His Mercy and Grace

Thursday, March 31, 2016, 4:52 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “All We Like Sheep.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 1:1-11 (ESV).

After His Suffering (vv. 1-3)

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

Jesus Christ, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – was fully God, yet fully man when he walked the face of this earth. His purpose in coming to the earth was to die for the sins of the entire world so that those who believe in him could be delivered out of slavery to sin, and could be given the hope of eternal life with God. When he died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, Satan, hell and death.

When Jesus walked the face of this earth, he healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, cast out demons, encouraged the timid, and comforted the sorrowful. He preached repentance for forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God. He taught that if we want to be one of his disciples that we must turn from our sin, and we must turn to follow our Lord in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives (Lu. 9:23-25). He taught death to sin and living to righteousness. He said that if we don’t leave all to follow him, we are not fit to be one is his disciples (See: Lu. 9:62; 14:25-35), i.e. he must have the Lordship over our lives.

The reason Jesus had to die for the sins of the world is that, because of Adam’s sin, we are all born into sin, i.e. we are all born with sin natures when we enter this world. We are separate from God, without hope, destined for hell, and we fall short of God’s divine approval. We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our own salvation. Only through the blood of Jesus Christ, shed on the cross for our sins, and by faith in him and in what he did for us, can we be delivered out of sin and have the hope of eternal life with God in glory.

With the Holy Spirit (vv. 4-5)

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Jesus promised his disciples that after he left this earth that he would send the Holy Spirit to indwell them, and to empower them to live for God, and to be his witnesses. The Spirit would be their comforter, encourager, guide, counselor, teacher and helper. They had to wait to receive the Holy Spirit until Jesus sent him. Since that time, all who believe on Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives are indwelt with the Spirit.

John the Baptist said that he baptized with water, but Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit. There are many different viewpoints on what that means. The word “baptize” means to submerge, immerse, go under, flood, inundate or to overwhelm. To immerse can also mean to engross, occupy, to be completely covered by, or to throw yourself into something. So, to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, thus, would mean that we would be completely covered by, overpowered by, and/or that we would completely come under the power and influence of the Spirit. This happens when we believe in Jesus Christ as Savior of our lives, yet it is progressive, as well. Now we walk in the Spirit, and no longer according to the flesh. Now we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, a spiritual transformation takes place in our lives. We are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). The Holy Spirit of God indwells and empowers us, and we no longer are controlled by our sinful flesh, but by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit within us enables us to live for God, and no longer to live for ourselves. This does not mean we have reached sinless perfection, but what it does mean is that we now have the power from God to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to God. All who are led by the Spirit are the sons of God (Ro. 8:14).

His Witnesses (vv. 6-8)

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Evidently, the physical kingdom of Israel was somewhat, if not entirely, under Roman rule. The Jews were looking for a Messiah who would set up an earthly kingdom and who would deliver them from this Roman rule so that they, as a physical nation, could be a sovereign nation, completely under God’s rule and authority.

From my understanding of scripture, though, the kingdom Jesus initiated was not a physical kingdom with physical borders, but it is a spiritual kingdom. The temple of God is no longer a physical structure, but it is the church, the body of Christ, and it is individual believers in Jesus Christ. We are his temple. The Holy of Holies now dwells within us. We are God’s house, not some physical building. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of the kingdom of heaven, and we are his body. We, as followers of Christ, are priests of the Most High God. We do not have to offer sacrificial animals for the forgiveness of sins, though, because Jesus became our sacrificial Lamb, who died for the sins of the entire world, once for all.

Jesus, through his death, destroyed the barrier between Jew and Gentile. He made us one in Christ. The physical city of Jerusalem is now of Hagar, and is in slavery with her children. Heavenly Jerusalem is now the Holy City, and we are her children (See: Gal. 4:21-31). We, as followers of Jesus Christ, are now the children of promise. We are the inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. We are spiritual Israel. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can we become partakers in God’s kingdom. When Jesus comes again, to receive his bride, and to set up his millennial reign on the earth, it will not be the physical nation of Israel he will be restoring, but the kingdom will be comprised of those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives (See: Rev. 1:6; Rev. 5:10).

