, rational, mentally calm, and possess the capacity to think and reason.  And I believe it is important for us to understand that the Spirit has been given to us both to exercise freedom in the expression of praise and thanksgiving to God AND to equip us with rational, intentional thought for the purpose of engaging the culture of this world through the fruit of the Spirit.  (Special Topic – Fruit of the Spirit: See Galatians 5:22-23)

2 Corinthians 5:11-13 (NIV)

11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

The Spirit of God has been given us to overcome the fear and trepidation we might naturally feel when confronted by outsiders who do not believe in Christ Jesus.  The Spirit has been sent to indwell us in order to complete the love of God demonstrated to us.  The Holy Spirit is intelligible and He is relational. Yes, we can be cognizant of His presence and we can enjoy fellowship with Him as we do the Father and the Son!  And He is imperative for us (our souls) to grow in the knowledge of God, the truth of His love, and the understanding of His will for us.  Power, love, and a sound mind are essential to our fellowship with God and with one another.

I want to end with a couple of passages that I believe will drive these last few points home:

Ephesians 3:16-21 (NIV)

16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being (soul), 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 with 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.

2 Peter 1:3-8 (NIV)

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 He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Well, I am not sure if I have done an adequate job here, but I hope that I have reminded you to stir up the gift of God within you … that is … to awaken the Spirit of God and His presence and power within you to proclaim the Gospel … to love others … and to do so with a sound mind and intentionality. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  Indeed, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to empower and guide our spirits so that we will be effective and productive for the Kingdom of God….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 02/22/19

1 John 4:18 (NIV)

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.

There is no fear in love. What does this mean? Perfect love drives out fear. What does this mean? Yes, I can understand how fear is associated with punishment. So to be without fear is to love? Complete love drives away fear of punishment?

I first thought to read some commentaries of biblical scholars more learned than myself. I decided to peruse Matthew Henry, William Barclay, and Charles Spurgeon. And then I chose William Barclay who best put this verse into the broader context of 1 John 4: The love of God in Christ Jesus completed in us. So I have reprinted some of his commentary (public domain) to follow the theological theme that John develops in this epistle:

Love has its origin in God (1 John 4:7). It is from the God who is love that all love takes its source. As A. E. Brooke puts it: “Human love is a reflection of something in the divine nature itself.” We are never nearer to God than when we love. Clement of Alexandria said in a startling phrase that the real Christian “practices being God.” He who dwells in love dwells in God (1 John 4:16). Man is made in the image and the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). God is love and, therefore, to be like God and be what he was created to be, man must also love.

Love has a double relationship to God. It is only by knowing God that we learn to love and it is only by loving that we learn to know God (1 John 4:7-8). Love comes from God, and love leads to God.

It is by love that God is known (1 John 4:12). We cannot see God, because He is Spirit; what we can see is His effect. We cannot see the wind, but we can see what it can do. We cannot see electricity, but we can see the effect it produces. The effect of God is love. It is when God comes into a person that s/he is clothed with the love of God and the love of others. God is known by His effect on that person. It has been said, “A saint is a person in whom Christ lives again” and the best demonstration of God comes not from argument but from a life of love.

God’s love is demonstrated in Jesus Christ (1 John 4:9). When we look at Jesus we see two things about the love of God. (a) It is a love which holds nothing back. God was prepared to give His only Son and make a sacrifice beyond which no sacrifice can possibly go in His love for us. (b) It is a totally undeserved love. It would be no wonder if we loved God, when we remember all the gifts He has given to us, even apart from Jesus Christ; the wonder is that He loves poor and disobedient creatures like us.

Human love is a response to divine love (1 John 1:19). We love because God loved us. It is the sight of His love which wakens in us the desire to love Him as He first loved us and to love others as He loves them.

When love comes, fear goes (1 John 4:17-18). Fear is the characteristic emotion of someone who expects to be punished. So long as we regard God as the Judge, the King, the Law-giver, there can be nothing in our heart but fear for in face of such a God we can expect nothing but punishment. But once we know God’s true nature, fear is swallowed up in love. The fear that remains is the fear of grieving His love for us.

Love of God and love for one another are indissolubly connected (1 John 4:71 John 4:111 John 4:20-21). If God loves us, we are bound to love each other, because it is our destiny to reproduce the life of God in humanity and the life of eternity in time. John says, with almost crude bluntness, that a man who claims to love God and hates his brother is nothing more than a liar. The only way to prove that we love God is to love those whom God loves. The only way to prove that God is within our hearts is constantly to show love for others within our lives.

So the question becomes do we fear punishment when we stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ? Or will we have boldness and confidence when we appear before His throne? John indicates that knowing and competing the love of God will produce the latter in our consciences and hearts. As Barclay stated, “When love comes into our hearts … fear goes.” His perfect love casts out fear! And, “Yes,” we can know the love that God has for us. (Cf. 1 John 2:5; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 4:16; 1 John 5:2)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!