Through the Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I AM WILLING, LORD / Joni Eareckson Tada

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

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

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

Rescued from Trials

Saturday, July 8, 2017, 3:37 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “He Reached Down.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Peter 2 (Select vv. ESV).

False Teachers (vv. 1-3)

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Wow! What an accurate description of the situation we are faced with in the church in America today. So many purported preachers and teachers of the Word are teaching a mixed bag of truth and lies, and they have absolutely brought destructive heresies into the church, and many are following their deceptions and their sensuality. And, the way of truth is definitely being blasphemed, for they twist it and they corrupt it to their advantage to gain disciples after themselves, not after Jesus Christ.

There are many variances in what they actually teach, but the result is still the same. Basically, what they do is they dilute the gospel of Jesus Christ to make it something it is not, that is a free license to continue in willful sin against God without guilt and without remorse. They either entirely delete repentance, submission and obedience from the gospel message, or else they teach directly that we don’t have to repent or obey Jesus Christ or submit to the cross of Christ in order to be saved from our sins. Their idea of “belief” seems to be nothing more than an intellectual assent to who Jesus Christ is and was, and to what he did for us in dying for our sins so that we might be forgiven our sins and have eternal life with God in heaven.

So, not only do they leave their adherents still lost in their sins without true hope of eternal life with God, yet falsely believing they do, but they campaign against the true gospel of our salvation and against its messengers by convincing their listeners that they are to reject anyone or any message which teaches repentance and obedience as necessary components of believing faith. In fact, they convince them that if anyone teaches such that they are teaching works-based salvation, which is a lie, because the Bible teaches that if we walk (in lifestyle) according to our flesh (in sin), we will die in our sins, not have the hope of eternal life (See: Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; 1 Pet. 2:24; Eph. 4:17-24).

Greatly Distressed (vv. 4-10a)

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

How many people today, who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ, are being greatly distressed over the predominant sensuality and immorality existing within the church, and within the lives of those who say they believe in Jesus Christ? I have found they are few and far between. To the contrary, the vast majority of those who call themselves Christians in America, overall, appear to be very worldly and fleshly, so that there is not much of a distinction between the church and the world anymore. Although they claim to know God, they deny him by their lifestyles. They indulge in so much of the same wickedness that the world does, which makes no claims to faith in Christ at all. If they are not directly participating in sinful acts, they are being entertained by them via TV, movies, video games and the internet.

The thing of it is, that most of them seem to lack conscience that what they are doing is actually wrong, too. Or else they write it off as something with which they struggle, but which falls under grace, so they feel they are in no danger if they continue to engross themselves in such sinful behaviors. They have this sense of entitlement that they can live their lives however they want, with some modifications, choose their own paths, mark out their own life courses, and that God is somehow pleased with them no matter what they do. This should greatly distress all of us who proclaim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (owner-master) of our lives! We should cry out our voices and say “NO!!” to these lies and deceptions, for they are leading many people straight on a course toward hell, not toward heaven.

One day, God is going to judge the people of this earth in a mighty way, and those who are walking (conducting their lives) in darkness (sin), will not escape the wrath of God, but they will die in their sins. Yet, those who are putting to death, by the Spirit, the deeds of the flesh, will live with Christ for eternity. God is able to keep us from the corruption that is going on in this world of ours, and within the worldly church, and to lead us in his ways and in his righteousness until the day when he takes us home to be with him. When we are being tried by the wicked acts of wicked humans in their deceitful scheming, the Lord will sustain us. He will help us, strengthen us, and he will carry us through to the end. So, we need to just rest in him.

He Reached Down / An Original Work / February 3, 2014

Based off Psalm 18

How I love You, Lord, my Rock and my strength.
My God is my fortress; I hide in Him.
He is my shield and the horn of
My salvation, whom I praise.
I have found my refuge in Him.

He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
Drew me out of waters so deep, I’d sink.
He delivered me from Satan
And my slavery to sin;
Gave me hope of heaven with Him.

My God turned my darkness into His light;
Opened up my blinded eyes; gave me sight.
As for God, his way is perfect.
He gives strength to stand secure.
I have found my vict’ry in Him.

My Lord lives! Praise be to my Savior God,
Jesus Christ, who died on a cruel cross.
He is my Rock and the source
Of my salvation, whom I trust.
I will give praise always to Him.

