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…

Our Spiritual Journey

Thursday, June 15, 2017, 5:16 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Amazing Grace.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 15:11-32 (NASB).

Two Sons (vv. 11-16)

And He said, “A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.’ So he divided his wealth between them. And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.

Life is a journey, is it not? Every day, hopefully, we wake up, we get out of bed, if we have a bed to sleep on, that is, and we start a new day. Either we do so with purpose and direction, or else we wander aimlessly, going here and there trying to find satisfaction for life, but always coming up empty. Either we are on a straight (righteous, holy) path, because we are trusting God/Jesus Christ with our lives, or else we are on a winding path or life course with no particular destination in mind other than self-pleasure. Yet, it is possible to be somewhere in the middle between these two paths, I believe, for someone could be on the straight path, but they have gotten off course, at least in some respects, and so they need to get back on course.

I believe there are four types of people in this world (four types of soil). The first type is the one who has not ever made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. The second is the one who makes a profession of faith, but it is surface level only (no root), probably because he was taught a false grace gospel which told him that God does not require repentance or obedience, so when things get rough, he yields to pressure, and he abandons the faith altogether. Neither of these have truly believed in Jesus as Savior. And, then there is the one who has believed in Jesus, who was crucified with Christ in death to sin, and risen with Christ to newness of life, but over time the temptations of this world entrapped him again, and so he got off course. And, he needs to return to God and forsake his idols. And, the fourth type is the individual who is walking by faith, is following his Lord in obedience, and who is bearing fruit for God’s kingdom, in keeping with repentance.

God is our creator, which means he gave life to all people, so God is the true father here. So, the two sons could represent the saved and the unsaved. As well, for believers in Jesus Christ, God is our Father and we are his children, so the two sons could also represent the faithful believer in Jesus, though certainly not perfect, and the believer who has gotten off course and has been entrapped by the sinful pleasures of the world once more. The bottom line, though, is that they represent one in fellowship with the Father, who is serving God with his life, who is walking in obedience to the Lord’s commands, and one who has abandoned God, is going his own way, and is living in sensual pleasure and self-indulgence. Yet, even the one in fellowship with the Father has some maturing to do in some areas.

He Came to His Senses (vv. 17-24)

But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’ So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Oftentimes, sadly enough, it takes some type of a tragedy or difficult situation in life to get people to come to their senses, and to escape the trap of the devil. When sin gets a grip on people, they can do senseless things, even dangerous things, and stuff which might even get them in trouble with the law, or which might ruin their marriages, etc. And, yet, they go headlong right into what they know is wrong, and what they know is destroying their lives and relationships, even their relationship with God, because their desire is greater for the sin than it is for anything else. They don’t want to let go of the sin, because the sin gives them a false sense of security, or because they are angry with God, and so they feel justified in continuing in the sin, or because they have a sense of entitlement, and so they believe God’s grace gives allowance for their sin, and that God requires nothing of them at all.

When things are going well for us, and we are healthy, and all our physical needs are being met, there may be a temptation to rely on ourselves more than we rely on God. We may become complacent regarding fellowship with our Lord and walking in his Spirit, and the trappings of the world may begin to consume us, our time, thoughts, energies, passion and desires. We may give God a back seat in our lives, and even our devotional lives may begin to ebb away. We don’t necessarily have to even get to the point of gross sin and rebellion to be a prodigal son, but we may just neglect our relationship with Jesus Christ, and what we want and desire may, thus, take first place.

So, God may bring into our lives, or may allow in our lives, some difficult trial, tragedy, sorrow, pain or sickness in order to get our attention, and for the purpose to bring us to our senses. This is not to say that those who are living righteously will not also face such troubled times. They will, and it will be for the purpose to mature them, and so they share in God’s holiness, and so they bear the fruit of God’s righteousness. But, he also disciplines his wandering saints in order to bring them back to himself in humility, repentance and obedience. Sometimes we can be so stupid, so strong-headed, and so bent on our own ways, even though we know better, and so it will take being hit over the head by a two-by-four (not literally) to bring us to our senses. And, even this is God’s grace to us, in order to free us, because he has compassion for us. And, when we do return, he revives and restores us to fellowship with him, and he welcomes us back home.

