August 31, 2006
A Hot Item!
There are “hot items” people rush out to buy before they are gone; “hot offers” they don’t want to chance missing out on. There are also “hot topics” people like to get in on the discussion of because they hold opinions they want to have heard. However, there is another “hot item” that may be preferable to avoid.
“A MAN OF GREAT WRATH will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.” (Proverbs 19:19 ESV)
The New International Version calls him a “hot-tempered man.” There are some people who just don’t seem to learn or are at least slow to do so. Due to a lack of SELF-CONTROL they get themselves into trouble again and again, and if bailed out may begin to expect it. Therefore, such a one may end up taking advantage of their rescuer time after time while failing to change their behavior. The counselor’s term for that kind of help is “enabling.” Unfortunately there are individuals and situations where the only way they will ever learn is to face fully the consequences of their actions.
Solomon also urged…
“(24) Make NO FRIENDSHIP WITH a man given to anger, NOR GO WITH a wrathful man, (25) LEST YOU LEARN HIS WAYS and entangle yourself in a snare.” (Proverbs 22:24-25 ESV)
Not only can one be taken advantage of or be burned by one with a hot temper, but it is also possible to become influenced by them as well. To join in close association with one who lacks such SELF-CONTROL can be dangerous in many ways.
It is not enough to avoid the “hot-tempered” individual, but also to be mindful of the influencing power of our own actions. In exercising SELF-CONTROL there is potential to calm or put out the fire of contention.
“A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but HE WHO IS SLOW TO ANGER QUIETS CONTENTION.” (Proverbs 15:18 ESV)
We may not be able to change others, but we can work on changes in our own life that can keep us out of trouble and have a positive impact on those around us. Learning to leave some things in God’s hands (i.e. Romans 12:19) may be the first step in gaining control of our anger.
Have a great day KEEPING A COOL HEAD AND CONTROLLED TONGUE!
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August 30, 2006
We may love “Half Off” sales, as long as that relates to the price. Would we be willing to settle for half of the product missing, even if it was a discounted price? Perhaps it would depend on which half, though generally we would want the whole product we are purchasing because that is the way it was intended to be. Half does not necessarily work out to being half as good, but most often is of no value at all. This is no more true than when it comes to the need for TRUTHFUL SPEECH. It has been stated that the real danger when told a half truth is that we may believe the wrong half.
“Therefore, HAVING PUT AWAY FALSEHOOD, LET EACH ONE OF YOU SPEAK THE TRUTH WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members one of another.” (Ephesians 4:25 ESV)
Falsehood has no place in our Christian walk. Let us live to be known as people of our word so that when we speak others will know that they have been provided the WHOLE TRUTH and nothing but the TRUTH.
Have a great day BEING THE REAL DEAL!
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August 29, 2006
If we were each to stop and look at our watches or clocks right now, would we all declare it to be the same time? There are at least two reasons why we would find variations in what we would each consider the correct time. First, we are not all living in the same time zone which means there could be a difference anywhere from one hour to twenty-four. Secondly, even if we were living in the same time zone, our watches and clocks might be close, but not each reflect the precise time. This past Sunday morning, the teacher of our adult Bible class asked several individuals what time it was according to their watches. The times given were 10:17, 10:18, 10:19 and 10:20. Each watch had apparently not been set to the SAME STANDARD. Watches and clocks are limited in their accuracy. Some lose time while others may gain a little each day. It is even stated that an atomic clock must be readjusted one second every million years.
The STANDARD by which time is measured, adjusted, and set is the rotation of the SUN. As the sun crosses each meridian line, the hours are marked off. The “prime meridian” is zero degrees longitude and runs through the original site of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, England. Greenwich time is referred to when preciseness of time is being set. Our individual clocks and watches may help us be close to on time, but they periodically need adjustment. The same is true in life. For our lives to be in sync we need to set ourselves by the SAME STANDARD.
Writing to the church at Corinth, Paul stated…
“(3) But with me it is a very small thing that I should be JUDGED BY YOU or BY ANY HUMAN COURT. In fact, I DO NOT EVEN JUDGE MYSELF. (4) I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. IT IS THE LORD WHO JUDGES ME.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-4 ESV)
Paul mentioned three levels of judgment: that of public opinion, that of conscience (self), and that of the Lord. There may be great variations in the judgment (or opinion) of others. Like living in different time zones, we are not all at the same point spiritually and that can greatly affect perspective. Our own judgments may also need some adjustment. However, it is the STANDARD OF THE SON by which all other judgments or opinions need to be set. We can benefit from other’s observations and it is good to spend time in self-evaluation, but the PRECISE STANDARD for gauging our life is the SON OF GOD. May we retain Him as the “Prime Meridian” of our life!
Have a great day ALLOWING THE RULE OF CHRIST TO REGULATE THE LIFE!
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August 28, 2006
Sometimes we tend to rebel against structure because structure implies restriction and what we want is freedom. However, though we enjoy freedom there is also the need for boundaries. I am not generally afraid of heights, but if I am up high I prefer to have some type of railing or girding that provides a sense of border for safety. I can easily walk the length of a long four inch wide plank. However, if you suspend that plank twenty feet in the air I would prefer to have a protective rail beside me.
You still say you want no boundaries? Well, let’s look at it another way. How about if we knock out the walls to your house or even just your bedroom or bathroom? That would give you plenty of elbow room and freedom wouldn’t it? You wouldn’t have to use that door any more. Just think how quick you could get something from the next room. Now you tell me not to get carried away.
Structure is necessary for there to be some order to life. We need structure for our individual lives as well. What type of structure or building could describe your life? Let’s note two descriptions from the Bible.
