5 Understandable Words:

5 Understandable Words:

 

“Sing praises to the Lord…” Psalm 9:11

It is God, Who sits enthroned forever (v.7), Who avails Himself to every Believer who call on His name (v.10), and Who will never abandon those who do call upon His name. (v.10b) The very same personal Defender is worthy to be praised, both personally and corporately. The psalmist encouraged the reader to sing to God.

Singing is a dynamic exercise which strengthens both the spirit and body. It is an engagement of the mind and body to produce the melodies which stay with us for a lifetime. In producing the tone, one breathes in enough air to sustain a melodic phrase, so as to be uninterrupted in expressing one’s heart and mind to God. The exercise is done with excellence when accomplished with understanding the dynamics of vocal production, cooperative singing, and the message given to the Lord in song.

King David was an “all-in” personality: at the slaying of Goliath; his sin with Bathsheba; his refusal to harm King Saul; and when returning the ark of the covenant back to Jerusalem. It was all or nothing. God showed through David’s life Heaven’s standard for living: wholeheartedness. And one’s worship should not be void of it. David was not satisfied with one song, he encouraged the reader to sing “praises”… plural.

Have you ever been to a church, sung a hymn or song and felt like your heart was just getting ‘warmed-up’, only to be seated, moving on to another element of the service? David’s humanity provided an advantage in exposing every person’s need for being primed to worship. Our hearts are like the old-fashioned water pumps which needed priming by pouring a small bit of water on the device which pumped the refreshing liquid from the ground. Our minds are linked to our hearts, and worshippers need that priming to draw from the deep reservoir of praise to present their whole heart to God. Like priming the pump, one song of praise primes the pump, so that they become a wellspring of living praise before the Lord!

Singing wasn’t the only thing David directed the reader toward. Those who approach God’s throne in corporate worship are to share their stories… they are to tell each other how the cries of the afflicted were heard. (v.’s 11b-12) I think it is to be a glimpse of Heaven, where we will hear such wonderful stories of God’s marvelous deeds… not just by the forefathers of our faith, but from those we never met. God is writing a story in the lives of each of His saints, and those stories will be told throughout eternity.

Have you shared God’s story in your life lately? It becomes an offering in our worship. Encourage your worship leader to sing PRAISES to the Lord.

To Him Who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb belong glory and honor and strength!

5 Understandable Words for Today

“…The Lord sits enthroned forever…”  Psalm 9:7a

The king of Israel recognized both his finite humanity and God’s infinite deity. David knew his days on this earth were numbered. He also knew The Creator is also Sustainer and King; that one day all will stand before His throne to give an account for their lives. The evil will face their ultimate moment of justice (v.7b), and the entire world will be judged with righteousness which will exhibit God’s standard of all that is good and right. (v.8)

In the world, God is working out His righteousness to those who are oppressed, being their stronghold in times of trouble. (v.9) To those who have placed their trust in Him, He will not abandon, and will be available to those who have established a relationship on a name by name basis. (v.10)

We have a Father Who knows our names… His children run to Him and find security in knowing that though man is able to kill the body, God preserves the souls of the upright and destroys the souls of the wicked. As His children, we would do well to follow David’s example by recognizing God’s infinite deity as we reckon with our own temporal being.

There will come a day when we will stand before God. Those who know Him by name… those who have called upon that name that is above every name will receive the welcome home similar to that of the prodigal son – the Father will see us from afar, run to greet us and welcome us to the home The Son has prepared for us. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

Even so, Lord, quickly come!

5 Understandable Words for Today

“…You have upheld my right…” Psalm 9:4 (NIV)

Horatio Bonar noticed that, “…as the Eighth (psalm) caught-up the last line of the seventh, this ninth psalm opens with an apparent reference to the eighth.” The last line of the eighth psalm reads: “…how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” Continuing in exalting the name above every name, God breathes this psalm to life in the heart and mind of the young warrior with a heart after God: “I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.”

David’s praise is personal, poignant and passionate. His statement is a resolution of personal conviction: David committed to praising God with all his heart. This resolve affected his senses so powerfully that it would not do to remain silent about it. He would tell of God’s wondrous works, and the only way to tell others, once one has personally experienced God’s power, is to do so passionately – displaying confidence in one’s own experience.

The motivation behind David’s praise is found in today’s five understandable words. In them we discover God is The Upholder of rights founded on His righteous precepts. I shared forty of those precepts in my book, “Freedom’s Foundation” (©2015). True freedom protects the liberties of those living under its banner. Thus, one’s rights ensure the freedom to live out one’s purpose or cause in life, especially when expended on God’s Kingdom. David had been keenly aware of his life’s purpose from a young age when Samuel anointed him as Israel’s future king. (1 Sa. 16:1-13)

As king, David offered unfettered praise to His deliverer and shield. This song seems to overflow with thanksgiving and delight: “I will praise You, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in You. I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.” It is obvious that David’s praise is for God, not the works. Oftentimes, God’s creation motivates man to worship the creation rather than the Creator. In the same way, one may often dwell on God’s wondrous accomplishments than upon Him.

David did recount his own historical record (2 Samuel 16-21) of God’s power to establish those He has chosen:

·       “My enemies stumble and perish before You…” He may have been referring to his own son’s death. It was Absalom whose schemed to overthrow his own father and ended up paying for it with his life.

·       “You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked…” The tribes of Israel that had joined Absalom were rebuked and order was restored to all of Israel.

·       “…You have blotted out their name for ever…” This could be a reference to the fact that Absalom had no children, no male heirs to carry on his name. This was seen as a judgment against him. He was buried in a tomb he had constructed for himself. It is located between The Garden of Gethsemane and Bethlehem. (2 Sa. 18:18)

·       “Endless ruin has overtaken the enemy, You have uprooted their cities; even the memory of them has perished.” It is unclear if David is referring to the tribes overthrown to gain control of The Promised Land or of other tribes which were defeated in David’s reign. Either way, David is pointing to the hand of God as his Deliverer.

David is practicing one of the best ways to systematically offer praise to God: by counting one’s blessings! For David, it was through God’s hand of intervention offering physical protection and miraculous moments giving David an advantage or way escape from his enemies. For us today we are able to utilize this same approach of counting our blessings. It may be God has saved you from the threat of disease, or a car accident, or financial ruin, or any number of calamities known to man. As you reflect on God’s hand of provision, protection, and providential care, let praise well up from within you and offer God praise with ALL your heart. Half hearted praise ends up falling flat, never reaching the altar of sacrifice. Offer the sacrifice of praise with a whole heart, fully abandoned to exalting The One Who is worthy to be praised!

