Something New

Thursday, August 31, 2017, 9:42 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 43 (quoting select vv. NASB).

Do Not Fear (vv. 1-4)

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
“For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I have given Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your place.
“Since you are precious in My sight,
Since you are honored and I love you,
I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life.

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, and his Holy Spirit comes to live within us, we come into a personal intimate relationship with God Almighty. We are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. We no longer walk (live our lives) according to the sinful passions of our flesh, but we now walk (in lifestyle) in accord (agreement) with the Spirit of God.

By the Spirit we are now putting to death the deeds of the flesh so that we can now live to Christ and to his righteousness. We who are now being led by the Spirit are the children of God, fellow heirs with Jesus Christ, and bondservants of our Lord Jesus. And, he is our Lord (owner-master), for we were bought back for God with his blood shed on a cross for our sins, so we might be free from slavery to sin.

The waters and the fire are figurative for troubles, hardships, persecutions, danger and sword, threats from the enemy of our souls, and/or judgment. Whatever we go through in this life, if we are in Christ Jesus, by faith in him, our Lord is with us, and he will carry us through. So, we are never to fear what humans may do to us, or our circumstances, or hardships or dangers. If our trust is in the Lord, we will not be overcome by all these things, but we will remain steadfast in our faith, sure of His promises to us, and hopeful of what we know is our future inheritance.

One day our enemies will be no more, though we should pray for their salvation, and hope that God will transform their hearts and lives as he has done with us. We should pray that they may know Jesus Christ, too, who gave his life up for us on that cross so that we might die to sin and live to him and to his righteousness.

A Summons (vv. 8-13)

Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes,
And the deaf, even though they have ears.
All the nations have gathered together
So that the peoples may be assembled.
Who among them can declare this
And proclaim to us the former things?
Let them present their witnesses that they may be justified,
Or let them hear and say, “It is true.”
“You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.
“I, even I, am the Lord,
And there is no savior besides Me.
“It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed,
And there was no strange god among you;
So you are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And I am God.
“Even from eternity I am He,
And there is none who can deliver out of My hand;
I act and who can reverse it?”

This is a summons by God Almighty to all the people of the world, including to his children who are living in idolatry and spiritual adultery against him, i.e. who have ears and eyes to hear and to see, but who are not listening to God, but who are closing their ears to his Words. They know the truth, but they are not walking in the truth. Even the ungodly people of this world have the knowledge of God within them, because God has revealed himself to them through his created works, so that they, too, are without excuse (See: Ro. 1:18-32). It isn’t that they lack knowledge, but that they choose to reject what they know and to make their own way, and to create their own gods and religions which allow them to continue to live sinful lifestyles.

But, none of their gods, idols, beliefs, religions or chosen lifestyles are able to help them, or to bring them salvation from sin and peace with God. They cannot hear God or know his will for their lives, because they are not listening, and they are not obeying his commands. They lack sensitivity to God’s Holy Spirit speaking to their hearts, so they are totally unaware of the times in which we live, and of the dangers lurking around the corner, and so they continue on as though God will do nothing, and that life will continue as it always has, not realizing or not willing to recognize the truths in God’s Word concerning sin, judgment and our eternal destiny.

So, the summons here is to open their eyes and ears to see and to hear that God Almighty and Jesus Christ, God the Son, maker of heaven and earth, is the ONLY true God, and the ONLY savior of mankind, and in no one else will they ever find freedom, peace, joy, salvation, eternal life and heaven as their eternal destiny. Their idols may be able to bring them some temporary satisfaction in this life, but they are no good for promising them eternal life with God or true heavenly peace and joy. Only through faith in Jesus Christ, in death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ, of the Spirit of God, can we be in relationship with God and have the hope of eternal life with God.

In the Wilderness (vv. 16-21)

Thus says the Lord,
Who makes a way through the sea
And a path through the mighty waters,
Who brings forth the chariot and the horse,
The army and the mighty man
(They will lie down together and not rise again;
They have been quenched and extinguished like a wick):
“Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
“Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.
“The beasts of the field will glorify Me,
The jackals and the ostriches,
Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My chosen people.
“The people whom I formed for Myself
Will declare My praise.

God does not promise any of us, saved or unsaved, that we will never have troubles, hardships, sorrow or pain. In fact, he promised his followers that they would be hated, persecuted and even put to death for his sake, and for the sake of his gospel of salvation, and because of their testimonies for Christ. He also does not promise us that, if we follow him wherever he leads us, that all will go smoothly and that we won’t face roadblocks along the way. But, he does promise us that he will go before us, that he will prepare the way, and that he will make a way for us through these difficult times.

