Above All Else

Friday, August 11, 2017, 5:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “As the Deer.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 101:1-5 (NASB).

I will sing of lovingkindness and justice,
To You, O Lord, I will sing praises.
I will give heed to the blameless way.
When will You come to me?
I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.
I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not fasten its grip on me.
A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will know no evil.
Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy;
No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.

His Lovingkindness

God so loved the world that he gave his One and Only Begotten Son to come into the world to die on a cross for our sins, so that anyone believing in him will not perish, but have eternal life. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the Light that came into the world in order to show the way to God, and to provide the way for us to be saved from our sins. But, many people love the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds are evil. So, they will not come to the Light lest their evil deeds will be exposed (See: John 3:16-20).

Yet, if we want to come to the Light, Jesus said that we must deny self, take up our cross daily (daily die to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with him to sin), we will gain eternal life. 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 will live with Christ for eternity, i.e. we will have eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14).

For, Jesus did not die on that cross merely to give us an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we leave this earth. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He who knew no sin became sin for us on that cross so that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus gave his life up for us that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for Him. When we trust in him as Lord and as Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. So, if we claim to have fellowship with God, but we walk (conduct our lives) in the darkness (sin), we are liars who don’t live by the truth (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 1 Co. 5:15, 21; Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Gal. 5:19-25).

The Blameless Way

The purpose in Jesus dying on that cross for our sins was not to just forgive us our sins, but to deliver us out of slavery to sin, and so that we might walk in (live to) his righteousness. And, his righteousness is what is approved in His eyes, i.e. what is deemed right by him, such as morality, purity, justice, decency, truth, integrity, uprightness, and holiness, etc. His grace to us is 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. So, if we continue in sin, i.e. if we make it our practice, we don’t have the hope of eternal life with God (See: Gal. 5:19-25; Eph. 5:3-6; Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; & 1 Jn. 1:5-9).

When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we die to sin. So, how can we continue in it? 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. So, we should consider ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin, thus, should no longer reign in our bodies so that we obey its lusts. Instead, we should present ourselves to God as instruments of his righteousness. Sin should no longer have mastery over us, because Jesus set us free from sin addiction. When we were enslaved to sin, though, we were free from the control of righteousness, but now that we have been set free from sin, we should have become slaves (bondservants) to righteousness, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life (See: Ro. 6:1-23).

So, our salvation from sin is something that is to be lived out in our lives day by day. God’s grace to us turns us from darkness (sin) to light (righteousness) and from the power of Satan to God, so that we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord (Acts 26:16-18). And, “Lord” means “master-owner,” for we were bought back for God with the price of Jesus’ blood shed on a cross for our sins. Thus, our lives are no longer our own to be lived however we want, but we are to honor God by all that we do, say, are and think. We are to walk in obedience to his commands. And, this is how we know that we love him, and that we are his very own.

Integrity of Heart

So, what does this all look like? It means we walk no longer according to our sinful flesh, but we now walk (in lifestyle) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God. We conduct our lives in truthfulness, sincerity of heart, purity, faithfulness, lovingkindness, morality, and obedience and loyalty to God. We don’t seek after, long after, or look to (or at) what is evil and contrary to God and to his Word. This means we don’t let our eyes watch TV shows, movies, magazines, books, videos or still pictures or images which reveal even partial nudity, appealing to sensual lusts, or which glorify or present physically before us what is immoral, wicked and evil. We should never allow ourselves to be entertained by what is evil and by what is in conflict with God’s Word and his Spirit now living within us.

We should hate evil, in fact, and we should grieve over those who are caught in sin’s deceitfulness, praying for their deliverance. We should have no part with what is evil so that it does not get a grip on our lives once again. So, we must be careful concerning our close associations and with regard to those with whom we partner so that we do not surround ourselves with those who will only bring us down spiritually and morally. There is no fellowship between light and darkness. So, we can’t have true fellowship with those who are walking in darkness and who are conducting their lives according to the flesh, and not according to the Spirit. Bad company corrupts good character, so choose your friends wisely.

