The Battle Rages

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”  And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. (Genesis 3:1-7; NKJV)

I wanted to share a synopsis of a great sermon I heard yesterday which dealt with the spiritual battle we are engaged in.  These are the high points and verses used and I invite you to look into this topic further.

In the verses above from Genesis, we see the very first battle between the devil and God’s created children.  We see the main actors in this eternal and spiritual battle…our God and Father, our adversary the devil, and us…God’s children.  We see God’s family as He intended it attacked and corrupted by the devil…how good he is at winning battles in our lives.  We see that the devil will win battles and we will sin.  We see in reading the remainder of the Bible that God continually battles for us and though we lose battles He has won the war in Christ Jesus.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devourResist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a whileperfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8-11; NKJV)

Remember, we are engaged in a spiritual battle with real and powerful actors.  God is active in our lives but so is the devil and we must remain active and continually seek refuge abiding in Jesus Christ (John 15) for He is the only security and salvation we have.  He is our Stronghold!  Therefore, put on the whole armor of God, flee from and resist the efforts of the devil, and always and continually petition your Father in prayer through your Savior Jesus Christ…He is and will be victorious and we prevail in eternity if we are with Him.

Other scriptures to consider:  James 4:4-12submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. (vs. 7); Ephesians 4:25-32nor give place to the devil. (vs. 27); 1 John 3:7-15…he who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous….he who sins is of the devil…(vs. 7-8); Ephesians 6:10-20be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might…put on the whole armor of God…(vs. 10-11)

Father of Lights

16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (James 1:16-18)

Perspective and process is what we discussed in verses 12-15.  God’s perspective is heavenly and we can have confidence in what He is doing and has promised to do.  Jesus says in John 15 to “Abide in Me” and to faithfully serve Him despite the highs and lows of our life and the result is eternal life…the crown of life.  That is the process.

In that, the devil will try to mix all that up, sow lies, cause confusion.  But we read here to not be deceived.  To remember that all good gifts and things that come into our lives are from Heaven.  If something is not good, we know it is not from God and we can work to avoid it, flee from it or otherwise escape and resist.

Specifically, God is the God of light and there is no darkness in Him.  Again, a standard we can measure the things in our life by.  God is the God of light and there is no variation or shadow.  God is solid in that He does not move and that He is not empty but is and represents His supreme and awesome power and nature which is fully focused on our restoration and salvation.  He works to build up.  The devil works to tear down.  We can know that God has and is working to restore us…bringing us into the light as He is light.  Our objective is to stay there and remain faithful and we will prevail.

Let me close with a passage from Paul’s letter to Timothy and encourage all of us to move to the light and stay in the light no matter how hard the devil works to yank us back.

11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, 15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:11-16)

House of Mourning

1 A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth; Better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart3 Sorrow is better than laughter, for by a sad countenance the heart is made better.  The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:1-5; NKJV)

Today we will gather to celebrate the victory in Jesus of our dear sister.  It is indeed a celebration and that was what she asked we do today.  There will be sorrow to be sure because we miss her.  She lived a life that is amplified in the lives of the ones she influenced and participated in.  And today she will give once again as we reflect on her life in Jesus and draw encouragement and example in continuing to strive for the gospel.  Her name is a good name.  Her life wisely lived.  All of which echos in eternity.

The book of Ecclesiastes provides us a vertical and heavenly perspective as we view the horizontal nature of our lives on earth.  It is a lens that reassures us that all things matter because this life is not the end.  Our eternal life with God and the eternal nature of our relationships and actions here are earth are called into view.  Everything we do has an eternal impact and everything God is doing is about the salvation of souls.  Life.  Death.  All of it demonstrates a patient and loving God who is singularly focused on saving.

The house of mourning is not a place that we, by nature, would prefer to be but our Father says different and that we should go there and take to heart the eternal nature of our existence.  There is salvation in Jesus and destruction without.  It is the center theme to our lives here and in eternity.  It is what will be before us today and worthy of our consideration.  It is an opportunity to draw closer to our Savior, celebrate victory in Him and be encouraged as we leave and go back into the world knowing that everything we face is worth it when our race is run with Jesus and we go home to a loving God.

Finally, I want to share these passages as they were shared with me.  They are offered to help us as we work to understand God’s perspective for things that happen here, deal with the resulting emotions and search for peace and trust in God’s power.

Psalm 13:1-3; Romans 8:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Revelation 14:12-13; John 14:1-6; 2 Corinthians 4:7-5:10; Philippians 1:20-30; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

Encouragement

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their GodAnd God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

Revelation was written to encourage the 1st Century Christians as they suffered under the severe persecution of the Roman Empire.  There is much to study and to learn from the book and I believe it is also given as an encouragement to us.

