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PRAYERS TO PRAISES

DECEMBER 10  PSALM 31: 2- 5READS, "IN THEE, O LORD, I HAVE TAKEN REFUGE; LET ME NEVER BE ASHAMED; IN THY RIGHTEOUSNESS DELIVER ME. INCLINE THINE EAR TO ME, RESCUE ME QUICKLY; BE THOU TO ME A ROCK OF STRENGTH, A STRONGHOLD TO SAVE ME. FOR THOU ART MY ROCK AND MY FORTRESS; FOR THY NAME'S SAKE THOU WILT LEAD ME AND GUIDE ME. THOU WILT PULL ME OUT OF THE NET WHICH THEY HAVE SECRETLY LAID FOR ME. FOR THOU ARE MY STRENGTH. INTO THY HAND I COMMIT MY SPIRIT". THIS IS EXCATLY WHAT JESUS SAID ON THE CROSS. EVEN OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR RELIED ON THE FATHER'S HELP, AND NOT OF HIS OWN. IT IS ABSURD TO THINK THAT WE CAN NEGATE OUR MISTAKES OR WIGGLE OUR WAY OUT OF THEM, AND LOOK AND SOUND AS IF NOTHING HAPPENED. WE MAY FOOL OURSELVES THINKING THAT WAY; BUT WE WILL NEVER FOOL GOD. HE VIEWS US REALIST

DECEMBER 9  EXODUS 2: 11 12 READS, "NOW IT CAME ABOUT IN THOSE DAYS, WHEN MOSES HAD GROWN UP, THAT HE WENT OUT TO HIS BRETHREN AND LOOKED ON THEIR HARD LABORS; AND HE SAW AN EGYPTIAN BEATING A HEBREW, ONE OF HIS BRETHREN. SO HE LOOKED THIS WAY AND THAT, AND WHEN HE SAW THERE WAS NO ONE AROUND, HE STRUCK THE EGYPTIAN AND HID HIM IN THE SAND".

HERE WE SEE MOSES, ABOUT FORTY YEARS OLD, REALIZING THAT HE IS POTENTIALLY ABLE TO DELIVER HIS PEOPLE FROM THE BONDAGE OF EGYPT. SO HE ROLLS UP HIS SLEEVES AND PREPARES TO DO IT HIS WAY. WHAT HE DID, IN HIS HURRY AND WITH A RIGHT MOTIVE, WAS HIS WAY OF GETTING IN GOD'S WAY; THEREFORE HE COMMITTED A GREAT SIN: THE SIN OF MURDER. LATER IN ACTS 7, WE SEE THAT IN REFLECTION ON WHAT HAD TO HAPPEN, MOSES ASSUMED THAT HIS BRETHREN WOULD UNDERSTAND THAT GOD WAS GRANTING THEM DELIVERANCE THROUGH HIS; BUT BECAUSE IT WAS A DIRECT TO ONE OF GOD'S COMMANDS AND IT DIDN'T LINE UP WITH GOD'S WORD, THEY DID NOT UNDERSTAND.

OFTEN WHEN OUR MOTIVE IS RIGHT, WE ASSUME THAT EVERYONE WILL UNDERSTAND, EVERYONE WILL FOLLOW SUIT, AND EVERYONE WILL APPRECIATE OUR ACT, EVEN IF IT IS WRONG. WE MAY HAVE GOOD INTENTIONS; BUT WHEN AND IF WE GET AHEAD OF GOD, DUE TO OUR IMPATIENCE AND IGNORANCE, THERE IS A PENALTY TO PAY. DISOBEDIENCE IS WRONG, REGARDLESS OF OUR INTENTIONS. IN OUR OWN STRENGTH, IN OUR OWN FLESHY WAYS, WE ATKE MATTERS INTO OUR HANDS, ONLY TO REAP A PAINFUL CROP; AND THEN ASK GOD, "WHERE ARE YOU?..".

DECEMBER 8    PSALM 31: 2 READS, "TURN YOUR EAR TO ME, COME QUICKLY TO MY RESCUE; BE MY ROCK OF REFUGE, A STRONG FORTRESS TO SAVE ME".

VERSES 4 ANS 5 SAY, "FREE ME FROM THE TRAP THAT IS SET FOR ME, FOR YOU ARE MY REFUGE. INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT".

THEN VERSES 9 AND 10 READS, "BE MERCIFUL TO ME, O LORD, FOR I AM IN DISTRESS, MY EYES GROW WEAK WITH SORROW, MY SOUL AND MY BODY WITH GRIEF. MY LIFE IS CONSUMED BY ANGUISH ANF MY YEARS BY GROANING; MY STRENGTH FAILS BECAUSE OF MY SINS".

KIND DAVID IS WELL AWARE OF THE FACT THAT HE MAY FOOL OTHERS; BUT HE CANNOT FOOL GOD. HE IS LAYING IT ALL OUT FOR GOD TO SEE AND EVALUATE. AND GOD, SEEING THE NEGLECT AND IMMORALITY IN THE LIFE OF DAVID, IS NOT HANDING HIM OVER TO HIS EENMIES. INSTEAD HE HEAR DAVID SAY THAT "GOD PICKED HIM UP AND PUT HIS FEET IN A SPACIOUS PLACE".

KING DAVID LATER EXPLAINS IN VERSES 19 AND 20 SAYING, "HOW GREAT IS YOUR GOODNESS, WHICH TOU HAVE STORED UP FOR THOSE WHO FEAR YOU, WHICH YOU BESTOW IN THE SIGHT OF MEN ON THOSE WHO TAKE REFUGE IN YOU. IN THE SHELTER OF YOUR PRESENCE YOU HIDE THEM...". GOD HIDES, FORGIVES, AND PROTECTS. DESPITE ALL THE MISTAKES AMD ALL THE THINGS WE DO WRONG, AND ALL THE TIMES WE STUMBLE AND FALL, GOD CONTINUES TO SAY, " COME, I WANT TO FORGIVE YOU".

DECEMBER 7  PANIC DRIVEN DISOBEDIENCE IS A MISTAKE THAT LEADS US TO SIN FOR SURE. WHEN WE STUDY 1 SAMUEL 28 WHERE KING SAUL IS BEGINNING TO LOSE ALL CONFIDENCE IN HIMSELF. HE HAS DISOBEYED GOD MANY TIMES AND IN MANY WAYS, AND GOD IS NO LONGER WITH HIM. THE BATTLES ARE GOING AGAINST HIM; HE FEELS DESPERATE TO TALK TO SAMUEL, GOD'S PROPHET; YET SAMUEL IS DEAD. SO KING SAUL DECIDES TO DISOBEY GOD'S CLEAR COMMAND AND CONSULTS A SPIRIT MEDIUM WHO CLAIMS THAT SHE CAN COMMUNICATE WITH THE DEAD. KING SAUL DIES WITHIN TWENTY FOUR HOURS. HIS UNRESTRAINED DISOBEDIENT CURIOSITY RESULTS IN HIS DEATH.

WE WATCH OTHERS GET AWAY WITH BEHAVIORS THAT ARE FORBIDDEN BY GOD, WE MAY THINK THAT, MAYBE, THEY ARE NOT AS BAD AS WE BELIEVE THEY ARE. BUT THE MOMENT WE HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO GOD'S WAYS, WE HAVE LOST THE EXCUSE OF IGNORANCE. WE CAN NO LONGER EXPECT TO BE TREATED THE WAY OTHERS DO; BECAUSE WE KNOW BETTER; AND WE ARE TO LEAD OTHERS TO GOD'S WAYS, INSTEAD OF JOINING THEM IN THEIR JOURNEY OF IGNORANCE. WHETHER WE ARE AWARE OR NOT, PEOPLE ARE WATCHING US AND, IN MANY INSTANCES, ARE LOOKING UP TO US. WE DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO CAUSE THEM TO STRAY FROM GOD.

DECEMBER 6    PANIC DRIVEN MISTAKES ARE A PART OF OUR SOCIETY THESE DAYS. MOST OF US MAKE PANIC PROMPTED MISTAKES PRIMARILY IN TWO AREAS OF OUR LIVES. FIRST, IN THE AREA OF ROMANCE; AND SECOND, IN THE AREA OF FINANCE. MANY WHO HAVE NEARED THE MYSTICAL AGE OF THIRTY WITHOUT HAVING EXPERIENCED THE WARMTH OF A HEALTHY MARRIAGE FALL INTO DEPTHS OF DESPAIR THINKING AND BELIEVING THAT THEY "WILL STAY A BACHELOR OR AN OLD MAID THE REST OF THEIR LIVES" AND THAT "NO ONE WILL MARRY THEM". SO IN PANIC, THEY DO AWAY WITH THEIR DREAMS AND EXPECTATIONS IN ORDER TO SETTLE FOR THE SECOND BEST. THOSE MARRIAGES OFTEN SURVIVE ON THE SURFACE ONLY; AND ONCE THE OBLIGATIONS AND THE RESPONSIBILITIES ARE OUT OF THE WAY, THEY SIMPLY DISAPPEAR INTO THE UNKNOWN. WE LABEL THEM WITH "MID-LIFE CRISIS"; BUT THE BREAK-UP HAD BEEN HAPPENING FOR YEARS. IT JUST NEEDED ENOUGH COURAGE TO SURFACE THE VISIBLE REALM OF THIS WORLD.

THE FINANCIAL BINDS THAT WE CREATE FOR OURSELVES ALSO DERIVE FROM THE SAME PANIC MODE: WE SIMPLY TURN TO CREDIT CARDS, INSTEAD OF A CERTAIN PERSON, IN ORDER TO PASSIFY THE EMPTINESS WITHIN. IT IS A FORM OF PROVING OURSELVES THAT WE ARE IMPORTANT, AND AS A RESULT, WE DESERVE ALL THAT THE WORLD HAS TO OFFER. WE TURN TO "QUICK LOANS" AND "BILL CONSOLIDATION LOANS" TO SOLVE OUR PROBLEM; BUT WE ONLY MAKE MATTERS WORSE.

WHAT LIES WITHIN, MEANING THE LOVE THAT GOD HAS FOR US, REGARDLESS OF HOW THE WORLD HAS BEEN TREATING US, IS DESIGNED TO KEEP US FULL AND FULFILLED, TO THE POINT WHERE WE NO LONGER HAVE A NEED FOR AN OUTSIDER TO PATCH US UP OR TO FILL IN THE BLANKS FOR US. HIS LOVE IS ALL WE NEED.

DECEMBER 5    HEBREWS 10: 25 READS, "NEGLECT NOT THE ASSEMBLING OF YOURSELVES TOGETHER, AS SOME ARE IN THE HABIT OF DOING; BUT LET US ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER - AND ALL THE MORE AS YOU SEE THE DAY APPROACHING".

ONE OF THE MISTAKES WE MAKE IS OUR NEGLECT: NEGLECT OF DAILY PRAYERS TO GOD, NEGLECT OF NEEDING TO HEAR FROM GOD, AND NEGELCT OF DEPENDING ON GODLY COUNSEL FROM ONE ANOTHER. AS WE TRY TO LEARN FROM KING DAVID, WHO HAPPENED TO BE A VERY SPECIAL MAN, A MAN AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART, WE REALIZE THAT SOLITUDE GOT HIM NOWHERE. LOOK INTO 1 KINGS 1: 5- 6 WHERE YOU SEE ADONIJAH. ONE OF KING DAVID'S SONS, TELL HIS FATHER DAVID, " ' I WILL BE KING ', SO HE PREPARED FOR HIMSELF CHARIOTS AND HORSEMEN AND FIFTY MEN TO RUN BEFORE HIM". YET HIS FATHER HAD NEVER CROSSED HIM AT ANY TIME. THE ACTUAL HEBREW TRANSLATION IS "HE NEVER PAINED HIM". THIS GOES TO SHOW US THAT DAVID HAD NEVER DISCIPLINED HIS SON ADONIJAH BECAUSE HE WAS WAY TOO BUSY BEING KING: HE COULDN'T BE BOTHERED WITH SMALL DETAILS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. AFTER ALL, HE HAD MANY WIVES; YET DAVID DID NOT CONCERN HIMSELF WITH HIS GOD-GIVEN RESPONSIBLITY, WHICH WAS MOLDING AND TRAINING HIS SON TO OBEDIENCE TO AUTHORITY. SUCH TRAINING WAS OF DIRE IMPORTANCE FOR ADONIJAH WHO NEEDED TO FIND HIS WAY TO OBEDIENCE TO GOD. KING DAVID'S SIMPLE NEGLECT AFFECTED HIS SON'S LIFE AT THE END, NOT TO MENTION HIS SPIRITUAL GROWTH AS WELL.

DECEMBER 4    WE GATHER TOGETHER TO REMEMBER JESUS; TO EXAMINE OUR LIVES IN THE LIGHT OF HIS WORD; TO REDEDICATE OURSELVES TO WHAT GOD WANTS US TO BE; AND TO ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER. IT IS EXTREMELY EASY TO GET OUT OF THE HABIT OF GOING TO CHURCH. WE HAVE NO PROBLEM ATTACHING OURSELVES TO SMALL GATHERINGS TO HELP US QUIT DRINKING; OR TO QUIT SMOKING; OR TO LOSE WEIGHT. YET WE DON'T SEE A NEED FOR AN ORGANIZATION THAT WOULD HELP US QUIT FOLLOWING OUR OLD NATURE. HOW CAN WE NOT REALIZE THE FACT THAT EVERY FACET OF OUR EXISTENCE DEPENDS ON THE ENCORAGEMENT WE RECEIVE FROM ONE ANOTHER. WE ARE SADLY MISTAKEN AND DISILLUSIONED IF WE LOOK UPON CHURCHES AS PLACES WHERE ONLY SAINTS VISIT. WE ARE EVEN MORE DISAPPOINTED IF WE TRY TO FIND GOD IN A MAN-MADE BUILDING. HOWEVER AS WE PREPARE OURSELVES TO HEAR FROM GOD, WAY BEFORE WE ENTER THE CHURCH BUILDING, WE CAN BE SURE THAT GOD IS ABLE TO USE THE PREACHER'S WORDS IN SUCH A FASHION AND MAKE THEM PENETRATE OUR HEART, JUST THE WAY WE OUGHT TO PERCEIVE THEM. THE WORDS ARE THE SAME FOR EVERYONE TO RECEIVE "THROUGH THE EAR"; YET THE MESSAGE WITHIN IS ENTIRELY DIFFERENT AND INDIVIDUALIZED "THROUGH THE HEART". IT IS A CRYING SHAME TO WALK IN AND OUT OF A CHURCH BUILDING, WITHOUT HAVING RECEIVED A CERTAIN MESSAGE. THE MISTAKE LIES WITHIN; IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE PREACHER'S WORDS BEING WEAK. GOD'S WORD IS ALWAYS POWERFUL AND LIFE-CHANGING.

DECEMBER 3   WE CANNOT AFFORD TO NEGLECT OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE, FOR ETERNITY DEPENDS ON IT. WE MAY JOKE ABOT OUR MISTAKES; SOME DUE TO OUR IGNORANCE OR POOR JUDGMENT; BUT WHEN MAKING BAD CHOICES START AFFECTING OUR SPIRITUAL GROWTH, WE BEST BETTER GO BACK TO WHERE IT ALL BEGAN: GOING TO CHURCH AND GATHERING WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE IS NOT JUST AN OPTION: IT IS A COMMAND. WE ARE TO GATHER AROUND AND ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER, OFFER BIBLICAL COUNSEL, AND PRAY OVER EACH OTHER'S WEAKNESSES.

MISTAKES AREN'T NECESSARILY SIN; BUT THEY CAN BECOME SIN, BECAUSE EACH STEP WE TAKE EITHER LEADS US CLOSER TO GOD OR FURTHER AWAY FROM GOD. ONE MSITAKE OFTEN LEADS TO ANOTHER AS WE TRY TO EXCUSE OR COVER-UP OUR MISTAKES; AND BEFORE WE KNOW IT, WE GET DEEPER AND DEEPER INTO A CHAIN REACTION.

WHEN ABRAHAM LEFT HIS HOMELAND AND WENT TO A LAND THAT GOD SHOWED HIM, AND SAID, "THIS IS THE LAND I PROMISED YOU. DON'T LEAVE THIS LAND"; ALL WAS WELL UNTIL FAMINE HIT THE LAND. AFRAID FOR HIMSELF AND HIS FAMILY, ABRAHAM PANICKED, PACKED HIS BAGS AND MOVED TO EGYPT. HE WAS ABOUT TO ENTER EGYPT WHEN HE TOLS HIS WIFE SARAI, "I KNOW WHAT A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN YOU ARE. WHEN THE EGYPTIANS SEE YOU, THEY WILL KILL ME AND KEEP YOU. SO WE'LL TELL THEM YOU ARE MY SISTER; THEREFORE I'LL BE TREATED WELL FOR YOUR SAKE AND MY LIFE WILL BE SPARED". NOW ABRAHAM AND SARAI TRAPPED THEMSELVES INTO A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION IN EGYPT, AND ONLY A DIRECT INTERVENTION OF GOD SAVED THEM. ALL OF THEIR TROUBLES COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED IF THEY HAD FOLLOWED GOD'S ORDER AND REMAINED IN THEIR GOD-GIVEN LAND.

NOVEMBER 16    ISAIAH 44: 3 READS, "FOR I WILL POUR WATER ON THE THRISTY LAND, AND STREAMS ON THE DRY GROUND; I WILL POUR OUT MY SPIRIT ON YOUR OFFSPRING, AND MY BLESSING ON YOUR DESCENDENTS".

WHEN WE, IN THE EXTREMITY IN WHICH WE ARE REDUCED, MIGHT END UP THINKING THAT WE ARE BEING FORSAKEN; AND THAT ALL THE PROMISES OF GOD WERE IN VAIN; YET ISAIAH COMPARES US TO A DRY AND THRISTY LAND; THROUGH WHICH HE ALSO DESCRIBES THE WRETCHEDNESS OF CHALLNGED LIVES UNDER SATAN'S CONSTANT ATTACKS. THOUGH THE LAND MIGHT LACK MOISTURE AND APPEAR WORN OUT BY AFFLICTION, WE MUST NEVER THROW AWAY COURAGE WE OUGHT TO FIND IN GOD'S WORD; FOR HE HAS NEVER FORSAKEN US. HE HAS BECOME OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS WHEN WE HAD NONE; HE HAS BECOME OUR SACRIFICE WHEN WE DESERVED NONE; HE HAS BECOME OUR VOICES WHEN WE DIDN'T QUALIFY TO SPEAK. GOD, WHO IS THE JUDGE OF ALL THINGS, HAS SET US APART BY CREATING A LEVEL OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH COULD NOT BE BOUGHT BACK BY MERE SACRIFICES. HE WANTED TO MAKE SURE WE HAD A FRUITFUL AND ETERNAL JOURNEY WITH HIM FOREVER.

NOVEMBER 15    JOHN 7: 38 READS, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN ME, AS SCRIPTURE HAS SAID, RIVERS OF LIVING WATER WILL FLOW FROM WITHIN THEM".

WE MUST APPROACH GOD, NOT WITH THE FEET, BUT BY FAITH. TO COME IS NOTHING ELSE THAN TO BELIEVE. AS A MATTER FO FACT, WE BELIEVE IN CHRIST WHEN WE EMBRACE HIM AS HE IS HELD OUT TO US IN THE GOSPEL, FULL OF POWER, WISDOM, RIGHTEOUSNESS, PURITY, LIFE, AND ALL THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. HE HAS A RICH ABUNDANCE TO SATISFY US TO THE FULL.

RIVERS OF LIVING WATER WILL FLOW FROM WITHIN MEANS THAT THEY WHO BELIEVE WILL SUFFER NO WANT OF SPIRITUAL BLESSINGS; THE FOUNTAIN THEY POSSESS WITHIN WILL NEVER GROW DRY, NOR CEASE TO FLOW CONTINUALLY. THEY WILL ALWAYS HAVE MORE THAN ENOUGH SO THEY WILL REMAIN READY AND WILLING TO SHARE CHRIST WITH OTHERS; THEIR TESTIMONIES WILL STAY AT THE TIP OF THEIR TONGUES, WAITING TO BLESS ONE MORE PERSON. THEIR LIVES WILL CARRY A DEEPER MEANING THAN JUST TO PROVIDE FOR THEIR WORLDLY NEEDS; IT'LL BE ABOUT WANTING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE, OR BECOMING THE DIFFERENCE, IN SOMEONE ELSE'S LIFE. GOD IS ALWAYS PLEASED AND IMPRESSED WITH OUR UNSELFISH DESIRE TO HELP OTHERS.

NOVEMBER 14    PSALM 73: 24 READS, "YOU WILL GUIDE ME WITH YOUR COUNSEL. AND AFTERWARD YOU WILL TAKE ME INTO GLORY".

AS THE VERBS ARE PUT IN THE FUTURE TENSE, THE PSALMIST IS ASSURING HIMSELF THAT THE LORD, SINCE BY HIS LEADING HE HAD BROUGHT HIM BACK INTO THE RIGHT WAY, WOULD CONTINUE TO GUIDE HIM, UNTIL HE HAS RECEIVED HIM INTO HIS GLORIOUS PRESENCE IN HEAVEN. AS WE LOOK BACK TO REMIND OURSELVES OF GOD'S KINDNESS AND LOYALTY TOWARD US; WE AIM TO FIND HOPE AND STRENGTH KNOWING THAT HIS UNCHANGING CHARACTER WILL CONTINUE TO DO THE SAME FOR US ALL THROUGHOUT LIFE'S UNRELENTLESS CHALLENGES. THEREFORE WE CAN LOOK WITH CONFIDENCE TO THE FUTURE AND GIVE THANKS TO GOD FOR THINGS WE HAVEN'T EVEN SEEN HAPPEN; BUT HIS WORD AND OUR PAST EXPERIENCES WITH HIM ARE PLENTY ENOUGH TO CONSOLE AND ENCOURAGE US ABOUT THE FUTURE OUTCOMES.

OUR LIFE ISN'T ALWAYS ACCOMPLISHING WHAT IS EXPECTED OF US RIGHT HERE AND NOW; BUT IT IS ALSO ABOUT ETERNAL RESULTS, MEANING HOW MANY SOULS HAVE WE TOUCHED; HOW WELL DID WE DO WHEN SOMEONE NEEDED MORAL SUPPORT; HOW AVAILABLE WERE WE WHEN SOMEONE WAS HURTING; HOW MUCH TIME DID WE SET APART TO CONSOLE SOMEONE IN NEED; HOW MUCH DID WE SACRIFICE IN OUR ROUTINE OF GIVING AND SHARING? THINGS WE DO TO BRING GLORY TO HIS NAME OUGHT TO COST US SOMETHING. IF WE ARE NOT DISTURBING OUR COMFORT AND STRETCHING OUR FAITH; MOST LIKELY, WE ARE NOT PLEASING THE LORD.

NOVEMBER 13    ISAIAH 58:11 READS, "THE LORD WILL GUIDE YOU ALWAYS; HE WILL SATISFY YOUR NEEDS IN A SUN-SCORCHED LAND AND WILL STRENGTEN YOUR FRAME. YOU WILL BE LIKE A WELL-WATERED GARDEN, LIKE A SPRING WHOSE WATERS NEVER FAIL".

THE BEAUTY OF THIS VERSE LIES IN THE FACT THAT IT IS ABOUT OUR SOUL. THOSE OF US WHO ARE READING GOD'S WORD AS A BOOK OF PAST HISTORY WILL EASILY BELIEVE THAT GOD WILL GUIDE THEIR STEPS AND LEAD THEM TO BETTER AND LUCRATIVE RESULTS. THOUGH THE SOURCE OF ALL SUCCESS IS A WELL-BALANCED RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD; WE MUST NOT LIMIT GOD TO MERE PHYSICAL NEEDS. WE MUST ALSO DEPEND ON HIS RICHES CONCERNING OUR ETERNAL RESULTS.

GOD IS OUR GUIDE, SO THAT WE WILL BE IN WANT-OF-NOTHING-FOR KIND OF ABUNDANCE, AT ALL TIMES; THE KIND THAT IS OVERFLOWING AND CONTAGIOUS. GOD SO SATISFIES OUR SOULS THAT WE WILL NEVER FEEL THE DROUGHT; AND THAT THE AID PROMISED WILL NOT BE OF SHORT DURATION; BECAUSE GOD NEVER FORSAKES HIS PEOPLE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE JOURNEY, BUT CONTINUES HIS KINDNESS TOWARDS THEM WITH UNWEARIED REGULARITY. HIS CHILDREN WILL BE SATISIFED AMIDS THE DEEPEST POVERTY. HE DOES NOT PROMISE THEM A RICH AND ABUNDANT PRODUCE OF FRUITS, OR A PLENTIFUL HARVEST, BUT THAT HE, HIMSELF, WILL CONTINUALLY NOURISH THEM, THOUGH THE EARTH YIELD NO FOOD. HE WILL FATTEN THEIR BONES AND ADD TO THEIR STRENGTH; JUST SO THAT MEN MAY NOT SEEK ANYWHERE ELSE THAN IN THEMSELVES THE CAUSES OF BARRENNESS. THIS FOUNTAIN OF GOD'S KINDNESS NEVER DRIES UP; IT ALWAYS FLOWS, UNLESS WE STOP ITS COURSE BY OUR OWN FAULT.

NOVEMBER 12    PSALM 42: 1- 2 READS, "... AS THE DEER PANTS AFTER THE WATER BROOKS, SO PANTS MY SOUL AFTER YOU, O GOD. MY SOUL THIRSTS FOR GOD, FOR THE LIVING GOD. WHEN CAN I GO AND MEET WITH GOD?"

THIS VERSE SPEAKS OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD IN CONNECTION WITH CERTAIN SYMBOLS. IT IS MEANT TO REMIND US OF THE TABERNACLE, THE ALTAR, THE SACRIFICES, AND OTHER CEREMONIES BY WHICH GOD HAD TESTIFIED THAT HE WOULD BE NEAR HIS PEOPLE; AND THAT THEY ALL ARE IMPORTANT FOR US IN SEEKING TO APPROACH GOD. NOT THAT WE SHOULD CONTINUE ATTACHED TO THEM, BUT THAT WE SHOULD, BY THE HELP OF THESE SIGNS AND OUTWARD MEANS, SEEK TO BEHOLD THE GLORY OF GOD, WHICH OF ITSELF IS HIDDEN FROM OUR SIGHT. THEREFORE, WHEN WE SEE THE MARKS OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE ENGRAVEN ON EXTERNAL SYMBOLS, WE CAN SAY THAT THERE IS THE FACE OF GOD; AS LONG AS WE COME WITH PURE HEARTS TO SEEK HIM IN A SPIRITUAL MANNER.

BUT WHEN WE IMAGINE GOD TO BE PRESENT OTHERWISE THAN HE HAS REVEALED HIMSELF IN HIS WORD, OR WHEN WE FORM ANY EARTHLY CONCEPTION OF HIS HEAVENLY MAJESTY, WE ARE ONLY INVENTING FOR OURSELVES VISIONARY REPRESENTATIONS, WHICH DISFIGURE THE GLORY OF GOD, AND TURN HIS TRUTH INTO A LIE.

NOVEMBER 11    PSALM 84: 7 READS, "THEY WILL CONTINUE TO GO FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH; AND EACH OF THEM WILL APPEAR BEFORE GOD IN ZION".

MOUNT ZION IS THE PLACE WHERE THE HOLY ASSEMBLIES WERE OBSERVED. AFTER THE ARC OF THE COVENANT WAS TAKEN THERE, IT IS SAID THAT THE HOLY PEOPLE OF GOD WILL COME TO ZION IN GREAT NUMBERS; AND THE SAINTS WILL CONTINUALLY ACQUIRE FRESH STRENGTH FOR GOING UP THE MOUNT ZION; THAT THEY WILL CONTINUE TO PROSECUTE THEIR JOURNEY WITHOUT WEARINESS OR FATIGUE, UNTIL THEY HAVE REACHED THAT WISHED-FOR PLACE, MEANING THEY BEHELD THE COUNTENANCE OF GOD.

NO VISIBLE IMAGE OF GOD WAS THERE TO BE SEEN; BUT THE ARC OF THE COVENANT WAS A SYMBOL OF HIS PRESENCE; AND GENUINE WORSHIPERS FOUND THAT THEY WERE GREATLY AIDED TO APPROACH HIM. YET EACH OF THE PIOUS PERSONS WILL, BY THE REFRESHMENTS ADMINISTERED TO THEM, PROCEED FROM ONE DEGREE OF STRENGTH TO ANOTHER, UNTIL THAT SPIRITUAL PROGRESS, WHICH IS ABOVE ALL ELSE, IS ATTAINED.

NOVEMBER 10    LUKE 23: 34 READS, "JESUS SAID, ' FATHER, FORGIVE THEM, FOR THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING '. AND THE SOLDIERS GAMBLED FOR HIS CLOTHES BY THROWING DICE".

THOSE SOLDIERS BELIEVED THEY WERE DOING NOTHING MORE THAN EXECUTING A MALEFACTOR. THEY DIDN'T REALIZE THEY WERE MURDERING "A MESSIAH"; THAT THEY WERE PUTTING TO DEATH "THE SON OF GOD" AND "THE SAVIOUR OF MANKIND". THEY DID NOT RECOGNIZE THE EXTREME SERIOUSNESS, THE ACTUAL AWFULNESS OF THE CRIME THEY WERE COMMITTING. THE SAME APPLIES TO US WHEN AND IF WE SUPPOSE OURSELVES TO BE DOING SOMEHTING OF VERY LITTLE CONSEQUENCE; YET THE ONE WHO KNOWS THE REALITIES OF ALL THINGS, SEES IN OUR ACTIONS SOMETHING FAR MORE SERIOUS THAN WE SEE. WE, TOO, DON'T KNOW WHAT WE ARE DOING, WHEN WE ERR FROM THE STARIGHT LINE OF MORAL AND SPIRITUAL RECTITUDE; HOW WE HURT A HUMAN SPIRIT AND DAMAGE ITS CHARCTER WHEN WE INJURE IT; HOW WE WRONG OURSELVES WHEN SE SIN AGAINST OUR CONSCIENCE; AND HOW WE GRIEVE OUR SAVIOUR WHEN WE DISOBEY OR DISHONOR HIM; HOW WE HINDER HIS 

DOCTRINE AND HIS CAUSE; AND HOW WE SIN AGAINST GOD WHEN WE WITHHOLD FROM HIM OUR SERVICE.

