Mark 4:9

Do you ever think how big God really is, and how comparatively small our understanding of everything He tells us in His Word–about the world around us and spiritual truths and eternity–tends to be?  Certainly “…God has revealed them to us through His Spirit,” (I Corinthians 2:10), yet for many of us we still don’t seem to righly grasp  the full extent of everything God has revealed to us through Christ in Scripture.

And He said to them, ‘He who has [spiritual] ears to hear, let him hear!’” (Mark‬ ‭4:9‬)

The problem is that the ears of most people are remarkably dull. It really is as Jesus said–“…seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matthew‬ ‭13:13‬ ) They might have heard Bible stories since childhood, but that is what they remain–stories. Even those of us who know and love Jesus can sometimes fail to appreciate the full magnitude of everything we have in Christ, of everything we will someday see and understand completely. We really are “looking through a glass dimly” as St. Paul describes, and the reality Jesus wants us to understand is as far away from our perception of it as quantum gravity, multiple dimensions, and condensed matter physics are from the ABC’s.

Let’s take a look at something He said:

“Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.” (Matthew‬ ‭13:40-44‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

“There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” This sounds almost silly to us today, but what Jesus is conveying is that those who miss out will experience the deepest possible expression of remorse and regret upon finally, but belatedly, recognizing the full extent of the truth–and what they are now irrevocably precluded from.

The thing is that God–and everything He wants His people to know–is so much greater than we typically imagine. You’ve heard the saying, “Your God is too small?” Obviously, it isn’t God who is too small; it is our love of Him and our desire to know Him better that is too small–our willingness to devote ourselves to fully and adequately comprehend everything He says!

Years ago I had a picture of a cross-section of an iceberg in water–you can see the part above the water line, and the so-much-more-than-you-ever-imagined part below. It’s the same with the physical and spiritual. We know the physical because our bodies are physical–we live and breathe and exist in them every day. But there is also the spiritual–the part God makes alive in us when we trust in and submit to Christ, the part His Spirit in us interacts with, the part that will survive the physical death of our body, the part that is so much larger than the mere physical as the above-water iceberg is than the part below! 

I am thoroughly convinced once we leave our bodies we will understand, but by then it will be too late. So how should we respond? 

We must respond by fixing  “…our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬) We live in these bodies and in this world, but we are not of this world. And, we must, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:” (‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:14‬) Pursuing is active–it requires effort on our part. Are you really pursuing God?

This fall our youngest daughter started ninth grade at a local private school, and even though she is not a boarding student the tuition is substantial. But because I believe it is to her benefit to be able to attend I am pursuing every avenue I know to figure out how I can pull the funds together, month by month, for her to be able to do so. That is pursuing–it’s going after something you value, something you really want, with all you’ve got, just like the man who sold all he had to get the priceless jewel. That is how we should be pursuing Jesus and His holiness!

But do we? Or do we, more often than not, run after the physical and ignore the spiritual? Remember–what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal!
Dear Lord, 
Help us fix “…our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Amen!

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Hebrew 9:27

Have you ever heard of Blaise Pascal’s Wager? According to Wikipedia, it “is an argument in philosophy devised by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician and physicist Blaise Pascal (1623–62)” which “posits that humans bet with their lives that God either exists or does not.” And because this argument is so well-presented by Douglas Groothius, in his excellent Apologetics textbook Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith, I will be quoting him extensively today.

“..,it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭9:27‬ )

Pascal presents, with superb logic, the ramifications of both belief and disbelief in God. He asserts that probabilistically there are four possible outcomes: 1) God is real and I believe; 2) God is real and I disbelieve; 3) God is not real and I believe, and 4) God is not real and I disbelieve. He posits the outcomes of all four possibilities.

1) If God is real and I believe, “there is much to gain and little of ultimate importance to lose…he is speaking of the eternal state of the believer, who dwells with God in a restored creation with all the redeemed. We may add to this the benefit of knowing the truth in this life and receiving the divine blessings of a restored relationship with God and the privilege of seeking and serving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…he or she also escapes hell…moreover…he or she also becomes an instrument of truth and goodness in the world in a way not otherwise possible.” (Douglas Groothius, “Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith”)

2) If God is real and I disbelieve, however, “there is much to lose and little of final importance to gain.” (Groothius) The ramifications of erroneously disbelieving are severe: not only do I miss out on a relationship with God in this life, I will spend eternity in hell. 