John 3:30

 

5 Understandable Words for Today

“…You have set Your glory…”  Psalm 8:1b

There are bookend praises to introduce and conclude this magnificent psalm: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (v.’s 1 & 9) His name being majestic in all the earth, His glory is displayed above the stars all the more… beyond space and time as we know them. In that place is eternal fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. Meanwhile, as we bring it back down to earth, God’s enemies are silenced by the praises of children. Even infants bring Him praise in what to us sounds like incoherent babble and translates into the purest praise from uncorrupted lips… ones who have not expressed their sin nature by rejecting God’s glory. It was the children that flocked to Jesus… so much so, that He had to direct His disciples to allow them free access to Him, saying, “Permit the little children to come to Me, and do not forbid them.” (Luke 18:16)

Still… when we do gaze up to a clear night sky, we clearly see just how small we really are and are brought to the one question seeking souls must ask: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (v.4) How do we know God is mindful of us? We are made a little lower than the angels in purpose, yet crowned with glory and honor – after the manner of The One in Whose image we are created. (v.’s 5-6) In fact, no one exercised dominion over nature more than Jesus, Who directed fish (Luke 5:1-6), fowl (Luke 22:34), and over large animals (Mark 1:13; 11:1-7) The evidence is seen in all creation being under the authority and rule of humanity:

1.     Through the domestication of herd animals, such as cattle and sheep. (v.7a)

2.     By proper management of natural resources and wildlife. (v.7b-8)

3.     In creating machines which navigate both the air and sea. (v.8)

While God has set His glory above the heavens, His likeness is clearly seen in His children, crowned with the glory of His righteousness granted through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. You see, He has set His glory upon each Believer who carry His likeness throughout the earth… bringing His kingdom to earth.

Do you ever feel insignificant? Unessential to society? Worthless? Think again, and remember God has spoken about you when He stated:

“I have set my glory”

Remember, it is the glory of Christ in YOU that is the hope of all Heaven!

God sees His glory in YOU!

 

5 Understandable Words for Today

“…the wicked man conceives evil…”  Psalm 7:14a

The anointed, though un-coronated king of Israel described the character of Cush, the Benjaminite, who partnered with Saul to eliminate any threat to his rule. In characterizing an evil man, David used the metaphor of reproduction (v.14):

  • The ‘seed’ of the wicked only breeds evil, which is the main thought of today’s Five Understandable Words. Evil is like a germ that spreads, infecting the minds of those touting their open-mindedness.

  • Once the seed has been received into the heart and mind, an evil person is described as being pregnant with mischief; probably a multiple birth of triplets – stealing, killing, and destroying their intended target. (Read John 10:10)

  • The birthed infant is not a pretty sight to see: living lies spoken to coverup the evil man’s misdeeds. Jesus described satan as the father of lies. (John 8:44) It seems God breathed into David the truth of satan’s progeny.

Evil people scheme, going to great lengths in compromising, corrupting or capturing their target. David described it was similar to the effort exerted by one who digs a large pit… it’s must be exhausting to such people. Imagine the lies told to coverup the earlier lies. The lives that are destroyed to get to the target. The lies get deeper and deeper until the liar finds no way of escape… because she/he has fallen into their own pit of lies! (v.15) And the mischief triplets come tumbling down upon the evil person’s own head. (v.16)

Once David entered God’s presence, he received a larger picture of the threat around him and realized God was taking care of him. God gave David peace to trust Him concerning Cush’s threat and return to the important task at hand: his worship to God through thanksgiving and praise. (v.17) Seeing sinners from David’s metaphor allows us no particular joy to know of the sinner’s demise, and it was not the fodder for David’s praise, only the peace allowing David to worship God.

We are given, then, a new understanding of the fact that sinners will be judged, and that we worship God for His working in ways which pronounce His righteous ways! Both the sinner and the sin must be judged by God Who is both holy and just. (v.6)

Pray with me that God will expose corruption in our hearts and throughout our nation.

5 Understandable Words for Today:

“…may You establish the righteous…”  Psalm 7:9b (ESV)

David invited God to judge his own thoughts and actions, knowing his own innocence in this conflict stirred up by Cush, the Benjamite, between Saul and himself. (Read 8b&c) David prayed for the evil of the wicked to stop so that the righteous (David and those who followed God’s precepts) would be established. Nothing is hidden from God Who tests the minds and hearts of people. (v.9c)

That’s right… He tests our minds and hearts:

  • our minds, to determine our pattern of thinking on those things which are good, God-honoring, holy, and pleasing to God;

  • our hearts, for measuring the depth of our devotion by complete abandonment to Him and His Kingdom.

As God breathed these words into David’s mind, He was anchoring this precept of testing by God. David was inspired to write later: “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14-KJV) Jesus reinforced this idea when He said, “The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) Only God is qualified to both perform and measure the tests of mind and heart, for only He is completely righteous. (v.’s 9d & 11)

David confidently announced his lot was with God, who had protected him like a shield and saved him from many dangers. (v.10) It was out of his own personal experience that David prayed for the righteous to be anchored firm for God’s purposes (v.9), knowing God’s hatred toward wickedness. You read that right… God’s love does not prohibit His ability for indignation toward acts of unrighteousness and those who perpetuate evil by their acts. (v.’s 11b – 14) God’s capacity to hate evil is equal to the breadth of His love for sinners, for without such a heavenly disdain for evil, Christ’s death on the cross was for naught. There is no question about it: God is pro-righteousness! He is on the side of good and all that is right… and He is for those who embrace His design for people to experience His transforming power and grace.

David’s prayer was for the evil (the evil plans and actions) of the wicked to come to an end. (v.9) Should we not also follow his lead and pray in a similar manner? Let our prayers be bold in asking God to establish the righteous, and to establish righteousness throughout the world.

MAY YOU ESTABLISH THE RIGHTEOUS!

 

5 Understandable Words for Today

"The Lord judges the peoples..."  Psalm 7:8a

It is intriguing to see David's words reflecting a man who is more fearful of the words of others than an attack by a lion! He had faced the lion and the bear, and won! He asked for deliverance from his pursuers who, as he described, would tear his soul apart as easily as a lion tears its prey apart after the kill. David's exaggeration, "...with none to deliver." (v.2), is God's way of showing us that He is not offended by our transparency. Why else would He have preserved it in His Word? David invited God to examine his actions, and judge his intentions of the heart. He even offers God his own life as ransom for his own actions. (v.'s 3-5) We, like David, should always be keenly aware that God will judge both our intentions and actions. When it comes to sin, we should be just as confident as David in approaching God's throne. (Read v.8b)

Many years ago, I sang in an auditioned group called The Winthrop Singers. We represented the college around the state to recruit students, and we sang concerts each semester, as well as for special occasions such as Christmas and Alumni Weekend. One of the selections we sang during those years was an arrangement of the Simon and Garfunkle song, "Cecilia", recorded in November of 1969, and released in April of 1970. The song contained some rather 'racey' lyrics, which we sang enthusiastically - being a well known pop hit of our high school years, while not even considering the message we were espousing. It was some three or so years later, I met a woman in Fort Worth, TX, who was also a Winthrop graduate and who heard 'The Singers' sing the song at an Alumni weekend on the Winthrop campus. She remembered my face in particular, and confronted me with these words: "You have un-confessed sin in your life." You see, she was also a retired missionary, and was quite convincing of my need to repent for the message I had endorsed through my voice in the group. I did... and she prayed with me. We talked about a host of things that day, and she helped me process through a litany of confessions which helped me to consider the seriousness of sin. Even now, the memory of those moments with Miss Bertha Smith remind me to keep my sin list short and to allow God to work in my heart those thoughts that are good and right.

