The Day of the Lord…

2 Peter 3:10-11 (NIV)

But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives….

We have entered the Season of Advent in commemoration of the first arrival of the Messiah … the Son of God … the Word become flesh … our Lord Jesus.  Although we primarily focus on the first coming or arrival of our Lord Jesus during the Season of Advent, there is an ever-present expectation in our consciences of the promise of His Second Coming! Both are realities that underpin our faith from beginning to end….

In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle Peter addresses the implications of the Second Coming of Christ, and exhorts us to be prepared for the event.  In fact, the entire chapter is devoted to “The Day of Lord” as it is prophetically known. And it aligns with what the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews affirmed: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. (Cf. Hebrews 9:27-28)

2 Peter 3:1-18 (NIV)

1 Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But 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, as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. 11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and wait eagerly for its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

Indeed, Peter presents a powerful, quite sobering warning and perspective on our preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus.  It is a reality!  It will happen! He encourages us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ so that we can withstand the error of this lawless culture in which we live. Their scoffing and mocking of those who believe in the return of Jesus Christ is done in ignorance … not understanding the patience of God gives them an opportunity to come to repentance and a knowledge of the truth. In Verse 5, Peter states “they deliberately forget….”

In Matthew 24, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” Jesus explained to them, at great length, the unfolding of the timeline of events leading to His return.  And then Jesus exhorted them to be expectant and ready.  I will pick up His discourse here:

Matthew 24:30-44 (NIV)

30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. (Cf. Daniel 7:13-14) 31 And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. 32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that He is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you all, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.

It is clear that Peter heard … that he understood … and that he believed the prophetic words of Jesus.  The question is whether you and I believe Jesus at His Word.  Has the “slowness” of His Coming lulled us to be doubtful or skeptical?  We have heard all of our lives that Jesus is coming soon; and yet, many say “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised?”  Do you think Jesus is coming someday but just not in your generation or lifetime?  Do we even think about His return anymore? Well, we have been warned to keep watch because we do not know on what day our Lord will come! That means at any moment He could arrive.  And as Peter observed, “we ought to be living holy and godly lives” in the light of this expectation.  Yes, the Second Advent approaches and we need to be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when we do not expect Him….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Will of God…

1 Peter 2:15-16 (NIV)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

Yesterday, we studied a prayer that asked for being filled with the knowledge of God’s will. And I thought, after reading our Verse of the Day, that we can simply look in the Word of God to find specific revelations of His will for our lives. Our verse is an example of several unequivocal declarations of God’s will found in scripture; and I will share some others for your reference:

1 Peter 2:15 (NIV)

For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-6 (NIV)

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like unbelievers, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister….

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)

16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 1:3-5 (ESV)

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luke 7:29-30 (NKJV)

29 And when all the people heard Jesus, even the tax collectors declared the righteousness of God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. 30 But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by John.

These passages tell us that the will of God for us is to do good; to be sanctified; to rejoice always; to pray without ceasing; to give thanks to God; to fulfill the calling of God on our lives; and to receive the baptism of repentance. Paul declared that his calling to be an apostle of Christ Jesus was by the will of God. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1) So even though we might not always have complete knowledge of God’s will, we CAN still act and operate on what we do know. The least we can do is respond to the knowledge of God’s will we already have available to us. Yes, I think that just doing the few things revealed here will position us to have greater intimacy with God as we continue “to be filled with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Often, I have heard people express concern about “missing” the will of God. When I reflected on my own attempts to discern and fulfill the will of God for my own life; what I discovered is that I was chasing after my own hopes and dreams at times. I was not giving consideration to what had already been revealed to me in His Word. Then it occurred to me, that perhaps I should focus on and pursue the things that I do know already; rather than be worried or idled while waiting for some new revelation from God.

I remember sharing my anxieties with a former pastor about the decision to move my family to a different state for a new job. He told me, not to agonize over whether to go or to have ultimate certainty of the “rightness” of the decision. Pastor Sam shared, “Sometimes the Holy Spirit simply moves us to take a new step of faith. He shared, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” (Cf. Hebrews 11:8) Then he said, “Where you go … what you do … is not always the most important aspect of your decision; rather, wherever you go – just take root and bear fruit. That is always the will of God for our lives.” His wisdom has stuck with me through the years … perhaps it will speak to you when those type of decisions come to your life.

