Thanking God For You…

1 Corinthians 1:4-5 (NIV)

I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—  

I always thank my God for you because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in Him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—  

As we enter the second day of this week of Thanksgiving, our Verse of the Day is a call for us to offer our thanksgiving to God for other believers. The Apostle Paul often began His epistles with an expression of gratitude toward the believers in the churches who he had mentored during his missionary journeys. Here are a few examples:

Ephesians 1:15-16 (NIV)

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

 Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Colossians 1:3-4 (NIV)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people—

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (NIV)

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 (NIV)

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

Philemon 1:4-6 (NIV)

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all His holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ.

Notice how these passages have some common elements.  First, Paul assures the churches that he is praying for them all the time.  He expresses this discipline in prayer as “always”, “continually”, and “not stopped.” Secondly, we observe that in his prayers, Paul is giving thanks to God for these believers … and specifically for their faith in Jesus Christ. In addition, Paul typically commends HOW their faith and service to God is evident by their love for one another.  Indeed, it is their love generated by their faith that Paul is so grateful to see coming to fruition! Their response to the grace of God is ample cause for rejoicing and thanksgiving, and Paul is inspired to let them know.

So, I see an application for us to consider … and I believe we should ask ourselves some questions:

  • “Do I give thanks to God for other believers who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ?”
  • “Do I appreciate their gifts, talents, and service to Jesus Christ as members of His Body?”
  • “Am I grateful for their fellowship and love as expressions of their faith in Him?”

As I pondered these questions, I found myself feeling appreciation and gratitude for other believers and their labors of love toward people through the ministries of the Church. And I have, from time to time, expressed my thanks to them for their devoted service. But as I think of Paul’s example, continual giving of thanks to God for my brothers and sisters in Christ, I find myself falling short of this ideal. Yes, I must confess that thanksgiving for others during my prayers has not been often enough; and I think that, perhaps, I have been missing an essential focal point of prayer. I am convicted and convinced that I should never cease remembering the Body of Christ throughout the world, nor should I ever cease to mention those who attend our local assembly in my prayers. Paul has made it clear that it is important to be faithful in sincerely giving thanks to God for their lives, their gifts, their service, and their love….

So, in this season of Thanksgiving, I pray that we all will remember this fundamental truth: that in Christ we form one body … His Body. Though we are many members, each individual member belongs to all the others. (Cf. Romans 12:4-8) And as Paul instructed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” Thus, in light of this context, I believe it follows that we should continually give thanks to God for each other during our daily time of prayer. Yes, let us make this our practice … to remember each other and to express gratitude to God for each other in our prayers as often as possible.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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.

Carry The Load…

Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the Law of Christ!

As we examined our desire to “do” the will of God, we discovered that the will of God must be discerned, understood, and then put into practice through action. (Cf. James 2:14-17) In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle Paul gives us some practical instruction on “how” to fulfill our desire to do the will of God: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

What does it mean to “carry or bear each other’s burdens”? Well, let’s look at the immediate context:

Galatians 6:1-5 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.

Galatians 6:1-5 (NLT)

1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of ChristIf you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

As I examine the context, it appears that the “burden” we are called to bear is the action of restoring someone who has been caught in transgression (i.e., sin). The phrase implies both the responsibility we must take for our own sin as well as helping others through the temptations and weaknesses they endure as well. “You who are spiritual … you who live by the Spirit,” should not be misconstrued to mean “you who are sinless.” But those who live by the Spirit are equipped to know and understand “the root” of what is occurring in their lives and in the lives of those who have fallen, and to guard themselves from the same potential temptation or weakness. It is crucial for those who are mature in Christ to help all others in the Church to receive restoration and to move toward spiritual maturity.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NIV)

