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Archive for December, 2013


(KJV and NKJV Scripture)

– But beloved, do not be ignorant of this one thing: That one day is with the Lord as a thousand years; and a thousand years as one day. – 2 Peter 3:8

– For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. – 2 Corinthians 4:16

Many years ago, I heard a preacher say, “A Christian who makes New Year’s resolutions isn’t anywhere close to comprehending what being one is all about.” With January 1st just around the corner, it’s important for all believers to understand that becoming a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) doesn’t restart every New Year‘s Day.

Tomorrow will be 1,000 years long in His sight (lead verse).  The year 1013 was yesterday (Psalm 90:4). God exists outside the space-time continuum we’ve created to mark how long it takes to make our trip through space; one orbit around the sun – called a year.  Yet so many seem to make major life decisions or changes by the calendar.

Often believing just by flipping a calendar page to a new month, it’s a golden opportunity to create fresh beginnings.  They rarely last long.  It becomes a yearly process of starts and stops – producing little in the way of inner spiritual change.  Backsliding can often be caused by trying to restart spiritually each January 1st (Jeremiah 3:22).

However, spiritual growth can’t be conditional to arbitrary numbers on calendars made by mortal men. God knows how we measure time – but it’s not the same way as He does (lead verse).  Giving in to any consideration that we can become better believers – just by starting on a random date; is giving in to the world; and denying the Word.

Renewal can only start for us when we are born again of the Holy Spirit.  Whatever day that is – God chooses.  It’s not random.  It’s a day when He knows He has convicted us with His sorrow – to the point we will repent of sin unto salvation – and not be sorry for a season (2 Corinthians 7:8-10).  It could be tomorrow for some; June 14th for others.

A resolution is a firm decision to do – or not do something.  God didn’t make us to be firm beings – He made us flesh – and frail (Psalm 39:4).  There is no good thing which dwells in our flesh (Romans 7:18).  So, how can we possibly ever know what’s good for us?  The world’s message continually changes in this regard.  God does not (Malachi 3:6).

How can we make any firm decision to start doing – or stop doing something anymore, and follow through on it – simply by following numbers on a calendar? How can we trust any resolution as being the right one – when we are not to trust in our hearts – or ourselves anymore as Christians (Proverbs 28:26, 2 Corinthians 1:9)?

Unless, of course, we’re still devising our own way through life in the world – trying to direct God’s steps accordingly.  Using His Word in hopes He will make most everything turn out the way we want (Proverbs 16:9).  Still leaning on our own understanding – and only acknowledging Him when His ways are going according to ours (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Or, still proclaiming our own goodness (Proverbs 20:6, 1 John 1:8-10) … often making God an easy target (Mark 10:18) to blame when they don’t (Jeremiah 8:6).  Claiming to be completely clean of all sin as Christians, or incapable of committing any more – makes God a liar, and His truth is not in us (Proverbs 16:2, Proverbs 20:9, 1 John 1:8-10).

Being a Christian takes becoming one first.  It’s not a label – it’s a lifestyle.  It starts when one is first born again of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-5) – and it doesn’t stop until God calls us home.  It takes daily abidance in God – as He abides in us by faith; with Jesus residing in our hearts through the power of the Holy Ghost (John 15:1-7, Ephesians 3:16-17).

We’re no longer resolute – we can’t produce the spiritual fruit God requires by ourselves (John 15:1-7, Galatians 5:22-23).  It doesn’t stop on December 31st – and restart on January 1st.  It’s a day-and-night renewal of our inner man (second lead verse); as the Holy Spirit washes us clean through continual regeneration (Titus 3:5).

God is continually cleansing the clutter within – as the very same blood Christ shed being sprinkled on our hearts as a salve for sin (Hebrews 10:22). Without daily repentance and remission – we’re bound to repeat our old sins.  We can’t see the change happening, but all others should.  They should see it in our eyes first (Luke 11:34).

Our whole being should be lit up in them – reflecting the love God shed abroad in our hearts, when He first gave us the gift of the Holy Ghost (Romans 5:5). It takes time.  As Billy Graham once said, “It’s not an overnight conversion – but a continual process of renewal – becoming more like Christ each day (Ephesians 4:20-32).”

