Of Faith

Thursday, July 13, 2017, 4:11 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “His Tender Mercies.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read several scriptures (in the ESV) on the subject of faith.

Be Not Anxious (Matthew 6:25-34)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

I think it is human nature to want to know the end from the beginning of a situation before we will venture into that area. It can be, in the natural, a fearful thing to step out into the unknown, not knowing what lies ahead or how things are going to come together. Yet, when we walk by faith, we learn to trust the Lord in all things, and we believe him to work it all out according to his plans and his purposes.

In the natural, so many things could go wrong, and our plans could fall apart. But, when we are being led by the Lord, and he is the one directing our paths, he will go before us, and he will prepare the way for us. This is not saying we will never face obstacles, but that God is completely sovereign (in control), and that he will work all things out for the good of those who love him; who have been called according to his purposes.

So, we learn to trust him, and to rest in him, and to believe him to supply all that we need for what he has called us to do. And, so we inquire of him to know what we are to do, where we are to go, and what we are to say. We do what he says, and then we leave the results in his hands. We follow him and his lead in our lives, and we trust him, too, with the people in our lives.

Of Little Faith (Matthew 8:23-27)

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

When we follow the Lord in obedience, it does not mean it will always be “smooth sailing.” Sometimes we will face storms, i.e. difficult and troubling situations which shake us, and which may be life threatening, as well. And, it may seem to us that God is asleep on the job, and that he is not paying attention to what is going on in our lives. But, he is still sovereign (in control), and he has it handled. Nothing escapes his notice. He has a plan and a purpose for it all, and he will see us through any and every situation.

So, we should not let the storms of life unsettle us or to make us feel as though there is no recourse or that there is no hope. We must be steadfast in hope and in faith no matter our circumstances. Walking by faith often means that we don’t know what lies before us, and how things are all going to work out. But, when we know God is in it, we have to know that he will make a way where there seems to be no way.

Why Do You Doubt? (Matthew 14:22-33)

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Sometimes, when things get particularly bad, which they will sometimes, we lose sight of Jesus and we get lost in the details of what we are going through. And, that is when we begin to fear and to fret. And, that is because we are looking at the circumstances and we are focusing on them rather than focusing on the God who is sovereign (in control) over our circumstances. So, we may begin to listen to the lies of Satan, instead, and begin to think that God can do nothing about what we are going through.

And, even though Jesus is right there with us in our circumstances, we may not recognize him, and so our hearts may begin to sink. And, when we cry out to him, he reveals himself to us, and he shows us how he is there. Sometimes it isn’t just that he is there with us through our trials, though, but that he is the one initiating the trials in our lives, because he has a plan and a purpose for them to mature us, to get us to rely on him and not on ourselves, and to teach us patience and endurance.

We might, at times, step out in faith, and be walking with the Lord in obedience, and then along the way get sidetracked by troubles or hardships and forget that our Lord is in control. And, then we begin to drown in our difficult circumstances because we took our eyes off Jesus. So, we need to refocus our attention on Jesus, be renewed in our faith, and keep going forward, even when we don’t know what lies ahead. We must walk by faith and not by sight, believing God to do his work in our lives, and in the lives of those we love, even if we don’t see yet what has been promised.

His Tender Mercies / An Original Work / January 26, 2014

Fear not! I’m with you.
Be not dismayed!
God watches o’er you.
Trust Him today.
He’ll lead and guide you;
Give you His aid.
He’ll love and keep you
With Him always.

Walk in His footsteps.
He’ll lead the way.
Trust in His love;
Believe that He cares.
He will not leave you.
Faithful He’ll be.
His tender mercies
Now you will see.

Fellowship with Him
Throughout the day.
Tell Him your heartaches.
He’ll heal always.
Rest in His comfort.
He is your friend.
Your faith He’ll strengthen,
True to the end.

A Steadfast Heart

Saturday, June 24, 2017, 9:33 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Hear my Voice.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 57 (Select vv. NIV).

I Take Refuge (v. 1)

Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me,
for in you I take refuge.
I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings
until the disaster has passed.

Everyone has troubles, from time to time. Even those who seem to have everything going well for them have difficulties, at least occasionally. We have good days and bad days physically or emotionally. Tragedy strikes. People die. Children get sick. People lose jobs. A husband or a wife is unfaithful to his or her spouse. Someone gets injured on the job or in a car wreck. Vacations get cancelled. Someone gets robbed. A house catches fire and is totally destroyed. People are homeless. Christians are persecuted and killed for their faith in Jesus Christ. They may also be betrayed by family members or close friends who reject and abandon them, etc.

So, what do we do when these types of things happen in our lives? We should call on God, and we should take refuge in him, but not just in the bad times, but at all times. He should be our sanctuary, our shelter at all times, but especially when things go awry, which they will. And, we should rest in him, and trust him to work all things out for the good of those who love him, and who have been called according to his purposes. As well, we should pray for godly wisdom to know how best to handle and to respond to our difficult circumstances or relationships. And, we should allow his peace to permeate our minds and hearts so that we don’t get fearful or stressed out by what we are going through.

