Psalm 107:31-43

31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!  32 Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people, and praise Him in the company of the elders. 33 He turns rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; 34 A fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of those who dwell in it. 35 He turns a wilderness into pools of water, And dry land into watersprings. 36 There He makes the hungry dwell, that they may establish a city for a dwelling place, 37 And sow fields and plant vineyards, that they may yield a fruitful harvest. 38 He also blesses them, and they multiply greatly; and He does not let their cattle decrease. 39 When they  are diminished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow, 40 He pours contempt on princes, and causes them to wander in the wilderness where there is no way; 41 Yet He sets the poor on high, far from affliction, and makes their families like a flock. 42 The righteous see it and rejoice, and all iniquity stops its mouth. 43 Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord. (Psa 107:31-43)

God has the power and the capacity to make a home for His children where there is none…to provide water in a desert, to provide a fruitful harvest and plentiful cattle that will not decrease in number.  God will provide for those who cannot provide for themselves and are humbled by their circumstance.  God will humble those (princes) who think they can provide for themselves and have no need of Him.  If we are with Jesus, we are home…temporarily here in this life and forever with Him in Heaven.  Jesus taught in Matthew 5:2-12:

Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Hide this in your heart and hold-fast your confession in Jesus.  Go back to Psalm 107 regularly and call to mind what God has done and promises to do if we are wise in Him and understand who He is.

31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!  …. 43 Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.

Our Need: Jesus

1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Col 3:1-4; NKJV)

As we read in Luke 10:42, Jesus tells Martha (and us) that only one thing is needed…Jesus our Savior.  Jesus lived and died so that we could have what we really need, salvation.

Why do we NEED salvation in Jesus?  Because we are all sinners (Rom 3:23) and in our sins we are dead spiritually and need saving by Jesus.  8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:8-9; NKJV)

We can know that by listening to the gospel.  Having heard the gospel and understanding who Jesus is, who we are, and our need for forgiveness and salvation, what do we NEED to do?  Peter tells us in Acts 2:38 that we must “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

In that act of obedience, having put to death our sinful flesh, …we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:4)

And because we are raised with Christ, Who is our greatest need, our life needs to be different.  We need to strive for and seek daily the things that are above because that is where Jesus is. We need to exercise our mind toward heaven and we need to be thinking about things on the earth from heaven’s perspective.

Life here has to be lived but it needs to be lived in the context of eternity in Heaven.  We have died to our old self and we are raised up with Jesus who is sitting at the right hand of God.  Our life is now hidden in Christ and when He who is our life appears, then if we are faithful to Him whom we need, we will appear with Him in glory.

“I need to…”  When you use that statement, consider what comes next.  Does it look something like “I need Jesus first and foremost and He gets my firsts and I will look at life through His perspective”.  If you are like me, often times it doesn’t.  What it looks like is a bunch of words that describe all the things that have to get done in my daily life or sometimes it is followed by words that are really describing a “want” and not a need.

We have all we need in Jesus.  Jesus should be everything that we want.  Jesus fills all of our needs.  Heaven is all the home we need.  Keeping that at the forefront of our minds will shape our thinking to a heavenly perspective and our needs will be met and our wants will be shaped in a life lived for Jesus.  We are all busy but if we are first busy for Jesus then He will be all we need.

Wants and Needs–A Picture

This is a graph I pulled from a leadership class I took and want to use it for our discussion over the next several days.  The intent is to communicate that our needs and our beliefs are things that people can’t see but our behavior and results are.  The thing to consider is whether or not how we are acting and the results we are getting are consistent to what we need or what we believe.  Further, people can only draw conclusions by what they see so consistency in alignment of our beliefs and our actions over time is important.  It has been said, “be careful how you live; you will be the only Bible some people ever read“.  What kind of feedback are you getting?

Take some time today and read the first 17 verses of Colossians 3 and consider what it teaches us in terms of what we need, what we should believe, how we should act and what kinds of results we should be seeing in our lives as Christians.

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatryBecause of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouthDo not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Col 3:1-17 ; NKJV)

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)

Two Perspectives and Two Processes

12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:12-15; NKJV)

This passage provides perspective from which we can confidently serve our God and also from which we can investigate what is going on in our life and determine what the problem is.

Jesus promised a crown of life, that is eternal life, for those that love Him.  Jesus told us if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.  If we are faithful and obedient to Jesus Christ then we will be blessed as we overcome our temptations, will endure in this life, and be found approved by Him as we return to Him in spirit (crown of life). That is the process of God.

In that, we can be confident that God is not and does not tempt.  It says clearly in the verse that “evil” is what tempts and there is no evil in God.  There is no darkness but only light.  There is no bad, only good.  Our God is Holy.

So if God isn’t tempting us, where is it coming from?  Evil.  What is evil?  That which is contrary to God.  Who is contrary to God?  The devil is evil and he is contrary to anything God stands for and he is the one that appeals to us in our flesh and tempts us to act in a way that is contrary.  The devil is selfish.  We are at risk of being selfish.  Satin will appeal to that perspective while Jesus is saying deny yourself and follow Him.

If we give way to the temptation of the devil through responding to the desires of our flesh or our self-centered perspective, then we are in danger.  This desire, if allowed to take hold, will give opportunity for sin and if the sin is born and not taken care of will result in spiritual death.  That is the process of the devil.

So we have two perspectives and two processes.  God’s is heavenly and holy and results in eternal life.  The devil’s is fleshly and results in sin and death.

This provides us opportunity to reflect on our lives and consider what choices we are making, what sorrows we have, what fruit we are bearing and determine which perspective and process we are adhering to.

God loves us and wants us to be safe and secure as any Father does but He wants our heart and that requires our faithful and consistent choosing of Him.  He does not tempt us.  He only loves us.  And He does and will equip us to endure temptation by the devil and to secure an eternal and living crown.

