Ever More Faithful

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“Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom, but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him.” (Daniel 6:4)

 
Did you ever hear the expression “aging with dignity?” I read today’s account of Daniel and that’s what comes to my mind. I mean, when was the last time in any movie about Daniel, he was depicted as a 70 year old man being lowered into the lion’s den? According to Biblical timelines, he was probably a little older than that but just knowing that he was there around 605 BC when he refused to eat the king’s portion and then this lion’s den incident took place around 539 BC, we can easily do the calculations and see that Daniel is no longer a young man. But what else we see is that over all these years he has been a faithful man. And his age doesn’t stop him from continuing to be faithful.

 
For every time I have thought, “God, this is too hard. I can’t do it,” or “God, I’m too tired to go on,” Daniel may have felt that way, but he certainly didn’t live that way. I see a man whose sites were set on God. I see this faithful man who, because he was faithful first and foremost to God, was able to continually be faithful to those he served and those around him, no matter their walk of life or religious beliefs. I see a boy who was loved by those around him because of his character. I see him grow into a man who continues to be loved by those around him because of his character, well, loved by those who respect a faithful character.

 
I mean, here he is brought under another conquering ruler. And here God provides Darius, who, like Nebuchadnezzar, wanted to surround himself with wisdom. So who impresses him? Daniel. Our Daniel is set as one of the three highest satraps over the kingdom. Now, Daniel does his job so well that he is preferred over all the counselors so the king was wanting to set him over the whole entire realm. Why again? Because there was “an excellent spirit” in him.

 
What does it mean that there was “an excellent spirit” in him? Maybe to the king it meant Daniel’s mind was far above everyone elses and his wisdom surpassed all. But don’t forget that the word for spirit here, “ruach” is also used for God’s very breath and His living Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Could it be that Darius saw that Daniel was guided by God? That Daniel had a relationship and knowledge from a God like no other?
Well, Darius saw something extra special in Daniel. But, the other officials weren’t looking that way. They were just plain jealous of Daniel. So, what do you do, when you don’t like someone? You try to find fault in them. They wanted to ruin Daniel in the eyes of King Darius. Only, he was so faithful to the laws of the kingdom and to God that he was squeaky clean. If they were going to catch him up, it would have to be in something that went against His God. So they created a situation that would fit their cause.

 
So much for character in these men. They weren’t about faithfulness. They were about getting their own way. If deception would get them there, then that’s what they would use. Now, I’m pretty sure that Daniel was supposed to have a say in things. But these fellows approached King Darius with an idea that had not been shared with Daniel. Only they said, “All the high officials, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed…” Really? I don’t recall Daniel being included. So here is King Darius thinking that Daniel, along with all the others, has established this ordinance that no one should petition any god or man for thirty days, except for the king, or they would be thrown to the lions. Because they said all had agreed, Darius signed the injunction.

 
Knowing that Daniel prayed three times a day, the satraps watched for their opportunity. They had him! They knew one thing about Daniel. He was faithful and he would be faithful to his God no matter what. And he was, just as he always had been. They bring Daniel before King Darius. The king spent all night trying to find a way around the law, but there was no way once a law was signed. He felt terrible and tried to find a way to rescue him. But the king was forced to command Daniel to be lowered into the lion’s den. It was out of his hands. It was out of his control. But the king held onto one hope, that it wasn’t out of the control of Daniel’s God. “May your God whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

 
Darius was a king who cared about Daniel. He cared about what was happening around him here. I know because he couldn’t sleep, he didn’t eat, he didn’t enjoy the king’s pleasures that night. Daniel was on his mind. The acts of the other satraps were on his mind. I’m supposing that Daniel’s God was on his mind.

 
The king didn’t wait, but at the break of day went to the pit. I think he was in anguish because God’s word says he cried with a lamentable cry. That sounds like a heartbreaking, heart wrenching kind of crying to me. And he called, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, is your God whom you serve continually, able to deliver you from the lions?” And imagine the state of the king’s heart when he heard Daniel’s voice answer, “O King, live for ever. My God has sent His angel, and has shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before Him innocency was found in me; and also before you, O King, have I done no hurt.”

 
So Daniel was lifted up and the deceitful satraps and their families were cast into the lions’ den instead. Only this time, the lions were not merciful at all. And before a whole nation, King Darius declared that Daniel’s God was a living God, steadfast for ever, whose kingdom shall not be destroyed, and whose dominion shall be to the end. He declared God to be a deliverer and a rescuer who works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who was even able to deliver Daniel from the power of the lions.

 
Now, what if Daniel isn’t supposed to be some unique and fantastic story? What if Daniel’s example is supposed to be one that we follow? I mean, most of the time Daniel was involved in normal affairs and normal life. Only he chose to live his every walking and every sleeping moment according to God’s ways and for God’s glory. He chose to be faithful in You, God. He didn’t choose just to be faithful sometimes, or only in the good times, but to be faithful. And so, when the hard decisions came, it didn’t matter how hard they were, he already knew the choice he would need to make, and he did it, he remained faithful no matter the cost. Because in truth, the cost of being unfaithful is far worse.

 
Jesus asked a question once, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and count the cost, whether you have sufficient fund to finish it?” (Luke 14:28) I need to be like Daniel and count the cost from the start so I already know that I have a sufficiency of all I need at any point down the road. Daniel’s life story reminds me of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 2, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” Well, who is, but God?

 
The truth is that Daniel wasn’t sufficient in and of himself. His sufficiency for every moment, for himself and for those around him, came from God. Paul continues in 2 Corinthians 3:5, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God…” God, You not only delivered Daniel multiple times, but you made his life a continual ministry of Your Spirit and of You. You call us to the same life today. Your grace and power is just as sufficient for me today as it was for Paul and Daniel, and anyone else who would choose faithfulness in You. May we become people who would rather glory in our weaknesses so that You and the power of God in Christ Jesus might rest upon us and the world around us would see Your glory manifested in the midst of our faithfulness to a God who is ever more faithful to His children.

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More Than Robots and Rubber Bracelets

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Photo credit to redrocketmedia.

“…And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.” Zechariah 6:15

Here You are, Lord, in the middle of telling Your plans to Zechariah.  You are telling him Your immediate plans as well as plans for the future good of all people in the One who is the BRANCH and who will inhabit and rule from Your ultimate temple as King of Kings and High Priest eternal.  But You give a warning to Zechariah for the people of Israel.  “…And this shall come to pass, IF you will DILIGENTLY OBEY the voice of the Lord your God.”  And if they didn’t obey?

What’s the idea of having to obey You?  That’s such a hard concept for people today.  Submission, what a tough idea.  Servant, who wants to be a servant?  But over and over again throughout the Old Testament, or should I call it the First Testament, because it’s still relevant and not outdated, You emphasize the importance and necessity of obedience. 

