I Want to KNOW What Love Is

1 John 3:16 (NIV)

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.

After His resurrection, there is a period of 40 days that Jesus continued to minister to His disciples before His ascension into heaven.  It was during this time that Jesus used occasions to teach the disciples about the realities of His supernatural, eternal presence.  He expounded on all the prophetic scriptures that revealed His identity; and He emphasized the ordained purpose of His life … the reason for which He was sent. Our Verse of the Day captures a great truth that Jesus desires each one of us to attain from our personal encounter with Him; namely, the truth of God’s unfathomable love for those He created in His image …  and all of His creation. Indeed, we find this truth repeated in the inspired writings of the New Testament authors.  John wrote: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. (Cf. John 3:16) And Paul wrote: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8)

What the Apostle John affirms here is that the sacrificial death of Jesus is how we KNOW what love is!  Jesus Christ defines the love of God in terms that we have yet to fully comprehend. Yet, Jesus assures us that this truth can be known and understood by us. Consider the following text:

John 17:20-26 (NIV) ~ Excerpt from the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus

20 “My prayer is not for them (the apostles) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Yes, we CAN know God and know His love because of Jesus Christ … His Son.  The veil covering the holy place in the temple was torn in two … opening our access … revealing our capacity to know the God who created us in His image.  And what Jesus was sent to do was to reveal the Father and to make Him known.  Because of Jesus, we can know God … His Being and His passionate love for us!  Paul understood this revelation; and his prayer for the Ephesian believers encompassed a deep, heartfelt desire for them (and us) to KNOW “this love that surpasses knowledge.”

Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp (comprehend) how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

What is the lesson for us? God has spoken His love for us. God has revealed His love for us. God has shown and demonstrated His love for us. All the Father asks of us is to believe in His Son and to love one another as He has loved us! His will is not mysterious or unknown. His expectation of those created in His image can be understood. The reciprocation of His love can be offered. The only question for us is whether we truly desire in our hearts to make it actual in our lives.  For love requires us to humble ourselves … to subdue own wills … to exalt God above all else. And Christ Jesus, who ascended into heaven to become our High Priest before the throne of God, has demonstrated what this submission entails.  Indeed, “the Son, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Cf. Philippians 2:6-8)

When we humble ourselves and surrender our wills to become obedient … to pick up our cross daily … to die to sin … to believe God at His Word … to see God through the person of Jesus; I am persuaded that we will intimately experience this love that surpasses knowledge and be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  We will have the capacity to love others as we have been loved. Indeed, that is the purpose of God for our lives … to complete His love.  The Apostle John shared these insights with us.  And so, I will close and recite this familiar passage for today:

1 John 4:7-17 (NIV)

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. 13 This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus

So Now You Know ….

Have a Blessed Day!

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!

Faith in Action….

1 Peter 1:13 (NIV)

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming.

Our Verse of the Day affords us a conclusion and a responsive action to take: “Set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming.”  So I will reprint the larger passage for us to better understand the context for the conclusion.

1 Peter 1:3-16 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when He (the Spirit) predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 13 Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (Quoting Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2)

I also wanted to reprint this same passage from the New Living Translation (NLT). I just love the way it reads and how it conveys what Peter articulated regarding the reason for our hope of the salvation to be revealed AND the process of sanctification (journey into holiness) – which is our preparation to receive it:

1 Peter 1:3-16 (NLT)

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by His great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests or purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.You love Him even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls.