“A man without self-control is like A CITY BROKEN INTO AND LEFT WITHOUT WALLS.” (Proverbs 25:28 ESV)
“(19) Or do you not know that your body is A TEMPLE of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, (20) for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV)
What kind of structure describes your life? Is it a city with broken down walls or is it a TEMPLE where God’s Spirit lives? Is your life like a city with the walls broken down so that any and everything can just go in and out or is it a holy place where God would be pleased to be honored? The way you view and use your freedom reveals the answer to those questions. Allow the architect of all Creation to build your life into the HOLY TEMPLE He desires it to be.
Have a great day ALLOWING GOD TO CONSTRUCT YOUR LIFE TO HIS “SPECS”!
[This focus was originally sent 06/04/1998, (Edited some and the passages has been changed to ESV)]
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August 27, 2006
Behind The Wheel!
Years ago when our children first began to drive, I reminded them that when they were behind the wheel, they had the lives of everyone else in the car in their hands. That is a sobering perspective of the responsibility taken on by a driver. Also, when we are riding with another, our willingness to go with them is a sign of trust in their ability to get us safely to our destination.
Yesterday I saw a church sign which read, “Make God your steering wheel, not your spare tire.” I know the point the statement intended to make and certainly God should be far more than a “spare” we simply reach for when we have a “blow out” in life. However, the steering wheel is controlled by whoever is driving. There are many who seem to approach God in prayer as if they were in an advisory position, steering His hand where they desire it to be. What we should do is allow GOD TO BE THE DRIVER in our life. It is God’s guidance we need and to which we must submit.
Jeremiah rightly acknowledged…
“(23) I know, O Lord, that THE WAY OF MAN IS NOT IN HIMSELF, that IT IS NOT IN MAN WHO WALKS TO DIRECT HIS STEPS. (24) CORRECT ME, O LORD, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.” (Jeremiah 10:23-24 ESV)
Are we allowing God to remain in the DRIVER’S SEAT? When Paul (known as Saul at the time) was steering his own life, he was headed down the road to Damascus to persecute the church. (Acts 9) Once Jesus was in the DRIVER’S SEAT Paul’s life was compelled by Christ’s love (2 Corinthians 5:14) as a bold servant of God. Leaving the Lord in the DRIVER’S SEAT we can know that we will be lead “in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:24) God knows best how to maneuver us through life, getting us from where we are to where He ultimately wants us. We can trust His ability to provide a safe arrival.
Have a great day LEAVING THE DRIVING TO GOD!
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August 26, 2006
Our Role In The Relationship!
I have a dictionary that lists two words, one after the other, whose meanings are world’s apart. Both of these words are associated with relationships, but have impacts dynamically opposed to each other. The two words are “betray” and “betroth”. To “betray” is defined as to deliver to an enemy by treachery, to fail or desert as in time of need, or to violate a confidence and trust. The word “betroth” refers to a promise to marry or be given in marriage. The first word describes that which would create a separation in relationships while the second points toward a relationship drawn close together.
The church is referred to by several designations, one of which is the bride of Christ. (i.e. Revelation 21:2 & 9) Paul even paralleled the relationship of Christ and the church with that of husbands toward their wives. (Ephesians 5:25-29) The way we live demonstrates whether we are FAITHFUL to our relationship with Christ or not.
Note the concern Paul expressed to the church at Corinth.
“I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I BETROTHED YOU TO ONE HUSBAND, to present you AS A PURE VIRGIN TO CHRIST.” (2 Corinthians 11:2 ESV)
Judas betrayed the Lord for a price and He was handed over to His enemies. There is a sense in which we could be bought by the world -- setting aside Christian principles in order to receive the world’s acceptance -- and by so doing be guilty of betraying the Christ with Whom we claim to have a relationship. In a world where many don’t seem to take relationships seriously, we need to demonstrate the difference FAITHFULNESS and holiness in our relationship with Christ makes. Beginning with our FAITHFULNESS to Christ, may our other relationships follow suit.
Have a great day BEING A RELATIONSHIP BUILDER!
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August 25, 2006
Worth Being Here!
As Judas began the journey down the road of betrayal (Matthew 26:14-16), though there was a plan unfolding according to the Scriptures, Judas made CHOICES that made him a player in the plan. What put Judas on the path he was traveling were CHOICES MADE BY HIM, not for him. Perhaps Jesus’ acknowledgment of his betrayal was an opportunity for Judas to repent. However, it appears that the omniscience of Jesus was unable to touch his conscience.
Regarding Judas, Jesus said…
“The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER FOR THAT MAN IF HE HAD NOT BEEN BORN.” (Matthew 26:34 ESV)
Because of the CHOICES Judas was making, it would have been better for him if he had not been born. His CHOICES were taking his life the wrong direction. Though he had been walking among the other disciples with the Master, he was not walking in a worthy manner.
Certainly we are not worthy of the salvation we have in Christ. Nevertheless, we can make righteous CHOICES and walk in a manner that reveals a sincere appreciation for the gracious forgiveness made possible in Christ. Are we making CHOICES that indicate it is good that we were born? If we are making CHOICES that are taking us away from the Lord and His Will, it would be better for us to not have come onto life’s scene. To live contrary to the Way of Christ can cause others to be led astray and ultimately leads us to condemnation. Giving careful consideration to our CHOICES as we seek to follow in the Will of God, will aid us in living a life that ultimately declares it has been worth us being here.