Instead of longing after and running after and seeking after what is worldly, immoral, ungodly and contrary to the teachings of scripture, we should be those who seek after our Lord, and who run after him to follow him in his ways, and in his truth. We should hunger and thirst after righteousness, not after the things of this world. We should desire God with such passion that it would be like longing for water when one is parched and is thirsty. He alone should be our hearts’ desire. We should long to worship him in spirit and in truth by yielding our hearts, minds and souls over to him, to live holy lives, pleasing to him.

We should find our full satisfaction in this life in Him, and he should be the one to whom we go with our problems, our concerns and our requests. He is the one we should lean on, rely upon, and learn from. We should not trust in ourselves and in our own resources, thinking or reasoning. And, we should not follow other humans above God. Our full allegiance (commitment, loyalty, faithfulness) should be to him alone, and to no other gods should we give our worship, praise, adoration and devotion. Our Lord should be everything to us, and we should love and desire him above all else.

As the Deer / Martin J. Nystrom
Based off Psalm 42:1

As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after You
You alone are my heart’s desire…

You alone are my strength, my shield
To You alone may my spirit yield…

The Wicked Draw Near

Saturday, August 5, 2017, 4:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “It is Well with My Soul.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 119:129-152 (NASB).

Wonderful Testimonies (vv. 129-136)

Your testimonies are wonderful;
Therefore my soul observes them.
The unfolding of Your words gives light;
It gives understanding to the simple.
I opened my mouth wide and panted,
For I longed for Your commandments.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
After Your manner with those who love Your name.
Establish my footsteps in Your word,
And do not let any iniquity have dominion over me.
Redeem me from the oppression of man,
That I may keep Your precepts.
Make Your face shine upon Your servant,
And teach me Your statutes.
My eyes shed streams of water,
Because they do not keep Your law.

The Word of the Lord is awesome! It is my bread and butter, i.e. it is my livelihood, my means of support, but not financially or materially, but spiritually. From the Word of God, I learn about God and his will for my life. I learn his statutes, and to know what pleases him, and what he desires of me, his servant. I learn of his righteousness and holiness and how to walk in his love and in his grace. I discover his goodness to me, and his boundless mercies which overflow into my life. And, I am taught with regard to his strength, comfort, correction, instruction, and guidance which he provides for me to walk in his footsteps and to know his will and his ways.

I want to walk in the ways of the Lord and to not have any other gods in my life to which I give my devotion and praise. I don’t want to do what displeases my Lord, so I pray for his guidance to show me the way he has for me to go. I love him, and thus I want to serve him and to obey him. Since he delivered me from slavery to sin, and thus sin no longer has dominion over me, I pray that he will keep me from falling, and that I will continue to obey him in all things.

Other human beings will try to lead us astray. They will try to convince us to not be so serious about our walks of faith, and to lighten up and just have fun, as though “fun” is to be our goal in life. They may try to trip us up, too, in order to bring us down with them, because it bothers them that we walk closely with the Lord. So, they will even tempt us to sin against God. And, they will even try to “guilt trip” us into having a lesser commitment to Christ and to be more “normal” like everyone else. Yet, we must not give in to them for a moment, but we must continue to follow our Lord in his ways.

Small and Despised (vv. 137-144)

Righteous are You, O Lord,
And upright are Your judgments.
You have commanded Your testimonies in righteousness
And exceeding faithfulness.
My zeal has consumed me,
Because my adversaries have forgotten Your words.
Your word is very pure,
Therefore Your servant loves it.
I am small and despised,
Yet I do not forget Your precepts.
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness,
And Your law is truth.
Trouble and anguish have come upon me,
Yet Your commandments are my delight.
Your testimonies are righteous forever;
Give me understanding that I may live.

When we commit our lives to Jesus Christ (to God) to walk in his ways and to do what he says, other humans will mock us, reject us, despise us and will persecute us, too, even among those who also call themselves followers of Christ. And, that is because they have been taught and have been convinced that Christians are not to be too serious about God and that they are to immerse themselves in the culture of their societies in order to connect with the people of the world. Or, they have been taught, as well, that “love” does not tell people that Jesus Christ is the only way to God and to heaven, that it does not talk to people about their sin or about judgment, and it does not call people to repentance and obedience to Christ.

Yet, this should only serve to deepen our commitments to Christ and to increase our zeal for our Lord and for his gospel, when we see so many people being led astray from the truth to follow after lies, most especially within the gatherings of the church.

