When Problems Arise

Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 4:36 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Lord, I Need You.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 27 (Select vv. ESV).

Be Confident (vv. 1-3)

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

We all go through struggles, from time to time, whether they involve solely temptations to sin against God, or they involve hardships, persecutions, financial difficulties, physical enemies pursuing us, marital problems, troubles with our children, disasters, loneliness, or having to make difficult decisions, or plans not working out the way we had hoped. And, we may be tempted to respond in fear, doubt, worry, anger, frustration, disappointment or in retreating back to sinful habits as a way of numbing the pain.

Yet, whatever difficulty, trouble, hardship or temptation we might be facing, our God is all-sufficient to meet our every need, and to give us all we need to remain faithful to him, to rest in him, to trust him with our life situations, and to believe him for the strength and power to endure, to resist Satan, and to flee the temptation to sin against God. In fact, through Jesus’ death on a cross for our sins, he made the way of escape for us out of temptation to sin, for he conquered sin and death for us via his death and resurrection.

As well, we read in Ephesians 6:12 that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. It isn’t to say that we don’t have physical enemies or that we won’t be hated and persecuted by other humans, for we will, if we follow Jesus. But, it is to say that the real forces against us are of Satan and his demons and that this is a spiritual battle that must be won with spiritual weapons of warfare, not with physical weapons or with human scheming. So, this is why God has given us spiritual armor (Eph. 6:10-20) to apply to our lives every day so that we can fight off temptation to sin against him, that is the temptation to sin by telling lies, cheating, immorality, fear, and doubt, etc. So, daily we must put this armor on, if we are to be victorious in this battle.

So, how do we do this? How do we make the Lord the stronghold of our lives so that we don’t fear, and so we don’t give into temptation, and so we are confident in Christ in our battles? When we are afraid, we put off fear, and we put on faith. When Satan lies to us, we counter him with the truth, more specifically with the truth of God’s Word. Then, we choose to believe the truth and not the lies. And, when tempted toward immorality, we resist Satan, and FLEE the temptation. Too many people give into temptation to sin because they play with sin and they don’t FLEE. And, involved in fleeing is also being proactive by cutting out of our lives those things which lead us to sin against God. For, if we play with the fire, we are going to get burned!

Sing Praises (vv. 4-6)

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

When difficulties arise or when we are faced with temptation toward fear or toward immorality, etc., we need to immediately seek the Lord. We must call on him for help. But, it is pointless to call on him if we have no intention of listening to or obeying him, or if we are not willing to cut out of our lives what is leading us into sin. In other words, we cannot resist the temptation to have immoral thoughts or actions or to give in to fear if every day we are willingly taking into our minds and eyes what is immoral or which feeds fear and doubt, and for the purpose of entertaining ourselves. We have to decide if we are going to be serious about God and holiness or not. If we are serious, our Lord Jesus, via His Spirit, will help us every step of the way.

One of the best antidotes to fear, doubt and worry is to sing praises to God. Satan loves to whisper lies in our ears, or to get us to stay focused on the waves crashing in all around us, i.e. he likes to get us to think about all the negatives of a situation, and even to create non-existent ones in our own minds (paranoia). So, when we realize we are down in the dumps, and that our minds are dwelling on all the “what ifs” of a situation, we need to stop, pray, and sing songs of praise to our Lord, and songs which will strengthen us in our faith and which will combat Satan’s lies with God’s truth.

Follow Jesus (vv. 11-14)

Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

If we truly desire God’s help, these words here have to be more than just words coming from our lips. Again, there is no point in asking for his guidance and direction if we are not going to listen to him and follow him. If we truly want to be taught his way, then we need to be willing to walk in the way that he shows us. So, don’t say it if you don’t mean it. God knows the difference. We can fool other humans, but we can’t fool God. He knows our hearts, and he knows who are serious about following him, and who are just playing games or are going through a religious exercise.

So, if you or I truly want to be taught the ways of the Lord, then we need to be willing to go the distance with God. We can’t pick and choose what we will obey and what we won’t, or to what extent we will be willing to obey. We need to have undivided hearts that don’t vacillate back and forth between what we want and what God desires for our lives. A level path is not a roller coaster ride. It is steady, even, sincere, committed and determined. And, we have to stay the course, but not in our own strength or willpower, but in the strength of the Lord and in his power and might.