Prepare for Action

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

Born Again (vv. 3-5)

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

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

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

Various Trials (vv. 6-9)

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

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

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

Prepare Minds (vv. 13-16)

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

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

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

Conduct Yourselves (vv. 17-19)

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

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

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

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

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

Testing Your Faith

Sunday, June 4, 2017, 8:15 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “When Pretty Things Get Broken.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 1 (select vv. ESV).

Various Trials (vv. 2-4)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

What is joy? Joy is “grace recognized,” i.e. “the awareness of God’s grace, his favor” (biblehub.com). Jesus, for the joy set before him, “endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). What was the joy set before him? His grace, which he was to extend to all the world via his death on a cross for our sins, and via his resurrection from the dead. It was the knowledge that his death and resurrection would mean life everlasting, and freedom from slavery to sin, to everyone who trusted in him as Lord, and as Savior of their lives.

So, can we be joyful and sad at the same time? Yes, I believe we can, because joy is not dependent on our circumstances. It is not conditional to our human emotions. Even in times of severe trial and great sadness, we can prayerfully and thankfully be appreciative of God’s grace to us, in its various forms, calling on him to help us in our time of need, even with tears streaming down our cheeks. And, that can be joy, because it focuses on Jesus, who is our compassionate and merciful high priest. So, we should “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb. 12:3). We need to just rest in him.

Yet, what does it mean to count it all joy when we go through trials? It means to recognize God’s grace in our lives, i.e. that he is doing things in and through us way beyond what we could even imagine. It means trusting in his sovereignty over our lives, believing that, “in all things, he works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Ro. 8:28). Yet, “good” is not necessarily what we want or desire, but it is what God knows is best for us, i.e. what we truly need for us to mature in our faith, and to have steadfastness (persistence) of spirit, and for us to be Christ-like in heart, mind, attitude, faith, word and in action. So, we need to believe him, submit to his Lordship over our lives, and trust him to work it all out according to his plans and purposes, and for his glory.

Need Wisdom? (vv. 5-8)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

When we go through difficulties and trials, we definitely need wisdom to know how to respond with grace, and to not let our circumstances or what others do or say to “ruffle our feathers,” i.e. “to cause confusion, agitation, irritation or annoyance” (yourdictionary.com). There are probably always going to be people in our lives who will try to “get our goat,” i.e. who will attempt to irritate us. But, we can’t let them. We need to rise above these situations, by the grace of God, and by exercising godly wisdom. We must put on the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20), as well, in order to fight off the temptation to give way to our circumstances and to not trust our Lord.

Yet, when we pray for wisdom to know how to respond with grace and godliness to difficult trials, and to people who want nothing more than to trip us up, and God shows us what to do, then we need to apply to our lives what he shows us, otherwise it was pointless to even ask him.

Remain Steadfast (vv. 12-15)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Some days are better than others. Some days we feel stronger, and other days we feel weak emotionally or physically, and it is more difficult during those times when the trials come. Yet, we don’t endure and persevere in our own strength or willpower. The steadfastness of spirit doesn’t come from within our own flesh. It is supernatural. And, it comes as we yield to our God, cry out to him in our suffering, and trust him to work in and through our lives for his purposes and for his glory. It comes when we learn to rest in him, and we don’t feel like we have to make things happen ourselves, and when we lean on him for understanding and trust in him for his strength.

When we are tempted to give in, give up, blow up, or clam up, that doesn’t come from God. Now, there will be times when God will tell us to be silent, but that will not be all the time, for he has given us mouths to sing his praises, to proclaim his excellencies, to share his gospel, and to call people to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ. It is Satan who wants to silence us, and to get us to give up, and to yield to pressure to compromise our faith so that people will like us, and so we won’t face persecution. Yet, Jesus said if we are ashamed of him and his gospel, he will be ashamed of us (Mk. 8:38). The devil will also send people along in our lives to try to trip us up, and to try to get us to blow it. We can’t give in to them for a second!

Yet, the devil is not the only force in our lives which tempts us to sin against God. We can be lured and enticed by our own sinful desires. For example, we may be tempted to compromise our faith, or to not speak to people about Jesus, or to dilute the gospel, because we want to be liked by others, and not hated. And, when the Spirit within us prompts us that we need to speak, and not keep silent, or he impresses on our hearts that we need to say something to someone, and we know we will be hated and rejected, we may be tempted to rationalize our way out of it. This is because we know it will mean, not only that this particular person is going to now reject us, but that they are probably going to convince many others to hate us, too. Yet, we have to obey God, even if it costs us our reputations or our very lives.

