July 16 – Test. Refine. Purify.


“Examine me, O Lord, and try me;
Test my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth.” – Psalm 26:2-3 (NASB)

The love God promises to all who love Him is always before us. It is always for our benefit and never fails. We are the ones that fail in this love. David, who wrote this song seeks vindication that he has not failed. He calls on God to examine, try, and test his inner self – deeper emotion than what he might show to others. It is interesting that the phrase “test my mind and my heart” is translated from the Hebrew original “test my kidneys and my heart.” The use of kidneys is a figurative way to speak of the seat of emotion and affection; hence, it is involving character. It was seen as the most sensitive vital part of a person, thus, the “mind” as we today see the mind as the most vital part of a person along with the heart. These three invitations to divine scrutiny are essentially synonymous ways of testing, refining, and purifying. If we include the first verse, we can understand that David wanted confirmation of his faithfulness and trust in God. Can we claim that our integrity guides our way and our trust is steadfast? Let’s commit to that today.

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July 15 – Trust in Waiting


“To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.” – Psalm 25:1-3 (ESV)

David often struggled with the demanding issues of life. In this psalm he writes of avoiding denial and affirming dependence. He knows he must trust God in the face of his troubles and troublemakers. The important perception of shame for the wicked and no shame for the righteous returns is our promise. There are actually two promises here – one is positive for those who trust and wait for God and the other is negative for those who are disloyal and unfaithful. First, there is no shame in waiting for the Lord to act for us or give us the guidance we can have only from Him. It is good for us to remember that waiting for God to act on our behalf is a manifestation of the faith He has given to us. We are always fighting the temptations to rush ahead with our own plan. In Isaiah 30:18 God is waiting to be pour his grace upon us and He will. Waiting is a way to blessing. Second, those who are recklessly unfaithful and deceitful; those who seek to follow their own way are the ones who will be shamed for trusting in their own false teaching.

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June 23 – Rest and Trust


For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling,,,” Isaiah 30:15 (ESV)

Our verse is part of a prophecy God sent to His people Israel through Isaiah His prophet. Isaiah delivered this important message to His people. It is a promise for all but in this instance it was a promise that the people rejected and were unwilling to submit to it. By not accepting the promise Israel missed the blessing of it. God wanted to them to learn this truth, and it is still effective even today. You and I will do well to listen to this promise. God wants us today to know the secret to salvation and strength. Rest, or relax, and trust in Him. If we have been trying to live right by our own effort, we need to realize that God offers to help us to live right and also to accomplish lasting results. The kind of rest promised comes from trusting the words of God. We can rest by believing and following God’s instructions. Let’s believe His words and quit trying in our own strength. Let’s remember these words, “In quietness and trust is your strength.” It’s a promise and a blessing for us if we will have it.

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Isaiah, rest, salvation, strength, trust

May 21 – Fear So to Not Fear


“Praise the Lord! How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, Who greatly delights in His commandments.” Psalm 112:1 (NASB)
“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.” Psalm 112:7 (ESV)


The act of fearing the LORD is an emphasis throughout the Old Testament. The concept “fear of the Lord” occurs most prominently in the Old Testament’s Wisdom Literature such as our selected verse today. It is defined as the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10) or, as the responsible attitude of all humanity toward God (Ecclesiastes12:13). When it is used it conveys either devotion or dread of consequential punishment. Such a devotional attitude is both fitting and pleasing to our Lord God. We can and should fear God in both ways. When faith believers are walking in the fear of the Lord, they are also in the comfort of the Holy Spirit. Such and attitude actually give us courage from our faith so that we are not afraid when bad tidings come our way. No one likes bad news but true Christians have no need to fear any news we receive. We have been given steadfast hearts, firm and trusting in the LORD. We can actually say, if we fear the Lord God, we really have no need to fear anything else in this world ⸺we are blessed because we fear only the Lord.

