Category Archives: Edification

Reasoned Hope Ministries

Reasoned Hope is a new ministry I have started with the help of some friends. Let me tell you how this got started – but for that I have to go back a few years.

Part of the reason Diana and I moved to Redding fifteen years ago was to start a ministry that would reach out to young people with the gospel of Jesus Christ – with two things being at the forefront of our efforts. Those two things consisted of the wonderful and powerful Transforming message of the love the Lord has for them and also to help warn them that the devil and the world were truly a menace to their very lives. During those early years we held an event at a local church and focused on how the devil wants to use music to influence and ultimately tear them away from what is good and drag them into evil. The event went well and lives were touched and we continued on. But shortly after that we realized that there was a whole lot more than worldly music aimed at us and our kids. We realized that the enemy was using a variety of methods (called schemes in 2 Corinthians 2:11) and the very church we were going to was preaching things we could not find in the Bible. Ouch! God moved us out of that church and later out of a partnership that was also a problem. Oh the Lord is merciful isn’t He? He is also a very good teacher!

But through all of these changes our dream seemed to die in the process. The church we found in Redding was preaching the Bible pretty well but was lacking in a real fire it seemed. But, on we plodded wondering if God would still use us in the way we thought He would when we moved to the Northstate. We went into God’s waiting room. Ever been there before? We got our heads back into the Word of God and began to learn more and more about the deception that had creeped into the church at large. We realized that the danger was not only in the world, some of it had seeped into the church – the problem was worse than we ever imagined. At the same time we also began to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ more purely, more intensely than every before. We found that in His presence is fullness of joy. That word ‘fullness’ was all over the New Testament and was hinted at strangely in the Old one!

The pressure inside us began to build again. I remember turning fifty and thinking, “I have only so many years left, God use me to the full extent of them – if you will!” I began to dream about doing a youth outreach ministry with a dual emphasis of “warning and encouraging” within the context of the local church. I though, “just give us a week to come alongside a church and their young people and I believe we will see changed lives.” We spent a year preparing and then due to the recession the secular job I had faded away. For the first time in three decades I was unemployed. But our faith grew. We thought that this was God too – clearing the decks so I could move into full time ministry and see my dream happen. We began to prepare and work towards the goal. When nothing too substantial happened after a year of prayer and preparation some disappointment started to set in. Was this not God’s will? Had we missed it? Had we misheard the call?

The day after we met with our pastor for dinner and to ask if they knew why the delays and if maybe I should just start looking for a job something big happened. An opportunity happened overnight. A church an hour away needed a pastor all of a sudden. They wanted us to come and interview. My pastor said it was exciting and would pray for us in this possibility. My family was behind us. My friends were praying! Within a few short weeks it became a reality. The church had twelve people and we didn’t even think we would get a salary. But the Lord quickly grew us and the church took care of us and we had our very own youth group built in. Meanwhile God was doing something very deep in my heart.

I had met my wife in a small but powerful Bible college in 1977. There and in countless hours of personal study from my earliest days God had been preparing me for this opportunity to share His Word on a weekly basis and to be an undershepherd in His house. But I had so much to learn on the job. For five years there was success and there was struggle. Then one day it felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. Two families made a decision to move their business out of state. This meant several other families that they employed would be leaving too. How would we survive? How would our needs be met? God rebuked me for this lack of faith. Not only that but He provided and brought new families to join us in our small church in our small mountain town of about one thousand people. God proved Himself faithful and showed us He is in charge. Incidentally, he brought two families that care about young people – what a shock right?

Our youth ministry is still in its infancy. We have as many kids from the neighborhood as we do from church families. But the youth group is alive and the youth leaders are alive and on fire for Jesus. For any pastor worth his salt that is incredibly exciting to see. We are expecting great things as the ministry takes off again and grows deeper and wider and impacts more young people – encouraging and warning them, so they will grow mature and begin to witness to their friends.

So where am I in all this? I’m glad you asked.

For some time I thought it would be an awesome idea to build a little podcast studio at the church where I could film short teaching videos and podcasts during the week that would deal with current issues of discernment and encouragement for our flock and for anyone else that would benefit from this. We could record testimonies and interview missionaries and get into the nitty gritty of walking out our faith in a pretty messy world that leads many of us to conclude that we are really living in the last days.

I woke up the other day at 2am and could not get to sleep. I started writing ideas down about these possibilities. I wrote out a budget for this broadcast studio. I researched the costs and best practices we would need to make it excellent and keep it manageable. I began to think how I could present it. I thought about one of the real “hearts” of our church – our Thursday morning ladies Bible study group. This group along with all the other ladies in our church are incredible prayer warriors and are always up “for a good scrap” as the army of God should be.

I prepared a powerpoint to distill down my ideas and thoughts and dreams. Then I realized something incredible. If done right, this ministry could open doors to take the “double shotgun” truths of encouraging, transforming love and the needed warnings out of our comfortable little mountain valley and into the big old world. God could resurrect my dream of reaching young people – to light a fire in them and see them safe within the guidelines of Scripture. Through a podcast and internet ministry maybe God could open doors to see a revolution launched. I could take this ministry with me and connect with other like minded folks at a conference I will speak at in August up in Oregon….but what would our own ladies think first?

The ladies were engaged and seemed genuinely excited. One of them came up afterward and paid for our website we would need to build with one stroke of her pen. (So I went home that afternoon and built it – oh yah – I have been doing websites for some time and have all the software to edit video and audio ready to go – on less thing right?!) The ball is beginning to roll. They all wanted to see the chart of the “stuff” we would need to get the broadcast center up and running. So I will print it out (for those who love paper and ink) and post it below into this blog. During my talk with the sisters I gave them a couple of verses from 1 Peter. First I talked about the “ability” we have in Christ through His powerful world if we will simply proclaim it – to impact the world for Christ. That verse is in 1 Peter 4:11 and it basically says that we are to speak the very Words of God – the “oracles” and minister with the strength – the infinite power – of God Himself and that if we do that He will be glorified. That is all God wants from us. For us to glorify Him in all things. That is the reason for “Reasoned Hope Ministries” as we are calling this effort – to give God His richly deserved glory.

The second verse I shared with the gals yesterday was from 1 Peter 3:15 and is the source of where we got our name. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a ‘reason for the hope’ that is in you, with meekness and fear.” That word “defense” is the word we get apologetics from – the defense of the faith and the warning of false teaching go hand in hand – so we see a great Biblical mandate to defend and warn and protect the faith once delivered to the saints. (See Jude for more info on this) But what has really gripped my heart is the phrase “reason for the hope.” Reason is the Greek word ‘logos.’ The same Word used of Jesus in John 1:1 and translated “Word” as in the eternal Word who was with God and was God. Here in 1 Peter it is translated simply ‘reason.” By extension isn’t it fair to say that Jesus is the only reason for ministry, for life, for hope – John 14:6 says as much. But Jesus is also the ‘reason’ in this way – He is pure sense and logic and right thinking and is also the full expression of God – He is God with us – Emmanuel – and He is the one with answers. Colossians warns that some Christians will be persuaded by persuasive arguments (Colossians 2:4) and yet the previous verse tells us that in Jesus are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Jesus gives us a ‘reasoned hope” then. He is that hope – that wisdom we so desperately need each day. As His followers – His disciples we will have the power and grace to make that reasoned hope a part of our very lives and character and outlook – but then we must share what we have with the world. That is what it means to be a real disciple.

