April 30, 2011
I woke up this morning immediately directing my thoughts toward the Lord, taking every thought captive to His obedience (2 Cor. 10:5), and submitting my heart, mind, will, etc. to His Lordship –all the things I do every morning upon waking. He answered with, “Think on Me.” I thought it seemed a bit of a strange response since I was already thinking on Him. However, I found that during this entire day I did have unusual trouble thinking on Him. My mind kept trying to turn to all sorts of other things –worries, pending decisions, things people have said to me… and I had to keep battling by repeating, “Think on Me.” But isn’t it just like our gracious God to give us a warning and a word to fall back on for our time of need?
On top of this, later upon turning my flip calendar to today’s date, I read, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” This is Prov. 23:7 taken from the KJV. I smiled, realizing the Lord was confirming to me: “Think on Me.”
Why is it so important to think on the Lord? It’s because in thinking on Him, we’ve focused our thoughts and heart on all that He is –kindness, love, beauty, majesty, holiness, power, peace, selflessness, joy, our Comforter, our Protector, our Provider, our Deliverer, the King who reigns over all circumstances and who can slay evil with one rebuke… –this God. And in thinking upon Him in adoration, we abide ever closer to His heart and mind and character, becoming one with Him, therein abiding in that “peace of God which transcends all understanding and which guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus.” (See Phil. 4:7 & also Isa. 26:3)
We do certainly need a guard over our heart and mind so that our spirit, (which houses God’s Spirit), can remain clean and pure for the flow of communion between Spirit and spirit. The best way to do this is to begin every day by meditating in the Word, listening to the Spirit teach us from it. Thus we learn about God, His attributes, His ways, and what pleases Him, and we can then accurately “think on Him” and thereby become like Him.
What happens when a man does not habitually think on the Lord? Well, something has to fill his mind, so whatever his heart longs (or lusts) for will begin to consume not only his thoughts, but the man himself. For example, if a man wishes for more money, he will spend hours thinking of ways to get it. Worse yet, he may spend hours thinking of how others have it, what they’re able to possess because of it, and how underprivileged he is because he never had the right breaks or opportunity. Jealousy may creep into the man’s heart, and along with that, bitterness, resentment, anger, slander, deceitfulness, or even revenge. This man has meditated on evil, thus he becomes evil.
What about when a woman habitually rehearses demeaning words said to her? Well, by doing so she’s heaping into her spirit negativity, insecurity, and depression, and she’ll eventually become those things. When a teen fills his mind with greed or wanting to be noticed, he may steal, rob, or sell drugs in order to have what he thinks will bring him respect. But he’s merely become a thief, a drug dealer, and a common thug. –An idolater, in other words. The greed for things and the lust for respect has consumed him –it has filled up within him– so that he becomes what he has concentrated on.
Prov. 23:7 is a statement of reality, for thoughts, left unchecked, will eventually grow like a cancer throughout one’s entire being. This is why when a man feeds his mind with perversion he’ll become a pervert. When a woman fills her mind with anger, she’ll become a bitter, resentful witch. When people feed their minds with conspiracies, horror movies, and tragic global news stories, they’ll become nervous, suspicious, or fearful recluses, or else they will develop some type of personality disorder stemming from their inner anxieties.
Yes, people do become what they think about. But… if we think about the Lord, we live in the Light… we live in the Truth… and we actually become lights of the Truth, shining out Christ’s Spirit from within us. Then we’ve each become what “Christian” really used to mean: A little Christ. “For what a man meditates on from his heart, so he has become.” Moreover we victoriously overcome all the negative… the world… the sin… the fear… the attacks… doing so by obeying –consistently, humbly, and with reverence– these words from our Lord: “Think on Me.”
April 29, 2011
Ps. 119:67 says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word.”
It is unfortunate that almost all of us must be severely disciplined by the Lord in order to turn from unrighteousness back to our Maker, but alas, such it is amongst a very fallen humanity. However, because the Lord is so gracious and so kind, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” (Ps. 103:10) “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His mercy and love for those who fear Him.” (v. 11) Therefore, “As father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.” (v. 13,14) What a comfort!
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I do this.” (God, in Isa. 48:10) “For My own name’s sake I delay My wrath; for the sake of My praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off.” (v. 9) Mercy again is granted us! Hope is renewed and we remember that the suffering, the testing, the affliction, is for a purpose and will not last forever.
