Crumbs From the Table

“Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”  (Matthew 15:21-28, KJV)

Jesus didn’t often leave the land of Israel when He walked the earth, but this is one occasion when He did. He had finished feeding five thousand people and had told His disciples to get into a boat, push off the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and go “before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away”. (Matt. 14:22b KJV)

When Jesus arrives at the other side of the sea, after having walked on it, and calming the wind and the waves, He winds up in Gennesaret in the area of Galilee. From there, Jesus travels northwest to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea up to Phoenicia where we find two coastal cities; one Tyre and the other Sidon both located in the Province of Syria.

While Tyre and Sidon did fall within the boundaries of the land promised to Israel from God, the tribe of Asher never really conquered all the people within this territory, and therefore it was even now inhabited by Gentiles. It is here somewhere in this area that we find our Lord having entered into a house where apparently He wanted to hide His presence, but alas, He could not do so. (Mark 7:24).

While inside this home, a woman of Canaan (also called a Syro-Phoenician woman in Mark 7:26 clearly indicating she was not a Jew, but a Gentile) finds Jesus there. How did she know He was there? Scripture doesn’t tell us. But what we do know is that this woman is in complete distress. Something has grabbed her emotionally and physically and she is a wreck.  As soon as she sees Jesus, she falls at His feet (Mark 7:25) and cries out, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.” (v. 22)

And isn’t this how we are to come to Jesus when in trouble or distress? To fall at His feet and cry out to Him asking for His mercy upon us? That’s exactly what this Gentile woman did. And in addition, she cries out to Him by His rightful names: “O Lord, thou Son of David”, for He is both Lord and Son of David. But may I say that His response to her is quite amazing, even perhaps alarming when first read. For “He answered her not a word”.

What! A woman comes to the only One who can heal her young daughter (Mark 7:25), falls at His feet in a distinct form of humility, adoration, worship, and as a sign of her unworthiness, and Jesus answers her not? What must have been going through that woman’s mind right now? Might it have been, “Well He must not be God or He’d heal my daughter”, or perhaps, “He can heal her, but He simply doesn’t want to”, or “He’s not taking pity on me”, or perhaps she’s thinking  even He doesn’t have the kind of power needed to heal her daughter from this demon possession. Does she feel ashamed, hurt, embarrassed, disregarded, like a second class citizen, or some other feeling of being  disparaged by Him? We shall see.

In the meantime, the disciples essentially ask Jesus to do what she asks and send her away because she’s causing quite a disruption.  You see, her pleas on behalf of her daughter were not whispers; they were not even spoken to Jesus in a normal tone of voice. No, she was yelling, perhaps even screaming through her tears and torment, when she came to Him. And this scene that she was apparently causing, forced the disciples to want her to leave such that they would no longer be bothered or embarrassed by her erratic, frenetic behavior.

Now when the disciples asked Jesus to send her away, He answers them and says, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Ouch!   Jesus tells the disciples and the woman hears, that He came for the Jews.  And by the next verses we know that the woman knows exactly what Jesus is saying. He is saying that He came for His own people, and with that, the woman may have thought her case was hopeless. But again, quite to the contrary, she is neither undaunted nor discouraged  by the Lord’s reply to His disciples.

Verse 25 tells us, “Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.” Because of her faith, she does not give up. Quite the opposite, she came and worshipped Him. We don’t know exactly how she worshipped Him, because the verse doesn’t directly tell us, but I believe her worship consisted of the display of her incredible faith; a faith that led her to say once again, “Lord help me!”  (Notice this time she drops the “Son of David” label as that is primarily a Jewish term essentially meaning “Messiah” or the chosen One of Israel. She acknowledged that she was not a Jew and therefore calls Him only “Lord”. But indeed, that is who He truly is!)

You might be thinking, OK Jesus, she’s proved herself and her faith. Come on now, please save her daughter! But to prove again that His ways are not our ways, He replies, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” What!?  You mean Jesus is saying to her, well I’ve got the power but it is being reserved for the House of Israel?  And beyond that, did you catch that He is calling her a dog? Jesus? Calling anyone a dog? I don’t understand. I don’t comprehend. I’m even taken back a bit by all of this. Can this really be what the Lord said to this woman who is in such deep duress?

But Jesus knew exactly what He was saying and doing; we now find out why. It is her response and it is absolutely incredible and extraordinary. Read this carefully and meditate on it for a moment. Here it is: “And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”  She says, “Truth, Lord”! She exclaims, what you have said Lord is true; it is true that I am a dog.  I am unworthy to be in your presence. I am unworthy to be asking you this favor. I am unworthy to be at your feet. I am a dog. When I compare myself to you, calling me a dog is probably giving me more credit than I deserve!

Now let’s put ourselves in the woman’s shoes. Who wants to be called a dog? Whether it’s a family dog or a dog of the street, that’s a downright demeaning and degrading term. And I would suggest that we would take offense to anyone saying that about us. Our anger would rise, our emotions would take over, and we would almost immediately get into an emotional and physical pose as to be quite ready to fight back and fight back hard.

You see, in our sinfulness, we have a tendency to bring God down to be a little (or a lot) lower than He actually is and we also have a tendency to place ourselves a little (or a lot) higher than we really are. The end result of this sinfulness is that we think we are closer to God in our very being and in our ways than we truly are. In reality, we are worse than dogs in light of His holiness, majesty, power, omniscience, and character.

But not this woman. She knows exactly who she is and she tells Jesus, it is true Lord, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”  In other words, “Lord I am completely and utterly unworthy of your mercy or grace ever! I know that! But perhaps you might have some mercy left over after having dispensed what you determine to freely give to your people; and if so, I am here willing to take even the leftovers of your grace”.

This is unbelievable! This in incredible faith! This is undoubting faith! This is unwavering faith! This is “I’m digging my heels in and not moving” faith! This these are the words Jesus was looking for. Did He not know the profound faith she had before she exclaimed it? Certainly not! For He knows everything. No, this event was not for His ears, it was for the disciples and for all of those who have read this and will ever read it; to be certain of these truths: a) Jesus came for both the Jew and the Gentile, b) salvation is for both Jew and Gentile, c) both Jew and Gentile are welcome into the Kingdom of Heaven, d) that faith in Jesus, not faith in anything or anyone else, will bring us to Him and keep us with Him (solely by the grace of God), and e) anything that is asked in Jesus’ name, that is according to His will, shall be done.

Now that Jesus has worked with this woman to allow her to display the faith He knows she has, He responds to her by saying, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt.”  And true to His word, displaying His all-encompassing power and overarching love, “her daughter was made whole from that very hour.”

Wow! This is an absolutely amazing event that upon reading, studying, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, has opened my eyes to so many things about me (not good) and my precious Savior (who becomes even more and more incredible to me as I understand more and more of what He has done for me).

I am reminded that I too am a dog. I too am completely unworthy. I too have no business in His presence. I too have no right to ask Him anything. He is holy; I am a dirty dog. He is powerful; I am a weakling dog. He is majestic; I am a mangy dog. He is King; I am a lowly dog. He is sovereign; I am a dog in need of constant help. He is unchanging; I am an impressionable dog, ready to go in any evil direction that will comfort me.

As Isaiah said after seeing the Lord sitting on His throne, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”  (Isaiah 6:5, KJV) Yes, woe is me, for I am a dog in the presence of God Almighty!