How about you? Have you considered the powerful thought that 

THE LORD JUDGES THE PEOPLES.

It includes everyone... do not let your mind pass up the opportunity to confess and be cleansed by His soul cleansing power. 

I've provided a link about the life of Miss Bertha Smith below:

http://www.bpnews.net/20192/exhibit-honoring-miss-bertha-opens-at-sbc-library-and-archives

 

5 Understandable Words for Today

“…the Lord accepts my prayer.” Psalm 6:9b (ESV)

Theologians often describe this psalm as the first of the Penitent Psalms, which include psalms 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, and 142. These songs had the following characteristics: sorrow, humiliation, and hatred of sin. This psalm, like the last, is constructed of two sections: verses 1-7 and verses 8-10.

David enters into this penitential song knowing of God’s right to rebuke and discipline His children, and only asks that the punishment not be done in anger. Like a child cowering before an angry father, David would rather be punished for wrong-doing than to be used as a whipping boy: “O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.” (v.1) Generations later, the prophet Jeremiah echoed David’s words with a clarifying note: “…lest you bring me to nothing.” (Je. 10:24) David was already worn out from regret, mourning over his sin (v.’s 2-3; 6-7), being too close to 'nothingness' for a rebuke that would completely destroy his being.

There was one simple, yet sure, remedy – to be saved through God’s redeeming grace. Though he knows he deserves God’s rebuke, David pleads for God’s salvation. (v.4) He knows God is able to restore him to good standing before The Creator. Without God’s total restoration, David’s expressions of worship would never reach Heaven’s throne, and if he died in his sin, he would surely never enjoy worshipping with the redeemed in the glory of heaven. (v.5)

In these first seven verses we find a broken man: guilty, insecure, and tired… oh, so tired. One can almost hear the minor key of the blues song being groaned in the shadows of the night. Then the key changes, and the tone of the song reveals confidence by a restored heart. David confronts the “workers of evil”, commanding them to disperse from their taunts and schemes. Isn’t it interesting how people are like coyotes which encircle their prey… we see it in the political shenanigans of our day, as well as from the antics of Hollywood. Crucifixions are as popular as ever… people just use insults and innuendo instead of crosses these days. David prophesied against those wicked people, writing: “All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.” (v.10) When God’s deliverance comes, it comes certainly and swiftly. The condemning words of his enemies would prove to be the evidence to put them to shame.

Have you ever been surrounded by accusers who hurl insults, accusations, and disparage your character by innuendo throughout your community? We live in a world where we increasingly see people using inappropriate means to retaliate in such circumstances, causing further pain in the world. Kneel and pray to the God Who will save… The One Who restores the soul and one’s life to wholeness and purpose. Then you will be able to stand confidently before the world confidently say

THE LORD ACCEPTS MY PRAYER!

He is there waiting to answer…

5 Understandable Words for Today

“Hear my cry for help…”  Psalm 5:2a  (NIV)

Because of the age of these ancient manuscripts, one cannot claim to fully understand their meaning and translation. The Hebrew word, NEHILOTH, can be translated, “to bore through” or “to perforate”, leading the translator to conclude the likelihood of using a flute or wind instrument to ornament this song of ages past, described in the psalm’s title. In this psalm, the writer contrasts the positions of the righteous and the wicked before a holy God: the righteous being made restored through God’s grace, and the wicked who oppose God’s way. There are two distinct parts to the song, both crying out for God’s attention: verses one through seven and verses eight through twelve.

Have you ever asked yourself if your prayers reach God’s throne? Or do your words seem to dissolve into the great void of space, never to be recorded or attended? Have you ever felt pain so great that the only way to express it was through sobs of grief and personal agony?

David’s plea depicts a helpless, pitiful soul approaching the only One Who can make a difference in the dilemma he faces. With rapid-fire repetition, David cries out: “Listen to my word”; “consider my lament”; “Hear my cry for help” are all childlike expressions for attention. It’s the squeaky-wheel mentality, seeking the lubrication of God’s mercy to silence what, at first blush, appears to be David making a nuisance of himself. (v.’s 1-2) Beginning at morning light, the anointed future king persisted before the Throne of Grace. (v.3)

Notice, if you will, that David’s sung prayer expresses both verbal and nonverbal communication: “Listen to my words, Lord; consider my lament.” Charles Spurgeon provides his inspired insight: “There are two sorts of prayers – those expressed in words, and the unuttered longings which abide as silent meditations. Words are not the essence but garments of prayer.” To lament before God is to cry in anguish before Him. “Weeping,” Spurgeon asserts, “has a voice… which reaches the very heart of God.” Indeed, there are times when one cannot articulate the brokenness and hopelessness of a desperate soul. The Lord hears and translates the moans of the brokenhearted. To Him, those who release desperate sobs of unspeakable need are presenting a bitter sonnet which have an influence upon His heart which He cannot resist.

The prayers of the wicked are described as unheard… ignored by God… and justly so, for why should He answer the beckoning of another’s child. Jesus chastised the pharisees when He described them as being of their father, the devil. (John 8:31-47) Imagine a street savvy kid approaching another kid’s dad, demanding to be heard, while ignoring the discipline and direction of the adult. Do you think that dad would listen to the one who had just shown such disrespect? In the same way, David describes the prayers of evildoers not even making it to God’s throne. (v.’s 4-6)

Then there is the prayer of the one whose heart is contrite and who approaches God transparently, not hiding any sin or pretense, only approaching God in total reverence and humility. (v.7) It is a picture of the sinner Jesus described, who entered the temple, fell on his face before God, beat on his chest, and asked for God’s mercy toward himself – a sinner. (Luke 18:9-14)

Are you facing a hardship that is simply too devastating for you to navigate through or come out of in one piece? Do you feel like it is tearing you apart? Come apart to share your heart to God before it tears you apart. The One Who knit your heart will keep you together through the strength of His grace… completely sufficient in all circumstances of your life. You may not have to utter one word… just be real in your lament to Him… like a child crying on her father’s shoulder.

God is there…

 

5 Understandable Words for Today

“Who will bring us prosperity?”  Psalm 4:6a

This psalm of David reveals a leader calling out to God for guidance, strength, and deliverance in a time of low prosperity, high threats from other governments, and self-centered citizens who demand more and more from their own nation. (Sound familiar?) God answers immediately… but not to David personally, instead God chooses to address the nation with these words:

“How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
    How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?”
(v.2)

God breathed into David’s heart a confrontation to half-hearted people of faith who used their time of worship as a license to sell live animals to those who did not take the time to select the best from their own herd, or who did not want to give God the best from their herd in order to make more money on them at the market. God also confronted their continued infatuation with idolatry, which had been forbidden since the great exodus… yet, it persisted.