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, and we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, we leave our old lives of sin behind us, and we move ahead (forward) in the direction our Lord now has for our lives. We are not to look back and yearn for the lives we had before, or to continue to dabble in sinful pleasures, but our desire should now be for our Lord, to please him in every way. We should understand that faith in Jesus is not a religion, but a relationship. It is not merely an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die, but it is a life given over to God to be lived for him and for him alone. Jesus doesn’t just slightly clean up our old lives, but he radically transforms our lives and he makes us new in him. Praise God!

Well, when God calls us to go with him somewhere, and he asks us to leave behind houses, lands, family members, friends, possessions, etc., we should also not look back and yearn for what we had before, but we must see that he is making things new for us, and that what he has for us now is not like what we had before, but it is actually better. Although we may not yet see it, we should trust him, believe him, and follow him, and rest in him and in his perfect timing. He can make a way where there seems to be no way.

Lastly, I believe this passage is a picture of revival and of the salvation of human lives out from the darkness, who are being brought into God’s wonderful light. God will often allow difficulties in our lives as a way to get us to see him for who he is and to get us to follow him wherever he leads us, and to remove us from all which is drawing us away from him and our pure devotion to him. Yet, we are not to fear these times, because God has good he intends for us, to make us holy, to purify and prune us, and to mature us in him. All that he allows into our lives is under his control, and he has a plan and a purpose, to bring glory to his name, and for us to give him all the praise, worship and devotion he has for us to give to him.

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
Louisa M.R. Stead / William J. Kirkpatrick

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise, just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

O how sweet to trust in Jesus, just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me ’neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus, just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking life, and rest, and joy, and peace.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee, precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me, will be with me to the end.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Thee! How I’ve proved Thee o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Thee more!

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Above all gods

Thursday, August 31, 2017, 2:17 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Jesus, Name I Love.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 95 and Hebrews 3 (Select vv. NASB).

A Great King (Ps. 95:1-7a)

O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.

Jesus Christ, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is the Rock of our salvation. He is our Lord (owner-master). He is our great King above all other gods. And, he is our creator, who made the heavens and the earth and all living creatures on the earth. We are his sheep, and he is our Shepherd, if we have trusted in him to be Lord and Savior of our lives via death to sin and resurrection to new lives in Christ.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God (and God) left his throne in heaven, came to earth, was born as a baby, took on human flesh, suffered as we suffer, and was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. He healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, cast out demons, fed the hungry, comforted the downcast, and he preached repentance for salvation and for forgiveness of sins. He performed many miracles, too. Many people followed him, at least for a time, though many also deserted him when he told them the cost of following him. They thought his teaching was too hard.

He was despised, rejected and mistreated by certain leaders within the Jewish temple who were jealous of him, and who did not like what he stood for and what he taught and did. So, they had him hung on a cross to die, as though he was a common criminal. Yet, it was God’s will that he should suffer thus, for it was the will of God from before the creation of the world that Jesus would be our sacrificial Lamb to take away the sins of the world. When he died on that cross, he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. So, when he died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him, and when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death, on our behalf.

When Jesus died on that cross, he died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He gave himself up for us “to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Tit. 2:14). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. When we believe in Jesus Christ, and we trust him to save us from our sins, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Our lives are no longer our own, to be lived how we want, for we were bought back for God with the blood of Jesus Christ, so we are to honor God in all that we do, say and are.

Jesus said that his sheep listen to him, he knows them, and they follow (obey) him. He said that if we want to come after him, we must deny self, take up our cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. Because of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, and through being resurrected back to life, we ought to live holy lives, pleasing to him. We ought to honor him as our King above all other gods, i.e. above all else that we might honor, praise or give glory to. He alone should be who or what we worship and give our allegiance and absolute devotion and passion. Our praise to him should not be just with our lips, but it should be with our very lives given over to him in obedience, and for his praise, honor and glory.

If You Hear Him (Ps. 95:7b-11)

Today, if you would hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
“When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
“For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
“Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.”