11 So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

When we speak about Five-Fold Ministry of the Church, this is “how” our Lord determined that we fulfill His Law. The work of restoration (healing what is broken); reconciliation (leading people to God); and deliverance (finding triumph through Christ Jesus) is accomplished through those who are spiritual … through those who have been appointed and equipped to serve the Lord and to make disciples. And we are blessed with the incredible opportunity to fulfill the Law of Christ within the local body (assembly) that we attend. You do not have to be in the office of Apostle to make a difference. You do not need to compare yourself to a Pastor or Evangelist. God has gifted you for service and to bear fruit as He has determined. So, I encourage you to fulfill what He has chosen for you to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-10)

Remember that regardless of whether you have an “office” within the Church, those who live by the Spirit have been gifted – for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. (Cf. Romans 11:29) You are the best one equipped to help others through the same things you have experienced in life and overcame through faith in Jesus Christ. That is how God will use you to bear the burden(s) of others:

1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 27-31 (NIV)

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

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

Paul will go on to share in 1 Corinthians 13 that the most excellent way to minister to one another is with sincere love. For we know that love covers a multitude of sins. (Cf. Proverbs 10:12; 17:9; 1 Peter 4:8) Our calling is to facilitate healing of the brokenness that sin has caused in the lives of people … and to point others to the deliverance, freedom, and reconciliation found in Jesus Christ our Lord. Our responsibility is not to judge or condemn; rather, it is to love. Love does not condone sin; but it is the power through which repentance is motivated. As Paul admonished:

Romans 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

My prayer is that we will answer the call to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, to fulfill the law of Christ.” And to do so, I encourage you to use the spiritual gifts that you have been graciously given … as the Spirit determined uniquely for you. You are able! You are equipped! You are called to make a difference in the Kingdom! Let’s start right here … right now where we have been placed to serve God. And let us do so in the most excellent way … to love others as we ourselves have been loved by the Lord. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Timely Word…

Proverbs 15:23 (NIV)

A person finds joy in giving an apt reply— and how good is a timely word!

Our Verse of the Day reminds us of the importance of interpersonal our communications.  When it comes to the journey of faith, we all need encouragement from time to time; and how good it is to receive a timely word of encouragement from someone in our lives. The world, with all its troubles and tribulations, can bring us discouragement and disappointment. In these times, we need to build each other up; remind each other that God is on His throne and that He is an ever-present help in times of trouble.

I want to encourage you to seek someone out today and let them know you are thinking about them.  Let them know that you are praying for them and their circumstances … asking God to fill them with His grace and strength. I encourage to speak Jesus over their lives and to pour His blessings in abundance. Yes, demonstrate empathy for the tough situations people are going through and let them know you care. In doing so, you will find joy! Indeed, you will receive encouragement yourself from our Father … who sees your love for one another. And I am reminded of the encouragement that Paul shared in his epistles regarding comforting one another:

Romans 15:1-6 (NIV)

1 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort (encouragement), who comforts (encourages) us in all our troubles (afflictions), so that we can comfort (encourage) those in any trouble (affliction) with the comfort (encouragement) we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort (encouragement) abounds through Christ.

Philippians 2:1-5 (NIV)

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 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. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

1 Thessalonians 5:11-14 (NIV)

11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

My friends, I hope this blog message is a timely word for you. I pray that if you are in need of encouragement today, the Father will send someone to comfort you in your time of need. Yes, I pray each of us will be intentional today and take time to encourage someone you know is suffering … feeling broken or discouraged. Pray with them! Speak Jesus over them! And I believe you will receive joy in your own spirit when you do!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

There Is None Like You…

2 Samuel 7:22 (NIV)

“How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.

Our Verse of the Day is similar to the message we had from Isaiah 43:10-12 about a week ago. What Isaiah prophesied well over two centuries after King David, continues even to this day!  Our God declares: “I have revealed and saved and proclaimed my Name. Apart from Me there is no Savior!” Let’s look deeper into the passage and see if it resonates with you….

To provide you some context, King David goes in prayer before the Lord after Nathan, the Prophet, has shared a revelation from God with him. I encourage you to read the entire 2 Samuel 7, but I thought it would be good to share David’s prayer. It is recorded in 1 Chronicles 17 as well.

