A Coming Day….

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….

There is so much that goes on in life … in this world … things that usually feel beyond our control or ability to change.  It is easy to understand how our faith can wane at times, or we can lose perspective as believers.  So I think our Verse of the Day affords some insight into honing a focus on the eternal rather than on the temporal.  The Apostle Peter reminds us that there will be a “Day of the Lord” when the great “reset” will occur.  Peter assures us there will be an ultimate judgment of the earth and of all who have lived upon it.  It will come suddenly … and it will be final! The imagery is quite sobering; and so, Peter urges us to consider what kind of lives we ought to be living in light of this knowledge of judgment. Even Paul affirms: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10) Yes, we will give an account of our lives, our words, our deeds, and our hearts. So I think it best for us to consider the applications here….

Yet, within this context of judgment, Peter offers us insight into the hope of believers.  So I want to place our verse in the larger context for us:

2 Peter 3:1-14 (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 speed 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 Him.

And this was prophesied by Isaiah centuries before even Christ Jesus was born: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.” (Isaiah 65:17-18) And, “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure. From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 66:22-23)

And we have the revelation to the Apostle John as well – who affirmed the prophetic message of Isaiah when he recorded: “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (Cf. Revelation 21:1) I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.” (Cf. Revelation 21:2)

So, Yes! We are called to holiness and righteousness!  We are called to be spotless and blameless and at peace with God as we look forward to the great “reset” when there shall be a new heaven and a new earth reserved for those who abide in Christ Jesus. These attributes are not a banner to be worn in spiritual pride; rather, these are qualities that God desires within each of us … in our inner beings. Indeed, the wonderful news is that we are inputted with the righteousness of Christ our Savior through the atonement of His blood! “Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:4-9)

Peter asked, “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?” Jesus told the woman at the well, “The Father is looking for true worshipers who will worship Him in the Spirit and in Truth. (Cf. John 4:23) And to me, true worship embodies obedience as an expression of reverence. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15) Paul expressed it this way: “In view of God’s mercy, we should offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is our true and proper worship.” (Cf. Romans 12:1) To me, the application is clear. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Cf. John 13:14) And John reminds us: “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (Cf. 1 John 5:2-4)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Silence the Foolish

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.

As I read our Verse of the Day, I began to think about the significance of its message for believers – both for 1st Century Christians and for us in this current generation as well. I believe Peter affords a challenging insight into how we should conduct ourselves in a world that we have been called out of by the Lord Jesus.  So I have reprinted a larger section of the passage to give us the context:

1 Peter 2:11-23 (NIV)

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the unbelievers that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 18 Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.” (Cf. Isaiah 53:9) 23 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.

I have emphasized the “applications” I want us to see and consider.  First, Peter states it is the will of God for us to “do good”.  Righteous conduct is not optional for Christians.  We are to do what is right in all situations. This includes both our actions and our words! And the reason is that by doing good we should silence those who in essence oppose God.  It is good conduct that God seeks in us.  We are to show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, and honor the highest offices of government which God has established.  And if we should suffer for doing good, and endure it, this is commendable before God.  Peter goes on to provide the example of our Lord Jesus in how to conduct ourselves in the face of opposition.  We should not return insult for insult.  We do not retaliate; rather, we wait upon the Lord who said: “It is mine to avenge. I will repay.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30)

Deuteronomy 32:34-41 (NIV)

34 “Have I not kept this in reserve and sealed it in my vaults? 35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” 36 The Lord will vindicate His people and relent concerning His servants when He sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free. 37 He will say: “Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in, 38 the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up to help you! Let them give you shelter! 39 “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. 40 I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear: As surely as I live forever, 41 when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.

Romans 12:9-19 (NIV)

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 everyone18 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.

Hebrews 10:26-35 (NIV)

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

So, I pray that we will embrace the will of God for those who believe in Him. His will is for us to “do good” as a testimony to those who oppose Him. God has given salvation and eternal life to those who believe; and He will judge those who are disobedient … those who disdain the blood of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ … those who resist and insult the grace of the Holy Spirit. Yes, God will judge His people.  We just need to do what is right and let God take care of the rest! So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Desires of Your Heart…

Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

This is probably a familiar verse to most of us. We often cite it with expectation that God is going to fill our lives with all the things we value and enjoy. Right? Well, perhaps we should pause and look further at the context and intent of what David is imparted when he wrote this Psalm.