We are simply asking God to open doors for that sharing to be made possible through the medium of audio and video podcasts as a way to encourage and warn Christians and also draw unbelievers to the light that is only found in Jesus Christ. If you would like to help in this ministry you can email me – Pastor Rod at rod.page@gmail.com. I look forward to seeing those people who are on the other side of the door that God seems to opending up at this time in our lives. We need about $1900 to finish the studio purchases. We need prayer partners. We need to have some of you share this vision with your Christian friends and family. Many hands make light work and we are all simply ‘workers together’ (2 Corinthians 6:1-2) for the cause of the gospel.

It is His work after all so He will see it through and guide us in these efforts. Of course, He does that through people – would you consider helping us? Please email me and let me know that you are praying for this ministry. Please pray for His provision of the money we need but pray more that God would give us opportunities and open doors for the gospel and that He would powerfully work in the life of our church and in the lives that this avenue can reach through the website, podcasts and videos. The site is under construction and can be found at http://reasonedhopeministries.org/.  Below is the chart with the needs to build out a simple but excellent little studio. If you are wondering about the item labeled ‘chair’ that is on there for a very good reason. My current chair makes a ton of noise during recording. It is old and I brought it with me to Lewiston – its falling apart, so we need a new one. Everything wears out except Jesus – right?

The Lord be magnified in all things!

Amen and Amen!

By His grace and love,

Pastor Rod

Humble or Defiant?

I want to share the “My Utmost for His Highest” devotional with whoever will read it this morning. It touched my heart in a corrective way. I sometimes think that I am some kind of Jonah – that I am unworthy and that I am pretty much a failure at truly giving glory and honor to the Lord. The truth is we know in Jesus that all of us have died and our life is hidden in Him. It is not about past performance, though we are to certainly be aware of sin and to put to death the works of the flesh, and take up our cross and follow Him. But the truth is we must also rest in who we are in Him. We must trust that He is able to truly change us and make us more like Him.

I was reading this morning in Exodus 33-34 and God told Moses that He would, though they didn’t deserve it, go with the stubborn people of Israel. Here’s God’s “final answer” to His humble servant Moses – “And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14 While reading through the Old Testament I realized how this related to our rest in Christ which Hebrews 4 talks about. I realized I had been striving and not resting. Even my sham humility (for me it goes like, “I’m no good, I’m no good, baby I’m no good”) was really a kind defiance because I was making me my own measuring stick and not the reality of who I am in Jesus and what His power in a single life can do.

I hope, if you sometimes struggle with things like this, that the truth of God’s Word and the wise words of this old saint will be a blessing and help to you today.


By the grace of God I am what I am

– November 30th – “My Utmost for His Highest” – Oswald Chambers

His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain. 1 Cor. 15:10.

The way we continually talk about our own inability is an insult to the Creator. The deploring of our own incompetence is a slander against God for having overlooked us. Get into the habit of examining in the sight of God the things that sound humble before men, and you will be amazed at how staggeringly impertinent they are. ‘Oh, I shouldn’t like to say I am sanctified; I’m not a saint.’ Say that before God; and it means—‘No, Lord, it is impossible for You to save and sanctify me; there are chances I have not had; so many imperfections in my brain and body; no, Lord, it isn’t possible.’ That may sound wonderfully humble before men, but before God it is an attitude of defiance.

Again, the things that sound humble before God may sound the opposite before men. To say—‘Thank God, I know I am saved and sanctified,’ is in the sight of God the acme of humility, it means you have so completely abandoned yourself to God that you know He is true. Never bother your head as to whether what you say sounds humble before men or not, but always be humble before God, and let Him be all in all.

There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord. Let everything else go, but maintain that at all costs, and God will fulfil His purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purpose, and yours may be that life.

Food for Faith…

Oswald hit it on the head for me this morning in his devotional – he calls fear wicked. Oh how true when my moods control me instead of the love of Christ that should constrain me. I hope you enjoy and are challenged by this as much as I was:

Faith and experience

The Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. Gal. 2:20.

We have to battle through our moods into absolute devotion to the Lord Jesus, to get out of the hole-and-corner business of our experience into abandoned devotion to Him. Think Who the New Testament says that Jesus Christ is, and then think of the despicable meanness of the miserable faith we have—‘I haven’t had this and that experience!’ Think what faith in Jesus Christ claims—that He can present us faultless before the throne of God, unutterably pure, absolutely rectified and profoundly justified. Stand in implicit, adoring faith in Him, He is made unto us “wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” How can we talk of making a sacrifice for the Son of God! Our salvation is from hell and perdition, and then we talk about making sacrifices!

We have to get out into faith in Jesus Christ continually; not a prayer meeting Jesus Christ, nor a book Jesus Christ, but the New Testament Jesus Christ, Who is God Incarnate, and Who ought to strike us to His feet as dead. Our faith must be in the One from Whom our experience springs. Jesus Christ wants our absolute abandon of devotion to Himself. We never can experience Jesus Christ, nor ever hold Him within the compass of our own hearts, but our faith must be built in strong emphatic confidence in Him.

It is along this line that we see the rugged impatience of the Holy Ghost against unbelief. All our fears are wicked, and we fear because we will not nourish ourselves in our faith. How can anyone who is identified with Jesus Christ suffer from doubt or fear! It ought to be an absolute psalm of perfectly irrepressible, triumphant belief.

Vengeance and Forgiveness and Getting Love Done

A Short Study on Why and How to Love

God’s judgment is mercy in that it protects finally those who have taken refuge in His love. So you could say that even in God’s judgment He is love. That is some kind of love. But what about us? How are we to deal with love and judgment and making things “right” in our lives? Our calling is to love God above all else and to love God means to trust Him and His timing for everything else – including that final day in court for this world and those who have offended us. It means that we trust Him to love us in the proper way and in the best way in the end. So logically we must leave some things up to God. That is where the ultimate job of judging must go – into the hands of an all knowing and all powerful God, knowing thing escapes His gaze and He is perfectly holy so He will judge. We must trust Him for that and only judge with righteous judgment so long as it is in accordance with our own sphere of responsibility. see John 7:24

We are told to judge ourselves and the church under the leadership of the local church. 1 Peter 4:17 says it well – “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

The passage in John 7:24  “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” asserts that there is a righteous judgment for us now. (and it is more than implied in Matthew 18) We are also promised the Holy Spirit which will lead us into all truth in John 16:13 so that by His provision we can judge in a righteous fashion in the sphere we are responsible for. Parents are to judge in a right way among their children. Our love is to abound all the more in knowledge and all discernment. That discernment is rooted in the Scriptures as we are led and shepherded by the Holy Spirit each day.