But – it does have to happen; not according to the world’s idea of change – but the Word’s.  Our faith can’t follow a calendar – our worship can’t be set by a watch.  Wanting – or waiting for Him to work according to our worldly concept of time is a recipe for trying to rush God, and eventual discouragement; maybe even departure from Him (Philippians 1:23).

We are to serve God in newness of Spirit – for He has put His Spirit in us (Romans 7:6).  However, one cannot put new wine into old bottles – or the bottles will break.  The wine will spill and perish (Luke 5:37). God will make all things new and beautiful in His time (Revelation 21:5, Ecclesiastes 3:11) – not in ours; and certainly not just on New Year’s Day.

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(KJV and NKJV Scripture)

– Only let your conversation be as it becomes the gospel of Christ. – Philippians 1:27

The word “become” means “beginning to be”.  It’s the start of steadily growing into something different from what anyone is at a particular point in time.  In earthly marriages, a man and a woman “become” one flesh (Mark 10:8).  “Become” also means looking good or fitting well on someone – such as saying to a person, “That suit becomes you.”

If we are true believers, we’ve been born again of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-5).  Our conversation from that point on should slowly and steadily become more and more like Christ – because Christ has come to dwell in our hearts by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16-17).  It’s not an instant conversion – but a continual process.

This is done through the daily regeneration of our hearts, minds, and inner man by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 4:16, Titus 3:5).  It doesn’t stop until we die.  So we eventually get to a point where people who falsely accuse our good conversation in Jesus – are ashamed of themselves for doing so (1 Peter 3:16).

Our conversation is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).  We are not to hinder the path of those still being led to the Cross by God (John 6:44) – but to help them. We do that when Christ’s kindness, calmness, and compassion is reflected in all our talk and actions. When our love is fervent and unfeigned – from obeying the Spirit of truth in us (1 Peter 1:21).

If Jesus is not our constant conversation – someone or something else will be.  We were given Christ’s mind from God (1 Corinthians 2:16) when we received the Holy Ghost.  Won’t it appear we may still be minding the world, or minding any other wise and great person’s words first (Job 32:9, Ephesians 5:6); before Christ’s – by our conversation and actions?

Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, and not do the things I say (Luke 6:46)?”  Our daily conversation and actions reflect the true Master of our life (Luke 16:13).  How can we enter God’s eternal kingdom, if we don’t learn how to walk, talk, and act like Jesus – and follow peace and holiness with all men (1 Peter 2:21, Ephesians 4:29, Hebrews 12:14)?

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(KJV and NKJV Scripture)

– And all they that heard it – wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. – Luke 2:18

The most incredible event in the history of man had just taken place in a Bethlehem manger.  The wise men made haste to see if Joseph and Mary’s son was the Christ child (Luke 2:16).  To set out and go see for themselves if the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes was the Saviour promised to all before the world began (Luke 2:12, Titus 1:2).

Whose birth was foretold by God though His prophets of old (Isaiah 9:6, Micah 5:2).  Mary kept all these things to herself and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19).  However, when the wise men had seen Jesus – they went abroad making it known the saying which was told them concerning the child (Luke 2:17).  And all that heard – just wondered (lead verse).

They didn’t seem to question the wise men any further.  Even though Scripture doesn’t say, it appears there might have been a little bit of skepticism on their part – for they did not set out on a similar quest themselves to see the child.  They just wondered.  “Wonder” as a noun can mean “full of awe” – but, as a verb it can mean “full of doubt.”

Did you ever hear someone say,  “I wonder about so-and-so?”  As if they weren’t sure why such a person was doing what they were doing.  Do we still wonder like this today as Christians?  Deep inside are we still doubtful about our faith, still wondering in our hearts why we’re doing what we’re doing – despite any outward worship and love of God?

Despite talking with many while walking this earth, there were those who wondered if the gracious words coming from the Son of man were truly being directed by God (John 14:10).  After all, Jesus was just Joseph’s son to some (Luke 4:22).  Even though Christ only spoke the truth to all – there were those who doubted – who did not believe (John 8:45-46).

Do we also need a continual stream of heavenly miracles, signs, and wonders – to keep believing and trusting Him?  Are such things the primary basis of why we follow His only Son?  Jesus knew a certain nobleman whose son was near death, would not believe unless he saw signs and wonders (John 4:48).  Could the same be said for any of us?

