The Test

Matthew 7: 16

You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?

Jesus gave us the method by which we can know whom we can trust. We can know people by their fruit. We saw last week Paul’s elucidation of this principle. Colossians 3 shows the fruit of the chosen of God and also the habits and traits of those not reformed by Christ. Some of the traits Paul identified for Christians are: “a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other,” (Colossians 3: 12 – 13). In this list he also included the pursuit of unity (See the Word of the Day for 11/13/20).

Jesus’ teachings give us the principles. Paul’s teachings explain Jesus’ principles. He expounded on them to give further understanding. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul further described what the life of a Christian looks like. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,” (Galatians 5: 22 – 24).

When I was practicing law I came to despise when a client offered that they were Christian. Why? Ask many business owners and you will get the same response. It is code language for, “I’m not going to pay you.” It is as though they offered that bit of information in order to cover a defect in their character. As I said last week, pretend I am from the Show Me state. Let your actions identify you as a Christian. As my friend, Robin, said yesterday, “Actions speak louder than words.” Anyone can say, “I am a Christian.” It is an entirely different matter to walk it out. Most people who wish to deceive and take advantage of others will not identify their motives. Instead, they will use some covering ploy and claiming to be a Christian is one of the best. So, how are we to know who is the real deal?

That is the purpose of this series of devotionals which began last week. I know who you are and how you strive to live in the light of Christ. I also know that you are the most vulnerable because you are attracted to people who self-identify as Christian. Now, you don’t have to take their word for it. Look at their lives. Are they givers? If no, then you needn’t ask any more questions. They are done because Yahweh and Jesus are mega-givers. You can’t be in them and be stingy. Beyond that run the test of Galatians 5 and Colossians 3. Here it is synthesized for you.

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, a heart of compassion, humility, bearing with one another, and forgiving each other.

You might want to cut and paste this bit into your own document or print it. We are not asking people to be perfect, but we are looking for a pattern of behavior. I hope you identify with people who are patient and kind, gentle of speech and generous. We can encourage and expect these traits of people. We should, in fact, expect these kinds of behaviors. More than ever, we need to be considerate. We need to concern ourselves with the best interests of all people. We need to think of others instead of ourselves. That is the Christian mandate. It’s the Word. Let the Word prevail over the lives of us all.

Fullness of Joy

Psalm 16:11

You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

There are easily several messages contained in this passage. The one that shouts most loudly to me today is there is fullness of joy in His presence. There is joy in Jesus, which means there is an answer to depression. I want to say it this way, there is no need to be depressed. Here me though, this isn’t to make light of depression and anxiety. Rather, the purpose of my comments is to extend hope and compassion. Jesus came that we might have life in its fullest expression, and one cannot enjoy abundant life while plagued with depression. Jesus also said that he came to proclaim liberty to the captives, and I would hope that my ministry might be known as setting people free. There are all kinds of bondages which weigh us down in life. Living with depression is certainly an unwelcomed burden. Jesus came to set us free from the oppression of depression.

Today’s verse does not say there is no such thing as depression for Christians. And, I do not wish for you to judge yourself or feel any sense of guilt because you sometimes suffer from depression. What this verse says that in the presence of our Lord, there is no depression because there is fullness of joy.

Understand that joy and happiness are not the same thing. I am not after happiness today as much as joy. Joy is a deep-seated belief that all is well. It has to do with Shalom, perfect peace, nothing missing, nothing broken. When we are conscious of being in the presence of Jesus or our beloved Father, then the worries, anxiety and fear of the troubles of this world fade away. The more we bask in the light of His presence, the more the worldly issues dissipate. Depression is dark and gloomy. Jesus’ presence is light. Remember that our God and Father is our sun. He is shining the glory of His presence and the warmth of His love upon us every time we move into His presence. Now, how do we partake of His presence.

When you are down or depressed, it is hard to reach out and touch the joy of the Lord. It is difficult to connect with His presence. Of course, deep meditation will take you right into the Lord’s presence but if you are in a state where that is a challenge, the best thing to do is to get out of your house and into a Spirit filled worship service. Sometimes even leaving the house is a challenge but getting out of the house is often a major help. Still, if that is impossible, there is so much online content these days that it is easy to reach out for music, praise, worship and teachings. You can become a member of church groups online. You can call prayer lines and talk with an actual human. There are resources which we can employ to help bring us into the Lord’s presence.

One of my favorite blue funk day tools is music. Please understand that I am not comparing a blue funk with clinical depression. None the less, the power of praise music should not be underestimated. I especially like songs about the blood but there is so much opportunity, musically, that everyone can find something that speaks to them.

As you praise, focus your attention on the presence of Jesus and the angelic host all around you. Let the light begin to penetrate your body and your consciousness. Release your tension to that flow of light and music. Relax all the stress from your body and then release it from your mind and spirit. Be at peace and enjoy the presence of the Lord.