3) If, on the other hand, God is not real and I believe, I have perhaps missed out on some fleeting pleasures in this life while living a godly life, but suffer no ultimate eternal loss because there is none.

4) And, of course, if God is not real and I disbelieve–well, I can perhaps say I was right, but not much else.

To again quite Groothius: “If Christianity is true, the prudential [common sense] benefits for believing (eternal life) far exceed those offered by believing in atheism or any other worldview (finite pleasures). The prudential detriment of not believing Christianity is true (loss of eternal life; gaining if hell) also far outweigh the detriments of not believing atheism or another other worldview if the non-Christian view is true (loss of some finite pleasures). Pascal is right to affirm that eternal bliss outweighs any finite good, and eternal loss is far worse than mere extinction.”

In other words, there’s far less of consequence to lose if you incorrectly believe in God were it to turn out He doesn’t exist–you’ve lived a moral decent life–than to not believe in Him were it to turn out He is real–you’ve ignored Him and now you’re going to hell.

Some, of course, might argue that the safest option is agnosticism–to delay a choice, to choose not to choose. But, Pascal argues, doing so has the same practical effect as disbelieving. “In other words, not to believe in Christianity, either as a committed unbeliever or as agnostic, means to forfeit the benefits promised only to the believer (eternal life), should Christianity be true. Deciding not to choose has the same result as not believing in God.” (Groothius) 

Choosing either to not believe or to suspend judgment has very serious eternal and irrevocable consequences if you are wrong–you’re betting on God not existing, but if you’re wrong, the consequences are far more severe than believing if God isn’t real. Alternately, if you’re right, you stand to gain so much.

You see, God IS real, but the benefits of Christianity are given only to those who take the word of the many who were there, believe that God Himself provided what was necessary to remedy the damage sin has worked in us, and come to Jesus Christ in faith and obedience and commit their eternal destinies to Him.

But what should a person do if they would possibly consider the Christian faith, were it not for some “emotional dispositions, fears or loves that keep us from seriously considering this alternative?”(Groothius) Because, honestly, this is what keeps many from coming to Jesus.

Maybe there is a sin they don’t want to give up, maybe they’re afraid they’ll lose control and don’t know God enough yet to trust He won’t ruin their life. Maybe they know church-goers who have blurred the lines between Biblical truth and personal opinion, and what they think is of God are only the teachings of man. Maybe they’ve been exposed to people who call themselves Christian but haven’t given up racial prejudices. Maybe they are having a hard time reconciling the Biblical message with what they’re being taught in school, or what’s going on culturally around them. Maybe they think educated people don’t believe in God and that religion is superstition. Maybe they think it’s God versus science and don’t get it that not only is scientific inquiry legitimate, but that God put it all together to begin with, and holds it all together in a way that far surpasses any stereotype–and is, in fact, the actual source of it all to begin with!

Pascal’s answer to someone like this is that they should give themselves a chance to know God personally:

“I should have given [I would give up] up a life of pleasure,” they say, “if I had faith.” But I tell you: “You would soon have faith if you gave up a life of pleasure [you’ll see God is real if you give up the bad things in your life]. Now it is up to you to begin. If I could give you faith, I would. But I cannot, nor can I test the truth of what you say, but you can easily give up your pleasure and test whether I am telling the truth.

Groothius indicates, “…the investigation of Christianity should also include exposure to its public expression, its forms and practices…As Pascal observed, these activities (along with rational reflection [taking the time to think through what God says]) may help one truly discern the state of one’s own soul before God and the glories of the Christian revelation itself.” (Groothius) 

In order to rightly evaluate the claims of God we must first 1) pull away from the bad things in our life and then 2) immerse ourselves in the good things–the full scope of Christian life. Then–and only then–we will be in a fair position to evaluate.

