GOD’S GOODNESS AND PURSUING LOVE…

PSALM 23:6: “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Am I aware of the Lord’s pursuing love? Do I see His goodness in my life each day? Am I walking in the assurance of my salvation and the blessed hope of eternal life? Am I aware of God’s presence at this very moment?

I love Psalm 23. It is one of the most well known and beloved Psalms in the Bible. I will never forget a bumper sticker that came from Calvary Chapel during the early days of the Jesus Movement in the 1970s. It was a play on this verse. There were two dogs, one was named goodness, and the other mercy. They were running after a young man as he journeyed down a path. It came from the King James translation of this verse.

  • “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” Psalms‬ ‭23:6‬ ‭KJV‬‬

One of the reasons I read a different translation of the Bible each year is that it brings a fresh perspective on very familiar verses. My focus on this verse in the New Living Translation this morning is on the word pursuing. God’s goodness and unfailing love do not simply follow me all the days of my life – THEY PURSUE ME!

I have experienced the pursuing love of God in my life. I will never forget how His love pursued me as a young man. My life was on the wrong path. Around every corner the Lord’s goodness and unfailing love pursued me. Like Jacob, I wrestled with God until I realized I could not win. Finally, I cried out to the Lord and He saved me and redeemed my life.

During those early days, I experienced God’s pursuing goodness and unfailing love in many powerful ways. However, as the years passed by, something began to happen. I don’t know how it happened, but I began to embrace the idea that God’s goodness and unfailing love were conditional. When I was walking in faith I would sense His love. However, when I failed I felt like His love was withdrawn from my life.

The enemy of our souls is very crafty. He knows the power available to us if we abide in Christ. To abide in Christ is to abide in His goodness and unfailing love. Unlike our love, God’s love is not conditional. While our sin may temporarily break our fellowship with God, it never changes God’s love toward us. God continues to pursue us with His goodness and unfailing love, even when we backslide in our walk with Him.

If Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners, if He pursued us when we were lost and alienated from His love, will He not continue to pursue us each and every day of our life?

In my reading today my Old Testament selection began with the story of Joseph. Joseph was pursued by God’s goodness and unfailing love. Yet, not everything in Joseph’s life looked like it from the outward appearance. Sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, accused falsely by Potiphar’s wife and thrown into jail, and then helping the King’s cupbearer, only to be forgotten and left in prison – this does not look like goodness and unfailing love.

Yet, if you read this story carefully, you will note that in every situation God’s hand was upon Joseph. Joseph could not see it but it was there none the less. God was preparing Joseph for a role that would enable God’s covenant with Abraham to be fulfilled. He would be instrumental in saving his family and in his family becoming a great and mighty nation.

God’s goodness and unfailing love continually pursued Joseph and it is continually pursuing every child of God. This past year was a year filled with many challenges and disappointments. Many of the plans I had for 2020 were never even started. I felt sidelined and discouraged. Yet, in all of this, God’s goodness and unfailing love have been pursuing me. He is preparing me for my next assignment, my next step, my next call.

I love the opening verses of Psalm 23 and the great care of The Shepherd of my soul for my life. Yet, I love the closing words so much because it reminds me of His covenant with me and His faithfulness to complete that which He has begun in my life. He does not reject me when I fall. Rather, He pursues me to restore me. He calls me to repentance and He stands ready to forgive me and cleanse me. He is always pursuing me – until the day when I stand in His presence completed by His glory.

Lord, thank you for reminding me of Your goodness and unfailing love! May I begin today knowing that You will never leave me nor forsake me. Forgive me for my lack of faith. Fill me anew with Your Holy Spirit. And, may I walk in the blessed assurance of the fact that, “…I will live in the house of the Lord forever!”

In Jesus Name!

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WHY I LOVE THE BIBLE…

PSALM 19:7-11: “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.” NKJV‬‬

OBSERVATION: I love the Bible! It is my favorite book in the world. I read it every day, and from cover to cover every year. I meditate upon the truth that it holds. Each day I find something new, living, and illuminating to guide my life. I love the Bible!

David was called a man after God’s own heart. David loved the Word of God. He read it, meditated upon it, and wrote inspired songs about it. This song in Psalm 19 is one of the most beautiful testimonies of the wonders of the Bible. It is not just a book written by men. It is a book given by the inspiration of the living God. This is evidenced by the fruit of the sacred words that we find within.

