Help in Trouble

Thursday, August 10, 2017, 2:32 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Have Thine Own Way, Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 46 (NASB).

God our Refuge (vv. 1-3)

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.

Life is full of changes. There are no guarantees that life, as we now know it, will continue. Our jobs could go away. Our spouses could die, or they could leave us for someone else. The stock market could crash, and we could experience another “Great Depression.” Our present form of government, as we understand it to be, could suddenly disappear, and in its place the beast (one world government) could rule supreme. Our houses could burn down to the ground. A hurricane could sweep our houses (or apartments) away, or so could a major earthquake or a tsunami. We could suddenly be struck very ill, or we could be involved in a serious automobile accident. Or, our nation could suddenly be attacked, once more, by a foreign nation (or entity).

Yet, in all of these things, and so much more, God is our refuge and strength to help us in times of trouble, if our hope and our trust is in him, and in his salvation. He is completely sovereign (in control) over all that he has made. He is all powerful, too. Nothing catches him by surprise, and there is not anything which he cannot handle. He will see us through any and all changes in our lives or in our circumstances. He may or may not remove us from our difficult situations, but he will give us the strength and courage we need to endure, to persevere, and to remain faithful to him in all things despite the difficulties we are experiencing in this present world of ours. So, we need to rest in him, trust in his grace, believe his promises, and carry on in Him.

Our Stronghold (vv. 4-7)

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

When difficult times come our way, which they will, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and not be frightened in any way by the waves of the sea crashing in all around us. God’s presence is with us. He will never leave us or forsake us if we are truly his by faith in Jesus Christ. His grace is sufficient to help us in times of need. And, not only that, but God allows difficulties to come into our lives to purify us, to prune us, to make us holy, to conform us into his likeness, to revive us, and to mature us in our walks of faith, as well as to correct and rebuke us, if we have gone astray, so that we will turn from our sinful rebellion to walking in his holiness and righteousness.

We don’t ever have to be afraid of anything. Nothing can happen to us in this life but what God allows it, and he allows it for a purpose, and he will see us through it to victory. He will provide all that we need, but not necessarily all that we think we need, or all that we want. Especially here in America we have this idea that we need so much, but we don’t. We can survive on very little, in reality. We don’t need much food, either. Restaurants have been notorious for serving large portions of food, and to one person, which could probably feed an entire family in another country. But, we don’t need a lot of food, and, in fact, it is unhealthy to eat so much.

What comes to mind right now are the lyrics to the song “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken” (by Henry F. Lyte):

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

Cease Striving (vv. 8-11)

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah.

Yet, it isn’t just that God allows troubles and hardships, but sometimes he is the one who brings them upon us. He is not only a God of mercy and grace, but he is a God of justice and righteousness. He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, which is why he has delayed judgments, in many cases. Yet, he is a God who judges the people of the earth, too, and even his followers, and in order to bring those who have strayed from their pure devotion to him back to him as their Only Lord and Master. He warned of this in Revelation 2-3, among other passages of scripture. There he called his wandering saints (parts of his church) to repentance, and he warned of divine judgment if they did not repent.

God also judges nations and peoples who have come against his children, i.e. against those who have been born anew of the Spirit of God via death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ Jesus, their Lord. I believe much or all of the world is already under the judgment of God. I know that America is, and that what our nation (our government) has done to other nations, it will be done to us. And, what our nation has done to their own people, and to God’s laws, and to demoralize our nation, and to dilute the gospel message of salvation, God will judge, too. Yet, he will do this to stop all the evil, and so that the gospel message will go out to the ends of the earth before he returns for his bride, so that many more will be saved.

So, we are not to be anxious or worried or fearful when these things take place, but we are to put our trust in the Lord, and believe that he will work all things together for good for those who love him; for those who have been called according to his purpose. Instead of letting life’s difficulties get us down, we must recognize who God is, that he is God, and that he will be exalted (praised, revered) in the earth, and among the nations. He is still with us, he has not deserted us, and he is our stronghold. He will see us through to the end, and he will accomplish his purposes in all of our lives.

Have Thine Own Way, Lord
Adelaide A. Pollard / George C. Stebbins

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

Take up The Shield

Wednesday, August 2, 2017, 7:21 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Courageous.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 62 (select vv. NASB).

Jeremiah 17:9 says this:

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?”

