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!

A Changed Decision…

Matthew 1:20-21 (NIV)

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

As we look at the various pieces of the Advent puzzle, I continue to see applications that I did not really notice before … though I have read the stories many times.  Our Verse of the Day is one of them that impressed me with a thought I would like to share, but I will broaden the passage a little more: 

Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the Law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Cf. Isaiah 7:14) 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave Him the name Jesus.

The Apostle Matthew gives us a glimpse into the human dynamics of what was taking place as God prepared to send His Son into the world … to be the Savior of the world. We can only imagine what was going through Joseph’s mind when Mary broke the news to him about the supernatural visit from the angel, Gabriel, and his explanation of what was taking place and why.  It seems too improbable; yes, unbelievable; and in the moment, I would assume heartbreaking for Joseph. Still, there is something about the character and innocence of Mary that raised questions.  Joseph knew her heart and the strength of her faith in God. Was Mary telling the truth? Had she indeed found favor with God? But … this is not the way things were supposed to be….

As Joseph ponders … as he prays and seeks God for answers … as his tears and heartache overwhelm his soul, Joseph determines that he must separate from Mary and divorce her.  Yet, because he loves her so deeply, he feels compelled to do so in a private manner. He does not want to ridicule her or expose her to public stoning for the offense of adultery. Joseph asks again, “Why has this happened?” This is not the way things were supposed to be….  But after he had considered this decision, Joseph is encountered by the Lord as well.  In dream, he received the revelation needed to resolve the conflict within. At the right time … God’s time … through prayer and patience, Joseph was given insight and knowledge that would lead to a better course of action.  He DID what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

What I see as an application here is the need to be prayerful and patient when we are confronted with life-changing decisions to make. Whether it is a decision concerning a relationship, a vocation, a location, or an inner temptation; we are advised to seek the face and the heart of God the Father AND to not be impulsive in our reactions to what has given rise to the need for major decision-making in our lives. Too often we can let our emotions in those circumstances “incite” us to make impulsive decisions that could ultimately lead us in a direction away from God’s will.  Think about the choice Joseph considered. What if he, in a rage of jealousy, had marched Mary up to the public square and told the townspeople that she had committed adultery and cast the first stone is accordance with the Law? How would history have been impacted by that decision?  Go back even further. What if Eve had not opened the door of the knowledge of good and evil? What if Adam had exercised obedience and prevented Eve from doing so? Indeed, decisions have consequences! So, it is imperative that we spend time in fasting and prayer; that we stay spiritually prepared; that we patiently access the necessary information to formulate a response, BEFORE we make decisions that could have unanticipated long-term consequences….

So, I pray that we would heed the Word of God, its instruction and the examples it affords us to make wiser decisions for our lives. Let us remember that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Cf. Proverbs 9:10) And Lord, if we lack wisdom, give us courage to ask you. For your Word says that if any of us lacks wisdom, we should ask You because you will give it generously to all without finding fault. (Cf. James 1:5) I pray, even as Paul prayed, asking that You, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, our glorious Father, would give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know Him better. (Cf. Ephesians 1:17) Yes, I continually ask God to fill each of us with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. (Cf. Colossians 1:9) May we ever be prayerful and patient as we seek your face and embrace your heart to do your will through every choice and decision that we make in our lives. Indeed, I pray that we will be as Mary and Joseph … wholly surrendered to Your plans and promises for our lives. In Jesus’ Name … the Name the angel told Mary and Joseph to give our Lord and Savior … I pray. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Set Person…

Luke 1:26-27 (NIV)

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.

Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most-High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most-High will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Over the last few days, we have studied prophecies surrounding the First Advent of our Lord Jesus!  Father God foretold, through His prophets, the set time and the set place for the birth of His Son … Jesus our Messiah. In our Verse of the Day … well Scripture passage … we see the announcement of the humble, faithful maiden that God would choose to fulfill His purposes.  He sent the angel, Gabriel, to inform Mary of the favor He had determined to bestow upon her. And she accepted the pronouncement saying: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”  What an awesome example of faith and obedience Mary, the mother of our Lord, has demonstrated for us.  I pray, even now, that I would be no less faithful to choose obedience to every word the Father speaks unto me.  Indeed, may we all be faithful as His Church to fulfill His word: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34)

Another passage of Scripture that inspires me during Advent is the Song of Mary. Luke captures the expressions of her innermost thoughts for us; and I am so grateful to have it preserved for us:

Luke 1:46-56 (NIV)

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is His name. His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and His descendants forever, just as He promised our ancestors.”