Are we also wondering when Christ is going to return, bringing salvation (Revelation 12:10); or if God is going to send His Son back for us at all?  After all, everything seems to be continuing the way it has since the dawn of creation.  This mindset is not new – there were some who wondered about such things shortly after Christ’s resurrection (2 Peter 3:4).

Should we be worried if we’re like this as Christians? God tells us we are to take heed about any unbelief; which can give us the desire as Paul had to depart after the world again – like Demas did (Hebrews 3:12-19, Philippians 1:23, 2 Timothy 4:10).  We’re also warned about being double-minded – meaning undecided and wavering (James 1:8).

When we are like this – we are unstable in all our ways; not firm in our faith.  We are like waves on the sea.  Driven with the wind – and tossed to and fro with strange doctrines (James 1:6, Ephesians 4:14). We may wake up one day and worship God with all our hearts, minds, and souls (Mark 12:30) – then wonder the next morning if all we are doing in His name is worth it.

There is danger if we doubt – if we still wonder what Christianity is really about.  God once promised to end a famine in Samaria the next day.  A certain lord doubted this.  Unless heaven’s windows were going to be opened for him to see how God was going to do it – he would not believe.  God delivered as always, but the lord died from unbelief (2 Kings 17:1-20).

When Zacharias was an old man, he was visited by Gabriel – an angel of the Lord.  Gabriel told Zacharias that his wife Elizabeth was going to bear a son, whom they would call John.  This baby boy would become John the Baptist, who would turn hearts of disobedience to the wisdom of the just – to ready and prepare them for the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:11-17).

They had no child, they both were very old  – and Elizabeth was barren.  Because Zacharias did not believe Gabriel and the words he spoke of God’s promise – Zacharias was made dumb and unable to speak until all things were fulfilled in season.  When everything transpired exactly as God had said – only then could Zacharias speak again (Luke 1:19-20, 57-64).

God tells us to watch – not wonder.  To watch and be ready – because we do not know in what hour the Lord will come back like a thief in the night (Matthew 24:42-44).  To watch with prayer – for we do not know what the precise time will be when the gospel will have been preached in all the world – for a witness unto all the nations (Mark 13:32, Matthew 24:14).

To watch with soberness and vigilance – which is very hard to do if we’re not remaining steadfast in our faith; but stuck in some degree of doubtful wonder (1 Thessalonians 5:6, Hebrews 3:14).  Who should we be watching for with wide-open eyes – if we are still wondering whether if they are ever going to arrive or not?  How long do we wait before walking away?

Jesus will return in the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52).  If we’re still wondering whether the things we’ve heard about the Son of man are really true – just like with some after Christ was born (lead verse), it will be too late then.  Any unresolved doubt we have now, may cast us out then – and we will have forever to wonder why we are not in heaven.

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(KJV and NKJV Scripture)

– “Verily, verily, I say unto you – he that does not enter by the door into the sheepfold; but climbs up some other way … the same is a thief and a robber. – John 10:1

– “There are reasons here to give your life – and follow in Your way. – “The Stairs” by INXS, copyright 1991

There really is a stairway to heaven in a spiritual sense – and we can spend our lives as believers climbing up the wrong flight if we’re not careful (lead verse).  We are now residents of God‘s household on earth.  It is a building fitly framed together into a holy temple – with a single staircase inside leading up to heaven (Ephesians 2:19-21).

Below us is a foundation which cannot be built upon another man’s (Romans 15:20) – but one established with Christ as the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20).  On the first floor above ground is the start of the stairwell – and the first step is faith.  Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step – even when we can’t see the whole staircase.”

On the next step is virtue – showing high moral standards.  Climbing another step, we land on knowledge – a theoretical or practical understanding of a certain subject acquired through experience or education (2 Peter 1:5).  We are to take steps after, and worthy of God’s ways – to increase in our knowledge of Him (Colossians 1:10, 1 Peter 2:21).

Next is the step of temperance – the daily practice of controlling our actions, thoughts, or feelings.  These are followed by the steps of patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity – in that order (2 Peter 1:6-7).  If we try to climb any other way, we’re probably going to find ourselves falling down a lot on our way up – and often getting hurt in the process.

