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.

Trust and Rest

Wednesday, July 5, 2017, 9:03 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Believe Him.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read select vv. (in the ESV) on the subject of “rest.”

Our Rest (Mk. 14:40-42)

And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

Rest can be good, and it can be bad. In today’s culture here in America it is believed and propagandized that we need rest, relaxation and recreation whenever our work day has ended. Probably the average American puts in a 40-hour work week, some less and some more. Some people are workaholics and would do well to take time to relax and rest some, while others do as little work as possible and think they are entitled to live in leisure the rest of their lives. A parent of small children usually doesn’t get much rest, unless her/his children are asleep, and even then they are probably doing laundry or dishes, etc. Yet, too many people in our culture are obsessed with relaxation and recreation, and they have this sense that they must continuously be entertained or be entertaining to others.

It is reasonable that we should be able to sleep when we get tired, but we can’t always do that. Sometimes our jobs demand much of us, or our families, or the Lord has work for us to do that might involve losing some sleep here and there. If the Lord has work for us to do, even if it is in the middle of the night, we should do what he has called us to do, even if it means losing a little bit of sleep now and then, for the Lord can sustain us, and he can give us the strength to endure and to persevere even when we are tired. I have seen him do this in my life over and over again. So, sleep, rest, relaxation and recreation should not be our central focus, or our entitlement, but we should submit to our Lord in all that we do, trust him, rest in him, do what he says, and believe him to give us all we need.

No Rest (2 Co. 7:5-6)

For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us…

Sometimes, when serving the Lord, there may be times when we are going through much hardship, persecution, opposition, and affliction, and we won’t get the sleep our bodies require, or that we think we need to keep going. But God knows all that. And, he is quite capable of seeing us through it all. He is still absolutely sovereign (in control) over all things, and he allow what he allows in our lives for his purposes and for his glory in our lives. And, sometimes we may get physical rest, but our minds and hearts will be troubled by what we are having to endure, and they will need rest, as well. So, the Lord comforts us with his love and grace, and with his compassion and mercy, and he encourages our hearts, and he strengthens us with his mighty power. I often pray for him to help me, especially when my body is tired or when my emotions are weak, and he never fails me. Not once!

His Rest (2 Co. 12:8-10; Matt. 11:28-29)

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Sometimes the enemy’s opposition against us is so strong that we plead with the Lord to remove it from us. Yet, sometimes we need this opposition to make us stronger and more determined to follow our Lord in obedience, and to keep us humble so that we don’t take credit for what God is doing in and through us, as though we somehow did it ourselves. Also, when we go through difficulties, persecutions, and rejections, and we face much opposition, because we are serving the Lord, and doing what he says, it teaches us not to rely on ourselves, but on God. God’s grace is totally sufficient to see us through any and every situation we may encounter. We just have to learn to trust him in it all, and rest in HIM, and in his strength and power, and not in our own resources or strength. And, then we are strengthened in spirit, heart, mind, emotion and in body, too.

God’s rest is not like our rest. God’s rest is inner peace, strength, comfort, joy, and fulfillment even in hard times, difficulties, times of sorrow and pain, and even in sleepless nights, and labor for the Lord and for his gospel, etc. So, in all things, we need to trust him, rest in him, obey him, walk in his love, and let him meet all our needs and comfort us with his love and grace.

Believe Him / An Original Work / July 15, 2013

My heart cries: Lord, won’t You hear me
Seeking You for the answers
To my heartache and questions
I have concerning my life?
Speak, Lord, to me right now.

“Oh, dear one, why don’t you trust Me
With your life’s circumstances?
Give your all on the altar
In submission of your will
To My purpose for you.

“Surrender your life completely
To your Lord and your Savior.
He has all things planned for you
For His glory and honor.
He’ll work all things for good.

“Believe Him. He will fulfill all
Of His promises to you
For your life and your future.
Trust Him. Rest in His love.
He’ll give you peace from above.”

A Steadfast Heart

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

I Take Refuge (v. 1)

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

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

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

Sharp Tongues (v. 4)

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

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

I Will Sing (vv. 7-11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Based off Psalm 27

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

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

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

Use It, or Lose It!

Saturday, June 10, 2017, 7:49 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Jesus, I am Resting, Resting.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Ecclesiastes 6 (ESV).

Wealth and Possessions (vv. 1-6)

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place?

