Come To Me and Rest…

Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

As the New Year approaches … a year declared to be a time for deliverance and healing, I believe our Verse of the Day aligns our thoughts with this mission of the Church.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Cf. Matthew 11:28-30) Yes, what every soul needs the most is to rest in Jesus!  He will lift the burdens of life from our shoulders. His yoke is easy; and Jesus will exert the greater strength when pulling that wearisome load with you.  You do not have to carry the burdens of life alone….  He is Healer! He is Deliverer! He is Redemption! He is Salvation! He is Restoration! He is Peace! He is Resurrection! He is Rest!  Indeed, the true compassion and love of God for you and I will not be found anywhere else other than Jesus!

Is this not the most perfect verse for the Church to summon those who have grown tired, burdened, and weary? Is that not the state of the unbeliever? Is that not the state of every prodigal? Herein lies the message of the Church to a lost world … the message we should declare to everyone who has wandered … to every lost and scattered sheep! Our Great Shepherd … the Good Shepherd … is calling His sheep to come home. Jesus says to each one: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest….

This brought to mind the Prophet Isaiah and his prophetic invitation to reconciliation with God:

Isaiah 55:1-4 (NIV)

1 Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. 4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples.

And this is the message Isaiah foretold us to take to the unbeliever, the lost, and the wayward:

Isaiah 55:6-11 (NIV)

6 Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is My Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

This is the word that God has sent for us to declare to those who are burdened and wearied and captive to thoughts of futility … to thoughts of unworthiness … to overwhelming thoughts of guilt and shame. God declares that His thoughts are not those thoughts. God declares He will have mercy on them … and will freely pardon! God declares His ability to overcome our inability. And His Word will not return void of accomplishment. Behold, we ourselves are fruit of the Gospel! For Isaiah foretold this great hope of healing:

Isaiah 57:15-19 (NIV)

For this is what the high and exalted One says— He who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. 16 I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me— the very people I have created. 17 I was enraged by their sinful greed; I punished them, and hid my face in anger, yet they kept on in their willful ways. 18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, 19 creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”

God knows all. There is nothing hidden from His sight! God has seen their ways, but He will heal them. He saw us and healed us! The Lord abides with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit. He will revive! He will restore! Yes, He will heal the brokenness in each of us! He will remove the deception and disillusion of sin! He will provide salvation! He will give eternal life! All these benefits – all these blessings are found in Christ Jesus! (Cf. Psalm 103) These are the messages of hope we must speak to those who are lost, isolated, and in need of His unfailing love….

It all starts with an invitation! Jesus said, “Come!” He was sent to seek and to save that which was lost. That is you and me. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) It is the open invitation God has ordained for us to share with the poor in spirit … the broken-hearted … the spiritually blind … and the weak in faith. We are commanded to go out into the streets, alleys, roads, and country lanes to find the wayward … the lost and scattered sheep who are weary and burdened and seeking rest for their souls. There is no rest apart from Jesus. There is no reconciliation except through Him. This is the appointed message we need to share. “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.” (Cf. John 3:16-18)

So, I pray that we will be faithful in our resolve and relentless in our mission to bring hope to those who are without hope. I pray that as healing and deliverance become our focus for the coming year, we will discipline ourselves to be studying the Word of God … growing in the knowledge of His will. Indeed, His will is for us to rest in the finished work that Jesus accomplished on the cross for us. Oh, may we help others to experience the rest that we enjoy as believers…. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Do Not Forget His Benefits…

Psalm 103:1-2 (NIV)

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—

Our Verse of the Day has stirred my heart this morning. I cannot think of a better starting point for intimacy than PRAISE. Our Lord Jesus is worthy of all praise! Yes, with my inmost being, I will praise His holy name and remember His lovingkindness towards me. And with praise comes thanksgiving and a time of prayer … a time of solitude in the quiet place where there are only two voices. Indeed, for me, there is no better time than when I first awake in the morning to be alone with God … to read His Word and to let His presence breathe life and light into my soul. “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” (Cf. Psalm 63:1)

Psalm 103

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—

who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6 The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known His ways to Moses, His deeds to the people of Israel:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever;
10 He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on His children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him;
14 for He knows how we are formed; He remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children—
18 with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.