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 28:1)  Why would You set Israel above the other nations if they faithfully obey You and do what You desire?  Is it so You can show what good little robots they are?  I don’t think so.  Obedience to You shows our alignment with You.  If we love someone, I mean really love them, we care about what they care about.  We care about what’s on the heart of the one we love.  We desire to do things that bring them joy.  We understand their feelings.  And when we know that someone else loves us, truly loves us, we know that their heart is for us.  You know when someone adores You.  You know when someone wants to protect You.  You know when someone truly cares for You by the things they do.  And You know if they don’t care as much as they ought.  You know if some of their love or all of their love is lacking by their actions and attitudes.  And those actions and attitudes rub off on the people around you that look up to you or that stand in the background and mock you.  And since You, Lord, love Your people so much to go to such extremes to show it, faithful obedience is the least we could give back to show the measure of our love for You.  Because it matters.  The nations are watching and if we say You are the True God and then don’t treat You like the True God You are, we make a mockery of our relationship and who will be drawn to a relationship like that?

“And He said, ‘If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.’” (Exodus 15:26)  You want Your people to earnestly heed Your voice.  It’s one thing to hear, but it’s a totally different thing to hear and do, to hear and care enough to act upon what we hear.  I have to heed Your voice and do what pleases You; I have to give ear to You and complete that action by keeping and doing what You say.  Does that mean I’ll never be sick?  No.  It meant for the people of God that they would not be plagued with the diseases that came as a judgment for denying You and worshipping false gods. 

“But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Exodus 23:22)  The Angel of the Lord went before Israel in the wilderness.  In trust and commitment, they were warned to “truly obey his voice and do”.  Trusting is following through with doing.  And God always makes good on His promises.  Trusting and obeying and acting upon that trust leads to You standing in for us against our enemies.  You become our number one Advocate.  You even stand in for those who stand in for Your own.  But if I want You to stand in for me, I am called to stand in for You.

I wear a little black rubber bracelet that says, “He who belongs to God hears what God says…” (John 8:47)  And that’s not just about hearing Jesus speak and walking away.  It’s about being changed by his thoughts.  It’s about agreeing with His thinking.  It’s about finally understanding and desiring things God’s way instead of our own and seeing how much better it is not just for us, but for the world.

“But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst.”  (Exodus 23:25)  Pride is a terrible thing.  Pride will keep us from the truth, just like it did for the people in John 8:47 that Jesus was speaking with.  Wanting to be on top and not willing to humble yourself to serve sets us against You, Lord, because here You are, God and Creator of the universe and every person.  You are the highest and the mightiest and the smartest and yet You humbled Yourself to come as Jesus, as a baby birthed through that inglorious method that all babies are born through.  You humbled Yourself to become a man, yet God, and serve those You created.  It’s the most glorious thing ever!  And it’s love beyond measure.  So is it so much to ask that kind of service of us back to You and to those around us?  I’d say pride is a major sickness that would be removed with that type of service.  Maybe we’d all be healthier for it in other ways too.

The other day, I heard someone share the Gospel, the good news of how we can not only know God but be His.  And it centered around the doctrine of believing that Jesus is God, that He came to earth to be the sacrifice for our sins, that He died on the cross to pay our penalty, and that he rose again to give us new life.  That’s all absolutely true.  And we must believe that to be saved and to be His.  But unless we believe and obey that belief, it’s nothing but doctrine.  When You said, “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out…” in Leviticus 26:3, You were telling us that actions must follow our belief.  Doctrine is just doctrine unless I let it change my life.  Doctrine is just doctrine unless I commit to act upon it with all of my being.  I must trust and obey or I don’t really trust at all.  I must believe and confess and then live in that belief, in the fellowship of what You have done for me.  I cannot trust and my life not be changed.  I cannot trust and my attitude not be changed. 

“Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgments and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers.” (Deuteronomy 7:12)  Is this really sounding like God rewarding us for our good works?  I don’t think so.  This sounds to me like God rewarding us with a close relationship with Him.  It sounds like the more I lean my ear into You, Lord, and listen and agree with You and act upon that agreement, that our relationship deepens and I get to experience and see and revel in Your lovingkindness which You have just been waiting for me to experience along with You.  Is obedience so tough?  I mean, if the reward is a deep, personal, generous relationship with You, Lord, well then, I so much want to obey You no matter the cost.  It certainly seems more worthwhile to obey You than not to.

I could keep sharing Scripture after Scripture.  But I’m so happy that I’m sharing this one, “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul…” (Deuteronomy 11:13)  Do I get that?  It’s about true love for You God and true love is exhibited by what we do and how we serve the one we love.  True love is love that gives our whole heart and soul.  I mean, how is that too much to ask from us?  You’ve shown every evidence that You have given Your whole heart and soul for our benefit?  Who am I to refuse that and mock the love You’ve shown?

The truth is, I can choose to ignore Your love and withhold my love from You.  You warned against that.  “Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and you turn aside, and serve other gods and worship them…” (Deuteronomy 11:16)  We’re all going to worship something.  We’re all going to cleave to something.  Everyone is diligent about something, it’s just not always the right something.  And what we choose to cling to, well, we’re going to lead others to cling to it too, whether it leads them to life or to death.  Are we willing to take on the responsibility of leading others to death?

But what if I choose to diligently keep all You say, and what if I choose to do it, and love You, Lord, and walk in all Your ways, and cleave to You like I’m glued, because I want LIFE and I want to lead others to true life?  When the disciples saw Jesus calm the sea, they marveled, asking “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”  The winds and sea have to obey because they are just matter and You are in charge of matter.  But You give me a choice to obey.  I think it’s a much more marvelous thing for a man or woman to choose to obey than for the winds or sea to calm.  I don’t think the angels in heaven marveled as much that day at the calming of the winds and sea as they do every time one sinner obeys and turns in love away from his old life and into Your new life. 

I mean, even demons obey you.  The people were all amazed again at how you commanded unclean spirits and they obeyed.  “What new doctrine is this?”  But it’s not a teaching.  It’s You, it’s Your life, it’s life in You.  And if a demon who won’t love You has to obey You, why would I, who can love You, choose not to?  See, it’s a way more amazing thing for me to choose to love You back than for a demon to flee.  I can run to You; he must run from You.  I can abide in You.  I can receive more than I ever imagined in You because I can become Your very own beloved, Your precious child and faithful servant.

Peter and the other apostles made that choice.  They came to their very own conclusion that, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)  That means obeying God rather than ourselves, too, because we are only mere men. 

And we’re not alone when we commit to You because You give us the Holy Spirit to be our resident witness within each of us that obey You.  We’re all going to serve somebody.  We’re all going to yield to something or someone to obey, either sin or death, or obedience that leads to righteousness. (Romans 6:16)  What will it be?  Or rather, who will it be?

I want to commit to love the author of my eternal salvation who was made perfect and complete before us all through His obedience to You.  I want to obey Him in love, that I may be part of Him.  I want to love You so much, that I obey You, that I love Your ways, even if they are hard, and even if no one around me gets it.  I want to press forward for You no matter how difficult, because You are worth so much more than I have to give and yet You still love and delight in my giving of myself.  I want to obey You because I appreciate You so much.  I want to obey You because I adore You and I am so grateful that You adored me first. 