  • “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul…”

God’s Word illuminates the soul. It shines light upon our lives and turns us from the way of destruction to the way of life. Without it, we are lost and destined for hell. Yet, God calls us by His perfect word. We are born again by the incorruptible Word of God!

  • “The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple…”

We all need a sure word to build our lives upon. All of us, like sheep, will wander away from God, sound wisdom, and judgment. God’s Word is the sure foundation that we can build our lives upon and it is the very foundation of wisdom and understanding. We build our lives upon the solid rock when we build them upon the Word of God!

  • “The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart…”

Everyone desires joy in their lives. Yet, many confuse happiness with joy. Happiness is fleeting and is dependent upon the circumstances of life. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and is built upon the very Word of God. Jesus said – “These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me you might have joy, and that your joy might be full!” (John 15:11).

  • “The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes…”

Jesus said that the eye is the window to the soul. If our eye is filled with light our souls will be filled with light. What we focus our lives upon will determine the direction of our lives. We all can fall prey to veering off-track unless we have a constant guide and reminder to correct our course. God’s Word is that constant and pure guide. It enlightens our eye and keeps us on the pathway of righteousness!

  • “The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes…”

To fear the Lord is to stand in awe of Him and to reverence Him. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We only respect and reverence that which we know. How can we know God better? There is only one way. It is by abiding in the Word of God. Jesus called us to abide in Him and then He defined abiding in Him as abiding in His Word. As we abide in God’s Word we grow in our knowledge of God. As we grow in our knowledge of God we grow in our reverence (fear) of God. And, as we grow in our fear of the Lord we bear lasting fruit that is eternal – enduring forever!

  • “The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.”

Many today are debating the concept of equality. They look at life through the distorted lens of a sinful heart. Few truly hold a Biblical world view. True equality is only understood as one acknowledges the judgments of the Lord. Left to ourselves we will distort justice to our own advantage. There is only one who is fully impartial, true, and righteous. It is in the light of God’s judgments that we find true justice and equality!

  • “More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.”

David looks at the Word of God, His commands, His judgments, and he marvels at their eternal worth. There is nothing on this earth that compares to God’s Word. It is greater than all the wealth this world could offer. It is more fulfilling than any comfort we could find in this life. Wealth and human comforts will all pass away. Yet, the work of God’s Word, in the heart of man, will bring forth an eternal harvest of blessing and reward!

To build our lives upon the Word of God is to build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ with gold, silver, and precious stones. When our work is tried by the fire of God’s holiness it will be purified and we will enter into an eternal reward. Only God’s Word leads us into the fruitfulness of life here on earth and the life to come.

In a course I teach on the Bible I share this statement with my students.

• Your concept of the Bible will determine your concept of God.

• Your concept of God will determine your depth of faith.

• Your depth of faith will determine your degree of fruitfulness in both this life and the life to come!

  • “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭11:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, thank You for Your Word! Give me a hunger for Your Word. May it be my delight each and every day. Let me come to Your Word with an open and teachable heart. May I grow in my knowledge of You as I pour over the pages of the Bible. And, may I grow in faith as I grow in You!

In Jesus Name!

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CHOOSE YOUR YOKE WISELY!

MATTHEW 11:28-30: “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” NLT

OBSERVATION: What is it that drives you? What is controlling your life at this very moment? Although most of us normally do not think in agrarian terms, it is important to realize something from the perspective of a farmer plowing his land. We all will be yoked to something.

The key in life is to choose our yoke wisely!

Throughout my life, I have had the pleasure of working with people who have been thoughtful and encouraging. I have also experienced the chaffing of working with people who are harsh, impatient, and inconsiderate. The difference between the two is night and day. One produces a sense of joy and fulfillment. The other a sense of hopelessness and despair. It all has to do with who we are yoked to!

In the Scriptures, it warns us not to be unequally yoked.

  • “You must not plant any other crop between the rows of your vineyard. If you do, you are forbidden to use either the grapes from the vineyard or the other crop. “You must not plow with an ox and a donkey harnessed together. “You must not wear clothing made of wool and linen woven together.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭22:9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬
  • “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?” II Corinthians‬ ‭6:14-15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In both of these examples, there are practical and spiritual considerations. In the natural, if one tried to plow their field with an ox and a donkey, they would not make much progress, and would probably suffer injury to both the animals and themselves. In the spiritual, to be yoked together with an unbeliever, in partnership or marriage, will only lead one further away from the light of Christ.

It is important to choose our yokes wisely!