When we come into this world, we are born with sin natures. We are fleshly. We are under the control (power) of Satan, slaves to sin. Our human hearts are easily deceived and are given over to deceiving, as well. We come up short of attaining God’s divine approval, because we can’t save ourselves. We can never be good enough. In and of ourselves, our hearts are incurable. So, that is why Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins so that we might be turned from darkness (sin, wickedness) to light (truth, righteousness), and from the power of Satan to God, that we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who, by faith in Jesus Christ, are sanctified.

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. But, this does not mean we are no longer capable of sin. We are. Yet, if we are in Christ, by faith in him, sin should no longer have dominion over our lives, because Satan has no power over us. Jesus Christ set us free! So, we should walk in freedom! Yet, if we continue in willful sin, i.e. if we make it our practice to sin against God, the Bible says we will die in our sins, not have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. So, it is possible to think you are saved and going to heaven but still be dead in your sins.

Blessing and Cursing (vv. 3-4)

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

So, for those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of their lives, but who have drifted away from their pure devotion to Christ, and have fallen back into sin, or for those who profess to know Christ, but who are living sinful lifestyles, or for those who have never claimed to believe in Jesus Christ at all, these questions are posed.

How long will you continue in sinful rebellion against God? How long will you continue to hate one another, and attack one another? How long will you accuse falsely and persecute those who are following Jesus Christ with their lives, or will you try to trip them up in order to bring them down with you? When will you stop being deceived and deceiving others with your lies? When will you cease speaking kindly to people only to their faces, but then stab them in the back when they are not in front of your face?

For God Only (vv. 5-8)

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

Our only hope for overcoming sin is faith in Jesus Christ, but that faith must be accompanied by repentance and obedience to Christ and his commands. To merely acknowledge what Jesus did for us in dying for our sins, but to never turn away from the sin, nor to turn to God to walk in his ways, will not result in eternal life with God, but only a fearful expectation of judgment.

Jesus/God needs to be our only hope. He needs to be the one we give our full allegiance to with all our hearts. Humans are going to disappoint us, reject us, persecute us, falsely accuse us, betray us and maybe even kill us, just because they don’t like us, because we are not like them. Humans will lie to us, too, so we need to be very discerning so that we don’t become deceived, too. We need to pray and ask the Lord for wisdom to recognize the lies so we can reject them, and to know the truth, so we can follow it.

When we are persecuted, because we trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives, and because we follow him in obedience to his will, we need to rely on the strength of the Lord so that we are not shaken from our faith and give way to fear. People will attack us. They will hate us. They will try to bring us down, and they will lie to us and will try to deceive us. And, they will speak kindly to us to our faces all the while they are stabbing us in the back when we aren’t looking. Although they act like they are our friends, they may betray us. So, this is why our hope needs to be in the Lord, and we need to find our strength in him so we don’t cave in and lose heart.

So, we need to pour out our hearts to him. It isn’t as though he doesn’t know what we are going through, though, but he wants us to cry out to him in our distress, in our pain, in our sorrow and in our weakness, and he desires that we let him heal us, comfort us, encourage us and counsel us in the way we should go.

We need to keep trusting him, even if all hell breaks loose all around us. For, he is completely sovereign (in control) over all that he has made. And, he has a plan and a purpose for everything he allows into our lives. And, he will work all things together for good for those who love him, and who have been called according to his purpose. So, take refuge in him, be of courage, be strong in the Lord, and persevere in your faith.

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.

Led to Repentance

Sunday, July 23, 2017, 3:13 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read various scriptures (in the ESV) on the subject of repentance.

From Darkness to Light (Acts 26:15-20)

And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.

Many preachers today are teaching that God does not require us to repent of our sins, or else they are just deleting (or omitting) repentance from the gospel message, or else they are teaching that repentance is simply having a change of mind in the sense of deciding to believe in Jesus Christ. Yet, is repentance required by God for salvation, and, if so, what all does repentance entail? What is this “change of mind” we are supposed to have? Is it merely to decide to believe in Jesus, or is there more to it?

Well, to repent certainly means to have a change of mind, but it is also a change of the inner man (of our inmost being, our hearts). This change is an indication of our acceptance of the will of God, too, after which we should think, believe and act differently than we did before. In the context of most biblical references to repentance, the indication is that one leaves his former life of sin behind him, casting aside his idols, and his rebellion against God, in order to turn to God/Jesus to follow (obey) him in all his ways.