Right now, while we are in these flesh bodies, we are still subject to temptation and to sin. The kingdom of God, his church, is enduring great suffering at the hands of world leaders. As well, the church is being strongly influenced by the world and its leaders, and many are following man over God. A large majority of the church here in America has gone the way of the world, and they have forsaken their first love. The church, God’s kingdom people, is in great need of revival and restoration. That time is coming. I believe scripture teaches that during the time of tribulation to come on the earth that many believers in Christ will be revived, and that subsequently the gospel will go forth throughout the world, and many will be saved before Jesus returns, when he then sets up his kingdom on the earth, free from the power and influence of humankind, and completely now under the power of God.

Until then, as followers of Christ, we are to be about our Father’s business of taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. We do not do this in the power of human flesh, though, but only in the power and working of the Spirit within us, who gives us the words to say, who convicts human hearts of sin, and who leads them to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, we don’t share the gospel merely with those who make no confession of Christ as Savior, but we share his gospel with the wayward church, too, because many liars have convinced much of the church to buy into a diluted gospel absent of the cross of Christ in our lives (no death to sin and no living to righteousness).

As well, we need to be in much prayer for the salvation of human souls, and for the revival and renewal of God’s kingdom people, many of whom have wandered off from their pure devotion to Jesus Christ to follow after the idols of mankind. The healing we need is not the healing of a physical land, though, but the healing of human hearts. The land is merely a symbol of the kingdom of heaven, God’s holy people, many of whom need spiritual healing because they have strayed from their Lord, or it is symbolic of the earth and its inhabitants, who are in great need of the healing power of God’s saving grace in their lives. Remember that this world is not our home. We are strangers and aliens here. Our home is in heaven. So, we need to pray for spiritual healing of human lives by God’s mercy and grace. Amen!

All We Like Sheep / Don Moen

…O Lord show us
Your mercy and grace
Take us to Your holy place
Forgive our sin
And heal our land
We long to live
In Your presence
Once again

Restoration

Wednesday, March 30, 2016, 6:46 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Voice of Truth.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 21:15-17 (ESV)

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”

Ruin

Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. He was impulsive and passionate, and he often spoke or acted out of his emotions before he really thought them through. He is the one who rebuked Jesus when the Lord told his followers that he must suffer many things at the hands of the religious leaders, that he would be killed, but that he would be raised to life on the third day. Peter said, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” So, Jesus rebuked him: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (See: Matt. 16:21-23).

This is the same Peter, nonetheless, about whom Jesus had just said, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt. 16:18). This was because Jesus saw beyond Peter’s failure to his time of restoration. Amen!

When Jesus was nearing the time of his death, he informed his disciples that they would all fall away on account of him. Peter responded by saying, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” All the disciples repeated the same thing (See: Matt. 26:31-35).

Peter felt he would never deny his Lord, so he didn’t take the warning seriously. How many times do we do the same? 1 Co. 10:12 says: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” We need to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

When Jesus took Peter, James and John with him to Gethsemane to pray, because he knew he was soon to go to the cross, he asked them to keep watch with him, but they fell asleep. Jesus said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (See: Matt. 26:36-41). Indeed, his flesh was weak, and when put to the test, he did fall into temptation. Peter did deny his Lord, just as Jesus said he would. He thought he knew himself better than Jesus knew him, but he was self-deceived. He let his own pride dictate for him what he would believe, and how he would act, and so he did fall as Jesus had said.

How about us? Are any of us where Peter was? Are we self-deceived into thinking we know ourselves better than God? Is pride ruling our lives, or is the Lord the one on the throne of our lives? Do we speak or act before we think? Or do we pray first, then act? Are we making decisions for our lives based on human reasoning, or on the leading of the Holy Spirit? And, are we daily putting on our spiritual armor with which to fight off Satan’s temptations, or are we spiritually lazy and thus we regularly set ourselves up to fall into sin?

Repentance

After Peter’s third denial the rooster crowed. Then Peter “remembered the saying of Jesus, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Matt. 26:75).

Being a follower of Jesus Christ does not mean we are suddenly perfect or that we will never sin again (See: 1 Jn. 2:1). Yet, it does mean that we have been delivered out of bondage to sin, and that sin should no longer be our master, but we should now be servants of righteousness. It also means that we should not use “I’m not perfect” as an excuse for continued willful sin against God. We read in 1 Jn. 1:6 that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin, wickedness), that we are liars and the truth is not in us. We read in Ro. 8 that if we walk in the flesh we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14).