Paul puts the proper focus onto judging ourselves first and foremost: 2 Corinthians 13:5 says to “examine yourself…” The genuine Christian spends a lifetime allowing the Lord to illumine the innermost parts of his life by exposing himself daily to the Word of God so that thoughts and intentions and motives can be properly judged. This is in line with 2 Corinthians 10 that commands us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ.

Having a judgmental attitude or lifestyle, however, is forbidden by James 4:12: “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” ( see also Romans 14:4) The previous verse in James 4 is even stronger, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

Forgiving Love is Key 

Proverbs 17:9 says “He who covers a transgression seeks love,

But he who repeats a matter separates friends.”

Jesus taught that we are to forgive one another – if we don’t we won’t be forgiven. In Matthew 6:14 Jesus said that if we forgive we will be. We are also told to be completely forgiving- Matthew 18:22 (seventy times seven – seven is perfect or complete in scope) and Jesus modeled that all the way to the end of his life by pouring out complete forgiveness to the seeking thief on the cross. During His life He taught his disciples that “by this will all men know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

The greatest motivation for us is how much and to what extent we are forgiven. He has completely freed us from the bondage and threat of judgment because He has forgiven us completely. This kind of love – a complete forgiving love –  is the key to the amazing spiritual bounty we have in Christ – who has given us all things richly to enjoy. He has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Paul spends seven chapters explaining the gospel in his letter to the Romans and then leaps into exultation as chapter eight closes. In a hymn of praise that is also full of exhortation, He exclaims “if God is for us who can be against us?” He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Indeed we do have all things that accord life and godliness in our Savior!  All of this would be impossible if He had not forgiven us on the basis of His death on the cross. He was able to forgive because He paid the price and He paid the price because He loved us. He made the choice to love knowing full well the tremendous price.

Isn’t it actually a very  small price for us to pay to love and forgive – a little pride or a little fury – when it cost Jesus His very life? Isn’t it worth it to give your brother or sister the benefit of the doubt and not judge them because Christ is not judging you?  He knows your deeds and innermost thoughts and still loves you! Take that love and give it away. You will see His love multiply that way and that is what it is all about.

Deuteronomy 23:35 says “Vengeance is mine.” That settles it, it belongs to the Lord – but the New Testament goes beyond as does Jesus in His teaching. We are to overcome evil with good not by taking revenge and therefore trying to take His place.

Romans 12:19-21
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

If he is thirsty, give him a drink;

For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Our lives are to be what Jesus’ life was. He taught truth and went around doing good. That good overcomes evil – if not in this life in the next one. It will be an influence for good now or a witness for God’s goodness and mercy in the next even in the midst of the flames of hell.

Paul said I have become all things so that I might win “some.” Oh for that precious few who will see Jesus in our hands and feet as unworthy as they are. We live “for things above.” Us taking vengeance now means we are not fully trusting God to take care of His responsibility for justice in His timing. Whatever is not of faith is sin.

John reveals that God is love and we know that He is perfect and right and just. We can trust His infinite love to always do right in the end – even if He allows men freedom for a short time to do evil. Maybe like the Roman who after he helped crucify the Lord some will see the love of God through us and exclaim with us, “sure this man was the Son of God!”

I close with two simple steps:

One is found in Jesus’ revolutionary teaching: from Matthew 5

Let’s call it “KNOW THE TRUTH

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Jesus’ teaching is so straightforward. He is crystal clear – overcome evil with good.

The second step let’s call  “DO THE TRUTH in Me

Jesus also taught  “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

There is no way in the world we can carry out such a task as this accept that we abide in Him and are receiving from His divine power to be this kind of witness. Without Jesus’ power, we can do nothing – and “not taking vengeance”  when we are wronged is something.

When we do this – we fulfill the law of Christ and that is truly something. We are moving towards Jesus will for us to love as we are loved. We are becoming His disciples and what a good thing to be known for! This is the kind of love that “never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13)
Oh to see that love more fully demonstrated in our churches, in our families, in our hearts!

To God be the Glory, great things He has done!

By His grace and love and by His forgiveness let’s get His love done for His great glory!

Amen

From Hamburger Hill to Calvary

by Pastor Anton Bosch
Sun Valley Community Church, California

The Battle of Hamburger Hill was a battle of the Vietnam War that was fought by the United States and South Vietnam against North Vietnamese forces from May 10–20, 1969. Although the heavily fortified Hill 937 was of little strategic value, U.S. command ordered its capture by a frontal assault. The hill was finally taken at the cost of 72 Americans killed and 372 wounded. Losses on the North Vietnamese side are estimated at more than 630 dead.

What makes this battle so significant is that the hill was of little strategic value, which was proven by the fact that it was abandoned by the US forces two weeks later. But more significant is the fact that the fall-out from this battle back home forced the Nixon administration to order the end of major tactical ground operations in Vietnam. So in a sense the hill and the battle were won while at the same time losing the war!

In the same way, we as Christians individually and collectively in our local churches, sometimes engage in spiritual battles that are of little strategic (over-all) importance. In the process we expend enormous amounts of time and energy and incur severe losses of all kinds for hollow victories that make no difference in the light of eternity. We may even win a particular battle and yet, lose the war. One example of this could be winning an argument with someone who differs from us yet, losing the person for the Lord. We become so fixated at winning the argument, that we forget that our objective is not to win the argument, but to win the soul. We easily forget that Jesus did not die for arguments, but for souls.

The Pharisees were very good at the minutia of the Law and would win those battles every time, yet they lost sight of the more important things like “justice, mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23).  Indeed they could win every doctrinal and theological battle, but lost their own souls and those of their followers. Allow me some liberty as I apply Matthew 16:26: “What is a man profited if he gain all doctrine and theology and lose his own soul?”

Doctrine and theology are important. There are times when we must stand for truth and defend it vigorously, even at the cost of our very lives. But to try and correct the fool who does not want to know truth is a waste of time (Proverbs 23:9). Paul warns about endless arguments over words (1Timothy 6:4). To tweak the theology or behavior of an unbeliever is pointless, unless he comes to Christ first. And to correct someone who is wise in his own eyes is futile (Proverbs 26:12).

It is vital that we choose our battles, or put in another way, choose which hill we are willing to die on. Dying for something that in the end is not important is a waste of a life. If one is going to give one’s life for something, surely one needs to make sure that it is for the right reasons and the right cause. And if you are going to expend resources, surely you should make sure that they are being spent in the best way possible. Jesus said: “do not… cast your pearls before swine…” (Matthew 7:6).

