The Great Profession…

Romans 14:11 (NIV)

It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’”

So our verse today is a precursor to a larger study I have been working on and hope to post soon.  But let me say, I believe this verse is quite prophetic in the context of what is happening in our world.  I truly believe the Coronavirus Pandemic situation is setting the stage for more turbulent times than we have already experienced in the past couple of months.  Note what the verse states:  “EVERY knee will bow before me; EVERY tongue will acknowledge God.”  Paul is quoting from Isaiah 45:23; and I would encourage you to read the entire chapter for context.  But to me, the key word is EVERY.  And looking at our world, our culture, and our society, I see very little reverence for God or the pursuit of holiness or righteousness among unbelievers.  And this indifference … this lack of fear toward God and the Lord Jesus Christ is probably an issue for many who claim or profess to believe in Him….

Perhaps, this verse today is a reminder to us all that Jesus is sovereign … He is in authority … He alone is worthy of all honor, praise, and glory.  Perhaps, it is a call today for repentance!  Perhaps it is time for the church to return to reverence and worship of our awesome, loving God.  Perhaps it is time to adamantly include the word LORD along with Savior in our profession of faith!  Perhaps it is a call to humble ourselves before the Lord in deep repentance as individuals … as families … as communities … as nations … across the earth.

Philippians 4:5-11 (NIV)

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 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! 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.

Yes, EVERY person WILL fall to their knees before Jesus Christ and confess He is LORD! And the Church ought to be the best place to set the example.  The Apostle Peter warned:

1 Peter 4:12-18 (NIV)

12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (Cf. Proverbs 11:31)

Perhaps we need to revisit the words of the Apostle Paul who admonished: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (Cf. Corinthians 13:5) Likewise, the words of Jesus should cause us some introspection when He questioned: “But why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,” and not do the things which I say.” (Cf. Luke: 6:46) The presence of this unusual “pestilence” and the panicked reaction of the world should prompt us all to take note at what God is doing in His world right now. He is shaking the earth once more! (Cf. Haggai 2:21) But this shaking is not a physical earthquake like we might imagine; rather, it is the awakening of the Church to be a light unto the world!  But how can The Church be a light to the world … if we too participate in its darkness? God is calling us once more to sanctification and holiness. These are not options. It is a command: “Be Holy, for I am Holy.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:16)  “For this is the will of God: your sanctification….” (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3)

Ephesians 5:1-15 (NKJV)

1 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedienceTherefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Light (Spiritis in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep. Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Well, I pray these passages will stir our hearts … challenge our thinking … and create a personal revival in each of us!  We need to wake up and realize we are in the latter days.  This is the year for prodigals to return.  This is the time of harvest…. The fields are wide open…. We are to be about the master’s business because His return will be soon. When Jesus taught His disciples about the end of age, He concluded: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

Luke 21:25-36 (NKJV)

25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 “Truly, I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

I sense we had better check our fear of God again.  The Lord Jesus is not reverenced in our lives, and therefore, in the Church as He ought to be!  We need to return to the cross … make our altar at the cross … return to the quiet place of prayer and intimacy … and equip ourselves for the work till to be done.  I will say it again: “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.

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

A Taxing Situation

Romans 13:6-7 (NIV)

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

I’m pretty sure this verse comes around on Income Tax Day each year…. While none of us really like paying taxes (and there are too many to count); taxes are quite necessary for the functioning of our society.  And understanding the necessity of taxes to fund needs for the common good and welfare, probably none of resent taxation itself. Yet, I believe our disgruntlement and frustration stems from how our tax dollars are allocated or spent. My personal criticism is how I feel tax resources are wasted by our government. Nevertheless, let’s look at our verse in the surrounding context and similar passages with this theme in mind:

Romans 13:1-8 (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. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

Thus, we are to submit to the authorities over us. This has been a principle for the people of God since the time of judges and kings being appointed over the people of God … and different forms of government have been forged over the millennia of history:

Ecclesiastes 8:2-6 (NKJV)

say, “Keep the king’s command for the sake of your oath to God. Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him.” Where the word of the king is supreme; and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; and a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment, because for every matter there is a time and judgment, although the misery of man is great upon him.

