Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:8-11 (NKJV)
From the time of Christ's ascension into heaven until the time of His return, Believers have lived in a cosmic tension created by an ongoing conflict between the Church and forces of spiritual wickedness. In this "real life" battle we take heart from some encouraging words spoken by our Lord. When it comes to the Church He stated: "The gates of Hell will not prevail against it!" Above all else "we" need to believe Jesus and take His words to heart.
In the cultural darkness of our time we often act as if the Church is losing ground. Many point to current trends backed up by statistical data and conclude that our fortress is under siege and about to be overrun. I am not of a mind to hang with the "We'll hold the fort until Jesus comes" crowd, because I believe the words of our God and King. Perhaps the Church is losing ground--but maybe--just maybe things need to get bad enough, long enough, for the Church to wake up and get serious.
I am reminded of a Psalm of David: "The earth is the Lord's, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein." Let me remind you that this is God's dominion. This turf does not belong to our enemy. The usurper walks around like a roaring lion--which is rather intimidating; but, more often than not, Satan lulls the Church to sleep while seducing the world with hollow promises. Let us not act as if the Church has already lost and throw in the towel. Time to wake up--get up--be courageous--put on the full armor of God and fight passionately knowing that our effort will make a difference. In the words of James: "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you." God will ultimately win in this struggle and His dominion will endure forever!
Author's Note: I don't believe that "we" should give in or run scared even though we are living in a world hell-bent on its own destruction. It is true that we live in crazy times and it seems as if this is the worst that it has ever been... I'm guessing that Christians living in NY City probably felt that way back in the 1850's. Children chained to machines and forced into labor; open prostitution on the streets; gang violence terrorizing neighborhoods; open hostility towards immigrants; drug dealers and addicts on every corner; and a country on the verge of civil war. Maybe we need to take heart and simply be the Church! RJD
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Prov 3:5-6 (NKJV)
I do not believe that I have ever heard anyone talk about "trust at first sight." "You know, I saw this beautiful girl...her name is Jody...she is really cool...I don't know, it might be trust at first sight." The very idea is crazy; and yet I have found that the surest way for me to avoid buying something that I never thought that I needed before is to make sure that the salesman never gets across the threshold at the front door. (If you know my wife, Jody--ask her about the cookware that we bought while attending Northwest University) Sometimes I surprise myself with how gullible I am, because there have been times when I acted as if it was trust at first sight.
I have lived life long enough to come to a couple of conclusions. Firstly, I do not always make good decisions; therefore, when I make important decisions I try to listen and submit to the wise council of people that I trust. (Group decisions tend to be more prudent) Secondly, I do not automatically trust people. Trust is a commodity that has to be earned. My natural instinct is to trust people; however, it is wiser to trust the people who have earned the right.
There is One that has earned my complete trust and that is the Lord. In my life, God has proven Himself to be everything that He claims to be. He has consistently treated me with grace, with goodness, with kindness, with mercy, with patience, with guidance, with wisdom, with knowledge, with friendship, with peace, with encouragement, with blessings, with confidence, and with His love. I believe...hear me...I absolutely believe in the promise of Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Trusting in the Lord is perhaps the wisest move I have ever made!
Author's Note: I hope that I don't sound too cynical when it comes to trusting people. I implicitly trust my wife, my parents, my children and a few close friends. (My Grandchildren? Well, they are still young and need nurturing) The point is this: You can absolutely trust in the God that loves you more than you love yourself. RJD
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil 4:4-7 (NKJV)
In the midst of a passage that deals with prayer, Paul interjects this thought: "Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." I think that the word "gentleness" is somewhat misleading and does not effectively communicate the Author's point. In the RJV Bible (Ronald Joseph Version) which does not exist, it would read more like this:"May you have a great reputation, because of your even-tempered appropriate decision-making ability." "Ok, I know...it doesn't flow every well, but at least you get the point." Believers need to be known for their sound judgment. As if the Lord is at hand making said judgments!
How much would I change in my decision-making process if God had a greater voice...no, make that, if God had the final say in all my decisions? How many problems would that solve? How many prayer requests would never have needed to exist in the first place? How much heart-burn and how many head-aches would have been avoided. Maybe it would be prudent to make my decisions as if "the Lord is at hand."
I have observed that many of our prayer requests are a direct result of poor decisions. The Bible instructs us to stay out of debt. To avoid yoking ourselves unequally with sinners. To make an effort to pass down our faith to our children. To pay our taxes and submit to authorities. The list of wisdom to make appropriate decisions pours out of pages of the Bible. Why not obey the dictates of scripture? It will help us make wise decisions. It will help us avoid many a pit-fall. It will remove much of the worry and stress associated with life. Ultimately, you will be recognized as an even-tempered individual who makes great decisions.
