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
This is a blog of devotional thoughts and my "Christian" perspective on a pop culture gone mad. RJ