Titus 3:1-3 (NIV)

1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 

Yet, we find that even kings and government authorities can abuse their roles and fail to fulfill their appointments by God:

Isaiah 10:1-4 (NASB)

Woe to those who enact evil statutes and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, so as to deprive the needy of justice and rob the poor of My people of their rights; so that widows may be their spoil and that they may plunder the orphans. Now what will you do in the day of punishment, and in the devastation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help?
And where will you leave your glory or wealth? Nothing remains but to crouch among the captives or fall among the slain. In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away and His hand is still stretched out.

And there can be conflict when we disagree with those authorities.  Here is an example that illustrates that tension:

Acts 4:18-22 (NIV)

18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened.

So where does this leave us?  What is the application?

1 Peter 2:11-17 (NKJV)

11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from sinful desires which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Therefore submit yourselves to every human authority for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 Live as free people, yet not using liberty as a cover-up for evil, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

So, today, Father, I lift up and pray for all those in authority over us.  I pray that they will seek You, O God, for wisdom and understanding … to make laws and regulations that will conform to Your will for all people … that honor and protect widows and orphans … that will not oppress the poor … that will preserve the sanctity of life You have given … that will honor Your Word in all truth.  Protect and bless those in government who administrate your will for the peace and well-being of your people.  Rebuke, correct, and disciple those authorities who do evil in your sight and do not uphold Your Word.  May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven through those You have appointed to govern over us.  And, Father, in all things, may we conduct ourselves in a manner that honors and glorifies You and Your Name … that we might expose darkness and bring light and hope to those around us.  In Your Name I pray.  Amen.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Suffering For Christ

Philippians 1:29

For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him…

There are some powerful theological considerations for us in our verse today.  Let’s put our verse in some additional context:

Philippians 1:22-30 (NIV)

22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

In this chapter, Paul has been recounting the struggles and suffering he has endured on his missionary journeys in the preaching of the Gospel.  As a prisoner, most likely in Rome at the time this letter was written, Paul shared his thoughts about all that had happened to him; and he wanted to encourage the believers at Philippi to have courage as they faced the same tests of their faith.  Uncertain of his future physical survival (as we all are), Paul contrasted his potential demise with the hope of restoration from the current isolation and suffering imposed on him.  So Paul instructs the believers to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ … no matter what happens.  And then he makes an interesting statement:  “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.”

God “grants” … God gives you and I two things: the hearing of faith and the suffering of faith.  And both have been granted to us on “behalf of Christ.”  In English, this translation has a profound application.  It does not say “in behalf of Christ” … which would mean “helping for the benefit of” or “acting in the interest of” Christ; rather, it states “on behalf of Christ” … meaning “in place of” or “as the agent of” or “as representing” Christ.  It follows that our faith and suffering is not meant to “manifest” in the interest of Jesus Christ; rather, I believe the implication is that our faith in God and the suffering that accompanies faith is now “in place of” or “a continuation of” the sufferings of Christ. We are enduring the struggles of faith and suffering now as Christ in the world … as His Body … as His Church.  I think Paul is saying that both faith and suffering should be viewed as a “privilege” given to us by God! In His sovereignty, God granted us the privilege (the grace) not only to believe in Him through Jesus Christ … but also the privilege (the grace) to suffer as Christ did in order to refine and mature our faith.  As Hebrews 5:8 points out: “Though Christ was the Son of God, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.”  Likewise, the obedience of faith will be formed in us through hardship and suffering….

