Tested by Fire

Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 8:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Lord, I Need You.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 1 Peter 1 (Select vv. NASB).

His Great Mercy (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.

When we are all born into this world, we are born with sin natures, separate from God, having come up short of attaining his divine approval (Ro. 3:23; Ro. 5:12-19; 1 Co. 15:21-22, 42-49). So, God the Father sent God the Son, Jesus Christ, into the world, to take on human flesh, and to die on a cross for our sins. Thus, He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (2 Co. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24). And, when the Father resurrected his Son from the dead, Jesus rose victorious over sin, hell and death in order that we might live with him and to his holiness and goodness.

So, when we believe in Jesus Christ with God-given faith, we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to new life (born again) in Him, in which we were created to be like God (Christ-like) in true righteousness and holiness. Righteousness is what is deemed right in God’s eyes. It is what is pure, holy, godly, upright, moral, honest and honorable. It is the opposite of sin, which includes such things as hatred, idolatry, spiritual or physical adultery, lying, cheating, stealing, murder, lust, and immorality, etc. And, holiness is being separate (unlike, different) from the world of sin, because we are being transformed in Christ’s likeness, of the Spirit of God.

But, our salvation has only begun when we believe in Jesus Christ, for it is a lifetime process of being saved (sanctified) and then, when Jesus Christ returns for his bride, our salvation will be complete. While we live in these flesh bodies, we will still be tempted to sin, but Jesus made the way of escape for us out from underneath the temptation so that we don’t have to give in to sin. For, we are no longer under its control once we give our lives to Jesus, because Jesus set us free. Amen! And, one day Jesus will return, and he will take us to be with him forever, and then we will no longer be tempted to sin or be sick or have pain or sorrow, for he will wipe away all the tears from our eyes.

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.

We all go through trials, at times. Some of them are small and some are very big. Some are extended, while others are short lived. I have been going through a series of them, of late. They are not huge, but are trying just the same. It began with a recent development of a skin allergic reaction to cold. Then, when we had our new patient visits with our new doctor after moving here over a month ago, and I told him about it, he just wanted me to take an antihistamine for it, even though I told him I have been pharmaceutical drug dependent free for about 10 years now. So, he mocked me. But, I stood my ground against his insistence that drugs were my “savior.”

And, then he said I looked anemic, so he took blood, and the blood test showed I had low vitamin B-12, but I don’t take vitamins, either, because of bad reactions to them. But then I thought maybe if I could find something all natural that it would work. And I did, so I thought, but when I sprayed the first spray in my mouth my tongue swelled and my throat began to close up, which is a serious reaction (side effect), plus I got a headache and nerve pains, which is often my body’s reaction to drugs. The Lord, after I had taken this, warned me, I believe, of the dangers of this, so I stopped.

During all of this I was also constipated, and no foods or drinks I was taking in to help with that were working, so I was miserable. On top of this I had some kind of skin rash or something on my thigh, so I started putting Vaseline on that, and it is much improved. But, then we went away for the weekend, and we stayed in a hotel, and there were bad issues with the first 2 rooms they gave us, but the third one finally worked for us. Then, I got 3 bug bites in a cluster on my chest, over my heart, which were reminiscent of when we got bed bugs nearly a year ago to date (we had those for about a month then). Now, 3 days later, the recent bites (source unknown) are still there, but they are disappearing. And, then yesterday, when I was getting out of my car to get the mail, my foot caught in my purse and I took a fall down on the pavement. But, by the grace of God I was not seriously injured.

By the grace of God, as well, I have been able to bear up under these trials and not let them undo me. I have been daily committing myself and these situations to the Lord, praying for help and healing, and for much needed wisdom, and the Lord has been seeing me through them all, and other trials, too. He has been giving me grace to make it, to keep trusting him, and to keep smiling and singing despite the pain and misery associated with any of them. I believe God is absolutely sovereign over my life, and that he has allowed these trials to come into my life as a way both to test me, and also to mature and to strengthen me in my faith and in my resolve to make him my only Lord and Savior. When we go through such trials, they teach us to rely on God and not on ourselves. We learn that our dependency must be in Christ alone, and not in humans or in drugs, or in anything else but God.

Prepare Your 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.”

