Above All Else

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

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

His Lovingkindness

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

Yet, if we want to come to the Light, Jesus said that we must deny self, take up our cross daily (daily die to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with him to sin), we will gain eternal life. Paul reiterated Jesus’ words when he said that if we walk (in lifestyle) according to the flesh, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity, i.e. we will have eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14).

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

The Blameless Way

The purpose in Jesus dying on that cross for our sins was not to just forgive us our sins, but to deliver us out of slavery to sin, and so that we might walk in (live to) his righteousness. And, his righteousness is what is approved in His eyes, i.e. what is deemed right by him, such as morality, purity, justice, decency, truth, integrity, uprightness, and holiness, etc. His grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, instructs (commands) us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions (lusts), and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return. So, if we continue in sin, i.e. if we make it our practice, we don’t have the hope of eternal life with God (See: Gal. 5:19-25; Eph. 5:3-6; Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; & 1 Jn. 1:5-9).

When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we die to sin. So, how can we continue in it? Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. So, we should consider ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Sin, thus, should no longer reign in our bodies so that we obey its lusts. Instead, we should present ourselves to God as instruments of his righteousness. Sin should no longer have mastery over us, because Jesus set us free from sin addiction. When we were enslaved to sin, though, we were free from the control of righteousness, but now that we have been set free from sin, we should have become slaves (bondservants) to righteousness, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life (See: Ro. 6:1-23).

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

Integrity of Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Goodness of God

Wednesday, August 9, 2017, 5:13 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 27 (Select vv. NASB).

My Salvation (vv. 1-3)

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

We are all born into this world with sin natures. We all fall short of attaining God’s divine approval, by human effort. So, God the Father sent his Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ (God the Son) into the world to die on a cross for our sins. He who knew no sin became sin for us on that cross so that we might become the righteousness of God (1 Co. 5:21). So, when he died, our sins died with him, and were buried with him. But, when he was resurrected from the dead, he rose victorious over sin, hell, Satan and death, on our behalf. He died that we might die with him to sin. And, he lives that we might live with him to his righteousness. Jesus Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Tit. 2:14; & 1 Pet. 2:24).

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, thus, 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). The old has gone. The new has come. This is what it means to be “born again” of the Spirit of God. Our lives are changed, transformed of God’s Spirit away from living to sin and self and to living to Christ and his righteousness. Now we no longer walk (conduct our lives) according to our sinful flesh, but we now walk (in lifestyle) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God, not necessarily in sinless perfection (See: 1 Jn. 2:1-2), but in a consistent and persistent walk of faith, daily, by the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh (Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25).

When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are given the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. The Holy Spirit of God comes to dwell within us, and he lives within us to empower, strengthen, guide, teach, counsel, convict, rebuke and encourage us in our walks of faith with our Lord Jesus. Through our times of fellowship with our Lord each day in his Word, listening to him speak his truths to our hearts, and through prayer, talking with him and listening to him, we grow in our faith and knowledge of our Lord, and we are strengthened in our faith, and mature in our spiritual walks. We learn to know his sovereignty over our lives, and that we never have any reason to fear the enemy of our souls (Satan) or any of his servants and messengers, for our God and Lord will give us all we need to remain faithful to him.

He Will Not Leave (vv. 7-10)

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the Lord will take me up.

Coming to faith in Jesus Christ does not mean we won’t face difficulties in this life, or that we won’t know trouble, hardships, pain, suffering or heartaches. In fact, Jesus said that if we follow him, we will suffer like he suffered, and we will be treated like he was treated. But then he, although he was perfect, learned obedience through the things that he suffered. And, we, as well, learn obedience, including patience, perseverance, love, faithfulness, trust, and humility, etc. through our sufferings and hardships.

Our Lord will never abandon or forsake us, though. He will remain faithful even if we are faithless. He will always be there to comfort, encourage, give hope and healing, and to counsel us in the way that we should go. He will give us everything we need to live godly and holy lives for him in this present world and to not give way to fear. We just need to keep seeking his face and his counsel, and we must trust him with our lives, and rely upon his strength and power, and then rest in him, and believe that he will work out all things for good for those who love him, who obey him, and who have been called according to his purpose (Ro. 8:28).

