Singing With Gratitude…

Colossians 3:16 (NIV)

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Our Verse of the Day was tucked in the middle of two other verses we have focused on this past week of Thanksgiving.  While it has been cited in prior commentaries, I still want us to reflect on its focus: singing to God with gratitude in our hearts.  Yes, singing psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, is another form of expression of gratitude and thankfulness. And the reason we are filled with overwhelming gratitude is the gracious and merciful life transformation we have experienced through Christ Jesus … our Lord and Savior! I think the Apostle Paul articulates this incredible life change we have received so well within the foregoing context of our verse:

Colossians 3:1-17 (NIV)

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedientYou used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 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.

Indeed, every one of our hearts should be overwhelmed by what God has done for us through Christ Jesus.  We should exalt and sing with the deepest gratitude and the highest praise from our hearts for His wonderous love!  Oh, I think of the following scripture that details the reason for our passion:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but let us also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

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

Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

So, yes, let us sing to God with gratitude in our hearts!

Come let us worship our King!

Come let us bow at His feet!

He has done great things!

See what our Savior has done.

See how His life overcomes!

He has done great things!

He has done great things!  (Great Things ~ Phil Wickham)

Father God, I cannot contain the joyful gratitude I feel in my heart. I sing to worship you … to declare your praise … to rejoice in your salvation! Yet, who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare His praise? (Psalm 106:2) So I pray, “Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise! (Psalm 51:15) Oh, how I thank you Father, that you have chosen me in Christ Jesus to declare praises unto you … because you called me out of the darkness into your marvelous, glorious light! Indeed, I will sing: “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name! (Psalm 103:1) Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Teach Your Children Well…

Proverbs 1:8-9 (NIV)

Listen, my son (children), to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

Our Verse of the Day affords us some wisdom we need to consider as we forge paths for our lives. Listening to the advice and instruction of our parents can be a great source of information and insight if we are willing to listen to them. To be sure, we do not always see life or the way to meet its challenges with the same perspective as our parents. Sometimes we just disagree with the advice that our parents give us. I think this is natural and should not be construed as being disrespectful. God has designed each one of us uniquely for His purposes, and He moves us into our callings based on the giftings He has embedded within us….

What I want us to consider here, though, are the “principles” for living that our parents endeavor to bestow on us … especially parents who have sought and pursued the righteousness of God within their lives.  None of our parents lived sinless lives. But neither have we done so. Each had to discover and apply the precepts found in the Word of God to the best of their ability – if they were even inclined to do so. Individually, we all experience spiritual growth and assimilate the knowledge of our Creator at our own pace. And so, I think it is the gradual increase of understanding that parents should desire most to impart to their children as they navigate the journey of faith for themselves. What our parents and grandparents have learned of God over the span of their lifetimes has been valuable to us, and we need to share and to pass it down to our children and grandchildren.

While there is a vast storehouse of knowledge I have gathered during my walk of faith with God, I think there some simple instructions that should be shared with our children and grandchildren. As we studied earlier this week, a foundational truth has been handed down since the beginning and expounded to us through Moses: “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 13:4) I think this is the core of what God requires of us as His creation. King David advised: “The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise.” (Cf. Psalm 111:10) Yes, a fulfilled, successful life begins with reverence for God within our hearts. And Solomon, son of King David, affirmed: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Cf. Proverbs 1:7)

Perhaps the most succinct instructions that we can share with our children and grandchildren are found in the following passages:

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. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” ~ Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

And this is His command: to believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us. 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. ~ 1 John 3:23-24

A Final Thought:

Fathers (parents), do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. ~ Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)

Fathers (parents), do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. ~ Ephesians 6:4 (NLT)

 Fathers (parents), do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. ~ Colossians 3:21 (NIV)


 Fathers (parents), do not be so hard on your children that they will give up trying to do what is right. ~ Colossians 3:21 (NLV)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Teach Me … My God

Psalm 143:10 (NIV)

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

As I read our Verse of the Day, I could not help but read the entire Psalm. The words resonated with me in light of all the sickness, illness, disease, discomfort, disability, and discouragement coming against the people of God. Like David, I think we often have these same types of feelings and longings within our hearts when we get still and quiet before the Lord in prayer. And I sense there are some here that especially need this word of comfort … this reminder of the grace and love of God. We are never alone in our struggles or battles. Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us. He promised to be with us … always!