A GOOD PART OF THE FLAWS OF OUR FINITE NATURE OUR CHARACTER IS "IGNORANCE", BECAUSE WE CANNOT LOOK DOWN INTO THE DEPTHS OF THINGS, NOR CAN WE LOOK ONTO THE FINAL ISSUES. SUCH ABILITIES ARE BEYOND THE COMPASS OF OUR POWERS. THEREFORE, WE MUST RELY ON GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, OR WE'LL BE NO DIFFERENT THAN THOSE SOLDIERS WHO GAMBLED FOR JESUS' CLOTHES BY TRHOWING DICE AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS.

NOVEMBER 9    MATTHEW 18: 34- 35 READS, "THEN THE ANGRY KING SENT THE MAN TO PRISON TO BE TORTURED UNTIL HE HAD PAID HIS ENTIRE DEBT. THATS' WHAT MY HEAVENLY FATHER WILL DO TO YOU IF YOU REFUSE TO FORGIVE YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS FROM THE HEART".

GOD'S PARDONS ARE RETRACTED FROM THE UNMERCIFUL. WHEN WE GO OUT INTO THE WORLD, MEANING ' WHEN, BY DEGREES, THE SPIRIT OF THE WORLD REPLACES THE GRATEFUL EMOTION; WE TEND TO FORGET THE FACT THAT IT WASN'T OUR DOING WHICH PURIFIED US OF ALL PREVIOUS DEBTS, BUT IT WAS GOD'S MERCY AND UNCONDITIONAL LOVE FOR US THROUGH CHRIST, OUR SAVIOUR. IT IS HIS SACRIFICE ON THE CROSS THAT WE OUGHT TO RELY ON WHEN WE APPEAR BEFORE GOD; NOTHING ELSE. THEREFORE BEING HARSH AGAINST OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE; BECAUSE THOSE OF US WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED GOD'S MERCY OUGHT TO HAVE A GREATER REASON TO DEPRECATE HIS WRATH.

WE MUST THINK, FOR A MOMENT, THE GREATNESS OF THE SIN TO BE FORGIVEN US; THE AGGRAVATIONS OF IT, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE COMMITTED AFTER FORGIVENESS; THE LOVE SHOWN THROUGH THE CONDITIONS OF FORGIVENESS; THE GIFT AND SACRIFICE OF GOD'S BELOVED SON, AS WELL AS THE FREENESS AND THE FULNESS OF GOD'S FORGIVENESS: THERE IS NO POSSIBILITY OF PURCHASING IT. IT CAN ONLY COME TO US AS A GIFT OF INFINITE LOVE; BECAUSE GOD BLOTS OUT THE RECORD UTTERLY, AS A CLOUD IS BLOTTED FROM THE SKY, AND THROWS OUR SINS AWAY INTO THE DEPTHS OF THE SEA. SO IN ORDER TO BE FORGIVEN BY GOD, A HUMBLED, GRATEFUL, AND GRACIOUS SPIRIT IS NECESSARY. AND SUCH A SPIRIT WILL BE TESTED BY AN OPPORTUNITY OS SHOWING A FORGIVING MIND.

NOVEMBER 8    MATTHEW 18: 34- 35 READS, "THEN THE ANGRY KING SENT THE MAN TO PRISON TO BE TORTURED UNTIL HE HAD PAID HIS ENTIRE DEBT. THAT'S WHAT MY HEAVENLY FATHER WILL DO TO YOU IF YOUR REFUSE TO FORGIVE YOUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS FROM YOUR HEART".

THIS PARABLE IS ABOUT THE HATEFULNESS OF AN UNFORGIVING SPIRIT. WE THINK MERCY A GOOD THING SO LONG AS WE WERE THE OBJECT OF IT; THEREFORE IN THE PRESENCE OF SOMEONE WHO IS IN NEED OF OUR MERCY, WE BECOME DEAF TO THE WORDS WE HEAR. IF THE FORGIVING LOVE OF GOD DOES NOT HUMBLE US, IT HARDENS US. IF WE TAKE IT AS A MERE TRIFLE, AND ARE NOT THOROUGHLY HUMBLED BY IT, WE ARE TOO EAGER TO EXPOSE AND REPROVE THE FAULTS OF OTHER MEN; BECAUSE THE LONGER WE CONTINUE TO LIVE IN SIN, THE HARDER IT BECOMES FOR US TO EXPERIENCE DEEP SORROW IN OUR CRY FOR PARDON.

WE LOSE MUCH OF THE POWER AND PRACTICAL BENEFIT OF OUR LORD'S TEACHING BY REFUSING TO LISTEN TO WHAT HE SAYS ABOUT OUR CONDUCT TOWARDS ONE ANOTHER. WE ARE TOO TAKEN UP WITH THE SAVING OF OUR OWN SOULS THAT WE NEGLECT TO CONSIDER THE PART WE ARE TO PLAY IN ORDER TO BE CHOSEN. OUR SALVATION CONSISTS, NOT ONLY IN BEING BROUGHT INTO RECONCILIATION WITH GOD, NUT IN OUR BECOMING RECONCILED TO MEN.

NOVEMBER 7    1 JOHN 5: 3- 4 READS, "FOR THIS IS WHAT LOVE FOR GOD IS: TO KEEP HID COMMANDS. NOW HIS COMMANDS ARE NOT A BURDEN, BECAUSE WHATEVER HAS BEEN BORN OF GOD CONQUERS THE WORLD. THIS IS THE VICTORY THAT HAS CONQUERED THE WORLD: OUR FAITH".

THE DIVINELY APPOINTED TEST OF LOVE TO GOD IS OBEDIENCE TO HIS COMMANDMENTS. GENUINE LOVE IS NOT A MERELY SENTIMENTAL, BUT A PRACTICAL THING. IT IS CHEERFUL; IT IS FULL OF INSPIRATION, COURAGE, AND STRENGTH. THEREFORE AS LOVE TO GOD INCREASES, OBEDIENCE TO HIS COMMANDS BECOMES EASIER AND MORE DELIGHTFUL.

THE DIFFICULTIES OF OBEDIENCE ARE CONQUERED BY FAITH AND LOVE. THERE ARE VIEWS OF LIFE AND PRACTICES THAT TEND TO LESSEN THE SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY, AND TO DIVIDE MEN. AS WE LOOK TO OURSELVES HUMBLY, WE REALIZE THAT WE ARE ENTIRELY AT GOD'S MERCY. BUR WE ARE NOT HOPELESS, BECAUSE A DIVINE POWER CAN BE COMMUNICATED TO US, AND OUR SPIRITS ARE QUICKENED BY THE DIVINE TOUCH TO HELP US OVERCOME THE WORLD'S CHALLENGES: ONLY SUPERIOR LOVE, THROUGH FAITH, CAN BREAK THE SPELL OF THIS WORLD.

NOVEMBER 6    PSALM 1: 1- 2 READS, "HOW BLESSED IS THE PERSON, WHO DOES NOT TAKE THE ADVICE OF THE WICKED, WHO DOES NOT STAND ON THE PATH WITH SINNERS, AND WHO DOES NOT SIT IN THE SEAT OF MOCKERS. INSTEAD, HIS DELIGHT IS IN THE LORD'S INSTRUCTION, AND HE MEDITATES ON IT DAY AND NIGHT".

WE MUST ENDEAVOR TO GRASP THE REAL MEANING OF THE LAW. GLANCING AT THE PAGES OF GOD'S WORD CAN DO LITTLE GOOD; WE MUST ENTER INTO THE SPIRIT OF THAT WHICH WE READ. THE LAW CONTAINS, AS WE SHOULD EXPECT IN A LAW, PRECEPTS TO BE OBSERVED; MEANING WE MUST ALSO BE PREPARED TO OBSERVE THAT WHICH WE READ. THEREFORE THE VALUE OF OUR MEDITATION IS FOUND ON THE OBEDIENCE THAT RESULTS FROM OUR APPROACH TO GOD'S WORD. OBEDIENCE IS A PROOF OF HOLDING THE THINGS READ IN DUE ESTIMATION; IT SPRINGS FROM FAITH, AS A HEARTY ACCEPTANCE OF THE WILL AND WAYS OF GOD. ONLY THEN WILL GOD ENJOIN US TO MAKE DAILY PROGRESS, AND NEVER CEASE, DURING THE WHOLE COURSE OF OUR LIFE. OTHERWISE WE'LL BE BLINDED BY INTOLERABLE ARROGANCE. WE CAN NEVER ACT SKILLFULLY AND REGULARLY EXCEPT IN SO FAR AS WE ALLOW OURSELVES TO BE RULED BY THE WORD OF GOD.

NOVEMBER 5    JOSHUA 1: 8 READS, "THIS BOOK OF INSTRUCTION MUST NOT DEPART FROM YOUR MOUTH; YOU ARE TO RECITE IT DAY AND NIGHT SO THAT YOU MAY CAREFULLY OBSERVE EVERYTHING WRITTEN IN IT. FOR THEN YOU WILL PROSPER AND SUCCEED IN WHATEVER YOU DO".

THIS ADVICE GIVEN TO JOSHUA IS FULLY APPLICABLE TO EVERYONE WHO HAPPEN TO BE IN POSITIONS OF RESPONSIBILITY OR PERPLEXITY. GOD IS TELLING US THAT WE SHOULD SEEK WISDOM THROUGH HIS WORD, JUST LIKE JOSHUA WHO WAS FAVORED WITH DIRECT COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE ALMIGHTY; SOMETIMES BY AN INWARD REVELATION, SOMETIMES BY THE APPEARANCE OF AN ANGEL IN VISIBLE FORM. THOUGH JOSHUA COULD ALSO CONSULT THE WISHES OF GOD BY MEANS OF THE HIGH PRIEST'S URIM AND THUMMIM, HE IS STILL BEING TOLD TO STUDY THE WRITTEN WORD.

GOD INSISTS THAT WE MEDITATE ON THE WHOLE BIBLE WITH EAGERNESS, DAY AND NIGHT, BECAUSE IT CONTAINS LESSONS SUITED TO ALL CAPACITIES, NEEDFUL TO MAKE US "WISE UNTO SALVATION". ARMORED WITH SUCH A WEALTH OF INFORMATION, WE BECOME AS THOUGH WE ALWAYS HAVE A MENTOR AT OUR SIDE. IT TELLS US THINGS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE WHICH WE COULD NOT KNOW WITHOUT IT.

NOVEMBER 4    WHEN CHRIST PROMISED TO HIS DISCIPLES THE SPIRIT OF UNSHAKEN FORTITUDE, HE REFERRED TO A STATE OF THINGS WHICH FOLLOWED HIS RESURRECTION. AND SINCE THEY HAD NOT BEEN GIVEN HEAVENLY POWER YET, APOSTLE PETER FORMED CONFIDENT EXPECTATIONS FROM HIMSELF AS HE SAID, "EVEN IF ALL FALL AWAY ON ACCOUNT OF YOU, I NEVER WILL" (MATTHEW 26: 33).

PETER ERRED IN TWO RESPECTS. FIRST, BY ANTICIPATING THE TIME HE MADE A RASH ENGAGEMENT, AND DID NOT RELY ON THE PROMISE OF THE LORD. SECONDLY, SHUTTING HIS EYES ON HIS OWN WEAKNESS, AND UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF THROUGHTFULNESS RATHER THAN THE COURAGE, HE UNDERTOOK MORE THAN THE CASE WARRANTED.

WE MUST, AT ALL TIMES, EARNESTLY RESORT TO THE ASSISTANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND NEVER VENTURE TO TAKE MORE THAN WHAT THE LORD PROMISES; THROUGH WHICH WE CAN RESIST FEAR AND TREMBLING. ON OUR OWN POWER, SOONER OR LATER, WE WILL RUN OUT OF INNER STRENGTH, BECAUSE WE WILL BE DISAPPONTED IN OURSELVES, AND FALL PREY TO OUR OWN EMOTIONS. ONLY GOD'S GRACE AND MERCY WILL KEEP US STRONG AND READY TO RESIST ALL TEMPTATIONS.

NOVEMBER 3    MATTHEW 26: 31 READS, "THEN JESUS SAID TO THEM, ' TONIGHT ALL OF YOU WILL RUN AWAY BECASUE OF ME, FOR IT IS WRITTEN: I WILL STRIKE THE SHEPHERD AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK WILL BE SCATTERED ' ".

JESUS TOLD HIS DISCIPLES WHAT TO EXPECT THAT NIGHT, BECAUSE HE WANTED TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO RISE ABOVE THE OFFENSE. GOD DOES NOT CEASE TO RECOGNIZE AS HIS SHEEP THOSE WHO ARE DRIVEN OUT AND SCATTERED IN EVERY DIRECTION FOR A TIME. IN ORDER TO PREVENT THE MINDS OF THE GODLY FROM BEING OVERWHELMED WITH DESPAIR BY THE EXTREME DISTRESSES AT HAND, THIS VERSE REMINDS US THAT GOD'S GRACE WILL ALWAYS BE VICTORIOUS; EVEN WHEN THE CHURCH IS DEPRIVED OF GOOD SHEPHERDS AND REDUCED TO A STATE OF WRETCHED CONFUSION. WE MUST NEVER FORGET THAT WATCHING HIS DISCIPLES' SCATTERING DIDN'T PREVENT THE LORD FROM STRETCHING OUT HIS ARMS ON THAT CROSS IN ORDER TO DIE ON THEIR BEHALF, JUST SO HE WOULD GATHER HIS SHEEP AT LENGTH.

CHRIST WAS THE PRINCE OF ALL SHEPHERDS, ON WHOM ALONE THE SALVATION OF THE CHURCH DEPENDED; AND WHEN, AFTER HAVING BEGUN TO COLLECT THE FLOCK OF GOD, HE WAS SUDDENLY DRAGGED TO DEATH, WE CAN ALL THE MORE SEE GOD'S GRACE BEING DSIPLAYED, WHEN THE REMAINING FLOCK WAS AGAIN ASSEMBLED IN A WONDERFUL MANNER. GOD WILL NEVER CEASE BEING IN CHARGE OF HIS PRECIOUS FOLLOWERS.

NOVEMBER 2    MARK 14: 27 READS, "THEN JESUS SAID TO THEM, "ALL OF YOU WILL RUN AWAY, BECAUSE IT IS WRITTEN: I WILL STRIKE THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP WILL BE SCATTERED".

WHEN THE APOSTLES SAW JESUS OPPRESSED FOR A WHILE, THEIR FAITH STARTED CRUMBLING; BECAUSE ALL ALONG, THEY HAD BEEN LOOKING FOR A KING WHO WOULD RULE HIS KINGDOM; NOT ONE WHO WOULD END UP BEING SUBJECT TO THE SAME AUTHORITIES THEY WERE. THIS WAS A CONVENIENT OPPORTUNITY FOR SATAN TO EMPLOY HIS FIERY DARTS AGAINST THEIR HOPE FOR SALVATION. LITTLE DID THEY KNOW AT THE TIME THAT CHRIST HAD BEEN ANNOUNCING AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT KINGDOM AND A DEEPER SENSE OF SALVATION, NONE OF WHICH WAS PHYSICAL. THE DISCIPLES' DREADFUL SHOCK OVER THEIR MASTER'S FALL HAD BLINDED THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF THE WORD "ETERNAL".

SATAN CONTINUALLY GOES ABOUT, ROARING FOR HIS PREY, AS HE IS IMPELLED BY FURIOUS MADNESS TO DESTROY US. THEREFORE, BEFORE THERE IS APPARENT NECESSITY FOR FIGHTING, WE MUST PREPARE OURSELVES BY STAYING CONNECTED TO GOD'S WORD, READING AND STUDYING IT DAILY, JUST SO WE WILL NEVER FORGET THAT ALL TEMPTATIONS ARE FORGED IN THE WORKSHOP OF THE ENEMY; YET THEY ARE NOTHING BUT TEMPTATIONS WE CAN EASILY CHASE AWAY, WITH THE POWER GIVEN TO US THROUGH JESUS CHRIST.

NOVEMBER 1    HEBREWS 13: 15 READS, "THROUGH HIM LET US OFFER THE SACRISICE OF PRAISE TO GOD".

THERE IS NEVER FOUND, IN OUR SACRIFICES, SUCH PURITY AS OF CHRIST'S SACRIFICE; OUR SELF-DENIAL IS NEVER ENTIRE AND COMPLETE; OUR PRAYERS ARE NEVER SO SINCERE AS THEY OUGHT TO BE; WE ARE NEVER SO ZEALOUS AND SO DILIGENT IN DOING GOOD, BECAUSE WITHOUT CHRIST AS OUR MEDIATOR, OUR WORKS ARE IMPERFECT AND MINGLED WITH MANY VICES. YET THEY ARE ACCEPTED, NOT FOR THE MERIT OF THEIR OWN EXCELLENCY, BUT THROUGH CHRSIT. AND GOD, THROUGH CHRIST, SETS A VALUE ON OUR WORKS, WHICH IN THEMSELVES, DESERVE NOTHING. IT IS CERTAIN THAT NO ONE WILL SERIOUSLY AND FROM THE HEART DEVOTE HIMSELF TO GOD, UNLESS AND UNTIL HE IS FULLY PERSUADED BY THE CALLING AND IDENTITY OF CHRIST.

OCTOBER 31    I CORINTHIANS 6: 1- 6 READS, "IF ANY OF YOU HAS A DISPUTE WITH ANOTHER, DO YOU DARE TAKE IT BEFORE THE UNGODLY FOR JUDGMENT INSTEAD OF BEFORE THE LORD'S PEOPLE? OR DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT THE LORD'S PEOPLE WILL JUDGE THE WORLD? AND IF YOU ARE TO JUDGE THE WORLD, ARE YOU NOT COMPETENT YO JUDGE TRIVIAL CASES? DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT HE WILL JUDGE ANGELS? HOW MUCH MORE THE THINGS OF THIS LIFE?... IS IT POSSIBLE THAT THERE IS NOBODY AMONG YOU WISE ENOUGH TO JUDGE A DISPUTE BETWEEN BELIEVERS?"

EVEN THOUGH THE SCRIPTURE MAKES IT CLEAR THAT SOME DAY THE LORD'S PEOPLE WILL JUDGE THE WORLD; THIS HONOR DOES NOT BELONG TO THEM ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN RIGHT; UNLESS THEY BE MEMBERS OF CHRIST. FOR NOW, THEY WILL JUDGE ACCORIDNG TO THE LAW; BUT LATER, THEY WILL JUDGE, WITH CLARITY AND WISDOM, THROUGH THE POWER OF CHRIST. WE MUST, AT ALL TIMES, AIM TO SUBMIT OURSELVES TO GOD'S WILL, AND PRAY THAT HE WILL USE US TO BRING JSUTICE AMONG UNBELIEVERS; JUST SO HIS POWER AND PRESENCE WILL BE OBVIOUS TO MANY.

OCTOBER 30    ROMANS 14: 1- 4 READS, "ACCEPT THE ONE WHOSE FAITH IS WEAK, WITHOUT QUARELLING OVER DISPUTABLE MATTERS. ONE PERSON'S FAITH ALLOWS THEM TO EAT ANYTHING, BUT ANOTHER, WHOSE FAITH IS WEAK, EATS ONLY VEGETABLES. THE ONE WHO EATS EVERYTHING MUST NOT TREAT WITH CONTEMPT THE ONE WHO DOES NOT, AND THE ONE WHO DOES NOT EAT EVERYTHING MUST NOT JUDGE THE ONE WHO DOES, FOR GOD HAS ACCEPTED THEM. WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE SOMEONE ELSE'S SERVANT? TO THEIR OWN AMSTER, SERVANTS STAND OR FALL. AND THEY WILL STAND, FOR THE LORD IS ABLE TO AMKE THEM STAND".

WHEN SUPERSTITION IN THE CHOICE OF MEATS POSSESSED SOME, WHAT THEY THOUGHT UNLAWFUL FOR THEMSELVES, THEY CONDEMNED ALSO IN OTHERS. HE THEN REMINDED THEM THAT THERE IS BUT ONE LORD, ACCORDING TO WHOSE WILL ALL MUST STAND OR FALL, AND AT WHOSE TRIBUNAL WE MUST ALL APPEAR. THEREFORE WHOEVER JUDGES HIS BRETHREN ACCORDING TO HIS OWN VIEW OF THINGS, ASSUMES TO HIMSELF WHAT PECULIARLY BELONGS TO GOD, ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO CONDEMN THEIR BRETHREN UNDER THE PRETENSE OF SANCTITY. WHEN WE ACT ASSUME AUTHORITY OVER OUR BRETHREN, WE ACT PRESUMPTUOUSLY, SINCE THE LAW OF GOD SUBORDINATES US ALL TO ITSELF WITHOUT EXCEPTION.

OCTOBER 29    PHILIPPIANS 2: 7- 8 READS, "RATHER, HE MADE HIMSELF NOTHING BY TAKING THE VERY NATURE OF A SERVANT, BEING AMDE IN HUMAN LIKENESS. AND BEING FOUND IN APPEARANCE AS A MAN, HE HUMBLED HIMSELF BY BECOMING OBEDIENT TO DEATH - EVEN TO THE CROSS".

CHRIST WAS BROUGH DOWN TO THE LEVEL OF MANKIND, SO THAT THERE WAS IN APPEARANCE NOTHING DIFFERENT FROM THE COMMON CONDITION OF MANKIND. HE LIVED IN SUCH A MANNER THAT HE SEEMED AS THOUGH HE WERE ON A LEVEL WITH MANKIND, AND YET HE WAS VERY DIFFERENT FROM A MERE MAN; ALTHOUGH HE WAS TRULY A MAN.

HE BECAME OBEDIENT. EVEN THIS WAS GRAET HUMILITY FOR CHRIST; SINCE HE SHARED ALL OF THE SAME PROPERTIES AS HIS FATHER, AND HE DID IT OUT OF LOVE FOR BOTH THE FATHER AND US, HIS FOLLOWERS. THEREFORE WE MUST FOLLOW HIS FOOTSTEPS ALL THE MORE CHEERFULLY; ESPECIALLY WHEN WE LEARN THAT NOTHING IS MORE ADVANTAGEOUS FOR US THAN TO BE CONFORMED TO HIS IMAGE.


OCTOBER 28    PHILIPPIANS 2: 1- 4, "READS, "THEREFORE IF YOU HAVE ANY ENCOURAGEMENT FROM BEING UNITED WITH CHRIST, IF ANY COMFORT FROM HIS LOVE, IF ANY COMMON SHARING IN THE SPIRIT, IF ANY TENDERNESS AND COMPASSION, THEN MAKE MY JOY COMPLETE BY BEING LIKE-MINDED, HAVING THE SAME LOVE, BEING ONE IN SPIRIT AND OF ONE MIND. DO NOTHING OUT OF SELFISH AMBITION OR VAIN CONCEIT. RATHER, IN HUMILITY VALUE OTHERS ABOVE YOURSELVES, NOT LOOKING TO YOUR OWN INTERESTS BUT EACH OF YOU TO THE INTERESTS OF OTHERS".

WE MUST BE JOINED TOGETHER IN VIEWS AND INCLINATIONS, BECAUSE THE APOSTLE MAKES MENTION OF AGREEMENT IN DOCTRINE AND MUTUAL LOVE; AND HE EXHORTS US TO BE OF ONE MIND, AND TO HAVE THE SAME VIEWS. WE MUST ACCOMODATE OURSELVES TO EACH OTHER. THOUGH THE BEGINNING OF LOVE IS HARMONY OF VIEWS; IT APPEARS IT ISN'T ENOUGH UNLESS OUR HEARTS ARE AT THE SAME TIME JOINED TOGETHER IN MUTUAL AFFECTION.

THE MOST DANGEROUS PESTS FOR DISTURBING THE PEACE AMONG CHRISTIANS TODAY IS STRIFE AND VAIN GLORY. STRIFE IS AWAKENED WHEN EVERY ONE FEELS ENTITLED TO MAINTAIN THEIR OWN OPINION; WHILE VAIN GLORY TICKLES OUR MINDS, GIVING US THE FALSE IMPRESSION THAT EVERYONE ELSE OUGHT TO ADMIRE OUR HIGHLY INVENTIVE MINDS. BOTH OF THOSE ARE BORN FROM THE FLESH; WANTING TO BE RECOGNIZED FOR SOMETHING. HUMILITY IS THE ONLY REMEDY GOD IS PRESCRIBING HERE IN THIS SCRIPTURE: AS WE LOOK UP TO CHRIST AND ALL THAT HE MEANS FOR US, THERE IS VERY LITTLE WE CAN BOAST ABOUT OURSELVES, OTHER THAN THE FACT THAT HE CHOSE US TO FOLLOW HIM...

OCTOBER 27    HAGGAI ASKED A QUESTION IN 520 B.C. IN HAGGAI 2: 3, "WHO IS LEFT AMONG YOU THAT SAW THIS HOUSE IN ITS FORMER GLORY? HOW DOES IT LOOK TO YOU NOW? DOESN'T IT LOOK LIKE NOTHING TO YOU?"

SOLOMON'S TEMPLE WAS DESTROYED IN 586 B.C.; AND THERE WERE SOME PEOPLE LEFT WHO HAD SEEN THE FIRST TEMPLE; REMEMBERED ITS GLORY, ITS GOLD COVERED WALLS, ITS SPLENDOR, AND ITS BREATTAKING BEAUTY. THEY RECALLED THE DAYS WHEN THE GLORY OF GOD FILLED THE TEMPLE AND THE HOUSE OF GOD REVERBERATED WITH HIS PRAISES. THE SAME PEOPLE WERE LOOKING AT THE TEMPLE THEY WERE BUILDING NOW, AND IT SEEMED TO BE AN EMBARRASSMENT TO THEM. IT SEEMD SO SMALL AND SO SHABBY COMPARED TO THE WONDERFUL TEMPLE THAT WAS DESTROYED BY NEBUCHADNEZZAR.

THE JEWS HAD FORGOTTEN THE FACT GOD HAD HELPED THEM CROSS THE RED SEA; AND THE JORDAN RIVER; HE HAD PLACED THEM IN A LAND FULL OF ABUNDANCE WHERE THEY HAD NOT TOILED TO REAP THE GOOD RESULTS; HE HAD GIVEN A SECOND CHANCE TO BUILD THE TEMPLE AND THE WALLS OF JERUSALEM; YET THEY HAD THE AUDACITY TO BE DISCOURAGED BY THE CIRCUMSTANCES THROUGH MURMURINGS AND COMPLAINS.

THEY WERE DISCONTENT AND DISAPPOINTED BECAUSE THEY CHOSE TO LIVE IN THE PAST. MEMORY IS A GOOD THING AS LONG AS WE REMEMBER THE RIGHT THINGS, FOR THE RIGHT REASON, AND AS AN ADDITION TO OUR PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCE. BUT MEMORY CAN ALSO BE A CURSE IF WE CHOOSE TO LIVE THERE! WHEN WE HOLD SO TENACIOUSLY TO THE PAST THAT WE REFUSE TO SERVE GOD IN THE PRESENT, WE ARE DEFINITELY REMEMBERING THE WRONG THINGS!

OCTOBER 26    THE CHURCH OF CHRIST HAS BEEN, FROM THE BEGINNING, SO CONSTITUTED, THAT THE CROSS HAS BEEN THE ONLY WAY TO VICTORY, AND DEATH A PASSAGE TO LIFE. THEREFORE AFFLICTIONS SHOULD DEPRESS US ABOVE MEASURE. THOUGH WE FEEL OPPRESSED BY TROUBLES, GOD'S SPIRIT PRONOUNCES US BLESSED, SO LONG AS WE CLING TO HIM FERVENTLY. WE MUST NEVER FORGET THE FACT THAT SUFFERINGS COME FIRST, AND GLORIES FOLLOW. AS A RULE, AFFLICTION MUST PRECEDE GLORY.

CHALLENGES ARE NOT EVIL.; WE MUST OVERCOME THEM WITH CONFIDENCE, BECAUSE THE HAVE GOD'S GLORY ANNEXED TO THEM. SINCE GOD'S WORD ORDAINED THIS CONNECTION, IT IS NOT UP TO US TO SEPARATE THE ONE FROM THE OTHER. THIS HAS BEEN FORETOLD MANY CENTURIES AGO, BY PROPHETS WHO SPOKE GOD'S WORD, AND THEY ARE NOT TO BE TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT; THEY APPLY TO US ALL JUST AS THEY DID TO THE ISRAELITES. THIS IS NO COMMON CONSOLATION; GOD IS GOOD... GOD IS GRACIOUS... GOD IS MERCIFUL...

OCTOBER 25    1 PETER 1: 10- 11 READS, "OF WHICH SALVATION THE PROPHETS HAVE ENQUIRED AND SEARCHED DILIGENTLY, WHO PROPHESIED OF THE GRACE THAT SHOULS COME UNTO YOU: SEARCHING WHAT, OR WHAT MANNER OF TIME THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST WHICH WAS IN THEM DID SIGNIFY, WHEN IT TESTIFIED BEFOREHAND THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST, AND THE GLORY THAT SHOULD FOLLOW".