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

I think what we can glean from this account is how God works supernaturally in and through people to accomplish His purposes for the world. It is evident that Mary, though quite young, believes in God and trusts His Word with her whole heart. She knows His nature … His character. She understands His Holiness and has endeavored to live a reverent, holy life before Him.  And Mary receives His favor because of her humble, submitted heart. Yes, she is prepared to live in absolute surrender to God … to yield to His sovereign will in a way no other human has ever done.  Her faith and His grace became the foundation for a new and everlasting covenant to be forged for those who love Him. And I think we should be forever grateful for her willingness … her courage … her obedience … and her love for God.

As I ponder this story of the Advent, I wonder how many of us today would be so willing and bold as Mary – to allow the Holy Spirit to work the miraculous and supernatural through us? Think of the impact and changes that lives of countless other people could experience simply because we wholly surrendered ourselves to the will of God. How many opportunities have we forsaken that would have been used to fulfilled the unique plan of salvation for another person? What if Mary had not yielded? What if the Apostles had not walked forward in faithfulness to fulfill the Great Commission given to them? What if you or I are not willing to submit? Do we truly understand there are consequences when we are not obedient to the Holy Spirit? Who will remain in darkness … who will continue to be lost? Who will remain in brokenness … remain wounded and battle scarred from life … or held a prisoner of sin because you and I did not use the power or authority given to us to minister to them?

Oh, how I pray for wisdom and courage to fill us! I pray for the obedience of faith to overtake us! For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline! (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7) It is the same Spirit that God gave to Mary … to the Apostles who would follow … to all who are born-again of His Spirit through the ages. Do we see how our own lives have been changed by their obedience and submission! Oh, I pray you and I will meditate upon these things during this Season of Advent and reflect on the unsurpassed love of God who sent His Son to redeem us, restore us, and reconcile us to Himself.  Let us determine in our hearts to continue what Mary determined in her heart … to be yielded and to allow God to show His power through us so that the world might come to know its Savior….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!


Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. ~ Luke 2:11

Who Will You Serve?

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 is one that has always been a personal favorite because of its call to decisive action. Each of us face choices and decisions every day that reveal our deepest convictions about who we have determined to serve in our lives. I would venture to say that the choices we make are not between the one true God and the false gods of the Amorites; rather, our decisions usually come down to choosing between God and the god of self.

From the beginning chapters of Genesis to the triumphant return of King Jesus in Revelation, the rebellion and disobedience of mankind has been a constant theme. Not long after Moses had led the Israelites on dry ground through a miraculously divided Red Sea … after a myriad of powerful miracles had been performed before their very eyes in the land of Egypt; the people fell into idolatry and worshipped a golden calf in the wilderness. Likewise, not long after Joshua had led the Israelites into the Promised Land … after a myriad of victorious battles achieved by God before their eyes; the people fell into worship of other gods in the lands they had conquered.

Oh, but before we shake our heads in disbelief at their behavior … before we judge those who experienced the mighty miracles of God and His powerful presence and then fell back into their old patterns of indifference and disobedience; we might ought to review our own walks with God after we encountered Jesus and surrendered at the cross of salvation and received the promise of eternal life. While I do not worship or serve “foreign gods” as presented in the context, it does challenge me to examine the idolatry that can exist in my own heart … which is idolatry of the most insidious form.

When we choose our own wills above the will of God, we have decided and declared that we will serve ourselves rather than our Creator. And that is the battle we all face … the conflict between the physical (the flesh) and the spiritual … between light and darkness … between good and evil.

So, I believe we need to determine each morning when we wake up who we intend to serve for the day. We need to strategize through prayer how we will navigate the struggle of exercising our wills versus submitting to the will of God. This tension is the struggle between self-indulgence and self-discipline. We either disregard the revealed will of God, or we submit in obedience to His Word. Paul describes this internal conflict at length in Romans 7, and I encourage you to read his discourse.

Romans 7:22-25 (NIV)

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature (my flesh) a slave to the law of sin.

In Verse 24, Paul asks, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” And he answers the question in Verse 25. Our deliverance, the victory, is found in our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus declared, “If the Son sets you free, you, you are truly free!” (Cf. John 8:36) Peter concluded, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these (His glory and goodness) God has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them (His promises) you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3-4) And John provided this insight: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (Cf. 1 John 2:15-17)

Here we see, that doing the will of God is key. Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Indeed, a person will not experience freedom over the power of sin in their life until their faith in placed in Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for sin. It is our obedience to His commands that demonstrates our love for God. (Cf. John 14:15; 21) John affirmed: “In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome,for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (Cf. 1 John 5:3-5) Yes, we must be intentional and choose to love Jesus and to abide in His Word. This is why we must abide in Him: for apart from Jesus, we are powerless and can do nothing. (Cf. John 15:5-12)