When Pretty Things Get Broken
By Joni Eareckson Tada

I have a piece of China, a pretty porcelain vase –
It holds such lovely flowers; captures everybody’s gaze.
But fragile things do slip and fall, as everybody knows.
And when my vase came crashing down, those tears began to flow.

My life was just like China, a lovely thing to me;
Full of porcelain promises of all that I might be.
But fragile things do slip and fall, as everybody knows.
And when my life came crashing down, those tears began to flow.

Now Jesus is no porcelain Prince. His promises won’t break.
His holy word holds fast and sure. His love, no one can shake.
So, if your life is shattered by sorrow, pain, or sin –
His healing love will reach right down and make you whole again.

Now don’t we all cry when pretty things get broken?
Don’t we all sigh at such an awful loss?
But Jesus will dry your tears, as He has spoken;
‘Cause He was the one broken on the cross.

https://www.joniandfriends.org/media/uploads/downloads/when_pretty_things_get_broken.pdf

So, He Left Them

Friday, June 2, 2017, 7:09 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 16:1-12 (ESV).

Signs of The Times (vv. 1-4)

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

Sometimes, when confronted with the truth, even Christians, or those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, will avoid the truth, change the subject, or they will distract from the truth by talking about what is of little consequence. Sometimes they may do this to try to trick or to trap those who are teaching the truth, perhaps hoping to discredit them in some way so that people will not listen to them. They don’t want to be confronted with the truth, because it causes them to have to face their own lies they believe, and their own lifestyles, and they don’t want to do that, because they don’t want change.

Amazingly enough, many who call themselves Christians know how to work the stock market, they are good at predicting the outcome of elections or ball games, and/or they are good at analyzing everyday situations, and coming up with solutions, but they don’t care to nor do they know how to interpret the signs of the times. They are so busy with their own lives, in doing whatever they do every day, that they are not really paying attention to what is really going on in the world around them, and how that relates to prophecy of scripture regarding these last days. And, sometimes this is because they don’t want to face the reality of the times in which we now live, because they want to believe life will continue to go on as it has been.

The thing of it is, though, that prophecy of scripture is being fulfilled in our lifetime, right before our eyes on a daily basis, and many people, including many Christians are being deceived, and are falling for the lies, and are rejecting the truth. We do live in the era of a wicked and adulterous generation, which is consumed and immersed in self-pleasure, and in being entertained by the world of sin. And, there are many false shepherds of the people and many wolves in sheep’s clothing who are leading God’s people astray, and the people need to be warned, but they also need to heed the warnings. Yet, many are just ignoring the warnings, and are going on with their lives as though they believe nothing bad will ever happen to them.

Then Jesus told them about the “sign of Jonah,” which is described for us more thoroughly in Matthew 12:38-42. There it tells us that this is about Jesus Christ and his death, burial and resurrection, concerning the judgment of God at the end of time, and regarding the preaching against sinful rebellion against God. This is about warning people about their sins of idolatry, unbelief, and of spiritual adultery against their Lord, and calling them to repentance, warning of divine judgment, and promising hope of eternal life to the repentant and the obedient. If we do not repent of our sins, but we continue in sinful rebellion against God, we do not have the hope of eternal life with God, but a fearful expectation of hell’s fires.

Jesus, after he told them about how they would be given the sign of Jonah, left them and departed (Matt. 16:4). Yet, it is not that he never had another conversation with them, but that he had said all he needed to say, and so he left. We would do well to follow his example. We need to know when to just walk away from a conversation, so that we don’t waste “time in useless discussions with perverse opponents who will not see the truth.” Jesus, “as it were, despaired of their improvement, and left them in righteous anger at their obduracy. “A man that is heretical after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted and sinneth, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:10, 11) (quoting from Pulpit Commentary on v. 4).

Definitions: Perverse – (of a person or their actions) showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences (Google). Obdurate – stubbornly refusing to change one’s opinion or course of action (Google).