David, then seemed to exalt himself… yet, God was still inspiring David’s hand to record the holiness of God’s elect. When God chooses someone for His purposes, even the smallest act by that person becomes sanctified under the power of God. In the light of that awareness, David writes: “Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.” (v.3) God then speaks through the hand of the appointed ruler to tremble before almighty God, and to think before acting – holding every thought accountable to God (do not sin, v.4), instead, the sinner is to search his/her own heart and be still in contriteness before God. Then, and only then, is one worthy to come before God’s presence with an offering of thanksgiving, demonstrating trust in God to replace what is given to the giver – or even multiply the gift’s impact for God’s Kingdom. (v.5)

A prosperity gospel has been around since David’s day. People have always been presenting the question, “What about me?” – EVEN IN THEIR WORSHIP… people ask, “Who will bring us prosperity?” The issue at hand is an important one: WHEN IT COMES TO WORSHIP, IT’S ALL ABOUT GOD. GOD’S LOVE IS ALL ABOUT YOU, DEMONSTRATING HIS LOVE ON A CRUEL CROSS. WORSHIP IS NEVER ABOUT THE WORSHIPPER’S PREFERENCES, PRACTICES, TRADITIONS, OR AGENDAS… THERE IS NO MAGIC FORMULA FOR BRINGING IN A MOVE OF GOD’S SPIRIT. All we can do is pray and hope with expectation that The Father delights in surprising His children with His presence and power to change hearts and lives.

The question is still bantered around today in politics, sports, and business: “Who will bring us prosperity?” In God’s economy, all the gold in the world is only good enough to be used as pavement. Nevertheless, God understands the world’s systems and our needs, and David prays for the needs of his people in the closing statements of this psalm:

“Let the light of Your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.” (v.6b-7)

The King prayed in faith for a bountiful harvest! He trusted God completely; so much so, that he slept safely and soundly, knowing God was not slack in His watchcare over His beloved children.

Are we getting in the way of our selves when it comes to worship? Is the condition of our selfish heart inhibiting our access to approaching God’s throne? Who can ascend to the hill of The Most High? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. (Ps. 24:3-4; 2 Ch. 7:14) It is then when God will hear from heaven and heal the land.

Do you see the prosperity principle taking front seat across our land? Pray with me for a great awakening in our time, that we would first become rich in love and mercy, and wealthy in the knowledge of God’s Word deposited in our hearts and minds. THEN, we will have the wisdom and discernment to properly handle the gift of abundant material blessings God can send our way. It is then, we will come rejoicing as we bring in the sheaves of harvest. (Ps. 126:6)

Are Christians today unwilling to make the sacrifice to tithe? Have American Christians become a bunch of sanctimonious tippers? Are American Christians as guilty now as in David’s time of idolatry, glorifying the VIP’s of sports, business, and entertainment? Can we not see how these practices are holding back a great move of God? It is time for us to tremble before Him in awe; to search our hearts; and to seek His face in contrite submission to His way. God is waiting on HIS PEOPLE to humble themselves in pray. WE are the ones holding back a great awakening. Pray with me for Christians to awaken to our own self-worship, and our selfishness which resists God’s new and fresh anointing.

O, how I pray for godly leadership in the halls of our nation's government. I pray God moves across this land, releasing a move of His Spirit to bring a great awakening through the halls of Washington, DC, to the offices of Planned Parenthood, cleansing cities bent on sin and bringing about a new chapter of prosperity AFTER releasing the riches of His grace and mercy into our hearts.

In our time, Lord… please… in our time…

sf

5 Understandable Words for Today

“From the Lord comes deliverance.”  Psalm 3:8a

One of the saddest episodes in the life of David was when his son, Absalom, plotted against his father to gain control of Israel’s throne. The story is found in 2 Samuel 16:20-19:8. Today’s five understandable words were written after David fled from Jerusalem as Absalom was entering to depose him. The entire story is full of drama that seems to far fetched to be true, but many times the truth is stronger than fiction.

There are two perspectives given in this psalm: the first is that of Absalom, his co-conspirators, and his army. They believed they could take both the capital city and the nation in a swift military coup. There perspective is articulated in verse two: “God will not deliver him.” David recognized the situation as serious, for many foes had risen against him. Such is the case in the halls of power. Those who are underlings see an opportunity to advance their status by siding with those conspiring for control. They believe history smiles on those who at one point are seen as confederates, and then, after victory, are considered patriots. Their duplicity compels them to smirk at established authorities and dream of their own exaggerated significance.

David, the warrior-king, had both perspective and experience on his side. His faith perspective provided plenty of fuel to trust God for His intervention in re-establishing David’s rightful place as king:

“…you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.”
(v.’s 3-4)

There is great peace in strength, and David’s strength was deeply rooted in God’s sustaining grace, allowing him to even sleep soundly while thousands are in pursuit of him. (v.’s 5-6) David is so certain that God’s hand is close for his rescue, that he is triumphant in calling upon God’s deliverance, just as God had shown Himself faithful in years past: when David slew the lion, the bear, and even a giant named Goliath. Time after time, David’s faith experience pointed his heart to God’s faithfulness to deliver the one who had a heart for God and His Kingdom. David even likens his enemies to the wild beasts he faced in his victorious challenge that God: “Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.” (v.7) A wild lion or bear with a broken jaw and no teeth is much less a threat. It is from the vantage point of one who has walked by faith for years that David is able to clearly articulate the second and eternally stronger perspective found in today’s five understandable words:

“From the Lord comes deliverance.”

But David wasn’t only thinking of himself. He was confident in his life appointment by God to be a blessing to the nation in bringing stability and peace… a peace which his son, Solomon, enjoyed throughout his rule… the only lasting peace Israel has ever experienced in their national history. It was with that forward look when God breathed into the heart and mind of David to write: “May your blessing be on your people.”

Those who trust in God’s providential care may whisper the same mantra of today’s five understandable words, knowing God seeks to bless those who embrace His righteousness. When facing adversity or horror, allow God to breath these five words through your heart and mind… stay focused on God’s deliverance, for only HE is able to accomplish what concerns each of us today.