Sharp Tongues (v. 4)

I am in the midst of lions;
I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—
men whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.

Not one of us has much control at all over what other people think about us, do to us, or say about us. Jesus said that, as his followers, we would be treated as he was treated, and hated like he was hated. We may be gossiped about, backbitten (have mean or spiteful things said about us behind our backs), betrayed, sold out, abandoned, falsely accused, slandered, verbally attacked, and called all kinds of names, etc. We may be called bigoted, hateful, intolerant, and/or a religious extremist, too, because we follow Jesus Christ with our lives, and we hold fast to the teachings of Christ and those of his NT apostles. There will also be people who are jealous of us or who despise us and what we stand for, and whose goal it is to destroy us in any way possible. And, getting bitten by sharp teeth hurts!

I Will Sing (vv. 7-11)

My heart, O God, is steadfast,
my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
Awake, my soul!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

So, what do we do when these things happen to us? We are to remain steadfast in heart and mind via submission to God’s Holy Spirit and via resting in the Lord. And, we are to sing praises to God. When all we want to do is cry, we should sing through our tears. And, lift up our souls to God, and trust him for his healing mercies. There is much healing that takes place in our hearts and minds when we rest in Jesus, and when we sing praises to God despite how we feel, i.e. despite the pain we have suffered from being backbitten, hated and abandoned.

We must remind ourselves, too, that God is absolutely sovereign over all that he has made. There is not anything that can touch us but what God allows it, and he allows it for a purpose. Sometimes we need to be disciplined, corrected, rebuked or chastised because we have not been listening to our Lord, and we have chosen to go our own way. Other times, we need divine discipline to strengthen us and mature us in our walks of faith, to prune us and to purify us, and to teach us not to rely on ourselves, but on God. Trials and tribulations are for our good, that we may share in God’s holiness, and that we may bear the fruit of his righteousness.

Satan’s goal is to get us down, to get us discouraged, to get us to give up, to be afraid, and to retreat. We must not give in to him for a moment! He wants us to doubt God, to blame God, and to not rest in the Lord and in his strength. So, we must put on our spiritual armor with which to fight off his evil attacks against us. Instead of worrying, we should praise the Lord for all his goodness to us. And, we should proclaim his excellencies far and wide. We must tell of his love, grace and mercy to us, but also of his justice and righteousness. And, we must proclaim his faithfulness to his people. He will not leave nor will he abandon us. He will be with us always, even to the end of time and beyond that into eternity. We can count on all his promises, his faithfulness, his goodness, and his love forever and always. Amen!

Hear my Voice / An Original Work / July 9, 2012

Based off Psalm 27

The Lord is my great salvation.
He’s the stronghold of my life.
When my enemies attack me,
My heart will not fear at all.
Though a war break out against me,
Confident in Christ I’ll be.
Of the Lord, I ask that I may
Live with Him eternally.

Hear my voice, Lord, when I call you.
Merciful to me You’ll be.
Though my relatives forsake me,
My Lord God will receive me.
Teach me Your way, O my Jesus.
Lead me in Your righteousness.
I will sacrifice to my Lord.
I will sing with joyfulness.

I am confident that I will
See the goodness of the Lord.
All the richness of His blessings,
My Lord has for me in store.
He asks me to be of courage;
To be strong and to take heart,
Patiently as I wait for Him,
And from Him to ne’er depart.

Who is He?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017, 8:30 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “More About Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 1:1-18 (Select vv. NASB).

The Word (vv. 1-5)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

As we read through this first chapter of John’s gospel, we soon realize that “The Word” is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is the second person of our triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He was in the beginning (of creation) with God, he is God, and he is our creator. He made us.

Jesus is the author of life (Acts 3:15). In Jesus is eternal life (1 Jn. 5:11). And, He is the eternal life (1 Jn. 1:2). This Life is the Light of mankind. He is truth and righteousness, and he reveals truth and righteousness to us. This truth (the light) shines (sheds light) in the darkness (sin, wickedness). He makes clear what is darkness (sin, lies, wickedness) and what is light (righteousness, truth, holiness). He exposes sin and lies for what they are, and he reveals truth and righteousness for what they are. Yet, many who are still in the darkness do not understand, because they do not receive or accept the truth, nor do they reject or deny the lies and the sin.

