Father, Reveal…

Father,

Reveal who you are. 

You are setting the world right. 

Keep us alive with sustaining meals for both body and spirit. 

Keep us forgiven in you and forgiving others freely. 

Keep us safe from ourselves and from the enemy.

Amen.

Philippians 2:13 “God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey Him, and the power to do what pleases Him.”


Romans 8:1 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”


“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. “This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.” – John 3:16‭-‬21 MSG


But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord , have spoken! – Jeremiah 9:24 NLT

Daniel Prayed

Christian, remember today that Daniel didn’t go grumbling into the lion’s den about how unfair it was that he was being punished for breaking the law by praying. But that he trusted in the Lord through whatever trial he must go, so that the Lord would be glorified. The same was true with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” – Daniel 3:16‭-‬18 NLT


In other words, if we are going to stand bold for God, we must be ready to see it through to the end, without grumblings or doubt, without expecting there should be no trials or troubles – but instead, rejoicing that we might suffer with Christ in this world, just as we are heirs with Christ in eternity.

Daniel soon proved himself more capable than all the other administrators and high officers. Because of Daniel’s great ability, the king made plans to place him over the entire empire. Then the other administrators and high officers began searching for some fault in the way Daniel was handling government affairs, but they couldn’t find anything to criticize or condemn. He was faithful, always responsible, and completely trustworthy. So they concluded, “Our only chance of finding grounds for accusing Daniel will be in connection with the rules of his religion.” So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions. And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” So King Darius signed the law. But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and asking for God’s help. So they went straight to the king and reminded him about his law. “Did you not sign a law that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions?” “Yes,” the king replied, “that decision stands; it is an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” Then they told the king, “That man Daniel, one of the captives from Judah, is ignoring you and your law. He still prays to his God three times a day.” Hearing this, the king was deeply troubled, and he tried to think of a way to save Daniel. He spent the rest of the day looking for a way to get Daniel out of this predicament. In the evening the men went together to the king and said, “Your Majesty, you know that according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, no law that the king signs can be changed.” So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.” A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night. Very early the next morning, the king got up and hurried out to the lions’ den. When he got there, he called out in anguish, “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God. Then the king gave orders to arrest the men who had maliciously accused Daniel. He had them thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. The lions leaped on them and tore them apart before they even hit the floor of the den. Then King Darius sent this message to the people of every race and nation and language throughout the world: “Peace and prosperity to you! “I decree that everyone throughout my kingdom should tremble with fear before the God of Daniel. For he is the living God, and he will endure forever. His kingdom will never be destroyed, and his rule will never end. He rescues and saves his people; he performs miraculous signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

Daniel 6:3‭-‬28 NLT

You see, God ordained and set in place these trials with a plan and a purpose. To make a clear distinction between those who trust Him and know Him and believe Him, versus those who are not and are grumblers who do not believe that He is sovereign and in control and has a purpose in all things. To shine a light brightly in rose who are His that points them right back to Him and His glory. 

So trust Him, fully trust Him in this very hour, call upon His name, the only name by which salvation has come to the world, the name of Jesus Christ. And when you profess with your mouth and confess with your heart that He is Lord — not some particular words, not some particular religious ceremony, those are just meant to be an outward witness to what has happened inwardly, so don’t trust in those things as the source of your salvation! No, trust in God who came in the flesh to die for your sins as the ONLY worthy sacrifice, and as the ONLY Savior powerful enough to overcome death and the grave to rise, just as we will rise, to life – not just rise one day to heaven,  but rise and awaken to new life TODAY, walking in a new way, powered by the very spirit of God that comes to live in His people as He pours out His spirit onHis people, as He lives with us, in us, and through us, so that His will is done on earth as it is in heaven, so that His Kingdom,  a spiritual Kingdom not built by the works of men, but by His grace and mercy in those who will believe and live. Amen.

Slaves?

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Romans 6:15‭-‬18 NKJV

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt  to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.
Galatians 5:1‭-‬5 NKJV

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.
John 8:34‭-‬36 NKJV

We naturally like the idea of being powerful and in control and in authority over our own lives. We naturally like our who to be inflated and proud,  in fact,  the world and modern society rewards and applauds those with inflated egos and envies them and puts them in high places of honor because they are usually very productive and successful from a worldly perspective.