Daily the enemy of the church wins victories as we are drawn into divisions and strife over non-essentials, while not engaging the serious issues in our own lives and our churches. Jesus called it swallowing camels while straining out gnats (Matthew 23:23-24). We will argue and divide over doctrinal nuances with such venom and hatred. That shows that our focus on doctrinal niceties is simply a cover for the real issue – our carnality (1Corinthians 3:3). It is frankly no good winning every doctrinal argument, even if you are right, but in the process your spirit is more that of the devil than that of Christ. You are fighting the wrong battles – the real battle is within your own soul!

Yet we are amazingly inept at seeing the forest for the trees, and choosing the right battles. As we fight the wrong battles, we not only waste time and resources, and possibly our lives, but we are distracted from the real issues. This is one of the oldest tactics in war. Even in the sword fight the attacker will lunge at a part of the opponent’s body to draw his attention away from where the fatal blow will strike. Leading up to the Normandy landings on D-Day, the Allies staged a number of elaborate diversions to draw Hitler’s forces away from where the actual landing would take place.

Daily we are deceived by the enemy’s diversionary tactics to get us to focus on something other than the main and strategic goals. As in war, we need to ask the question all the time: Does this contribute to the over-all plan of God for my life and ministry, or is it a diversion and distraction? Many times the diversion looks important, but it is not – it is all part of the devil’s strategy. One diversion I frequently fall for is entering a debate with someone who is not really interested in the truth, but simply wants to argue. These debates consume a lot of time and energy and seem to be important as we feel we are “defending the faith”. But we must ask the question whether the other person is really interested in the truth or is simply being used by the enemy to distract us from the real task at hand. (And yes, the devil frequently uses other Christians in this way.) It is not easy to know the difference, but we must get better at not tilting at windmills[1] if we are going to win gloriously in the end. The fact is that every skirmish and every maneuver takes resources from the main front which plays into the hands of the enemy.

I vex my soul daily over Christian leaders who choose the hill of Calvinism, or of some view on the Rapture, or a specific Bible translation, or any of a thousand other issues, as the hill on which they make their stand. For many it becomes their last stand where they, like Custer and his brave men, eventually die in defeat.

It is absolutely vital therefore that we have a clear view of what the objectives are and having those in mind, we gear our lives and our churches towards those objectives and those alone. So what are our objectives? I thought much about this because it is crucial that we get this right otherwise we will be fighting the wrong battles and taking the wrong hills, only to abandon them again for the next unimportant one. Here is my understanding of the objectives of the church:

  1. To seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).
  2. Keep those that have been entrusted to us (John 17:11,12).
  3. To bring believers to maturity into the image of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-16)[2].

It is essential therefore that each of us determine whether every endeavor, every project, every dollar spent, and every hour consumed works towards those objectives lest we find ourselves attacking or defending hills that make no contribution towards ultimate victory, but rather could cost us the war.

Throughout the life of the Lord Jesus, the devil sought to divert and distract Him from His goal – Calvary. The temptations in the wilderness, the adulation of the crowds, the good intentions of His disciples, the opposition of the religious community, and even the great needs around Him, all worked to divert Him from His objective.

In Nazareth (Luke 4:28-30), the mob thrust Him out onto the hill in order to throw Him off and kill Him. But Jesus understood that this was not the hill on which He would shed His blood and that dying here would play into the hands of the enemy whose strategy was to prevent Him from reaching the objective. Jesus recognized that the objective was for Him to die an atoning death on the hill called Calvary and not to die a martyr’s death at the wrong time on the wrong hill. He therefore quietly excused Himself and disappeared. It seems that our perverted sense of chauvinism forces us to never “run away” but always to stand and to fight. Yet Jesus knew when to fight and when to just walk away. Oh, that we might learn such discretion and wisdom!

It is with the ultimate, strategic goal in mind that He set His face as flint towards Jerusalem (Isaiah 50:7; Luke 9:51) knowing that for this cause He was born and for this cause He had come into the world (John 18:37). He was not distracted or diverted for one moment. His entire life, every decision, every action, and every reaction was focused on the one objective – the cross.

At the judgment the question will not be how many battle scars you have or how many hills you defended or won. There will be only one question: Did you do His will? His will is absolutely in line with His objectives of saving, keeping and conforming.

May it be said of us, as of Him:

Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me.  In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure.  Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come– In the volume of the book it is written of Me– To do Your will, O God.” (Hebrews 10:5-7).

 

[1] Tilting at windmills comes from Cervantes’ Don Quixote in which Don Quixote wanted to attack a group of “giants” until his loyal servant Sancho Panza pointed out that they were not giants but windmills.

[2] These are summed up in the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19,20.

Fasting, Praying and Drawing Close to God

Fasting in the Bible:

Recently as a church we were called to a short period of fasting and prayer. Our stated goal comes from our study in James 4 that is God’s promise that if we draw near to God He will draw near to us. That if we humble ourselves He will exalt us and give us greater opportunity to exalt Jesus’ Name! (James 4:8-10)  – To better educate myself I thought it would be good to write down and study the Biblical mandate for this practice. The coverage that the Bible does on fasting is bigger than most realize.

Though not as essential as regular Bible study and prayer on their own, it seems that fasting is a missing element in our evangelical culture that will bring much benefit, especially for us in this day where we are all hurried and harried and where we don’t stop and enjoy the “good portion” that Mary was commended for over and against being “anxious about many things.”

My prayer is that we will use every tool and method and examine every Biblical model in order to be approved workman, humble servants, more joyful overcomers, and more sanctified and loyal subjects to our great King Jesus. He loved us and gave Himself for us so it seems like this little sacrificial offering should be the minimum among the many ways we choose to love Him back! So…happy fasting as you draw near to Him and experience the incredible joy of Him drawing near to you!

Jesus Fasted: And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. – Matthew 4:2
This is where we start as New Testament disciples of Jesus, with Jesus! He is our model – we walk in His steps (1 Peter 2:21). Jesus was the Son of God – something we all know very well – but He was the Son of God – something we all rejoice in because He is because of this fact the High Priest who can be touched with our infirmity. He has been in every way tested like we are. But as the Son for Man the Spirit of God led him to a place of total dependence through fasting and prayer to lean even more on the Spirit of God who was His strength on earth. None of this could have been possible had He only been the Son of God but was the case as a man. As the Son of Man Jesus is our example. We should do all that He did and if He said by His life that fasting was right and good then we should affirm that truth just as much as any other truth in the Bible. We should be obedient and fight the flesh and be women and men of prayer and fasting.

The two go together. The same way that living in the wilderness (i.e. This world) go with being tempted by the devil.
Godly Women and Men in the O.T. Era Fasted:
2 Chronicles 20:1-4 – Jehoshaphat’s prayer and fasting before battle. (Prayer to bolster staffing faith, battle fear and to seek humbly God’s answer to fight or retreat – to seek His blessing in the battle and His victory and help over our foes. Joshoshaphat prayed in a worship motif – telling back to God His great glory and power reminding God of His reputation being at stake.)