 

Pilgrims

1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. (1 Peter 1: 1-2; NKJV)

The power of the internet and digital communication is that we can all reach out and communicate instantly and to so many people.  One could argue that there is a lot of bad or trouble that comes from that but more importantly there is a lot of good and opportunity for positive influence in it.  We are spread out but have the means to be instantly connected.

I am humbled as I write to think about all the different people that read this in all the different places they live.  The nature of our lives in this world puts us in different spots doing different things.  The nature of our society is that we build houses or apartments and for the most part we are stationary.  In being stationary, we get involved in our locale and all the good and bad that goes with it to include our neighborhoods, our economies, our schools, our relationships, etc.  As a matter of fact, I think we can get so focused on those things that it becomes part of our identity.  I am “from” Michigan.  That means something to different people and it is understood that it is different than when I was “from” Alabama.  We live in this world and we have an identity in it, however, it is not THE identity.

We are pilgrims.  This life is temporary.  Our home is Heaven.  We are in the world but not of this world.  Our hope and true family are in Jesus Christ and He reigns from Heaven.  We are here for a purpose and it isn’t to be “from” some place but to demonstrate we are “going” to a very a special place and our hope is that our manner of life will provide an opportunity to participate in another being uprooted from their sinful life and join the journey from earth to Heaven with Jesus..to join our pilgrimage.

We are pilgrims who have decided and committed ourselves to obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ and therefore we are God’s elect…His children.  Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice and His blood spilled so that we would be saved and reconciled to the Father.  Believing that and valuing our lives in that context, we sojourn on and look for rest in Heaven.

We are blessed to live where are at and to serve with the opportunities afforded us in that place.  There is no right place to live and there is nothing wrong with living in one particular place.  We have work to do and it can be done where we are at.  The trap set by the devil is to get us to over-identify with that place and forgetting where home really is.  The trap is focusing so intently in the permanence of a location and a point in time that we lose heavenly perspective and forget to move…as a pilgrim…spiritually closer to home.  I am thankful to be “from” Michigan and to have brothers and sisters here and elsewhere.  I am so very thankful that Jesus has gone ahead of me and has prepared an even more awesome eternal resting place with Him.

Life is hard and troubles come no matter where you are “from”.  Don’t forget to look up…to keep moving toward your heavenly home…and to be aware of those who might be stuck in the world or are ready to throw down their life of bondage in sin and join the journey with Jesus.  Sojourn on with joy and hope!

Run the Race

1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2; NKJV)

Our sister in Christ who I mentioned last week as nearing death went on to be with Jesus on Saturday.  Many of us were remembering her as we gathered on Sunday and one story dealt with her running the race…quite literally…she would train and run a 5K each year for the past few years.  Of course, that training and running also was how she lived with Jesus.

The above verse came to mind and I invite you to think about your race today.  Each of our races are different as our lives are different.  That said, the What, How, and Why of it is the same…Jesus.  Our faith in Jesus is the “what race” of our life and dictates what we do in our life.  Our determination to glorify Jesus is the “how we race” and the zealous way we try to live for Him.  Our hope of life everlasting and spiritual security now is the “why we race” because we know Jesus is worth it.  We can look at our life and how we are running it and simply evaluate it through the lens of Jesus.  In doing so, we will see the areas that require more training in God’s word and practice in applying it.  That training and practice will provide more endurance for our race and we will better make the run from earth to Heaven.

In the story about our sister, one of the points was that when she ran that 5K, people took notice as what she was doing was an accomplishment for a woman of her age.  People took notice of her running, they stood up, and they cheered as she ran buy.  Strangers did that.  People who didn’t know her and didn’t know what it took to get where she was…they recognized the achievement she was realizing.  If we run our race spiritually with Jesus, folks are going to notice…even those who don’t know you or Jesus.  We pray that as they take notice they might ask “how did you get here” and in that an opportunity for the gospel is presented and the hope for a soul to be saved.  All because you trained and ran the race of Jesus.  Run on!

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.

Thankfully Praying

Continuing on in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, we read:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; NKJV)

This brings to mind a similar instruction from Paul in his epistle to the Philippians:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.  6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthymeditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9; NKJV)

Take some time and consider the key words in these verses:

Rejoice, pray, thanksgiving, will of God, Jesus Christ, peace, true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good report, virtue, praiseworthy.

Evaluate your life today through the lens of these words.

Are you rejoicing in your own life and with those you care about or are you letting the bad things distract you?

Are you spending time in prayer whether it is a time you have set aside or continually conversing with your Father through the good and bad of your day?

Do you see the will of God today?  Do you see Jesus?  Are you trusting God is there and working?  Does this bring you peace?

Are the things you are thinking about true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy or is satan filling your mind with distraction?

God is a builder.  Satan is a destroyer.  Fill your heart and mind with the building materials of God, trust His will, feel His peace.  That is what He is shouting from Heaven.  That is my prayer for you and for me today.

What God Did and Will Do

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  (Ephesians 2:4-10)

For this text, I have underlined the words in bold above and in the margin of my bible I have written “What God Did!” and “What God Will Do!”.    When my eyes hit this part of my bible I am encouraged because the bottom line is that God has worked, is working and will work.  He is always working in me and for me and what He wants is to ensure that I make it home to Him.

Jesus is calling me (Come) and God is working…how awesome!  We see that He is rich in mercy, has great love, and He saves by grace.  Mercy, love, and grace from the Great I AM every moment of every day…backwards and forwards…that is where we are if we are in Christ Jesus through obedience to the gospel. 

Take these words today and be encouraged.  Mercy, love, grace.  God has done, is doing, and will do!  He is leading us home.  Heaven!  Salvation!