In this Psalm, David considers the age-old question of why evil people seem to prosper and flourish while those who endeavor to live righteous lives often experience suffering and hardship. I sense that the Psalm was written as an encouragement to the people of God to not worry or fret over this matter.  And it is probably a good message for us to contemplate in light of the current tension, conflict, and violence going on in our nation right now.  David begins: “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither … like green plants they will soon die away.  Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Verses 1-4)

But as we read past these verses and look into the meditation that follows, David widens our perspective to envision life beyond current circumstances. He encourages us to live in the light of eternity, and he redirects us to set our hope in the everlasting purposes of God … not just what we observe or experience in the present. He affirms that there will be a time of judgment and recompense which will be accomplished on God’s timetable. I think that most of the tension we encounter at the moment is the conflict between light versus darkness.  John observed: “This is the verdict.  Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) Paul articulated: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12) But we see that God is sovereign even in the midst of whatever evil intent He allows mankind to inflict on one another. Light will ultimately prevail because God is light. (Cf. 1 John 1:5)

Verses 5-11

5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land. 10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. 11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity. (Cf. Matthew 5:5)

In these and the following verses, David goes on to describe how the behavior of godless people will judged and recompensed. Their wicked schemes will only return upon themselves. Wrongdoers will ultimately suffer the consequences of their actions.  But the righteous will abide under the care of the Lord … and their inheritance will endure forever. In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty. (Verses 18-19) And consider Verses 23-28: 23 The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; 24 though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand. 25 I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. 26 They are always generous and lend freely; others will see that their children are blessed. 27 Turn from evil and do good; then you will dwell in the land forever. 28 For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake His faithful ones.

Even though we observe that God allows evil in this world, He is with those who fear Him. The Father loves those who are just, righteous, and faithful. “And the heavens proclaim His righteousness, for He is a God of justice.” (Psalm 50:6) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) And He will reward each person according to what he or she has done. (Cf. Jeremiah 17:10; 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12) So we are exhorted by David, the Prophets, the Apostles, and our Lord Jesus Christ, to commit ourselves to what is good and righteous … to trust in the Lord always … and to wait for Him and His reward.

With these things in mind, I encourage you to revisit the meaning of Verse 4. To delight in the Lord is to love Him with all your heart … to enjoy Him … to serve Him … to please Him … to trust and obey Him. But what is the desire of your heart and mine?  In the context of the entire Psalm, we learn that the desire of our heart should be focused on the everlasting life that awaits us.  Our inheritance, His promises, are the reward for perseverance in faith.  Jesus said, 1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:1-6) Yes, to be with Lord Jesus forever is the desire of our hearts. And He will give eternal life to those who delight themselves in Him.  

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

A God Who Confides…

Psalm 25:14-15 (NIV)

The Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them. My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.

This verse spoke to me; and as I contemplated its message, it awakened me to a simple truth that perhaps should have always been apparent.  In Verse 14, David asserts that God confides in those who fear Him. The use of the word “confide” here has some strong implications.  As a transitive verb, it means to impart a secret with trust; to share something with another in confidence.  One definition put it this way: “To entrust; commit to the charge or knowledge of another.”  The English Standard Version (ESV) renders the translation: “The secret counsel of the Lord is for those who fear (reverence) Him, and He makes known to them His covenant.”  To me, this indicates “what” God reveals to those who love Him is His will, His promises, and His faithfulness!  And, perhaps, this affords a reason as to why so many people do not understand the love of God.  They simply do not fear (reverence or worship) Him.  It brings to mind this Scripture: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

The context of Psalm 25 gives this verse additional meaning.  David declares that his hope, his confidence, and his trust are in God alone. And, therefore, David asks God to teach him and guide his life under this covenant relationship God has revealed. He asks for mercy and forgiveness for all the sin in his life; knowing that God is loving and faithful towards those who keep His covenant. And so David affirms that God makes (an active, ongoing process) His covenant known and that he will experience deliverance and salvation from the God of love:

Psalm 25:4-15 (NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good. Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. 10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of His covenant. 11 For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. 12 Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. 13 They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land. 14 The Lord confides in those who fear Him; He makes His covenant known to them. 15 My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.

