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May 20, 2020 – The Great Mystery

Read 1 Timothy 3

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”  1 Timothy 3:16 

 

This next mystery is truly a great mystery. We know that because God tells us that it is a great mystery. Once again, let me remind you that a mystery in the Bible is not a truth concealed, but a truth revealed. All of the mysteries in the New Testament are truths that were once hidden, but are now revealed. 
 
When we look at the mystery of godliness there are a number of important things that are revealed. The first is that God was manifest in the flesh. Immediately we come to an incomprehensible fact. No one can comprehend how God in the heavens, who created all things, could be manifest to us by coming to us in the flesh. Do we really understand that God was revealed to us as a man?
 
Man can’t comprehend the majesty of God, but John wrote in John 1:14, “And the Word was made 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.”
 
As a man, we were able to see in Him the glory of the Father in heaven! When the disciples looked upon Him, they did not see the flaws and imperfections of flesh. They saw the glory of the only begotten of the Father. They could see that He was filled with grace and truth. 
 
The mystery also includes that God was justified in the Spirit. That means that God was declared righteous while He was in the flesh because of the Spirit that was fully God with the attributes or righteousness and truth.
 

He was seen of angels. He was preached unto the Gentiles. He was believed on in the world and He was received up into glory. There is not one of those thoughts that could be true of any man living today. This was the God Man. He was the man, Christ Jesus, the one mediator between God and man. The only reason that He can be the mediator between God and man is that He is God and Man. He can represent God as God and He can represent man as man.

 

An Exercise to Increase our Faith: I have been very frustrated these past weeks, because church is not just something I do,  it is who I am. I have been about church for almost as long as I have been an adult.  God is working in my life in these past hours to reveal to me that I have to allow Him to work out His will in our church. God could change the circumstances if He wants. We have to know that He is in control. He is God, but He also became a man, and knows what it is like to be a man. The exercise is simply to put our complete trust in what He is doing one more time, this day. 

 



May 19, 2020 – The Mystery of Husband and Wife

Read Ephesians 5

“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:32 

 

We started talking yesterday about the glories of these mysteries that God has given us the privilege of understanding.  According to Colossians 1:26, “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:”
 
There has never been a generation before the church when God allowed man to understand this part of his plan. It had been hid from all the ages. Abraham didn’t know it. Moses didn’t know it. Noah didn’t know it. It was kept a secret until the time when Jesus sent His Spirit into the hearts of the believers on this earth. I have been given the ability to understand this truth and so have you. 
 
For thousands of years men and women have married and were given in marriage. Never at any time did any of those people in the thousands of years before Christ understand that in every family, God had given us a picture of the Lord Jesus and His love for His bride. God was using marriage to teach us the great truth of our relationship with Jesus.
 
The world today has no idea that they are in their marriage a representation of the love of God for man. It is no wonder that so many of them divorce because of “incompatible differences.” They have never considered that there has never been an incompatible difference between Christ and the church. He has promised to always love, never to forsake us. 
 
In other words, He will never give us a divorce. We are always with Him united as His bride. That reveals at least to an extent the importance of the vows that we make. We make the same vows to our spouse that Jesus made with us. 
 
We think that we are simply agreeing to live together and to be partners in life. We don’t consider that every vow is a duplication and an illustration of the promise that Jesus has made with us. The beauty of marriage is intimacy, unconditional love, surrender of self, and a pledge of separation for each other. 
 
We feel a little sorry that so few have ever experienced true unconditional love. So few understand the degree of unity that exists with Christ and therefore can’t experience it in their relationship with their spouse. 
 

A man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife. But this is a mystery that God has revealed because in that marriage, we are not talking about a man and a wife, we are talking about a person and our Lord being united in a union that will never end and that will be encompassed with joy, peace,  and unconditional love. We wish we could let others know of this mystery. It is a precious truth that we share with other believers.

 

An Exercise to Increase our Faith: Don’t take your mate for granted. Consider the truth of this mystery that we are living out the blessing of the perfect union. If you ever wondered about a perfect marriage, we are already in that marriage with  our Lord. And because we know of the perfect union, we are able to replicate that in the life of our best friend on this earth.

