Divine Protection

ImageGod’s chosen and redeemed people have this promise found in Psalm 34:7 “The Lord’s angel camps around the Lord’s loyal followers and delivers them.” As NT believers we have the indwelling Holy Spirit that will encamp around us as if we had a hedge about us. Even Satan said to God about Job “Have you not made a hedge around him…” Yes, Beloved, we can trust in our God that because he loves us he has chosen to put a hedge about us to protect us just as a parent puts a hedge about their child. But, as believers we are given a choice to stay behind that hedge of protection or we can step out and then we are left defenseless against the foes of darkness.

Exodus 23:20 “I am going to send an angel before you to protect you as you journey and to bring you into the place that I have prepared. Take heed because of him, and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgressions, for my name is in him. But if you diligently obey him and do all that I command, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will be an adversary to your adversaries.”

There are some principles we can glean and practically apply to our lives today from these verses in Exodus. One is that we are to beware of him–or to fear him. We remember from Proverbs that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Secondly, we are to obey his voice for in his voice are the words of wisdom. Again this is the voice of wisdom and discernment. Thirdly, we are not to provoke him for “my name is in him.”

So how does this fit with the NT indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit? We recall two verses: 1Thess 5:19 “Do not quench the Spirit;” and Eph 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Thus the same OT principles apply to the NT believer. The Holy Spirit is given to us to guide and protect us. He is within us speaking “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

Beloved, is there some place you have stepped out from behind the hedge of protection that the Lord has placed around you? Know this: you are now open and vulnerable to the arrows of the enemy, the adversary. Quickly run and hide behind the loving protection of the Holy Spirit. Put your armor on Beloved and stand strong. The indwelling illuminating Holy Spirit is your protection and he desires one thing: obedience that he may bring you into God’s loving presence pure and holy. Will you take heed of his voice? Will you obey him?

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Titus 1 “To Further the Faith”

Image I love this picture because it really speaks to my heart. The Holy Spirit has been convicting me, after studying Matthew 25 for my Bible Study, that there is a place in my life where I am not using the talents that God has placed before me. There may not be a place for me in “this church”…they seem to have no need for whatever reason (a.k.a. you have not been here long enough to which I said “huh?”). However, there is a neighborhood nearby and I should be impacting them in some way. I do pray for my neighbors but what am I doing practically speaking? Thus this brings us to this old saying that goes like this: If you fail to plan you really are planning to fail. That in a nutshell is what Paul is saying in vs 1 of Titus as he begins this letter. He notes that he is not only a servant (doulos…bondservant) of Christ but also an apostle (for us ambassador). He then explains his purpose in life which is to further the faith of God’s chosen ones. Hampton Keathley III gives us a way to see this phrase:

In the Greek the words “to further” is kata. “kata may be used of (1) the norm or standard by which something is done, “according to, in accordance with”; (2) of the goal or purpose, “for the purpose of, for, to”; or (3) of reference or respect, “with reference to, with respect to.”

The challenge before us is to determine what God’s purpose is for our lives and then implement that purpose in a radical way. For example, if God has given you the talent of teaching then you should be using it for His church. If He has given you the talent of hospitality you should be using it to reach others for Christ either in your church or in your neighborhood. If we fail to plan on using these talents then one day we might hear these words: “the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” When we take the risk and step out to use the talents God has given to us as Paul did then we are true disciples. Paul’s plan was to further the faith of the elect/God’s chosen ones. He was given a mission and as he told King Agrippa “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” He set out to not only evangelize but also to edify those whom God put in his path. Thus at the end of his life he could say “2Ti 4:7 I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith!”

If we fail to plan then we have achieved nothing and in fact are being disobedient. Our timidity and lack of planning leads to a loss of joy, a loss of rewards in eternity, a loss of hearing “well done thou good and faithful servant.” We have failed to plan and thus have planned to fail. It is up to us.

Where will you and I  leave our footprint in the lives of others this week? What plan will you and I implement this week as part of furthering the faith of those who are in the Body of Christ and to serve others outside the Body of Christ?

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Prov 7 “Simpleton or Mature?”

ImageRecently a post was written to young men/women about life after high school. It was interestingly similar to an instructional manual and could have come right out of Proverbs 7! Listen to some of the advice offered: To the gals: If a guy calls you at 2 AM to “hangout”…he is not boyfriend material. To guys and gals: go to church…not just because your parents instructed you to do it, but because in church God speaks and you need to hear his voice; now is the time to strengthen your relationship with God and follow his plan. To guys and gals:  keep your morals and standards high. The poster asked: Will it be tough? Absolutely. Will you feel like the minority? Absolutely. Should you change to fit in? Absolutely not! This poster has it “right on.”