But as I read Verse 15, another passage of Scripture came to mind.  I wonder if you see any parallels in terms of personal relationship with God as presented in Psalm 25:

Hebrews 12:1-11 (NIV)

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily ensnares us. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and He chastens everyone He accepts as His son.” (Quoting Proverbs 3:11-12) Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Indeed, Father God delights to train those who love Him … those who fear Him in reverence and keep His covenant.  His covenant of love, that He has declared and made known through Christ Jesus, brings us to a genuine desire to share in His holiness. As the Apostle John affirmed: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when it is made known (when Christ appears) we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. All who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure (holy). Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that Jesus appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him.” (Cf. 1 John 3:1-6)

So, I believe the application is clear. God has made known Himself and His will to us through His Word … spoken through His holy prophets of old, and in these last days, through His Son. (Cf. Hebrews 1:1-2) The New Covenant, revealed through His Son, the Messiah, has been declared and sealed. It cannot be changed! Indeed, the immutable atonement of our sin through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone; it is the righteousness and faithfulness of God revealed. (Cf. Romans 1:16-17) It is not veiled except to those who do not know God … those who do not reverence or worship the Father. As Paul has asserted: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) So we need to be engaged in the spiritual battle … become intercessory prayer warriors … because the veil of darkness and the spirit of deception has invaded the minds of multitudes. As Jude exhorted us:

Jude 1:17-22 (NIV)

17 But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. 20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.

Verses 22-23 probably refer to those in the church who are being influenced by false prophets and teachers (Cf. Matthew 7:15; 24:11; 24:24; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1). Those who begin to question the authority or veracity of Scripture; who begin to lose sight of “Apostolic truth,” “the most holy faith,” and “the faith once and for all given to the saints.” Believers must be proactive, not just reactive, in the protection and restoration of weak brothers and sisters. This verse is an admonition not to accept false teachers or doctrines of demons; but rather, to show the need of compassionate love and grace toward those who lack discernment or begin to waver in the faith. We are called to restore prodigals to the righteousness of God through faith (Cf. Romans 1:17).  We are to “snatch” or rescue unbelievers from a life of rebellion and the fire of judgment. (Cf. Isaiah 4:4; 66:16; Jeremiah 5:14; Amos 7:4; Malachi 4:1; Hebrews 10:27; 2 Peter 3:7) Yes, there is a need for us to tell unbelievers that whoever believes in Jesus 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. (Cf. John 3:18)

I like how the Living Bible and the New Living translations have captured the message of Verses 22-23. So I will end with the thoughts inspired by their interpretations:

Jude 1:22-23 (The Living Bible)

22 Try to help those who argue against you. Be merciful to those who doubt. 23 Save some by snatching them as from the very flames of hell itself. And as for others, help them to find the Lord by being kind to them, but be careful that you yourselves aren’t pulled along into their sins. Hate every trace of their sin while being merciful to them as sinners.

Jude 1:22-23 (New Living Translation)

22 And you must reprove those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.

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!

Calling Out Pride….

2 Corinthians 10:17-18 (NIV)

But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

I really like that Paul calls us out regarding our spiritual pride … our Pharisaic tendencies as Christians to boast in ourselves and our “perceived” self-righteousness.  The truth of the matter is that we need to remember: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities sweep us away like the wind.  (Cf. Isaiah 64:6) The ONLY true righteousness that we have or will over have is IMPUTED to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23)

Romans 4:1-8; 23-25 (NKJV)

1 What then shall we say that Abraham our forefather has found according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted according to grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin.” (Cf. Psalm 32:1-2)

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it (righteousness) was imputed to him, 24 but also for us. It (righteousness) shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, 25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

Jesus is the One who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.  (Cf. Galatians 1:4) It is Christ who redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Curse is everyone who hangs on a tree (pole).” (Cf. Galatians 3:13) And it is Christ who rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves. (Cf. Colossians 1:13) It is Jesus who delivers us from the coming wrath of God. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:10) So, indeed, we should only boast in the Lord Jesus and Him alone!

So I pray that we will self-examine for pride in our hearts.  I pray that we will humble ourselves before God. “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Cf. Matthew 23:12; Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14)  As Paul exhorted, “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.” (Cf. Romans 12:3) And 1 Peter 5:5 encourages the same attitude: “In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” (Cf. Proverbs 3:34) Humbling ourselves before the Lord and one another will keep the tendencies of pride from entering our hearts.  And I think the best place to start is the realization that we cannot save or heal ourselves.  Only Jesus effectuate salvation for us.  He is the only atoning sacrifice the Father will accept to impute His righteousness to our account….

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven … whose sin is covered. Blessed is the one to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Thy Word is Truth…

Psalm 119:160 (NIV)

All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.