18 Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and he said:

Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 19 And as if this were not enough in your sight, Sovereign Lord, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant—and this decree, Sovereign Lord, is for a mere human! 20 “What more can David say to you? For you know your servant, Sovereign Lord. 21 For the sake of your word and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made it known to your servant. 22 How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears. 23 And who is like your people Israel—the one nation on earth that God went out to redeem as a people for Himself, and to make a name for Himself, and to perform great and awesome wonders by driving out nations and their gods from before your people, whom you redeemed from Egypt? 24 You have established your people Israel as your very own forever, and you, Lord, have become their God. 25 “And now, Lord God, keep forever the promise you have made concerning your servant and his house. Do as you promised, 26 so that your name will be great forever. Then people will say, ‘The Lord Almighty is God over Israel!’ And the house of your servant David will be established in your sight. 27 “Lord Almighty, God of Israel, you have revealed this to your servant, saying, ‘I will build a house for you.’ So, your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. 28 Sovereign Lord, you are God! Your covenant is trustworthy, and you have promised these good things to your servant. 29 Now be pleased to bless the house of your servant, that it may continue forever in your sight; for you, Sovereign Lord, have spoken, and with your blessing the house of your servant will be blessed forever.”

What intimate words to bring before the presence of God! Consider the humility of David as he ponders: “Who am I, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” I have asked the same question of God. When I recount the sum of my life, along with my sins and failures, I often wonder (with deep reverence) why God has been so gracious and kind … so faithful and steadfast in love to me and my family. And like David, I consider the future that God has prepared for us as well. What a great thing it is indeed … when God makes known to us His plans and purposes for the days ahead and fulfills them through us! I certainly can join David in rejoicing: “How great you are, Sovereign Lord! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.”

So, what has God made known to us?  What have we heard with our own ears? Well, I think we could adapt Verses 23-24 to our generation … a prayer of humility: “Who is like your people – the Body of Christ … the people who You redeemed through the blood of the Lamb; the Son of David, the Son of Adam, the Son of God? Have we not come from every tribe, language, people, and nation? (Cf. Revelation 5:9) You, Sovereign Lord, have established your Church as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, your special possession (Cf. 1 Peter 2:9); to make a name for Yourself and to perform great and awesome wonders among them. You have sanctified your people as your very own forever; and you, Lord, have become our God.” Indeed, In Christ Jesus, God has given the world the hope of salvation and everlasting life. It has been revealed to us through Him! It has been promised to those who abide in Him! Yes, the Father has proclaimed His Son to be Savior; and there is no other Name by which we MUST be saved! (Cf. Acts 4:12)

Another observation: Notice the tone of David’s prayer beginning in Verse 27. He is praying and praising God in response to the revelation given … to the promise of the “good things” that God has made known to him. David receives the promises as a “covenant” knowing the trustworthy character of God … having heard the testimony of the Prophet Nathan and knowing the word of God pass down from Moses. David knows the unfailing love of God and has experienced the greatness His love. Oh, how I love the implications for our own journey of faith that this prayer embodies. David wants God to be pleased with His “decision” to bless him and his family! He wants to live worthy of the Lord because it was His sovereign will to bless him with His favor. And we know that the blessing David received was indeed established forever through our Lord Jesus Christ … the Son of David (Cf. Psalm 110:1; Luke 20:41-44; Matthew 1:1).

Well, it is my hope that we might see application of this verse in the context of the coming of Jesus … the Gospel message; and in light of the House He established … His Church; a people chosen for redemption and eternal life through the blood of Jesus. Oh, I hope that you can see the wealth of faith-building applications that these Old Testament passages can produce for us today; and I pray that we will continue to discover the full revelation of God contained in His Word and embodied within His Son. I will end with this final word:

Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV)

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 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. 3 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 (the Son) had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

My Soul Longs For You!

