“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Deuteronomy 31.6
Sometimes you just need to hear a good word of encouragement. This verse is just such a verse. Moses had been leading the children of Israel for 40 years. He was about to be taken off the scene and Joshua was coming on as their leader. Anytime there is a change in leadership, it becomes a very fluid situation. Every time a church goes through a pastoral change, the congregation faces these kinds of challenges.
“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them … ” That pretty much covers every area of concern that one might have – both emotional and physical. God was saying to them, “I’ve got this!” How many times has God said to you, “I’ve got this”? Did you keep on worrying or did you let Him handle whatever needed to be done?
Then we hear the words that should bring the encouragement to get us through any problem: “the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” Look at this: (1) God is with you. (2) He goes before you. (3) He will not fail you. (4) He will not forsake you. HOW can you lose? HOW can you be defeated? HOW can Satan come out on top of any situation? The answer is that you can’t and he can’t. Take God at His word and rest in His assurances and His promises. Just my thoughts …
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3.16 – 17
Children have memorized John 3.16 for as long as I can remember. It is perhaps the most familiar verse in the Bible. Perhaps the struggle with this verse is that we become so familiar with it that we overlook its deep meaning.
What is God telling us here? (1) His love is immeasurable. “For God so loved the world … ” How do you measure the phrase “so loved”? (2) His gift is unimaginable. “ … that he gave his only begotten Son … ” As human parents, we struggle with giving one of our children for the life of another. (3) His promise is almost incomprehensible. “ … that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The result of believing God’s promise means that I will never perish (spend eternity in hell), but I will have everlasting life.
Verse 17 gives further explanation of God’s heart for this lost world. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world … ” If condemnation was God’s only purpose is sending His Son, that would be a tragic circumstance for mankind. But His purpose was far greater than that. “but that the world through him might be saved.” God’s love mentioned in, v. 16, was demonstrated at Calvary for the purpose of saving all who would believe. That reveals to lost mankind the true heart of God. What is our responsibility to this good news? As one songwriter said, we must win the lost at any cost. Do we believe that everyone needs to hear the gospel? Are we willing to be inconvenienced to give someone the gospel? Are we willing to be rejected by someone because we took the initiative to share God’s love with them? Just asking? Just my thoughts …
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (24) Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Romans 3.23-24
I don’t think any of us have a problem admitting that we are sinners. The part about these verses that thrill me is v. 24: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Look at that. We are justified freely by his grace. When I read those words, I am reminded that that there is nothing within me that has earned this justification. I have been justified freely by his grace. It is all of Him and none of me. I believe you and I have a great responsibility to share this message of hope with this lost world. We all know friends and acquaintances who are not believers. A “silent witness” is not always enough. There are times when we need to be vocal in sharing our relationship with God through Christ.
Look at this phrase: “through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Redemption speaks of buying back something that you want. We take coupons to the grocery store to redeem them. Galatians 3.13 says: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree:” He willingly became a curse for us so that He might redeem us. Who you know (Christ) prepares you for a life with God in eternity. Wouldn’t you like to take as many with you as possible? Just my thoughts …
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” 1 Peter 2.24
We are told in the Word of God to rightly divide the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2.15) So many wrong beliefs come from those who do not rightly divide the Word of truth. For example, there were those in Peter’s day and I’m sure in our day as well who make that claim that Jesus did not actually come in bodily form. He was only a figment of imagination. Peter refutes that with this phrase: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree … ” The apostle John wrote: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked up, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life … ” (1 John 1.1)
Another area of misunderstanding lies in the realm of healing. As I have stated before, there are some who claim that we receive physical healing from Jesus’ death. But the healing spoken of here is spiritual healing. If the death of Jesus provides physical healing for every child of God, then why are so many of God’s children struggling with sickness? It is ot a matter of their faith. The claim is that His death brought healing. It has nothing to do with faith.