So, because of all that Jesus Christ has done for us, in dying for our sins, in freeing us from slavery (addiction) to sin, and in giving us new lives in him, and because he is our helper, strength, counselor and guide, we should commit our all to him. We must lay aside all which hinders our walks of faith and that which leads us into sin, so that we can run the spiritual race he has marked out for each of us to run. And, then we must put on our spiritual armor daily with which to fight off Satan’s evil attacks and schemes against us (Eph. 6:10-20).

What this means for us, in all practicality, is that we have to stop entertaining ourselves with the sins and trappings of this world, and we have to bathe our minds and hearts with the things of God – His Word, His Spirit, His Truth, and with His righteousness, goodness and holiness. And, then we have to obey what His Word teaches us, not merely being hearers of the Word only, but doers (See: Jas. 1). And, we should not live for the pleasures of this sinful world, but for the glory and praise of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Again, we are to be separate (unlike, different) from the world (holy) because we are being made to be like Jesus.

We need to take this to heart and not take God’s grace to us for granted, for if we continue in sin (in practice, in lifestyle) we don’t have that hope of heaven, but a fearful expectation of judgment. So, don’t be led astray.

Lord, I Need You
Songwriters: Christy Nockels / Daniel Carson /
Jesse Reeves / Kristian Stanfill / Matt Maher

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness…

 

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Whatever Comes

Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 1:10 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Lord, Move Me.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Philippians 4:4-13 (NASB).

Always Rejoice (vv. 4-7)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As I read this passage of scripture this morning, my heart goes out to all those in the USA who have these past few days suffered either death of a loved one or destruction to property as a result of high winds, rain and flooding in Florida, South Carolina and Georgia, in particular. My heart also goes out to all people of any country who were in the path of this destruction, and who have suffered loss of loved ones and/or personal property, and who are without electric power, water, shelter and life’s necessities. You are in my thoughts and in my prayers at this time.

For those, in particular, who are going through such times of suffering, these words in this passage of scripture may be a “hard pill to swallow,” and yet this must be our attitude if we are to survive the onslaughts of pain and suffering which this life on this earth will sometimes deliver to us. It will only make matters worse if all we do is gripe and complain about our lot in life. Plus, if we decide to grumble and/or to get angry over our circumstances, it reveals lack of faith in God and in his sovereignty over our lives now existing within our hearts. For, whatever comes our way, God is still in control. And, none of this has caught him by surprise. So, we must yield to his control.

When we choose to rejoice in our circumstances, no matter what comes our way, the peace of God sweeps over us like a flood. Yet, it isn’t as though we don’t cry, or that these trials are not difficult for us. They are! The Apostle Paul expressed that often in his letters to the churches. Yet, God allowed us to go through these trials for a reason, so we need him to let him teach us what we need to learn through our times of difficulty. Sometimes he allows us to go through hardships because we have wandered from the faith, and we need to be brought back to God in purity of heart, and other times it is for our spiritual maturity, to learn perseverance, to share in God’s holiness, and that our lives might yield the peaceful fruit of God’s righteousness.

Dwell on These (vv. 8-9)

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

At all times, we should think (dwell) on what is pure, righteous, honorable, worthy of praise and true. But, not all that is true is worthy to dwell on, for we should not dwell on what is unrighteous, dishonorable or impure, even though it may be true. We should fill our minds with truth, though, and not with lies, deceptions, and manipulations. In fact, how we think or what we think on has a lot to do with what we fill our minds with day in and day out. So, if we are going to think pure thoughts, for example, we need to not take into our minds what is impure, especially willfully, and so to be entertained.

I live in the USA, so this is what I know, so I can’t speak for other countries and what the people there do, because I am not familiar with other countries. I have never even been outside the USA, not even to Canada. But, in America, I know that the vast majority of homes have televisions, and perhaps more than one TV, and it seems most Americans also have home computers, smart phones and/or tablets (like an I Pad). So, we are inundated with technology and all that that technology has to offer us in the way of bringing the world into our lives and into our homes.