As Moses affirmed: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” (Cf. Deuteronomy 10:12-13) And, “The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love Him with all your heart and with all your soul. 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.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 13:3b-4) Yes, and Joshua confirmed the same: “Be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to Him, to keep His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Cf. Joshua 22:5)

So, I believe the Spirit is telling us to choose whom we will serve … whether the god of self or the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is calling us to determine in our hearts whether we will choose obedience to His will or whether we will follow the dictates of our own deceptive hearts. I am reminded of the encouragement that Paul shared: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation (testing) has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted (tested) beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, (tested) He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:12-13) And what is that way out? The Word of God! When led into the wilderness, every temptation Satan presented to Jesus was answered and rebuffed with Scripture. (Cf. Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13) Indeed, our only offensive weapon for engaging in this spiritual battle is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (Cf. Ephesians 6:17)

Final Thoughts:

The thought came to me that I should identify with John the Baptist. I remembered that after his encounter with the Lord Jesus, John confessed: “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.” (Cf. John 3:30) Indeed, He must be Lord over our lives! Jesus cannot merely be a “part” of our lives because He IS our complete life when we are born again of the Spirit. So, I encourage you to consider what this verse speaks into your heart … and urge you to meditate on how God would have you respond to His Word. Perhaps, like me, you will discover the need to intentionally choose (each and every morning when you awake) whom you intend to serve for the day – the Lord or yourself. Yes, we choose either to be wise or to be foolish based upon our obedience to the Word of God. And so, I pray that we will choose to be wise … to turn from the idols of ourselves and to serve the living and true God. (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9) Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Fear of the Lord…

Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Our Verse of the Day is one we have studied before; but perhaps, the Lord wants us to review it again. And today I sense there is a need to distinguish the concept of “fear” as it is applied here in this wisdom literature because we can confuse the use and application of this word without its some context.

The first use of the word translated “fear” in the Bible occurs in Genesis 3:10, “He (Adam) answered, “I heard you (the Lord) in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” In this context, the traditional meaning of “fear” is recognized because Adam described himself as “afraid”. The definition here is “a feeling induced by perceived danger or threat that occurs within us and which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior; such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events.” In short, fear is a response to the perception of a danger or threat to the body or life. But this is not the type of response God desires in us when it comes to an intimate relationship with Him. In this respect, God tells us: “Do not fear … do not be afraid.” (Cf. Isaiah 41:13,14; 43:1,5; 44:2,8; 51:7,12; 54:4,14)

So then, what is the “fear of the Lord” as used in our verse? Used as a noun this context, “fear” refers to profound reverence, awe, and wonder toward God. This concept of “fear” finds its expression through worship, submission, and obedience. Consider Exodus 20:20 where we see both uses of this word: “Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Moses asserts that our understanding of who God “is” and a reverent relationship with Him should keep us from sinning against Him. Likewise, in Deuteronomy 6:13, Moses admonishes the people: “You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.” I believe we can infer from these passages that “the fear of the Lord” will ultimately find its deepest expression as “love” for God. As Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15) Therefore, worship, submission, and obedience are the proper responses of love.

I think the Holy Spirit wants us to heed what these Scriptures are saying. It is important for us to understand that we will not find or obtain the wisdom of God until we fear Him. Until we hold God with deepest reverence in our hearts and believe Him at His Word, the knowledge and understanding that we need to submit to Him will fail to penetrate our hearts or change them. This is why we most assuredly need Jesus Christ to abide in us! For He is the power of God and the wisdom of God! And He has chosen us out of the world to follow Him and to worship Him.

I believe the question to ask yourself is this: “Do I truly fear God?” Consider this verse: “Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Cf. Job 1:8) Do you think God would characterize you with those words? Over and over in Scripture, we are admonished to fear the Lord, yet I wonder if we truly do…. Jesus shared some strong words for the hypocrisy of “religious” people:

Luke 12:1-5 (NIV)

1 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak to His disciples, saying: “First of all, be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him.”

What is the application for us? Our worship of the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ should be in Spirit and in Truth! (Cf. John 4:23-25) Indeed, holy fear, awe, and reverence for God, whether genuine or insincere, will be manifested in our behavior and conduct. It should be authentic and without hypocrisy. As Paul wrote: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a person sows, that he will also reap.” (Cf. Galatians 6:7) Likewise, we find a similar admonition from James:

James 3:13-17 (NIV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

Well, I hope your thoughts are stirred; and I pray that each of us will spend some time in meditation to focus on what it means to “fear” God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom for this life. Through wisdom we gain understanding of the awesome majesty, power, and holiness of God. Yes, we come to know His Will … as revealed through His commandments. And then, submission and obedience will ultimately be our expression of love for Him. As Solomon concluded: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” (Cf. Ecclesiastes 12:13)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

I Desire To Do Your Will

Psalm 40:8 (NIV)

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 2:4-6 (NIV)

4 Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. 5 But if anyone obeys His Word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in Him: 6 Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did.