As the Hebrew writer listed the many heroes and heroines of faith, he referred to those “of whom the world was not worthy.” (Hebrews 11:38) Having exercised worthy faith in a faithful God, their life was characterized as the world being unworthy of their presence. To live a life characterized as such can have the potential of drawing the attention of others toward the God we serve, but will also keep ourselves on the right path.
Let us seek to make CHOICES that keep our earthly walk aligned with the Will of our Lord so that the time lived in this realm will be noted by God and others as having been worth our being here. This can be done by exercising diligence in making life CHOICES that glorify the Name of Christ, impacting the lives of those around us with Christ-like actions, and clearly declaring by word and deed the allegiance of our life to Him as Lord.
Have a great day FOLLOWING JESUS FOR A LIFE WORTH LIVING!
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August 24, 2006
An Important Acknowledgment!
After Jesus had made the statement to His disciples that one of them would betray Him, though shocked glances may have darted around the room, the focus quickly turned within.
“And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, ‘IS IT I, LORD?’” (Matthew 26:22 ESV)
The question was not “who is it?”, but rather “Is it I?” The anxious thought was not turned toward each other, but rather toward self. Imagine sitting there hearing each who wondered aloud the possibility. Accompanying the shocking notion that one of them could possibly betray the Lord, was the fear that they could be so weak as to be the one.
“Therefore let anyone who THINKS that he stands TAKE HEED lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12 ESV)
Before we proudly claim, “I could never!” we should first consider the possibility that we could! Sometimes it is wise to consider “Is it I?” in order to steer ourselves away from putting too much trust in self. It is good to examine ourselves and recognize we may not be quite as strong as we think we are. This helps to put us on guard against relying on our own strength and encourages us to keep our eyes focused the right direction. As the disciples wondered aloud, we see their focus was still on the One they called “LORD.” Continually being mindful of the LORDSHIP of Christ can serve to keep us from moving away from Him and His purposes. Perhaps that was at the very root of what caused the one who did betray to do so.
Note Judas’ response.
“Judas, who would betray him, answered, ‘IS IT I, RABBI?’ He said to him, ‘You have said so.’” (Matthew 26:25 ESV)
Did you notice the difference in phrasing between Judas’ question and that of the others? While the rest of the disciples called Jesus “LORD”, Judas called Him “Rabbi” (teacher). Judas, having already begun the journey down the road of betrayal (Matthew 26:14-16) acknowledged Jesus here as a teacher, but not as LORD. Perhaps that was because the real master in Judas’ life was money, he being guilty of helping himself to what was in their moneybag. (John 12:4-6)
Jesus made it clear what the problem will be when one tries to serve two masters. (Matthew 6:24) He said it cannot be done! A choice must be made! The idea has been expressed that Jesus is either LORD of all or not at all. Perhaps we would each do well to spend some time reflecting on what the LORDSHIP of Christ should mean in our life and then pray a prayer of re-surrender to Him. We could have no better Master than He.
Have a great day HAVING CHOSEN TO SURRENDER WHOLLY TO JESUS!
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August 23, 2006
"One Of You!"
“One of you!” What those words are connected to may lead to eager anticipation, unbelievable shock, or many other feelings in between. To stand in a crowd and hear someone announce, “One of you has won the drawing for a million dollars!” can lead to excited pondering of the possibilities of what one will do if the name drawn is theirs. To hear the words “One of you will be eliminated in this round of the contest!” can lead to a sinking feeling as one considers the possibility of it being them.
Imagine the scene as Jesus gathered with the Twelve to begin the celebration of the Passover. Jesus had spoken of things soon to happen that the disciples still did not grasp. (i.e. Matthew 26:2 & 12) They were living in eager anticipation of Jesus -- the One they recognized as the Christ, the Messiah -- establishing His kingdom. Considering the possibility of His crucifixion and death did not fit the picture in their minds. Though they had been witnessing the growing opposition to Jesus, the Twelve remained close. Eleven of them would even declare their willingness to stand with Him to the death. (Matthew 26:35) However, as Jesus and the Twelve sat together He made a statement that could have sucked the oxygen out of the room.
“(20) When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. (21) And as they were eating, he said, ‘Truly I say to you, ONE OF YOU WILL BETRAY ME.’” (Matthew 26:20-21)
Imagine the disciples’ shock to think that ONE OF THEIR OWN might do such a thing. Can you hear the gasps? Can you picture eyes opened wide and darting around the room? They knew the threats from the outside, but a betrayer from WITHIN THEIR OWN RANKS? What a horrific possibility! We must always bear in mind that Jesus holds no one by force. We always have free-will. It is entirely possible for one to walk with Christ and then fall away. (i.e. Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 6:4-6)
How sad that the worst actions can often come from WITHIN THE RANKS. Too frequently people hurt most those closest to them. It is not so much the enemy from without, but the enemy from within that catches us off guard. David knew the experience. (Psalm 41:9) Paul warned the Ephesian elders so that they would be prepared when it happened. (Acts 20:28-30) Sadly such remains a possibility in the history of mankind.
I have often been asked what my greatest disappointment has been in ministry. My response is usually, “People.” However, I say that knowing that I myself have disappointed people at times. Such is relative to our being imperfect beings. Nevertheless, “people” is what ministry must continue to be all about. It is “people” who have created the world’s chaos and it is “people” who need to come to know that the solution is found in focusing on Christ.
There are two things we must guard against. First, let us be watchful that our own actions and words do not fall into the arena of betraying our Lord. Secondly, let us not allow the actions or even the falling away of others cause us to either lose our faith or the desire to continue reaching out to others in the name of Christ with the salvation in Him all need to come to know. May we be one of those who desires above all to be faithful to God and His Will, recognizing the great value He sees in the souls of mankind.