Psalm 143 ~ A Psalm of David.

1 Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.

2 Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.

3 The enemy pursues me; he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.

4 So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.

5 I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.

6 I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.

7 Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.

8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.

9 Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you.

10 Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.

12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.

Lord Jesus, I come before you this morning with deep gratitude for your Word … spoken to holy men of old and written down to preserve the inspiration you instilled in those who loved you and consecrated themselves to you. Thank you for the comfort your Word provides us today in our generation. Thank you for the faithfulness of your prophets and chosen people to proclaim the light of your Word … your lovingkindness … your faithfulness … your everlasting love for your people. Thank you for the ever-needed reminder of your abiding grace and presence in our circumstances.  We humble ourselves and cast all of our cares upon you … because you care for us. (Cf. 1 Peter 5:7)  We exalt Your Name, and we praise you for your power and protection!  In Your Name, I pray. Amen.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Proclaiming Jesus!

Colossians 1:28 (NIV)

He is the One we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.

As I think about the work of evangelism … our Kingdom assignments to share the Good News … to make disciples of all nations … to baptize believers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit … and to teach believers to obey everything that Jesus taught and commanded; let us make sure that our message is focused and clear. In our Verse of the Day, Paul is adamant that JESUS is the One we proclaim!  So, let’s look at the context and see the basis on which Jesus should be the only One we proclaim:

Colossians 1:15-29 (NIV)

15 The Son (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in Him (Jesus) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the Body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Jesus), 20 and through Him (Jesus) to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His (Jesus) blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds as reflected in your evil behavior. 22 But now God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the Gospel. This is the Gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. 24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His Body, which is the Church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the Word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 He is the One we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end, I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Think about what Paul is saying regarding the Gospel message – that we are to “strenuously contend” to share the message about Jesus! HE is the ONE we proclaim! And in the larger passage, we see there is a lot about Jesus for us to proclaim! Indeed, what is most important to share with others is what the Word of God says about Him … not necessarily our own personal theologies. The focus is not to be on you or me; rather, the focus is to be on Him. It is WHO HE IS that has transformed you and I into believers … and that is who we have become.  Sharing the stories of our born-again experiences … our salvation … will place the emphasis on the One who saved us!

Being a believer is why you and I labor for the Gospel and serve in the Kingdom of God. Like Paul, our transformation from living in darkness to abiding in the glorious light of the Gospel is what drives us to proclaim Jesus. And Paul laid out a compelling argument to encourage us to share the Gospel:

Romans 10:9-15; 17 (NIV)

 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” (Citing Isaiah 28:1612 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Citing Joel 2:3214 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Citing Isaiah 52:717 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Faith comes from hearing … hearing the Word of God … renewing our minds to the truth about Jesus Christ and no longer being conformed to this world. (Cf. Romans 12:2) Jesus has called His followers (believers) out of the world; and He enjoins us to share His life changing, life giving teaching with others. If “hearing” is the operative word for coming to faith, then our “speaking” is imperative!  So, I pray we will be about the Father’s business as His ambassadors! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20) 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)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Show Me The Love…

John 14:23 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

Our Verse of the Day shares the imperative of obedience to the teaching of Jesus. We call His teaching “discipleship” – the process of training so that we become disciples or followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is clear that love for Jesus is the primary motive for the keeping of His teachings and commandments. And as I continue to ponder His Word, I’m not sure what other method or mechanism we have as believers to demonstrate our love for Him. It is the obedience that comes from faith (Cf. Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26) that expresses our sincere, heartfelt love for Father and Son. This is what Jesus told the disciples: “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. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” (Cf. John 15:10-12)