THE APOSTLE DOES NOT SAY THAT THE PROPHETS SEARCHED ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN UNDERSTANDING AS TO THE TIME WHEN CHRIST'S KINGDOM WOULD COME, BUT THAT THEY APPLIED THEIR MINDS TO THE REVELATION OF THE SPIRIT. THEY TAUGHT US BY THEIR EXAMPLE A SOBRIETY IN LEARNING, BECAUSE THEY DID NOT GO BEYOND WHAT THE SPIRIT TAUGHT THEM.

NO DOUBT, THERE WILL BE NO LIMITS TO OUR CURIOSITY; BUT UNLESS THE SPIRIT OF GOD PRESIDES OVER OUR MINDS, WE WILL NEVER ACCOMPLISH FULL MATURITY AND OVERFLOWING WISDOM THROGH OUR OWN KNOWLEDGE. THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM IS A HIGHER SUBJECT THAN WHAT THE HUMAN MIND CAN SUCCEED IN INVESTIGATING, EXCEPT THE SPIRIT BE THE GUIDE. WE MUST SUBMIT OURSELVES TO GOD'S GUIDANCE.

OCTOBER 24    1 PETER 1: 3- 5 READS, "BLESSED BE THE GOD AND FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, WHICH ACCORDING TO HIS ABUNDANT MERCY HES BEGOTTEN US AGAIN UNTO A LIVELY HOPE BY THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST FROM THE DEAD, TO AN INHERITENCE INCORRUPTIBLE, AND UNDEFILED, AND THAT FADES NOT AWAY, RESERVED IN HEAVEN FOR YOU, WHO ARE KEPT BY THE PRWER OF GOD THROUGH FAITH UNTO SALVATION READY TO BE REVEALED IN THE LAST TIME".

THE MAIN OBJECT OF THIS SCRIPTURE IS TO RAISE US ABOVE THE WORLD, IN ORDER THAT WE MAY BE PREPARED AND ENCOURAGED TO SUSTAIN THE SPIRITUAL CONTESTS OF OUR WARFARE. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD'S BENEFITS ARE TREMENDOUS; AND WHEN THEIR VALUE APPEARS TO US, ALL OTHER THINGS WILL BECOME WORTHLESS. EVERYTHING OUTSIDE OF CHRIST IS DROSS! THEREFORE WE MUST NOT BE BROKEN WITH THE PRESENT TROUBLES, BUT APTIENTLY ENDURE THEM, BEING SATISFIED WITH ETERNAL HAPPINESS. GOD IS BOUNTIFUL ANDNKIND TOWARDS US; BECAUSE UNLESS CHRIST STOOD AS THE MIDDLE PERSON, GOD'S GOODNESS COULD NEVER BE REALLY KNOWN BY US. THE SIMPLE FACT THAT WE CAN EVEN UTTER, "GOD IS GOOD" IS SIMPLY DUE TO THE FACT THAT WE HAVE KNOWN CHRIST AS OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR. OTHERWISE NOTHING ELSE COULD POSSIBLY HELP US ACKNOWLEDGE GOD'S GOODNESS TOWARDS HIS BELOVED CHILDREN.

OCTOBER 23    JAMES 5: 10- 11 READS, "... AS AN EXAMPLE OF PATIENCE IN THE FACE OF SUFFERING, TAKE THE PROPHETS WHO SPOKE IN THE NAME OF THE LORD... WE COUNT THOSE WHO HAVE PERSEVERED AS BLESSED... FOR THE LORD IS FULL OF COMPASSION AND MERCY".

THIS IS AN AWESOME VERSE MEANT TO DELIVER HOPE TO THOSE WHO ARE GOING TRHOUGH A CHALLENGING TIME. WHEN ANY EVIL HAPPENS TO US THAT WE HAD NEVER EXPERIENCED BEFORE, WE MUST TRY TO SUSTAIN THE SAME YOKE WITH THOSE WHO PERSEVERED BEFORE US, SUCH AS JOSHUA, JOB, DANIEL, ETC. THOSE ARE ORDINARY PEOPLE WHO TOOK MANY CHALLENGES; YET THEY NEVER FORGOT THE FACT THAT GOD, THE GOD OF THEIR ANCESTOR ABRAHAM, WAS GREATER THAN ANY CHALLENGE THIS WORLD HAD TO OFFER.

OUR LIVES ARE INDEED INDISCRIMINATELY SUBJECT TO TROUBLES AND ADVERSITIES; BUT JAMES MENTIONED THE PROPHETS. HE WANTED TO EMPHASIZE THE FACT THAT EVEN THOSE WHO WERE IN CONSTANT COMMUNICATION WITH THE LORD WERE ALSO EXPERINCING HARDSHIPS; SO IT IS A REAL CONSOLATION TO KNOW THAT THOSE THINGS COMMONLY DEEMED EVILS ARE AIDS AND HELPS TO OUR SALVATION.

OCTOBER 22    JOHN 4: 23 READS, “BUT THE HOUR IS COMING, AND IS NOW HERE, WHEN THE TRUE WORSHIPERS WILL WORSHIP THE FATHER IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH, FOR THE FATHER IS SEEKING SUCH PEOPLE TO WORSHIP HIM”.

GOD IS ALWAYS TEACHING HIS PEOPLE, NOT JUST THE PRIESTS, HOW TO WORSHIP HIM, AS HE REVEALS HIS WORSHIP PLAN. IT IS NEVER UP TO US TO DECIDE HOW TO WORSHIP GOD. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH OUR PERSONAL PREFERENCES. WE MUST FOLLOW GOD’S DIRECTIONS AS TO HOW TO APPROACH HIM PROPERLY. GOD DOES NOT ACCEPT WORSHIP THAT DOES NOT FOLLOW HIS REVEALED WORSHIP PLAN; JUST LIKE WHEN HE REJECTED CAIN’S OFFERING WHILE ACCEPTING ABEL’S; ONLY BECAUSE ABEL HAD FOLLOWED GOD’S INSTRUCTIONS.

A PLAIN, ORDINARY WORSHIP IS NEVER GOOD ENOUGH; GOD DEMANDS EXCELLENCE IN WORSHIP TO HIM. EACH OFFERING HAD TO BE BLEMISH FREE; MEANING THE CREAM OF THE CROP; INCLUDING OUR BEST TIME, OUR BEST EFFORT , AND OUR BEST INTENTIONS.

WE CANNOT BRING GOD OUR LEFTOVERS; “ANYTHING IS BETTER THAN NOTHING” MENTALITY DOES NOT WORK WHEN IT COMES TO GOD’S EXCELLENCE. HE EXPECTS US TO PREPARE OURSELVES FOR WORSHIP, SO THAT WE CAN BRING GOD THE VERY BEST OF OUR HEARTS AND MINDS. APPROACHING HIM HURRIED AND UNRESTED IS NEVER ACCEPTABLE.

OCTOBER 21    EXODUS 20: 24 READS, "YOU MUST MAKE AN EARTHEN ALTAR FOR ME AND SACRIFICE ON IT YOUR BURNT OFFERINGS AND FELLOWSHIP OFFERINGS, YOUR SHEEPS AND YOUR GOATS, AS WELL AS YOUR CATTLE. I WILL COME TO YOU AND BLESS YOU IN EVERY PLACE WHERE I CAUSE MY NAME TO BE REMEMBERED".

THE IDEA IS TO MAKE THOSE RANDOM PLACES AS PLAIN AS POSSIBLE JUST SO THE INDIVIDUAL WORSHIPER MIGHT NOT BE TEMPTED TO THINK OF A SCULPTED IMAGE; EVEN THE STONES MUST BE PILED UP AS THEY WERE ROUGH, AND NOT HEWN INTO SHAPE. IN OTHER WORDS, WHEREVER GOD IS REMEMBERED AS OUR ULTIMATE PROVIDER IS WHERE HE WILL COME TO BLESS US.

WE MIGHT WONDER WHAT OUR SACRIFICES AND BURNT OFFERINGS MAY BE LIKE IN TODAY'S WORLD. THE HEBREW WORD FOR "BURNT OFFERING" ACTUALLY MEANS TO "ASCEND"; TO "GO UP IN SMOKE". THE ULTIMATE FULFILLMENT OF THE BURNT OFFERING IS IN JESUS' SACRIFICE ON THE CROSS; HIS PHYSICAL LIFE WAS COMPLETELY CONSUMED; HE ASCENDED TO GOD, AS HIS COVERING (MEANING HIS GARMENT) WAS DISTRIBUTED TO THOSE WHO OFFICIATED OVER HIS SACRIFICE, AS STATED IN MATTHEW 27: 35. BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, JESUS' SACRIFICE, ONCE FOR ALL TIME, ATONED FOR OUR SINS AND RESTORED OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. CHRIST IS WHERE WE MEET GOD FACE TO FACE, AND MAKE OUR PETITIONS KNOWN. HIS PROMISE IS CONDITIONAL ON THE OBSERVANCE OF HIS COMMAND: IF WE ABIDE IN CHRIST (OUR ALTAR), AND OFFER UP OURSELVES (OUR WILL AND PURPOSE), IN ORDER TO ACCEPT HIS PLAN FOR US, HE WILL COME AND BLESS US.

OCTOBER 20    THE OVER ALL PURPOSE OF A PROPHECY IS TO LET GOD'S CHILDREN KNOW, "WHEN" THE PROPHECY COMES TO PASS, ALL OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES AND THE PEOPLE LEADING TO THE OUTCOME HAVE BEEN PART OF GOD'S PLAN AND PURPOSE. IN ISAIAH 44, WE UNDERSTAND THE FACT THAT WHEN IT WAS TIME FOR GOD'S PEOPLE TO GO BACK TO THEIR HOMELAND AND REBUILD THEIR TEMPLE, CYRUS WAS SIMPLY AN INSTRUMENT IN THE HAND OF GOD. IN OTHER WORDS, THEIR DELIVERANCE DIDN'T COME DIRECTLY FROM CYRUS; HE HAD BEEN CONDITIONED AND PREPARED, BY GOD, TO BE A DECISION MAKER ON THEIR BEHALF; SINCE THE PROPHECY WAS FORTOLD TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO BY THE PROPHET ISAIAH. IN FACT, WHEN GOD REFERS TO CYRUS, "HE IS DESIGNATED AS MY SHEPHERD"; CYRUS IS THE ONLY PAGAN RULER BEING GIVEN SUCH A TITLE. THIS GOES TO SHOW YOU THAT TO CRITICIZE THE CREATOR IS TO ASSUME A HIGHER KNOWLEDGE THAN HE; WHICH IS ABSURD. GOD IS THE ALMIGHTY; AND HE WILL NEVER ALLOW US TO FIGURE HIS WAYS OUT COMPLETELY; WE WILL ALWAYS NEED TO DEPEND ON HIS MERCY; AND RECEIVE HIS WISDOM, ONE BIT AT A TIME, THROUGH HIS GRACE.

GOD SPEAKS OF CYRUS IN ISAIAH 45: 13 SAYING, "I WILL RAISE UP CYRUS IN MY RIGHTEOUSNESS: I WILL MAKE ALL HIS WAYS STRAIGHT. HE WILL REBUILD MY CITY 

AND SET MY EXILES FREE, BUT NOT FOR A PRICE OR REWARD...". IN RIGHTEOUSNESS MEANS "JUSTLY" AND "TRULY"; IT SIGNIFIES "FIDELITY". GOD MANIFESTS HIS "RIGHTEOUSNESS" BY FULFILLING HIS PROMISES AND DEFENDING HIS SERVANTS. SO GOD "RAISED UP" CYRUS, WHOM HE APPOINTED TO LEAD AND CONDUCT IN BRINGING BACK GOD'S PEOPLE, IN ORDER TO MANIFEST GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS.

OCTOBER 19    ISAIAH 41: 2 READS, WHO HAS STIRRED UP ONE FROM THE EAST, CALLING HIM IN RIGHTEOUSNESS TO HIS SERVICE? HE HANDS NATIONS OVER TO HIM AND SUBDUES KINGS BEFORE HIM. HE TURNS THEM TO DUST WITH HIS SWORD, TO WINDBLOWN CHAFF WITH HIS BOW".

CYRUS, WHETHER WE REGARD HIM AS KING OF PERSIA, OR AS KING OF ELAM, CAME FROM A LAND LYING "EAST" OF BABYLON; AND VANQUISHED HIS ENEMIES WITH EASE AND COMPLETENESS; BECAUSE GOD HAD CHOSEN HIM AS A TEMPORARY MINISTER, AND HAD GIVEN HIM A TASK TO PERFORM. THE SIMPLE FACT THAT CYRUS BECAME GOD'S INSTRUMENT IS ENOUGH FOR US TO ACCEPT THAT ALL THINGS ARE WITHIN GOD'S SUPERINTENDING PROVIDENCE. HOW ELSE COULD WE EXPLAIN THE FACT THAT CYRUS, WHO WAS LIKE A FURIOUS LION, RAGING AGAINST NEIGHBORING NATIONS, BREATHING OUT SLAUGHTER AND THREATENINGS, AND IN THE HEIGHT OF HIS RAGE AND FURY; ONCE HE WAS CALLED BY GOD; BECAME AS TAME AS A LAMB, WILLING TO DO ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING TO PLEASE GOD? NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT ALL OF THIS WAS PROPHECIED BY ISAIAH, WHOSE WRITINGS CYRUS WAS INTRIGUED TO READ AND UNDERSTAND. ONLY GOD HAS THE POWER TO QUIET A RAGING HEART WITH A TENDER ASSIGNMENT, SUCH AS FORTIFYING A CITY'S WALLS WITHIN WHICH A TEMPLE FOR HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE WOULD BE REBUILT.

OCTOBER 18    2 CHRONICLES 36: 23 READS, "THIS IS WHAT CYRUS KING OF PERSIA SAYS, ' THE LORD, THE GOD OF HEAVEN, HAS GIVEN ME ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE EARTH AND HE HAS APPOINTED ME TO BUILD A TEMPLE FOR HIM AT JERUSALEM IN JUDAH. ANY OF HIS PEOPLE AMONG YOU MAY GO UP, AND MAY THE LORD THEIR GOD BE WITH THEM ' ".

CYRUS BELIEVED THAT THE OLD ASSYRIAN AND BABYLONIAN SYSTEM OF TRANSPORTING CONQUERED NATIONS WAS AN ERROR; IT SIMPLY INTRODUCED A DANGEROUSLY DISAFFECTED PEOPLE INTO THE COUNTRY TO WHICH THEY HAD BEEN BROUGHT. THEREFORE THOSE WHO DID NOT GET ACCLAMATED TO THEIR NEW SURROUNDINGS WERE FREE TO RETURN TO JERUSALEM, WHERE THEY COULD REBUILD THEIR FORTRESS, WHICH CYRUS CONSIDERED WOULD BE USEFUL TO HIM AS A CHECK UPON EGYPT. NOT ONLY HAD GOD STIRRED UP CYRUS' HEART, BUT HE HAD ALSO GIVEN HIM A LOGICAL REASON TO FOLLOW THROUGH AND LET HIS PEOPLE GO AFTER SEVENTY YEARS OF CAPTIVITY.

CYRUS WAS POLYTHEIST; HE BELIEVED IN MAY GODS UNDER THE IMMEDIATE GUIDANCE OF HEAVEN; AND HE WAS EXTREMELY TOLERANT TO ALL RELIGIONS. AS SOON AS HE CAPTURED BABYLON, HE IMMEDIATELY PROCEEDED TO RESTORE THE SHRINES OF THE BABYLONIAN GODS; AND DUE TO OUR LORD'S PROMPTING, HE HAD CHOSEN TO SUBMIT TO DIVINE WILL, WHICH HE HAD LEARNED BY READING ISAIAH'S PROPHECY, WHICH WAS TO ALLOW THE JEWS TO GO TO THEIR OWN TERRITORY AND START OVER.

OCTOBER 17    ISAIAH 44: 24- 28 READS, "THIS IS WHAT THE LORD, YOUR REDEEMER WHO FORMED YOU IN THE WOMB, SAYS: I AM THE LORD, THE MAKER OF ALL THINGS, WHO STRETCHES OUT THE HEAVENS, WHO SPREADS OUT THE EARTH BY MYSELF, WHO FOILS THE SIGNS OF FALSE PROPHETS AND MAKES FOOLS OF DIVINERS, WHO OVERTHROWS THE LEARNING OF THE WISE AND TURNS IT INTO NONSENSE, WHO CARRIES OUT THE WORDS OF HIS SERVANTS AND FULFILLS THE PREDICTIONS OF HIS MESSENGERS, WHO SAYS OF JERUSALEM, ' IT SHALL BE INHIBITED ' , OF THE TOWNS OF JUDAH, ' THEY SHALL BE REBUILT ' , AND OF THEIR RUINS, ' I WILL RESTORE THEM ' ; WHO SAYS TO THE WATERY DEEP ' BE DRY, AND I WILL DRY UP YOUR STREAMS ' ; WHO SAYS OF CYRUS, 'HE IS MY SHEPHERD AND WILL ACCOMPLISH ALL THAT I PLEASE; HE WILL SAY OF JERUSALEM, ' LET IT BE REBUILT ' , AND OF THE TEMPLE, ' LET ITS FOUNDATIONS BE LAID ' ".

THE PARTICULAR GIFTS GOD DESIGNED FOR HIS PEOPLE, WHILE IN CAPTIVITY, WERE FORETOLD HERE, LONG BEFORE THEY WENT INTO CAPTIVITY. EVEN A NOBLER SUCH AS CYRUS DID THE FATHER'S WILL, TILL THE WORK WAS FULLY COMPLETED. GOD DOES AND WILL USE ANYONE HE PLEASES IN ORDER TO GET THE JOB DONE; AND HE WILL GET IT DONE WITH OR WITHOUT OUR OBEDIENCE. YET IT IS AN AWESOME PRIVILEGE TO BE USED BY GOD, TO BE PART OF HIS PLAN AND PURPOSE. NOT ONLY DOES IT DRAW IN A SHOWER OF BLESSINGS UPON US FROM HEAVEN; BUT THE INNER FULFILLMENT WE EXPERIENCE IS PRICELESS; FAR MORE THAT ALL OF THE TANGIBLE GOODS COMBINED.

OCTOBER 16    NEHEMIAH 8: 8 - 12 READS, "THEY READ OUT OF THE BOOK OF THE LAW OF GOD, TRANSLATING AND GIVING THE MEANING SO THAT THE PEOPLE COULD UNDERSTAND THE READING. THEN NEHEMIAH THE GOVERNOR, EZRA THE PRIEST AND TEACHER OF THE LAW, AND THE LEVITES WHO WERE INSTRUCTING THE PEOPLE SAID TO THEM, ' THIS DAY IS HOLY TO THE LORD YOUR GOD. DO NOT MOURN OR WEEP ' . FOR ALL THE PEOPLE HAD BEEN WEEPING AS THEY LSITENED TO THE WORDS OF THE LAW. NEHEMIAH SAID, ' GO AND ENJOY CHOICE FOOD AND SWEET DRINKS, AND SEND SOME TO THOSE WHO HAVE NOTHING PREPARED. THIS DAY IS HOLY TO OUR LORD. DO NOT GRIEVE, FOR THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH ' . THE LEVITES CALMED ALL THE PEOPLE. SAYING, ' BE STILL, FOR THIS IS A HOLY DAY. DO NOT GRIEVE ' . THEN ALL THE PEOPLE WENT AWAY TO EAT AND DRINK, TO SEND PORTIONS OF FOOD AND TO CELEBRATE WITH GREAT JOY, BECAUSE THEY NOW UNDERSTOOD THE WORDS THAT HAD BEEN MADE KNOWN TO THEM".

WE KEEP COMING BACK TO STUDYING THE OLDER BROTHER FO THE PRODIGAL SON, WHO NEVER LEFT HOME; HE WORKED HARD, AND DID ALL THE RIGHT THINGS THAT WERE EXPECTED OF HIS AS THE HEIR. BUT WHAT HE ENDED UP MISSING IS REVEEALED TO US IN THE SECOND CHAPTER OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION, WHEN A LETTER IS BEING ADDRESSED TO THE CHURCH OF EPHESUS SAYING, "... I KNOW YOUR WORKS, YOUR LABOR, AND YOUR ENDURANCE, AND THAT YOU CANNOT TOLERATE EVIL. YOU HAVE TESTED THOSE WHO CALL THEMSELVES APOSTLES AND ARE NOT, AND YOU HAVE FOUND THEM TO BE LIARS. YOU ALSO POSSESS ENDURANCE AND HAVE TOLERATED MANY THINGS BECAUSE OF MY NAME AND HAVE NOT GROWN WEARY. BUT I HAVE THIS AGAINST YOU, ' YOU HAVE ABANDONED THE LOVE YOU HAD AT FIRST '.

IN OTHER WORDS, THE FATHER IS TELLING HIS OLDER SON, ' YOU LOST SOMETHING VERY IMPORTANT, RIGHT HERE, IN MY HOUSE; WHICH IS MY LOVE FOR YOU. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN THERE... WAY BEFORE YOU WERE BORN... WAY BEFORE YOU COULD ACCOMPLISH THE THINGS YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF DOING... AND WAY BEFORE YOU LEARNED TO WORK FOR IT ' . JUST REMEMBER THAT YOU DID NOTHING TO DEVELOP THAT LOVE; IT WAS GIVEN TO YOU... '.

IT IS THE SAME WITH GOD: WE DIDN'T CHOOSE TO FIND GOD; HE CHOSE TO REVEAL HIMSELF TO US; WE DIDN'T APPROACH HIM THROUGH OUR WORKS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS; HE CHOSE TO PULL US NEARER TO HIMSELF THROUGH HIS GRACE AND HIS LOVE FOR US; WE DIDN'T ACCEPT HIM AS LORD AND SAVIOUR; HE OPENED THE EYES OF OUR HEARTS JUST SO WE COULD UNDERSTAND OUR NEED FOR A SAVIOUR.

OCTOBER 15    NEHEMIAH 8: 1- 3 READS, "ALL THE PEOPLE CAME TOGETHER AT THE SQUARE IN FRONT OF THE WATER GATE. THEY ASKED EZRA THE SCRIBE TO BRING THE BOOK OF THE LAW OF MOSES THAT THE LORS HAD GIVEN ISRAEL. ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE SEVENTH MONTH, EZRA THE PRIEST BROUGHT THE LAW BEFORE THE ASSEMBLY OF MEN, WOMEN, AND ALL WHO COULD LISTEN WITH UNDERSTANDING. WHEN HE WAS FACING THE SQUARE IN FRONT OF THE WATER GATE, HE READ OUT OF IT FROM DAYBREAK UNTIL NOON BEFORE MEN, WOMWN, AND THOSE WHO COULD UNDERSTAND. ALL THE PEOPLE LISTENED ATTENTIVELY TO THE BOOK OF THE LAW".

JERUSALEM, THE SACRED AND BELOVED CITY OF GOD WAS NOW SECURE; ITS WALL WERE REBUILT; ITS GATES TEPLACED AND SHUT; ITS INHABITANTS WERE NO LONGER STRUGGLING WITH FEAR AND ANXIETY. THEY WERE ACTUALLY REJOICING IN THEIR STRENGTH AND PEACE, SINCE THE INTERNAL DISCORS WERE REMOVED, AND THEY WERE DWELLING TOGETHER IN UNITY.

IT IS ONE THING TO TELL PEOPEL ABOUT THE WORD OF GOD; BUT ITS ENTIRELY DIFFERENT WHEN PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY AT A PLACE TO APPRECIATE THE WORD OF GOD, AND THEY LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING AND UNDERSTANDING IT. THIS PEOPLE HAD HUNGERED FOR THE BRAED OF LIFE; THEY HAD CRAVED TO HEAR THE WORD OF THE LIVING GOD. THEY STOOD THERE FOR SIX HOURS, LISTENING AS THE LAW WAS READ AND EXPOUNDED. THEY ALREADY KNEW THE LAW WORD BY WORD; YET THIS WAS THE DAY THEY DECIDED TO UNDERSTAND THE LAW, AND ITS UNDERLYING MESSAGE.

TODAY WE HAVE WORSHIPERS WHO PRESENT THEMSELVES AT THE ALTAR, CRY THEIR HEARTS OUT, AND WALK AWAY WITHOUT A SINCERE CHANGE WITHIN THEIR HEARTS. IF WEEPING DOESN'T LEAD US TO SOMETHING GREAT, THEN IT COULDN'T HAVE BEEN A GREAT SERMON. A HEARTFELT CONVICTION ALWAYS LEADS US TO A CERTAIN LIFESTYLE CHANGE. OTHERWISE WE ARE ONLY FOOLING OURSELVES.

OCTOBER 14    MANY SAY THEY ARE ON A SPIRITUAL SEARCH; THEY ARE LOOKING FOR GOD. BUT THE REALITY IS THAT WE ARE ALWAYS WITH GOD; WE ARE ALWAYS IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD. IF WE WERE TO INDULGE OUR CRAVING FOR GOD BY SIMPLY OPENING OUR EYES TO SEE HIM, WE WILL SURELY FEEL HIS PEACE THAT SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING, AND ALSO WE'LL BE ABLE TO SEE THAT HEAVEN ON EARTH IS ALL AROUND US. WHEN JESUS DESCRIBED HELL, HE DESCRIBED IT AS "OUTER DARKNESS WHERE THERE WAS WEEPING AND GNASHING OF TEETH". THAT PRETTY MUCH DESCRIBES THE OLDER BROTHER OF THE PRODIGAL SON, WHEN HE WILFULLY STAYED OUT OF THE CELEBRATION WHICH, IN THIS STORY, IS HEAVEN. HE PLACED HIMSELF INTO A SELF-IMPOSED EXILE, THE OUTER DARKNESS, WHILE A PARTY OF FORGIVENESS AND JOY WAS GOING ON INSIDE.

HE HAD WORKED ALL OF HIS LIFE, TRYING TO EARN HIS FATHER'S LOVE; AND AT THE END, HE STILL DIDN'T FEEL IT; EVEN THOUGH THE FATHER HAD ALWAYS LOVED HIM. AND ON TOP OF IT ALL, HE RESENTED THE OBVIOUS FACT THAT HIS NO-GOOD BROTHER HAD RECEIVED THE LOVE HE, HIMSELF, HAD WORKED SO HARD TO EARN. HE COULDN'T POSSIBLY COMPREHEND THE FACT THAT THE FATHER HAD AN UNLIMITED KIND OF LOVE, THAT WOULD BE MORE THAN ENOUGH FOR BOTH HIS SONS. THE PITY-PARTY HAD GONE ON WAY TOO LONG ALREADY, BECAUSE THE OLDER BROTHER HAD FORGOTTEN THE FACT THAT TWO-THRID OF THEIR FATHER'S INHERITENCE WAS HIS. YET HE SOUNDED AS IF HE HAD NOTHING. HE WASN'T SATISFIED WITH THE RESULTS.

THINGS THAT WE ACQUIRE THROUGH OUR WORKS WILL NEVER SATISFY OUR INNER BEINGS; BECAUSE THAT PLACE BELONGS TO GOD. PHYSICALLY, WE CAN ONLY OPERATE WITHIN THE SURFACE CONSCIOUSNESS, AND SATISFY OUR MINDS' LIMITED UNDERSTANDING. BUT SPIRITUALLY, WE ARE TO BE LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT TO FEEL SATISFIED, BECAUSE SUCH SATISFACTION COMES FROM LIVING WITHIN GOD'S WILL, WANTING TO LIVE FOR HIM, AND WISHING TO PLEASE HIM ONLY; NOT TO RECEIVE SOMETHING FROM GOD, BUT BECAUSE WE HAVE ALREADY RECEIVED WAY MORE THAN WE DESREVE.

OCTOBER 13    VERSE 28 READS, "THEREFORE HIS FATHER CAME OUT AND PLEADED WITH HIM"; AND VERSES 31-32 READ, "AND EH SAID TO HIM, ' SON, YOU ARE ALWAYS WITH ME, AND ALL THAT I HAVE IS YOURS. IT WAS RIGHT THAT WE SOULD MAKE MERRY AND BE GLAD, FOR YOUR BROTHER WAS DEAD AND IS ALIVE AGAIN, AND WAS LOST AND IS FOUND ' ".

THE OLDER BROTHER OF THE PRODIGAL SON DIDN'T REALIZE HE WAS ACCEPTED; NOT BECAUSE HIS HARD WORK; NOT BECAUSE OF HIS LOYALTY; BUT SIMPLY BECASUE HE BELONGED TO HIS FATHER. HIS FATHER'S IDENTITY COVERED HIM. ALL THAT THE FATHER OWED ALREADY BELONGED TO HIM. HE DIDN'T NEED TO WAIT TO BE CELEBRATED; HE WAS ALREADY BEING CELEBRATED EVERY MOMENT OF HIS LIFE THROUGH HIS FATHER'S LOVE FOR HIM.

YET THE FATHER WALKED OUT TO REASON WITH HIM; HE WANTED TO APPEASE HIS AND SOOTH HIS HURT FEELINGS. HE COULD HAVE EASILY SAID, ' WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE... THIS IS MY HOUSE... I CAN CELEBRATE ANYTHING I WANT, ANYTIME I WANT... I DON'T NEED YOUR APPROVAL... I AM YOUR FATHER... I DON'T ANSWER TO YOU... IT'S THE OTEHR WAY AROUND... '. THIS IS HOW OUR GOD IS; HE WANTS TO LISTEN TO OUR HURT FEELING; HE WANTS TO HEAR OUR COMPLAINTS... HE WANTS TO 

SEE US UNDERSTAND HIS WAYS... AND HE WANTS US TO STOP HURTING. GOD DOESN'T OWE US ANY EXPLANATION; YET HE IS GENLE ENOUGH TO TAKE TIME TO HELP US TO SEE BEYOND THE HURT, AND ACCEPT THINGS THAT ARE MEANT TO HAPPEN ACCORDING TO HIS PLAN AND PURPOSE. HE LOVES ALL OF US WITH THE SAME PASSION, REGARDLESS OF OUR PERFORMANCE; YET HE USES ALL THINGS TO SHAPE AND MOLD OUR SPIRITS SO WE WILL DRAW NEARER TO HIS SPIRIT.