I cannot stress enough that a godly life is a committed and determined life given over to God and to his service, and it takes sin and God and his Word seriously, and it does not take lightly his grace to us. His grace, after all, is not freedom to continue in sin without guilt or remorse. It is not carte blanche (free rein) to live however we want now that we are under grace. No! His grace, which brings salvation, instructs us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await his return. So, don’t give way to the enemy! Be strong in the Lord, and in his strength. Take courage and put your trust in God alone!

Lord, I Need You
Songwriters: Christy Nockels / Daniel Carson /
Jesse Reeves / Kristian Stanfill / Matt Maher

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You…
My one defense, my righteousness…

 

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A True Heart

Sunday, September 24, 2017, 6:39 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 Hebrews 10 (Select vv. ESV).

Draw Near (vv. 19-22)

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – left his throne in heaven, came to earth, took on human flesh, humbled himself, became a servant, suffered as we suffer, and was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. During his years of ministry, he healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, comforted the sorrowful, and preached repentance for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God. He, too, spoke often of the cost of following him. And, he confronted sin in sinful human beings, warned against hypocrisy and unbelief and of divine judgment, and called for repentance (turning away from sin) and for faith in himself, their Lord and God.

Some people loved him and followed him genuinely, while others hated and rejected him. Some of them had him put to death on a cross, although he had done no wrong, because they were jealous of him, threatened by him, and because they didn’t like what he preached and did, in particular because he didn’t follow their customs and traditions and he claimed to be God. Yet, it was God the Father’s will that Jesus should suffer and die for our sins so that we could be delivered out of slavery to sin, and so we could become bond-servants of his righteousness. For, he who knew no sin became sin for us on that cross, so that when he died, our sins died, too, so we could die with him to sin. When he was resurrected from the grave, he rose victorious over sin, so that we could also live with him in victory over sin. Amen!

Coming to faith in Jesus Christ, though, is not a mere profession of faith, or a religious exercise, or an emotional decision, or an intellectual assent to what Jesus did for us, or something we do in order to join a church organization. God’s grace to us is also not a free license to continue in sin, for his grace instructs us to say “No” to worldly lusts and to live godly and upright lives. When we believe in Jesus Christ, with a true heart, we die with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life in Christ, to be lived to God and to his righteousness. We turn away from living life for sin and self, and we turn to God, to Jesus Christ, to walk in his ways and in his truth, in true righteousness and holiness, and in the power of the Holy Spirit who has cleansed and purified us from our sins.

Hold Fast (vv. 23-25)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

So, this is how we should live, not as the ungodly do, but in the fear (honor, respect) of the Lord, in full assurance of faith in Christ, and for the purpose for which he died, which was to FREE us FROM our sins, not to just give us a FREE PASS. We should hold strong to the truths of God’s Word, and to his gospel, as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles, not only in profession, but in how we live day in and day out. And, we should not waver back and forth in unbelief or in sinful practice or in apathy or complacency. Instead, we should gather together with other believers where we can encourage one another in the faith, in love, in purity, and in true devotion to our Lord and Savior, for one day Jesus is going to return, and we need to be ready for him.

Practice Sinning? (vv. 26-31)

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

We should never assume, just because we prayed a prayer to receive Jesus Christ as Savior of our lives, at some point in our lives, that we have heaven guaranteed us when we leave this earth, or just because we regularly attend church services somewhere. Again, true faith in Jesus Christ means we die with Christ to sin so that we can live with Christ to his righteousness. It means that we no longer conduct our lives according to the ways of our sinful flesh or to the pattern of this sinful world, but we live our lives (in lifestyle) in agreement with and according to God’s Holy Spirit, now living within us, for if we live to please the flesh, we will die in our sins.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Gal. 6:7-8

So, don’t be fooled by clever enchanters who will tell you that it doesn’t matter how you live your life once you are “saved,” or who will suggest to you that God requires nothing of you – no repentance, no obedience and no submission. They are liars and deceivers who are looking to win you over to themselves, not to Jesus Christ. If, after you have heard the gospel preached, and even if you make a profession of Christ as Savior, then you keep on living in sin, making it your practice, and you disregard the Lord’s commands, then you don’t have the promise of heaven, but a fearful expectation of divine judgment. Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us, not to free us to continue living as though we have never been cleansed of our sins.