And, this is made clear for us here in this passage in Acts 26 where Jesus called Paul to open spiritually blinded eyes, turning them from darkness (sin) to the light (Jesus Christ, truth, righteousness), and from the power Satan had over them to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (made holy, purified) by faith in Jesus Christ.

So, Paul obeyed what Jesus told him to do (vv. 16-18) by telling the people that they must repent of their sins and turn to God, and that their actions from that point forward should, thus, reflect (reveal) their repentance.

Obey the Truth (Rom. 2:3-11)

Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

God’s kindness is his grace to us in sending his Son Jesus Christ to the cross to die for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us on that cross in order that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus died on that cross so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; so that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. When he died he put our sins to death with him so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. In fact, he died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk, not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (2 Co. 5:15, 21; 1 Pet. 2:24; Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14).

So, the purpose of his grace to us is not just so we can escape hell and have forgiveness of sins and the promise of heaven when we die. His grace to us is to lead us to repentance. In fact, his grace, which brings salvation, instructs (commands) us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return. God’s grace is NOT carte blanche (free rein) to continue in willful sin against God without guilt and remorse. For, if we walk in sin, according to the flesh, we will die in our sins (1 Jn. 1:5-9; Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25).

Thus, God’s grace should lead us to repentance, and that repentance should produce a change of heart and mind away from living for sin and self to faith in God/Jesus Christ, to follow him (obey him) in all our ways. Yet, if we continue living (practicing) sin, we should expect God’s wrath and fury, not his warm acceptance with open arms into his heaven. If we do not walk in obedience to Christ and his commands, but we go our own way, instead, we will die in our sins, not be saved in the end. Yet, if we follow our Lord in obedience, and we are, by the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity.

Flee and Pursue (2 Tim. 2:22-26)

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

So, repentance is a change of heart and mind away from sin and Satan and to (toward) God and his righteousness. And, it results in a change of thinking, believing and behaving so that we don’t do the things we did before. Now our desire is for God/Jesus, to obey him and to walk in his ways and in his truth. So, it is a lot like making a U-turn in a road. First we were going one direction, and then we changed course, we turned, and now we are going in the opposite direction as we had been traveling.

And, it entails fleeing worldly passions and desires and pursuing righteousness, faith, love and peace. If all we do is just try to stop doing what is wrong, but we don’t do what is right, then we are a lot like a thief in between jobs, because nothing has really changed. Our character hasn’t changed, nor have we truly had a change of heart and mind. True repentance means we leave the way we use to live behind us and we now live holy lives pleasing to God. This is not to say we will be instantaneously perfect, i.e. that we will never sin again (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but it is saying that being born again is a new life, not the old life slightly cleaned up to be more presentable.

When we come to repentance, via God’s grace to us, we come to our senses, we realize we were heading the wrong direction, we are broken and contrite over our sins, and we follow our Lord in the right direction. We escape (break free from) the snare of the devil, who had taken us captive to do his will, and now we submit to our Lord, and we are desirous to do his will. And, we continue on this path until the day we die or until Jesus comes back to take us to be with him forever.

And, all this is made possible because of God’s grace to us and due to his sustaining power in our lives. All glory to God. Great things he has done in granting us repentance and forgiveness of sins so that we can now walk in freedom from slavery (addiction) to sin, and so we can walk in the Spirit, by faith in Christ, and according to his righteousness.

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.”

Prepare for Action

Thursday, June 15, 2017, 9:34 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Only to Be What He Wants Me to Be.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Peter 1 (Select vv. NASB).

Born Again (vv. 3-5)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

What does it mean to be born again? First, we are born physically of a mother, and then, because of God’s grace to us, and by faith in Jesus Christ, we are born of the Spirit of God to new lives in Christ Jesus, our Lord. One is a physical birth. The other is a spiritual birth. So, how are we born again?

Well, first of all Jesus Christ, the Son of God (and God) had to die on a cross. He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). He put our sins to death on that cross. And, when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. So, when we believe in him, we are crucified with him in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. The old has gone. The new has come. We are born again of the Spirit of God, and Christ now lives in us.

Various Trials (vv. 6-9)

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; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

So, we rejoice in our salvation and in the hope of eternal life with God. Yet, our hope is not just that one day we will be with our Lord forever, but our hope is in the freedom he has given us to walk (conduct our lives) not after the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Our hope is that we have a Savior, who is our Lord, but who is also our friend, confidant, counselor, guide, helper, strength, healer, comforter, encourager, and teacher, etc. Our hope is that we are in a personal and intimate relationship with our God, which gives us not only future hope, but present and living hope day by day, which is what keeps us going when times get tough.