OCTOBER 12    VERSE 28 READS, "BUT HE WAS ANGRY AND WOULD NOT GO IN".

THE OLDER BROTHER OF THE PRODIGAL SON WAS ALSO THE ANGRY BROTHER. HE WAS ANGRY BECAUSE HE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW THESE FESTIVITIES WERE GOING ON. NEXT TO HIS FATHER, HE WOULD HAVE BEEN THE SECOND IN COMMAND; YET HE WASN'T EVEN INFORMED WHAT WAS TAKING PLACE. ALL OF A SUDDEN, HE WAS THE OUTSIDER. THAT LED HIM TO FEEL UNAPPRECIATED; AND BEEN TAKEN FOR GRANTED. WHAT A PERFECT MIXTURE FOR A PITY PARTY. SO HE CHOSE TO HAVE HIS OWN PARTY FOR A WHILE; AND A S A RESULT, HE DIDN'T MIND MAKING HIS FATHER FEEL BAD; EVEN GUILTY OF DECEPTION. HE COULDN'T STAND, EVEN FOR A MINUTE, THAT HIS YOUNGER BROTHER WOULD COME FIRST FOR A CHANGE. THIS WAS HIS OPPORTUNITY TO STEAL THE MOMENT; BECAUSE HE KNEW ONLY TO BE FIRST.

A LOT OF PEOPLE FEEL THIS WAY ABOUT GOD. MANY CHRISTIANS REACH A TIME, EVERY NOW AND THEN, AND FEEL LIKE GOD DIDN'T TREAT THEM RIGHT. THEY BELIEVED GOD; THEY WORSHIPED HIM; THEY SERVED HIM; AND YET GOD DIDN'T SEEM TO KEEP HIS END OF THE BARGAIN. GOD LET A LOVED ONE DIE. GOD LET A SERIOUS ILLNESS STRIKE THEM OR ONE OF THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS. THEY HAD THOUGH, IF THEY WERE FAITHFUL AND DID WHAT WAS RIGHT IN THE SIGHT OF GOD, THEN SURELY GOD WOULD PROTECT THEM AND THEIR FAMILY; HE WOULD GIVE THEM WHAT THEY NEEDED TO LIVE, AND HE WOULD KEEP THEM FROM HARM. AND WHEN SOMETHING UNEXPECTED BEFELL THEM, THEY FELT ANGRY. ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY LOOKED UPON THOSE WHO SCOFFED AT GOD AND DID NOTHING TO PLEASE GOD, YET THEY WERE BLESSED WITH MONEY AND WEALTH, THOSE TEMPORARY WORSHIPERS OF GOD BECAME ANGRIER. THEY TURNED AGAINST GOD JUTS LIKE THE OLDER BROTHER OF THE PRODIGAL SON DID.

OCTOBER 11    THE OLDER SON WAS THE GOOD SON; HE WAS THE OBEDIENT SON. HE SAID TO THE FATHER, "LO, THESE MANY YEARS I HAVE BEEN SERVING YOU; I NEVER TRANSGRESSED YOUR COMMANDMENTS AT ANY TIME". IT WAS TRUE; HE HAD BEEN A HARD WORKING AND A RESPONSIBLE SON. EVEN WHEN THE LOST BROTHER FINALLY FOUND HIS WAY HOME, THIS OLDER BROTHER WAS OUT IN THE FIELD, WORKING. IN FACT, HE WAS OUT THERE, WORKING, ALL THE WHILE THE REUNION AND THE PREPARATIONS FOR THE PARTY WERE GOING ON. HE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW HIS BROTHER HAD RETURNED, UNTIL HE HEARD THE MUSIC PLAYING, AS HE WAS WALKING HOME AT THE END OF THE DAY; AND ONLY THEN DID HE WONDER WHAT WAS GOING ON. THIS SON WAS TIRED, AND HE HAD ALWAYS PLAYED BY THE RULES. SO THE VERSE 25 EXPLAINS, "NOW THIS OLDER SON WAS IN THE FIELD. AND AS HE CAME AND DREW NEAR TO THE HOUSE, HE HEARD MUSIC AND DANCING. SO HE CALLED ONE OF THE SERVANTS AND ASKED WHAT THESE THINGS MEANT".

WE MUST ALWAYS REMEMBER THE SETTING IN WHICH, AND THE AUDIENCE JESUS WAS TELLING HIS PARABLES TO. THAT'S WHY IT'S IMPORTANT TO FOCUS ON THE OPENING VERSE OF THIS CHAPTER, "THEN ALL THE TAX COLLECTORS AND THE SINNERS DREW NEAR HIM TO HEAR HIM. AND THE PHARISEES AND SCRIBES COMPLAINED, SAYING, ' THIS MAN RECEIVES SINNERS AND EATS WITH THEM ' . SO HE SPOKE THIS PARABLE TO THEM". OBVIOUSLY, JESUS HAD THE RELIGIOUS FOLKS, AND ESPECIALLY THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS, IN MIND WHILE HE TOLD THIS PARABLE. ACCORDING TO SCIENTIFIC STUDIES, IT IS POSSIBLE TO CONCLUDE THAT THE FIRSTBORNS ARE NATURAL LEADERS. THEY TEND TO BE RELIABLE, CONSCIENTIOUS, AND PERFECTIONISTS, WHO DON'T CARE MUCH FOR SURPRISES. THOUGH TYPICALLY AGGRESSIVE, MANY FIRSTBORNS ARE COMPLIANT PEOPLE PLEASERS; THEY ARE MODEL CHILDREN WHO HAVE A STRONG NEED FOR APPROVAL.

THE OLDER BROTHER REPRESENTS ANY ONE OF US WHO WORKS HARD TO LIVE BY GOD'S COMMANDS; TOTALLY AFRAID OF MAKING A MISTAKE, BECAUSE WE HAVE SIMPLY MISUNDERSTOOD "THE FEAR OF GOD" FOR "BEING AFRAID OF GOD". WE EXHAUST OURSELVES HOPING AND PRAYING THAT OUR EFFORTS WILL BE SUFFICIENT TO SATISFY GOD. AND MAYBE THAT IS WHY WE TEND TO OVERLOOK THE STORY OF THE OLDER BROTHER, BECAUSE IT HITS TOO CLOSE TO HOME.

OCTOBER 10    ISAIAH 14: 13- 14 READS, "FOR THOU HAST SAID IN THINE HEART, ' I WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN; I WILL EXALT MY THRONE ABOVE THE STARS OF GOD; I WILL SIT ALSO UPON THE MOUNT OF THE CONGREGATION, IN THE SIDES OF THE NORTH; I WILL ASCEND ABOVE THE HEIGHTS OF THE CLOUDS; I WILL BE LIKE MOST HIGH ' ".

THIS IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE OF SATAN'S "I" PROBLEM: HE CAN'S SEE BEYOND SELF; JUST LIKE THE PRODIGAL SON'S BIG BROTHER DID WHEN HE SAID, "YOU NEVER KILLED AN ANIMAL FOR ME". YET HE FORGOT THE FACT THAT THE FATHER HAD DEEDED THE ENTIRE FARM TO HIM. HIS DISTORTED VIEW CAUSED HIM TO OVERLOOK THE FACT THAT ALL OF HIS HARD WORK HAD BEEN FOR THE FUTURE OF HIS OWN FARM, AND NOT THE FATHER'S. WHO KNOWS, HE COULD'VE ALSO BEEN RESENTING THE YOUNGER BROTHER FOR HAVING TAKEN OFF SO EARLY, AND LEAVING HIM WITH ALL THE CHORES.

PREACHERS HAVE WAXED ELOQUENT ABOUT THE UNCONDITIONAL LOVE OF THE FATHER, WHO SYMBOLIZES THE FATHER. THEY HAVE TALKED ABOUT HOW GOD THE FATHER WELCOMES US WITH OPEN ARMS, NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF MESS WE HAVE MADE OF OUR LIVES. THERE ARE WAY TOO MANY STORIES IN THE BIBLE THAT DESCRIBE GOD'S LOVE FOR US; AND THIS IS JUST ONE OF THEM. BUT WHAT HAS KEPT US FROM STUDYING THE BIG BROTHER? COULD IT BE BECAUSE HE REPRESENTS MANY OF US BELIEVERS, WHO HAVE LOOKED PAST "SUBMISSIVENESS" AND "OBEDIENCE", JUST SO WE COULD MANAGE TO COME UP WITH OUR OWN RITUALISTIC WORKS, IN ORDER TO MAKE US LOOK AND SOUND RELIGIOUS? EVEN THE WORSHIP SONGS OF TODAY ARE CREATED TO TELL GOD HOW WE FEEL ABOUT HIM; YET THERE ARE NO SONGS BEING WRITTEN TO SOFTEN AND PREPARE OUR HEARTS, JUST SO WE CAN HEAR FROM GOD. BECAUSE WE ARE NOT AS EAGER TO HEAR WHAT GOD HAS TO SAY TO US, ABOUT US, AND ABOUT OUR CONDUCT, AS MUCH AS WE SHOULD.

OCTOBER 9    THE PRODIGAL SON WAS LOST IN THE PIGSTY; BUT HIS BIG BROTHER WAS LOST IN HIS PEW. HE WAS A CARNAL, SELF-RIGHTEOUS SOUL WHO LOST ALL SYMPATHY FOR HIS OWN FATHER, LET ALONE HIS LOST BROTHER. NO WONDER HE DIDN'T SEE WHAT A GREAT OCCASION THIS WAS. WE WAS TOO BUSY INDULGING IN HIS OWN PITY PARTY. HE MAY AS WELL HAVE BEEN DESCRIBED AS A CARNAL CHURCH MEMBER WHO TOOK HIS OWN PERFORMANCES AS IF THEY WERE WORTHY OF RECOGNITION, REWARD, AND HIS MEANS TO SALVATION.

FORTUNATELY, THE LOST CAN BE FOUND. THE GOOD SHEPHERD DOES REACH OUT TO GRAB HOLD OF THOSE WHO HAVE REPENTANT HEARTS. HOWEVER, HE WILL NOT COME NEAR THOSE WHO HAVE NO INTENTION OF ADMITTING THERE IS SOMETHING MISSING IN THEIR LIVES, BECAUSE THEY'RE TOO BUSY PATTING THEMSELVES ON THE BACK; THEY SEEK SELF-SATISFACTION IN ALL THINGS, BEING EXTREMELY COMPLACENT, WHILE THEY COULD BE INCHING TOWARD ETERNAL DOOM.

IF WE DON'T COME CLEAN BEFORE GOD, AND BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, DAILY, THE ENEMY IS CLEVER ENOUGH TO PENETRATE THE DEPTHS OF OUR SOULS, AND HE CAN EASILY ENTICE US INTO THINKING AND BELIEVING THAT THE COAST IS CLEAR, THAT THERE ARE NO OBSTACLES TO OVERCOME, AND THAT WE ARE WELL ON OUR WAY TO GOD'S PROMISED LAND. THIS IS ONE DEADLY MISTAKE THAT TAKES PLACE WHEN AND IF WE FORGET THE FACT THAT WE WERE ONCE RECEIVED BACK OURSELVES!

OCTOBER 8    LUKE 15: 28 READS,"AND HE (THE PRODIGAL SON'S BIG BROTHER) WAS ANGRY AND WOULD NOT GO IN".

THE PRODIGAL SON WAS LOST FOR A WHILE, BECAUSE HE WENT OUTSIDE THE FOLD. AND WHEN HE REALIZED THAT THE BEST THE WORLD HAD TO OFFER WASN'T AS GOOD AS THE WORST OF HIS FATHER'S HOUSE, HE TURNED AWAY FROM HIS FOOLISHNESS, READY AND WILLING TO BECOME A SIMPLE SERVANT WITHIN HIS FATHER'S HOUSEHOLD; KNOWING FULL WELL HE NO LONGER DESERVED TO BE TREATED AS A SON. YET THE FATHER MET HIM ON THE ROAD HOME; FORGAVE HIM OF ALL; PLACED A ROBE ON HIM; PUT A RING ON HIS FINGER AND SHOES ON HIS FEET; AND ANNOUNCED A HUGE CELEBRATION DINNER FOR HIS SON'S HOMECOMING. THE FATHER HAD BEEN WAITING.

THE OLDER BROTHER WHO HAD NEVER LEFT HOME DIDN'T SHARE THE SAME EXCITEMENT; IN FACT HE WAS QUITE ANGRY, BITTER, AND STUBBORN. BEING THE FIRSTBORN, HE HAD ALREADY BEEN GIVEN TWICE AS MUCH AS HIS YOUNGER BROTHER; WHAT HE DID HAVE WAS SO MUCH MORE THAN WHAT HE DIDN'T HAVE. THIS SON WAS JUST AS LOST AS HIS YOUNGER BROTHER; BECAUSE HE WAS BEING CONTROLLED BY ANOTHER POWER; THEREFORE HE WAS THE FIRST TO POINT OUT THE PRODIGAL'S SIN.

WE MAY BE CHURCHED; WE MAY EVEN BE BUSY SERVING WITHIN THE BODY OF CHRIST; BUT WE COULD BE JUST AS LOST AS AN UNSAVED PERSON, IF WE DON'T MAKE THE UNSAVED OUR PRIORITY. IF WE ARE USING OUR OWN RESOURCES, AND TRYING TO BE RECOGNIZED FOR OUR EFFORTS, WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING THE IMPORTANCE OF A "CALLING FROM GOD" AND THE NEED FOR THE "HOLY SPIRIT", SUPPLIER OF ALL PROVISIONS, WE ARE JUST AS LOST...

OCTOBER 7    ROMANS 9: 12 READS, "THE ELDER SHALL SERVE THE YOUNGER".

ESAU SERVED JACOB; JUST AS EDOM SERVED ISRAEL. OUR ONLY POWER WITH THE WORD OF GOD IS SIMPLY TO LET IT STAND AS IT IS, AND TO CONDITION OURSELVES, BY THE GRACE OF GOD, TO ACCOMODATE TO THAT WHICH GOD HAS MEANT BY HIS WORD. WE CANNOT BRING DOWN THE TRUTHS OF GOD TO OUR POOR FINITE UNDERSTANDINGS; JUST AS WE CANNOT EXPECT A MOUNTAIN TO FALL FLAT BEFORE US; BUT WE CAN SEEK STRENGTH TO RISE HIGHER AND HIGHER IN OUR PERCEPTION OF DIVINE THINGS; WHICH IS THE ONLY WAY WE CAN POSSIBLY OBTAIN GOD'S BLESSING.

THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION CAUSES MANY OF US TO SHARPEN THE KNIFE OF CONTROVERSY; YET EVEN THE FACT THAT SOME ARE SAVED BY THE GRACE OF GOD AND SOME AREN'T IS ENOUGH REASON TO BELIEVE THAT GOD ELECTS AND PREDESTINES BY HIS CHOOSING. GOD'S PROVIDENCE PUTS ONE MAN IN ONE POSITION, AND ANOTHER MAN IN ANOTHER. GOD DOES NOT TREAT EVERYONE THE SAME; YET HE LOVES EVERYONE THE SAME. AND THE REASON WHY JESUS CAME TO THIS WORLD - AS GOD'S WORD INCARNATE - WAS TO TEACH US OF GOD'S LOVE FOR US. ISN'T THIS WHY HE WALKED THIS DREADFUL PATH, TOOK ON EVERY SORT OF CRITICISM AND BETRAYAL, AND DIED ON THE CROSS JUST SO WE COULD GRASP THE MEANING OF "GOD'S LOVE"? WHY MURMUR ABOUT THINGS THAT WE WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND, BECAUSE OUR LIMITED WORLDLY WAYS WILL ALWAYS FALL SHORT WHEN IT COMES TO HEAVENLY TRUTHS. BUT AS WE CLING TO GOD'S LOVE WITH THE SAME KIND OF VIBRANCY, HE WILL GIVE US BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF HIS WILL AND HIS WISDOM FOR US TO BE FILLED WITH JOY.

OCTOBER 6    ROMANS 9: 13 READS, " AS IT IS WRITTEN: I HAVE LOVED JACOB, BUT I HAVE HATED ESAU".

LET US KEEP TO THE TEACHINGS OF THE BIBLE, INSTEAD OF TRUSTING OUR OWN IMAGINATION. MANY HAVE UNDERSTOOD THIS VERSE AS IF ESAU MUST HAVE DESERVED GOD'S HATRED; THEREFORE JACOB MUST HAVE BEEN A BETTER MAN. THE TRUTH IS, NEITHER ONE OF US HAVE ANY RIGHT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT "PREDESTINATION" THAN WHAT GOD TELLS US. IF IT WERE WORTH WHILE FOR US TO KNOW MORE, GOD WOULD HAVE REVEALED MORE. WE ARE TO BELIEVE WHAT GOD HAS TOLD US WITHOUT ADDING OUR OWN VAGUE NOTIONS.

THIS IS A TERRIBLE VERSE; HATE IS A VERY STRONG WORD. WHETHER WE STUDY THE WORD "HATE" WITHIN A SOFTER MEANING OR NOT, THIS VERSE IS SIMPLY TRYING TO SAY, "GOD LOVED JACOB; AND HE DID NOT LOVE ESAU". GOD'S MERCY FOLLOWED JACOB ALL THE WAY OF HIS LIFE, AS HE PERMITTED ESAU STILL TO GO ON IN HIS SINS; AND PROVE THAT DREADFUL TRUTH, "I HAVE HATED ESAU".

LET US GRASP THE MEANING OF THE WORD "PREDESTINATION" BY GOING BACK A VERSE OR TWO. ROMANS 9: 10- 12 EXPLAINS, "... REBECCAH RECEIVED A PROMISE WHEN SHE BECAME PREGNANT BY ONE MAN, ISAAC. FOR THOUGH HER SONS HAD 

NOT BEEN BORN YET, OR DONE ANYTHING GOOD OR BAD, SO THAT GOD'S PURPOSE ACCORDING TO ELECTION MIGHT STAND - NOT FROM WORKS, BUT FROM THE ONE WHO CALLS - SHE WAS TOLD: THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER". WE MAY THROW DUST INTO EACH OTHER'S EYES, OR TRY TO HINDER EACH OTHER'S VIEWS IN ORDER TO PROVE THAT WE CAN SEE BETTER THAN THEY; THE MAIN TRUTH IS THE FACT THAT GOD CHOOSES TO DO AS HE WILLS, AND WE DO NOT QUESTION HIS WAYS, NOR DO WE TRY TO DEFEND OR EXPLAIN HIM IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM. THE BIBLE IS A PRIVILEGE GIVEN TO US; WE ARE TO GUARD IT WITH GRATEFULNESS, AND WE OUGTH TO STOP TRYING TO MAKE WORLDLY SENSE OUT OF IT: BECAUSE BOTH THE BIBLE ITSELF AND THE READING OF IT ARE HEAVENLY!

OCTOBER 5    HEBREWS 12: 16- 17 READS, "SEE THAT NO ONE IS SEXUALLY IMMORAL, OR IS GODLESS LIKE EASU, WHO FOR A SINGLE MEAL, SOLD HIS INHERITENCE RIGHTS AS THE OLDEST SON. AFTERWARDS, AS YOU KNOW, WHEN HE WANTED TO INHERIT THIS BLESSING, HE WAS REJECTED. EVEN THOUGH HE SOUGHT THE BLESSING WITH TEARS, HE COULD NOT CHANGE WHAT HE HAD DONE".

WHEN EASU SET MORE VALUE ON ONE MEAL THAN ON HIS BIRTHRIGHT, HE LOST HIS BLESSING. HOW AWFUL IT IS TO SEE THOSE IN WHOM THE LOVE OF THE WORLD SO REIGNS AND PREVAILS THAT THEY FORGET THE TRUE RICHES OF HEAVEN; JUST AS IT IS WITH THOSE WHO ARE LED AWAY BY AMBITION; OR BECOME FOND OF MONEY OR OF WEALTH; OR GIVE THEMSELVES UP TO GREEDINESS.

WHEN THE LORD DESIGNS TO SET FORTH THE POWER OF HIS LOVE, HE CALLS THOSE WHOSE HEARTS HAVE ROOM FOR THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE. THOSE WHO SET A HIGH VALUE ON THINGS THAT ARE NEARLY WORTH NOTHING ARE TO REMAIN DEPRIVED OF THE BASIC NECESSITIES OR ADVANTAGES OF GOD'S BLESSINGS. THE UNGODLY WILL CONTINUE TO BURN WITH DEPRAVED LUSTS OR SINFUL PLEASURES, SO LONG AS THEY FOCUS ON INSTANT GRATIFICATIONS. THE WORD "REJECTED" MEANS THAT HE WAS "REPULSED", OR "DENIED HIS REQUEST".

OCTOBER 4    GENESIS 27: 27- 29 READS, "SO HE CAME CLOSER AND KISSED HIM. WHEN ISAAC SMELLED HIS CLOTHES, HE BLESSED HIM AND SAID, ' AH THE SMELL OF MY SON IS LIKE THE SMELL OF A FIELD THAT THE LORD HAS BLESSED. MAY GOD GIVE YOU - FROM THE DEW OF THE SKY AND FROM THE RICHNESS OF THE LAND - AN ABUNDANCE OF GRAIN AND NEW WINE. MAY PEOPLES SERVE YOU AND NATIONS BOW DOWN TO YOU. BE MASTER OVER YOUR BROTHERS; MAY YOUR MOTHER'S SONS BOW DOWN TO YOU. THOSE WHO CURSE YOU WILL BE CURSED, AND THOSE YOU BLESS WILL BE BLESSED ' ".

JACOB APPEARED BEFORE HIS AILING FATHER, ISAAC, PRETENDING TO BE HIS OLDER BROTHER, ESAU; AND RECIVED "THE BLESSING" THAT HAD BEEN MEANT FOR ESAU; THROUGH WHICH JACOB BECAME "ISRAEL"; AND ISRAEL HAD ONCE BEEN "JACOB". ISAAC DESIRED AND IMPLORED NOTHING FOR HIS SON BUT WHAT WAS EARTHLY; THAT IT MIGHT BE WELL WITH HIS SON IN THE WORLD; THAT HE MIGHT GATHER THE ABUNDANT PRODUCE OF THE EARTH; THAT HE MIGHT ENJOY GREAT PEACE; AND SHINE IN HONOR ABOVE OTHERS. THERE WAS NO MENTION OF THE HEAVENLY KINGDOM. HE HAD LIVED A LONG LIFE WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING THE TRUE RICHES AND THE IMPORTANCE OF GOD'S PLACE IN HIS LIFE. THEREFORE IT'S NO SURPRISE TO SEE THAT JACOB WAS A SIMPLE MAN WHO DEPENDED ON HIS OWN CRAFTINESS. HIS FAITH WAS IMPERFECT AND PARTIAL IN ITS OPERATION; AND THIS LED HIM TO NUMEROUS INCONSISTENCIES. AS A RESULT, HE NEVER SEEKED AN OPPORTUNITY TO PROVE A DEEPER STRENGTH. AND HE ALWAYS KNEW THAT THE FRUITS OF HIS EFFORTS WERE MEANT TO BE HIS BROTHER'S, AND HE COULD NEVER FORGET THE FACT THAT HE HAD STOLEN THEM FROM HIM.

OCTOBER 3    NUMBERS 6: 24- 26 READS, "THE LORD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU; THE LORD MAKE HIS FACE SHINE ON YOU AND BE GRACIOUS TO YOU; THE LORD TURN HIS FACE TOWARD YOU AND GIVE YOU PEACE".

THE WORD "TO BLESS", IN HEBREW, IS DERIVED FROM A ROOT THAT MEANS "TO BEND THE KNEE", AND THEREFORE "TO BOW BEFORE HIM" WHO APPEALS TO THE FATHER FOR YOUR BLESSINGS. ALL IS DISPERSED ACCORDING TO OUR SPIRITUAL DIGNITY, AND OUR SINCERE AND DILIGENT TRUST IN OUR SAVIOUR'S OFFICE AS OUR MEDIATOR. THE JEWISH PRIESTS WERE SUBJECT TO HUMAN FRAILTIES AND IMPERFECTIONS; THEIR TERM OF SERVICE PASSED, AND THEIR PLACE WAS TAKEN BY ANOTHER, WHILE CHRIST IS HIGH PRIEST FOREVER, AND HE WAS MADE PRIEST WITHOUT AN OATH. HIS PRIESTHOOD WAS OF SUPREME IMPORTANCE.

ALL OF THE BIBLICAL STORIES AND OUR OWN PERSONAL TESTIMONIES DISPLAYING GOD'S GENEROSITY AND MIGHTINESS HELP INCREASE OUR CONFIDENCE IN HIM. AND THE MORE WE DEPEND ON HIM, WILLINGLY AND EXPECTANTLY, THE MORE LAVISH HIS BLESSINGS BECOME. LET US NOT FORGET THE FACT THAT WE HAVE ALREADY RECEIVED GOD'S GREATEST GIFT - OUR SALVATION - THAT GUARANTEES AN ETERNAL FELLOWSHIP WITH HIM. WE COULD NEVER BE ABLE TO THANK HIM ENOUGH!!!

OCTOBER 2    ON THE FALLOW GROUND FALL THE RAIN, THE DEW, THE SUNSHINE, AND THE FROST; BUT ALL IN VAIN. HOW MUCH DIVINE GRACE - SUCH AS BIBLE VERSES, SERMONS, BOOKS, PROVIDENCES - IS WASTED ON UNREGENERATE MEN! UNLESS THE HEART IS CULTIVATED WITH THE TOUCH OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, IT'LL BE NO DIFFERENT THAT A GREY EARTH OF WEEDS, THISTLES, AND THORNS.

ONE GOOD WAY TO START PLOWING OUR HEARTS IS BY FOCUSING ON "WHAT GOS HAS BEEN FOR US", AND "WHAT WE HAVE BEEN FOR GOD". IF ONLY WE WOULD UNDERSTAND THE FACT THAT GOD, BEING PERFECTION HIMSELF, IS THE ULTIMATE LAW-GIVER; YET HE HAS MADE A WAY FOR US TO ESCAPE PUNISHMENT FOR ALL OF OUR DISOBEDIENCES! ONLY THEN WILL IT BE EASY FOR US TO SEE THAT NO OTHER EARTHLY BELIEF SYSTEM COULD COME CLOSE TO GOD'S LOVING GENEROSITY TOWARD HIS BELOVED CREATION.

GOD MADE US FOR ETERNAL FELLOWSHIP WITH HIM; AND THAT COULD NEVER CHANGE, BECAUSE NOTHING COULD POSSIBLY CHANGE GOD'S PLAN AND PURPOSE FOR HIS CREATION. THE CONFUSION SATAN CREATED FOR ADAM AND EVE CAUSED THEM TO QUESTION GOD'S COMMAND THROUGH THEIR OWN LIMITED REASONING. THE VERY SAME CONTINUES TO HAPPEN TODAY WHEN WE ALLLOW TOO MUCH ROOM FOR SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE AND PERSONAL WISDOM, NONE OF WHICH IS OF INFINITE VALUE. WHEN DOCTORS TELL US THERE IS NOTHING ELSE THEY CAN DO TO HELP OUR LOVED ONE, WE WALK AWAY HOPELESS AND HELPLESS, INSTEAD OF SAYING, "I WANT TO HEAR WHAT GOD HAS TO SAY ABOUT THAT". WHEN OFFICIALS TELL US WE COULD NEVER RECOVER FROM OUR FINANCIAL DAMAGES, WE TEND TO FALL INTO DEPTHS OF DEPRESSION, INSTEAD OF SAYIN, "GOD PROVIDED EVERYTHING SO FAR; WHO AM I TO WORRY ABOUT TOMORROW".

THOSE ARE OPPORTUNITIES FOR US TO SEND A QUICK INVITATION FOR GOD TO LEAD US THROUGH, AND BE ABLE TO TAKE OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM A STEP FURTHER; NOT TO METION THE FACT THAT WE ARE BEING GIVEN A NEW CHANCE TO START A WHOLE NEW CHAPTER OF GETTING TO KNOW HIM MORE AND MORE.

OCTOBER 1  HOSEA 10: 12 READS, "SOW RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR YOURSELVES AND REAP FAITHFUL LOVE; BREAK UP YOUR FALLOW (UNPLOWED) GROUND. IT IS TIME TO SEEK THE LORD UNTIL HE COMES AND SENDS RIGHTEOUSNESS ON YOU LIKE THE RAIN".

IT IS POSSIBLE FOR US TO UNVEIL ANOTHER LAYER OF THIS VERSE IF WE WERE TO TAKE "BREAKING UP THE FALLOW GROUND" AS "REPENTANCE", BY WHICH THE HEART, LONG HARD AND STONY, BECOMES SOFT AND PLIABLE TO WHAT IS GOOD, AND RECEPTIVE OF THE HEAVENLY SEED. AND IF WE WERE TO "SOW TO OURSELVES IN RIGHTEOUSNESS", WE COULD EASILY UNDESRTAND THE EFFECTS OF REFORMATION OF PRINCIPLES AND OF PRACTICE.

IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO FORSAKE THE EVIL; IT IS NECESSARY TO SEEK AND TO CLEAVE TO THAT WHICH IS GOOD. AND THAT COULD ONLY BE POSSIBLE BY THE AID OF DIVINE GRACE, AND UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF CHRIST-LIKE INTENTIONS. EVEN THOUGH HUMAN MEANS ARE GOOD; WITHOUT THE HELP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, WE ARE OVERWHELMED BY OUR OWN INSUFFICIENCIES. IT IS THAT INNER STRENGTH EXPERIENCED THROUGH BELIEVING IN GOD'S SUPREMECY OVER ALL THINGS, THAT WE STAND OUR GROUND, TALL AND UNWAVERING.

THE PRACTICAL SIDE OF OUR LIVES COMPLETE OUR DEVOTIONAL PORTION; MAKING US WHOLE AND READY TO RECEIVE GOD'S WISDOM OVER EVERY GIVEN SITUATION. ONLY THEN WILL WE ALSO RECEIVE THE RAIN; MEANING THE ABUNDANCE OF GOD'S FAVORS, WHICH ARE BESTOWED, NOT IN DROPS, BUT IN SHOWERS.

SEPTEMBER 30    WHEN WE SOW OUR SEED, WE GIVE IT OVER TO THE CARE OF GOD. THAT WAY, IT IS ALWAYS MULTIPLIED "ACCORDING TO THE MERCY" OF GOD. GOD GIVES "GGOD MEASURE, PRESSED DOWN, SHAKEN TOGETHER, AND RUNNING OVER". GRACE USED BRINGS MORE GRACE. IF WE CONTINUE TO GIVE TO OTHERS, GIVING BECOMES A PRIVILEGE. IF WE CONTINUE TO PRAY, PRAYER BECOMES EASIER, MORE REFRESHING, MORE ESSENTIAL.

WHEN RAIN FALLS FROM HEAVEN, IT BLESSES OUR GARDEN; AND WHEN GOD'S COMFORT AND PROMISES REACH US, THEY ADD TO OUR FAITH; PRODUCING MORE AND MORE COMFORT WITHIN; THE KIND THAT IS VISIBLE FOR OTHERS TO SEE AND QUESTION.

ALL CHURCHES NEED THIS OUTPOURING FROM ABOVE, TO BRAEK UP THE FALLOW GROUND; OTHERWISE, OUR EFFORTS, WITHOUT THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, ARE FUTILE; AND WE WILL ALWAYS BE DISCOURAGED WITH THE ONGOING RESISTANCE OF HARDENED HEARTS AND MINDS.

SEPTEMBER 29    THE COMING OF JESUS CHRIST WAS PREPARED FOR BY THE MINISTRY OF JOHN THE BAPTIST, WHO ROUSED MEN TO THOUGHTS OF SIN AND OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. EVERYTHING HAD ITS ORDER: THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS NOT POURED DOWN DIRECTLY FROM HEAVEN UPON THE NATIONS, BUT UPON A FEW MEN WHOSE HEARTS WERE PREPARED; AND THROUGH THEIR MINSTRY, THE CONSCIENCE OF THE WORLD WAS STIRRED.

JUST AS THE FARMER WORKS THE SOIL WHILE THE EARTH IS BECOMING SOFT WITH SHOWERS, SO DOES THE TRUE CHRISTIAN CONDITIONS HIMSELF THROUGH PRAYERS AND SUPPLICATIONS. THE WORK REFERRED TO IS MONOTONOUS, HARD, AND CONTINUOUS.

JUST AS THE PLOUGHMAN DOES NOT SEE AROUND HIM THE GLOW OF THE GOLDEN HARVEST, NOR DOES HE HEAR THE MERRIMENT OF THOSE WHO ARE BINDING SHEAVES; YET HIS WORK IS EXTREMELY NECESSARY FOR THE REAPER.

THE SAME APPLIES TO US CHRISTIANS. AS WE CONTINUE TO FEED OURSELVES THROUGH THE CONSTANT READINGS OF GOD'S WORD, AND OUR UNENDING 

HEARTFELT PRAYERS; AND AS WE CONTINUE TO PLANT SEEDS UNTO THE READY AND WILLING HEARTS OF GOD'S CHILDREN; WE CAN ONLY SEE THE RESULTS OF OUR HARD WORK THROUGH THE EYES OF OUR FAITH. SUCH COMFORT CAN ONLY COME FROM BELIEVING IN THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND HIS DEDICATION TO ASSESSING AND REWARDING OUR HUMBLE AND SELFLESS EFFORTS.

SEPTEMBER 28    ISAIAH 32: 17 READS, "AND THE FRUIT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL BE PEACE, AND IT WILL BRING QUIETNESS, AND CONFIDENCE FOREVER".

CHRISTIANITY MEANS RIGHTEOUSNESS; AND RIGHTEOUSNESS IS AN ACTIVE POWER WORKING TOWARDS THE PRODUCTION OF PEACE, QUIETNESS, AND CONFIDENCE. TOGETHER, THEY BIRTH "ORDER", BY WHICH WE ARE BROUGHT TO CORDIAL AGREEMENT AND WILLING SUBMISSION. THIS IS CHRISTIANITY'S MAIN CHARACTERISTIC; AND IN THIS, IT STANDS ALONE, DIFFERING FROM ALL OTHER RELIGIONS.

RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PEACE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE ENTIRELY SEPARATE THINGS. IN FACT, IF WE WERE TO LOOK AT THEM ONLY ON THE SURFACE, THEY MAY EVEN BE IMAGINED TO BE OPPOSED TO ONE ANOTHER. RIGHTEOUSNESS IS FIRM, INFLEXIBLE, ALMOST STERN; WHILE PEACE IS MILD, MERCIFUL, AND GENTLE. IT IS THAT SPIRITUAL CONTENTMENT THAT RESULTS FROM INWARD AS WELL AS OUTWARD HARMONY; KNOWING THAT EVERYTHING IS RIGHT CONCERNING THE MOST IMPORTANT AND SACRED RELATIONSHIPS. THOSE WHO ARE INCAPABLE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS COULDN'T POSSIBLY ATTAIN PEACE.

CONFIDENCE COMES FROM UNDERSTANDING THAT GOD IS SUPREME; THEREFORE HE IS UNCHANGING, JUST AS HIS PROMISES OF EVERY PROVISION FOR EVERY NEED WE MIGHT HAVE IN LIFE. SUCH COMFORT CAN ONLY COME FROM HAVING A SOLID RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD THROUGH FERVENT PRAYERS AND THANKSGIVING.

SEPTEMBER 27    ISAIAH 2: 4 READS, "HE WILL SETTLE DISPUTES AMONG THE NATIONS AND PROVIDE ARBITRATION FOR MANY PEOPLE. THEY WILL TURN THEIR SWORDS INTO PLOWS AND THEIR SPEARS INTO PRUNING KNIVES. NATIONS WILL NOT TAKE UP THE SWORD AGAINST OTHER NATIONS, AND THEY WILL NEVER AGAIN TRAIN FOR WAR".

ISAIAH 11: 1- 9 READS, "THEN A SHOOT WILL SPRING FROM THE STEM OF JESSE, AND A BRANCH FROM HIS ROOTS WILL BEAR FRUIT. THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD WILL REST ON HIM, THE SPIRIT OF WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING, THE SPIRIT OF COUNSEL AND STRENGTH, THE SPIRIT OF KNOWLEDGE AND THE FEAR OF THE LORD. AND HE WILL DELIGHT IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD, AND HE WILL NOT JUDGE BY WHAT HIS EYES SEE, NOR MAKE A DECISION BY WHAT HIS EARS HEAR; BUT WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS HE WILL JUDGE THE POOR, AND DECIDE WITH FAIRNESS FOR THE AFFLICTED OF THE EARTH; AND HE WILL STRIKE THE EARTH WITH THE ROD OF HIS MOUTH, AND WITH THE BREATH OF HIS LIPS HE WILL SLAY THE WICKED. ALSO RIGHTEOUSNESS WILL BE THE BELT ABOUT HIS LOINS, AND FAITHFULNESS THE BELT ABOUT HIS WAIST. AND THE WOLF WILL DWELL WITH THE LAMB, AND THE LEOPARD WILL LIE DOWN WITH THE YOUNG GOAT, AND THE CALF AND THE YOUNG LION AND THE FATLING TOGETHER; AND A LITTLE BOY WILL LEAD THEM. ALSO THE COW AND THE BEAR WILL GRAZE, THEIR YOUNG WILL LIE DOWN TOGETHER, AND THE LION WILL EAT STRAW LIKE THE OX. THE NURSING CHILD WILL PLAY BY THE HOLE OF THE COBRA, AND THE WEANED CHILD WILL PUT HIS HAND ON THE VIPER'S DEN. THEY WILL NOT HURT OR DESTROY IN ALL MY HOLY MOUNTAIN, FOR THE EARTH WILL BE FULL OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD AS THE WATERS COVER THE SEA".

BOTH SCRIPTURES DESCRIBE JESUS CHRIST, HIS OFFICE, AND HIS MISSION; FROM WHERE COMPLETE PEACE AND HARMONY WILL SWEEP THE CHURCH. EVERY CONTRADICTION WILL FIND ITS MATCH; AND BELIEVERS WILL ALWAYS FIND A SENSE OF CELEBRATION IN EVERYTHING. BELIEVING IN GOD WILL MAKE IT POSSIBLE FOR HIS CHILDREN TO RELY ON HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND LIVE WITHIN AN INNER PEACE THAT COULD ONLY HAPPEN WHEN WE STOP WORRYING OVER THINGS PAST, PRESENT, OR FUTURE.

SEPTEMBER 26    THE LEVITICAL PRIESTS HELD THEIR OFFICE BY VIRTUE OF THEIR DESCENT FROM LEVI AND AARON. A CLEAR AND UNQUESTIONABLE GENEALOGY WAS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE TO THEM. ON THE RETURT OF THE JEWS FROM CAPTIVITY, CERTAIN PEOPLE WERE EXCLUDED FROM THE PRIESTHOOD BECAUSE THEY COLD NOT PRODUCE THEIR PEDIGREE. AS FOR MELCHZEDEK HOWEVER, HE WAS A CANAANITISH KING WHO HAD RETAINED THE WORSHIP OF THE TRUE GOD, AND COMBINED IN HIS OWN PERSON THE OFFICES OF KING AND PRIEST; THE NAMES OF HIS PARENTS WERE UNKNOWN; JUST AS HIS OWN NAME WAS NOT MENTIONED IN THE HEBREW GENEALOGIES; THERE WAS NO RECORD OF HIS BIRTH OR OF HIS DEATH; AND NO MENTION OF THE TERMINATION OF HIS PRIESTHOOD. HE CERTAINLY WAS NOT TO REGARDED AS A SUPERHUMAN PERSON; YET HIS QUIET AND UNNOTICED CONDUCT AS A GOD PLEASER HAD MADE HIM, IN THE SIGHT OF GOD, A PERSON OF SUPER CHARACTER. THE KIND OF WISDOM HE USED AS THE KING OF SALEM WAS OBVIOUSLY FROM ABOVE; IT WAS PURE PEACEABLE, AND GENTLE. THE PEACE AND PERPETUITY OF THE REIGN OF MESSIAH ARE FOUNDED UPON ITS TRUTH AND RIGHTEOUSNESS. THEREFORE HIS NAME IS BEING MENTIONED IN HEBREWS 7: 11 AS A TYPE OF JESUS CHRIST; AS IF HE CAME FORTH FROM THE DARKNESS LIKE A STREAK OF LIGHT, ONLY TO DISAPPEAR IMMEDIATELY INTO THE DARKNESS AGAIN.

PSALM 72: 1- 7 EXPLAINS, "GOD, GIVE YOUR JUSTICE TO THE KING AND YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS TO THE KING'S SON. HE WILL JUDGE YOUR PEOPLE WITH RIGHTEOUSNESS AND YOUR AFFLICTED ONES WITH JUSTICE. MAY THE MOUNTAINS BRING PROSPERITY TO THE PEOPLE AND THE HILLS, RIGHTEOUSNESS. MAY HE VINDICATE THE AFFLICTED AMONG THE PEOPLE, HELP THE POOR, AND CRUSH THE OPPRESSOR. MAY HE CONTINUE WHILE THE SUN ENDURES AND AS LONG AS THE MOON, THROUGHOUT ALL GENERATIONS. MAY HE BE LIKE RAIN THAT FALLS ON THE CUT GRASS, LIKE SPRING SHOWERS THAT WATER THE EARTH. MAY THE RIGHTEOUS FLOURISH IN HIS DAYS AND PROSPERITY ABOUND UNTIL THE MOON IS NO MORE". WHAT A BEAUTIFUL DESCRIPTION OF OUR SAVIOUR!

SEPTEMBER 25    HEBREWS 7: 11 READS, "IF PERFECTION COULD HAVE BEEN ATTAINED THROUGH THE LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD - AND INDEED THE LAW GIVEN TO THE PEOPLE ESTABLISHED THAT PRIESTHOOD - WHY WAS THERE STILL NEED FOR ANOTHER PRIEST TO COME, ONE IN THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK, NOT IN THE ORDER OF AARON?"

IF PERFECTION HAD BEEN REALIZED BY THE LAW OF MOSES, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO CHANGE IN THE METHODS OF WORSHIP, AS WELL AS THE ORDER OF MINISTRY. IT IS NOT CONSISTENT WITH THE WISDOM OF GOD TO DO AND UNDO, TO REPAIR IMPERFECTIONS AND SUPPLY DEFICIENCIES BY SUPPLEMENTARY ARRANGEMENTS. THE TRUE AND DIVINE PURPOSE OF THE LAW OF MOSES WAS TO PREPARE FOR SOMETHING BETTER; IT WAS OUR FOUNDATIONAL EXERCISE TO LEAD US TO CHRIST. THE MESSIANIC JEWS HAVE UNDERSTOOD THIS, AND THEY HAVE ADOPTED THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST; THE REST IS STILL REFUSING TO LEAVE THE WILDERNESS OF SINAI FOR THE CANAAN OF GOSPEL LIGHT AND PRIVILEGE.

EVEN THE SCRIPTURE'S PREDICTION OF "ANOTHER PRIEST WHO SHOULD BE AFTER THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK" IS PROOF ENOUGH THAT THE AARONIC MINISTRY WAS PROVISIONAL; MEANING ANOTHER ORDER WAS NECESSARY TO HARMONIZE WITH GOD'S REIGN OF GRACE, HIS UNEXPLAINED WEALTH OF PRIVILEGE, AND THE CHEERFUL PROSPECTS OF ETERNAL LIFE THAT GOD'S GRACE WOULD PROVIDE FOR US SINNERS.

THE TEACHINGS OF MOSES' LAWS WERE A PREPARATION FOR US TO LEARN GOD'S WAYS AND TO UNDERSTAND HIS HOLINESS AND MIGHTINESS. THEY WERE NEVER MEANT TO LEAD US INTO A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. THEY WERE SIMPLY GIVEN TO US IN ORDER TO TEACH US HOW LITTLE AND INSIGNIFICANT OUR EFFORTS WOULD BE IN COMPARISON TO GOD'S EXPECTATIONS OF US. HOWEVER THEY BECOME MORE AND MORE IMPORTANT, EVENTUALLY, ONCE WE RECEIVE CHRIST AS OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR; BECAUSE ONLY THEN WILL WE DESIRE TO PLEASE GOD THROUGH OBEYING HIS LAWS - NOT BECAUSE WE ARE AFRAID OF HIS WRATH - BUT SIMPLY BECAUSE WE TAKE DELIGHT IN PLEASING HIM; AND BECAUSE HIS WANTS ARE FAR MORE IMPORTANT THAN OURS; AND BECAUSE HE IS ALL WE WANT IN THIS LIFE AND THEREAFTER.

SEPTEMBER 24    1 CORINTHIANS 13: 8- 12 READS, "LOVE NEVER FAILS BUT PROPHECIES SHALL FAIL; (THE GIFT OF) LANGUAGES SHALL CEASE; IF THERE BE KNOWLEDGE, IT SHALL VANISH BECAUSE OUR KNOWLEDGE IS PARTIAL AND OUR PROPHECY IS PARTIAL; BUT WHEN PERFECTION COMES, THEN THAT WHICH WAS PARTIAL SHALL BE DONE AWAY. WHEN I WAS A CHILD, I UNDERSTOOD AS A CHILD; I THOUGHT AS A CHILD, BUT WHEN I BECAME A MAN, I PUT AWAY CHILDISH THINGS. NOW, WE SEE THROUGH A TRANSLUCENT GLASS BUT THEN, WHEN PERFECTION COMES, FACE TO FACE, AND I SHALL KNOW, EVEN AS I AM KNOWN".

EVEN IN PAUL'S DAY, CHRISTIANS WERE ERASING AND REVISING SCRIPTURES. WE WILL ALWAYS REMAIN IN A STATE OF CONFUSION, IF WE WOULDN'T ALLOW FOR VARIOUS LEVELS OF INSPIRATION AND ERRORS IN TRANSLATION. IT'S ALWAYS SAFER TO EXPLAIN AND TEACH GOD'S WORD THROUGH VARIOUS SCRIPTURES WITHIN ITSELF. THE WORD "PERFECTION" CAN BE EASILY TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT, AND CAUSE US TO MISUNDERSTAND WHAT APOSTLE PAUL IS TALKING ABOUT. THIS IS NOT ABOUT "SINLESS PERFECTION"; BUT A STATE OF MATURITY THAT ARISES FROM THAT FINAL INITIATION; WHEN WE CEASE VIEWING GOD THROUGH A TRANSLUCENT GLASS, AND FEAST UPON THE BEAUTY OF GOD WITH OUR INNER EYE, EVEN WHILE STILL IN FLESH. THAT IS WHY WE FIND SUCH DESCRIPTIONS OF JESUS, "AND JESUS INCREASED IN WISDOM AND STATURE, AND IN FAVOR WITH GOD AND MAN (LUKE 2: 52)"; "ALTHOUGH HE WAS A SON, YET HE LEARNED OBEDIENCE BY THE THINGS WHICH HE SUFFERED. AND HAVING BECOME PERFECT, HE BECAME THE AUTHOR OF ETERNAL SALVATION TO ALL THOSE WHO OBEY HIM (HEBREWS 5: 8- 9)".

AS WE START LOOKING FORWARD TO OUR INTIMATE VISITS WITH GOD, WHETHER WE UTTER FANCY WORDS TO APPROACH HIM WITH, OR SIMPLY SIT LONG ENOUGH TO FEEL HIS SWEET PRESENCE; WE WILL ALWAYS WALK AWAY FROM HIM WITH A DEEPER KNOWLEDGE OF HIM AS WELL AS OF OURSELVES. GOD KEEPS ADDING TO OUR LIMITED UNDERSTANDING AND WISDOM, AS HE SEES FIT. KNOWING HIM IS MORE LIKE KNOWING OURSELVES THE WAY HE SEES US, AND NOT THE WAY THE WORLD HAS BEEN SEEING US.

SEPTEMBER 23    ACTS 5: 31- 32 READS, "GOD EXALTED THIS MAN TO HIS RIGHT HAND AS RULER AND SAVIOUR, TO GRANT REPENTANCE TO ISRAEL, AND FORGIVENESS OF SINS. WE ARE WITNESSES OF THESE THINGS, AND SO IS THE HOLY SPIRIT WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN TO THOSE WHO OBEY HIM".

WHAT IS TRUE OF ISRAEL IS TRUE OF US. THE STATE OF THE JEWISH WORLD WAS THE CONDEMNATION OF ALL MEN. JESUS CHRIST PROVED TO BE A KING IN QUITE ANOTHER SENSE THAN THAT IN WHICH THE DISCIPLES HAD REGARDED HIM; THOUGH THEY HAD FELT MUCH DISAPPOINTMENT IN THE CRUSHING OF THEIR NATIONAL HOPES. YET THEY STILL KNEW HE WAS A KING, AS THEY GAINED CLEARER NOTIONS OF THE SPIRITUALITY, THROUGH WHICH THEY UNDERSTOOD CHRIST'S ROYAL RIGHTS THAT DEMANDED TOTAL SUBMISSION OF MEN TO HIS AUTHORITY.

SALVATION IS NOT TO BE SEEN AS A RESULT OF OUR FAITH IN CHRIST'S REDEMPTIVE WORK; BUT OF OUR FAITH WHICH OPENS OUR SOUL AND LIFE TO THE REDEMPTIVE WORKINGS OF OUR LIVING SAVIOUR. HIS ACTIVE INVOLVEMENTS WITHIN OUR LIVES PRODUCE MORAL FORCES THAT BIRTH SANCTIFICATION AND RENEWAL; MAKING ROOM FOR MUCH PRAISES, THANKFULNESS, AND GRATEFULNESS FOR THE ONE WE SERVE. THIS IS THE GREAT GLORY OF THE GOSPEL MESSAGE: JESUS LIVES. AND HE HOLDS HIS COMMISSION. AS OUR KING, HE DEMANDS OUR SUBMISSION AND OUR OBEDIENCE. AS OUR SAVIOUR, HE TAKES OUR ENTIRE CASE UPON HIMSELF, REDEEMS, DELIVERS, AND SANCTIFIES HIS BELIEVERS, WITHOUT ANY EXCEPTIONS. AND IF CHRIST SEEKS TO RULE OVER US TODAY, IT IS THAT HE MAY SAVE US. THIS GIFT HAS ALL OF GOD'S HEART IN IT.

SEPTEMBER 22   LEVITICUS 26: 19- 20 READS, "I WILL BREAK DOWN YOUR STRONG PRIDE. I WILL MAKE YOUR SKY IRON, AND YOUR LAND LIKE BRONZE, AND YOUR STRENGTH WILL BE USED UP FOR NOTHING. YOUR LAND WILL NOT YIELD ITS PRODUCE, AND THE TREES OF THE LAND WILL NOT BEAR THEIR FRUIT".

GOD CONTEMPLATED DISOBEDIENCE AS WELL AS OBEDIENCE TO HIS LAWS. HE HAS ALWAYS SAID TO US, "IF YOU WILL NOT DO MY COMMANDMENTS, I WILL SET MY FACE AGAINST YOU"; AND HE MEANT IT THROUGH BODILY SICKNESS, UNPROFITABLE LABOUR, DEFEAT IN BATTLE, SUBJECTION TO AN UNFAIR OPPRESSION, AND SHAMEFUL TERROR AND FLIGHT. RESULT OF DISOBEDIENCE IS ALWAYS A MIXTURE OF GUILT AND MISERY. YET GOD CHOOSES ALL OF THOSE HUMILIATING SITUATIONS TO BE USED AS A REMEDY TO OUR SOULS; BECAUSE HIS PROVIDENTIAL VISITATIONS LEAD US, THROUGH PENITENCE AND RESTORATION, TO A BETTER SPIRIT, AND TO A DISPOSITION TO HEARKEN AND TO OBEY. GOD'S RETRIBUTIONS ARE HIS CORRECTIONS, HIS PATERNAL CHASTISEMENTS, HIS 

STRONG YET KIND ADMONITIONS. IF WE DO NOT WANT GOD TO LAY A HEAVIER HAND ON OUR STUBBORNNESS OVER DISOBEYING HIS LAWS, WE MUST PAY ATTENTION TO HIS FAIR AND FULL WARNINGS WITHIN OUR PATHS: HIS SIGNS ARE EASY TO READ AND UNDERSTAND. ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS STAY CONNECTED TO HIM THROUGH PRAYERS, AND ASK HIM TO LEAD US.

SEPTEMBER 21    PRIDE IS WHEREVER SELF IS PUT FIRST, AND REFUSES TO SUBMIT EITHER TO GOD OR TO MAN; IT COULDN'T POSSIBLY CONSIDER OTHERS' NEEDS, WHEN ITS OWN PLEASURE, DISTINCTION, OR CONVENIENCE IS THE PRIORITY. HUMILITY DOES NOT GROW ON US; IT IS FOREIGN TO PROUD AND SELFISH NATURE. THAT IS WHY WE MUST FOCUS ON CHRIST'S CHARACTER, HIS MEEK SUBMISSION TO GOD'S COMMANDS, AND HIS DETERMINATION TO PLEASE THE FATHER, WITHOUT LOOKING INTO AN AGENDA OF HIS OWN. OTHERWISE WE'LL BE PLAGUED WITH A SPIRIT THAT SATNDS ALOOF, THAT CANNOT BEND, NOR YIELD, NOR SERVE, BUT THAT WANTS TO LEAD AND RECIVE HOMAGE, HT EKIND OF SPIRIT FROM WHICH GOD WITHHOLDS HIS GRACE AND MERCY.

WE MAY THINK OUR AFFAIRS DEPEND ON US, LIVING IN FEAR OF NEGLECTING OUR HEROIC ATTEMPTS TO BE IN CHARGE OF OUR LIVES. BUT THE MAIN REASON BEHIND ALL THAT IS THE FACT THAT OUR SOUL IS UNWILLING TO LET GOD BE EVERYTHING. EVEN IF WE CANNOT RELY ON ANYTHING ELSE AT THE BEGINNING STAGES OF OUR SUBMISSION, WE CAN CERTAINLY DEPEND ON HIS LOVE FOR US, SINCE HE HAS ALREADY PROVEN IT TO US AS CHRIST STEPPED DOWN TO THIS WORLD WND WILLINGLY DIED FOR OUR ETERNAL SALVATION. IN CHRSIT'S GREATNESS, WE DISCOVER OUR LITTLENESS.

SEPTEMBER 20    1 PETER 5: 5 READS, "SUBMIT YOURSELF TO THE ELDER, AND BE CLOTHED WITH HUMILITY; FOR GOD OPPOSES THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE".

CHILDREN ARE REQUIRED BY DIVINE AUTHORITY TO BE SUBJECT TO THEIR PARENTS. THE YOUNG AND THE INEXPERIENCED ARE TO SHOW RESPECT TO THOSE WHO HAVE ACQUIRED LESSONS OF EXPERINCE AND WISDOM; AND THE YOUNG CHRISTIANS ARE TO PLACE THEMSELVES UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF SEASONED VETERANS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST.

SUBMISSION IS FOR THE GOOD OF THOSE WHO ARE SUBJECT. WITHOUT MODESTY AND HUMILITY, THERE IS LITTLE PROSPECT OF MORAL GROWTH IN MATURITY AND CHARACTER. THE YOUNGER SHOULD ALWAYS STEP INTO THE PLACES OF THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE THEM; THAT'S HOW THE ORDER OF SOCIETY AND OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH IS SECURED AND PROMOTED.

TRUE HUMILITY GUARDS ITSELF AGAINST AN OVERBEARING AND HAUGHTY SPIRIT; IT KNOWS TO COMPARE ITSELF WITH INFINITE GREATNESS AND EXCELLENCE, AS WELL AS WITH INFINITE POWER AND WISDOM, MAKING ROOM FOR DIVINE ATTRIBUTES WHICH ARE OF DIRE IMPORTANCE FOR OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

SEPTEMBER 19   GENESIS 3: 16 READS, "TO THE WOMAN HE SAID, '... YET YOUR DESIRE AND CRAVING WILL BE TO RULE OVER AND CONTROL YOUR HUSBAND, BUT HE WILL BE YOUR MASTER ' ".

ADAM AND EVE'S DISOBEDIENCE AND FALL FROM GOD'S GRACE AFFECTED ALL CREATION. IT IMPLANTED IN THE SINFUL NATURE OF EVERY WOMAN THE DESIRE TO RULE OVER, CONTROL, AND DOMINATE HER HUSBAND; YET SHE IS COMMANDED TO SUBMIT TO THE GOD-GIVEN AUTHORITY OF HER SPOUSE, JUST AS HE IS COMMANDED TO SUBMIT TO CHRIST AS THE MASTER OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH "WHO SINNED FIRST"; IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH THE FACT THAT WOMEN NEED TO LEARN HUMILITY AND MEEKNESS WITHIN THE FAMILY, WHILE MEN ARE BEING CHALLENGED OUTSIDE OF THEIR HOME.

WE MAY WANT TO BELIEVE LIFE IS ALL ABOUT BEING THE BEST THAT WE CAN BE; HOWEVER, THAT IDEA ISN'T VALUABLE TO GOD AS LONG AS WE ARE SIMPLY TRYING TO PROVE OURSELVES TO OTHERS. GOD HONORS OUR WISH TO BECOME BETTER AS LONG AS WE DESIRE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE WITHIN HIS KINGDOM. HIS ENTIRE PLAN AND PURPOSE FOR US IS TO LEARN HOW TO BE SUBMISSIVE; HE'LL USE OUR SPOUSE, OUR CHILDREN, OUR JOBS, OUR FINANCES, AND OUR HEALTH TO BREAK OUR HARD-HEADEDNESS, JUST SO HE CAN PLANT QUALITIES THROUGH WHICH HE CAN USE US. IT IS NOT ABOUT WHO RULES OVER WHO; IT IS ALL ABOUT LEARNING HOW TO BE MORE AND MORE SUBMISSIVE EACH DAY.

SEPTEMBER 18    WHEN GOD HAS APPOINTED US TO DO A REAL WORK, ONE THAT WILL FURTHER HIS KINGDOM; HE PREPARES US FOR IT BY THE SPECIAL GIFTS OF HIS SPIRIT; JUST AS A COMMANDER SPEAKS WORDS OF APPEAL AND ENCOURAGEMENT ALONG THE LINE OF HIS ARMY. THE OUTPOURING OF GOD'S GIFTS UPON US ALL IS NECESSARY FOR OUR ARMY OF BROTHERHOOD TO BE ABLE TO GO FORTH, AND FIGHT WITH BOLDNESS. THE RESULT IS, "PERFECT LOVE CASTING OUT FEAR". THAT IS WHEN WE START A NEW STAGE OF OUR EXISTENCE; PERSECUTION CALLING OUT GRACES OF THE BROTHERHOOD, AND TURNING US INTO HEROES, WHEN AND IF WE BRING THE ENEMY'S THREATS TO GOD, AND PRAY THAT HE WILL PROTECT AND PRESERVE US. WE MUST ASK TO BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, THROUGH WHICH OUR NATURAL CHARACTERS ARE BEING SANCTIFIED; AND IN MEASURE, WE EXERT THE INFLUENCE OF PERSONAL MORAL EXCELLENCE AND VIRTUE, JUST AS OUR LORD HAS DONE. NO ONE CAN WHOLLY WITHSTAND THE INFLUENCE OF SWEET AND SAINTLY APPROACH.