Some people have been blessed with wealth – either materially and with many possessions, or with knowledge and understanding, or with natural talent and much giftedness. They may have been given many aptitudes for many things. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are blessed with the riches of God’s grace, not only in our salvation from sin, but with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus, and in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. We have been forgiven our sins, delivered from slavery to sin, given new lives in Christ Jesus, to be lived to his righteousness, and indwelt and empowered with the Holy Spirit, and granted eternal life with God (See: Eph. 1:1-14). God gives good gifts to his children (Matt. 7:11; Jas. 1:17).

But, what matters is not what we have, but what we do with what we have. Great wealth, talent, and knowledge means nothing if it is not used for good purposes, or if it is not shared with those who are in need, or with those who may benefit from it in some way. It also means nothing if it is amassed for future purposes, but the person dies before he gets to put it to good use, and especially if he has no heirs, and strangers then get his wealth. Or, if his country is conquered by a foreign entity and he loses it all, and the conquerors then take possession of it. He should have shared it with others while he still had it, for what good is it if an enemy now takes possession of it?

He may also lose it, too, because God takes it away, because he didn’t use it for good, to benefit others, but he squandered his wealth and just used it for his own selfish purposes. And, this can be true of spiritual blessings and giftedness, too. Many people have been given the gift of salvation, and, perhaps, initially they produced fruit in keeping with repentance, or seemed to, but since then they have gotten caught up in the world of sin, or have become lazy and complacent, and they are living their lives wholly for their own self-pleasure. Maybe they initially received the gospel message with joy and with enthusiasm, but as time went on, they went back to their old ways of living for sin and self, and they have forgotten that salvation means death to sin and living to righteousness. They are also ignoring all the warnings in scripture regarding how we will reap what we sow, and instructions which teach that our spiritual walk, or lack thereof, determines our eternal destiny.

Never Satisfied (vv. 7-9)

All the toil of man is for his mouth, yet his appetite is not satisfied. For what advantage has the wise man over the fool? And what does the poor man have who knows how to conduct himself before the living? Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the appetite: this also is vanity and a striving after wind.

The things of this world will never satisfy us. They are like eating a meal. Hours later we need to eat again. They are also a lot like water that only temporarily satisfies our thirst, for then we get thirsty again, and then we need more. The treasures of this life do bring some temporary satisfaction and pleasure (enjoyment), but they are temporal. They are not lasting. One day they will all perish, too. But, since they are only temporarily satisfying, it is human nature to keep wanting more, thinking if we just have this or that, now we will be happy, but they never truly make us happy. And, some of them come with great debt because people buy what they can’t afford, and thus they come with a great financial burden, too. Or else they come with enormous responsibility, and thus they take a great amount of our time, money and energies just keeping them maintained, and for what?

When I think of the wandering of the appetite, it is not just in wanting more possessions, or more food than what we need to eat (to live), but it is going outside the boundaries of our covenant relationships with God or with our spouses. It is not being satisfied with what we have, or with the marriage covenant, or with God alone, and it is going after “other lovers,” thinking they will satisfy the deep longings of our souls. Yet, these are all just empty cisterns full of holes.

Regarding marriage, this adultery can take place via the mind only, lusting after those who are not our own, but it can also involve viewing pornography, and sexually charged movies, TV shows, and books or magazines, too. It can, as well, involve extramarital relationships, that may begin seemingly innocent enough, but which may lead to romantic and/or sexual relationships. As well, private chats or texts with people of interest with whom you might have intimate conversations, especially without the knowledge or approval of your spouses, and behind their backs, is another form of adultery and a “wandering appetite.”

Sovereignty of God (vv. 10-12)

Whatever has come to be has already been named, and it is known what man is, and that he is not able to dispute with one stronger than he. The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?

God knows the end from the beginning. He knew before he even created man that he would sin against him. He knew before we were even formed in the wombs of our mothers who we would become, what we would do, and whether or not we would believe in him. But, it is more than just knowing these things in advance. For those of us who know Jesus, or who will yet believe in him, God chose us to be holy and blameless in his sight. He chose us even before the creation of the world (Ro. 8:29; 2 Tim. 1:8-9; Eph. 1:3-4). All the days ordained for me were written in God’s book before one of them came into being (Ps. 139:13-16; cf. Jeremiah 1:4-5). God placed me in the womb of my mother, so he chose the home I would be raised in, even knowing the good, bad and the ugly of it all, because he made me who I am so he could use me in the way he is using me, and all for his glory!