God’s will for us is to do the good works for which we were created in Christ Jesus to do before the foundation of the world. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) God’s will for us is to be baptized and sanctified – set part for service to Him. God’s will for us is to rejoice, pray, and to give Him thanks all the time. God’s will for each of us is to exercise our spiritual gifts and fulfill our role within the Body of Christ. (Cf. Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12) When I look at these things, none of them have anything to do with where I live; what occupation I have; who I should marry; or those types of decisions because His will and purpose for me will always be for me to be obedient in any of those contexts….

So rather than looking for the will of God in a specific context … perhaps becoming paralyzed with indecision about whether to move or change a job or develop new relationship; I think we would do better to base our decisions and choices on what God has revealed in Scripture. Maybe we should ask, “How will this decision affect my ability to ‘take root and bear fruit?’ How will this decision enhance my desire to walk in the revealed will of God?” This means we need to read God’s Word to know His will. This means that we do not look for answers from the world; rather, our transformation to obedience comes from a renewal of our minds … a reset of our mindset. Paul exhorts us: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Cf. Romans 12:2)

In Matthew 6:25-34, when Jesus taught us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you,” I believe He was speaking about the pursuit of God’s will for our lives. The kingdom of God is based in His sovereign authority (His will); and it follows that seeking to do His will (obedience) must come first … regardless of the context or circumstances we have been given in life. But then, God promises to grant all us the things which pertain to our needs. So, I think we need to realize there is a difference between His will and our needs (desires). I believe the obedience of faith in Jesus must come first! But as you do the will of God, watch as He unfolds and reveals His specific will in your situation and circumstances. (Cf. Psalm 37:3-6) When you seek the will of God, watch as He causes “all things to work for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Cf. Romans 8:28) And remember, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose (will) that prevails.” (Cf. Proverbs 19:21)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Hebrews 10:36

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

1 Peter 4:19

Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.

1 John 2:16-17

16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

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!

I Desire To Do Your Will

Psalm 40:8 (NIV)

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

Our Verse of the Day comes from Psalm 40, and I encourage you to read the entire Psalm for its context. I find the meditation of King David regarding his personal struggle with sin to be honest and transparent. David sees his desire to do what is right as dependent upon his relationship with God. He writes: “Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help me.” (Verse 13) And, “You are my help and my deliverer; you are my God, do not delay.” (Verse 17) He observes the connection between desire and action as predicated upon the Word of God being embedded within his heart….

Indeed, if we desire to do the will of God, it follows that we must know and understand His will. I believe this is why the law … the commandments of God found in His Word … must be stored within our hearts. His Word must be treasured above all else! For the Word of God is necessary to change the human heart so that we are enabled to do His will. (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) The Prophet Jeremiah observed: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.” (Cf. Jeremiah 17:9-10) And Jesus taught: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Cf. Matthew 15:19) Indeed, unless we engage ourselves in the Word of God so it will become active within us, we will struggle to submit to the will of God for our lives.

Surrendering to the will of God is what accomplishes our sanctification! (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3) And the sanctifying work of God within us is accomplished through His Word. Jesus declared as He prayed to the Father: “Sanctify them (disciples and future believers) by the Truth; Your Word is Truth.” (Cf John 17:17) The Word of God (His Will) has been sufficiently revealed to us through His Prophets … and in these last days through His Son. (Cf. John 1:1-2; Hebrews 1:1-2) Consider Psalm 119:11 which states: “Your Word I have hidden in my heart … so that I might not sin against You.” Indeed, His Word, hidden in the soil of a fertile heart, will germinate thoughts of righteousness and godliness to motivate whatever we say and do. Indeed, everything we do as humans (our fruit) is the outward expression of our thoughts … whether good or evil. So as we cultivate reverence for God in our inner beings, let us carefully plant His Word within our hearts to become a harvest of obedience to His Will….

The Apostle John brings us some additional insight on this matter of faith. He connects obedience with our love for God … our reverence for God expressed through obeying His commands. John recorded that Jesus told His disciples: “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15)

1 John 2:4-6 (NIV)

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.

