Things we Know

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one—For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places—No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,  and their righteousness is from Me, says the LORD.

…having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…—I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever—What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

I Jn. 5:19 ESV; Eph 6:12 KJV; Is. 54:17 NKJV; Eph. 1:18-19 ESV; Jn. 16:33 NLT; Ps. 23:4-6 NLT; Rom 8:31 NKJV

Some mornings songs sprout in my head and sing there unbidden, over and over–today this:

Whom shall I fear?  The God of angel armies is always by my side. 

[If the video doesn’t appear please click through to the original post at my blogsite: http://ponderings.theskeltons.org/2017/07/26/things-we-know/]

How fitting that Hezekiah’s story should be in the queue for my morning reading!  He has been a good king.  Under his reign the long-neglected temple has been re-opened.  Passover has been celebrated with exuberant joy.  The people have responded to his reforms with enthusiasm, destroying their pagan altars and giving generously to the service of the Temple.  But in the wake of all this faithfulness comes dread news, my morning’s reading–the powerful king of Assyria is on the march. He has invaded Judah and is headed for Jerusalem.

After making strategic preparations– repairing and doubling the walls, amassing weapons, stopping up the springs outside the city and appointing military leaders– Hezekiah calls the people together and encourages them with these words:

“Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side!  He may have a great army, but they are just men.  We have the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!” (II Chron.32:7,8)

Centuries later Paul will echo these words in addressing the believers in Rome:

‘If God be for us, who can be against us?!’

It is good to be reminded of these things. I’ve been acutely aware lately that I live in a world that does not share my values. It dismisses the One I most treasure, delights in what He abhors, and exalts self as god instead. I am a misfit. I easily succumb to feeling like a feeble voiceless nobody surrounded by a vocal and  daunting foe.  My conversation has not been with flesh and blood, though I’m prone to eavesdrop, but with books. Whether in my work among the library stacks or with thrift store donations the vast majority of books that surround me (and people who resort to them for advice) represent worldviews that directly conflict with my own.  Buddhism, Eastern meditation, Psychic healing, Dark ‘thrillers’, Self-as-God counsel, and perhaps the most hazardous of all, a growing number of  beautifully bound ‘angels of light’ that pose as compatible with Christianity and offer soothing peaceful advice that is Luciferan at its core.  I find it overwhelming somedays.  How is my little light to make any difference in such a climate?  I feel cowed and helpless, mute.

My Shepherd reads my mind, knows my heart and sends His Word to reassure.  On Sunday a sister in Christ stood and read from I John:

We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

(I Jn. 5:19-20 ESV)

She read the words haltingly, her handwriting so tiny, her reading glasses absent, but the rendering could not detract from the powerful reality of God’s truth heard again.  We know…the power of evil is real but we are in Him who is true, in Him who has given us understanding and eternal life… This passage has spurred me on to consider things I know to be true–

  • In this world we will have trouble BUT God’s goodness and mercy will always pursue…
  • In this world we will have formidable enemies BUT God is able to spread a feast for us in their presence…They will not have the last word.  Truth will prevail.

So I am encouraged to press on to know the truth, to be set free by it and to proceed undaunted in fulfilling my calling in this world, led by the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 

–LS

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, … For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Heb 10:32, 34-36 ESV

 

This way to JOY!

Build an altar there to the LORD your God…sacrifice peace offerings on it also, and feast there with great joy before the LORD your God.—God’s hand was on the people…giving them a strong desire to unite in obeying the orders of the king and his officials, who were following the word of the LORD…So for seven days the celebration continued.  Peace offerings were sacrificed, and the people confessed their sins to the LORD, the God of their ancestors…then decided to continue the festival another seven days, so they celebrated joyfully for another week…The entire assembly of Judah rejoiced…There was great joy in the city!—For when the LORD restores His people, Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.

The life of the godly is full of light and joy!

Yes! turn to our God, for he will abundantly pardon…“My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the LORD.  “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine….I send [my Word] out and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.  You will live in joy and peace….”—When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy.  Yes, your joy will overflow!

Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD.  Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.—Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing.—But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.

Deut.27:7 NLT; II Chr. 30:12,22-26 NLT; Ps. 14:7 NLT; Pr. 13:9 NLT; Is. 55: 7,8,11,12 NLT; Jn.15:10-11 NLT; I Chr.16:10-11 KJV; I Thess.5:16-17 ESV; Ps.5:11 KJV

None of us sets off to find misery but it is the inevitable consequence of following our own hearts and ignoring God’s.  Meanwhile the way to Joy stands open. Wisdom calls. God woos.  A way is made in the wilderness… Repent and believe!  Follow Me and know Joy!

I made my way this morning from Old to New Testaments reading one chapter in each of the genres along the way.  JOY was the common thread winding through them.  There is great JOY in being right with God.  It seems we were designed for the JOY of fellowship with our Creator.

Not surprisingly, one of the biggest lies at large in the world is that if there is a God, He is a curmudgeonly somebody that means to make you miserable and you’d best think for yourself and choose your own way.  Generations have proven the results of this bad advice that first popped up in the Garden with the insinuation:  “Hath God said, ye shall not…” 

But the record stands… God is merciful and gracious.  He will abundantly pardon.  His Word marks the way to transcendent joy.  It’s a path our hearts won’t find without Him.

