Choose Wisely

Friday, September 22, 2017, 2:52 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Revelation 3:14-22 (NASB).

Complacent (vv. 14-16)

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:

The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:

‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.

Complacent – “marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies” (M-W).

The speaker is Jesus Christ. And, he is addressing his complacent church. They are neither totally indifferent to the Lord nor are they fully on fire (passionate, enthusiastic) for him. They are somewhere in between the two, fully content with mediocrity, self-absorption, and fundamentally unconcerned about their spiritual conditions or their relationships with the ONLY true God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are worldly, and are living not much different from those who make no profession to faith in Jesus Christ at all. And, they are followers of man more than they are followers of God; more caught up in forms of religion rather than having a passionate, faithful and vital relationship with their Lord, Savior and King.

The sad reality of it all, though, is that this type of Christianity is being encouraged and promoted in today’s modern churches. They are being taught that God does everything for us, and that nothing is required of us at all other than some non-descript “faith” in Jesus Christ, but not the kind of faith Jesus taught, or that his NT apostles taught. Some of their leaders even go so far as to discourage repentance and obedience to Christ, in order to appease human flesh, and to gain disciples after themselves. They want to make everyone feel good about themselves, even in their sins, and to not offend anyone with the truth, and so they lie to their congregations and they lead them to follow humans, and they encourage worldly living.

So, what we have are a whole lot of people who bear the name “Christian” but who don’t reflect Christ in their attitudes, actions or thinking, and who think God is ok with them being that way, because that is what is being modeled to them by many of their leaders. So, they may or may not spend any time in God’s Word or in prayer, throughout their day, and God may or may not get a bare acknowledgment from them, and their free time will often be spent doing what THEY want to do, and not what GOD has for them. And, many of them are convinced that their lives are their own to live how they want as long as they give God some of their time and offerings, and many of them, too, are engrossed in being entertained continuously.

Counsel (vv. 17-18)

Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

Counsel – recommend, advocate, encourage, guide, instruct, or warn; to give advice to (someone); to suggest or recommend (something) (M-W).

Jesus loves his church, even the church which is half-hearted in their devotion to him, or who have forsaken their first love, or who have a reputation of being alive but are mostly dead, etc. Yet, this does not mean he is ok with them remaining in those conditions, or that he doesn’t have something better and necessary for them, or that he won’t chastise them in order to move their hearts back to him in purity of love and devotion. He will! He said so, and he is true to his Word. So, he urges, counsels, encourages, teaches, and stimulates them towards what is good for them, and he warns them against what is bad for them, and in order to move them to repentance, to renewed faith in him, and to faithful and passionate obedience to him and to His Word.

The counsel here is basically for them to move from their self-sufficiency to finding their all-sufficiency in God alone. It is also to do a self-examination and to see their own spiritual condition through God’s eyes, and through the scope of God’s Word, rather than through the lens of human thinking and reasoning. They think they are ok just how they are, because their itching ears longed to hear smooth, pleasing messages which told them that they could continue in sin and still have the blessings of God in their lives. But, God is not ok with them continuing in a sinful course, and this kind of thinking isn’t reflective of what the Bible teaches, either. So, Jesus desires that they know what his Word teaches, and that they now obey it.

So, what is Jesus’ counsel to them, in reality? It is that they purify their hearts via repentance (turning from sin to God) and via obedience to him and to his commands, and that they walk (conduct their lives) in the Spirit and no longer according to (in agreement with) their flesh (sin natures). It is that they die daily to sin and self, and that they live to Christ and to his righteousness. And, it is that they make Jesus Christ truly Lord (owner-master) of their lives, and that they become his bond-servants. It is also that they now see life through God’s eyes and no longer through the eyes of humankind and the flesh, and that they follow what is truth and reject the lies and the deceptions of humans who would lead them astray.

Convince (vv. 19-22)

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Convince – to bring (as by argument) to belief, consent, or a course of action; to persuade (sway, convert, win over) (M-W).

This is a lot like a lawyer’s closing arguments where he must convince the jury to vote in favor of the verdict he proposed based upon the evidence he presented to them of the facts of the case. This is the turning point in the argument, where now a choice must be made, and a person’s future must be determined. Only, in this case, the ones being persuaded here to make a resolution are actually the ones on trial, and they must make the decision concerning their own destiny, whether or not they will choose to follow Jesus or shut the door in his face for eternity.