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May 7 – Perfect Peace Promised


“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3 (ESV)

Are these familiar words to you? They may be just the promise we need to hear these days. Because we all face uncertainty and trying times, because we all can find ways to be upset inside because of outside turmoil. When things are not as they should be, at least in our own understanding, peace escapes us. We believe that we all need to be reminded often of these promises. But first, let us understand what this promise of peace is promising perfect peace. Perfect peace may not be just the absence of turmoil. Perfect peace can be ours in the midst of upsetting challenges. Perfect peace is complete, genuine, inner tranquility which we find when we trust the word of God. There are so many influences and distractions in this world to interrupt our thinking and to disturb our peace. Remember, who is it that benefits from God’s peace? It is the person who trusts in God because those who trust in God focus their thinking on God’s faithfulness and this gives their minds a real steadfastness. Steady thinking is really a part of real peace. Let’s keep our minds steady today, trusting the Lord.

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February 19 – God’s Spa is Best

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. – Proverbs 3:5-8 (ESV)

If mom told me once, she told me more than a hundred million times, “Don’t slam the screen door!” Some lessons need repetition because they are very important. Our verses today are familiar and they have wisdom and promises we need to remember. So, we return to them often. Don’t weary then of hearing Scripture quoted which you have known before. These truths need to be reviewed more than occasionally; we need to hear them often. We need to admit that we don’t have all the answers and our understanding is not enough. God knows the straight path for us and He knows the end from the beginning. He can direct us when we have decisions to make. So it’s up to us to put our trust in our loving, all-knowing God. It is risky to think our understanding is enough apart from that given to us by the Lord. It is risky messing around with any means or people who do not follow God’s way. If we turn away from evil and trust the LORD with all our heart, we will have healing and refreshment to our bones. Better than any spa visit.

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February 11 – Mercy on Me


“Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” Psalm 57:1 (NIV)

“Mercy me!” These days it is the name of a band and/or the name of a song sung by a different band. It is an exclamation with the same meaning as the words David wrote in this Psalm. He was calling on God for mercy and for protection. Twice David had an opportunity to dispatch King Saul who was hunting to kill him. What is interesting about this verse is the fact that when David wrote this song he was recalling when he was hiding in a cave where he had an opportunity to be rid the threat of death by killing Saul and being rid of him permanently. Instead, David hid in the cave and trusted God. David, anointed to be King after Saul, knew his own need for a refuge for his soul, and he found that in God. He could be secure and safe spiritually. He didn’t have to kill Saul. David chose to trust in God who promised to keep Him safe forever. We need and have the same refuge. God has promised us a safe place with Him for our souls, for eternity. So we can say with David, “We have our refuge in our God.”

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January 12 – Power From God To Do Good Things


“By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10 (ESV)

Grace is not only God’s unmerited favor to do good for us when we don’t deserve it. It is also enabling power, an actual power from God that acts and makes good things happen in us and for us. God’s grace is God acting in us to make us work hard, to make us keep our commitments and resolutions (if they are appropriate). Apostle Paul says he worked hard: “By the grace of God…I worked harder than any of them.” Paul says, “Work out your own salvation,” and adds, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13). Grace is power from God to do good things in us and for us. This grace is promised to us. It was applied in our past and it will be applied in our future. If you have ever watched water go over a water fall and wondered why it seems endless – think Niagara Falls – that is what grace is like. It’s ever flowing over the waterfall of the present, from an inexhaustible river of grace from the future, into the ever-increasing reservoir of grace in the past.

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January 8 – A Sure Thing


“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: For the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation..” Isaiah 12:2 (KJV)

Looking for a good reason to trust a sure thing? So much has be uncertain in the past. Maybe our lives have been turned upside down because of the turmoil that rolled over us and flattened us. There is one who we can trust and cling to the promises He has given to us. Yes, there is. We can trust without fear because our strength comes to us from our LORD JEHOVAH. This means the LORD our God is our strength where we have none. And it is true we have no strength of our own that will carry us through the year ahead so if we do not trust in the strength we have from God, we have no strength at all. We will end up on a heap of depression and despondency. We will be lost in the woods and sinking in the sea. Who will save us? The LORD JEHOVAH will. If we step out in faith, and put our trust in His word and guidance, we will not fear but we will stand up on a high place singing our song of salvation and praise to the LORD OUR LORD. It’s a sure thing.