The Light (vv. 9-13)

There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Jesus Christ, the true Light, instructs and educates us in what is of God, in what is holy and righteous, and in what is true. And, he reveals to us what is false, what is not of God, and what is contrary to his Word. He exposes all that is called “light,” but which is false. But, we have to be listening to him, believing him, and applying what he teaches us to our lives, or else we may continue in the darkness, or we may find ourselves accepting false light as true light, and even rejecting the true light, as though it is false.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, left his throne in heaven, came to earth, became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. He suffered like we suffer, and he was tempted in like manner as we are also tempted, yet without sin. During his years of ministry on the earth, he healed the sick and afflicted, raised the dead, comforted the sorrowful, encouraged the timid, and delivered people from demons. He also preached repentance for salvation and for forgiveness of sin, death to sin for eternal life, and living to righteousness. And, he said that if we love him, we will obey him (we will keep his word). John said that the way we know we have come to know him, is if we keep (obey) his commandments (his Word, his instructions to us).

Yet, even though Jesus Christ is the Son of God, our Lord and Messiah, and even though he created the world, and he came into the world, those who were of the world did not recognize (know) him. Even those of his own household, his hometown, and of his own faith did not receive him. They did not acknowledge that he was their Lord and Messiah, nor did they accept (welcome) him into their lives as their Savior and Lord (owner-master). Even many today, even among those who call themselves Christians, truly do not welcome him as Lord (owner-master) of their lives nor as the one who died that they might die to sin and live to righteousness. They are ok with him forgiving their sins and promising them heaven when they die as long as he doesn’t require anything of them – no commitment, no vows of allegiance, no submission or surrender, and no repentance or obedience.

Yet, for those who truly do receive (welcome) him into their lives as their owner-master, recognizing that they are now his servants, who have repented of their sins, and who are reborn (spiritually) of the Spirit of God, they are now children of God. We are not God’s children merely because he created us, or because we pray a prayer to receive him, or because we acknowledge his existence or accept his forgiveness for our sins. We are his children when 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 (Eph. 4:17-24; Ro. 6:1-23). We are his children, too, when we are being led by the Spirit, and when we practice doing what he says (1 Jn. 2:3-4; Ro. 8:14).

Jesus Christ (vv. 14-18)

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

Jesus Christ is God, as well as he is the only begotten Son of God, so his glory (renown, honor, worth) is that of the Father. Jesus is full of both grace and truth. And, as his followers, we also should be full of grace and truth. Grace has to do with God’s favor (his kindness to us). And, the way in which he favored us is that Jesus gave himself up for us on a cross so that we could be delivered out of slavery to sin and have eternal life with God forevermore. And, we give up ourselves for others when we follow our Lord in obedience in being his servants and witnesses in telling others the gospel of Jesus, so that they can be saved from their sins, because we know that this could cost us our lives, our reputations, and people rejecting us.

Jesus was also full of truth, and so should we be. Truth is the opposite of lies. And, it is defined by God; by his standards, not by the world’s standards or values. The Word of God – Jesus, and his written Word – is truth. We should live the truth, believe the truth, promote the truth, and tell the truth, and we should not be liars and deceivers. So, in order to do this, we need to know the truth and be able to distinguish (discern) truth from lies. We can do this in the power of the Holy Spirit within us, but we have to be listening, and we must be willing to have him show us what is truth and what are lies. Many people, even those who call themselves Christians, hold on to the lies, because they like the lies better than the truth.

But, as followers of Jesus, we should be those who love the truth, who drink it in, search it out, follow it, and who share it with others.

More About Jesus / Hewitt / Sweney

More about Jesus would I know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.

More about Jesus let me learn,
More of His holy will discern;
Spirit of God, my teacher be,
Showing the things of Christ to me.

More about Jesus; in His Word,
Holding communion with my Lord;
Hearing His voice in every line,
Making each faithful saying mine.

More about Jesus; on His throne,
Riches in glory all His own;
More of His kingdom’s sure increase;
More of His coming, Prince of Peace.

More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love Who died for me.

Dear Church Member

Thursday, May 11, 2017, 9:19 a.m.

Dear Church Member,

The reason I am writing you today is to ask you a few simple questions. Do you know what your church believes? Have you read their statement of faith, and their purpose and vision statements? Have you also checked these out against the Word of God to see if they are entirely biblical, in context? What I mean is, do these statements teach the gospel of our salvation in the context of scripture, as a whole, or do they pull scriptures out of context and build their doctrine around only a few select scriptures, while ignoring the rest? And, do you know what your preachers preach with regard to the gospel, which may differ from their official statements of faith? And, have you checked out what your preachers teach against the Word of God?

The reason I am asking these questions is that I am finding more and more churches across America who have diluted the gospel of Jesus Christ and who have reduced the message of salvation to a broad road that many can travel, rather than the narrow road that only a few travel (Matt. 7:13-14). They do this by building their doctrine of salvation around just a few select scriptures, the primary one being Romans 10:9-10, which says:

“…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.”

Now, to the Jew of that time this meant one thing, while to the average American today, this might mean something entirely different. For instance, if a Jew of that time acknowledged publicly that Jesus Christ is Lord, the promised Messiah of Israel, the Christ, the Son of the living God, it would most certainly mean persecution, rejection, and possibly death, much like it might mean for a Muslim today. The same was true if he believed, in his heart of hearts, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross for our sins, and that God, the Father, resurrected him from the dead. For to believe something in our hearts is to believe it with the center of our entire being, and to believe this, for a Jew, would mean a transformation of heart, mind and lifestyle, for he would have crossed over to the other side, basically.