19 The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His Kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you His angels, you mighty ones who do His bidding, who obey His Word.
21 Praise the Lord, all His heavenly hosts, you His servants who do His will.
22 Praise the Lord, all His works everywhere in His dominion. Praise the Lord, my soul.

I love the opening verses of this Psalm … and I love its message: Praise the Lord and do not forget all of His benefits! It reminds me of a similar verse which reads: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation! Selah (Psalm 68:19 – NKJV)

All too easily, I think, we can slip into complacency and take for granted all of the benefits and blessings God has given us to enjoy. We can readily forget God’s everlasting faithfulness and His covenant of love which He remembers for a thousand generations. (Cf. 1 Chronicles 16:15) And so the David recognizes that praise and worship are always in order … and he reminds us to never forget the gracious and merciful love of God. As I pondered on this reminder, I reviewed some passages that its writers determined were crucial to not forget:

Deuteronomy 4:5-6; 9-10 (NIV)

5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when He said to me, “Assemble the people before Me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere Me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”

Deuteronomy 8:10-14 (NIV)

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land He has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws and His decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

2 Kings 17:35-39 (NIV)

35 When the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, He commanded them: “Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. 36 But the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the One you must worship. To Him you shall bow down and to Him offer sacrifices. 37 You must always be careful to keep the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands He wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. 38 Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. 39 Rather, worship the Lord your God; it is He who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.”

Psalm 78:1-8 (NIV)

My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old— 3 things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done. 5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which He commanded our ancestors to teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. 7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands. 8 They would not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to Him.

I’ll stop there with these Old Testament passages for us to consider. The theme I keep reading is do not forget the deeds of God on behalf of His people nor forget to observe the commands of God in order to enjoy the life He intends for us. Further, I see the obligation to recount the deeds of God and to teach His commandments to our children and to their children so that “they would put their trust in God and would not forget His deeds but would keep His commands.” So, I think we should be diligent to read and know for ourselves all the counsel of God’s Word in order to live it and to share it with generations to come. It is the deeds of God that demonstrate His power and sovereignty – His worthiness of honor and worship. And it is through our obedience to His commands that we demonstrate our reverence and love for God.

Yet, I feel like “do not forget” is a negative approach to fellowship with God. To me, it speaks of a passive faith … an “afterthought” faith. If we are diligent in our reading of the Bible and prayer time, then our intimacy with God should cause us to “remember” His deeds, His covenant, and His benefits as an active, integral part of our relationship. We would be ever mindful of His faithfulness, His trustworthiness, His grace, love, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, and forgiveness. In fact, when I switched my concordance search to the word “remember” I discovered a call to exercise my faith in a more proactive manner:

Exodus 20:8

Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy.

Numbers 15:39

Remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes.

Deuteronomy 8:2

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands.

Deuteronomy 8:18

Remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

Deuteronomy 15:15

Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today (to be generous).

1 Chronicles 16:12

Remember the wonders He has done, His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced….

Psalm 77:11

I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

Psalm 119:52

I remember, Lord, your ancient laws, and I find comfort in them.

Isaiah 46:9

Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

Lamentations 3:19-23

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. 20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 9:6

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

2 Timothy 2:8

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9 for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal.

Hebrews 10:32

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering.

Hebrews 13:1-2

Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Remember to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Hebrews 13:7

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

James 5:20

Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Jude 1:17-18

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.”

Revelation 3:3

Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

I realize that I have been exhaustive with these verses of “remembrance”; but I wanted to make a point for myself and to share it as well. There is so much to remember in our walk with the Lord Jesus; and I think that draws attention to the necessity of intimacy with Him. We must be actively engaged; fruitfully abiding in the Lord … if we want to see the harvest of faith that He desires to produce in us. We all need constant reminders … daily encounters with the Lord to stay focused. We need to hear His still, small voice amidst the noise of life … and that requires a time of quiet and purposed silence if we are to remember who we are in Christ … if we are to receive instruction, wisdom, and power to accomplish the good works which God prepared for us to do.

So, I encourage each of us to “remember” to spend purposeful time with God each day … both alone and in community with fellow believers. Let this be our resolve as we enter the new year. I firmly believe that God is calling us to greater intimacy with Him … not only to receive His “benefits” but to share these blessings with the lost sheep of this world. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. As His heart, hands, and feet in this world … we are commissioned make that happen. Let’s get to work!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

God of Wonders…

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.’