There have been good things that have come from all this technology, such as the gospel of Jesus Christ has been able to go throughout most of the world via TV and the internet. Yet, TV and the internet has also been the downfall of many people professing faith in Jesus Christ. Many Christians take in daily doses of immorality, sexual perversion, lies, deceptions, manipulations, cheating, murders, thefts, and the like, and all in the name of entertainment, and they have become desensitized to all the evil contained within, as they make compromise after compromise with the world of sin. This should not be! So, we need to test everything we take into our minds, and what we put before our eyes, against Philippians 4:8-9, and then cut out of our lives what is leading us to think and to do what is sinful.

Instead of practicing sin, or being entertained by others’ sins, we need to practice what is holy, righteous and pure. And, we ought to do what God’s Word says, and not just read it and then walk away and forget what we read. And, we need to be holy, separate (unlike, different) from the world, because we are being made into the image of Christ. Amen!

Content in Whatever (vv. 10-13)

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Lately, in my devotions with my Lord, the Lord has been impressing on my heart to gladly forfeit all of earth’s treasures so that Jesus’ perfect likeness I would bear (“Oh, To Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer”), and to rather have Jesus than silver or gold, etc. I believe he has been preparing my heart for a time when we will not have much in the way of material wealth on this earth, but we will be rich in faith. And, we may be getting much closer to that time here in America, as we experience more and more in the way of destruction of property and loss of fortune, but all for the glory of God, that he may be our ONLY GOD and LORD. So, I must hold lightly the things of this life, and be willing to walk away from them all, at any time, in order to follow Jesus with my life in service to him and to his will for my life.

The point of all this, I believe, is that we learn to be content in whatever circumstances God places us, not that we have to enjoy our trials and tribulations, but that we are to be resolved to rejoice in the Lord despite our circumstances, and to praise him in good times and in bad times, too. We need to be ok in good times and in bad, and with sufficient accommodations, and with less than to be desired shelter, food, and circumstances, too. And, we must rejoice in the Lord through it all, give him all the praise and glory, and submit our lives over to him for him to accomplish his will and his purposes in our lives through it all. And, he will give us all we need to survive and to thrive, by his grace, and in his strength and power.

Lord, Move Me / An Original Work / October 16, 2011

Be my desire, my heart set on fire,
Lord, move me to worship You only, I pray.
Fill with Your Spirit, my heart overflow.
Lord, may I long for You; Your word to know.
Teach me to walk with You, Lord, in Your power,
And may I serve You, Lord, right now in this hour.

Lord, how I want to obey You forever.
Help me to hear You, Lord, so I will not stray.
Teach me to love You; adore You always.
Envelope me, Lord, with Your grace today.
Meet me in my need, and show me Your mercy.
Forgive me for all things, as I humbly pray.

Counsel me, lead me, direct me, and guide me,
So I follow You, Lord, where’er You lead now.
I love to hear You speak Your words to me.
I am so grateful that You set me free.
Wash me, and cleanse me, and make me like You, Lord,
And I will live with You for eternity.

 

Take His Hand

Monday, September 4, 2017, 9:16 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Lord, Move Me.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read 2 Corinthians 4 (NASB).

Things Hidden (vv. 1-2)

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.

When we share with people the gospel of our salvation from sin, in Jesus Christ, our Lord, we should do so in truth and in complete integrity. So, if we want to be certain that what we are sharing with people is the truth, then we must study the Word of God, in particular the New Testament, and we need to learn what the gospel message teaches. For, many people today are adulterating (polluting, infecting) the Word of Truth by twisting scripture to their advantage or by picking and choosing only a few select scriptures which, taken out of context, say what they want to hear, while they ignore the rest. They, thus, fit the scriptures to their lifestyles rather than fit their lifestyles to the teachings of scripture.

Also, when we share with people the gospel of our salvation from sin, we need to not do so hypocritically. We should make certain we are walking the talk and not just talking the walk. We ought to be people of God, born of the Spirit of God, who are walking in holiness and righteousness, and who are not given over to sinful addictions. We must be godly people who have renounced secretive and shameful ways, instead of being people who make a profession of faith only, or who are not living what we are teaching others. It is imperative, too, that we make no pretense, and that we participate in no hidden sins, as well as that our walk matches our talk.