A saved life is not one of sinless perfection, in other words, but it is a life transformed of the Holy Spirit of God from death to life, from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God (See: Ac. 26:16-18). Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). When we believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ of the Spirit in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6:1-23). God’s grace, which brings salvation, is not a free license to continue in willful sin against Almighty God. His grace teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). We are called to be holy, set apart from (different, unlike) this sinful world, because we are being conformed into the image of Christ.

Yet, when we do sin, Jesus is our advocate to the Father. We can go to him in prayer, confessing and repenting of our sins, and he will restore us and renew us in him. Amen! God’s grace is awesome! We serve a loving and a forgiving God! Amen! Satan, nonetheless, revels in our failures, and he will do all he can to try to convince us that we are hopeless, ruined beyond repair, and that God could never use us again. We have to not listen to his lies, but we need to put on the belt of truth with which to fight off his evil schemes against us. Satan wants to convince us that we will never win, but Jesus already won this battle for us through his death on the cross. Amen! God has given us the victory over sin and Satan if we are truly his by faith in Jesus Christ. We just need to believe God, and act on that faith.

Restoration

I am all the time thanking God/Jesus for his amazing grace to me, not only in saving me from my sins, but in how he has so many times lifted me up when I have fallen, and he has put me right back on the path which he wants me to travel. I am blessed beyond measure because he has restored and renewed me in my walk of faith and obedience to him, and he continues to use me for his glory. I don’t deserve his love and mercy, yet he has been very gracious to me because of his great love for me.

I love this story of Peter’s restoration. Yes, he denied his Lord three times, yet when faced with the reality of what he did, he repented of his sin, and God reinstated him. So many times Satan convinces us that we are all washed up, but that is not how God sees us if we are truly repentant. He will take what Satan meant for evil in our lives, and he will turn it around and will use it for good in our lives and in the lives of others if we will but trust him with our lives, go where he sends us, and do what he asks us to do. “A broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Ps. 51:17). So, repent today, and serve God forever!

VOICE OF TRUTH / Mark Hall & Steven Curtis Chapman
II Corinthians 12:7-10/I Corinthians 1:20-24

…But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again, “Boy, you’ll never win!”
“You’ll never win!”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
And the voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Going Fishing

Tuesday, March 29, 2016, 3:39 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Voice of Truth.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 21:1-8 (ESV).

We Caught Nothing (vv. 1-3)

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Have you ever been in a situation like this before? I am in a situation similar to this right now. About a month ago the Lord spoke to me in the middle of the night and he asked me if I am willing to leave the comforts of my home to go with God to the regions beyond – to the unknown – whatever that may mean for me. He asked me if I would truly give it all up to follow him, i.e. house, land, possessions, and even children and grandchildren, i.e. to leave them all behind. He asked me, “If I say to walk away from it all, will you?” He asked me if I would follow him wherever he led me. I said, “YES!” That was in the middle of the night.

In the morning my husband told me that he wanted to retire this year, and that he believed we were to move back to Ohio (where we originally came from), from South Carolina (where we presently live). We left Ohio 34 years ago (1982). We have lived in our present location 20 years. My husband said that he believes he is supposed to move back to Ohio to care for his aging parents (father, step-mother, and mother). I prayed about it and the Lord immediately told me to “Go!” So, we made the decision together to leave all our children and grandchildren (all 21 of them) behind in South Carolina and to move back to Ohio.

We then began to make preparations for the move. We even drove 500 miles to Ohio to look at possible apartments where we would live. While we were there, the Lord impressed upon our hearts the urgency of us getting up there, as the need is great, not just for his parents, but that the fields are ripe for harvest (Jn. 4:35). We could see the hand of the Lord in how everything was falling into place, one situation after another after another. And, then we hit a “bump in the road,” i.e. a seeming setback.

We are selling our house by owner, and we have a buyer, so we need to secure an attorney to help us write a sales contract, who will also handle the real estate closing for us. I have called multiple attorney offices, but so far we have not had one call us back so that we can set up an appointment to write the sales contract, so we can set a closing date and a move-in date in Ohio. So, yesterday I was feeling discouraged about all this. We can’t move forward without the sales contract and an attorney, so I was praying about what to do next. In other words, I went fishing for an attorney but I wasn’t catching any “fish.”