I thought our Verse of the Day had a great message as I watched the gale bent trees and wind driven sheets of rain outside my window – the forces of Hurricane Nicole as it passed through our area. It reminded me again of the sovereign power of God displayed in creation, and this truth resonated even deeper today.  Coming from the Book of Job, I realized that I had not read this particular book in a while, so I thought that I would at least read this chapter and catch up on the wisdom of my patient, suffering friend. However, Chapter 37 was just a continuation of a “rebuke” directed at Job from his friend, Elihu, that had started earlier at the beginning of Chapter 35. So, I spent some time reading these chapters. Although we find at the conclusion of the Book of Job that Elihu and two other friends were misguided in their assessment of Job’s character and his relationship with God, I think their insight and contemplations about the character of God should not be ignored or dismissed. If we look at the discourse of Elihu, we can still glean some inspiration from him that will impact our theology.

Job 37:1-16 (NIV)

1 “At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place. Listen! Listen to the roar of His voice, to the rumbling that comes from His mouth. He unleashes His lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth. After that comes the sound of his roar; He thunders with His majestic voice. When His voice resounds, He holds nothing back. 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.’ So that everyone He has made may know His work, He stops all people from their work. The animals take cover; they remain in their dens. The tempest comes out from its chamber, the cold from the driving winds. 10 The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen. 11 He loads the clouds with moisture; He scatters His lightning through them. 12 At His direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever He commands them. 13 He brings the clouds to punish people, or to water His earth and show His love. 14 “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. 15 Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes His lightning flash? 16 Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of Him who has perfect knowledge?

In this particular passage, we can find truth regarding the majesty and power of God as it is displayed in familiar scenes of our physical existence. I love the imagery that Elihu uses to describe tempestuous weather … the experience of flashing bolts of lightning and the thunderous sonic booms that shake us afterwards. He entertains the reactions of both man and creatures; and he attributes these workings of nature to its Creator – God Himself. We can observe the mysterious and the miraculous in nature and never quite understand how it all works or how it all fits together. Seriously, do we really understand rain? Do we really understand the wind and its movement? Oh, scientists and meteorologists might explain “how it works,” but I think they fail to expound on “why it works.” I believe the “why” is the inherent wisdom and knowledge of God. Indeed, our Father has ordained and designed every detail of creation for His own purpose and pleasure.

As I meditate on these things, what amazes me the most is that God delights to share His creative pleasure with mankind. King David mused: “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.” (Cf. Psalm 8:3-5) How incredibly wonderful it is that we can view the starry expanses of the universe, the majestic heights of mountains, the beauty of windswept canyons, and intricacies of wave sculpted coastlines – their awe-inspiring vistas filling our eyes with amazement and our hearts with the knowledge of His perfect splendor….

So, yes, I invite you to revisit some of the colorful, poetic language found in the Book of Job … and really throughout much of the “wisdom” literature compiled in the Scriptures. People, moved by the Holy Spirit, captured a wealth of understanding about God as they contemplated and meditated on His creative works. I think, sometimes, we just are too busy in our lives to stop and notice … or to ponder the incredible design of creation and every detail within it. Maybe this verse is a reminder to stop for a moment and receive the joy of knowing everything was created for our enjoyment and delight as well. Indeed, what a gracious and loving Father we have to love and worship in return for this experience of life! So, I pray that today we will be encouraged to spend time with our Heavenly Father and to give Him thanks for the lovingkindness He displays toward us through His Creation….

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. ~ Genesis 1:1

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Ultimate Authority

Romans 13:1 (NIV)

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Our Verse of the Day is not always seen in a positive light … especially when we can survey the history of governments and rulers that have come and gone over the millennia. Some have been viewed as forces for good; while others have proliferated evil against their own people and surrounding countries. While we do not always agree with the government authorities over us, in democratic and republic forms, citizens are still afforded the privilege to cast their votes for whom they believe will best serve the purposes of God. And so, I believe we should exercise our right to vote whenever possible for this very reason….