Teach Me Your Way (vv. 11-14)

Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a level path
Because of my foes.
Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries,
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have despaired unless
I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

The goal of our salvation is not merely that we should escape hell (eternal damnation) and have the hope of heaven when we leave this earth. God’s grace to us is also not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace, which brings salvation, instructs (commands) us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions (lusts), and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). If we claim to have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we lie and we do not live by the truth (1 Jn. 1:5-9). And, if we continue to make sin our practice, we don’t have the hope of eternal life with God (See: Gal. 5:19-21; Eph. 5:3-6; Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25).

The goal of our salvation is that we forsake our sinful lifestyles, and that we walk righteously before God to please him in all that we do, and think, and are, and say. Jesus becomes our husband, and we, as his church, become his bride. So, we forsake our former “lovers,” and we commit ourselves to him to faithfulness, obedience, and to making him our only Lord and Master. We do this because we love him, and because we are now in relationship with him, and our desire is now for him. So, we want him to teach us his ways, because we want to walk in them, and no longer live to please our sinful flesh. This is not to say we will never sin again, but that our desire should now be for him, to walk in his ways, and that we will now walk (in lifestyle) according to his Spirit, and no longer according to our flesh.

When we make that decision to follow our Lord in obedience, though, we will face opposition from our enemy and from his followers (his servants and messengers), and from those whom he has deceived with his many lies. And, there will be those who will bear false witness against us, who will slander us, and because they hate us and our testimonies for Jesus Christ, and our relationship with our Lord. They are those who are still bound in their sins or are those whom the enemy is deceiving that they can still be addicted to sin and that God’s grace covers it all. And, so they will find the true gospel and its messengers an offense to the lifestyles they choose.

Yet, we are not to fear them or their slanderous tongues, or their mistreatment of our bodies, for our Lord is completely sovereign over all that he has made, and he will see us through it all to victory. He will carry us through it all, and he will give us everything we need to endure and to come out shining like gold. And, one day we will get to be with our Lord forever, and all sorrow, pain and crying will cease. Amen! So, we just need to wait on our Lord, believe what he says, trust in his promises, take courage, keep on loving others, and keep on loving and serving our Lord with our lives.

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

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

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

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

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

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 are The Faithful?

Wednesday, May 31, 2017, 6:22 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 101 (Select vv. ESV).

Far from Me (vv. 1-4)

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

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

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

Practitioners of Deceit (vv. 5, 7)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favor on the Faithful (v. 6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Safe Place

Wednesday, May 24, 2017, 6:31 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Jesus, I Am Resting, Resting.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 57 (NASB).

Refuge in Him (vv. 1-3)

Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me,
For my soul takes refuge in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge
Until destruction passes by.
I will cry to God Most High,
To God who accomplishes all things for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
He reproaches him who tramples upon me. Selah.
God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth.

When we trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives, and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, we become God’s children, and followers of Jesus Christ. We also become the Lord’s servants and his witnesses. We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. So, we are to let our light shine before all people, and not hide it. Also, we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). We are his witnesses not only in word, as we share with others the truth of the gospel, but we are his witnesses by how we live our lives, day in and day out.

Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ has many spiritual benefits. Our sins were paid for with the blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, when he took our place on a cross, and he became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. By God’s grace, through God-given faith in Christ Jesus, we are delivered from slavery to sin, and we are set free to now walk with Christ in his righteousness and holiness. We now have eternal life with God and the hope of heaven when we die. Yet, this is promised on the basis of that faith being continuous, and on the basis of us forsaking our former way of living for sin and self, no longer conducting our lives according to our sinful flesh, but now walking (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit of God.

Thus, when we walk in Christ’s holiness, and we are separate (unlike, different, distinct) from this sinful world, and we share the truths of God’s Word with the world around us, and with others who profess the name of Jesus, too, there will be those who won’t like us. They won’t approve of our lifestyles. They also won’t approve of the message. Some will think we are weird, crazy, radical, disconnected, strange, extreme, and just not normal. And, some of them may even make it their job to try to “normalize” us, i.e. to try to get us to be more like them, less solemn about our faith, and to not take life so seriously. Some will try, as well, to get us to compromise our faith in order to not offend people with the gospel, and they will attempt to convince us to “stay in our lane” and to not be concerned about others.

And, so, we will call out to God in prayer, seeking him for guidance, counsel, wisdom, strength, courage, and determination to stand on the Word of Truth, and to not give way to pressure from the enemy to cave in. We will pray for God’s spiritual protection over our lives, and we will trust him to watch over us, and to carry us through every difficult situation we face. We will trust in his sovereignty, and surrender to his will, and believe that He has a plan and a purpose for it all, and that he will supply all we need to endure and to persevere. As well, we will look forward to our future hope in eternity with God, when we know that all this evil will be done away with, and we will live in perfect peace with our Lord, free from all threats.