2 Samuel 12:16, 23 David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. Vs.23 – David fasted upon the death of his son. (Sorrow over the effects of sin and for the guilt of sin to reverse those effects and assuage the guilt)

2 Ch 20:3 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.

Ezra 8:21Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.

Ne 9:1 Israel did. “Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads.”

Esther 4:3 And in every province, wherever the king’s command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.
Es 9:31 that these days of Purim should be observed at their appointed seasons, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther obligated them, and as they had obligated themselves and their offspring, with regard to their fasts and their lamenting.
Ps 35:13 David did. “But I, when they were sick— I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest.” (Prayer for David’s enemies including fasting for them) Ps 69:10 When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach. (Fasting does not always have a meritorious effect on others)
Ps 109:24 My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat.
Correct Fasting Humbles Us – With Intended Benefit
Is 58:3 ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.
Is 58:5-6 Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord? 6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Fasting Linked to the Word of God
Jeremiah 36:6 so you are to go, and on a day of fasting in the hearing of all the people in the Lord’s house you shall read the words of the Lord from the scroll that you have written at my dictation. You shall read them also in the hearing of all the men of Judah who come out of their cities. Jer. 36:9 In the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, in the ninth month, all the people in Jerusalem and all the people who came from the cities of Judah to Jerusalem proclaimed a fast before the Lord.
Fasting by the Prophets Modeled/Commanded
Daniel 9:3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.
Joel 1:14 Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.
Joel 2:12“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning
Jonah 3:5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
Zechariah 7:4-6 Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me:
5 “Say to all the people of the land and the priests, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?
6 And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?
Luke 2:36-38 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Modeled by the Apostle’s Early Church
Acts 13:2-3 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

Acts 14:23 And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
Jesus Instruction on Fasting:
Matt. 6:16-18 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Fasting is a very personal thing – requiring being alone in order to be secret and to be secret so you will be not robbed of its blessing/reward)

Matthew 9:15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. (Indicates that in proper fasting there is a mourning status about the act – in this case that Jesus is not physically with them – but when He is there no fasting possible because no mourning is possible – so it seems fasting is only for times on this earth before Jesus returns.Mark 2:20 seems to indicate that fasting will start on the very day Jesus ascends See also Luke 5:35)

The Church Fathers
In the Didache – a writing of the early church fathers after the Apostle’s – they taught that one should fast one or two days before getting baptized. They also taught we should fast normally on Wednesday and Friday of each week. Two days a week!?? Whoa…that is a lot of not eating!  Obviously, fasting was part of their life on a regular basis.

So, it seems there is a long Biblical history and that the early church fasted too through and beyond the New Testament period. These facts makes me question myself and say “in my hurried existence, in my busyness, in my struggle against sin, in my desire to draw close to God, wouldn’t I benefit greatly from fasting and praying on a regular basis?” I am tempted to think that I am slothful when it comes to fasting and that I have been missing out on something important. What should I do?

I believe the answer, in my life and yours as disciples is to follow the Lord’s own example and that of our brothers and sisters down through the ages and so fast and pray regularly…until the Bridegroom comes! It is His good pleasure to give us all good things. Could it be that this pleasure of drawing closer and Him drawing closer and me being more humble and God doing great things through us should be a reality?

Yes…and Amen!

Let us…Just Do It!

Thoughts and Prayers for God Rejoicing

To Hear God Rejoice Again

I remember August 26th 1979 so well. It was a Sunday afternoon and I went to a church we rented because we weren’t sure that ours would hold all the people who were invited. That’s the day I saw my girl in a white dress she bought at an outlet dress shop in San Francisco. She glowed in that dress. When I saw her coming down the aisle time stopped and my heart raced. I rejoiced over her. She became mine. I never thought, at that moment that I could ever do anything that would bother her let alone cause her grief. I would make her happy for the rest of our days for as long as both should live.

Then life happened. Babies came and bills came and illness came and allergies and flat tires and…and more life in spades. I found out I was a sinner and over the course of many decades there were times when I was too arrogant for bliss to be a possibility. I made decisions that grieved her. At times I am sure she wondered what happened to that blond hair blue eyed Knight in shining armor who was so sweet and tender.

God had to knock that knight off his horse several times and drive some sense into him. He had to humble him. It took a long time. (God’s still working on the “knight” of course) She waited patiently. She trusted and I am sure she prayed – God answered. He’s good at humbling people and answering prayers for it. Now she could rejoice over her knight once again. More importantly, the Knight could rejoice over his bride again. He could see how faithful and loving and beautiful she really was maybe because he had things put back into perspective for himself.

                         Oh Lord give us your perspective on things!!!!

We will at some time probably grieve the ones we love. We are all in the flesh still. To grieve the Lord though, what a loathsome possibility and reality that is. It almost seems like an impossibility in a way. Can God subject Himself to being grieved by an arrogant but lowly man made of dust? The Scriptures declare it so we better not make theological rules that dismiss this fact. By faith we must believe it to be true and deal with it. What a grievous thing thought to grieve God Himself.

                  Oh God as a people we have been grieving you for so long, for millennia I think.

From the fall to Noah and the deep down grieving over us that led to flood/water judgment that seems to pick up again because of the obstinate wilderness wandering and then the awful idol worship of Ahab and Jezebel….it is exasperating to rehearse how many times God’s people let Him down let alone the pagans of the world.

We, as a race have run a course of madness.

                Oh God have mercy. Humble a people now Lord and make them lowly so they may stop     the insanity of actually grieving you – for you are the God of all the earth who only does right by His creation.

The Hope of the Scriptures

Zephaniah 3:12 says “But I will leave in your midst, a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord.”

This happened because God had removed from their midst the proudly exultant ones. (see Zephaniah 3: 11) God intervened. The result was a humble people and that result was God rejoicing and the absence of further grief and shame in this “people humbled”. Lies and deceit and injustice faded too. The people prospered in this way and God was pleased to the point of loud singing.

                     Oh God! Have mercy again and humble us again!

                     Make us right and we will cause singing instead of weeping in heaven. WE long to hear you sing over us oh God – to sing and shout and exult over a remnant who love you, who appreciates mercy and have put lies and injustice behind. 

                      May we know your presence in our midst and then may we shout “a Mighty one who will save!” Then oh Lord, we will hear the singing. You will rejoice over us with gladness, you will quiet us by your love, and our humbled ears will be able to hear singing from heaven. No grieving, but exultant singing…LOUD!

 

                     Oh Lord that you would again receive pleasure from this humble people and we would no longer suffer the reproach of sin and rebellion. Then we can sing too…with the prophet of old a new song…the song of the redeemed… In humble response to hearing your… rejoice again!