After giving instruction to his son in chapter 6 along with a list of the things God hates, the  father in chapter 7 instructs his son (also applicable to daughters) about what God loves and that begins with being morally pure. Five times he uses the word “keep.” As a dad I implore you to “keep” my words and treasure them. “Keep” my commands and obey my instruction as you would the pupil of your eye. “Keep” wisdom so intimately close that she may “keep” you from the man/woman who fails to “keep” his/her feet at home. Why this concerted effort in using this word? The father knows that without this the adolescent before him will fall victim to the ways of the seducers of the world. Bob Deffinbaugh wrote: “Being simple is a stage in the development of every person, very much like adolescence….being simple is one short step from being a fool, so this critical period in life must be lived very carefully.” As a child still under the parent’s roof he/she is going through a stage and therefore must be instructed. It is not a sin to be simple but it is a sin to not grow from simpleton to maturity. That was the sin that the author of Hebrews spoke about: “But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil.”

As Proverbs 7 closes there is a profound warning to those who ignore and become the fool:  “Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways – do not wander into her pathways; for she has brought down many fatally wounded, and all those she has slain are many.” The warning is clear. “when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death. Do not be led astray” [James]

Beloved, perhaps you are the parent of a simpleton because of their age or because of their naiveté. How are your parenting skills holding up in this time? Will you choose to instruct those under you with the tool that God has given to you? “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The last is critical…training begins in the home so that the child of God may leave the nest with a pure and reverent conduct.

 

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“Possessor or Professor?”

ImageJesus gave us a practical illustration of this title in the parable of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25. Five were wise and five were foolish. We are to determine who these are which directly follows the parable he taught in Matthew 24 of the faithful and unfaithful slaves. Both the wise virgins and the faithful slaves are those who are prepared while serving and waiting for the Master’s return. In 2Timothy 4 Paul urges his beloved child in the Lord to not only be that wise virgin and faithful slave but also to persevere to prepare others. But, alas, Paul said then as now,  there will also be amongst us those who are the foolish virgins and the unfaithful slaves who merely profess but do not possess. These are also the “tares” amongst us; they look like the true thing but when the time comes they are unprepared and unready to meet the Master.

Those who are the wise and faithful are those who possess the gift of eternal life and the indwelling Holy Spirit. They are the true children of God as John tells us through his gospel. They are the ones who seek to study to show themselves approved; they are serving faithfully;  they use the tool of inspired scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to correct their thinking, their actions, their motives and their deeds.

Those who are the foolish and unfaithful are those who profess to be believers but they “will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths.” These do not hear nor heed the messages about sin and the need for salvation, but they turn away from such. They have fallen victim to the fables of the false teachers who say you must earn your way to heaven OR God only loves you when you are good OR you need to love self first before you can love others OR they say God would not send anyone to hell for He is a God of love.  Paul warns Timothy about these teachers and instructs him to “Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction.”

Today, are you in the Word seeking instruction from the Word? Are you are a possessor or merely a professor? Are you sitting under those who explain and interpret the Word of God as it was written, or those that read one’s own ideas into the Word in order to “prove” a pre-held point; imposing their own interpretation into and onto the text? Be discerning; be trained to “have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.” [Heb 5:14] Are you amongst the wise or foolish virgins; are you a faithful or unfaithful slave?

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“Who is Your BFF and Are You a BFF?”

ImageThe teens of today have coined a phrase “BFF” to mean Best Friend Forever! I hear this a lot from them and it always brings a smile. If you ask them what qualities a “BFF” has, you hear always ready to listen, is there for me when no one else is and more. Isn’t it wonderful that our true BFF is Jesus who sticks closer than a brother and in return we show Him that we are His BFF by doing what he commands us to do. Today in our first chapter of the letter that Paul sent to Timothy there are two men who truly stand out as two of Paul’s BFF’s.

The first is Timothy. He is Paul’s dear child in the faith, and Paul longs to see him but because he is now incarcerated in a Roman dungeon cell with only a hole in the ceiling for air, food and water, it seems like a far off dream. He yearns that one day he will once again see his beloved Timothy. Therefore, Paul labors to send him an encouraging note to stay the course, “Hold to the standard of sound words that you heard from me and do so with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Protect that good thing entrusted to you, through the Holy Spirit.” He reminded timid Timothy that God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control and that he should not be ashamed of Paul’s imprisonment. God would use it for His glory.

The second is Onesiphorus, a quiet yet determined saint who traveled a long distance to encourage his BFF Paul in  Rome having heard of his imprisonment. This precious BFF is one who searched all of Rome looking for him and what a blessed reunion when Onesiphorus found Paul! He stayed the course by coming to refresh Paul, openly showing his loyalty and true friendship in a time when the Emperor Nero was on the warpath looking for others to also throw to the lions and blame for his problems. Yet, Onesiphorus, unlike Phygelus and Hermogenes and perhaps Timothy, was unashamed and became the “wind beneath the apostle’s wings” when Paul was all alone. He truly understood that wherever one is they can be content and be used of God. Therefore, he came searching that he might fulfill this verse out of Proverbs:  As iron sharpens iron, so a person sharpens his friend.  It was because of that that Paul could pray this for Onesiphorus: May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day!