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Faith Walking or Fear Walking

Take a moment to read this verse. If the English Standard Version is not your favorite version, find the verse in your version and read it there.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.  2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (ESV)

A packed verse, I’d say. To fully understand and to fully appreciate the truth and promises in this passage would take some time. We are not, at this time trying to do an exhaustive exposition of the verses – but we want to go in for a close-up on one powerful truth, one very powerful promise. We want to consider how then we should live today. Focus on this — for we walk by faith, not by sight— and consider how we conform to it.

Do we?

Sometimes we do, right?

How about the other times? No so much. Why not?

The process of being transformed by the renewing of our mind[i] is anything but an instantaneous process.  It is indeed a process full of victories and failures, of successes and disappointments. It is a cycle of being on track and then off again as we continue the journey from where we are to where God has planned for us to be. It is good to know that on the days we think we have made no progress; we actually have because we have persevered to that day. God has been with us and we have learned something, we have exercised some spiritual muscles and they have gained some strength. We have been in the battle, in the war and it is there we have found rest and peace in the midst of trial, tribulation and even persecution. The war just happens to be the process of finding our rest.[ii]

When it seems the progress has waned it is still there.  We grow as we keep our gaze fixed straight in front of us.  Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but we have this commitment, keep our eye on the goal which is the one God has directed for us—to Jesus and to maturity. We are expectantly in this together and I’m all in – I’m off and running and I’m not turning back.[iii]

The proposition is this, “Our progress comes when we actively choose to live by faith and not by sight.”

Walking by sight is, in effect, walking by fear. Walking by sight includes more than the sense of vision, it includes what we hear and what we read.  As we walk by sight we will make decisions that are influenced by what we see and hear and what we see generates fear, anxiety, doubt, and hesitation. It blinds us to the places of rest and it keeps us agitated trying to fix things. In the bigger scope we fear what we do not actually see but what we imagine in our mind’s eye. We create scenarios of what is going to happen in the world or in our country. Our imagination ultimately spawns fear. This reinforces our perception and shapes our understanding. The old worn out saying “perception is reality” is a horrid axiom but we tend to live as if it is absolute. We desperately grab and cling to what we see around us (sight again) and what we believe will protect us. When we find no lifesavers or escape routes we despair and lose hope. Fear Walking, as we are going to call it is the way to hopeless ness because it robs us of hope. Hope that will not disappoint us is hope that we acquire when we walk by faith. Faith Walking is rewarded by hope and produces more hope.[iv]

This is where we might get a bit far afield in this discussion – and we might get distracted from what we need to learn about walking by faith. But we need to understand what is driving our thought process. We need to know that what we consider important is what our treasure is. Learning where our treasure is will reveal to us where our heart is. This is a point of significant conflict, it is a battle ground. You know that war we mentioned previously?  Some will see and recognize the potential that exists and threatens a way of life that they hold dear – a life they want to continue enjoying.  This life has brought pleasures, comforts and rewards. It has been enjoyed for so long that we have failed to even notice the existence of a rot that has been taking place within it for decades.

By now, the rot has reached deep into the roots and far up into the branches. It has invaded and poisoned practices and commitments that once were sacred and holy. The rot is so very perverse and has so deeply imbedded itself into our society that it is spoiling the true treasures we should hold dear. The rot has caused our own reasoning, our own understanding to replace the precepts and commandments given to us by God. We stop agreeing with God because such agreement costs us something we do not want to give up or do.

We can now identify traces of it everywhere as it sends out its runners to pollute and establish what is false as truth. The arguments for embracing the rot will always end up at a point where the meaning of God’s word is reassigned, redefined, and even rewritten to support the rot. The rot rejects anything from God that holds our life accountable to Him and makes us uncomfortable or requires us to give up some pleasure or presumed liberty. And because we do not want to totally jettison God all together, we must recast our understanding of God so that instead of being created in the image of God, we recreate God in the image of the rot. This is handled well by leaders of our assemblies, the ones set over us to shepherd us become the ones leading us away from the truth and faith and into a place of living fully by sight and reason. If our faith conflicts with the way we see things, the faith must change. We must adjust what we believe our faith to be suitable with what we see.  We are dressing ourselves up for destruction and judgement and we do not care. Instead of growing together in the Spirit, we have given over to the rot which has been infecting and splitting the gatherings of believers. Some believers, Fear Walkers, merge into the world to protect what they fear they will lose, and others choose to remain Faith Walkers, to be set apart and not succumb to the rot.