Many of God’s people of old, when he led them out of slavery in Egypt, and he led them toward the Promised Land, via the desert, rebelled against him, worshiped false gods, complained against him and his servant Moses incessantly, and did what was evil in God’s sight. So, they were not able to enter into God’s eternal rest because of unbelief. And, their lives serve as a warning to us to not be like them, to not rebel against God, and to not harden our hearts against the Spirit’s voice (See: Hebrews 3). For, if we continue in willful sin against God, by our lifestyles, we don’t have the promise of eternal life with God, but a fearful expectation of judgment and of hell’s fury (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Gal. 5:19-21).

For, Jesus did not die that horrible death on a cross just to forgive us our sins, but to deliver us out of slavery (addiction) to sin, and to set us free to now walk (in lifestyle) according to his righteousness and holiness, by his Spirit. His grace to us is not a free license to continue in willful sin against God without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, instructs (commands) us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions (lusts) and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s soon return. His grace, thus, is not leniency, but it is liberty in Christ from bondage to sin, and to the control of righteousness (See: Ro. 6:1-23).

Encourage One Another (Heb. 3:12-14)

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.

Not everyone who says he is saved from his sins truly is. Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” has truly submitted to the Lordship of Christ. Not everyone who seems to begin well with Jesus ends well. Just because you are a member of a local institutional church does not mean you are part of the body of Christ. You can be a Baptist, Methodist or Presbyterian, etc., and not know Jesus Christ at all. You may go through all the motions of being a Christian but be living like the devil when you think no one else is looking. We are not saved from our sins merely because of some words we repeated after someone in a prayer, or because we were brought up in organized religion.

We are saved from our sins when, by God’s grace, through faith in him, we die with Christ to sin and we are reborn of the Spirit of God to now walk in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, and we continue in him, and in his word, and we walk in obedience and no longer live our lives to gratify the sinful cravings of our flesh. If we claim to have fellowship with God, but we walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), we don’t live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:6).

Jesus, Name I Love
Or, Like the Strain of Sweetest Music
William M. Runyan

Jesus, Jesus, name I love,
Sinful needy hearts to move.
Name, all other names above,
Jesus, name I love.

Selfless Service

Tuesday, August 29, 2017, 6:36 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 12 (Select vv. NASB).

A Holy Sacrifice (vv. 1-2)

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Because of all that Jesus Christ did for us in dying on a cross for our sins, and being resurrected back to life, so that we could have new lives in him, we ought to give our lives to God, to live holy lives pleasing to him. In fact, this is what it means to believe in him, and to be in Christ by faith in him. It means we die with Christ to sin and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. It means our lives are no longer our own, to do with what we want, because we were bought back for God with the blood of Jesus Christ, and we now belong to God, so we are to honor God with our lives. It also means that we now live lives which are separate (unlike, different) from the world of sin, because we are being made into the image of Christ.

I think a lot of people think of worship of God as a song service during a worship service in a formal setting where we sing praise and worship songs together. But, singing is only one part of our worship of God. The main way in which we worship our Lord is with our lives via surrender, obedience, and walking in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. If we ignore his commands, and we still live to please the flesh, then we are not worshiping him no matter how enthusiastic we are when we sing during “worship” time. Our Lord is not looking for what we are willing to sacrifice or to give to him of our own accord, in our own way, and according to our own thinking. What he wants is us on the altar, submitted to him, and surrendered to his will.

Part of this worship of God not only means we give our lives to him, to be lived for his purposes and his will, but it means we forsake our lives of living to please ourselves. We no longer conform our lives after the ways (attitudes, thinking, believing, philosophies, culture, and behaviors) of this sinful world. We should stand out from the world and be different. We should not immerse ourselves in our societies and blend in with the world so that the world will like us. So, we should not be giving our lives over to self-pleasure, entertainment, and to doing just what makes us feel good, either. But, we should be considering how to please God in all that we do, and we should be thoughtful of others and their true needs, especially of salvation.

Sound Judgment (vv. 3-8)

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

What is striking me about this passage of scripture today is this running theme of self-sacrifice, humility, and selflessness. We can become so self-focused in this life that we lose sight of God, and what he requires and desires of us, and we can lose sight of others and their needs, too. So, we need to refocus our attention and affections on our Lord, to hear from him, and to do what he says, and we need to keep our eyes and ears open to see the needs of others all around us, and to help meet those needs as God leads and directs us in what he would have us do. We can become so inward focused, in other words, to where we miss out on opportunities to share the love, grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus with others who need him.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we all form one body, which is the body of Christ, his church. We, the people of God, are his church, regardless of location or the distance between us. And, we are to use the gifts and ministries God has given to us, as he directs, within the body of Christ, for the mutual encouragement, strengthening, and maturing of one another in Christ. Yet, God has not gifted us all in the same way, nor has he given us all the same assignments within his body (see also 1 Co. 12; Eph. 4). We are all different, uniquely designed and gifted by God to be used of God in ways which he had planned for us even before the creation of the world.