 



May 18, 2020 – The Mysteries – Christ in You

Read Colossians 1

“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:”  Colossians 1:27 
 
We embark on a six-day journey through the mysteries of the New Testament, I begin by sharing the excitement that God has chosen to reveal those mysteries to us. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8, and 10 say, “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”
 
We are able to speak of the wisdom of God. This is hidden wisdom which has not been understood since the beginning of the world. Even the brightest minds on this earth have not understood these mysteries. God has kept these things hidden. But we also understand that God has revealed these mysteries to us. Some of these mysteries are the greatest news that has ever been given to this world, and yet most people do not know them or even know that they exist. The Spirit of God knows the mind of God and is able to take that knowledge and reveal them to us. Why us? Because we have had the privilege of being brought into the family of God by adoption. Now that we are a part of that family, God is sharing those family secrets with us.
 
The first mystery is listed in Colossians 1. It is the mystery that Christ is in us, the hope of glory! Let’s look at the main points of this knowledge.
 
God has made this known to us. The knowledge of this mystery is part of His revelation to us in His Word, revealed to us through the Holy Spirit.
 
It has to do with the riches of his glory. We do not understand glory, but God is giving us a partial peek into eternity by revealing to us to some degree the riches of the glory of this mystery. There are still many mysteries that we do not know,  but we will know some day. Still we are given a partial understanding of those mysteries when we realize that Christ is in us.
 
Christ is in us. That seems impossible but it is not impossible spiritually. Jesus said in Romans 8:9, “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
 
It is understood that Jesus sent His Spirit into the world when He died and ascended into heaven. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ. It is therefore true that Jesus will never leave us or forsake us. The Holy Spirit has been given to us as an eternal part of our inheritance. It can’t leave, and therefore, since the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, Christ will never leave us.
 
The word “hope” does not mean, “I wonder, I think.” In the Bible it means “I am joyfully anticipating.” So when we read that Christ in us is the hope of glory, we realize that we already have a portion of the glory of God in us. We joyfully anticipate being glorified with the Son when we are with Him in heaven. For now, the riches of that glory are evident and manifest to us because the one who manifest them is also the one who indwells us. He speaks to us because He is here! 
 
There is perhaps no greater glory than to understand that incredible provision that God has already given to us, in placing the Spirit of Christ within us. Romans 8:9 tells us that every one who is a believer in Christ has that Spirit within us. If we could comprehend this truth, we would never, we could never be depressed again. 
 

An Exercise to Increase our Faith: Several important truths have been revealed to us in the Bible. I am convinced that we have been able to comprehend only a very small portion of this truth. If we could comprehend the meaning of this mystery, it would change our lives from this moment forward. Take a moment to pray and ask God to give you understanding of what it means to have the Spirit of Christ living in you.

 


May 16 – The Discipline of Training

Read Proverbs 22

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 

 

One of the reasons we ask you to read the entire chapter before you look at the devotional thought is to put it into context. It is dangerous to pull a verse out and try to apply it without seeing the authors intent. 
 

Proverbs 22 is filled with disciplinary actions. The slothful man does not apply these principles and is known as a fool for allowing the details of this life to control him and his passions. Here are some of the disciplines in Proverbs 22:

  1. A prudent man foresees evil and hides from it
  2. A person who keeps his soul is far from thorns and snares
  3. A Borrower is servant to a Lender – by implication, a disciplined man is not one who borrows
  4. A disciplined man gives to the poor
  5. A slothful man says that there is a lion outside
  6. A disciplined man keeps the words of the wise

 

In context, we understand that foolishness is bound in the heart of a child. It takes discipline to drive that foolishness from his heart. Therefore, a disciplined man trains up his child. It is important to train him up in the right direction, but the major mistake in most homes is that a child is not trained by the dad at all. The task of training requires 1) knowing what has to be taught, and 2) study to be prepared for the teaching. 
 
It is true that you can’t impart what you don’t possess. If a man is to train his child, he must first be a partaker of the instruction himself. If he doesn’t know it, he can’t teach it. Neither can he teach it if he hasn’t applied it to his own life. 
 

These past devotions have been about family. God wants to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and He wants to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers. We learn moment by moment the instruction of the Lord, but that must then be taught to our children. We take what God has given to us and faithfully give it to our own children and grandchildren.

 

An Exercise to Increase my Faith:  Where do you want your kids to be in ten years? Do you know what they need to learn in order to get to that point? The heart of man studies to answer. We study to show ourselves approved of God a workman that rightly divides the Word of Truth. We also must study to know what our kids need, and what parts of the Bible will help to meet those needs. We must train them in the way that they should go. We know that way because God reveals it to us first. 

