Certainty in the Days of Uncertainty

Certainty in the Days of Uncertainty

Yesterday was the second Sunday we met together virtually, and I for one can’t wait until we can put aside social distancing and meet again face-to-face.  I miss your voice as you sing songs to the Lord and offer prayers to Him for the sake of others.  I miss your attentiveness as we look into His Word together and I especially miss our times of fellowship when we can catch up on things and see how everyone’s doing.

But since it appears this ordeal our nation is going through will last for several more weeks (hopefully not longer), I thought it would be encouraging to remember in the face of uncertainty what we do know for certain, and in our world of constant change, what is unchangeable and will remain forever.


Things We Know For Certain

There are so many things in our life right now that we have no control over.  How long will the coronavirus last?  What’s going to happen to our economy?  Am I going to have enough money to pay my bills and feed my family?  How can I protect myself and those I love from all of this?  And the list of questions seems to be endless.

There are so many uncertainties right now.  And nobody can give us any definite answers.

But there are some things that are certain and will never change, no matter what happens.  And as long as we keep our heart focused on these unchangeables, we will not get swept away by the swirling tides of doubt, fear, dread, and depression that often follow.


Certainty Number One:  God Loves You!

Scripture repeatedly reveals the wonderous fact that God loves you and you are loved by Him.  The word that describes the love God has for you is, of course, agapē.  This is the highest form of love.  It is a covenant love, an altruistic, unconditional love that describes the love God has for His own Son and even for you and me.

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9).

Just think about this statement for a moment.  As God the Father loved His own Son, so the Son has chosen to love each of us, regardless of how undeserving we are.  This love is not based on what we think we deserve or what good we have done, but on the nature of God whose very essence is love (1 John 4:8).  And in every instance cited the word used to describe this kind of love is agapē.

So rest or abide in this love that is unchangeable and will last forever.


Certainty Number Two:  God is Sovereign

As you know, my life verse is Psalm 115:3, which reads, “But our God is in heaven; He does what He pleases.”  In other words, our God exists beyond what we can touch, see, hear, taste or feel.  He resides far above our financial problems or worries about the future.  His abode is in heaven and from His throne, He does what He wills.  His desire can never be thwarted, delayed, or hindered.  Never.  This can be either good news or bad.  If you trust God and see him as your loving, forgiving, merciful Father, these are very encouraging words.  But if you view God through the eyes of an abused child and see Him as an angry, selfish, narcissistic, bully (that many of us may have had as earthly fathers), then His sovereignty becomes frightening.

But the Bible constantly reveals the character of God to us.  And His character coincides precisely with the fruits of the Spirit He gives to us.  He manifests Himself by the fruits of His character.  They are an extension of Himself and only come when He, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, resides in each of us.  This is who God is:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

This is a perfect description of your sovereign Father.  No need to live in fear or doubt.

So as you see wall-to-wall news coverage on how terrible the coronavirus is and how our economy is going to collapse and how one party is not doing what’s right for the other party or now everybody is a racist…  whew.  Just remember Certainty One and Two:  God is Sovereign, and in His sovereignty, He has chosen to love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

Rest in that love.  Abide in that love.  Take a deep breath and relax in that love.

And live secure in the fact that God sees the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and as long as you are in Him, you’ll be okay.

If there’s anything I can do to help you or if you have any specific prayer needs, please let me know.

Until tomorrow or until we see each other again face-to-face,

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Prayer: Ephesians 3:3 – Elementary, My Dear Watson

Prayer: Ephesians 3:3 – Elementary, My Dear Watson

The world is full of mysteries. Some have piqued our interest and baffled our imaginations for generations.  They are fascinating, yet remain elusive and unexplainable.  For example, we wonder at the origin of Stonehenge.  Or how an ancient culture had the technology to build the Great Pyramids in Egypt.  Or how to explain the Loch Ness Monster.  Is there life on other planets?  What happened to the city of Atlantis?  For the more practical and political student of current mysteries, who was the shooter on the grassy knoll?  What happened to Jimmy Hoffa?  And the list of mysteries is endless, and the answers few.  But that is the nature of a mystery.

But in the New Testament, the word mystery is not something unknowable, but something always known but only revealed to certain people at a pre-determined time, all decided by our Sovereign God.

The verse we will use to focus our prayer time is Ephesians 3:3-4, which reads:

How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).