Did not Jesus Himself explain this would happen? You can find context for the suffering that comes with faith in Matthew 10:16-26 when Jesus sent out His disciples and followers into the towns of Judea to proclaim the Gospel.  In Matthew 24:3-14, we can see the suffering that comes with faith in the latter days should be expected as well. In John Chapters 15-17, when Jesus speaks about His imminent departure from the earth, He prays not only for the disciples to remain steadfast in faith, but also for those who will come to faith based on their testimony,

Matthew 10:21-22 (NIV)

21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Matthew 24:9-13 (NIV)

“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

John 15:18-21 (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. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ (Reference John 13:16) If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.

John 16:1-4 (NIV)

1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.

John 17:14-18 (NIV)

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 by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.

What these passages indicate is that suffering for our faith in Jesus Christ is inevitable.  And I believe the suffering we will experience “on behalf of Christ” is the suffering that He said we would endure in the world.  We are in His place now … in the world.  We are His Body … the Church.  We are His agents … His ambassadors.  And like Jesus, we will suffer ridicule, persecution, hate, violence, and even death for our faith in Him. So, I think it is important to note that as believers, we have the Holy Spirit living within us so that we can persevere in faith and hope.  Through Scripture, we are exhorted to persevere:

Hebrews 10:32-39 (NIV)

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. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay.” (Cf. Isaiah 26:20) 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” (Cf. Habakkuk 2:3-4) 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

James 1:12-18 (NIV)

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose (granted) to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all He created.

Verse 17 states that “Every good and perfect gift is from above….”  You see, God has granted those He chose in Christ Jesus to believe in Him for salvation. And He granted the gift of suffering as well … to test our faith and to produce perseverance.  We need to recognize that “the cross comes before the crown”.  Both faith and suffering work in tandem to produce in us the kind of faith that God desires … a sincere faith that will remain steadfast when tried and tested.  Why?  Because that kind of faith will grow to the size of a mustard seed.  It will be empowered to move mountains!  Nothing will be impossible for us! (Cf. Matthew 17:19:20) Indeed, God wants us to be effective and productive through an ever-increasing faith. (Cf. 2 Peter 1:1-9) God wants our faith to grow so that we can accomplish the works He prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) And a faith that endures all things is necessary for us to accomplish the will of God!  Truly, it is His divine power at work to heal the sick, to mend broken hearts, to free those who are captives, to release people from darkness, and to proclaim the Gospel! But most often, the Holy Spirit works through us … through those who believe in Him and suffer for His Name sake!  That is our purpose … our role as the Church!

David reflected: “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress; I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:5-8) So, my prayer is that we will see and understand the “privileges” we have received from God.  Let Him be praised for His grace … for His gifts!  May these truths from His Word penetrate our hearts and equip us … empower us … to be His Church in these latter days! For it has been granted to us, on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him….  Amen.

So Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Faithful God

Deuteronomy 7:9

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.

After our previous lessons, I think this verse that came is a great affirmation for us.  We talked about how the plan of salvation for mankind was ordained by God the Father before the beginning of time … before the foundations of the earth were laid.  And here we are told by Moses – “THIS God is the faithful God.”  Indeed, God has been faithful to HIS creation from eternity past!  In His sovereignty, God the Father has ordained everything that has ever been … everything that will ever be.  And we KNOW this faithful God.  As Moses declared, “The Lord your God IS God.”  There can be no question regarding His identity. He is the God who rescued His people from the bondage of Egyptian rule … who delivered them from oppression … who in His mercy would “pass over” the first-born of those who applied the blood of a sacrificial lamb to the doorposts and lintels of their homes … Yes, He is the Almighty God, showing His power on behalf of those who love Him, And He is faithful.  He is the One who sent His Son, Christ Jesus, to bear the death penalty for our sin so that we could be deemed righteous when we stand before the Him….

Yes, God the Father keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments! You and I can fully trust Father God because He has already demonstrated His own love for us in this: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) And the Apostle John affirmed this same truth: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice (propitiation) for our sins. (Cf. 1 John 4:10) Indeed, God is faithful to us; and so the question becomes, “Are we faithful to God?”  Are we trustworthy?  Does God trust you … does He trust me … in our relationships with Him?  It is an appropriate question to ask because it reveals the sincerity of our faith in Him … the genuineness of our faith in Him.  And this is the purpose of the testing of our faith. (Cf. Deuteronomy 8:2; 8:16; 1 Peter 1:7)

Note how God is faithful to keep His covenant of love with “those who love Him and keep (obey) His commandments”.  Sound familiar?