Throughout the theological history of the Jewish faith, keeping the commandments (teachings) of God has been essential to the covenant relationship God desires with His people. We find this especially developed in the Book of Deuteronomy. “Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:1) “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Cf. Deuteronomy 7:9) “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Cf. Deuteronomy 11:19) The themes of teaching and training … giving instruction for righteous living is inseparable from the giving of the Law. We were created in the image of God; and He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son! (Cf. Genesis 1:27; Romans 8:29)

You will find these themes in the Psalms written by David, and further expounded upon in the Proverbs taught by Solomon. Note the exhortations to observe and faithfully follow sound teaching:

Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. 5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Psalm 119:66 (NIV)

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.

Proverbs 3:1-2 (NIV)

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.

Proverbs 6:20-21 (NIV)

My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.

Proverbs 7:1-3 (NIV)

My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

I find our message quite straightforward: Observing … Keeping … Obeying … the teachings and commands of Jesus is how we demonstrate our love for Him and the Father. Yes, to obey is better than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) Indeed, we should be transparent before God regarding our obedience to Him; and the truth of our love should be readily apparent to others as well. Our light (our understanding of what Jesus taught us) should be evident before others, that they may see our good deeds (obedience of His commands) and glorify our Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16) As Paul taught, there are practical ways to live out the Gospel message and to walk in the obedience that comes from faith. And so, I pray that we will endeavor to not only be disciples, but to disciple (teach) others as we have been commanded to do….

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Read The Instructions!

Isaiah 48:17 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

Our Verse of the Day has a very insightful message for us: God Himself is the One who teaches us! He knows what is best for us, and He instructs us in the path that we should take for our lives. After all, He is the One who created us! So why do people ignore Him? Why do people resist the Holy Spirit? (Cf. Acts 7:51) In Isaiah 48, the prophet expounds on the matter in great detail. You can click on the link to read the full chapter.

Isaiah 48:16-19 (NIV)

16 “Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.” And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with His Spirit. 17 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. 19 Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be blotted out nor destroyed from before me.”

The Lord declares: “I AM HE; I AM the first and I AM the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together.” (Cf. Isaiah 48:12-13) We need to keep this perspective in mind: God is our Creator and our lives were created for HIS glory. Yet, it is evident that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23) We can see our lives and the people of our nation are in desperate need of redemption. The question is: “Will we heed His instructions? Will we walk in the direction He has shown us?” The Lord pleads with us to keep His commands so that our peace will be like a river – our well-being like the waves of the sea!

Our Verse of the Day reminds me of the purpose for which we study the Word of God and endeavor to follow its wisdom and instruction. His Word teaches us what is best for our well-being; offers us wisdom to guide our decision-making; and affords us the knowledge to experience peace and blessing in our lives. Yet sadly, we can see the great lament God expressed over the unwillingness and disobedience of His people: “If only you had paid attention to My commands….” And what did Israel experience for her disobedience? What should those who disregard the Word of God expect in our own generation? I wonder, “Will our nation receive the same judgment as ancient Israel for its unrighteousness and disobedience?” The following confessions of the Prophets should awaken our own hearts:

Jeremiah 3:24-25 (NIV)

24 From our youth, shameful gods have consumed the fruits of our ancestors’ labor— their flocks and herds, their sons and daughters. 25 Let us lie down in our shame, and let our disgrace cover us. We have sinned against the Lord our God, both we and our ancestors; from our youth until this day, we have not obeyed the Lord our God.”