One of the themes of this book will be to “Encourage One Another.” Would you say that you are an Onesiphorus or a Timothy to someone in need of refreshing?  Who will you encourage today?

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“With God there is No Fear”

ImageKing David seemed to always be on the run from King Saul’s army. David often found refuge in the Judean wilderness and in its many caves which were deep and cavernous. We read of one such time while hiding in a cave that Saul entered to relieve himself. What an opportune moment! David secretly cut off the edge of Saul’s robe but afterward his conscience bothered him and he restrained his men from rising up against Saul saying he is the “Lord’s chosen one.” This may or may not be the backdrop of this psalm but we can learn a principle from this psalm he authored: David was confident of the Lord God Almighty’s protection until God saw fit to remove Saul according to His time frame and in His way.  Today, we all may be facing the foes, the stumbling blocks that the enemy has placed in our path just as David did. Can we like David echo these words: The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?

The prophet Nahum knew this truth as David did. Listen to what he wrote: “The LORD is good,  A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him.” Thus Nahum as David knew this truth: God is “is a more secure hiding place than any mountain, hill, or great city, like Nineveh, when people face trouble.” As we have been reading the life of Paul we have come to know him personally in his struggles, his commitment to the Lord. Thus when Paul penned the book of Romans he shared with this group of believers this same truth of why he had no fear of men or governments or any other foe that the enemy would place before him and why he was safe in the arms of the God he served: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Beloved, where has the enemy come to distract you through the avenue of fear? Will you like David, Nahum and Paul quote this verse as your defense against him and his forces that they may flee your very presence? “The Lord delivers and vindicates me! I fear no one! The Lord protects my life! I am afraid of no one!”

 

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The Word is Our Compass

ImageWhen Paul left Timothy in Ephesus he saw the danger signs on the horizon for the flock and in fact Revelation 2 shows that indeed this precious flock did lose their first love. Are we discerning that we too see the danger signs and know how to act upon them?

Note that Paul references the Holy Spirit who “explicitly says” that in the later times certain things will come to pass; the first of which is the desertion of some faithful to the unfaithful camp. What might have triggered this departure? Dr. Constable writes: “this would come about as a result of their listening to persuasive arguments put forth by God’s spiritual enemies and, behind them, demons.” Rather than following these liars, as Paul references them, we are to hide God’s Word in our hearts, study to show ourselves approved as the Bereans did, and be mature in our perceptions to discern good and evil.

Now to Timothy Paul exhorts him to seek to “Be conscientious about how you live and what you teach” It is our speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity along with the power of the Holy Spirit’s conviction that will draw them back.

Secondly, he is to be busy about “giving attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” Much is avoided when truth is taught from the pulpit. 2Ti 4:2 Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction. The public reading of God’s Word and the teaching of the doctrines of the church is our Biblical compass against the false teachers.

Listen carefully this week as you sit under those who stand in the pulpits. Pray for them and pray for yourself. Pray that the anointed empowering Holy Spirit will direct, discern, and discriminate between what is truth and what is error.Image

 

 

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Who is Jesus to You?

Image1Tim 3 “Six Signs Jesus Christ is Who He said He was”

I am sure you have, as I have, encountered two camps of people: (1) those who deny the divinity of Jesus Christ and (2) those who accept Jesus Christ as one who left his divine nature to indwell the human nature. Paul’s one heart desire was that you and I to know Him as he did and to share that truth succinctly with those who are seeking as well as to those who deny. We know for a fact that the scriptures tell us that all will one day bow the knee to Him. In 1Tim 1 Paul essentially provided us clear direction as to who God is. Now in chapter 3 Paul clarifies who Jesus is and thus in turn gives us reasons why we should worship Him and how and why we should be transformed. Over and over through Paul’s epistles to the church he reminds his readers that the purpose of our being “in Christ” is so that we are transformed into His image.