 



May 14, 2020 – Developing True Intimacy

Read Proverbs 18

“A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

 

The verse anticipates a problem that we have or will have. There is a need in man for other men. There is a need to fellowship, for friendship. Solomon is answering the question, “Why don’t I have friends.” It is assumed that the proverb is given to some that have a great need in their life to have a close friend. 
 
Solomon states that in order to have a friend, you must show yourself to be friendly.  In other words, friends don’t find you, you find them.  If you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend. There is a work that is involved in friendship.  That work has a cost and a price attached to it. It requires giving of oneself to another person. 
 
Then Solomon continues, “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” In seeking friendships, we are often disappointed because so many friendships do not last. We lose friends by saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing. Friendship is very fickle. We are constantly looking for the kind of friend who will stick close to us. 
 
I am wondering what Solomon is thinking when he writes this proverb. His dad, David, had a close friend. That friend was dear to David. David writes in Psalm 41:9, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.”
 
 The Hebrew word that is translated “familiar” is the word shalom, which means peace. Barnes translates it, “the man of my peace.” The man with whom I was at peace; who had no cause of alienation from me; with whom I was associated in the most peaceful and friendly relations.’
 
In another Psalm we read, “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him: 13 But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. 14 We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company.” (Psalm 55:12-14)
 
This was a man who David thought was a friend. They had a close friendship. They had sweet counsel together and even walked to the temple of God in company. This man was the one who turned against David. 
 

It is hard to find a genuine, intimate friendship. The reason? There is a cost to unconditional love. There are times in that kind of love when the love you have will not be returned. But we have the promise that there is a friend who will always stick closer than a brother. You will have the blessing of knowing that even if all others forsake you, you still have a friend who is closer than any brother to you. The art of having an intimate friend is really about being with Christ, and becoming like Christ.

 

An Exercise to Increase my Faith: It is hard to judge friendships. We expect our friends to like us, because we like us. We expect our friends to stick with us, but we need to ask the question, “Are we really willing to stick by them when they need us?” How deep does our commitment go to the friendship? The state of your “stick-to–it-ness”  is really a measurement of your relationship with Christ. The more we become like Him, the more intimate our relationships will be with others.  Not because the others are closer, but because we have learned the cost of unconditional love.

 



May 13, 2020 – The Heart of the Fathers

Read Romans 12

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers,  lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”  Malachi 4:5-6 

 

1) The Lord will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children. That would imply that the hearts of the fathers are not to their children today. When we talk about single parent families, twenty three per cent of all children live with only a mother. Only four percent of the children live with only a father. 

According to government statistics,  43 percent of children in America live without a Father in the home. The statistics also show that 40 percent of the single parent homes with only a mom live below the poverty level. Seventy one percent of all high school dropouts come from homes without a father. Millions of kids in America are growing up in poverty, and one of the main reasons is the lack of fathers.

This problem is huge in America and is also a problem in many other countries. In South Africa for instance, two thirds of all children live in homes without a father. The numbers are increasing yearly.

This problem is passed on to the next generation. Boys without fathers are far more likely to be sexually active at a young age. That in turn will lead to more homes without fathers. A father’s duty is to train his children to be faithful to their family. A boy growing up in a home without a father does not learn the lessons of manliness. They think the answer is strength, but they miss the answer of godly character.  
 
 

2) The Lord will turn the hearts of the children to their fathers. A card company donated Mothers’ day cards to inmates in a prison. They quickly ran out of cards. They decided to donate cards on Fathers’ day as well, but were shocked to discover that  only a few cards were taken. The mother was the only real stable influence in those homes. Consider Solomon’s words:

“My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;”  (Proverbs 2:1) 

“Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many.” (Proverbs 4:10) 

Some 25 times in the book of Proverbs you read, “My son.” Solomon is pleading with his son. The greatest plea in the book is for the son to receive the words of the Father. True wisdom is learning from a dad and foolishness is rejecting the Father’s instructions.

“My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” Proverbs 23:26 

 

An Exercise to Increase our Faith: Where have all the fathers gone? Many are absent from their homes, and in homes where the father is the bread winner, he still may be missing emotionally. Unless he is giving instruction and guidance to the children, they will grow up without understanding the role of fatherhood or the role of God as our Father. The problem is evident throughout our country. We have resigned from our primary role of training our children in the fear of the Lord.