Let’s read what Simon Peter, one of the original twelve disciples who was there and saw it all, wrote about all of the things they were telling people about Jesus:

“When we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we were not telling just clever stories that someone invented. But we saw the greatness of Jesus with our own eyes. Jesus heard the voice of God, the Greatest Glory, when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice said, “This is my Son, whom I love, and I am very pleased with him.” We heard that voice from heaven while we were with Jesus on the holy mountain. This makes us more sure about the message the prophets  gave. It is good for you to follow closely what they said as you would follow a light shining in a dark place, until the day begins and the morning star rises in your hearts. Most of all, you must understand this: No prophecy in the Scriptures ever comes from the prophet’s own interpretation. No prophecy ever came from what a person wanted to say, but people led by the Holy Spirit spoke words from God.”‭‭ (2 Peter‬ ‭1:16-21‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Dear God,

Please show Yourself to be true to me! Amen. 

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 I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Is your life hard right now? When you look at others, do you sometimes wonder why they’re not struggling like you are, why things seem to be going better for them? Worse than that, are your disappointments and difficulties causing you to start questioning God–whether He really loves you, whether He’s seeing what’s happening, whether He even cares?

“Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus.” (‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:16-18‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

God definitely sees what’s going on with us, He loves us, and He cares. But we sometimes misunderstand our relationship with Him. He is the God of the universe and beyond. He does not exist for us, to grant our every wish; we exist for Him, to serve Him, worship Him and glorify Him. He is the Lord and Master of all, and this means He gets to do (or allow) things in our  life as He sees fit, and He doesn’t have to answer to us, or explain why. Job, who lost wealth, children, and his health, didn’t get an explanation; we may not either. What Job did get, however, was a better understanding of God and his relationship to Him:

“Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. 

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

“Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and wrapped it in thick darkness? For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores. I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!’ 

“Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth, to bring an end to the night’s wickedness? As the light approaches, the earth takes shape like clay pressed beneath a seal; it is robed in brilliant colors. The light disturbs the wicked and stops the arm that is raised in violence.

“Have you explored the springs from which the seas come? Have you explored their depths? Do you know where the gates of death are located? Have you seen the gates of utter gloom? Do you realize the extent of the earth? Tell me about it if you know! 

“Where does light come from, and where does darkness go? Can you take each to its home? Do you know how to get there? But of course you know all this! For you were born before it was all created, and you are so very experienced! 

“Have you visited the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of hail? (I have reserved them as weapons for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war.) Where is the path to the source of light? Where is the home of the east wind? 

“Who created a channel for the torrents of rain? Who laid out the path for the lightning? Who makes the rain fall on barren land, in a desert where no one lives? Who sends rain to satisfy the parched ground and make the tender grass spring up? 

“Does the rain have a father? Who gives birth to the dew? Who is the mother of the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens? For the water turns to ice as hard as rock, and the surface of the water freezes. 

“Can you direct the movement of the stars— binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion? Can you direct the constellations through the seasons or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens? Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you use them to regulate the earth? “Can you shout to the clouds and make it rain? Can you make lightning appear and cause it to strike as you direct? Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind? Who is wise enough to count all the clouds? Who can tilt the water jars of heaven when the parched ground is dry and the soil has hardened into clods?

“…Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?”” (‭‭Job‬ ‭38:1-33‬, 40:2 NLT)‬‬

God says so much more, but Job understood, and we must too.

God does love us–more than our human minds can fully comprehend:

“We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. They are the people he called, because that was his plan. God knew them before he made the world, and he chose them to be like his Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of many brothers and sisters. God planned for them to be like his Son; and those he planned to be like his Son, he also called; and those he called, he also made right with him; and those he made right, he also glorified. So what should we say about this? If God is for us, no one can defeat us. He did not spare his own Son but gave him for us all. So with Jesus, God will surely give us all things. Who can accuse the people God has chosen? No one, because God is the One who makes them right. Who can say God’s people are guilty? No one, because Christ Jesus died, but he was also raised from the dead, and now he is on God’s right side, appealing to God for us. Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can troubles or problems or sufferings or hunger or nakedness or danger or violent death? But in all these things we are completely victorious through God who showed his love for us. Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28-35, 37-39‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

“God planned for them to be like His Son.” The reason God allows disappointments and difficulties into our lives is to conform us to the image of Christ–to make us more like Jesus. 