In The Morning (vv. 4-8)

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

Last night, as I was feeling discouraged, and I didn’t know what my next step should be, and I was calling on the Lord for his guidance, he put the song “Voice of Truth” in my mind. I didn’t look up the lyrics last night, but I remembered the chorus, so I began to pray concerning what message the Lord had for me through this. Then, this morning, the same song was in my mind, so I did look up the lyrics. The song begins by talking about the kind of faith it would take to climb out of the boat we are in onto the crashing waves, to step out of our comfort zone into the unknown. Well, we have sold many houses before, but previously we always used a realtor, so it is definitely not my comfort zone to sell by owner, and to have to secure our own lawyer and to make certain everything is done that needs to be done for us to close this house on time, but Jesus is with me, and he will guide my steps.

So, this morning I prayed and asked the Lord what message he had for me in this. What he spoke to me this morning, I believe, is that I need to throw my net on the other side of the boat, i.e. I need to not give up, but I just need to “fish” someplace else. I had been searching on the internet for lawyers, and then I remembered this morning that we had a phone book, so I got out the phone book and made a list of the lawyers (nine of them) and their phone numbers, and my plan, which is God’s plan, I believe, is to go fishing for a lawyer this morning “on the other side of the boat,” i.e. I am going to call these lawyers until we get one. And, I am believing God to supply. Maybe we will get so many that I will have to choose which one, but I believe the Lord will direct me to the right lawyer for us.

I believe our Lord allows setbacks in our lives sometimes to test our faith, to see whether we will give up, though he certainly knows this in advance, or whether we will stand the test, and if we will keep trusting him even when the waves are crashing all around us. The test is not for God, in other words, but it is for us, in order to strengthen our resolve to keep on keeping on in doing whatever God has called us to do, even when we can’t see how it is all going to turn out, or even when we face those “bumps in the road” along the way. If we know God has called us, then we have to know that he will supply all we need. Sometimes delays are not just to test our faith, though, but they are all about God’s perfect timing. He has a day in mind he wants all this to come together, and we can’t rush it if God has a different timing. We will only frustrate ourselves. But, when he says to throw the net on the other side of the boat, then we need to do that, and trust him to supply all that we need.

VOICE OF TRUTH / Mark Hall & Steven Curtis Chapman
II Corinthians 12:7-10/I Corinthians 1:20-24

…But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again, “Boy, you’ll never win!”
“You’ll never win!”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”
And the voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Unless Given from Above

Monday, March 28, 2016, 12:18 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken.” Speak, Lord your words to my heart. I read John 19 (select ESV).

They Mocked Him (vv. 1-6)

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.”

Many people tend to oppose, mock, and/or make fun of what they don’t understand, or what appears strange or unlike them. Television promotes such mockery so much so that many Christians who are avid TV watchers may find themselves regularly laughing at those who are different from them, including treating other believers in Jesus in such a manner as this, too. Thus, these mockers are being regularly entertained at the expense of others.

They didn’t get Jesus. He was strange to them. He didn’t do things their way. He didn’t follow all their rules and customs. Some thought he was crazy. Others may have considered him too radical for their tastes. Some felt he was blasphemous. There were those who were jealous of him because of his popularity among the people. They felt threatened by him, and believed their own positions of power and influence among the people were in jeopardy. Many hated him, though some loved and admired him. Many turned against him, though there were those who truly followed him, but even some of them abandoned him temporarily. Jesus said that in like manner as he was treated, we will be treated also.

No Authority Unless Given (vv. 7-11)

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

Satan and humans have no power over us, though, unless it is given to them by God, and for his divine purposes and glory. So, we never have to be afraid. God is completely in control over all things. Nothing escapes his notice. Nothing surprises him or takes him off guard. Just as the Father in Heaven allowed Jesus Christ, God the Son, to suffer all he suffered for you and for me so that we could be saved out of our sin, he will allow us to go through hardships and persecutions, too. We will be hated just as he was hated, and there will be those who will want us dead or gone, too, so that we no longer pose a threat to them and to their earthly kingdoms, or to Satan and to his followers.

If laws do not already exist which they can use against us in some way, they may create new laws to justify getting rid of us. I believe some new laws may be in the works right now, and that there are earthly powers who are presently creating situations in order to justify the persecution of followers of Christ, even here in America. World leaders, both in government and in the church, are pushing for a one world order and a one world religion, and they are already working to outlaw the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles. They consider the true gospel and its adherents to be prejudicial, hateful, unloving, bigoted, unwelcoming, and intolerant, and so we must be targeted for removal.