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NIV)

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Deuteronomy 7:12 (NIV)

If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep His covenant of love with you, as He swore to your ancestors.

Deuteronomy 11:13 (NIV)

 So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul—

Deuteronomy 11:22 (NIV)

If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him and to hold fast to Him—

Jesus spoke the same words to His disciples.  He said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (John 14:15) His words are not suggestive.  They are not ambiguous.  They are directive and clear! He went on to teach: “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. (John 15:10) Oh, the question is not whether God loves us.  The question is whether we truly love God … love Him in truth by keeping (obeying) His commands.  Keeping His commands is HOW we demonstrate our love for God.  As John wrote: “In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands.  And His commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) Do you see it?  His commands are NOT burdensome.  They are not hard to keep.  Why?  “For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4) What does faith do?  It overcomes the world and its darkness! As John tells us: “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:5)

Faith brings us to Jesus and Jesus embodied and fulfilled love of God.  Jesus completed the love of God.  Jesus is His covenant of love for us!  Jesus, the One who saved us … the One who loved us and gave Himself for us … now lives in us. (Cf. Galatians 2:20) And apart from Jesus, we can do nothing:

John 15:1-8 (NIV)

1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) And, “This is my command” Love each other.” (John 15:17) And so apart from Him, we cannot love as He has loved us.  The full discourse of John 15 is centered on abiding in Jesus in order to fulfill His command to love each other. I’m not sure we could reach any other conclusion.  And, as we studied, this is the purpose of our salvation – that we would abide in Jesus Christ in order to love one another.  God has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love. This is the light He has brought into the world: LOVE! So I will close with this Scripture to examine:

1 John 4:10-21 (NIV)

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. 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 us20 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 Now You Know!

Have a Blessed Day!

Obedience to the Spirit

Matthew 1:20-21 NIV

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:18-25

This passage caught my attention because of the implications associated with Joseph’s obedience to a Spirit-filled dream.  We often talk about the humble obedience of Mary when she responded to the Angel Gabriel as recorded in Luke 1:38,“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”  And, for sure, she is a role model for us.  But sometimes we overlook how Joseph responded an “angel of the Lord” in a dream.  Let’s look at this passage in context:

Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet, did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, (Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua (Yehoshua in Hebrew – sometimes shortened to Yeshua) , which means the Lord saves) because He will save His people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

What if Joseph had not been obedient to the angelic vision or dream?  What if he proceeded to divorce Mary?  What if she had been stoned for her supposed “adultery” as required by the Law?  If Joseph had not protected Mary and “covered” her … if Joseph had not been obedient to the commandment he received in the dream … the outcome of a different decision would have changed history.  The couple would not have traveled to Bethlehem together for the census … and the prophecy of the Messiah being born there would not have been fulfilled.  The ripple effect of unfulfilled prophecy from that point forward would have been insurmountable.  Joseph could not have predicted the impact of his decision on generations to come any more than Adam and Eve could have predicted or understood the impact of their disobedience and transgression upon all mankind.  It is a fascinating scenario to ponder….

But to me, the application here is really for us to consider our own obedience to God … His Word … His commands as these are communicated to us through the agency of the Holy Spirit.  Do we heed the Word of God?  Do we discern His clear direction to us? Do we hear but then respond with a disobedient heart?  And when we fail to believe God has spoken to us (because I’m pretty sure every one of us has been hesitant to believe when an authentic spiritual encounter has occurred) – do we ever think about the consequences of our disobedience on future generations?  It is quite sobering to see how these examples in Scripture have revealed how human obedience or disobedience changed the course of human history … and eternity as well.