1 John 5:2-3 (NIV)

2 This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. 3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands.

I think the question for us is this: “Do we truly desire to do God’s will?” Are we motivated by the love of God to please Him through obedience of His will? Are we chasing after the heart of God with reverence for Him? My solemn prayer is that we will spend more time reading and studying the Law (its commandments, statutes, and precepts) as well as the testimonies of the NT writers in order to comprehend the fullness of God’s Word and put it into practice. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is the spiritual tool through which He sanctifies us. God proclaimed through Moses: “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” (Cf. Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7; 20:26; 21:8; 22:32) In his epistle, Peter quoted Moses and confirmed its application: “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” And since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” (Cf. 1 Peter 1:15-17)

Yes, I believe the Lord is calling each of us to holiness … leading us with His Spirit to sanctify ourselves through His Holy Word. Our Heavenly Father desires us to live in reverent fear of Him and to do His will. So, may we have ears to hear what the Spirit of God is saying to His Church….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Willing Spirit…

Psalm 51:12 (NIV)

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Our Verse of the Day comes from Psalm 51, and it is an intense confession and lamentation of David – prompted after Nathan the Prophet confronted him regarding his adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequent act to have her husband killed in battle. I encourage you to reference the story in 2 Samuel 11-12. In the final verse of that chapter we read, “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”

Though he was a man who pursued the heart of God and experienced intimate spiritual relationship with Him, David fell into great temptation. He committed adultery; and then afterwards, a murder as the consequences of his sin spiraled out of control.  In that time … in that moment … it is clear that David did not guard his heart nor fear God. Indeed, the consequences of his actions had far-reaching effects on his relationship with God and those around him. And so, Psalm 51 captures the outpouring of his confession and repentance before God.  David expresses that God desires faithfulness from us … righteousness and holiness … even from the moment of our conception. David asks God for cleansing, healing, renewal, and reinstatement of the fidelity he had violated. And from his prayer, we learn it is a broken spirit … a broken and contrite heart … that our loving and compassionate Father will use to restore us to Himself.

In his confession, David acknowledges not only his transgressions, but he observes in Verse 4 the following concerning his sin: “Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight; so You are right in your verdict and justified when You judge. David asserts that his sinful actions against other people were indeed sins against God Himself! Further, He agrees that God’s judgment of his sins is righteous and just. David continues in his prayer to seek forgiveness and cleansing of his sins: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” And it is here that we find the context of our verse today….

To fear God is the beginning of wisdom; and reverence establishes the foundation for our obedience and faithfulness to Him. Like David, we can too easily become focused on ourselves, our own inner desires, and the allure of worldly things. Indeed, there is so much “pleasure” available that it can be challenging to our faithfulness. And the battle between light and darkness … between truth and lies … only seems to be intensifying in this world. Since we are caught in the torrent of spiritual warfare, it is understandable that we might become distracted and operate in the flesh. The deception and confusion can give rise to all kinds of temptations … enticing us to make bad decisions under the circumstances. If ever there was a time to guard our hearts and put on our spiritual armor (Cf. Ephesians 6:10-18), it is now in these latter days.

I see our Verse of the Day as a reminder of the constant struggle we face on the journey of faith. Any sin or transgression in our lives not only displeases the Lord, but there are profound consequences. We quench the Spirit who is working within us (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:19) … and we grieve the Spirit who has sealed us unto the day of redemption. (Cf. Ephesians 4:30) We are robbed of the “joy” of our salvation, and we begin to isolate ourselves from God in guilt and shame. Indeed, we dishonor the sacrifice of Christ on the cross to atone for our sins, and we separate ourselves from the presence of God through His Holy Spirit. Our capacity to love one another and minister to others is diminished because we have compromised ourselves….

As we meditate upon these thoughts, I hope that we will spend some time for introspection. As David did, let us kneel before the Father and pray: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Cf. Psalm 139:23-24) And as John affirmed, “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is Light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 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 (every) sin. 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. If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us. (Cf. 1 John 1:5-10)

Though our transgressions may not rise to the level that David committed, it is certain that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) So, it is my hope that as we examine ourselves before God, we will join David with repentant hearts as the Lord reveals our transgressions. For God is willing to purify us and to restore our joy. He is faithful to do so. Because of His mercy and grace, He will give us a willing spirit to live worthy of Him. As Paul wrote: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Cf. Galatians 5:24-25)

My friends, I believe the Father is calling our hearts to confession and repentance today so that He might restore the joy of our salvation! Let us humble ourselves in reverence. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Cf. Hebrews 4:16) And I am reminded of what Paul asserted: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13) So, let us be diligent to guard our hearts and minds so that we do not fall prey to our enemy the devil – who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:8)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Exposed…

John 3:20-21 (NIV)

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle John affords us some interesting insight into the hearts of people who disdain the light of the Gospel and deny the truth of God. John states, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” Let’s examine the broader passage for context here:

John 3:16-21 (NKJV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

When Jesus declared “I am the light of the world,” the context was related to the exposure of sin. I will reprint the narrative here for us:

John 8:2-12 (NKJV)

2 Now very early in the morning Jesus came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, 4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say about her?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear them. 7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” 12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Light. It shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot prevail against it. Darkness cannot overcome light. (Cf. John 1:4-5) Evil will not overcome good. And so, if we want to live in the truth … we must live in the light of Christ Jesus. When you and I step into the light of His holiness, every shadow of sin within our hearts is exposed. We come to the knowledge that God has seen everything we have ever done … heard every word our lips have ever uttered … known every thought our minds have ever conceived. Indeed, nothing can escape His notice because truth is the standard to which each of us will be held accountable. Those are very sobering realities we need to ponder….