What the Faithful Should Pray

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“This is what everyone faithful should pray at a time when you can be found.  Then, when the floodwaters are raging, they will not reach to him.”  Psalm 32:6 The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

I’m so happy that the stories and things that are related in Scripture are not just that, stories.  I’m so happy that the stories and things related in Scripture were for the benefit of those we hear about, and those around them, and for us today, and for those in the future.  I’m so happy that everything in Scripture is for all of us forever to learn and draw nearer to a loving God who is inviting us to know Him.  I’m so glad that You God, use those who have gone before us, and Your Holy Spirit, through Scripture to call us each by name and say, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  (Matthew 11:28)

The CJB puts it this way, “Come to Me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  So what am I struggling and burdened over?  What is keeping me from rest?  I think for a while I’ve been thinking that the tough things in my life have been causing me to struggle and burdening me and keeping me from rest.  You know, Lord, those things that disturb my sleep and my peace, or those things that seemt to stand like mountains or roadblocks in the way You are drawing me.  But after going through these things, and reading Your Word, I’m starting to think differently.  And today You give me David’s words, his song, in Psalm 32.

I read this and I think, hm, this doesn’t really sound like a song to me.  Well, maybe in Hebrew it just flows as a song more.  Or, maybe, just maybe, when You open our eyes to agree with You and to see things as they really are and we repent and agree, no matter what the words sound like, it comes out as a song from our hearts.

I think I can start getting the idea of how David felt here and I think I can understand the song of joy and release on his heart.  David had been living in sin, trying to hide things from people and hiding his own face from God.  He committed adultery with Bathsheba.  It was his own choice, his own rebellion against God, his own sin against Bathsheba, his own sin before the flock of his pasture.  And then to hide it from Uriah, her husband, he went so far as to arrange his death.  In my book, that’s premeditated murder.  And here David is, King of Israel, second to God in authority.  That means, that David is God’s man shepherding the flock of Israel.  That’s a big responsibility.  That means that David is responsible for teaching all of Israel and those around Israel about God’s ways.  That means that David is responsible for being the example of living in God’s ways before them.  Is this how you do that, Lord?

The servant who was supposed to be serving You, Lord, as King, showed his people what unfaithfulness, rebellion against You, adultery, secrecy, pride, lust, deceit, murder, greed, and devaluing other humans looked like.  He showed what it looked like to be a leader under You covered in sin.  He showed them what it was to be like to be controlled by sin instead of You, God.  And that has serious ramifications. I’m taken to the parable of the unfaithful servant.  What was his due?  “Now the servant who knew what his master wanted but didn’t prepare or act according to his will, will be whipped with many lashes; however, the one who did what deserves a beating but didn’t know, wil receive few lashes.  From him who has been given much, much will be demanded–from someone to whom people entrust much, they ask still more.”  (Luke 12:47-48)

Our responsibility, Lord, to You and to others is serious stuff.  It will cause our own pain and the pain of others when we disregard it for our own selfish desires.  Let me relate Your own words to David here. “Adonai [the Lord] sent Nathan to David.  He came and said to him, ‘In a certain city there were two men, one rich, the other poor.  The rich man had vast flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing, except for one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and reared.  It had grown up with him and his children; it ate from his plate, drank from his cup, lay on his chest–it was like a daughter to him.  One day a traveler visited the rich man, and instead of picking an animal from his own flock or herd to cook for his visitor, he took the poor man’s lamb and cooked it for the man who had come to him’.  David exploded with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As Adonai lives, the man who did this deserves to die!  For doing such a thing, he has to pay back four times the value of the lamb–and also because he had no pity.’  Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man.  Here is what Adonai, the God of Israel says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel.  I rescued you from the power of Saul.  I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives to embrace.  I gave you the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  And if that had been too little, I would have added to you a lot more.  So why have you shown such contempt for the word of Adonai and done what I see as evil?  You murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own.'”  (2 Samuel 12:1-10)

It takes the finger of God upon us for us to really see our own hearts and our own sin.  David’s eyes and heart were opened, “I have sinned against Adonai!”  And here’ s where the song is born.  “Nathan said to David, ‘Adonai also has taken away your sin.  You will not die.  However…'”  Sin brings terrible consequences.  It rips families and individuals apart, and it rips our own hearts apart.  It breaks our relationship with our loving heavenly Father as we hide things and refuse to confront the truth.  Proverbs 28:14  shares “How blessed is the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.”  Isn’t that what happened with David?  Is that what happens with me, Lord, when I try to feed my own desires, or handle the tough things my own way?

Here is Psalm 32, David is rejoicing in how blessed the person is who has been forgiven.  He’s talking more than happiness here. He’s talking about the well-being of his “inner state.”  It’s that feeling and knowledge and experiencing of “it is well, it is well with my soul!”  “O happy day, to be forgiven, O happy day to be set free.  The things that once have held me captive, no longer control me.  My God can look on me with favor, my God can shine His face on me,  O happy day, O happy soul, I’ve been set free!”

Pastor Conlin of Times Square Church shared something in his sermon yesterday that really applies here.  It was about David’s way of approaching what God was telling him and it’s my way, unfortunately, sometimes too.  In Psalm 101, time after time, David is saying how he will behave himself.  It’s all positive.  “I will sing of Your mercy and judgment.  I will behave myself wisely …and with a perfect heart.  I will set no wicked thing before my eyes…I won’t have anything to do with wicked people.  I’ll cut off the person who slanders others.  I won’t even allow the proud hearted around.  I’ll hang out with those who are faithful to You and destroy all those who do wickedly.”  Wow!  Go David!  That’s the way to be, right?

I never thought about it this way, buy Pastor Conlin shared from the point that You, Lord, were warning David these things You laid on his heart.  That here You were giving David a glimpse of the danger zones in his own life.  But instead of David crying out for You to make his way right in these areas, he established them in his own strength.  When he should have been crying, “Lord, teach me to sing of mercy and judgment unto You always,” he seemed to have it under control himself.  Instead of crying out, “Give me wisdom and lead me in a perfect way,” he was confident in himself.  Instead of saying, “Lord, I want to commit to setting no wicked thing before my eyes, but I need You to direct my eyes to that which You approve,” he committed in his own strength.  So with that start, let’s just look at our downfall, when the faithful forget to pray moment by moment for God’s spirit to strengthen and guide their desires and actions.

When David fell into sin that day, it didn’t just start with Bathsheeba.  Pride and self justification had already crept in.  There was a time when kings were out in the battlefield.  Where was David?  Skipping the hardships of the battle and resting back in Jerusalem.  I wonder if he thought, “I’m a good king, and my people know what they’re doing.  I’ve been working hard and now I need a little rest.  I’ve got it under control”?  Or maybe he was getting a little tired of all the responsibilities of being king and decided, “God’s got it and it’s time these folk stepped up and were responsible.”  I really don’t know.  But all I do know is that he wasn’t where kings should have been.

And here’s the first problem.  We ignore and justify what we know is true and right, to satisfy our own desires, whether they be for rest, or gain, or whatever.  Already, he was not behaving wisely, because a wise king always LEADS his people.  He’s God’s example to them, right Lord?  “[T]he sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.” (John 10:3)  So who was leading the people?  Not the king, not David.