Here we will parenthetically set out some historical facts to help us understand why believers are set apart for specific purpose.

[ To set the identity of those who profess to believe in Jesus Christ apart from common labels, we will avoid the common label “Christians” and will identify believers by the term first used for them. They were known first as followers of Jesus, it was a true Jesus movement and officials and themselves referred to them as “Belonging to The Way” or “of The Way.” Because at the very beginning all believers were Jews who were still a part of Judaism, The Way was considered a Jewish sect or a part of the Jewish religion.[v]  Those that belonged to The Way gathered together in private homes. It was the pagans in Antioch that first used the adjective “Christian” to describe and identify the believers of Jesus.[vi] It was intended as a derogatory term.[vii]

The word “church” was used to identify a body of believers of The Way much before any building was constructed as a specific meeting place. It may well have been in the mid-3rd century that first building was exclusively set aside to be used as a gathering place for meetings of The Way.[viii]   It was hardly the intent of the early churches to become what they have today with the gatherings splitting into varieties with distinctive affections method and hierarchy. For God called first out a people to purify for himself, a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. We were all the church and the church was whoever was meeting together in homes at Philippi, and at Ephesus, and at Galatia, and at Thessalonica and eventually at New York and at Chicago, and at Longview. Wherever a gathering of believers were, that was where the church was. For some perspective on the early church and how it transformed when it became government approved see this blog post[ix] ]

The result of the rot has been worse than a wrecking ball as this malformation of what God calls us to let rot come in. Sometimes it has done its damage without the gathering even being aware. Can it be imagined that today any minister or leader in a gathering of believers, perhaps the gathering you are a part of, would stand up and say, “Where do y’all think all these dreadful fights and arguments come from? Do y’all think they just happen? Well, think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. Y’all get all lustful for what you don’t have and some are even willing to kill to get it. Y’all want what isn’t yours and mean enough risk violence to get your hands on it. Y’all wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? No, you wouldn’t, and just why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. Y’all spoiled children, each wanting your own way.” James 4:1-4

Our Faith Walking and our confessions quickly fade away when we switch to Sight Walking or Fear Walking. What we with our own eyes we believe more than what we might just have experienced because of faith. Our great example is our brother Peter who saw Jesus walking on the surface of the Sea of Galilee. It was by sight and it generated fear. This had to be a ghost for no person could stand on and walk on water – especially the surface of a tumultuous body of water. The disciples were in a boat crossing to the other side of this lake which was about 5 miles across. Jesus had not come with them this time as he wanted to spend time in prayer. The wind is against them and pretty strong. The waves were significant but not dangerous. It was sometime after 3 a.m. and the boat was about three fourths of the way across. When they see this what they think is an apparition. Peter recognizes Jesus approaching the boat, he is overcome with awe and to make sure that this person walking on the unsettled surface of the lake was Jesus he says, “If it’s really you Lord, tell me to come to you, right now.” Jesus had just confirmed that it was him but Peter wants more assurance because what he sees has actually put fear into him. Jesus says just one word, “Come.”

Peter is out of the boat and making his way on the surface of the water toward Jesus. His walk has suddenly become a walk by faith. We have no idea how many yards he walked. He is actually doing the impossible because he has faith. Jesus called him to come and he believed and he was Faith Walking…right up until he switches back to Fear Walking. He looks around and is astounded and recognizes that he is now attempting the impossible and he fears the outcome. He sinks. Jesus has to save his sorry soul or Peter would have drowned.  That is the way it always is. When we depend on what we see we become not Faith Walkers but Sight Walkers which become almost immediately Fear Walkers.