Jesus comes to us with words of promise, comfort, and hope. He knows and understands the difficulty we face each day. He experienced the ridicule and persecution of the ungodly as He walked this earth. He has felt the weight that each one of us carries. And, in the midst of our weariness and struggle, He says,

  • “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Look at the blessing and promise extended to us through our Lord Jesus Christ. He invites us to lay down our weariness and heavy burdens and find rest. Jesus took all of our suffering and sin upon Himself when He died on the cross. He comes to bring the rest of God that only comes through faith in His life, death, and resurrection. He offers us a transfer of righteousness for our guilt and peace for our dis-ease!

  • “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:9-10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
  • “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah‬ ‭53:4-5‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Now, Jesus invites us to be yoked together with Him!

  • Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Unlike the yoke of this world, Jesus never drives us. He gently leads us. He teaches us and cares for us every step along the way. His very nature is humility and gentleness. He pours out the Holy Spirit upon our lives to be our comforter and guide. To be yoked with Jesus is to be led by the Good and Great Shepherd of our souls!

  • The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalms‬ ‭23:1-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In this life, we have a choice! We can allow ourselves to be unequally yoked to those who have no concern for our well-being or soul. Or, we can come to the one who will lead us beside still waters, who will restore our soul, and who will lead us in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

It is important to choose your yoke wisely!

Lord, I come to you as one who is weary and heavy-laden. Take this load from my life. I want to submit to Your Lordship anew. I want to be yoked together with You. Teach me, guide me, restore me, and refresh me I pray!

In Jesus Name!

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DOES JESUS STILL HEAL TODAY?

MATTHEW 8:16-17: “That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Does Jesus still heal today? Is healing in the atonement? Can we walk in Divine Health? These are questions that have been debated ever since Jesus ascended into heaven. Entire denominations have been created over these questions. And, amid a worldwide pandemic, it is an important question to ask!

When I was in college I chose this topic as a term paper. The title was – “Is Healing in the Atonement?” The requirement was a ten-page paper. I wrote 100 pages and barely even scratched the surface of this topic. I only dealt with the theological basis of this question and never even began to address the practical application. In this short devotional thought I cannot even begin to develop this thought, so let me state my conclusion of the matter.

JESUS STILL HEALS TODAY!

Many people see Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as the offering only for our sins. They relegate everything else to our lives in heaven. Yet, Matthew, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and in conjunction with Jesus casting out demons and healing every sickness, quotes from the Prophet Isaiah,

  • “This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.”

Sickness and disease did not exist before man’s fall into sin. Death, and everything associated with it, came from sin. When Jesus came to proclaim the Kingdom of God, when He died for us on the cross, when He cried “It is finished,” this included not only our redemption from sin, but also all of its consequences. If Jesus still forgives sin today, then…

JESUS STILL HEALS TODAY!

The thorny questions arise once we finish proclaiming this truth. If this is true – then why isn’t everyone healed? If this is true – then why have dear saints of God died from Covid-19? If this is true – then why do I still battle with physical sickness in my personal life?

The books that debate this question are endless. Remember, this is a devotional thought and not a treatise to prove or answer any of these points. I have some thoughts about all these questions. However, I know that in reality, my thoughts do not change the bottom line. My personal experience, or the experience of others, does not change the fact.

JESUS STILL HEALS TODAY!

I am blessed to be a part of a fellowship of believers that proclaim the wonderful truth.

  • “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We believe that Jesus is our Savior, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, Healer, and Soon Coming King! Jesus never changes. The works that He did as He walked this earth are the works He is still doing through His church today! If Jesus still saves, and there is no Bible-believing follower of Christ who would disagree with this statement. If this is true, then…

JESUS STILL HEALS TODAY!

My problem is that I want to control every aspect of this truth. I want healing to flow the way I expect it to. Like Naaman, I want the prophet of God to lay his hands upon me so I can be miraculously healed. I don’t want to bathe 7 times in the muddy Jordan river! If I could call the shots – every healing would be instantaneous, miraculous, and the result of following a prescribed methodology. And, herein lies the problem.

I believe there is not one of us alive today who has the wisdom or humility to be entrusted with all the healing power of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, in His wisdom, included healing as a gift of the Holy Spirit as He poured out His Spirit upon the church. The supernatural gifts of I Corinthians 12 are not resident gifts. They are given, as God determines, to accomplish His will on this earth. We cannot simply go to the hospital down the street and heal everyone there. We must be led by the Spirit of God as His instrument of healing.

