Instructions for Life

Monday, September 25, 2017, 4:58 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Near the Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 John 2 (Select vv. ESV).

To Know Him (vv. 1-6)

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

It is God’s will that we not sin, which is why Jesus died on the cross for our sins, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. So, when we believe in Jesus Christ, we are set free from slavery (addiction) to sin so that we can now become bond-servants of his righteousness. Now we no longer walk (in lifestyle) according to our sinful flesh, but we now walk (conduct our lives) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God, and in the power and strength of God’s Spirit now living within us (Ro. 8:1-17).

Yet, this is not to say that we will never sin again. We probably will, at one time or another. But, sin should no longer be our practice, for Satan no longer has a hold on our lives, for Jesus set us free from his control. But, if we do sin, this also does NOT mean that we are now back under condemnation, for Jesus provided the way for us to come out from under that condemnation via his blood shed on the cross for our sins. So, if we do sin, we repent of our sin, and we continue to walk in Christ’s holiness. God will give us all we need to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to him.

Yet, if we continue walking in sin, and we make sin our practice, and we don’t practice obedience, holiness, godliness and righteousness, then we don’t know God, and we don’t have the hope of eternal life with God, even if we prayed the sinner’s prayer and felt as though we received Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives. True faith in Jesus Christ means death to sin and living to God (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Jn. 1:5-9).

Love and Hate (vv. 7-11)

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Not only do we NOT have the hope of eternal life if we practice sinning and if we don’t walk in obedience to Christ’s commands, but we are still in darkness and without Christ if we profess to be in the light but we are actively hating our fellow humans or our fellow Christians. So, what is hate? Hate is the opposite of love. And, Christian love prefers what God prefers, it embraces God’s will, and it makes a practice of obeying God’s commands. Love, too, does no harm to its neighbors, but it is kind, thoughtful, forgiving, and giving of oneself to others’ needs. Hate is hostile, unforgiving, unkind, slanderous, harmful or wishing harm, backstabbing, and the like. It is especially egregious for a Christian to actively hate another Christian.

Don’t Love the World (vv. 15-17)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

The world we are NOT to love is NOT the people of the world, for God so loved the world that he gave his One and Only Begotten Son to die on a cross for our sins, so that whoever is believing in him might have eternal life with God. The world we are NOT to love IS the world of sin, worldliness, wickedness, immorality, lust, hatred, violence, envy, and adultery, etc. We are not to love it, embrace it, agree with it, join in with it, become partakers of it, prefer it above all else, worship it, idolize it or be entertained by it. Our hearts, passion, desire, time, energies, thoughts and values should not be focused on what is worldly, fleshly and temporal, but they should be centered on God, His Word and his values, and on what has eternal value.

So, why do so many Christians (or professing Christians) spend so much of their waking hours, money, energies, passion and conversations on what is going to pass away, and on what has multiple elements of immorality, impurity and idolatry in the mix? Why is it that it appears so few professing Christians here in America make Christ, his Word, his morals, his thinking and his values the primary focus of their daily lives, 24/7? Why the discrepancy between their confession of faith in Christ and the reality of Christ being lived out in their daily lives? And, why is this considered the norm? And, if someone does truly follow Christ wholeheartedly, why are they are considered weird and abnormal? Something is wrong with this picture.

Do we not know that if we embrace the world of sin, make it our practice, idolize it, and give it our affections, passion, desire, minds and hearts, that we don’t have the love of the Father within us? And, do we not know that those who practice following God, and doing his will, are the ones who will abide with him forever? This world is not our home. We are just passing through. None of the things of this world should we idolize and make our gods, for they are not God, who is the ONLY one to whom we should give such adoration, value, esteem, respect, honor, praise, loyalty and devotion. We need to die to sin, self and to the world of sin and the things of this world, and we need to live for God, his gospel, his Word, his holiness and his righteousness, giving him our passion, desire, affections and obedience.

Near the Cross
Fanny J. Crosby / William H. Doane

Jesus, keep me near the cross;
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o’er me.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever,
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

 

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Fame and Treasure

Monday, September 18, 2017, 8:08 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read varied scriptures on the topic of taking up our cross.

Treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21, 24)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

The Lord Jesus has been impressing on my heart for a while now the thought of a time that is coming in America, in particular, when we are going to have a financial crash of some kind, but at the hand of thieves who come to steal, kill and destroy, but from within our own nation, not from without. Yet, economics is not my strong suit, so I don’t comprehend it all. But, I do know that the “beast” is going to bring the world to the point where we can’t buy or sell unless we have its mark, so just from what the Word alone teaches, we know this is inevitable. We already know that our dollar is not worth anything, i.e. it an I.O.U., so America could go bankrupt, and at the hands of our own government, in agreement with their political allies in the world of banking and industry, i.e. the wealthy and powerful of the world.

So, our focus needs to be on our Lord God and on his kingdom and not on the things (possessions, wealth) of this world, because it could all go away in a flash. Yet, even if it didn’t, still we are not to focus our time, attention, value, passion and devotion on things that are bound to go away. But, we are to store up treasures in heaven. Our time, resources, talents, passion and affection should go to ministering to people’s needs and to sharing with them the gospel of our salvation instead of living for self-pleasure, fun, entertainment, and storing up “stuff” that is just going to rot one day anyway. We need to hold lightly the things of this world, and not make them our gods, and be ready to respond with grace when the time comes when our human resources all disappear. And, we must be about living for God and using what resources he has given us for his kingdom and for his glory.

A Person’s Enemies (Matthew 10:34-39)

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

There is much talk these days both about “unity” and “peace.” But, what kind of unity, and what kind of peace is the question, even within the gatherings of the church. Much of it is unity with humankind and humanistic philosophy, values, morals, marketing schemes, attitudes and behaviors, and NOT unity with God/Christ and His Word. Much of it is also peace with other humans, but at the cost of compromise of truth, faith and conviction. So, we need to know the difference so that we don’t fall for a lie thinking we are actually following the truth. For many liars and deceivers exist even within the gatherings of the church who are leading God’s people astray.

Many of these liars and deceivers also mischaracterize Jesus, his mission, and his ministry on the earth, and in order to support their manipulations of truth. They do this to gain disciples after themselves, not after Jesus Christ. So, they paint Jesus as this “do-gooder” who went around making everyone feel good about themselves and who never made waves or made anyone uncomfortable or who never offended anyone with his words or actions. And, thus they promote that, to be like Christ, that is how we should also act.

But, Jesus didn’t come here to make everyone feel good or to be accepting of all religions and sinful addictions or immoral lifestyles. He came here to deliver us out of addiction (slavery) to sin and to free us to now come under the control of his righteousness, for this is why he died. What he taught stepped on a lot of toes, and made people very uncomfortable and even angry, and that is what got him killed. So, if we follow the Jesus of the Bible, and not the man-made version, we can expect to be hated and persecuted, not have everyone like us. Even people of our own faith, in our own cities, and in our own families are likely to turn against us and to reject us when we stand on what is truth and we reject the lies of Satan, so be prepared that if you truly follow Christ with your life, that it could cost you your life.

Losing and Saving (Luke 9:23-26)

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

So many people today are teaching a false grace do-nothing “entitlement” gospel message which has Jesus doing everything for us but with us being required nothing in return. But, that is just not biblical. Jesus said we have to deny self and die daily to sin if we want to be his disciples. Paul said the same when he said that if we walk (conduct our lives) after the flesh, we will die in our sins, but if we walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit, we will live with Christ for eternity. The Bible does not teach that nothing is required of us. It teaches the opposite, for if we profess faith in Christ, but we continue living sinful lifestyles, in addictive sinful behavior, we do not have the hope of heaven when we die, but a fearful expectation of judgment. If we want to be Jesus’ disciples, we have to walk in obedience to him and to his Word.

For Our Good (Hebrews 12:7-11)

“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with him in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. God’s grace to us is not a free license to continue in willful sin against God. 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. Yet, we still live in these flesh bodies, and we still have the propensity to sin against God, so God disciplines us for our good that we may share his holiness, and that it might yield a harvest of righteousness in the lives of those of us who have been trained by it.