So, not one of us should be jealous of another or think we are better than others because of our gifts or assignments, for everything comes from God, not us. So, we should do all that we do for the glory of God and for the edification of the body of Christ, without regard to our own giftedness.

Without Hypocrisy (vv. 9-13)

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

In what ways can we be hypocritical in our expressions of love for God and for others? One way is by lip service only, i.e. by saying we love God or we love others, but then by our actions speaking just the opposite, i.e. by being hateful instead. Another way is to stay focused on ourselves and on our own needs while ignoring the needs of others, yet while vocalizing that we love them. How are they going to know that we love them if we don’t show it? Words can be cheap if they are not followed up with action. If all we do is talk about ourselves, or think about ourselves and our needs, but we don’t inquire as to what others are going through, and if we don’t show genuine interest in their lives, how will they know that we love them?

Yet, at the same time, we need to remain focused on our Lord, and on his Word, and never compromise our faith or join in with the sinful pleasures of this world in order to “make nice” with the world. It is not loving others with God’s love if we compromise our faith and convictions in order to have others like us or think we are being loving. Jesus was loving, but he spoke the truth in love, and he told people what they truly needed, even if they didn’t respond with belief. So, we should never feel that selfless needs to be godless so that humans will think we are being selfless and not selfish. In other words, we should continue to hate what God hates and to love what he loves, and to follow Jesus’ example for how to love others with God’s love.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

Keep the Faith

Monday, August 28, 2017, 4:11 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Timothy 4:1-18 (NIV).

Preach the Word (vv. 1-5)

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 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. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Although these words were directed to Timothy, we can all learn from them, and apply these truths where applicable to our individual lives. For example, we read in 1 Peter 2:9 that we who believe in Jesus Christ are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people for God’s own possession, so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of spiritual darkness (sin) into His marvelous light (truth, righteousness). Each one of us, not just preachers and evangelists, thus, have an obligation to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world around us (See: Matt. 28:18-20; Act. 1:8; Matt. 5:13-16; Mark 8:38; Ro. 1:16).

Yet, we need to make certain that what we are proclaiming is the truth, and it is the gospel according to Jesus Christ, and not according to humans. For example, much of what is passing for the gospel these days is not the gospel as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles. It is a “chewing gum” gospel, i.e. it is sugar-coated, fake, and offers no real solution for sin, because it is based in a lie which is intended to tickle itching ears and to give them what they want to hear, not what they NEED to hear. It requires no repentance, no obedience to Christ and his Word, and it teaches that God is pleased with us no matter what we do. There is no death to sin in this gospel, thus there can be no resurrection to new life (eternal life) in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

The truth we must preach (proclaim) is that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. God’s grace to us is not a free license to continue in willful sin against God without guilt or remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, instructs us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions (lusts), and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return. For, Jesus Christ gave himself up for us “to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for himself a people for his own possession, zealous for good deeds” (See: Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15, 21). So, if we claim to have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we don’t have the hope of eternal life with God (See: 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6).

Finishing the Race (vv. 6-8)

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Nonetheless, when we do share the truth of the gospel, and we don’t compromise truth in order to tickle itching ears, or so that humans might like us and accept us, we will be hated and rejected as was Jesus and his NT apostles and God’s prophets of old. We may also be falsely accused of being bigoted, hateful, intolerant and self-righteous because we stand on the truth of God’s holy Word, we don’t compromise with the world of sin, and we follow Jesus Christ with our lives, not in absolute sinless perfection, but in a consistent and persistent walk of faith and obedience to Christ and to his Word. Yet, we should praise the Lord that he counts us worthy to suffer for the sake of his name, and for the sake of the gospel of our salvation.

As Jesus had many opponents, and he faced much opposition to his message, so will we also if we are teaching what he taught. And, since his greatest opponents were those of his own race, his own religion, his own town, and even within his own family, we should not be surprised if some of our greatest opposition comes, not from the world, but from within the church and from those closest to us. And, that is where it hurts the most, too. Yet, daily we must put on the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20) with which to fight off Satan’s evil schemes against us, and we must run with perseverance the race (path) God has marked out for us, and we must never give way to discouragement or give up hope, but we should remain focused on Jesus and on his gospel, and on his mission for us.