Our hope, too, is that God created us for a purpose, and he has given meaning to our lives, and purpose and direction, and that even our trials are part of his plan for our lives in order to purify us, to make us holy, and to prepare us for his service. Also, our trials are for the purpose to test our faith, to make it stronger and more resilient. When we suffer, it is for our good, to make us more like Jesus, and to teach us to rely on God and not on ourselves. We, too, learn patience and perseverance through difficult times. And, we grow closer to our Lord, mature in our faith, and increase in our seriousness of our walk of faith, when we respond to our trials with grace, with trust in our Lord, and with submission to his perfect will for our lives.

Prepare Minds (vv. 13-16)

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

In our minds we store memories, good and bad. In our minds we think, we believe, we discern, make decisions, and react to our circumstances. In our minds we entertain sinful thoughts or we dwell on heavenly things. Part of God’s saving grace to us is in the renewing of our minds, in the healing of past hurts, and in transforming how we believe and perceive things. Yet, we have a responsibility regarding our minds, in the renewing process, and that is in the putting off of the old, and the putting on of the new; in thinking about things which are pure, right, true, and beneficial, rather than thinking hateful thoughts or impure thoughts.

We also have a responsibility for what we take into our minds, to make sure that we are not feeding our minds with what is garbage, or what is immoral, wicked, and ungodly, etc. If we take garbage into our minds, that is what is going to come out in our words and actions and attitudes. If we entertain our minds with the sinful acts of others, this is what our minds will dwell on, and often our actions and words will follow suit. So, if we are going to prepare our minds for action, we need to keep our minds pure and focused on Jesus Christ and on the truths of his Word. And, we need to take God’s Word seriously and apply its truths to our daily lives.

Conduct Yourselves (vv. 17-19)

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

What does it mean to conduct ourselves in fear? I believe this is speaking here of the fear of the Lord, which is reverence, respect, honor, value, esteem, adoration, worship, obedience and submission to our Lord. Our conduct is the way in which we live, i.e. our daily practice. This is how we should live, day in and day out. Conducting ourselves in fear is also living on this earth as though we truly do not belong here, as though this world and all its stuff is really not our home, but with an eternal focus in mind. We are not here to build kingdoms on this earth, but to help, to work to advance God’s heavenly kingdom while we still live here. We are not here, in other words, to live to please and entertain ourselves, but we are here to give glory to God in all that we do and say and think and are.

It also means that we live holy lives, pleasing to God. Being holy means we are separate (set apart, unlike, different) from the world, because we are being made to be like Jesus. We should no longer be conformed to the ways (patterns, attitudes, values) of this world, but we are to be transformed of the Spirit of God in the renewing of our minds. Our new lives should not look like our old lives, and only slightly cleaned up to be more presentable. Our new lives should be radically different from our old lives, because we died with Christ to sin, and we were resurrected with him to newness of life, to be lived to him and to his righteousness.

Only to Be What He Wants Me to Be
Norman J. Clayton

Only to be what He wants me to be,
Every moment of every day,
Yielded completely to Jesus alone
Every step of this pilgrim way…

The Faith We Profess

Monday, June 5, 2017, 7:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Blessed Assurance.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Colossians 1 (Select vv. NASB).

Our Faith (vv. 3-8)

We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth; just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf, and he also informed us of your love in the Spirit.

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, what should that faith look like? Well, first of all, where does this faith come from? And, do we generate this faith ourselves?

In the Bible we read, first of all, that no one can even come to faith in Jesus Christ unless the Father first draws him (Jn. 6:44). Generally, this is done through the preaching of the gospel of our salvation (Ro. 10:14-15). Yet, God is certainly not limited to depending on humans to tell people about himself; about Jesus Christ (Ro. 1:18-20; Ps. 19:1-6; Lu. 19:40; Rev. 14:6). Then, once the Father draws us to Christ, then he also gives us the faith to believe in him (Eph. 2:8-10). This faith is not the kind we might muster up ourselves out of our own human flesh, though. This faith is divinely persuaded as to God’s perfect will for our lives. It submits to God’s will, because it comes from God, and it is of God (of his divine character).

So, what is this gospel of grace? Where do we learn about it? We learn about it in the “Word of Truth.” And, it is “the grace of God in truth.” We learn about it, not just in the New Testament books of the Bible, though, for there are many prophecies of scripture concerning this gospel of grace in the Old Testament, too. And, it is the Holy Spirit of God who reveals it to us, who convicts our hearts of sin, and who convinces us of our need of the Savior.