What this discipline looks like, though, could vary depending upon the individual or depending on what God needs to do in an individual’s life to mature him or her in his or her faith and to conform them to his likeness. Yet, what we do know is that God’s Word says we will go through hardships, trials, persecutions and troubles, and that through these we will learn perseverance, patience, compassion and to rely on God and not on ourselves, among other things. So, such trials are for our good, and we should not fear them when they do come, but we should trust in God’s sovereignty over our lives, submit to his perfect will, and go with him wherever he sends us, for he has a plan and a purpose for it all.

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

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

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

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

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

Haste then on from grace to glory, armed by faith, and winged by prayer,
Heav’n’s eternal day’s before thee, God’s own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission, swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;
Hope soon change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

Like Christ

Saturday, July 15, 2017, 8:41 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 several scriptures (ESV) on the subject of Christ-likeness.

Image of Christ (Ro. 8:29; 2 Co. 3:18 NASB)

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”

The goal of our faith in Jesus Christ is not merely to be free from the penalty of sin (eternal damnation), and to have the promise of eternal life with God in heaven. God’s purpose in saving us is that we might be conformed to (to be consistent with) the image (likeness, pattern, character) of Jesus Christ. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, 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. In fact, 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 Christ’s return.

So, what does this look like? What was/is Jesus Christ like? Well, he is God, and he is perfect (sinless), and he is holy and righteous and just. He is also kind, compassionate, loving and forgiving. He is also unselfish, and giving of himself to us to meet our legitimate needs. He doesn’t always give us what we want, but he provides for our needs. Yet, his kindness and compassion is based in his justice, in his righteousness, and in his love for us. In other words, if we are Christ-like, we won’t placate (appease) sin in ourselves or in others, and we won’t lie to others just to make them feel good about themselves while they are engrossed in their sinful practices. But, we will be honest with ourselves and we will speak the truth in love to others, too.

Also, we will walk (conduct our lives) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God, and not walk after the flesh, to please our sinful passions. God, who saved us and who called us to a holy calling, is in the process of transforming us, who have died with Christ to sin, into the image of Christ. Some people refer to this as the process of sanctification. Yet, our salvation is also a process, for we are saved (past), we are being saved (present), and we will be saved when Christ returns (future), and our salvation is complete.

Like Him in Death (Phil. 2:5-8; Phil. 3:10)

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

“That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

When Jesus walked the earth, he told those who would come after him that they must deny themselves, take up their cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said that if they held on to their old lives (of living for sin and self), they would lose their lives. But, if they would lose their lives (die with Christ to sin), they would gain eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-25). And, the Apostle Paul reiterated Jesus’ words when he said that if we walk (in lifestyle) according to the flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we would live (with Christ for eternity) (See: Ro. 8:1-14; cf. Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).

So, becoming Christ-like means that we are becoming humble, unselfish, obedient to Christ and his Word, and that by the Spirit we are putting the deeds of our flesh to death, so that sin does no longer reign in our bodies. It means that “I” am crucified (put to death) with Christ so that “I” no longer live, but that Christ lives in me to his glory and for his purposes. And, now I live by faith in Jesus Christ, meaning I now allow Christ to rule and reign supreme in my life, instead of me still having control over what I do or don’t do. I listen to his Word, I do what it says, and I follow Christ with my life. Yet, this is not saying we will never sin (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but that we should no longer walk in darkness (sin), but we should walk (conduct our lives) in the light (righteousness, truth, the gospel, Jesus Christ).

Imitators of Christ (1 Thess. 1:6-7; 1 Pet. 4:1-3)

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”

“Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.”

We are to be imitators of Christ, not in the sense of a performance or a mockery of someone, but in the sense of following him, being his disciples, doing the things he did, saying the things he said, and taking on his character, morals, values and attitudes and actions, making them our own. When we do this, people will think us strange, out of touch with reality, crazy, or hyper-religious, because this is not the norm, not even among those who also claim to be followers of Christ, at least not in America.

Some of them will say we are too serious, and we need to lighten up, or we need to chill (relax) and enjoy life the way they do. They may think it odd that we do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they may heap abuse on us (1 Pet. 4:4). Yet, we are not to fear what others think of us.