One day, when we have finished our race on this earth, and we have completed the mission God had for each one of us, we will go to be with our Lord forever, either through death, or through his second coming. In the meanwhile, we should keep our eyes fixed on him, expectant of his soon return, trusting him in all things, and believing him to fulfill all that he has promised us he would do. We should rest in him and allow him to satisfy the deep longings of our hearts, for there will be much trouble and hardship in this life leading up to the time of his return. Yet, we should continue in the work to which he has called us while we wait for him to take us home.

Rejected and Deserted (vv. 9-18)

Do your best to come to me quickly, for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.

Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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. Serving our Lord in sharing his gospel message with others, by the very nature of it, is a self-denying ministry. It is because we will be hated, rejected, persecuted and even abandoned by those who, perhaps, once professed love and devotion to us. The closer we walk with our Lord, in fact, the greater risk that people (friends, family, church people) will desert us, not understand us, and perhaps even falsely accuse us of motives, attitudes and behaviors which are not true of us at all.

I am certainly not saying that we are so holy and perfect that everyone who rejects us is doing so because of our walks of faith, for they may not like us for other reasons, such as our personalities or looks, etc. Yet, many will forsake us because they love the world and its pleasures, and thus we are an offense to them if we are truly walking in the way of holiness. Jesus said the world hated him because he told them that what they did was evil. If we confront sin in sinful humans, but they want to remain in their sin, they won’t like us, and they won’t want to be around us. I am not talking about going around finger-pointing, but I am talking about speaking the truth in love, and rescuing people out of darkness and bringing them into God’s wonderful light. Not everyone wants to be rescued.

Some of those who reject us will also mistreat us and will speak evil against us to others so that they will reject us, too, but we must know that this is part of the cost of following Jesus with our lives and sharing in the fellowship of his sufferings. Some people will slander us in order to try to destroy our reputations, because they hate us, or because they feel threatened by us because of what we teach.

And, we may have no other humans to stand up for us, either, but Jesus Christ is and always be our defense, and he will give us all the strength we need to endure whatever he allows to come our way. And, he will do so in order that he may get the glory through whatever he accomplishes in and through our lives, and for the spread of his gospel. He will deliver us through every evil attack against us, and he will bring us safely to his heavenly kingdom when he has finished with us on this earth.

Jesus, I am Resting, Resting
Jean Sophia Pigott

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.

O, how great Thy loving kindness,
Vaster, broader than the sea!
O, how marvelous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Belovèd,
Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise,
And have made it mine.

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed!

Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ‘neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory,
Sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.

Favor or Curse?

Sunday, August 27, 2017, 4:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Bless This House.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 26 (Select vv. ESV).

In Perfect Peace (vv. 1-6)

In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:

“We have a strong city;
he sets up salvation
as walls and bulwarks.
Open the gates,
that the righteous nation that keeps faith may enter in.
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
For he has humbled
the inhabitants of the height,
the lofty city.
He lays it low, lays it low to the ground,
casts it to the dust.
The foot tramples it,
the feet of the poor,
the steps of the needy.”

The day being spoken of here is a day of judgment on the inhabitants of the earth for their wickedness, including the wickedness of those who proclaim God Almighty as their Father and Jesus Christ as their Savior. It is a judgment of God against all sinful rebellion, immorality, arrogance, abuse, wickedness, idolatry, spiritual adultery and unbelief. Yet, the purpose of this judgment in these last days is not just to punish wickedness, but it is to revive God’s adulterous church and to bring many people to salvation in Jesus Christ before the day when our Lord returns for his bride.

In that day a song will be sung among the saints of God. It will be sung by those who survived the judgment and who honored the Lord by their lives and by their faith, endurance, steadfastness and faithfulness. They will sing a song of praise to God for all that he has done for them, and in them, and through them. They will thank him for his great salvation, and for bringing them into his eternal kingdom, the city of God, which is a spiritual city, not a physical one. They will acknowledge the Lord as their Savior, their helper, their Lord, and their strength. He alone is the one who saved them, who delivered them out of Satan’s grip, and who brought them from death to life, and out of slavery to sin to now live to Christ and to his righteousness.