Watch and Beware (vv. 5-12)

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Jesus, then, warned his followers concerning the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Who were these? They were teachers of the law, some of them were rulers of the people (on the Sanhedrin), and they were religious leaders in the temple. They wielded an enormous influence and power over the people, so Jesus had to warn his followers against them, and against their lifestyles, their hypocrisy, and their teaching (See also Matthew 23). Just as leaven (yeast) works its way through a whole batch of dough, so can sinful behaviors and attitudes, immorality, false teaching, hypocrisy, gossip, and the like, permeate the lives and minds of Christ’s followers, his church. This is why we need to be made aware of these things, and of those who are leading God’s people astray, so that we reject the lies, and hold to the truth.

So, as ministers of our God, we need to be exposing the lies, and the fruitless deeds of darkness, and we need to be telling the people the truth, which is in contrast to the lies, so that they can reject the lies and follow the truth. We need to confront sin in sinful humans, warn of divine judgment, call for repentance and obedience to Christ and to his Word, and promise eternal life with God to the repentant and to the obedient. We need to tell them that Jesus Christ did not die merely to give us an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die, but that he died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24; cf. Ro. 6:1-23; Eph. 4:17-24).

We also need to tell them that coming to faith in Jesus Christ means we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, CREATED TO BE LIKE GOD IN TRUE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HOLINESS. God’s grace is NOT a free license to continue in willful sin against God, but 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 CHRIST’S RETURN (Tit. 2:11-14; cf. Ro. 6:1-23; Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25; 2 Co. 5:15, 21; 1 Jn. 1:5-9).

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.

Put to The Test

Monday, May 15, 2017, 7:33 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Total Praise.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read James 1 (Select vv. ESV).

Joy (vv. 2-4)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Depending upon the type of trial, and the severity of it, we may find it harder, at times, to count it all joy when we face life’s trials and tribulations. And, yet, joy is the antidote to the mental and emotional distress involved in suffering. It never fails to lift my spirits when I sing songs of praise to my Lord whenever I am going through a time of great difficulty, or even in the midst of the small tests of faith and of perseverance. Our praise to God gets our focus off our trials and on to the Lord; off the emotions of discouragement and on to hope, faith and love. Praising our Lord in difficult times also lets the enemy of our souls know he is not going to defeat us, but that greater is HE who is within us than he who is in the world. Allowing the joy of the Lord to fill our hearts, instead of being brought low by our circumstances, will always result in spiritual blessings from above.

In America, especially, it appears the vast majority are resistant to pain and suffering, and so Americans tend to medicate and escape suffering rather than face it head on and conquer fears, resist Satan, flee sinful passions, learn steadfastness, and grow in maturity through our difficult times. It seems there is a pill for just about everything these days, and they all have side effects, so many people take multiple pills just to counter the side effects of the other pills. And, yet medicating, in its various forms (not just with pills), rarely teaches us reliance upon the Holy Spirit, trust in God, perseverance in faith, or steadfastness in spirit. We sometimes get this idea that suffering is always a bad thing, but God uses suffering in our lives for our good and for his purposes, to train us to be godly, that we might share in his holiness, and that we might produce the fruit of his righteousness.

Wisdom (vv. 5-8)

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

So, when we are faced with life’s difficulties, we should pray for wisdom from above rather than respond in our flesh. If we pray for wisdom, and we are given wisdom, then we should trust what God shows us and not doubt his counsel. But, we should make certain that the counsel we hear in our heads is indeed biblical, and of God, and not of our own thinking. And, if we pray for wisdom, and we are given counsel from our Lord, then we should follow what we have been shown and not take matters into our own hands.

If we make it our practice to pray for counsel from above, but it is also our practice to not heed the counsel given, but to still go our own way, what good is it then to pray? It is to no avail, because we didn’t do what we were instructed to do. If we do this consistently, we lack godly wisdom, we are driven by our flesh, and we are like on a see-saw going back and forth (or up and down) between opinion, and thus we are not steadfast in spirit, but are more like the waves of the sea tossed here and there by the wind. We are double-minded and unstable in all we do because we have no solid footing, because we just go where the wind blows us. And, thus, we should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

Steadfastness (vv. 12-15)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

So, what does it look like when we remain steadfast under trial? It means we are unwavering, resolute, persistent and firm in our faith and in our commitments to Christ, that we stand on the Word of Truth, and that we are not easily swayed by opinions of humans, so that we go back and forth in belief and in practice depending upon who we are with at the time. If we change like shifting shadows, depending on the people we are with, or depending on our circumstances, our faith is not much good, is it? If we back down on what we say we believe just because we are going through difficult times, our faith will not stand up under the test, will it? We need to be the same (consistent, without wavering) no matter the company, or no matter the circumstances. This is what it means to be steadfast.