So David was not leading.  And even in his own house, he was not walking with a perfect heart.  It’s one thing to glance on a woman by accident, but it’s another thing to continue thinking on that thought and pursuing that thought.  Bathsheeba was not the wicked thing he set before his eyes.  I mean, I have no idea if she thought she was unseen or what,  but David had a choice to make.  Like Joshua, he could have said in his heart, and out loud at that moment, “As for me and my house, we will choose the Lord.”  But that’s only something we can do in Your strength, Lord.  We can’t just do it because we say it or even because we make some commitment, like words in a song.  We have to confront You and we have to submit and we have to let You rule our heart and actions and desires.  We can’t fight our hearts without Your strength empowering us.

David isn’t the only believer with this problem.  Listen to Ezekiel 22:26.  “Her priests have done violence to My teaching and they profane My set-apart matters.  They have not distinguished between the set-apart and profane, nor have they made known the difference between the unclean and the clean.  And they have hidden their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am profaned in their midst.”  Who would have thought that this is what a man after God’s own heart would do?  Who would think that I could do this?  No, not me!  Right?  But isn’t that what was happening?  Isn’t that what happens.  My eyes, which desire the things of my heart, twist Your teachings and profane Your desires, Lord, by twisting them to my own.  I stop distinguishing between what pleases You  and what doesn’t and just concern myself with what pleases me.  I stop regarding the difference.  I hide my eyes from the truth in Your word and pick and choose what I want to obey, what I want to understand, what I feel like.  And what happens?  You are profaned and I enter into the perverse, like David.  Well, maybe I don’t have an affair, but come on now, sin, any sin, is perversity before a holy God!

This is the thing about eyes.  The eyes are a window of our soul.  How?  The eye sees.  And when it sees something, it acts upon what it sees.  Now, that action flows from the heart.  If the heart belongs to You, Lord, then Your response will flow from it.  But if the heart is not Yours, if it is not surendered to You, it will see as it’s owner, and act as the owner would act.  So, who really owned David at that time?  Who really owns me?

I have to understand this.  “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.”  (2 Chronicles 16:9)  Your eyes, Lord, see, and that seeing is accompanied with the appropriate action.  You see, and then You act and support.  If I continue to read that verse, I also see it’s a warning.  You see, and for those who are not seeing likewise, You rebuke.  How is my acting upon my seeing?  How was David’s acting upon his seeing?

What was David pondering?  Your ways and Your words, or this temptation among others?  What do I spend my time pondering?  What did he set before his eyes?  What I set before my eyes is what my actions are toward.  Did he contemplate evil or did he love You more and weep and cry out that You might change his thinking?  What about me?  Was his heart aligned with Yours, or did it succumb to perversity?  What about mine?  Wasn’t he guilty of slandering and worse to his neighbor, Uriah?  Wasn’t that because he succumbed to his own haughtiness and arrogance.  And noone would practice deceit in his house?  What’s adultery?  Where did that happen?  What was he practicing before Uriah and all his people?  What was he doing morning by morning?  How did he get to the point of morning by morning destroying good instead of evil?  Could I come to that point?

Yes.  I could, because I am just as human as David.  And if my life isn’t totally surrendered, totally enwrapped within the life and living and being of Christ, I’m lost in myself and to myself.  The whole point is that living in the Lord is a supernatural thing.  I have to understand that I am called to live in Him and let Him live in and through me.  When I sanctify, You, Lord, in my heart, it means I have to let You enter and become my life.  And I must continually, moment by moment, let You enter and become my life.  You didn’t once save me.  I am totally dependent on You to continually save me.  I must say, “let my thoughts be wrong and Yours be right.”  I must stop justifying myself and my actions and my way of thinking.

Here’s something about the kings.  The kings were responsible for reading the Scripture and writing it down for themselves.  Every one of them had to do this.  So they all knew from reading what You required.  But we can write down Scripture all we want, we can read it all we want, our eyes can see, but if we don’t embrace it by embracing You, it’s just words on a page, or words or thoughts in our head.  I need to embrace it as I embrace You moment by moment so that it becomes my life.  “For the word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword.  It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together.  It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart.  There is nothing that can be hid from God; everything in all creation is exposed and lies open before His eyes.  And it is to Him that we must all give an account of ourselves.”  (Hebrews 4:12-13)  David was accountable.  So am I.

These are all the things I need to be praying, moment by moment, so that I may keep my focus on You by Your grace and power in me.  I need to continually remember that it’s not of me, but all of You, and live and eat and breathe, and walk, and think in that reality.  This is the faith that I have to hold firmly to, not just the faith I profess, but the faith I let You live out in me in total desperation continually upon You.  I need to live continually in Your presence, not just in Your thought.  And I can’t think of a better Person to live in the presence of.  Because, when I’m tempted, You feel for me and understand my weakness.  See, You understand them even better than David or me.  But since You were tempted in every way and did not sin, You’re the only One who can give me the power to not sin.  The confidence is not in me.  Ever.  David learned that.  And I must learn that.  The confidence and power comes in approaching Your throne, where I find grace and power.  It’s there, and only there continually, that I receive mercy and find grace to help me when I need it.  And I need it continually!

How do I find grace to help in time of need?  Well, I have to come to the One who knows how to frap the vessel.  What?  To get help at the right time, I have to be with the One who knows how to tighten the ropes and chains on the boat.  The boat doesn’t secure itself, does it?  Well, neither can David and neither can I.  We’re just vessels.  We’re just earthen vessels.  But we’ve got this tremendous treasure inside, this excellency of the power of God.  But we’ve also got this power of self.  What will I rely on?  Because the only excellent power is Yours, God, not mine.  The only supernatural power, that works miracles in me and can take me beyond my own borders and strengths, is You.  Will I let You tighten my ropes moment by moment?  What will my prayer be?  And what will it look like in my life?

Basking in the Faithfulness of God

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“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  1 Corinthians 1:9

“God is faithful…”  Yes, God is faithful!  You, Oh Lord, are faithful!  You are sure, true, and trustful.  You will continue this work in me that You have begun.  You will fulfill every promise You have made.  You will not change.  You ARE.  It is You who have called me and set me apart to a fellowship with Christ.  You have called me into a partnership, participation, intercourse, communication, and communion with You.  You have called me to reach this point, for this purpose, to this intent.  Your primary desire for me is to know You.  Let my heart’s desire be to know You fully.  Every day may I grow more in You, to know who I am in this partnership.

Teach me how to communicate with You.  Don’t they say that poor communication is what causes the break up of marriages?  Let our relationship always be full.  Teach me to participate with You.  My goal is not to do, but to be Yours.  I have reached my goal yet not in its complete state.  I am who You want me to be right now, because I am Yours.  Let me bask in You.

Remind me who I am every moment.  Remind me who You are always.  You could never love me more than You do already.  You don’t love me for what I do, You love me because I am Your child.  No matter what I do, You will always love me just as much.  I cannot do this work in me, but You, God, are faithful.  You will complete this work in me.

I will focus on being Your workmanship.  I will deal with the moment and not make the moment.  Help me not to jump ahead of You or onto a side path.  What You provide in me, I will use.  Teach me that I can not force the work in my life.  You are the only Craftsman, not me.