Have a great day REMAINING ONE OF HIS!
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August 22, 2006
It is interesting when reading a passage of scripture how at one time a certain portion of a verse may stand out while at another time it is another portion of the verse that grips the heart. That is good reason to never say, “Oh, I’ve read that passage before” and then skip over it. Continuing to read through God’s Word as if we had never read it before is the best way to pick up thoughts that were perhaps missed before or were at least not as striking as they should have been. Recently reading through Psalm 119, I came across a verse that had the latter portion underlined from a previous reading. However, on this most recent reading it was the first part of the verse that captured my attention.
The verse reads…
“TURN MY EYES FROM LOOKING AT WORTHLESS THINGS; and give me life in your ways.” (Psalm 119:37 ESV)
Perhaps the first portion of this verse struck me because I had been spending some of my vacation time cleaning out our garage and in the process had been laying various items near the street in front of our house. Next to these items I had set up a “free stuff” sign and was delighted to see people stop and take away things they wanted or felt they could use. One person even stated, “Your free stuff is my new stuff.” When people thanked me for the free items I thanked them for helping me clear space in our garage. Among many of the items I had set out to give away were things I had apparently valued at one time, for why else would I have stored them up? However, it was now very easy to give them away (even if I had originally paid something for them) because they were no longer of any VALUE to me. Many of these things had not been used in so long there was no sense allowing them to TAKE UP SPACE. There was a sense in which they were now WORTHLESS to me, otherwise I would have sold them rather than given them away. Now that I have cleared a lot of space in our garage and backyard shed, I need to be careful to keep turning “MY EYES FROM LOOKING AT WORTHLESS THINGS” or I will end up piling more junk in their place. As I survey what remains in our garage my desire is to leave only those things that WILL BE USED and that possess some TRUE value.
Even more important is it for us to consider this with regard to our individual lives. It is far too easy to fill our lives with a lot of WORTHLESS stuff; activities and focuses that take up space and time without adding anything of VALUE. Like the psalmist, we need to pray for God’s help in turning our eyes away from looking at worthless things and to focus on that which is of VALUE in accordance with the ways of God. If we are not leaving room for God’s things our life is too cluttered and is not being used (like my garage) for its intended purpose.
Paul expressed a statement regarding his own transition of values as follows:
“(7) But whatever gain I had, I COUNTED AS LOSS FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST. (8) Indeed, I count everything as loss BECAUSE OF THE SURPASSING WORTH OF KNOWING CHRIST JESUS MY LORD. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and COUNTED THEM AS RUBBISH, IN ORDER THAT I MAY GAIN CHRIST.” (Philippians 3:7-8 ESV)
My view of the value of “stuff” in my garage has changed. Like Paul, our view of what we value in our life has most likely gone through transitions and some changes may still need to come. Let us take inventory, making sure what we are filling our life with is of TRUE AND LASTING VALUE in accordance with God’s Will. We may need to do some downsizing. There may be activities and focuses that need to be trashed. Let us seek God’s guidance in having our eyes continually turned toward things of TRUE WORTH so that we will find ourselves holding onto all that is of the GREATEST VALUE for this life and the eternity to come.
Have a great day STORING UP GODLY WEALTH!
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August 21, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 16 of 16)
Aloneness! Not a good feeling. Have you felt it? From aloneness begins to grow feelings such as unwantedness, desertedness, fearfulness, and even being lost. Have you been there? Have you told yourself “I feel alone” or “I am the only one standing for what is right”? A sense of aloneness can lead to despair.
God wants us to listen to His promise.
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU.’” (Hebrews 13:5 ESV)
He is there to encourage, strengthen, and deliver. We are NOT ALONE. Trust in His ever-abiding presence.
Have a great day KNOWING GOD IS THERE!
[This focus was originally sent 07/07/1999, (Edited some and the passage has been changed to ESV)]
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August 20, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 15 of 16)
“I just don’t KNOW ENOUGH Scripture.” “I’m just not smart enough.” “When I gain more knowledge I’ll begin to share my faith with others.” But will you? Will you ever feel you KNOW ENOUGH? Will I? The amazing thing about God’s Word is that the more we read it the more we learn and the more we realize we are still in need of learning. But in the process it is His wisdom we gain. We can’t tell others what we don’t know, but we can tell them what we do. We can talk about what Jesus means to us and how He has made the difference in our lives.
“(28) God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, (29) so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (30) He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, WHOM GOD MADE OUR WISDOM and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-30 ESV)
Are you listening to yourself describing your inadequacies? God knows we are inadequate by ourselves. However, He is willing to provide us with HIS WISDOM, thus enabling us to live in accordance with His Will and lead others to Him.
“If any of you LACKS WISDOM, let him ASK GOD, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5 ESV)
Let us not lean on our own understanding, but rather look to God and depend on His wisdom to guide our lives.
Have a great day LIVING BY THE WISDOM OF GOD as we walk in the steps of Jesus!
[This focus was originally sent 07/06/1999, (Edited some and the passages have been changed to ESV)]
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August 19, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 14 of 16)
Have you laid out a plan of what you aim to do when you have more faith? Have you been confronted with something you refused to attempt because you said, “I don’t have ENOUGH FAITH”? How much faith is ENOUGH? Will you ever have ENOUGH FAITH? Will I?
We need to listen to what God has revealed regarding faith. Listen to Him!