What does it mean to be tempted? It means that something is attracting, arousing or seducing us to sin against God in our minds, in our hearts and/or in our actions. And, what is sin? It is failure, missing the mark, sinful deed, not of God, not of faith (source: biblehub.com). It is wickedness, evil, immorality, and wrongdoing, etc. So, at what point does temptation turn to sin? It becomes sin when we act upon the temptation and we do, even in our minds, what we are being tempted to do. For instance, Jesus said that if a man looks at a woman lustfully he has committed adultery with her in his heart. This goes for women lusting after men, and same sex attractions, as well. If we are tempted to lie, and then we lie, we have sinned. If we are tempted to gossip, and then we gossip, even if we stop half-way and confess the wrongdoing, it is still sin, i.e. the part we did before we stopped.

It is good if we stop, but then we have to acknowledge the sin and turn from it to follow our Lord in obedience. If we make a practice of sinning against God, though, the Bible says we don’t really know God, and we don’t have the hope of eternal life with God (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Ro. 8:1-14; 1 Jn. 1:6).

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.

False Security

Saturday, April 29, 2017, 7:45 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Softly and Tenderly.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Ezekiel 24 (quoting vv. 1-16a ESV).

In the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, write down the name of this day, this very day. The king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day. And utter a parable to the rebellious house and say to them, Thus says the Lord God:

“Set on the pot, set it on;
pour in water also;
put in it the pieces of meat,
all the good pieces, the thigh and the shoulder;
fill it with choice bones.
Take the choicest one of the flock;
pile the logs under it;
boil it well;
seethe also its bones in it.

“Therefore thus says the Lord God: Woe to the bloody city, to the pot whose corrosion is in it, and whose corrosion has not gone out of it! Take out of it piece after piece, without making any choice. For the blood she has shed is in her midst; she put it on the bare rock; she did not pour it out on the ground to cover it with dust. To rouse my wrath, to take vengeance, I have set on the bare rock the blood she has shed, that it may not be covered. Therefore thus says the Lord God: Woe to the bloody city! I also will make the pile great. Heap on the logs, kindle the fire, boil the meat well, mix in the spices, and let the bones be burned up. Then set it empty upon the coals, that it may become hot, and its copper may burn, that its uncleanness may be melted in it, its corrosion consumed. She has wearied herself with toil; its abundant corrosion does not go out of it. Into the fire with its corrosion!

“On account of your unclean lewdness, because I would have cleansed you and you were not cleansed from your uncleanness, you shall not be cleansed anymore till I have satisfied my fury upon you. I am the Lord. I have spoken; it shall come to pass; I will do it. I will not go back; I will not spare; I will not relent; according to your ways and your deeds you will be judged, declares the Lord God.”

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke…”

I believe the Lord Jesus has a message to give from this passage of scripture to God’s rebellious church today, in particular here in America. A judgment of God has come or is coming upon her via the New World Order Beast, i.e. via the shadow government of the Elite of the world who are truly the ones running this nation, and who have been busily conquering the nations of the world via the US government and their military forces and allies. He has given or is soon to give his rebellious church in America over to this New World Order beast to lay siege to her, i.e. to conquer her (See: Rev. 13).

Probably the most central message that the Lord is giving to me here is that, because of our affluence, and because of a vast array of deception and manipulation of minds via the institutional church, wolves in sheep’s clothing, politicians, TV, the internet, movies, and various other forms of entertainment, to which many Americans are addicted, many Americans have put their trust and dependence in many of the wrong places.

They have put their trust in their money, but the American dollar has no value to it whatsoever. It is just an IOU, i.e. it is debt, so we are not wealthy, after all, because all we have is debt and no security behind our money at all. So, if those who are holding the debt call the debt, our nation will be bankrupt. They have also put their trust in the U.S. government, and its leaders, and in our constitution, but these are on the fast track to go away, and Trump (our government) is party to seeing that our form of government is being removed and replaced with the New World Order Beast.