Blinded Minds (vv. 3-6)

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

The truth of the gospel should not be hidden from people on our account because we failed to learn the truth, and because we trusted in the lies (half-truths) being taught by others. If the truth is hidden from them, it should be because Satan has blinded their eyes, and because others, not ourselves, are the ones polluting the gospel to make it more acceptable and appealing to human flesh. We should be ones who are committed to knowing and sharing the truth of God’s Word, because the truth is what will change human hearts, and set them free, not clever lies disguised as truth which leave people still in bondage (slavery, addiction) to sin.

So, we must be bearers of Light, not of a mixture of light and darkness, disguised as light. What we proclaim must also be focused in Jesus Christ and not in giving glory to ourselves. We should be promoting Jesus, not humans. And, we ought to present ourselves as servants of Christ and give him all the glory for all that he does in us and through us. For what we have, and what we are, and what we do should be all because of what Jesus did for us in dying on the cross for our sins, and because he delivered us out of slavery to sin so that we might walk in his righteousness, in his power and strength. And, all the praise, honor and glory ought to go to him alone.

Earthen Vessels (vv. 7-12)

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death works in us, but life in you.

It was God’s design and plan that he would use human beings, his followers, to spread his gospel message throughout the earth. Yet, we live in flesh bodies, and we get sick, tired, and weak, and we have our enemy Satan fighting continually against us, even through other humans, so we must rely on the strength, power and wisdom of God to continue in the work of the ministry to which he has called us. But, that is a good thing, because then we know that when God uses us that it wasn’t us who did it, but it was God. So, it keeps us humble and trusting and resting in our Lord, even for the strength to keep going, at times, and then for the empowerment of his Spirit in our lives in knowing what to do and say. Then, he gets the glory, not us.

Sometimes life can get pretty tough. Sometimes the opposition against us can get pretty severe, too. We may feel, at times, as though the weight of the world has come crashing down upon us. We may lose sight of God’s sovereignty over our lives, and feel like we are drowning in our circumstances, but we should never give up hope. We may go through some serious trials on this earth, because we are being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our lives. But, our Lord is always with us, he is in control over all that he has made, and he will never abandon us. He has a plan and a purpose for what he allows us to go through on this earth, and it is to make us holy, to purify our hearts, and to make us more like Jesus, so that his life shines through ours to the world.

Don’t Lose Heart (vv. 13-18)

But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Even though we may be going through some hard stuff in this life, on this earth, we do not lose heart, or we should not lose heart, because we have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. Not only that, but Jesus Christ is doing some awesome things in our lives while we still live on this earth, if we will let him by submitting to his will for our lives, and by walking in the Spirit and no longer according to our sinful flesh. He uses these trials in our lives to mature us in him, and to grow us in our faith, and to teach us to rely on him and not on ourselves. So, even though we may be going through a difficult period of time, he is busy changing our hearts by inwardly renewing us day by day. So, he is working it all out for our good (what is best for us).

So, we need to keep our focus on Jesus and not on our circumstances or on ourselves or what we are going through. We must trust him with our lives and with our life situations and let him lead us in the way he would have us to go. We can’t see what lies ahead for us, so we don’t always know why things are happening to us the way they are, but God knows. So, we must trust him. And, we must follow his lead. He won’t lead us down the wrong path. We just need to take his hand, and follow him. We should always keep an eternal perspective and not let what is temporary cause us to lose sight of what is eternal. God will make a way where there seems to be no way. He works in ways we cannot see. So, rest in him. Believe him. And, follow him.

Lord, Move Me / An Original Work / October 16, 2011

Be my desire, my heart set on fire,
Lord, move me to worship You only, I pray.
Fill with Your Spirit, my heart overflow.
Lord, may I long for You; Your word to know.
Teach me to walk with You, Lord, in Your power,
And may I serve You, Lord, right now in this hour.

Lord, how I want to obey You forever.
Help me to hear You, Lord, so I will not stray.
Teach me to love You; adore You always.
Envelope me, Lord, with Your grace today.
Meet me in my need, and show me Your mercy.
Forgive me for all things, as I humbly pray.

Counsel me, lead me, direct me, and guide me,
So I follow You, Lord, where’er You lead now.
I love to hear You speak Your words to me.
I am so grateful that You set me free.
Wash me, and cleanse me, and make me like You, Lord,
And I will live with You for eternity.

Ears Stopped Up

Sunday, September 3, 2017, 4:13 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 48 (Select vv. NASB).