I’m not saying that the humble cannot also be very productive and successful, but for the humble it is a byproduct of the Lord’s favor and blessing poured on them so they can help others – while for the proud, it is a heeping up of treasures for themselves. Yes, it truly is about the master of our heart and desires. You cannot say rich=favored/forsaken and poor=forsaken/favored anymore than you can say works=heaven and still=death. The Lord is not a respects of persons, stations, or titles and sets us each in our own position to be used according to His will and guidance, for His glory and honor.

Yes, if I’m seeking my own honor and glory, isn’t it clear which master I am serving? If I choose to live in evil and doubt over living in the righteousness of faith and godly love, isn’t it clear which master I am serving?

Do not fear, little ones, He corrects you in order to change you. He shows you what needs to be cast out of your life so that the enemy will not gain a foothold within your life. He tells you that there is a better master to free you, not just from the wages and consequences of death “some day” but to free you from a life of sin TODAY.

He who Christ sets free is free indeed. Are you on your way towards being set free? Are you longing for that day when sin and death and the darkness of this world will be long forgotten and you will walk in light? Then keep seeking Him diligently and remain steadfast in the faith,  because many have fallen away,  friend. And don’t rest in your own strength, which is weakness and imperfection. Our help comes from the Lord. Trust in Him and Him alone.  Hunger for righteousness for His name’s sake, not so that you can appear righteous in the eyes of others. Become a slave,  and in doing so, experience true freedom.

Slave to the master who frees slaves to an abundant life – or slave to the master who steals, kills, and destroys? We each choose. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Worship in Love


“keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
– Jude 1:21 NKJV


TRUTH

“Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
When your fathers tested Me;
They tried Me, though they saw My work.
For forty years I was grieved with that generation,
And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts,
And they do not know My ways.’
So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”

Psalms 95:8-11 NKJV

[We were once in the wilderness, a part of the rebellion, an enemy of God – interested in our own ways and desires and not His.]


HOPE

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to  be the propitiation for our sins.

I John 4:7-10 NKJV

[God loves us. In fact, this is our ONLY hope,  that God loves us, because we have proven to ourselves and to others many times in our actions and our words that we are imperfect, flawed sinners. It is only through His love,  His sacrifice that we find salvation, that we learn love.]


FAITH

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

– Psalms 95:1-2,6 NKJV

[Our response to His love, to His mercy towards a people undeserving of His love is grattitude, is thanksgiving, is praise. Praise not just in occassional religious ceremonies, but in our daily lives,  even moment to moment throughout our day.]


LOVE

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

I John 4:11-16, 20-21 NKJV

[Yes, He teaches us love through His life,  through His Word,  and through His Holy Spirit that lives within us believers. And our purpose is to demonstrate this love, to testify to this love,  by accepting it and pouring it out onto those around us. We are called – yes, we are even commanded – to Love God,  and to Love others. And this isn’t a burden, but a blessing.]

PRAYER

Lord God, plunge me into your love so that I can love you with all that I am. I know that I’m asking you for the very thing I’ll give right back to you,  but my heart feels small and shrunken;  I struggle to live you well or even love at all. Immerse me in your love so that my heart, soul, strength, and might find their true home, and I will find the room in my heart to love my neighbor. Amen. (WSC 42)

Truth, Hope, Faith & Love for a Day, for a Life

TRUTH
————
O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongs—
O God, to whom vengeance belongs, shine forth!
Rise up, O Judge of the earth;
Render punishment to the proud.
Lord , how long will the wicked,
How long will the wicked triumph?
Understand, you senseless among the people;
And you fools, when will you be wise?
He who planted the ear, shall He not hear?
He who formed the eye, shall He not see?
He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct,
He who teaches man knowledge?
The Lord  knows the thoughts of man,
That they are futile.
Psalms 94:1-3, 8-11 NKJV

[Judgement, wrath, and punishment lies ahead for the proud and the wicked. The Lord is not blind to their heart, their thoughts, and their desires.]

HOPE
———
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so,  I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
John 14:1-6 NKJV

[When we realize our need to no longer walk proud and wicked, we can rely upon Christ – who died on the cross for us,  who defeated sin and death, who rose from the dead, and who will come live in us and teach us the way,  the truth,  and the life.]