WE MUST AIM TO DISPLAY, AT ALL TIMES, OUR LOVE TO CHRIST, BY WHOM WE ARE REDEEMED; OUR LOVE TO BRETHREN, WHO SHARE WITH US IN THE COMMON REDEMPTION; AND OUR LOVE TO THE UNSAVED, FOR WHOM WE MAY WELL DESIRE THE UNSPEAKABLE BLESSINGS WHICH WE, OURSELVES, HAVE RECEIVED. LOVE IS ALWAYS SEEKING TO FIND EXPRESSION; AND IT WILL NOT BE SATISFIED WITH MEASURES OF SELF-SACRIFICE, SHORT OF SELF-SACRIFICE OF CHRIST FOR OUR SALVATION.

SEPTEMBER 17    ACTS 4: 31 READS, "WHEN THEY HAD PRAYED, THE PLACE WHERE THEY WERE ASSEMBLED WAS SHAKEN, AND THEY WERE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND BEGAN TO SPEAK GOD'S MESSAGE WITH BOLDNESS".

THIS WAS THAT GLORIOUS MOMENT WHEN THE DISCIPLES RECOGNIZED THE IMPORTANCE OF FAITH IN THEIR MASTER'S MESSAGE, REGARDLESS OF THE HORROR OF HIS CRUCIFIXION, AND THEY DECIDED TO ACCEPT THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THEIR POSITION.

BY PRAYER, THEY APPEALED TO GOD, FOR GUIDANCE, PROVISION, AND PRESERVATION, AS THEY WAITED ON HIM, THE REVEALER OF HIS OWN TRUTH AND WILL, TO SHOW HIS FAITHFULNESS TO THEM. THEY DID NOT SHRINK FROM THE CONFLICT, BUT THEY LAID HOLD OF GOD'S DIVINE STRENGTH. AS A RESULT, WHAT THEY RECEIVED WAS THE BEGINNING OF GREAT THINGS. THEY KNEW THERE WAS MORE, SO LONG AS THEY APPLIED THAT WHICH WAS GIVEN TO THEM ON A DAY TO DAY BASIS.

WE MUST NOT BE SATISFIED WITH MERE MORAL ORDER AS A TESTIMONY TO CHRSITIANITY. WE MUST PRAY FOR, AND EXPECT MORAL MIRACLES, THE MARVELS OF SPIRITUAL LIFE, SUCH AS SOULS BEING HEALED, THE DEAD BEING RAISED TO LIFE, ETC.

SEPTEMBER 16    THE PRINCIPLES OF THIS WORLD ARE FOUNDED ON "CONTRAST"; MEANING THE WORLD IS MUCH MORE IMPRESSED BY BEHOLDING A "WONDERFUL" AND AN "INEXPLICABLE" CONTRAST TO ITSELF, THAN BY SEEING CHRISTIANS COPROMISE THEIR PRINCIPLES, FOR THE SAKE OF ENLARGING THEIR COMMUNITIES. WE DAMAGE AND HURT PEOPLE, DEEPER THAN ANYTHING ELSE, WHEN WE TRY TO MAINTAIN THEIR FRIENDSHIP AND APPROVAL, JUST SO WE CAN BE IN THEIR GOOD GRACES. THEY CAN EASILY SEE OUR HYPOCRISY, AND ASSOCIATE IT WITH CHRISTIANITY; SINCE THEY ARE ALREADY LOOKING TO FIND AN EXCUSE TO REJECT ITS DOCTRINE.

OUR HUMBLE TESTIMONY - AND NOT THE FANCINESS OF OUR WORDS - CAUSES OTHERS TO MARVEL OVER THE UNEXPLAINABLE; AND BY THE GRACE OF GOD, AND IF THE TIME IS RIGHT FOR THEM, THEY MAY START DESIRING TO UNDERSTAND THE MYSTERY BEHIND OUR BOLDNESS TO SPEAK UP. DEEP DOWN INSIDE, THEY TOO WANT TO HAVE SUCH WONDER-FILLED STORIES TO TELL. OUR BOLDNESS ENCOURAGES THEM TO LEAVE THEIR DARKNESSES BEHIND; THEY TOO WANT TO BECOME PART OF THAT INTENSE LIGHT WE'RE BOASTING ABOUT; AS LONG AS IT IS THE "LIGHT OF CHRIST" WE'RE BOASTING ABOUT, AND NOT OF OURS: SUCH IS THE KIND OF TESTIMONY THAT SHOWS "WE HAVE BEEN WITH JESUS".

SEPTEMBER 15    ACTS 4: 29 READS, "NOW, LORD, CONSIDER THEIR THREATS AND ENABLE YOUR SERVANYS TO SPEAK YOUR WORD WITH GREAT BOLDNESS".

WE MAY BE WITH JESUS IN THE INWARD FELLOWSHIP OF CHERISHED THOUGHTS, TAKING HIM INTO OUR HEARTS AS WE TAKE OUR DEAREST FRIEND, AND DESIRING TO HOLD A SECRET SOUL-COMMUNING WITH HIM. ONLY THEN WILL OTHERS SEE IN US, PLAINLY, DAY BY DAY, THE SIGNS THAT "WE HAVE BEEN WITH JESUS"; FOR EVERY BIT OF THOSE SIGNS - SPIRIT, WORD, CONDUCT - AS WE CLAIM TO BE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST, ARE BEING WATCHED, WHETHER IT BE KINDLY OR UNKINDLY, BY OTHERS. PEOPLE TAKE KNOWLEDGE OF US, DUE TO THEIR CURIOSITIES.

STUDYING THE WORD, AND MEDITATING ON THE SCRIPTURE EDIFY US; THEY FULFILL US BEYOND MEASURE. HOWEVER, UNLESS WE MAKE IT OUR MAIN BUSINESS TO BE WITH THE LORD AND TAKE DELIGHT IN OUR VISITATIONS WITH HIM, WE CAN'T POSSIBLY WALK AWAY FROM HIM WITH THE KIND OF GLOW OTHERS WILL RECOGNIZE, AND FEEL A CURIOSITY ABOUT.

IN ORDER FOR THEM TO BE ATTRACTED TO SOMETHING, THAT THING HAS TO BE UNUSUALLY APPEALING AND GOOD. THAT ALONE IS WITHIN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT; IT CANNOT BE PRODUCED BY BECOMING AN AVID READER OF THE GOSPEL, JUST SO WE CAN TAKE PRIDE IN OUR 

KNOWLEDGE OF IT. WE CAN ONLY BORE PEOPLE TO DEATH WITH SUCH APPROACH.

THE MORE NATURAL OUR INNER BEAUTY IS, THE MORE POWERFUL IS THE ATTRACTION. PEOPLE NEED TO FEEL THE ATTRACTION TO JESUS CHRIST WHO RESIDES WITHIN US, AND HELPS US ACT AND REACT IN GODLY AND GOODLY MANNER. AS WE SPEND MORE VALUABLE - NOT FORCED - TIME WITH HIM, HIS PRESENCE STARTS OVERFLOWING; AND THAT'S WHEN OTHERS SEE THAT "WE HAVE BEEN WITH JESUS".

SEPTEMBER 14    ACTS 4: 13 READS, "WHEN THEY OBSERVED THE BOLDNESS OF PETER AND JOHN, AND REALIZED THAT THEY WERE UNEDUCATED AND UNTRAINED MEN, THEY WERE AMAZED, AND RECOGNIZED THAT THEY HAD BEEN WITH JESUS".

THESE MEN LACKED IN THE HIGHER CULTURE OF THEIR TIME; YET THEY WERE MADE TO BECOME MEN OF STRONG FAITH, OF TRUE PIETY, OF GODLY ZEAL, ADMIRABLE IN THE SIGHT OF MEN, AND ACCEPTABLE SERVANTS OF JESUS CHRIST. HUMAN LEARNING HAS ITS BEENFITS, BUT IT IS FAR FROM BEING A NECESSARY THING TO EXCELLENCE OF CHARACTER OR NOBILITY OF LIFE. IF AND WHEN OUR UNAPPRECIATED VIRTUES POSE A THREAT FOR THE UNGODLY, WE MUST REST ASSURED THAT OUR BOLDNESS ALWAYS ENLISTS ATTENTION AND PROVOKES ADMIRATION. WHETHER THEY CAN HELP IT OR NOT, THE UNBELIEVER WILL ALWAYS YIELD THEIR RESPECT IN THE SIGHT OF OUR COURAGE, WHICH IS ONE OF THE RESULTS OF OUR FREQUENT COMMUNION WITH THE HOLY ONE WHO CONTINUES TO PURIFY OUR HEARTS OF ALL SORTS OF FEAR AND DISCOMFORT; MAKING ROOM FOR MUCH NEEDED BOLDNESS.

PEOPLE PERSECUTE THAT WHICH THEY DO NOT BELIEVE; AS THEY QUESTION THE MYSTERIES AND GLORIES OF OUR ADVANCING FAITH. OUR BOLD AND AGGRESSIVE METHOD MUST BE THE HOPE OF THE CHURCH; AS WE PLANT OURSELVES FIRMLY ON THE ROCK OF UNDENIABLE FACTS OF GOD'S WORD. HE IS THE POWER BEHIND OUR EXISTENCE, WHETHER IT BE PHYSICAL, MENTAL, OR SPIRITUAL. GOD IS THE GIVER OF ALL GOODS...

SEPTEMBER 13    WE SPEND MORE TIME BEING FRUSTRATED, BECAUSE WE DO NOT FEEL FULLY ADEQUATE TO WORK WITHIN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. WE EITHER DO NOT HAVE THE BOLDNESS WE THINK WE NEED, OR WE DO NOT HAVE THE ELOQUENT WORDS WE BELIEVE WOULD BE IMPREESIVE ENOUGH TO PRESENT OTHERS WITH GOD'S WORD. IF WE ARE TRULY GIVEN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, NEITHER IS NECESSARY TO CARRY THE TASK, BECAUSE GOD WILL SPEAK THROUGH US; USING SIMPLE, YET EXTREMELY POWERFUL SENTENCES, AND DELIVER HIS MESSAGE WITHOUT LONG AND BORING SPEECHES. GOD IS THE POWER BEHIND IT ALL; IT'S NOT ABOUT OUR EFFORTS; IT CERTAINLY ISN'T ABOUT WHAT WE KNOW, AND HOW WE PLAN AND PREPARE OUR PRESENTATIONS TO MINISTER UNTO THE UNBELIEVERS OUT THERE. GOD DOESN'T NEED OUR ABILITIES; HE SIMPLY NEEDS OUR HUMBLE OBEDIENCE AND INADEQUACY, JUST SO HE CAN FILL IN ALL OF THE BLANKS FOR US. THE EMPTIER WE ARE, THE FULLER HE MAKES US.

WE MUST FOREVER CONTINUE TO STUDY HIS WORD AND REMAIN IN CONSTANT PRAYERS; BUT WE CANNOT RELY ON ANY OF IT WHEN IT COMES TO BEING USED FOR HIS KINGDOM. GOD REMAINS IN CHARGE THE ENTIRE TIME, AND HE DOESN'T NEED ANYTHING OF OURS, EXCEPT FOR OUR AVAILABILITY TO SERVE HIM.

SEPTEMBER 12  LUKE 11: 13 READS, "IF YOU THEN, BEING EVIL, KNOW HOW TO GIVE GOOD GIFTS TO YOUR CHILDREN, HOW MUCH MORE WILL YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER GIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT TO THOSE WHO ASK HIM!".

FROM THIS SCRIPTURE IT IS EASY TO SEE THAT WE ARE SAVED THE MOMENT WE DECLARE JESUS CHRIST AS OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR; YET WE'RE NOT GIVEN THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AS A GIFT FROM GOD, UNTIL WE ASK FOR IT. SALVATION AND THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT ARE TWO ENTIRELY DIFFERENT THINGS. THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE WHO GET SAVED OVER AND OVER AGAIN, ONE SUNDAY SERVICE AFTER ANOTHER; BUT A TRUE INFILLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN ONLY HAPPEN FOLLOWING A SINCERE REPENTANCE AND A TRUE SALVATION; LEADING US TO A HUGE DESIRE TO BE DIFFERENT THAN EVER BEFORE, JUST SO WE WILL PLEASE "ONLY" GOD, INSTEAD OF TRYING TO SATISFY OUR OWN AGENDAS.

IF WE ARE CONTINUALLY EXHAUSTING OURSELVES, WHILE TRYING TO STAY ON A STRAIGHT PATH, MOST LIKELY, WE HAVEN'T RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT. OFTEN SOME OF US EVEN STOP ATTENDING CHURCHES BECAUSE THEY GET FRUSTRATED WITH THE RUT, OR THE INADEQUACY OF THEIR COMMUNITIES. THEY START COMPLAINING ABOUT A CERTAIN GOSSIP WITHIN THE CHURCH BODY, SOMEONE'S MINISTRY, OR A FALLEN FRIEND OF THEIRS; AND THEY LOOK FOR EXCUSES IN ORDER TO STOP PARTICIPATING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD. CHURCHES ARE NOT MADE OF PERFECT PEOPLE; CHURCHES ARE FILLED WITH PEOPLE JUST LIKE US, THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND KIND OF PEOPLE, LOOKING FOR THE RIGHT PATH, ONE MISTAKE AT A TIME.

THE STARIGHT PATH IS EXTREMELY EFFORTLESS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, FOR HE SUPPLIES ALL THAT WE NEED. OUR OLD WAYS LOSE THEIR IMPORTANCE; THEY BECOME SENSELESS AND MEANINGLESS. IF WE TRULY WANT THE FLOODGATE OF HEAVEN TO OPEN UP, AND FOR GOD TO POUR THE GIFT OF HIS SPIRIT UPON US, WE MUST DRAW CLOSE TO HIM AND ASK FOR IT. ONLY THEN WILL THE UNDERSTANDING OF OUR MINDS AND OUR SPIRITS BE FREED FROM THE SHACKLES OF IGNORANCE.

SEPTEMBER 11    A FALSE FILLING IS NOTHING MORE THAN A COUNTERFEIT. IT MAY HAVE SOME RESEMBLANCE TO THE REAL THING; BUT FALLS SHORT WHEN EXAMINED IN THE LIGHT OF SCRIPTURE. IT MAY LOOK AND SOUND GOOD ON THE OUTSIDE; BUT IT IS WORTHLESS IN REALITY. AND BECAUSE A COUNTERFEIT IS EASILY IDENTIFIED WHEN COMPARED TO THE TRUE ORIGINAL, SATAN DOES NOT WANT ANY OF OUR FOCUS TO BE PUT ON THE TRUTH. IF SOMEONE GETS ANGRY WHEN THE LIGHT OF THE SCRIPTURE DEMANDS SOME EXPLANATION, THEY ARE NOT BEING LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE BLINDED BY THE SPIRIT OF DECEPTION.

GOD'S SPIRIT WITHIN US WILL CREATE A LOT OF EMOTIONS; BUT AN EMOTIONAL HIGH IS NOT THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, BECAUSE FEELINGS ARE NEVER THE FOCUS. THE MAIN FOCUS IS ALWAYS ON GOD'S WILL, AND HIS WILL ALWAYS PRODUCES GOOD FRUIT. EACH TIME WE SEE THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE BIBLE, THE IMMEDIATE RESPONSE IS TO "GO" AND "DO". HIS POWER IS LIFE-CHANGING AND MINISTRY EMPOWERING. IT IS NEVER CENTERED AROUND US; BUT IT IS ALWAYS CENTERED AROUND JESUS CHRIST. AND THE ONLY FOCUS IS ALWAYS DIRECTED TOWARD BRINGING PEOPLE TO CHRIST. AN EMOTIONAL HIGH IS A MOMENTARY THING; THE REAL BAPTISM LASTS A LIFETIME.

SEPTEMBER 10    OFTEN PEOPLE DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE INDWELLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. EVERY PERSON WHO TRULY REPENTS, AND INVITES JESUS CHRIST TO BE LORD AND SAVIOUR, RECEIVES THE HOLY SPIRIT. I JOHN 3 EXPLAINS THIS AS GOD'S SEED, AND TEACHES US THAT THIS IS WHEN WE ARE BORN OF GOD; THEREFORE HIS SEED REMAINS IN US. THIS IS THE INDWELLING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

HOWEVER, THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A LIFE-CHANGING EXPERIENCE. WHEN WE RECEIVE THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT; WE START DEVELOPING A DESIRE TO SERVE GOD AND HIS PURPOSE; AND WE START YIELDING GOOD FRUIT. MANY OF US CLAIM TO BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT WEEKLY; YET THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF IT, AS WE WALK OUT OF THE SUNDAY SERVICE. IF WE TRULY RECEIVE THE POWER FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT, IT WILL POINT US TO SERVICE AND TRUTH, AS JOHN 4: 24 EXPLAINS, "GOD IS SPIRIT, AND THOSE WHO WORSHIP HIM MUST WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH".

AND JOHN 16: 13- 14 EXPLAINS, "HOWEVER, WHEN HE, THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH, HAS COME, 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". THE MAIN TRUTH IS THE WORD OF GOD: WE CANNOT WORSHIP GOD OUTSIDE OF THAT TRUTH HE HAS ALREADY REVEALED IN THE SCRIPTURE.

WE MAY EXPERIENCE A LOT OF EMOTIONS, BELIEVING THEY ARE THE RESULT OF THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT; BUT IF OUR MAIN PURPOSE ISN'T TO GLORIFY CHRIST, AND PROCLAIM THE TRUTH OF GOD'S HOLY WORD; WE'RE SIMPLY FOOLING OURSELVES, AND OUR WORKS ARE POINTLESS.

SEPTEMBER 9    1 JOHN 3: 9 READS, "EVERYONE WHO HAS BEEN BORN OF GOD DOES NOT SIN, BECAUSE HIS SEED REMAINS IN HIM; HE IS NOT ABLE TO SIN, BECAUSE HE HAS BEEN BORN OF GOD".

ROMANS 8: 9- 10 READS, "YOU, HOWEVER, ARE NOT IN THE FLESH, BUT IN THE SPIRIT, SINCE THE SPIRIT OF GOD LIVES IN YOU. BUT IF ANYONE DOES NOT HAVE THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST, HE DOES NOT BELONG TO HIM.. NOW IF CHRIST IS IN YOU, THE BODY IS DEAD BECAUSE OF SIN, BUT THE SPIRIT IS LIFE BECAUSE OF RIGTEOUSNESS".

1 CORINTHIANS 6: 19 READS, "DON'T YOU KNOW THAT YOUR BODY IS A SANCTUARY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WHO IS IN YOU, WHOM YOU HAVE FROM GOD? YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN".

THE BIBLE TEACHES US WE RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT AT THE MOMENT WE SURRENDER OUR HEARTS TO CHRIST; YET WE COULDN'T BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH WHEN WE BELIEVE THAT SALVATION IS THE BAPTISM AND WHAT WE GET IS ALL THERE IS. AS GOD PUTS HIS SPIRIT WITHIN US, WE ARE GIVEN A NEW BEGINNING, BEING BORN-AGAIN AS A CHILD OF GOD. JOHN 20: 20- 22 EXPLAINS, "WHEN HE HAD SAID THIS, HE SHOWED THEM HIS HANDS AND HIS SIDE. THEN THE DISCIPLES WERE GLAD WHEN THEY SAW THE LORD. SO JESUS SAID TO THEM AGAIN, ' PEACE TO YOU! AS THE FATHER HAS SENT ME, I ALSO SEND YOU '. AND WHEN HE HAD SAID THIS, HE BREATHED ON THEM AND SAID TO THEM, ' RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT ' ".

THIS SCENE TOOK PLACE AFTER JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD. THE DISCIPLES WERE GATHERED IN A HIDING PLACE, OUT OF FEAR OF BEING PERSECUTED. THEY HAD HEARD RUMORS THAT JESUS WAS ALIVE, AND SOME WERE EVEN CLAIMING TO HAVE SEEN HIM. JESUS SUDDENLY APPEARED BODILY BEFORE THEM AND THE DISCIPLES RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT; YET IT WOULD NOT BE UNTIL THE DAY OF PENTECOST THAT THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT FELL UPON THEM; AND ONLY THEN COULD THESE FEARFUL DISCIPLES WOULD TURN THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN FOR CHRIST. ONLY THEN DID THESE FEARFUL MEN, HIDING FROM THEIR PERSECUTORS, CAME OUT PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL OF HESUS CHRIST BEFORE THE VERY PEOPLE THEY HAD FEARED EARLIER.

SEPTEMBER 8    TO APPROACH GOD ACCEPTABLY, WE MUST BE MORALLY PURE IN HEART AND IN ACTION. WE MAY SEE IT EITHER AS A NEED OR A DUTY; AND WHICHEVER WAY WE APPROACH HIM, GOD WILL PROVIDE THE WAY. WHAT HE DOES IS TO DELIVER THE CONSCIENCE FROM THE TYRANNY OF EVERY IDOLATRY, IN ORDER TO BRING IT UNDER REASONABLE GOVERNMENT AND GUIDANCE. HE FREES US FROM THE CRUELTY OF RELIGIOUS CUSTOMS, LUSTS, AND SUPERSTITIONS.

OUR SPIRIT HAS TO FIND ITS ENTRANCE INTO THE HOLY PLACE, AND HAS TO GIVE ITS REASON FOR CONFIDENCE IN EXPECTING ADMISSION, WITH AN ATTIUDE OF PERSEVERANCE. MOST IMPORTANTLY, WE MUST APPREHEND THAT THE ONLY GROUNG OF SATISFACTORY APPROACH TO GOD IS CHRIST, IN WHOM IS LIGHT, AND NO DARKNESS AT ALL, AND WHO CANNOT BE TEMPTED WITH EVIL, AND BRINGS HOPE FOR THE SINNER. HE DRAWS US TO HIMSELF AND LIFTS US ABOVE USELESS RESOLUTIONS AND VAIN STRUGGLES. KNOWING AND ACCEPTING CHRIST'S ROLE AS OUR HIGH PRIEST INTRODUCES US INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES, AND INTO THAT COMMUNION WITH GOD THAT BIRTHS PURITY AND BLESSEDNESS.

THE WHOLE MAN MUST DESIRE THE UNION WITH GOD: THE HEART MUST BE RIGHT; AND THE BODY MUST BE RIGHT. WITH A TRUE HEART, AND A PROSPEROUS FAITH, WE MUST CONTINUE A SECURE JOURNEY TOWARDS THE MYSTERIES OF GODLINESS

SEPTEMBER 7    COLOSSIANS 2: 12 READS, "HAVING BEING BURIED WITH HIM IN BAPTISM, IN WHICH YOU WERE ALSO RAISED UP WITH HIM THROUGH FAITH IN THE WORKING OF GOD, WHO RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD".

HEBREWS 10: 22 DESCRIBES, "HAVING OUR HEARTS SPRINKLED CLEAN FROM AN EVIL CONSCIENCE (BY THE BLOOD OF CHRIST), AND OUR BODIES WASHED WITH PURE WATER (IN BAPTISM). BAPTISM WORKS BECAUSE OF OUR FAITH IN GOD WHO RAISED JESUS FROM THE DEAD".

BAPTISM IS INEXTRICABLY LINKED WITH THE CROSS. FORGIVENESS OF SINS IS MADE THROUGH THE DEATH, BURIAL, AND RESURRECTION OF CHRIST. WHEN WE IDENTIFY WITH CHRIST'S DEATH, BURIAL, AND RESURRECTION IN BAPTISM, GOD FORGIVES OUR SINS. ACTS 2: 38 EXPLAINS, "REPENT, AND EACH OF YOU BE BAPTISED IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS; AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT". JESUS ACCEPTS ONLY THOSE WHO RECEIVE THE LIFE-RENEWING BAPTISM THROUGH A TRUSTING FAITH, A COURAGEOUS CONFESSION, AND A LIFE-CHANGING REPENTANCE. OTHERWISE, ALL OF OUR EFFORTS WILL PUT US AMONG THOSE TO WHOM JESUS WILL DECLARE, "I NEVER KNEW YOU... DEPART FROM ME... ".

SEPTEMBER 6    1 TIMOTHY 6: 12 READS,"FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH; TAKE HOLD OF ETERNAL LIFE TO WHICH YOU WERE CALLED, AND MAKE THE GOOD CONFESSION IN THE PRESENCE OF MANY WITNESSES".

TIMOTHY'S GOOD CONFESSION DIDN'T TAKE PLACE, AS A FAINT LITTLE WHISPER, IN THE CORNER OF A DARK ROOM, WHERE NO ONE COULD HEAR; INSTEAD, IT WAS A BBOLD CONFESSION; AND HE MADE IT AMONG MANY WITNESSES. TIMOTHY'S CONFESSION WAS: "I BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST IS THE SON OF GOD" (ACTS 8: 36). ROMANS 10: 9- 10 EXPLAINS, "... IF YOU CONFESS WITH YOUR MOUTH THAT JESUS IS THE LORD, AND BELIEVE IN YOUR HEART THAT GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD, YOU SHALL BE SAVED; FOR WITH THE HEART MAN BELIEVES, RESULTING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS; AND WITH THE MOUTH HE CONFESSES, RESULTING IN SALVATION".

A SINCERE CONFESSION IS FOLLOWED BY DRASTIC CHANGES IN OUR THOUGHTS, WORDS, AND ACTIONS. EVEN WHEN LIFE AND LIMB ARE AT RISK, WE CONTINUE TO CONFESS, UNASHAMEDLY, THE NAME OF JESUS, AGAIN AND AGAIN. JESUS' PROMISE IS RIGHT TO THE POINT,"IF YOU CONFESS ME BEFORE MEN, I WILL CONFESS YOU BEFORE MY FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN. IF YOU DENY ME BEFORE MEN, I WILL ALSO DENY YOU BEFORE MY FATHER IN HEAVEN" (MATTHEW 10: 32- 33).

CHRIST IS THE ONLY WAY; WE CANNOT APPROACH THE FATHER WITHOUT HIM. HE STEPPED DOWN UNTO THIS EARTH JUST SO HE CAN BECOME THE MEDIATOR FOR US. WE HAVE NO GOOD REASON TO BELIEVE THAT WE CAN DO ALRIGHT WITHOUT HIM. WE MIGHT BE ABLE TO SURVIVE LIFE WITHOUT HIM; WE MAY EVEN FIND A FEW SHORTCUTS TO LIVE OUT TANGIBLE SUCCESS HERE AND THERE. BUT WE COULD NEVER BE FILLED WITH COMPLETE SATISFACTION, AND SAVOR THE SWEET TASTE OF THAT GOD-GIVEN INNER JOY AND PEACE. AND WITHOUT CONTENTMENT, SOONER OR LATER, WE START CHALLENGING OURSELVES FOR MORE AND BETTER, NOT KNOWING WHEN TO STOP, UNTIL WE HAVE WASTED ALL OF OUR GOOD EFFORTS OVER THINGS THAT COULD NEVER SATISFY THAT SPRITUAL HUNGER.

SEPTEMBER 5    ACTS 17: 30- 31 READS, "BUT GOD IS NOW DECLARING TO MEN THAT ALL PEOPLE EVERYWHERE SHOULD REPENT, BECAUSE HE HAS FIXED A DAY IN WHICH HE WILL JUDGE THE WORLD IN RIGHTEOUSNESS THROUGH A MAN WHOM HE HAS APPOINTED, HAVING FURNISHED PROOF TO ALL MEN BY RAISING HIM FROM THE DEAD".

IT'S OBVIOUS THAT GOD WANTS US TO REPENT AND PSALM 34: 18 EXPLAINS WHY, "THE LORD IS NEAR THE BROKEN-HEARTED AND SAVES THOSE WHO ARE CRUSHED IN SPIRIT". REPENTANCE CHANGES LIVES: THE LIAR STOPS LYING; THE THIEF STOPS STEALING; THE IMMORAL STOPS BEING PROMISCUOUS. FROM GOD'S PERSPECTIVE, REPENTANCE IS A BLESSING; NOT A CURSE. ACTS 3: 26 SAYS, "... GOD RAISED UP HIS SERVANT AND SENT HIM TO BLESS YOU BY TURNING YOU FROM YOUR WICKED WAYS".

GOD, THROUGH HIS SUPREME LOVE FOR US, HAS MADE A WAY TO GIVE US A NEW START; A CHANCE TO COME CLEAN BEFORE HIM. OTHERWISE NO RITUAL, NO SACRIFICE HAS THE ABILITY TO REMOVE THE NATURE WE INHERITED FROM ADAM. GOD WANTS US TO LIVE WITH INTEGRITY AND TO POSSESS THE HEAVENLY QUALITIES, INSTEAD OF BECOMING WEARY OF PRETENDING TO BE SOMETHING WE'RE NOT.