Yet, in America, the term “Lord” appears to be mainly just a title given to Jesus, much like Christ, or Son of God, but it doesn’t actually mean that he is the person’s owner-master, for that is clear by what is often prayed to receive Christ, and is even more clear by the lifestyles and the beliefs which follow a large percentage of these confessions, from all appearances. And, making a verbal confession of him appears to be a mere formality, and not an actual heart confession that Jesus Christ is now owner-master of their lives. As well, if we believe in Jesus in our hearts, i.e. in the core of our being, it should transform us in lifestyle, thought, word and deed, and not give us an excuse to continue sinning against God without guilt or remorse.

In Context

So, what is the context of Romans 10:9-10? Well, chapter 10 begins with these words:

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.”

So, who is he talking about? He is talking about the Jews. They were seeking to establish their own righteousness by keeping the law, which they could not do with absolute perfection, anyway, which is why Jesus had to die for our sins. They had zeal for God, but it was not according to truth. But, notice what it says here. The problem was not only that they were trying to be righteous through human effort, but they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. So, what does that mean? If we are subject to someone or something, we are placed under the authority and control of whatever it is we are subject to. As well, God’s righteousness is his divine (judicial) approval, i.e. it refers to what is deemed right by the Lord (after His examination), i.e. what is approved in His eyes (biblehub.com).

Now, I understand here that we are only approved by God because of what Jesus did for us on a cross in dying for our sins, and via God-given faith in him, and that we cannot attain this righteousness by our own human effort. Yet, God-given faith is divinely persuaded of God as to his will for our lives, and if God-given, indeed, then it is in line (in agreement) with his holiness, and his righteousness, i.e. what meets God’s approval, i.e. what is right in his eyes, such as holiness, godliness, truth, uprightness, purity, etc. So, if we subject ourselves to his righteousness, this means that his godliness, holiness, truth, purity, and righteousness are in authority and in control over our lives, i.e. Jesus is truly Lord (owner-master) of our lives, and we are his bond-slaves, and no longer are we living to please our sinful flesh. For, Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24).

Going Back Further

Ok, so what actually takes place in the life of someone who believes in Jesus with God-given faith? We read in Romans 6 that we died to sin, so how can we still live in it any longer? It goes on to say, basically, that we died with Christ to sin, and that we were buried with him through baptism (immersion) into death, i.e. through participating with him in death to sin, so that we might walk (in lifestyle) in newness of life (spiritual rebirth). “Our old self was crucified with him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin” (vv. 6-7). So, believing in Jesus is not just escaping punishment in hell and having the promise of heaven when we die. When we believe with God-given faith, we die to our old lives of living for sin and self, so that we can now conduct our lives in newness of life, no longer enslaved to sin, but now as bond-servants of his righteousness.

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv. 20-23).

God, through sending Jesus to die on a cross as our offering for sin, “condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3b-4). So, what is the requirement of the law? It demands full obedience to God’s moral laws, which no one could do, which is why Jesus died. Yet, it is not fulfilled in us who merely confess faith in Jesus Christ. It is fulfilled in us who conduct our lives, not according to our sinful flesh, but according to (in agreement with and empowered by) the Holy Spirit of God.

In other words, God-given faith in Jesus Christ results in lives transformed of the Spirit of God, which then results in us now living our lives under the direction of the Holy Spirit, and not under the control of the flesh. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (v. 14). So, “we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh — for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (vv. 12-13). Do you see what this is saying? A mere prayer is not enough to save us from our sins. If we are living (in lifestyle) by our flesh, we will die in our sins, yet if by the Spirit we are putting to death the acts of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity. A saved life is a changed life.

And, this is the context leading up to Romans 10:9-10. If we believe in our hearts concerning what Jesus did for us in his death and resurrection, it means we die to sin that we might live to righteousness. It means we no longer live (walk in lifestyle) in sin. We don’t make a practice of sin, thinking God’s grace covers it all. Instead, by the Spirit we are putting sin to death in our lives daily. And, if we confess that Jesus is Lord of our lives, it means he is owner-master, and we are his bond-slaves, and that his righteousness and holiness now rule in our lives and we are under his and their control.

Zeal for Your House
An Original Work / August 1, 2016

Based off Jn. 2:17; Ps. 69:9

Zeal for Your house, it consumes me.
Lord, I love my times with You.
I love to worship You and sing Your praises.
Time in Your Word brings me closer to You,
List’ning to You speaking to me,
Gently guiding me in truth.

Lord, You are my life’s example,
Showing me how I should live.
I love to walk with You where’er You lead me.
No greater joy have I when serving You.
Loving, giving, resting in Your strength,
I’m yielding to Your will.