We continue with Psalm 119 and its uplifting meditation of the interconnection between prayer and the Word of God. The two just cannot be separated.  When we pray, it should be recitation of the Word.  Why? Because the Word of God reveals the will of God to us. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.” (Cf. 1 John 5:14-15) Oh, we can pray and ask for many things, but when we cry out from our hearts the words God has spoken, something different happens in the spiritual realm. The words of the Law … the commands and precepts of God … begin to penetrate our souls and transform our thinking.  We gain perspective on ourselves and the inclinations of our thoughts.  The Word of God sanctifies us … it cleanses us … it purifies us … as dross is removed from the ore in the refiner’s fire.  His Word is established forever.  His righteous laws are eternal.  Indeed, it is we who must conform to the words of Him who is sovereign and true! 

ק Qoph

145 I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord, and I will obey your decrees.
146 I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.
148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
149 Hear my voice in accordance with your love; preserve my life, Lord, according to your laws.
150 Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law.
151 Yet you are near, Lord, and all your commands are true.
152 Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever.

ר Resh

153 Look on my suffering and deliver me, for I have not forgotten your law.
154 Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise.
155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees.
156 Your compassion, Lord, is great; preserve my life according to your laws.
157 Many are the foes who persecute me, but I have not turned from your statutes.
158 I look on the faithless with loathing, for they do not obey your word.
159 See how I love your precepts; preserve my life, Lord, in accordance with your love.
160 All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.

Psalm 19:7-14 (NIV)

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Lord Jesus, how treasured are your words that bring life and light into our hearts! All your words are true! All your righteous laws are eternal! It is only by your Word that we exist and have our being! We have been created by your Word. And it is only by your Word that we are preserved. According to your great love and lavish grace we are saved. And so we bow before you … to give you thanks and praise for your lovingkindness and tender mercies.  We have hidden your word in our hearts that we might not sin against you. According to your promise, sanctify us by the Truth.  Your Word is Truth! And lead us, Lord Jesus, into the Way, the Truth, and the Life! For we come to you with humble and grateful hearts this morning, and ask these things in your mighty Name.  Amen….   

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Outward Appearances…

1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Any of us can fall into this kind of behavior.  We are human.  We have natural biases that are filtered through our own life experience and upbringing.  We make assumptions.  Draw conclusions.  And yet, too often, we do so without full information or facts.  It happens to holy men of God like the Prophet Samuel.  It happens to each one of us….

Samuel had been charged by the Lord to begin the search for a replacement for King Saul.  God had rejected Saul because of his disobedience.  So God directed Samuel to the Bethlehem to anoint the new king.  We find the story here:

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (NIV)

1 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.” Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?” Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” 12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

As Samuel learned, we should hesitate to make decisions based on outward appearances … based on our own imperfect assessments or generalizations of people’s inner thoughts and beings.  And the lesson here is that God sees people and situations differently than we are able to see them sometimes.  The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. We would be wise to follow His methodology before we assess and judge and act on perhaps flawed determinations.  But even more, we would be wiser still if we waited upon the Lord in order to discern what He has determined and ordained. We can be too hasty in wanting to move and act on our own decisions when God is wanting us to slow down and wait for Him to provide clarity and wisdom according to His own counsel and purpose. The goal is to use wise judgment, and we need to seek the counsel of the Lord in order to do so….

So what is the application?  I hope each of us will check our hearts … our prejudices … our judgments of others based on their outward appearances.  For there is an inner person … an inner being … a soul that God created … that lies within that human body in front of you.  He or she is unique, valued, and loved by God whether we see it for ourselves or not. Just as we received the merciful love of God, so He wants all people to come to repentance and to a knowledge of the truth. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) The people we tend to judge and condemn based on appearances are the very people many of us were ourselves. Paul addressed this very issue:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)

 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 2:1-6 (NIV)

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Jesus warns us of hypocrisy! He asserted, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Cf. Matthew 23:27-28) We need to remember WHO made us clean … WHO sanctified us … WHO justified us with His own blood of atonement.  Jesus did not look on our outward appearance and reject us; rather, He loved us and gave Himself for us. He cleansed our inner hearts and healed our inmost beings! That is how God looks at people! That is how we are supposed to look at people! We need to look at them with hope … and offer the hope of salvation found in Jesus alone. So let us do all we can to look passed the appearances of people and see the inner brokenness that needs Jesus to heal them.  I think that is the lesson the Spirit wants to teach us today.  Amen….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Your Righteous Laws…

Psalm 119:7 (NIV)

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

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

Psalm 119:1-16 (NIV) 

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

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

Psalm 119:30-37 (NIV)

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 (NIV)

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. (Cf. Isaiah 64:414 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” (Cf. Isaiah 40:13) But we have the mind of Christ.