Soul Among Lions (vv. 4-6)

My soul is among lions;
I must lie among those who breathe forth fire,
Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows
And their tongue a sharp sword.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.
They have prepared a net for my steps;
My soul is bowed down;
They dug a pit before me;
They themselves have fallen into the midst of it. Selah.

Yet, while we still walk the face of this earth, we will have trouble and hardship. When Jesus sent out his disciples to minister to people’s needs and to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, he told them he was sending them out like sheep among wolves. He warned them that they would be handed over to the courts and scourged in their synagogues. He said that brother would betray brother to death, and that they would be hated because of the name of Jesus. Yet, they were not to fear their persecutors. What Jesus told them in the darkness, they were to speak in the light, and what he whispered in their ears, they were to proclaim upon the housetops. Jesus said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” [See: Matthew 10.]

Yes, we will be persecuted for our faith and for the sake of the name of Jesus and his gospel. Some of us may be severely beaten, tortured, imprisoned, starved, and killed for our faith. Others of us may face ridicule, betrayal, hatred, false accusations, gossip, mistreatment, mockery, rejection, being ostracized and otherwise cast aside or ignored. Yet, the message to us is still the same. We should not fear what man might do to us, but we must put our faith and trust in the sovereignty of God. These persecutions should only serve to drive us to call on God in our suffering, to make us even more determined in our walks of faith, and to inspire us to keep sharing Jesus Christ with the world so that many will be saved.

Heart is Steadfast (vv. 7-11)

My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.
For Your lovingkindness is great to the heavens
And Your truth to the clouds.
Be exalted above the heavens, O God;
Let Your glory be above all the earth.

In all our sufferings and persecutions, thus, we must have steadfastness of heart, and not give way to fear. We must be unwavering, persistent, and committed to our Lord, to his service, and to his gospel, despite what others do to us, for God is in control. He will see us through, and one day he will take us safely home to be with him forever if we continue in Him to the end.

One of the ways in which the Lord helps me when my heart is troubled is that he puts songs in my mind which counsel me, encourage me, and which strengthen me in my faith, but which also give praise and thanks to God for his many blessings to me. We get down sometimes because we lose focus on Jesus Christ and we get our eyes on our circumstances, instead. So, singing songs of praise, worship and of spiritual encouragement help to lift our spirits and to get us refocused on Jesus and what is eternal, rather than on what is temporal. God has a reason for all that he allows into our lives, so we need to trust him, rest in him, and believe him to accomplish his purposes in and through our lives and through our times of trouble, too. When we do, his peace and calm assurance floods our souls. All is well!

Jesus, I am Resting, Resting
Jean Sophia Pigott

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.

O, how great Thy loving kindness,
Vaster, broader than the sea!
O, how marvelous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Belovèd,
Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise,
And have made it mine.

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed!

Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ‘neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory,
Sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.

Swords in Their Lips

Tuesday, May 16, 2017, 8:48 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Total Praise.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 59 (Select vv. ESV).

They Lie in Wait (vv. 1-4)

To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when Saul sent men to watch his house in order to kill him.

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me;
deliver me from those who work evil,
and save me from bloodthirsty men.

For behold, they lie in wait for my life;
fierce men stir up strife against me.
For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord,
for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.
Awake, come to meet me, and see!

Who are our enemies, if we are followers of Jesus Christ? Satan and his hordes, that is who. Our real battle is not against flesh and blood (human beings), but it is against the powers of darkness and spiritual forces of evil (See: Eph. 6:10-20).

This is not saying we don’t have physical enemies, i.e. humans who are working evil against us. We do. But, we don’t fight our enemies with physical weapons of warfare like they did of old. And, the real power behind these enemies is Satan. So, we fight these enemies with the armor of God, but not in a mean or hateful way, but in love we put on truth, righteousness, faith, prayer, the truth of the gospel, and the Word of God (of truth). We combat lies with truth, evil with righteousness, deceptions and false accusations with the Word of God, fear with faith, doubt with prayer, and false gospels with the true gospel. And, we stand on the Word of God and the true gospel. And, God delivers us from the control or the power of our enemy (or enemies) over us when we put on the armor of God, which he has supplied to us.