SEPTEMBER 4    REPENTANCE IS MUCH MORE THAN A NEW YEAR RESOLUTION; IT IS ANGENUITE RESOLVE TO SEEK GOD; DO GOOD AND LIVE LIKE CHRSIT, THROUGHOUT LIFE - NOT JUST HERE AND THERE, OR WHEN PEOPLE CAN SEE US. BUT BEFORE REPANTANCE CAN TAKE PLACE, WE MUST SEE OURSELVES AS WE REALLY ARE; JUST AS APOSTLE PETER DID AS HE EXCLAIMED, "GO AWAY FROM ME, LORD, FOR I AM A SINFUL MAN, O LORD" 9LUKE 5: 8). THE TAX COLLECTOR IN THE TEMPLE WOULDN'T EVEN LIFT UP HIS EYES TO GOD; BUT BEATING HIS CHEST, HE SAID, "GOD BE MERCIFUL TO ME THE SINNER" (LUKE 18: 13). DAVID ADMITTED IN HIS PRAYER, "AGAINST YOU, YOU ONLY, I HAVE SINNED, AND DONE WHAT IS EVIL IN YOUR SIGHT" (PSALM 51: 4). AND SINCE ROMANS 3: 23 READS, "ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD"; WE COULDN'T POSSIBLY BELIEVE WE COULD BOLDLY COME BEFORE GOD, WITHOUT A SPECK OF GUILT OR SHAME THAT NEEDS, DESPERATELY, TO BE PURIFIED AND SANCTIFIED.

ONLY A HANDFUL REALIZE THE FACT THAT THEIR SINS HAVE CONTINUALLY PROVOKED A LOVING AND A MERCIFUL GOD TO INDIGNATION AND WRATH. THE REASON GOD GETS ANGRY IS BECAUSE "HE TAKES NO PLEASURE IN WICKEDNESS; NO EVIL DWELLS IN HIS" (PSALM 7: 11). IT IS OUR SINS THAT PUT JESUS ON THE CROSS. HE WAS PIERCED THROUGH FOR OUR TRANSGRESSIONS. HE WAS CRUSHED FOR OUR INIQUITIES. HE WAS CHASTIZED FOR OUR WELL-BEING. HE WAS SCOURGED FOR OUR HEALING.

WHETHER IT BE INTENTIONALLY OR INTENTIONALLY, OUR SINS CAUSE HURTS, ILLNESSES, EVEN DEATH. AND THIS IS THE REALITY OF OUR CONDITION BEFORE GOD.

SEPTEMBER 3    HEBREWS 11: 27 READS, "BY FAITH MOSES LEFT EGYPT, NOT FEARING THE WRATH OF THE KING; FOR HE ENDURED AS SEEING HIM WHO IS UNSEEN".

THAT WHICH PRODUCED GOD'S PLAN AND PURPOSE FOR HUMANITY IS MUCH MORE THAN A MERE ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF HIS EXISTENCE. ACCORDING TO PROVERBS 3: 5- 7, "TRUST IN THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND DO NOT LEAN ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING. IN ALL YOUR WAYS ACKNOWLEDGE HIM, AND HE WILL MAKE YOUR PATHS STRAIGHT", TRUE FAITH IS MUCH MORE THAN A MENTAL ASSENT. IT INVOLVES TRUST; A HUGE AMOUNT OF TRUST. AND IT IS NOT A FAITH THAT LIVES BY CONVENIENCE; BUT RATHER A FAITH THAT LIVES BY CONVICTION.

"WHAT SHALL I DO, LORD?", IS THE FIRST RESPONSE OF BIBLICAL FAITH.

"THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN", IS THE OBJECTIVE OF SUCH FAITH.

"I AM READY TO DIE AT JERUSALEM FOR THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS", IS THE INTEGRITY BEHIND IT ALL, JUST AS APOSTLE PAUL AFFIRMED WITH CONVICTION.

HOW MUCH LONGER DO INTEND TO MEMORIZE SCRIPTURES, OMITTING THE GRANDEUR OF GOD; WHILE WE LIPSYNC TO REAP BENEFITS OF APPEARING AND SOUNDING AS CHRIST'S FOLLOWERS? SO MUCH OF WHAT IS CALLED FAITH TODAY IS NOTHING MORE THAN A HAND-ME-DOWN VERSION FROM OUR FAMILY MEMBERS. GENUINE FAITH IS PERSONAL AND VITAL; IT GIVES US SOMEONE TO LIVE FOR, AND SOMEHTING TO DIE FOR.

AS ROMANS 10: 17 EXPLAINS, "FAITH COMES BY HEARING, AND HEARING BY THE WORD OF CHRIST". WE CANNOT BE CONDEMNED FOR UNBELIEF, IF WE HAVEN'T HAD THE OPPORTUNITY OF HEARING THE GOSPEL. NO PERSON WILL BE CONDEMNED IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT WHO HAS NOT HAD THE OPPORTUNITY OF SALVATION. GOD HAS DONE HIS PART FOR THE ENLIGHTENMENT AND SALVATION OF MEN. HE HAS REVEALED HIMSELF IN HIS WORKS OF NATURE; IN HIS WORD; AND IN HIS SON. JESUS IS EMMANUEL, "GOD WITH US".

SEPTEMBER 2  JOHN 17: 22- 26 READS, "I HAVE GIVEN THEM THE GLORY YOU HAVE GIVEN ME. MAY THEY BE ONE AS WE ARE ONE. I AM IN THEM AND YOU ARE IN ME. MAY THEY BE MADE COMPLETELY ONE, SO THE WORLD MAY KNOW YOU HAVE SENT ME AND HAVE LOVED THEM AS YOU HAVE LOVED ME. FATHER, I DESIRE THOSE YOU HAVE GIVEN ME TO BE WITH ME WHERE I AM. THEN THEY WILL SEE MY GLORY, WHICH YOU HAVE GIVEN ME BECAUSE YOU LOVED ME BEFORE THE WORLD'S FOUNDATION. RIGHTEOUS FATHER! THE WORLD HAS NOT KNOWN YOU. HOWEVER I HAVE KNOWN YOU, AND THESE HAVE KNOWN THAT YOU SENT ME. I MADE YOUR NAME KNOWN TO THEM AND WILL MAKE IT KNOWN, SO THE LOVE YOU HAVE LOVED ME WITH MAY BE IN THEM, AND I MAY BE IN THEM".

THESE LAST WORDS UTTERED BY OUR LORD, BEFORE HE PROCEEDED TO HIS BETRAYAL, ARE A PRAYER TO THE FATHER. THEY EXPLAIN THE REASON AND THE PURPOSE OF HIS MEDIATION, AND OF HIS MINISTRY TO MAN. AS CHRIST ENLIGHTENED MEN'S IGNORANCE, BY REVEALING GOD TO US, HE ALSO ANNOUNCED THAT HIS MISSION IS FROM GOD HIMSELF. HIS DISCOURSES, HIS CONVERSATIONS, AND HIS MIGHTY WORKS ALL LED TO HIS FLAWLESS CHARACTER. HE AWAKENED OUR MINDS TO HIS SPECIAL AUTHORITY AND COMMISSION. THROUGH THE CURIOSITY WE TASTED, DUE TO HIS UNIQUE ANSWERS, CHRIST PRODUCED A SENSE OF CONVICTION WE NEEDED, IN ORDER TO DESIRE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THIS KINGDOM HE WAS TALKING ABOUT. AND THROUGH MUCH OF OUR SATISFIED QUESTIONS ABOUT HIS DOCTRINE, WE GOT TO KNOW THE FACT THAT GOD IS A SPIRIT, THAT CHRIST'S CHARACTER MATCHES GOD'S, WHOSE PURPOSES OF COMPASSION AND MERCY TOWARDS US ARE UNLIMITED.

CHRIST ALSO ANNOUNCED THAT IT WAS POSSIBLE FOR US TO RECEIVE THE KIND OF LOVE GOD HAD FOR HIM, AS LONG AS WE ACCEPTED HIS TRUE IDENTITY, THROUGH FAITH IN HIM; BECAUSE HE HIMSELF IS THAT KIND OF LOVE - THE KIND THAT HAD THE CAPACITY TO PARDON HIS OFFENDER. NOT ONLY DID HE REMOVE THE PUNISHMENT, BUT THE LAWGIVER HIMSELF TOOK OVER THE PUNISHMENT, JUST SO WE WOULD BE SET FREE. WHAT AN AWESOME LOVE THAT IS!

SEPTEMBER 1    ROMANS 8: 30 READS, "AND THOSE HE PREDESTINED, HE ALSO CALLED; THOSE HE CALLED, HE ALSO JUSTIFIED; THOSE HE JUSTIFIED, HE ALSO GLORIFIED".

THE GOSPEL IS GOD'S BLUEPRINT FOR SECURING A MULTITUDE OF CHILDREN WHO WILL ALL BECOME CHRIST-LIKE. AS GOD SENT HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON AMONG US AS THE "FIRSTBORN", HE PREDESTINED ALL WILLING HEARTS TO BECOME CHRIST-LIKE. THAT IS WHY HUMILITY, FROM GOD'S PERSPECTIVE, IS DESIGNED TO BE USED AS AN INVITATION TO SHED ALL STUBBORNNESS; JUST SO WE WILL END UP EXHAUSTING OUR OWN AGENDA, AND GIVE GOD A CHANCE TO RECONNECT US TO WHERE SUPREME REALITY OF ALL THINGS LIES QUIETLY, WAITING TO BE DISCOVERED.

GOD SUMMONS PEOPLE BY THE OUTWARD "WORD", BY THE INWARD "SPIRIT", AS AN INVITATION TO ENTER INTO A RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM. THAT REALTIONSHIP IS BASED ON OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE IDENTITY OF CHRIST, AND THE PURPOSE BEHIND HIS BIRTH AMONG MANKIND. EPHESIANS 1: 14 READS, "HE IS THE DOWN PAYMEN OF OUR INHERITENCE, FOR THE REDEMPTION OF THE POSSESSION, TO THE PRAISE OF HIS GLORY". AS WE ARE "IN CHRIST JESUS, THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION; THEREFORE WE ARE BROUGHT FORTH FROM DARKNESS INTO LIGHT, AND FROM DEATH UNTO LIFE. BEING JUSTIFIED BY CHRIST SUPPLIES THE POWER THAT WILL ISSUE IN OUR COMPLETE SANCTIFICATION. GOD WILL NEVER LET ANYTHING THWART HIM. IF WE WERE TO LOVE 

HIM WITH ALL OF OUR HEARTS AND THROW OURSELVES INTO THE CURRENT OF HIS GOOD PURPOSE, ALL THINGS WILL BE MADE GOOD TO US; AFFLICTIONS WILL BECOME TRIUMPHS; HINDRANCES WILL BECOME HELPS, AND ENEMIES WILL TURN INTO UNWITTING FRIENDS.

MEN POSSESS THE OPTION TO REJECT CHRIST-LIKENESS; THEY MAY EVEN REJECT THE CALL OF GOD TO CHRIST-LIKENESS; BUT GOD'S PURPOSE IS NEVER NULLIFIED BY SUCH WICKEDNESS. HIS PURPOSE HAS ALWAYS BEEN PURE IN CALLING US, EVEN IF WE REJECT HIS CALL, WHICH MEANS WE ALSO REJECT THE JUSTIFICATION AND THE GLORIFICATION.

AUGUST 31    1CORINTHIANS 6: 11 READS, "...YOU WERE JUSTIFIED IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AND BY THE SPIRIT OF OUR LORD".

ADAM REPRESENTED US ALL ALONG; AND WHEN HE SINNED, HE SINNED REPRESENTATIVELY; AND WHAT HE DID WAS IMPUTED TO US, THROUGH WHICH WE TOO FELL. AND IT IS BY THE REPRESENTATIVE SYSTEM THAT WE RISE. THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL IS THE FACT THAT THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST IS IMPUTED TO ALL BELIEVING SOULS; THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS. IF WE GIVE UP IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS, THEN WE MUST GIVE UP JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH. AND IF WE BELIEVE IN JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH IN CHRIST, WE MUST COME TO THE DOCTRINE OF THE IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST AS THE BASIS AND THE FOUNDATION ON WHICH THAT SIMPLE DOCTRINE RESTS.

THE ANGELS FELL PERSONALLY AND INDIVIDUALLY; THEY NEVER RISE, AND NEVER WILL. HEBREWS 1: 5 READS, "FOR TO WHICH OF THE ANGELS DID GOD EVER SAY, ' YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BECOME YOUR FATHER '; OR ' I WILL BE HIS FATHER, AND HE WILL BE MY SON ' ". WHEN GOD SPOKE OF HIS FIRSTBORN, HE SAID, " LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM" (DEUTERONOMY 32: 43). AND HE SAID OF THE ANGELS, "HE MAKES HIS ANGELS SPIRITS AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE" (PSALM 104: 4); BUT OF THE SON HE SAID, "YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND A RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF YOUR KINGDOM. YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS. SO GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU OVER YOUR COMPANIONS WITH THE OIL OF REJOICING" (PSALM 45: 6), AND "YOU HAVE FOUNDED THE EARTH IN THE BEGINNING, LORD, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS. THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU CONTINUE. AND THEY WILL ALL GROW OLD LIKE A GARMENT, AND LIKE A ROBE YOU WILL FOLD HTEM UP AND LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL BE CHANGED, BUT YOU ARE THE SAME AND YOUR YEARS WILL NEVER RUN OUT" (PSALM 89: 11). GOD NEVER SAID TO ANY OF HIS ANGELS, "SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET" (PSALM 110: 1). ANGELS ARE MINISTERING SPIRITS TOO, SENT OUT TO SERVE THOSE WHO WILL INHERIT SALVATION. YET THE SON IS HIGHER THAN THE ANGELS; THEREFORE WE HAD BETTER LISTEN TO WHAT HE HAS SAID TO US FOLLOWERS.

AUGUST 30    JEREMIAH 23: 6 READS, "THIS IS HIS NAME WHEREBY HE SHALL BE CALLED ' THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS ' ".

THROUGH THE FALL OF ADAM, WE SUFFERED THE LOSS OF A RIGHTEOUS NATURE, AND A TWO-FOLD LOSS OF LEGAL RIGHTEOUSNESS IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. AND THROUGH THAT ONE INITIAL SIN, WE WERE NO LONGER INNOCENT OF TRANSGRESSION. WE DIDN'T KEEP GOD'S COMMAND; THEREFORE WE WERE GUILTY OF THE SIN OF OMISSION. IN THAT WHICH WE COMMITTED, AND IN THAT WHICH WE OMITTED, OUR ORIGINAL CHARACTER FOR UPRIGHTNESS WAS COMPLETELY WRECKED.

JESUS CHRIST CAME TO UNDO THE AGONY OF HIS FALLEN PEOPLE; AND THROUGH HIS PRECIOUS BLOOD, HE ERASED ALL OF OUR SINS - PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE - MAKING US ACCEPTABLE BEFORE GOD. HE WAS SO RIGHTEOUS, THAT HE IS "RIGHTEOUSNESS" ITSELF. HE IS THE LAW INCARNATE; AND BECAUSE HE LIVED THE LAW OF GOD TO THE VERY FULL, WE MAY AS WELL SEE HIM AS THE STONE TABLETS OF SINAI UPON WHICH GOD'S COMMANDS WERE WRITTEN IN FIRE.

UNLESS WE APPROACH GOD THROUGH CHRSIT'S RIGHTEOUSNESS, GOD CANNOT ACCEPT US. AND UNLESS WE HAVE CHIST'S KIND OF OBEDIENCE, GOD CANNOT REWARD US. WE MUST RECEIVE CHRIST AS OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR; AND SUBMIT ALL OF OUR NEEDS, ALL OF OUR CONCERNS AND FEARS TO HIM, AND WE MUST SUBMIT OUR WILLS TO GOD THROUGH CHRIST.

AUGUST 29    MARK 1: 15 READS, "THE TIME IS FULFILLED, AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD HAS COME NEAR. REPENT AND BELIEVE IN THE GOOD NEWS".

REPENTANCE AND FAITH ARE THE CONDITIONS OF ADMISSION INTO CHRISTIAN COVENANT. REPENTANCE HAS A SPECIAL REFERENCE TO GOD THE FATHER; AND FAITH, TO JESUS CHRIST THE ETERNAL SON. IT IS THROUGH THE "GOOD NEWS" THAT CHRIST IS REVEALED TO US AS A SAVIOUR; THEREFOrE HE IS THE OBJECT OF OUR FAITH. WITHOUT JESUS CHRIST, REPENTANCE MAKES NO SATISFACTION FOR THE LAW WHICH WE HAVE BROKEN. WE MUST BELEIVE IN THE GOSPEL; WE MUST BELIEVE IN THE GOOD NEWS, BEFORE WE CAN COMPREHEND OUR NEED OF A SAVIOUR, AND WE MUST SEE CHRIST AS A PROPITIATION FOR OUR SIN.

WITHOUT FAITH, REPENTANCE IS CALLED DESPAIR, SORROW, REGRET; YET IT CANNOT POSSIBLY LEAD US TO SALVATION, WHICH IS A PRODUCT OF OUR FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST.

TO REPENT IS TO CHANGE ONE'S ATTITUDE TOWARD SELF, TOWARD SIN, TOWARD GOD, AND TOWARD CHRIST. THE ONE WHO HAS BEEN HIDING FROM GOD SEEKS TO FIND REFUGE IN HIM; AND THE ONE WHO'S BEEN REJECTING CHRIST REALIZES AND OWNS HIS NEED OF A REDEEMER. THE HOLY SPIRIT DRAWS MEN FROM EVIL, TO TEACH THEM HEAVENLY, SOUL-WINNING, AND SAVING TRUTH; TO GUIDE THEM INTO THE PATHS OF PEACE; TO ENCOURAGE AND HELP THEM IN THE MAINTENANCE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS; TO BIND IN BONDS OF BROTHERHOOD; TO BUILD THEM UP IN KNOWLEDGE AND DOCTRINE; AND TO FIT THEM FOR USEFUL SERVICE ON EARTH.

THIS SERVICE, MOST HEAVENLY WHEN MOST HARD, MOST FRUITFUL WHEN MOST DESPISED, IS NO DIFFERENT THAN WHAT OUR SAVIOUR HAD TO FACE, IN ORDER TO HELP US RECEIVE THE GOOD NEWS. IT IS A CROWN FOR US TO WEAR WHILE WE AIM TO INTRODUCE HIM.

AUGUST 28    IF PREACHERS DO NOT WARN PEOPLE OF THEIR SINS, AND PEOPLE ARE LOST, GOD WILL ALSO HOLD THE PREACHERS ACCOUNTABLE. COMPROMISING THE TRUTH WILL HOLD PEOPLE BACK FROM THAT WHICH IS GOD'S PLAN AND PURPOSE FOR THEM. IN FACT, ALL THEY NEED TO HEAR IS GOD'S WORD; THE HOLY SPIRIT DOES THE REST: HE BRINGS CONVICTION INTO THEIR HEARTS AND BRINGS THEM TO THEIR KNEES FOR TRUE REPENTANCE, AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE THE KING, WHICH IS NONE OTHER THAN GOD'S GRACE.

GRACE IS GOD'S UNMERITED FAVOR TO THOSE WHO HAVE MERITED THE VERY OPPOSITE. IT FOLLOWS REPENTANCE, WHICH IS THE SINNER'S RECOGNITION AND ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF HIS LOST ESTATE, AND THEREFORE OF HIS NEED OF GRACE. WE WOULDN'T GO TO A PHYSICIAN IN ORDER TO OBTAIN A PRESCRIPTION UNLESS WE FIRST ADMIT TO OURSELVES THAT WE HAVEN'T BEEN FEELING WELL.

THAT IS WHY IT IS VERY IMPORTANT FOR OUR CHURCHES TO STOP BEING PLACES OF ENTERTAINMENT, GOOD MUSIC, AND A PAT ON THE BACK. OUR PREACHERS OUGHT TO BE PREACHING ABOUT REPENTANCE MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, ESPECIALLY THESE DAYS. SHALLOW PREACHING THAT DOESN'T GRAPPLE PEOPLE WITH THE TERRIBLE FACT OF THEIR SINFULNESS AND GUILT LEAD TO SHALLOW CONVERSIONS.

NO MAN, WHO DOES NOT REPENT, CAN TRULY BELIEVE IN CHRIST. THOUGH HIS REPENTANCE DOESN'T END WHEN HE RECEIVES THE SAVING FAITH, YET IT GROWS DEEPER AS HE CONTINUES TO GROW IN FAITH. FAITH AND REPENTANCE FEED OFF ONE OTHER.

AUGUST 27    LUKE 13: 2-3 READS, "AND JESUS SAID TO THEM, ' DO YOU SUPPOSE THAT THESE GALILEANS WERE GREATER SINNERS THAN ALL OTHER GALILEANS BECAUSE THEY SUFFERED THIS FATE? I TELL YOU, NO, BUT UNLESS YOU REPENT, YOU WILL ALL LIKEWISE PERISH ' ".

ALL CALAMITIES THAT HAPPEN IN THE WORLD ARE SO MANY DEMONSTRATIONS OF THE WRATH OF GOD. THOSE WHO ARE TREATED WITH SEVERITY AREN'T THE MOST WICKED OF ALL MEN; BECAUSE GOD ADMINISTERS HIS JUDGMENTS IN SUCH A MANNER THAT SOME ARE INSTANTLY PUNISHED, AND OTHERS ARE PERMITTED TO REMAIN LONG IN THE ENJOYMENT OF LUXURY.

JUDGMENT EXECUTED UPON OTHERS, OR THE FATE OF THE DEAD, IS NO PROOF OF SPECIAL SIN; BUT IT IS A CALL TO REPENTANCE ADDRESSED TO THE SURVIVORS. WE MUST LEARN THE PRACTICAL LESSON FROM EVERY JUDGMENT OF THE IMPORTANCE OF PERSONAL REPENTANCE. CALAMITIES ARE ALLOWED TO OCCUR; NOT THAT WE MAY CRITICIZE THE CONDUCT OF OTHERS, BUT THAT WE MAY CAREFULLY REVIEW OURSELVES IN ORDER TO REPENT BEFORE GOD. NEITHER SACRIFICIAL OBSERVANCES, NOR RITUAL SERVICE, NOR WORKS OF LAW EVER HAVE ANY PART IN JUSTIFYING THE UNGODLY; NOR ARE THERE ANY SINNERS EVER SAVED BY GRACE UNTIL THEY REPENT. REPENTANCE IS NOT OPPOSED TO GRACE; IT IS THE RECOGNITION OF THE NEED OF GRACE.

AUGUST 26    JUDGES 21: 25 READS, "IN THOSE DAYS THERE WAS NO KING IN ISRAEL; EVERYONE DID WHAT WAS RIGHT IN HIS OWN EYES".

THIS IS THE CONCLUDING VERSE OF THE BOOK OF JUDGES CHARACTERIZING THE MOOD OF THE TIME. IMMORALITY AND IDOLATRY CONTINUALLY SWEPT THE COUNTRY. WHEN THE PEOPLE REPENTED, GOD SENT THEM DELIVERERS. BUT SOON THE PEOPLE WERE BACK IN THE DEPTH OF DEGRADATION. A FAMINE INVADED THE LAND. SUDDENLY THE LAND OF MILK AND HONEY BECAME DESOLATE BECAUSE OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE. GOD HAD ALREADY WARNED THEM SAYING, "IF AFTER THESE THINGS YOU DO NOT OBEY ME, I WILL PUNISH YOU SEVEN TIMES MORE FOR YOUR SINS... I WILL BREAK DOWN YOUR PRIDE OF POWER; I WILL MAKE YOUR SKY LIKE IRON AND YOUR EARTH LIKE BRONZE. YOUR STRENGTH WILL BE SPENT USELESSLY, FOR YOUR LAND WILL NOT PRODUCE AND THE TREES OF THE LAND WILL NOT YIELD FRUIT" (DEUTERONOMY 28: 15, 23- 24).

IN EARLIER VERSES OF THE SAME BOOK WE SEE HOW GOD ASSURED HIS PEOPLE SAYING, "IT SHALL COME ABOUT, IF YOU LISTEN OBEDIENTLY TO MY COMMANDMENTS WHICH I AM COMMANDING YOU TODAY, TO LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD AND TO SERVE HIM WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND ALL YOUR SOUL, THAT HE WILL GIVE THE RAIN FOR YOUR LAND IN ITS SEASON, THE EARLY AND LATE RAIN, THAT YOU MAY GATHER IN YOUR GRAIN AND YOUR NEW WINE AND YOUR OIL" (DEUTERONOMY 11: 13- 14). THEREFORE FOR JUDAH TO HAVE FAMINE CLEARLY INDICATED THAT ISRAEL WAS DISOBEDIENT TO GOD.

THIS FAMINE WAS FAR MORE DIFFERENT THOUGH. AS AMOS 8: 11 EXPLAINS, "BEHOLD, DAYS ARE COMING WHEN I WILL SEND A FAMINE ON THE LAND, NOT A FAMINE FOR BREAD OR A THIRST FOR WATER, BUT RATHER FOR HEARING THE WORDS OF THE LORD". THE PHYSICAL FAMINE, IF WE CONTINUE TO DISOBEY AND NOT REPENT, ALWAYS LEADS TO SPIRITUAL FAMINE. WE CAN AIM TO RELOCATE AND LOOK FOR A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE - JUST LIKE NAOMI AND HER HUSBAND ELIMELECH DID WITH THEIR TWO SONS AND DAUGHTERS-IN-LAW - HOPING TO ESCAPE THE JUDGMENT; BUT GOD BROUGHT NAOMI AND RUTH BACK TO THE LAND, IN A MUCH MORE DESTITUDE CONDITION THAN THEY HAD EVER BEEN. GOD HAD TAKEN NAOMI'S HUSBAND ELIMELECH, WHOSE NAME MEANS "GOD IS MY KING" - OBVIOUSLY ELIMELECH HAD STOPPED LIVING UP TO HIS NAME BECAUSE HE DECIDED TO MOVE AWAY FROM THE LAND GOD HAD GIVEN THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL - AND HER TWO SONS, THE LEADERS OF THEIR OWN HOUSEHOLDS, JUST SO HE CAN REESTABLISH THESE TWO WOMEN, IN ORDER TO REWARD THE INTENTIONS OF THEIR HEARTS. GOD BROUGHT THEM BACK TO BETHLEHEM, MEANING "THE HOUSE OF BREAD".

AUGUST 25    RUTH 4: 21- 22 READS, "TO SALMON WAS BORN BOAZ; AND TO BOAZ, OBED; AND TO OBED WAS BORN JESSE; AND TO JESSE, DAVID".

WHAT SEEMS TO MERELY HAPPEN TO RUTH WAS THE PROVIDENTIAL DIRECTION OF GOD; THROUGH WHICH SHE HAPPENED UPON THE RIGHT FIELD, AT THE RIGHT TIME, AND WHEN THE RIGHT THINGS WERE HAPPENING. SUCH SUDDEN CHANGES WE HAVE NO CONTROL OVER, HOWEVER UNCOMFORTABLE THEY MAY FEEL TO US, MAY BECOME LIFE CHANGING, LIFE TRANSFORMING EXPERIENCES, JUST AS IT WAS THE CASE WITH RUTH: SHE BECAME THE GREAT GRANDMOTHER OF KING DAVID. IT IS NOT ACCIDENTAL EITHER THAT JESUS CHRIST, THE REDEEMER OF MANKIND, WILL BE KNOWN AS "THE SON OF DAVID".

RUTH'S STORY INTRODUCES US TO THE TWO PILLARS OF REDEMPTION: FAVOR AND GRACE. AS THE BOOK OF GENESIS DESCRIBES HOW DISAPPOINTED AND GRIEVED GOD WAS LOOKING UPON THE MANKIND'S DISOBEDIENCE; IT ALSO EXPLAINS THE FACT THAT "NOAH FOUND FAVOR IN THE EYES OF THE LORD". NOAH PRACTICALLY STOOD OUT BECAUSE HE WANTED TO PLEASE GOD BY CLINGING TO GOD'S LAWS AND EXPECTATIONS. AND HAVING THE 

FAVOR OF THE LORD RELATES ALWAYS TO THE GRACE OF GOD. GRACE IS DESCRIBED AS THE UNMERITED FAVOR OF GOD. BUT THE HIDDEN DEFINITION BEHIND ALL OF THAT IS THE FACT THAT "GRACE IS LIVING CONTINUALLY WITH THE UNMERITED FAVOR OF GOD IN OUR LIVES".

SUCH BOUNTIFUL GRACE BRINGS REST AND UNMATCHABLE PEACE. MATTHEW 11: 28- 29 EXPLAINS, "COME UNTO ME, ALL YE THAT LABOUR AND ARE HEAVY LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST. TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU, AND LEARN OF ME; FOR I AM MEEK AND LOWLY IN HEART; AND YE SHALL FIND REST UNTO YOUR SOULS". NOT ALL WHO EXPERIENCE SALVATION BY THE GRACE OF GOD ARE ABLE TO ENTER THE REST OF REDEMPTION. THAT IS WHY THE BOOK OF RUTH IS IMPORTANT: IT DEMONSTARTES THE WAY OF ENTERING THE REST OF GOD. IT TEACHES US THE UNDYING CONFIDENCE IN GOD'S ABILITY TO KEEP AND SUSTAIN US.