FAITH
———-
Blessed is the man whom You instruct,
O Lord , And teach out of Your law,
That You may give him rest from the days of adversity,
Until the pit is dug for the wicked.
For the Lord will not cast off His people,
Nor will He forsake His inheritance.
But judgment will return to righteousness,
And all the upright in heart will follow it.
Who will rise up for me against the evildoers?
Who will stand up for me against the workers of iniquity?
Unless the Lord  had  been my help,
My soul would soon have settled in silence.
If I say, “My foot slips,”
Your mercy, O Lord , will hold me up.
In the multitude of my anxieties within me,
Your comforts delight my soul.
Psalms 94:12-19 NKJV

[In grattitude for our salvation and inheritance of eternal life, a Child of God grows in faith by trusting the Word of God, learning from Christ’s example –  from being convicted by the Holy Spirit against sin – and by choosing to seek righteousness, surrendering our will and desires,  and walking out His will for our lives.]

LOVE
———
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
Jude 1:20-23 NKJV

[Godly love looks past our own salvation and seeks fellowship with other believers. It is active in both encouragement and accountability – understanding that all situations call for love. Sometimes that love is demonstrated compassionately with soft words and actions –  while other situations require swift, decisive, and bold words and actions in order to save some from the flames of destruction.]

What is Faith/Belief?

Faith is believing in the Word of God as truth.

It isn’t just believing that Jesus was a man that had good lessons to teach, the demons know that is true and will still go down to the pit.

It isn’t just believing that Jesus was the Son of God, God come in the flesh to walk amongst man, to die on a cross, because even the demons know this is true.

It isn’t just believing things “about Jesus”, because that is just mental reasoning and logic that starts in our mind.

Believing takes place in our heart, in that central place where our desires and our foundation exist – upon which everything else is built. Believing is a tearing down of the old structures of “my will, my dreams, my desires” to replace it with “God’s will, God’s purpose, God’s truth” as the foundation upon everything has to be built. Yes, humanly speaking believing involves change, cost, and sacrifice in this world. But spiritually speaking, it offers growth, value, and treasure eternal. Believing in our heart shifts our perspective and our priorities into a new alignment that is very contrary and different to that old idol/master of self/ego.

Without this firm foundation and change on the inside, we can practice religion and struggle under our own strength against ourselves, but we will find ourselves powerless – because our heart is still yearning for what it believes, regardless of any volume of “retraining” we subject ourselves to on Sunday mornings.

You see, belief is not a one time prayer and confession – although it starts with that. It starts with a surrender, once we’ve realized our need for a Savior, and we’ve humbled ourselves to receive a new Lord of our life – and it lives as a seed of grace,  of His Holy Spirit,  of His very nature and character planted in our lives and growing.

You see belief is active and alive and now – it isn’t a check box or a ticket already purchased. I don’t ask you if you’ve accepted Christ, because we know that many have thought they believed and have turned back because they had deceived themselves. No, I ask, “Do you love Jesus Christ? Do you love God? Is His Spirit alive and evident in your life today?”

This is belief – active, alive, manifest in the life of the believer. We must step past the mental games and gnosticism and new age spirituality – to a real and alive God who lives in us, whose guidance and instruction we value as truth, whose love and mercy and righteousness we hunger for. This is the Kingdom of God that we seek – His will being done in our lives. Yes, this is belief, to not only be hearers of the Word of God,  but to be doers – to actually love Him.

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
John 14:23 NKJV

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in  it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:21-25 NKJV

Doubt? Hope?

The enemy is selling doubt to us loudly every day, while our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a still, quiet voice offering us a free gift of hope and love.

Distraction. Confusion. Lies. These are the ways of the enemy, who wants us stumbling blindly in the dark.

An upright direction, a dedicated life of purpose, and fearful respect for the truth of the Word of God as we walk in the light along this narrow path – this is what the Father wants for His children.

Truly God is good to Israel,
To such as are pure in heart.
But as for me, my
feet had almost stumbled;
My steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the boastful,
When I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
Thus my heart was grieved,
And I was vexed in my mind.
I was so foolish and ignorant;
I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with Your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but  You?
And there  is none upon earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart fail;
But God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
Psalms 73:1-3, 21-26 NKJV

In this world, we see what appears to be evil triumphing every day. We see those who are wicked and evil and who oppress others rise to power and prosperity. We see false teachers selling lasciviousness and worldliness prospering and drawing large crowds together to be fleeced do that the wolves can grow rich and fat off of their followers. If we judge only by what our eyes can see in this fallen world, it seems to be a strong case that the accuser has laid out against God, and seems like our advocate, our defender is backed into a corner by the mountain of evidence.