The Lord your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3:17

 

Escape From Reason’s Foundation – Psalm 11

The Psalmist asks himself, “if the bow is bent and the arrows are flying SHOULD my WILL SPRING INTO ACTION AND act and say IN EFFECT…”I will save myself!” But the truth is he knows that only his God is a real refuge.” In so many words Psalm 11 opens with a cry for sound reasoning. That we should know who we are and how dependent we are on our God being our only real safety, that He alone is a “very present help in trouble” as he says later in Psalm 46.

But there is something more that troubles the song writer than the threat to the buildings of the city – “if the foundations be destroyed what shall the righteous do?” It would be a wild thing for an attacking army to go after foundations…but that is the crux of his deepest anxiety…if the foundations are destroyed what shall good men do then?

Psalm 11:3 haunts us today. Today the foundations are assaulted in ways never thought possible. The spread rate of the crumbling is astronomical and its scope is unimaginable. Morally we are assaulted by the world, the flesh, and the devil simultaneously as Eve was to be sure, but in more sophisticated ways and in more generally accessible and contemptible ways too. It is everywhere like a wild virus strain that has overrun the lab – and this moral cesspool of a culture is more glamorized and monetized and has infiltrative power never before conceived, aided and abetted by the amazing technology of our times.

The Foundation of Reason
No foundation has taken a bigger hit though than the foundation of real thinking – of reason itself. Our discernment powers – are almost completely corrupted. The unsound minds of our times have a direct effect on our speech. James says that the tongue is evil and we agree. He points out that it is poisonous and can set on fire the very fabric of our existence – the ever revolving “wheel of life.” See James 3:6. There was a time when this warning was heeded, and caution and slowness of speech and steadfast God-dependence set it’s thinking on His wisdom. God’s thoughts were elevated above our own messed up ways of navigating through the experiences of this life so we held our tongue, listening and reasoning before speaking but that’s not today. Today we toggle our thumbs, turn on a mic, or use speech recognition software, blurt out our feelings and hit send long before we have reasoned out fully or prayed for wisdom and discretion. Let alone true discernment.

It seems that masses make big decisions the same ignorant and worldly way. Now we seem hellbent on electing a man to be President who capitalizes on using his vile tongue to denigrate his opponents and every time he says something worse his poll numbers jump higher. He recently was quoted as saying that he could start shooting people in public and he wouldn’t lose a single vote. I don’t believe he is necessarily wrong in his assessment.

We are in trouble because we have lost the foundation of reason in many avenues of life and we resort to passions that seem to lead quickly to belligerence. What do the righteous do? Do we jump on a political bandwagon and rely on men, because we too are upset and deeply angry at a government administration that is corrupt and being used as a tool of the enemy to take our liberty away? Do we stop thinking and go “gut?”

Not if we’re growing in godliness…
No, we humble ourselves and pray and ask God for mercy – we plead for it. We proclaim our dependence on Him.
Our very next prayer should be to confess our country’s dire moral state – for when the moral foundation goes, other edifices will follow, including the “reason” pillar. It is already sagging and has been for some time. I am concerned as a Christian that it has affected me. The fall of our civilized land has some kind of strange, almost aesthetic appeal to the flesh – I must guard against that “feeling” of fascination for just how it falls. I must not be simply a spectator as the Romans who attended the games were mesmerized by the fall of the heathen gladiators. I must shout against it. I must preach against it. I must prophesy against it. I must proclaim the gospel in Jesus’ love in the very face of ignorant enmity. Proverbs 24:17 says in the NLT “Don’t rejoice when your enemies fall; don’t be happy when they stumble.” Jesus said that we are to love our enemies. When He was reviled He did not revile in return, but He did preach the truth without compromise and then offered Himself as the only way for angry, ignorant man to be set free from his self-imposed slavery.

How to deal with non-reasoning people? Pray for them. Preach to them until their last breath or yours. Do good to them, especially when they persecute you and stay above reproach. Love them like Jesus did when He forgave the ignorance of the Roman soldiers who crucified Him. If they reject you they reject Him. If you do good you are heaping coals of judgment on them. You are not ‘enabling’ anyone by obeying the golden rule. God will judge.

God has spoken. The nation that forgets God is doomed. All who turn away from His laws are doomed – not just particular people but particular countries. Even our beloved America. WE are in trouble friends….but we must not let fear kill our reasoning either. We must discern the times.

The world will say that they have a way out…
Yet the scientist says hold on – one more breakthrough and we can solve it with new tech. We can cure the cancers, everyone of them. Utopia is around the corner. Never has there been a time when the labcoat and the pagan priest have so agreed. The non-thinking pagan of our day is the same as the New Age prophet that has been brewing for over 130 years. They say the same thing – those darn Christians are holding us back. Their dusty old book is phobic and dangerous and must be stamped out. They have not found a flaw in it. They don’t even bother to look that it for-tells them in detail.

Ignorance of Prophecy is Not Bliss
They don’t know about Daniel. They don’t know about Psalms 11 which is also prophetic in some respects. We already know about the man they will one day put in power. We don’t know his given name but we know he is called “the little horn” with a mouth that speaks great things. Daniel 7:8 tells us and it would tell them new-agers too if they could think long enough to read it. It is plain to us who have been born again not of the flesh, not of the will of man but born by the Spirit of God who have had a restored reasoning capability instilled in us. WE can read the prophecies and understand them. WE are not blinded by our own arrogance like the Pharisees who thought they had eyes did not see. They had brains but they were starting to lose their minds – I fear that today’s man has lost it almost completely and we know that in their stubbornness Satan has also veiled their eyes…The Man of Sin will attempt to tear down every foundational truth, even the very fabric of life – reason, goodness, purity, and truth itself. Foundational things will be what he goes after and he already is. The spirit of Anti-Christ is here.

So we Must Fight Now and Look Forward to Greater Glory
Daniel seven ends gloriously for the believer – it is a chapter of victory, of consummation of His kingdom after all. But there is a period when the old prophet is shaking in his boots. The Bible says he was terrified by the teeth of iron and claws of bronze. This man was a dragon. He devoured with that evil mouth and what was left he stamped with the awful feet. His goal, his aim was set on the saints. He prevails over them, for awhile, until God comes in their defense and the dragon is completely defeated. We use fight back with our mouth and with our hands. We must swing the hammer of God’s Word – the Sword of the Spirit. We must take cups of cold water to those who are in prison – we must clothe the naked with the robes of righteousness purchased for them by Jesus Christ’s own blood on the cross.

The human race has lost its senses and is about to begin worshiping this evil man of lawlessness…but God doesn’t care about that. He has had enough and because of His great love for us at just the right time He comes and rescues and it will happen in real time – this is not a theoretical war – it will happen in the physical realm. God comes through with fire, flaming fire – it has been His plan all along. So in the end He triumphs over the non-thinking rebellion. But just how is He rescuing now?