Thus we say, “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the LORD has done. The LORD has chastened me severely, but HE has not given me over to death.” (Ps. 118:17,18)
So may we take up courage and strength, and realize that hardship means God is disciplining us, training us, and treating us as true sons. (Heb. 12:7,8,12) For this reason, then, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.” (v. 5,6 quoting Prov. 3:11,12)
“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” (Heb. 12:12,13 quoting Prov. 4:26) Yes, many are lame, but as the rest of Prov. 4:26 says, “… and take only ways that are firm.” This means, no veering off the straight and righteous way. (v. 27) It means, listening closely to God’s Word (v.20), reading it and keeping it within the heart. (v. 21) Why? “For they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.” (v. 22)
Because this is the case, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Prov. 4:23) To guard our heart is to guard our affections, and our affections are to be turned from the world, and set on Christ and His concerns. For we are to say along with Paul in Phil. 3:8, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.” All things means all. –Possessions, home, career, health, loved ones, etc. For since “our citizenship is in Heaven” (v. 20) we are to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (See Col. 3:2)
It is a high calling and it is highly encouraging! For indeed, “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:10,11) Wow. The affliction is producing for us much good… much benefit? Yes. From it we are granted a share in Christ’s holiness! And we are granted a harvest of righteousness and peace –as well as all that goes along with that, such as comfort, healing, rest, joy, and Christ-likeness. What a blessing! What cause for rejoicing, thanksgiving, and songs of praise unto Your name, O Most High! (Ps. 92:1) For “I know, O LORD, that Your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness You have afflicted me.” (Ps. 119:75) Yes, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (v. 71)
It is certainly true then: “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal.” (Job 5:17,18)
So, praise be to our wonderful Savior, Comforter, and Maker who has brought us, through the suffering, into His presence while loving us dearly as children. And may we be children who continuously respond by lovingly obeying the Father’s Word.
April 28, 2011
Jesus says in John 10:27, “My sheep listen to My voice.” Jesus is saying this is a reality… a fact. So is it –in each of our lives? –In the lives of those who claim to follow Him? The Lord cannot lie, so if it is not a reality in one’s life, then what is the problem? It must be that the sheep who think they are following Jesus, yet don’t hear His voice, simply are not of His fold They must not belong to the real Jesus. They have either been deceived in following a “different jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4), or they are making it up that they are following Him.
So many people say, “I follow Jesus.” Yet the Lord says that those who do follow Him listen to His voice. This is different than hearing His words. Many do hear –either by reading His words within the Scriptures, or by hearing them from a pulpit or radio. But to hear means to simply perceive information, whereas to listen implies that one not only gives attention to someone’s words but also acts upon those words. Either way, though, it’s not enough to just hear God’s Word. It must be put into practice. As Jesus says in Matt. 7:26, “But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man…” A person cannot put Christ’s words into practice, though, if he does not have His Spirit, for it is the Spirit who interprets God’s Word, gives counsel, instructs us along the path of following Jesus, and infuses us with the divine power to do so obediently.
So who are they who are hearing Christ’s words, yet are not putting His words into practice? The answer is, the church. The world is not even pretending to listen. The church, though, is pretending they’re listening, yet if they were, they’d realize that the pretense isn’t enough to save them from Hell.
“This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, as where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.'” (Jer. 6:16) Is the church as a whole… are we as individuals… heeding God’s Word (that old-fashioned Bible) and obeying what the Spirit instructs of us? Or are we going down paths of worldly philosophy, New Age teachings, and every other new enlightenment that tries to masquerade as Truth? There is no Truth or Rest, except Jesus, the Spirit, and the Word of God. (John 14:6 & 16:13 & 17:17 & Heb. 4:1-11) As Jesus says in Matt. 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
But how do most people, even though burdened under a load of sin, respond? In the last part of Jer. 6:16 God tells us. He says, “But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.'”
God continues: “I appointed watchmen over you and said, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But you said, ‘We will not listen.'” (v. 17) God sends His servants and spokesmen to people to warn and exhort them, but so many who hear just simply continue to choose the disobedient way… the way of weariness instead of the way of goodness and rest.