Psalm 63:1 (NIV)

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

Our Verse of the Day opens Psalm 63 – A Psalm of David when he was in the Desert of Judah.  It is a beautiful psalm of reflection … a song of deep longing for intimacy with God … a chorus of praise for the presence of God and His lovingkindness.  I have reprinted the entire Psalm for us:

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your Name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me. Those who want to kill me will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. 10 They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals. 11 But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God will glory in Him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Whenever I feel alone inside, I find this psalm so uplifting.  It reminds me that when my soul is parched and in need of living water, the Lord is ever near! There is a cloud! There is a river! Oh, to feel His rain upon me … the flood of refreshing waters He sends to those who are weary! Indeed, God is present in His sanctuary. He overshadows me when I lay on my bed and think of Him during the night. The Lord hears me when I praise Him. Yes, He surrounds me when I am still in the quiet place before Him…. Like the meditation of David in Psalm 139, I recite these same thoughts before the Father:

Psalm 139:1-7 (NIV)

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain….

David asked, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” Well, the answer is that God is omnipresent and He is omniscient. We cannot hide ourselves or our sin from God. “Nothing in all creation is 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) Yet, this truth is not something to be feared; rather, I find hope in the knowledge that His eyes are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayers. (Cf. 1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 34:15)

So, let us continue to long for the presence of God in our lives.  Let us place our full confidence in His presence. For our Heavenly Father has revealed His presence unto us! “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Cf. John 1:14) Indeed, it is His abiding presence that keeps us alive! Oh, His love is better than life….

A Final Thought:

1 John 3:19-24 (NIV)

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. 23 And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in Him, and He in them. And this is how we know that He lives in us: We know it by the Spirit He gave us.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Lord Jesus, I thank you that when my soul is thirsty, I can come to the well … a well of living water that never runs dry. Jesus, you proclaimed: “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink; and whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (Cf. John 7:37-38) So, Lord, this morning I ask You for a drink of the water that You give … for the spring of water welling up to eternal life! (Cf. John 4:13-14) Refresh my soul, O Lord! I thirst for You … my soul longs for You! Fill my cup, Lord, to overflowing! For I ask in your precious and mighty name … Amen!

Teshuva – Time to Return!

1 John 2:1 (NIV)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

Our Verse of the Day deals with the issue of sin in our lives.  I find it interesting that this topic was presented today on Rosh Hashana … and the beginning of Teshuva (10 Days of Repentance) before Yom Kippur … the Day of Atonement.  I plan to observe these special days of reflection; and I think it would serve us well to look deeper into the context as well as other scriptures that lead us to confession, repentance, and obedience….

1 John 1:5-10 Through 1 John 2:1-6 (NIV)

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 3 We know that we have come to know Him if we keep His commands. 4 Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys His word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.

That is probably enough context for us to get the picture. All sin is unbelief or disobedience at its core. If we live in sin, we live in darkness. But if we live in God, we walk in the light. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. As John stated, we must “live as Jesus did” in order to have fellowship with Him. This is HOW we KNOW are in Him. The conviction of sin within us is the evidence that we have offended God … that we have displeased Him. And so, the call to holiness … to the consecration of ourselves to God is the goal. Therefore, confession of sin is necessary … it is required in order to be cleansed and purified by God. And John shares with us the great news that Jesus is our advocate with the Father in order that we might receive forgiveness and be reconciled for our offenses, but John will continue to admonish us with regard to habitual sin:

1 John 3:4-10 (NIV)

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. 5 But you know that He (Jesus) appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. 6 No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

I believe we truly need to examine our attitudes toward sin. All too often, we excuse it … rationalize it … or justify it as “being human” or “God understands”. No one is perfect … I get that. But are we conscious of the offense and disgrace that sin brings to God? Do we grieve in our souls when we grieve the Holy Spirit … when we quench the Holy Spirit … when we offend and wound Father God? How often are Christians called “hypocrites” because of their conduct? I see bumper stickers that read: “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven.” While the statement is true in a sense … the tone is quite misleading as though grace “excuses” sin. Just to be clear … the grace of God does not excuse sin! The grace of God covers its consequences (See Romans 6:23) … covers it with the precious blood of a perfect sacrificial lamb … atones for sin … and reveals the wrath God “feels” toward it. No, we cannot continue to sin nor be dismissive of the behaviors and habits we have allowed to become the strongholds in our lives. A person born of God … a believer … cannot go on sinning. It is quite unconscionable to treat God with such irreverence if indeed we have been born of the Spirit.