10 This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. 11 They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when He (the Spirit) told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and His great glory afterward. 12 They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen. 13 So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” (Quoting Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2)

To me, this is a powerful message and continues with the theme of our response to His offer of salvation.  So, what is the application for us here?  Well, to prepare our minds for action and to exercise self-control.  A good spiritual practice to help with the challenge of self-control is fasting. Denying ourselves of those things that we tend to overly desire is a good physical exercise to train our spiritual inner beings. As we have studied, Paul admonished: “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.” (Cf. Romans 12:2) Again, I like how this verse reads in the NLT: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” And what is God’s will? “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified (holy): that you should avoid sexual immorality. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:3) And, “Rejoice always, pray continually,give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit.” (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19)

I think the desire to respond and prepare ourselves for the salvation to be revealed also serves as the motivation … the discipline … the courage … for an intentional journey into holiness. There is something about the thought of standing before Jesus one day that should drive us to pursue holiness (sanctification) in our lives. In our hearts, we want to please Him. We want to fulfill His good and perfect will. Though we have not seen Jesus, it is our love for Him that brings faith and trust into genuine action … that fills us with an inexpressible joy … a joy that no one can take away.  Yes, I look forward to our inheritance … reserved and secured in heaven for us!  And that is why I am encouraged even when the trials of life come.  Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart (have courage), because I have overcome the world.” (Cf. John 16:33) And so, I pray that we will be looking for His coming … preparing ourselves for His return … placing our hope in the salvation we will inherit to be revealed.  Amen!

Have a Blessed Day!

Do You Accept the Offer?

Titus 2:11-12

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age …

Did you read the verse correctly? “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.”  Yes, Father God offers salvation to everyone … to all people!  But a response is required: Acceptance or Rejection. Yes, an offer is not “activated” until a response is given … a decision is made. Let’s think about that for a moment….

Through the Gospel, we understand that Jesus was sent from heaven by the Father to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Abraham, the father of faith, prophesied unto Isaac: “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering (sin offering), my son.” (Cf. Genesis 22:8) And when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him for baptism, he declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Cf. John 1:29) As Paul wrote, “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 2:8-9) Yes, Jesus is the grace of God that has appeared.  He is the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world (Cf. Revelation 13:8) … whom God set forth as a propitiation (sacrifice for sin) by His blood through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed.” (Cf. Romans 3:25) The Apostle John testified that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also the whole world. (1 John 2:2) Therefore, like Peter, we can conclude that Jesus is ‘the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ (Quoting Psalm 118:22) Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Cf. Acts 4:11-12)


Jesus Himself affirmed: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6) But there is still requirement for a person to accept His offer of salvation – namely, a person must believe Him and receive His gift of eternal life. Contrary to the conclusion of many liberal theologians and false teachers, Jesus did not accomplish universal salvation on the cross. To be clear, Jesus accomplished eternal atonement for sin on the cross; however, not everyone inherits eternal life through His sacrifice. Only those who believe in Him … who accept Him as Savior and Lord will receive the salvation offered by God the Father. The Apostle John made this quite clear:

John 3:16-20 (NIV)

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 Son19 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.

And Jesus asserted a decision regarding Him MUST be made:

John 12:44-48 (NIV)

44 Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the One who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. 47 “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. 48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

Jesus taught that there WILL be a separation of people.  He will separate people on the basis of their response to Him. See Matthew 13:47-52 and Matthew 25:31-46.  A person either receives (accepts) or rejects His gracious offer. And there will be a judgment! Indeed, all people will stand before Him in the judgment with regard to their decision to accept or reject Him. (Cf. Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:12) And it will be that those who reject Jesus and do not accept His Word will continue to remain in condemnation for their sin and rebellion. Think about it. “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Cf. Hebrews 2:2-4)

It is vital that we hear, understand, and apply His Word to our hearts. For we know that His command leads to eternal life! Indeed, it is the Father’s will that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and Jesus will raise them up at the last day. (Cf. John 6:40) And here is another scripture to support the point: “After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (Cf. John 17:1-5)

So what does the offer of salvation entail?  Acceptance of Jesus (Believe in Him) … His Sacrifice (Atonement for Sin) … and His Word (Light and Wisdom for Life)! Jesus told His followers, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (Cf. John 14:15) So, yes, there is a response that goes even beyond mental ascent of His identity and claims … it is devotion and obedience.  Paul stated it this way: The grace of God, demonstrated in the salvation He accomplished through the sacrifice of His Son, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good. (Cf. Titus 2:12-14) Yes, our response … four acceptance of the offer will be seen in our desire to live in holiness … to be set apart unto the One who has saved us and given us eternal life. All I can say is: “What an Offer!”