What is this gospel? It is first of all that humans are born into sin, and thus they come up short of attaining God’s divine approval. They are bound for eternity in hell, without God, and without hope (Ro. 3:23; Ro. 6:23). And, there is nothing we can do in our flesh to earn or to deserve our own salvation. So, it is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – left his throne in heaven, came to earth, became flesh, and dwelt among us. He suffered like we suffer, and he was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. And, he was hung on a cross to die, although he had done no wrong, but in his death he took upon himself our sins so that we could die to sin and live to righteousness (Jn. 1; Phil. 2; 2 Co. 5:21; Is. 53).

And, what should it look like when we believe in Jesus, and in his gospel? It should radically transform 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 (Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24). And, holiness means to be set apart (unlike, different) from the world of sin because we are being conformed to the image (likeness) of Christ Jesus, our Lord. We are turned from darkness (sin) to light (Jesus Christ, truth, righteousness), and from the power of Satan to God, so we might receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those sanctified (purified, made holy) by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 26:16-18). The old has gone, the new has come.

God’s grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. If you believe that you can have faith in Jesus Christ, and that God requires nothing of you – no repentance, no submission and no obedience to Christ, then you are sadly mistaken. That is human faith, not God-given faith. We have to remember here that James said that even the demons believe, and they shudder. Sadly, many who call themselves Christians don’t even shudder, i.e. they have no fear (honor, respect) of God. Yet, God’s grace, which brings salvation, is not just about freeing us from hell’s fires and promising us heaven when we die. His grace teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14).

So, what should this faith look like? It should be surrendered to God, in death to sin and living to his righteousness. And, it should be bearing fruit and increasing, and not be stagnant and complacent. In other words, we should be growing in our faith, and we should be maturing in our spiritual walks. We should be denying the flesh, and by the Spirit we ought to be putting to death the deeds of the flesh. We should be walking in the Spirit and no longer living to gratify the desires of the sinful flesh (Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25; 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; 1 Jn. 1:6). And, we must have love for others, especially for other followers of Christ, for if we hate and devour one another, how, then, can the love of God be in us? (1 Jn. 2:11; 1 Jn. 4:20).

Worthy of the Lord (vv. 9-14)

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of 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.

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

First, we must have the correct foundation. If our faith is based in human flesh, and it is not God-given faith, then what follows will not take place, because we have a faulty base. If a house is built on a faulty foundation, it won’t last. When the storms of life come crashing in, it will fall. If we believe that all we have to do is acknowledge Jesus’ existence, and accept his forgiveness of our sins, but that nothing is required of us, then that is the wrong foundation, and our house will fall. But, if we believe the words of Jesus and those of the NT apostles, that coming to Christ means we die with Christ to sin so that we don’t live in sin any longer, and that repentance and obedience are required as part of believing faith (God-given faith), then by God’s grace, we can walk (in lifestyle) in a manner worthy of our Lord.

Then, we can be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, because we don’t have an attitude that we don’t have to obey him. Why would he fill us with the knowledge of his will if we are predisposed to ignore that knowledge, and to go our own way? Why would he show us anything if we feel we now have our ticket into heaven, that nothing can take it away, so it doesn’t matter if we still play around with sin, or if we make it our practice to excuse away willful sin as all covered by God’s grace. What he will show us is that we have the wrong foundation, and he will show us the correct way to him and to salvation. And, when we have responded to him with God-given faith, then he will increase our knowledge and understanding so that we can bear fruit in every good work.

Again, coming to faith in Jesus Christ means he rescues us from the domain of darkness (sin, wickedness, the power of Satan), and he transfers us to his eternal kingdom, to live to his righteousness and to his holiness.

Beyond Reproach (vv. 21-23)

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

Here again we have the point of our salvation, which is to deliver us out of slavery to sin. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Ro. 6:6-7). And, it is that we may live a new life – not like the old life. It is that he may present us before himself (God) holy and blameless and beyond reproach, not just positionally, but experientially. In other words, it is not just that Jesus’ righteousness is credited to our accounts, but it is that we live righteously in the power and working of his Spirit now living within us (Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; Ro. 12:1-2; Lu. 9:23-25; 2 Co. 5:15; 1 Pet. 2:24).