Don’t let the devil steal your joy. He sure wants to. Get into the presence of our beloved and allow Him to fill you to overflowing. Remember, Jesus came to bring abundance, not a little trickle.

Mostly, please don’t feel alone. There are people, including myself, who care about you. Reach out to others. Get together with a group of believers, go to a church service, or just call someone. Don’t isolate yourself. God has promised He will never leave you nor forsake you. He is with you right now and in His presence is fullness of joy. Let this, and Him, minister to you.

Gladness

Psalm 70: 4

Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad because of you. Let those who love your salvation continually say, “God is great!”

This is a good meditation. Can those who seek Yahweh really be glad? Is there really something in seeking Him which can bring us joy? Our theology says so but does our life, our attitude, our words? Do we go about proclaiming, “God is great!”

I think we believe it but in our busy days we are not always in touch with the deep thoughts of our own minds and hearts. David’s world was more focused and though tumultuous, at some level I think it was simpler. The variety of distractions in our lives pulls us away from our own deep thoughts and there is little time for quiet contemplation. Dr. Caroline Leaf says we rarely pause to think any more and if that is true, how do we know what we think?

How much time do any of us spend engaged with our heart and our emotions? Do we seek our inner self to find what beats in our hearts? How is it that we can seek God if we haven’t taken the time to know ourselves? And then, who are we in Him?

I think we will rejoice when we seek God and find that He is closer to us than we previously perceived. I believe we will be glad as our seeking draws us into a deeper relationship with Him. As He becomes more of our every day, we do find peace and joy. The greatest part of this is that there is no limit to the extent of closeness we can achieve with the Father. Our walk with Him today may be far superior to that of yesteryear and yet, a mere shadow of tomorrow’s intimacy.

If there is one thing our faith walk requires, it is seeking the Father’s face. When we seek Him, we find all because He is all. When we find Him in greater measure today than yesterday, we find more of His goodness and the joy is a mere by-product of being with the Father. Seek with all your heart and that heart will rejoice and be glad.

Let All Praise

Psalm 67: 1 – 5

God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us— Selah.
2 That Your way may be known on the earth, your salvation among all nations.
3 Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.
4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You will judge the peoples with uprightness and guide the nations on the earth. Selah.
5 Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.

Indeed, let all the people of the world praise the Lord our God. He will judge righteously. Remember judgment isn’t just a negative. Someone wins a judgment in a lawsuit. Our God has already decided that we will win when He passes judgment because He has chosen to see us through the blood of righteous Jesus.

He will guide us all, all the peoples of all the nations. He will show himself to all the people of the earth and they will revel in His glory and majesty. All the nations will praise Him and sing of His glory. We will shout for joy at the revealing of His grace and beauty. The glory of His face will shine upon us all, for it is luminous, the light of the world. And we shall glory in His presence.

This is the description of the real end of days. When God shows Himself all the world will recognize Him as the one and only true God. They will see His beauty and majesty and will delight in His presence. There will be no unbelievers. There may be some people who choose not to follow Him but no one will be able to doubt His majesty.

He is gracious and kind and will lead all the nations in love. He will lead all people in delightful paths that will fill their hearts with joy and fulfillment. Then the people of all the earth will honor and praise Him. Selah.

Bless the Lord

2 Samuel 7: 1 – 2             NLT

When King David was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all the surrounding enemies, the king summoned Nathan the prophet. “Look,” David said, “I am living in a beautiful cedar palace, but the Ark of God is out there in a tent!”

One of the most outstanding things about David is that God calls him a man after His own heart (Acts 13: 22). When I read passages like this, I understand why. David had God on his mind.

Picture, if you will, David sitting in his palace. He has the finest home in the entire land, not just in Jerusalem, not only in Israel, but as far as the eye can see there is no finer home. He is surrounded by every luxury, the finest clothes drape his body, priceless jewels are plentiful, goblets of gold and a servant for every need. What more could a person want? None the less, David had another want, another desire. While sitting on his throne, he was thinking of Yahweh, his friend and God. Clearly, though, Yahweh had become much more to David than a remote deity. David loved God and love makes you want to do things for the one you love.

God took a young shepherd boy and turned him into a king. God vanquished all his foes and gave him riches beyond measure. So, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did David love and honor God because of all God did for him or did God prosper David because of the love and trust David walked in. I believe it was the latter.

David showed remarkable faith in God’s willingness to deliver him and indeed, all Israel from a young age. Remember how incensed David was that Goliath insulted the God of Israel? There is also a great story from 1 Chronicles. David was to build an altar and make an offering to the Lord. He offered the man that owned the land full price, but the man offered to give David the land and a bull and wheat for the offering. David refused, though, saying that he would not offer to the Lord that which cost him nothing (1 Chronicles 21: 24). Wow! David showed honor and respect for the Lord. And God was faithful to David. They had (and have) a wonderful relationship and when I say God prospered him beyond measure, it is a literal truth. David passed on so much wealth to Solomon that Solomon didn’t even count the silver. There was too much too count so he only concerned himself with the Gold.