John 3:30

 

5 Understandable Words for Today

“…celebrate His rule with trembling.” Psalm 2:11b

Why tremble before God when celebrating His rule? To better understand the psalmist’s perspective, we must first read the entire psalm. The writer provokes the reader with the query, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?” (v.1) What are they conspiring to do? In this diatribe the writer answers his own question: “The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against His anointed…” (v.2) The circumstances seem eerily familiar in our own time. Political correctness has marginalized Christianity out of our nation’s identity, and we are now missing the critical thread holding the fabric of our society and culture. It is a Christian worldview found in the Judaic premise of God’s revealed order which promised a society of peace, provision, and protection. Jesus referred to this order in the prayer He taught His disciples: “…Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt.6:10, KJV)

The political elite and people of influence have plotted to eliminate all vestiges of a Christian worldview, and even a Judaic worldview, from our national platform. This effort has embraced any and every form of religious practice which denies the existence and power of the risen Christ. What are the residual effects of such a departure from our founding principles? One need only look at the rise in opioid deaths, school shootings, deepening fractures between the races, erasure or revisions of history, and a host of social problems brought on by ignoring laws for immigration, thus burdening our educational and medical structures. The former worldview was deemed oppressive and too restraining, leading to a total rejection of the founding principles which guided our nation. (v.3)

Is God threatened by their rejection? Is He intimidated by their posturing? Verses four through nine shows otherwise. God has established His Kingdom which will have no end. (Is.9:6-7) God breathes a warning to the rulers of David’s day, and through the centuries to the rulers of today:

“Therefore, you kings be wise; be wise you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate His rule with trembling. Kiss His Son, or He will be angry and your way will lead to destruction…”.

David was seeking to transfer an eternal precept to the rulers of the earth: to be more afraid of The One Who can destroy both body and soul, than of mere man, who may be able to destroy another’s body. (Mt.10:28) All who take refuge in God are blessed with His promise to provide, protect, and know His peace which passes the world’s understanding.

When you write your congresswoman/man, senator, or president, send this blog and encourage her/him to read it and look to The Ruler of the Universe as our compass and guide.

Pray for our nation to have a great revival!

sf

John 3:30

 

 

5 Understandable Words for Today

"...the wicked will not stand..."  Psalm 1:5

In my last blog, we discovered that those who put their roots deep into the rich soil of God's Word will become established, bear fruit, and be ever green with life. The psalmist contrasts this picture of health and life with the destruction awaiting those who reject God's purposes, His plan, His peace.... His presence in their lives.  To withhold the reality of judgment for them would be unloving... like a parent who does not warn his/her child not to touch a hot iron, or who neglects to educate the child how to safely cross the street, approach animals, or even interact with others. If the elect are to be held accountable for ministry opportunities (read Mt. 25:40-45), surely God will also hold possessors of salvation accountable for omitting to share the reality of both the good news and the bad.

The wicked - those who reject both the message and gift of Christ - are described as lives that will be as insignificant as chaff which has been blown away by the wind; literally just dust in the wind. God has a greater purpose for the lives of His children. We are to make an impact on this world as we imprint hearts and minds with the love of Christ. Today's five understandable words also describe the wicked at the time of judgment. They will not stand. Indeed, every knee will bow and every knee will confess that Jesus is Lord. (Philippians 2:10; Romans 14:11; Revelation 5:13) It will be too late for them, when kneeling before Him in judgment. They will be trembling with fear and dread while hearing the words of Almighty God, "Depart from me you workers of iniquity, for I never knew you." (Mt. 7:21-23) They will be rejected from the assembly of the righteous. (v.5) In the end, the way of the wicked will lead to destruction. There will be no eternal joy for them... no eternal peace... no eternal rest... nothing.

This tragic and sad description of those who reject Christ should embolden Believers to share the good news of His salvation, or at the very least to pray harder for their eyes to be opened.

Will you commit yourself to prayerfully ponder upon these words?

THE WICKED WILL NOT STAND

Kneel before Him now so that we will stand before Him accepted at the judgment.

John 3;30

5 Understandable Words for Today

The book of Psalms gets its English name from the Latin word, psalterium, meaning ‘a stringed instrument’. The Latin word was derived from the Greek word, psalmos, which was a translation of the Hebrew word, tehillim. (Which occurred in translating for the Septuagint) The Greek word means, a song sung with stringed instrumental accompaniment. Most of the writers of the psalms are identified in the superscriptions. David wrote the majority of them (73), and worked to organize and re-establish the temple ministry of the singers. (Read 1 Chronicles 15:16; 16:7; & 25:1) In fact, David is known as Israel’s “beloved singer of songs”. (2 Samuel 23:1) Eleven of the psalms were written by the sons of Korah (or Korahites); they served as temple musicians. (Psalms 42-49; 84, 85, & 87; also read 1 Chronicles 6:31; 15:17; 2 Chronicles 20:19) Asaph is recognized as authoring twelve psalms; King Solomon authored psalms 72 and 127; Ethan wrote Psalm 89; and Moses is credited with writing Psalm 90. Theologians, of course, cannot agree on the origin of many of these psalms, even with their subscripts.

Psalms is divided into five sections: 1-42; 42-72; 73-89; 90-106; and 107-150. The first three sections each end with a double “amen”; the fourth section ends with an “amen”, followed by a “Hallelujah”. The entire collection may have been commissioned by King David, with its completion many years after his death. David authored 37 of the psalms in the first section. Sections 2 & 3 may have been collected under the guidance of King Hezekiah’s attempt to copy and preserve the sacred texts. (Proverbs 25:1) Hezekiah was recognized as authoring inspired poetry. (Isaiah 38) The last two sections were likely collected during Ezra’s leadership in rebuilding the temple after the Babylonian exile. (Ezra 7:1-10)

The psalms are a diverse collection of writing styles and purposes, all written in the Hebrew poetic form familiar to the readers of antiquity and are an excellent guide for worship in every possible context: one will find history, laments, rejoicing, penitence, and imprecatory calls for judgment. Primarily, these writings point the heart to God, Who cares for His children, and Whose love is everlasting. While many psalms recognize God’s omnipotence, God is also described as a loving father Who keeps His promises. The psalms is a unique record of those who transparently emoted their fears, failures, hopes, and faith. The psalms are referenced in the new testament over 400 times!

Warren Wiersby offers these thoughts on the psalms:

“The psalms teach us to seek God with a whole heart, to tell Him the truth and tell Him everything, and to worship Him because of Who He is, not just because of what He gives. They show us when we’ve failed, they show us how to repent and receive God’s gracious forgiveness. The God described in the book of Psalms is both transcendent and immanent, far above us and yet personally with us in our pilgrim journey.” (The Wiersby Bible Commentary; OT; p.871)

The first psalm is about wisdom acquired through the study and proper utility of God’s Word. God blesses those who live by His Word, meditating upon its precepts and obeying it. Other psalms known as ‘Wisdom Psalms’ include: 10, 12, 15, 19, 32, 34, 37, 49, 50, 52, 53, 73, 78, 82, 91, 92, 94, 111, 112, 119, 127, 128, 133, & 139.

5 Understandable Words

“He is like a tree…”  Psalm 1:3

The first psalm: “…may not unfitly be entitled, the Psalm of Psalms, for it contains in it the very pith and quintessence of Christianity.” (Thomas Watson, in his Saints’ Spiritual Delight, 1660) Though somewhat short in content, it is complete in the purpose for motivating righteous behavior. Watson observed the blessing with which it begins, applying the carrot of appeal to run the race’s full course with all the fortitude of a well-conditioned contestant. As the Believer’s guide to a true faith walk, it reveals the pitfalls which are to be avoided at all cost, as well as the path with firm ground leading to the crown of life.