Zeal for Your house, it consumes me.
See the church turned upside down:
Marketing ventures taking place of worship,
Men of the gospel turning into clowns.
Gospel message made appealing,
So the world will feel at home.

Lord, we need a great revival.
Turn their hearts, Lord, back to You.
Open the blind eyes, turn them all from darkness,
Lord, to the light. May they return to You,
Turn from their sin, forsake idols,
Be restored to God again.

Born for This

Friday, May 5, 2017, 7:03 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Why are You Afraid?” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 18 (quoting select vv. NASB).

Prophecy Fulfilled (summary chapters 13:1-18:18)

Jesus Christ, the Son of God (and God) had just been betrayed by one of his closest companions, Judas, who turned him over to the authorities to be arrested and to be put on trial, as though he was guilty of committing a crime. As well, Jesus had just predicted the denial of another one of his disciples, Peter. Then, he spoke words of encouragement, hope, comfort and instruction to his disciples (the 11 who were left), in order to prepare them for what was coming next. Following this he prayed to the Father for his disciples, and for all who would yet believe in him as Lord and as Savior.

When Jesus had finished praying, Judas came with a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees, who then arrested Jesus and took him away. In the midst of all this, Peter fulfilled Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial of Jesus, by denying his Lord three times.

Why Strike Me? (vv. 19-24)

The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.” When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, “Is that the way You answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?” So Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Jesus Christ had done no wrong. During his years of ministry on the earth, he healed the sick and afflicted, comforted the sorrowful, encouraged the timid, raised the dead, fed the hungry, and delivered people from demons. He performed miracle after miracle in people’s lives and hearts. Although he was tempted of Satan, he never once sinned in all that he did. Yet, he also confronted sin in sinful humans, warned of divine judgment, and called for repentance and for faith in him as their Messiah and Lord, and promised hope, healing and eternal life for the penitent and the obedient (to him).

And, for this, plus his healing of people on the Sabbath, and his refusal to follow the traditions of men, and because he claimed to be who he is, he was hated, persecuted, falsely accused, arrested, put on trial, and put to death. Yet, while on trial, Jesus defended his ministry, and he questioned the authorities as to the legitimacy of their actions. Yes, there were moments when he kept silent, but he also answered his accusers by telling the truth. He didn’t mince words, either, but he was direct in what he said, and he got right to the point of the matter. He was never wishy-washy at all.

Jesus told us that we would be hated and persecuted as he was hated and persecuted, and eventually put to death, so he is our example for how we should respond when we are falsely accused, arrested on trumped up charges, and put on trial for believing in him and for sharing with others the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He did not resist arrest, for he knew this was the reason why he was put on this earth, to die for our sins, yet this did not mean he kept silent in the whole process. He used this as an opportunity to give testimony to who he is, and to defend what he did and said.

What Hypocrisy! (vv. 28-32)

Then they *led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. Therefore Pilate went out to them and *said, “What accusation do you bring against this Man?” They answered and said to him, “If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.” So Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.” The Jews said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death,” to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.

Do you see the hypocrisy in all of this? The chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the Pharisees hated Jesus. They were jealous of him. They refused to believe he was the Son of God, the Christ, their Messiah and Lord. They closed their ears to the truth. They opposed him at every turn, and they tried frequently to trip him up, hoping to discredit him. While they were good at appearing righteous on the outside, though, inside they were full of wickedness. And, now here they were getting ready to put a righteous and innocent man to death, and yet they were concerned about being ceremonially clean (not defiled), so that they might take part in the celebration of the Passover, which was, in fact, a precursor to Jesus’ blood sacrifice for us on the cross for our sins so that we might be liberated from slavery to sin and so we might be partakers of God’s heavenly kingdom.

What is Truth? (vv. 33-38)

Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate *said to Him, “What is truth?”

If we have not already been brought before those in authority to give an account for who we are (in Christ), and for why we do what we do, one day this may take place in our lives, if we live long enough. And, we will need the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit to speak the words God would have us to say as a testimony to him, to his saving grace, and to his gospel of grace. And, we should not be afraid of those who can kill our bodies, but who cannot kill our souls, but we should pray that we would speak boldly in Jesus’ name in sharing the reason for the hope that is within us.

There are a lot of people now, in both the world of politics and in the Christian world who are coming against the true gospel, as taught by Jesus and by his NT apostles. And, they are coming against Christ’s servants and messengers, too, because they tell people the truth of what Jesus taught. These people are pushing for tolerance of all faiths and of all lifestyles, and thus they object to a gospel which warns of divine judgment, which confronts sin in sinful humans, which calls for repentance and obedience to Christ, and to his Word, and yet promises hope and healing for the penitent. They are, thus, pushing a gospel which is comprised of “good deeds” only, but that doesn’t teach Jesus as the only way to God, or repentance and obedience to Christ as required for eternal life with God in heaven.

