Let’s Settle The Matter…

Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

I was first intrigued with this verse and its message of redemption.  We see in the metaphors a work of cleansing and forgiveness … and in the context there is a decision for people to make with regard to this offer of redemption.  The choice is to either be willing and obedient or to be resistant and rebellious.  As I read the entire Isaiah 1 this morning, I could not help but ponder on its theme of rebellion against God and its presentation of His correction or discipline for the insolence of Israel. I think this is a reflection of our own nation in this hour of history; and I believe the people of God should heed its instruction to examine ourselves in its light.

Isaiah 1 ~ A Rebellious Nation

The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

 The Problem

Hear me, you heavens! Listen, earth! For the Lord has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him. Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil.

The Consequence

Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. Daughter Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a cucumber field, like a city under siege. Unless the Lord Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah. 10 Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 11 “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. 12 When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? 13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. 14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!

The Solution

16 Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. 17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. 18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; 20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

The Reason

21 See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her— but now murderers! 22 Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. 23 Your rulers are rebels, partners with thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them. 24 Therefore the Lord, the Lord Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares: “Ah! I will vent my wrath on my foes and avenge myself on my enemies. 25 I will turn my hand against you (the faithful city) I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities. 26 I will restore your leaders as in days of old, your rulers as at the beginning. Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.” 27 Zion will be delivered with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness.

The Disobedient

28 But rebels and sinners will both be broken, and those who forsake the Lord will perish. 29 “You will be ashamed because of the sacred oaks in which you have delighted; you will be disgraced because of the gardens that you have chosen. 30 You will be like an oak with fading leaves, like a garden without water. 31 The mighty man will become tinder and his work a spark; both will burn together, with no one to quench the fire.”

Wow!  Do you agree there might be some parallels for the Church … the Body of Christ … to consider?  Does the Lord not discipline those whom He loves … as a Father the child He delights in?  (Cf. Proverbs 3:16) Have our prophets not quoted: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land?” (Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14) Yes, I think the application for believers is to humble ourselves and to seek the Lord in repentance and brokenness. The prayer of our hearts should be to learn to do right; to seek justice; to defend the oppressed; to take up the cause of the fatherless; and to plead the case of the widow … because these expressed issues on the heart of our God. These are the responsibilities of the Church! And so, I am reminded of what Paul wrote in this regard:

Romans 12 ~ A Living Sacrifice

“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. 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. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Each one of us has a personal decision to make each day. Jesus instructed: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Cf. Luke 9:23) The choice is to either be willing and obedient … or to be resistant and rebellious. So I hear the Father bidding us the morning: “Come now … let us settle the matter.”

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~ Jesus.

My Great Desire…

Psalm 40:8 (NIV)

I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.

We last spoke about the desires of our hearts; and today we have a specific desire to examine: “I desire to do your will, my God.” And notice the extension: “Your Law is within my heart.” The two concepts are so intertwined that I do not believe they can be separated. How can we do the will of God if we do not know what it is? And how can we know His will, as revealed in His Law … His Word, unless we spend time to hear, read, discover, and understand it?  As King Solomon asserts in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”  So if reverence for God is centered in your heart … in your inner being … then His Word it will be the source of your knowledge and understanding. It will generate the thoughts which determine what you say and do. Indeed, every behavioral action of humans is the outward expression of our thoughts whether good or evil.

So I believe the first application for us is to consider is two-fold: We need to examine our reverence for God and our desire to be submitted to Him as a demonstration of that reverence.  To begin, the word “reverence” is typically understood as a noun; and it is defined as “honor or respect felt or shown; profound adoration; or a gesture toward someone regarded as worthy of great honor.”  Likewise, to show reverence or “to revere” someone would be a verb … meaning an action taken. In this case, it would be defined as “an action to show devoted deferential honor to someone; an action expressing great esteem for someone as a superior or sovereign.” And so I believe we can understand the concept of “fear of the Lord” through these definitions.  To me, the core meaning of reverence can be distilled down to a single word: AGAPE … LOVE.

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (NIV)

1These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all His decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you. Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one Lord.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 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. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 11:1 (NIV)

Love the Lord your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always.

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (NIV)
1 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. 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.

I could continue to reference more texts, but I think we get the idea here.  Notice the connections between the concepts of love, reverence, and obedience in these passages.  This is important because these are the concepts that Jesus challenged His disciples and followers to understand through His teachings:

Matthew 22:34-40 (NIV) – See also, Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:538 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Cf. Leviticus 19:1840 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

John 8:42 (NIV)

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.