Jeremiah 44:20-23 (NIV)

20 Then Jeremiah said to all the people, both men and women, who were answering him, 21 “Did not the Lord remember and call to mind the incense burned in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem by you and your ancestors, your kings and your officials and the people of the land? 22 When the Lord could no longer endure your wicked actions and the detestable things you did, your land became a curse and a desolate waste without inhabitants, as it is today. 23 Because you have burned incense and have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed Him or followed His law or His decrees or His stipulations, this disaster has come upon you, as you now see.”

Daniel 9:3-19 (NIV)

3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. 7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against Him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws He gave us through His servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. “Therefore, the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything He does; yet we have not obeyed Him. 15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us. 17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”

So, I pray we will take their admonitions to heart this morning. I pray we would examine our hearts and carefully consider the instruction of God for our lives. I believe our Lord Jesus wants those who abide in Him … His Body … to declare the instruction of God and to disciple people in the direction He has commanded for us to go. What is best for us? What is the direction He leads us to go? Well, first and foremost, Jesus instructed: “The work of God is that you and I believe in the One who He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) And Jesus affirmed: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6) Likewise, the Apostle John affirmed this message in his Gospel record:

John 3:16-26 (NIV)

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

In light of this solemn message, and what I believe the Holy Spirit has taught us, I want to offer up a prayer of repentance not only for myself, but for our nation as well:

O Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame – the people and the generations before us are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. We have not wholly kept your covenant … we have not worshipped you in the Spirit and in Truth. In our nation, we have bowed down and worshipped the idols of ourselves with all forms of greed and covetousness. Our people have exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. (Cf. Romans 1:25) We have shed innocent blood for our own sinful desires, and sacrificed our children on the altar of convenience. We have oppressed the destitute and ignored the afflictions of the widow and the fatherless. We all, like sheep, have gone astray. Each of us has turned to our own way of iniquity. (Cf. Isaiah 53:6) But Lord, you have said: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (Cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14) And so, we your people humble ourselves before you Lord; and we ask for your forgiveness on our collective sin. Have mercy on us, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out our transgressions. Wash away all our iniquities and cleanse us from our sin.For we know our transgressions, and our sin is always before us. Against you, you only, have we sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Create in us pure hearts and renew steadfast spirits within us. (Cf. Psalm 51:1-4, 10) In Your Name, Lord Jesus, I pray for our nation to repent and return to you. I pray we would keep your laws and statutes and commands. Yes, I pray our people will repent, renounce, and remove all wickedness from within our hearts and cleanse all iniquity from this great land you have given us. And I ask for our governmental leaders and those in authority to repent as well, and to administrate righteousness and to legislate with justice in accordance with your Word. Like Daniel, I plead: Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because of your people who bear your Name. In Your Mighty and Holy Name, I pray. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Obey My Teaching…

John 14:23-24 (NIV)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

Our verse has prompted me to revisit the theme of teaching and discipling. Discipling is the process, through teaching and training, of making disciples or followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. In our verse today, we see Jesus equating our love for Him with the keeping of His teachings and commandments. And as I continue to ponder His Word, I’m not sure what other method or mechanism we have as believers to demonstrate our love for Him.  It is the obedience that comes from faith (Cf. Romans 1:5; Romans 16:26) that expresses our sincere, heartfelt love for God.  This is what Jesus has emphasized to us: “If you love me, keep my commands.” (Cf. John 14:15)

Throughout the theological history of the Jewish faith, keeping the commandments (teachings) of God has been essential to the covenant relationship God desires with His people.  We find this especially developed in the Book of Deuteronomy. “Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:1) “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. (Cf. Deuteronomy 7:9) “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Cf. Deuteronomy 11:19) The themes of teaching and training … giving instruction for righteous living is inseparable from the giving of the Law.  We were created in the image of God; and He wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son! (Cf. Genesis 1:27; Romans 8:29)

You will find these themes in the Psalms written by David, and further expounded upon in the Proverbs taught by Solomon. Note the exhortations to observe and faithfully follow sound teaching:

Psalm 25:4-5 (NIV)

Show me your ways, Lord,  teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

Psalm 119:66 (NIV)

Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I trust your commands.