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

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

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Evening!

Real Freedom….

Psalm 33:12 (NIV)

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people. ~ Proverbs 14:34

I’m not sure what else could be said that is not embodied in this verse.  Yet, note how King Solomon addresses the matter as a collective issue: A NATION!  Yes, a nation is lifted up by its righteousness … which is inherently composed of the individual righteousness of each citizen.  A nation cannot be righteous if its people live in sin….  And what we have seen so prevalent within the past few decades is a deepening moral decline within our nation.  There has been a discernible shift from the “condemnation” of sin to the “celebration” of sin; and it seems to now pervade our culture with a ravenous appetite.  To be sure, we cannot continue to celebrate and glory in sinful conduct and expect our nation to be upheld by the God who loves righteousness and justice….

King David wrote: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.” (Psalm 33:12) He, too, affirms that a nation devoted to God Most-High, Creator of heaven and earth,  shall be exalted … shall be blessed.  Indeed, we find both David and Solomon admonishing the nation of Israel to direct their collective hearts to a mindset of reverence for Father God.  Each individual is responsible to self-examine in this regard in order for the larger society to flourish as a people (a nation) under the authority and reign of God.  Perhaps, we should look closer at how David envisioned the relationship of God with His people … a nation whose God is the Lord:

Psalm 33:1-22 (NIV)

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to Him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. For the Word of the Lord is right and true; He is faithful in all He does. The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love. By the Word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea as into a heap; He puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm. 10 The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. 11 But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance. 13 From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; 14 from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth— 15 He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. 16 No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. 17 A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. 18 But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, 19 to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. 20 We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. 21 In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. 22 May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.

Wow!  What a beautiful meditation!  It speaks to the communal nature of our praise … our trust … our hope … our life as a people. Indeed, I believe the metaphor that Paul used to describe the interdependent relationships of God’s people as a single body with many members is quite fitting in this context:

Romans 12:4-5 (NIV)

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.

Ephesians 2:19-22 (NIV)

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”

Ephesians 3:2-6 (NIV)

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the Gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

It is through Christ Jesus that all believers become one Body … one Family … one Kingdom. The Apostle Peter affirms this oneness; declaring that we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once we were not a people, but now we are the people of God; once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy.” (Cf. 1 Peter 2:9-10) Yes, we are heirs together with Israel because we have been chosen for His inheritance in Christ Jesus. In Christ, there is great diversity … yet no division.  As Paul affirmed, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Cf. Galatians 3:28-29) And in another epistle Paul wrote, “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. (Cf. Colossians 3:11-15)

So where am I headed with this thought train?  Well, as we celebrate the founding of our nation today, I want to encourage us to remember and celebrate the founding of the holy nation that God ordained for His people to become. “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Behold, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will not panic.” (Cf. Isaiah 28:16) And, “The stone that builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (Cf. Psalm 118:22) Yes, the “nation” believers form in Christ should celebrate its foundation and coming together and the purpose for which it has been founded. For we are to “give joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of His holy people in the Kingdom of Light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Cf. Colossians 1:12-14) Yes, let us give thanks to God for our adoption … for our inheritance … and for the foundations of faith laid before us.

And just as we celebrate the liberty and freedom we enjoy in this country, let us celebrate the liberty and freedom we have obtained through Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus declared that He was sent by the Father to proclaim freedom for those who are captive or oppressed and to release from darkness those who are blind. (Cf. Luke 4:18; Isaiah 61:1) To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (Cf. John 8:31-32; 34-36) As Paul wrote, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Cf. Galatians 5:1) And Paul will go on to admonish: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” (Galatians 5:13) Peter will expound on this general point as well:

1 Peter 2:11-17 (NIV)

11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

So I hope that everyone will have a wonderful and blessed celebration this weekend!  Our Declaration of Independence is worth celebrating and our Constitution is worth commending because our nation was founded upon the principles of human dignity and liberty. Though as a nation we have not always lived up to the standards ascribed, its guidance has served to form a more perfect union of people.  Likewise, the Body of Christ as a “holy nation” was founded upon the Word of God and His declaration of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Truth and grace came by Jesus Christ … the light and manifestation of God’s love. So let us celebrate Jesus today for the liberty He has granted us. “For if we have been united with Jesus in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 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— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.” (Cf. Romans 6:5-7)

Through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death. ~ Romans 8:2

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!