John 14:15 (NIV)

If you love me, keep my commands.

John 14:21 (NIV)
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.

John 15:12 (NIV)

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

So I believe evident that reverence is expressed through sincere love; and sincere love is expressed through obedience to the commandments of God. In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands.  And His commands are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3) Our challenge as followers … as believers … is whether we desire to DO His Will … whether His Law is written on our hearts.  And so we must confront and deal with our hearts!  And this is the second application because our thoughts determine our own will … and therefore our own conduct and behavior.

Genesis 6:5 (NIV)
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

Matthew 15:18-20 (NIV) – See also Mark 7:21

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

So it is clear that we need to be aware of our thought life.  More importantly, we need to consider what external and sensory input is being compiled and catalogued within our brains to conceive the thoughts of our hearts. There is a lot of information and sensory stimulation within the world to draw our attentions and to impact our thought life … and therefore our behavioral expression of our hearts. While there is a myriad of verses and throughout the Bible (especially Psalm 119) that emphasize the veracity and authority of Scripture to “input” the Word of God into our minds, there are a few passages that quickly come to mind which I believe speak directly to how we can better “evaluate” the input we encounter from other sources:

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

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.

Philippians 2:5 (NIV)

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

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

1 John 2:16 (NIV)
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.

I will conclude with the following passage that I believe should guide the input we allow into our thought life and explains the importance of a mind submitted to the Spirit of God:

1 Corinthians 2:10:16 (NIV)

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 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. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” (Quoting Isaiah 40:13) But we have the mind of Christ.

So I pray today, that we will thoughtfully consider the desires of our hearts … what generates them … what motivates them … and how we can align our hearts with the will of God. The Father has revealed His will to us. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe.” (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-2) Yes, I pray we will read and study the Word of God so that it might be embedded within our inner beings. “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) And then, let us follow the counsel of the Apostle James: “Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (Cf. James 4:8) Yes, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Cf. Psalm 51:10) May these scriptures be our prayer, always…. Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Suffering For The Gospel…

Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I wanted to share this verse from the other day, but I have held up because of time constraints and I wanted to add some context and comment.  The topic Paul addresses here is “suffering” and its intended spiritual purpose in our lives.  Paul shares his insight from the tremendous amount of personal suffering that he endured; especially after becoming a believer and follower of Christ. I thought we might put this passage in the larger context to better understand this purpose:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, let us have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but let us also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Notice the end goal of suffering is “hope”!  And hope does not put us to shame. Why? Because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. It is our reconciliation with God through the death of His Son … through the atonement made by His blood … that produces the hope of eternal life within us.  It is this reconciliation through the suffering of Christ that demonstrates the power and depth of God’s love for us!  And this is the context in which we should view our own suffering in life. Paul indicates that we should glory in any suffering that is encountered for our faith in and devotion to Jesus Christ….

Romans 8:18-25 (NIV)

18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope. 21 For the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

There is an intricate relationship between suffering and hope for us to evaluate and to embrace. For we know that Christ Jesus, Son though He was, He learned obedience from the things that He suffered. (Cf. Hebrews 5:8) And Peter reminds us that suffering for doing good will be inevitable. Just as Christ Jesus suffered for us, we as believers have been called to follow in the example of His steps.

1 Peter 2:19-23 (NIV)

19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” 23 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. (See Isaiah 53 regarding the suffering of Christ)

So Paul enjoins us to “glory in our sufferings” for the sake of Christ.  For it produces perseverance of faith … Christ-like character … and affirms the hope for which we seek an intimate relationship with God.  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) And so, I think it follows that without suffering in our lives, we will not develop confidence in our hope or assurance through our faith.  In other words, suffering is part of a necessary process to attain a faith that pleases God. “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) Faith is believing God … and trusting Him even in the midst of our suffering….

So I pray that we as believers will come to place in our walk with God to embrace the trials of suffering that will come along in our lives.  As we have learned, suffering produces tremendous spiritual growth in us … deepens our faith and trust in God and His character … and ultimately produces the obedience that comes from faith.  And so, those are the worthy goals that accompany the suffering and affliction. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

2 Timothy 1:6-13 (NIV)

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me His prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the Gospel, by the power of GodHe has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. 11 And of this Gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. 13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Obey My Teaching…

John 14:23-24 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Our verse has prompted me to revisit the theme of teaching and discipling. Discipling is the process, through teaching and training, of making disciples or followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our verse today, we see Jesus equating our love for Him with the keeping of His teachings and commandments. And as I continue to ponder His Word, I’m not sure what other method or mechanism we have as believers to demonstrate our love for Him.  It is the obedience that comes from faith (Cf. Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26) that expresses our sincere, heartfelt love for God.  This is what Jesus has emphasized to us: “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15)