“God is the One who made all things, and all things are for his glory. He wanted to have many children share his glory, so he made the One who leads people to salvation perfect through suffering.” (Hebrews‬ ‭2:10‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Jesus was perfected through suffering, and we are too. Remember that the Father “…cuts off every branch in…[Christ] that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (‭‭John‬ ‭15:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬) The pruning hurts and we would prefer not to experience it, but it is exactly this which perfects us.

And that is why we are instructed to, “Always be joyful. Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus.” (‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:16-18‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

The truth is that your life may be hard now; others might really be having an easier time of it. But rest assured that God has a plan and He knows what He’s doing. 

So how should we respond? Should we complain and grumble and accuse God of not having our well-being at heart? Should we be ungrateful like the Israelites who didn’t trust His purposes and provision in their lives, and were judged for it? Or, should we understand that “…our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all,” and “…fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:17-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Dear Lord,

Help me not grumble, but give thanks in all things! Amen.

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Matthew 24:9-13

Are you surprised by the increasing hostility toward Christianity in our country today? Has it taken you aback?  Those of us who still cling to faith in Christ are increasingly being made to feel foolish or backward for our beliefs, to the point that discrimination is an imminent possibility; even actual persecution in the not too distant future is no longer an absurd concept.

“…They will hate you because you believe in Me [because you’re being stubborn and won’t “get with” the “progressive” program]. At that time, many will lose their faith [“no one” believes it anymore–how can it be true?], and they will turn against each other and hate each other [not surprising; that’s what happens without the Holy Spirit’s influence in us]. Many false prophets [yeah–they’re not going to stand up and call themselves prophets; these are the voices our culture hears in the media, academia, politics and popular science]  will come and cause many people to believe lies [something that IS NOT TRUE–remember the old advertising adage, “if you repeat it enough people will believe it?”]. There will be more and more evil in the world, so most people will stop showing their love for each other. BUT THOSE PEOPLE WHO KEEP THEIR FAITH UNTIL THE END WILL BE SAVED. (‭‭Matthew‬ ‭24:9-13‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

This generation doesn’t have a monopoly on sin–just listen to the lyrics of some seventies or eighties pop songs! But the situation does seem to be going south. One of the first things you notice in even a superficial study of the decline of Ancient Israel (you knew there was a reason all of that “boring stuff” is there!), is that they didn’t hit rock bottom instantly. A godly ruler was followed by a bad one, then a good one again and so on–until eventually, the downward cycle hit bottom and it was over. Defeat and conquest come, but typically after a period of decline. It’s the same with any nation; there is a longer downward moral progression before the end–which I believe we in the U.S. are in right now.

Recently, Netflix remade the highly popular (yet nonetheless very dark) Japanese anime “Death Note.” The original was a classic moral dilemma: a successful young man who has it all happens upon a magical notebook–one in which simply writing a person’s name causes them to die. It was an examination of our fallen human nature–how an initial misguided but well-intentioned desire to punish criminals who’ve “gotten away with it” grows into a god-complex that is sin for sin’s sake. 

The American version was significantly rewritten from a behavioralistic perspective, however–presumably, because we wouldn’t be able to comprehend how someone who “has it all” can fall into moral decline. The protagonist is now an underdog with the deck stacked against him from the start, so when he acts wickedly we find ways to excuse and rationalize his behavior instead of simply recognizing that he has chosen to do what is evil. Christians, of course, understand that sin is not merely a result of our outward circumstances; these can certainly tempt us and make it easier to do wrong, but at its root, the problem stems from our fallen sin-nature, and anyone can sin. 

What about the popular Game of Thrones series? An entire season was devoted to a character’s brutal abuse, yet even more amazing is this was never in the book–IT WAS WRITTEN IN PURELY FOR THE VIEWING TV AUDIENCES! But what do examples such as these have to do with hostility toward Christianity? And how is all of this related to today’s verse?

The point is that as we, as a people, walk away from the knowledge of God in Christ, we walk increasingly toward various forms of evil. Sins like rebelliousness, dishonesty, even adultery are no longer enough to satiate our cravings; more and more we crave violence and every other other form of perversity and wickedness. Popular media created for our audiences is merely a reflection of this.

