“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:1-5
Jesus doesn’t pull any punches here. He makes it abundantly clear that we must bear fruit or we will be “cut off” and “thrown into the fire.” Have you responded to an alter call? Have you said a “sinner’s prayer?” Do you call yourself a Christian? Maybe you’ve even been baptized… But are you bearing fruit? What fruit is Jesus speaking of? Galatians 5:22-23 tells us “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” But notice, he’s not telling us to try harder, get our act together, or buck up and make it happen… He doesn’t tell us to “produce” this fruit… but rather to “bear” this fruit. And how do we bear this fruit? We simply remain in him.
So how do we remain in him? Romans 7:4 tells us “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” The term “joined to” here is the same language used when a husband and wife are “joined together” in marriage. The Lord has blessed me with a beautiful, godly wife. I crave intimacy with her. I look forward with great anticipation to our time alone. But that doesn’t just happen by chance. We have been married nearly thirty years and have made choices in that time that have drawn us closer together. We have made our marriage a priority. Because of those choices, we have a bond of trust. We have made a point over those years of setting aside time to spend alone (which isn’t always easy with seven children). Throughout the day, a gentle touch as she passes by… stopping for just a moment to give her a kiss… a kind word of encouragement… these moments and the special times set aside make all the difference in our relationship. Could it be that to remain “in Christ” requires the same kind of commitment and fidelity? Could it be that we can increase our intimacy with Him by our choices? A few moments in the car worshiping Him rather than listening to the news… a prayer of thanks… and of course, the “set aside” times to be alone with Him… can make all the difference. The Lord has blessed my intimacy with my wife with the fruit of seven children. And rest assured, if you are spending time with the Lord, he will produce pleasing fruit in your life. He does the producing, we do the bearing. I encourage you to make Him your number one priority. Remain in Him... He is the source of life, the source of peace, the source of LOVE. He craves intimacy with you... do you crave intimacy with Him?
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. – James 4:8
Whoever does not LOVE does not know God, because God is love – 1 John 4:8
I see these signs all over my neighborhood. But it begs the question... What is love? How do you define it? The word love in the verse above is (agapaō) which means to be well pleased with, contented with, and fond of. And to “know” in this context is (ginōskō) which means to feel, understand, perceive, have intimate knowledge of. Do you LOVE your neighbor? What if they have different political ideals? What if they are of a different social class, or race, or ideology? Honestly, are you well pleased with them? Are you contented with them? Are you fond of them? The truth is, this kind of love cannot be somehow worked up by our own effort. It must flow out of our intimacy with God – we must KNOW Him. This knowledge and experience of love must be received before it can be given and it can only come from God. Notice, he doesn’t say “love is God.” He says “God is love.” We live in a culture that increasingly defines “love” as something very un-godly. When you remove God from “love” it is no longer love. Note, these signs say “love is love” – literally taking God out of the equation. They are insisting on their own definition of love. But it is not love. It is quite the opposite. And out of that intolerance for the supremacy of God, who defines love – who IS love, they have built a movement of hate… calling it love. The underlying anger in our culture… the underlying tension that continues to build… is not based in love. It is based on a lie. It claims tolerance while insisting on conformity. It claims peace and unity while breeding division. It claims love while being fueled by hate. Our only hope as individuals is to know God through His Son. Our only hope as a nation is to turn to Him. In the last days, Scripture teaches us that Jesus’ disciples will be known by our LOVE for one another. But the very love of God working in and through us, will be portrayed as hate by those given over to the evil one. Speaking the truth about sin… out of love… is being defined as hate. Proclaiming the good news of the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ… out of love… is defined as intolerant. Standing up for the lives of the innocent… speaking out for the unborn… out of love… is defined as hurting women. Nevertheless, because we know the love of God, we will be a light in the darkness. We will proclaim God’s love… a love that paid a great price to set us free from sin - not allow us to wallow in it. This is a message of love... For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. Do you believe in Jesus? Have you entered into a covenant relationship proclaiming him as Lord of your life? Whoever confesses with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in their heart that God raised him from the dead… shall be saved. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life… no one comes to the Father except through me.” God's love was made known to us all through the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of His Son. We come to know His love for ourselves through His Son. And we show the world His love by the gospel of the good news of His Son.