As we are led by the Spirit we can walk in the supernatural power of God. We discover that we cannot heal anyone. It is the Lord Jesus Christ, living in us and through us, that alone has the power to heal. We do not control the gifts of the Spirit at our will – we simply cooperate with them as the Spirit leads. We are called to lay hands on the sick. Yet, we are also counseled to lay hands on no one presumptuously. The gifts of healings, flowing from the completed work of Jesus Christ on the cross, are still for the church today!

JESUS STILL HEALS TODAY!

So how do we steward this truth? We listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. We proclaim the truth of God’s Word. We lay our hands on the sick and pray for their healing. We receive God’s gift of medical science and care as one of His instruments. We walk in faith and assurance knowing that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. And, we leave the method, timing, and final results to the Lord Jesus Christ!

Recently, a dear pastor friend reached out to me for prayer for his church and ministry. Many had been hit with Covid. To make matters worse, no one is allowed to visit the sick in the hospitals to lay hands on them and pray. As I pondered on this situation, I felt led by the Lord to suggest that he lay hands on the family members and pray for the healing of those in the hospital. We cannot allow the present circumstances to dim our faith and to dissuade us from our call. Our proclamation and our actions must reflect the truth…

JESUS STILL HEALS TODAY!

Lord, this morning as I write these thoughts, my prayers are extended to all those who are battling sickness today. I pray for Your healing hand to reach them at their point of need and raise them up. I pray for Your protection over our loved ones and family members from this virus. Increase my faith today. When we face sickness – let our eyes look toward Your cross and proclaim…

JESUS STILL HEALS TODAY!

In Jesus Name!

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LEARNING TO LIVE – ONE DAY AT A TIME!

MATTHEW 6:31-34: “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: I will never forget that rainy July morning. Graduated from High School, living in my own apartment, working as a Journeyman Clerk at a grocery store, and looking forward to college – it seemed I had everything going for myself. I had put a lot of my money into my car. To be honest, it was pretty much the center of my life at the time. And, on that rainy July morning, I had finally saved up enough to buy a full new set of tires and rims!

I walked from my apartment toward the street where I had parked the night before. I checked my pocket to make sure all 600 dollars were still there (this was in 1973). As I walked to my car the rain had subsided. The sun glistened off the wet pavement before me. Yet, there was something else that caught my attention. It was the glowing lights of two police cars. I focused to see what had happened – and then I saw it. My precious car, the one that was going to receive a new set of tires and rims, had been rear-ended by a car that had spun out in the rain.

At that moment – my world stopped. The center of my life was destroyed. And, the 600 dollars in my pocket had lost its purpose.

I am somewhat embarrassed now as I share this story. Some laugh when I tell it because the car that was the center of my life was a 1972 Pinto. It was no ordinary Pinto. It was red, white, and blue. It had a full race cam, a beefed-up carburetor, racing ignition system and exhaust headers, air shocks, wide series tires, shag carpeting, and an 8 track player in the glove compartment. I used to race this car during student night at the Irwindale Raceway in Southern California.

This Pinto was my world!

In one stroke of carelessness, my world collapsed. Yet, as I look back, it was the grace of God. The Lord had been dealing with my life, but I had been running. I had forgotten the first commandment – “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Anything can become an idol in our life. For me, at the age of 17, it was my 1972 Pinto. My life was controlled by my idol. I worried about it every day. I washed and waxed it incessantly. And, in full exposure of how far I had gone, I carried a damp shammy in my car so I could wipe it down if I went through a mud puddle.

God knew – something had to change!

During this period of obsession, I found that I worried about everything. I worried about money, my car, and my future. There was no peace in my life. If someone could have seen inside my heart they would have seen a person hunched over, filled with anxiety, worrying about everything, and every day. What if I lost my job? What if someone stole my car? What if my roommate moved out on me? What if….(fill in the blank)?

Then I read Matthew chapter 6.

In all of this turmoil, I had begun to visit a church. It began as an interest in a girl, but it soon turned into something entirely different. Something was different about the people in this church I began to visit. There was a sense of authenticity and passion that I had not observed. As I visited the church I also dusted off my old Bible. I did not get much out of it when I began to read. Until I read Matthew chapter 6.

I felt like the words were written just for me!

  • “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.”

Could it be true that the God of all Creation cared enough about me to know everything that I needed? Could it be true that Jesus loved me and wanted to help me live in peace each day of my life?

I knelt down on the floor of my apartment and cried out –

  • “Jesus, take over my life. I need You. My life is a mess and if You don’t take it over I don’t know what I will do!”