Throughout the theological history of the Jewish faith, keeping the commandments (teachings) of God has been essential to the covenant relationship God desires with His people.  We find this especially developed in the Book of Deuteronomy. “Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:1) “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. (Cf. Deuteronomy 7:9) “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Cf. Deuteronomy 11:19) The themes of teaching and training … giving instruction for righteous living is inseparable from the giving of the Law.  We were created in the image of God; and He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son! (Cf. Genesis 1:27; Romans 8:29)

You will find these themes in the Psalms written by David, and further expounded upon in the Proverbs taught by Solomon. Note the exhortations to observe and faithfully follow sound teaching:

Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord,  teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Psalm 119:66 (NIV)

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.

Proverbs 3:1-2 (NIV)

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.

Proverbs 6:20-21 (NIV)

My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.

Proverbs 7:1-3 (NIV)

My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

But another aspect of keeping the teachings of Christ in our hearts is sharing them with others.  Knowing and understanding the Word of God, and its application to the obedience that comes from faith, is something that we have been commanded to share and teach as well.  We studied this last week: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Cf. Matthew 28:18-20) And, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (Cf. John 15:20)

So, as we observe what has been happening in our world over the past several months, the call the teach, train, and disciple unbelievers is just as critical as it was in the apostolic period of early Christianity. We are seeing and experiencing a great spiritual awakening in this present generation … looking for a new apostolic age to emerge from the remnant Church that has been called forth in these latter days to reach the lost. Yes, “Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise (to return), as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9) Stepping up and taking our place in His Body and exercising the spiritual gifts we have been given for the building of the Church is what the Spirit is leading and guiding us to do!

Paul, in his epistles, was quite adamant on the necessity of teaching and discipling those who come to faith in Jesus:

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV)

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 (NIV)

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Titus 2:1-15 (NIV)

1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Teach slaves (employees) to be subject to their masters (employers) in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good. 15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

So what is the application for us? I think the message is straightforward: Observing … Keeping … Obeying … the teachings and commands of God is how we demonstrate our love for Him.  To obey is better than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) And we are to worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth. (Cf. John 4:24) The emphasis is on truth … to be genuine, honest, and sincere.  Not only should we be transparent before God in our obedience to Him, the truth of our love should be readily apparent to others. Our light (our understanding of what Jesus taught us) should be evident before others, that they may see our good deeds (obedience of His commands) and glorify our Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16) And we should be able to teach these things as well. As Paul taught, there are practical ways to live out the Gospel message and to walk in the obedience that comes from faith.  And so, I pray that we will endeavor to not only be disciples but to disciple (teach) others as we have been commanded to do…. 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Whoever Has Ears…

Revelation 3:14 (NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God.

We have a timely word for us this morning, and I want us to really consider all that has been said in this prophetic message to the Church in Laodicea.  Before we begin, I think it might be interesting to have some geographical and historical information on Laodicea:

Laodicea was an ancient city located on the Lychus River in the Hellenistic regions of Caria and Lydia in Asia Minor (now modern-day Turkey). It was one of three cities in the Lychus River Valley (the other cities were Colossae and Hierapolis); and we know that churches were founded in each of these three cities, probably by Paul’s convert named Epaphras (Cf. Colossians 1:17; 4:12-13). It was founded by the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus II, who named it after his wife, Laodice, in 250 BC. In 188 BC, the city passed to the Kingdom of Pergamon.  After 133 BC, it fell under the Roman Empire and later became the Roman Province of Phrygia. It was located on a major east/west trade route and noted as a banking center. The surrounding area was a fertile agricultural and pastoral region, especially suited for raising a special black sheep for which it became famous worldwide. It was Antiochus III who transported 2,000 Jewish families to Phrygia from Babylonia, so Laodicea had a very large Jewish population. It, like Pergamum, was a center for the worship of the healing god Asclepios. The city was the site of a medical school which was noted for its ear and eye salve.