Your Confidence (vv. 35-39)

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,

“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

So, if you have made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, you have been cleansed of your sins, and you have been given new life in Christ, don’t throw that away or disregard it or ignore it. Don’t trample the grace of God underfoot in order to continue living the way you want. Don’t listen to the lies of Satan which tell you that you can live however you want and that God is still pleased with you, and that you still have the promise of heaven. If you shrink back from the truth of the gospel, and you reject the Word of Truth, God has no pleasure in you! He is not pleased with you if you continue living for the pleasures of this world and for the lusts of your flesh. It is when you have done the will of God that you receive what was promised. If we don’t obey our Lord, we don’t know him! If we are truly in the faith, we will walk in the Spirit and no longer to gratify our flesh.

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.

 

The Goodness of God

Wednesday, August 9, 2017, 5:13 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 27 (Select vv. NASB).

My Salvation (vv. 1-3)

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

We are all born into this world with sin natures. We all fall short of attaining God’s divine approval, by human effort. So, God the Father sent his Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ (God the Son) into the world to die on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us on that cross so that we might become the righteousness of God (1 Co. 5:21). So, when he died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him. But, when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death, on our behalf. He died that we might die with him to sin. And, he lives that we might live with him to his righteousness. Jesus Christ “gave Himself 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; & 1 Pet. 2:24).

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, thus, 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 (Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24). The old has gone. The new has come. This is what it means to be “born again” of the Spirit of God. Our lives are changed, transformed of God’s Spirit away from living to sin and self and to living to Christ and his righteousness. Now we no longer walk (conduct our lives) according to our sinful flesh, but we now walk (in lifestyle) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God, not necessarily in sinless perfection (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but in a consistent and persistent walk of faith, daily, by the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh (Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25).

When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are given the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. The Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell within us, and he lives within us to empower, strengthen, guide, teach, counsel, convict, rebuke and encourage us in our walks of faith with our Lord Jesus. Through our times of fellowship with our Lord each day in his Word, listening to him speak his truths to our hearts, and through prayer, talking with him and listening to him, we grow in our faith and knowledge of our Lord, and we are strengthened in our faith, and mature in our spiritual walks. We learn to know his sovereignty over our lives, and that we never have any reason to fear the enemy of our souls (Satan) or any of his servants and messengers, for our God and Lord will give us all we need to remain faithful to him.

He Will Not Leave (vv. 7-10)

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the Lord will take me up.

Coming to faith in Jesus Christ does not mean we won’t face difficulties in this life, or that we won’t know trouble, hardships, pain, suffering or heartaches. In fact, Jesus said that if we follow him, we will suffer like he suffered, and we will be treated like he was treated. But then he, although he was perfect, learned obedience through the things that he suffered. And, we, as well, learn obedience, including patience, perseverance, love, faithfulness, trust, and humility, etc. through our sufferings and hardships.

Our Lord will never abandon or forsake us, though. He will remain faithful even if we are faithless. He will always be there to comfort, encourage, give hope and healing, and to counsel us in the way that we should go. He will give us everything we need to live godly and holy lives for him in this present world and to not give way to fear. We just need to keep seeking his face and his counsel, and we must trust him with our lives, and rely upon his strength and power, and then rest in him, and believe that he will work out all things for good for those who love him, who obey him, and who have been called according to his purpose (Ro. 8:28).

Teach Me Your Way (vv. 11-14)

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a level path
Because of my foes.
Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries,
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have despaired unless
I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

The goal of our salvation is not merely that we should escape hell (eternal damnation) and have the hope of heaven when we leave this earth. God’s grace to us is also not a free license to continue in sin 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 return (Tit. 2:11-14). Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). If we claim to have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we lie and we do not live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:5-9). And, if we continue to make sin our practice, we don’t have the hope of eternal life with God (See: Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6; Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25).

The goal of our salvation is that we forsake our sinful lifestyles, and that we walk righteously before God to please him in all that we do, and think, and are, and say. Jesus becomes our husband, and we, as his church, become his bride. So, we forsake our former “lovers,” and we commit ourselves to him to faithfulness, obedience, and to making him our only Lord and Master. We do this because we love him, and because we are now in relationship with him, and our desire is now for him. So, we want him to teach us his ways, because we want to walk in them, and no longer live to please our sinful flesh. This is not to say we will never sin again, but that our desire should now be for him, to walk in his ways, and that we will now walk (in lifestyle) according to his Spirit, and no longer according to our flesh.