Although the world is in utter chaos, and wickedness is spread far and wide, and there is much danger, sword, and strife all around us, we can live in perfect peace inwardly if we keep our minds focused on Jesus Christ, and we do not let the cares of this world or the wickedness of other humans undo us. We must always keep in mind that our God is absolutely sovereign (in control) over all that he has made, and he has a plan and a purpose for all that he allows, and through it all he will gain the glory and the praise. So, we need to rest in him, believe in his promises, trust his Word, and follow him wherever he leads us, and do whatever he instructs us to do.

Path of the Righteous (vv. 7-11)

The path of the righteous is level;
you make level the way of the righteous.
In the path of your judgments,
O Lord, we wait for you;
your name and remembrance
are the desire of our soul.
My soul yearns for you in the night;
my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.
For when your judgments are in the earth,
the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.
If favor is shown to the wicked,
he does not learn righteousness;
in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly
and does not see the majesty of the Lord.
O Lord, your hand is lifted up,
but they do not see it.
Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed.
Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.

When Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, he did so in order that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. When we believe in Jesus to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (See: Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-18). This is what it means to be born again of the Spirit of God. The old has gone. The new has come. We were walking (in lifestyle) according to our sinful flesh, but now we are walking by faith in the opposite direction, according to the Spirit of God. For, the Lord, through his death and resurrection, made the way for us to now walk in his righteousness and holiness, in all uprightness, honesty, integrity, and in undiluted (unmixed) faith and devotion to him.

Where we once craved the desires of our flesh and the pleasures of this sinful world, now our desire is for our Lord to please him in everything. Instead of yearning after what our flesh desires, we now yearn (long for) God and his holiness. I’m not saying we do this perfectly, though lack of perfection should never be used as an excuse for willful defiance against our Lord or for willful and continued sin against God. But, we should be growing in the grace of God, maturing in our walks of faith, and our desire for God should be daily increasing, while the cravings of this sinful world should be dissipating from our lives.

What we often consider to be the good things of this life are not always a blessing if having them means we are far from God, so sometimes favor can be a curse, and judgment a blessing. Sometimes having many possessions or affluences can be a curse and not a blessing. So, just because we have money and possessions, it is not necessarily a sign that we are being blessed by God. What good is it if we have much in the way of the things of this world but they keep us from following the Lord with our lives, or they don’t lead us to follow him in obedience? And, instead, we become lazy and wicked and rebellious because we have too much, and thus we don’t know what it means to really have to rely on the Lord and not on ourselves?

Other Lords (vv. 12-15)

O Lord, you will ordain peace for us,
for you have indeed done for us all our works.
O Lord our God,
other lords besides you have ruled over us,
but your name alone we bring to remembrance.
They are dead, they will not live;
they are shades, they will not arise;
to that end you have visited them with destruction
and wiped out all remembrance of them.
But you have increased the nation, O Lord,
you have increased the nation; you are glorified;
you have enlarged all the borders of the land.

The peace that we need is not world peace where everyone joins hands with one another and sings “Kumbaya.” True peace is not tolerance and acceptance of all religions and all walks of life. It is also not lack of judgment of what God calls sin. True peace never compromises with the world of sin nor does it compromise the Word of Truth in order to not make waves. The peace that we need, as the people of this world, is peace with God, which only comes through faith in Jesus Christ, which results in obedience to Christ and to his commandments, not a watering down (diluting) of the gospel in order to “make nice” with the world.

When we try to “make nice” with the world in order to be accepted by them or to join in with them, thinking that is the way we will win them over, or because we desire sin more than obedience, and thus we compromise our faith, we allow “other lords” to rule over us in place of Jesus Christ. These “other lords” can be other people, Satan, the things of this world, sin, fear, or whatever we have made to be our idols, such as entertainment, pride, position, influence, and/or reputation, etc. The Bible says that we are slaves to whatever or to whomever we obey, either to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness (Ro. 6:16).

But, it is the Lord’s will that we should live holy lives, pleasing to him, so if we will not do that of our own choosing, and if we continue to give ourselves over to idolatry and to spiritual adultery, because God loves us, he will discipline us in judgment in order to prune and purify us, and to revive us, and to put to death those idols in our lives so that we can walk in purity of devotion to him alone. Then, we will be able to say that those “other lords” are now dead and that they will no longer arise because God has put them to death in our lives in order that we might walk in his holiness and righteousness, and so that we might follow him in obedience to his will for our lives. And, then God will restore, revive and purify us and make us holy and fit for his service, so that we can be a light for him in a dark world.