Have a Blessed Day!

He Does Great Things…

Job 37:5-6 (NIV)

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’

As I read our verse this morning … I smiled inside and appreciated the reminder: He does great things beyond our understanding!  Indeed, “Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as His counselor?” (Cf. Isaiah 40:13; Romans 11:34) As the Prophet Isaiah shared: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Cf. Isaiah 55:8-9) We simply cannot know the intelligence or expressive power of our Creator!  All we can really do is marvel at Him … gaze into the heavens at His glory … or lie still in deep silence and listen to our own heartbeat! These sensory experiences weave a tapestry of reverence within our hearts for our Heavenly Father and for His Son … our Lord Jesus. “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Cf. Colossians 15-17)

But I think the greatest thing our God has done beyond all understanding … at least from my point of view … is to show each one of us in no uncertain terms: “You are loved!” Like David, sometimes it is difficult for us to understand the love and compassion of God. Sometimes doubts arise within us as we consider our own being in the light of what is known of His eternal power and divine nature. (Cf. Romans 1:20)

Psalm 8 (NIV)

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:
All flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,
The birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

But the Apostle John assures us: “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.” (Cf. 1 John 3:1) Indeed, the love of God reaches to the heavens; His faithfulness reaches to the skies. (Psalm 36:5; Psalm 57:10; Psalm 108:4)

1 John 4:9-10

This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

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

Oh, I pray this morning that we will take hold of this truth and believe this truth!  God loves His people more than His own life! It’s incomprehensible to us because we are the created ones, but our Creator made us in His image because of His great love. Psalm 89:1 says, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.” “For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.” (Psalm 86:13) “For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 117:2) “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:22)

A final thought for the Day!  May this passage also remind you of who you are in Christ and how greatly you are loved:

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

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. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Eternal Perspective…

1 Peter 1:24-25 (NIV)

For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.

I love this verse because it affords us some spiritual perspective on how to view this gift of human life we have received from God.  In this opening chapter of his first epistle, we see Peter contrasting the temporal circumstances of our lives with the eternal inheritance that awaits us in heaven. He presents a comparison of things that are “perishable” with those that are “imperishable”. This is a common prophetic message shared by the apostolic writers of the New Testament. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” (1 Peter 1:3-6)

Indeed, as we walk this journey of faith, we come to a knowledge of this truth: “Through Him (Jesus) you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:21) Jesus is the originator (author) and completer (finisher) of our faith. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) Yes, with confidence and conviction, we can affirm His declaration: “I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6) And I feel that these points of reference can provide a useful context for us to examine the larger context of our verse:

1 Peter 1:17-25 (NIV)

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners in exile here (or as sojourners on earth) in reverent fear18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the pure heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” (Quoting Isaiah 40:6-8) And this is the Word that was preached to you.

Here we see the juxtapositions of perishable and imperishable … temporary and eternal. Our temporary bodies are perishable. We are like the grass that soon withers.  But our spiritual beings are imperishable.  Our souls, reserved for resurrected bodies, will inherit eternal life. Paul addressed this issue of faith as well:

1 Corinthians 15:35-57 (NIV) – The Resurrection Body

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being” (Quoting Genesis 2:7); the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (Quoting Isaiah 25:8) 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (Quoting Hosea 13:14) 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I realize that we could probably delve deeper into the theology, but I hope what is presented here will stir your thinking further on the temporal versus the eternal.  I believe how we envision the eternal will impact how we live in the present.  And this is the message of the Gospel:  “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.” (John 3:16) To perish is both a concrete physical and a potential spiritual reality. But to be clothed with the imperishable, one must be IN Christ Jesus.  Only in Him will we experience the immortal … the imperishable … and the eternal. Yes, the eternal is why we are commissioned to be ambassadors for Christ … to go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the truth! So it is important that every person comes to understand what is required to receive eternal life. And here is the instruction: “ Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

And so, I want to leave us with these two thoughts for application:

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

1I 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, 4who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NIV)

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 Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Rest In God…

Psalm 62:1 (NIV)

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him.