Paul gives us six reasons Jesus is who he said he was from 1Tim 3:

  1. Jesus Christ was revealed in the flesh! He was born in Bethlehem, was carried to Egypt to be protected from the hand of Herod, raised in Nazareth, walked the wilderness and was tested by Satan himself.  The scriptures reveal that the “Son who was a descendant of David with reference to the flesh,” [Rom 1:3]
  2. Jesus Christ was vindicated by the Spirit! God opened the windows of heaven and said “This is my Beloved Son, listen to Him.” The Spirit vindicated Him by raising Him from the dead on Resurrection Day.
  3. Jesus Christ was seen by angels! The night he was born the angelic choir sang forth “Peace on Earth.”  On Resurrection Morning He was seen and proclaimed by the angelic beings.
  4. Jesus Christ was proclaimed among the Gentiles. Jesus walked, taught and healed both Jew and Gentile. He said about the Gentile Centurion “I tell you the truth, I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel” [Matt 8]
  5. Jesus Christ was believed on in the world. As He walked and taught many came to acknowledge Him as the Christ. Jesus asked Peter “Who do men say I am and Who do you say I am” “Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [Mat 16:16]
  6. Jesus Christ was taken up in to glory. After Jesus told his disciples that they were to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the farthest part of the earth, “he was lifted up and a cloud hid him from their sight.” [Acts 1:9]

If we believe all of these six signs as Paul delineated them, it should then transform us both at the outset and continuing on throughout our lives:  “And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” [2Co 3:18] Thus our mandate should be:  “Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.” [Rom 12:2]

Beloved  do you know Him? Have you been with Jesus today and experienced His transforming power?

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1Tim 2 “Prayer Warriors”

ImageDo you know of anyone you might call a “prayer warrior?” I knew a precious lady who was in my Bible Study who was nearing the 100 yr mark in her life. She would often arise as early as 5 a.m. When I asked her why she got up so early she told me “if I don’t get up then I can’t get all my praying in before I start my day at 9.” Talk about being put to shame and what a model of living life in the presence of God! The NT is replete with men and women who model for us what it means to be true prayer warriors and Paul is one of them.

As Paul is writing to his beloved Timothy he urges him to remain in Ephesus to help this precious group of saints to remain faithful to the doctrine he had taught them. In chapter one he reminded Timothy of the God whom he serves. Today in chapter 2 Paul underscores the power of prayer.

First is the instruction for prayer and its subsequent reasons: “requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity”

Secondly the purpose of prayer: God “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” thus echoing Peter’s words “The Lord ….does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” [2Pe 3:9] and the words of Matthew “ In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that one of these little ones be lost.” [Mat 18:14]

Thirdly, Jesus is our mediator or intermediary between God and humanity and thus when we pray, Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father interceding for us unlike the sigh of Job who said “Nor is there an arbiter between us…” Jesus has paid the price and thus has the right, the privilege and the honor of being our mediator.

Paul continues on with these words of counsel: “I want the men to pray in every place, lifting up holy hands and likewise the women.” Prayer is something both men and women can do with holy hands coming before the Father that His will for all men to be saved can be accomplished.

 

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The Heartbroken Parent Counsels from Proverbs 6

ImageWe all have experienced broken hearts over a child that has gone astray in some way, either through poor decision choices or rebellious spirits. As a parent we are especially vulnerable to the “broken heart syndrome” and often is heard: if only, if only. How then can we raise up children who will walk the talk and not stray from the God way? The first is to start early implanting God’s Word. Secondly, mirror for our children the right path following Deut 6 “teach them to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house, as you walk along the road, as you lie down, and as you get up.” Thirdly,  stay on our knees for them [Eph 6, Col 4, 1Thess 5 and more]. But suppose after all of that they still slip into the enemy’s territory, what do you as a parent do? First, hide God’s Word in your heart and use it whenever you pray and whenever you share. God’s Word will not return void: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void,” [Is].

How to raise a child with God’s Word within that will be lived without comes directly from Prov 6 in today’s reading. “The advice in this section provides a good example of what prudence is. A prudent person is one who is capable of exercising sound judgment in practical matters. He or she is cautious and discreet in conduct, is circumspect, and is sensible.” [Dr. Constable]

  1. Vs 1-5 Teach and show about the dangers of being unequally yoked with those whose heart is not aligned with God’s.
  2. Vs 6-11 Assign chores to teach teamwork and responsibility early on. Allow consequences and rewards to be visible and tangible.
  3. Vs 12-15 Teach how to discern people’s unsavory qualities as well as those whose lives mirror godliness.
  4. Vs 16-19 Observe and teach what qualities God hates as well the contrasting qualities God loves. In particular note vs 19 about the results when those qualities of ungodliness arise which is discord and strife in contrast to what Paul taught “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all people.” [Rom 12]
  5. Vs 20 and Ex 20 Honoring thy parents comes with a promise as well as a consequence for dishonoring them
  6. Vs 21 – 23 The whole purpose of this is that God’s Word is like a flashlight and the rebukes of discipline are like a roadmap.

Beloved, we who are parents have much to glean from this chapter and for those of who have raised children it is a guide to share truths that might fall upon fallow ground when a child wants to not follow or listen to a parent. Wisdom begins when one fears the Lord and wisdom exercised is found when one heeds the rules the Word offers. May you this day find encouragement as you ponder each truth.

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