If you want to know this love, join me in this prayer… Lord, I proclaim Jesus as Lord of my life. I surrender all to Him. Cleanse me from all unrighteousness by the blood of Your Son. And fill me with your Holy Spirit. I want to know you. I want to know your love in all its fullness. Help me this day to keep always before me the power, majesty and beauty of your love. It is so easy to be consumed by the cares of life which are, in the end, so utterly unfulfilling and empty. The only thing that ever has or ever will satisfy is your love. Burn away everything that hinders the flow of your love in and through my life. Grant me the grace to be a reflection of the love you have shown me. Empower me and enable me to love as you love.
May it be so in Jesus’ name
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. - John 3:16
For God SO loved the world… What does this mean? The word SO in the Greek text is οὕτω(ς) – pronounced “hoytō” which means “after this manner.” God loved the world… in this manner… this is how he loved… That he gave his only begotten Son… that whosoever BELIEVES… There is a promise - and a condition. The promise is that we should not perish, but have everlasting life. The condition is that we must believe. So, what does it mean to “believe” in Him? Believe in the Greek text is πιστεύω – pronounced “pisteuō” which means “to entrust to one with complete fidelity.” It is so much more than just believing to be true… it is a commitment to fidelity. Jesus requires that we be faithful to Him. It is a love relationship of the deepest kind.
In Ephesians 3:17-19 we see where Paul writes “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” To be filled to the full measure of all the fullness of God… what a statement! The primary attributes of God are His love… and His holiness. The two are interweaved and cannot be separated. As followers of Christ, these two attributes should be evident in our lives… Love and holiness. Any idea of love that does not include holiness is not love. As parents, we cannot love our children without disciplining them. As husbands and wives, we cannot love each other without fidelity. As brothers and sisters in the Lord, we cannot love one another without holding one another accountable. And as Christians, we cannot love our neighbor without standing for righteousness. In this manner, God loved us… that He gave his son… as a sacrifice – one who received our punishment… so that we could be cleansed of our sin… so we could be holy. In 1 Peter 1:16 the Lord commands us “Be ye holy; for I am holy.” John 4:16 tells us “God is love.” It does not say “love is God.” Love is defined by the very nature of God, not the reverse. This world tries to put its own definition on love and then attribute that idea to God. It is an attitude of permissiveness towards sin. But love, as defined by God, requires holiness… and He has made a way, through His Son, to make us holy.
May you grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ this day. May you experience the reality of His love. And may you become a conduit of that love to others. For God is love… as He has defined it.
As followers of Christ, we are instructed in Matthew 16: 24“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
When we surrender our lives to Jesus (for that is what it means to be a Christian) He will put his finger on certain things in our life and say “this I require of you.” For the rich young ruler who came to him asking “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Jesus didn’t answer “bow your head and say this sinner’s prayer with me. Rather he said “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Jesus was testing Him, for he knew what was in his heart. If he had come to Jesus asking “What can YOU do that I might have eternal life?” he would have been asking the correct question. But the young man had asked “what can I do?” He knew he was missing something… there was more… “What do I still lack?” he asked. Now, Jesus could get to the heart of the matter. What was it that He would put his finger on in this man’s life? What was it that was keeping him from full surrender? “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” The call of Christ is the same to us all… full surrender. Whatever you want to hold on to, be sure he will require that you let it go.