Author's Note: Not many people are wise, but they could be. Jesus stated that those who listened to His words and lived them were like the wise man who built his house on the rock. At least in my life--I need to think less and obey more. I need to acknowledge the Lord in all of my decisions--that is how, even I, can become a wise guy...make that, wise man. RJD
I will praise You, For You have answered me, And have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalms 118:21-24 (NKJV)
I still remember standing in chapel at Northwest University singing "This is the Day, this is the day, that the Lord has made, that the Lord has made, I will rejoice, I will rejoice and be glad in it and be glad in it..." I wasn't really "feeling it!" It was at the end of the quarter and I had a Friday final right after chapel. (With only four more the following week) I was actually annoyed, singing an "air-headed" song like, "This is the Day." Obviously, I was missing the point of the song. The song is not a "cream of wheat" platitude like Mr. Rogers' "It's a Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood." We were singing a song that originated in the Psalms and it is referring to the day of Christ's atoning work.
The 118th Psalm would have to be considered prophetic in nature, because, the Psalmist was looking forward to the point in time when Jesus, "The stone which the builders rejected" became "the chief cornerstone." The day when Jesus was crucified was both horrific and glorious. What Jesus endured in order to become our salvation was heartbreaking, and yet, it was a glorious day of hope. The Psalmist referred to Christ's work as "marvelous in our eyes!"
It has been a very long time since Jesus died on the cross, so what does that historic event mean to me in the here and now? It means that I live each day covered by the righteousness of Christ. It means that I enjoy an ongoing and deepening communion with the Father. It means that the Holy Spirit is living in me. It means that my life is full of joy, hope and faith. It means that I am a beloved son of God. I could go on and on... This one thing I do know...if I ever have the chance to sing the chorus that I found so annoying...I will sing it with a lot more passion! "This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it!"
Author's Note: When I base my day on the atoning work of Christ and contemplate what He has done for me, it impacts my general attitude. This really is the Day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice! I will also meditate upon His goodness towards me and focus my thoughts on the grace I have received. This is the way that I want to live the day the Lord has made! RJD
Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life. Prov 31:10-12 (NKJV)
I had been married to my wife for about two years when my mother and father pulled me aside and said, "If you ever do anything to hurt your wife, if you are unfaithful to your wife, or if you decide to leave your wife, please know that she will remain our daughter and you will be disowned." I guess that is what happens to you when you marry a virtuous woman--your friends and even your family decide that they like her more than they do you. In my case I cannot argue with their sentiment, my wife has the same character as that of Proverb's virtuous woman and is without doubt, the nicest person I have ever known.
It could be argued that the wisest decision I ever made in life was asking Jody to be my wife. Life is good when you are married to a person of virtue. It is little wonder that the Apostle Paul gave Believers the following words of wisdom: "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?" (2 Cor 6:14) What was Paul trying to say? That fellowship and communion is very difficult to achieve with a person who has different ideas concerning God, morality, values and virtue.
So, what is life like living with a virtuous help-mate? Difficult situations are less difficult. Good times are better. Impossible times are met with prayer. Challenges are faced with faith. Tribulation is tackled with hope. Shortages are met with hard work. Decisions are made with prudence. Sorrow is tempered with peace. (Imagine a world, a small corner of the world that is "ruled" with the Fruit of the Spirit) That is why a virtuous wife or husband is worth more than all the riches of the world!
Author's Note: I have enjoyed a marriage where peace in the home has been the norm. My life has had very little extra drama other than what normal life circumstances created--Jody is the reason. She has been a steady, Godly force of great character, and has made life better than I deserve. I am blessed...and I am thankful! RJD
Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:1-5 (NKJV)
This portion of scripture starts off by giving us a list of things that we should not be doing. It seems fairly negative--at least that is what the critics of Christianity would have you believe. How dare God call us away from the antics of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and having conversations that hurt and injure other people! Such restrictions cramp our style. (Sarcasm) What the critics miss is the following qualification: "Laying aside all malice, etc...IF indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious."
The Apostle Peter is suggesting that my "good" behavior is predicated on the Lord's graciousness. In other words, God unilaterally treated me with graciousness, causing me to lay aside a lot of egocentric nonsense that I no longer need. Think about our lives in Christ: He graciously rescued us from sin and remains an ardent supporter, so much so that He is at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us!
What can I say? I want to live right. I want to do good. I want to lay aside sin and avoid the consequences thereof! Laying aside vices--walking in spiritual virtue--setting a high standard of personal conduct--all happen to be "things" that I want to do! I want to please God, because He has been miraculously good to me. I am always surprised by Christians who complain about the list of "thou shalt nots" that they somehow "feel" that they are missing out on. There is nothing on that list that I want to do, because, without a doubt, I have indeed tasted that the Lord is gracious.
Author's Note: I have found life with Christ to be meaningful and blessed. Indeed; "All things have worked together for my good." I don't feel as if I missed out on anything by walking in the light; at least anything that would have enriched my life. When it comes to the graciousness of God--it is without end. God has been nothing less than loving, kind, patient, good and gracious to "Yours Truly!" RJD
Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:6-7 (NKJV)
It all started with the fall of man. Adam and Eve were afraid...and we've been running scared ever since. Afraid of outside forces--afraid of things that cause physical damage--afraid of what others might think of us--afraid of what others might say--afraid of the future--afraid of reaping from the past--afraid of failure... This is the general state of the fallen. We treat our fear with pleasures, with vices, with distractions, with self-help books; looking to overcome something that is deep-seeded in the collective psyche of the human race. There is no natural cure, but there is a supernatural cure.