So, let me ask you this? Do you ever have the feeling that you too would like to do something for God? What would you do? He doesn’t need a new temple to house the Ark of the Covenant. What is within your power to bless God? I think you might have fun thinking through this. I hope you find something to do for God because I know it will be fun and bring joy to your heart. Have a great day!

Go Jump in the River

Psalm 46: 4

There is a river whose streams bring joy to the city of God, the holy place where the Most High lives.

This river is the Holy Spirit and the flow of the Holy Spirit brings many benefits to our lives. Among these is joy. The Holy Spirit is often characterized as a flow in addition to water, rivers and fountains. It is the flow of the Spirit which brings revelation and waters the garden of God. We live in and as part of God’s city right now even as we dwell on earth because the earth is part of His realm too. Because there is great, and I do mean great, profit flowing in and from the Spirit, it is important that we come to know him better and better.

One of the things that is interesting about the Spirit is shown in today’s passage and that is that he is often referred to as some form of water. Think about water for a moment and consider not only how important it is for all life forms but also all of the ways water impacts your life. Try washing clothes, dishes or your face and most often you will use water. Most detergents and cleaners have water in them already or combine with water to do their jobs. Just imagine a week without water even if you had drinking water. I would be using some of that potable water to brush my teeth. We use water in cooking. Besides all that, our bodies are mostly water, as you know.

When you consider the importance of water don’t you find it interesting that God identifies the Holy Spirit as living water? In Jeremiah 2: 13 God said, “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters.” God calls Himself The fountain of living waters referring to Himself in the person of the Holy Spirit. Do you remember the story of the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well? In verse 10 of John chapter 4, “Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” Again, living water but this time it was Jesus who reveals there is living water, i.e. water that is alive and which gives life. Later in that same chapter, in verse 14, Jesus describes the value of the living water, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” Jesus also said, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water,’” (John 7: 38).

I find these verses exhilarating but I am also impressed by their significance. Water is vital for life and I think that is the point Jesus is making in these verses. From this fountain of living water springs all of life. Perhaps Jesus is saying that the Holy Spirit is vital for life and he, therefore, wants us to seek this living water. Jesus wants us to become cognizant of the role the Holy Spirit is intended to play in all our lives. We cannot live without water and I believe Jesus is saying that none of us will flourish or grow without the flowing river of the Holy Spirit. This river is meant to spring up from our innermost being. We can ask ourselves if we feel we are living in this springing up flow from our innermost selves. We can ask if the Spirit is welling up within us. Then, we can ask the Father for this revelation about the Spirit to be manifested in our lives whether we are experiencing a little creek or a raging river for there is always more of the Holy Spirit for us to receive.

Make it a point to meditate on and come to know this third person of the Holy Trinity. Think about what these water verses mean. What did the Father and Jesus mean for us to get out of them? What was Jesus trying to get the Samaritan woman to see and do? Most of all, jump in the river of living water and drink your fill.

Finding Joy

Psalm 42: 5        NIV

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

This week we are continuing our journey through the psalms with this passage from Psalm 42. Since you seem to be enjoying the psalms, we will continue to do one every Monday.

This psalm is one sad lament and yet, is there one amongst us who has not felt equally forlorn at some point in life? The psalmist had a revelation, though, one which buoyed him even at his lowest points. He knew that a time of praise was coming, a time to thank God for rescuing him from this desperate place and time. Though the shadows darkened his doorway, he knew that light was coming and that the light would overshadow even the darkest dread. From that point of knowing we can shout, “Hallelujah!” Even when situations seem threatening, even in the midst of turmoil, we shout praises to the Father knowing that He is present and will lift us and set us high on a mountaintop.

God is worthy of the praise but what is thrilling about offering praise even when your soul is downcast is that the praise itself has power. It begins to lift your soul and brighten the horizon. Sometimes it is all we need to break the binding darkness. When we lift our eyes and fix them on Jesus, the flood of light fills the space. Darkness must flee in the presence of the light. It is the easiest and most natural thing in the world to keep looking at the trouble which is oppressing your soul. However, we are not of the world. You are of God little children and it is upon Him that you should cast your gaze. Looking at the glory of the Father who loves you more than life, shines joy and hope into our innermost being. We only need become as accomplished as this dear psalmist at recognizing the loving kindness and radiant power of a Lord who is always willing to be our rescuer.

Let not your heart be troubled. Do not give into the worry and fear. Sing your praise to the Father confident that He has your back and is with you always. Sing your way clear of trouble. Shout away your sorrows. Give thanks knowing your savior is near. Put your hope in God and let your joy be renewed.