Because of their wrong and wicked choice, God then goes on: “Therefore hear, O nations; observe, O witnesses, what will happen to them. Hear, O earth: I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their schemes, because they have not listened to My words and have rejected My law.” (v. 18,19) God’s warning here was being directed toward Israel (v. 9), His chosen people, the ones who had been given His law –just as He is warning of judgement against those who are His present chosen ones. “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the Gospel of God? And, ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?'” (1 Peter 4:17,18) The answer is: There is no other expectation for the deliberately sinful Gospel-believer, except raging fire and everlasting destruction. (Heb. 10:26,27 & 2 Thes. 1:8,9)
God says the same thing to the church today as He said to Israel in Jer. 6:20b, “Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please Me.” God is disgusted with a church who pretends… who pretends to love Him… who pretends to follow Christ on the outside… yet who harbors sin in the heart. “Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘I will put obstacles before this people. Fathers and sons alike will stumble over them; neighbors and friends will perish.'” (v. 21) Is this not what is happening everywhere amongst those who follow Christ as cups which are clean only on the outside while inside they are full of a stench? Are not whole families plunging into ruin –those who have followed Christ only in pretense?
True, suffering and discipline come to the godly also, but the difference is this: There is rest and peace and joy and victory even in the midst of it, the Gospel is promoted through it, and the Lord is glorified. This is a big difference from the unrest, the disillusionment, the hopelessness, and the ruin that overtakes the wicked.
The difference begins way back with the practice… the practice of listening to the Lord’s voice. And doing so constantly.
April 27, 2011
This week I saw a plaque in someone’s home that said, “Once you choose HOPE anything’s possible.” This is true to a certain extent, but it can only be fully true as a person puts their hope in the Lord, for He is the only sure foundation. A person can choose to hope for a million dollars, but appropriate action must be attached to the hope –like, say, thinking up an invention or working hard and investing what is earned. A person can choose to hope in the success of a business, a marriage, or a health product, but again, work and wisdom must be utilized. Even so, hope does often produce nothing, for there are too many stray and unpredictable factors in our fallen world.
The Lord is the only One we can put our hope in and know that He will never fail us, for as He promises in Isa. 49:23, “Those who hope in Me will not be disappointed.” What then is the reason for so much disappointment for those who think they’ve put their hope in Him? The problem is, is that we’ve merely thought we did so. In actuality, our hope may have been in probability, or in another person involved, or in our ability, our positive outlook, or our faith. Yes, these are factors, but only as seen from the natural man’s perspective, for God seems to like to work when all else seems hopeless. Even faith, as powerful as God has made it to be, is not to be our hope, for God Himself is our hope. God works through our faith and hope, but He wants to do so only as these are set on Him, His goodness, His faithfulness, His mercy and love, and His ability. As He asks in Jer. 32:27, “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?” The answer, of course, is: “Ah, Sovereign LORD, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for You.” (v. 17)
This is the same answer we can give Him when He asks in Isa. 50:2, “Was My arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert…” In other words, if by one word God can cause huge things to be done, can He not rescue us from our troubles if we but ask Him to? –If we but trust Him to? –If we but put our hope in Him? Certainly! But we must not doubt once we’ve asked and put the matter into His hands. Furthermore, we must listen to what He instructs us to do concerning our request. Has He said to wait and trust, or has He said to move forward and slay giants using His name in song? Has He said to pray and fast? Has He said to repent and make amends? Has He said to sell our belongings and move? Or has He said to keep doing what we’re doing while sitting, even more so, at His feet in sweet communion?
Often God’s instructions about a petition are what He commands in Ps. 37:3-9: “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him and He will bring it to pass. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret –it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.” This is an excellent passage to memorize, for when we are hit broadside by the cruel schemes of people or demons, we can be assured that, if we’ve done what these verses tell us to do, then God will do what these verses promise He will do. God’s Word does not lie. Every bit of it is true, and we’d do well to meditate on it carefully. In doing so, we will live according to it (in obedience, thus wrapped victoriously inside the promises), and we will have found true life. (Josh. 1:8 & John 10:10)
So… if we choose hope, is it true that anything is possible? Yes, as long as Jesus is the One our hope is set upon… as long as the hope leads us to ever-increasingly strong faith in Him. For since faith is being sure of what we hope for (Heb. 11:1), we do need to have hope before we have faith. Then as God rewards our faith, we are able to hope for more things, and “Anything is possible” does become a way of life. However, it must be understood that this life is also the crucified-to-Self life –the “life that is now hidden with Christ in God.” (See Col. 3:3) Then the things hoped for will be in line with the will of the Father, and this is how we have the assurance that He will absolutely answer our petitions. (1 John 5:14,15)
Yes, HOPE is a very wise thing to choose. For hope is the first step that leads to that which makes all the difference: Christ Jesus Himself.