Romans 13:1-7 (NIV)

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

To me, the primary principal that we need to understand from this verse is the sovereignty of God. There is no vote cast … no military coup … no passing of a monarchal crown … no political violence or war that God has not permitted to occur within His greater sovereign will. Sometimes that is hard for us to understand when we see the mistreatment and suffering of innocent people under a totalitarian regime; but we trust that God will cause all things to work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Cf. Romans 8:28) In addition, we need to realize that the higher purposes of God will always result in His glory … not the glory of man or any other. (Cf. Isaiah 42:8; 48:10-11) God, speaking through Moses, declared to Pharaoh His sovereignty saying, “For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Cf. Exodus 9:15-16; Romans 9:17) On this side of history, we now know the glory God achieved through this ancient Egyptian king….

We cannot know all the reasons why God exercises His sovereign will in the ways that He chooses; but we do know what God has revealed in His Word is the assurance that He is working His will for our ultimate good. We can look at the historical records of King Cyrus, King Darius, and King Artaxerxes during the captivity of Israel in the Babylonian Empire. (Cf. Ezra 6:14) We can look at the testimonies of some Old Testament Prophets:

2 Chronicles 20:5-6 (NIV)

5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard 6 and said: “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.

Jeremiah 10:6-7 (NIV)

6 No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. 7 Who should not fear you, King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise leaders of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.

Zephaniah 3:7-8 (NIV)

7 Of Jerusalem I thought, ‘Surely you will fear me and accept correction!’ Then her place of refuge would not be destroyed, nor all my punishments come upon all those I appointed over her. But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did. 8 Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, “for the day I will stand up to testify. I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them— all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.

These are just a few examples of where the Scriptures have testified to the sovereignty of God … not only over the nation of Israel … but over all the nations and kingdoms of the earth. And if you think of these events in theological terms, the sovereign work of God has been to bring Israel into a faithful, covenant relationship with Himself. And that is what He desires for all believers! Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) So perhaps we need to view God with this perspective in mind. What God permits in the geopolitical realm is to accomplish His will and purpose in the spiritual realms of our hearts. The authorities over us are part of the context in which each of us live out the message of the Gospel. I think Isaiah 48 provides great insight into how God works in the lives of His people in order to bring them to the obedience of faith. I encourage you to read it….

Both Peter and Paul admonished believers to submit to the governmental and civil authorities over us; to show proper respect for them and their offices; and to pray for them so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives:

1 Peter 2:13-17 (NIV)

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.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Well, there is certainly more that could be discussed on this topic, but I think this will suffice to get us focused in the right direction.  And I hope that you will see your freedom to vote is part of the context in which God is working His will on the earth.  I urge you to exercise your right and to pray for those in office as well as those seeking office.  Pray they will be servants of God as they fulfill the responsibilities of their offices. Ask God to fill them with the knowledge of His will through all wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. (Cf. Colossians 1:9) Then, perhaps, we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

There Is None Like You…

2 Samuel 7:22 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV)

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He (the Son) had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

What Is Your Purpose?

Proverbs 19:20-21 (NIV)

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Our Verse of the Day affords a great truth that I want to share. I especially want to draw your attention to Verse 21 which reads: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” When we make plans for our lives without spending time with God in prayer and seeking His wisdom, I think we lack understanding of “purpose” when it comes to our relationship with Him. Any of us can have great ideas and goals for what we want to accomplish in life, but I believe it would behoove us to find out from God what He wants us to spend our time, talents, and treasures pursuing. After all, it is ultimately His purpose for each of us that will prevail. I think we could avoid a lot of trouble and heartache running down rabbit trails and winding up on dead ends if we would but “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and trust that all the other things of life will be given to us as well.” (Cf. Matthew 6:33)

It probably goes without saying that it is insightful to listen to advice and gain wisdom from others.  Likewise, to accept discipline or correction from another can be gift in disguise. As King Solomon observed: “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Cf. Proverbs 15:22) And he noted, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Cf. Proverbs 27:17) Indeed, the Book of Proverbs contains many such nuggets of wisdom to instruct us and guide us through our walks of life; and yet, I sense we too often miss the reason for our personal plans and dreams: To accomplish God’s purpose for our lives … for His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Perhaps, today, we need to be reminded that we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10)

What God desires … what He has ordained … what He has purposed will ultimately be done! Pharaoh would not listen to Moses and Aaron nor receive their correction … for his heart was unyielding. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have spared you for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my Name might be proclaimed in all the earth. (Cf. Exodus 9:13-16) Although Pharaoh had other plans in his heart, as we now know, the purpose of the Lord prevailed. Over 3400 years later, His Name, Yahweh, is still proclaimed in all the earth because of the miracles He performed to accomplish His purpose!