The point here, also, is that there is no point trying to go our own way, or to resist God, because his word will stand true, and he will do what he says he will do. What we sow, that will we also reap. If we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we are liars. If we walk according to our sinful flesh, we will die in our sins, even if we profess to believe in Jesus Christ. But, if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live with Christ for eternity. If we persist and insist on going our own way, and continuing in willful and unrepentant sin against God, and we make a practice of doing what is wicked, we do not have the hope of eternal life with God, but a fearful expectation of judgment.

One other thing here is that it says, the more words, the more vanity. This is not saying that we have to be people of few words, though there is wisdom in that, at times, when we say more than is necessary, or more than we should. Yet, what this makes me think of is how words can be cheap if not accompanied by action. If a man or a woman proclaims to love his or her spouse but he or she cheats on the spouse and then covers it up with lies, they should not call it love, for it is not love. If we proclaim to know and to love God, as well, but we cheat on God with “other lovers,” i.e. with the gods of this world, and we go our own way, and we do what we want, and we think we are ok if we keep sinning, and we think obedience is not required, then all is vanity! Because, our expressions of love are vain, because they are just words.

So, we should not take God and his grace for granted. We should be satisfied with where he has us, what he has us doing, and with the blessings he has bestowed upon us, unless he moves us to something else, according to his plans and purposes for our lives. We should not wander outside our covenant relationships with God or with spouse, but we should be faithful in all that we do, think, speak and are (in character). If God has gifted us and has given us wealth, knowledge, talent, salvation, and spiritual gifts, we should use them for his glory, and for the benefit of others, and not hoard them to ourselves, or to use them only for our own pleasure. But, we should rest in the Lord, believe what he says, do what he shows us, go wherever he sends us, and use what he gives us – all for his glory!

Jesus, I am Resting, Resting
Jean Sophia Pigott

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

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

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

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

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

He Only

Tuesday, June 6, 2017, 10:19 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Much Too High a Price.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Psalm 62 (quoting vv. 1-8 NASB).

My Soul Waits (vv. 1-2)

My soul waits in silence for God only;
From Him is my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Do you have trusted friends? Have they ever betrayed you? Turned against you? Even those of your own household, who are supposed to love and protect you, have they ever abandoned you? How about your pastors, elders, deacons, trustees and Bible teachers? Have they ever deserted you in time of need? Did you plead for help, and they didn’t come through? Did they leave you to the wolves to be devoured? Sisters and brothers in the Lord, have they ever betrayed a confidence? Gossiped about you, or made unkind and uncalled for remarks about your character? And, your country’s leaders, have they ever lied to you? Deceived you? Manipulated and used you, and preyed on your naivety and trusting nature?

So, why do these things happen? Well, for one, because we are all born with sin natures. All of us have sinned and have come up short of attaining God’s divine approval (Ro. 3:23). Satan tempts people to sin, as well as people are tempted (lured) by their own sinful passions and desires. Some people love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil, so they won’t come into the light, lest their wicked deeds be exposed. Although they have knowledge of God, for God made plain to them what may be known about himself, they don’t praise, thank or honor him, but instead they follow after their own sinful passions, and they do what ought not to be done (Rom. 1).

Yet, there is encouragement for the one who puts his or her faith and trust in God alone, and who waits patiently for God to intervene on their behalf. Tis true that humans will lie to us and about us, betray us, abandon us, use us, gossip about us to others, make nasty and cutting remarks to us, hand us over to the wolves, ignore our cries for help, and turn against us, etc. But, our God will do none of these! Even if our mother or father should forsake us, our God will never leave or forsake those who are his own. He will not falter. He will not change. We can depend on him fully. He is our stronghold, who helps us to endure, to persevere and to stand strong in our faith and on his Word, even when many oppose us and his gospel message.

Inwardly They Curse (vv. 3-4)

How long will you assail a man,
That you may murder him, all of you,
Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?
They have counseled only to thrust him down from his high position;
They delight in falsehood;
They bless with their mouth,
But inwardly they curse. Selah.