Not in Truth (vv. 1, 4, & 8)

“Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel
And who came forth from the loins of Judah,
Who swear by the name of the Lord
And invoke the God of Israel,
But not in truth nor in righteousness…

“Because I know that you are obstinate,
And your neck is an iron sinew
And your forehead bronze…

“You have not heard, you have not known.
Even from long ago your ear has not been open,
Because I knew that you would deal very treacherously;
And you have been called a rebel from birth.”

The nation of Israel, under the Old Covenant relationship with God, was in a unique position which will never again be equaled, so we can’t make exact parallels between them and any other group of people today, yet there is much we can learn from these verses which describe them at that time.

For instance, there are many people in the world today who proclaim to be Christians and followers of Jesus Christ. Many of them, perhaps, had parents who also claimed to be Christians, and/or they were brought up attending gatherings of the church or church meetings in localized institutional churches. They may even have been baptized, perhaps as infants, or as adults, possibly as a means of joining a local church fellowship, and they may even be active within these local church gatherings or institutional churches in positions of teacher, elder, deacon or pastor, etc. Yet, their relationships with God, with Jesus, are profession only. Their professions of faith in Jesus Christ, in other words, are not in truth or in righteousness.

So, what does it mean to believe in Jesus in truth and in righteousness? It means that when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we submit to his Lordship over our lives, we humble ourselves in confession of sin, and repentance, and we trust in our Lord, not only to forgive us our sins, but to cleanse our hearts of all unrighteousness.

It means we die with Christ to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. We are not looking just for a get-out-of-jail-free card or merely a promise of heaven when we die, but we truly want to give our hearts to Jesus in full surrender to his will for our lives. So, by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh. We no longer conduct our lives according to the flesh, but we now walk (in lifestyle) according to the Spirit, but not in absolute sinless perfection, but in consistent and persistent walks of faith and commitment to our Lord and to his ways and to his will.

Yet, those who make a profession only of faith in Jesus Christ, in many cases, are those who are actually opposed to Christ and his truth and his ways, in many respects. For truly their hearts are obstinate (stubborn) and unrepentant, and they are just using God for what they think they can get out of him, while they have no real intentions of ever submitting to his will for their lives. They want the blessings of God in their lives, but they want to keep going their own stubborn way in living their lives however they want, for their own pleasure, and to thirst after their own sinful desires. So, they stop up their ears, and they refuse to listen (really hear and respond) to God’s Word, although many of them will pretend as though they do.

He Will Act (vv. 9-11)

“For the sake of My name I delay My wrath,
And for My praise I restrain it for you,
In order not to cut you off.
“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
“For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act;
For how can My name be profaned?
And My glory I will not give to another.”

We read in the New Testament that the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise concerning his return one day, but which also includes judgment. He is very patient and longsuffering, giving time for many to repent of their sins before he comes back, and before he judges the people of the earth, because he is not willing that any should perish in their sins, but that all should come to repentance, for this is why he died and rose again.

Yet, the Lord does discipline those of us who are truly his, and sometimes because those who are his are not living like they are his, but they are temporarily straying from their pure devotion to him, and they are going their own stubborn way. And, so he disciplines them in order to bring them back into fellowship with him. Yet he may also allow difficulties, trials and hardships in the lives of those who make a profession of him only, or in the lives of those who make no profession of faith in him, and who don’t know him, and in order to bring them into genuine faith in Jesus Christ.

But, one day he will come in judgment on the people of this earth, and for the sake of his name, which is being profaned by those who give him lip service only, but whose hearts are far from him. And, many will perish in their sins. So, we need to be spreading the truth of the gospel to as many as will listen so that many will be saved before the wrath of God is poured out.

The Way We Should Go (vv. 17-22)

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,

“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit,
Who leads you in the way you should go.
“If only you had paid attention to My commandments!
Then your well-being would have been like a river,
And your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
“Your descendants would have been like the sand,
And your offspring like its grains;
Their name would never be cut off or destroyed from My presence.”

Go forth from Babylon! Flee from the Chaldeans!
Declare with the sound of joyful shouting, proclaim this,
Send it out to the end of the earth;
Say, “The Lord has redeemed His servant Jacob.”
They did not thirst when He led them through the deserts.
He made the water flow out of the rock for them;
He split the rock and the water gushed forth.
“There is no peace for the wicked,” says the Lord.

