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.]

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

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.

Truth produces Hope, Faith, Love & War

Hope is found in His mercy.

Have mercy on me,
O God, because of your unfailing love.
Because of your great compassion,
blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
it haunts me day and night.
Against you, and you alone, have I sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what you say,
and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb,
teaching me wisdom even there.
Psalms 51:1-6 NLT
http://bible.com/116/psa.51.1-6.NLT

In order to find Hope, in order to know His unfailing love and His mercy – we must first open our eyes to see our own sins and rebellion. We must yield our rebellious nature of selfishness and pride and sinfulness – to acknowledge and accept what is sinful in His sight. It is only when we recognize our guilt, and when we recognize that His judgement of us is just – that we have learned the wisdom of what He teaches us so that we are ready for change. Yes, then we are ready for those old ways to die, to be cut out and cast off,  for those chains to be broken, for us to be freed from sin.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
you have broken me— now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God.
Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence,
and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and make me willing to obey you.
Psalms 51:7-12 NLT
http://bible.com/116/psa.51.7-12.NLT

And our faithfulness, even that is, His grace at work. It is not found in our own strength,  but it is found in our own humbling ourselves to seek, find,  follow,  and worship Him as the Lord of our lives.

Once we’ve found enough wisdom to understand the Hope that is available in Christ, our old hunger and thirst for the things of this world is replaced with a new hunger for righteousness. We lay down those carnal things – those treasures and pleasures that the enemy has to offer us in this brief existence to distract us from our only portion and prize. We lay them down,  not as a sacrifice or a tithe or offering to God,  but because we realize they are a temptation, a poisonous snake,  a trap,  an unnecessary burden, and a fruitless path.

And we find that in doing this, the one and only worthy sacrifice – of our surrendered heart, of our surrendered life is being offered to our Lord God Almighty – not as a proud “see what I have done” but as a humble “forgive me for what I have done,  change me,  teach me your ways,  and use me for your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Yes, Faith is not our striving under our own power,  but us getting ourselves out of the way for Him to do the work through us.

Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you.
Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit— with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.
Psalms 51:13-19 NLT
http://bible.com/116/psa.51.13-19.NLT

You see,  once we have found Hope, and once we know the power of His Spirit that is found in Faith, we are walking in a different way than the rebel that we used to be. But we are still amongst the same world of rebellion that used to be our master – and our eyes are opened to those still asleep in captivity,  those still hungering for the only food they have known,  those eating their fill of sin and death – not knowing there is something better. And we find ourselves a soldier,  with a Sword of Truth coming out of our mouths,  and this, Word of God does not slay flesh and blood, but it does shine light on sin and rebellion and hatred and unforgiveness and anything that falls short of glorifying God. But that light has, a warmth and a glow that they have not yet felt – not the cruel coldness of their old master’s traps and addiction and unwanted consequences – but the warmth of the love of a forgiving Father.

Yes, it is this grace poured out in His blood on that cross,  it is the sacrifice that He made for us, that breaks us,  that tears down the walls, that allows us to bring forth a sacrifice – not of “slain evil men”, because our enemies are not flesh and blood,  but are the unseen evils of this world holding our brothers and sisters captive. No, we bring living sacrifices,  slaves set free from their old masters, lives awakened by the undeniable difference in lives that are powered by His Holy Spirit.

We walk with light that shines into the darkness. We walk with a fire in our bones yearning to share this Good News. We walk as the savory salt of Christian love and charity and sacrifice for our fellow man, even for strangers and enemies,  which is clearly different than the taste of the world’s ways. We walk as the trumpeter,  heralding the return of the Lord,  crying out,  “Repent,  for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” We stand guard as the watchman, sharing truth and accountability for the dangers of sin, of worldliness, of carnality, of anything short of a surrendered heart – because we know many do not hear, many turn back, many trample the Son of God underfoot willfully sinning after coming to knowledge of the truth – and as a result,  few walk the narrow gate and path to our intended destination.

Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The Lord will judge his own people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Hebrews 10:26-31 NLT
http://bible.com/116/heb.10.26-31.NLT

If this passage hurts you,  friend. If you feel as though you are bleeding from my sword, understand that I am not slaying you, but I am after your sin. It is my goal to drive this sword deep into the beast that holds you captive. But it is not your blood that is being shed. You are not cut and bleeding.

Get up and run to the, Lord,  and do not look back. I have been sent to free the captives, not to make them comfortable in their cages. Those feeding you sugar are fattening you up for the slaughter. Hear the Word of God. Let it touch your heart and motivate you into action. And do not leave your brothers and sisters captive if you are called and chosen. If you are spiritually mature and no longer battling to break free yourself, but you are trusting fully in the Lord this hour – Stand up against the enemy in Truth. Put on the whole armor of God. Prepare yourself for battle.

Showered, washed, covered, anointed

He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
Ephesians 1:7-8 NLT
http://bible.com/116/eph.1.7-8.NLT

Truth
We are all vile,  sinful people. Every last one of us falls short of perfection. Even if you believe that you are a “good” person, when we examine ourselves beside the example of Jesus Christ,  when we measure ourselves by the law,  and when we investigate the details of our heart’s desires we will see that we are vain,  selfish,  prideful creatures.

A friend of mine,  Rhonda Hand writes:
If you read the word of God or someone speaks it and you feel small, low, belittled. GOOD! That’s what it is suppose to do. We are shown by the gospel we are nothing but filthy dirty sinners before a Holy, Just God. And that’s why we need Jesus. That’s why he had to die! We are nothing and he is EVERYTHING! There is NO ONE good! Our hearts are wicked and deceitful. When he shows you what you really are before him then you will have no problem with the true undefiled truth of the Lord! Repentance is key! We all have to do this! The Lord calls for repentance!