Of course, there has always been violence and perversity, but it has been generally isolated to the location where it occurred. Now–with the amazing technological advances of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries–evil that is done anywhere is publicized everywhere–and it is becoming increasingly difficult to isolate yourself from it without removing yourself from society at large.

And, as society is exposed to increasing godlessness, it looses its understand of good and becomes increasingly hostile to it–initially, this leads to condescension toward those who adhere to Biblical beliefs, then to intolerance of those beliefs, discrimination, and eventually even to outright persecution.

We’re not there yet, but neither do we typically hear people openly talking about God in non-church settings anymore. Yet Jesus Christ calls us to do just that–to be the salt and light of this corrupted world–but how do we do that if our convictions and faith are “secret?” To the degree that we remain anchored in the Bible and God’s words remain in us we MUST speak out. As we interact with others in our daily life, we must not be timid or afraid; when appropriate and as His Spirit urges us, we MUST refer to Him, quote Scripture, and speak freely as if God and what He says is a natural part of life–because, after all, ISN’T IT?

Dear Lord,

Help us not lose our faith as the world gets worse; rather, help us be salt and light to those around us as You intend us to be! Amen.

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 Hebrew 13:15

Do you give voice to your faith? Do you actually speak up to attest to the fact that you trust in God? Or do you stay silent when the opportunity presents itself, fearful of giving yourself away as religious? In our ever-increasingly hostile-to-Christianity environment it may seem odd to mention God in a typical secular situation in anything but a blasphemous context. But it is exactly this kind of vocalization of  our faith that honors Him and reminds those we’re with that God is, and that there are still people who believe in Him.

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” (‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭13:15‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Our culture is increasingly secular–so much so that it seems strange to mention the words “God,” “Jesus,” or “Christ” aloud in many social situations; it just isn’t typically done. About the only times our culture utters these words is as an expletive. Sadly enough though, you can talk about almost anything else–you can even get away with discussing generalities about religion in very non-specific terms–but say something of substance that identifies you as one of “those” kinds of people and you’re pegged.

Yet Jesus Christ–our Savior and heavenly Boss–wants us to get pegged. He wants us to speak up–about Him, about what is true and right and good, about the fact that He exists, and is in charge and very much worthy of the utmost honor, obedience and reverence from us. And, He wants it to come from me. When I might be embarrassed. 

And while I’m on the subject of possibly being embarrassed because someone may find out I trust in Him, here’s what Jesus Himself said about that:

“If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message [words, NKJV] in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark‬ ‭8:38‬ ‭NLT)‬‬

Yeah. I’m NOT ashamed to be associated with Jesus in front of sinful human beings.

“Context is everything” is one of the basic rules of correctly assessing any situation, and we need to recognize that our current world seems to be set to default to an ungodly perspective. When we listen to the news on tv or our car radio, when we scour the internet, when we read a book or watch a movie or attend a play–unless otherwise indicated, we must assume it comes from a place of rejecting God. Some years ago the opposite was true–most people went to church, so you could at least know they knew what God says–whether or not they personally obeyed. Now the reverse is true. And these are the people I’m embarrassed to confess Jesus to?!

I worked Saturday. I’m not a perfect person and my attitude isn’t always either, sadly. I was late, and missed out on a couple of customers, so when I finally got to work with a customer but couldn’t take the actual sale because another associate had gotten them first, in declining I muttered (honestly, I almost didn’t, but something seemed to prompt me to say it) “It’s okay; God will provide!”

I thought nothing more of it, but that day I ended up earning more than I had in a while. I came home to find a message from a customer that remembered me from months earlier who two days later bought twice my Saturday sales! God did indeed provide!!

I’m not saying I’ll have lots of sales every time I say, “God will provide,” but He is honored when those of us who claim to follow Him identify with Him publicly–when we “offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.” 

Dear Lord,

Help me continually “offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess…[Your] name.” Amen.

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John 15:4

How can you remain faithful and functional in Christ until you breathe your last breath? Is it enough to just know you’ve accepted Christ at some point in the past and personally identify with Christianity? Or do you need to do more, such as coming to church regularly, praying and reading your Bible? What is the key to hearing Jesus tell us at the end of our life, “Well done, good and faithful servant?”