But in a court of justice, the accuser speaks first and the accused speaks last. We can’t just throw in the towel because all we have seen so far is the evidence against us and against God. Hope is trusting in the things we have not yet seen come to pass. Yes, faith is knowing and trusting in what lies ahead.

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”  Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20:24-29 NKJV

Silence

Silence.

Jesus’ friends and family awoke this morning to silence. Their friend, their teacher was not there with them.

The last words they had heard him say were, “It is finished.”

Can we imagine the feeling of loss,  the desperation, the sadness, the disappointment, the confusion that they went through a they mourned His horrible death?

Can we imagine them wanting answers now more than ever – after seeing Him mocked and beaten – after even His closest disciples had hidden and denied Him – and realizing there was only silence?

To everything there  is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what  is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/ecc.3.1-4.NKJV

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Romans 12:15 ESV
http://bible.com/59/rom.12.15.ESV

Sometimes in our lives, we can face times of darkness where we find ourselves not hearing or knowing the clear direction and guidance that we want to hear from the Lord.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5 ESV
http://bible.com/59/pro.3.5.ESV

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
2 Corinthians 5:6-8 ESV
http://bible.com/59/2co.5.6-8.ESV

Look! The Lamb of God!

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
John 1:29 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/jhn.1.29.NKJV

TRUTH
John is preaching and teaching people to repent of their sins, and he is baptizing with water. And he is drawing a crowd around himself – partly because he is a spectacle to be seen, a wild man living in the wilderness, preaching about God to a world of people living quite differently than himself. And his message was quite different than what they were used to hearing:

Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Luke 3:7-9 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/luk.3.7-9.NKJV

And Paul is telling them about the Messiah who is to come.

Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Luke 3:15-16 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/luk.3.15-16.NKJV

Paul has been preaching about Christ, telling them about the coming Messiah, but they do not recognize him on their own. Paul still has to urge them – Behold! Look! Today,  I urge you to Look! See Christ who is at the gate,  waiting to come into your life and lead you along the narrow path to your eternal destination in the house of your heavenly Father.

EXAMINATION
How often in the hustle and bustle and distractions of each day do I losevsight of Christ?

How often do I need to be reminded to look to Jesus?

Don’t we have to realize our complete need for Him in order to cling to Him?

Don’t we need to believe in Him and examine our lives to see if we are living fruitful lives – serving, and loving others as the body of Christ?

Don’t we need to believe in Him and examine our lives to see if we are living obedient lives – repenting,  resisting temptation and seeing it flee from us? 

If we believe, and if we “see” Christ and know Him to be real, shouldn’t we encourage them to “Look!”, shouldn’t we warn them of the dangers of they do not?

HOPE
The good news is that John wasn’t just some nut, some kook, talking about fantasy and imagination and ritual and superstition. The Good News is that the Christ that I know and love and preach is real. The Good News is that your eyes are being opened to see Him even more clearly as you hear the watchmen crying out,  “Look!” And as you seek to find Him, recognize Him, get to know Him intimately as that friend who never leaves you or abandons you.

SURRENDER
Heavenly Father,  Almighty God,  maker of heaven and earth. You are the one true God. You are the righteous and just and merciful and forgiving, You are slow to anger, and you love toy children enough to come in the flesh, to be born of a virgin, to live a blameless life, to teach us by your example the way we should live loving God wholeheartedly, to teach us by your example that we should serve and love others as a good neighbor, to teach us by your example to be faithful even unto death, to die on the cross as a blood payment for sin, to overcome sin and death,  and to demonstrate what lies ahead for your followers by being raised from death into eternal glory. Help us to see you,  Lord. Help us to see a Savior that brings grace and mercy and forgiveness,  and help us to see a Lord that brings repentance and holiness and righteousness. Help us to see a Healer who binds up our wounds and casts out of anxiety and guilt and shame from our lives. Help us to see you as our Redeemer who equips us with the whole armor of God to see victory as the enemy is defeated and overcome in our lives. Help us to see you as the annointing of your Holy Spirit poured out into us, so that we can carry the blessings, the light,  the truth,  the way out into the darkness to those who need Hope and Love and Salvation and Life abundant and eternal. Amen.