Take a moment and reflect on the word, mystery. Let your mind explore all the images the word conjures up for you.  We know the mystery spoken in this passage is that Gentiles, along with God’s chosen people, the Jews, are both now citizens in the Kingdom of God.  This truth, ordained by God from the foundation of time, was hidden from the Jews and Gentiles until revealed to Paul— which is precisely what this verse says.  That “by revelation He (God) made known to me (Paul) the mystery” which reveals the Kingdom of God to be inclusive of both Jews and Gentiles who have been chosen and redeemed by the blood of Christ.  It’s a picture of God sovereignly choosing out of two ethnic groups, Jews and Gentiles, those who belong to Him, and creating a new race, a new family, a new people, all redeemed by Christ.


Elementary, My Dear Watson

There are quite a few occurrences of the word mystery in the New Testament.  We have, for example, the “mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way” (2 Tim. 2:7).  This passage reveals to us the restraining power of the Holy Spirit and the future of the antichrist, yet hidden until now.  Also, we find the word used in 1 Corinthians 15 regarding the coming of the Lord and our gathering to meet Him.  It says, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51-52).  Again, this is speaking of a truth God has always known and has always been true, but hidden for a time until it was revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

But regarding the mystery of Jew and Gentile becoming one in His Kingdom, no passage better explains that than Colossians, chapter one.  In fact, we find the word dispensation translated as a stewardship given to Paul for the Gentiles.  Let’s look at Colossians 1:24-27, which reads:

I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory – Colossians 1:24-27.

Paul became a minister to the Gentiles according to the stewardship he received from God for them, which is exactly what Ephesians 3:2-3 says.  He then describes the nature of the mystery which “has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints” (Col. 1:26).  With great anticipation, like children on Christmas morning, we sit on the edge of our seats waiting to know and understand the full implications of this mystery.  And we are not disappointed. He says, “God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles.”  Note the descriptive terms used: riches, and glory.

So what exactly is the “riches of the glory of this mystery”?  It is nothing less than, “Christ in you, the hope of glory!” (Col. 1:27).

It is a profound mystery God would call unto Himself those from among unfaithful, unbelieving, and unrepentant Jews.  But He did.  It is even more of a mystery He would allow us, as profane, arrogant, lawbreaking Gentiles entrance and acceptance into His Kingdom.  But He did.  And He did so by this amazing, supernatural act of regeneration where our sins are imputed to a sinless Christ, and His righteousness is imputed to us, who are anything but righteous (Isa. 64:6).

It was all done, by grace, through Christ.  This means everything we are, everything we hoped to be, any good we do in this life, any legacy we leave behind, is all because of Christ.  Stop now and meditate on this phrase, “Christ in you, the hope of Glory” (Col. 1:27).  Or, Christ in you, the hope, or confident expectation and divine assurance, of Glory.

So what are we to do now since we know what this mystery is all about?  How are we to live, knowing God has revealed this great mystery to us and given us Christ, our hope and guarantee of glory?  What is our dispensation, or stewardship, our ministry, our responsibility and calling He has given each of us to do?  It is simply this:

Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus – Colossians 1:28.

This is a most worthy calling.  It is the greatest cause in which to devote our lives.  Why?  Because it brings our Lord God glory.


Time to Pray

As we spoke about yesterday, God reveals His plan for your life in His Word.  And the needed empowerment to fulfill His plan is also found in His Word.  Prayer is of vital importance, especially if directed by Scripture.  Remember, it’s the object of our prayers, and the object of our faith, that determines whether they honor Christ and will be answered.  And the content of prayer and faith is best directed by our focus on Scripture.  Hence, the reason you are receiving these emails.

We know God will never answer a prayer contrary to His Word.  Why?  Because God is not divided, nor two-faced, fickle, or changes His mind on a whim based on opinion polls.  God is always true to His Word.  And if every answer to every prayer must agree with His Word, then every answer to every question we have for God is also found in His Word.

That’s why His Word is “living and powerful” (Heb. 4:12) and not out of date, irrelevant, or boring.  It is inspired, “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16), and of immense value in this life and the next.  Therefore, as we’re still in the first week of January 2020, let’s commit to Him to become a lover of His Word.  To read it, understand it, obey it, and proclaim it to others.

As we talked about yesterday, only in His Word can you find the source of the “abundant life” Jesus promised (John 10:10).  It’s ours for the asking. Join with me in making this quest for the “abundant life” in Him our passion for 2020.

Until tomorrow.

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Prayer: Ephesians 3:3-4 – The Gift of God’s Revelation

Prayer: Ephesians 3:3-4 – The Gift of God’s Revelation

Yesterday, we looked at the word dispensation, which can be translated steward or stewardship, and speaks of our responsibility to complete the task God has given us to do.  We also focused our prayers on Ephesians 3:2, which deals specifically with the dispensation of God’s grace given to Paul for the sake of the Gentiles.