When we make that decision to follow our Lord in obedience, though, we will face opposition from our enemy and from his followers (his servants and messengers), and from those whom he has deceived with his many lies. And, there will be those who will bear false witness against us, who will slander us, and because they hate us and our testimonies for Jesus Christ, and our relationship with our Lord. They are those who are still bound in their sins or are those whom the enemy is deceiving that they can still be addicted to sin and that God’s grace covers it all. And, so they will find the true gospel and its messengers an offense to the lifestyles they choose.

Yet, we are not to fear them or their slanderous tongues, or their mistreatment of our bodies, for our Lord is completely sovereign over all that he has made, and he will see us through it all to victory. He will carry us through it all, and he will give us everything we need to endure and to come out shining like gold. And, one day we will get to be with our Lord forever, and all sorrow, pain and crying will cease. Amen! So, we just need to wait on our Lord, believe what he says, trust in his promises, take courage, keep on loving others, and keep on loving and serving our Lord with our lives.

My Jesus, I Love Thee
William R. Featherstone / Adoniram J. Gordon

My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine;
For thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I love thee because thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say, when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight;
I’ll ever adore thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;
If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

False Witnesses

Tuesday, May 30, 2017, 6:03 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Draw Me Close.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 27 (Select vv. ESV).

The Lord Is (vv. 1-3)

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.

Who are our enemies? If we are followers of Jesus Christ, crucified with him in death to sin, and risen with him to newness of life, our enemies are Satan and his many hordes. Satan has followers, too, and they do his bidding in coming against Jesus Christ, his Word, his gospel, and his servants. And, many of them have infiltrated the church, too. They are the wolves in sheep’s clothing, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ, and as servants of righteousness, but truly they are among us to steal, to kill and to destroy. So, they might be pastors, teachers, elders, other professors of Christ, politicians, parents, children, neighbors, and/or website monitors.

They are there to spy on our freedom in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves again to depravity. So, they dilute the gospel message of salvation to appeal to human flesh and to appease the world. They preach (teach, share) feel-good messages which tickle itching ears, which say what people want to hear, not what they NEED to hear, for the truth offends. Many of them are part of the New World Order and are working together to bring the people of the world into unity with them in thought, word and deed. Their goal is to get us to forsake all which divides us as the people of the world, and to get us to compromise our faith and convictions in order to unite as ONE voice, ONE heart and ONE mind, across the globe, with this one world religion.

On a global political (or religious) level, they utilize the media to spread their lies and deceptions in order to deceive and to convince naïve minds. Because so many people regularly watch TV, and especially believe what they see on TV news (or on the internet), they are able to deceive people by the thousands or by the millions, or even greater. TV, especially, can be very hypnotic, and thus is one of Satan’s avenues for tricking people into accepting lies as truth, and truth as lies. So, we need to be very discerning. As followers of Jesus, we need to be wise, and not so trusting of humans, but we should take everything to the Lord in prayer, because not everything that appears to be real is real. So many things can be faked now days.

Basically, these enemies are out to destroy us either through trickery, deception, manipulation, setting traps for us to fall into, or via outright persecution, abuse, false accusations, imprisonment or through death. Their goal is to stop the spreading of the gospel as was taught by Jesus and by his NT apostles. If they can’t stop us one way, they will try another until something works, or until they kill us.

Yet, we have no reason to fear any of them, because we know that our Lord is completely sovereign (in control) over all he has made, and over every power known to man. They may try to take advantage of us, but we don’t let them, and, instead, we turn to our Lord for help, for counsel, for wisdom and for discernment to know truth from error, and to know how to respond to the enemy’s attempts to take us down. We must rely on the Lord for our strength, and, if need be, we must stand alone against the mass of voices which may try to convince us to retreat. We have to stand on truth even if all forsake us and betray us, for the Lord is our light and salvation, not man.

Seek His Face (vv. 7-10)

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.

When our enemies come against us, which they will, instead of responding with our flesh, we need to seek God’s face. We need to cry out to God in our suffering, trusting him to give us all we need to endure and to keep pressing on. Yet, there will be times when we may not get an immediate reply to our cries for help, and we may even feel as though God is absent from us, but those are lies of the enemy to try to make us afraid. We must know that our God will never abandon us. He will never leave us or forsake us, so we should not fear those times when it feels like he is not near us, but we must persevere in what we know, and keep seeking his face. Then, we must trust him, rest in him, believe him, hold on to HIM, and not give up. Although others will forsake us and betray us, our Lord will take us under his wings.