The Curse of Jealousy (vv. 25-32)

“Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. But he answered and said to his father, ‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.’”

Like I said, even those who are walking righteously are not yet perfect (without fault). We are maturing in our walks of faith day-by-day. Daily we are putting to death sinful deeds, by the Spirit, and we are responding to the Spirit’s still small voice in convicting us when we falter, or we should be. And, sometimes our Lord will put a finger on an area of our lives where we need to yield control to our Lord and not do it ourselves. And, we need to respond to his voice by submitting to his will, and by walking in his way.

The one who stayed in communion with the Father ended up being jealous of the one who repented of his evil ways, and who returned, because the Father received him with open arms and he celebrated the son’s return. He felt that the father treated the wandering son, who then later repented, greater than he treated him who had remained with the father. And, that can happen to us, too, if we allow self-righteousness to settle in, and if we forget that our righteousness is as filthy rags in God’s sight, and it is only his righteousness granted to us, to be lived out through us in his power, that amounts to anything. We were once lost, too, and God found us and saved us by his grace, so we have nothing to boast about or to feel self-righteous about, because it is only by God’s grace that we are not still in the gutter.

Yet, I find another jealousy existing among those who profess faith in Jesus Christ, which is equally as bad. Sometimes, when a wandering saint does return to the Lord, and is restored to fellowship with God, and is now walking in the Spirit, and is not gratifying the sinful flesh any longer, those who are still giving way to the flesh, who have not yet repented of their sins, will be jealous and resentful of the relationship the faithful believer has with the Lord. And, that may drive the unrepentant even further into sin and rebellion because of their anger with God and with the repentant. Yet, all of us need to have the perspective that it is only by God’s grace that any of us can be restored to God and have communion with him, and that all of us have the opportunity to walk in faithfulness, if we so choose to do so.

Amazing Grace / John Newton

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear,
And Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come.
‘Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far
And Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His Word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

And when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess within the veil
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’d first begun.

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

Beside Quiet Waters

Sunday, May 28, 2017, 11:22 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 23 (NASB).

Not in Want (v. 1)

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.

Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd. In his death on a cross, he laid down his life for his sheep. Through his death and resurrection, he provided the way for us, through God-given faith in him, to be delivered from slavery to sin and eternal death, and to be freed to walk now in Christ’s righteousness. He also became our merciful and compassionate high priest, who suffered like we suffer, and thus he is able to sympathize with us in our weaknesses. Not only is he our Savior, but he is also our provider and sustainer. We are not lacking in any good thing he desires for us. He meets all of our needs.

He Leads Me (v. 2)

He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.

Sometimes, though, as humans, we become anxious about our lives, our needs, our circumstances, and our loved ones, etc. And, there are times when we need to be reminded that he is our shepherd, and that we are not lacking in anything we truly need, for even when we do lack, he provides, or he fulfills us where we are lacking. He reminds us, too, that we need to put our trust in him and not in humans, and not in the things of this world, for all these things are going to pass away. Our trust needs to be solely in the Lord, and so we must rest in him, believing that he will provide, not necessarily all that we think we need, but what he knows is what we need.

Restores My Soul (v. 3)

He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

When we feel anxious, and we call upon him, and he fills us with his peace, because we are now resting and trusting in him, he restores our souls. And, he leads us in the right way, in the way we should go; in the way of faith and rest in him, and not in the way of the flesh or of the world. He shows us his truths in contrast to Satan’s lies, and he teaches us his ways, which is the way to true peace and contentment. We can rest in him and believe him in all things because he is God, he is all powerful, and he is completely sovereign (in control) over all that he has made, and over all powers, dominions and authorities on the earth and in the heavenly realms.

The world teaches us many ways to live, much of which is in contrast to God’s ways. So, if we spend much time immersing (engaging) ourselves and our minds in the beliefs, attitudes, thinking, philosophies and behaviors of this sinful world, it will be reflected in our own thinking, attitudes and behaviors. Yet, Jesus will guide us in the paths of his righteousness, but we have to be open, available and receptive to listen, and then to do what he says. God’s grace, for instance, is not carte blanche (free rein) to continue in sin without guilt and remorse, using God’s grace as a cop-out for willful sin. His grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and desires, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14).