We may keep finding ourselves all the way back at the bottom, having to start over again on the first step … trying to find our faith again (Romans 10:17). Over the course of time, this can become spiritually exhausting and discouraging.  It can seem like one step forward and two steps back.  Heaven’s door where Jesus stands (John 10:9) is still far off.

We tend to fall when we forget we’ve been purged from our old sins – and have a new purpose in life with the Lord.  We can’t climb up the world’s stairs anymore.  If all the spiritual steps above are followed in order through abiding in God – as He abides in us (John 15:1-5) – fruits of the Spirit are bound to be produced and become abundant (Galatians 5:22-23).

Our Father assures us we will not become barren or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ if we climb up the right flight of stairs.  God will make really large steps for us to land on – so our feet won’t slip (Psalm 18:36).  If we climb the stairway to heaven’s door the right way, we shall never fall – and we shall be saved (2 Peter 1:10-11, John 10:9).

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(KJV and NKJV Scripture)

– But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels – for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor – that he by the grace of God should taste death for everyone. – Hebrews 2:9

– But by the grace of God, I am what I am. – 1 Corinthians 15:10

Grace is unmerited favor.  It is giving a person something they don’t deserve.  It can’t be earned by being good – or by doing good works (Ephesians 2:9).  It’s simply given.  A worldly example would be the government giving a grace period to file taxes without paying late penalties for monies owed – although an established deadline had already passed.

We can love grace when it’s extended to us – but perhaps grumble when someone we don’t think really deserves any merit; receives grace.  Regardless, grace is not usually looked at as something being really bad – such as someone being sentenced to die. How could that be grace?  How could that be giving a person something they didn’t deserve?

But, God gave us all unmerited favor – by giving Jesus something undeserved; death.  Our Father’s grace led Christ to the Cross to take our place.  Some aptly call this a substitute death.  A man who did no sin (1 Peter 1:19) – with no guile found in his mouth, was led as a perfect lamb without blemish (1 Peter 2:22) to lay down his life for us (John 10:15).

By the grace of God we will be saved through faith; and not of ourselves.  This is only if we remain steadfast in our faith until the very end (Ephesians 2:8, Hebrews 3:14, 1 Peter 1:9).  For His grace will not be brought to us until He sends Jesus back with salvation – when the devil is cast down (1 Peter 1:13, Revelation 12:10).

Until that great day, we all wake up each morning because of God’s abundant mercies – which He delights in (Lamentations 3:22-23, Micah 7:18). Mercy is unmerited favor, too – but on the opposite end of the spectrum from grace.  It keeps us from something we do deserve for the wages of our sinful nature from birth (Ezra 9:13, Romans 6:23).

By the grace of God doesn’t mean we can buy His gift of the Holy Ghost with money – it’s unmerited (Acts 8:20).  We’re given it when God knows we feel guilty enough about our sins to repent unto salvation – not just because we’re afraid of going to hell.  Otherwise, we will only be sorry about our sin for a season (2 Corinthians 7:8-10).

The ultimate price has already been paid for us – the ultimate sacrifice was already made at Calvary (1 Corinthians 6:20, Ephesians 5:2).  By the grace of God, Jesus tasted death for everyone (lead verse). Delivering us from our fear of death, which we are subject to the bondage of all our lives (Hebrews 2:15).

This is why Christ is the answer.  Not to get worldly things; but in response to the question of how do we get out of this world when we die?  How do we escape the great sentence of death in us from birth, because of the sin which Scripture has concluded we’re all under (2 Corinthians 1:9, Galatians 3:22)?

There is only one way to eternal life and immortality brought to light through the gospel – through God’s Son (John 14:6, 2 Timothy 1:10).  Our corruption must put on incorruption.  Our mortality must put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53-54).  Doing these things can only be done through the Cross and Christ – and by the grace of God.

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(KJV and NKJV Scripture)

– Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ‘s gospel; and a door was opened unto me of the Lord. – 2 Corinthians 2:12

– “I (Jesus) am the door: By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.” – John 10:9

All of us probably love to hear words such as “If God closes one door, He’ll open another one.”  However, there are all kinds of doors in life – both physical and spiritual.  Which of the latter ones are being opened or closed shut, and when – takes prayer and great discernment.  So is who’s opening them, and why – or life can end up feeling like a revolving door.