We, as the people of God, and we, as the people of this earth, need to pay attention closely to what God is saying, for one day we will no longer have this opportunity to heed his words and to follow his ways. We need to listen to his counsel, and we must follow his leading, and surrender to his will for our lives, for he says that if we continue in our sinful ways, and we make sin our practice, we don’t have the promise of eternal life with God, but only a fearful expectation of judgment.

We must understand that God does visit nations and peoples and even his saints in judgment or divine discipline and correction when they go their own stubborn way and refuse his counsel. And, at least some of this could be avoided if we would just heed his Words to us, and obey his commands. Yet, he does not promise smooth sailing even for the righteous and godly, but he promises we will have difficulties, afflictions, and persecutions which are to test our faith, mature us in Christ, make us holy, and to train us in godliness and righteousness. Yet, we can know his inward peace and joy, and know his strength and power in our lives through these trials, and we can be overcomers, if we just put our trust in him, and follow him and his ways.

What our Lord is saying to the people of the world today, and to his saints who are caught up in the world and who have strayed from him, is that they must humble themselves before God, turn from their wicked ways, and follow him in surrender and obedience. They must flee from sinful practices, worldliness and following their own lustful desires, and they must submit themselves to the will of God for their lives. For, he died that they might die to sin and live to righteousness, not in their own strength and power, but in the strength and power of the Lord living within them. He has given us all we need to live godly and holy lives, pleasing to him, so none of us have an excuse for living in stubborn and willful rebellion against God.

Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick

Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.

O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.

O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

Something New

Thursday, August 31, 2017, 9:42 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Isaiah 43 (quoting select vv. NASB).

Do Not Fear (vv. 1-4)

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
“For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I have given Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your place.
“Since you are precious in My sight,
Since you are honored and I love you,
I will give other men in your place and other peoples in exchange for your life.

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, and his Holy Spirit comes to live within us, we come into a personal intimate relationship with God Almighty. 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. We no longer walk (live our lives) according to the sinful passions of our flesh, but we now walk (in lifestyle) in accord (agreement) with the Spirit of God.

By the Spirit we are now putting to death the deeds of the flesh so that we can now live to Christ and to his righteousness. We who are now being led by the Spirit are the children of God, fellow heirs with Jesus Christ, and bondservants of our Lord Jesus. And, he is our Lord (owner-master), for we were bought back for God with his blood shed on a cross for our sins, so we might be free from slavery to sin.

The waters and the fire are figurative for troubles, hardships, persecutions, danger and sword, threats from the enemy of our souls, and/or judgment. Whatever we go through in this life, if we are in Christ Jesus, by faith in him, our Lord is with us, and he will carry us through. So, we are never to fear what humans may do to us, or our circumstances, or hardships or dangers. If our trust is in the Lord, we will not be overcome by all these things, but we will remain steadfast in our faith, sure of His promises to us, and hopeful of what we know is our future inheritance.

One day our enemies will be no more, though we should pray for their salvation, and hope that God will transform their hearts and lives as he has done with us. We should pray that they may know Jesus Christ, too, who gave his life up for us on that cross so that we might die to sin and live to him and to his righteousness.

A Summons (vv. 8-13)

Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes,
And the deaf, even though they have ears.
All the nations have gathered together
So that the peoples may be assembled.
Who among them can declare this
And proclaim to us the former things?
Let them present their witnesses that they may be justified,
Or let them hear and say, “It is true.”
“You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
So that you may know and believe Me
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
And there will be none after Me.
“I, even I, am the Lord,
And there is no savior besides Me.
“It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed,
And there was no strange god among you;
So you are My witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“And I am God.
“Even from eternity I am He,
And there is none who can deliver out of My hand;
I act and who can reverse it?”

This is a summons by God Almighty to all the people of the world, including to his children who are living in idolatry and spiritual adultery against him, i.e. who have ears and eyes to hear and to see, but who are not listening to God, but who are closing their ears to his Words. They know the truth, but they are not walking in the truth. Even the ungodly people of this world have the knowledge of God within them, because God has revealed himself to them through his created works, so that they, too, are without excuse (See: Ro. 1:18-32). It isn’t that they lack knowledge, but that they choose to reject what they know and to make their own way, and to create their own gods and religions which allow them to continue to live sinful lifestyles.