As imitators of Christ, we should arm ourselves with the same attitude Christ had about sin. He gave his life up for us so that we could go free from slavery to sin, and so we would be free to walk in his righteousness. And, we should lay down our lives by dying with him to sin so that we might live with Christ to his righteousness and holiness. We should no longer live to fulfill the desires of our flesh, but we should live to please God with our lives, and to do his will. Sensuality, adultery, fornication, lust, gossip, gluttony, lying, cheating, stealing, idolatry, perjury, and deceit, etc., should have no place in our lives. We should not think and act like the world. And, we should be set apart (unlike, different) from the world, because we are becoming like Jesus.

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.

Save It, or Lose It?

Friday, June 16, 2017, 5:55 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 9 (Select vv. NASB).

Take Up Your Cross (vv. 22-25)

Jesus said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?”

Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God (and God) was rejected by the elders, the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees. They hated him, and they were jealous of him, and they were threatened by his popularity among the people, for they feared losing their own positions of power and control.

So, they harassed him at every turn, continuously questioned his authority and his actions, and made numerous attempts to try to discredit him. They didn’t like it that he didn’t follow all their ceremonial laws and customs, which were handed down to them by the elders. They despised the fact that he healed people on the Sabbath. They resented his accusations against some of them, that they were hypocrites who tried to look good on the outside while inside they were full of wickedness. And, they definitely hated him when he intimated that he was equal with God. So, eventually they killed him by having him crucified on a cross, as though he was a criminal.

Yet, it was God’s will that Jesus should die, because in his death he put our sins to death, and in his resurrection, he conquered sin and the grave, that we might live. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. And, Jesus told his followers that they, too, would be hated, rejected, persecuted and even killed for their faith in him, and for their testimonies of God’s saving grace, and for the sake of the gospel of our salvation. In fact, coming to faith in Jesus Christ means that we are crucified with him in death to sin, and that we are resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).

“Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (Ro. 6:6-7).

So, if we want to believe in Jesus to be Lord and Savior of our lives, so that we might have eternal life with him, and so that he might save us from our sins, then we must die with him to our old lives of living for sin and self (daily). Paul said that if we walk (conduct our lives) according to our flesh, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity (See: Ro. 8:1-14). And, Jesus said that if we want to save our lives, i.e. if we want to hold on to our old lives, we will lose them for eternity. But, if we lose our lives for His sake, i.e. if we die with Christ to sin, we will save our lives, i.e. we will have eternal life with God.

So many people today are telling people that faith in Jesus Christ requires nothing of them – no repentance, no obedience and no submission to Christ and to his cross, but they are lying to you, and their lies will send you straight to hell if you believe them. Believing in Jesus is not just some intellectual assent to who Jesus is (or was) or some emotional decision we make because we don’t want to end up in hell, or because we want to have heaven guaranteed to us when we leave this earth. Faith in Jesus is not just some mere acceptance of his forgiveness of our sins, either, while we continue living for sin and self. John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we are liars. He also said that if we say we know God, but we don’t obey him, we are liars.

Basically, if we think salvation and eternal life means we do nothing, then we have it all wrong. Yes, we are saved by God’s grace, through faith – and not of ourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. But, we are saved TO good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (See: Eph. 2:8-10). Jesus gave his life up for us that we might become the righteousness of God. 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. 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 (2 Co. 5:15, 21; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Pet. 2:24).

God’s grace is not a free license to continue in willful sin against God. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s soon return (Tit. 2:11-14). If we continue in sinful lifestyles, in practicing what our flesh desires, we will die in our sins. Count on it!

Don’t Be Ashamed (v. 26)

“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Part of our death to sin and self, and living to Christ and to his righteousness, means we consider the will of God for our lives above and in place of our own selfish will and desires. Instead of living our lives so that others will like us and think we are wonderful, we live our lives for God and for his purposes, and for his glory. We realize that “Lord” is not just a title given to Jesus, but it means he is now owner-master of our lives, and that we are his bond-servants, here to do his will. We also realize that the earth is not our home, but heaven is, and so we are not here to build earthly kingdoms, but we are here to advance God’s heavenly kingdom. Jesus did not put us on this earth, in other words, for us to live selfish lives for our own pleasure. We are not here to entertain or to be entertained continuously. We are here on this earth to serve God, and to live holy lives pleasing to him, and to tell others about him.