God’s not done yet…
Those who were men going along merrily to destruction, who at one time were the same way as everyone else were changed. Men who formerly threw away their ability to reason, who abandoned it like the birthright it is for a “mess of pottage” – these men had come to their senses, been woke up out of their sleep and realized their nasty state. All real Christians can say to one extent or another, “except for the grace of God there I would be too.”

All born again people must say, “such were some of me!”
I saw Jesus, and so I turned from the biting and lethal serpents and he cast out the serpent on the inside that was eating my brain. He delivered me. He cast out the demons that enslaved me and gave me soundness of mind.
Hallelujah for the Savior of our heart and our mind, so that we can love Him with our whole being, as commanded.

We must pray for God to embolden us to continue to take the gospel message to every creature. It is not enough for us to be growing in Christ and maturing in Him and think that somehow our job is done…with us! As Francis Schaeffer insists in his book “Escape from Reason, we must learn the language of our day in order to speak the gospel in a way that people will understand. We must know and respond in a way to pull people back towards reason. They must be reminded that in the real world non-reason never works. But there is also a more “excellent way” and that means real, Biblical love being proclaimed in the gospel. The love of a self-sacrificing Savior must be proclaimed into this generation and by the power of the Holy Spirit and His wisdom and in Christ we can do that effectively. We must not expect reasonableness in the philosophy of our current culture but we can share His love and let Him fill our mouths with His Words for the world we find ourselves in right now.

We can escape and help others, in Jesus, to escape from the ‘escape’ from reason.
He still delivers, Still opens the eyes of the blind and still sets the captive free!
It is still the favorable year of the Lord!
We must proclaim it! See Luke 4:18-21
Salvation is God’s business and it became a reality in Jesus and soon we shall see Him. We must make both of these realities our ‘business.’

Doesn’t this make you want to sing….Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus our blessed redeemer.

Psalms 11 ends pointing the struggling believer to God, seen in the soul assuring  verse “the Lord’s throne is in heaven.”
In case doubt and unbelief has crept into his thinking the singer is instructed, “the Lord is in His holy temple.” The doctor is in. He is in residence. In case you are wondering verse seven says “the Lord is righteous; He loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.” That’s the blessed hope! The only other alternative is judgment…AND THATS COMING TOO FOR THE UNREASONED MAN.

No demented rate of decay can change that.
I will look up, for my redemption draws near!
Now I reason in part but then I will reason fully just as He has reasoned me!

Let’s roll!

Amen

Dynamic Bible Memory…Unleashing God’s Word Together!

We all want to memorize the Word of God. (if we are believers in Christ Jesus of course…) but how do we keep disciplined in this area. How do we “want to” more? I think feeding on His Word is the best way to build motivation for this. When I really get serious time with the Lord Jesus and pour myself into studying and thinking about and chewing over His Word I am more motivated to memorize it. The more I push back from study, the quicker the thermometer sags down into a heap at the bottom of lists of stuff to get done throughout the week. 

I also need others to quote it. This is where a dynamic takes place. When someone grabs a verse out of thin air and repeats it in context to a conversation, I am also engaged and motivated to have His Word on the tip of my tongue. Maybe that is a bit selfish, like “I want to be that spiritual too!” I don’t know, but God knows my heart. Maybe it could be another application of “spur one another on to love and good works!” (See I just pulled that one out of thin air…now…where is that found again? Oh yah – Hebrews 10:24). Maybe my seeing their love of God’s Word further motivates me? Proverbs says that a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver – beautiful, like a treasured work of art. Seeing God’s Word in action reminds me that it is truly living and active and powerful.

We all are affected by the way each of us lives out our lives when we are part of the body of Christ. That is a fact – for good or for bad, for richer or poorer. That’s why I love our church so much. We are so far from perfect – but many just flat out love Jesus enough to take Him very seriously and to spend the time to know Him and to obey Him and I am so encouraged by the fruit and the wisdom God is bringing to pass in their lives that I could just leap for joy sometimes. I am affected by them…in a good way – I am richer for knowing them and hanging around them and ministering alongside them, and for how they draw me into a deeper understanding of just how great and lovely our God is. Like a multi-faceted diamond the Body of Christ is meant to be like that – reflecting the beauty and splendor that is our God.

I have listed some personal benefits below. But think about this – my memorizing of God’s Word and using the Sword in everyday life will create sparks that may light the fire in someone else’s devotional life – to be drawn closer to Christ and fall more in love with His Word! That’s dynamic – powerful I mean! Oh to know Him and the power of His resurrection cried the apostle!  I can know Him more powerfully as I soak in His Word, commit it to memory and then share it others in His kingdom.

Here are some of those other motivations that come to my mind in thinking about memorizing God’s Word – what others can you think of that will motivate us to know Him better in this way…

  1. Of course an obvious benefit of hiding God’s Word in our hearts is that it helps keep us from sinning – Psalm 119:11 
  2. The “blessed” promises of God’s Word are ours as allow His Word in – and they are all over the Bible – Psalm 1 and Psalm 119:1-3 to name a few
  3. Jesus’ prayer for us being one becomes a reality when we are a group letting His Word tear down arguments and any lofty thing that elevates itself against the knowledge of Him. John 17:17-21
  4. The very Words of God are being spread! Jesus did as much preaching and teaching as He did doing miracles because saying the Words of God was important. Paul preached the gospel because it is the Word of God. We are a letter of God’s written on our hearts! How important is it then to preach and teach to yourself the very Words of God…so that what comes out of our mouths will be what is on the inside, i.e. The Word!

This Week’s Challenge – Let’s do this!

As we consider how to spur one another on…let’s memorize together a verse that should be in our arsenal John 1:12&13

But to all who did receive him, who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13

Supplement to Subtract

As Christian we all get concerned sometimes about removing worry, doubt or fear or some nagging sin from our daily life. We know, most of the time what the truth is about ourselves and whether or not we are sleeping well with a good conscience or whether we are being kept up with something or someone that is weighing us down. Sometimes we think, “this is has been an issue for so long…how can I get rid of it?” Here are things to think about from a different angle. These are two portions of God’s Word that have stuck in my mind recently and have been a real help to the extent that I obey them and learn to trust Him more in the process. I hope they help you too! I find that they carry truth that is vitally linked together as I want less of me and more of Him!

 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge,  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
2 Peter 1:5-7

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
Hebrews 11:6

Faith is Key and…
Faith is the key.  We must start with trusting and believing Him. Then and only then does Peter say add to “it” – faith – and good will follow, but it does include the ‘ands’ that link these qualities together.  Later in the chapter (2 Peter 1:9) it says that if we don’t we will lose our eyesight and become nearsighted. It reminds me of when Jesus said that to him who ‘had’ more would be given and to him who had nothing even what he did have would be taken away in light of investing in the kingdom of God.(Matthew 25:29) It sounds as if God expects us to continue to grow, not shrink or coast or plateau but to increase. God is into to adding and not subtracting. But what if we need to truly ‘take away’ some things from our life….habits, sins, etc.? I think it has more to do with adding, and that in the adding the subtracting begins to happen as a result. The more we are attracted to Him, the less the draw will be towards sin and the wisdom of this world.