A Level Path (vv. 11-14)

Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

So, how to respond to the enemy’s attacks against us? Instead of being afraid, we turn to the Lord, and we ask him to teach us his ways and to lead us on a level path. A level path is upright, honest, pure, and unadulterated by the world. Instead of yielding to these voices, which try to talk us into compromising our faith, we set our faces like flint, and we determine to keep on walking in the Spirit in following our Lord in his service, despite all opposition waged against us. We cannot let false accusations, tricks, traps or persecutions break us, but instead we must commit our lives to our Lord, pray to him for help, and trust him to work in and through our lives.

And, we must continue to hold on to the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus, keeping our eyes focused on Jesus and on the goal that is set before us, which is to live holy lives, pleasing to God, and which is to be the Lord’s servants and witnesses in ministering his grace and his love to all people. And, when things get tough, which they will, we must wait for God to move on our behalf, be strong in the Lord, take courage, and wait on the Lord.

Draw Me Close To You / Donnie McClurkin

Draw me close to You
Never let me go
I lay it all down again…

You’re all I want
You’re all I’ve ever needed…
Help me know You are near

A Sincere Heart

Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 8:31 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “The Old Rugged Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 7-10 (quoting 10:19-31, 35-39 NASB).

With Full Assurance (vv. 19-25)

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

When Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, the veil that hung between us and God’s Holy presence, in the temple, was torn in two. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, he opened the way for us to be restored to fellowship with God and to enter into his presence. Through God-given faith in Jesus Christ, via new birth of the Spirit, we are now his temple, and he lives within us in the person of his Holy Spirit. The Holy of Holies now dwells within our hearts, so we can enter into God’s presence at any time, day or night. And, we are encouraged to do so with sincere (cleansed) hearts, and with full assurance of faith, not to be taken lightly or regarded casually.

The purpose for which Jesus died on the cross for our sins is multi-faceted. When he died, he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). He, thus, took our punishment on himself so that we might no longer be condemned to death, but that we might be alive in him, living to his righteousness. In other words, Jesus didn’t die just to free us from condemnation (eternal punishment in hell), but he came to give us life, and to give it more abundantly (Jn. 10:10). He didn’t die just so we could go to heaven when we leave this earth, but he died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness now, while still on the earth (1 Pet. 2:24). He, also, didn’t die just to forgive us of our sins, but he died to deliver us out of slavery to (the control of) sin that we might become bondservants (slaves) of Christ and of his righteousness and holiness.

Since Jesus Christ did all this for us, so that we could walk in freedom from sin and have our fellowship restored with God, we should hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering. We should not take God or his grace for granted, thinking that his grace gives freedom to continue in sin without guilt or remorse. Nor should we be lazy and slothful in our Christian walks, thinking God is satisfied by church attendance once a week or by a 5-minute devotion once a day. In view of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we should give our lives to God fully as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is our reasonable and acceptable worship of God, no longer conformed to the ways of this sinful world, but transformed of the Spirit of God in the renewing of our minds away from sin and to God and his Word.

Not only should we be walking the talk, and not just talking the walk, but we should actively be involved in encouraging, stimulating and spurring our brothers and sisters in Christ on to love and good deeds in Christ Jesus. In other words, we should care whether or not a brother or sister has fallen into sin or is living as though he or she has not been cleansed of sin. We should be concerned when our fellow believers are living just like the world and seem to be much less interested in matters of the heart (of the Spirit). And, we should be troubled in our spirits when we see professing Christians living ungodly lives, focused on entertaining and being entertained, with little to no regard for the holiness of God and walking in the fear of the Lord.

So, we need to gather together with other believers in Christ for the purpose to encourage them in their walks of faith, which may include strong encouragement, at times. Our gathering together, though, does not have to be on a Sunday morning in a building called a church. So many people have come to believe that a building or an organization or a corporation of men is the church and it is a place where we go on Sundays, and if we don’t go, then we are forsaking the assembling of ourselves, but that isn’t true. The church is the body of Christ, the believers in Christ. In the early church they met daily from house to house and in the temple courts. So, it doesn’t matter where you meet or on what day you meet, but what matters is that you meet with other Christians for mutual encouragement.