Yes, God, You are so faithful!  You are so faithful that You take these meditations from twelve years ago and You bring them before me again to remind me what once You already began to reveal.  But sometimes life gets hard, sometimes we feel like a failure, and sometimes we need to be reminded of what we already know but have forgotten.  I mean, it’s not like the first time You’ve reminded me of this, this faithfulness of Yours to love me so intensely and to stay by my side and even closer than that, to be the God who lives in me!

Situation after situation, it’s like You just keep saying, “Selah”.  It’s a little word, I guess, just a side word in Scripture.  “Think on this.”  It’s like You keep saying that in the midst of all the other things that are drawing my thinking to them, draw back to You.  Think on You.  Think on all the things that You’ve taught me.  Think on all the things that You’ve done in my life and those around me.  Think on the things that You walked through with David.  Think on the Psalms.  Think on the reality of what You were doing then and what You are doing now.

So before journaling, I spent time in Psalm 27.  David was having a tough time.  He was crying out to the Lord.  He did a lot, that crying out and going through a lot of tough times.  He starts out saying and believing (because it’s one thing to say something, but a whole other thing to believe what you say) that “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  And I kept reading.  And as I read I would stop and think on it.  And I put it into words of a simple song.  And the whole thing reminded me that You are the One faithful in the midst of all of this.  That You, my God, yes, MY GOD, are my continual light and my continual salvation through the midst of everything in my life.  You reminded me that what David had learned and was learning about Your faithfulness and Your love, You are teaching me too.  I know this.  I just have to live like I believe it.

So, as I said, I wrote this song from Psalm 27.  And I’ll only share the refrain which comes from David’s initial meditations:  “Where/ Armies could surround me/ I will not cringe/ War break out around me/ They will never win/ You are the One that I trust in/  Whom shall I fear?”  So , knowing that I am Yours and that Your love for me and Your care for me will never change because You are forever faithful, whom shall I fear?  Troubles are going to come.  Time after time, I’ll have to go through hard things because I live in a broken world. 

But the truth of the matter is, my God is not broken.   My God is faithful.  My God is able.  Romans 14:14 tells me that God is able to make me stand. 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds me that God makes me able to endure the trials in my life.  In 2 Corinthians 1:4 I’m reminded that He is able to comfort me in the midst of affliction.  In 2 Corinthians 9:8 I’m reminded that You, God, are able to make all grace abound to me, so that I’ll be sufficient in all things at all times, for the works You call me to.  And I could go on and on.  But writing this or saying this isn’t enough.  I have to live believing this.  This is truth.  I know.  Because You, God are Truth.  Yes, my God, our God, is faithful!  And I am in Him!  My God is forever faithful in me!  This is what I must remember.  This is what I must live and let You, Lord, live out in me.  Lord, be who You are in me.  Be forever faithful.  And let me be faithful in You.  Yes, You are the One that I trust in.  Whom shall I fear?  I belong to the Faithful One forever.  Praise God!

Faithful Over a Little

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“…and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'”  Matthew 3:17

Isn’t that wonderful how God announced Jesus and how much He loved Him and how pleased He was with Him?  Did you ever wish people felt about you that same way?  Did you ever wish that more than people feeling that way, God felt that way about you?  Well, the truth is that God is just waiting to say that about you and me.

So here was Jesus, Son of God; pure, holy, righteous One; submitting Himself under the baptism of repentance before all to see.  And why did He do it?  Because it was right in God’s eyes.  Now listen.  Jesus knows what pleases God. He knows, not just because He is God but because He loves the Word of God, the Torah that He has been learning from.  How do I know that?  Because when He was 12 years old and stayed back at the temple, the religious teachers were astounded by His understanding of the Scriptures.  Here’s a 12 year old boy that says, “I must be about my Father’s business.”  ” I must be involved actively in what my Father is involved in.”  This is a man actively and desirously and whole-heartedly involved in the will, the desires, of God.

Therefore, because the will of God is foremost on His heart, He submits to that will no matter what others think.  He obeys.  He delights in obeying.  And what is the result.  He gets wet?  People are impressed? “The heavens are opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him.”  Could it be that this type of behavior and heart attitude in my life would bring the same results from a God who is just waiting for me to respond to Him this way?  Could it be that when I come to God in repentance through Jesus, and turn from my life and ways to His, that I would begin to see the heavens opened up to me and that the Spirit of the living God would come to rest in me?

But it doesn’t stop there.  Then there was this voice from heaven and do you know what it said?  “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  So what if I responded like that with a repentant life committed wholly to Your will, Lord?  After You give me eyes to see “heaven” and the Spirit to encourage, strengthen, and teach me, at that moment in time of turning to You, would I become beloved and would that be well pleasing to You?

That question and this whole thought transports me to Matthew 25:21,23 and Luke 19:17.  That’s the parable that You, Jesus, told about the three servants that were entrusted with “coins” by their master.  And two of the three servants had taken those “coins” and excitedly received them and applied them in life.  But the third servant had buried his and treated his as though he was afraid to touch it and had nothing to do with it.  And I want to focus on Your response to those two servants who grasped those “coins” as a treasure and a delight and invested them into their lives.  What was Your response?

“Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.”  And what was the response to the second servant?  “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  Enter into the joy of your master.”  Hmm.  They both got the same response.  Did they both have the same amount of “resources”?  No.  One had applied his 5 “coins” and the other his 2 “coins.”  And the master was just as pleased with both?

That’s the whole point.  It’s not a comparison to anyone else.  You, Lord, give us each this beautiful resource for life before any other resource.  That resource is Your beloved Son Jesus.  First and foremost what I do with Him will determine Your pleasure in me.  The moment that I am submitted in faith to the One who gave His life for me and rose to give me life, is the moment that I begin to see heaven and that Your Spirit comes to dwell in me.  Without Jesus in my life, without my commitment to Him, I’m the most unpleasing enemy You ever had.  But in Him my life is turned around.  In that moment that You see Jesus in my life, in me, I become Your beloved just like Him, and You become well pleased in me!

See, it doesn’t matter if I’m a Paul, or a Matthew, or a Mark, or a Zachius, or a Mary, or me.  All our “coins” are little compared to Jesus.  But will we surrender all that You’ve given to us, our every resource, every part of our life and being, to You?  Will I apply everything and every breath You give me to delighting in investing You in every area of my life and those around me?  It’s not the magnitude of what I do that pleases You.  The greatest of anything I could ever do is small stuff compared to You.  I know that all my good works are as filthy rags comparitively.  But a heart and life surrendered and delighting in pursuing Your will, that’s what living is all about.

I don’t really know how well I expressed these thoughts here.  I’m not sure if I’ve done You justice here, Lord.  But You know what I’m trying to say, because You’re the One giving me the eyes to see heaven more clearly, and it looks like beautiful You.  Yes,  just as You sent Jesus, so Jesus is sending me.  What did You give Him?  How much did He apply for You?  Did He delight in applying every part of Himself for You and in You?  What about me?  What You’ve given me, what You’ve made me, every circumstance, every possession, every part of my mind and my body and spirit, am I investing it forward?  Because it doesn’t matter that I’m not much or that I haven’t got much.  What matters is that You desire to do much with me for Your righteousness and for Your glory.  Is that what I live for?  Am I fully submitted to Your will?  Because living there in You is where I’m beloved and where You are well pleased in me.