Yet, Jesus (his Word) told us that these things would take place. The Bible says we are destined for afflictions, persecutions, and hardships, and even some of us for captivity and for martyrdom. We were born into this world not just to be saved from our sins, and to live for our Lord, but also to suffer for the sake of his name, to share his gospel with the world around us, and to be hated, persecuted, mistreated and, perhaps, even to die for our faith.

Jesus did not die for our sins just so we could escape hell and just so we could have the promise of heaven when we die. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He said that if we want to come after him, we must deny self and take up our cross daily and follow him. He said 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. His grace is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for his return (See: Tit. 2:11-14; Lu. 9:23-25).

These are some of the things we must teach, because there are many liars and deceivers who are giving people a false hope of security with God in heaven based on half-truths (lies). Yet, when we teach these things, we must be ready to be hated and persecuted, in return, for there are many enemies of the cross of Christ who do not want us telling people the truth. And, yet, we must not fear their threats, but we must honor Christ our Lord.

Why Are You Afraid? / An Original Work / December 5, 2013

Based off Various Scriptures

Do not be afraid.
Your Lord is always by your side.
Serve the Lord in righteousness
Before Him all your days.

Those who hate the light
Will not come to the Lord.
They fear their deeds
Might be noticed.
So, they hate the light,
And they embrace the night.

Do not be afraid,
Although your enemy attacks.
Dare to share your testimony
Of God’s saving grace.

Do not fear their threats,
But honor Christ, your Lord.
Be prepared to give an answer
For the hope you have,
With gentleness; respect.

Why are you afraid?
For all that’s hidden will be shown.
What I tell you, speak in daylight.
Let the truth be known.

Do not be afraid
Of those who’ll take your life.
Fear the Lord with understanding.
Trust Him with your life,
And give not up to strife.

Do not be afraid.
Take courage, it is I, your Lord.
Bow before Me; now adore Me.
Oh, why do you doubt?

Listen to the Lord.
Get up, and bear His name!
Run and tell the world He loves them.
Jesus came to save.
Give Him your all today.

A Tree Shaking

Thursday, April 27, 2017, 1:06 a.m. – I woke up from sleep with the phrase in mind “Shake someone’s tree and see what falls out.” The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Why Are You Afraid?” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 6:43-49 and Hebrews 12:25-29 (NIV).

I looked up the phrase “to shake someone’s tree,” and it means “to arouse to action or reaction, disturb” (dictionary.com). A tree can symbolize human character, nations, kingdoms and/or institutions. As well, “shaking” means agitating, stirring, unsettling, and/or distressing.

By Its Fruit (Luke 6:43-49)

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

Here a tree symbolizes an individual person, and the tree’s fruit represents the person’s moral fiber, his character, his temperament and what is stored in his heart. The fruit can be that of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Or, it can be, that, out of the heart come evil thoughts–murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander (Matt. 15:19). When we are put through trials and difficult circumstances in this life, they have a tendency to bring out the true us, i.e. what is hidden in our hearts.

Yet, I am not certain that it is all as black and white as this may appear. What I mean by this is that a Christian, although cleansed by the blood of Jesus, is still flesh and blood, and thus still has the propensity to sin, to feel pain, and to react to that pain in ways which might indicate bad fruit if the individual does not immediately respond in the Spirit, but rather in the flesh.

So, this may not indicate that his whole tree is bad or that all his fruit is bad, but that he still has some things in his life which need to be brought to the cross of Christ. For instance, Jesus said that daily we are to take up our cross and follow him, and Paul said that if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, that we will live. We are being made into the image of Christ. So, what I believe this comes down to is lifestyle, i.e. our daily walks; what we are made out of on a consistent and continuous basis. “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of,” i.e. what fills his life.

Basically, this has to do with what we practice as the normal course of our lives. Obedience to Christ does not necessitate absolute sinless perfection, but it does indicate that obedience is what we practice on a day-to-day basis. It is what is our customary way of acting and reacting, our habits, routines and normal procedures. Paul said that if we walk (conduct our lives) according to the Spirit, we will live with Christ for eternity, but if we walk (in lifestyle) according to the flesh, we will die in our sins. So, if we do sin, we confess it, turn from it, and keep following our Lord in obedience, and do not keep repeating the same sins over and over and over again.

If we call Jesus “Lord,” this means he is our owner-master, and that we are his servants (slaves). He is the one in charge of our lives, not us. So, if he is Lord, then the normal practice of our daily lives should be to listen to what he says and to obey it (do what he says). If we do not do what he says, this means we do not practice obedience, but our practice (habit, routine), instead, is to ignore his words to us and to do what we want, instead.