Through this passage, I am reminded that in light of my evil, sinful, and disgusting mind and heart, Jesus came to save me from my sins. He came to set me free from the punishment that I so richly deserve. He came to give me the right to be called a child of God. He came, died, and rose again, that I might have life eternal in His Kingdom, with Him. How precious my Savior is to me!

And even if He has determined that I should only receive an amount of mercy that is “left over”, mercy that has “fallen to the floor” from what He has given to others, that intended amount is perfect, and right, and is exactly what I need, according to His love and grace for me.  I would be grateful for one morsel of mercy (or at least I hope I would!), but if each mercy would be measured as one molecule in this universe, the mercy He has provided for me fills more than the astronomers have discovered so far.

I know that I do not even deserve the crumbs that have fallen from the table. But in my Savior’s love for me,  He stored up grace and mercy for me from before the foundation of the world. And as He determines to lay them upon my head, I am forever taken back by His love for such a dog as I.

Flee to the Cross sinner! It is there you will find His grace and mercy unmeasurable! It is there where you will find salvation and life everlasting. Cry out to Him. See the blood He has shed for the remission of your transgressions! Repent of your sins and ask Him to be your Lord and Savior, and on the promise of Scripture, He will turn no one away. Oh what a God! Oh what a Savior!

Lord, I am so grateful for the mercy you have shed upon me in my life; in my past, in the present, in the future, and forever more. Your grace and mercy have simply never run out on me. And for that I am eternally in debt to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

To God be the glory; great things He has done!

The Intimacy of Christ

Around 700 years before Jesus walked the earth, the prophet Isaiah penned these words by and through God, in the Person of the Holy Ghost: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  (Isaiah 7:14, KJV)

And then in Matthew, we find these words as well, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”  (Matthew 1:23, KJV)

One of the amazing things to me is that our God is not a God that creates and departs. He is not a God that says, here you go guys and gals, do the best you can and I’ll see you later. He is not a God that is distant or remote. He is not a God that allows us to fend for ourselves. No, He is a God that came to this earth and became one of us. And He didn’t just come to observe. He didn’t come with His arms folded and look down upon His creation with a frown on His face, and with His head turning from side to side in disgust and disappointment. No, He came to be our servant. He came to be our friend, and He came to be our sin-bearer.  He came to be our Savior! He came to make a relationship with Him possible so that He could be deeply intimate with us wretched sinners. Oh, what a God we serve!

He came that we might enjoy fellowship and love with Him now and forever more. And only a God that is intimate WITH us can do that FOR us! It is this intimacy that allows us to thank Him, praise Him, extol Him, adore Him, run to Him, cry to Him, and trust Him intensely and intimately because He allows us to know Him so well. And it is this same intimacy that can be so befuddling because He continually pours Himself out for us and for our sakes, and does so knowing that we can never return the love back to Him in the same – or even close – manner.

Now we must consider what this intimacy of the Lord Jesus Christ really means to us. For when things are going well, it is quite easy for any of us to say, “I love my Lord Jesus. He is so good to me”.  And it is good when He blesses any of us in that way, and we quickly thank Him (and it is right and good to do so). It is sort of like being married when everything is going swimmingly well. The paychecks are big, the bank accounts are large, the retirement accounts will let you live comfortably for many years to come, the job is good, the house is big and paid for, the cars are luxurious and are owned outright, everybody is healthy, and the family is getting along quite well.

We may be (and of course should be) thanking the Lord for His incredible provision, but I’m not sure that under those extended circumstances, that we truly feel the intimacy that He wants to have with us. For we have this ugly tendency (a.k.a. sinfulness) to become happy, satisfied, maybe even joyful over what He has given us, instead of what He is to us. And so our love teeters and we may begin to “lose our first love”. And by doing so, we allow that intimacy that He wants with us to slowly ebb until we may not even miss it.

Intimacy allows us to rest in the Lover of our souls. For it is only when we desire to have and enjoy His true love, and care, and concern for us, that we can begin to truly rest and rely on Him alone.  You see, it’s only when you have lost most everything – or indeed, everything – and He alone is left, that you realize that He alone is all you need. And it is impossible to get there if we are not intimate with Him.

In our passage in Matthew, we read that Jesus shall be called Emmanuel which means God with us. How beautiful! Think about that: God with us. And while that certainly means that God had descended to earth and became a man, and dwelled with us for 30 some odd years, it means even more than that. It means that God, the second Person of the Trinity, is with each of His followers in such a special relationship, that he has become intimate with each of His beloved children.

Jesus came to have intimacy with us; God with us. He was crucified, died, and was buried for our sakes. He arose and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God and now everything except God Himself has been placed under the feet of Jesus. And for those who have placed their faith, by God’s amazing grace, in the work and Person of Jesus, we should be finding that His greatest desire is to be so close to us, so important to us, so loved by us, that no other relationship, no other thing this world has to offer, can come close to the love that we have for Him, because of the love that He demonstrated on the Cross for us. This only happens when we delight ourselves in the Lord. This only happens when we consider Him the greatest of all people and all things in our lives.

So as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, may we work hard at being intimate with Him (and make no mistake, it is hard work, for our flesh and the prince of this world fight against us, and neither our flesh or the devil wants us to have intimacy with our Lord). Like a bride hugging her new husband, may we desire to be so close to Him, clinging to His garment like our very lives depend on it. Like this new bride looking deeply into the eyes of her beloved, may we never let Him out of our mind. And like this devoted bride, who is fully and completely in love with her husband, may we live to please Him in all ways; and as we stare into His face, may we die to adore Him forever more.

It is because God became man and dwelt among us, that we can be so intimate with Him. And while enjoying that intimacy that we simply don’t deserve, may we joyfully, humbly, and through tears of indebtedness, whisper to our Beloved, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1 KJV)

Thank You Jesus! And Merry Christmas one and all!

Mary-Like Us, In Need Of A Savior

Luke begins his Gospel by telling us that, “it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”  (Luke 1:3-4, ESV)

Luke uses two words here that are important for us to understand and therefore we should not pass over them without explaining them. “Eyewitness” is the Greek word autoptes pronounced, (ow-top’-tace).  “Auto” means “that which is of itself,” and optomai meaning “to gaze with wide open eyes” or “to see.” “To see for yourself” would be an eyewitness. It is a medical term which means to make an autopsy. In fact, what Dr. Luke is trying to say is, “We are eyewitnesses who made an autopsy, and I am writing to you about what we found.”

The second important word Dr. Luke uses is ministers, which is the Greek hupēretēs, pronounced, (hoop-ay-ret’-ace). And it means to be “an under-rower on a boat.” In a hospital the “under-rower” is the intern. Dr. Luke is saying that all of them were just interns under the Great Physician. What Dr. Luke is telling us is that as a physician and a scholar, he made an autopsy of the records of those who had been eyewitnesses.

So then we see that Luke, in the first four verses of this very first chapter, forms a tremendous beginning.  Luke wrote his Gospel to give people certainty and assurance about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Following the fourth verse, he begins with the foretelling by the angel Gabriel of the birth of John the Baptist.  He had told Zacharias that his prayers had been heard and that even considering the age of both him and Elisabeth, and the barrenness that they had experienced all of their married lives (v. 1:7), she would become pregnant and she would bear him a child, and his child shall be named John (V. 1:13).