Suddenly, I felt a wave of God’s peace flow over my heart. Everything that I cared about and worried about suddenly seemed to fall into perspective. I knew from that moment on I would have to live differently. I would have to follow Jesus. Jesus alone would need to be the center of my life. No longer would I be bound with anxiety and worry. With Jesus, as Lord of my life, I would now live confidently – ONE DAY AT A TIME!

  • “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Since that time I have not been able to live this out perfectly in my life. I have allowed anxiety and worry to creep back into my life at times. And, every time I do, I find the answer is still the same. I need to get down on my knees and surrender my life anew to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This is what it means to seek the Kingdom of God above all else. It means to let Jesus establish His rule and reign in our life. It means to consider His Kingdom first before we do anything!

I have no control over tomorrow. No one does. Yet, my life is in the hands of the one who created all my yesterdays, holds my life in His hand today, and controls the eternal destiny of all my tomorrows. He never changes! He remains faithful! He alone is my confidence, my provider, and my peace. What a joy, what a privilege, and what a freedom to truly live life…

ONE DAY AT A TIME – THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST!

Lord, establish Your rule and reign in my life today and in all of my tomorrows!

In Jesus Name!

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THE WORD, THE WHOLE WORD, AND NOTHING BUT THE WORD!

MATTHEW 5:17-19: “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: How will I choose to live in 2021? Will I look to the Word of God for all matters that pertain unto life and godliness? Or, will I be pulled by the wisdom of the world and the desire to be accepted by others? I have a choice between living by selected verses of the Bible that fit my current lifestyle, or by living by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Jesus, on His Sermon on the Mount to His disciples, wanted to clear up any confusion that could take place. The disciples could be tempted to think of Jesus’ teaching as something new. They might misunderstand Jesus’ intentions as He taught them. Jesus wanted to make it very clear –

  • “I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. “

In this one statement, Jesus was drawing the line in the sand once and for all. God never changes and His Word never changes. The Scriptures are the written expression of the very heart of God. Jesus is the Eternal Word, the Logos of God. And, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), so the Word of God never changes. Jesus did not come to change God’s Word. Jesus came to accomplish its true purpose!

When Jesus began His ministry, the Jewish nation was filled with religious sects that differed on their interpretation of God’s Word. Some, like the Pharisees, had added man-made rules as an addition to the Scriptures. These became, in their mind, as sacred as the very Scriptures they claimed to follow. And, in all of this, they wandered further and further from the truth and God’s intent and purpose for their lives.

Dear ones, this is what is happening today! The division in the church is growing larger and larger. Every day we learn of someone who is joining the ranks of those who pick and choose what they want to believe in the Bible and dismiss the verses that do not fit their lifestyle or worldview. If God is God, if He never changes, then where do they get the authority or the basis for such a position?

Jesus said He came to fulfill the purpose of all of God’s Word. In doing so His life has either fulfilled the pictures and types that were given in the Old Testament, or His life has clarified and solidified the revelation found in the Holy Script. The whole revelation of Scripture makes it clear which one is true of every verse. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection fulfilled all of the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament. And, Jesus’ perfect life of love clarified all of the moral laws of the Old Testament.

To Jesus, the Apostles, and the early church, it was…

THE WORD, THE WHOLE WORD, AND NOTHING BUT THE WORD!

  • “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.”

So, in 2021 we have a choice. We can ignore the difficult and unpopular passages in the Bible, or we can come before Him with open and humble hearts and receive the Words of life. Our posture as we enter this year will have an eternal bearing on our lives.

  • “So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

I don’t know about you, but Jesus’ words bring me to my knees. I don’t want to be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. My testimony and my life must be surrendered to the whole counsel of God. I must be willing to pay the price in 2021 for taking a stand on God’s Word. I must always proclaim the truth in love – but I must proclaim the whole truth! Just as I cannot rewrite history, so also I can not rewrite what God has declared. I must take a stand for…

THE WORD, THE WHOLE WORD, AND NOTHING BUT THE WORD!

Lord, grant me the grace to do so, I pray.

In Jesus Name!

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WHAT ARE MY NEW YEAR – ATTITUDES?

MATTHEW 5:3-12: “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Times – they are a-changing! We certainly live in a different world than the one I grew up in during the 60s and 70s. It is rare to read about a commune that is living in the mountains proclaiming love and peace. Now, groups are taking over city blocks with guns and force and calling it their new world order. In all of this unrest and uncertainty – I need to do an attitude check!