What You See in Broken Me

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“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  Acts 1:8

So, Lord, is this for me?  When the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in me when I place my trust, my life, my being in You, will I be this kind of witness?  Who were You speaking to?  Who do these words impact?

If I start at the beginning of Acts 1, I find that You were speaking to the group You had chosen known as “apostles.”  What is an apostle?  Who is an apostle?  Is it only a particular group of men from long ago?  Am I just learning about a blessing that You gave to these particular men like this is a good story to know about but no bearing on me?  Maybe it matters what You mean by apostle.

The Greek word for apostle is “apostolos.”  Strong’s Concordance defines it as “a delegate, specifically an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ (‘apostle’), (with miraculous powers): – apostle, messenger, he that is sent.”  Often, this word is seen as applied only to particular men given supernatural power by God, like Paul and Peter.  Most were men that had seen Your ministry and Your death, resurrection, and ascension.  Paul was kind of a special member, having seen You, the risen Lord, on the road to Damascus.  Barnabas, Timothy, and Sylvanus didn’t meet those requirements.  How did they become classified as apostles? The NAS New Testament Lexicon doesn’t seem to stress that particular group as strongly.  And again, it’s definition begins with this qualification, “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders.”

It’s not that I’m jealous of these men or anything.  But if this isn’t just about them, if this is about Your desire for me and the next believer out there, then this can make every difference in my life and in what You are looking for in me and what You want to do in me.  It’s important that I know if I’m included in this group or not.  It’s important that I know Your desires for me.

Paul in Galatians 1:1 introduces himself this way, “Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead).”  Is Paul above everyone else?  Does being an apostle set him far apart from other believers?  Is that what he’s trying to say?  Is he trying to say that God made Him special above others by picking him?  Or is he giving hope to others by saying that the whole reason he has become the delegate of God is because of God choosing him and doing His work in him?  Is he saying that he has been chosen an ambassador of the Gospel because he is living in the truth of the resurrection and power of Jesus Christ by God the Father?  Is that only for Paul?

If an apostle is an emmissary of God, of Christ, would You, Lord, only want a select small group of emmissaries?  I mean, I’m not talking about You being concerned with numbers here.  But how could only a small handfull of emmissaries in one particular time period fulfill Your commission?  Wouldn’t You be giving them power to duplicate, to replicate, to produce more emmissaries?  So, Yes, Paul and Peter and the others were very special emmissaries, and each was unique.  But each was commissioned in their uniqueness to fulfill their particular role in You.  And it doesn’t just stop with them.  The apostles continue.

Skip Moen asked this question, “Who are those sent as emissaries of Yeshua the Messiah?”   He didn’t treat the word as exlusively representing a particular group of adult Jewish males.  He just translated it as the Greek word it is.  When we look at it that way, when we answer that question above, I see that the “apostoloi” aren’t such a narrow group.   “Who is chosen by Jesus to be His representatives in the world?”   Every believer.  That includes me, Lord!  So maybe I don’t get to place that title before, or after my name, but I am one of Your commissioned children, I am one of Your “sent out ones.”   

No, I wasn’t there during Your earthly ministry or after Your baptism.  I wasn’t a physical eye-witness at the crucifixion or Your resurrection.  And whereas Paul got to meet You risen, which qualifies him for that “select” group of men, I haven’t in that sense.  But what if there is this other sense?  What if there are different grounds that You are looking at that make Paul and Peter and James and John qualified, and equally qualified at that, to be Your emmissaries?  Remember, there were others who didn’t meet the “extra-special” qualifications either, like Barnabas, Timothy, and Sylvanus.  How did they become qualified?  How were they equally commissioned?  Why were they called and sent in the same way, as apostles?

Now, I’m going to absolutely borrow Skip Moen’s words here because I think he puts it so beautifully.  And I don’t want to miss this because I need to hear this.  And then I need to really understand it and really get it.  What’s the significance of our also being included as apostles?  No, what is that significance of our calling as apostles, as delegates, as ambassadors?  “First and foremost,  it means that our Lord and Savior sees something in us that we don’t see.  He saw the great missionary Paul in the person of the persecutor Saul.  He saw the great church leader Peter in the person of the brash and arrogant Simon.  And He sees something in you and in me that we carry hidden within our broken and unworthy frames.  He sees what we will be for Him!  We might have some glimpse of it now, as we learn to be obedient and useful to Him, but there is much more.  Now we see ourselves through the glass darkly.  It will take refinement to bring forth all that we will be.  It is amazingly wonderful to know that in spite of our present evaluation of ourselves, He finds something so valuable in us that He is willing to give us new life to obtain it.  There are days when each one of us needs to know this – right down to the bottom of our souls (to use a Greek expression).  Those days when we feel that we have failed the calling, when we see how far we still have to go, when we are overwhelmed with the responsibility of being God’s representative – on those days we need to remember that He invited us because He sees where He is taking us.  Praise be to Him and blessed be His Name.”  Yes, Lord, I need to get that first point that Skip saw.  I need to get that life sustaining, life imparting truth that You are trying to teach me through the apostles.

But the importance of this little word “apostolos” doesn’t stop there for me.  Because it tells me even more.  If I look back at the example of the apostles, it tells me that as a called child of Yours, I have a specific role that You have designed for me to play in the body of Christ.  Paul and Barnabas, Peter and Timothy, John and Sylvanus all had their particular assignments they were chosen and sent for.  You sent Peter to Cornelius, not Paul.  You sent Paul to Rome.  You have a particular role for me and each other believer.  Paul did wonderful things in You.  But he can’t do what You have appointed me to do, just like I can’t do what You appointed him to do.  So I have to find where I fit in the puzzle piece of the body of Christ because that is where I’ll be most effective and most in the middle of You.  Because being in the middle of You is knowing where I belong and who I belong with.  Maybe I can only make little bookmarks.  But then God’s designed a place in the body that needs those bookmarks for encouragement.  And You will fit me in there because that’s what You’ve designed me for, to encourage those particular individuals.  But for me to fulfill my commission, I need my brothers and sisters in Christ.  They are designed to help me do all that Jesus sees in me, and I’m designed to be a part of helping them to do so.

This is such a beautiful truth.  I prayed for years and years to understand where I fit in, to understand my commission, to know how You designed my giftings to be used for You.  I prayed to even just understand what they were.  I asked in church and was given a “spiritual giftings checklist” every time.  And every time I knew my gifting areas but I still never saw how they were really being applied.  And then, one day, You had me meet some other believers.  And You had me share some of the same things with them, whether my heart or something I wrote, and they saw something no one else had.  And people were encouraged.  And they encouraged me to do more and be involved and invited me in to serve with them.  And I started to understand how You were designing my gifts to work and where and with who and it’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever experienced!  It’s stuff You put inside of me from the start.  It’s stuff that wanted to come out but couldn’t until You showed me those others who needed my gifting to compliment theirs.  It’s a beautiful unity.  It’s a mutual seeing.  It’s a mutual dependency.  It’s a mutual joy and service.