The Living God (vv. 26-31)

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

So many people today are preaching a false grace gospel absent of genuine repentance and God-given faith in Jesus Christ, which divinely persuades human hearts as to the will of God for our lives. They are teaching that all we have to do is repeat some words after someone in a prayer, or just believe Jesus died to take our punishment for sin and then say out loud, “Jesus is Lord,” and then we are saved and headed to heaven. They forget that even the demons believe and they shudder. What a mockery this makes of his death on a cross for our sins, in which he died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us; and that he might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Tit. 2:14).

If we claim to believe in Jesus Christ, but we continue living sinful lifestyles, then the Bible teaches we do not have the promise of heaven, but we will die in our sins. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self and take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them (die in our sins). But, if we lose our lives (are crucified with Christ in death to sin), we will gain eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-25). Paul said the same thing when he said if we walk (conduct our lives) according to our sinful flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will have eternal life (Ro. 8:1-14). And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin, wickedness), we are liars (1 Jn. 1:6).

I see two ways in which this passage in Hebrews can be applied here. One is what I just talked about above, and it has to do primarily with those who profess Christ but who have never been born of the Spirit of God, because they never died with Christ to sin and so they were not resurrected with Christ to newness of life in Him. Yet, there is another aspect to this, which Hebrews brings out loud and clear, and that is that our salvation is progressive, and our faith, which is seen in our repentance, obedience and submission to Christ and to his cross, must continue till the end if we want to have the assurance of heaven when we die (See also: Jn. 8:31-32; Ro. 11:17-24; I Co. 15:2; Col. 1:21-23; II Tim. 2:10-13; Heb. 3:6, 14-15; I Jn. 2:24-25).

If we believe in Jesus Christ, but afterwards we deliberately keep on sinning (in our daily conduct, in lifestyle) then we don’t have the promise of eternal life with God, but only a fearful expectation of judgment. For, we read, “The Lord will judge his people” (v. 30). So, please take God seriously!

Don’t Shrink Back (vv. 35-39)

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

The Old Rugged Cross / George Bennard

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

Our High Priest

Monday, February 13, 2017, 10:15 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “In Faithfulness He Leads Me.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 4:14-5:9 (Select vv. NASB).

He Sympathizes with Us (4:14-16)

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

In the Old Testament times, and up until Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave his life up for us on a cross, so we could be delivered from slavery to sin, the people of God had to rely on a human high priest to offer a sin offering for their sins, as well as for his own sins, once a year. He alone was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place behind the curtain (veil) to stand before God to make atonement for the sins of the people.

Yet, when God the Father sent his Son (God the Son) to the earth to take on human form, to suffer as we suffer, and to be tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin, he sent him here to be the sacrificial Lamb for our sins, i.e. he became our sin offering, once for all. Yet, not only was he our sin offering, once for all time, but he was/is also our high priest who gave the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus Christ made the atonement for our sins so that we can be delivered out of slavery to sin, and so we can become bondservants of Christ and of his righteousness.

It was important for us that Jesus took on human flesh so that when he walked this earth he was fully God yet fully man. As man, he suffered and he was tempted to sin, and he felt what it was like to be weak, in his body, although he never sinned. Because of this he is able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses, i.e. he knows what it is like to suffer physically and emotionally, and he knows what it is like to be seriously tempted to sin. He knows, too, what it is like to be hated, rejected, abused, misused and persecuted because he stood for truth and for righteousness.

Thus, he feels what we feel, and he is compassionate towards us. This does not mean that he gives us a free pass to continue sinning, though. He hates sin because of what sin does to us and to our relationship with him, and that is why he died, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.

When Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, he became sin for us so that when he died our sins died with him. They were buried with him, too. And, when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death on our behalf. When he died, too, the veil that stood between us and God was torn in two, thus making the way for us who believe in Jesus Christ to come directly into the presence of God. We can come to God in prayer with all our concerns, with all our sorrows, and with all our questions, and he is there to comfort, encourage, exhort, counsel and direct us in the way that we should go. He feels our pain, and he cares.

Because of all that Jesus went through for us, in becoming human, and in suffering like we do, then in dying for our sins, we can be encouraged to hold fast to our confession of faith. There isn’t anything we are going through that is too hard for him, or that he doesn’t understand or feel with great compassion and concern. He is completely sovereign and in control over all that he has made. When we are weak, he is strong. He will give us all we need to endure, to persevere, and to keep doing what he has called us to do, even when all looks hopeless, and when our human strength fails us.