Too many people these days are describing “the gospel” as though it means nothing more than being “good deed doers,” which gets us liked by people, not hated. But, anyone can be a good deed doer. Now, good deeds are certainly a part of what we do, as followers of Christ, but they are what God has called us to do, and they are the deeds he prepared in advance for us to do, which includes sharing his gospel message of death to sin and living to righteousness. And, yes, that means we will be rejected and hated by some when we tell others about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. But, if we are ashamed of Jesus and his gospel in this life, he will be ashamed of us when he comes again one day.

Don’t Look Back (vv. 57-62)

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Yes, our salvation is a free gift, and we do nothing to earn or to deserve it, but that gift, if understood correctly, is NOT just an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die. Jesus didn’t die that horrible death on a cross, and take upon himself the sins of the entire world, just so we could be forgiven our sins and have the hope of heaven when we die. Salvation is not mere forgiveness of sins, but it is DELIVERANCE from BONDAGE to sin. It is death to sin and living to righteousness. It is death to self, and it is living to God and doing what pleases him. We are born again of the Spirit of God, created to be like God IN TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HOLINESS. And, holiness means to be separate (set apart, unlike, different) from the world, because we are becoming LIKE CHRIST.

Jesus made it clear that following him is no picnic. It isn’t about us and our comfort and enjoyment (pleasure). It isn’t about what we want to do, or what we think will please God, but it is total surrender to God and to his will and to his purposes for our lives. It is going where he sends us, saying what he wants us to say, doing what he says, and being who he has called us to be. It means leaving homes, families, friends, and worldly comforts in order to go with God to the regions beyond with the gospel of our salvation. If we want to be Jesus’ followers, it means total abandonment to God, i.e. we must forsake all to follow him, and we must yield ourselves fully to his will and to his ways. We can’t hold on to our old lives and follow Jesus, too. We have to let go, and let God have his sway in our lives. And, then we will be fit for the kingdom of God (See also: John 6:35-66; 10:27-30).

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.

He Only

Tuesday, June 6, 2017, 10:19 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Much Too High a Price.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 62 (quoting vv. 1-8 NASB).

My Soul Waits (vv. 1-2)

My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Do you have trusted friends? Have they ever betrayed you? Turned against you? Even those of your own household, who are supposed to love and protect you, have they ever abandoned you? How about your pastors, elders, deacons, trustees and Bible teachers? Have they ever deserted you in time of need? Did you plead for help, and they didn’t come through? Did they leave you to the wolves to be devoured? Sisters and brothers in the Lord, have they ever betrayed a confidence? Gossiped about you, or made unkind and uncalled for remarks about your character? And, your country’s leaders, have they ever lied to you? Deceived you? Manipulated and used you, and preyed on your naivety and trusting nature?

So, why do these things happen? Well, for one, because we are all born with sin natures. All of us have sinned and have come up short of attaining God’s divine approval (Ro. 3:23). Satan tempts people to sin, as well as people are tempted (lured) by their own sinful passions and desires. Some people love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil, so they won’t come into the light, lest their wicked deeds be exposed. Although they have knowledge of God, for God made plain to them what may be known about himself, they don’t praise, thank or honor him, but instead they follow after their own sinful passions, and they do what ought not to be done (Rom. 1).

Yet, there is encouragement for the one who puts his or her faith and trust in God alone, and who waits patiently for God to intervene on their behalf. Tis true that humans will lie to us and about us, betray us, abandon us, use us, gossip about us to others, make nasty and cutting remarks to us, hand us over to the wolves, ignore our cries for help, and turn against us, etc. But, our God will do none of these! Even if our mother or father should forsake us, our God will never leave or forsake those who are his own. He will not falter. He will not change. We can depend on him fully. He is our stronghold, who helps us to endure, to persevere and to stand strong in our faith and on his Word, even when many oppose us and his gospel message.

Inwardly They Curse (vv. 3-4)

How long will you assail a man,
That you may murder him, all of you,
Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?
They have counseled only to thrust him down from his high position;
They delight in falsehood;
They bless with their mouth,
But inwardly they curse. Selah.