“(5) The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ (6) And the Lord said, ‘If you had FAITH LIKE A GRAIN OF MUSTARD SEED, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’” (Luke 17:5-6 ESV)
What are we doing with the faith we have? That is the real issue. There was an old man who once prayed something like this: “Lord, I don’t need faith to move mountains. If I wanted to move these mountains I could take some of this here dynamite and move them. But what I really need is ENOUGH FAITH TO MOVE ME!” Does that hit where you and I are?
“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the MEASURE OF FAITH THAT GOD HAS ASSIGNED.” (Romans 12:3 ESV)
We had ENOUGH FAITH to believe and accept Jesus as our Lord. We ought to continue growing in that faith. However, let us at least live in accordance to the faith we already possess. Even a little faith goes a long way.
Have a great day LIVING BY THE FAITH YOU HAVE!
[This focus was originally sent 07/05/1999, (Edited some and the passages have been changed to ESV)]
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August 18, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 13 of 16)
“What am I going to do?” “How is this going to work out?” “How can this possibly work out for anything good?” The thoughts arise and the words come. How often do we find ourselves worried and frustrated with life?
Listen to God and trust in His care.
“(6) Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, (7) CASTING ALL YOUR ANXIETIES ON HIM, because HE CARES FOR YOU.” (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV)
Our God is always there to go to anytime and from anywhere we might be. HE CARES very deeply for each one of us. He wants to help uplift our focus. He wants us to know we can always turn to Him. He wants us to know we don’t need to bear our burdens alone. He wants to lighten our load. Let us listen to His encouragement and learn to let go!
Have a great day GIVING YOUR CARES OVER TO HIM!
[This focus was originally sent 07/04/1999, (Edited some and the passage has been changed to ESV)]
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August 17, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 12 of 16)
What a scary world in which we live. However, is it really any different than it has ever been? Do you find yourself looking at various situations and circumstances and saying, “I’m afraid”? Fear can paralyze. Fear can restrict effectiveness. Fear can keep you from allowing God to work in and through your life.
God knows we cannot make it on our own. Therefore He wants us to keep our eyes on Him. The encouragement from God through Paul was:
“for God gave us A SPIRIT not of fear but OF POWER AND LOVE AND SELF-CONTROL.” (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)
Let us continue to look to God for the POWER TO OVERCOME our timidity and fear in active service to His glory.
Have a great day EMPOWERED BY TRUST IN GOD!
[This focus was originally sent 07/03/1999, (Edited some and the passage has been changed to ESV)]
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August 16, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 11 of 16)
“If I only had more!” “I just can’t manage with what I have?” How often have we said this? How often has this at least been our thought? But isn’t the reality most often that we have not always used what we have wisely? Generally speaking, the more people get the more they want.
God knows our needs. He wants us to trust Him and not be anxious. As Paul acknowledged the generosity of the Philippian brethren he stated:
“And my GOD WILL SUPPLY EVERY NEED OF YOURS according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 ESV)
Jesus pointed out that God is fully aware of the needs of our lives when He said...
“(32) For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER KNOWS THAT YOU NEED THEM ALL. (33) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:32-33 ESV)
God wants us to listen to His encouraging words. He knows our needs. He will provide. However, He also wants us to PUT HIM FIRST, for in so doing we will keep other things in proper perspective.
Have a great day THANKING GOD FOR HIS BOUNTIFUL PROVISION FOR LIFE!
[This focus was originally sent 07/02/1999, (Edited some and the passages have been changed to ESV)]
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August 15, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 10 of 16)
Mistakes! Goof ups! The same thing again! Blunders! Sin! We all alike have the struggle with these in this life. Some of those blunders weigh on us heavier than others. Even though forgiveness is extended, sometimes we still say, “I can’t forgive myself.” That is just where the devil wants us. If we can’t forgive ourselves we will continue to develop deep feelings of unworthiness and buy the lie that God could never love us. Then we may begin to think there is no use in asking for forgiveness.
God wants to assure us of the continual blessing He provides through the power of the blood of Jesus Christ.
God’s message through the Apostle John was...
“If we confess our sins, HE IS FAITHFUL AND JUST TO FORGIVE US OUR SINS and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9 ESV)
And God’s encouraging message through the Apostle Paul was...
“(1) There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2 ESV)
Yes, we must acknowledge sin as sin. Sin is serious stuff with which we must deal according to God’s will. What a great blessing we have in our relationship to God through Christ. What encouragement to know God is faithful. HE WILL FORGIVE. We will not be condemned, because in Christ we have been removed from under God’s condemnation.
Wow! No condemnation for those who are in Christ. Forgiven. No longer having the sin held against us. God wants us to keep listening to that because He desires to bring us peace. As He forgives, let us also forgive.
Have a great day ACCEPTING THE PEACE OF GOD’S FORGIVENESS!
[This focus was originally sent 07/01/1999, (Edited some and the passages have been changed to ESV)]
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August 14, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 9 of 16)
Oh, the frustration. So many things that just don’t appear to happen as we would expect. Do we find ourselves facing situations where we verbalize, “It’s just not worth it.”? Do we find ourselves wondering what good can possibly come from where we are?
God wants us to know…
“And we know that for those who love God ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 ESV)
Not all things are good, but God can bring us through those situations and BRING ABOUT GOOD. We may not know how He will do it, but He is able. Hang in there and keep the trust in His promise to work it all out.
Have a great day ANTICIPATING THE GOOD GOD WILL BRING ABOUT!
[This focus was originally sent 06/30/1999, (Edited some and the passage has been changed to ESV)]
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August 13, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 8 of 16)
There are many things God would like us to do as service in this life. As we consider those things, do we struggle with our own inadequacies and therefore resist getting involved in His work? Do we hear the request, but say, “I’m not able”?