Then in the sixth month of Elisabeth’s pregnancy, Luke moves to the birth of the Messiah. So the Lord dispatches Gabriel once again but this time to Mary and tells her that she is favored among women by the Lord (v. 1:28) and she too will bear a son (v. 1:31) and “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (v. 1:32-33 KJV)

After an exchange between Mary and Gabriel on how all this was going to happen, Mary says, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38 KJV) and the angel Gabriel departs from her.

The angel had told Mary that her cousin had also conceived a child (v. 1:36) o Mary gets up and starts walking to her cousin’s house (v. 1:39).

Listen to the exchange between Elisabeth and Mary as recorded in Luke 1:41-45, “And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”  (Luke 1:41-45, KJV)

(Interestingly, even though this is a meeting of the two mothers, Luke opens our eyes to a crucial point in this narrative: Though the mothers-to-be of John and Jesus meet, the account is portrayed as a meeting of the two children. Notice how the baby in Elisabeth’s womb, John, reacts to the meeting as Elizabeth makes clear (v. 1:44).

This leads us to what I’d like to briefly talk about tonight. And that is Mary’s response to Elisabeth and all that has happened to her. Today, we call it the Magnificat; it is Mary’s Song of Praise to the Lord and it goes like this:

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation. He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath holpen [to help or to take hold of] his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy; As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.”  (Luke 1:46-56, KJV)

In this prayer of Mary’s, we see how she sees herself and how she sees God.  First, we see that she tells God that her soul is magnifying the Lord.  The word for “magnify” is the Greek word, megalunō (meg-al-oo’-no) which means to make (or declare) great, that is, increase or (figuratively) extol: – enlarge, magnify, show great.

One can magnify something or someone by simply suing words. But it is much more important to follow-up up those words with actions. Words alone never tell the whole story.  there is only one way to be sure that we mean what we say: we must follow up our words with actions.  Remember what the Lord said in Isaiah?  “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:”  (Isaiah 29:13, KJV) So, as we shall see, Mary is not simply praising and extolling the Lord with her words, she has done it with her actions. And with those actions, we know the heart of this young woman chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus.

And just how has she done this?  It is found also in the first chapter of Luke where she says to Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38 KJV) Here we find that she has submitted herself entirely to the Word and will of the Lord. Now imagine for a moment how she must have felt, this teenage girl. We read, “And when she saw him [the angel], she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.”  (Luke 1:29, KJV)  The Message interprets this verse, “She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that.” Do you think? But nevertheless, perhaps with her head spinning, and her mind’s thoughts jumping from here to there, she humbled herself to be the handmaiden that would willingly allow the Lord to use her anyway He desired.

So by Mary’s yielding her will to the Lord’s and taking action to allow Him to use her in any way He desires, we see that she has been magnifying the Lord in and through her life. And she placed her God as her Master and Lord. She is ready to do whatever He may ask of her.  She has made herself an open vessel to be filled by His Spirit.

Next, and very importantly, she sings out to the Lord that she knows that He is both her God and her Savior!  This should not go unnoticed for our catholic friends who believe in the sinlessness of Mary. No, she was a sinner just like you and me; but like all of us who have been called to be used by God (and that’s all of His children), we plow ahead in what He has called us to do, relying on His power and strength to get us to the finish line. And, isn’t it incredible that wonderfully and amazingly, He uses sinners like you and me to carry out His perfect will.

A bit later in the prayer, she says, “For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name. And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.”

So notice here, that Mary, in her prayer has compared her lowly, sinful estate to that of God, who is mighty and holy. She has the proper perspective. She knows there is a spiritual gulf between her and her God and that she cannot carry herself over that chasm by her good deeds. Even though she’s been singled out and specially chosen to be the mother of God’s only begotten Son, she has no ability whatsoever, even through His birth, to cross that divide. She – like all of us – is a sinner that is completely separated from God and hence we, like she, desperately need a Savior to pay the price for our ugly, blackened hearts, souls, and minds.

Mary is an integral part of the Christmas season. After all, she was the mother of the Messiah! But even though she found favor with God (v. 1:30), she was a sinner in desperate need of a Savior!  And God answered that call for her (and for us as well). For He anointed His Son and sent His Son to become the Savior of the world. And anyone who places their faith in Him and Him alone, will receive that perfect, free, and glorious gift of eternal life. Yes, Mary delivered, by God’s grace alone, a baby on that day, who would be the Savior of the world.  And while Jesus, as a baby, needed the care and nurturing of His mother, this same child, this Son that had been given, would need to become His mother’s personal Savior if she wanted to enjoy eternal life with Him.

Yes, it was on that day that God became man. It was that day that the Triune God (God the Father, God the Son,and God the Holy Spirit, three-in-one) had chosen in eternity past, to present the world a Servant King.  But this King at this time would forgo all that is rightly due Him and come as a suffering Servant, who, for the joy set before Him, would endure the cross, despising the shame, that those who believe on Him should never perish but have everlasting life.

This Savior, this Christ, laid His life down and shed His blood on the Cross over 2,000 years ago that we might life everlasting. But, did you know that He is coming back! He is returning for His beloved church and to take full control of what is rightfully His (and that is everything by the way!). When He returns, how will He find you? Will you be alive through your faith and belief in Him alone, or will He find you dead in your trespasses and sins? Your eternal life depends on that answer.

May the Lord’s kindness and goodness lead you unto repentance. (Romans 2:4) Turn from your sins and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! (Matthew 3:2) Make today the day of salvation for none of us knows if we have tomorrow. (2 corinthians 6:2)

God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility

“Trust in God and keep your powder dry!”

This quote is usually attributed to Oliver Cromwell (although it first appeared in 1834 in a poem entitled “Oliver’s Advise” by William Blackerwith) as he prepared his forces of the English Parliament to invade Ireland in 1649. And whether Cromwell knew it or not, it is biblical as well.

As we have studied Joshua chapter one, we see that if our desire is to follow our Lord, we learned that there is a two-step process to be successful. It involves God’s sovereignty but also man’s responsibility.

Step One is always to bring our request to God and to trust Him fully and completely for the outcome.  Most Christians will agree with this first step. They will say that they have a desire to follow the Lord and so they pray accordingly. Then they turn it over to the Lord to make it so; they feel that the process is just a One-Step process,  so they wait on the Lord and do nothing in the interim.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have a family member or a co-worker that you see quite frequently but is not saved, and you have a desire to see him come to Jesus for eternal life (So far, so good, as you are taking the first step in carrying out the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15). So rightly and properly, you go to the Lord and ask Him to bring that unsaved person to redemption through faith in His Son (for you know that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict him of his sin, John 16:8). And every time you see him, you pray again and again, “Lord, please save him”.  But even though you see him all the time, you never witness to him. Although you’ve had opportunity after opportunity, you’ve never told him about your salvation experience or what the Bible says about eternal life.  For whatever reason, you have not shared your testimony or your faith, you just continue to pray.

And as you recall Ephesians 1:4-5, you say, “God is sovereign, He will save those He wants to save and nothing I do or don’t do will change that. After all, the chosen ones were selected by Him before the foundation of the world. I have no further responsibility in this matter.”  But is that wholly true?