Faith Does Not Camp Alone But is Drawn to the Light
Like Jesus, faith does not abide alone – see John 12:24 – the seed goes into the ground to die for sure, and then to bring increase. Hebrews says we must believe  that He ‘is’ – i.e. have faith in Him for His existence – and also it adds that I must trust that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. The object in Hebrews 11:6 is twofold, if we are to be pleasing to God and if we are to be drawing near to Him we must believe things about Him. Being the King of the Universe – the Most Holy God of purist light and glory – we are beholden to please Him but also to be (seemingly invited) to desire to draw near to Him!  It is too good to be true, so yes, “I’ll take two measures of drawing near to Him please!!” How could I not want to get close to a God who is this amazing – that He wants me to? But what is the Bible trying to really say in Hebrews and how does that relate to 1 Peter 1:5-7?

God’s Good Desire – Our Closeness to Him
What I am learning from Hebrews 11 is that God actually desires a sinner like me to trust Him. But what specifically am I called to trust in? That He is a rewarder. That is inviting. That is a welcoming God – He wants to reward me. Is it for good works? No. It is a reward for simply believing in Him and wanting to be close – drawing near. This tells me something. He is good. He is really good. He is loving. 1 John 3:16 (the other John 3:16 in the Bible) says that love is defined – love is graded and at the top of the curve is Jesus dying for us so that we could be brought back into relationship with God. You want to know what love looks like – look at Jesus giving up His life to make it possible for me to get close to Him. My sin separated me – it killed our relationship and only His death made it possible – but I had to believe it – accept it – and believe that when I did I would receive an instant reward – Him.

Even after I am in Him for awhile I can receive more – by growing in my faith and knowledge of Him. My obedience and being further set apart for His glory means I am going to be rewarded time and time again with more of Him. I am continually drawing near to Him, in deeper humility, in more thanksgiving and in more obedience and He is no man’s debtor. He rewards me with new understandings of eternal truth that does not change. I am the one being changed.

God’s Goodness – Virtue
What does this have to do – for heaven’s sake – with 1 Peter’s ditty? It is the first thing in the list, virtue. We are told before anything else to “supplement” or add virtue to our faith. It means moral excellence or purity. In a word – goodness on a God-scale. Not just good feelings or karma or my idea of goodness – purity of motive and thought and a deep goodness that is linked, inseparably to God. He alone is virtue, and He is virtue incarnated. Jesus was good. Jesus is the perfect reflection of the nature of God (see Hebrews 1) and when I want to understand the goodness of God the best place to start is with Jesus. When Peter says to add virtue to my faith – it is really the natural thing to do. In faith I am already focused on Him and when you look at Him you want Him. You want more of “I am my beloved’s and He is mine” to be the natural exchange of two persons – one divine one human. That is relationship. My growing in faith means adding more of His traits so that more of His image is restored in me – contrary to and in total resistance to the fall – God is restoring what was lost in Eden!

This changes virtue from the legalistic mentality to the true beauty that it is. It is glorious because it is a reflection of  the very heart of our God – He is good – and He loves to share/reward those who turn to Him with His goodness/virtue simply because purity is a good thing. There is no fly in His ointment, no spot or wrinkle or anything that corrupts – it is pure, purer than the whitest snow…

Purity means Peril & Progress
That ‘virtue” of purity is so rare in our world – and everything the world is doing fights it -villain-like against this. The devil is corrupt and wants to share his corruptness and thereby ruin people so He hates what is not corrupt, namely purity or virtue. He is “good” at it. We must identify his schemes with the lens of Scripture and the guidance of the Spirit – not just so we can campaign for goodness but so that we can be good. When we do, the light will be so glorious that others will be drawn to it, first in curiosity, but then some will be prompted to believe. They, like us will be drawn into the dance of faith, learning and adding to and growing up in Christ. The side benefit being in the battle for mature faith will be the great subtraction. When you get a taste of this God of ours – you lose the propensity for worry about the affairs of this life. The more settled you become, the more determined, the less distracted. You become more like Jesus. You subtract immorality, because you want to get virtue – but not by ‘subtracting’ first but by supplementing faith with it and the other qualities mentioned in 1 Peter 1. You are really in pursuit of Christ in this ‘faith’ walk – and He then in turn gives you – He rewards you, with more of Himself and you want more and it is more, of Him – and He draws you closer, and then you want to be like Him. It is a good cycle because it is upwards and not the normal downward spiral that so many seem to fall into even within the church.

So the natural thing to do is to copy Him because you are falling in love with Him more each day. Probably the first thing you learned about God is that God is holy – pure – all good no evil, not one little bit. He is virtue. The definition of all that good is the three times Holy God. But do we realize how much more we are saying when we say that God is good that goes beyond just holiness? He is good in that He loves. The son wants to be like his dad because he has realized that his Dad is a hero – that he is a “good guy.”  When we are drawn into Him, into Jesus, we are drawn by chords of love. The love is love because it is good love. It wants what is supremely good for its object. Then we want to be and to act like Him, the originator and the continual giver of perfect, loving goodness.

1 Peter’s message begins by stating that “by faith” is the only way to go – but we not to stop at faith alone because it is not alone by definition but meant to go on and on in faith, supplementing our faith first with virtue and then with every single facet of who God is. In this we subtract sin and bring every thought into captivity to Christ. Though Satan will, no doubt try to come after and steal it, and though we may stumble and fall sometimes in our faith pursuit of it – we must add virtue to our faith. We must persevere by His grace and continue to fight the good fight…of faith!

Love
The end of the list is so packed with poignancy. 1 Peter 1:7 says the end is love. The book end on the left is moral excellence and on the right end – love…with equal measures of knowledge, self-control, stead-fastness, godliness and affection filling out the middle of this ‘cake.’ I believe that the best definition of God’s nature, fully revealed in Jesus Christ is love. Love is the most delicious part of the cake, it is the essential icing and not just empty calories. 1 John 4:8 says this implicitly – God is love. 1 John 4:19 says we love because He first loved us.

So what we have is…you start with faith, you grow in faith by adding to, or supplementing your faith with qualities starting with virtue. When He is done growing you up in Himself you become like Him – and you end with love, the genuine love that is only from Him is now in you. So really, you are richer and not poorer for all the giving that you must do. The only thing that is subtracted is that which is not pure, or non-Godly. When He is done with us we will resemble His Son – the true epitome of and expression of pure, divine love.

Hallelujah for the Cross and all that flows from it down to us, the place where love was poured out and came down to us!

It is what drew out our trust and hope – and this kind of hope does not dissapoint.
Indeed, we love because He first loved us!

Amen