April 26, 2011
Yesterday early evening I was walking across a university campus and passed a group, who I think were professors, seated around an outside iron table. They seemed much enthralled with their conversation, and I had a feeling they were discussing something scholarly or philosophical. So my first thought was, “Oh, I wish I could join their stimulating discussion”, but my second thought, was, “Why? Do I actually believe those men have any wisdom originating from Truth?”
Sadly, I’ve come to the realization that most group conversations are wastes of time. Either the people involved are just trying to impress each other, or what is being discussed is just full of the world’s opinion, not God’s. Few seem to care about righteous choices or solutions, but rather about what would be beneficial to them.
Paul warns, “Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.” (1 Tim. 6:20,21) All of Christ’s servants are entrusted with the Gospel –with spreading it in line with sound doctrine (The Truth) and under the leading of the Spirit, our lives being examples of what we teach. We are to guard the Truth so that it is taught correctly, as well as guard ourselves so that we ourselves don’t wander from Christ. However, if we allow our ears to listen in on worldly chatter, falsehood will begin to fill our mind and heart, and while thinking we are being filled with knowledge, we will instead fall away from true wisdom, discernment, insight, knowledge, and understanding. We will not be making judgements based on Truth for we will not be “walking in the Truth.” (3 John 1:4)
Knowledge is not to be pursued just for the sake of acquiring knowledge. We are to pursue Christ and His Word, obeying what we hear from Him, thereby developing our self-discipline and our relationship with Him. “Knowledge puffs up,” (1 Cor. 8:1) but it is knowing God and His Word personally –and He knowing us– that should be our great aim. (See v. 2,3)
We come to know the Lord by obeying His commands (see 1 John 2:3), and this we do by turning from worldly pursuits and philosophies and listening only to what God instructs us in, obeying “without spot or blame.” (1 Tim. 6:14)
April 25, 2011
Belief. It’s a strange thing in a way. For we can say we believe something, or believe in someone (as in, –trust them), but do we really? We can even think we do truly believe something or do truly trust someone, yet when “push comes to shove”, we realize –hmmmm, we’re not so sure we have total trust or complete belief. It’s that classic wheel-barrow / tightrope analogy again… –we can believe the guy can walk the wheel-barrow along the tightrope across the canyon, but if he tells us to get in, or just tells us to put in a precious belonging of ours, we immediately realize we don’t trust him that much! We realize we don’t trust his word nor his ability –completely. And because we don’t –because we have reservations about what he’s saying he can and will do– we won’t entrust ourselves or our treasures to him. It’s okay. This is a natural human response from natural and appropriate reasoning. And even if we could somehow totally trust this tightrope walker’s flawless character and skill, the risk would still seem to be too high: Certain death if just one thing went wrong –like say, a gust of wind.
The reason it’s okay, and even wise, to distrust this whole scenario is because the tightrope walker is human and therefore will never be 100% immune from making a mistake or succumbing to unpredictable outside forces. However, when we compare the tightrope walker to Christ, we are actually required to believe completely and wholeheartedly. This is why following Jesus can get difficult. –Because the canyon looks deep, the rope looks frayed, the wind feels strong, the wheel-barrow looks wobbly, and the idea of putting ourselves at such risk –especially putting ourselves into such a helpless state and at the mercy of another person– is quite incomprehensible to the natural mind. The “natural” mind, though. Not the supernatural. For if we are “in Christ”, we are promised that “we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:16) This does not mean in the way the New Agers explain it. It just means that we share in His mind as we share in His righteousness, His sufferings, His glory, His peace, His joy, His strength, and all sorts of other wonderful things. And it is done as we take our thoughts captive to obey Him (2 Cor. 10:5)… as we step into Him constantly –that is, as we “keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25) who in-dwells us and through whom we “participate in the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4)
So, yes. We do have to get into the wheel-barrow, the one Christ Jesus is inviting us to get in. There’s no other way across the canyon of life. We can remain “safe”, either ignoring Christ’s wooings, or pretending we’re in when we’re not, but either way, we won’t reach the Prize. The Prize is Christ Himself, but He is only reached as we get in, and stay in. If we look back or say, “Oh I do love You, Jesus. See, I’ve given You my life, for I’ve trusted You enough to get in. But… um… now I’m getting a little nervous. Also, I see some friends over there on the shore and they’re waving for me to stop by their place for a visit, so… I’d like it if You’d let me out here. I need a breather from this stress. So sorry. But, Jesus, I’ll get back in when I’m stronger. Now don’t think that I don’t trust You. You do know that I still do, right?”