John indicates that those who desire to live in the truth WILL come to the light of God … they will come to Jesus so that the darkness in them will be exposed and removed. The Prophet Jeremiah asserted, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and beyond cure (desperately wicked). Who can understand it? (Cf. Jeremiah 17:9) But this is not something for us to fear; rather, exposure is something to embrace. The light of Jesus inspires our confession and repentance; and these forge a path to redemption, deliverance, healing, and freedom! Yes, I believe it is the fear of our inner darkness being expose that withholds the fullness God intends for us to experience in Him. Healing. Deliverance. Salvation. These all begin with exposure to light … and they can be experienced when we see the path of truth emerge from the trails of darkness we have traveled on. If we truly want liberty and wholeness in our lives, we must come into the light of God through Christ!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life. ~ Psalm 56:13

Blessed are those who have learned to worship You, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. ~ Psalm 89:15

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. ~ Isaiah 9:2

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. ~ Ephesians 5:8

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. ~ 1 John 1:7

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)

The Fool and The Foolish

Psalm 14:1 (NIV)

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

Perhaps it was a play on words – April Fool’s Day – but our Verse of the Day sheds light on a real issue that we face in the proclamation of the Gospel. The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” Unbelief is the opposition of the spiritual forces of darkness … and the greatest transgression of all! Does it not speak to the times we are living in this current generation? Scripture has a great deal to say about foolish people … and the consensus of the truths presented is that those who are fools, those who act foolishly, separate themselves from God and from His blessings. There are several passages in Scripture that corroborate the same message that reverence for God is the beginning of knowledge, but foolish people despise wisdom and instruction. (Cf. Proverbs 1:7)

Psalm 14 (See also Psalm 53)

1 The fool (a morally deficient person) says in his/her heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. 2 The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 3 All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. 4 Do all these evildoers know nothing? They devour my people as though eating bread; they never call on the Lord. 5 But there they are, overwhelmed with dread, for God is present in the company of the righteous. 6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor, but the Lord is their refuge. 7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the Lord restores His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

Proverbs 1:20-33 (NIV)

20 Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; 21 on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: 22 “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? 23 Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. 24 But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, 25 since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, 26 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you— 27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. 28 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, 29 since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. 30 Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, 31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. 32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; 33 but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

Here in Old Testament wisdom literature, we see an emphasis on the knowledge of God … of the awareness and understanding that He is real and expresses Himself to us and reveals Himself to us.  God has made Himself known through His Creation … through His Word … through His Spirit.  But the fool outright rejects the existence of God.  The fool walks in unbelief and denial of the truth. But the Spirit of God is active through the Word of God.  “Indeed, the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before Him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12-13) Yes, if someone wants to receive wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One, we must first repent at His rebuke.  THEN He will pour out His thoughts and make known His teachings. But there is consequence for those who continue to reject Him:

Matthew 7:21-29 (NIV)

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, 29 because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Matthew 25:1-13 (NIV)

1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet Him!’ 7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with Him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ 12 “But He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ 13 Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

In both of these passages, we see the word “foolish” use to describe people who encountered Jesus … who knew Him … yet they did not remain steadfast to His word. The foolish were among those who heard His words. They understood what He was saying; and yet, they did not put them into practice. It was not a matter of misunderstanding; rather, it was an attitude of indifference on the part of the hearer.  The prompting of the Holy Spirit for repentance was rejected.  I wonder who they called on when their lives came to ruin? Likewise, the virgins knew the Bridegroom would be coming for the marriage supper of the Lamb. But they had not prepared themselves for His arrival. They were foolish due to their complacency…. And the Apostle Paul warned of the darkness and deception of foolishness as well:

Romans 1:18-25 (NIV)

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

As I indicated above: Any lapse in faithfulness equates to foolishness. But unbelief in God … in His Word … in His Majesty and Holiness … defines the fool! The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” And unbelief separates the fool from God. The fool neither glorifies nor worships God nor does the fool give thanks to Him. Their hearts are darkened … rebellious … and filled with iniquity. Paul will go on to further explain in Romans 1:28-29 that God gives the fools “over to a depraved mind so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, and depravity.” So there is a difference between acting foolish and being a fool. Perhaps this is why Jesus warned that anyone who says to a brother or sister in Christ, “You fool!” – will be in danger of the fire of hell. The word has a clear definition and meaning when the context of Scripture is applied to it….