I realized something a few years ago. During the 2016 election cycle, I found myself becoming more cynical and angry as I watched the 24/7 news coverage. My attitudes were being affected by the barrage of negative and fearful coverage I was watching. My thought patterns began to reflect the world around me and not the true kingdom of which I am a part. I am so thankful that my reading has taken me to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount the day before we enter a New Year.

If Jesus were walking the earth today, if He was recruiting disciples in the current age in which we live, I wonder how many would be buying a ticket to hear His presentation. When you compare the teachings of Jesus to the book titles in the local Christian bookstore, or online, they seem miles apart. The church unfortunately is not modeling a counter-culture that is marked by the life of Jesus. The church has begun to overlay their faith with the values and attitudes of this world.

Let’s review the Be-Attitudes that Jesus proclaims are to be the hallmark of His disciples.

  • “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”

Jesus does not emulate the self-reliant, the strong, the accomplished. Jesus proclaims God’s blessings upon those who are poor (in spirit) and recognize their need for Him. It is also true that those who are poor in this world are more receptive to the Gospel than the wealthy. This is something to think about!

  • “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

When is the last time I have mourned over the brokenness of this world, the lost souls around me, and those who have died spiritually and will one day be eternally separated from God? The world tells us we have the right is to be happy. God calls us to mourn. For, only those who truly mourn will be comforted!

  • “God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.”

Humility is to realize our place in the scheme of things. We are not God. We are fully dependent upon Him. The one who dies with the most toys will not win. The one who walks in humility and devotion toward God, although they may suffer in this life, they will receive the blessing of heaven and the world to come!

  • “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.”

We live in a world of perverted justice. We are not interested in the truth if it contradicts our worldview. The world calls evil – good, and good – evil. We will never find the true peace and satisfaction we desire without the truth. Truth demands justice and righteousness. God blesses those who hunger for His truth!

  • “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

The standard of the day is revenge. Our nation is divided. When one side does not get its way they take to the streets in violent protest. We cannot seem to tolerate someone who holds a different opinion than we do. We forget so easily the mercy that we have received. And, we wonder why no one extends mercy toward us? We must be merciful if we are going to experience mercy. God blesses the merciful!

  • “God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.”

Who has a pure heart? I know that I do not. Yet, my standing with God is not based on the condition of my heart, but the direction of my heart. I have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. I have been fully pardoned and clothed with His righteousness (purity). As I direct my heart toward Jesus I walk in the light of His mercy, truth, and love. The familiar chorus echoes this so well – “Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see You, I want to see You!”

  • “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”

Jesus told Peter to lay down his sword. The believer is not called to take up arms and convince the world that it is wrong. The church has tried this in the past and history records its grave failure. We are to be people of peace. We are to promote peace, extend peace, and model peace. Living in peace is one of the very fruits of the Spirit that show that we are the children of God!

  • “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.”

Finally, I hear a nudging at my heart saying – “Kirk, get over yourself!” How many times have I thrown a pity party for being misunderstood, judged, or even de-friended for my stand for God’s righteousness and my proclamation of Jesus Christ? Hebrews 11 is a reminder that there is a price for living by faith. When we suffer persecution for our testimony we should rejoice! It means that our light is shining in the darkness. It means that we are making a difference and are living as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven – now!

Lord, thank you for giving me an attitude check this morning. Help me to remember Your call to be poor, mourn, humble, hungry, merciful, pure, peaceful, and rejoicing in times of persecution.

Help me to walk in YOUR-ATTITUDES as I enter the New Year!

In Jesus Name!

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WHO WILL SHOW US BETTER TIMES?

PSALMS 4:6-8: “Many people say, “Who will show us better times?” Let your face smile on us, Lord. You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: The year 2020 is coming to a close. In just a few short days we will say goodbye to one of the most unusual and challenging years we have ever faced. We were not embroiled in a world war. We were not facing a worldwide economic collapse, although there was economic hardship. We were battling an invisible enemy, a virus, and the crippling fear that held nations in its grip.

With just a few days until we ring in the New Year, will 2021 be any different? As the Psalmist asks,

  • “Who will show us better times?”

Will a change in the political landscape usher in days of health and prosperity? Will just a new calendar year put us in a better psychological state of mind? Will we simply embrace wearing masks as the new norm? Who will show us better times?

David faced his share of hard times. Ridiculed by his brothers and hunted by the king he defended in battle, David too was looking for a better day, a better year! Yet, David had learned the wonderful secret of living in hope. He was not looking for something to happen in his life to improve things. David was looking to the Someone in his life who alone could show him better times!