If we are truly following our Lord Jesus in obedience to him and to his Word, Satan is going to be coming against us, and he will use humans to do his dirty work for him. They will hate us, in this instance, not because of any evil we are doing, but because we love the Lord, because we stand on the Word of God, because we do put on the armor of God with which to fight off Satan’s evil schemes against us, and because we teach the truth and combat lies. And, Satan hates that! And, so he will use humans to try to stir up trouble for us, to make up lies about us, and to spread those lies to others so that they will hate us, too.

Like Howling Dogs (vv. 6-10)

Each evening they come back,
howling like dogs
and prowling about the city.
There they are, bellowing with their mouths
with swords in their lips—
for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”

But you, O Lord, laugh at them;
you hold all the nations in derision.
O my Strength, I will watch for you,
for you, O God, are my fortress.
My God in his steadfast love will meet me;
God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

Those who come against us, may speak evil against us. They will heap abuse on us with their tongues. They may even be close friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow believers or even family members. They may pretend to be our friends, and may act nice to us to our face, though, but then betray us behind our backs by divulging whatever we have shared with them in confidence, and by twisting our words and actions to give an impression that is not true of us. They gossip about us in order to wound us and to cut us to the heart, and so others will not like us, too, or they may speak to us this way in person, as well. And, it is because they don’t like what we stand for, and what we do, and what we say. Yet, they think God does not see, and that he does not hear, and that he will do nothing.

This is not to say, though, that we are perfect, or that we are never deserving of censure, but this is speaking specifically of the undeserved mistreatment of God’s servants. This is speaking of willful and even premeditated abuse and persecution, and just because we are followers of Christ, who do what he says, and because we hold to the truths of scripture.

Yet, God is not intimidated by them. They have no power over him. He is completely in control over all he has made. And, there is nothing they can do to us, either, but what God allows it for his purposes, and for our maturing, holiness, purity, strengthening and perseverance. When we face such opposition from sinful humans, it should only draw us even closer to Jesus Christ, and it should instill within us an even greater dedication to the Lord and to his service, for God is our strength and our help in time of need.

But I Will Sing (vv. 16-17)

But I will sing of your strength;
I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
and a refuge in the day of my distress.
O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
for you, O God, are my fortress,
the God who shows me steadfast love.

We can’t let people get to us and get us down. We can’t let gossip, slander, hatred, bitterness, mistreatment, abuse and persecution undo us, either. We have to keep loving even our enemies, and returning hatred with kindness. Yet, we should grow in wisdom and discernment through this, and we should take care to not make our close friends those who are unbelievers or who are gossipers, haters, and the like. Yet, we should minister God’s love and grace to even our enemies. And, we must rely upon the Lord for our strength and for wisdom to know how to respond to such mistreatment as this.

One of the ways we should respond to opposition is by singing and praising our Lord, thanking him for his steadfast love and for the strength he gives us each day in order for us to keep going, even in the face of great opposition. Singing is a great antidote to fear, oppression, discouragement, sadness, and broken hearts, etc. Singing songs to our Lord has a way of lifting our spirits and filling our hearts with love, but also with confidence and even greater determination to keep on keeping on in doing what we are called to do. Singing gets our focus off our circumstances, and off those who oppose us, and it gets our focus on to Jesus Christ and all that he has done for us and all that he has gifted us with and has equipped us to do. It gets us thinking about HIM and his love, mercy and strength, and of his absolute sovereignty over all things, and then we can rest in HIM and not give way to fear, doubt, discouragement or even anger. His joy will then fill our hearts.

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.

Out of Darkness

Monday, February 20, 2017, 11:11 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Seek the Lord.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read I Peter 2:1-8 (NASB).

Put off Put on (vv. 1-3)

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.

In the first chapter of 1 Peter we are instructed, on the basis of what Jesus Christ did for us in saving us from our sins, to be holy in all that we do. We are to be self-controlled, obedient, and we should no longer conform to the evil desires we had before we believed in Jesus to be our Savior. As well, we are to live our lives as strangers here on earth in reverent fear. In other words, we are not supposed to be like the world. Being holy means to be separate (unlike, different) from the world because we are becoming like Christ. To live in the fear of the Lord is to honor him as holy, and to revere, obey, adore, value, and esteem him highly, and to take him seriously.