The one who is able to keep away from the counsel of the wicked - avoiding the audience which applauds evil and scoff at those whose walk is blameless, is the one blessed by time well spent in the secret place, away from the competing voices of the world, searching God’s precepts. (v.1) With sheer delight, the student of The Word is eager to discover God’s truths upon awakening, and is comforted by their reliability before laying down to sleep. (v.2) The ONLY counsel of the Godless heart is one which perpetuates the message and purposes of the prince of darkness. The psalmist aptly describes those darkened hearts that applaud evil and hurl insults at those who walk the path of light and life.

The reward for intimacy with God is a life of stability… like an apple tree by a mountain lake, bearing fruit upon maturity, and which never loses its foliage – a fruit-bearing evergreen! The wonderful promise found among the groves of fruit is abundance: the one who has found the path of life has found the path of abundant living. (v.3) The roots which dig through the resistant soil of past generations and discovers the well spring of refreshment establishes the soul compared to this life-giving tree. Be a life giver… like a tree planted by the water.

Go deeper….

Steve

John 3:30

 

 

5 UNDERSTANDABLE WORDS FOR TODAY

“….that we may work together…” 3 John 8

3rd John is a follow-up letter from 2nd John, addressing the issue of hospitality to strangers. In 2nd John, the exiled apostle approached the subject from a negative assertion, while in this follow-up letter, John approaches the issue more formally from a positive approach. In the previous blog, I highlighted the phrase, “…that we love one another.” It was from this perspective John took on the role of a loving father speaking to his children concerning those who ‘run ahead’ without proper accountability, devising all sorts of half-truths which distort the real truth of the gospel found in Jesus Christ. John even directed the first century church to not allow the false teaching among them, and to not even allow the propagators of such to enter their homes. (See the previous blog.) [Note: Though the letter was probably written to the same house church of 2nd John, the letters of the apostles were circulated through all the newly birthed churches of that day.]

As strong as John’s directives were against false teachers, he was just as strong in his counsel for welcoming those who sacrificially distribute the truth of Christ. The letter is directed to a dear friend named Gaius. Theologians are unsure as to which Gaius was being addressed, as it was as popular a name in that time as ‘John’ or ‘Logan’ is today. There was a companion of Paul by the name Gaius, a Macedonian, mentioned in a confrontation which occurred in Ephesus between the silversmiths and worshipers of Artemis and Paul. (Acts 19:23-41) The name is found in scripture two other times (1 Co. 1:14; Acts 20:4), though there is no way to determine if he was one and the same as Paul’s companion.

John had previously written a letter which was intercepted by Diotrephes (v.9), who liked to dominate the church’s leadership and influence the new converts. It appears he took John’s earlier letter and applied John’s directive to all who claim to teach the truth, without vetting their credentials first (v.10), thus hindering the continued development of these babes in Christ. John exposes his duplicity and demonstrates his authority as an elder:

  • ·       in the opening of the letter (v.1),
  • ·       by commending the church for walking in the truth (v.’s 2-4),
  • ·       by providing clarification on the issue (v.’s 5-8),
  • ·       by exposing Diotrephes as a malcontent (v.’s 9-10),
  • ·       by directing the church to follow good, not evil (v.11),
  • ·       by his recommendation of Demetrius (v.12),
  • ·       by his discernment of things that should be spoken face to face (v.’s 13-14).

John had always recognized himself as the one whom Jesus loved (John 13:22; 19:26; 21:7), and as one of he first-called disciples, he is recognized as one who walked with Jesus, giving him the credentials, privilege, and responsibility of being an elder in the first century church. However, John not only recognizes himself as an elder, but as THE elder… the leader of elders. It was John who was often taken aside by the Savior, along with Peter and James, to pray or converse, making John all the more qualified to speak authoritatively on the issues facing the Believers of his day. So, as the elder, John offers the church certain directives on welcoming those who sacrificially carry the truth of God. The Greek word used in verse eleven for “imitate” is “mimeomai”, from which came the English word “mimic”. The one who walks in the truth does not mimic evil. Paul taught the Thessalonians to not even give a hint of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22) The evil John exposed was the lack of kindness which had infected the church through the bully, Diotrephes. Their actions had no room for demonstrating love to worthy teachers of the Word, re-emphasizing John’s teaching on how to love.

In the final assessment of things, we are to possess love which wisely welcome the teachers of God’s Word who are rightly qualified in their holy living, their scholarship of study, and their love. This important lesson equips us

THAT WE MAY WORK TOGETHER

in the work Jesus has called us to… namely, making disciples… fully devoted to Christ and the Kingdom of God.

O, that the church in America would work together in rescuing souls from Hell’s wrath.

John 3:30

steve

5 Understandable Words for Today

“…that we love one another…” 2 John 5c

This second letter by the exiled apostle, as evidenced by these five words, reinforces the Lord’s new command to love one another. They confirm John’s authority as an apostle and one who walked with Jesus. (v.’s 5-6) It was the new command to love one another that was to be the signature of an authentic evangelical group of Believers. (Read John 13:35) Love was to be the one qualifier distinguishing between those who walk in light and those who walk in darkness.

This letter’s main thrust, however, is directing the first century church to walk in The Truth - knowing and abiding in Christ. John also warned against false teachers who oppose the truth: Jesus, the embodiment of truth, Who lived a sinless life, died on a cross for the sins of mankind, and rose from the dead on the third day after his death… AND Who is coming back again!

John presents three points on The Truth:

1.       We share the same knowledge of the truth of Christ. (v.’s 1-3) In the salutation, John addresses what appears to be a dear friend in Christ, who also seems to have a house church. (v.’s 1-3) Some theologians suggest the friend was named, Martha. J.L. Houlden supports this notion in revealing the Greek word for “lady”, kuria, being equivalent to the well attested Aramaic name for Martha. Knowing the truth of Jesus equips Believers to identify those who masquerade as Christians, taking advantage of Christian hospitality while spreading false teachings which bring division within the churches, compromising the message of Christianity. John, however, asserts Christ’s Lordship as equal with the Father with his opening blessing “from God the Father, and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son…” Who dwell with us in truth and love. (v.3) Ite is vitally important to teach the truth of Christ within the home. The old saying is true: “As the home goes, so goes the nation.” Pray for a great awakening across our country, in our time, that the truth of abundant life and eternal joy in Christ be unashamedly shared.