With its large Jewish community, very early Laodicea became a seat of Christianity and a bishopric The Epistle to the Colossians mentions Laodicea as one of the communities of concern for the Apostle Paul. It sends greetings from a certain Epaphras from Colossae, who worked hard for the Christians of the three Phrygian cities of Colossae, Laodicea, and Hieropolis. Asking for greetings to be sent to the Laodicean Christians, Paul requests that his letter be read publicly at Laodicea (Cf. Colossians 4:16) and that another letter addressed to the Laodiceans (a lost epistle of Paul) be given a public reading at Colossae. Some Greek manuscripts of the First Epistle to Timothy end with the words: “Written at Laodicea, metropolis of Phrygia Pacatiana”.  So the historical and scriptural manuscript records confirm the existence of Laodicea, the church that was founded there, and give us additional context for the prophetic message to this church community found in the Revelation 3.

I do not pretend to be an eschatologist or a trained scholar of church history; but what I do contend is that the words in this passage from Revelation 3 reveal truth for us to consider in the light and context it has been presented to us by the Apostle John.  As he instructed in another epistle: “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in Him.” (Cf. 1 John 2:26-27) And so I pray the anointing of the Holy Spirit will fill us with wisdom, discernment, truth, and understanding of what John has recorded in this revelation.

Revelation 3:14-22 (NIV)

14 “To the Angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 

We have already learned about the historical church founded in Laodicea.  What I simply wish to draw our attention to is the author of this passage: “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

These are the words of Christ Jesus who IS the “Amen.”

The word “Amen” is derived from the Hebrew word which means “certainty,” “truth,” and “verily”.  “Amen” is often used at the end of a prayer to mean “so it is” or “so be it”. It is a declaration or affirmation of what has been spoken. So, I believe in this context the word can be understood as “truth”.  These are the words of “The Truth”.  Jesus claimed, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6)

These are the words of Christ Jesus who IS “The Faithful and True Witness”.  This is understood and supported by the “testimony” Jesus gave of Himself:

John 5:36-38 (NIV)

36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has Himself testified concerning me. You have never heard His voice nor seen His form, 38 nor does His word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one He sent.

John 8:12-19 (NIV)

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 The Pharisees challenged Him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” 19 Then they asked Him, “Where is your father”? “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

John 10:35-37 (NIV)

35 If He called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the One whom the Father set apart (sanctified) as His very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.

John 12:48-50 (NIV)

48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV)

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

These are the words of Christ Jesus who IS “the Ruler of God’s Creation”.  The NKJV translates this sentence: “the Beginning of the Creation of God”.

Genesis 1:1 (NIV)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

John 1:1-3 (NIV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

So we find in this list of “attributes” a clear description of the Lord Jesus Christ as the author of the words and the message being communicated through the Apostle John to the Seven Churches – and specifically to the church at Laodicea.  He is the Truth … He is the Faithful Witness … and He has power and authority over all creation. This means Jesus is sovereign over us! So now, let’s look deeper into the message:  

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Here we understand the omniscience of Christ … “I know your deeds.” And Jesus describes their state of ministry as neither cold nor hot … but lukewarm. It is probable that there is no “love one another as I have loved you” going on with the people in this church. To me, it is clear that Jesus is referring to their works … their ministry; and His displeasure with them is quite evident from the tone. The language used is the Jesus would “vomit” them out of His mouth.  The metaphor indicates that lukewarm, apathetic, indifferent followers make Jesus sick to His stomach.  If you and I are not “on fire” for Christ and being witnesses of the Gospel in both word and deed, this warning of “rejection” should catch our attention for sure….

17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

As we discovered in our background above, this could be an allusion to Laodicea as a center of banking; a center for black wool; and a medical center for eye salve.  The tragedy of their prosperity was that they thought they had so much when, in reality, they had so little in terms of the true riches of Christ (Cf. Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:27; Colossians 2:2). The same judgment was made of the Church in Sardis when Jesus admonished: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.” (Cf. Revelation 3:1-2) Again, the issue is dead or nonexistent works (deeds); works that are unfinished and should be fulfilled.

18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

This is an interesting statement: “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire….”  The metaphor may be an allusion to Isaiah 55:1-3, and it brings to mind another passage as well:  

Isaiah 55:1-3 (NIV)

1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 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 (all kinds of trials) 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. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Perhaps, the gold refined in fire is FAITH….  And to possess faith in Jesus Christ is to possess the true riches.  I am reminded of the counsel Jesus had already given through His teachings:

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 13:22 (NIV) – From the Parable of the Sower

22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.

Luke 16:10-12 (NIV)

10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

James 2:5 (NIV)

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?

Jesus counseled them to “buy from me white clothes to wear so you can cover your shameful wickedness”.

Revelation 19:6-8 (NIV)

Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride (the Church) has made herself ready.Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

Revelation 19:11-8 (NIV)

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his Head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God14 The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of His mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” (Cf. Psalm 2:9) He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Jesus counseled them to “buy from me salve to put on your eyes, so you can see”.