Revive Us, O Lord (vv. 145-152)

I cried with all my heart; answer me, O Lord!
I will observe Your statutes.
I cried to You; save me
And I shall keep Your testimonies.
I rise before dawn and cry for help;
I wait for Your words.
My eyes anticipate the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.
Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness;
Revive me, O Lord, according to Your ordinances.
Those who follow after wickedness draw near;
They are far from Your law.
You are near, O Lord,
And all Your commandments are truth.
Of old I have known from Your testimonies
That You have founded them forever.

The church of today, at least here in America, is in great need of revival. And, I believe it is coming. So many preachers and so many professing Christians are living far from God, and it is barely distinguishable between the church and the world anymore. Church congregations have been turned into big businesses and are marketed to the world just like any other business. Pastors are even being trained in who their target audience should be and who they should “get rid of” and should encourage to go someplace else where they will be a “better fit.” Many of them are being taught to lie and to deceive and to manipulate naïve minds to follow after humanistic teachings and philosophies, and many of them are, thus, paving the way for the one world religion of the antichrist beast, i.e. the wicked drawing near.

We, as followers of Christ, need to be crying out to the Lord for lost souls and for Christians gone astray and for the church which is turned upside down. We need to ask him to send revival, and to let it begin with us. We need to desire this spiritual cleansing of people’s hearts and lives above anything else we might desire on the face of this earth. And, we should all wake up to the reality of the times in which we now live, and see how the world is going down the toilet, and cry out to God to save us by his mercy and grace.

As well, we need to be willing to let go of the treasures of this world in order to lay up treasures in heaven, i.e. human souls turned from sin to God to follow him in his ways and in his truth.

It Is Well with My Soul / H. G. Spafford / P. P. Bliss

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well; it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well; it is well with my soul.

In Faithfulness

Friday, August 4, 2017, 1:27 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “In Faithfulness He Leads Me.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 96 (NASB).

Good Tidings (vv. 1-6)

Sing to the Lord a new song;
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.
Tell of His glory among the nations,
His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.
For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before Him,
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

What are the good tidings of his salvation? They are that God the Father sent his only begotten Son Jesus Christ to the earth to take on human form and to be crucified on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. When he died, our sins died with him and were buried with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death on our behalf. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, and that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us.

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin so that we might live with Christ in newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. “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.” “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness… but now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life” (See: Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6:1-23; Gal. 2:20).

Since we been turned from darkness (sin) to light (righteousness), and from the power of Satan to God, we have received forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ. Sin and Satan are no longer to be our masters so that we obey them, but now Jesus Christ is to be our only Lord. We are to now walk in the fear of the Lord, not in the sense of being afraid of God, but in the sense of showing him absolute honor, respect, value, esteem, submission and obedience to his commands.

A Love Offering (vv. 7-11)

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name;
Bring an offering and come into His courts.
Worship the Lord in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns;
Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity.”

When Jesus Christ died on that cross for our sins, he “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). Therefore, we are urged “by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Ro. 12:1-2).

In other words, Jesus didn’t die on that cross just so we could escape hell or just so we could go to heaven when we die, but he died to change us. He died to transform us away from living for sin and self to walking in his righteousness and holiness. By righteousness we mean what is deemed right in the eyes of God, i.e. what meets with his divine approval. So, if we are walking in his righteousness, we are living lives of integrity, holiness, honesty, and uprightness, and lives which are moral and decent. Also, to be holy means to be set apart (unlike, different) from the world of sin because we are being made into the image of Christ.

So, what should this all look like? Well, it means that Jesus is the Lord of our lives, i.e. that he is our owner-master and we belong to him, and that we are no longer our own, for we were bought back for God with the price of his blood shed for us on a cross. It means we desire him above all else, and he is the one who gets our full allegiance. We now walk (in lifestyle), not according to our sinful flesh, but according to the Spirit of God. We are no longer conformed (adapted) to the ways of this sinful world, but we walk in the ways of the Lord to please him in all that we do and are and say.

In Righteousness (vv. 11-13)

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
Let the sea roar, and all it contains;
Let the field exult, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy
Before the Lord, for He is coming,
For He is coming to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
And the peoples in His faithfulness.