But, this is all conditional. We have to continue in the faith we have been given, firmly established and steadfast, not moved away from the hope of the gospel. And, this doesn’t mean we hold out hope that we will go to heaven when we die while we largely or even partially ignore God’s commands and do as we please in the meanwhile. This is not continuing in the faith of the gospel as was taught us by Jesus and by his NT apostles. This is continuing in human faith which promises a false hope of heaven, based in a lie, which is being preached to us by those who are false shepherds and wolves in sheep’s clothing, who are out to kill, to steal and to destroy the church. So, we have to continue in God-given faith, which produces love, obedience, submission, repentance and holy and godly living.

Blessed Assurance / Fanny Crosby

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

Under Your Shelter

Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 7:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Total Praise.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 61 (Select vv. ESV).

My Refuge (vv. 1-3)

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David.

Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.

Are you going through a trial, a difficult time in your life? Do you have unanswered questions? Have friends or family forsaken or betrayed you? Are friends or neighbors talking evil about you behind your back? Do you feel like you stick out like a sore thumb around the people you see every day? Are you being opposed for your stand for Christ and for his gospel? Are you being lied to or lied about? Or, are you going through financial struggles, relationship difficulties, the loss of a loved one, or health issues, etc.?

Whatever your trial or difficulty may be, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you can cry out your pain and suffering to him, he will listen, he cares, he feels your pain, and he is there to give you comfort, encouragement, hope, healing and strength to make it through each and every day, plus the wisdom to know how to respond to your troubles and heartaches. He loves you beyond measure, and he has a plan and a purpose for everything he allows you to go through. So, trust him, rest in him, believe in his promises, don’t faint, and find your strength under the shelter of the Most High.

When our hearts are breaking, and when we feel lonely, because we don’t fit in with the people around us, we need to be led to the Rock which is higher than us, namely Jesus Christ. He didn’t fit, either. He stood out like a sore thumb, too. He was distinctly different, strange to some people, and even thought of as crazy to others. Although he had crowds around him much of the time, largely they were there to see the miracles he performed or to have their bellies filled, but when Jesus told them the cost of following him, a large number of them deserted him. So, he understands, he empathizes, and he will wrap his loving arms around us and comfort us with his love.

Steadfast Love (vv. 4-5)

Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah
For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

When we trust Jesus Christ to be Lord (owner-master) and Savior of our lives, by God’s grace, through God-given faith in him, he indwells us with his Holy Spirit. In other words, God comes to live within our lives. He makes his home in our hearts. We walk (conduct our lives) now according to the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh, for by faith we have been crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we have been resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. The old has gone. The new has come. We now live in him, as well as he lives in us. Thus, we do dwell in his tent forever.

When we believe in Jesus Christ, and in what he did for us in dying on a cross in our place so that we could be delivered from the curse of sin and bondage to sin, we make a life-time commitment to him. We may not think of it in these terms, but God-given faith is a vow of fidelity to our Lord. It is a promise to be his forever, to follow him wherever he leads us, to walk in his ways, to love him, to serve him, and to give our lives over to his control. Jesus said that if we want to come after him, we must deny self and take up our cross daily and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, i.e. we will die in our sins. But if we lose our lives for his sake, i.e. if we die with him to sin, we will have eternal life in him (Lu. 9:23-25; cf. Ro. 8:1-14; Eph. 4:17-24).

Ever Sing Praise (v. 8)

So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.

Because of all that Jesus has done for us in saving us from bondage to sin, and the penalty of sin, and giving us new lives in him, to be lived to his righteousness, we should forever sing his praises! This should be a part of our everyday lives, whether we sing out loud, or whether we sing quietly in our hearts. I think I have songs going through my head most of the day, and since they are from the Lord, they encourage and help to strengthen my heart and give me courage to keep doing what God has called me to do.

Not only should we be singing praises to our Lord, and be singing songs, hymns and spiritual songs which lift up his name, we should be sharing these with others to encourage and to strengthen their hearts. The Bible does not say the songs need to be professional sounding, in the eyes of mankind, or that we have to have good sounding voices, as judged by the world. “Spiritual songs” are of the Spirit, not of the flesh, so they aren’t about entertaining people or about being “recording ready” for professional purposes. They are more like just putting scripture to music, and they give out the messages God wants for his children, to encourage, strengthen, spur us on to love and good deeds, and to give hope and healing to our hearts.