But today, we will look at the next phrase, Ephesians 3:3-4, which reads:

How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).

In these two verses, we find the word revelation used once and mystery used twice.  But this is not the first time Paul used these words in his letter to the Ephesians.  In Ephesians 1:17, Paul speaks of praying the Lord would give the “spirit of wisdom and revelation” in the knowledge of Christ.  And in Ephesians 1:9, we find God “having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to the good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.”

As we previously discovered, the word mystery is not something forever unknown.  Instead, it denotes “something hidden or not yet fully manifest.”  It’s knowable truth, but just not to everyone.  This mystery is a truth God has reserved to reveal at a particular time, to a specific group of people, or person, for His unique purpose.

This wondrous mystery, unknown in the Old Testament, was finally revealed to Paul by the revelation of the Holy Spirit.  And this mystery is the Kingdom of God includes, not just Jews, but also Gentiles.  That God truly is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35), and the Kingdom of God is far greater than our prejudices, our racial discord, or our cultural preferences.


The Revelation of the Mystery

So what does the word revelation mean?  Revelation (apokálupsis) means “an uncovering, unveiling, or the disclosing of something previously not known.”  We don’t know how Paul received this revelation, whether an angel dictated it to him, or the Holy Spirit confirmed it in his spirit, or he received it through a dream or vision.  We’re not sure how it happened.  But we do know it happened.  It’s almost like in Acts when the elders of the church were praying and fasting, and the Holy Spirit spoke to them collectively, saying, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).  It appears the entire group understood what the Holy Spirit said.  How did that happen?  Was it an audible voice?  Maybe a confirming spirit in them?  Or was it something else?  We don’t know.  The Scriptures don’t tell us.  But what we do know is everyone received the Holy Spirit’s message about Paul and Barnabas, so they all agreed in unity and sent them on their way (Acts 12:3).  Something similar might have happened here.  It was a revelation of God’s truth revealed to His intended audience.

Do you realize, one trait of being a believer in Christ is hearing from our Father?  We are in tune with God and His Spirit in a way the rest of the world isn’t, and can’t quite comprehend.  We have an understanding, an enlightenment, that comes from the Holy Spirit living in us that takes random circumstances in this chaotic world and reveals to us His order and purpose through them.  We can look at the Book of Revelation, for example, and clearly delineate the signs and symbols and literal interpretation of future events soon to come to pass.  After all, that’s the way God intended.  He promised to bless those who read and those who hear the words of the prophecy (Rev. 1:3).  A promise not given to any other part of God’s Word.

And this gift is not only for Paul, but also for you and me.  Remember, the “message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).  Why?  Because God reveals His truth to us through His Word.  To understand His Word is one of the greatest gifts you and I have received from Him.

This New Year, as you make resolutions and vows about Bible study and prayer and other things regarding your relationship with the Lord, remember you have been given a special gift.  You can have the truth of God revealed to you by the Holy Spirit in such a way it will forever change your life.  In the Scriptures, you will find the answer to every question asked by man, ever!  There is nothing in life God has not revealed to us in His Word.  The Scriptures reveal wisdom, the keys to a happy marriage, instructions on how to raise children, how to discover meaning and purpose in life, how to love your spouse— everything knowable is in His Word.


Time to Pray

When you begin your day with the Lord, ask Him to show you how overwhelmingly beautiful and inspiring and brilliant is His Word.  Plead with Him to give you a hunger for His Word, unlike anything you have ever experienced before.  And when you read His Word, either Old or New Testament, beg Him to reveal Himself to you and to give you the revelation of the mystery of His love for you, a love undeserved, unmatched, and eternal.

Only in His Word can you find the source of the “abundant life” Jesus promised (John 10:10).  It’s ours for the asking.  Join with me in making this quest for the “abundant life” in Him our passion for 2020.

Until tomorrow.

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Prayer:  Ephesians 3:2 – Time for a Fresh Start

Prayer: Ephesians 3:2 – Time for a Fresh Start

Today is the first day of a New Year.  Congratulations.  Whew, we made it.  And better than that, it’s the first day of a brand-new decade.  On January 1st, many of us tend to make resolutions we never actually keep.  Planet Fitness, for example, will be packed tomorrow with people who made a commitment today to get in shape only to find most of them gone by February 1st.  Trust me, it happens.