And, although Jesus is still being loving and gentle, he is warning them of the dangers of making the wrong choice. He is letting them know that he will chastise and reprove them, and so he urges them to turn from their sins of complacency, idolatry and spiritual adultery, and to return to him as their ONLY God and LORD. Although they have mostly rejected him and his Lordship over their lives, he has not rejected them. He is still calling out to them, still counseling, loving, urging and warning, and reminding them of what he did for them in dying on a cross so they could be free from sin. And, he is still inviting them into fellowship with him, if they will just open the doors of their hearts to him and let him be LORD of their lives.

And, so true to God, and to his nature, and to how he consistently has dealt with his rebellious children, down through the ages, he always offers the opportunity for restoration and renewal in relationship with him to the one who will turn from his sin and will turn to follow Jesus Christ with his or her life, and who will reject his or her idols to make Jesus his or her ONLY God. His message is most always to first confront us with our sins, then to warn of the consequences of our sin, then to call for repentance, and then to promise restoration and renewal for the penitent.

Yet, we must know here that if we choose to reject his voice, and to continue on our own course of living for sin and self, following after our own fleshly desires, while ignoring his counsel, that we won’t have the promise of heaven when we leave this earth, but a fearful expectation of eternal punishment in the fires of hell (Lu. 9:23-26; Ro. 8:1-17; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Jn. 1:6). So, what will it be? Choose wisely, because your future depends on it.

Seek the Lord / An Original Work
July 20, 2012 / Based off Isaiah 55

“Come to Me all you who thirst; come to waters.
Listen to Me, and eat what’s good today,
And your soul will delight in richest of fare.
Give ear to Me, and you will live.
I have made an eternal covenant with you.
Wash in the blood of the Lamb.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him.
Let the wicked forsake his way, in truth.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will receive mercy.
Freely, God pardons him.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,”
declares the Lord, our God.

“My word that goes out of My mouth is truthful.
It will not return to Me unfulfilled.
My word will accomplish all that I desire,
And achieve the goal I intend.
You will go in joy, and be led forth in peace.
The mountains will burst into song… before you,
And all of the trees clap their hands.”

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It Should Show

Friday, September 1, 2017, 5:49 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “What Blessed Communion.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philippians 2 (Select vv. NASB).

Fellowship of the Spirit (vv. 1-4)

Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Savior, and the Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell within us, we enter into a personal and intimate relationship with our God and Lord, Jesus Christ. We now have a closeness of relationship with him much like a bride with her husband, or like a very close friendship. The Holy Spirit now speaks to our hearts the words of Jesus, and he gives us guidance, direction, and counsel. He teaches us all things about Jesus, and he makes known to us the will of God for our lives.

Since God now lives within us in the person of the Holy Spirit, we can talk with God – with Jesus – about our innermost thoughts and feelings, and we can take our needs and requests to him. We also listen to him speak his words to our hearts, at which time we sense his compassion, friendship, love, and affection towards us. During these times of fellowship with him we get to know him better, we understand more of his will for us, and he shows us the way he would have us go. Our desire is now for him, to do his will, and so we respond to his words to us with obedience and submission.

Since we now have this close relationship with our Lord, and we are daily being encouraged by his words, and by his love, tenderness and compassion towards us, we should be sharing the love Jesus has for us with those around us, but particularly with our fellow Christians. If we are united with Christ in this way, we should be united with one another in Christ in spirit, mind and heart. And, we should be likeminded with the mind of Christ, and intent on one purpose, which is the will of God for our lives. Also, we should be looking out for others, for what is in their best interest, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit, and what is God’s best for them.

The Same Attitude (vv. 5-11)

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

If we want to be effective in our Christian walks in doing the things we have just talked about, it begins with having the correct attitude (mindset), and that is the humility of Christ. We will not have genuine fellowship with Christ or unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ if we are selfish or if we have an entitlement mindset.