  • “Let your face smile on us, Lord. You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.”

Think about these words in the context of living in a cave rather than the royal palace. Think about these words while hunting your food each day rather than being served around the royal table. Think about these words as one who lived as a nomad, without a home, separated from family and friends. David put his hope and his trust in the favor of the Lord!

We can choose to live in the shadow of fear or the favor of the Lord. To live in the favor of the Lord does not mean our circumstances immediately change. They didn’t immediately change for David. To live in the favor of the Lord is to abide in His presence, to experience His peace, the be filled with the joy of the Lord. This joy was not dependent upon circumstances. In fact, his joy superseded any circumstances David faced.

When we look at the favor of the Lord as the shadow that follows our life, we experience great peace. It is a peace that the world cannot give. It is not tied to the economy or our state of comfort. It is a peace that is only found in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you remember the story of Jesus in the boat with His disciples? The disciples were fighting a great storm and Jesus was sound asleep in the back of the boat. How could Jesus sleep amid the storm? He was living in the favor of the Father!

  • “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.”

Many a night David laid his head upon a rock. Saul and his armies were hunting him like a wild animal. Yet, David could lie down in peace and sleep. He knew that the Lord’s favor was upon him. David had received the promise of the Lord and he was fully trusting in the Lord to accomplish this in his life.

I firmly believe that the child of God can walk in confidence and peace in every situation. The Lord has a calling for each one of us. If we choose to walk in obedience to this calling, if we position our lives under the favor of God, if we abide under this shadow of His wing (presence), there is nothing that can keep us from fulfilling the days He has allotted to us. We can walk in confidence and peace. The Lord’s face (favor) is shining upon us!

So how will I position myself to enter the New Year? Will I see better times? Will I lay down in peace and sleep each night? Will my life be filled with joy even amid the storm? These questions are only answered when I answer this…

  • “Who will show us better times?”

Lord, help me to look only to You! Help me to anchor my hope in Christ alone! In 2021, help me to stay under the shadow of your favor.

In Jesus Name!

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THE UNSUNG HERO OF CHRISTMAS…

MATTHEW 2:19-23: “When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: Who do you think of when you contemplate the Christmas story? Of course, our thoughts go immediately to Mary and the baby Jesus. The Shepherds in the field who met the angels are another favorite. And, let’s not forget the Wise Men from the East! Yet, there is one other prominent figure we do not often focus on.

That is Joseph!

Joseph is the unsung hero in the Christmas story. He is a man from the lineage of King David. He is also an honorable and trustworthy man. Betrothed to Mary, and learning that she was with child, Joseph determined to privately break the engagement and keep Mary from a public scandal. Yet, when the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream telling him that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and that the child would be great and redeem Israel from their sins, Joseph obeys the Lord and takes Mary as his wife. He also forgoes any marital relations with his wife until the baby is born.

  • “As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins…When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.” Matthew‬ ‭1:20-21, 24-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

How would the Christmas story have changed if Joseph was unwilling to humble himself and obey the Lord? It took great humility and obedience to take a pregnant wife and father a child that was not yours. It also took great faith to believe in the promise that was spoken by the angel of the Lord in his dream. This character would prove to be so important in the ensuing years.

Fast forward from the manger to Jesus as a toddler. Unlike our traditional nativity scenes, the Wise Men visited Jesus when he was probably under two years of age, and when Mary and Joseph were now living in a house in Bethlehem. The Wise Men had inquired of Herod where the Messiah would be born. Their inquiry, and the star they followed, led them to this small family in Bethlehem. Herod had instructed the Wise Men to bring back a report. His intent was not to worship Jesus but to kill him. God warned the Wise Men and he warned Joseph.

Joseph is once again asked to pull up stakes, interrupt his life, and walk by faith. The Lord again warns Joseph in a dream of Herod’s plot. Joseph, in obedience, takes Mary and Jesus to Egypt. They escape the massacre of small children in Bethlehem. When Herod dies, an angel appears in a dream once again to Joseph. Joseph is called to return to Israel. In less than two or three years, Joseph and Mary go from Bethlehem to Egypt, then Egypt to Israel. Yet, their journey is not over yet.

Once again the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and tells him to leave his hometown region of Galilee and settle in Nazareth. By this time, if I were Joseph, I would be asking – “Lord, are you sure this time?” Yet, in these opening pages of Matthew, we read of Joseph’s unwavering humility and obedience to the Lord. As he obeyed God he positioned his family under God’s grace and care. Joseph’s obedience is often unnoticed. Yet, his obedience to the Lord was just as important as Mary’s when she submitted to God’s calling upon her life.