2.       We encourage each other to walk in the truth. (v.’s 4-6) John applauded those in this home church for their consistent walk in the truth of Christ, reminding them to continue exhibiting the love of Christ to all. (v.’s 5-6) He even described their obedience of walking in the truth to give him great joy! In his next letter, John would attest he knew of no greater joy than to hear of his “children” walking in truth. (3 John 4) I find it quite interesting that John specifically mentioned walking in the truth, just as The Father commanded. In doing so, John connects with the first century Christians, most of whom were Jews who identified with The Law. Jesus embodied The Law, even giving clarity to The Law in His sermon on the mount. (Matthew 5-7) The Law was recognized as The Ten Commandments . The truth, then, was identified in those commandments and in the person of Jesus Christ. The Ten Commandments are parameters given by our loving Father, Who know our tendency toward selfishness and self-centered living. They are not just rules given by a strict judge, as each one is an expression of love in the context of universal moral law. God’s will is revealed through the love shown in protecting His children. In the same way, our obedience to God’s Word is a testimony of our love for God, not our of fear of judgment, but of our confidence in knowing His truth.

3.       We abide in His truth by looking out for each other and watching out for imposters. (v.’s 7-11)  Encouraging each other by consistently pointing to God’s Word helps eliminate the competing voices of this world which seek to distract us from our faith walk and detract us from our mission. The forces of darkness have a mission totally contrary to ours, which provides plenty of motivation for those dark imps to work non-stop in hindering the perpetuation of God’s Word and the love He gave to the world through His Son, Jesus Christ.

We look out for each other by warning our fellow Believers to not look back. (v.8) Paul declared it was his purpose to press on to the high calling of Jesus Christ, forgetting what was behind. (Philippians 3:13-14) Looking back can cause us to lose what one has already gained. False teachers propose to offer a new teaching, something not yet attained, only to lose what you already have. Embracing false teaching leads to wrong living. Truth and life go together: true knowledge leads to truthful living.

We also look out for each other by warning our fellow Believers about moving ahead of the guidance provided in God’s Word. (v.9) Modernism has introduced one compromise after another in holy living, leading not only to liberalism, but to license toward all sorts of ungodliness. The word translated, “transgress”, means to pass beyond assigned limits or run ahead too far. Those who propagate liberalism often lead others into a denial of the truth of God’s Word, leading to the denial of Christ’s transforming power and redemption.

We look out for each other by warning our fellow Believers about welcoming those who are known to bring ideas opposed to Christ’s transformational love. By doing so, it could lead to another’s eternity without the joy of Christ. Our neighbors, friends, and work associates who have not experienced being born again may be unknowingly deceived by being told, “Mr. Jones let me in.” Rejecting false teachers exposes his heretical doctrine which can impact the lives of others eternally. That’s not to say the Christian cannot entertain a nonbeliever or practice ‘friendship evangelism’.

The ‘ecclesia’ – the church – are gathered not only to worship, but are joined in the common mission of making disciples fully devoted to Christ… and it is all bound together in knowing, THAT WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER!

John 3:30

steve

 

5 Understandable Words for Today

“…so that you may know…”  1 John 5:13

As we saw in my last blog, there are three that testify to the validity of Christ: the Spirit, the water, and the blood… and they are all in agreement. John asserts that we believe a person’s testimony, so it is only reasonable to believe God’s testimony through Jesus Christ – His sinless life, the miracles, His sacrificial death, and His resurrection. It all points to God Who is pointing us toward the hope of heaven given to us through Christ and Christ alone. So, John is offering another witness: the testimony of God’s inspired Word. In fact, John may have recognized the letter he was writing to the first century church as inspired by God, when he asserted: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (v.13) The witness of the written Word breathed into the heart and hand of the writer by God Who revealed the first three witnesses would continue to breath truth into the hearts of those who had walked with Christ.

We can have confidence, then, in knowing we have eternal life. It doesn’t have to be a shadow of hope for heaven. We can have the joyful hope of heaven as certainly as we know the path before us at night when using a powerful flashlight. The light scatters the darkness, allowing the one directing the flashlight to expose the path and any potential dangers. It gives the confidence needed to continue. The Greek word for confidence here is literally translated, “freedom of speech”. John described the confidence (freedom of speech) given to us for approaching God, The Creator and Sustainer of all there is: “…that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him.’ He is not asserting a ‘name it – claim it’ practice of prayer, for notice the one prerequisite: “according to His will”.

The faithwalker must be so in tune with God as to know His will in matters which he/she would otherwise be clueless. John seems to show an assumption of the one approaching God in prayer as being spiritually mature enough to ask for things pertaining to God’s kingdom or which will bring God glory on earth. Following in the Master Teacher’s footsteps, John even provides an example to make his point: “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life (abundant life in Christ). We are praying for God’s will to be accomplished in that person’s life, just as Jesus taught, “…Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt. 6:10)  Robert Law’s guidance on prayer is true: “Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting man’s will done in heaven, but for getting God’s will done on earth.” More often than not, we may only be able to pray, “Not my will, but Yours be done”, for we may not know God’s will for a situation, though the guidance of God’s Spirit, His Word, and the discernment God gives us enlightens the direction of our prayers.

Now, we KNOW the truth of Christ as Savior and Lord; we KNOW we have eternal life; and we KNOW God attends to the prayers of those who abide in His will. John then offers three final certainties for the those redeemed by the blood:

1.       “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin…” (v.18)

2.       “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (v.19)

3.       “We also know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding…” (v.20)

We, of all people, are without excuse, for we are presented with the knowledge of salvation which leads to understanding for abundant living. (John 10:10) We are to take the treasure of this heavenly knowledge and tell others, teach others, and treat others by the knowledge of holiness.

5 Understandable Words for Today

“…the three are in agreement.”  1 John 5:8b  (NIV)

The three in agreement here are: the water, the blood, and The Spirit. John provided these ‘witnesses’  to substantiate that Christ is God. The Law of Moses required two or three witnesses for a matter to be settled before a judge. John’s three witnesses are infallible proof of Jesus being the Son of God, the promised Savior, The King of Heaven, and The One Who will return again to earth as her victorious King. We receive the testimony of men and women in our courts of law, so wouldn’t it be imprudent to reject the testimony of God? Let us examine the witnesses more closely.

In the testimony of the water, John is probably reflecting on Jesus’ own teaching about being born again: “…no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5-6) Jesus Himself had a physical birth, though the conception was immaculate. The testimony of the water may also refer to Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River when God’s voice spike saying, “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” The Spirit of God descended upon Him in the form of a dove, recognizing the Prince of Peace. (Read Mt. 3:13-17)

The second ‘witness’ is seen in the blood of Jesus’ sacrificial death and the supernatural miracles associated with his suffering: the earthquake and the temple’s veil being torn from top to bottom. (Read Mt. 27:45, 50-53) Matthew records the centurion (a seasoned veteran soldier in command of one hundred or more soldiers), who was stationed at the cross, exclaiming after the earthquake, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Mt. 27:54) It is only through the blood spilt upon that cross whereby sinners are restored into a relationship with God.