These words bring to recall the words of Isaiah 55. There the people were encouraged to thirst and hunger after God instead of to spend their money on what would never satisfy the hunger of their souls. They were urged to eat (partake of) what is good (righteous, holy), and for the wicked to forsake his way, and the unrighteous his evil thoughts. And, they were counseled to return to the Lord, and he would have compassion on them, and he would pardon (forgive) their sins. God said that his will would be accomplished, and that his word would not return empty. And, then he said that they would go out with joy and that the mountains would break forth into shouts of joy.

This was a promise of people turning to or returning to the Lord. All throughout the Bible, most every time God judged his people, it was to bring about revival in their hearts so that they would return to the Lord with pure devotion. And, I believe scripture teaches that, in these last days, before Christ’s return, he will judge the people of the earth in justice, righteousness and in faithfulness, but not just to punish, but to bring people to himself or back to himself. He is calling out to his rebellious and wayward children, and he is calling them to repentance and renewed faith in him, and he will use divine discipline (chastisement) in order to revive their hearts.

Yet, a day is coming, too, when Jesus Christ will come back to take us, his followers, to be with him, and then the doors to heaven will be closed, and there will be no more opportunity to be saved from your sins or to have the promise of heaven as your eternal home. And, so that is why we are being encouraged here to proclaim his salvation and his glory among the nations, so that many will be saved. It is also why he is urging people here to worship the Lord in true holiness and to offer their lives to him as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. For, not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will be received into his heaven, but only those who do his will (Matt. 7:21).

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!”

Faithful Servants

Monday, July 31, 2017, 12:31 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Courageous.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read various scriptures (in the ESV) on the subject of being faithful to God.

Found Faithful (1 Co. 4:1-2)

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.

When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord (master-owner) and Savior of our lives, we become his servants, i.e. his bond-slaves. Bond-slaves are “without any ownership rights of their own.” They are “believers who willingly live under Christ’s authority as His devoted followers” (1). Our lives are no longer our own to be lived however we want, for Jesus Christ bought us back for God with his blood shed on a cross for our redemption. Therefore, we are to honor God with our lives and no longer live to please our flesh.

We are not saved from our sins merely to give us an escape from hell and to promise us heaven when we die. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. He who knew no sin became sin for us on that cross in order that we might become the righteousness of God. Therefore, we are obligated (required) to be faithful to our Lord and to his will for our lives, and to no longer live to gratify our sinful desires (See: Ro. 8:12-14; 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15, 21).

Fruit of Spirit (Gal. 5:19-24)

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, via being crucified with Christ in death to sin, and being resurrected with Christ, of the Spirit of God, to newness of life, the Holy Spirit of God comes to live within us. And, he lives within us to empower, strengthen, equip, encourage, teach us and guide us in the ways of the Lord and in order that we might live holy lives pleasing unto God. Because God now lives within us in the person of his Spirit, the fruit (result) of Christ living his life out through us is love, joy, peace… faithfulness, etc. In other words, being faithful to God should be the natural outgrowth of a life committed to Christ and to his service.

Thus, if we truly belong to Christ, we should have crucified (put to death) the flesh (sin nature) with its passions and desires. Things such as sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, fits of anger, envy, drunkenness and things like these should no longer be a part of our lives. They should no longer have a hold on us, and we should not be controlled by (addicted to) them, for Jesus Christ set us free from slavery (bondage) to sin. Instead, we should walk according to the Spirit and then we will not gratify the cravings of our sinful flesh.

Unto Death (Rev. 2:10)

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Some people like to have a “Me-Me” attitude about God’s grace to us, as though it is all about what Jesus Christ does for us, and as though nothing at all is required of us other than some non-descript “belief” in Jesus. Yet, that is not the gospel taught by Jesus or by his NT apostles, but it is a man-made gospel intended to appeal to and appease human flesh.

But, YES, Jesus did die on a cross in order that he might take our punishment for sin for us, but that is not the whole story. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He died to deliver us out of slavery to sin, not just so he would expunge the punishment of our sins. Coming to faith in Jesus Christ is not just a get-out-of-jail-free card, but it is a life committed to Christ and to his service and to obedience to his instructions and to his will for our lives.