This verse resonated with me this morning….  I think all of us are looking for some form rest these days … some measure of peace when interpersonal conflict abounds and people seem to harden their hearts against one another.  One thing is for certain, we cannot control the emotions or feelings of others. And so, we can only turn to the One who is able to bring rest and peace to our souls.  I have reprinted this short Psalm for us:

Psalm 62

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress; I will never be shaken. How long will you assault me? Would all of you throw me down—this leaning wall, this tottering fence? Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse. Selah Yes, my soul, finds rest in God; my hope comes from Him.Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress; I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. Surely the lowborn are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath. 10 Do not trust in extortion or put vain hope in stolen goods; though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them. 11 One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, 12 and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”; and, “You reward everyone according to what they have done.”

What I find in this Psalm is the declaration of God as the source of rest for our souls.  He is the place of strength … of hope … of refuge and deliverance.  No matter what happens in our lives, we will all eventually come to the knowledge that the power of rest belongs to God alone. He is the Sovereign King over all creation. Only He can move mountains. Only He can change hearts. Only in Jesus Christ can we find true rest…. Yes, only through faith in Him will peace ever abound in our souls:

Matthew 11:25-30 (NIV)

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. 28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Hebrews 4:1-13 (NIV)

1Therefore, since the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faithNow we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (Quoting Psalm 95:11) And yet His works have been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere He has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” (Quoting Genesis 2:2And again in the passage above He says, “They shall never enter my rest.” Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This He did when a long time later He spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Quoting Psalm 95:8) For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their labor, just as God did from His. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. 12 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. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

So we see that “rest” can only be found in submitting ourselves to God … surrendering ourselves to the obedience that comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  There is no work we can perform that will bring reconciliation with God … no work that we can perform that will bring atonement for our sin or rebellion.  Rest in the finished work of the Son of God … the One whom the Father sent is all we can do.  This is what Jesus declared and affirmed before His death on the cross: “It is finished!” (Cf. John 19:30) For the work Jesus completed signifies the rest which God entered on the seventh God when He ended His work which He had done. (Cf. Genesis 2:1-3) Indeed, Jesus was the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world! (Cf. Revelation 13:8) And it is clear that we are in the “Day of Rest” because it remains “Today” in which those who believe may enter His rest….

I believe the application here is for us to enter His rest … today. The Lord is telling us to refrain from labor or exertion.  He is telling us to wait upon Him! (Cf. Psalm 27:14) He is telling us: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Cf. Psalm 46:10) For in rest we shall find peace. Yes, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Oh, He is the God of Peace. Indeed, “May God Himself, the God of Peace, sanctify you through and through.  May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23) And like Paul, I pray: “Now may the Lord of Peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

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!

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!

My Refuge and My Shield

Psalm 119:114 (NIV)

You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.

So I may sound like a broken record, but it appears the Holy Spirit wants to continue to emphasize this truth with us; namely, that God is our refuge and our strength as He has declared in His Word to us!  Yes, we hope in His Word because that is how we KNOW through faith that He is with us … He surrounds us … He protects us!  Let’s just look at this section of Psalm 119 for the immediate context:

Psalm 119:113-120 (NIV)

ס Samekh

113 I hate double-minded people, but I love your law.
114 You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.
115 
Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God!
116 Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed.
117 Uphold me, and I will be delivered; I will always have regard for your decrees.
118 You reject all who stray from your decrees, for their delusions come to nothing.
119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross; therefore I love your statutes.
120 My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.