Peer Pressure (vv. 12-16a)

From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

Pilate was pressured into handing Jesus over to be crucified, although he found no fault in him. And people today, even among those who call themselves Christians, will try to pressure us into rejecting the true gospel of salvation, too, and its messengers. They will use all kinds of pressure tactics, such as trying to shame us into rejecting the true gospel by trying to convince us that it teaches works-based salvation, and that if we follow it that we are actually opposing Jesus instead of following him. They will try to persuade us to accept that the true gospel is hateful and that it does not represent the true character of Jesus, and thus it must be abandoned in favor of a more tolerant Jesus and gospel which embraces all people and all religions and all walks of life. We must guard our hearts against this.

Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with him to sin), we will gain eternal life (Lu. 9:23-25). Jesus died, not just so we can escape hell and have the promise of heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us (2 Co. 5:15). And, he died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but who conduct our lives after the Spirit, for if we walk after the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (Ro. 8:1-14).

So, if someone tries to convince you that this teaching is works-based salvation, don’t listen to them, because they are telling you to reject the Word of God in favor of the teachings of humans. If we say we have fellowship with God, but we continue walking in the darkness (in sin), we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6). When we believe in Jesus to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ of the Spirit in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ of the Spirit in newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). God’s grace to us in saving us from our sins is not a free license to continue in sin. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). The Christian life is a crucified life.

Yet, when you believe and share the true gospel of salvation, expect to be hated and rejected just as Jesus was hated and rejected. But, keep on obeying Jesus with your life.

Bearing His Cross (vv. 16b-22)

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Being a follower of Jesus Christ means that we follow him wherever he leads us. And, where he leads us will often get us rejected and hated, because we stand in opposition to the things of this world, because Jesus called us out of the world, to be separate from (different, unlike) the world of sin, because we are becoming like Jesus. This is what it means to be holy as God is holy. And, this is our calling as disciples of Christ.

Yet, we must be willing to suffer disgrace for the sake of the gospel so that others might be saved and have eternal life with God. We must not shun the cross in order to gain popularity and acceptance among the people of this world, including within the worldly church. We must stand strong on the truths of God’s Holy Word, and be intentional about sharing the gospel with others so that they, too, can know Jesus as Lord and as Savior of their lives. Many will be those who will not acknowledge that we are followers of Christ, and they may assign us all kinds of false motives for why we do what we do, but that is ok. We have to know who we are in Christ, and we must obey God rather than humans, if humans ask us to do what is contrary to God and his Word. Following Christ will have its hardships, but greater are its rewards and blessings.

Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken / Henry F. Lyte / Mozart/ Arr. Hubert P. Main

Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou, from hence, my all shalt be.
Perish every fond ambition, all I’ve sought, and hoped, and known;
Yet how rich is my condition, God and Christ are still my own!

Let the world despise and leave me, they have left my Savior, too;
Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like man, untrue;
And, while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate, and friends disown me; show Thy face, and all is bright.

Man may trouble and distress me – ‘Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me; Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ‘tis not in grief to harm me, while Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ‘twere not in joy to charm me, were that joy unmixed with Thee.

Go then, earthly fame and treasure! Come, disaster, scorn, and pain!
In Thy service pain is pleasure; with Thy favor loss is gain.
I have called Thee, Abba, Father, I have stayed my heart on Thee;
Storms may howl and clouds may gather; all must work for good to me.

Praise Be Told!

Jesus Christ, God the Son, came to earth, took on human flesh, suffered as we suffer, and was tempted as we are tempted, yet without sin. He was despised, rejected, persecuted, abandoned, denied, betrayed, beaten, mocked and killed, although he had done no wrong. God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that we might be saved from sin and have eternal life with Him in glory. Jesus crucified and buried our sin with him, and then he rose from the dead in victory over Satan, death, hell and sin. He did this so that you and I might be free from sin, spiritually healed, freed to walk in his holiness and righteousness, and freed from eternal punishment in hell.

We can do nothing to earn or to deserve such a great salvation. It is a free gift to us by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. Yet, he did this so that we might die to our sin and live for his righteousness. The grace of God teaches us to say “No to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:12). Jesus Christ, by His Spirit within us, will counsel, direct, guide and instruct us in the way of Christ’s righteousness, as well as he will empower and equip us, and he will give us all we need to live upright and godly lives. As well, because he loves us, he regularly disciplines us for our good, to mature us in our walks of faith, to teach us perseverance, and to draw us close to him, yet he will also heal. Amen!