So, when we believe in Jesus, and he becomes our Lord (owner-master) and we become his bond-slaves, and our lives are no longer our own to be lived how we want, we submit to him and to his will for our lives. We die with him to sin and self, and we willingly lay down our lives for his service, too. We go where he says to go, we do what he says to do, and we say what he tells us to say, even if it gets us hated, rejected, persecuted or even killed in return.

Faithful People (2 Tim. 2:1-7)

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

So, we must be faithful in service to our Lord, in being who he wants us to be, and in doing and saying what he commands, yet we must also disciple others to also be his faithful servants (See: Matt. 28:18-20). Yet, not everyone will want to become his disciples, even many who profess to believe in him, because they don’t want to give up their own lives to serve Christ, but they are comfortable just living how they want. They just want their religion, but not at the cost of having to yield to the Lord and to obey what he says. They want to pick and choose what they will or will not do in service to God, and faithfulness to God is not what interests them. So, we need the Lord to lead us to willing disciples who will be found faithful.

Faithfulness to our Lord, though, means sharing in the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. It means we will be hated, rejected, abandoned, persecuted and even killed for our faith in Jesus Christ and for our testimonies for him and for his gospel. We, thus, will not immerse ourselves in the culture of our society, but we will immerse ourselves in our Lord and in his holiness and righteousness, and in his service, even unto death.

Yet, this takes courage and strength from the Lord to remain faithful to him despite all opposing forces coming against us. So, we need to keep trusting our Lord, no matter how bad it gets, knowing that he will work all things together for good for those who love him, and who have been called according to his purpose. So, keep the faith, rely on the strength and wisdom of God, stand firm on the Word of Truth, do not be silent, and keep on serving your Lord.

Courageous! / An Original Work / December 24, 2013
Based off Various Scriptures

The Word of God throughout taught.
Some people heard, but did doubt.
Still others had faith in Christ.
By grace He purified them.

They turned from sin
And they obeyed Christ.
He opened up their blinded eyesight;
Turned them from darkness
To the true Light;
Forgave their sin by His might.

He strengthened them in their faith.
He said, “Remain my faithful.”
He called them to obedience.
By faith, they were so grateful.

By faith, they were to follow Jesus;
To daily sit and listen to Him;
To have such faith
That mountains could move;
To love those whom He gave them.

Be on your guard; courageous.
Stand firm in faith. Be thankful.
Take up the shield of your faith;
Protect against all evil.

Do not move from
The hope that you have.
Your faith in Jesus let it endure.
Hold to the truth;
Your conscience be clear.
Endure with perseverance.

(1) http://biblehub.com/greek/1401.htm

Trust and Rest

Wednesday, July 5, 2017, 9:03 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Believe Him.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read select vv. (in the ESV) on the subject of “rest.”

Our Rest (Mk. 14:40-42)

And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Rest can be good, and it can be bad. In today’s culture here in America it is believed and propagandized that we need rest, relaxation and recreation whenever our work day has ended. Probably the average American puts in a 40-hour work week, some less and some more. Some people are workaholics and would do well to take time to relax and rest some, while others do as little work as possible and think they are entitled to live in leisure the rest of their lives. A parent of small children usually doesn’t get much rest, unless her/his children are asleep, and even then they are probably doing laundry or dishes, etc. Yet, too many people in our culture are obsessed with relaxation and recreation, and they have this sense that they must continuously be entertained or be entertaining to others.

It is reasonable that we should be able to sleep when we get tired, but we can’t always do that. Sometimes our jobs demand much of us, or our families, or the Lord has work for us to do that might involve losing some sleep here and there. If the Lord has work for us to do, even if it is in the middle of the night, we should do what he has called us to do, even if it means losing a little bit of sleep now and then, for the Lord can sustain us, and he can give us the strength to endure and to persevere even when we are tired. I have seen him do this in my life over and over again. So, sleep, rest, relaxation and recreation should not be our central focus, or our entitlement, but we should submit to our Lord in all that we do, trust him, rest in him, do what he says, and believe him to give us all we need.