Bless This House
Helen Taylor / May H. Morgan

Bless the people here within,
Keep them pure and free from sin . . .

Bless us all that we may be,
Fit O Lord to dwell with thee . . .

Keep His Way

Saturday, August 26, 2017, 4:57 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 37 (Select vv. ESV).

Trust in Him (vv. 3-6)

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.

What does it mean to trust in the Lord? It means we place our hope and confidence in him, and in what he did for us in saving us from our sins, and in what he promised us that he would do. It speaks also of assured reliance upon God and his divine character, sovereignty, holiness, righteousness, power, strength, kindness, grace and compassion towards us. It means, as well, that we are fully convinced that what God says is true, that it is just, and that it is righteous and merciful, and thus we commit our ways to the Lord, to do what he says, and to follow him in all of our ways.

If we truly put our trust in the Lord, we will delight (find pleasure) in him and in his ways. We will want to do what pleases him, not because we must, but because we love him, honor him and revere him. Thus, he will give us the desires of our hearts, because our desires will be in line (agreement) with his. He does not, nonetheless, promise that he will fulfill our every want, but he will fulfill all his promises, and he will provide all that we truly need. And, he does not necessarily work at the pace we might like, either. His thoughts and his ways are not the same as those of humans. His timing is always perfect, although we don’t always comprehend it.

While we live on the face of this earth we will have troubles and hardships. We will be hated and persecuted for righteousness’ sake. There will be those who will not like us, and who will speak evil against us. Not everyone will understand us, or why we do what we do, and they may reject us and falsely accuse us. But, if our way is committed to the Lord, to follow him in obedience, and to do what he has called us to do, we can trust him with our reputations, believing that one day we will be honored for our obedience and that it will be evident that we loved God, and that we were his servants.

Be Still Before Him (vv. 7, 10-11, 14-15)

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!

In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.

The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose way is upright;
their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

Because Satan, a fallen angel, decided he wanted to be God, and so he rebelled against God, and because he tempted humans to sin against God, from the very beginning, sin entered into the heart of man. And, thus wickedness of every kind imaginable now exists on this earth. But, God has allowed wickedness to continue, for a time, because he is very patient towards us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. If he cut off all wickedness, he would have to remove all of us from the earth, because we are all prone to sin at some time or another.

But, because of his great love for us, and due to his grace towards us, he has provided a way in which we can be saved from our sins, and be delivered out of bondage (addiction) to sin. Jesus Christ, the Son of God (and God), came to earth, died on a cross for our sins, and put sin to death on our behalf. And, then he was resurrected from the dead victorious over our sin. So, through faith in him, we can be crucified with Christ in death to sin and be resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Thus, we are set free from our slavery to sin so that we can become bondservants of Christ and of his righteousness.

Because we are now in Christ Jesus, through faith in him, and our trust is now in him, and not in ourselves or in other humans, we can be at peace in this world even when all hell is breaking loose all around us. Although evil is allowed to exist, our God is still absolutely sovereign over all that he has made, he has all things under his control, and he has a plan and a purpose for all that he allows, and he will fulfill everything he said he would do. So, we can be at rest in him, and not fear when the wicked seem to prevail.

Wait for Him (vv. 34, 39-40)

Wait for the Lord and keep his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
The Lord helps them and delivers them;
he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

Sometimes it gets really hard, doesn’t it? Sometimes we just have to cry it all out to our Father in heaven, and then rest in him, and wait on his perfect timing. We don’t see the end from the beginning. We only see what is in front of our faces. And, at times, it can get very discouraging and disheartening, if we let it. So, we learn to wait on God, trust in his sovereignty, believe in his promises, and trust him each and every day to just show us what he has for us for that day. And, then we do what he says, and believe he will work all things out for good for those who love him, and who have been called according to his purpose.

While we are waiting, we keep his ways. God’s grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin, nor is it merely an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we leave this earth. His grace, which brings salvation, instructs (commands) us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions (lusts), and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return. Jesus Christ did not give his life up for us just to forgive us our sins, but he “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (See: Tit. 2:11-14; cf. Eph. 2:8-10).