In Joshua chapter 1, verses 10-11 we read this, “Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it.”  (KJV)

Earlier in the same chapter we read God speaking to Joshua where He says,  “Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.  [5]  There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.  [6]  Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.”  (Joshua 1:3, 5-6 KJV)

Joshua had a job to do; it was to carry out God’s promise of giving the land to the Israelites that He had promised them years before. Notice that God was “giving” the land. It was His gift to them. But notice also that this gift would not simply take place as the Israelites sat and waited for it to happen. No, they, led by Joshua, would have to fight for the land. They would have to do something to see God’s promise come to fruition.  Joshua told them in verse eleven that they would pass over the Jordan and go in to possess the land. And Joshua knew from verse five that he would win the battles ahead of him BUT he and his troops would have to obey God and do their part in working out the will of God in this situation!  That is how God works.

Sometimes Step One is all we can do, and when it is, we are doing the right thing: take the issue to the One who is omniscient, all-powerful, full of grace and mercy, and is love. When we hear of those in far off countries being persecuted for Jesus’ name, it’s not like we can harbor them in our homes; distance makes that impossible.  When one of our loved ones becomes very ill, we rely on the doctors and medical professionals to be used of God to help heal the sick one. So we pray for God’s grace and mercy, for His wisdom for the doctors, etc. But we don’t have the education or expertise to help the professionals take care of the one who is sick. We pray and trust in God to come to the aid of our loved one.  That’s Step One and that’s about as far as we can go. And in those cases, that’s the very best thing we can do, for Step One is ALWAYS going to God first and relying on Him more than anyone or anything else, regardless of the situation.

But what about the times we can take a second step, Step Two. In my example above, praying for the unsaved isn’t the end of our obedience to the Lord’s Great Commission. Yes, it is the first and most important step in the process of witnessing, and in ALL cases, we must rely on God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness far above anything else.  But it doesn’t end there.

Imagine Joshua saying to the Lord, “Thanks Father for all these promises. I’m simply going to wait to see how you do all of this. I’ll be on the sidelines watching, but I’m not getting off the bench and participating.”  We would say in unison, “What are you doing Joshua! Can’t you read that God has chosen you to be the leader of His people to bring them into the promised land?”  And we would think, this plan of God simply isn’t going to work because He chose a guy who won’t do what God has called him to do. And so we see that when God calls us to do something personally for which He has equipped us, then there is a series of actions; first it is going to Him and then secondly it is us obeying what He has called us to do in HIs word. In these instances, it is always a two-step process.

And if we leave out step number two through spiritual laziness, lack of love or concern, or fear, the manner in which God had chosen something to occur has been temporarily thwarted by our disobedience. Now God’s will certainly shall be accomplished; He will simply choose a different way and maybe a different person to accomplish what He will have done. But we have been disobedient and unfaithful in allowing ourselves to be used by Him to carry out His perfect will.

So let’s make this practical. Is there someone sick that you know, and you are praying for their healing but don’t visit them in the hospital? Or don’t make a meal for the ones left at home? Have you determined that your prayers are all you will do? Is there an elderly person you know who is a widow or widower that you pray for but have never brought over a meal, asked them out for a cup of coffee, or asked to come over to their house or apartment just to keep them company? Is there someone who has lost their job and is having a hard time meeting their responsibilities?  You are praying for them, but can you do more?  Do you have something you can give to them to help them through the difficulty, but prayer is all you are willing to do?  Is there a Christian ministry that you pray for but when the plea comes out to give so they can continue doing God’s work, you throw the card out in the trash? Does your local assembly need help? Someone to greet, someone to serve?

All these examples can be a result of selfishness and self-centeredness and of course that leads to sinfulness. God has called us to carry one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), and while that includes prayer first, it also means to take action.  The Greek word for ‘burden’ in this passage means to carry a weight. You don’t carry a weight by praying and then watch the person whose body is being lowered closer and closer to the ground by the heavy weight that he is carrying waiting for God to answer your prayer. No, you go to him and take part of the weight from him so that he can make it, because that’s how God will use you to glorify Him and be a part in His answer to your prayer. Get the idea? You actually have to take action! And God wants that action to take place, when He has made it possible for you, out of your love for Jesus and your love the one in need.

Joshua was a man used by God to carry out His will. You and I are men and women in the Army of Jesus Christ. What good would any army do if it went to the commander and asked him what he wanted them to do, then received their orders, but followed up by doing nothing? That army would be of little or no value to the commander for that particular mission he had chosen for them and he would have to devise a second plan for his mission.

An army listens intently for their orders and then out of obligation to their leader and in light of the oath that they have taken to their country, they get ready for battle and eventually fight. When we go to our Commander and bring Him our supplications, we are doing what He wants us to do: Philippians 4:6 (KJV)  “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” But when He has placed us in a position to be able to do more, then out of obedience to Him, we should take the action He requires of us that is according to His word and is in line with our love for Him for the incredible grace He has poured out on us.

To do otherwise will deprive the work God wants to do in and through us, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6), will keep us self-focused, which is a sin against God, “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:8 KJV),  and is totally antithetical to the teachings of Scripture on love, “Charity [love] suffereth long, and is kind; charity [love] envieth not; charity [love] vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, KJV)

Unfortunately, we’re all guilty. We think that “our” time is our time so we don’t visit a shut-in, or volunteer in a Christ-centered ministry; we think “our” money is our money so we don’t invest in the things of God; and we think “our” food is our food so we don’t make a meal for the lonely or less fortunate. We so easily forget that “our” time is the time God has given us; that “our” money is from Him and belongs to Him, He has just given it to us to use it to His glory; and “our” food has found its way into our pantries by His incredible grace. It all – everything – belongs to Him. It is something we should remind ourselves often.

And we fail to remember that in the blink of an eye, we could be in any of these situations. We could lose a loved one on a highway tomorrow, we could get a bad report from a doctor next week, we could lose our job right after Christmas; and we would be looking for someone to talk to, someone to come to our aid, someone to help, someone to show the love of Jesus. If that happens to us, will we find someone to comfort us and aid us through the difficulty that life might toss our way? I hope so. In the meantime, who do you hear calling?

Men Love The Darkness

(Note: This is not an article about politics in America. It is not an article about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton; and it is not an article about democrats or republicans.)

Twenty-four hours after the election of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land, protests broke out across the nation indicating that Mr. Trump would not be recognized as their president.

As Rudy Giuliani put it last night, there’s a couple of things we do after an election, the first of which is to put the election behind us. We accept, either with glee or disappointment, the will of the people, and then we go about our daily business.

So why are there protests from Seattle to Berkeley to Chicago to New York against a man who hasn’t even been sworn in, no less done a single thing yet as Commander-in-Chief?

Here’s my take: Men love the darkness.  In his Gospel message to the world,  John, through the power of the Holy Spirit, says this: “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”  (John 3:19-21 KJV

Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil“. Those that have bought into Satan’s world system believe greatly in the woman’s right to kill her baby. They believe that no one, including the father of the child should have any say in the proposed murder of the baby. They believe that even if the head of the baby has left the birth canal, it is the woman’s right to ask the doctor to drive an instrument into the back of the baby’s skull, severing the spinal cord, and thus kill it. There is no regard to the baby’s pain, suffering, or its right to life.  Take the baby, kill it, remove it, and toss it away like so much trash.

Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil“. The LGBT community has garnered so much power in Washington, D.C. and they don’t want to lose it. I recently read an article where the writer said that he hears all the time that America is ripe for judgment. His response is that we are already being judged and the proof of that is the power of the LGBT community. They are now treated with the same legal protections regarding discrimination as any other minority even though we are talking about a life style and not the color of one’s skin or their ethnicity, neither of which, the person can do anything about.  Now this ‘community’s’ rights actually trump (no pun intended) any and all of the rights as enumerated in the Constitution itself, including the right to openly practice your faith. If, however, your faith leads you to go against the LGBT community, you can now be taken to court, and presently at least, will probably be found guilty of discriminating against this highly protected class of people.

Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil“. Transgender individuals (those who are apparently confused n a daily basis of which gender they are), have been given the right to use the bathroom of their choice on any specific day.  Of course this means that it is now acceptable to the federal government for a man (that’s a person with a “Y” chromosome) to enter in and remain in the women’s restroom at any public facility which includes grade schools, middle schools, and high schools. Now the depravity of that decision is clear to all of us I would assume. But yet, that is what Washington, D.C. has told the nation is acceptable. Out of equality and respect, we must allow these people to use any bathroom they choose.

Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil“. Homosexual marriage has been granted a right by our Supreme Court (of jesters, may I add). They have determined that a man can now legally marry another man and visa versa.   The state should never step in and stop two people of any gender who have a desire to be married, and halt the process. On the basis of equality, all people can marry any person of their choosing.

So what’s any of this got to do with the protests that are taking place round the country? Well, I think they are scared that they’re going to lose their legal, specialized legal clout. They have spent years talking to the president and he finally caved in to their demands. What exactly were their demands? Simple. They were to make the darkness look like the light. Whether it’s abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, or any other work or lifestyle of darkness, they want this darkness that they are so happy to be in, to be thought of not only as light, but even a brighter light.  And the president caved into their demands.  And so did the Supreme Court. And so did many legislators in Washington and state capitols throughout the country.  And so here we are today with all of those sins now being considered by many in power to be the light. And in their opinion, what a great light it is!

And they tell us, those of us by God’s grace are now born of above, that we are in the dark ages; we need to “get with it” man and understand that the Supreme Court has given the mother the right to kill her baby, the same court has given the right of marriage to same-sex partners, and the Federal Government has given the right, through executive order, for the LGBT community to become a very special class of individuals; far higher than heterosexual believing men and women of this nation.

The people in these governmental bodies do not simply believe that men love the darkness, they know it (because they are stakeholders in the darkness as well). But they too want the darkness to be considered light for their sakes, so they do their best to pave the way for a new definition. And they have no thought for those Americans who know the true definition of darkness; we are defined as the “religious” types or the “caveman” types, or the “ignorant” types, or the “medieval” types that have yet to be “enlightened” by the new definition of darkness.

And the progress that has been made by those who want darkness to be considered light have made incredible strides in forcing the rest of us to accept them or else face the wrath of the federal or a state government in court. And the government, that has endless amounts of cash, is ready and willing to prosecute us to the limit of the law (and beyond, if the judge is evil enough).

And it must be remembered that much of the darkness has been approved by the court system as well. Supreme Court, Federal Appeals Courts, and other lower courts as well have been actively doing what they can, even though it goes against the true rights of the people guaranteed by the Constitution, to speed up the re-definition of darkness.

Darkness, in reality, is exactly what the Bible says that it is: It is sin against a holy God and against His holy Word. And since God nor His word ever changes and both will last forever, the biblical definition of darkness is cast in stone.

And so we have a battle. It is a battle that has been going on since the fall in the Garden of Eden. It is a battle of good vs. evil. And in recent times, in America, evil has had a stronghold on many of its citizens and has unfortunately made some advancements against the truth of God’s word.

And now both the politicians along with the average American citizens that prefer the darkness rather than the light, see the possibility of the tide turning. They are scared that with a new administration, they might see a reversal of the definition from what it is today (morphing into whatever is necessary to make the next wicked act of darkness to be accepted as light), to more what the true definition actually is: transgression against any law of God.

So they protest. They riot. They yell, they scream. They break things they don’t own. They damage property of innocent victims. They act irresponsibly, immaturely, illegally, and irrationally.  But that’s what fright and anger will do. Instead of turning to the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they prefer to stay in darkness. And they have a feeling now that the darkness might just get exposed for what it truly is. And so they are going into fight mode to protect their space in darkness.

And this should not be a surprise, for you see, “every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved”, and they won’t have it!  

And so now they’re stuck; or at least they think they are. They will not come to the light because they don’t want their evil deeds to be exposed. And in the recent past, if the legislative branches or executive branches of government would not or could not force darkness on those of us that know what it truly is, they went to the court system and found often enough that the courts would side with them (for they too are in darkness and love the darkness). And so they can’t sleep now because they are deeply afraid that their sin will be exposed and they will be forced to depart from the mainstream of the American way and return to the underground where both physical and spiritual darkness preside.

And again, this is all presumptuous because the new administration has not even taken over yet!  But this is what happens when you or I or anyone else depends on human beings to determine what is right and what is wrong; what is good and what is evil. The definitions of those things can and do change with the wind because man changes with the wind. When you put your ultimate faith in a person or a body of people, you will always be pulled and pushed in the direction that they want you to go in. You will  be defined by them as a “good” person if you are in agreement and you will be defined as a “bad”, “evil”,  or “ignorant” person if you disagree with them. It has always been that way and until Jesus returns, it will never change.  By the way, it is quite foolish to put your faith in man, no matter the man. The bible says, “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.”  (Psalms 118:8-9 KJV)

Finally, we see that only the Lord can save us, for, “Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5 KJV)

And none of this should not be a surprise to us.  For we were all there once. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you [emphasis mine]: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (KJV)

And we must recall that, “if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”  (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 KJV)

No one knows, except maybe the president-elect, what he is going to do (if anything) to direct this country in a way that is God glorifying.  Perhaps God has given us four more years to see what we (the people of God) will do with the time He has given us.  I do believe we have received decades of mercy from our Lord, and while He is patient, His patience will eventually run out (Romans 2:4-5), for He will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7), which started when our nation removed prayer from the public school system in 1962 and has continued to sin in more ways than one can imagine.

As soldiers for the living God (2 Timothy 2:3), we must ready ourselves for the daily battler of good vs. evil. We must put on the whole armor of God and sanctify ourselves to be able to be used of Him to the fullest for His righteousness’ sake. And while we must always take a stand for what is right (“But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19-20 KJV), we must do so with grace and love toward those who are blind to the Gospel.

It may be uncomfortable and it may raise issues and cause problems between family, friends, and co-workers that we as Americans are not accustomed to nor have never been a part of.  Listen to the words of Jesus in Luke 12:51-53, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.” (KJV)

I already said this will be a battle. We have our head in the sand if we think otherwise. The devil wants to increase his sphere of darkness and the unsaved flesh is always ready to side with the enemy in that effort.  However, we must always remember that the Lord is on our side and there is no one stronger or more mighty than He. From His word, we know that ultimately we cannot lose because we are on the Lord’s side, but we must bring our spiritual, mental and physical state in line with Go’s Holy Word, and be ready to fight in the Lord’s army for His righteousness. We must not remain on the sidelines and let the government or the people in darkness decide the direction of this country. His people will be the ones who He will tap to do His fighting on His behalf.

If we fight, we must always remember that God said to Joshua and He says to us as well, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9 KJV)

Why did God tell Joshua to be strong and courageous and not to be afraid or even dismayed? Because I think that Joshua was just that and he needed to hear form the Lord that he would never be alone; God would always be by his side.