1 John 5:2-3 (NIV)

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

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

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

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Journey into Holiness…

Hebrews 10:30-31 (NIV)

For we know Him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

After I read our Verse of the Day, I wanted to go back and read the full chapter to see the broader picture being painted by this inspired writer. I thought that I would reprint the relevant context here for us:

Hebrews 10:19-31 (NIV)

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge His people.” (Citing Deuteronomy 32:35-36; Psalm 135:14) 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I think the first observation we need to make is that the writer is addressing Christ followers … believers who have made their confessions of faith in Jesus … who have received His sacrifice of atonement for their sins … who understand His post-resurrection role as High Priest … the One who sits at the right hand of the throne of God. I sense his concern regards those who fall away from the faith … who do not abide in Jesus. And so, Verse 26 reminded me of the passage from the Book of Romans that I shared yesterday in my commentary:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Indeed, this is a powerful word for us to embrace because we should no longer be slaves to sin … we should no longer deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth. “For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Cf. Romans 8:29) Yes, if our old self was crucified with Jesus, we should no longer be ruled by sin. It should not have power over us any longer. The question I believe each of us should ask is whether in truth we can join Paul in his declaration: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Cf. Galatians 2:20) Yes, we must ask ourselves if we have surrendered all … everything … to Him. Oh, my friends, we cannot hold onto sin in any form. Our redemption was purchased at a great price, and Jesus calls us into the sanctification … into the holiness … that He has purchased with His own blood.

The inspired writer of The Book of Hebrews reminds us of these things! The Lord will judge His people … and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God. So, we are urged to make every effort to be holy; for without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Cf. Hebrews 12:14) The Apostle Peter echoed this same message when he wrote 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?” (Citing Proverbs 11:31) Indeed, it is imperative that we endeavor to walk our journey into holiness with great diligence. We need to be alert and vigilant because our enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:8)

I sincerely believe the Holy Spirit wants to impress this message upon us … this application of God’s Word to guide and direct our steps. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) We are being called to utter surrender – to complete submission to His Will. We must put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to our earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Indeed, it is because of these things the wrath of God is coming.” (Cf. Colossians 3:5-6)

It is my prayer that we understand the Father has ordained for His children to be conformed to the image of His Son … to bear the holiness of Jesus. “Therefore, with minds that are alert and activated, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance and darkness. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”(1 Peter 1:13-16)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~ Psalm 19:14

Called To Worship

Psalm 95:6-7 (NIV)

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for He is our God and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care. Today, if only you would hear His voice….

Our verse today is a call to worship!  And through worship we understand who God is … as well as see who we really are.  We are His creation … His people … the sheep of His pasture … the flock under His care and provision.  Notice how everything we are is dependent on who He is!  Father God is the Lord our Maker … the Lord our Creator.  God is sovereign over all His creation; yet He allows humans to rebel against His will.  So, why would God allow rebellion within us … His treasured possession and inheritance? Does it not ultimately come down to a genuine, true, free expression of love toward Father God for who He is?  If God forced us to love Him or worship Him, of what value or glory would that be to Him? When we exert our personal wills through submission to His will, is that not what worship is truly about? God has ordained for His people to abide in Him; and this occurs when we have an intimate relationship with Him.

Isaiah 45:22-24 (NIV)

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. 24 They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are deliverance and strength.’” All who have raged against Him will come to Him and be put to shame.

Romans 14:10-12 (NIV)

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” (Paul is quoting Isaiah 45:23) 12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV)

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Yes, our kneeling … our acknowledgment and confession … is the fruit of submission that Father God seeks in us.  It is of our own volition that we do so … compelled by His irresistible mercy and grace.  Yes, it is His lovingkindness that leads us to repentance! (Cf. Romans 2:4) Jesus urged: If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” (Cf. John 14:15-17) Indeed, it is through surrender, submission, and obedience, that we demonstrate our love for God and receive the blessing of His Covenant of Love with us. (Cf. Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 5:10, 29; Daniel 9:4) Jesus promised: “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (Cf. John 14:21) “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” (Cf. John 15:10)

I want to encourage you to read the entire Psalm 95 today. Let it speak to your heart and inspire you to worship … through surrender, submission, and service. This is the response of sincere faith in the One who reconciled us to the Father! Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Our Lord and Savior has called us to believe in Him and to follow Him.  Following Him means that we will deny ourselves and embrace the suffering of the cross. (Cf. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23) Further, Jesus told His disciples: “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:26) So, I think it is clear what Jesus expects of us….  I pray we will hear His Voice while it is today … and do what He says! Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!