So many people these days are teaching a gospel of entitlement rather than a gospel which puts sin to death in our lives so that we might live for God and his righteousness. They teach a “me-focused” gospel rather than a Christ-centered gospel message of salvation. They think that we are saved merely to escape hell (punishment) and so we have the reward of heaven one day, but they leave out the truth that 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 (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15, 21).

Many of these same people are teaching that God requires nothing of us other than some non-descript “faith” in Christ, i.e. that he demands no obedience, no repentance and no submission to himself and to the cross. But, God’s Word teaches that coming to faith in Christ means death to sin (our old lives), and resurrection with Christ to new lives in him, to be lived to his righteousness. If we continue living sinful lifestyles, we will die in our sins, no matter if we have professed faith in Christ or not. If we don’t obey Christ, we don’t love him, and we don’t know him, God’s Word says.

Obey Always (vv. 12-13)

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Some people, who are teaching this “entitlement gospel,” would have you believe that if you repent of your sins and walk in obedience to Christ that it is works-based salvation. But, that is nonsense! We don’t work for God to earn or to deserve our salvation. And, it isn’t us doing things for God out of our own flesh, but it is God working in and through us for his glory, as we cooperate fully with that work of grace in our lives. If we don’t turn from our sins, and we don’t walk in obedience to him, we don’t have eternal life with God! It is that plain and simple.

What they fail to realize is that we are not saved just so we escape punishment for sin and just so we go to heaven when we die. Jesus died to deliver us out of slavery (addiction) to sin, not just to forgive us our sins. And, he delivered us from the control of Satan so that we might come under the control of his righteousness. Jesus didn’t save us just to pardon our sins, but he died to transform us and to conform us to his likeness. Being in Christ, by faith in him, means we walk in the fear (honor, respect, and reverence) of God, we take him and his word seriously, and we don’t take his grace to us for granted.

Above Reproach (vv. 14-18)

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

If we are to live such godly lives in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation to where we prove ourselves to be “above reproach,” what would that entail? Scripturally speaking, I believe it means we are walking (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh, and we are daily putting to death the deeds of the flesh, by the Spirit (See: Ro. 8:1-17; Lu. 9:23-25; Eph. 4:17-24). It doesn’t mean we will never sin (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but it does mean we consistently walk in obedience to our Lord, and that we are not living in sinful addiction.

It also means that we are walking in holiness, separate (unlike, different) from the world, because we are being made into Christ’s likeness. We don’t think, talk or act like the ungodly, in lifestyle, nor do we take on the world’s attitudes, philosophies or culture and make them our own. So, if we want to live lives above reproach, and we want to be holy, then we need to do some serious soul searching concerning our lifestyles and the kinds of things we do, think, say and participate in on a daily basis. In other words, if we are daily consuming the trash the world is offering us, and we don’t even blink an eye at it, with all of its immorality, then something is terribly wrong!

Instead of immersing ourselves in our culture, we need to be standing out like lights in a dark world. Yes, it will mean people will hate us, reject us, accuse us falsely, persecute us and want nothing to do with us, but in that we should rejoice, because we are sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. Instead of trying to fit in with the world, so that we talk its language, and so we talk about the latest movies, music, sports, etc., we should be holding forth the Word of Life to people. Why is it so many people who call themselves Christians shy away from talking about Jesus, but they are full of conversation about everything this world has to offer us? If we love Jesus, and we are in fellowship with him, it should show.

What Blessed Communion
An Original Work / July 11, 2011

Oh, what sweet and blessed communion
With our Lord is ours to share
When we sit at Jesus’ table,
Share His cup and eat the bread.
Sit at His feet, hear what He says,
Listen to each word He speaks;
Harken to obey His teachings;
Meet with Him throughout the week.

Oh, what grace he gives unto us
When we come to Him in faith;
Believe in His precious promise;
Free from our sins; saved by grace.
Turn from our sins; turn to our God;
Commit all our ways to Him.
Choose to live for Him each moment;
Daily cleansing us from sin.

Oh, what love He has for us that
He would die a cruel death,
So that we could be forgiven
Of our sins and live instead.
Walk with Jesus; serve Him only
As our Lord, God, priest and King.
Abide with Him; His word in us;
Bearing fruit, our offering.

Go Out

Wednesday, August 16, 2017, 5:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 (ESV).