Now, my story gets very personal: When my beautiful wife and I wed, we had plans for our future. She was just starting college and was on her way to becoming and educator and I had visions of becoming a great entrepreneur. Children were something we figured we might want one day, but not for quite some time. But we had a clear and unmistakable conviction… God was putting his finger on THIS area of our lives. We were to “let go and let God” regarding children. And so, we chose not to use birth control… as an act of obedience to God. And to our surprise, my wife was able to finish college and get a year of teaching in before our first child came along. Then, just a few years later, our second came along. We had two beautiful, healthy daughters. And so, my testimony was “look at how faithful God has been.” His timing had been perfect. Our plans aligned with His and all was bright and sunny. But then a cloud came into our lives. A miscarriage. A painful, late term miscarriage. “But God, we were obedient” I cried out. “How could You allow this?” How could it possibly be in his plan for this life to grow in my wife’s womb only to parish before seeing the light of day? What was the point? And for years I thought “well, maybe God just wanted to bring us through this experience so we could understand the pain of others who go through this particular trial.” And it certainly did give me more empathy for others in that regard. And so, as the clock of our lives kept ticking on, the Lord gave us more children – seven now. But… we have had other miscarriages too. And so, in the back of my mind has always been the question of why. And God, being the good Father, revealed something from His heart to me. Scripture tells us very clearly that God is the author of life. God’s word tells us “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.” – Jeremiah 1:5. And “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” – Psalm 139:13 And so, God asked me “how do I make people?” The answer blew me away. In His divine wisdom, He uses us. The life of every human being begins in the womb of a mother. Even Jesus, the Son of God, began his earthly journey as a tiny embryo – in the holy womb of His mother. And it is only recently that I have come to a broader and fuller understanding of God’s plan in our lives. When God creates the human soul, he does so through the womb of a woman. The miracle of life, the spark of the flame of each of our existence, begins in the womb. And God has a plan and a purpose for every life. Your life, my life, and the lives of each of our children. I pray over all seven of my precious children. I claim God’s plan for their lives and reject the enemy’s efforts to steel, kill, and destroy. But what of the other souls that God brought into existence through my wife’s womb? What is their purpose? The fact is, we are finite beings with limited understanding of things eternal. But God doesn’t look at things the way we do. This life is but a vapor. We are here for just a moment. God chose to bring into existence these children – human beings wonderfully and fearfully created in His image – and He most certainly DOES have a plan for them. He has an eternal plan for them to spend eternity with him. Their voices will join in the chorus of one hundred million angels who sing day and night “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord.” He wanted these children to spend eternity with Him. But His plan for them happened to bypass the cares of this life. He has a plan for each of us, for our time here on earth. But this is just a tiny portion of His plan for us. His plan for us is eternal. I exhort you to “set your mind on things above, not on the things of this world.” For the children of God, He promises a bright future… “They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” – Psalm 36:8
And so, whatever God puts his finger on in your life today, give it to him with open hands and an open heart. God chose to make you, to form you in your mother’s womb. He has a plan, not only for your life here on earth, but for an eternity with Him. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” – Romans 11:33
Sand is great for a lot of things. It can be used to filter water, it is used in mortar, and of course we love our beautiful sand beaches. But you DO NOT want to build a house on it. The sand will erode away, and your house will be destroyed. Likewise, if you build your faith on a person, however wonderful they may be, it will erode away. If your faith is going to stand the test of time and if it is to stand life’s trials, victories, and hardships alike; it must be built upon your relationship with God. In Genesis 3:8 we see an intimate picture of God, the Creator and sustainer of the universe, walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. When they sinned, separating themselves from that intimate relationship, He already had a plan of restoration. That plan was fulfilled in the salvific work at the cross, when Jesus paid the price for our sin. He took the full force and brunt of all of our shame. He experienced the excruciating moment of separation from the Father so that we could have eternity with Him. He sacrificed everything for the “pearl of great price." You are the pearl of great price. Did you think He was referring to himself as the pearl? No, my dear friend, you are the pearl. He is the one who paid the price, not us. He is the one who pursued us… while we were yet sinners. No one in this world can ever love you so completely or so perfectly as Jesus. You cannot build your faith on your pastor, priest, husband or wife. You cannot build your faith on anyone, however important they may be. They must not be the foundation of your faith. But where does faith come from? Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by “hearing the word of God.” And Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the “substance” of what we hope for. When God speaks, he creates “substance.” When he said “let there be light” – brother, there was light. When he said “let there be dry land” – there was dry land. That’s the kind of substance your faith must be built on – or it is not faith... it is just empty hope. Build your faith on YOUR relationship with God. Allow Him to speak into your life (yes, He may do so at times through others), but listen for HIS voice. The spiritual life of the disciple of Christ is so much more than consistency to conscience or convictions; the faith of the Christian… the foundation, is fidelity to Jesus Christ. If you have never heard His voice, ask for ears to hear. And then listen. He says “my sheep know my voice.” He wants to speak into your life today. He wants to reveal the beauty of His heart to you. He wants to impart His righteousness to you. He wants to give you abundant life. Call upon His name today… pray “Jesus, make yourself known to me. Give me ears to hear your voice. Give me a heart to receive your wisdom. And use my life to glorify you.” May it be so in Jesus' name. "All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away." - John 6:37
As I was driving to a job site yesterday, I noticed this broken-down house on the side of the road. It caught my attention to the point that I actually took the time to pull over and take a photograph of it. I knew the Holy Spirit had a lesson for me. You see, my Heavenly Father is a good and benevolent Father who takes the time to teach me along the way, wherever I am going. I hope you experience the same thing. If you don’t, you can. He desires to have an intimate relationship with you. Anyway, I was on my way to a job site where they just broke ground on a new shopping center. Several years of planning, making deals with tenant anchors, and all the financing and everything has been done. And now I come on the scene to mark where we will be putting the road signs. Its new growth. Its hard work, and investment, and hopes for profit. It’s all good stuff. But it is all temporary - I was struck by this fact as a took a moment to look at this wreck of a house. It was once the pride of a new home owner. Who knows how many memories were made there, children raised, meals shared, and lives lived? I think of my own home, built 120 years ago. No one alive today who first lived here – all dead and gone. There are natural forces at work that have to be constantly addressed… walls to be painted, grass to be cut, trees to be trimmed, floors to be cleaned and maintained. It is a constant march towards rot and decay. Left alone, it would fall down like this old wreck I’m looking at in a matter of years. I think of nations that have risen and fallen throughout the ages – our own nation, falling apart. I think of all of the great plans of proud men and how quickly they come to nothing. It is all so very temporary. Our very life on this earth is fleeting. As I am writing this, the clock is ticking every moment, closer to my last breath. This world is incredibly transient. Every day, people die and people are born. I think of my own children and how they will remember me. I think of their children – will I live long enough to imprint on their memory? And by the third generation, will anyone remember me? Will they even remember that I existed? Man, if my focus is on the things of this world, my life is pointless. If I am caught up in how nice my house looks, how good my hair or clothes are, or how I am perceived by others… I am nothing more than a vapor that will soon dissipate into nothingness. But I am not. I am fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s own image. I am destined for eternity with Him. And, my dear brothers and sisters… you too can have this blessed hope… this eternal outlook. Colossians 3: 2 tells us “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” And 2 Corinthians 4:18 says “we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” God has a plan and a purpose for your life far beyond these temporal things… things of eternal value…. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” - Ephesians 2:10
I encourage you today, as you go about your daily routine, to focus on the eternal. I encourage you to offer yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Your home, your car, your clothes, and even your body… they are all on a path to decay. So, give your all to God. Let him lead you this very day in His perfect will… to do good works He has prepared for you, and you will store up treasures in heaven.
May it be so in Jesus’ name
Today we celebrate one of our most beloved of American heroes. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of conviction, courage, and most importantly… a man of great love. I have spent many hours listening to his sermons and find in them a resounding truth – a truth that has been lost in the chaos, confusion, and destructiveness of the current culture. His message of love overcoming hate, defending the right of every man and women to be treated with dignity and equity, and racial reconciliation inspired me as a young boy and has continued to be a touchstone for me throughout my life. Below are a few quotes worth your consideration, particularly in our current political and sociological climate:
“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.” – This is such a fundamental statement that applies to all of our endeavors and inter-personal relations. Matthew 16:5 tells us clearly that if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven. Bitterness is like a cancer – it has taken root in our culture and must be removed through repentance and revival.
“Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.” – John 4:20 tells us “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.” – This is such an important statement and it applies to the ongoing fight to end abortion in our nation. To say it is someone’s choice to kill a baby inside the womb is to say that life does not have a right to protection under the law… because we do not value that life. Slavery and segregation laws were unjust in that they did not value every human life… Abortion laws do exactly the same thing. Dr. Alveda King (niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) recently differentiated between the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church — where her grandfather, father, and famous uncle served as pastors — and Horizon’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Warnock (recently elected to the Senate) was pastor. Dr. Alveda King said “Historic Ebenezer was an altar that was raised to God in the Bible. Now, the Horizon’s Ebenezer is an altar to Baal.” We must be a voice for the voiceless until these innocent babies are afforded equal protection under the law.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” – The current trend from ungodly organizations such as BLM are a direct affront to this dream. Critical race theory, ravaging our nation, represents the exact opposite of what Dr. King taught and died for. We cannot continue the current trend of racial division or we will tear ourselves apart. For the Christian, Scripture clearly teaches that for those who are in Christ, our identity is in Him alone – male, female, black, white, Jew, Gentile, etc. We are all of one mind and one purpose in Christ and will be known by our love for one another.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – This is where the rubber hits the road. Will you stand for righteousness in a culture that calls good evil and evil good? We live in a culture that says the family unit as God created it is bad. We live in a culture that says men aren’t really men and women aren’t really women. We live in a culture that says the life in the person in the womb doesn’t matter and that a mother has a “right” to the pre-meditated murder of the very child God says she should love and cherish. But who will stand for righteousness? Who will stand against the tide in times of challenge and controversy – who will stand for truth?
“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” – Love truly sets us free. When we decide to love our enemies and forgive those who have wronged us, we are set free from the bondage of hate. We are empowered to do good and change the world.
“He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” – Again, we see the principal of the power of forgiveness. If you cannot forgive someone, you cannot claim to love them. If you cannot love them, you cannot claim to love God. If you do not love God, you have violated the first and greatest commandment and are in danger of hell fire.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” – This is my favorite of all Dr. King quotes. We are living in a world of darkness and lies. The light of love and truth must overcome the darkness and hate. We must forgive. We must love one another. And we must reject lies and embrace the truth.
May we all remember the words of Dr. King. May we take them to heart and stand for truth, righteousness, and love.
Here’s my TOP TEN ideas for “making America great”… I borrowed this list from my favorite book. Read’em and see if you can figure out where these great ideas came from:
1. Love and serve the One True God - make him #1 priority in life
2. Don’t worship anything other than God
3. Don’t misuse God’s name. Honor Him – Don’t call him by other names and don’t say stupid stuff like “amen and awomen” – that’s very disrespectful… “Amen” is actually a Hebrew word that affirms the God if Israel and His Holy name.
4. God gave us seven days in a week. Use one to rest and spend special time with God (a great way to do this is to meet with other people who love God and learn more about Him, worship Him corporately, and encourage each other to stay close to Him)
5. Honor mom and dad – I know “honor” is a word we’ve forgotten. It means to treat them with respect and dignity and look after them... the opposite of that would be to ignore them, speak badly about them, and a lot of folks these days even blame all their own problems on their parents - that's definitely not what this means.
6. Don’t murder another human being – that includes the babies in the womb, children at every stage, adults, and old folks. I know you may have heard that people aren't people till they are born - that's just not true... the Bible (oops, I just gave away my source) says so.
7. Don’t have sex with anyone other than your husband (if you are a woman) or your wife (if you are a man) – In case you are wondering which is which, it works like this: If you have a penis you are a man and if you have a vagina you are a woman (kinda’ neat and simple how God made that ain’t it). Oh, and by the way, lookin' at someone who isn't your husband or wife and imagining having sex with them... Jesus said that's just as bad. So keep your eyes on your own paper there sparky.
8. Don’t steal – If you didn’t earn it or if it wasn’t a gift to you from a willing participant. It ain’t yours – leave it alone.
9. Don’t lie about anyone or misrepresent what they say or do. That includes politicians and people who call themselves things like “journalist.” (that would be people who’s job it is to find out what is happening in the world that might be of interest and provide an honest and unbiased account to the public) Yes, that is a real thing! By the way, saying something - even if it's true - out of context... that's kinda the same thing, isn't it.