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”‭‭ (John‬ ‭15:4‬)

While all of these are important, I cannot stress enough how essential it is for us to abide (or stay, or remain) in Christ, as those who trust Him for forgiveness and for being saved from our sins. But what, exactly, is “remaining in Christ?”

Remaining in Jesus involves continuing in everything God teaches us in the Holy Bible, but the way we specifically do this is by faithfully and regularly reading it. 

Do you remember how John, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit begins his gospel? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”‭‭ (John‬ ‭1:1, 14‬)

Jesus is identified as the Word of God. He is the faithful representative of all God is in human form, “…the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person…” (Hebrews‬ ‭1:3‬) And the Bible is the written revelation of God, the one document provided by Him for us to understand who He is and what He requires of us.

Jesus Christ is no longer physically present in bodily form with us. We cannot sit at His feet and absorb what He says. But we have something even better–we have His Spirit who “guide[s]…[us] into all truth.” (John 16:3)  

Specifically, Jesus said of the Holy Spirit: “…He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.”‭‭ (John‬ ‭16:13-14)

Because we know that, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” (Romans‬ ‭10:17‬) the Holy Spirit teaches and works in us as we read and study God’s Word!

But why, again, should I remain in Jesus–why should I faithfully and daily read the Word of God? Jesus explained the Christian walk perfectly:

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away [in verse 6 He says, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” This is not a good thing!], and every branch that bears fruit He prunes [involves cutting back so the plant would be more fruitful–God allows or brings into the lives of His faithful ones difficulty or even pain to focus their thoughts on eternity so they would be more fruitful for Him], that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you [it is God’s Word that makes us holy!]. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me [we cannot do anything of eternal value unless we stay in God’s Word]. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (‭‭John‬ ‭15:1-8‬)

So, how can you remain faithful and functional in Christ until you breathe your last breath? Did you catch it?? Jesus just answered this question! 

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

The key to hearing Jesus tell us at the end of our life, “Well done, good and faithful servant” is to remain in Him every single day. We must read and study His Word daily, because that is how God teaches and transforms us into Christ’s image, and empowers us to bear much fruit, which in turn, glorifies the Father!

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you;” if you get into the Bible every day and God’s Word stays in you (you remember it)–and it will, once you start spending time in it–“you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” 

This, by the way, goes beyond Christianity 101–this is the Master’s Degree curricula–the George Mueller type of Christianity (he’s the Christ-follower who ran an orphanage and believed Jesus so much that he would sit the children down to give thanks for the next meal that literally was not there yet–and God provided!).

Once we live in God’s Word and God’s Word lives in us, our hearts are changed. We see so much more as God sees and desire so much more what He desires, so He is pleased to give us the things we ask. This enables us to bear much fruit for His kingdom, which brings glory to the Father!

Do you see? Do you get it–what/how our lives are to become??? Are you there? Is that what your life is like? Or are you a dead branch about to be cut off? God forbid!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Help me remain in You–in Your Word–and Your Words in me, so much so that I ask for the things that bring You joy and bear much fruit for Your kingdom, thereby glorifying the Father. Thank You that You TOLD US how to be Your disciple! Amen.

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Proverbs 31:8-9

How do you respond to injustice in the world? Do you sit idly by, or do you rouse yourself and actually do something about it? Insensitivity within mainstream Christianity toward societal ills is a lightning rod among many younger people today because they tend to feel more motivated to become involved in various causes. Demonstrations, protests, riots and even rebellions and insurrections–all tend to historically be heavily comprised of a younger demographic. Following Jesus can, at times, seem simply like an older person’s excuse to sit back and do nothing when the situation is crying for action. But is this what God teaches us–what are those who follow Christ to do when confronted with injustice in the world around us?

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” ‭‭(Proverbs‬ ‭31:8-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Even a precursery study of world history demonstrates that from the beginning the United States has been the exception rather than the rule. Ever since Europeans arrived on these shores, devout people of God sought to institute rules of governance that honored Him and followed Biblical principles. We may argue about whether the founding fathers were true Christians or merely deists, yet it is undeniable that they were highly influenced by the general Christian principles of the day–hence the success of our Constitution, which has governed this country for over two hundred years. Yet according to John Adams this document “…was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” The Founding Fathers prayerfully conceived a form of government for a moral and godly society, but is that what we still are today–or are we something else entirely?