But, if we sit on the sidelines, who will go for the Lord (Isaiah 6:8)? Who will represent Him in the battle for good and evil? Oh, He will ultimately win with us or without us because He will overcome evil. But He has called us to be His warriors and it should be the love that we have for our precious Savior that causes us to put on the whole armor of God, to sanctify ourselves, and then march forward into a battle that we cannot ultimately lose.

This nation may be at a crossroads. Of course, I’m not sure. But just like individuals, each nation has a path that it can choose to take. One path (the way of the world) is a path to destruction. The other path (God’s way) will bring us up out of the muck and mire.”  (Proverbs 14:34 KJV)  The choice is ours! Will we stand up and fight or will we sit, watch, and wait. If your approach, or my approach is the latter, then the waiting is over because those in darkness will never take the path to righteousness and so the nation will follow them into the abyss of sin and darkness and final destruction. It can and will only be done by God, through His grace, using His people to take a stand and fight.

“Martin Luther’s definition of a good soldier was of a man who stood and fought where the struggle was fiercest. It is easy to be a soldier in peacetime, pleasant to parade up and down in a colourful uniform, waving a shiny weapon. Nor is it much of a hardship to stand guard at a quiet, secluded section of the battlefield. But in the blood and danger of the bitterest conflict is where the true warrior is proved.” Excerpt From: Donnelly, Edward. “Heaven and Hell.” The Banner of Truth Trust, 2014-07-22.

May we all join together for Jesus’ sake and preach the truth of the Gospel in love and take a stand for Jesus in war. 

God help us, please!

Lord, have mercy on us!

To God be the glory!

A Husband of Grace

There are times in a marriage when the stubbornness and selfishness of the flesh simply won’t give way to our spouse’s desires on the issue.  We honestly won’t even listen to their point of view; we’re simply not interested. Whatever it is, we want it and there’s just no talking us out of it. And frankly men, it’s an issue for all of us.

I would like to look at just three passages of God’s Word to help us see how He would like us to handle these issues. Before I do, we must remember that the Lord has called husbands to be the head of the wife and family. It’s His design, therefore, it’s good to have that in the home. But that headship does not mean that men can lord their will over the will of their wife. Certainly, if it’s a spiritual issue and there is a disagreement on that issue, after long and perhaps many discussions, along with fervent prayer, ultimately, the husband will make the final decision on behalf of himself, but more importantly, for his wife and family.

You see, as he prays, as he looks to the Lord for wisdom and guidance, the husband’s main concern must be to do the will of the Lord. Therefore, as he is working through the issue, his wife’s opinion and desires (provided they are biblical) must be taken into greater consideration than his own. Why you ask?

The first passage brings us to Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”. (KJV) How did Christ love the church? He gave himself for it. He put the church ahead of His own life. As He prayed to the Father, to have the cup of the Cross be taken from Him, He said, but not my will, but thine be done.
(Matthew 26:39) In the anguish and spiritual agony that Jesus was going through as the hour was coming upon Him, He thought, “Oh how I don’t want to be separated from my Father. Oh, how I love Him so. Oh, how He loves me so! Oh, how I have loved to peer into His face from eternity past and see His love for Me and I don’t want to lose that, not even for a minute.” Jesus’ heart must have been torn into pieces as He pondered His soon-to-be crucifixion where the Father would meet out His warth on His only begotten Son for the sins of the world.  It is hard indeed to imagine the stress, the torment, the trauma, and the pain that Jesus was going through at that moment. But after having prayed to the Father that initial thought, He reflected on the purpose of His coming. He came to set the captives free. He came to heal the sick. He came to open the doors of heaven to the ungodly and the sinful. And so out of love for His Father and out of love for the lost, He went to the Cross, that salvation might be possible for anyone and everyone who believes on Him and the work that He did on that old rugged Cross.

In Charles Wesley’s hymn, “And Can It Be”, the third stanza goes like this:

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Jesus, who according to Paul in Philippians 2:7, “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men“, did so that we might have eternal life. It was love that motivated Jesus to go to the Cross; love for His Father (to carry out His will), and love for the lost (the driving force to send Jesus to the Cross).

We are also to take up our cross (Matthew 16:24). While that has many meanings in our individual lives, it has a definite meaning in our marriages as well.  When being pulled in two directions, one wanting our will to be done and the other giving in to our spouse’s will, we are to take up our cross (again, as long as the spouse’s will is not anti-biblical). And in this case, taking up our cross means to push our will aside (just like Jesus did in the garden of Gethsemane), and for the good of the other (in the case of the husband, for the good of his wife), and out of love for the Lord and obedience to the Scriptures, along with the love for his wife, we take up our cross and by doing so, we deny ourselves and follow Him. Shouldn’t that be the goal in everything we do anyway?

The second verse I’d like to point us to is Philippians 2:3:“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  (Philippians 2:3 ESV)

This verse probably needs little explanation. What we do need however, is to read it over and over again so we don’t forget it. What we have in the beginning of the verse is a definition of our flesh, for our flesh is conceited and has its own desires and satisfaction at the heart of its very existence. Remember what Paul says about the flesh?  “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” (Romans 7:18 KJV) When the flesh rules, Jesus is pushed aside, we close our ears to the word of God, we focus only on our own satisfaction,  and let pride win this battle, regardless of anyone else’s desires, including, and most importantly, the Lord’s.

Now let me remind us of what James says in chapter 4, verse 6: “But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (KJV) One thing we can be certain of according to the word of God. If we want Him against us, then take the path of being proud. But if we want Him to shed more grace upon our lives, then we need to take the path that leads us to humility.  I don’t have to ask the question, who wants God against them?  But it is important that we consider the ramifications of carrying out our thoughts of pride and selfishness.  God will be against our decision and we should not expect grace in that situation!

Finally, let’s turn to 1 Peter 3:7, where Peter says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (ESV) We, as husbands, are to live with our wives “in an understanding way”, “showing honor” to our wives as the weaker vessel. And we are to do that because you and they are both heirs of the grace of life.   A man’s attitude toward his wife, when both are believers, should recognize the fact that she is a fellow heir of the grace of eternal life. While she may be weaker in some ways when compared to the husband, husbands must always remember that his wife enjoys equal standing before God and shares equally the gift of everlasting life.  You and her stand on equal ground because you both stand at the foot of the Cross! You are not better than she is but when you lord your headship over her (by selfishly cramming your will down her throat even though it is against these Scriptures), you are placing yourself (erroneously) on a higher standing than her. Where’s the grace? Where’s the putting of her and her desires ahead of yours? Where have you laid your cross, because you’re not carrying it.

Additionally, Peter says that should we not treat our wives in an understanding way, our prayers will be hindered. What are you praying for husband?  Perhaps you’re praying through a health issue, a job issues, a financial issue, a relationahip issue, or even a ministry issue (like teaching a Bible study!) and you are asking the Lord for this or that to help you in your circumstances while at the same time not following the Scriptures with regard to your responsibility regarding the spiritual, mental, and physical well-being (yes, spiritual issues can effect us physically as well) of your spouse. Don’t expect the Lord to give you a “thumbs up” on your prayer requests in this situation. As a matter of fact, think hard on this: You think you’re doing His work in your ministry by teaching a Bible study, preaching the Gospel, feeding the poor, or rebuilding homes all in the name of Jesus, but at the same time, you are coveting the desires your flesh and feeding your desperately wicked heart, that’s called hypocrisy.  While on the outside, you are standing up for the King of kings, but in private, He isn’t your King at all. Because if you’re truly standing up for the King of kings, why isn’t He the King of your all parts of your marriage?  Why isn’t He the King of the way you are treating your wife?  Why isn’t He the King of your love for your wife? Why isn’t He the King of putting her first? Why isn’t He the King of your willingness to crush the flesh and allow His Spirit to rule in your life with your wife?