When Paul tarried at Ephesus until Pentecost, he realized God had opened a great and effectual door to preach the gospel there.  He was also fully aware there were many adversaries waiting on the other side who didn’t want him to (1 Corinthians 16:8-9). His main adversary then, is the same as ours today – Satan (1 Peter 5:8).

Sin lies at every door (Genesis 4:7) – including the figurative one over our mouths (Psalm 141:3).  A door we may perceive to be leading to more truth and our Father – could just be a trap door to more lies.  Set by the father of them – Satan (John 8:44), to catch us at will in his snare of sin once again (2 Timothy 2:26).

Following God requires faith and prayer – which have their own doors.  When Paul and Barnabas gathered the church together in Antioch – they told of how God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 14:26-27).  When we pray, we are to go into a closet, and shut the door.  What He sees in secret will be rewarded openly (Matthew 6:6).

Still, wherever we go to spread the gospel, there will be opposition standing in every doorway.  The devil doesn’t want us to get to a place he can never get back to – heaven.  We have overcome the wicked one as believers – if we abide with God steadfast until the end; as He does with us (John 15:1-5, Hebrews 3:14, Hebrews 13:5, John 2:14).

There is a final door we’re all heading for called death.  It’s the forever snare of Satan (Proverbs 14:27).  All issues from death belong to God (Psalm 68:20) – and He holds the keys to it and hell (Revelation 1:18).  However, Satan still has power over ours.  This is why Christ died at the Cross – to defeat death in principle (Hebrews 2:9-15).

However, it will be the last enemy to be defeated (1 Corinthians 15:26).  This won’t happen until God sends His Son back with His grace and salvation (1 Peter 1:13, Revelation 12:10).  Until then, standing in the doorway between the devil and eternal damnation, and forever deliverance – is our Savior Jesus (second lead verse).

There really is a stairway to heaven in a spiritual sense.  We can spend our whole lives as Christians climbing up the wrong steps (John 10:1).  We’ve been given the key to heaven with the Holy Ghost – but can still find heaven’s door has no keyhole upon our death.  We have to stay humble and obedient unto it like Jesus (Philippians 2:8, Colossians 3:5-6).

It doesn’t matter how high we climb – perhaps on the proverbial ladder to success in life – if we find the door to eternal deliverance upon our death, locked. We can knock all we want with no answer.  Or, we may hear God say from the other side “Depart, for I never knew you (Matthew 7:23).”  The only stairs left are the ones leading down to damnation’s door.

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(KJV and NKJV Scripture)

– That at the time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope – and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus – you who were sometimes far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. – Ephesians 2:12-13

Loneliness is nothing more than a separation from God. – Billy Graham

It’s there in your heart – lying in wait.  You just hope it doesn’t hit – maybe hard like a howling hurricane sometime during this holiday season.  Maybe it will be while you’re out having a good time with friends – or at home hanging decorations on the tree with your family.  Without warning it strikes.  It’s too late to get out of the way.

A tsunami sweeps over your entire soul.  A tidal wave of inner and worldly wants, wishes, worry, or being without someone or something – washes over your heart.  Just for a second you feel lost and alone, despite having loving and laughing people around enjoying the spirit of the season with you.  Then – the wave is gone almost as quickly as it arrived.

What was in all that water?  Loneliness.  Tons of it – some coming in torrents at certain times like Christmas.  Loneliness is an emotional state of emptiness.  It’s a complex and often confusing condition where one experiences a powerful feeling of sadness – caused by separation from people or pursuits in life.  It can be a passing period for some – or a persistent pain in others.

In a spiritual sense – we are all born lonely upon this earth.  We are alienated from the Almighty through our inherent ignorance about the eternal wages of sin (Acts 17:30, Romans 6:23).  We begin with our desperately wicked and deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9).  We start our lives separated from our Savior forever by such things (Ephesians 4:18, Colossians 1:21).

We are like aliens in a strange land (Exodus 18:3). Estranged from God by the enmity of sin and our carnal nature – lost and lonely in this world without the Lord and His Word (Romans 8:7, lead passage). Staying friends with the world is staying in enmity (a state of active opposition) to God.  We are enemies of God if we remain this way (James 4:4).

However, the world will try to lead us astray in this regard.  Most of us are surrounded at the start by loving family and friends as children.  Life soon gives us lots of things to do and learn.  Many people await to meet and befriend, whom we can surround ourselves with when we’re glad or sad.  All which can give us the outside illusion we shouldn’t feel alone inside.