Not only this, but singing songs of praise to our Lord gets our focus off our troubles, and it gets us focused on our Lord, and on serving him, instead. It gets our focus off what other people are doing or not doing toward us, and it gets us focused on loving people with God’s love and care, even loving our enemies. For, it changes our perspective, and it lifts our spirits, and it gets us thinking from an eternal perspective rather than thinking about this life with all its miseries. This is not an escape from reality, nor is it removing ourselves from personal responsibility for the things of this life, or for the people of this world, but it keeps our eyes on Jesus where we find our hope, purpose, healing, direction, encouragement, empowerment and strength.

Total Praise / Richard Smallwood

You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to You.

Our Loved Ones

Wednesday, May 10, 2017, 5:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Be Strong and Take Courage.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Jeremiah 31:15-22a (NASB).

Bitter Weeping (v. 15)

Thus says the Lord,
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
Lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
She refuses to be comforted for her children,
Because they are no more.”

Do you have loved ones who do not know the Lord Jesus as Savior of their lives? Do you have people you care about in your life who profess to believe in Jesus Christ, but their lifestyles speak just the opposite? And, or do you have friends, neighbors or family members who have believed in Jesus Christ, who once walked with him in sweet fellowship, but have since fallen back into some of their old sinful patterns of behavior? If you do, there is still hope they will turn around, and will come to their senses, and will repent of their sins and trust Jesus, so we should never give up praying for them.

Do you, as well, have a burden for the part of the church, the body of Christ, who is living in spiritual adultery against her Lord, who is fleshly, sensual, worldly, and idolatrous; who is following after human desire instead of after the Lord? She partnered with the US government in an unholy alliance, which God forbids, and she turned the Lord’s house into a marketplace, which Jesus spoke strongly against (That is why he cleansed the temple). She incorporated the body of Christ and turned the church into a business of men, and she is marketing it just like any other business, and thus bases a lot of what she does after human desire, rather than after what God desires.

She gives honor to the government via a pledge (vow) of allegiance (fidelity) to the republic of the USA, via the singing of patriotic songs, and via the honoring of our soldiers who are fighting in all these other countries, and by trusting in the news media and believing their stories, without even testing to see if they are true. And, she gives honor to the world by making the church and the gospel more attractive and appealing so that the world will want to come to the meetings of the church. So, she entertains the world, and makes the church fun, comfortable, and non-threatening, as well as she dilutes the gospel to where it is no longer a narrow road but a broad path that just about anyone can travel, regardless of lifestyle or other beliefs.

And, yet she pushes God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – into a corner, and she does not give him the honor, respect, value, submission, obedience and reverence he so deserves. This Sunday we honor our earthly mothers who birthed us, but so many who call themselves Christians do not truly honor the ONE who gave them the breath of life, as well as who gave them eternal life. They do not honor the ONE who died on the cross for our sins, and who gave his life up for us to free us from the punishment of sin, and from slavery to sin, and to free us to now walk in his righteousness and holiness. Instead, they teach a gospel absent of death to sin and walking in righteousness. They teach a gospel which requires no repentance, obedience or submission to Christ, and they think it is ok for them to live in sensuality and to indulge in the flesh, and yet still claim heaven as their eternal home.

Because this fleshly, sensual and worldly church has pushed God into a corner, and has pretty much all but pushed the Holy Spirit out the door, she also rejects the Lord’s servants who do still hold to the tenets of the faith as taught by Jesus, and by his NT apostles. Even her leaders are being trained in how to “sift out” certain people with “strong convictions,” and in how to encourage them to “go someplace else” where they will be a “better fit.” And, many of them are even coming against the Lord’s servants by accusing them of teaching “works-based salvation,” even though they teach what Jesus and his NT apostles taught. Some even go so far as to accuse the Lord’s servants and messengers of hatred, bigotry, and intolerance, and may even refer to them as “dangerous,” too, because they preach the gospel.

This worldly and sensual church may not realize it, but they are under the influence (spell) of Satan and his many false shepherds (wolves in sheep’s clothing), who have deceived naïve minds into believing lies, rather than truth. They are being held emotionally and spiritually captive by clever manipulators of truth who say what itching ears want to hear. These false shepherds have convinced much of the church to unify with them in their marketing goals and objectives for the church, thinking they are obeying God, since the Bible says much about unity, although it is unity with Christ first of all, which then is what unifies us together as the body of Christ. They are convincing many of them to be like-minded with these “dogs” in ridding themselves of all which divides us as a nation, so that we can join hands and hearts with all the people of the world in singing “Kumbaya.”