I’m so glad we’re not the same.  I’m so glad I can’t do what my sister, Jessica can do, or what my brother Carl can do.  But they can’t do what I can do either.  And You designed it that way.  Because we need each other.  No man is an island and “there are no second-class citizens” in this group.  We are called, we are chosen, we are emmissaries.  No one is more, no one is less.  We are all necessary to one another and necessary to Your will.  It’s in Your design for us.  Our status is the same, it’s just that You have a different job for each of us.  We are all “fellow-citizens, submitted to the King.  We can enjoy each other, encourage each other, and praise each other because we are all in the same boat.”  (Skip Moen)

So each of us is called, commissioned, and sent.  That brings me forward to Revelation 17:14.  “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with Him are called and chosen and faithful.”  Here it is again.  We are appointed, we are selected for a specific purpose, and we are trustworthy, we fulfil that purpose.  This is what You see in each of Your children because this is who You have designed us to be.  You formed us in our mother’s wombs.  You designed us even before we were in there.  You have given us the power and all the stuff inside we need inside to fit into the body of Christ and be Your witness everywhere.  What a beautiful plan.  What a beautiful purpose.  I am so grateful for Your design for me to fit in to Your body and for Your design for particular parts of Your body to fit in with me.  Thanks for giving me a place to belong and thrive in You.  Thank You for seeing something in me that no one else saw, until You put others with the same vision in my life.  Now, help me to help others see what You have placed in them.

Beautiful Beyond Description

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Photo credit to http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com

Rom 13:11  And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

I’ll admit it.  I’m a morning person.  I’m up before the sun.  So, in a sense, this verse makes me smile since it says it’s “high time to wake up!”  But I know it’s a lot more serious than that.  But it’s still a wonderful, joyful truth being shared.  It brings back that song I used to sing, “Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory.”  But it poses some questions too.

So let’s just say that I know I have things to do, whether I have to go to work or get up and prepare things for my family.  Well, I realize what time it is and I realize that there are things that need to be done in order for me to reach my goal or the task ahead.  I can’t just stay sleeping all day in bed.  I’d lose my job because there would be noone there to complete my tasks.  My family would wind up not having their needs met.  It just wouldn’t work to sleep all day.  And I know the time and the things ahead that I must accomplish.  So I set a time that my alarm will go off and I make myself get up.  It’s high time to wake up and shower, brush my teeth, get dressed, and get going.

And just like my physical life, I need to move upon my spiritual life.  It’s very easy to think that once I have accepted You, Lord, as my Savior, I’m good to go.  I can just lay back and take it easy because I’m covered.  You get to do all the work now while I just go on with my life.  But that’s not the case.  Even moreso now, as a believer, I have a responsibility to be preparing and working toward the final goals You have set for me.  The truth is- my salvation is not finished yet, it’s not over yet.

If I was saved yesterday, if I placed my actual trust in You as my Lord and Savior yesterday, yes, then I was saved.  But the fact of the matter is that I am living in Your continual salvation, and I am still being saved.  Paul says my salvation is “nearer” today then yesterday, when I first believed.  What in the world does that mean?

Well, first I want to take a look back from the beginning of Chapter 13 to see what thoughts are leading up to this statement.  And Paul is really honing in on the idea of submission to authority, even earthly authorities.  And he takes it a step farther and equates submission with the idea of loving your neighbor which is the heart of God’s law.  Remember the whole law can be summed up in two commands:  love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and mind, and strength and love your neighbor as you are loved by God.  Paul enters our current verse with this thought, “therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”  Now just hold on to that, those two ideas, the one of submission and the other of love.

So what does that have to do with salvation?  Isn’t it once saved, always saved?  Well, biblically, salvation has a past, present, and future tense.  It’s not a one time, that’s good, I’m finished and complete deal.  Let’s look at 1 Peter.  “You were chosen according to the purpose of God the Father and were made a holy people by His Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be purified by His blood.  May grace and peace be yours in full measure.”  Can you see it?  We were chosen and saved unto God (past), we were made a holy people, justified (past).  But we are to obey and be purified (present, continual) which is our sanctification.  And this is all taking place while we look to the future with grace and peace in full measure.

If we continue to verse 3 we are told that we are continually filled with living hope which causes us to look forward to our future in Christ and with Christ.  And our present obedience in giving thanks to God helps us to realize this.  And on to verse 4 we see that there are things being held or kept for us in the future that we have not attained yet in the Lord.  And verse 5 reminds us that our full salvation will not be realized until we are with the Lord, but we are continually kept through faith by His power in us.

Why is it important for me to know that salvation wasn’t just a one time deal?  Why is it important for me to know that salvation is continual and I have a future final salvation to look forward to?  Well, once I’m saved, does the life around me change?   I mean, do the hard circumstances and difficulties and trials stop?  Or are they ever changing?  Am I not continually learning to rely on the Lord in situation after situation, moment by moment?  Don’t I need Someone there who can repeatedly rescue me from the heaviness around me and the temptations that I am daily faced with?  I know I do.  And this is the God that You are.

First, we need to be saved unto You, God.  You won’t protect fully what is not fully Yours.  You can’t because it would be against Your nature.  So You call us to You and You save us unto You and make us Your own and clothe us in Your righteousness just by Your grace and sacrifice.  But is that all that salvation is?   Is that what believing and trusting in You is all about?  Is it about letting You save me and make me holy and then just going on with my life as I was?  Is that salvation at all?

Absolutely not!  I am not just saved by You, Jesus, I am saved unto You and in You and for You.  So, first it’s not by any power that I have to save or do something that would warrant You granting me access to You.   Ephesians 2:8-9 tells me, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  This is were I’m justified and adopted into God’s family.  This is where Christ covers me in His righteousness solely due to the fact that I have trusted in Him and placed my life totally in His.  But 1 Corinthians 1:18 takes it a step further   “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”  See, that initial power that raised Christ from the dead, raised us from the dead and gave us life in Christ- our initial salvation, but it is the power of God in us that sanctifies us continually, makes us more holy, more like You, Lord, day by day, moment by moment, and gives us the strength to persevere through every trial no matter how difficult.   So I see that I am saved by You and unto You and in You.

And we have to understand this past and present salvation in You.  You kept us safe up to the time of our salvation.  You brought us to the point of salvation.  You give us the heart to know we need Your salvation and You bring us to salvation.  Peter, in chapter 1, verse 5 says we are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  Here’s the future, to be completed salvation being worked in each believer.  And I’d like to look at the word “kept” here.  It’s “phroureo” in Greek.  The tense used here is telling us that we are in need of continual protection.  What kind of protection do we continually need?  Remember all those struggles in our present life?  Think about all those trials until we are in glory with the Lord.  Moment after moment You are guarding us by Your continual power.  It’s a re-emphasis of what Your “saving” is doing.  We are continually being delivered.  See the word for salvation being used is “soteria.”  It’s all about rescue and delivery and safety.

You saved us and delivered us to bring us to You.  You save us and deliver us to bring us to our final goal and victory with You.  The reality is I can’t do any of it on my own or in my own power.  God, You are more powerful than the greatest odds against me, and You will bring me to You wholly, body, soul, and spirit.