The third ‘witness’ is the Spirit of God. The Spirit was sent to bear witness of Christ’s authenticity. (Jn. 15:26; 16:14) Warren Wiersbe makes this astute observation: “The Holy Spirit is the only Person active on earth today Who was present when Christ was ministering here. The witness of the Father is past history, but the witness of the Spirit is present experience. The first is external, the second is internal – and both agree.” Indeed, in writing to the church at Rome, Paul described the dynamic this way: “…you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Ro.8:15-16) The Spirit validates the reality of Christ, showing us nothing else makes sense. Life itself would not make sense without the hope of heaven, and it was Christ’s redeeming work that made us eligible to enter as sons and daughters.

In providing these three ‘proofs’ of the authenticity and Lordship of Christ, John centers the first century church to truth, even remarking that the Spirit is the truth. (v.6) It is the Spirit Who guides us in all truth (Jn. 16:13), and even provides the inspired Word when we are persecuted before the world. (Lk.12:12)

Now, let your own testimony be heard as well. Tell the world how Jesus saved you… how he delivered you from darkness to light… how you were once blind but now you see… how the insanity of this world tormented you, but now you have the peace that passes understanding. (Pp.4:7)

Let your agreement with these three witnesses echo to this generation.

John 3:30

steve

Five Understandable Words for Today

"...His commands are not burdensome..." ! John 5:3b

Think about it... all creation - even in its fallen state - acts in obedience to God's commands. The orbit of earth around the sun, giving us four predictable seasons; the tides governed by the moon set in place at God's command; the expansion of the universe; the water cycle; and even the food chain are all subservient to the purposes of God. The psalmist even asserted that fire, hail, snow, clouds, and stormy winds all fulfill His Word. (Psalm 148:8) The book of Jonah teaches us a similar lesson when the winds, waves, a giant fish, a plant, and even a little worm all accomplished their purposes for which God directed. On the other hand, mankind prefers to exalt the trinity of self over the trinity of God. Me, myself, and I asserts one's own life direction and purpose, while ignoring God's loving plan for the pinnacle of His creation. 

While disobedience to God's will is akin to witchcraft (1 Samuel 15:23), reluctant obedience presents problems in the life of the Believer who grudgingly "cave" to the Father's will. Like any parent, God delights in His children's loving obedience. He doesn't want His children to act obediently our of fear or necessity. Just as we are directed to give cheerfully, not under compulsion, so we should live in like manner. (Read 2 Corinthians 9:7) So, how do we obey God joyfully? The apostle John asserts it is a family matter: we love and serve a God Who adopted us as His child, rescuing us from the refuse of life, and redeeming us for His eternal purposes. One of those eternal purposes is to love our sisters and brothers in Christ. We demonstrate God's love in us through the relationships we lovingly nurture between our sisters and brothers in Christ. By so doing, we fulfill Christ's command to love each other, being the ultimate reflection of our devotion to Him.

Love is not an ideal where one checks off the list of characteristics describing it; love is a dynamic relationship guided by the ideal. We can learn to love more deeply through the ideal, even though we can never "check the box" of having achieved it. Paul described the ideal of love beautifully in his letter to the Corinthian church. (Read 1 Corinthians 13) Jesus, however, described the dynamics of love in stories of how people are treated: 

Sympathetic love was shown by a Samaritan to a traveler who was beaten and left for dead by the side of the road (Luke 10:25-37); 

Merciful love was shown by Jesus to the woman who washed His feet with her tears (Luke 7:40-47)

Restoring love was shown by the father to his prodigal son who returned home (Luke 15:11-32)

For the Christian, our love for our fellow Believer, as well as for the world, is founded upon the cross. It is our personal experience with God's love toward us through Christ's sacrificial death on the cross that motivates our love toward others. It is an outward expression of the inward experience, when God whispered our name, calling us to Himself, and pouring faith into our hearts. After awakening to the redeeming work of God's love, we then share that love to others in need of the same. We become the conduit of God's love to a fallen world. 

Will you join me in displaying sympathetic, merciful, and restoring love to those beaten down by life, weighed down by a ton of guilt and shame, and who are looking for a way back to life? Be the hands and feet of Jesus this day to those whose lives you cross, as you discover

HIS COMMANDS ARE NOT BURDENSOME!

John 3:30

steve

Five Understandable Words for Today

“This is love for God…”  1 John 5:3

As John writes his concluding remarks in his first letter to the newly birthed church, he reminds us of the one essential and unique dynamic of Christianity – being born again through faith in Christ. (v.1: “…born of God.”) His letter provides evidence that some Christians in the first century church may have doubted their faith. John assures the new Believers that everyone who loves the Father demonstrates their faith through the love and acceptance for other Believers. (v.1d) John approaches the issue as if teaching elementary students when he states: “This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands” (v.2) He presents a simple rationale to the newborn of the faith: love for God must come before love for our fellow man. When we love the Father, we are motivated to draw near to Him, know His heart, and learn from His precepts. A child is often more a statement of the parents than of the child him/herself. This is not always true, as I have close Christian friends who have multiple children where one took a totally divergent path from his biblical upbringing, breaking his parent’s hearts and living a life of confusion and recklessness.

In drawing near to God, one grows to understand salvation’s story woven through history and culminating in the person of Jesus Christ. The heart of God was demonstrated in offering His only Son as the perfect sacrifice for our sin(s). It was always about God’s heart reaching out to our heart and making it new. As part of the family of God, we are exposed to the ways of His family – the working understanding of His goodness and holiness. So, in today’s five understandable words, John teaches the reader the one dynamic of demonstrating love for God: obedience.

This world doesn’t like that word very much. It is actually a very positive word. Obedience recognizes both authority and subordination. One must embrace the system of authority to work effectively within it. Obedience also conveys accountability. One who takes direction from a superior must expect a point of inspection – proof of compliance to the command. To reject the system of obedience is rebellion. The Bible describes rebellion as in the same league as witchcraft, and inferring one arrogantly snubs one’s nose at God while worshiping the idols of this world. (Read 1 Samuel 15:23)

What could be so objectionable about loving others anyway? Why is it such a hard thing to do for some people? Are we really empowered to love those who are difficult? What about those who hate us? How about loving those who are completely polar opposites of us? If you are from a family with multiple children, you know all about the fights between siblings and the territorial rivalries over everything from bathroom privileges to who sits where at the dinner table. The same thing happens in God’s family… really. You may not believe me, but I’ve seen conflicts between Christians about the most ridiculous things: how many times a chorus is sung; the color of the nursery walls; should there be choir robes; hanging a screen for projection, etc. These conflicts between church members can divide friendships, small groups, and sometimes churches.

Loving others IS difficult, that’s why it’s important to first love God with all your heart, soul, and strength. (Read Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:37) When we love God first, we are given His heart to love His children as a testimony before the world that we are, indeed, God’s children and followers of Christ. It is critically important to get that right first, THEN loving one’s Sisters and Brothers in the faith may still face challenges, but it will be more fully understood and embraced as the only way to proceed with The Great Commission TOGETHER… that the whole world may know the joy of life in Christ and the hope of heaven!

Because of Christ,

steve