God wants us to know He will be there to equip and provide what is necessary if we will step out in faith to serve as each situation arises.
“And GOD IS ABLE TO PROVIDE you with every blessing in abundance, so that having all contentment in all things at all times, YOU MAY ABOUND IN EVERY GOOD WORK.” (2 Corinthians 9:8 ESV)
Let us continually look to God to equip us to do all that He has called us to do.
Have a great day BLESSING OTHERS AS YOU ARE BLESSED!
[This focus was originally sent 06/29/1999, (Edited some and the passage has been changed to ESV)]
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August 12, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 7 of 16)
TO WHOM ARE WE LISTENING? (part 7 of 16)
Do you find yourself facing huge obstacles and in yourself declaring, “I can’t do it! I am just not able!”? It might be true. You may not have the strength. However, God wants you to remember there is One Who does and He will provide.
God wants us to know as Paul found in his own life…
“I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH HIM WHO STRENGTHENS ME.” (Philippians 4:13 ESV)
Paul was a powerful servant of God. However, he did not depend on his own knowledge and strength, but rather on the power of God working in and through His life. May we learn to do the same.
Have a great day RELYING ON HIS STRENGTH!
[This focus was originally sent 06/28/1999, (Edited some and the passage has been changed to ESV)]
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August 11, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 6 of 16)
Life is full of perplexing situations. Sometimes it is difficult to make heads or tails of life’s circumstances. Have you tried to do your best at times only to have your efforts either rejected or simply fail to work out what you thought they could? Do you find yourself throwing up your hands exclaiming, “I can’t figure things out!”?
God wants us to know we don’t have to have it all figured out. Nor are we expected to come up with all the solutions to life’s dilemmas. God’s Word exhorts…
“(5) TRUST IN THE LORD with all your heart, and DO NOT LEAN ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING. (6) In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)
Praise God that He has all of life in view. He can get us to where He is from where we are. Lean on His understanding. Follow His guidance. We can depend on it.
Have a great day trusting God to bring ORDER TO YOUR CHAOS!
[This focus was originally sent 06/27/1999, (Edited some and the passage has been changed to ESV)]
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August 10, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 5 of 16)
Have you ever focused on a trial or affliction in such a way that you found yourself saying, “I can’t go on!”? Have you faced a challenge that caused you to feel life was just not worth the effort anymore? Listen to what God wants us to understand.
Paul accepted the answer he received and was encouraged by it.
“(7) So to keep me from being too elated by the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. (8) Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. (9) But he said to me, ‘MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 ESV)
Things may not always work out the way we desire them to. However, if we recognize we are receiving what is truly needed, let us focus on the SUFFICIENCY of that! Do we understand what God’s grace means? Do we realize where it places us? Do we see how far it will take us? It is the SUFFICIENCY OF GOD’S GRACE that will take us into eternity.
Have a great day encouraged by GOD’S SUFFICIENT GRACE!
[This focus was originally sent 06/26/1999, (Edited some and the passage has been changed to ESV)]
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August 9, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 4 of 16)
Have you felt the pain of rejection in your life? Do you find yourself spending a lot of time wondering what others are thinking of you? Have you ever uttered the words, “Nobody really loves me”? God wants you to realize how far that is from the truth.
Listen to what God says through His Word.
“For GOD SO LOVED the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)
“BY THIS WE KNOW LOVE, THAT HE LAID DOWN HIS LIFE FOR US, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16 ESV)
The first passage above focused on the LOVE OF GOD while the second focused on the LOVE OF JESUS in giving Himself on our behalf. If that LOVE were not real, would God have given such a costly gift? If not for GOD’S LOVE, would He not have perhaps given up on the human race long ago? And if our LORD’S LOVE were not real, would He have endured what He did to make our salvation possible?
GOD LOVED and so He sent His Son. JESUS LOVED and so He willingly gave Himself for us. LOVE has provided all that is necessary to make our relationship with God possible. Both the Father and the Son have experienced the pain of being rejected. May we be encouraged by the depth of LOVE they have for us and continue to respond accordingly.
Have a great day knowing GOD LOVES YOU and so do I!
[This focus was originally sent 06/25/1999, (Edited some and the passages has been changed to ESV)]
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August 8, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 3 of 16)
Oh, we get so busy. There is so much to do. There is so much we find ourselves having to put up with as well. Can we keep going? Do we find ourselves saying “I’m too tired to keep pressing on. I’m too tired to keep trying.”?
Note what God wants us to hear in the invitation our Lord offered.
“(28) ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I WILL GIVE YOU REST. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
Our God knows what wears on us and wears us down. Our Lord knows what it means to become weary. However, He wants us to come to Him and He has promised to provide us THE REST WE NEED; REST from anxiety as we trust in Him, REST from weary deeds as we focus on service done to His glory, and REST from concern regarding the future because we know the glorious ETERNAL REST that awaits us. May we experience that REST as we REST our trust in Him.
Have a great day ACCEPTING THE INVITATION TO HIS REST!
[This focus was originally sent 06/24/1999, (Edited some and the passage has been changed to ESV)]
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August 7, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 2 of 16)
Have we listened to and focused on the negative or have we heard God’s positive answer for our situation in life? Have we looked at life and exclaimed, “It’s impossible!” and are ready to give up? It is true there are some things which cannot be accomplished by ourselves. God knows that. However, that’s not where we are left!
Note the encouraging truth God revealed through Jesus:
“(26) Those who heard it said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ (27) But he said, ‘What is impossible with men IS POSSIBLE WITH GOD.’” (Luke 18:26-27 ESV)
Praise God it is not left totally up to us. He can do what we can’t. When we humbly acknowledge our smallness let us remember God’s BIGNESS!