–LS

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Ps.16:11 ESV

 

He has graced us!

If God says something is acceptable don’t say it isn’t!—According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,  To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted [Lit: ‘graced us’] in the beloved.

–And the angel came to Mary and said, “Greetings, O favored [Lit: ‘graced’] one, the Lord is with you!”

–And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be?….

–And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you… For nothing will be impossible with God.”

–And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.—In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,  which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ  as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.  In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.  Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.—Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you… We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do.    And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others.  God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well.  So if God has given you the ability to __________[do it well]… Never be lazy in your work but serve the LORD enthusiastically — Who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?  Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?—For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so that we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. —For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.—But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,  equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Acts 10:15 NLT; Eph 1:4-6 KJV; Lk.1:28 ESV; Lk. 1:35, 37-38 ESV; Acts 10:43 ESV; Eph 1:7-14 ESV; Rom 14:17-18ESV; Rom 12:1-2 NASB;  Rom.12:3-6,11 NLT; Rom 9:20-21 NASB; Eph 2:10 NLT; I Cor. 6:20 NASB; Is. 64:8 NASB; Heb 13:20-21 ESV

The words jumped off the page at me rendered differently than I was used to.  If God says something is acceptable don’t say it isn’t! Who am I to contradict what God has said, or even to doubt it?  Whether it is my own bumbling efforts to work out this great salvation in which I stand, or my estimation of how my brother in Christ is working it out, who am I to declare unacceptable what God has chosen for His glory?

In making us ‘accepted in the Beloved’ we are not so very unlike Mary.  In both instances the same expression is used:  God has ‘graced’ us. We are pursued with grace, compassed with favor, honored with blessings.  “O graced one, the Lord is with you”, could well be said of you or I if we are in Christ. What is to be our response?  What was Mary’s?  She clarified her calling–‘how will this be?’.  She was quite aware she didn’t have it in her to become the mother of the Saviour of the world, God incarnate!  But God’s response to her is not unlike His provision for us–the Holy Spirit would empower the calling, making the impossible so very possible! What was left for Mary to say but: Amen. Here I am. 

And so it remains for us to live out our days with confidence in God’s calling and provision. What He has designed us for and called us to He will grace us to fulfill for his great glory!

–LS

 

 

Can You Believe It?!

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.  Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?”— Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ …And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.— Yet it was our weaknesses He carried; it was our sorrows that weighed Him down…And because of what He has experienced, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous,  for He will bear all their sins.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.— You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends.  He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.  But you  must continue to believe this truth and stand in it firmly.  Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.— For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified“I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” …Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, …and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works.— For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”— To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ… according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith– to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Jn.3:6-9 ESV; Heb 10:7,10 ESV; Is.53:4,11 NLT; Jn.1:12-13 ESV; Col 1:21-23 NLT; Ps. 95:7-8 ESV; Heb.10:14, 16-24 ESV; Rom 1:16-17 ESV; Col 1:27 ESV; Rom 16:25,27 ESV

I bumble through life feeling not quite sufficient, not quite pleasing, frankly, not very useful for the Kingdom.  I ‘know’ the facts of the Gospel, that all who believe are forgiven and declared righteous by faith–accepted in the Beloved and fitted with all that is needed to fulfill God’s calling, but I tend to hang back feeling ‘less than’.  Too often mine is a somewhat dysfunctional faith.  It doesn’t quite percolate out so others can ‘smell the coffee’.  And yet, all is done.  So I find myself frequently back circling these Gospel themes like a moth fluttering around a lightbulb. As a child of God in Christ I am holy and being made holy.  I’ve been made right with God and am being made to resemble His Son.  There is truth here that I need to live and breathe, daily! It is very good news.  May God soften our hearts to hear and believe and keep on believing through all our days. 

He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

–LS

(I Th.5:24)

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord, forever

I am a debtor — Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.— The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men… or even like this tax collector. I… ‘ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. — For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.— Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus —This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it. —Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.— So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’— It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning…

Rom.1:14; Lk. 13:4-5 ESV; Lk. 18:11-14 ESV; Mt. 9:13 NLT; Rev. 3:17 ESV; Acts 3:19-20 ESV; Is. 30:15 NIV; Mt.5:3; I Tim.1:15 NIV; Lk. 17:10 ESV; Lam. 3:22-23 ESV

When tragedy strikes close by but leaves me intact, it is easy to suppose that I have been spared by virtue of some superior worthiness in myself.  My initial shock and sympathy can become a mere facade hiding my silent judgments: ‘he had it coming… I’m sure glad I…’ [fill in whatever habits you are proud of or vices you piously shun]. But Jesus makes it clear that we are all debtors to mercy.  Humility is the virtue that most becomes our state.  Do we ever pay down this debt? Do we ever outgrow our need for repentance and mercy?  Not if we are growing in grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The more we see Him as He is, the more we will know ourselves to be unworthy of His mercies. Yet they remain, morning by morning, a fitting lifesong!

–LS