Think about that story for a moment. God manifested His supernatural power, even through human beings like Moses and Pharaoh, to accomplish His purpose … His will. And the Bible is full of these stories. Indeed, the Bible reveals a complete narrative – the story of human redemption from beginning to end. I believe our salvation … our eternal life … is the revealed purpose of God!  Indeed, this is the reason God sent His one and only Son into the world … to redeem and save the world through Him. And so, I think it follows that the purpose of our plans should align with His purpose of redemption as well.  Consider the following passages of scripture:

John 6:29 (NIV)

Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” 

2 Corinthians 17-20 (NIV)

 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.

Colossians 3:17; 23-24 (NIV)

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Jesus Christ you are serving. 

Regardless of what you and I choose to do for a vocation … regardless of the plans we make for our lives … regardless of where we were born or where we live – our families or spouses or friends; the purpose of our time, talent, and treasure is to fulfill the purposes of God … redemption and reconciliation! Everything we plan to do in life should be for His glory … to fulfill the two great commandments: to love Him and to love one another. Ask yourself: Do my plans for life encompass the ministry of reconciliation? Do my plans for life direct me to offer myself as a living sacrifice to others?  Do my plans for life assure that I will work with all my heart to serve the Lord Jesus Christ? If these are your pursuits, you will be counted among the wise. Vocations, locations, and relations; these are merely the contexts in which we live out our plans. But we know God will use them so that His purposes will prevail in our lives. Yes, God will cause all things to work together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Cf. Romans 8:28)

Well, I hope in addition to the little nuggets of wisdom shared here, you will seek and find the greater storehouses of knowledge and understanding during your Bible reading. And like Paul, “I pray and will continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you 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 1:9-14) Yes, this IS the Lord’s purpose….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Is God Testing You?

Deuteronomy 13:4 (NIV)

It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him.

I want to spend some time on our Verse of the Day because it resonated so deeply with me. I believe the most important thought or concept that God wants us to embrace is His Being. He IS! God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Cf. Exodus 3:14) He is the self-existent One … and that is difficult to wrap our finite minds around. Yet the God who created all things … who created us in His image … did so with intent. His purpose was to have fellowship with His creation…. And I believe that He has communicated His will for that fellowship to be expressed in relational terms – according to the word He spoke to Moses. So, let’s put our verse into context so that we can understand God’s passion for us to truly know Him:

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (NIV)

1 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him. 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.

If you read the rest of Deuteronomy 13, you will continue to sense the great concern God has for us to know Him … the only true God. We are to worship Him and Him alone … not follow after anyone or anything besides Him. This exhortation from Moses is prominent throughout His inscription of God’s word to us:

Deuteronomy 4:32-40 (NIV)

32 Ask now about the former days, long before your time, from the day God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything so great as this ever happened, or has anything like it ever been heard of? 33 Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? 34 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by trials, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? 35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides Him there is no other. 36 From heaven He made you hear His voice to discipline you. On earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words from out of the fire. 37 Because He loved your ancestors and chose their descendants after them, He brought you out of Egypt by His Presence and His great strength, 38 to drive out before you nations greater and stronger than you and to bring you into their land to give it to you for your inheritance, as it is today. 39 Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.40 Keep His decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.

King Solomon, when he had finished building the temple and prepared the people for its dedication, testified to the faithfulness of the one true God toward His people and how devoted worship of Him is the proper relational response:

1 Kings 8:54-61 (NIV)

54 When Solomon had finished all these prayers and supplications to the Lord, he rose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had been kneeling with his hands spread out toward heaven. 55 He stood and blessed the whole assembly of Israel in a loud voice, saying: 56 “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel just as He promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises He gave through His servant Moses. 57 May the Lord our God be with us as He was with our ancestors; may He never leave us nor forsake us. 58 May He turn our hearts to Him, to walk in obedience to Him and keep the commands, decrees and laws He gave our ancestors. 59 And may these words of mine, which I have prayed before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, that He may uphold the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel according to each day’s need, 60 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other. 61 And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by His decrees and obey His commands, as at this time.”