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.”

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.

What Fellowship?

What does it mean to be “unequally yoked together” with someone? It means we are yoked (intimate, united, mixed, partnered) together with someone who is very different from us in beliefs, values, morals and practices, which are contrary to our faith in Jesus Christ and to His Word. This could be a marital partner, a business partner, a family member, or a close friend or companion. And, this can include those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, but who are living just like the world, too (Eph. 5:1-14; 1 Co. 5:9-13). We are not to be mixed together with them in intimate, close or binding relationships. Nonetheless, if any of us are already married to an unbeliever, we are not to divorce that person (1 Co. 7:12-13; 1 Pet. 3:1-2), but a believer in Jesus Christ should not knowingly marry an unbeliever.

We are to show God’s love to all people by being kind, generous, and helpful, ministering God’s grace to them in various forms, and sharing with them the love and grace of Jesus Christ. But, we are not to mix with them in the sense of joining with them in any activities which would be sinful, or to have such close associations with them to where we are greatly influenced by them, and where we end up joining in with their sinful practices. For bad company corrupts good character, so we should not be partners (supporters, accomplices, companions) with them. We should also not show agreement with them in their sinful behaviors by laughing with them, applauding them, being entertained by them or by our silence. And, this includes, I believe, the viewing of TV, movies, videos or still pictures, etc., which glorify sin and/or which are intended to entertain us with others’ sinful practices.

There is not (or should not be) any true fellowship between believers and unbelievers or between the godly and the ungodly (which includes all who practice sin). We may call it “fellowship” when we get together with others for social activities, including within organized religion, but the kind of fellowship God is referring to is the kind where Christians come together in love, faith, and mutual encouragement in the Spirit of God and in the Word of Truth. It has to do with being like-minded, having the same love, and being one (united) in spirit and purpose. This fellowship is based on our common fellowship (communion) with Jesus Christ (See: Phil. 2:1-2; 1 Jn. 1:6-7). And, it should be for the purpose to build one another up in the faith, not to lead one another into sinful, worldly and immoral practices.

His People

When we trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, he becomes our owner-master and we become his bondservants, for we were bought back for God with the blood of Jesus Christ, so we are no longer our own, but we are the Lord’s. We are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ in newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).

Our desire should now be for him, to please him in everything we do and say and are. For, God now becomes our Father, and we become his children. Jesus becomes our husband, and we become his bride. We are now in intimate union with our Lord, Savior and God, who is also our best friend. We can go to him at any time and talk with him about whatever is going on in our lives, cast our burdens at his feet, and share with him our requests.

When we believe in Jesus, too, the Holy Spirit of God comes to live within us. He teaches us all things related to God and righteousness, and he reminds us of the teachings of Christ, and counsels, leads, convicts, nurtures, encourages, rebukes, corrects and instructs us in the way in which we should go, which is the way of holiness. He is the one who quickens our minds and hearts to hear God speak to us through his Word. He also empowers and strengthens us to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to God.

Be Separate

God has called us to holiness. Jesus didn’t die on that cross for our sins just so we can escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He 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 that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” His grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt or remorse, as many are teaching (or implying) these days. 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 (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 1 Co. 5:15, 21; Tit. 2:11-14).

And, holiness is being separate (unlike, different) from the world because we are being made into the image (likeness) of God/Christ. If we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (conduct our lives) in darkness (sin), we are liars who do not live by the truth. 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 Christ to sin), we will gain eternal life. So, we are to present our lives to God as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to him, which is our reasonable and acceptable worship of him. We are to no longer be conformed to the ways of this sinful world, but we are to be transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God away from living in sin, to walking in his righteousness and holiness (See: 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; Ro. 12:1-2).

So, other than marriage, if we are in a partnership, union, fellowship, or close friendship with an unbeliever or with a professing Christian who is living like an unbeliever, we are to come out of those binding relationships. This is not to say we are to isolate ourselves from the people of this world, otherwise how could we show them God’s love or witness to them about Jesus Christ? This is saying, I believe, that we are not to unite with them in agreement in any way with their sinful practices, or participate with them in such a way to where we are being influenced by them towards sin and away from God. We are not to become one with the world, in other words, but we are to become one with God/Christ in mind, heart, spirit and in actions, attitudes, thinking and behaving. And, God will welcome us as his very own.