Proverbs 3:1-2 (NIV)

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.

Proverbs 6:20-21 (NIV)

My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.

Proverbs 7:1-3 (NIV)

My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

But another aspect of keeping the teachings of Christ in our hearts is sharing them with others.  Knowing and understanding the Word of God, and its application to the obedience that comes from faith, is something that we have been commanded to share and teach as well.  We studied this last week: “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Cf. Matthew 28:18-20) And, “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. (Cf. John 15:20)

So, as we observe what has been happening in our world over the past several months, the call the teach, train, and disciple unbelievers is just as critical as it was in the apostolic period of early Christianity. We are seeing and experiencing a great spiritual awakening in this present generation … looking for a new apostolic age to emerge from the remnant Church that has been called forth in these latter days to reach the lost. Yes, “Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise (to return), as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9) Stepping up and taking our place in His Body and exercising the spiritual gifts we have been given for the building of the Church is what the Spirit is leading and guiding us to do!

Paul, in his epistles, was quite adamant on the necessity of teaching and discipling those who come to faith in Jesus:

2 Timothy 1:13-14 (NIV)

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

2 Timothy 4:2-4 (NIV)

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Titus 2:1-15 (NIV)

1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. 3 Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. Teach slaves (employees) to be subject to their masters (employers) in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. 11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good. 15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

So what is the application for us? I think the message is straightforward: Observing … Keeping … Obeying … the teachings and commands of God is how we demonstrate our love for Him.  To obey is better than sacrifice. (Cf. 1 Samuel 15:22) And we are to worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth. (Cf. John 4:24) The emphasis is on truth … to be genuine, honest, and sincere.  Not only should we be transparent before God in our obedience to Him, the truth of our love should be readily apparent to others. Our light (our understanding of what Jesus taught us) should be evident before others, that they may see our good deeds (obedience of His commands) and glorify our Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16) And we should be able to teach these things as well. As Paul taught, there are practical ways to live out the Gospel message and to walk in the obedience that comes from faith.  And so, I pray that we will endeavor to not only be disciples but to disciple (teach) others as we have been commanded to do…. 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Master Teacher…

Isaiah 48:17 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

I love this verse and the wisdom it imparts to us … the reminder we need each day of who God is and how He engages with us – His people:

Isaiah 48:16-19 (NIV)

16 “Come near me and listen to this: “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there.” And now the Sovereign Lord has sent me, endowed with His Spirit. 17 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea. 19 Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be blotted out nor destroyed from before me.”

Our Father declares He is the Lord our God … our Redeemer and the Holy One!  The Lord declares: “I AM HE; I AM the first and I AM the last. My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together.” (Isaiah 48:12-13) We need to keep this perspective that God is indeed our Creator and our lives were created for HIS glory. As we come to understand that all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), we see our lives are in desperate need of redemption. We realize our lives are in full need of correction … a great salvation that we cannot provide for ourselves. It requires a sovereign act of forgiveness that can only come from the One who created us … through whom we receive the gift of His Holy Spirit to indwell us.

And here is the message: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you … who directs you in the way you should go.”  Do we heed His instructions?  Do we walk in the direction He shows us?  The Lord pleads with us – Keep My Commandments and your peace will be like a river … your well-being like the waves of the sea!  What more could He say?  What more should He say? The Covenant of Love … the New Covenant … are forged in the obedience of faith. So how does the relationship of discipleship with Christ work?  Consider this one pivotal lesson Jesus taught through humble, personal demonstration:

John 13:12-14 (NIV) – At the Last Supper

12 When Jesus had finished washing their feet, He put on His clothes and returned to His place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

Oh, that every person would look to Jesus … the Master Teacher … the Light of the World … the living, everlasting Word of God … to teach us what is best for us and to direct us in the Way we should go!  What would be the outcome?  Peace and well-being flowing like a river within us!  What did Jesus say? “Whoever believe in me, as Scripture has said, river of living water will flow from within them.”  The Master Teacher said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the Rock.” (Cf. Matthew 7:24-25) And, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (Cf. John 14:26) Even now, I am reminded of what the Apostle John affirmed in this regard:

1 John 2:18-29 (NKJV)

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24 Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life. 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. 28 And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming. 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.