I share this “insight” because we might consider that a prodigal is a ‘fool’. But I think the prodigal (and many of those whose faith is weak) may better be described as “acting foolishly” … behaving as though God is not around or not watching their lives. Perhaps they forget, but God is very aware! “From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind;from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth—He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” (Cf. Psalm 33:13-5) Yet God is still calling out to them! Through His Spirit … through His Church, the Lord Jesus is reaching out to the prodigals … to those who are acting foolishly … to those who have turned their hearts away from God … and He is crying out to them: Stop! Watch! Return! For surely God is stopping the earth in its tracks at this very moment of history! And I believe He is telling all of us to stop … to “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Cf. Psalm 46:10) And I believe Jesus is telling us as well to watch! “Watch therefore, for your do not know the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” (Cf. Matthews 25:13) And as the world watches, I believe He is proclaiming: “I AM He!”

Every prodigal has the opportunity to turn from the darkness that has taken hold and deceived them. Indeed, Light has come! “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” (Cf. John 3:21) And so now is the time for the prodigal to return…. Now is the time of repentance … the time to change direction … the time to forsake foolishness … the time to respond to the Spirit of Wisdom. It is time to walk in the light as He is in the light … so that we have fellowship with one another … because the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. (Cf. 1 John 1:7) This is the message for prodigals and to all who have become foolish. We, the Body of Christ, have been chosen to be witnesses! We are to lead out those who have eyes but are blind and those who have ears but are deaf. We have been anointed to preach the good news; sent to heal the brokenhearted; to proclaim liberty to those who are captive; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God…. (Cf. Isaiah 61:1-3) But we must do so with gentleness:

2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NIV)

20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. 22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

So how do we avoid foolish and stupid arguments … and the quarrels they produce? How can we be gentle to those whom we pray God will grant the gift of repentance? Well, what led you and I to repentance? Was it not the kindness of God? (Cf. Romans 2:4) And so, let the redeemed of the Lord tell their stories! Share how you cried to the Lord in your trouble and how He saved you and gave you peace. There are no doctrinal arguments for your testimony … because the love of God surpasses understanding. It cannot be argued or explained. It can only be experienced and shared. So share your own authentic encounter with Jesus Christ, and let the Holy Spirit take it from there…. I encourage you to read Psalm 107. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. 2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those He redeemed from the hand of the foe,those He gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south….”

A Prodigal Excerpt:

17 Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities. 18 They loathed all food (bread of life – word of God) and drew near the gates of death. 19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. 20 He sent out His Word and healed them; He rescued them from the grave. 21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind. 22 Let them sacrifice thank offerings and tell of His works with songs of joy.

When we speak about the wonderous works of God … the loving deeds of the Lord … we proclaim the will of God and rejoice in Him. This is our invitation … this is the invitation of the Lord: “To taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Cf. Psalm 34:8) And I love the metaphors the writer used in Psalm 107. Some wandered … some sat in darkness … some became fools … and some were tested with the storms of life. I encourage you to mediate on what each metaphor is revealing to our own hearts … for we can each see a reflection of ourselves in each one! We, too, had spiritual oppression and opposition to overcome. And in truth we conclude: “For we have all been saved by grace through faith … and this is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God … not of works so that none of us can boast.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9)

When it comes to ministering to the prodigal, gentleness and kindness are the themes that come to my mind. They are not to be treated as fools who believe there is no God; rather, they just need to come to their senses … to see the light of life … to see Jesus … to encounter “I AM He.” I believe the return of those called by His name is happening as we speak … as we pray for their repentance. It will occur not because we have elegant orators, anointed prophets and teachers, or because we are endued with the power of the Spirit; rather, I believe it will occur because of sincere love manifested through our lives. Oh, please do not misunderstand me. To be sure, the anointings and gifts of the Holy Spirit have their ordained roles for the building and equipping of the Body under the headship of Christ Jesus, but I truly sense that it is genuine love that must fill the Church first.  Love is HOW the Word of God through the Spirit of God will bring the prodigals home…. So, I will end with this thought:

1 Corinthians 13:1-8 (NIV)

1If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

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!

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.