We all understand that our sinful nature gives us the propensity to go in the direction of satisfying our fleshly desires. None of us are exempt from the sinfulness of our flesh.  Paul says, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” (Romans 7:19-20 KJV)  We all struggle with this; it is common to all of man. But the Spirit of the living God dwells within us and it is His desire that we please our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, so He gives the right to tap into His power in order to accomplish these things for the Lord at any and all times! But we need to yield our will to His in order for Him to receive the preeminance in our lives.

It is my hope that perhaps some of this will move each of us, as husbands, to treat our wives exactly how the Scriptures tell us to. Can we imagine if Jesus had second thoughts and didn’t go to the Cross? We would be doomed to hell. But He finished His “race” out of “the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2b KJV)

Now interestingly, the beginning of this chapter in Hebrews goes like this, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  (Hebrews 12:1-2 KJV)

We have voluntarily chosen to take our wives as our mates. As soon as we do that, we have entered a new race to run. The goal of that race (as it is for all of our spiritual races) is to glorify our Lord, and in this case by being the husband that He has called us to be.  It can be a difficult race at times; but it can also be a most rewarding race if we will continue to run all the way to the finish line in obedience to Him! The writer of Hebrews had just listed in chapter eleven, some of the men and woman who have stood with God through the ages and then tells us here in chapter 12, that as we look upon these people of God, let their lives strengthen us to do His will. Let their stories be an encouragement to us to set aside our sin, set aside our pride and selfish hearts, and run the race of loving our wives as Christ loves the church, until death do us part. And let the motivation come from our love for our precious Savior who authored our faith, who faithfully completed His work on the Cross, and by His grace, gave us the faith to believe in Him. Oh the glory of it all!

Are You There Lord?

Psalms 42:1-11 KJV
(1)  To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
(2)  My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?
(3)  My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?
(4)  When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.
(5)  Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.
(6)  O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.
(7)  Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.
(8)  Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.
(9)  I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
(10)  As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?
(11)  Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 42 is a cry of David to God during the time when he is in exile while his son Absalom is rebelling against him.

But, as with all Scripture, his words are as applicable to us as they were to him as we travel through life. David starts out with exactly the heart that God requires of us; by saying that he is desiring God as much as he does water when he is thirsty.

Isn’t the picture here of a deer panting for water after running through the woods, (perhaps trying to escape death), just beautiful? David too was experiencing running for his life at this time. But David cannot seem to find God. He thirsts for Him so desperately but it appears to David as though He cannot be found. So thirsty David remains; and he is so spiritually dry and parched, that he simply wants the fresh water of God’s presence, but it cannot be found. The quiet waters that David wants to drink from, just don’t exist as far as he can tell.

As David struggles with what he feels is the absence of his Lord, he  remembers, even as he longs for God’s appearance, how wonderful it was to lead people to the House of the Lord and to be with them as they corporately worshiped the one true God.  But as he recalls those times so fondly, he now remembers them in anguish because they seemed so far away and appear to be impossible to find again. He is truly despondent and finds himself disturbed, confused, and uncertain over the lack of presence of God. David’s soul is being poured out, but he is not being satisfied.  And that leaves him empty and seemingly without hope.

David is in anguish for sure. His son is against him and he is running, running, running. But no matter where he runs to or where is winds up, he feels alone and abandoned because the One he has always turned to, cannot seemingly be found.

But God is there; He is always with His children (Hebrews 13:5). David is struggling for sure. His mind tells him he is alone; God has abandoned him, he is sure of that. He thinks of the sins that may have caused this time in his life. And he is racked with spiritual and mental pain. And there appears to be no way to receive comfort.

But in the end, David knows he is never alone.  And so he ends the psalm with these words, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God“. David’s faith, while being tested tremendously, will be what gets him through this time in his life, and his life in the future. David knows that eventually God will bring  him through this time and he holds steadfast to the loving, gracious, merciful, comforting, good God that deserves his praise, even at this miserable time. For in God and God alone, is his peace and salvation. David knows that God deserves his adoration for he knows that God does love him and is always in control; therefore, even though David is struggling mightily, he knows that only God can help him through this desperate time in his life; and so he thirsts for His presence.  For David knows his God is faithful and true and never changes (Hebrews 13:8).

And that is a lesson for us. As you go through the tough times in your life; personal sickness, illness of a loved one, death of a spouse or child, loss of a job, marital problems, loss of income, etc., they can turn your life upside down.  And those troubles can hit any of us at any time, as the Lord wills. But as you feel weak and helpless, God is there with you and He is strong and has everything under control. “The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.” Psalms 9:9 (KJV)

A very important passage of Scripture regarding this truth is found in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (KJV)

WOW! Think of what Paul had gone through in his life as he preached and defended the Gospel of Jesus Christ! And God tells him, I know you have infirmities; I know you’ve been through a lot, BUT rest in Me; trust in Me, for My strength is made perfect in your weakness. And Paul responds by saying (let’s use the Star Trek vernacular), “Make it so Lord, make it so! I’d much rather have any infirmity, if by having that infirmity and going through the pain that comes along with it, the power of Jesus may rest on me!!”  Now that’s faith!  I know I’m not there yet, but it’s where I want to be. And if you’re not there yet either, the Bible tells us to keep going!

We are not alone! God is with us!  And here’s the goal: “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14 KJV)  And the cool thing, the really cool thing, is that a promise made to Joshua by God is as true for us as it was for him: “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” [emphasis mine] (Joshua 1:9 KJV)

Remember that verse; memorize that verse! For in times of trouble, we need courage. We need strength. We need power. And in and of ourselves, we have none of those things. But God has all that we need! And He is gracious, He is merciful, and He is loving to give us all that we need to get us through the problems this life throws at us and bring us peace while we fight.  “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (KJV)

And when we make it out to the other side, He alone is glorified.

So, what’s the message here? It is to hang tough with God. These types of valleys in our lives can certainly be faith-trying times. But they can also be faith-building times.  And while I don’t know what God’s will is for any of us tomorrow or down the road, I do know this: He is with you wherever you go and He will not leave you or forsake you. And because of His love for you, His power will get you through. What an awesome God we serve!

Be Strong and Of Good Courage

Could This Be Just What I Need?

“Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.”  (Acts 13:46, KJV)

In verses, six, seven, and nine of Joshua chapter one, we read that God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. Joshua was God’s next man that was to be chosen (after Moses)  to lead God’s people into the land that He had promised them.  The task that was ahead for Joshua would not be an easy one, for the Israelites were being called to war; they were going into battle against the gentile heathen tribes that presently called the land theirs. These included the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites (Joshua 3:10 KJV).