1 John 3:24 (NIV)

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.

1 John 4:13 (NIV)

This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.

Yes, God has assured us that we can KNOW what is best for us and the direction we should go! We can know these things because He Himself teaches us these things through His Word by the Holy Spirit He has given us in Christ Jesus.  Peter spoke to this when he affirmed: “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.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3) And the inspired writer of the Book of Hebrews asserted: “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) And Paul addressed discernment of spiritual knowledge as well:

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 (NIV)

10 These are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?” (Quoting Isaiah 64:4) But we have the mind of Christ.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Teach Your Children Well…

Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

This is a favorite verse for many reasons.  First, I have found it to be true in my own life.  I was raised in a Christian home like many of us.  But in my teenage years and early adulthood, I went through a period of apathy and unconcern for the things of God.  I knew He was there, and I prayed on occasion, but I did not have a personal relationship with Him.  To be honest, I did not know how to have that kind of abiding relationship.  Yet, God in His kindness, led me to repentance and granted me salvation at the age of 29.  And my life has never been the same since that night I knelt at an altar and gave my life to Christ….  He redeemed my life and directed my steps to the path of life … the path taught to me as a child before I ever understood it.

I also like the King James translation of this verse: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  To me the key word here is “train”.  We must be diligent to teach our children the Word of God.  We spend hours reading to our children when they are toddlers and pre-school … giving them a head start in life and education.  How many of those books are bible stories … planting seeds of faith in their hearts from the earliest age? As adults we know and understand that learning is life-long.  It is so important to start our children with the knowledge of God while their minds are sponges and their hearts receptive.  Even Jesus exhorted His disciples regarding children coming to Him:

Matthew 10:13-14 (NKJV)

13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Mark 9:36-37 (NKJV)

36 Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

Luke 18:15-16 (NKJV)

15 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.

There is a great connection between how we raise our children to be drawn to Jesus and how their lives will enter the Kingdom of Heaven … regardless of the bends and turns they experience along the Way. It requires great patience. It requires intentionality. What does the text say? “Then little children were brought to Him….”  We need to bring our children to the Lord Jesus.  We need Him to put His hands on them and pray over them. And Jesus wants us to receive children in His name. There is nothing more precious than a child … and children are greatly treasured by our Heavenly Father.  So, I pray we will consider this lesson that Jesus taught: “Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Cf. Matthew 18:2-4)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Responsible Fatherhood….

Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

The role of a father with his children an serves an integral part of their development and well-being throughout their lives as they grow and mature.  For those of us who have become fathers, the Scriptures afford us with points of wisdom to guide us in this role.  And I believe, fathers, we need to spend time in the Word of God to see what our Heavenly Father has to say about the role He ordained for men to fulfill in His creation.  Sure, we have our own fathers as examples … and the fathers of other people as examples.  And as hard as they might endeavor to be the “best” father, we realize that each one will miss the mark at times because we are fallen creatures.  Still, that is the most tangible resource men becoming fathers will have to work with as we hone and prepare our hearts for this service to God … often learning what “not to do” as well as “what to do” from the role models we had in our lives.  So, again, when all else fails (I hear my wife now), men need to read the directions that our perfect Father has provided to guide us on this journey into fatherhood.  I believe the more we attempt to implement what God has revealed to us, the better fathers we will ultimately be in service to His Kingdom and for the children He has called to salvation through our roles as earthly fathers….  With this preface in mind, we will look at our Verse of the Day and put it into the relational contexts in which Paul shares this admonition:

Ephesians 6:1-4 (NRSV)

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—this is the first commandment with a promise: “so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Notice how Paul begins the discourse with a covenant context – the fifth commandment found in Exodus 20:12,  “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”  I will mention that this is the first commandment that is not focused in reference to our relationship with God; rather, it initiates the remaining six commandments which deal with our relationships with other people. Is it not awesome that the first commandment for human relationships is connected to the first relationships we have after birth … with our fathers and mothers? In other words, I believe the context and order of the commandments indicates the importance of this human relationship above all others … the one we are born into as we enter the world.