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.

All Through the Night

Jesus said that we are blessed (honored; commended) when we willingly endure persecution, false accusations, rejection and mistreatment for the sake of his name, and for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So, we should rejoice and be glad that we share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. We will richly be rewarded in heaven.

He told us that if we follow him as his disciples, we will be treated as he was treated, and we will be hated as he was hated, so we should expect that to happen if we want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus.

And, we should not be afraid of what humans may do to us. Jesus Christ will give us all we need to endure, to persevere, and to continue in our faith and in our testimonies for Christ. He will see us through even the darkest of times, and he will bring us safely home to heaven. We just have to trust him, and not give way to fear. We, as well, must forgive our persecutors because Jesus Christ forgave us all our sin; and we should pray for them.

All Through the Night / An Original Work / December 7, 2013

Based off Various Scriptures

Blessed are you when you’re persecuted
Because of your faith in Jesus Christ.
Blessed are you when people insult you,
And falsely say what leads folks to doubt.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
Great in the heavens. You’re not alone.

When you are persecuted in one place,
Flee to another. God will be there.
You will be hated by all the nations
Because you testify of God’s grace.
Many will seize you and persecute you,
And put to death the foll’wers of Christ.

Yet, do not fear what humans may do to you,
For I’m with you all through the night.
I tell you, love your enemies with my love,
And forgive as I forgave you.
Pray for those who do evil against you.
Rest in my love and grace from above.

Through the Fire

Monday, July 17, 2017, 10:02 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “I Am Willing, Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read various scriptures (in the NASB) on the subject of refining with fire.

Comfort in Affliction (2 Co. 1:3-9)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.

So, why does God allow suffering in our lives? There are many reasons, some of which we will cover here. One of the reasons is so that we can comfort others in their suffering with the comfort we received from God when we were in the midst of our trials. Yet, this word “comfort” entails so much more than just giving someone a pat on the back, or a hug, or a reassuring word, or a word of cheer. It can also mean a “holy urging,” and it is “used of the Lord directly motivating and inspiring believers to carry out His plan, delivering His particular message to someone else” (1). So, the Lord may have us give counsel, encouragement, warning, or assurance to someone going through trials, and in the same manner as which the Lord did for us when we were suffering. And, this is all part of his plan.

Another reason he allows us to be afflicted is so we learn not to trust in ourselves or in our own resources, but to trust in God in and for all things. When things are going well for us, we may become lazy about our relationships with the Lord and our spiritual walks of faith, and so we need affliction, at times, in order to get us to refocus our attention on what has eternal value and so we turn to the Lord for help, comfort, guidance and direction. We can become too self-sufficient, if we are not careful, and forget why we are here, and why God saved us and called us to his service.

For Our Good (Heb. 12:7-11)

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons… but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

When we go through life’s difficulties, which we will, it is not because God has no power over our situations, and it is not because God is not paying attention, or that he doesn’t care. He does care about us immensely! And, that is why he sometimes allows us to suffer pain and sorrow, for we were called to suffer for righteousness’ sake, and trials and tribulations are brought into our lives (or are allowed by God in our lives) in order to grow us in our faith, to make us holy, and to conform us to Christ’s likeness.

In other words, although suffering trials and difficulties is painful, it is for our good that we go through these troublesome times. We need them so that we share in Christ’s holiness. To be holy is to be separate (unlike, different) from the world (of sin), because we are being made to be like Jesus. When things are going well, it may be too easy to blend in with the world so that people will like us and not reject us, but trials have a way of causing us to make a stand one way or the other. They help make us strong in our faith, too, because we must rely on the strength of the Lord. When we are trained by this divine discipline, it yields in our lives the peaceful fruit of righteousness, and being righteous has to do with “what is deemed right by the Lord (after His examination), i.e. what is approved in His eyes” (2).

The Fiery Trial (1 Pet. 4:12-17; cf. Matt. 5:10-12)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

Another reason we go through trials and tribulations is to test our faith, not because God needs this, but we need it. We need it because it reveals where we need to mature, where we still need to grow, and where we need to confess sin, or forgive others, or make things right. This that pruning process that it talks about in John 15. We go through this to cut away the dross so that we can be filled to overflowing with the fruit of Christ’s righteousness, and so we can bear much spiritual fruit for his kingdom.