Now, Paul shares this really rough truth in 2 Corinthians 4:11.  “For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.”  Now, I don’t think that Paul is just talking about those believers like himself that happen to be alive on this earth.  I mean, part of it is just about being alive and walking and breathing on this earth.  We have to be physically alive to experience life and trials and to even get to death.  Only something living can die.  But I think he’s talking also about  those of us who are alive in Christ, those of us who have placed our trust and lives and actions in Christ.  We have been saved to live a different way.  In a sense, we have been saved to die because only by dying can we be brought to new life in Christ.  Only by dying can we allow You, God, to display Your resurrection power in us.

You mean I have to die?!  Well, Lord, You have called some people to physically suffer death in order that You would be most manifested.  I think of Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian who wanted to bring You to the Auca indians.  They knew the cost.  But their past salvation experience was compelling on their present salvation so that their future salvation was a promise to look forward to.  They determined that if the Aucas attacked, they would only shoot a warning shot, but they would not fight back, because they knew the position of their salvation in Christ.  They knew their own past, present, and future.  Which meant they also knew the past, present, and future condition of the Aucas who were without You, Lord, at that time.  So they chose to be delivered unto death for Your sake and the sake of the salvation of the Auca.  People called them fools.  But You led their wives back to minister the Gospel.  And because You delivered those five men unto death and glorified Yourself through their death by sending angels to sing in the trees at the moment of their death, You worked to lead the Aucas to salvation so that they came to have a past, present, and future in You.

But we’re not all called to die physically for You.  But we are all called to die to self.  I can’t just die to my self once in the past because new situations arise where I haven’t died to my self yet.  It’s one thing to determine that I’m going to surrender my life to You, Lord.  But it’s even more to surrender it every day and allow You to deliver me however You see fit.  Being saved was surrendering my life to a life of continual surrender.  It was allowing You the authority to continually deliver me however You see fit and walking in that deliverance.  If I must follow You into death, I follow You.  If I must follow You into forgiveness, I follow You.  If I must persevere through some really tough situations and still respond in love and power, I follow You and respond rightly.  Being saved is living and responding in You and to You.

Why? So You are made manifest in all of me.  People will see You in my actions and in the me they see and experience.  Paul continues to say that we know that the One who raised up Jesus “shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.”  So we know that we will have this future finished salvation when we are all raised together with Jesus and we are all present together.  But why?  Why was I saved in the past?  Why am I being saved daily?  And why am I saved into the future?  So that my thanks, my joy, my life, the work that God has and is and will do in me and in everyone else that surrenders to Him will be to and for the glory of God.  It’s all about Your power, Your work, and Your glory as You change me moment by moment and make me like You.

Wake up because our salvation is growing every day!  Wake up and lift up your eyes to the mountains.  Our help has come and continues to come from Mt. Zion.  That’s where the You, Lord, were crucified and gave Your life for us.  That’s where You were raised to life.  You are the same God, the same Jesus who made heaven and earth.  Yes, You are He who will keep my foot from slipping.  You are the One who never needs to sleep so You can always keep me without faltering.  You never need to rest.  Think of those implications!  You never grow tired.  You keep us in Your hands that never tire or grow weak.  You protect us and shade us in the great strength of Your hand, which is stronger than everything and anything.  The hottest thing like the sun can’t harm us and the coldest thing like the moon can’t harm us when we are in Your hands.  Evil cannot harm us when we are in Your hands.  You will keep all of me.  My soul is eternally Yours. You guard me forever from the time I become Yours into eternity.  Read it again in Psalm 121.

Christ has done His work in us if we have surrendered to Him as our Lord and Savior.  That was our first work, to surrender, and His greater work that completed and completes us is His dunamis, His power, His miracle working power, that raises us to new life in Him.  So, as I am raised to new life, to real life, to powerful life in Him, I live in that power and that saving grace and work of His in me.  I cast off, I personally agree with You Lord, and throw off anything in my life that is not of You, all my old ways that don’t resemble You, all my thoughts that aren’t like Yours.  And I choose to submit to Your power and draw to me instead Your clothing, Your thoughts, Your actions, Your ways, Your light.  I choose in the strength of Your power to walk honestly.  I conduct myself transparently according to Your ways and Your lifestyle.  I disown the life I once lived.  I let You change me and I choose to allow You to continually change me so that I am living in You and for You and by You.  I let You have Your way in me and I choose that.  I put You on and I take me off.

My walking in faith activates this power of God.  My protection and salvation is “God’s response to our faith which we exercised in the Lord Jesus as Saviour and which now rests in Him as our Preserver. Our faith lays hold of this power, and this power strengthens our faith, and thus we are preserved.” (Wuest, K. S. Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans or Logos)

J C Philpot reminds us “The elect are preserved in Christ, BEFORE they are called by grace. They are kept by the power of God from perishing in their unregeneracy. ..But the elect are also kept by the mighty power of God AFTER they are called by grace…They are therefore preserved in hours of temptation, for they are guarded by all the power of Omnipotence, shielded by the unceasing care and watchfulness of Him who can neither slumber nor sleep. ..Having chosen us, God begets us with His word, regenerates us by a divine influence, and makes us new creatures by the power and influence of the Holy Spirit.”

I just can’t think of my salvation without always coming back to this verse in Revelation 17:14.  “These (those in opposition to Christ) shall make war with the Lamb (Jesus), and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him (believers) are called, and chosen, and faithful.”  You see faithful doesn’t happen as a one time deal.  Neither does it happen by our own power.  Only the called, who have answered that call, and therefore are the chosen, have the power to be faithful moment after moment.  So where does this faithfulness come from?  Revelation 19:11 tells us.  It comes from the One in heaven Who is sitting on the white horse, the One Who is called “Faithful and True” because He alone is Faithful and True.  This is what salvation is all about.  It’s about being made into the image of the Faithful One by the Faithful One and in the Faithful One.  Is this what salvation means to You?  Is this what salvation looks like in Your life?

Lord, I want to be made into Your image.  I want to surrender moment by moment fully to You.  It’s not easy, Lord.  Moment by moment I face a tremendous battle against my self.  But thank You, Lord, that You are more powerful than my self.  I am so grateful for Your continued salvation because I need You continuing that powerful work in me every moment.  I don’t just want to be faithful and true.  I want to be faithful and true like You.  It’s beyond any faithfulness that man can attain to on his own.  It’s a truth that man cannot know on his own.  But it’s the power of God in me and in all who will believe and who continue in that life of believing.  I am overjoyed to be kept by this power of Yours, God, through my continual walk in faith in You that is bringing me to my completed salvation in You that will be finally totally accomplished and revealed at the glorious unveiling before You.  It’s like You are making masterpieces of us through Your power in our lives in this present world.  And when You call us before You, You will take off the sheet that covers us.  And what You have sculpted of us will be revealed to every other believer, to all the angels, to all creation, and even to those who were lost.  You will take off the veil and reveal Your workmanship, and here we will stand, more beautiful than the most beautiful marble sculpture, because we will have been molded by Your hands, shaped through the trial of our life and our surrendering to Your sculpting.  And what will all see?  When the veil is drawn, and creation looks, they’ll see the image of You and not me, and I will be beautiful beyond description.  This is the truth of salvation for every believer. Wake up and be who You are being created to be.