So, to me, Paul’s commentary points out a concern that greatly impacts the ability and willingness of us to observe this particular commandment; namely, the leadership role of fathers in the development of a covenant relationship with their children.  We are to bring our children up (raise them) in the discipline (teaching) and instruction of the Lord.  This is an imperative upon us to do so, along with our wives, as the spiritual leaders of our homes!  If we are not actively, intentionally pouring the Word of God into our children’s hearts, then we are not fulfilling a key function of our roles as fathers.  I might even refer to this as the “office” of fathers.  For it is clear from the Scripture that we have been given the “authority” and “responsibility” to fulfill what God has commanded us to do as fathers.  How do you think children will honor their fathers and mothers if they do not take the lead in creating the bonds that foster honor and instill the concept of obedience?

Another observation of this verse, it that the text implies that our children will be “provoked to anger.”  Some translations render the phrase “do not exacerbate or frustrate” your children.  So what does this mean?  Well, to me, it means that children desire and need “boundaries” for their lives.  There is something innate within each of us that “knows” good and evil … right and wrong … pleasing and displeasing.  Is it not very frustrating and exacerbating to have a relationship with someone but to not know the expectations for that relationship?  For example, employers hire (enter relationship with) people to accomplish a greater good that can only be achieved through the pooling of talents and teamwork. Yet, how difficult is it to be an effective employee if you are not told what to do or given a clear assignment within the team? Yes, it is responsibility of fathers to teach and train their children the “parameters” for functioning not only within the family but within the human community as well. So God instructs us as fathers to be actively, spiritually engaged with our children because the failure to do so will leave them exacerbated, frustrated, in confusion, and eventually abandoning the guidance of moral conduct God has given us in His commandments.  Indeed, if fathers do not commit to take the lead role in the assimilation of their children into the family of God, they will become quite frustrated and angry over time.

This leads me to an often-quoted verse – because its truth is timeless and proven:

Proverbs 22:5:6 (Self-Amplified)

Train up a child … yes train up all of your children … in the way they should go … the right way … in the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Cf. John 14:6); because even when they become old, they will not depart from their training … they will not stray beyond reach from the instruction you instill in them while children.  It will continue to resonate within their hearts.  It will continue bring conviction to their inner beings.  They will be restless when they do not live according to the Truth.  They will come to see the Light of God and His wisdom.  Yes, do not neglect to teach your children … be diligent to disciple them and to instruct them in the Word of God.  For God has declared that His Word that goes forth shall not return to Him void; rather, it shall accomplish what He desires … what pleases Him.  It shall prosper in the thing for which He sent it. (Cf. Isaiah 55:11)

To you who are fathers (and to men who will become fathers), your role and mine … a distinct assignment given to us by Father God … is to be spiritual priests over our homes! Yes, we are to be providers.  Yes, we are to be protectors.  And, yes, we are to be priests over our children.  We are given this charge to bring them up in the training, admonition, and instruction of the Lord as revealed through His Word.  To neglect this role, to be disobedient to this charge, will leave your children frustrated and exacerbated with trying to understand who they are … not only in relation to you but with their Heavenly Father as well.  So I urge you to take these Scriptures to heart … to put them into practice.  As Jesus taught, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the Rock. (Cf. Matthew 7:24) So, I pray we will all be wise men … and do what the Lord has commissioned us to do in our roles as fathers….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!