Hope
Jesus Christ is our only Hope for salvation. The promise of grace is extended by and through Jesus Christ and He alone has the power to save us. Our participation in this Hope, in this acceptance of this free gift of grace, in this picking up and unwrapping of this salvation found at the foot of the cross is simply turning our eyes and our attitude and our perspective towards Christ.

It is not a prayer alone, because prayers said with physical eyes closed do not necessarily insure that spiritual eyes are turned to Christ. It is not a baptism in water alone, because a physical cleansing in water is only an outward demonstration of what being born again spiritually entails. It is not even emotional response alone, which can be evidence of remorse even when there is not yet repentance. So if our confidence is based on these things,  we should examine ourselves to make sure that we are not deceiving ourselves.

Christ alone is the source of our hope. And our knowing Him,  not just knowing about Him, is the foundation of Hope upon which we can firmly build our lives.

Faith
Faith is that process of growing closer to the one that we love and serve. For the Child of God, it is that process of being drawn ever closer in fellowship to the Lord – surrendering our ways and our will for His,  serving Him faithfully by following His commandments,  learning about Him by reading and studying the Word of God,  talking with Him and building a personal relationship through heartfelt and humble prayer.

Faith is about maintaining and strengthening the bond that tires us to God.  Faith is about believing,  it is about “now”, it isn’t about resting upon a once upon a time religious or spiritual experience, and it isn’t about a “some day” in the future kind of unveiling of God to us. Faith is about sharing our lives with God now, today, in this moment, in this decision, in this action,  in these words. And when we are faithful in the individual moments,  when we participate with God in our lives intimately,  when we walk in the Spirit of, Christ who lives in us and through us – our lives are quite different than when they are simply lived out in the flesh – our lives begin to produce something in this world that is wonderful and beautiful.

Love
Love is the result of Christ alive and moving and active in our lives – not religious judgement that condemns and beats down others with righteous indignation – not puffed up spiritual pride that has knowledge of the theology but no wisdom or understanding of the power that could make them holy.

You see His Holiness,  His righteousness exceeds even the perfect fulfillment of a list of legal requirements. This is why Christ raised the bar from a list of laws – instead pointing to the underlying issues of the state of a man’s heart and the reasons unseen behind his why, behind his desires,  behind the very motivation that guides choices.

So those who stop at outward obedience, or religious practice, or good works, or anything short of love are nothing and have nothing – because they haven’t grasped hold of grace, they have settled for a way that seems right to man but leads to destruction.

Love is the good fruit that is nourishing and healing and that is produced from good trees. Love can be recognized as joy,  peace,  patience,  kindness, goodness,  faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Love is the very act of taking His righteousness upon ourselves and wearing it as our own. And it is poured out on both the ones who we might think deserve it and the ones who we might think do not. Love is the light of this world that cuts through the darkness and that fulfills the law, because it overcomes sin,  it gives us the power to live with a right attitude, perspective, and actions towards God and towards others – because it keeps us humble, serving at the feet of those that He loves and that we are learning to love.

And it is only this work that is done in love that will stand the purifying fires of the trials and tribulations and sufferings of our temporary time in these bodies of flesh that are dig and returning to the grave. Nothing that is built upon a different foundation, or built using different materials will last – no matter how religious or right in the eyes of men. Because we are not to be judged by men, nor are our actions alone what is weighed,  but our heart.

Pray
So let’s pray today that we will know Truth, Hope, Faith, and, Love in our lives Now and Forevermore – and in doing so,  that we will see His Kingdom Come,  His Will being done in our lives on earth as it is in Heaven,  confident that He will give us today’s nourishment and fill our every need,  and that He will not lead us into temptation,  but He will deliver us from evil, because He is the one that is in authority and power,  and His glory and His honor, are forever and ever in eternity. Amen.

Application
Walk with Him now. It’s that simple. Baby steps are the way to walk the narrow path – like a little child,  holding onto is Father’s hand for guidance and assistance. Don’t think that you are wise and mature,  just cling to His hand. Don’t decide that you know what is right and strike out on your own,  just cling to His hand. Because, you see – getting to some eventual destination isn’t meant to be your only goal – He isn’t far away to one day be experienced at the end of your journey – He is right here with you,  hoping you will enjoy the, walk with Him,  holding onto His hand,  spending time with Him,  now.

No excuses, faith. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget about the law.

Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.
But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin.
People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.
Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 
Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.
Romans 3:19-28, 30-31 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.3.19-31.NLT

Continue reading “No excuses, faith. Oh, yeah, and don’t forget about the law.”

Where can safety be found?

But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit,  and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.
Jude 1:20-21 NLT
http://bible.com/116/jud.1.20-21.NLT

Some of us are friends – not even because we know each other,  but because we know Christ. Once we know that our enemies are not flesh and blood, the world begins to be filled with the opportunity of friends – because even those imperfect people doing things we might not agree with, or even those that we find opposing us are just in need of the same rescue,  the same grace,  the same deliverance that we ourselves accept daily.

Continue reading “Where can safety be found?”

Not Ashamed?

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.
Romans 1:16 NLT
http://bible.com/116/rom.1.16.NLT

What things do we do that demonstrate to the world and even to ourselves that we are not ashamed?

What things can we do to grow bolder and more confident in the Word of God, in the Good News of Jesus Christ?

Will we do them?

Continue reading “Not Ashamed?”