It is also that we might share in the sufferings of Christ and become more like him in heart, mind, passion, attitude, values, morals and behavior. And, it is so we shine the light of Jesus through our lives even when we are put to the fire, and as a testimony of God’s amazing grace in our lives. Suffering connects us with Jesus, it draws us closer to him, and our fellowship with him becomes much more intimate as we learn to respond with grace, love, patience, endurance and forgiveness towards those who are our persecutors.

Various Trials (Jas. 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 1:6-7; cf. Ro. 5:3-5)

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

We learn a lot about ourselves when we are put to the test; to the fire. We learn where we are still weak, and where we need to be strengthened in our faith and in our trust in the Lord. We see where we lack perseverance, or where we are still vulnerable to giving in to the flesh. Trials have a way of surfacing any stuffed emotions, bitterness, unforgiveness, lack of faith, stubborn wills, or sinful addictions. And, they push us into having to make serious changes in our lives, although not everyone is moved by them, for some people stubbornly continue in their own way despite suffering.

If we respond correctly to our trials, and we turn to the Lord for help, our sufferings will work God’s will in our lives in producing within us godly character, endurance, commitment, passion for service, and spiritual maturity. And, this will result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ, when he returns for us, his bride.

I AM WILLING, LORD / Joni Eareckson Tada

Sometimes when I am down,
And I don’t feel like You’re around, Oh Lord
Feeling so sorry for me,
Not knowing that all the while You’re working to see,
If when I’m put through the fire,
I’ll come out shining like gold,
Oh, Lord, please don’t ever stop working with me,
’til You see I can be all You want me to be.
I am willing Lord, I am willing Lord,
To be just exactly what You want me to be…

(1) http://biblehub.com/greek/3874.htm

(2) http://biblehub.com/greek/1343.htm

Love for God

Friday, July 14, 2017, 7:47 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read several scriptures (in the ESV) on the subject of Love for God.

Keep His Commandments (Jn. 14:15, 21, 23-24; 1 Jn. 5:2-3)

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.”

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”

Love for God is not some emotional feeling, or a religious belief or practice. It is not, in and of itself, singing praise and worship songs in a worship service with hands lifted, although if done sincerely, and in truth, this truly is part of how we express our love for God. It is also not merely confessing him as Lord and as Savior of our lives, or going to gatherings of the church, or serving in some ministry capacity within the local fellowship of believers. For, it is possible to do all of these and still not have love for God.

Love for God is to do what he says. If we do not make it our practice to do what our Lord says, i.e. to obey his Word, then we don’t really love him. Yet, we are not speaking here merely of keeping the 10 commandments, although not one of us could keep them perfectly, otherwise Christ would not have had to die for our sins. Obeying God is not just keeping a list of rules, but it is listening to him day by day, following his lead, doing what he tells us through his Spirit, and obeying his instructions to us, which are written down for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ, in his Holy Word.

More Than These (Jn. 21:15; 1 Jn. 2:15; 1 Jn. 3:10)

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

“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.”

“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.”

Love for God is to make him first priority in our lives, but not just that, but to make him truly Lord (owner-master) of our lives. We should love him above all else, which means we should follow him wherever he leads us, even if it means leaving all else behind, including our friends and family. Nothing should be more important to us than obeying our Lord, going where he sends us, and doing what he has called us to do. We should obey him, even if everyone else rejects us, hates us, and abandons us, too.

This also translates to not loving the world (sin, worldliness) with the kind of love we should have for God. In other words, we should not take pleasure in, long for, or esteem the values, morals, philosophies, attitudes or behaviors of the ungodly world. We should not prefer what the world prefers, either. We should not pattern our lives after the ways or the will of the world, as well. We ought not to submit to the culture of our society or to immerse (engross) ourselves in it. Included in this is that we should not be entertained by the world of sin and its values, morals and wickedness, too.