Still, mankind has tried all kinds of worldly solutions over the centuries to combat any feelings of inner loneliness – by external means.  To remedy a longing to belong – to finally feel truly and eternally loved once and for all – without being lied to.  These attempts can lead some down many broad and destructive paths (Matthew 7:13).

People can seek comfort and companionship in other people – to ease their loneliness.  When this becomes too difficult or demanding on a day-to-day basis – or ends up being hurtful in the end, they can seek to numb feelings of inner isolation with things.  Things which don’t respond emotionally – or which question motives.

Some turn to careers, some to money, and some to the bottle – all attempts to feel less alienated; less alone.  They all may seem to work for a while – sometimes a very long time.  But, they cannot penetrate the human heart – they just feel like they do.  As Billy Graham once said – they all make great fire escapes, but terrible fire extinguishers.

The disciples had to be troubled when Jesus told them he was going away to be crucified – for Christ had been their companion and comforter for over 3 years.  Where Jesus was going, though – they could not go (John 13:36).  However, Christ promised them they would not be left comfortless and alone after he left (John 14:18).

Another Comforter would have to come to the disciples after Christ’s death and resurrection – which was the Holy Ghost (John 14:26).  To give them inner peace forever – to remedy and replace the passing or persistent pain of loneliness (John 14:16). We all have this same promise of hope today.  To keep our heart’s fear of being left alone at bay.

If we say we are Christians, then we have been born again of the Holy Spirit.  The middle wall of partition between our hearts and heaven was broken down when God gave us the gift of the Holy Ghost (Ephesians 2:14).  Our Father’s love was shed abroad in our hearts for the first time – as He commanded His light to shine out of the darkness (Romans 5:5, 2 Corinthians 4:6).

When we were lost and unbelieving, we were without God in the world.  It doesn’t mean He wasn’t with us – He just wasn’t dwelling within us yet.  We were made nigh again to our heavenly Father by the blood of Christ shed at Calvary (lead passage) – so we wouldn’t have need to seek worldly answers anymore to questions of “why do I still feel alone sometimes?”

If we say we are born again believers, then we have the crucified Christ continually residing in our hearts by faith through the power of the Holy Ghost (Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 3:17).  Just like the disciples, we have a constant comforter in Christ.  To keep us from feeling so alone in the world.  For His Word which became flesh as Jesus – dwells within our fleshly vessels (John 1:14).

We have a friend in Jesus who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).  So we’re not bothered by loneliness so much – perhaps when we’re lying in bed at night after the busy-ness of the day has died down.  After all our activities may have temporarily alleviated any aloneness we might have been feeling deep inside.

Jesus is our mediator as Christians.  A middle man between God and ourselves, between the world and the Word, between our hearts and heaven (1 Timothy 2:5).  So we might call on Him in the middle of the night and talk with Him, when the world might be making us feel lonely again.  So we don’t call up friends at 3 AM instead – even those of the faith – who might be feeling the same way.

Our Father up in heaven is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3).  Christ completes this by dwelling in us as believers.  To keep our hearts and minds, and give us a constant peace from God which passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).  To console us and make us feel less unhappy when we are afflicted by any loneliness.

When we have found our true comfort in Christ – then we can tell the lost, lonely, and comfortless about our Lord – the shepherd and bishop of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).  To share the news about the One who never leaves or forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5).  So we can lead them all to the Cross and Christ – so they are not left alone and alienated from the Almighty forever.

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(KJV and NKJV Scripture)

– In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on men. – Job 4:13

Imagine how it must have been back in Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth.  There were no news channels to cover it, or cell phones for everyone to call family and friends – to share their joy.  There were no road maps.  The only way the wise men knew how to find the manger was by following a star – until it stood over the stable where Jesus was (Matthew 2:10).

However, Herod had spoken to these wise men before they left Jerusalem for Bethlehem.  He said he wanted to find out where the Christ child was to worship him also.  What he really desired was to have Jesus killed (Matthew 2:7-8) – but the wise men had no way of knowing this.  How could they know he was lying?  Who was going to warn them not to return to Herod?