10. Don’t covet – that means be satisfied. Don’t always be wanting more stuff, particularly other people’s stuff (try just being happy for them if they have something nice). Be thankful for what you have and take care of it. Be generous with it and share with others.
Aren't those great ideas? Man, every one makes so much sense. I just know, if we start doing this, we’ll have a great county and won’t have to worry about riots, who won what election, who we’re supposed to hate or who we’re supposed to support, out of control national debts (or personal debt)… Heck, that stuff’ll just go away. Really – it will. I think it’s a great idea. How about you?
Oh, and here’s some bonus material… This is REALLY GOOD STUFF... listen to this one: Love each other. Wow, that one is almost right up there with loving God. C'mon folks, let's do our part.
"There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people." – 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Sound familiar? It certainly looks to me a lot like what we are witnessing in our culture today – more than ever, right now. We should expect to see these behaviors from the ungodly unregenerate people of this world. Those who have not received the message of the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ are subject to the tactics of the evil one. But this Scripture warns us about those who call themselves Christians (having a form of godliness) who portray these characteristics. What does it say to do about these people? HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH SUCH PEOPLE. Pastors who preach racial division, those who condone sexual immorality and murdering innocent babies – HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. There is a falling away happening right now. There is a sifting and a separating that must take place. Why must this happen? Because God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, is preparing a church for His return. We will be a people known for our love for one another. We will be a people who stand for righteousness. And we will be ONE – even as Jesus and the Father are one… that’s pretty darned ONE. But get ready. This oneness isn’t going to just slide on like a silk gown (I’m not sure why I used that analogy – I guess it sounds luxurious and easy). We are warned… “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” – vs. 12-13. Did you catch that? WE WILL BE PERSECUTED
Paul goes on to exhort us as follows: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” - Chapter 4 vs. 1-5 We have an opportunity like never before to be a light in the darkness. We have an opportunity to be conduits of God’s grace and mercy and love. We have an opportunity to stand in stark contrast to a world headed for hell and destruction and point people to the straight and narrow gate – Jesus. Be not afraid. Be strong and courageous. And be of good cheer.
As Paul knows his own execution is to soon be carried out, he ends his letter to Timothy with these words: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Keep your eyes on Jesus my dear brothers and sisters in Christ. For those of us who long for His appearing… do you long for His appearing? For those of us who long for His appearing, we are encouraged to fight the good fight, to keep the faith… and we are promised this in Revelation 2:7 “To the overcomer, I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.”
May it be so in Jesus’ name.
Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. -Philippians 4:4
Are you disappointed in our government? Rejoice in THE LORD. Have your parents, friends, children, or coworkers let you down? Rejoice in THE LORD. Are you at your wits end with your husband or wife? Rejoice in THE LORD. Has your pastor or your church let you down? Rejoice in the LORD.
In Psalm 62:2 King David exhorts us “He (THE LORD) is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress. I will never be shaken.”
In Proverbs 29:25 his son, Solomon says “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe."
Psalm 118:8 encourages us with these words “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.”
Isaiah 26:4 declares “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
Psalm 56:4 reminds us “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” Remember those words? “In God we trust.” I have searched the Scriptures and haven’t found a single verse that says “in the president I trust” – “in my husband I trust” – “in my wife I trust” – “in my employer I trust” – “in my friends I trust” – Or even “in my pastor I trust.” No, all of our confidence is in the one who will never be shaken. It is in Him that we trust. It is in Him that we have confidence. And it is in Him that we REJOICE.
Rejoice in the Lord… ALWAYS. No matter what things look like, no matter what circumstances you find yourself in… REJOICE IN THE LORD. My fellow Christians, we do not need to go about hanging our head and clicking our tongues with worry and woe. We are not of this world. We belong to another Kingdom. Yes, we should speak out against unrighteousness. Yes, we pray that those who lie and cheat and steal – those who’s father is the devil – we pray that their deception will be exposed. We should, without a doubt – and whoever they are – pray for our leaders. We need to do battle – on our knees – for we battle not against flesh and blood. But don’t let the enemy steal your joy.
REJOICE IN THE LORD… A-L-W-A-Y-S! And again I say REJOICE!