No Rest (2 Co. 7:5-6)

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us…

Sometimes, when serving the Lord, there may be times when we are going through much hardship, persecution, opposition, and affliction, and we won’t get the sleep our bodies require, or that we think we need to keep going. But God knows all that. And, he is quite capable of seeing us through it all. He is still absolutely sovereign (in control) over all things, and he allow what he allows in our lives for his purposes and for his glory in our lives. And, sometimes we may get physical rest, but our minds and hearts will be troubled by what we are having to endure, and they will need rest, as well. So, the Lord comforts us with his love and grace, and with his compassion and mercy, and he encourages our hearts, and he strengthens us with his mighty power. I often pray for him to help me, especially when my body is tired or when my emotions are weak, and he never fails me. Not once!

His Rest (2 Co. 12:8-10; Matt. 11:28-29)

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Sometimes the enemy’s opposition against us is so strong that we plead with the Lord to remove it from us. Yet, sometimes we need this opposition to make us stronger and more determined to follow our Lord in obedience, and to keep us humble so that we don’t take credit for what God is doing in and through us, as though we somehow did it ourselves. Also, when we go through difficulties, persecutions, and rejections, and we face much opposition, because we are serving the Lord, and doing what he says, it teaches us not to rely on ourselves, but on God. God’s grace is totally sufficient to see us through any and every situation we may encounter. We just have to learn to trust him in it all, and rest in HIM, and in his strength and power, and not in our own resources or strength. And, then we are strengthened in spirit, heart, mind, emotion and in body, too.

God’s rest is not like our rest. God’s rest is inner peace, strength, comfort, joy, and fulfillment even in hard times, difficulties, times of sorrow and pain, and even in sleepless nights, and labor for the Lord and for his gospel, etc. So, in all things, we need to trust him, rest in him, obey him, walk in his love, and let him meet all our needs and comfort us with his love and grace.

Believe Him / An Original Work / July 15, 2013

My heart cries: Lord, won’t You hear me
Seeking You for the answers
To my heartache and questions
I have concerning my life?
Speak, Lord, to me right now.

“Oh, dear one, why don’t you trust Me
With your life’s circumstances?
Give your all on the altar
In submission of your will
To My purpose for you.

“Surrender your life completely
To your Lord and your Savior.
He has all things planned for you
For His glory and honor.
He’ll work all things for good.

“Believe Him. He will fulfill all
Of His promises to you
For your life and your future.
Trust Him. Rest in His love.
He’ll give you peace from above.”

Strength to Help

Sunday, June 25, 2017, 7:15 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “You are Loving and Forgiving.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 86 (Select vv. NIV).

Forgiving and Good (vv. 5-7)

You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord;
listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
because you answer me.

Our God is a loving and forgiving God to all who call on him in truth.

The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy. Ps. 145:18-20

If we are seeking God’s forgiveness of our sins, we must understand that calling to him means doing so in truth (faithfulness), with no deceit found in our mouths. It also means that we fear him, i.e. that we reverence, respect, and honor him in our request for forgiveness, and with our lives (conduct). And, it entails that we love him, and to love him is to obey him. So, to call on God is no light matter, or something we do casually just to relieve guilt from our minds. God’s forgiveness of our sins is conditional to our repentance, i.e. to us leaving our lives of sin behind us and us now following Christ with our lives. It means we have been turned from darkness (sin) to the light (truth, righteousness, Jesus Christ), and from the power Satan had over our lives to God, to walk with him in his ways, and in his truth (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Acts 26:16-18).

Teach Me Your Way (vv. 11-13)

Teach me your way, Lord,
that I may rely on your faithfulness;
give me an undivided heart,
that I may fear your name.
I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart;
I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your love toward me;
you have delivered me from the depths,
from the realm of the dead.

The goal of God’s forgiveness of our sins and of our salvation is not just to deliver us from hell and to give us the hope of eternity with God in glory. God’s goal in saving us from our sins is to eradicate sin from our lives so that we no longer walk (in lifestyle) according to the flesh, but that we walk (conduct our lives) according to the Spirit, in the ways of God. Jesus 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. His grace to us is not carte blanche (free rein) to continue in willful sin against God while claiming heaven as our eternal home. 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 (See: Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15, 21; Tit. 2:11-14).