Words from our mouths can only do so much – for we never know man’s true intentions, like Herod. Likewise, how did Joseph know how to flee with Mary and Jesus from Bethlehem into Egypt – shortly after the birth?  How was he going to find out for sure while staying there when it would be safe to go back – when Herod was really dead?

Who knew Joseph was truly afraid of returning into Israel after he did hear the news?  Herod’s son Archelaus was now ruling.  How could Joseph be certain Archelaus wasn’t desiring the same thing as his dad – to have Christ killed?  How was anyone going to tell Joseph the truth about where to go – and what he should do next?  The answer?  Four separate dreams.

The wise men were warned in a dream of God not to return to Herod (Matthew 2:12).  An angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and told him to arise and flee into Egypt (Matthew 2:13).  When Herod died – another angel appeared – telling Joseph the news in a night dream (Matthew 2:20).  Knowing he was afraid to return – God told him in a dream to head towards Galilee (Matthew 2:22).

The Lord is always at least one step ahead of us. Knowing of evil nearby before we even see it – or even perceiving it is about to happen (Judges 20:34). We may even be taken home if He knows the evil will be too much (Isaiah 57:1).  It’s why we redeem our brief time here (Ephesians 5:16).  Still, how do we truly know how He wants us to spend it – without speculating if it’s His will or ours?

How do we hear His still small voice when this world can seem so noisy at times (1 Kings 19:12)?  How do we perceive it’s God speaking to us once – then twice (Job 33:14)?  How do we truly ever know what He wants us to do for Him – and where He wants us to go to do it – and why?  And, that it’s not just an idea or plan which seems right – but only in our own eyes (1 Chronicles 13:4, Proverbs 21:2).

When is the time most of us are the most quiet and still during any day?  Isn’t it while we are sleeping? Why wouldn’t God – just like He did with the wise men and Joseph – send us directions in our dreams? In visions of the night – when deep sleep falls upon us – when we slumber in our beds.  To open our ears and seal our instructions (Job 33:15-16).

So the Lord can withdraw us from our purposes – and direct us into His.  So He can hide pride from us – before we fall too far (Job 33:17, Proverbs 16:18). So He can keep our souls from the pit – and from perishing by the sword (Job 33:18).  This could have happened to Jesus, had Joseph listened to words from men – and had not hearkened to his visions of the night from heaven.  .

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(NKJV and KJV Scripture)

– And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass; seeing God has punished us less than we deserve – and has given us such great deliverance as this. – Ezra 9:13

– “Does he thank the servant because he did the things that were commanded?  I think not.  So likewise you, when you shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say ‘We are unprofitable servants – we have done that which is our duty to do’.” – Luke 17:9-10

The word “deserve” is  found just twice in the KJV; once above in Ezra – and once in Job 11:6, where we find God exacts less of us than our iniquities deserve. Neither verse has anything to do with anyone getting good things from God.  Instead, they involve Him withholding forms of discipline or correction we do deserve; and should receive for sinning – even as believers (1 John 1:8-10).

However, if God did punish us each time we transgressed against Him – imagine how painful our lives could really be.  If our every act of disobedience received a just recompense of reward, we might not love Him as much as we may proclaim.  Who among us would be able to stand before Him until salvation – if He caused grief every time we sin (Ezra 9:15, Hebrews 2:2-3)?

Doing something worthy of reward or punishment – or showing such qualities – is said to be deserving. We may deserve a raise in our careers for the work we do – or we might receive a sentence to die if we ever intentionally killed someone.  It would be deserved based on the evidence.  Regardless, we can spend our lives deciding what we deserve and don’t (usually good, not bad) – while someone else decides otherwise; including God.

Receiving worldly things in our favor can be called merit.  We labored hard and did good deeds – and we deserved them, right?  However, if we receive bothersome or burdensome trials we think are undeserved, we can call them mistakes.  But – God would never cause such troubles to us as His chosen, would He (Jeremiah 2:35, Jeremiah 5:12, Jeremiah 8:6, Colossians 3:5-6)?

Well, God does not operate on a worldly merit and mistake system – but on His Word’s basis of grace and mercy.  These are two forms of unmerited and undeserved favor with opposite meanings.  God’s grace kept Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah‘s total destruction – so His mercy would be magnified in saving Lot’s life … yet Lot hadn’t done a thing to merit either (Genesis 19:19,24).