The Apostle Paul reminded Timothy of the cure. It is the "gift of God which is in you." Jesus also spoke of the cure, He said, "You will know Him, for He will dwell with you and will live in you." (John 14:17) Both Jesus and Paul were referring to the Holy Spirit. Make no mistake about it, the Holy Spirit is the cure for fear. Here is the premise: The power that created the universe is living inside of you as a Believer. There is no other force equal to this power. It is why the Bible declares: "Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world."
When you understand who is living in you, you can say with King David, "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not fear!" The Lord has replaced our natural fear with His Spirit, and His Spirit establishes within us a sound mind and fills our lives with the power to overcome. This does not mean that we are now naive concerning the "real" dangers that exist in the world. We recognize the danger, but are not filled with worry or fear, realizing that whatever we experience, both the good and the bad, God is with us!
Author's Note: Even as a young child I had a sense of well-being. A belief that "all things would work out for my good." That God was with me. It's not as if life isn't happening, with its challenges and affronts. In spite of "everything" I feel wrapped and surrounded by God's love. Trusting in God is as secure as it gets on planet earth! RJD
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NKJV)
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
No question about it--the battlefield for each individual's soul is located in the mechanisms of our thought life. Think of your thought life as the normal processes and thinking patterns that have been established over time. These well-established patterns are now in control. The question is this: Who has established the thinking patterns and what thinking patterns are being established right now? These thinking patterns will exert a great amount of control over your future actions, so what are the primary inputs of information being fed into your brain? Please note: All input counts!
Most of the input that shapes our thinking comes through what we "see" and what we "hear." (But addictions are also developed through what we taste, smell and feel as well) What are you watching and what are you hearing? What are your primary sources for education, entertainment and social development? What movies do you watch? What TV shows do you enjoy? What music do you listen to? What books do you read? What friends do you listen to? What advice do you receive at home, school and work? What sites do you visit on the internet? The list go on and on... We are being shaped by what we feed into our brain on a regular basis. This indeed is the battlefield.
Paul gives us two strategies for the battle: 1) Let our knowledge of God and our Christ-centered values be the standard by which we evaluate the input. If the ideas, values, thoughts and arguments do not met the "God-Standard" they need to be brought into captivity. What does that mean? That we simply do not give audience to ungodly thinking. We don't allow secular thinking to take root in our brains. 2) Secondly, we need to pro-actively pursue Godly input. We need to expose our brains to books, music, conversations, teaching, fellowship and communion with God; that is full of "things" that are noble, just, pure, lovely, of a good report, virtuous and praiseworthy.
Author's Note: This would probably make a better subject for a book than a devotional, but I wanted to draw attention to the ongoing battle. We live in such a sensual, feel-good, me-centric, humanistic, nihilistic, post-truth world, where the lines between right and wrong are blurred and the wrong values are being championed. It is hard not to be influenced or tainted by the exposure. The Church will need to become increasingly counter-cultural. We need to stop worrying about being relevant and start being the light. Please note: A Church full of God's light will always be relevant to the purposes of God. RJD
Christmas, arguably represents one of the three most important events in the history of mankind. In fact, the three greatest events in history, all center on "One" Jesus Christ. On good Friday, we remember Christ’s atoning work, where our Savior was crucified and died. On Easter, we celebrate the risen Christ, the One who conquered death, hell and the grave. And finally, there is Christmas, a sacred holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ.
Why is Jesus at the center of human events? Why is Jesus the most famous person who ever lived? Why is a man who lived and died over 2,000 years ago, still relevant to people today? The writer of Hebrews gives us a good answer to that question when he describes Jesus as the “Author and the finisher of our faith.” Please understand, for those who believe in Jesus, He is not only at the center of human events, He is living in the center of our hearts.
During the Christmas season, we join the worldwide celebration of Christ’s birth; but our celebration is not limited to a day in December—we celebrate the abundant life that we have in Jesus Christ every single day of the year! For Believers, Jesus is the Prince of Peace; The Everlasting Lord; The Alpha and Omega; The Bread of Life; The Chief Cornerstone; The Lion of Judah; The Light of the World; The Lamb of God; The Resurrection and the Life; The Door; The Way; The Word; The True Vine; The Risen Lord; The Redeemer, Our Rock—our Savior—our King!
Christmas has something in common with every other day of the year...every day that this Believer lives and breathes, "It's All About Jesus!"
Author's Note: In such a time of ugly political rhetoric, economic reversals, racial tension, random terrorist events, and a world that seems to be bent on its own destruction; I cling to THE SOLID ROCK! It's true...all other ground is sinking sand. Can I seriously lay claim to an optimistic outlook when all the data my brain is receiving is shouting negative things at me? For me, I've had to turn off the television; refrain from watching the news; dig into God's Word; rejoice in the fellowship with my church family; and live in the "real" reality--that God is in control! RJD