So, when we come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, and our sins are forgiven, our hearts should, thus, long to have our Lord teach us his ways so that we can walk in them. Our desire should be for God, his truth and his ways. We should not be numbered among those who look to God’s grace as merely an escape from hell and the hope of heaven, but who teach we don’t have to repent, obey or submit to our Lord, and that God is pleased with us no matter what we do. That is a slap in the face to Jesus Christ who died that horrible death, and who took all our sins upon himself in order to deliver us out of slavery to sin, not give us free rein to continue in it without guilt or remorse. In other words, we are not saved from our sins so we can straddle a fence between righteousness and wickedness, with one foot in the world while the other is in God’s kingdom.

If we are truly born again of the Spirit of God, and we have been turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, we should want our Lord to teach us His Ways so that we can walk in them (in how we live our lives), not try to worm our way out of them. We should also desire truly to have undivided hearts which are not trying to live in two opposing worlds at the same time, and we should willingly remove from our lives all that is worldly and is opposed to righteousness and holiness. We should pray in all sincerity, and ask the Lord to show us anything in our lives which is displeasing to him or which stands opposed to his righteousness, and then, in obedience, love, and in surrender to our Lord, we should get rid of all that stands in the way and which hinders our walking in the ways of God. Our lives, thus, should result in praise to God for his deliverance from sin.

Arrogant Foes Attacking (vv. 14-17)

Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God;
ruthless people are trying to kill me—
they have no regard for you.
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
Turn to me and have mercy on me;
show your strength in behalf of your servant;
save me, because I serve you
just as my mother did.
Give me a sign of your goodness,
that my enemies may see it and be put to shame,
for you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

When we truly walk in the ways of the Lord, with undivided hearts, and we are committed to his righteousness and holiness, and we rid our lives from all which hinders our walks of faith, so that we can walk in his holiness, we will be opposed. People will not like us. Even others who profess faith in Jesus Christ will despise and reject us. They may call us self-righteous, holy rollers, goody-goodies, and religious extremists, and the like. And, it is because our lifestyles are an offense to theirs, and because we teach holiness and walking righteously before God. And, holiness means we live separate (unlike, different) from the world of sin, because we are being made into the image of Christ. This is not to say that we will be absolutely perfect, but that our lives are committed to obeying our Lord and to walking in his ways and in his truth, and that we do so as the practice of our lives.

So, when we are opposed, and we are treated unfairly and with disdain, and just because people don’t like what we believe or how we choose to live, we need to call on our Lord, lean on him, trust in his sovereignty and grace, rest in his love, and keep on living for him and doing what he says. We need to pray for our enemies, do good to them, and speak kindly to them, but also speak the truth in love, for that is the kindest speaking we can do. We need, too, to pray for wisdom in knowing how to respond to unfair and harmful treatment with grace, but also in truth. And, we need to trust in the strength of the Lord to get us through difficult times, and to show himself through our circumstances and through our lives as a testimony for him as to his grace.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea…
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46:1-2, 7

You are Loving and Forgiving
An Original Work / February 19, 2012

Based off Psalm 86

You are loving and forgiving,
Jesus, Savior, King of kings.
You provided our redemption.
By Your blood You set us free.
You are gracious; full of mercy.
No deeds can compare with Yours.
Great are You; there is none like You.
Glory be to Your name.

Teach me Your way, and I’ll walk in it.
O Lord, I will walk in Your truth.
May I not have a heart divided,
That Your name I give honor to.
I will praise You, O Lord, my Savior,
For great is Your love toward me.
You have delivered me from my sins.
Your grace has pardoned me.

You, O Lord, are full of compassion,
Slow to anger, bounteous in love;
Faithful to fulfill all You promise;
Glory be to Your name above.
Hear, O Lord, and answer Your servant.
You are my God. I trust in You.
Turn to me and grant Your strength to me.
You are my comforter.

Who are The Faithful?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017, 6:22 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 101 (Select vv. ESV).