Praise Be Told! / An Original Work
Based off Various Scriptures / December 28, 2013

He was pierced for our transgressions.
He was crushed for all our sin.
Our chastisement was upon Him.
By His stripes, we now are healed.

He has witnessed all our trials,
And the sins we choose to wear.
Yet, while we were dead in our sin,
Jesus died, our sins to bear.

He himself bore all of our sins
In His body on a cross,
So that we might die to our sin,
And live for His righteousness.

By faith in the pow’r of Jesus
And His blood shed for our sins,
We can be forgiven our sin,
And have life with God in heav’n.

He will lead us and He’ll guide us
In the way that we should go.
He will comfort and protect us,
Because Jesus, we do know.

Though He disciplines for our good,
He will heal us – Praise be told!
Do not fear, your Lord is with you.
Just have faith in Christ your Lord.

Abiding in Him

Tuesday, March 22, 2016, 6:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Sheep.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 15:1-11 (ESV).

He Prunes (vv. 1-2)

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

All throughout the New Testament we get this picture of the difference between those who truly know Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives, and those who profess his name, but do not really know him, or who started with him, but their faith never really took root, because it was not founded in Jesus Christ and in his Word. What this passage of scripture teaches, and many more like it, is that true faith abides in Christ, it turns away from living for sin and self, and it turns to God, to walk in his holiness and righteousness. True faith is continuous, persistent and endures to the end. We are not saved on the basis of past belief. Jesus said that whoever “believing” in him has eternal life (Jn. 3:16). That means we have to believe in him to the end if we want to have the hope of heaven.

We also learn throughout the New Testament that the Lord disciplines (prunes) those who are truly his. I asked Google this question: “Why prune trees?” One of the answers was, “Remove dead, damaged and diseased branches to help prevent insect and decay organisms from entering the tree” (1). This fits with what we read in Hebrews 12: “He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (See: Heb. 12:1-11). In other words, we are not saved, then live our lives however we want, and then we die and go to heaven. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). So, he disciplines (prunes) us to keep the bad stuff out of our lives, and to keep the good stuff inside.

Abide in Him (vv. 3-11)

“Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Our faith in Jesus Christ is not about following a religion. It is about a relationship with God. It is not just about being forgiven of our sins, but it is about turning away from our sinful lifestyles in order to follow Jesus in surrender to his will for our lives. Jesus did not die to take away the sins of the entire world just so we could profess his name and then go about our own business of living life how we want. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). He died in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but who conduct our lives according to the Spirit of God (Ro. 8:1-14). If we truly believe that Jesus died to deliver us out of sin and to make us his holy people, then that belief should be reflected in how we live our lives each and every day. We should no longer be slaves to our sinful flesh, but we should now be servants of his righteousness, living to please God.

So, what does it mean to abide in Christ? How do we do that? It has to begin with being born again of the Spirit of God. A mere profession of faith in order to escape hell and to have the promise of heaven when we die is not abiding in Christ. When we are born again we start all over. We don’t keep living like we did before. The old has gone, the new has come. This does not mean we will all of a sudden be perfect, but it does mean that we turn away from sin and we turn to follow Jesus with our lives. We can’t go two opposite directions at the same time. So, when we follow Jesus, we naturally (or supernaturally) turn away from sin. This begins with the Father drawing us to Jesus, and us accepting God’s invitation to believe on his Son, and the Spirit enabling us to turn from sin to follow Jesus.

Then, in the power and the working of the Spirit within us, we die daily to sin and self, and we walk in fellowship with our Lord, living to please him and to do what he says. This means we need to be in his Word daily, taking it into our minds and hearts. Then, we have to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit and respond in obedience to what his word teaches us. We also need to be in prayer daily, in confession of sin, in bringing our requests to God, in trusting and believing him to work miracles of his grace in other people’s lives, and we need to thank and praise him for who he is and for all that he has done and will do for us. When we know his word, we can fight off Satan’s evil attacks against us, and we can resist Satan’s attempts to try to get us to sin against God. We can also refute Satan’s lies and discern his tricks so that we are no easily deceived into believing false teaching.