But that shouldn’t be the case for those of us who follow Christ.  When we make a resolution, a commitment, or a vow according to Scripture, we should rely on the Holy Spirit to help us finish what we promise to start and not try to grit it out in the flesh.  Again, I know personally how futile that can be.

The passage we are focusing our prayers on this first day of the New Year is Ephesians 3:1-2.  It reads:

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you.

We’ve previously looked at a number of words in this passage, but today we’re going to examine the most convicting of them all, the word dispensation.  It’s a strange word seldom used today, especially in Christian circles.  In fact, the only time we hear dispensation is usually in a heated discussion between two so-called Bible scholars who have differing views of the end times.  But that discussion is for another time and place and is not how the word is used in this verse.  The word dispensation (oikonomía) means “to be a manager of a household, or the position, work, responsibility or arrangement of an administration, as of a house or of property, either one’s own or another’s.”  In other words, dispensation can be translated steward or stewardship and refers to the management of a house or business on behalf of someone else.  A steward, therefore, was responsible for taking care of something not his own, that which belonged to someone else.

When Paul is referring to “the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you” (Eph. 3:2) he was speaking about the stewardship given to him by God for proclaiming the grace revealed to Paul for the benefit of the Gentiles.  Paul had a calling and a mission, a divine mandate, a fiduciary responsibility as a steward of God, to fulfill the task God had given him to do.  And for Paul that task, according to Ephesians 3:2, was to present to the Gentiles the grace of God given and revealed to Paul for them.


Our Duty to God

Do you realize you and I have the same responsibilities as stewards of God to the ministry He has given to us?  God has placed us to live at this particular time in history, and in the very family He chose, married to the spouse He ordained, with the children He allowed us to have, born in the nation in which we live, for a reason known only to Him.  It was all by His design.  Everything.

Many years ago Bill Gothard talked about the Ten Unchangeable Traits each of us has.  These are divine attributes God placed on each of us that we had no control over and can do little, if anything, about.  And our calling, our mandate from Him, and our stewardship in the dispensation God has given us is to be able to glorify Him within the attributes we cannot change.

The Ten Unchangeable Traits are:

1.   Our Parents (we had no control or voice over who our parents would be)
2.   Physical Features (no matter how hard I try, I will never dunk a basketball)
3.   Gender (contrary to PC thought, you cannot change your gender and it was given to you by God)
4.   Brothers and Sisters (see #1)
5.   Birth Order (see #1)
6.   Ethnicity (that was determined by #1 and we can nothing about it)
7.   Place of Origin (remember Joseph was from Nazareth yet Jesus was born in Bethlehem)
8.   Time in History (you and I were born in the year God choose, for a reason)
9.   Mental Capacity (this is why I have such a hard time reading phonetically)
10. Aging and Time of Death (see Psalm 139:16)

“What does this mean for us on this New Year’s Day?” you ask.  It means God has given us something to do and we can’t hide behind our excuses any longer.  He has given each one of us grace “according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:7).  He created us how He wanted to, He gave us the family He desired, and He placed us in this town and in this nation in 2020 for a reason.  He knows our limitations and yet still has a role for us to play in His divine pageantry.

Now relax, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’re to be a missionary in a foreign land, or hold massive city-wide revival crusades, or stand on the street corner wearing a billboard that says, “The End is Near!”  It simply means we have a position in His Kingdom that only we can fill.  To use a football analogy, some of us may play tight end, some an offensive lineman, and others may play cornerback or safety.  It doesn’t matter what position we play as long as we faithfully fulfill the stewardship of trust our Head Coach has placed in us when He drafted us on His team.

Therefore the first thing we must determine is who is in our sphere of influence?  Who has God sovereignly placed in our light?  Look around you.  You have your family, your friends, your co-workers, the people you know on Facebook, the very ones you would call in a tight spot— all of these are in your sphere of influence.  God placed you in their midst for a reason.  And that reason is to be light in their darkness.

So once you determine your sphere of influence, the next thing is to pray and ask the Lord how you can shine His light into their darkness.  And that usually involves opening your mouth and saying something.  I’ve never known a lost person to become a Believer by silent osmosis.  Have you?  It doesn’t happen that way.  Yesterday we spoke about the importance of verbally communicating God’s message.  If you’re afraid, confess that to Him.  It’s not like He doesn’t already know.  Then ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to be all Christ has commanded you to be.  And know this, He will.