We live in a day and time when there are those within the world, and even within the gatherings of the church, who are vehemently opposed to the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and they are doing whatever is within their means to do so to try to halt the spreading of the gospel. This includes murdering Christians worldwide, and covering their evil deeds by saying they are going after terrorists, when they are the terrorists hunting down Christ’s followers, in order to stop God’s grace from spreading and his gospel from advancing. Some of them are world leaders, bankers, CEOs of corporations, or they are leaders of our nations. Or, they might be our pastors or other leaders within organized religion. They have unified in an effort to stop the advancing of the kingdom of heaven, i.e. they are working for Satan. And, Satan hates Jesus Christ, his gospel and his true followers.

It isn’t as though they are entirely opposed to the name Jesus Christ, or to the institutional church, or to someone believing in Jesus with human faith. If they were, most Christians would not follow them. Remember, Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and his servants disguise themselves as apostles of Christ and as servants of righteousness. They seem, so far, to be ok with people calling themselves Christians or with saying they believe in Jesus, at least here in America. But, what they are opposed to is many of the teachings of Jesus and of his NT apostles, which teach, for one, that Jesus is the ONLY way to God and to heaven, and that there is no other way. They are also opposed to the preaching of the gospel as Jesus taught it, which confronts sin in sinful humans, warns of divine judgment, calls for repentance, and which promises hope and healing for the penitent.

What they want is for the whole world to unite as one mind and one voice and for everyone to remove from their lives whatever causes division among the people of the world. Well, the gospel divides people as saved and unsaved, as those going to heaven, and as those who are not, and as those walking in the light, and as those walking in darkness, who have no hope. So, that gospel has to go, they say, because it will not unite with all people of all religions and all walks of life. And, their goal is to have a one world totalitarian rule and a one world religion where we all tolerate one another’s beliefs and practices, which means we have to compromise our faith and convictions and the Word of God in order to unite with them. NO WAY!

They have convinced many professing Christians, or people searching out Christianity, to compromise with the world, to accept a diluted half-truth (false) gospel, to reject the truth, and to turn the church into a business, and/or a social club, and/or a community organization. They have convinced them, too, that all they have to do is acknowledge Jesus’ existence, and accept his forgiveness for their sins, and they now have heaven guaranteed when they leave this world, no matter how they live their lives from this point forward. And, if someone does tell them the truth, they have already been predisposed by these liars and deceivers to reject the truth and to hold on to the lies. And, many are buying into their lies, because it gives them solace when they do feel a twinge of guilt over continued and willful sin against God.

God, My Refuge (vv. 5-8)

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah.

Yet, Jesus Christ is our only hope, and our only source of salvation from sin. His Word is completely true and trustworthy, and on it we should take our stand, and not waver. When they try to convince us to compromise with the world of sin, to deny our Lord in any way, and to dilute the gospel to make it more acceptable to the worldly, we must take a strong stand and tell them “NO!” We won’t back down, we won’t give up, and we will not deny our Lord or his gospel. We will not unite with the world in this one world religion, which recognizes all religions as viable. We will define sin in the same way the New Testament in the Bible defines sin, i.e. as defined by God. And, we will continue to confront sinful practices, call for repentance, warn of judgment, and promise hope and healing to the one who repents of his sin.

But, we will not do this in our own strength, but in the strength of the Lord. We will trust in HIM at all times, and we will pour out our hearts to him and call on him for the strength to keep pressing on in the face of much opposition. And, we will believe him for changed hearts and lives.

Much Too High A Price / Jesus Paid It All
Phil McHugh and Greg Nelson

…You paid much too high a price for me, Your tears, Your blood, the pain –
To have my soul just stirred at times yet never truly changed.
You deserve a fiery love that won’t ignore your sacrifice
Because You paid much too high a price.