Death’s Dark Valley (v. 4)

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

In our spiritual walks of faith in Jesus Christ, we will face hardships, persecutions, trials, tribulations and difficulties, as well as blessings. Sometimes our trials can be so troublesome that they are death-like, i.e. they hint to us a sense of hopelessness and despair, or an ending to something good, or a feeling of powerlessness over our circumstances. The reality of them may be, as well, that we are in danger of dying or of being killed, particularly for our faith in Jesus Christ. Yet, we are not to fear, for our Lord is completely sovereign (in control) over all things, and he will, in all things, work for the good of us who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Ro. 8:28), so we can rest in him.

I don’t ever have to be afraid of what humans may do to me, for my God is with me. He will lead me and guide me in the way I should go, and he will counsel me and watch over me. He, too, will console me and reassure me of his love, his grace, his mercy, his power and of his sovereignty. And, He will remind me that I can trust him, and that I can rest in him secure in all things. He has a plan and a purpose. And, his purposes will be accomplished. His plans cannot be thwarted! [Job 42:2; Is. 8:10; Is. 14:27]

Presence of Enemies (v. 5)

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have one prime enemy, which is Satan. He is the enemy of God and of all who follow Jesus Christ with their lives. He is like a roaring lion roaming around the earth seeking whom he may devour. So, we are to resist him, flee temptation and sin, and draw near to God in full assurance of faith. He has followers, too, though, and they are our enemies, also, but we don’t fight him or them with physical weapons of warfare. We fight off our enemies with spiritual weapons of righteousness which God has given to us to put on daily, so that we don’t succumb to the enemy’s devices and strategies he uses against us (See: Eph. 6:10-20).

Again, we don’t have to fear Satan or his many hordes, but daily we must put on God’s armor, and when we do, we will be at peace and at rest. Our Lord will provide us with everything we need to remain strong in battle, to not give up, to persevere, to be at peace, to retain our joy, and to keep on serving our Lord despite all opposition forged against us. He will provide us with wisdom, insight, spiritual gifts, faith, words to say, and a song in our hearts, so that the enemy of our souls will not gain the victory over us. And, he will do this in the presence of our enemies so that they can see that God is with us, that God is all powerful, and that no weapon forged against us will prevail, not even death, for death to us only means life with God.

Goodness and Lovingkindness (v. 6)

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

We read in Romans 8:14 that it is those who are led by the Spirit of God who are the children of God. If we live according to the sinful nature, 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. So, it isn’t those who merely profess faith in Jesus Christ who are the sheep of his pasture, but it is those who walk according to the Spirit, who do not live by the ways of the flesh, and who, by the Spirit, are putting sin to death. Being led by the Spirit means we listen to what the Lord says in his Word, and we follow where he (his Word) leads us, in the path of his righteousness and holiness.

We are those of whom God’s goodness and lovingkindness (covenant loyalty) will follow us all the days of our lives. We have the promise of an eternal home with God. And, God is completely faithful to all he has promised those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. We can totally rely on him to do everything he said he would do.

Yet, his goodness is not necessarily as humans might define “good,” but it is according to what is best (in God’s estimation) for us. It is what is pure, holy, righteous, moral, decent, upright, truthful and just, and what is in accord with God’s perfect plan for our lives. Suffering, as we learn, is part of his design for our lives, so we should not feel he is not being good to us if he allows us to go through suffering. Even that has its place in our lives in growing us in our faith, maturing us, training us in perseverance, purifying us, and teaching us to rely on God and not on ourselves, as well as to conform us to the likeness of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

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.

Under Your Shelter

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

My Refuge (vv. 1-3)

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. Of David.

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

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

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

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

Steadfast Love (vv. 4-5)

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

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

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

Ever Sing Praise (v. 8)

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

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

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

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

Total Praise / Richard Smallwood

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

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!