Thus, we are to rid our lives of malice, deceit, hypocrisy and the like. Malice is hatred, spite, meanness, nastiness and cruelty. Some people have learned (been conditioned) to hate certain groups of people from early on in their lives, and to treat them with disdain, and to devalue them, just because they are different from them. So, this needs to be unlearned. The Bible says that “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn. 4:20). It also says that “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jn. 3:15). So, we need to get rid of all hatred.

As followers of Christ, we should also not be hypocritical or deceitful. Now, it is not hypocritical to say you are a Christian and then to not be absolutely perfect, for we will not be perfect until we get to heaven, or until Jesus returns and gives us glorified bodies. But, it is hypocritical to claim to be a follower of Christ while knowingly holding on to certain sins and then pretending as though we are walking in holiness when we know we are not. And, it is deceitful (devious, cunning, and dishonest) to willfully give people a false impression of who we are in order to convince them that we are better than we are, or that we are someone we are not, especially if the purpose is to manipulate them and/or to slander someone else.

Not only do we, by the Spirit, need to be putting to death the deeds of the flesh, but we need to crave (long for) the pure milk of the Word. Jesus died, not only that we might die to sin, but that we might live to righteousness. We don’t just put off lying, but we tell the truth. We don’t just put off stealing, but we work, doing something useful with our hands, and then we give to others to help them in their need. Jesus died, not just to free us from slavery to sin, but to make us bondservants of his righteousness.

Paul’s commission, in sharing the gospel, was to open blinded eyes, and to turn them from darkness to the light, and from the power of Satan to God, so they could receive forgiveness of sins, and a place among those who are sanctified (purified) by faith in Jesus Christ. This is what it means to be saved. This is what it means to be born again. We no longer walk according to our sinful flesh, but now we walk according to the Spirit, to please God.

As Living Stones (vv. 4-8)

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture:

“Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone,
And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,

“The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the very corner stone,”
and,

“A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”;
for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.

When we believe in Jesus Christ with God-given faith, and our hearts are transformed of the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us. We, thus, become the temple of God, the body of Christ, his church. This church is not a building or an organization or a corporation of men, nor is it of a particular denomination like Baptist, Methodist or Presbyterian, etc. This church is spiritual, not physical, although it is comprised of followers of Christ. It is a living organism with Jesus Christ as its (her) head (the chief cornerstone). So, the building being referred to here is not physical but spiritual, and that is why we, the parts of the body (the building), are referred to as “living stones.”

Jesus is the cornerstone of this spiritual building, i.e. he is the foundation for this building. He is the one who gave his life up for us on a cross so that we could be delivered out of slavery to sin and so we could live to his righteousness. Without his death and resurrection there would be no church; no spiritual building of which we are also living stones. It was because Jesus was hated, and treated with malice, and because of the lies and deceptions of those who hated him, that he was brought to trial and hung on a cross to die. And, because he died, we are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.

In other words, we no longer need men as priests to offer up sacrifices for our sins, because Jesus died once for all sin. We no longer need physical priests to mediate between us and God, because Jesus made the way possible for us to be restored to fellowship with God and to be able to come into his presence. So, we are now priests, and the sacrifices we offer are not blood sacrifices for sin, but they are our lives committed to Christ to walk in his love, in his grace, in his truth and in obedience to his Word.

Yet, not everyone has faith. Many people are still rejecting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and they are still persecuting him by persecuting his followers; his servants. Many still hate Jesus Christ and thus they hate his followers, and they will do everything they know to do to stop them from spreading the gospel and to destroy them and their reputations, or to put them to death. They will even use deceit and trickery to try to trap them, and/or they will spread lies about them, which could be half-truths, which are still lies, but twisted to their advantage. Yet, we are not to fear their threats, but we are to trust our lives into God’s hands, and not fear being persecuted and even falsely accused for our stand on the Word of Truth.

So, if anyone reading this, who claims to be a Christian, is still living like Jesus didn’t die to deliver you out of slavery to sin; if anyone is still giving in to the flesh on a consistent basis, and is not walking in victory, then I would encourage you to submit to Christ today. Put off those sins which so easily entangle you so that you can run the race God has marked out for you. And, if you are reading this and you have never trusted in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of your life, I pray you will surrender your life to him today, allow him to cleanse your heart of sin, and to give you a new life in Christ Jesus, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). One day Jesus will return as judge, so let him change your heart today.

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.”