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

The Pride of the Nations will Fall

The Pride of the Nations Will Fall
Like a Stately Tree Fell at the White House

6/27/06

Yesterday morning I caught a glimpse of the news on TV in the morning while I was trying to wake my brain up in order to have my quiet time with God. Evidently a very large, stately tree near the White House toppled over during a storm. The tree had evidently been planted during Teddy Roosevelt’s term of office (100 years ago). Fox news reported that they did not understand what caused the tree to just topple over. I sensed God telling me that this was a sign of what was going to happen to our nation; our government. I also saw on the news during that short period of time yesterday morning how vast the wildfires are out west, killing over 100,000 acres of greenery. Then, I turned the news off, prayed and read the word (I read where I had last left off in my reading):

Zechariah 11:1-3:
“Open your doors, O Lebanon,
so that fire may devour your cedars!
Wail, O pine tree, for the cedar has fallen;
the stately trees are ruined!
Wail, oaks of Bashan;
the dense forest has been cut down!
Listen to the wail of the shepherds;
their rich pastures are destroyed!
Listen to the roar of the lions;
the lush thicket of the Jordan is ruined!”

I wanted to understand the meaning of these verses, so I researched it in two different commentaries:

1) “The pride of these two, the cedars of Lebanon and the oaks of Bashan, is to be destroyed… The two means of destruction of trees, fire and axe, are irresistible as God prepares the way for the return of his people… Even the lush thicket of the Jordan does not escape the terrifying arrival of the Lord in delivering judgment.”

2) “Some interpret this brief poem as a taunt song anticipating the lament that will be sung over the destruction of the nations’ power and arrogance, represented by the cedar, the pine and the oak. Their kings are represented by the shepherds and the lions… Now the scene is one of desolation for the land, followed by the threat of judgment and disaster for both land and people.”

It appeared to me as though what the Lord was showing me, represented by the huge tree that was toppled at the White House and the fires destroying thousands of acres of land out west, is the destruction of the pride and arrogance of our nation, soon to come.

Later on I read a news article on-line about Teddy Roosevelt. It was called:
Roosevelt’s legacy shapes U.S. of today
26th president’s activism changed role of government
http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/06/25/roosevelt.tm/

“He was the first president to urge wholeheartedly that the U.S. accept its role as a global power. The “imperial presidencies” that followed his, from Franklin Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson to George W. Bush, all owe something to his example.”

The tree that fell was planted during Teddy’s presidency, so I wondered if perhaps God was saying that this “global power” is what is going to topple and this “imperial presidency.” I also found an article that included a blip about the tree on Fox News on-line today:

“The tree that fell near President Bush’s front door was also historic — White House officials said it was at least 100 years old. Bureau of Printing and Engraving could not immediately confirm reports that it was one of the trees depicted on the back of the $20 bill.”

Hmmmmmm – that would be interesting, indeed! That would also indicate a falling of our economy, I think.

The second part of this prophecy, the first being against the nations, is against the shepherds (the rulers; the kings):

Zechariah 11:17:
“Woe to the worthless shepherd,
who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm and his right eye!
May his arm be completely withered,
his right eye totally blinded!”

Then, we have this, which sounds like it moves quickly from the crucifixion of Jesus to the judgments of God during the seven years of tribulation, as though 2000 years passes between verse 7 and verses 8-9:

Zechariah 13:7-9:
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,
against the man who is close to me!”
declares the LORD Almighty.
“Strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered,
and I will turn my hand against the little ones.

In the whole land,” declares the LORD,
“two-thirds will be struck down and perish;
yet one-third will be left in it.

This third I will bring into the fire;
I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold.
They will call on my name
and I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are my people,’
and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’”

I believe God was showing me that our nation, our government, our economy, and our leaders are about to fall, just like that tree, and that our people and land will be destroyed just like those fires – “the threat of judgment and disaster for both land and people.” And, all this is going to happen because of the pride and the power and arrogance of our nation and its leaders. This is not the only reason for the judgment of God, but it is what the Lord is showing me right now.

It is Good for Me

Friday, November 4, 2016, 3:45 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 119:65-72 (ESV).

Knowledge and Good Judgment (vv. 65-66)

You have dealt well with your servant,
O Lord, according to your word.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
for I believe in your commandments.

No matter what we go through in this life, it is good for us to have the attitude of heart and mind that God has dealt well with us, according to his word. We are so undeserving of his riches of grace, which he has poured out on us whom he loves. It was while we were yet sinners that Christ Jesus died for us on a cross so that we could be set free from slavery to sin. He doesn’t owe us anything, but we owe him everything. We should be eternally grateful for all that he has done for us in saving us from our sins, and for giving us eternal life with God to be lived to his righteousness.