Time to Pray

So on this January 1st, 2020, let me encourage you to spend some time this morning committing your life to Him.  All of it.  Everything.  Ask Him to turn you into someone He can trust, at all times, to remain faithful, connected, abiding, in Him.  Ask Him to help you become the kind of “true worshipers who will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”  Why?  Because Jesus said, “For the Father is seeking such to worship Him” (John 4:23).  That person can be you.  You!  Can you imagine what it must be like to be the kind of Believer the Father looks to for true worship?  Can you think of anything greater?

Commit your life to Him right now.  Ask Him, in faith, to empower you, to draw you closer to Him, and to teach you how to love Him more than you ever have in the past.  And then, let’s embrace the future as if our Lord could come at any moment.  Because who knows, He can and He might and He someday will.

Come, Lord Jesus.

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Prayer:  Ephesians 3:2 – The Grace Given

Prayer: Ephesians 3:2 – The Grace Given

Today is the last day of 2019 and, amazingly, the last day of the decade.  Tomorrow we will be celebrating the beginning of a New Year and the birth of 2020.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes I have a hard time believing that it’s actually 2020.  Much has happened over the last 10 years.  And, as every aging boomer bemoans, “Where has all the time gone?”

The verse we are using to help focus our prayers today is Ephesians 3:1-2, which reads:

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles— if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you.

Tomorrow we will be looking at the word dispensation and all the truths we can discover from Paul’s use of it.  (Spoiler: They are quite challenging and convicting).  But for today, I’d like to focus on the phrase “the grace of God which was given to me for you.”  And specifically, the words grace and given.


Time For Looking Back

Gratitude is a dying character trait in our current culture.  Unfortunately, it has been replaced by entitlement and narcissism.  But this should never be the case when it comes to the grace we have received from our Lord.  Grace is a gift, freely given and without merit.  And all we are entitled to as sinful, unredeemed humanity is eternal separation from our God.  As people of God, it would do us well to always remember that distinction.

It is customary, on New Year’s Eve, to pause and reflect back on the things that have happened to us, both good and bad, during the last year or so and the many lessons we have learned.  If we do this in secular life, how much more the need in our spiritual lives.  Our Scripture speaks about “the grace of God which was given” to each of us.  Grace (cháris) is defined as “unearned and unmerited favor” and means “to rejoice, particularly in that which causes joy, pleasure, gratification, favor, acceptance, for a kindness granted or desired, a benefit, thanks, gratitude.”  It also means a “favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving-kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the goodness and benevolence of the Giver (God).”  Now read that again slowly.  Outloud.  This is what has been freely given to us from God.

There is a great difference between mercy and grace.  Mercy is not receiving something we deserve, like condemnation and eternal judgment from a righteous God.  And Grace is exactly the opposite, the receiving of the wonderful blessings of God we truly don’t deserve.

Ask yourself these questions:

What have you received from the Lord this last year, or maybe this last decade, that you didn’t deserve?
How has He blessed you?
What prayers has He answered for you that you had long since thought would never be answered?
Has He proven Himself faithful?
Has He always been true and honest with you?
Has His Word ever returned to you void? (Isaiah 55:11).
Or has His Word always proved to be steadfast, unmovable, inerrant, and true?

As we remember the events of this past year, both good and bad, let’s take a few minutes and praise Him for His faithfulness to us regardless of our sporadic faithfulness to Him.  Let’s thank Him for not giving us what we deserve, but giving us “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20).  So take a deep breath, rest for a second, relax, and let your mind wander back to the events of 2019 that caused you the most worry and sleepless nights.  Do you remember them?  How about the dark times you had in 2018?  Or maybe 2017?  Or even earlier than that?

Remember five years ago the major concern and fear and doubt in your mind you thought would never get resolved?  Can you even remember what it was?  Or has God mercifully blotted that memory out of your mind by the wonderful things He did to take care of His child— which is you!  Have you thanked Him for all He has done for you recently?


Time to Pray

Today, as you get ready to focus your prayers on His Word, allow the phrase “the grace of God which was given for you” resonate deep in your soul.  Spend some time in His presence, quiet, reflective, just thinking about all the wonderful things He has done for you this last year for no other reason than His love for you.

Then quietly, turn those thoughts into prayers of gratitude, thanksgiving, and praise.  Speak your prayer verbally so the angels can rejoice with you in praising the Father.  Praise Him for all He has done.  Praise Him for never changing and for always being the same, “yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).  Let your lips bring forth glorious words of adulation to the very God who has sustained you and has given your life value and worth.

Spend as much time as needed fellowshipping with Him today.  Don’t be in a hurry to leave.  Nothing you have to do is more important or pressing than this.  End this year on a high note with the Lord.  Finish well today so you can begin strong tomorrow.

And I’ll see you next year.

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