In a world where we feel surrounded by chaos and confusion and conflict and coercion and cancel there is a place of refuge and strength for believers. His name is Jesus! I did not say there is a place of hiding because we are not called to hide from the world; rather, we are to be His light in the world.  We are to be that city on a hill where it cannot be hidden. (Cf. Matthew 5:14-16) We need to remember the prayer of Jesus when He prayed for all believers:

John 17:13-21 (NIV)

13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 

Jesus wants us IN the world, but He prayed for God to protect us … to be our refuge from the evil one. So, we do not ignore what is happening in the world or stick our heads in the proverbial sand. Believers have been called … we are sent into the world to testify to the truth! That truth is God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world: “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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. 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. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (Cf. John 3:16-19) Yes, we are to engage the world with the light of the Gospel … with truth of the Word. That is all we can do … even though we know that believers will be hated for it:

John 15:18-27 (NIV)

18 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ (Cf. John 13:16) If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (References to Psalms 35:19; 69:4) 26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father—He will testify about me27 And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

So we need to know the Word of God. We need to know the Truth. And we do know – if we believe Jesus is the Christ, receive His sacrificial atonement for our sin, and become a new creation in Him. And through the Advocate who comes to indwell us, we receive wisdom and discernment. The Apostle John has elaborated on this for us:

1 John 4:1-6 (NIV)

1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from Godbut every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the worldThey are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Do you see it?  Every spirit (that would be referencing a human spirit) that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.  This means that a person has received the Spirit of God through placing their faith in Jesus Christ. Then John goes on to refer to believers as “children who are from God.” Again, the emphasis is on having the Spirit of God within us because he affirms “the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  Yes, the Spirit of Truth is greater … He is more powerful than the spirit of falsehood. Why? “For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. (Cf. 1 John 5:4) It is through faith in Christ we have overcome darkness and deception. Indeed, the Spirit of Truth has set us free! But the god of this age (Satan) 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. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4)

So believers should forever praise God for His mercy … for His gift of grace that removed the veil from before our eyes that we might see the light of the Gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  It is only by His grace that our eyes were opened and we were enabled to come to faith in the blood atonement He provided through Jesus. By His grace we are forgiven.  By His grace we are accepted. By His grace we are received into eternal life …  ONLY because of Jesus and no other reason. “ 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 2:8-9) If this does not humble us as believers, I’m not sure what will. I am reminded what Peter asserted in 1 Peter 4:17-18, “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the Gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (Cf. Proverbs 11:31) Indeed, how can we ever doubt the compassionate love God has demonstrated? His love is our refuge!  His love is our strength!  His love is our everlasting hope! His love is revealed through His Word! And, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Cf. John 1:14)

Lord Jesus, you are our refuge and strength because You have given us your Spirit … the Spirit of Truth … to indwell us and fill us with Your abiding presence and love.  Only in You is the wisdom and knowledge of God made known. Only in You is the great love of the Father fully expressed and experienced in our hearts. You are the true light that gives light to everyone. Oh, that the light you have given to us might be received in every heart. Oh, that every soul would come to your life …  the light of all mankind. (Cf. John 1:4) For You are the Living Word in which we hope and find shelter. You are the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through you. (Cf. John 14:6) And so I pray that we, your children, would be your image in this world just as you are the image of the Father. You have sent us into the world just as the Father sent You into the world. And so, I pray that through our lives and testimonies that your kindness will lead more people to repentance. I pray that your great love, which is rich in mercy, will bring life to those who are dead in transgressions. Oh, that your grace, Lord Jesus, would abound as your people proclaim the light and hope, the joy and peace, the truth and love of the Gospel … so that no one would perish but come to a knowledge of the truth and receive eternal life in you.  This is my prayer, Lord, and I ask in Your Great Name.  Amen….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!