When a people–any people–give up on God, He gives them up to their own ways–to the misguided and sinful desires of their hearts. Romans 1 tells us:

“People did not think it was important to have a true knowledge of God. So God left them and allowed them to have their own worthless thinking and to do things they should not do. They are filled with every kind of sin, evil, selfishness, and hatred. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, lying, and thinking the worst about each other. They gossip and say evil things about each other. They hate God. They are rude and conceited and brag about themselves. They invent ways of doing evil. They do not obey their parents. They are foolish, they do not keep their promises, and they show no kindness or mercy to others. They know God’s law says that those who live like this should die. But they themselves not only continue to do these evil things, they applaud others who do them.”‭‭ (Romans‬ ‭1:28-32‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

When a society rejects God is it loses its knowledge of Him–of what godliness is and how to solve problems without stepping outside the construct and protection of God’s will. Jesus voiced this principle when He said, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew‬ ‭25:29‬) When we read, study and implement Biblical precepts we thrive personally and as a society, and things get better; when we reject God’s ways even the good we once had is eventually lost. Human solutions to societal ills might be well-intentioned, but they are invariably ill-conceived.

Moses is a wonderful example of someone who meant well:

“Moses grew and became a man. One day he visited his people and saw that they were forced to work very hard. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew man, one of Moses’ own people. Moses looked all around and saw that no one was watching, so he killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand. The next day Moses returned and saw two Hebrew men fighting each other. He said to the one that was in the wrong, “Why are you hitting one of your own people?” The man answered, “Who made you our ruler and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Moses was afraid and thought, “Now everyone knows what I did.” When the king heard what Moses had done, he tried to kill him. But Moses ran away from the king and went to live in the land of Midian…”‭‭ (Exodus‬ ‭2:11-15‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

God had not forgotten His people, nor was He indifferent to their suffering or oblivious of His promise to rescue them, and forty years later He did just that–through an older and better-prepared Moses. This time, however, God called the shots and the results were good.

The lesson of this story is that although Moses’ heart was in the right place–he was grieved by an injustice–he tried to fix it the wrong way–through murder. James tells us, “…the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” (James‬ ‭1:20‬)

The problem is not in doing something when confronted with injustice–GOD SAYS WE MUST STAND UP FOR THE RIGHTS OF THE UNFORTUNATE–it is in doing it the wrong way, rejecting God’s solution in favor of a sinful one. We must seek correction of societal ills through legitimate God-honoring means. I believe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.–and the countless legislators and officials who work within our legal system to effect a change–got it right, while Malcolm X, for example, did not.

Look to Russia in the early part of the twentieth century: a small aristocracy controlled the country’s wealth and the masses were starving. Lenin led the communist revolution which resulted in the execution of the last Czar, murders and deportations to Siberian camps of countless innocent people, untold destruction and a complete upheaval of the society before the resultant USSR recovered even marginally.

We cannot stay silent in the face of injustice or oppression, but our response must be of God, not from our sinful inclinations, or it will not end well. The Bible says, “All of you must yield to the government rulers. No one rules unless God has given him the power to rule, and no one rules now without that power from God. So those who are against the government are really against what God has commanded. And they will bring punishment on themselves.” (Romans‬ ‭13:1-2‬ ‭NCV‬‬) We must work within the construct of our democratic form of government to effect a change. If there is a societal wrong that is not being adequately addressed, or which you feel strongly about–get educated about the issues and work toward a solution! Run for public office and get elected, if you are in a position to do so. If you cannot, sign petitions or collect votes for referendums. Do not engage in rioting or violence–do not try to accomplish good through bad means; it will not end well.

Various other countries have suffered insurrections, revolts, and coups as a result of people trying to fix societal ills without a regard for what God says. We have, up until now, been blessed with relative stability because we have worked through legitimate means to solve our problems. May we continue to do so!

Dear Lord,

Help me stand up for the rights of the unfortunate, but–as with everything I do–help me do it in a way that not only legitimately effects change, but also honors You! Amen.

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