Have a great day trusting in the ONE WHO DOES THE IMPOSSIBLE!
[This focus was originally sent 06/23/1999, (Edited some and the passage has been changed to ESV)]
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August 6, 2006
To Whom Are We Listening? (part 1 of 16)
Often times the world gives counsel that is misleading. The world (including its “experts”) does not always have the things of God in mind. Therefore we need to be careful what advice or direction we accept. To whom have we given our ears? Are we listening to the world or LISTENING TO GOD?
There is another source of misdirection we need to consider also. It has been said that sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. It is easy to find ourselves focusing on our inadequacies and negative notions and allowing them to determine our view of life. Especially in those situations it is GOD to whom we must KEEP LISTENING. For all the negatives which may come to mind regarding ourselves, GOD has a positive answer on which He desires us to keep our focus. He wants us to know what He has provided and is willing to continue to provide.
“(3) His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, THROUGH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM who called us to his own glory and excellence, (4) by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV)
Have a great day LISTENING TO GOD’S ENCOURAGEMENT!
[This focus was originally sent 06/22/1999, (Edited some and the passage has been changed to ESV)]
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August 5, 2006
A “boomerang” is a tool used for hunting and as a weapon by Aborigines in Australia. It has also become a popular toy. However, there are situations in life that some seem slow to understand how certain actions can tend to “boomerang” in the sense of coming right back at themselves.
“Whoever digs a pit WILL FALL INTO IT, and a stone will COME BACK ON HIM who starts it rolling.” (Proverbs 26:27 ESV)
If this verse is connected with verses 22-26, we get a picture of deception and evil intent coming back on the one who directed it toward others. We need to consider what we are doing and the true impact it can have on self. Someone has said, “Throw mud and you will have dirty hands, whether or not the mud hits the mark.” [source: “sentence sermons”] Words, cut downs, jabs, negative remarks, etc. can be like mud thrown. While some may consider the source of such and choose to simply let it go by, the one who has thrown it is still left with DIRTY HANDS with which to deal.
Writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul exhorted…
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is GOOD FOR BUILDING UP, as FITS THE OCCASION, that it may GIVE GRACE TO THOSE WHO HEAR.” (Ephesians 4:29 ESV)
Let us be careful what we direct toward others. Whatever we hand out or toss out, how would we feel to have it return? May we be known as encouragers and promoters of peace among others. Remember, those who hand out flowers end up with some of the FRAGRANCE LEFT ON THEIR HANDS. I think I prefer that, don’t you?
Have a great day MINDFUL OF WHAT WE ARE HANDING OUT!
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August 4, 2006
Where Our Life Sits!
It can be challenging when translating from one language to another. The difficulty is in finding the right word to most accurately convey the original idea. This contributes to the complexity of making the Scriptures available in other languages. Through the process of listening to story telling in native languages, it has sometimes taken many years to come up with an alphabet and words to begin the translation process and put it in a written form. However, that process has sometimes been an enlightening one when words have been found to very beautifully communicate the depth of a Biblical principle.
The story has been told of a missionary attempting to translate the Bible into the language of the South Pacific. When it came to translating the word “BELIEVE” he was unable to find a native word that clearly conveyed the biblical concept. The right word came to light one day when he observed a native sit down and use a word that meant, “I am resting my whole weight on this chair.”
What a beautiful concept of BELIEVING; to mean “I am resting my whole weight upon.” Does that describe how we BELIEVE in God and the message of His Word? Are we resting the whole weight of our life upon Him and His Will for us? Is our view of the trustworthiness of God and His Word enough that we are able to sit with our whole life resting comfortably there?
As Paul noted the manner in which he had begun to teach the Corinthians, he stated..
“(1) And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. (2) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, (4) and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (5) that your FAITH MIGHT NOT REST IN THE WISDOM OF MEN BUT IN THE POWER OF GOD.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ESV)
Paul wanted to make sure the FAITH of the Corinthians rested on the right foundation. Where is ours resting? The “wisdom of men” can be a rickety place to sit. It sometimes looks nice, but its legs may give way, the back may fall off, or the seat may break through. On the other hand, the Power of God and the truth of His Word are adequate to support and sustain our life. With our life sitting there we don’t have to fear toppling over. We can sit down with confidence. May the world come to see how un-anxiously we are able to rest the weight of our whole life with God.
Have a great day TRUSTING GOD WITH OUR WHOLE BEING!
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August 3, 2006
Beyond The Immediate!
Sometimes people are critical of the service others offer. Some have viewed other’s actions as being wasteful or perhaps misdirected. Such was the case when Jesus was anointed in the home of Simon the leper in the town of Bethany. (Matthew 26:6-9) According to John’s Gospel the one who poured the ointment on Jesus was Mary (John 12:3), the sister of Lazarus and Martha, who were also residents of Bethany. The disciples were critical of what they saw as a waste, considering how it could have been sold with the money being used to help the poor. (Matthew 26:8-9) John’s Gospel recorded the complaint to have been perhaps instigated by Judas (John 12:4-5) and provided a glimpse into what was behind Judas’ complaint (John 12:6); his own greed. However, within Jesus’ response to the reaction of those who witnessed Mary’s actions, we have a marvelous statement regarding what she had done.