When we are abiding in Christ, we can hear his voice speaking to our hearts throughout the day, no matter what we are doing. It is just like having another person right there with you all day long listening to you and speaking to you, too. Not only does God speak to us through his written word, but he speaks to us through his Spirit whom he has given to us to indwell us and to counsel, guide, direct, rebuke, correct, encourage, instruct and empower us. Yet, we must always test the spirits to see if they are of God. In other words, we all have more than one voice speaking to us. We have our own inner voice, our conscience, Satan, other people, including past voices, and we have God in the person of the Holy Spirit speaking to us. So, we need to make sure that the voices we listen to line up with God’s word and that they agree with God’s divine nature and will for our lives.

When we are certain it is God speaking to us, we must obey what he tells us to do. Not only does God have a specific will for all of his followers collectively, such as to turn away from sin and to follow the Lord in obedience, and to love one another, etc., but he has gifted us each individually, and he has given each of us specific assignments within the Body of Christ which we are to fulfill. Yet, the Bible is not going to literally say anything to us specifically with regard to God’s calling on our lives. For instance, “Sue Love” is not mentioned in scripture, so I am not going to find a passage where it says “Sue, you are to write what I teach you from my word each day and you are to post it on the internet,” yet that is his calling on my life. Nonetheless, he did use Habakkuk 2:2-3 to place this calling on my life. He, by his Spirit, gave me that calling when I read that passage. I knew it was his voice speaking to me, and so I have done what he has asked me to do these past ten years.

So, if you are not certain how God has gifted you, or what his specific calling is on your life, ask him to reveal it to you. Turn from your sin. Walk in obedience to him and to his Word. Love him with all your heart, and enjoy your times of sweet fellowship with him each day. Resist the devil, flee temptation, and draw near to God. There is no better life than one that is committed to following Jesus Christ in surrender to his perfect will for your life.

My Sheep / An Original Work / June 24, 2012
Based off John 10:1-18 NIV

My sheep hear me. They know me.
They listen to my voice and obey.
I call them and lead them.
They know my voice, so they follow me.
They will never follow strangers.
They will run away from them.
The voice of a stranger they know not;
They do not follow him.

So, I tell you the truth that
I am the gate, so you enter in.
Whoever does enter
Will find forgiveness and will be saved.
Nonetheless whoever enters
Not by the gate; other way,
He is the thief and a robber.
Listen not, the sheep to him.

Oh, I am the Good Shepherd,
Who laid his own life down for the sheep.
I know them. They know me.
They will live with me eternally.
The thief only comes to steal and
Kill and to destroy the church.
I have come to give you life that
You may have it to the full…

They know my voice, so they follow me.

(1) http://www.wcfb.sailorsite.net/WCFB/Pruning.html

How We Need to Love

Sunday, March 20, 2016, 6:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Jesus Paid It All.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 13:1-17 (ESV).

He Loved His Own (vv. 1-4)

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.

Jesus, who was fully God, yet fully man when he walked this earth, had come to the earth from his throne in heaven for this very purpose, to die for the sins of the entire world. Jesus Christ is not only the Son of God, but he is God, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He was with God in the beginning, and he is the creator of all things which were created (See: John 1). That means he is all knowing, all powerful, and, in the Spirit (not in human flesh), is present everywhere. Thus, not only did he choose these twelve men to be his followers, but he created them. He knew them inside and out. So, that also means that, I believe, when he chose Judas to be one of his disciples, he knew that he would one day betray him over to death, but that was all in God’s perfect plan for Jesus.

Jesus loved his disciples, but not just the eleven, but even the one who he knew would one day betray him to death. And, he teaches us that we are to love our enemies, too. He also loved Peter, who he knew would deny him three times, and Thomas who he knew would be a doubter and hard to convince of Jesus’ resurrection. He loved them all, even though he knew they would all desert him when he was taken away to be tried and crucified. And, we, too, need to love those who have hurt, abandoned, betrayed, and denied us, or who have mistreated us in any way. We need to love others as Jesus loved us, and gave his life up for us. We need to love them like Jesus loved us when he saved us out of the depths of sin, even though we were dead in our sins, and we did nothing to deserve his grace to us.

Jesus did not fear death, though in his flesh he did battle with the reality of what he must go through so that we could be saved from our sins. Yet, even in that, he yielded to the Father and to the will of God. So, he was not afraid of what was about to happen to him. He did not fear humans and what they might do to him, and neither should we. He trusted in his Father in heaven, and we need to place that same type of trust and confidence in our Lord, that he is completely sovereign over every aspect of our lives, that he has a purpose in all he allows us to go through, and that he will carry us through to the very end. He does not promise us that we will never have to suffer. In fact, he says we will suffer disgrace, hatred, rejection, abandonment and even death for our testimonies for Jesus Christ.