But what is the key thought in this verse? It is here: “ … that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness…” Being dead to sins means we look at our life before we came to Christ and see the things that we did then and declare that we are dead to those things. They no longer have a hold over us. Now we are called to “live unto righteousness.” Our goal today must be to live a life that is “unto righteousness.” That requires a conscious effort and focus on our part. Just my thoughts …
“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15.1
“A soft answer … ” what is that? Once we can decide what a soft answer sounds like, we can make some progress. Let me suggest that you and I can say just about anything we need to say to another person, but the key is this; not so much what we say but how we say it. Our tone of voice, our choice of words, and even our body language speak volumes to the one to whom we are speaking.
In families, it is often necessary to correct our children or speak a word of caution or warning to a spouse. This is where these words come into play: “ … grievous words stir up anger.” What are grievous words? They are words of condemnation. They are words of denigration. They are words that insult. They are words that tear down another individual. Do we think these words? Yes we do. Do we have to speak these words? No we don’t. I heard someone say once, “Well, you thought them so God gave you credit for them so you might as well say them.” That is a false premise. Grievous words are best left unsaid.
Let’s come back to “a soft answer”. When there are two people involved in a conversation, there will probably be two different opinions about the topic under discussion. In the case of spouses, such a conversation can become hearted. Rather than accusing our spouse of not caring how I feel, how about if I say to her, “Let me tell you how that makes me feel.” I have not accused her of anything. I have simply asked her to listen to my feelings expressed. And I don’t make that a shouting match. When speaking with children who are disobedient, it is far too easy to denigrate them with, “That was stupid”, not realizing how that makes them feel. A soft answer might say, “Can you tell me why you chose to do that? I’m listening.” In relationships with co-workers, we can promote a lot better atmosphere in the work place when we choose the soft answer over something else. I hope God will help us all deal wisely with our words today. Just my thoughts …
“Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (22) But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” James 1.21-22
Has anyone ever taken time to look up the phrase “superfluity of naughtiness”? We just read right over it like we use that word everyday and everyone understands it. Not! I like this translation. It helps me understand the verse much better: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” What we hear James saying is that there are two things that God hates in His children and He wants us to put them out of our lives. We must put away filthiness. We know what that is … filthy thinking, filthy speaking, and/or filthy behavior. When we hear other believers say questionable things, we wonder why they would speak like that. Do we realize that when others hear questionable things come out of our mouths, they wonder why we would speak like that?
The second thing James tells us to put away is rampant wickedness. The word rampant means unchecked. It has taken over our lives. We are no longer in control but some wickedness has overtaken us and is out of control. Satan is sitting back laughing because he has successfully rendered us useless for the kingdom of God. May God give us sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leadership and recognize when something like that is about to happen and put away … rampant wickedness.
- 22 brings us squarely back to our responsibility every day, every moment. “be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only … ” If you have been a parent, you have said to your kids, “Did you HEAR me?” You make them repeat back to you what you just said because you want to be sure they understand. God says, “Don’t just read my Word, do it.” Join me in being a doer of God’s Word today! Just my thoughts …
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1Timothy 1.15
We read this verse and are drawn to Paul’s words that he sees himself as the chief of sinners. The truth of the matter is that it takes as much of the grace of God to save the least of sinners as it does to save the chief of sinners. The blood of Christ was necessary for each one to be saved. Think about the person that you personally know who would qualify in your mind as a serious sinner. When you compare yourself with that person, you don’t seem to be so bad. But … “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners … ” and that includes every sinner.