There are many of us who have loved ones that are very sick, hurting, or are otherwise in a very tough spot.  We love them and we want to help them but in truth there is only so much we can do.  Cancer, mental illness, physical disabilities, emotion abuse are the ones that come to my mind as I think about those I love who are either suffering or have someone who is suffering.  It breaks my heart overall and as I consider each case and the impact of the situation hurts me even more.  I dare say it makes me mad on some level though that is a fruit of the flesh and not the Spirit.  The Spirit, if I am focused as I should be, brings me peace, comfort, and encouragement.

As I think about it, I hurt because of the pain but I rejoice because I know that in the end, every person on my mind who is suffering is going to be ok when they go home to Jesus.  With that said, as I turn to those that are caring for them, love them, or otherwise affected by their loved one’s suffering…what can I do there?  Of course I can say encouraging things, I can pray for and with them, I can just generally be available, compassionate, and loving.  That is a lot and I should do more.

What I also want to do today is encourage everyone who is reading this to take time throughout the day and pray for those we know are suffering physical, mental or emotional pain.  Pray that even though they may not be able to pray or read scripture, that verses like these would fill their heart and God would comfort them through the power I know He has and will use for His children.  I believe everyone that is in Jesus is going to be ok in eternity and I believe our God is willing and able to comfort His children who are our loved ones in ways we cannot see or fully understand.  I believe that and I think we can find comfort in it.

It is not about us and it is not about now.  We cannot do it all and thankfully He has done it all.  Take heart and pray with me for all our loved ones and their families in these difficult times.

Anchor

19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:19-20; NKJV)

There is a hymn that is probably familiar to many of you titled “Will Your Anchor Hold?”.  The chorus is:  “We have an anchor that keeps the soul.  Steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.”

There are so many great thoughts throughout the song about our Anchor being in heaven, that the cable of the Anchor passes between His heart and mine, that it is in the Savior’s hand, anchored fast to the heavenly shore,  that it is safely moored in the bright harbor to the city of Gold and much more.

The song also talks about the billows of life, strife, rising tide, strain, and raging tempests representing our struggles and challenges in this world.  Still, the Anchor holds beyond the veil in heaven where God is and we have access to divine power.

Of course others can’t physically see our Anchor or the cable passing between Jesus and us.  But they can see us holding firm with hope and peace even though the life around us is raging and hard.  They might not be able to see our Anchor but if we hold fast because we hold onto Jesus, there is a good chance someone is going to ask us how we could possibly be ok and then we get the chance we are looking for and just maybe the whole reason the storm is raging in our life in the first place…to share Jesus and our hope in Him.

Our Anchor is true.  We just need to stay connected to it and tell others why we do.  Hold fast brothers and sisters!

Spiritual Diet and Exercise

 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. (1 Timothy 4:8-9)

Simple lesson for today that I have learned and relearned in my life…good health (assuming no significant medical condition) is a balanced diet and consistent exercise.  When I am watching what I eat and setting aside time for exercise…I feel and look better.

The verses above tell us that it is important to exercise and there are a lot of other places in the bible that tell us we should take care of the body God has given us.  Paul often used metaphors from athletics, as he is here, to teach us about spiritual health.  We should exercise physically and there will be profit in it but what really matters is exercising spiritually and growing in godliness.  This is both profitable in this life but also in the next.  Spiritual health is supremely important and we can exercise towards it.

A steady diet of God’s word and consistent exercising of our prayer muscles will result in spiritual health just as a good balanced diet and exercise routine will benefit our physical health.  This, as Paul says, is a “faithful saying” and something we should accept and incorporate into our lives.

Here’s a faithful Blackmer saying…”abs start in the kitchen” and I often say it making the point to my teenage sons that just because you are physically active doesn’t mean you will look physically fit.  You need to watch what you eat and put into your body too.

Well, I am going to say today, “godliness starts in the Word” and meditating and praying God’s word will result in our being and looking spiritually fit.  That doesn’t profit just a little but is eternally profitable.

 

 

Faith in an Invisible God

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20)

These 2 verses are from the opening chapter of Romans and the first section is about being justified through a life of faith and the second section is a portion of a lesson about God’s wrath towards unrighteous people though I pulled it out in support of my thought this morning that our God is alive and working in eternity.