Let’s look at what God’s Word reveals to us concerning such an attitude: Luke 9:61,62 says, “Still another said, ‘I will follow You, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'” Those in God’s kingdom are servants of that kingdom. If Jesus says someone isn’t fit for service there, it means that person is not His servant, is not a part of His Kingdom, and will not inherit eternal life.
For those who have looked back… for those who have gotten out of God’s will… is there forgiveness? Is there opportunity to repent and get back in? Yes. God’s Word is full of God’s pleadings for people to come back to Him –people who have “left their first love” (Rev. 2:4), and forsaken their God. “Remember the height from which you have fallen!” (v. 5a) What?! God-lovers, Christ-followers, Christians, Bible-touters… can fall? –Fall from a great height? Yes. Thus the Lord says, “Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp-stand from its place.” (v. 5b) We can only be “in Christ” and “saved” (synonymous terms) if we’ve repented –which means turned (and remaining turned) from sin and disobedience. If we do not repent of falling away from Jesus (our “first love”), then Christ will remove our “right standing” –our state of being saved– from its place. Our names will be erased from the Book of Life (3:5) because we refused to discard our soiled clothes. (v. 4 & Matt. 22:11-13) For it is only those who remain in the wheel-barrow, who continue following Christ, who constantly obey their King, who abide in Jesus and His words, and who overcome fear, distrust, sin, and the world… who will inherit the wedding clothes of eternal life. As Rev. 2:7 says, “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
Faith is about overcoming, and doing so by trusting in Christ’s ability to take us across in His wheel-barrow. This wheel-barrow equates with His will –which equals with the Father’s will. If we are not in that, we will not live forever. (1 John 2:17 & Matt. 7:21) As Rev. 2:11 confirms, “He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.” The second death is Hell. And it is the inheritance of all who refuse to get in –into Christ– or who choose to get out for one reason or another… like trials, worries, riches, pleasures, and other things that choke one’s total trust in Jesus (Luke 8:11-15), He who is the Word of God. (v. 11 & John 1:1,14 & Rev. 19:13)
But for those who believe… who truly trust… we shall indeed see the glory of God. (John 11:40)
April 24, 2011
The cross… the cross on which the King of kings was crucified. The cross on which He bought our freedom (1 Tim. 2:6 & 1 John 2:2) –freedom from the rule of sin (Rom. 6:17,18) and all that is of the darkness. (Col. 1:13) For “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21) We step into this righteousness by being crucified with Jesus ourselves (Gal. 2:20), that is, crucified to the old Self and it to us “so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless.” (Rom. 6:6) Thus “we should no longer be slaves to sin– because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (v. 6,7) By uniting with Christ in His death (Rom. 6:5 & 2 Cor. 5:14), we are then also united with Him in His resurrection (Rom. 6:5), “made alive with Christ” (Eph. 2:5 & Col. 2:12,13) and found in Him as completely new creations. (2 Cor. 5:17)
Having received such a glorious gift, we praise God with joyful and grateful hearts, rejoicing that through the cross, the power of God nailed not only sin and law to the cross (Col. 2:13,14 & Rom. 8:2,3), but “me” as well! Therefore, it is a great honor to exclaim along with Paul, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal. 6:14) Indeed the world has no hold on crucified people, for we’ve turned our backs on the world. True, this message is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18), but for us, we know that it is only the cross –and the resurrection– that enabled Jesus to “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” (Heb. 5:9)
Those of us who obey Christ, do, therefore, gratefully sing about, and excitedly proclaim, the wondrous message of the cross through which our loving God purchased our redemption.