Although this Christian life is promised to have difficult times, and to know hardships, persecutions and rejection, our Lord also promises to always be with us, to protect us spiritually from evil, and to give us all the strength, wisdom and counsel we need to resist Satan, to flee temptation, and to draw near to God in full assurance of faith. He has given us the armor of God with which to fight off Satan’s evil schemes against us, too (See: Eph. 6:10-20). So, we have no need to fear humans or what they might do to us, for our Lord will carry us through every circumstance, and he will provide all that we need to endure, and he will bring us safely into his eternal kingdom.

So, we just need to trust him, rest in him, believe him, and do what he says, and know that what he says, he will do, all in his perfect timing.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Thomas O. Chisholm / William M. Runyan

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Fullness of Joy

Friday, August 25, 2017, 9:15 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “I Just Want to Be Where You Are.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 16 (ESV).

Apart from You (vv. 1-4)

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.”

As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, and he becomes our Lord, we yield to his will for our lives, and we rest in him to accomplish his purposes in our lives. We should no longer regard our lives as our own, to do with them what we desire, but we should consider that we now belong to Christ, for we were bought back for God with his blood shed on a cross for our sins. We ought to be grateful for his grace to us, and we should desire him above all else in this life. He should be the love of our lives, and we ought to want to be with him always, doing what he says, and following him wherever he leads us.

When we trust in Jesus Christ, his Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us. As his followers, we now become the body of Christ, God’s temple, for God now lives within us in the person of his Holy Spirit. Collectively, we who believe in Jesus Christ are his church. And, the church is comprised of the saints of God (believers in Jesus). Thus, we should love them and want to enjoy sweet Christian fellowship with them, and to worship God with them and to minister to one another. And, the Holy Spirit will gift us with spiritual gifts which are to be used within the body of Christ to encourage, strengthen, counsel, nurture, urge, heal, and help one another to grow in our faith.

When we have faith in Jesus Christ, we should love what he loves and hate what he hates. We must leave our old lives of living for sin and self behind us, and we must follow Jesus Christ in obedience to his will for our lives. We should no longer run after the cravings of this sinful world, but now our desire should be for our Lord, to please him in every way.

My Chosen Portion (vv. 5-8)

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Faith in Jesus Christ is not just about escaping hell and having the promise of heaven when we die. It isn’t just about being forgiven our sins so that we are no longer under condemnation, either. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He saved us, not just to secure a place for us with him in eternity, but he saved us to deliver us from bondage to sin while we still live on this earth. He died, not just to forgive us, but to transform us. He has given us spiritual birth in himself, for when we believe in him, we die with him to our old lives, and we are resurrected with him to new lives in Christ Jesus, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Faith in Jesus Christ is also not just a religion, but it is a relationship with our living God. Because of what Jesus did for us in dying for our sins, we love him, and we want to be in fellowship with him, and we want to serve him with our lives. So, we spend time with him each day in prayer and in his word because we want to hear from him, and to talk with him, and to have communion with him. And, he counsels us and instructs us in the way he would have us go. Sometimes he corrects or rebukes us, and other times he encourages and comforts us. He is always with us, and we can talk with him any time. Yet, the beauty of the relationship is not just in the talking and listening, but it is in the doing. We must do what he tells us, too.

The Path of Life (vv. 9-11)

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Spending time with our Lord in prayer, in his word, in listening to him speak his words to our hearts, and then in doing what he instructs us to do should not be just ritual or obligation or brief. We should consider the fact that God now lives within us, so he is always with us, no matter where we are or what we are doing, so he can talk with us and us with him 24/7. We ought to always be in an attitude of prayer and have receptive ears to hear him speaking to us anytime and anyplace, and then to quickly respond to what he says. It should be a lot like a young married (or engaged) couple who want to be with each other all the time and who can’t wait to see each other and to tell each other about their day or to share experiences together.

We should love our times together with our Lord, and to desire to know and to do his will, no matter where that sends us or what it requires that we do. And, he will make known to us the path of life chosen for us that we must follow. And, then he will go before us and prepare the way, and he will lead us in the way we should go, and he will direct our steps. We may not know exactly what lies ahead, or God’s exact timing for everything, but we step out in faith one day and one step at a time as he reveals his will to us each step of the way, and in his perfect timing. Sometimes we wait on him, and then when he opens the way for us to go, we then walk in it, but not in our own strength, but in the strength and power of God’s Spirit within us.

I Just Want to Be Where You Are
Don Moen

I want to be where you are
Dwelling in your presence
Feasting at your table
Surrounded by your glory
In your presence
That’s where I always want to be
I just want to be,
I just want to be with you…