Is it faith or is it fear that directs our path these days. Fear, I’m afraid has many by the throat and is choking the life out of them. The reaction to the fear is to rush to solutions that seem tangible and embrace them without consideration of their faith. Fear walkers will strive to find a solution that will make things great again, will restore the life they have enjoyed and is now crumbling around them. Some will not even see the crumbling and although they will still be driven by Fear, “Fear is one of the most primal of all motivations.  It drives people to do things they would never even consider under normal circumstances.  It blinds them to truth, makes them cling in desperation to any hope that presents itself (even hopes that, in clearer-headed times, they would recognize as dangerous), and lash out viciously at any perceived threat to that hope.  It makes them see friends as enemies and not realize enemies are pretending to be friends.”[x]

Their solution is to hold fast to their confession of hope without wavering and trust Him who promised because He who promised is faithful. He Himself has promised that He will never leave us or desert us.

[Now, let me make it clear, that these comments are made for the benefit and in the context of those who are believers and followers of The Way – those who believe the Truth and have the Life because they have the Son of God. Those who have chosen to not believe have no real faith there is no one to put their faith in until they recognize their need, repent, confess, believe and receive the free gift of eternal life offered by Jesus Christ. He is the only Way, to God the Father.]

The danger we face when Fear is the motivator of our thoughts and decisions because we are not walking by Faith is that we fall into the trap (set by the devil himself) of believing that God cannot fix our world by Himself. Fear walkers believe that fixing the world and ridding it of all its wanton evils requires our involvement because for some truly ungodly reason Fear walkers believe God is not inclined or able to accomplish their will and what they (the Fear Walkers) want and believe they need. Fear Walkers fail to understand that with or without them, God’s will is always accomplished without fail. What He promises, He will do, what he has spoken He will deliver on.

Fear Walkers may cling to a way of life and a way of government and to a country that they believe has been established by God especially for their pleasure and blessing. They believe this because the establishers were, for the most part believers in God. Some were even quite devout followers of The Way. And because the establishers believed that a Creator God was responsible for all things and believe that God governed the affairs of mankind and because this belief was evident in the sayings and writing of our country’s establishers, our country, the United States of America was therefore established as a Christian nation. The degree, to which that assumption is true, or not true, depends on so many other assumptions and presumptions and interpretations it is safe to conclude that the question is not settled. We can be fairly certain that while America’s establishers were not pagan atheists and likely not even agnostics, they were not all devout men of strong spiritual character. It is unlikely that the majority were any more Faith walkers than much of us are today.

So with these conclusions what responsibility does the body of people of The Way have to their country? Does The Way in America have a different responsibility to American than The Way in France? How about The Way in Japan or Korea? Perhaps the responsibility of The Way in China, Venezuela, Congo or Argentina to their respective country is different because of the history of those countries. Certainly we would be a bit amiss to think that Japan or China or Congo are Christian nations or had a Christian beginning.

Would it be so very horrible to think that The Way in America is special with a special calling to preserve a special way of life because it had such a special beginning?

Yes, it would be very horribly wrong to think that.  For in truth we are more bound in our responsibilities to our brothers and sisters in Korea and Venezuela than we are to the reprobates who lead this United States of America. We have a greater responsibility to serve and help followers of The Way in Syria, Iraq, and Iran than we do to preserve our own way of life. When has The Way in American ever been excused from the responsibility given to it by the Lord Jesus Himself when he said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NASB)

It never has.

 


[i]  Romans 12:2 (ESV) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

[ii] http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/is-the-christian-life-peace-or-war

[iii] Philippians 3:12-14 (The Message) I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

[iv] Hebrews 11:1 (ESV) Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

[v] Acts 9:1-2 (ESV) But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

[vi] Lexham Bible Dictionary, Copyright 2016, Lexham Press.

[vii] http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/christian.html

[viii] http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/november/why-and-when-did-christians-start-constructing-special.html

[ix] https://prandersonblog.wordpress.com/2016/08/07/from-the-setting-of-the-sun-it-will-always-rise-again/

[x] From The Five Pilgrims “Fear: A Path to the Trump-side for Evangelicals”, C Phillips, August 19, 2016 http://thefivepilgrims.com/2016/08/19/fear-a-path-to-the-trump-side-for-evangelicals/