There is nothing in our world that can make up the difference! There are no television programs, or club programs that are able to take over the role of the Father.

 



May 12, 2020 – Leave It Alone for One More Year

Read Luke 13

“Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?” Luke 13:7 

 

I read a devotional this morning by Dr. Henry Cloud. It was entitled, “Churches that Heal.” He spoke about this parable in Luke 13 which is about a man who had a fig tree that did not bear any fruit. The man said to his servant, “Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground.” The tree had no value without fruit. It was just “taking up space.” 
 
The servant said to his Lord, “One more year. Let me dig around it and fertilize it and then let’s see if it will bear fruit. If after a year of care, it still is not bearing fruit, then, well, we’ll cut it down. But if after that year, we see fruit on that tree, that tree will continue to live and produce fruit for years to come.”
 
The master agreed. The master is God. He is looking at many on this earth who should be bearing fruit but are not. He is considering cutting those trees down, but He decides to wait. He wants to take one last effort in their lives and hearts to dig around, to find out the issues and reveal the sin, to cleanse and fertilize the tree and see if it will bear fruit.
 
There are many people in our world who are not producing any fruit for the Lord. There are other people who want to write them off. Truly, the master looks at those men and women who are not bearing fruit and considers taking them home. Without fruit, they have no value to others or to the church of God. Still, God is patient. He is not willing that any should perish and waits to see if they will begin to produce fruit. We need to be patient as well, and allow God to work in the hearts of those who are disobedient, and who are not living like we think they should, knowing that God is not finished with them.
 
This is an illustration of our country. We are about to be judged by God. There is little fruit left and little reason for this country to “cumber the ground.” But God is giving us more time. The virus is a sign that God’s patience is about to end, yet he gives us another time period to see if we will bear fruit. There is a question before this nation. “Why should God allow this nation to cumber this ground?” Why should we be given the great blessing of this land? There may come a time, and it could be very soon, when God will decide that we will no longer exist as a nation. 
 

Digging around the tree is one of God’s ways to see what has happened to the root.  God always judges His people first. This nation has been and has proclaimed itself to be “one nation under God.” It is only right that God would begin this process of pruning this country that we call the land of liberty, a nation that has made its boast, “in God we trust.

 

An Exercise to Increase our Faith: What were the truths that we have in the past held to be “self evident?” Why has God blessed the United States of America? Do the reasons for His blessings still hold true? What can we as a church and as a people  do to call our nation back to those truths? 

 



May 11, 2020 – Part of A Family

Read Malachi 4

“And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”  Deuteronomy 6:7 
 
 
I said at the beginning of this project that one of my goals is to let you know how God is working in my life and to give you some insight into my current thoughts.
 
All of us are looking forward to getting back to some sort of normalcy in being able to be in church and to be around people. We want to talk and share in their lives. We want to tell them about our great God and Savior. This has been hard when we are “sheltered at home.” But I do want to share something that God is doing in this world. We read in Malachi 4:5 & 6, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: 6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers,  lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”
 
I watched my neighbor play basketball with his son the other day. Truthfully, he has been playing basketball with him a couple of times each day for the past two weeks. Before this happened, he had a job where he was not home until later each day and didn’t have a lot of time to spend with his son until the weekdays. He is a good father.
 
The great and dreadful day of the Lord is coming. It will soon arrive. When that happens, Elijah will come on the scene (I believe that he is one of the two witnesses) and he will turn the heart of the Fathers to their children and the heart of the children to their fathers.
 
This coronavirus has been about family. We can’t spend time with other people. We can’t go to movies or to the gym. Many of our previous activities are halted for now. We have little that we can do away from home, which has brought the men back into their houses to be with family. 
 
This is something that God wants to happen before the Day of the Lord comes. We welcome that change. We watch our neighbors out for a walk with their wives and with their strollers and children. It is a great thing to watch. I really think that this will pay dividends in the days to come. Coming close to our children is a god-like quality that helps them to see dad as more than just a provider. He has become a friend. 
 
The memories of these children when they think back on this time will probably be positive memories. They will remember the home projects, the games, and the family times.  We are thankful for our God who has given us this reprieve from the busy lives we were used to living for so long!
 

An Exercise to Increase our Faith: Pay attention to what God is doing in your neighborhood. He is creating a lasting memory for you and for all who have “come home.” This is an opportunity to talk to them about their children, and about what they are learning about the family relationships in this new environment. Take that as an opportunity to talk about the environment that God is creating for each of His children in our home that He is preparing in heaven.