Much of the church here in America has partnered with the US government via incorporating the church under the headship of the US government, even though scripture forbids us from unequally yoking together with unbelievers (with the ungodly). So, God has been calling his church to come out from underneath the influence of this unholy union with the government (to come out from Babylon), but for the most part she has been unwilling.

Another main area where the church (or the false church) has put her security is in a false grace gospel. Many who profess the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives have not truly believed in Jesus Christ with God-given faith which persuades (convinces) them as to God’s divine will for their lives. They are not born again of the Spirit of God. Yet, if the faith is God-given, and not flesh-generated, it will bow to Jesus, die with him to sin and be resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. They who believe with God-given faith will be convicted of their sin, and will recognize their need of the Savior, and of deliverance out of slavery (addiction) to sin, so they will, in the power of the Spirit, turn from their sin and turn to follow Jesus Christ in obedience to his will for our lives. They will now walk according to the Spirit and no longer conduct their lives (in lifestyle) according to their sinful flesh.

Yet, many have put their security (dependence) in a lie which tells them that if they just pray some words after someone, or if they will just confess aloud that Jesus is Lord and believe that he was raised from the dead that they will be saved. Then heaven (eternal life) will be guaranteed, and nothing will be required of them other than just that. Yet, we can’t pull Romans 10:9-10 out of the context of the whole of Romans or the whole of the New Testament and build our entire doctrine of salvation around just those two verses. Jesus said that if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them for eternity. Paul reiterated Jesus’ words when he said that if we walk in 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). And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we are liars (Ro. 8:1-14; Lu. 9:23-25; 1 Jn. 1:6).

Many Americans also put their confidence and security in the US military, thinking they are going into these other nations to protect us and to keep us safe from harm, but our nation, or at least our capitol city is this bloody city, which has shed innocent blood across the globe in nation after nation which they have conquered, destroyed, pillaged, and raped, all in the name of freedom and democracy. Americans also put confidence in the media which is telling them lie after lie, i.e. what they want the American people to believe about what our country is doing in all these other countries of the world. And, they put their security in a belief that we will all be raptured before things get really bad, so they don’t think they will have to suffer persecution, martyrdom, disaster, war (on our soil), and the takeover of our nation and the church by this beast, etc. But, that is a false security.

I believe that the events of 9/11/01 were a judgment of God on this nation, and the purpose was to cleanse us of our impurities, i.e. to revive the church and to turn people’s hearts to God, but once the crisis was over, it was business as usual, only we have only grown much, much worse. Much of today’s modern church here in America has totally rejected the gospel as taught by Jesus and his NT apostles and they have embraced a grace which gives free license to continue sinning without guilt and without remorse. They have gone the way of the world, and it is barely distinguishable between the church and the world anymore. So, God is going to judge this nation and the rebellious church in this nation until her spiritual emptiness is filled by him, i.e. his intention is to revive, renew and restore her to himself.

The “delight of our eyes” he is about to take away from us is anything which we have put our confidence and trust in instead of him; anything on which we depend instead of depending on him, such as our bank accounts, our government, our possessions, our institutional churches, our leaders, and/or our false religions or false security. I believe President Trump, the White House, and other factions within our government, under the headship of a shadow government of the Elite, which is the de facto government of the USA, is not here to serve us, but is here to take down our nation in order to bring us under the rule of this beast, and that this will mean financial decline, hardship, trials and tribulation for our nation.

So, the Lord is calling out to the church in this nation to repent of her sins of idolatry and spiritual adultery, and to return to him as her ONLY Lord. He wants to free her from all that is distracting her from following him with purity of heart and mind, so that her focus will truly be on him, and so her dependency will also be on him, and on him alone to satisfy the void of himself which she is presently trying to fill with so much of this world.

Softly and Tenderly / Will Thompson

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me.

Why should we tarry when Jesus is pleading,
Pleading for you and for me?
Why should we linger and heed not His mercies,
Mercies for you and for me?

Time is now fleeting, the moments are passing,
Passing from you and from me;
Shadows are gathering, deathbeds are coming,
Coming for you and for me.

Oh, for the wonderful love He has promised,
Promised for you and for me!
Though we have sinned, He has mercy and pardon,
Pardon for you and for me.

Come home, come home,
You who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home!