Because of what Jesus Christ did for us, in cleansing us of our sin, and for giving us new lives in Christ Jesus, our desire should be for him, to walk in his truth and in his ways. We should want him to teach us his knowledge and good judgment, that we may walk in them, not just so we can fill our heads with a bunch of Bible knowledge so we can show off how much we know, or so we can win debates (arguments). Head knowledge puffs up, but heart knowledge applies what is learned to our daily lives. And, that application of knowledge should result in good judgment, if we are putting into practice what we have learned.

I Went Astray (vv. 67-68)

Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep your word.
You are good and do good;
teach me your statutes.

God allows us to go through trials and tribulations, because they are for our good, to humble us, to teach us perseverance, and so we learn to rely on God and not on ourselves. God disciplines those he loves, so that we may share in his holiness. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (See: Heb. 12:3-11).

Some of this discipline is corrective, because we have gone astray in some area(s) of our lives, and we need to be brought back in line with God and with his Word. Other discipline is preventive, to keep us from going astray, and to train us in godliness and holiness. It builds within us godly character, and draws us closer to our Lord, with a deeper desire to follow him wherever he leads.

With My Whole Heart (vv. 69-70)

The insolent smear me with lies,
but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;
their heart is unfeeling like fat,
but I delight in your law.

I think that, when we go through hard times, it also builds within us much determination and steadfastness of spirit so that we are able to withstand persecution and opposition, and still remain strong in our faith and commitment to Christ and to his word. It has certainly done that in my life. I would not be where I am today, doing what I am doing, if God had not broken me, and allowed me to go through much suffering. Through suffering and strong opposition, he helped me to “set my face like flint” (Is. 50:7), i.e. to be resolute and diligent in my walk of faith with my Lord in keeping his word and in not going astray.

When I was much younger, and not so seasoned in life, I didn’t bear up well under unjust suffering. I would, for a time, but then I would break down, and would want to just retreat. Over time, though, I learned that we never gain anything positive by withdrawing, and that we should use these times, instead, to grow in our faith, and to become even more single-minded in our commitments to Christ, steadfast in our walks of faith, and strong-minded in our spiritual warfare against the enemy of our souls. Satan uses our trials as opportunities to try to break us, but God uses these times to make us and to mold us into the image of Christ, if we will but yield to him.

It is Good for Me (vv. 71-72)

It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I might learn your statutes.
The law of your mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Perspective is everything, isn’t it? What I mean is that, when we go through afflictions, poverty, trials, and tribulations, which test our faith, we gain “the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance” (M-W Dictionary). For instance, we just went through a trial with bed bugs, which lasted about a month. Praise Jesus, the bugs have been gone nearly 2 weeks now! It definitely changed my perspective regarding what is important, and what is not. And, it made me even more serious about God’s calling on my life and my time spent with him, and it helped me gain perspective as to what my priorities should be. So, I thank the Lord for the bed bugs, and what I learned through that experience, but I am so thankful they are gone!

In America we live in relative affluence. Not everyone in America is wealthy, mind you, but in relation to people in third world countries, I think even our poorest are rich by comparison. My husband and I live in relative comfort with regard to the things of this world. We have a nice roof over our heads, in an apartment complex, and we have food in our stomachs, clothes on our backs, and sufficient funds to meet our needs. We are not wanting for anything of the necessities of life. And, yet, that doesn’t make us happy. Those things don’t bring us joy and peace and comfort. They are all temporal. And, the bed bugs definitely put that into perspective for me!

Things do not save us. They do not love us. They do not comfort us in sorrow or give us hope of eternal life with God. We can be rich in the things of this life and still be lost for eternity, so what does that gain us? Nothing! So, sometimes we need to be afflicted so we learn what is really important, and what is not, so we gain the right perspective. The church in America could use some affliction for that very reason. Because of our affluence, and so many people having so much stuff, including so much to entertain them, I think it has caused many people in this nation to forget God or to push him aside in favor of “stuff” which will never satisfy. So, I think it would be good for us to be afflicted so that we might learn God’s statues, and so we might desire them far above the treasures of this world.

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross / Isaac Watts / Lowell Mason

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.