The Prophet Isaiah captured this same theme in his prophetic writings as well. Isaiah Chapter 45 hones in on the uniqueness of God as creator … who declares: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.” This same God reaches out to us … reveals Himself to us … calls us to believe in Him:

Isaiah 45:18-19; 22-23 (NIV)

18 For this is what the Lord says—He who created the heavens, He is God; He who fashioned and made the earth, He founded it; He did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited—
He says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other. 19 I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right. 22 “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. 23 By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: “Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear.”

So why is knowing the “true God” important for us? Well, a deep concern of Paul and the Apostles, is that people will fall into apostasy … abandon faith in the one true God … and forsake His covenant of love. The loss of fellowship with the Father was the very reason Jesus Christ was sent into the world. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (Cf. John 3:17) Yet, this good news, and its power to redeem people, has been subverted. And it continues even today in both subtle and overt ways:

1 Timothy 4:1-2 (NIV)

1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2 Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.

2 Peter 2:1-2 (NIV)

1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.

1 John 4:2-3 (NIV)

2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but 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.

Jude 1:3-4 (NIV)

3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. 4 For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

So why has God allowed deception to continue since Adam and Eve? Why are we warned to recognize it and to resist it? I think the answer is found in the context of our verse: “The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” The issue is whether we truly desire to follow God … whether we want to believe the Truth in our own hearts. The Apostle John offered this sobering insight into the human heart: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” (Cf. John 3:19-20)

So, I want to encourage us to be aware of false teachers, deceiving spirits, and to acknowledge the test we have been presented. Jesus Christ has revealed the Father to us. He is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him. (Cf. John 14:6) Because of His great mercy, we have been shown these things so that we might know that the Lord is God; besides Him there is no other. And as Moses reminds us: “It is the Lord your God you must follow, and Him you must revere. Keep His commands and obey Him; serve Him and hold fast to Him … so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the Lord your God gives you for all time.” This is my prayer for us all … to pass the test! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

My Soul Longs For You!

Psalm 63:1 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

Psalm 139:1-7 (NIV)

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

David asked, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” Well, the answer is that God is omnipresent and He is omniscient. We cannot hide ourselves or our sin from God. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:13) Yet, this truth is not something to be feared; rather, I find hope in the knowledge that His eyes are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their prayers. (Cf. 1 Peter 3:12; Psalm 34:15)

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

A Final Thought:

1 John 3:19-24 (NIV)

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

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

Planning Ahead…

Proverbs 27:1 (NIV)

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

Our Verse of the Day speaks to the uncertainty of life. Too often, we assume that the physical life we experience in the here and now will continue without interruption and without interference. But as we have observed over the past couple of years, the unknown continues to grab our attention and cause us to question what the future holds. It reminds us that life is uncertain … our future is not guaranteed. It admonishes us to not be arrogant or make too many assumptions about our lives … because we truly do not know what a day may bring. The Apostle James, perhaps, had this proverb in mind when he wrote:

James 4:13-17 (NIV)

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Did you see the caveat in Verse 17? There is a good that we know we ought to be about doing; but failure to do it puts us in a status of sin … of missing the mark and high calling of God. I think what James is saying here it that our planning for the future should not set aside or ignore the good works that God has purposed in advance for us to do. We should be incorporating our Kingdom assignments into everything we do on a daily basis … for we do not even know what will happen tomorrow.

I do not believe this passage is denouncing thoughtful “planning” for the future; rather, James is focused on an arrogant attitude and not being mindful of God in our planning. It is the boastful, prideful attitude of an invincible spirit that James calls into question. “Your life is but a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” We need to keep perspective … a view of life that is dependent upon the grace of God working in us and through us. Indeed, our plans should be aligned with God … with His Will and His Word as we endeavor to accomplish the purposes for which He created us. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) Yes, this should be the basis of our planning – completing the good works which God created us in Christ Jesus to do….