Psalm 146:6-8 (NIV)

He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— He remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.

Isaiah 42:16 (NIV)

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Mark 10:51-52 (NIV)

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

John 9:24-25 (NIV)

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “Whether He is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

John 9:39-41 (NIV)

39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” 40 Some Pharisees who were with Him heard Him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” 41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

Jesus counseled His Church to examine themselves and to consider their lack of fruitfulness. Though members of His Body, deception of their true spiritual condition had drawn them into idleness, indifference, and attachments of darkness.  The shame of nakedness (the sinful human nature) refers to our spiritual poverty and defeat. But Jesus wants His people to be victorious over our sinful nature. He wants us to come and obtained from Him the true riches of faithfulness and steadfastness; perseverance in love and care for one another; and the joy of His salvation. There is no other source for what we truly need to live effective and productive lives in Him. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3)

19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. (Cf. Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:6)

Jesus declares His affection for the Church.  He has rebuked them in righteousness and judgment.  He has spiritually disciplined them.  So He is expectant of prompt repentance from the people!  The members of His Body there need to receive what Jesus revealed and give full consideration to what Jesus has exposed in the condition of their hearts. While this message was for the Church in Laodicea, I think it could be directed at the modern church of our generation … especially the Western Church … the American Church … which has said, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But we do not fully realize how this spiritual attitude has rendered us wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked….  Indeed, in this present hour, we are being called to humble ourselves and to repent … to turn from our wicked ways and to seek His face … and then Jesus would restore and heal us.

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Jesus said to the Church: “Here I am!”  I am available to you … even standing at the door of your heart and knocking. The implication is potential but not certain action.  The person or the church must respond! So, we need to hear His voice … as the voice of a Shepherd.  We need to open our hearts to His rebuke and disciple.  For Jesus does so because He loves us and wants us to stay the course of faith and to do the good works which God prepared for us in advance to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) If we open our hearts to Him, He will enter and initiate fellowship with us. Eating a meal together has long been a sign of covenant, friendship, and fellowship. Yes, we will experience the intimate relationship with Jesus that He desires for us to have with Him but we must respond to His invitation….

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on His throne.

This concept of being victorious is repeated through the messages to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation.

Church in Ephesus:

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Cf. Revelation 2:7)

Church in Smyrna:

The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the Second Death.” (Cf. Revelation 2:11)

Church in Pergamum:

To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Cf. Revelation 2:17)

Church in Thyatira:

To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nation – that one will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery” – just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star. (Cf. Revelation 2:26-28)

Church in Sardis:

The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the Book of Life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and His angels. (Cf. Revelation 3:5)

Church in Philadelphia:

The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. (Cf. Revelation 3:12)

Church in Laodicea:

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Cf. Revelation 3:31)

When I look at this list, those who are victorious are those who have kept their first love; those who have endured hardships; those who have overcome afflictions and poverty; those who have persevered in suffering and persecution; those who have not denounced the faith or followed false apostles; those who have served God and others. These will receive the rewards Jesus has promised to them in these messages to the churches, and there is great reward in faithfulness with God, and Jesus wants us to know so….

1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (NIV)

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:3-5 (NIV)

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.

22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

This phrase is repeated within the message delivered to each church as well. It is an invitation to take note and to heed the rebukes and disciplines administered.  It is a call for repentance and the renewal of faith … even in 2020 as we observe the signs of the times.  He knows our deeds … our works … any many of us are found “deficient” because faith without works is dead faith.  It is through our deeds that we profess and live out our faith in Jesus. There are warnings against idolatry and sexual immorality … to which we will be held accountable. So Jesus wants us to wake up … pay attention … and listen to the Spirit of Truth.  He is our Advocate:

John 16:13-15 (NIV)

13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what He will make known to you.”

Well, I know this has been quite lengthy, but I just felt led to expound on this message … to this particular church.  I believe in some ways the lukewarm church in Laodicea reflects the modern church of our generation. We need to heed the rebukes Jesus spoke to this church and to repent if we individually and communally want to be effective witnesses in these latter days.  I hope this study will prompt us to dive deeper into the Word of God and allow it to penetrate even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and to judge the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) We should not be deceived, but be reminded that God will not be mocked. A person will reap what they sow. (Cf. Galatians 6:7) Because as we have seen, there is nothing in all creation hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Cf. Hebrews 4:13) And as Paul wrote: “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5)

So let us be earnest and repent! Let us get on fire and make a difference in these days that God has granted us to live! Let us each complete the works God prepared in advance for us to do! Let us be faithful and true witnesses ourselves! Let us open the doors of our hearts and invite Him into the intimate place of our souls.  Let us persevere and be victorious in our confession and practice of faith! And let us hear what the Spirit says to the churches!  In Jesus Name I pray, Amen!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Delighted in You…

Psalm 149:4 (NIV)

For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with victory.