 



May 9, 2020 – My Brother’s Keeper

Read Acts 20

“And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?” Genesis 4:9 
 
The word “keeper”, (the Hebrew word shamar) is translated “keep” 283 times. It is also translated “observe” and “watchman”. After Cain killed Abel, God asked Cain where Abel was. It sounds like Cain was used to God talking to them. He wasn’t frightened by it. In fact, it sounds like he has become pretty callous to God’s presence. He said, “I don’t know, am I his keeper, his watchman?”  
 
Cain was the older of the two brothers. He was the first one born on this earth. Adam and Eve were both direct creations of the Lord. Cain was a creation of his earthly parents. Cain was a very religious man. He was the first one who thought of an offering. He was the first one to bring an offering, and he brought the best of the land to the Lord. He really believed that God would be pleased, because it took a lot of work. 
 
Abel brought a sheep, and it didn’t require a lot of work. There were no enemies for sheep in those days. None of the animals on the earth ate other animals. When God accepted Abel’s offering, and rejected Cain’s, Cain was upset. We can imagine that he was probably jealous of the offering of Abel. He had no respect for Abel’s life and killed his brother. 
 
We don’t know what was going through Cain’s mind. No person had died prior to this. Cain had no way of knowing what it would take to kill Abel apart from the shedding of blood. 
 
The problem was sin. The sin was not just a rejection of God’s plan of redemption through an innocent substitute. It was also a rejection of caring for one another on this earth. Cain showed no love for Abel, his brother. 
 
The question is, “Has God made me a watchman, a guardian, a keeper of my brothers?” Does He expect me to look after the needs of the others on this earth?
 
A pastor is called an overseer, literally a watchman. We read in Hebrews 13:17, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
 
God has given us the responsibility to watch for the souls of others. It is the most important assignments that we have.  We all have different gifts, and different tasks, but there is one task that we share in common. We watch for the souls of men.
 
“Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”  Acts 20:26 –28
 
The way we accomplish this assignment is to declare the counsel of God. We have been called to feed the flock of God, those that he has purchased with his own blood. 
 
When Jesus addressed Peter after the resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”
 
Peter answered, “Yes, Lord,  I love you.” 
 
Then the Lord gave Peter this assignment: “Feed my sheep.” 
 

The sheep need to be fed. We have the food in front of us. We have bread enough and to spare. We take that bread,  and give it to others. Man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. We have those words and so we give those to others. Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes, that is who I am.

 

An Exercise to increase my Faith:  Perhaps the first exercise that we need to do every day is to lift up our eyes and look on the fields. There are ripened fields all over this city, this county and this country that involve the souls of men. In the past 7 weeks over 60,000 people have died of this coronavirus. There have been 320 deaths in Minnesota. None of those who died have another chance. They were some of the souls that God asked us to guard. 

 



May 8, 2020 – Caring and Encouraging

Read Luke 12:42-48

“Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.”  Luke 12:43 

 

Verse 42 starts by asking, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?” There was one servant that the master felt was able to care for the affairs of his house when he was gone away on business. He found the one who was faithful and wise and he appointed him the ruler of his household. 
 
It sounds like his job was to tell the other servants what to do, but in the context, it was more about giving the other servants their portion of food in the time that they needed it. In other words, his duty was to provide the needs of the other servants so they in turn could do their work.
 
A problem developed after the master left and did not return. The steward began to think that he was greater than the other servants. He began to beat them and became their master, howbeit, a cruel one.
 
Not only did he not care for the others, he began to misuse the master’s goods and consume them in excess for his own pleasure.
 
The master came when he was not expecting it. The servant soon found: 1)he was not the master  2)He became less than the least of the servants, and was appointed his portion with the unbelievers. 
 
He seemed to forget that his job description was about the other servants, helping them to do their work by meeting their needs. He forgot that the material possessions belonged to the master, not to him. He also forgot that he was a servant like the others and was there to treat them as he would be treated. 
 

What do you have that you were not given by God? What do you own that you earned, and that God has no right to control? God’s job description for each of us includes caring for the other servants. It says, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”  (Hebrews 3:13) 

 

An Exercise to Increase my Faith: Each servant needs to be encouraged and strengthened. Each servant needs to be fed and cared for. Is there anyone in your life who needs to be encouraged as a servant in order for them to continue in the work of the Lord?