Look at these additional examples of prompt obedience to the Spirit:

Matthew 4:18-22 (NIV)

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there, Jesus saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.

Acts 9:19-21 (NIV)

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name?

Acts 16:9-10 (NIV)

During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

Revelation 1:10-11 (NIV)

10 On the Lord’s Day I (the Apostle John) was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

What if the disciples had not followed Jesus?  What if Paul disregarded his experience on the road to Damascus?  What if the missionary team with Paul had not ventured into Macedonia to preach the Gospel in obedience to the vision?  What if John had not written the Book of Revelation as he was commanded through the Spirit?  Perhaps we should ask ourselves similar questions:  What if you or I do not fulfill the commands given to us through the Spirit?  What if we disregard our roles within the five-fold ministry established by Jesus Christ for His Church? (Cf. Ephesians 4:11) What would be the impact of our disobedience on others who are seeking God and led to the local church?  What will be the impact on future generations if the Body of Christ does not function as it was designed and intended by the Lord Himself?  Well, look at the current world culture and ask yourself that same question?  Look at modern day Turkey.  All the churches that we read about in the Book of Revelation do not exist there anymore. Turkey (Asia Minor) is 98% Muslim now….

Joseph reminds me why faithfulness to the Word of God is so important.  Joseph reminds me why obedience to the Holy Spirit is so crucial.  Joseph, like Adam and Eve, reminds me how the impact one decision can forever alter the future course of events.  So I asked myself this evening, what decisions will I make when prompted by the Spirit to act or intervene with others?  Will I be obedient? What consequence will there be if I am disobedient?  Is disobedience worth the risk of one soul being lost because I did not respond “at once”?

I believe this is where the intersection of intimacy with Christ and responding in obedience to the Spirit find their fulfillment in the Kingdom of God.  This is why I have stayed up past midnight to ask these questions … to write this commentary.  I simply want to be obedient because I do not know what the eternal consequences might be if I choose to ignore the Spirit of God or be disobedient to Him.  Someone needs a wake-up call on the obedience of faith … and I believe it is me!  Maybe these are thoughts you have considered as well … and tonight I think we should thank God for Joseph and his inspiration to respond in obedience….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Those Who Fear Him

Psalm 103:13 (NIV)

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;

Our verse today speaks to the love of our Heavenly Father for His children … and so I wanted to go ahead and past it along today as well.  The Psalmist observes how human fathers are compassionate to their children … realizing that they make mistakes … forgiving them when they fall short of expectations … and conveying to them that love is not based upon performance.  Love. Compassion. Grace. Forgiveness.  These are all things that fathers impart to their children.  And so the Psalmist affirms that God deals with us, His children, in a similar manner.  But I would venture to say, though, that it was God who modeled and taught us the true meaning of love and compassion in the first place….  Look at the surrounding text:

Psalm 103:7-14 (NIV)

7 He made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever;
10 He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. 13 As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;
14 for He knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust.

Just a quick observation here – note the phrase “those who fear Him.”  The Father’s love is great to those who fear Him.  He has compassion on those who fear Him.  You will find this expression used throughout Scripture.  Often it contrasts how God deals with those who love Him versus those in rebellion and disobedient to Him.  So if you are not “feeling the love” or “feeling the compassion” of God … then check your “fear”.  Examine the sincerity of your reverence for God.  How do you honor Him?  How do you express your love or gratitude to Him? Do you spend time with Him?  Is God in your thoughts throughout the day?  In Verse 10, the Psalmist asserts, “God does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”  What do you think?  Should He? Does God’s mercy affect how you view Him?  How you worship Him?

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…. (Cf. Romans 8:1) How does knowing you have been set free from the wrath of God through Christ Jesus impact your reverence for God?  Verse 12 above states, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” It reminds me of another Scripture: “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.” (Cf. Colossians 2:13-14) Oh, I think we really need to take a deeper look at “those who fear Him”.  We need to stir ourselves up in this present generation and culture to revisit what it means to truly “fear” God … to have reverence for Him … to devote ourselves to His Word … to ask for the Holy Spirit to fill us so that holiness and righteousness come to the forefront of our minds each morning as a new day begins!