What an incredible thought for us this morning! The Lord takes delight in His peopleHe crowns the humble with His salvation!

Sometimes I find it difficult to believe that God would take delight in me. It seems too improbable … knowing that I fail Him more often than I dare to confess. But maybe His delight is something that I should consider. Perhaps, God delights in His people even when their performance falls short, yet there is willingness to receive correction and discipline. King Solomon wrote: “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in.” (Cf. Proverbs 3:11-12) And I am reminded that God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) So, maybe it should not surprise us that the love of God moves Him to delight in those He has called to salvation….

I did a word search for “delight” in the Bible, and I found the following Scriptures that share how God delights in His people.  To be sure, there were plenty of verses that discuss how believers should delight themselves in the Lord, but I am more interested in what moves God to delight in us … to find great pleasure in us. Look at these passages and see if you find a common theme:

Deuteronomy 30:1-10 (NIV)

1 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the Lord your God will bring you back from captivity and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where He scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. You will again obey the Lord and follow all His commands I am giving you today. Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as He delighted in your ancestors, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep His commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

1 Samuel 15:21-23 (NIV)

And He (God) sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?” 20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” 22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has rejected you as king.”

Psalm 51:15-17 (NIV)

15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 147:10-11 (NIV)

10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of the warrior; 11 the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.

Proverbs 11:19-21 (NIV)

19 Truly the righteous attain life, but whoever pursues evil finds death. 20 The Lord detests those whose hearts are perverse, but He delights in those whose ways are blameless. 21 Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free.

Proverbs 12:22 (NIV)

The Lord detests lying lips, but He delights in people who are trustworthy.

We see in these passages that God delights in those who obey Him and keep His commands. God does not take pleasure in sacrifices as much as He delights in obedience.  And when we approach God with a broken spirit, with humility and contrition, it demonstrates to Him our acknowledgment of His holiness, righteousness, and justice as the Sovereign Creator. Yes, the Lord delights in those who fear Him – those who reverence and worship Him.  He delights in those who desire to walk blameless before Him; and that is why atonement through the blood of Jesus Christ is required for salvation. We are not blameless. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Cf. Romans 3:23-24) Even Moses affirmed that God will circumcise our hearts so that we may love Him with all our hearts and with all our souls! Indeed, it is His workmanship in us, created within our hearts, that bring us to covenant relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. And, yes, our love for His Son, is His greatest pleasure and delight!

One final thought is the wisdom that Moses shared with the people of God found in Deuteronomy 30 regarding their response to his prophetic word. And upon reading it, I was reminded that the Apostle Paul quoted this passage as well in Romans 10. The message is straightforward, and I think we should look at it:

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (NIV)

11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Romans 10:1-13 (NIV)

1 Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” (Quoting Leviticus 18:5But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” (Quoting Deuteronomy 30:12-14that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaimIf you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” (Quoting Isaiah 28:1612 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses (takes delight in) all who call on Him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Quoting Joel 2:32)

So does God delight in those who believe Him? I think so because we have declared with our mouths that “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead. This profession of faith produces a righteousness that comes from God alone. It is His work from beginning to end … and it is the culmination of obedience to His commandments. Paul refers to this as the “obedience that comes from faith.” (Cf. Romans 1:5; 16:26) Indeed, it is not too difficult or beyond the reach of anyone. His Word is very near … in our mouths and in our hearts.  And this is the message we are to share with others:

Romans 10:14-17 (NIV)

14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Quoting Isaiah 52:7) 16 But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (Quoting Isaiah 53:117 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. 

Lord Jesus, how awesome it is to know that you take delight in your people … that you find great pleasure in those who love you and place their faith in you. So we delight ourselves in you! We take great pleasure in your Word … in your promises … in your passionate love for us! May our hearts be circumcised so that we may love you with all our hearts and with all our souls! May our hearts desire the obedience that comes from faith.  For we put our hope in your unfailing love! Thank you Lord for all you have done to bring us to you and to the Father! We love you and praise you forevermore. In your name we pray. Amen….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Your Righteous Laws…

Psalm 119:7 (NIV)

I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.

Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm in the book; and it extols the virtue and veracity of the Word of God.  From its lengthy discourse, we are afforded insight into the power of Scripture to accomplish wisdom, righteousness, and obedience in our lives.  Our verse today indicates that our praise and worship of God matures as we learn His commandments and judgments.  I really love The Living Bible (TLB) translation of this verse which renders it: “After you have corrected me, I will thank you by living as I should!” The New Living Translation (NLT) phrases it: “As I learn your righteous regulations, I will thank you by living as I should.”  The point here is that the Word of God impacts how we should think … how we should conduct ourselves … and how we should intimately relate to God and worship Him.  We can look at just the first few verses of this Psalm to get a glimpse of its overall teaching:

Psalm 119:1-16 (NIV) 

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,   who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep His statutes   and seek Him with all their heart— they do no wrong,  but follow His ways. You have laid down precepts   that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me. How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your Word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 12 Praise be to you, Lord; teach me your decrees. 13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. 14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.

Further on, we will read about our response to the Word of God.  When we exercise our “free will” and ability to choose (a willful decision), the question is what will you and I choose when confronted with the Word of God.  The inspiration and deliberation within this Psalm should lead us to this same decision:

Psalm 119:30-37 (NIV)

30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws. 31 I hold fast to your statutes, Lord; do not let me be put to shame. 32 I run in the path of your commands, for you have broadened my understanding. 33 Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it for its reward. 34 Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart. 35 Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. 36 Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. 37 Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

Paul shared similar exhortation regarding the Word of God with Timothy when he wrote: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (Cf. 2 Timothy 2:15) And, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction (training and discipline) in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17) The inspired writer of Hebrews makes this point as well: “For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12)

So there is a continued message for us: “Stay rooted and firmly planted in the Word of God!” For the Word of God is the power of God in your life and mine.  This cannot be under estimated or over stressed.  The struggle for the human will to choose righteousness and obedience is fought on the battlefield of our minds … where our thoughts are formed; and we attach words to those thoughts in order to define them.  What we say and do is the outcome of our thought life.  So remember that the Word of God reveals the mind of God … thoughts that reflect His heart and are expressed through words to us by His Spirit:

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 (NIV)

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 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. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. (Cf. Isaiah 64:414 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” (Cf. Isaiah 40:13) But we have the mind of Christ.

As we have studied, Jesus said: “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will and it will be done for you.” (Cf. John 15:7) And framed in a similar construct, the Apostle John affirms: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (Cf. 1 John 5:14) When we have the mind of Christ … understanding His thoughts through His words as communicated by the Holy Spirit, we will engage in prayer that will be heard and conduct that will be rewarded.  This is why we need to spend time in study and mediation of the Scriptures, and Psalm 119 provides a great outline of how the Word of God sustains every aspect of our lives. Jesus Himself affirmed, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 8:3) And Psalm 119 amplifies this truth….

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. ~ Psalm 119:105

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Evening!

Remain in My Love…

John 15:10 (NIV)

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.

A simple message of obedience … wrapped in a greater context if we want to consider HOW we can keep His commands:

John 15:1-17 (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 (cleans) so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to youRemain 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. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 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 you. 13 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 command15 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 want to outline some of the salient points that Jesus made in this passage using the vine and branches metaphor to guide our understanding of His Word:

1.       God the Father is the gardener!  He is the One who planted the True Vine! Jesus is the True Vine!

Isaiah 11:1-5; 10 (NIV)

1A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and He will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what He sees with His eyes, or decide by what He hears with His ears; but with righteousness He will judge the needy, with justice He will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth; with the breath of his lips He will slay the wicked. Righteousness will be His belt and faithfulness the sash around His waist. 10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to Him, and His resting place will be glorious.

Revelation 5:5-6 (NIV)

5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, that is, the seven-fold Spirit of God sent out into all the earth. 

Revelation 22:16 (NIV)

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

2.       We (those who believe in Christ Jesus) are the Branches of the Vine!

This means that believers emerge from the vine.  We are an integral part of the Vine.  We have no existence or life except that the Vine has produced us and we are an inherent part of its growth.  It is from the branches that flowering buds will emerge, fruit will be set (borne), and a harvest will come forth … from ALL the branches that have formed from the Vine.  I believe this is the image of the metaphor Jesus has used to illustrate not only our relationship to Him and the Father, but also to manifest the depth of His life-giving love for us. Always remember that God the Father “tends” to the Vine.  He observes the branches and their well-being.  The Father notes those branches which are producing fruit and He prunes in order for them to produce even more fruit. Branches in Jesus that do not produce fruit, He cuts off. And what is the key to fruit production? Abiding in the Vine! ALL the resources we will ever need and utilize to produce fruit will come from the roots and through the Vine. Jesus said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (Verse 5) So each individual branch must understand that nothing less than an intimate relationship with Jesus will be able to produce the harvest that the Father is looking to receive from His Vine….