Obeying God results in practicing righteousness. And, righteousness is what God approves, what is deemed right by the Lord, and what is approved in his sight (1). If we do not practice (follow, live out) divine righteousness, then we are not of God. Basically, if we walk (in practice) according to our fleshly desires, we don’t know God, we don’t have the hope of eternal life with God, and we will perish 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. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25; Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6).

Love In Truth (1 Jn. 3:18; 1 Jn. 4:19-20; 1 Jn. 1:5-7)

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.’”

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Some people say they love God, but it is lip service only, for their hearts are far from God, they do not do what he says, nor do they submit to him and to his will for their lives. They can get all emotional in a church service, especially as the music gets louder and more intense, and is repeated over and over again, but then they leave, go home, and live just like the world (the ungodly). We can mouth the words “I love you,” but if we are going our own way, living in spiritual adultery and idolatry, and we are not submitting ourselves to our Lord and to his cross, then we don’t really love him. True love, whether between two people or between people and God is not words only, but it is action and it is honest and sincere (not superficial).

If we say we love God, but we don’t love other humans, then we don’t really love God, for God is love, and he lives within those of us who are truly his. And, again, this love is not emotional feelings, but it is action and it is truth. For instance, if a man or a woman cheats on his or her spouse, then lies about it, but then proclaims that he or she loves the other, he or she is a liar. The same applies to our love for God. If we say we love God, but we go after “other lovers,” i.e. worldliness, wickedness, and selfishness, and then we lie to God and to ourselves, and we convince ourselves that God is ok with us living in adultery against him, because of his grace, then that is not love, either, for God or for our fellow human beings.

If we keep on (practicing) sinning, we don’t know God, and we don’t have the promise of eternal life with God (Jn. 8:34; 1 Jn. 3:6-9; 1 Jn. 5:18). But, if we walk (in lifestyle, in conduct) in the light (truth, righteousness), and according to the Spirit of God, not only do we have true spiritual fellowship with other believers in Jesus, but the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross for our sins, cleanses us from all sin. So, if truly we want to love God and know God, then we need to walk in his love, do what he says, follow him where he leads, and surrender to his will for our lives.

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

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

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

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

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

(1) http://biblehub.com/greek/1343.htm

Dead or Alive?

Thursday, June 22, 2017, 8:33 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Wake Up!” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Revelation 3:1-6 (ESV).

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

Jesus is speaking here to the church in a specific location, at a particular time in history, but this could apply to the church today, too, and in any location. Yet, this can also apply, at least in part, to us individually, as well. So, as we read this passage of scripture, we should prayerfully consider how this might apply to you and to me, and to our local fellowships of believers in Jesus Christ, or to the church universally across America or the world.

By Reputation Only

The church has a reputation of being alive, but they are dead, or they are mostly dead, it would appear. So, what does alive or dead look like?

Well, if you were to ask a group of Christians in America if they believed their church was alive, and to describe what that looks like, what do you believe they would say? I believe the majority would describe “alive” as having to do with the music being lively and loud, the preacher being funny and entertaining or culturally relevant, church being fun rather than boring, and there being plenty of activities and fun and entertaining events. And, “dead” to them would be a church that was too serious, that was boring and not fun and entertaining, that didn’t blend in with the culture of the day, and that spoke too much on repentance, obedience, and submission to Christ.

Obviously that is not what this passage of scripture is talking about, or it may actually be the reverse of how the majority of Christians in America might describe “alive” and “dead,” with regard to their local fellowships.

In other words, “alive,” in this context, has to do with being spiritually alive, which has very much to do with repentance, obedience, and submission, and with taking God and his word very seriously. Yet, it also has to do with the joy of the Lord, the peace of Christ, and walking in fellowship with Him. As well, being “dead” (or mostly dead) has to do with being spiritually dead, which may mean that they focus too much attention on externals, and on meeting felt needs, and on entertaining the masses, to the exclusion of repentance, obedience and submission to Christ and to his cross. And, to the exclusion of taking God and his word seriously, and applying its truths to their daily lives. Yet, inclusive of worldly attitudes and behaviors, and even encouraging such behaviors by teaching a false grace gospel, which gives its adherents free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse.