Grace is free and unmerited favor.  It’s unearned – and gives us something we do not deserve.  It’s how God will save us – but His grace won’t be brought to us until Christ returns (Ephesians 2:8, 1 Peter 1:13). Until then, we get up every day because of God’s long-suffering towards us (2 Peter 3:9).  It’s because of His abundant mercies we are not fully consumed each morning (Lamentations 3:22, 1 Peter 1:3).

Mercy is also free and unmerited favor – but it keeps us from something we do deserve, such as sin’s wages (Romans 6:23).  However, our modern world of merchandise may have many thinking otherwise.   If we keep buying products, flying in planes, or even just try something out – we deserve to get back something extra often touted as free – but which usually comes with a prior price tag.

This type of “rewards for everything” culture seems to exist almost everywhere today in modern society. It was fueled largely at first by the advertising world. It started by telling people – and selling them on the point they deserved something back by spending dollars.  Purchases would earn reward points to redeem later – or what was the point of buying anything?

Christians are not immune from this message of deserving for doing almost anything.  If we invest/spend time, money, or love in the world – a mindset can be that someone should give us back what’s been earned according to prior expectations. Unskilled and unlearned Christians in the Word are susceptible to this.  They can unconditionally equate belief to deserved blessings – often to destruction (Hebrews 5:13-14, 2 Peter 3:16).

Even the learned don’t always learn.  In Micah’s days, priests judged for reward, taught for hire, and prophesied for money (Micah 3:11).  People who professed to love Him with their lips (Psalm 78:36, Matthew 15:8, Titus 1:16) – but only followed Him in their hearts for a love of personal presents.  It was seen as vain to keep His ordinances otherwise (Isaiah 1:23, Malachi 3:14).

God sees it all – nothing is ever new to Him (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  Others in Old Testament times saw no profit to themselves by serving Him, praying, even being cleansed from sin (Job 21;15, Job 34:9, Job 35:3).  God also knows those of us today who are faking our faith.  Pretending to love – not fervently and unfeigned – but to receive some sort of benefit from above (1 Peter 1:22).

Our Father warns us several times in the New Testament there will be people today – and in the days to come – just like this.  With covetousness and feigned words, some will make merchandise of us (2 Peter 2:3-4).  Whole houses will be subverted for filthy lucre (Titus 1:10-16).  By those with a ready mind for money (1 Peter 5:2) – charging for God’s free message (2 Corinthians 11:9).

If we file into such churches and buy into their misguided messages, and allow ourselves to be deceived by the vain words of any man or woman; no matter how great and wise a Christian they may seem (Job 32:9) – to their worldly profit, we are lightly esteeming our Savior (Deuteronomy 32:15). We are being very disobedient children (Ephesians 5:6).  Both Jesus and God do not deserve this kind of treatment.

In the most selfless display of love ever, God decided His only Son deserved to die for our sins – a worthy lamb without spot or blemish (John 3:16, 1 Peter 1:19).  Jesus – the one without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), the one with no guile ever found in his mouth (1 Peter 2:22), the one who did not deserve to die for anything he ever did – did.  So by God’s grace, Christ would taste death for all (Hebrews 2:9).

Believers or unbelievers, God does not “owe” anyone anything, at anytime – ever.  The Lord has already given us everything He could ever give.  As Christians, we can’t go around counting up all our righteousness acts and wonderful works, then redeem them for worldly blessings from above. We’ve overcome the world – having been redeemed from the grave by God through His Son’s redemptive blood (1 Peter 1:9, 1 John 5:4).

Therefore, any work we do for God is always as unprofitable servants (second lead verse).  Any type of deserving attitude simply reverses servitude and merit back on ourselves.  Christ died in vain if that is ever our mindset.  It’s our duty to do all He commands – especially repentance unto salvation (Acts 17:30, 2 Corinthians 7:10).  Remission of sins is not a recommendation.

A debt is something owed – such as money, goods, or services.  It is an obligation to repay or render the same in return.  Our Father is never in debt to us. We owe Him everything – including giving our lives if need be (John 15:13) – for what He did for us at Calvary.  This is not reckoned of grace – but out of our debt to Him (Romans 4:4).  We have already received God’s very best.  Our Father deserves our very best to serve Him in return – always.

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