Joseph did not do anything grandiose. He simply lived a life of faith and obedience. Yet, his simple obedience kept his young family, and the Savior of the world, under God’s protection and care. Joseph’s obedience was moment by moment. He did not question the Lord. He simply obeyed. His life is a lesson of faith for all of us. We don’t have to move mountains to change the world. All we have to do is listen to the still small voice of the Lord – and obey!

This Christmas, as we look at the nativity scenes all around us, as we ponder the Christmas story, let’s remember the story of Joseph. A humble carpenter, standing faithfully next to his wife, taking responsibility for a child he did not father, and leading his family faithfully, step by step, in obedience to the Lord.

Lord, help me to be like Joseph!

In Jesus Name!

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JESUS IS NO LONGER IN THE MANGER…

HEBREWS 12:28-29: “Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire.” NLT
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OBSERVATION: It is just a few days before Christmas. Even during a pandemic, people are rushing to buy their last minute Christmas gifts. Christmas lights shine brightly and children cannot wait to gather around the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. Our focus centers around a lowly manger in the City of Bethlehem. Yet, it is easy to forget in this festive season,

JESUS IS NO LONGER IN THE MANGER!

While I love a beautiful nativity scene just like everyone else, I must admit that it can blur my vision of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even the many movies that are made about Jesus can do the same thing. Jesus is no longer in a lowly manger. He is no longer walking in sandals along the shores of Galilee. And, most importantly, Jesus is no longer hanging on the cross!

JESUS IS RISEN! JESUS IS GLORIFIED!

  • “When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.” Revelation‬ ‭1:12-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

This is the Jesus who came by the way of a manger. This is the Jesus who lived as a humble carpenter. This is the Jesus who walked among men, performed miracles and was crucified on the cross. This is the Jesus who now stands at the right hand of God the Father in all of His glory. And, this is the Jesus that the writer of Hebrews calls us to worship with holy fear and awe!

THIS IS THE JESUS WE NEED TO SEE THIS CHRISTMAS!

Everyone loves a baby. Yet, Jesus is no longer a baby. He is no longer a humble carpenter. And, He is no longer a suffering servant. Jesus Christ is King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all glorious.

OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IS A CONSUMING FIRE!

  • “Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. For our God is a devouring fire.”

Fire has the power to do two things. Fire can destroy and fire can purify. Fire can ravage a house and burn it to the ground. The same fire can purify gold until it glistens with brilliance, free from all of its impurities. Malachi thinks of the fiery nature of our Lord when he writes,

  • “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies says, “The day of judgment is coming, burning like a furnace. On that day the arrogant and the wicked will be burned up like straw. They will be consumed—roots, branches, and all. “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. On the day when I act, you will tread upon the wicked as if they were dust under your feet,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Malachi‬ ‭4:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The true message of Christmas is not found under a tree, or even in a lowly manger. The true message of Christmas is found in the fire of God. Jesus came to redeem sinners. His obedience to the Father, His death on the Cross, and His glorious resurrection, are the real message of Christmas. If Jesus never humbled Himself, He would never have sacrificed Himself. And, because He did He has been given a name above all names. He stands ready to save and purify with the fire of His holiness and love, those who call upon His name. And, He will come to judge those who reject Him with the fire of His holiness and judgment.

  • “Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.” Revelation‬ ‭19:11-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Christmas, the lights and trimmings, and all of its celebrations remind us – Jesus came the first time to save sinners, and He is coming again to judge the world. Jesus is no longer in the manger. The cross and tomb are empty. He will come as a consuming fire. His fire will be just and fair. It will purify His own and judge the ungodly. Our God is a consuming fire!

The greatest gift of Christmas is that you and I can choose which type of fire touches our life. We can be touched by the fire of His love and forgiveness through faith, or we can be touched by the fire of His judgment through our unbelief and dismissal of His great gift. The three Hebrew children were thrown into the fire, yet they were not burned, because they met one like the Son of Man. Jesus stands with His arms opened wide. He reaches out to touch you and me this Christmas. In all of His glory, like the Apostle John, He reaches out to us and we can hear Him say,

  • “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as if I were dead. But he laid his right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” Revelation‬ ‭1:17-18 ‭NLT

Lord, this Christmas, help me to worship you with holy fear and awe. When I look upon the manger, may I see the fire of God!

In Jesus Name!

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