So, the key point here is that tomorrow is not promised to any of us, so we are to make the most of our time here on earth … serving God and His Kingdom. As Paul advised; “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” (Cf. Ephesians 5:15-17) Likewise, Paul tells us: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Cf. Colossians 4:5-6)

Heavenly Father, I pray this morning that we will develop a balanced view of ourselves and the lives that you have given us. Give us perspective and wisdom to understand that our physical lives are but a vapor … a mist. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Cf. Psalm 90:12) For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. (Cf. 1 Timothy 6:7) Yes, I pray that we would spend less time planning for the temporal and devote more time engaging in the eternal. I pray, O Lord, that we would avail ourselves more for the purposes of your Kingdom … to multiply the inheritance of your grace and salvation … to build up treasure in heaven that will never fail or be taken! Indeed, the true riches are the souls of those you bring into our lives and lead to your throne of grace … where you will encounter them with your presence … to heal and to redeem and to restore. O Lord, may we conform our life plans to your purposes. Yes, Lord, change our hearts and our mindsets to will and to act in order to fulfill Your good purpose. (Cf. Philippians 2:13) And I ask all these things in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Here are some additional verses for you to consider as you begin your day:

Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT)

The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.

Proverbs 19:20-21 (NLT)

Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.

Isaiah 48:17 (NLT)

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.

Choose You This Day…

Joshua 24:15 (NIV)

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Our Verse of the Day challenges us to make a life decision … to choose whom we will worship and serve. Will it be the gods of this culture in the land where we are living? Or will it be the Lord … the Most-High God … the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? As I think about what is happening in our nation, I marvel at the similarities Israel faced in its historical challenges to be the people of God. Israel had its share of enemies, and so the current turmoil we face as a nation should not come as a surprise for believers who struggle to preserve a nation under God – where righteousness, justice, and truth might prevail. A friend invited me to read Psalm 83; and I saw a prayer emerge in the context that I wanted to share with you:

 Psalm 83 ~ A Song. A Psalm of Asaph.

O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God. See how your enemies growl, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you cherish. “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.” With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you— the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, of Moab and the Hagrites, Byblos, Ammon and Amalek, Philistia, with the people of Tyre. Even Assyria has joined them to reinforce Lot’s descendants. Selah. Do to them as you did to Midian, as you did to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon, 10 who perished at Endor and became like dung on the ground. 11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna, 12 who said, “Let us take possession of the pasture lands of God.” 13 Make them like tumbleweed, my God, like chaff before the wind. 14 As fire consumes the forest or a flame sets the mountains ablaze, 15 so pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your storm. 16 Cover their faces with shame, Lord, so that they will seek your name. 17 May they ever be ashamed and dismayed; may they perish in disgrace. 18 Let them know that you, whose name is the Lord that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.

Yes, we can and should pray without ceasing … seeking the face of God for righteousness and justice to return to our land. “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.” (Cf. Ephesians 6:12) Indeed, the battle is spiritual; and the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4) And as we pray, I think we would be wise to examine ourselves and our attitudes as we come before the Lord.  Let us remember how God admonished His people Israel:

2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (NIV)

13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.

The call of God upon our hearts and lives is to be children of light! (Cf. Ephesians 5:8) Asaph, a Psalmist, wrote: “Blessed are those who have learned to worship you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.” (Cf. Psalm 89:15) The Prophet Isaiah urged: “Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord.” (Cf. Isaiah 2:5) So, it follows that we must deal with our own sin and darkness first. This scripture enjoins us to humble ourselves and pray and seek God and turn (repent) from our own sin.  THEN God will hear and forgive and heal! The Apostle John spoke to this issue as well:

1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

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

So the application here is to prepare our hearts for prayer first. As Isaiah admonished, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear.But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Cf. Isaiah 59:1-2) The people of God are being called to repent … to return to our first love – Jesus Christ. (Cf. Revelation 2:4). As David confessed, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Cf. Psalm 51:17) I think these are the requisite actions needed if we want to be productive and effective for the Kingdom of God. And so, I believe our deepest pursuit in prayer should first be sincere reverence for God and a passion for holiness within ourselves. Then we can emerge from our times of prayer empowered to serve the Lord as His Body. He will afford us discernment and discretion on how to engage a culture of unbelief; and He will equip us to better minister to those who respond. Yes, we can invite them to choose whom they will serve … as we choose to serve the Lord.

Some final thoughts:

Hebrews 12:14 (NIV)

14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

2 Timothy 2:22-26 (NIV)

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.

Philippians 2:14-16 (NIV)

14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and innocent, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!