FAITH
And once we have recognized Jesus, once we have caught a glimpse and realized the truth and power of change that He affects in the lives of those drawn to Him, once we have cried out to Him from our hearts and confessed Him as both Savior and, Lord of our lives,  once we have found belief – this is the start of our journey, not the triumphant fulfillment. The celebration as we come into the body of Christ is that the work is started in our lives. We have found the narrow gate – now we get to walk this narrow path, hand in hand with our love, our Christ, our companion, our friend.

This narrow path comes with its trials,  with its challenges, even with suffering and persecution for those who will set their eyes fully upon Christ and who will carry the light that we have received into the world. If or eyes are opened to behold the light of Christ’s grace, we are also no longer blind to the blindness of those who do not yet have eyes to see. We are no longer without understanding that in order for others to see, there must be someone willing to cry out about this Good News and tell them,  “Look! Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” They must hear so that they might see.

LOVE
And if we hope that they might hear our warning, it must be our love that demonstrates this truth to them. We do not love just in words,  but we love in action and in truth. If we speak,  but we do not have love,  then we are nothing more than an annoying noise that they will refuse to hear. Because they listen for the voice of the Good Shepherd,  and they know Him because they recognize the fruit of His Holy Spirit. There are many that know the Scriptures, that can quote Truth, that can “provide you with an example in their words”, but there are so few that will “be an example with their lives”.

Christ calls us to the latter. Christ calls us to speak louder with our life example than with our carefully practiced and examined words. We must examine our hearts much closer than we examine what others might think of us. There is so much at stake. Serving the Lord is such a joy and blessing,  and there are so many that are trading in the opportunity of a day spent with Christ for a day distracted by the enticements of the world.

I’m not telling you to act more religious – No, quite the contrary,  I’m pleading with you to see Christ who is closer to you than your breath, who is saying, “Walk with me, child. Let’s spend the day together.”

PLEADING
Loving and merciful Father God, help us to walk in your ways, if for no other reason than for people to no longer see us but to catch a glimpse of you, alive and at work in your children. Help us to praise you not just with our lips, but with our lives. Help us to serve you not just with religious traditions and dogma, but with love for one another, with sacrifice, with renewed hearts and minds. Our works are worthless when we walk under our own strength. But your works are undeniable when your love is poured out through us. Teach us to love you with abandon. As we are sanctified by the Blood of the Lamb, and justified by our faith, and proved by the testing of our faith – use us for the work that you have appointed for us. Lead us in the path and purpose that you have designed for us. Establish and maintain our steps upon the narrow path as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. We trust that you will see to completion the work that you have begun in us. Amen.

Where are we setting our minds?

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Matthew 16:21-23 ESV
http://bible.com/59/mat.16.21-23.ESV

TRUTH
Peter had a heartfelt response to the fearful, impending circumstances that lay ahead of him. He didn’t want to believe that it was true. His reaction was fed by emotion, and he cries out to the Lord with his concern, his fear, his complaint, and even with his own suggestions. He was focused on “my way” and “right now” – on the things and circumstances of this world. He was not yet fully trusting in “God’s will and purpose” for our “eternity“.

EXAMINATION
How often do we find ourselves questioning, “There is no way this can be God’s will. How is this even possible? ” When a parent loses a child, when disease takes hold of loving and godly people, when people overseas are being brutally tortured and murdered because they will not deny the name of Christ – how often do we find ourselves foolishly bold enough to question,  to take the Lord aside and tell Him how it should be?

Or how often are my prayers more about telling God what I want Him to do for me, telling God my will and trying to convince Him of it so that I can get my way right now – as opposed to seeking understanding and strength in order to follow His way?

How prideful is it for me to stand, telling God my way, and expecting Him to react like a genie to my wishes as opposed to kneeling humbly before Him,  asking Him to make His way evident to me, seeking revelation for how I can best follow His will and purpose. 

Where are we setting our minds, on His way, or on our own?

HOPE
I’m so glad that the Bible teaches us about a great number of imperfect people in need and a perfect God who is sufficient to meet that need. I’m glad that it demonstrates to us a perfect, blameless God come in the flesh as Jesus Christ to walk amongst all of the blame worthy and broken people in need of hope.

Praise the Lord, His grace and mercy and forgiveness is sufficient. The Blood of the Lamb completely covers the sin of His children. I’m so glad that he brings hope to us in our imperfection and doesn’t leave us there. I’m so glad that the work didn’t stop at the cross, that it didn’t stop at the tomb, that it didn’t stop when He ascended to heaven. I’m so glad that His work doesn’t stop at our recognizing our need for our repentance, that it doesn’t stop at us confessing Him as Savior and Lord, that it doesn’t leave us where we are.