And although Joshua knew that the Lord was going to be with them (Joshua 1:9; 3:10), and would not fail them (Joshua 1:5), nevertheless, he may have been experiencing some trepidation toward the task at hand. After all, these Israelites certainly weren’t valiant men of war; they had spend much of the last 40 years wandering in the desert. But they would be all that would comprise the army of God; they would be the ones that would take control of the land with Joshua leading them at the command of the Lord.

We know from the first chapter of Joshua that the Lord told him three times in nine verses to be strong and courageous.  I’m thinking that Joshua needed to hear those words from the Lord that often because of the task at hand, that Moses was dead (Joshua 1:2), and therefore Joshua had no one to lean on for wisdom; no one to have as a backup in case he failed, and no one to turn to should trouble arise during this time to come.  With tongue in cheek, I’m thinking that Joshua, upon hearing the words God told him in verse 2 (“arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel”), has his head looking over into the distance, chin up, and eyes scanning the horizon, and then he places his hand flat above his eyebrows and thinks to himself, am I sure that Moses isn’t here? I think he was a bit nervous. But then he hears once, twice, three times, “Be strong and courageous”. But God exon’t stop there, He follow up with the most comforting words that Joshua could possible have imagined. God says,  “I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” (Joshua 1:5 KJV)  And, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” (Joshua 1:9 KJV)

Absolutely amazing comfort the Lord gives to Joshua.  Now Joshua has the strength, through his faith in the Lord, to command God’s people as will be required by the One who has guaranteed victory for Joshua and the Israelites.

In the thirteenth chapter of the book of Acts, we find Paul and Barnabus in Antioch in Pisidia and Paul is teaching in the synagogue.  Paul gives them a history lesson from the time the Jews were in Egypt, the forty years in the desert, onto the judges, then to King David, speaks of John the Baptist, and finally a short dissertation on the Lord Jesus Christ, where Paul closes his preaching to those listening in the synagogue, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man [Jesus] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.”  (Acts 13:38-41, KJV)

Hear that! Paul gives them the Gospel message and then tells them that if they think they’re getting to heaven on the merits of trying to be obedient to the Law of Moses, it simply won’t work! And for those that were familiar with the writings of the prophets of old, he tells them, remember what the prophets told the people what would happen to them if they didn’t repent and believe? We’ll your those people! And you’re so stiff-necked you won’t even believe me when I tell you about this free gift of grace that leads unto salvation!

While some were trying to follow Paul and Barnabus and many others were coming back the following week, “when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.”  (Acts 13:45, KJV) Oh, oh. Trouble right in front of Paul and Barnabus. What would they do? Would they retreat, saying to themselves, “Let’s get out of here, we’ve preached the Gospel, let’s go to another town before we get killed?”  No, the Bible says that they “waxed bold” (Acts 13:46 KJV). I love that King James language. I can just see these two guys, with a majority of the city in front of them along with the Jews that were satisfied in their old wineskin religion, ready to perhaps say and do anything to stop the preaching of the Gospel, Paul and Barnabus “wax bold”.

To “wax bold” means to to be frank in utterance, or confident in spirit and demeanor: to preach or speak with boldness.

Where did they get that boldness? How did the dispel any fear they might have had in front of this rowdy crowd and the people that wanted them removed and stay to continue to preach the truth of the Gospel? It was their faith in the same God that delivered the message of power, comfort, and faithfulness to Joshua. Paul and Barnabus knew that even in the midst of troubled times, whatever God might allow this world to throw at them, He was their mighty God, powerful, able to overcome anything or anyone that might come after them. And so they “waxed bold”. Isn’t that a beautiful picture of the power of God being worked out through simple men?

How about us? I think if we look at the times in our lives where we have to muster up the spiritual courage in order to comply with our Lord’s commands, it can become scary, and we fail sometimes, maybe, even more often than not, we fail.   Our flesh takes over and we start to think of reasons why we can’t or won’t follow through on doing His work. Discrimination, laughter, mockery, and like things might have kept us from being obedient to God in the past.  Perhaps Joshua had some of those thoughts; I’m not sure, but as I wrote above, I really think so.

So as we stated above, God reminds Joshua three times to be strong and courageous. Don’t let the flesh take over Joshua. Don’t start thinking maybe you’re not the man. I know you played second-fiddle to Moses for all those years, and you did well, but I have really chosen you to finish the job.

But if God had stopped there, we might have had a different ending to the history of the Promised Land. But God doesn’t just tell Joshua to “man up”; He graciously tells him that he won’t be alone. God Himself will be with him every step of the way!

No one would ever choose to be alone with a daunting task in front of them. We want someone to discuss the situation with; to get their opinion as to how to proceed. We want to be able to reach out in the event trouble comes our way. And the support and strength of numbers always makes us feel more certaiSo the Lord, knowing that Joshua cannot perform the task He has given him without His help, comforts, assures, and gives Joshua great reason to believe in his ability (actually God’s ability through him).

But He doesn’t just tell Joshua to be strong and courageous and leave him on his own. No, in verse 5, He graciously tells Joshua what He knows he needs to hear: “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee“. And then just in case Joshua was still a bit uncertain, still a bit shaky, the Lord tells Joshua again in verse 9 by saying, “for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Wow! How encouraging is that!  Think about it: Joshua, a mere man, has the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the all-powerful One, the Omniscient One, God Almighty Himself who promises Joshua that He will be by his side wherever he goes. And not only be by his side, but God will not fail him! The Lord will be active, working hand in hand, in Joshua’s pursuit of obtaining all the land the the Lord has promised the Israelites. With that kind of help, how could Joshua fail? With those promises, I believe God removed all doubt as what the future was going to bring to Joshua as he marches forward according to the Lord’s commands.

How about you and me? How should this promise, which is a promise to all believers (Hebrews 13:5), affect our daily attitude toward the work the Lord has asked us to do?  it is times when we feel alone or incapable of performing a work for the Lord that we must remember and believe by faith, that His promises are true! And that they apply to you and me in all circumstances as long as we are being obedient to His word.

It is during times like this that we must continue to renew our minds (Romans 12:2) with the washing of the word (Ephesians 5:26) or we will yield to our flesh or the world every time.  At least one of our takeaways from our study hopefully will be that when we are weak, He is strong. When we are humble, His grace falls on us. We have the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us and He cannot be overcome.  Then we must act on the promises of God and not simply acknowledge them and go on as though they are not for us. We must be doers of the word, and we are simply incapable of doing so with out yielding our will to His and without reminding ourselves (renewing our minds) that God is with us and He that is in us is much, much, greater (1 John 4:4), and much, much more powerful (actually it’s no contest at all) than he who is in the world.

So, if you are finding yourself weak and cowardly, you’re not alone.  But, instead of following through on the thoughts of our timid hearts, we must remember at those times especially, that He is with us and He will not fail us, and He will never, ever leave us to handle that type of situation alone. His promise to you and to me – those that are born-again by HIs grace alone – is that He will always be with us. And with Him comes the power and love to overcome any fears this world may bring to our minds.

Since our study, Sue and I have prayed in the morning, with Ephesians 6:10-19 and Joshua 1:9 on our minds so that a) we remember how weak and sinful we are (truly we are), b) how mighty and powerful our awesome God truly is, and c) we are really, honestly never alone. He is ALWAYS with us and His power is ALWAYS available to us!

Now, what is it that you need to do: needing His power and the comfort of His presence to accomplish. Talk to Him; let Him take over, and go, do what He has called you to do.

He is simply amazing.