We may be able to perform well, for a time, but when we are put to the fire, and our world is shaken, what lies underneath will be brought to the surface, i.e. when a tree is shaken, we see what falls out. Then, the truth comes out. Our foundation, and I don’t merely mean our initial decision to believe in Jesus, but rather the basis for our lives (for our lifestyles) by which we build our lives in Christ, if shaken, should not destroy us, because our lives are built on Christ and on his Word and on obedience to his Word. But, if we do not put into practice what God teaches us through his Word, then when we go through trials, which shake our very foundation, then our lives will come crashing down, because they were not truly built on Jesus Christ.

What May Remain (Heb. 12:25-29)

See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Again, if we walk (in practice) according to our flesh (bad fruit), we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh (the bad fruit), we will live with Christ for eternity (See: Ro. 8:1-14). Yet, if we refuse to obey the Lord as the normal practice of our lives by ignoring what he teaches us so as to live to please our sinful flesh, instead, we should not expect that when we die that we have the promise of eternity with God.

God is going to shake this earth, and the people of the earth, and when this tree is shaken, we will see what falls out. What falls out (i.e. what is removed from the tree) may be human lives, either in the loss of positions of power, or in death, and loss of life for eternity, or it may be the removal of literal trees, animals, or plant life which we need for food and survival. But, this will be so that what is eternal (righteous, holy) will remain. What this may indicate here, as is discussed earlier in this chapter in Hebrews, is that God will discipline us (shake us) in order to remove from our lives what is of this earth so that what is eternal (righteous, holy) is what remains.

This is a call to obedience to Christ, to surrender to his will, and for us to walk in the fear (honor, respect and awe) of our Lord. Too many people take God too causally, and they think he doesn’t notice their sins or that he will do nothing to them, and so they think they can keep on sinning and God’s grace will cover it all. But, scripture does not teach that. It says that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk in darkness, we are liars. We cannot walk according to our flesh and have the hope of heaven when we die. We need to know that God will judge those who call him “Lord” but who do not make a practice of doing what he says. Yet, obedience is done all in the power and working of God’s Holy Spirit, living within individual followers of Christ. True obedience cannot be done in our own flesh or willpower.

And, lastly, we have to know that this “shaking” is going to bring about troubled times, and persecution of Christians, and enemies attacking us, yet we are not to be afraid, but we are to put our trust solely in the Lord Jesus and trust him with our lives. And, we are to keep on sharing Jesus Christ with others, because many need to believe on him before Christ returns.

Why Are You Afraid? / An Original Work / December 5, 2013

Based off Various Scriptures

Do not be afraid.
Your Lord is always by your side.
Serve the Lord in righteousness
Before Him all your days.

Those who hate the light
Will not come to the Lord.
They fear their deeds
Might be noticed.
So, they hate the light,
And they embrace the night.

Do not be afraid,
Although your enemy attacks.
Dare to share your testimony
Of God’s saving grace.

Do not fear their threats,
But honor Christ, your Lord.
Be prepared to give an answer
For the hope you have,
With gentleness; respect.

Why are you afraid?
For all that’s hidden will be shown.
What I tell you, speak in daylight.
Let the truth be known.

Do not be afraid
Of those who’ll take your life.
Fear the Lord with understanding.
Trust Him with your life,
And give not up to strife.

Do not be afraid.
Take courage, it is I, your Lord.
Bow before Me; now adore Me.
Oh, why do you doubt?

Listen to the Lord.
Get up, and bear His name!
Run and tell the world He loves them.
Jesus came to save.
Give Him your all today.

Gladness and Joy

Thursday, March 30, 2017, 7:48 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “The King is Coming.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 51:1-11 (NASB).

Look to the Rock (vv. 1-3)

“Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,
Who seek the Lord:
Look to the rock from which you were hewn
And to the quarry from which you were dug.
“Look to Abraham your father
And to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain;
When he was but one I called him,
Then I blessed him and multiplied him.”
Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion;
He will comfort all her waste places.
And her wilderness He will make like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the Lord;
Joy and gladness will be found in her,
Thanksgiving and sound of a melody.”

Jesus Christ, our Messiah and Lord, is the promised seed of Abraham: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ.” “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” “And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.” “It is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” (See: Gal. 3:16, 29; 4:22-31; Ro. 9:8). So, we who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives are Abraham’s offspring. We are the children of promise, of the free woman, not of the slave woman. We are the Jerusalem that is from above, not of the earth.

Through the promised seed of Abraham, who is Jesus Christ, ALL nations on the earth are blessed (See: Gen. 22:18). When Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, he died for the sins of the whole world. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (Gal. 5:21). When he died, Jesus redeemed us, i.e. he bought us back for God with his blood. Through faith in Jesus Christ the law of the Spirit of life sets us free from the law of sin and death. Amen!

One of the things Jesus accomplished through his death is that he destroyed the barrier that stood between Jew and Gentile. Jesus’ “purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility… For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Eph. 2:14-18). What this means is that the Jewish nation is no longer the children of promise. Only through faith in Jesus Christ can we be heirs of the promise. The division is no longer Jew and Gentile, but it is Christian (saved) and non-Christian (lost). The Jewish nation is now no different from Arab nations in that they are both of Hagar (Gal. 4:25).