3.       If we keep (obey) His commands, we will REMAIN in Jesus … we will abide in Him and remain in His love.

Jesus states that He is the example of obedience for us.  As we visualize the obedience of Jesus to the Father, we see that His intimate relationship with the Father stems from HOW Jesus lived in obedience.  His relationship was that of Son. What did Jesus say? “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” (Verse 9) As Jesus bore the image of the Father, so we are conformed to the image of Him. The inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews gives us some additional insight into how we too can become empowered for obedience:

Hebrews 5:7-10 (NIV)

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission. Son though He was, Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered and, once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

First we observe the prayer life of Jesus.  He offered up prayers and supplications with fervent cries and tears to God! Note the intensity described here….  Second, the prayers of Jesus were heard by the Father because of His “reverent submission.”  I truly believe from this verse that “reverent submission” is the most important element of prayer.  As the Prophet Isaiah noted: “Our iniquities have separated us from God, and our sins have hidden His face from us, so that He will not hear.” (Cf. Isaiah 59:2) But Jesus was filled with the Spirit of the knowledge and the fear of the Lord. He delighted in the fear of the Lord.  And I think we are to have the same mindset if we desire to obey His commands and for His love to remain in us.

As Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered, I surmise that we must enter the same “winepress” in the pursuit of obedience. Sometimes God refines us in the furnace of affliction. (Cf. Isaiah 48:10) So as I ponder the idea of suffering in order to learn obedience, I am reminded by the thought that suffering will be manifested in the natural realm … in our bodies as we die to sin. (Cf. Romans 6:2) It is inevitable! Sin itself will not die; rather, we have to die to it!  And the process of sanctification will often feel like suffering as addictions are withdrawn … as strongholds of bitterness and unforgiveness are uprooted … as the iniquity of the tongue is tamed …  and as a myriad of temptations are resisted and escaped. Yet, “In our struggle against sin, none of us have resisted to the point of shedding our blood.” (Cf. Hebrews 12:4) But that is the course we must pursue if we are truly serious about holiness in our lives. “Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.” (Cf. 1 Peter 4:1)

4.       My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 

If we are to love one another as Jesus has loved us, then we will all the more need to prepare for the suffering that accompanied His love for us! As Jesus shared His heart with the disciples, He told them that He was willing to lay it down for them.  Jesus called them friends!  And this is important to see: “You are my friends IF you do what I command”. This is my command: Love one another! “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands.  As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love.”  (Cf. 2 John 1:6) Since by the example of Christ Jesus we know that the love of God is sacrificial, our love for one another will manifest as sacrificial as well. And we need to understand that sacrificial love will bring some degree of suffering into our lives … suffering that we will be challenged to endure unless we abide in the Vine through reverent submission to Him. Still, through suffering we learn obedience; the obedience that comes from faith (Cf. Romans 16:26) … the obedience that leads to righteousness (Cf. Romans 6:16) … and the obedience that accompanies our confession of the Gospel of Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 9:13)

Love requires an emptying of ourselves.  It challenges us to be servants to others.  As Paul admonished, “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.”  (Cf. Romans 12:1) Paul goes on to instruct us to be devoted to one another in love; honor one another above yourselves; share with the Lord’s people who are in need; live in harmony with one another; live at peace with everyone; and do not take revenge. (Cf. Romans 12:9-21) And Paul wrote similar instructions to other churches: “Do 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.” (Cf. Philippians 2:3-4)

Well, I have tarried here a while, but I hope that something has been said that will inspire you to look at the condition of your branch within the Vine.  Is your branch healthy?  Is it growing?  Is it producing fruit?  Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  Is the Father being glorified through your life and mine?  These are important questions to ask ourselves in order to cultivate and nourish our intimacy with Christ. It is imperative that His Word abide in us … that we are fervent in prayer … and that we pursue reverent submission to Him in all aspects of our lives.  This is HOW we will be equipped to “keep His command” to love one another as He has loved us.  This is how we will bear fruit … fruit that will last.  Indeed, I pray that we will hear these words of Jesus and put them into practice…. 

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

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!