But, none of their gods, idols, beliefs, religions or chosen lifestyles are able to help them, or to bring them salvation from sin and peace with God. They cannot hear God or know his will for their lives, because they are not listening, and they are not obeying his commands. They lack sensitivity to God’s Holy Spirit speaking to their hearts, so they are totally unaware of the times in which we live, and of the dangers lurking around the corner, and so they continue on as though God will do nothing, and that life will continue as it always has, not realizing or not willing to recognize the truths in God’s Word concerning sin, judgment and our eternal destiny.

So, the summons here is to open their eyes and ears to see and to hear that God Almighty and Jesus Christ, God the Son, maker of heaven and earth, is the ONLY true God, and the ONLY savior of mankind, and in no one else will they ever find freedom, peace, joy, salvation, eternal life and heaven as their eternal destiny. Their idols may be able to bring them some temporary satisfaction in this life, but they are no good for promising them eternal life with God or true heavenly peace and joy. Only through faith in Jesus Christ, in death to sin and resurrection to new life in Christ, of the Spirit of God, can we be in relationship with God and have the hope of eternal life with God.

In the Wilderness (vv. 16-21)

Thus says the Lord,
Who makes a way through the sea
And a path through the mighty waters,
Who brings forth the chariot and the horse,
The army and the mighty man
(They will lie down together and not rise again;
They have been quenched and extinguished like a wick):
“Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
“Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.
“The beasts of the field will glorify Me,
The jackals and the ostriches,
Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My chosen people.
“The people whom I formed for Myself
Will declare My praise.

God does not promise any of us, saved or unsaved, that we will never have troubles, hardships, sorrow or pain. In fact, he promised his followers that they would be hated, persecuted and even put to death for his sake, and for the sake of his gospel of salvation, and because of their testimonies for Christ. He also does not promise us that, if we follow him wherever he leads us, that all will go smoothly and that we won’t face roadblocks along the way. But, he does promise us that he will go before us, that he will prepare the way, and that he will make a way for us through these difficult times.

When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, and we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, we leave our old lives of sin behind us, and we move ahead (forward) in the direction our Lord now has for our lives. We are not to look back and yearn for the lives we had before, or to continue to dabble in sinful pleasures, but our desire should now be for our Lord, to please him in every way. We should understand that faith in Jesus is not a religion, but a relationship. It is not merely an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die, but it is a life given over to God to be lived for him and for him alone. Jesus doesn’t just slightly clean up our old lives, but he radically transforms our lives and he makes us new in him. Praise God!

Well, when God calls us to go with him somewhere, and he asks us to leave behind houses, lands, family members, friends, possessions, etc., we should also not look back and yearn for what we had before, but we must see that he is making things new for us, and that what he has for us now is not like what we had before, but it is actually better. Although we may not yet see it, we should trust him, believe him, and follow him, and rest in him and in his perfect timing. He can make a way where there seems to be no way.

Lastly, I believe this passage is a picture of revival and of the salvation of human lives out from the darkness, who are being brought into God’s wonderful light. God will often allow difficulties in our lives as a way to get us to see him for who he is and to get us to follow him wherever he leads us, and to remove us from all which is drawing us away from him and our pure devotion to him. Yet, we are not to fear these times, because God has good he intends for us, to make us holy, to purify and prune us, and to mature us in him. All that he allows into our lives is under his control, and he has a plan and a purpose, to bring glory to his name, and for us to give him all the praise, worship and devotion he has for us to give to him.

‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
Louisa M.R. Stead / William J. Kirkpatrick

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise, just to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

O how sweet to trust in Jesus, just to trust His cleansing blood;
And in simple faith to plunge me ’neath the healing, cleansing flood!

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus, just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking life, and rest, and joy, and peace.

I’m so glad I learned to trust Thee, precious Jesus, Savior, Friend;
And I know that Thou art with me, will be with me to the end.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Thee! How I’ve proved Thee o’er and o’er
Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus! O for grace to trust Thee more!

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

Of Faith

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

Be Not Anxious (Matthew 6:25-34)

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

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

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

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

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

Of Little Faith (Matthew 8:23-27)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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