To fear God is to have the proper reverence and awe for Him so that we do whatever is required of us in order to serve Him. (Cf. Psalm 89:7; Hebrews 12:28) It means being cognizant of His presence – understanding that His eyes are upon us and His ears are attentive to our prayers. (Cf. Psalm 34:15) It means we are more concerned about what we might do to offend Him rather than how He might respond if we do.  It means we are more concerned with not dishonoring Him; displeasing Him; or disgracing Him through our words or conduct.  In short, it means that our deepest desire is to avoid sin at all cost.  Likewise, it means that we wholly endeavor to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength – and to keep His commandments. (Cf. Deuteronomy 10:12-13) The fear of the Lord is what captures our hearts to take sin seriously enough to die daily.  After all, it was the sin of the world that compelled God to send His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (Cf. 1 John 2:2) Yes, sin in any form is that offensive to God!

In Psalm 130:3-4 (NIV) we read, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.”  Is it not the compassion of the Lord that leads us to “fear” Him?  Is it not His kindness that leads us to repentance? (Cf. Romans 2:4) We need to meditate on this Word for us because the blessings of God … His great love … His compassion … are for those who fear Him!  So what is the conclusion? “Now that all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Cf. Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) Yes, at the end of the day, there is no doubt as to what the Father desires of His children.  He wants us to love Him as demonstrated by our reverence and obedience to His commandments.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Cf. John 14:15) And John concluded, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (Cf. 1 John 5:3)

I pray that each of us will examine ourselves and think more deeply about all it means to “fear God.”  I have probably only scratched the surface here, so I encourage us to look further into the Word of God for more wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.  Now that I think about it … that does sound ironic because “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Cf. Proverbs 9:10) But maybe that’s right!  Maybe the fear of the Lord actually does begin with His Word….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Live In His Covenant

Psalm 103:17-18

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

This is an awesome passage of Scripture and drives home some key points for us to remember. Let’s break it down and meditate on ways the words can penetrate our hearts and lives:

But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him;

What does this say to us?  The love of God is with those who fear Him … who show great reverence for Him.  His love is faithful and everlasting to those who give unto the Lord the glory due His Name! (Cf. 1 Chronicles 16:29; Psalm 29:2; Psalm 96:8) Note how these Scriptures encourage us to GIVE to the Lord … to bring an offering and to worship.  Showing God reverence is not just “lip service” or just the “sacrifice of praise from our lips”; rather, it is the giving of our entire beings and returning a portion of all that He has given us.  As Jesus taught: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” ( Cf. Luke 6:38) This precept applies to everything; including our time, our talents, and the treasure He has entrusted us.

and His righteousness with their children’s children

What does this say?  Well, put in the context – from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s righteousness is with the children and grandchildren of those who fear Him.  What an incredible promise to those who love the LORD and serve Him out of reverence and sincere love….   There is a similar Scripture that some to mind in this regard and addresses the impact of how a person lives upon the generations that come after them.  Consider the second commandment recorded in Exodus 20:

Exodus 20:4-6 (NIV)

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Yes, what you and I do … how we live before God … how we demonstrate our reverence for God and His commandments … this “example” impacts the lives of our children and our grandchildren.  Do not take for granted how you live as though it has no impact upon your children and future generations.  It does in every way!  No, our individual walks with God cannot be vicariously imputed to our children, but the influence of ungodliness will impact and influence them and their children in ways we cannot imagine.  All the more reason to seek wisdom for living … to reverence God … to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ … because our children and grandchildren are impacted by our faithfulness or lack thereof….

with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

What does this say?  In context and syntax – from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love and righteousness is with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.  The keeping of His covenant and obedience to His instruction for righteous living – these draw the love and righteousness of God to us.  And note, God promises that His love and imputed righteousness is eternal for those who love Him … for those who keep His covenant and obey His commands.  This is foundational to what Jesus Himself taught us would be imperative to demonstrating our love for Him:  “If you love Me, keep my commandments.”  (Cf. John 14:15, 21; 15:10)