Over the weekend, my Brittany had pups and though it was a nerve-racking experience for me the owner, everything happened just as the Creator designed it.  I had worked to ensure that there was a safe and clean place for Ginger and her puppies and I was ready to help if I was needed…but I wasn’t.  As I sat and counted puppies and time, that was all I could do.  The design of life took care of the rest and it just occurred to me over and over how awesome our God the Designer is and how much I can see Him in all the creation and life around me.  God is revealed all around me (Psalms 19) and His handiwork should point to His all powerful nature.  I am His handiwork as well and if I can see what He has done and is doing in nature, I can trust He is doing and will do mighty things in my spiritual and physical life.

In remembering and praying for his brethren in Philippi, Paul says that he is confident in the fact that “that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”.  The design is our Father’s.  That is the work that is being done “behind the curtain” of our flesh.  We need to be present.  We need to be prepared.  But we also need to stand in trust of Him through faith…even if we cannot see Him.  God is all around us and He is working within us…take some time today and be present to see it and believe it and trust it.

One Word To Improve Your Marriage

It is one of the great blessings one can enjoy: marriage.  Yes, marriage is a good thing.  Marriage is from God, Genesis 2:23-24.  Marriage is a great blessing, Proverbs 5:15-19;  Ecclesiastes 9:9.   Marriage is to be a life long commitment, Matthew 19:4-6.

Sadly, there are those who are married who would not describe their marriage as a blessing, but instead as a curse.  Unfortunately, many marriages (even in the church) will end up in divorce.  That shouldn’t be.  How can our marriages be the way God wants them to be?  If you had one word to tell a new couple to remember as they begin their marriage, what word would you want them to remember?  Maybe words like “love” or “selfless” or even “forgiveness” come to mind.  Those are all great words and should be a part of every marriage.  But there’s another one I want us to consider: ETERNITY.  Have you thought about how thinking more about eternity will have an impact on our marriages?  As we think about our marriages, we need to be thinking about eternity.  Specifically, we need to remember the following:

Your spouse is made in the image of God.  They too were made in the image of God, Genesis 1:26.  Therefore, they are unique and important in the eyes of God.  This may feel like a “Duh” kind of point, but I think in the process of time we can fail to view our spouses correctly.  We can begin to see our spouses more superficially and fail to focus on the fact that they have a soul.  Remember they are made in God’s image.  Treat them right, Matthew 7:12.

God wants us to help our spouse go to heaven.  A husband and wife should be so concerned about the other because they are made in the image of God, that they will do hard things because they want their spouse to go to heaven, 1 Peter 3:1-7.  The sad reality, however, is that I’ve seen couples not help but rather hinder each other.  How often do you think a husband or wife is thinking about eternity as they contemplate committing adultery, forsaking the assembly, or are filled with bitterness?  Let’s do all we can to help our spouse to go to heaven.

God wants us to be in heaven too.  How we treat our spouses will have spiritual consequences for us, 1 Peter 3:7.  Let’s be wise and remember what’s at stake.  I realize we can’t control our spouses.  We can’t force them to do anything.  A person’s spouse may not do right.  But we can control ourselves.  Even if they aren’t thinking about eternity, we can!  What does God see when He looks at our marriages?  Let’s be sure He sees love, mercy, forgiveness, and us thinking about eternity.

Daniel – But Go Your Way Till The End

“But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.”
(Daniel 12:13)

The commentator Adam Clarke had four simple points on this verse, and I wanted to share them with you.

Here is proper advice for every man.
1. Thou hast a way – a walk in life, which God has assigned thee; walk in that way, it is thy way.
2. There will be an end to thee of all earthly things. Death is at the door, and eternity is at hand; go on to the end – be faithful unto death.
3. There is a rest provided for the people of God. Thou shalt rest; thy body, in the grave; thy soul, in the Divine favor here, and finally in paradise.
4. As in the promised land there was a lot for each of God’s people, so in heaven there is a lot for thee. Do not lose it, do not sell it, do not let thy enemy rob thee of it. Be determined to stand in thy own lot at the end of the days. See that thou keep the faith; die in the Lord Jesus, that thou mayest rise and reign with him to all eternity. Amen.

Amen.

There Remains a Sabbath Rest

Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.
(Hebrews 4:6-11)

A Sabbath rest is coming, an eternal rest. Just like God rested from His works, we will rest from ours. Some will fail to enter it, as the text says, and the encouragement is for us to “strive to enter that rest.” We are saved by grace, no doubt, but the Lord calls us to work until He calls us home to rest.

There is a day coming, when we will touch the face of God and rest in the light of His glory for eternity. Are you and I thinking about that rest? Our we taking the time to think of eternity, heaven and living in the presence of God forever? I know I need that more, how about you? Re-centering our minds on heaven helps us to see things today with a more hopeful and joyful perspective.

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
(Revelation 14:12-13)