So, our Rock from which we were hewn (fashioned) is Jesus Christ, the promised seed of Abraham. If we seek after God, we are to look to Jesus and to his righteousness for our consolation. He is our only hope of salvation. Only through his death and resurrection, and through God-given faith in him, can we be delivered out of slavery to sin and enter into God’s eternal kingdom. We who believe in Jesus Christ are Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the Holy City of God, his temple. He will comfort us with his mercy and grace. Whereas we were once dead in our sins without hope, God made us alive in Christ. He forgave us our sins, and gave us new birth unto a living hope. Through faith in him we now are filled with inexpressible joy.

Pay Attention (vv. 4-8)

“Pay attention to Me, O My people,
And give ear to Me, O My nation;
For a law will go forth from Me,
And I will set My justice for a light of the peoples.
“My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth,
And My arms will judge the peoples;
The coastlands will wait for Me,
And for My arm they will wait expectantly.
“Lift up your eyes to the sky,
Then look to the earth beneath;
For the sky will vanish like smoke,
And the earth will wear out like a garment
And its inhabitants will die in like manner;
But My salvation will be forever,
And My righteousness will not wane.
“Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,
A people in whose heart is My law;
Do not fear the reproach of man,
Nor be dismayed at their revilings.
“For the moth will eat them like a garment,
And the grub will eat them like wool.
But My righteousness will be forever,
And My salvation to all generations.”

God’s people now are those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, whether Jew or Gentile by physical birth. We are his nation: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9). We who believe in Jesus with God-given faith – which is persuaded as to God’s will for our lives – have been given the gift of salvation from sins. Yet, our salvation is not complete until Jesus Christ returns for us and he takes us to be with him forever.

While we live on this earth we will see much wickedness and we will experience much sorrow. We who follow Jesus Christ with our lives and who bear witness to his gospel of salvation, as taught by him and his NT apostles, will be hated, persecuted, ill-treated, falsely accused, rejected, despised and even killed for our faith in Jesus Christ and his gospel. Although it is our joy to serve our Lord as his ministers on this earth, our time here will have many trials and tribulations, and we will often long for our heavenly home, and for the time of our Lord’s return.

So, this is an encouragement to be faithful, and to be steadfast in faith and in hope, knowing that the time when our salvation will be complete is not that far off. There is a time coming when God will judge this earth, and he will put an end to sin and to suffering. What we are going through now is temporary. Also, we must understand that our Lord is absolutely sovereign and completely in control over all things. So, we should never fear humans or what they may do to us. They can kill the body, but they can’t kill the soul. And, one day God will put an end to their injustices and their rebellion against him. Yet, our Lord, His Word and His Salvation will be forever!

Arm of the Lord (vv. 9-11)

Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord;
Awake as in the days of old, the generations of long ago.
Was it not You who cut Rahab in pieces,
Who pierced the dragon?
Was it not You who dried up the sea,
The waters of the great deep;
Who made the depths of the sea a pathway
For the redeemed to cross over?
So the ransomed of the Lord will return
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
And everlasting joy will be on their heads.
They will obtain gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.

This is a call to the Lord to fulfill his promises, and to deliver his people out of this sin-sick world and to take us home to be with him. Yet, it is also a call for him to work miracles in our lives while we still live on the face of this earth. The call acknowledges that our God is the Almighty God, our creator, who is all powerful. It calls to remembrance all the many ways in which he delivered his people in times past, which includes all the many ways in which we, individually, have seen him work miracles of grace in our lives, too.

On the basis of what we know of God, and of his history with humankind, and on the basis of his promises given to us in His Word, we can pray for what we know is according to his will and his purposes for our lives. We can believe him for daily deliverance from the evil one, from giving into temptation to sin, and from the fear of opposition from sinful humans. And, we can trust him to be with us, to not forsake us, and to lead us through troubled waters while still filling us with his perfect peace and joy.

And, we can rely on the strength of the Lord and the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit within us, as well as his guidance, to lead us through every difficult circumstance and to make a way for us where there often seems to be no way. Nothing can touch us but what God allows it, and that he has a purpose for it, and that he will bring good out of it. We have to keep remembering that. We have to keep trusting, and not be afraid. One day he is going to return for us, and all the hardships we have gone through in this life will fade away, and will become no more. And, we will live in peace and safety with our Lord forever, and he will wipe every tear from our eyes.

The King is Coming
(Bill Gaither)

The King is coming, the King is coming
I just heard the trumpet sounding and soon His face I’ll see
The King is coming, the King is coming
Praise God, He’s coming for me

I can hear the chariot’s rumble, I can see the marching throng
And the fury of God’s trumpet spells the end of sin and wrong
Regal rolls are now unfolded, heaven’s grandstands all in place
Heaven’s choir is now assembled, start to sing “Amazing Grace”…