In some places of the world, our government is even literally taking Christians captive, and is rounding them up like cattle, and is placing them in camps with horrible conditions where many of them will die off, if they are not killed first by all the bombs our nation drops on them. I believe this is coming to America, too, because this is all part of this New World Order beast conquering nations, peoples and the saints of God (See: Rev. 13). And, this should bring us to tears – all of this! We should grieve over the spiritual condition of much of today’s church here in America, and over what our nation (the USA) is doing to innocent people throughout the world, in the name of democracy, and we should lament over all the Christians who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ throughout the world.

Work Rewarded (vv. 16-20)

Thus says the Lord,

“Restrain your voice from weeping
And your eyes from tears;
For your work will be rewarded,” declares the Lord,
“And they will return from the land of the enemy.
“There is hope for your future,” declares the Lord,
“And your children will return to their own territory.
“I have surely heard Ephraim grieving,
‘You have chastised me, and I was chastised,
Like an untrained calf;
Bring me back that I may be restored,
For You are the Lord my God.
‘For after I turned back, I repented;
And after I was instructed, I smote on my thigh;
I was ashamed and also humiliated
Because I bore the reproach of my youth.’
“Is Ephraim My dear son?
Is he a delightful child?
Indeed, as often as I have spoken against him,
I certainly still remember him;
Therefore My heart yearns for him;
I will surely have mercy on him,” declares the Lord.

The encouragement here, I believe, is not that we should show no concern. We should (1 Co. 5:1-2; Jas. 4:8-10; Lu. 6:21). But, the encouragement is rather that we should not feel without hope. We should not be so caught up in lamenting over our loved ones, or over the worldly church, or over the persecution much of the church worldwide is enduring, that we forget that God is absolutely sovereign, that he is in control over all things, and that he cares about his children, too. We need to believe that our labors of love in the Lord, and our service in ministry, and in sharing the truths of the gospel of our salvation, and our prayers for the church and for our loved ones will be rewarded. We need to believe God for the salvation of loved ones, for the revival of the church, and for the strengthening of his persecuted saints.

What may look bad, from a human perspective, may be a blessing in disguise. I believe God will chastise his wandering saints who have been duped by master deceivers and manipulators, and in order to open their eyes to the truth, and so they will repent of their sins and turn their hearts back to God and truly honor him with their lives. Yet, this, too, is God’s grace to us. It is called “tough love,” and its goal is to bring his wandering ones back into pure fellowship with him, and also to get us ready for his return and for the consummation of our marriage to Jesus Christ, our husband. It is to purify us in heart and mind, and to restore them to God. God’s heart yearns for his wandering ones to return to him, for he loves his children, and so he will have mercy on them, but the mercy will come in the form of divine discipline and correction, but the results will be for our good.

Direct Your Mind (vv. 21-22a)

“Set up for yourself roadmarks,
Place for yourself guideposts;
Direct your mind to the highway,
The way by which you went.
Return, O virgin of Israel,
Return to these your cities.
“How long will you go here and there,
O faithless daughter?”

So, the counsel here for us is to turn our thinking (our minds) toward the way of holiness and righteousness, i.e. the way of the cross of Christ. We, as the people of God, need to get our minds away from the things of this world and its values, philosophies, attitudes and behaviors, and we need to fix our thoughts firmly on Jesus Christ and on his Word (the whole counsel of God). I believe God is also calling the body of Christ to come out from underneath this unholy union with the US government (here in America), and to return to Jesus as her ONLY Lord (head). I believe he wants her to also forsake following the schemes of humans for how to conduct church meetings, and to put her focus back on Christ and on the purity of his Word (his truth).

As well, I believe that we, as the body of Christ, need to get away from this diluted gospel which so many are following, and we need to read scriptures in context so we can see what the gospel is that Jesus and his NT apostles taught, rather than putting our trust in humans to tell us the truth. We need to know that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness, and that faith in Jesus Christ means we now walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit, and no longer according to our flesh, for if we live according to the flesh, it will result in eternal death, not life (1 Pet. 2:24; Ro. 8:1-14).

Be Strong and Take Courage / Don Moen

Be strong and take courage
Do not fear or be dismayed
For the Lord will go before you
And His light will show the way

Why don’t you give him all of your fears?
Why don’t you let him wipe all of your tears?
He knows, He’s been through pain before
And He knows all that you’ve been looking for