We live in a day and time when there are those within the world, and even within the gatherings of the church, who are vehemently opposed to the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and they are doing whatever is within their means to do so to try to halt the spreading of the gospel. This includes murdering Christians worldwide, and covering their evil deeds by saying they are going after terrorists, when they are the terrorists hunting down Christ’s followers, in order to stop God’s grace from spreading and his gospel from advancing. Some of them are world leaders, bankers, CEOs of corporations, or they are leaders of our nations. Or, they might be our pastors or other leaders within organized religion. They have unified in an effort to stop the advancing of the kingdom of heaven, i.e. they are working for Satan. And, Satan hates Jesus Christ, his gospel and his true followers.

It isn’t as though they are entirely opposed to the name Jesus Christ, or to the institutional church, or to someone believing in Jesus with human faith. If they were, most Christians would not follow them. Remember, Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and his servants disguise themselves as apostles of Christ and as servants of righteousness. They seem, so far, to be ok with people calling themselves Christians or with saying they believe in Jesus, at least here in America. But, what they are opposed to is many of the teachings of Jesus and of his NT apostles, which teach, for one, that Jesus is the ONLY way to God and to heaven, and that there is no other way. They are also opposed to the preaching of the gospel as Jesus taught it, which confronts sin in sinful humans, warns of divine judgment, calls for repentance, and which promises hope and healing for the penitent.

What they want is for the whole world to unite as one mind and one voice and for everyone to remove from their lives whatever causes division among the people of the world. Well, the gospel divides people as saved and unsaved, as those going to heaven, and as those who are not, and as those walking in the light, and as those walking in darkness, who have no hope. So, that gospel has to go, they say, because it will not unite with all people of all religions and all walks of life. And, their goal is to have a one world totalitarian rule and a one world religion where we all tolerate one another’s beliefs and practices, which means we have to compromise our faith and convictions and the Word of God in order to unite with them. NO WAY!

They have convinced many professing Christians, or people searching out Christianity, to compromise with the world, to accept a diluted half-truth (false) gospel, to reject the truth, and to turn the church into a business, and/or a social club, and/or a community organization. They have convinced them, too, that all they have to do is acknowledge Jesus’ existence, and accept his forgiveness for their sins, and they now have heaven guaranteed when they leave this world, no matter how they live their lives from this point forward. And, if someone does tell them the truth, they have already been predisposed by these liars and deceivers to reject the truth and to hold on to the lies. And, many are buying into their lies, because it gives them solace when they do feel a twinge of guilt over continued and willful sin against God.

God, My Refuge (vv. 5-8)

My soul, wait in silence for God only,
For my hope is from Him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.
On God my salvation and my glory rest;
The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah.

Yet, Jesus Christ is our only hope, and our only source of salvation from sin. His Word is completely true and trustworthy, and on it we should take our stand, and not waver. When they try to convince us to compromise with the world of sin, to deny our Lord in any way, and to dilute the gospel to make it more acceptable to the worldly, we must take a strong stand and tell them “NO!” We won’t back down, we won’t give up, and we will not deny our Lord or his gospel. We will not unite with the world in this one world religion, which recognizes all religions as viable. We will define sin in the same way the New Testament in the Bible defines sin, i.e. as defined by God. And, we will continue to confront sinful practices, call for repentance, warn of judgment, and promise hope and healing to the one who repents of his sin.

But, we will not do this in our own strength, but in the strength of the Lord. We will trust in HIM at all times, and we will pour out our hearts to him and call on him for the strength to keep pressing on in the face of much opposition. And, we will believe him for changed hearts and lives.

Much Too High A Price / Jesus Paid It All
Phil McHugh and Greg Nelson

…You paid much too high a price for me, Your tears, Your blood, the pain –
To have my soul just stirred at times yet never truly changed.
You deserve a fiery love that won’t ignore your sacrifice
Because You paid much too high a price.

Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe,
Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed me white as snow.

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.

Selfless

Saturday, May 13, 2017, 8:08 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” I read Hebrews 13:1-6 (ESV).

Think of Others (vv. 1-3)

Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.

What are some ways in which we can show brotherly love to others? If we see someone in need, we can reach out to help him or her with the needs. Part of this may involve ascertaining what the real needs are first, so we know how best to meet the needs. We can pay attention when people talk with us, remembering their names, and remembering specific things about them, to show that we care about them. We can do special things for people to let them know we appreciate them, especially during times when it is not expected (no special occasion). And, we can have neighbors over for a meal, or lend a helping hand, or take someone to the store, etc.