If I Do Not Wash You (vv. 5-11)

Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So, even though Jesus knew that Judas would betray him, that Peter would deny him three times, and that all would desert him, still he humbly served them, and he taught them by his example how to be servants of the Most High God, and how to serve one another, too. And, this is how we need to love and serve others, not just those we consider to be our friends, but even those we know are our enemies. We need to keep in mind that God’s grace to us was not given to us because we deserved it, or because we were so wonderful. We are all born into sin, and not one of us is deserving of his grace. All have sinned and have come up short of attaining God’s divine approval. It is only because of God’s great love to us, and due to his grace to us in providing the way of our redemption, that any of us can be saved from our sins and have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven.

Jesus, though, was not just teaching them about foot washing. He was teaching them humility, love and servanthood. And, he was illustrating for them a greater principle, and that is how his love extended to us provides the way in which we can be cleansed of our sins, and made right with God, and how we can daily have our walks of faith made clean by the power of the blood of Jesus Christ in our lives.

Notice with me how Jesus told Peter that if Jesus did not wash his feet, that he had no part with him, but it was not because Peter was not clean, he was. So, what did Jesus mean? What he was illustrating for his disciples is that following Jesus Christ is not just a matter of initial cleansing from sin when we are born again of the Spirit from above. We are not saved, then we live our lives however we want, and then one day we go to heaven when we die. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. Our feet are what we walk on, so they represent our spiritual journey. We need to be cleansed daily, i.e. die daily to sin. Paul said that if we walk in the flesh we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live. Faith in Jesus Christ is not a one-time experience. True faith in Jesus is continuous, ongoing, and it endures to the end.

You Also Ought to Do (vv. 12-17)

So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’ From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

Again, Jesus was not merely demonstrating for his disciples that they should wash one another’s feet, nor is this saying that we need to go around washing other people’s feet. What he was teaching them and us is that we need to love and serve others as Jesus loved and served us. What this means, is that we should not take this passage of scripture as Jesus merely demonstrating some type of physical service to others, but we need to apply the deeper principles taught here to our lives and service, as well. We need to love all people, even our enemies, as Jesus loved the people of this world and gave his life up for all, that we might be saved. Even if people are mistreating us, we need to love them.

In washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus was not only showing us how to humbly love and serve others, but he was showing us how we need to forgive daily, and how we need to teach others how to walk daily in Christ’s love and grace in surrender to his will for our lives, and in obedience to his instructions to us in holy living. Jesus told Peter that if he would not allow Jesus to wash his feet, i.e. cleanse his daily walk, he had no part in him. He is saying the same thing to us. Paul said that Jesus died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Many, many scriptures teach that we must persevere, continue, and endure to the end in our faith in Christ if we want to have eternal life. Being saved is a spiritual journey. If we profess to have fellowship with God, but we walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), we are liars, and the truth is not in us (1 Jn. 1:6). So, walk in the Light!

When Jesus died for our sins, he redeemed us back for God, away from Satan and sin. He is now our Lord (master/owner), and we are his bond-slaves. Our lives our not our own to live how we want. When we were under the control of sin, we were free from the control of righteousness, but now that we have been set free from sin, we should be slaves of righteousness (Ro. 6). We should live holy lives, set apart from (different, unlike) this sinful world, because we are becoming like Jesus. So, walk in his love, follow where he leads you, and obey his teachings. In this way we show our Lord that we love him, too.

Jesus Paid It All / Elvina M. Hall / John T. Grape

… your sins… they shall be as white as snow… Isaiah 1:18

I hear the Savior say, “Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.”

For nothing good have I whereby Thy grace to claim,
I’ll wash my garments white in the blood of Calv’ry’s Lamb.

And now complete in Him my robe His righteousness,
Close sheltered ’neath His side, I am divinely blest.

Lord, now indeed I find Thy power and Thine alone,
Can change the leper’s spots and melt the heart of stone.

When from my dying bed my ransomed soul shall rise,
“Jesus died my soul to save,” shall rend the vaulted skies.

And when before the throne I stand in Him complete,
I’ll lay my trophies down all down at Jesus’ feet.

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.