“(10) But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For SHE HAS DONE A BEAUTIFUL THING to me. (11) For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. (12) In pouring this ointment on my body, SHE HAS DONE IT TO PREPARE ME FOR BURIAL.” (Matthew 26:10-12 ESV)
First, Jesus referred to Mary’s actions as being “a beautiful thing.” Secondly Jesus accepted her anointing as PREPARATORY to His burial. John recorded that Jesus went to Bethany six days prior to the Passover (John 12:1) and close to this account Matthew recorded Jesus as saying the Passover was two days away. (Matthew 26:2) Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion were drawing near. Did Mary understand what the disciples still struggled to perceive even though the Lord had been preparing them for what lay ahead? (i.e. Matthew 20:18-19 & 26:2) Even if she had no clue and had not offered her gift thinking of Jesus’ coming death and burial, Jesus both accepted and acknowledge her actions as PREPARATORY to His burial. That opportunity did not present itself immediately following Jesus’ death because of the Passover and then Jesus rose from the tomb before it could be done afterward. (note Luke 23:54-56 & 24:1-3) [However, John’s Gospel does mention Nicodemus (who accompanied Joseph of Arimathea in taking the body of Jesus to the tomb) having taken a mixture of myrrh and aloes. (John 19:39-40)]
Now, here’s the point I think it might be worthy to consider with regard to our own actions. Do we ever consider the possibility that the good deeds we perform could also be PREPARATORY to things we do not fully understand at the time? Our own actions may be links in a longer chain of events impacting far beyond our initial intent! May that encourage us to eagerly serve as the opportunities present themselves, not caring so much about the criticism of others, but rather genuinely seeking to please our Lord and glorify His Name.
Have a great day SERVING FOR THE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF CHRIST!
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August 2, 2006
We like when others make us to feel at home among them. When we can relax and be ourselves in another’s home, we know the relationship is a good one. Does it not also make us feel good when those who have let us in have allowed us to bring in some of our own personal things and also show a genuine interest in what we have to say?
Writing to the church at Colosse, Paul exhorted…
“(16) LET THE WORD OF CHRIST DWELL IN YOU RICHLY, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (17) And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16-17 ESV)
What Paul was urging has to be ALLOWED to happen. The WORD OF CHRIST must be welcomed into our life. Though HIS WORD is Sovereign and will judge us all in the last day (John 12:47-48), He does not force His Will upon us. We must open the door of our heart and mind allowing His teaching to come in.
If we have opened the door of our life to the WORD OF CHRIST, how much at home is it in us? The Greek “enoikeo” is literally to “dwell in” (“en”, “in” and “oikeo”, “to dwell” or “inhabit”) [“oikos” is a “house”]. Are we allowing the WORD OF CHRIST to settle in, be itself and become very much at home in our life? Do we continually show a genuine interest in what Christ has said? Have we provided space in a small part of our “house” or have we allowed HIS WORD to inhabit our life richly and abundantly in every room, nook and cranny?
If we ourselves have become comfortable having the WORD OF CHRIST inhabiting us abundantly, then that speaks well of the relationship and our desire to be influenced most by what pleases our Lord. It then becomes very natural for every word and deed of our life to be expressed “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” May the WORD OF CHRIST not merely be a guest that comes and goes, but rather have its permanent dwelling with us. As we remain mindful of maintaining our life as a suitable dwelling for CHRIST’S WORD, we will be led ultimately toward our going home with Him for eternity.
Have a great day A HOLY ABODE FOR THE WELCOMED WORD!
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August 1, 2006
The orders are given. The mission is launched. The focus is on victory and how bitter/sweet is its attainment! Others have paid the price for some of the blessings we enjoy. Personal sacrifices have been made on our behalf. COMMANDS were given, obeyed, and missions were declared a success. That is no more true than with regard to our life spiritually.
Note an interesting statement made by David.
“Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; YOU HAVE GIVEN THE COMMAND TO SAVE ME, for you are my rock and my fortress.” (Psalm 71:3 ESV)
When we think of the COMMANDS of God, we generally focus on the principles of Scripture that we are to take to heart and to which we are to obediently submit. That being so, have we considered God having given the COMMAND TO SAVE us? David had confidence in God’s ability to save and expressed it in terms of God having COMMANDED it to be so. According to Strong’s lexicon, the Hebrew translated “command” is “tsavah”, which conveys the primary meanings of “to command, charge, give orders, lay charge, give charge to, order.” Just as God’s authority is behind the COMMANDS we are to obey, so it is behind the plan that has made our salvation possible.
Jesus was sent into this world on a specific mission.
“For GOD did not SEND HIS SON INTO THE WORLD to condemn the world, but in order THAT THE WORLD MIGHT BE SAVED THROUGH HIM.” (John 3:17 ESV)
Our Heavenly Father wants our salvation so much that He COMMANDED for the means of it to be taken care of by giving the Son the CHARGE of coming to earth and securing the victory. Coming into this realm, Jesus obediently followed the plan on our behalf.
As Paul declared…
“HE HUMBLED HIMSELF BY BECOMING OBEDIENT TO THE POINT OF DEATH, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8 ESV)
Our Lord’s obedience was exercised on our behalf and He fulfilled His mission in each detail. In His last breath on the cross He declared “IT IS FINISHED.” (John 19:30) His blood had been shed and sin could “once for all” (Hebrews 9:26; 10:10) be dealt with in an adequate way. Then He rose from the dead to lead toward the everlasting victory of life eternal.
What God COMMANDS He expects to be carried out! The COMMAND TO SAVE has been given. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, submitted to the plan and accomplished the mission. May we completely surrender our life to Him so that we may enjoy the victory He has secured.
Have a great day ASSURED OF THE AUTHORITY BEHIND OUR SALVATION!
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