Romans 5:6-10 (NIV)

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 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!

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Being born of the Spirit is the reason we have the capacity to reign in the sinful human nature. As 2 Peter 1:3 declares: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” And godliness should be the desire of a heart that is wholly surrendered to God. Someone once said that we have to hate our sin more than we love God if we truly want to attain holiness. But we cannot attain it in our own strength or power. As Jesus shared with His disciples, “What is impossible with man is possible with God. (Cf. Luke 18:27) It is the Spirit of God who changes our hearts so that the inclinations of the thoughts of our hearts can be made righteous. That is why we are admonished to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:5)

As we meditate on these scriptures and the observance of Teshuvah … the “return” … to turn our hearts toward God, I pray we will see what today is all about for the people of God. The call of repentance is the sound of the shofar – calling an assembly of people united in fasting and prayer before God. Yes, I pray that we will surrender our hearts today and seek the face of God in repentance. For He has said: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 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. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:13-16)

Indeed, WE, the people of this nation, need to humble ourselves … we need to turn from our own wicked ways … and consecrate ourselves to the Lord. Then will He hear our prayers and supplications for our homes, for our children, for our communities, for our churches, and for this nation. Then He will forgive and heal our land. Our sins and the sins of this nation can be covered! We have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One. It is His blood … the blood of atonement that redeems and reconciles us with the Father! That is the message of The Return! So let us repent and return to our first love! “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” (Cf. Psalm 95:6) Amen….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Links to Bible Gateway for Jewish Readings During Teshuva:

Hosea 14:1-9 (NIV)

Joel 2:15-27 (NIV)

Teach Me … My God

Psalm 143:10 (NIV)

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

As I read our Verse of the Day, I could not help but read the entire Psalm. The words resonated with me in light of all the sickness, illness, disease, discomfort, disability, and discouragement coming against the people of God. Like David, I think we often have these same types of feelings and longings within our hearts when we get still and quiet before the Lord in prayer. And I sense there are some here that especially need this word of comfort … this reminder of the grace and love of God. We are never alone in our struggles or battles. Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. He promised to be with us … always!

Psalm 143 ~ A Psalm of David.

1 Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.

2 Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.

3 The enemy pursues me; he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.

4 So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.

5 I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.

6 I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.

7 Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.

8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.

9 Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you.

10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.

12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.

Lord Jesus, I come before you this morning with deep gratitude for your Word … spoken to holy men of old and written down to preserve the inspiration you instilled in those who loved you and consecrated themselves to you. Thank you for the comfort your Word provides us today in our generation. Thank you for the faithfulness of your prophets and chosen people to proclaim the light of your Word … your lovingkindness … your faithfulness … your everlasting love for your people. Thank you for the ever-needed reminder of your abiding grace and presence in our circumstances.  We humble ourselves and cast all of our cares upon you … because you care for us. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7)  We exalt Your Name, and we praise you for your power and protection!  In Your Name, I pray. Amen.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Do What Is Right…

Amos 5:14-15

Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

This is a good word for us! And I invite you to read the entire chapter of Amos 5.  The Prophet admonished the people to “seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say He is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.” In light of the current discord in our nation, it is imperative for believers to guard our hearts and our emotions; and to keep our focus on the Sovereign Lord. Paul, and the other apostles, lived during a time of excessive government control and oppression of people. Yet, he advised the following: “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.” (Cf. Romans 13:1-3) This might seem counterintuitive when we observe oppressive policies being promoted at the highest levels of government, and strangely, a large percentage of citizens insisting upon those policies. Yet, we are urged to trust God above all else and to do what is right….

When Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans, the evils of Nero and the persecutions that his government inflicted upon Christians, had not yet reached their climax. Paul was later executed under Nero, and during his reign, Nero intensely persecuted Christians – especially within the city of Rome. The Roman emperors who succeeded Nero in the centuries following were even worse at times in their treatment of Christians until the conversion of Constantine. During this period, the atrocities of Diocletian also come to mind. So the trials and sufferings for following Jesus are nothing new; and as we look to the end of the age, we can expect the irrational hate toward believers to continue and intensify. Peter, also executed during the reign of Nero, wrote to believers and provided similar counsel to us:

1 Peter 2:11-17; 21-23 (NLT)

11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when He judges the world. 13 For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, 14 or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. 15 It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. 16 For you are free, yet you are God’s servants, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. 17 Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king. 21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. Jesus is your example, and you must follow in His steps. 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 23 He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. Instead, He entrusted Himself to God the Father, who always judges fairly.  (See Isaiah 53)

The point is that even in the face of great injustice, the apostles admonished believers to submit to the authorities over them and to reverence the sovereignty of God. This is not to say that believers do not engage in civic matters at all; rather, we are to hate evil, love good, and maintain justice in the courts. We are to be the light of the world! The light we have received from God is not to be hidden from the culture; nor should we be silent when the truth of God and His Word should be proclaimed. (Cf. Matthew 5:14-16) But we are to do so with grace and love. As Paul urged Timothy: “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose the truth must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will change their hearts (grant them repentance) leading them to a knowledge of the truth. Perhaps, then, they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:23-26 NLT)  Yes, this is why we PRAY for those in authority over us!

So in all this, we are to conduct ourselves as subject to the governing authorities just as we are subject to the throne of Christ Jesus – to whom all authority in heaven and earth has been given.  So I join with Paul who wrote: “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. (Cf. 1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Have a Blessed Day!

Shabbat Shuvah…

1 John 2:1 (NIV)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

Yesterday and today, in Washington, D.C., there is a gathering … there is a call for the Body of Christ, the Church, to “RETURN” to the Lord our God!  The message is for repentance to fall upon every believer … for being too casual about sin … for being lukewarm in our hearts … for leaving our first love.  Indeed,  our concern should be about our own sins … the sin of apathy, the sin of hardness, the sin of injustice,  the sin of selfishness, the sin of pride, and yes, all the secret sins that lie within our hearts – yet exposed before God. As we point our fingers at the world around us, know that more fingers are directed at ourselves.  It reminds me of some familiar Scriptures that we know, but often fail to apply to our own hearts:

Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

1 “Judge (Condemn) not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment (condemnation) you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck (of sawdust) in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Romans 2:1-11 (NIV)

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed. God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

Psalm 62:11-12 (NIV)

11 One thing God has spoken,   two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, 12     and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”; and, “You reward everyone  according to what they have done.”

Proverbs 24:10-12 (NIV)

10 If you falter in a time of trouble,   how small is your strength! 11 Rescue those being led away to death;  hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”  does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it?  Will He not repay everyone according to what they have done?

As we think about these words of judgment, they fall upon an appointed day.  For today is Shabbat Shuvah or the Sabbath of Return!  It is the Sabbath that falls between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  And in Hebrew, the word Shuvah is the root of the word teshuvah … which means “repentance”!  And that is the core concept of what today is about for the people of God. The call of repentance is the sound of the shofar – calling an assembly, a people united in fasting and prayer before God. The Scriptures read in the synagogues today are reprinted below for us:

Hosea 14

1 Return, Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall! Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to Him: “Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips. Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount warhorses. We will never again say ‘Our gods’ to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion.” “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them. I will be like the dew to Israel; he will blossom like a lily. Like a cedar of Lebanon he will send down his roots; 6 his young shoots will grow. His splendor will be like an olive tree, his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon. People will dwell again in His shade; they will flourish like the grain; they will blossom like the vine— Israel’s fame will be like the wine of Lebanon. 8 What more has Ephraim to do with idols? I will answer him and care for him. I am like a flourishing juniper; your fruitfulness comes from me.” Who is wise? Let them realize these things. Who is discerning? Let them understand. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.