Far from Me (vv. 1-4)

I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to you, O Lord, I will make music.
I will ponder the way that is blameless.
Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
within my house;
I will not set before my eyes
anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
it shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall be far from me;
I will know nothing of evil.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we should walk with integrity. What this means is that we should conduct our daily lives with honesty, uprightness, honor, decency, and morality. We should not even look (gaze) at anything which might cause us to stumble or to lead us into sin. We should keep our minds pure and free from all thoughts and attitudes which are contrary to God and to his Word. So, how do we do this? In the power of God’s Spirit, we have to train ourselves, our minds, our ears and our eyes to not entertain what is unholy, impure, immoral, unrighteous, unjust, untrue, dishonorable, unkind and/or hateful, etc. And, we have to fill our minds and hearts with all that is godly, upright, holy, righteous and pure, etc. And, this takes self-discipline.

We also have to hate sinful practices, i.e. the practices of those who fall away from God and from what is right and honest and just. We have to avoid getting involved in gossip, for instance, by walking away from it, and/or by saying good things about people, instead. This is not to say we should never confront sin in sinful humans, but that we need to go to the people, if possible, and not complain about them behind their backs to other people, especially while putting on a front (a false face) to the people in question. This is also not to say that we can never address sinful practices in the church, in general, in the appropriate manner, and call for repentance, but that we should not go around spreading rumors about people, while lacking the courage to speak the truth in love to them. Sinful rebellious practices and lifestyles should have no place in our lives whatsoever!

Practitioners of Deceit (vv. 5, 7)

Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly
I will destroy.
Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart
I will not endure.

No one who practices deceit
shall dwell in my house;
no one who utters lies
shall continue before my eyes.

We are not to be participants with those who practice what is evil. We are not supposed to even associate with those who call themselves Christians and yet are involved in evil (sinful) practices, as a way of life. We should never console those who practice sinning, in their sin, or be accepting of or entertain (accommodate or invite) their sinful lifestyles, either.

Some of these sinful practices the Lord is pointing out to me this morning, that others are involved in, and which all of us should guard against, are what follows here. For one, there are those who habitually gossip about and slander others. It is what occupies their minds, their thinking. They practice insulting and contemptuous speech and conduct, and they revel in revealing secrets to others, and disclosing private information that can injure others’ reputations, their jobs, their relationships, and their emotional well-being. They will utilize whatever means possible, at their disposal, too, including social media sites, texting, tweeting, chatting, etc., and sometimes to exact revenge on those they think have wronged them in some way or another. And, they have no qualms about making it up as they go along, either.

Then, there are those who bottle up hatred, contempt, unforgiveness and bitterness in their hearts, while on the outside they act as if everything is normal, and there are no issues. They hide their true thoughts and feelings, not out of fear of being hurt, though, but in order to deceive; to give a false impression. But, they are storing up anger to use later against those for whom they feel contempt and hatred. And, they will use what they have stored up inside in order to manipulate, exploit and take advantage of others. They act calm and cool on the outside, but inside they are a raging inferno just waiting to explode. This is part of the game they play, which includes hiding secret sins and acting as though all is good. They believe Satan’s lies, they lie to themselves, and they accept the lies as truth. And, this is often cyclical, repeating the same patterns over and over again.

These types of individuals usually lack self-discipline, they are arrogant, and they will not listen to sound counsel and godly wisdom and instruction. They seem bent on continuing their cyclical patterns of behavior despite everything to the contrary. If these people want to continue in their sinful ways (patterns) of life, no one will be able to convince them otherwise. If they don’t want to hear the advice, although they may pretend they are listening, their addictive patterns of behavior will soon reveal the truth. They didn’t really listen, because they didn’t really want to hear the counsel, and they don’t really want to change, because they don’t think they need to change. These types of people are self-focused and self-absorbed, and they think about themselves above all else. But, God can change them! Amen?

Favor on the Faithful (v. 6)

I will look with favor on the faithful in the land,
that they may dwell with me;
he who walks in the way that is blameless
shall minister to me.

The faithful are those who are walking in the Spirit and no longer are they practicing sinful lifestyles. They are listening to the Lord, seeking his face, and doing what he says, not with absolute sinless perfection, but with persistence, submission, humility, and consistency. They love their Lord, and their desire is for him, to please him in all they do. They walk with integrity of heart, and, by the Spirit, they have trained (or are training) their eyes, ears, mouths and minds to focus on what has eternal value, and to not allow the things of this sinful world to take hold in their lives. They shall minister to God and to his servants, because they walk humbly before their God and they honor his name.

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.