SURRENDER
Almighty God,  Heavenly Father,  your ways are higher than ours,  and we understand so little of your eternal purpose and plan. But you reveal Yourself to us when we seek you humbly, Lord. We know that you are our only hope, and that when we rely on our own emotional reactions, when we fall into fear and anxiety, that we can quickly make a mess of things on our own. Help us to trust in you Lord. Remind us that you are the way, the truth,  and the life and that no one comes to the Father but through you. Remind us that you are the narrow gate through which we must enter to begin our walk. You are our companion and guide as we race along this narrow path, with you as both Savior and Lord of our lives, with you as both the driving power and the instructing navigator. You are our advocate and our deliverer when we find ourselves in the ditches of life, you repair us and set us back on the path, so that we might learn from our mistakes, grow, and stay ever closer and closer to toy path,  your way,  your purpose for our life. Thank you for bringing hope,  for bringing love,  for bringing life and redemption to us, and for correcting us when we prove ourselves to be like foolish little children. Come, live in us and through us Christ Jesus – come bring revival to our lives. Breathe your Holy Spirit into our lives, awaken us,  quicken us, prepare us,  and equip us for your holy use. Amen.

FAITH
This was not the end of Peter’s story. In fact, much challenge and testing lay ahead for Peter to see God’s will played out in front of Him. And God’s way was beyond anything he ever could have imagined. It led him into a place where God proved to him that Peter’s confidence in his own abilities and strength would fail him. A test was coming that Peter could not pass on His own.

A test was coming when Peter would again stand boldly and say, no Lord, I will not deny you. Still with his mind set upon the things of this world. And the result of this test was that he denied Christ three times, and the result was just as the roster crowed upon his third denial his eyes met the eyes of his Savior and he knew the weight of the guilt that his own strength had not been sufficient.

Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.
Matthew 26:31-35 ESV
http://bible.com/59/mat.26.31-35.ESV

Like Peter, we want to stand proudly and boldly so that we can take credit, so that we can boast about what we have done. Some of us don’t even want to stand proudly and boldly in front of others, we’re so prideful that we’re content with our own praise – commending ourselves for being “humble enough to not care about boasting to others”. We lift ourselves up on the throne of our own fake humility, practiced religion, thinking that we’ve done something – thinking to ourselves “I’ll never forsake you, Lord!”

Liars, every one of us. We all fall short. Even though we try, even though we strive, even though we deceive ourselves so many times, again and again until He has proven to us that it is only through Him that we will find Stent and victory and redemption – only in our humble and genuine love for Him, for His way. It is only when we have been tested to the point that we have set our hearts and minds on the things eternal, and truly realized that He is our Hope and Strength, that we are humbled before Him, ready to be used.

These trials, they are not to break us – but to change us, to refine us, to remodel us to be more and more like Him. These temporary trials are actually the vehicles by which He delivers our eternal blessings.

Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the light and looking closely at him, said, “This man also was with him.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.” And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Luke 22:54-62 ESV
http://bible.com/59/luk.22.54-62.ESV

How many times have we denied the truth of Jesus’ words – by our actions, by our words, by our lack of faith, by our pride, by the many and varied ways that we fall short of the glory of God.

However, I have Good News – this denial was not the end of Peter’s story. Your shortcomings are not the end of your story, child of God. He knows the plans that He has for you, for good and for eternity and for life abundantly bearing the fruit of His Holy Spirit, bringing light into this world of darkness. Your blessings are just up ahead, dear child, through the trials.

LOVE
Peter’s love for Jesus up to this point was strong, was bold, but it is lacking in the humility of accepting Jesus’ word as undeniable truth. Up to this point, it had still been an imperfect love because of that fact. But Jesus want finished with Peter yet.

Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
John 21:2-19 ESV
http://bible.com/59/jhn.21.2-19.ESV

PLEADING
Lord, you know everything. You know that we love you. Search our hearts, Lord. Search our thoughts, Lord. And if there is anything getting in the way of us following in your footsteps, Lord, lead us in your way. Set our minds on those things eternal and true and righteous and holy. Set our minds on loving and serving our fellow man. Teach us to feed your sheep. Teach us to love with your perfect love. Here we are, Lord. Send us and we will go. Amen.