He Learned Obedience (5:7-9)

In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.

Isn’t this interesting? Jesus Christ, God the Son, God incarnate, in his flesh struggled with the thought of what he would have to go through in order to be the sacrificial Lamb for our sins so that we could be set free from the control of sin over our lives, and walk in his righteousness. And, he cried out to God the Father, who could have saved him from it all. He said, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). And, this says that he was heard because of his piety, or because of his reverent submission.

So, what do I find interesting about this? It is that this says God heard him because of his reverent submission, and yet God did not save him from having to die on the cross for our sins. I think oftentimes when we are going through difficult times, and we pray, and we make requests to God with crying (tears), we feel that if God hears us that he will surely deliver us. But, he doesn’t always. Sometimes his answer back to us is “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in your weakness.” Wow!

The other part that I find interesting about this is that Jesus Christ, God the Son, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – learned submission (obedience) from the things which he suffered. As man, he had to learn obedience. And, he learned it from the things which he suffered. And, God causes or allows us to suffer, too, because through suffering we learn to rely on him and not on ourselves. We grow in our faith and in our maturity in Christ. Through suffering we are being conformed into the image of Christ and we are being pruned and purified and made holy. So many times we try to avoid suffering, when in reality suffering is for our good, to make us more like Jesus.

Having been perfected through suffering, Jesus Christ then became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation. So, what does it mean when it says “to all who obey him”? Is this teaching works-based salvation? No! When we truly understand what it means to believe in Jesus Christ we understand that genuine faith, which is God-given, is divinely persuaded as to God’s will for our lives. In other words, faith in Jesus Christ is not something we muster up on our own. It is given to us by God because it is spiritual in nature, rather than from our flesh. Because it is of the Spirit, it submits to Jesus’ purpose in dying for us, i.e. that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. Repentance and obedience are both aspects of this kind of faith. And, it is what Jesus and his NT apostles taught, too.

Jesus didn’t die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died to transform us away from living to sin, and to turn us to God, to live to his righteousness. When we believe in Jesus with God-given faith, 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” (Eph. 4:24; cf. Ro. 6:1-23). Jesus died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us (2 Co. 5:15). He died, too, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, for if we walk according to the flesh we will die in our sins (See: Ro. 8:1-14).

So, if someone is telling you that you don’t have to repent of your sins, and that you don’t have to obey Christ, not only are they lying to you, and giving you a false hope, they are totally missing the reason for which Jesus died and what our salvation is really all about. Jesus died that we might be delivered out of slavery to sin so that we might become bondservants of him and of his righteousness. This is what it means to be “born again” of the Spirit of God. Where we once lived to please our flesh, and to do what we want, now we want to please God and to walk in his ways and in his truth, not to earn our salvation, but because Jesus truly set us free!

In Faithfulness He Leads Me

An Original Work / March 20, 2013 / Based off Various Scriptures
(Ps. 26:3; 86:11; 91:4-5; 111:7-8; 119:73-76; Is. 25:1,4&9; 42:6-7; Hos. 2:16-20)

Teach me Your ways, Lord, and I’ll walk in them.
Give me a pure heart. I’ll fear Your name.
Your love is always, ever before me.
Continually I’ll walk in Your truth.
You will cover me with feathers.
Under Your wings I’ll find refuge.
My Lord’s faithfulness will be my
Comfort and my shield.
The works of His hands are faithful and just.
Trustworthy are all of His precepts.

Your hands have made me, and they have formed me.
Give understanding of Your commands.
I have put my hope, O Lord, in Your word.
Your teachings, O Lord, are righteousness.
Lord, in faithfulness You have
Afflicted me so I may learn of
Your unfailing love and comfort
And Your truthfulness.
You are my husband; You have betrothed me
In love, compassion and faithfulness.

O Lord, You are my God, I’ll exalt You.
In faithfulness You’ve done wondrous things.
You’ve been a refuge for those who’re needy;
A shelter in storms; shade from the heat.
This is the Lord, we trusted in Him,
Let us be glad and rejoice
In His salvation which He
Provided through the Lamb.
Open the blind eyes; free all the captives.
Tell them of Jesus: “Be born again!”