I pray each of us will take this passage from Psalm 103 to heart and consider how we can have the best impact on the lives of our children and their children … and the generations to come.  We can facilitate blessing or cursing by how we conduct ourselves … by how sincerely we live out our faith before them … because our example can be one of the most powerful influences … for good or for evil … on our offspring and affect how they will live before their children after them….  Let’s endeavor to make our lives a blessing to the next generations for their sake and for the glory of God. Amen.  

So Now You Know…. 

Have a Blessed Day!

Verse of the Day – 01/20/19

James 1:2-3 (NIV)

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

Our Verse of the Day continues to focus on our theme of personal holiness.  Yesterday we examined 1 Corinthians 10:13 where Paul reviewed the issue of temptation (also translated ‘testing’) and how God is faithful to us … knowing what or how much we can bear as well as providing a way of escape from it so that we can “endure” it. Remember, this encouragement was given to the Corinthian Church which was had received the Gospel message and turned toward God from idol worship and pagan religious practices.  Paul used the history of the Israelites to illustrate to them the reasons they should persevere in their pursuit of holiness (separation unto God) and to not continue in their idolatry; sexual immorality; unseemly conduct; or testing the “grace” of God given to them in Christ Jesus.  Without holiness, no one will see God. (Hebrews 12:14)

The Apostle James approaches the same issue in his epistle, and his encouragement takes us a little deeper into our spiritual understanding of how temptation and testing works to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. The “trials of many kinds” is quite broad, but the point here is that in our desire and zeal to attain holiness as Christians our faith is going to be tested. I think is has to do with the sincerity of our profession of faith.  I am reminded of what the Prophet Isaiah shared in his writings:

Isaiah 29:13-16 (NIV)13 The Lord says:

These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is in vain because it is based on merely human rules they have been taught. 14 Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon       wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:16-31; 2:1-14) 15 Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, “Who sees us? Who will know?” 16 You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me” Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?

We need to understand something more here.  Hearing and understanding the truth of the Word of God is only the beginning of faith!  Receiving it … believing it arouses the spirit of a person to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior … for in truth He is! This is the born-again experience that Jesus explained to Nicodemus (Cf. John 3:1-12) But this is just that – the birth of a new creation.  There is a spiritual maturation process that must ensue after our birth in Christ just as we have experienced a physical maturation process after our physical births into the world.  As Paul taught and ministered to the Galatian Church on these matters, we observe his sense of frustration with their “turning back” from the truth they had received. (Cf. Galatians 4:8-20) As the writer of the Book of Hebrews put it: “1Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts (useless rituals) that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites (baptisms), the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so. (Cf. Hebrews 6:1-3)

Spiritual maturity is produced through the testing of our faith.  It comes through endurance of temptation and perseverance through trials. Both testing and temptation (trials of many kinds) are designed to strengthen our wills to attain the “obedience that comes from faith”. (Cf. Romans 1:5; 16:26) Therefore, trials can be opportunities for the suffering which we have learned can facilitate or produce obedience in our hearts.  So the perspective of James is to count this spiritual maturation process as “joy”.  He urges us to rejoice in the sufferings produced during trials because we should know this will produce perseverance in our faith.  We will not desire to go back to “Egypt” or the bondage of sin in our lives.  No, through this process our spirits will mature and our hearts will grow deeper in love for God … and we will desire to “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Cf. Philippians 3:14)

A few final thoughts (Scriptures):

James 1:13-15 (NIV)

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

1 Peter 1:6-7 (NIV)

 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

John 14:15-16

Jesus urged, “If you love me, keep my commands16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate (the Holy Spirit) to help you and be with you forever.

John 15:9-11 (NIV)

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 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.I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

I pray we will meditate on these things and grow in the obedience that comes from faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!