We should not be ingrown to where we only show hospitality to friends, co-workers, other Christians, neighbors and family members. But, we should open our hearts and homes to those we don’t know, too. We should show the love of Jesus to whomever he places in our lives or across our paths, and in whatever manner in which he chooses for us to show them his love and his grace. We should always exercise godly wisdom in whatever we do, but we should not be afraid to minister to strangers. And, included in this may be visiting inmates in prisons and sharing with them the love and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In addition, we should be concerned for all people who are being mistreated, abused, and taken advantage of. If there is any way we can minister to them, we should, as the Lord leads, and we should pray for the downtrodden, too. As well, we should remember the saints of God (believers in Jesus) throughout the world who are suffering persecution, hardship, and abuse in various forms because of their stand on the Word of Truth, because of their love and service to Jesus Christ, and because they share the gospel so that others might be saved. Many are being hunted down like they are animals, and bombs are being dropped on them, or they are being forced out of their homes into camps where they are ill-treated, so we should pray for their strengthening and courage.

Love Does No Harm (v. 4)

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

What does it look like to hold marriage in honor? It means to show your marriage and your spouse absolute respect, value, and high regard, especially in public, or in front of others, as well as privately, and to treat the marriage relationship with decency, morality, uprightness, and dignity. As well, it entails keeping (holding to) the marriage vows with all integrity, truthfulness and faithfulness. Nothing destroys a marriage more than unfaithfulness and lies (deception, cover-ups, or justifications).

And, this is not just about not having sexual relations with another individual, but it also includes not looking at another lustfully, especially in front of your spouse, not thinking lustful thoughts about others, not flirting with another, and not viewing pornography, or magazines, movies, or TV shows with partially clad people of interest, or with sexual situations or sexual humor. It also involves no sexting, and no intimate conversations with another to whom you are not married, i.e. no private texting or chatting without your spouse’s knowledge, and with someone of the opposite sex or same sex attraction. I would include in this also not watching romantic movies or reading romantic novels where you find yourself longing for such a relationship with someone other than your spouse, and which makes you dissatisfied with your own marriage.

You don’t have to have physical sexual relations with another in order for your marriage bed to be defiled. It is defiled whenever you dishonor your marriage and your spouse by all or by most all of what I just mentioned. And, it continues to be defiled as long as you lie to your spouse and/or withhold from your spouse what is his or her right to know, i.e. if you are cheating on him or her either physically, emotionally or mentally. And, I have to include masturbation in this list, too, because that is a selfish act which involves choosing self-gratification over the marriage bed.

Yet, if our spouse does commit adultery against us in any one of these ways, we need to be willing to forgive, and to lovingly encourage faithfulness, and to work toward the healing of the relationship, as much as it is within our power to do so. We need to pray for our spouse and always hold out hope for better days to come.

Be Contented (vv. 5-6)

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

You know, this fits with adultery, too, because when someone turns to lust, pornography, masturbation, sexting or romantic or sexual affairs, etc., in place of faithfulness to marriage and spouse, it is because the person is not content with his or her spouse, and so is looking to have their needs met outside the marriage, and outside the marriage bed. So, similar counsel needs to be given here, too, in that we should learn to be content with the one to whom we are married, and we should pursue that relationship rather than looking elsewhere for satisfaction and pleasure.

Yet, with regard to the love of money, this actually entails much more than just money, but it has to do with extreme greed for money or for material things, never satisfied with what we have, but always wanting more and more. In America I know this is a huge problem because we are an affluent nation with so much stuff, food, entertainment, possessions, hobbies, etc., but the more people buy the more they think they need until we have houses and closets full of stuff no one really needs, i.e. we have houses, garages, attics and closets full of excess.

So, the counsel here is to be content with what we have, and to not seek after or worship, idolize, lust for, prefer, or long for what we don’t have, or what is not ours to have, or what we can’t really afford, or what would just be filling our barns with excess while others go without the basic necessities of life.

We should trust the Lord to meet all our needs, and we need to be generous in giving to others as they have need, too. Instead of being selfish, we need to be those who make a practice of being selfless. And, we need to not fear that our needs will not be met if we don’t take matters into our own hands. God knows what we need, and he will supply, not what we want, necessarily, or what we might decide that we need, but he will take care of us, so we should never be afraid. He will work all things out for good for those who love him, so we rest in him.

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.