Joel 2:15-27 (NIV)

15 Blow the trumpet (shofar) in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the portico and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” 18 Then the Lord was jealous for His land and took pity on His people. 19 The Lord replied to them: “I am sending you grain, new wine and olive oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations. 20 “I will drive the northern horde far from you, pushing it into a parched and barren land; its eastern ranks will drown in the Dead Sea and its western ranks in the Mediterranean Sea. And its stench will go up; its smell will rise.” Surely He has done great things! 21 Do not be afraid, land of Judah; be glad and rejoice. Surely the Lord has done great things! 22 Do not be afraid, you wild animals, for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. 23 Be glad, people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for He has given you the autumn rains because He is faithful. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. 24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. 25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten— the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm— my great army that I sent among you. 26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. 27 Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the Lord your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.

And so, I pray that we will surrender our hearts today and seek the face of God in repentance. For He has said: “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 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. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (2 Chronicles 7:13-16) Yes, the people of God, need to humble ourselves … we need to turn from our own wicked ways … and consecrate ourselves to the Lord. Then will He hear our prayers and supplications for our homes, for our communities, for our churches, for this nation … to forgive and heal our land. Yes, our sins and the sins of this nation can be covered.  We have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One.  It is His blood … the blood of atonement that redeems and restores us to the Father! That is the message of The Return! “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

God Listens…

Psalm 116:1-2 (NIV)

I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.

We have another Psalm to engage our thoughts today…. This Psalm was written by a faithful follower facing death (Verse 3).  He explains his thought processes on how to deal with this situation.  First of all, he affirms his love of God and why he loves Him.  “I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.”  And then the Psalmist affirms his faith: “Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.”  Let’s look at the larger context:

Psalm 116 (NIV)

I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.
Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”

The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary; when I was brought low, He saved me.

Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Lord, have delivered me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

10 I trusted in the Lord when I said, “I am greatly afflicted”; 11 in my alarm I said, “Everyone is a liar.”

12 What shall I return to the Lord for all His goodness to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord.
14 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people.

15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful servants.
16 Truly I am your servant, Lord; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.
18 I will fulfill my vows to the Lord in the presence of all His people,
19 in the courts of the house of the Lord— in your midst, Jerusalem. Praise the Lord.

The inspired writer was in great distress and sorrow as he faced the thought and reality of the grave. I think there is something here for us to ponder as we face our own mortality and the challenging days ahead of us. When we feel overwhelmed, fearful, and anxious … when we come into circumstances and situations where we despair of life … this Psalm reminds us that the Lord hears our cries for help and mercy.  The Psalmist affirms The Lord is gracious and righteous and full of compassion.  The Lord protects us even from the unknown. We can rest completely in Him! He delivers us from the fears of death … from the sorrows of life … from the paths of sin.  So what shall we return to the Lord for all His goodness to us?

Lift up the cup of salvation He has given us in Christ Jesus.

Call upon the name of the Lord.

Fulfill our oaths and promises to the Lord.

Serve the Lord with all of our hearts.

Offer the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.

Heavenly Father, we thank you this morning that you hear our voices … that you hear our cries for help … when we become overwhelmed in our thoughts, anxieties, and fears.  We love you because you listen and move to quiet our souls and to give us assurance that you are ever present in times of trouble. So we call on you for deliverance and strength when we become weary.  We thank you because you are gracious, righteous, and full of love and compassion for us. You are our song! You are our praise!  And we shall call upon your name all the days of our lives! So we shall serve you with all of our hearts. We will fulfill our desires to live according to your Word. These are our offerings to you, O God. In the name of our Savior Christ Jesus we pray. Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!