Many people who call themselves Christians, or many Christian churches, have the presumption of spirituality (being of the Spirit of God) based on the name Christian or the name church, or because they might be “good deed doers,” but it may be only performance. In other words, they may honor God with their lips, but their hearts may be far from God. Their “spirituality” is in form only, but not in the practice of godly and holy living. They clean up nice on the outside, and they have the appearance of godliness, but they deny its power by their lifestyles. They have bought into a false grace gospel which teaches them that God does not require repentance, obedience or submission, and thus they think they have free rein to continue in willful sin against God and still have the promise of eternal life with God.

Wake Up!

So, the call here is to wake up from your spiritual slumber, and to revive what still has life in you, but which is about to die completely. So, how do we do this? Well, first off, we have to pray, seek God’s face, and ask him to show us what is mostly dead in our lives, and what needs to be brought back to life. We probably already know what that is, if we are paying any attention to our spiritual lives at all, but we may need the Lord to point these things out for us, if we have not been paying attention to how our lives may have slipped away from our pure devotion to Christ, and how we may have become entrapped by the world and by sinful attitudes and behaviors once again. It is possible to become desensitized to evil and to the Spirit’s voice speaking to our hearts, to where we can become complacent and apathetic or lazy about our spiritual walks with Christ, so that we need the Spirit of God to show us where we need to be brought back to life.

When the Spirit of God, thus, points these things out to us, and shows us how we have gotten off track, and where we need to get back on point, then we need to repent of our sins, turn away from them, and turn back to following our Lord in obedience and in surrender to his will for our lives. We must realize here that “Lord” is not just a title or a name given to Jesus to signify that he is God, but that it means “owner-master.” And, we are his bond-slaves (willing submission). He is the owner of our lives, and he is the one to direct our paths and to guide the course of our lives, not us. We are not on this earth for our own enjoyment and pleasure, but we are here to honor God with our lives, and to do what he has called us to do and to be.

If we choose to keep going our own way, though, doing what we want, and still addicted to sinful behaviors and attitudes, God will use divine discipline in order to judge, correct, rebuke, chastise and scourge us, and in order to get us to turn from our sinful ways, and to get us to come back to him in full submission. And, we don’t know when this will take place. And, we can’t even be certain that we would survive such a judgment. Yet, if we are conquerors through Jesus Christ, who loves us, and we give up our sinful practices, and we follow our Lord in obedience, then we will have our eternal rewards in heaven with God. But, if we refuse to repent, and if we continue to practice sinning, the Bible teaches that we don’t have the assurance of eternal life with God (Jn. 6:35-66; Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25; Eph. 5:1-21).

Walk in White

Yet, not every individual, and not every church congregation which professes the name of Jesus is mostly dead and in need of repentance and revival. There are those who believe in Jesus throughout the world who are not soiling their garments, i.e. who are not in the practice of willfully sinning against God and giving in to the sinful desires of their flesh. They walk with Christ in purity (decency, integrity) of heart, mind, attitude and behavior.

They live in unadulterated fellowship with their Lord. They are spiritually alive, and they follow their Lord in obedience. They walk in a manner worthy of the calling they have received from the Lord, “to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light” (See: Col. 1:9-12; cf. Eph. 4:1-3; Phil. 1:27-28; 1 Thess. 2:11-12).

And, this is how we should all live, who profess the name of Jesus. But, if you are among the “mostly dead” spiritually, then you need to turn from your sins today, trust Jesus Christ with your life, and choose to walk from this moment forward in a manner worthy of your calling, in purity of heart, mind, attitude and behavior.

Wake Up! / An Original Work / November 25, 2011

Based off Ephesians 5:1-21; Revelation 3:1-6

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead.
Your God awaits you to do what
He says to you.
Be not conformed to your selfish will.
Trust in the Lord. Do what He says.
He will give you victory.
Do not walk in darkness;
Come into the light of love.

Listen to your Savior calling
You to obey all His teachings.
Repent of your sin, and
Christ will shine His love on you.
He waits patiently for you to
Heed His whispers to your heart.
Will you hasten to obey Him;
Not from Him depart?

Live your life from this day forward,
Walking in His love and mercy.
Let Him cleanse you of all your sins.
Dwell with Him today.
Do not insult God’s grace to you.
Do not make light of your sin.
Let the light of His truth come
And free you from within.