“This is a faithful saying … ” I am so thankful for God’s faithful provision for sinners, for me personally, and for you too. I never want to underestimate all that God has done to make provision for the salvation of sinners. God’s love for us is so great that He left nothing undone that He needed to do in order to make salvation available to everyone. When I think that there are still portions of our world where the gospel has never been preached, my heart cries out to the New Testament church and says, “We are not finished yet. We have NOT reached the world. EVERYONE needs to know. We need young adults who will say, Here am I. send me.” We can never grow complacent in a world that still has such great need. Will you join me in praying for God to enable us to win the lost at any cost? Just my thoughts …
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Colossians 3.17
When I think of a life-consuming verse, this one is the perfect one. “ … whatsoever ye do … ” Nothing is left out. “ … in word or deed … ” We are only capable of two things in life – speaking and doing. In a hypothetical sense, the next time we want to give ourselves permission to sin (and we don’t like to admit this but we do it more than we want to say) we need to say to the Lord, “I give you thanks for letting me partake in this sin.” Some of you are chuckling right now and some of you are on the verse of anger at the thought of doing such a thing. BUT that is what the verse says. I don’t think any of us ever consciously sin in Jesus’ name but we still sin, nonetheless. Can you see here how Paul is calling the Colossians and us to a life that has a higher standard that we may set for ourselves? WHAT IF our purpose for the remainder of this day became doing everything (whatsoever) in word or deed in the name of the Lord Jesus? How would that change our interaction with people? How would that change the dynamics in our family? How would that change the conditions in my workplace?
This last phrase is critical for our thinking: “ … giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” WHAT IF we would consciously give thanks to God through Christ for whatsoever we do? I suspect we would re-think some of the things we choose to do. We would re-think some of the words we say BEFORE we say them. This verse became a part of my spiritual make-up when I was working with teen-agers and God has never let it leave my thinking. I challenge you today to process what God is saying here and let it change your life too. Just my thoughts …
“See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil; (16) In that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.” Deuteronomy 30.15-16
We live a lifetime that is filled with choices. Some people say, “Not me. I refuse to make some choices.” To refuse to make a choice is a choice. God says to His people here, “I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil … ” Among the options set before us at any given time, there may not appear any that seem to be a good choice. But I want to hasten to say that even during those seemingly impossible times, God is still always there.
You may think there is no link between v. 15 and v. 16, but I believe there is. God says, “I have set before you this day … I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God … ” We have a choice about loving God in the tough times. It is easy to love God when the cupboards are full, the gas tank in full, every body is healthy, the bills are all paid, and we have a little money set aside. But when the demands of life become greater than any level of strength that we have ever known, the choice to love God even then becomes one with which some of God’s children struggle.
- 16 goes on to say that we are to (1) walk in his ways, (2) keep his commandments, (3) and his statutes, and (4) his judgments, so that we may live and multiply and “the LORD thy God shall bless thee … ” How can we do all those things when the circumstances and choices before us seem so contradictory to the character of the God we know and love? We make the choice to love Him anyway, without having to understand His why or His how or His what! And why do we do that? Because, “As for God, His way is perfect.” (Psalm 18.30) Just my thoughts …
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:” James 1.19
We have all probably heard parents say to their children, “God gave you two ears and one mouth. He expects you to listen twice as much as you speak.” And the kids roll their eyes and walk away with that funny look. But the truth of the matter is, God does want us to be swift to hear. I am afraid that while many of us are supposed to be listening, we are really trying to formulate our response when the other person is finally finished talking. That means that we are not really listening. We may be making eye contact, but we are not really emotionally engaged in the conversation. How about these observations: (1) What is the person really saying? (2) Do they want me to help in some way or do they just want to dump their emotions. (3) They have trusted me enough to tell me this. Will I handle this in confidentiality?
With regard to being slow to speak, we may want to weigh our words before we say them. Sometimes the first thing we think may not be the best thing to say in response. Thus we see the wisdom in being slow to speak. Some may think this next phrase doesn’t fit here, but honestly, when was the last time your anger was prompted by what you heard someone say? Remember … choosing wrath is just that – a choice. No one can make you have a wrathful response. I believe James is calling us as God’s children to learn how to listen well, speak wisely, and limit our wrathful responses. These are just my thoughts …