AUGUST 24    RUTH 2: 8- 13 READS, "THEN BOAZ SAID TO RUTH, ' LISTEN CAREFULLY, DAUGHTER. DO NOT GO TO GLEAN IN ANOTHER FIELD; FURTHERMORE, DO NOT GO ON FROM THIS ONE, BUT STAY HERE WITH MY MAIDS. LET YOUR EYES BE ON THE FIELD WHICH THEY REAP, AND GO AFTER THEM. INDEED, I HAVE COMMANDED THE SERVANTS NOT TO TOUCH YOU. WHEN YOU ARE THIRSTY, GO TO THE WATER JARS AND DRINK FROM WHAT THE SERVANTS DRAW '. THEN SHE FELL ON HER FACE, BOWING TO THE GROUND AND SAID TO HIM, 'WHY HAVE I FOUND FAVOR AT YOUR SIGHT THAT YOU SHOULD TAKE NOTICE OF ME, SINCE I AM A FOREIGNER? '. BOAZ REPLIED TO HER, ' ALL THAT YOU HAVE DONE FOR YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW AFTER THE DEATH OF YOUR HUSBAND HAS BEEN FULLY REPORTED TO ME, AND HOW YOU LEFT YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER AND THE LAND OF YOUR BIRTH, AND CAME TO A PEOPLE THAT YOU DID NOT PREVIOUSLY KNOW. MAY THE LORD REWARD YOUR WORK, AND YOUR WAGES BE FULL FROM THE LORD, THE GOD OF ISRAEL, UNDER WHOSE WINGS YOU HAVE COME TO SEEK REFUGE '. THEN SHE SAID, ' I HAVE FOUND FAVOR IN YOUR SIGHT, MY LORD, FOR YOU HAVE COMFORTED ME AND INDEED HAVE SPOKEN KINDLY TO YOUR MAIDSERVANT, THOUGH I AM NOT LIKE ONE OF YOUR MAIDSERVANTS '.

THERE IS A SUBTLE SHIFT IN THE STORY UNTIL WHICH RUTH IS SPOKEN OF AS "DAMSEL" OR "WOMAN". THEN BOAZ CALLS HER "DAUGHTER". HIS WELCOME IS FRIENDLY AND PERSONAL. HE GIVES RUTH GOOD ADVICE AND A INVITATION TO BECOME PART OF HIS PEOPLE. HE OFFERS HE PROTECTION AND PROVISION. HE WANTS HER TO UNDERSTAND CLEARLY AND DELIBERATELY HOW VALUABLE HER COMMITMENT HAD BEEN. HE EVEN EXPRESSES A KEY TO RUTH'S ENTIRE REDEMPTIVE STORY BY SAYING, "MAY THE LORD REPAY YOU"; SUGGESTING TAHT BECAUSE OF HER COMMITMENT TO GOD, SHE MIGHT BE RICHLY REWARDED. AND RUTH DISPLAYS A BEAUTIFUL PICTURE WHEN SHE SATS, "I HAVE FOUND FAVOR IN YOUR SIGHT"; MEANING SHE SEES THAT BOAZ IS FULL OF GRACE FOR HER; EVEN THOUGH BOAZ HAD ALREADY EXPLAINED THE FACT THAT HER DEDICATION WAS BEING REWARDED. RUTH REMAINED HUMBLE; SHE DARED NOT TAKE CREDIT FOR WHAT WAS TAKING PLACE.

HERE WE SEE THAT THE CHARACTER OF GOD IS GLORIOUSLY REVEALED; IT IS UNDERSTOOD BY BOAZ THAT GOD IS A GOD OF "REWARDS", REFERRING TO THE INNER SELF - TO THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF HEROIC FIDELITY AND FILIAL LOVE. A LIFE OF SELF-SACRIFICE, OF AFFECTIONATE DEVOTION AND SERVICE, WITHOUT ASKING GOD TO REWARD IT, ATTRACTS DIVINE PROVIDENCE BECAUSE GOD DOES NOT OVERLOOK HUMAN VIRTUE.

AUGUST 24    RUTH 2: 8- 13 READS, "THEN BOAZ SAID TO RUTH, ' LISTEN CAREFULLY, DAUGHTER. DO NOT GO TO GLEAN IN ANOTHER FIELD; FURTHERMORE, DO NOT GO ON FROM THIS ONE, BUT STAY HERE WITH MY MAIDS. LET YOUR EYES BE ON THE FIELD WHICH THEY REAP, AND GO AFTER THEM. INDEED, I HAVE COMMANDED THE SERVANTS NOT TO TOUCH YOU. WHEN YOU ARE THIRSTY, GO TO THE WATER JARS AND DRINK FROM WHAT THE SERVANTS DRAW '. THEN SHE FELL ON HER FACE, BOWING TO THE GROUND AND SAID TO HIM, 'WHY HAVE I FOUND FAVOR AT YOUR SIGHT THAT YOU SHOULD TAKE NOTICE OF ME, SINCE I AM A FOREIGNER? '. BOAZ REPLIED TO HER, ' ALL THAT YOU HAVE DONE FOR YOUR MOTHER-IN-LAW AFTER THE DEATH OF YOUR HUSBAND HAS BEEN FULLY REPORTED TO ME, AND HOW YOU LEFT YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER AND THE LAND OF YOUR BIRTH, AND CAME TO A PEOPLE THAT YOU DID NOT PREVIOUSLY KNOW. MAY THE LORD REWARD YOUR WORK, AND YOUR WAGES BE FULL FROM THE LORD, THE GOD OF ISRAEL, UNDER WHOSE WINGS YOU HAVE COME TO SEEK REFUGE '. THEN SHE SAID, ' I HAVE FOUND FAVOR IN YOUR SIGHT, MY LORD, FOR YOU HAVE COMFORTED ME AND INDEED HAVE SPOKEN KINDLY TO YOUR MAIDSERVANT, THOUGH I AM NOT LIKE ONE OF YOUR MAIDSERVANTS '.

THERE IS A SUBTLE SHIFT IN THE STORY UNTIL WHICH RUTH IS SPOKEN OF AS "DAMSEL" OR "WOMAN". THEN BOAZ CALLS HER "DAUGHTER". HIS WELCOME IS FRIENDLY AND PERSONAL. HE GIVES RUTH GOOD ADVICE AND A INVITATION TO BECOME PART OF HIS PEOPLE. HE OFFERS HE PROTECTION AND PROVISION. HE WANTS HER TO UNDERSTAND CLEARLY AND DELIBERATELY HOW VALUABLE HER COMMITMENT HAD BEEN. HE EVEN EXPRESSES A KEY TO RUTH'S ENTIRE REDEMPTIVE STORY BY SAYING, "MAY THE LORD REPAY YOU"; SUGGESTING TAHT BECAUSE OF HER COMMITMENT TO GOD, SHE MIGHT BE RICHLY REWARDED. AND RUTH DISPLAYS A BEAUTIFUL PICTURE WHEN SHE SATS, "I HAVE FOUND FAVOR IN YOUR SIGHT"; MEANING SHE SEES THAT BOAZ IS FULL OF GRACE FOR HER; EVEN THOUGH BOAZ HAD ALREADY EXPLAINED THE FACT THAT HER DEDICATION WAS BEING REWARDED. RUTH REMAINED HUMBLE; SHE DARED NOT TAKE CREDIT FOR WHAT WAS TAKING PLACE.

HERE WE SEE THAT THE CHARACTER OF GOD IS GLORIOUSLY REVEALED; IT IS UNDERSTOOD BY BOAZ THAT GOD IS A GOD OF "REWARDS", REFERRING TO THE INNER SELF - TO THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF HEROIC FIDELITY AND FILIAL LOVE. A LIFE OF SELF-SACRIFICE, OF AFFECTIONATE DEVOTION AND SERVICE, WITHOUT ASKING GOD TO REWARD IT, ATTRACTS DIVINE PROVIDENCE BECAUSE GOD DOES NOT OVERLOOK HUMAN VIRTUE.

AUGUST 23    HEBREWS 11: 5 READS, "ENOCH OBTAINED THE WITNESS THAT HE PLEASED THE LORD..."; AND GENESIS 6: 8 EXPLAINS, "NOAH FOUND FAVOR IN THE EYES OF THE LORD". ACCORDING TO EZRA 7: 6, 9, 28 "THE FAVOR OF THE LORD" WAS A KEY ELEMENT FOR EZRA TO PURSUE GOD'S DIRECTION FOR HIS LIFE. WE'VE BEEN CONDITIONED TO BELIEVE THAT "IT WAS LUCK", OR "WE HAPPENED TO BE AT THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME". BUT IN GENESIS 24: 27 WE ARE LED TO BELIEVE, "I BEING IN THE WAY, THE LORD LED ME". JUST AS RUTH WAS LED TO BOAZ'S FIELD, BECAUSE THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS READY TO PLACE HER WITHIN THE PATH GOD HAD PREPARED AS A RESULT OF HER LOYALTY AND PERSEVERANCE: RUTH HAD DEVELOPED, OVER THE YEARS, A DESIRE TO FOLLOW THIS GOD SHE KNEW NOTHING OF; SHE HAD SIMPLY BEEN FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO HAVE HEARD ABOUT HIM.

WE ADRE NOT MISS THE SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE "UNNAMED SERVANT" WHO WAS "IN CHARGE OF THE REAPERS; NOR COULD WE OVERLOOK THE ELDEST SERVANT OF ABRAHAM WHO WAS SENT OUT TO FIND A WIFE FOR ABRAHAM'S SON ISAAC. AND WAHT ABOUT JOSEPH'S "RULER OF THE HOUSE" WHO PREPARED A MEAL FOR JOSEPH'S BROTHERS WHEN THEY WERE REUNITED? THOSE NAMELESS FIGURES ARE ALWAYS A REMINDER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WHO DOES NOT DRAW ATTENTION TO HIMSELF, BUT EXALTS THE LORD. HE PROVIDES, FOR CHRIST, A BRIDE; HE BRINGS THEM INTO UNITY WITH GIFTS AND GRACES; AND HE BRINGS THEM INTO THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB. THOUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT PREPARES ALL OF THE CIRDUMSTANCES IN ORDER FOR GOD'S PLAN TO COME TO PASS, THE SPIRIT NEVER MENTIONS HIMSELF: JOHN 16: 13- 14 SAYS THAT "HE ALWAYS AND ONLY MAGNIFIES THE LORD".

AUGUST 22    RUTH 1: 4 READS, "NAOMI'S TWO SONS HAD MARRIED MOABITE WOMEN; ONE NAMED ORPAH AND THE OTHER RUTH. AFTER THEY HAD LIVED AWAY FROM THEIR LANDS ABOUT TEN YEARS, BOTH SONS DIED, AND NAOMI WAS LEFT WITHOUT HER TWO SONS AND HER HUSBAND. AND WHEN SHE HEARD THAT THE LORD HAD TO THE AID OF HIS PEOPLE IN THE LAND OF JUDAH, BY PRVODING FOOD FOR THEM, SHE DECIDED TO RETURN... AND ASKED BOTH DAUGHTERS-IN-LAW TO GO BACK TO THEIR FATHER'S HOUSE. ORPAH WENT BACK, BUT RUTH CLUNG TO NAOMI... SHE SAID TO HER MOTHER-IN-LAW, ' ... WHERE YOU GO I WILL GO; AND WHERE YOU STAY I WILL STAY. YOUR PEOPLE WILL BE MY PEOPLE, AND YOUR GOD WILL BE MY GOD. WHERE YOU DIE I WILL DIE; AND THERE I WILL BE BURIED. MAY THE LORD DEAL WITH ME... EVEN IF DEATH SEPARATES YOU AND ME '. SO THE TWO WOMEN WENT TO BETHLEHEM".

RUTH WAS UTTERLY IMPOVERISHED, AND IT MUST HAVE BEEN COMPLETELY EMBARRASSING TO BE REDUCED TO SUCH DESTITUTION. YET SHE HAD COME TO BETHLEHEM, THE HOUSE OF BREAD. HOW WAS SHE TO ENTER THE PROVISION AND THE FULNESS OF GOD? THE BETHLEHEM STORY STARTS WITH, "NAOMI HAD A KINSMAN OF HER HUSBAND, A MAN OF GREAT WEALTH, WHOSE NAME WAS BOAZ". HE WAS A MAN OF STANDING, A MAN OF THE FINEST MANLY TRAITS. EVEN HIS NAME MEANT "IN HIM IS STRENGTH".

RUTH RECOGNIZED AND STEPPED INTO WHAT THE LAW SAID WAS AVAILABLE FOR AN IMPOVERISHED PERSON. SHE UNDERSTOOD THE FACT THAT SHE HAD THE RIGHT TO GLEAN IN THE CORNERS OF THE HARVEST FIELDS. WHEN RUTH RECEIVED NAOMI'S PERMISSION TO "GO NOW" TO THE FIELD - THE TERM "FIELD" IS NOT IN THE PLURAL FORM - RUTH DIDN'T REALIZE THE FACT THAT SHE WAS BEING DIRECTED TO THE LAND THAT WOULD LATER BE HER HUSBAND'S; NOR DID SHE KNOW THAT, SOMA DAY, SHE WOULD BECOME A WOMAN IN THE LINE OF KING DAVID, AND ULTIMATELY JESUS CHRIST, OUR SAVIOUR. SHE SIMPLY HAD TO TRUST HER INSTINCS, AND WATCH TO SEE WHERE THE FAVOR OF THE LORD WAS BEING DISPLAYED ABUNDANTLY.; BECAUSE SHE HAD HEARD FROM NAOMI, OVER AND OVER AGAIN, THAT GOD'S ABUNDANCE WAS QUITE DIFFERENT THAN ANYTHING ELSE SHE HAD EVER KNOWN.

THAT IS THE FIRST STEP FOR ANY OF US BELIEVERS WHO WANTS TO BE ENRICHED BY GOD: WE MUST TAKE HIM AT HIS WORD, AND LEARN TO RECOGNIZE WHERE HIS HAND OF PROVISION IS.

AUGUST 21    LUKE 18: 18- 24 READS, "A RULER ASKED HIM, "GOOD TEACHER, WHAT MUST I DO TO INHERIT ETERNAL LIFE?... JESUS ANSWERED, "YOU KNOW THE COMMANDMENTS: ' NEVER COMMIT ADULTERY; NEVER MURDER; NEVER STEAL; NEVER GIVE FALSE TESTIMONY; HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER '. ' I HAVE KEPT ALL THESE FROM MY YOUTH ', HE ANSWERED. WHEN JESUS HEARD THIS, HE TOLD HIM, ' YOU STILL LACK ONE THING: SELL ALL THAT YOU HAVE AND DISTRIBUTE IT TO THE POOR, AND YOU WILL HAVE TREASURE IN HEAVEN. THEN COME FOLLOW ME ' . AFTER HE HEARD THIS, HE BECAME EXTREMELY SAD, BECAUSE HE WAS VERY RICH. SEEING THAT HE BECAME SAD.SAID, ' HOW HARD IT IS FOR RICH PEOPLE TO GET TO ENTER THE KINGDOM OF GOD ' ".

THE BEAUTY OF THIS VERSE IS THE FACT THAT IT CONNECTS US TO THE STORY OF THE WOMAN WITH THE ISSUE OF BLOOD, AND BARTIMAEUS, THE BLIND BEGGAR. ALL THREE INCIDENTS TOOK PLACE WHILE JESUS WAS WALKING AMONG THE MULTITUDES WHO FOLLOWED HIM WHEREVER HE WENT, SURROUNDED AND BOMBARDED WITH LIMITLESS QUESTIONS ABOUT HIS UNUSUAL TEACHINGS. IT TOOK GREAT COURAGE FOR THESE THREE TO APPROACH JESUS, BECAUSE THEY APPEARED TO BE EXEMPT FROM HIS GRACE AND FAVORS. THE WOMAN HAD BEEN BLEEDING FOR TWELVE YEARS; THEREFORE SHE WAS CONSIDERED UNCLEAN. THE BEGGAR TOO HAD BECOME ACCOSTUMED TO BE THE OUTCAST, SINCE HE HAD NEVER BEEN PART OF THE SO-CALLED HOLY AND ACCEPTABLE SOCIETY. AND THE YOUNG RULER APPEARED TO BE ABOVE ANY SINCERE NEED OF THEIR TIME, SINCE HE COULD AFFORD ANYTHING. ALL THREE OF THEM HAD A BURNING QUESTION IN THEIR HEARTS, AND THEY KNEW THE ONE WHO HAD THE RIGHT ANSWER. IT TOOK COURAGE AND DETERMINATION TO APPROACH JESUS FOR IT. AS A RESULT, BOTH THE WOMAN AND BARTIMAEUS WALKED AWAY WITH HEALING; BUT THE RICH RULER DIDN'T GET WHAT HE THOUGHT HE DESERVED. HE WAS USED TO HAVING A PLACE OF GREAT HONOR WITH HIS WEALTH; AND HE WASN'T ABOUT TO GIVE UP HIS SOCIAL STATUS. HE WAS NOT DESPERATE! IT WAS JUST ONE MORE THING HE THOUGH HE COULD HAVE.

THE SAME APPLIES TO US TODAY. WE ARE APT TO SPEAK TOO MUCH OF WHAT WE HAVE LEFT AND LOST, OF WHAT WE HAVE DONE AND SUFFERED FOR CHRIST, JUST AS APOSTLE PETER DID. BUT WE OUGHT TO RATHER BE ASHAMED THAT WE HAD ANY DIFFICULTY DOING ALL OF THAT.

AUGUST 20    MARK 10: 46- 52 READS, "THEN THEY CAME TO JERICHO. AND AS HE WAS LEAVING JERICHO WITH HIS DISCIPLES AND A CROWD, A BLIND BEGGAR NAMED BARTIMAEUS, THE SON OF TIMAEUS, WAS SITTING BY THE ROAD. WHEN HE HEARD THAT IT WAS JESUS THE NAZARENE, HE BEGAN TO CRY OUT AND SAY, ' JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME! '... ANSWERING HIM, JESUS SAID, ' WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO FOR YOU? '. AND THE BLIND MAN SAID TO HIM, ' RABBONI, I WANT TO REGAIN MY SIGHT! '. AND JESUS SAID TO HIM, ' GO; YOUR FAITH HAS MADE YOU WELL '. AND IMMEDIATELY HE REGAINED HIS SIGHT AND BEGAN FOLLOWING HIM ON THE ROAD".

BARTIMAEUS, LIKE THE WOMAN WHO WAS BLEEDING FOR TWELVE YEARS, WAS DESPERATE ENOUGH THAT HE BROKE SOCIAL CONVENTIONS TO GET TO JESUS. FRIENDS HAD LED HIM TO THE SAME SPOT, BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, EACH MORNING JUST SO HE COULD BEG. WHEN HE HEARD THE CROWD AND UNDERSTOOD THAT IT WAS JESUS, HE DECIDED TO SEIZE HIS CHANCEHE HAD BEEN HEARING ABOUT THE MIRACLES OF JESUS; ALL HE NEEDED TO DO WAS TO BEG WITH A DIFFERENT INTENT. HE BEGGED FOR MERCY; EXCEPT, THIS TIME, IT HAPPENED TO BE THE RIGHT GIVER.

PEOPLE WHO REVERENCED AND FOLLOWED JESUS AT THE TIME DIDN'T WANT BARTIMAEUS TO REFLECT BADLY ON THEIR TOWN; NOR DID THEY WANT HIS PLEADINGS TO DISTRACT JESUS. YET BARTIMAEUS RECEIVED HIS SIGHT AND BECAME PART OF THE CROWD. THE ONLY DIFFERENCE WAS THE FACT THAT BARTIMAEUS COULDN'T STOP TALKING ABOUT WHAT JESUS HAD DONE FOR HIM; AND THAT HE DIDN'T JUST WALK, BUT DANCED ALONG THE ROAD.

BOTH THE WOMAN WITH THE ISSUE OF BLOOD AND BATIMAEUS, THE BLIND BEGGAR, HAD BEEN THE OUTCASTS FOR MANY YEARS; AND THEY COMLIED WITH ALL THE RULES THEIR SOCIETY IMPOSED UPON THEM. YET SOME DAY, THEY REACHED A PLACE OF DESPERATION, WHERE THEY REJECTED ALL OF THE RULES, AND DECIDED TO HAVE PURE, UNDILUTED FAITH, WITHOUT THE FEAR OF REJECTION. THEY SIMPLY BELIEVED JESUS COULD HEAL HIS SIGHT.

AUGUST 19    MARK 5: 25 READS, "A WOMAN WHO HAD HAD A HEMORRHAGE FOR TWELVE YEARS, AND HAD ENDURED MUCH AT THE HANDS OF MANY PHYSICIANS, AND HAD SPENT ALL THAT SHE HAD, AND WAS NOT HELPED AT ALL, BUT RATHER HAD GROWN WORSE - AFTER HEARING ABOUT JESUS, SHE CAME UP IN THE CROWD BEHIND HIM AND TOUCHED HIS CLOAK. FOR SHE TOUGHT, ' IF I JUST TOUCH HIS GARMENTS, I WILL GET WELL '. IMMEDIATELY THE FLOW OF HER BLOOD WAS DRIED UP; AND SHE FELT IN HER BODY THAT SHE WAS HEALED OF HER AFFLICTION".

DESPERATION THESE DAYS IS ALMOST ALWAYS LINKED IN OUR MINDS TO DESTRUCTION; AND IT DRIVES PEOPLE TO COMMIT SUICIDE, ROBBERY, OR MURDER. IT IS A PLACE OF BEING WITHOUT OPTIONS AND HOPE. BUT DESPERATION CAN ALSO BE THE RIGHT PLACE TO BE, IF WE VIEW OUR LIVES AS PRECIOUS GIFTS FROM GOD, AND APPROACH OUR ISSUES THROUGH GOD'S REMEDY, JESUS CHRIST, LIKE THIS WOMAN WITH THE ISSUE OF BLOOD DID. THOUGH HER BLEEDING MAY HAVE CAUSED HER CHRONIC ANEMIA AND WEAKNESS, HER GREATEST PAIN WAS ABOUT THE SOCIAL ALIENATION SHE HAD EXPERIENCED FOR TWELVE YEARS. ACCORDING TO LEVITICUS 15, ANYTHING SHE LAY OR SAT ON WOULD BECOME UNCLEAN; THEREFORE SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO PARTICIPATE IN ANY OF THE SYNAGOGUE ACTIVITIES. AS YEAR AFTER YEAR WENT BY, SHE MUST HAVE MOVED THROUGH GRIEF TO ANGER TO BITTERNESS TO HOPELESSNESS TO DEPRESSION, AND DESPERATION.

YET HER RESPONSE WAS TO WAIT BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, MOST PROBABLY BEHIND A TREE OR ROCK SO NO ONE WOULD SEE HER. SHE WAITED UNTIL THE CROWD SURROUNDING JESUS PASSED, AND THEN SHE BEGAN TO MOVE IN. IT WAS HARD ENOUGH FOR ANYONE TO BE ABLE TO TOUCH JESUS' GARMENTS; BUT AT THIS POINT, SHE WAS NOT A NORMAL PERSON: SHE WAS DESPERATE. THAT DAY, AT THAT EXACT MOMENT, HER LIFE CHANGED, BECAUSE SHE FINALLY REACHED THE HEIGHT OF HER DESPERATION.

AUGUST 18    2 TIMOTHY 2: 20, 21 READS, "BUT IN A GREAT HOUSE THERE ARE NOT ONLY VESSELS OF GOLD AND SILVER, BUT ALSO OF WOOD AND CLAY, SOME FOR HONOR AND SOME FOR DISHONOR. THEREFORE IF ANYONE CLEANSES HIMSELF FROM THE LATTER, HE WILL BE A VESSEL OF HONOR, SANCTIFIED AND USEFUL FOR THE MASTER, PREPARED FOR EVERY WORK".

A PURE HEART IS NOT A PERFECT HEART; IT IS A FORGIVEN HEART. IT IS A HEART THAT HAS BEEN CLEANSED BY THE PURIFYING BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST. IT IS A HEART THAT IS IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD; ONE THAT KNOW THE IMPORTANCE OF REPENTENCE OF SINS IN HOPES OF INNER HOLINESS. IT IS NOT A RELIGIOUS HEART, BECAUSE RELIGION IS WHAT MAN DOES FOR GOD. AND LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE THAT WE CLAIM PRIDE IN HAVING CREATED, 

WE ALSO TEND TO GET PROUD WHEN WE ACT AND SOUND RELIGIOUS.

JEREMIAH 17: 9 EXPLAINS, "THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS AND BEYOND CURE". SIN, REGARDLESS OF HOW LARGE OR SMALL, CAN GET INTO OUR HEARTS, AND SLOWLY EAT AWAY AT OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE. WE CANNOT EVEN UNDERSTAND OUR OWN HEART; IT TAKES THE POWER OF GOD TO REVEAL THE TRUTH OF OUR CONDITION. AS WE POUR OUT THE IMPURITIES BEFORE GOD, WITH A NEED FOR HIM TO RENEW OUR FOCUS AND INTENTIONS, HE CLEANSES THE EYES OF OUR SOUL JUST SO HE CAN BECOME VISIBLE. THE PURE IN HEART SEES GOD IN EVERYTHING.

AUGUST 17    2 CORINTHIANS 4: 7 READS, "BUT WE HAVE THIS TREASURE IN EARTHEN VESSELS, THAT THE EXCELLENCE OF THE POWER MAY BE OF GOD, AND NOT OF US".

OFTEN MIRACLES TAKE PLACE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: GOD WANTS OUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION BEFORE HE CAN FULFILL HIS PROMISES TO US. WE MUST BECOME GOOD STEWARDS OF WHAT HE HAS ALREADY GIVEN TO US, BEFORE WE CAN EXPECT HIM TO PERFORM NEW MIRACLES ON OUR BEHALF. FOR THAT, EVERYONE ELSE AND EVERYTHING ELSE HAVE TO BE LEFT OUTSIDE; WE MUST BE ALL EARS FOR GOD.

GOD ALWAYS HAS A PLAN OF RESTORING US WITH EXACTLY WHAT WE HAVE: WHAT WE HAVE IS ALL HE NEEDS TO BRING A BLESSING. GOD WILL GIVE AS MUCH AS WE HAVE ROOM TO RECEIVE. SOMETHING SMALL FROM US WILL EQUAL SOMETHING HUGE FROM GOD. WITH HIM BEING IN CHARGE OF OUR LIVES, THAT WHICH WE THINK IS NOT MUCH TO OFFER THE KING OF KINGS IS ABOUT TO BECOME OUR EVERYTHING, IF WE TRULY DESIRE TO PLEASE HIM, WITHOUT ANY OTHER EXPECTENCIES.

WE MAY FEEL SO SURE OF OURSELVES THAT WE ARE STRONG ENOUGH TO GO UP AND OVER THE HILLS OF LIFE DAY AFTER DAY, ALL BY OURSELVES. THOUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT GENTLY CALLS US, "I MUST GO WITH YOU", WE OFTEN CHOOSE TO GO ALONE, ACCORDING TO OUR PERSONAL MAPS, DRAWN BASED ON OUR PREVIOUSLY HARD EARNED LESSONS WE CALL OUR PERSONAL MAP OF WISDOM; THE MAP THAT CHARTS OUT OUR LIFE'S PATHWAY. YET WE FORGET ONE IMPORTANT DETAIL: MAPS DON'T SHOW "THE FOG". WE NEED A SEASONED SHEPHERD TO LEAD US THROUGH THE FOG, AND LEAD US HOME.

AUGUST 16    2 CORINTHIANS 4: 15 READS, "... EVERYTHING IS FOR YOUR BENEFIT, SO THAT GRACE, EXTENDED THROUGH MORE AND MORE PEOPLE, MAY CAUSE THANKSGIVING TO INCREASE GOD'S GLORY".

THE SECRET FELLOWSHIP THAT THE MEMBERS OF CHRIST HAVE WITH ONE ANOTHER GENERATES GOD'S MERCY, SO MUCH SO THAT GOD SPARES OUR WEAKNESSES, AND DEALS WITH US MORE GENTLY THAN THE REST OF THE WORLD. AND IF WE STAY IN CONTACT WITH HIM, WE GET TO SEE AND FEEL HIS LOVINGKINDNESS AND COMPASSIONATE GIFTS WE CALL MIRACLES.

OUR BEST GIFT TO HIM WOULD BE TO REVERENCE HIM EVEN IN TIMES OF DIFFICULTY, BELIEVING THAT GOD NEVER CEASES TO BE IN CONTROL; AND IF HE ALLOWS CERTAIN THINGS TO BEFALL US, IT IS BECAUSE THERE IS A CERTAIN FRUIT HE IS PRODUCING WITHIN US AND THROUGH US. WE MUST NEVER GIVE UP ON HIS SOVEREIGNTY AND ETERNAL LOVE FOR US, REGARDLESS OF THE TEMPORARY SUFFERINGS WE MAY HAVE TO WALK THROUGH. GOD IS GOOD!

AUGUST 15    PSALM 138: 7 READS, "THOUGH I WALK IN THE MIDST OF TROUBLE, YOU PRESERVE MY LIFE".

WE ARE CONSTANTLY EXPOSED TO ENEMIES; AND TROUBLES COME UPON US, CRASH AFTER CRASH. OFTEN, LIKE JOB, WE ARE UTTERLY CRUSHED, WANTING TO SIT IN ASHES. AND WE ALL WISH THAT WE COULD LIVE BEYOND SHOT OF LIFE'S ARROWS, AS WE MOVE TO AND FRO IN THE ORDINARY SCENES OF LIFE, MEETING OUR OBLIGATIONS, AND DOING OUR DUTIES.

YET WHEREVER WE TURN, SOMEHOW TROUBLE, ANXIETY,AND WORRY SEEM TO ATTEND UD. WE CANNOT GET FREE NIGHT OR DAY. AND ON THE SLIGHTEST APPROACH OF DANGER, WE BECOME EXTREMELY AFRAID; AS IF OUR EMERGENCIES OUTWEIGH OUR HOPE OF DIVINE DELIVERANCE. GOD DOES HUMBLE HIS CHILDREN UNDER VARIOUS TRIALS, JUST SO THAT HIS DEFENSE OF THEM MAY BE THE MORE REMARKABLE, AND THAT HE MAY SHOW HIMSELF AS THEIR DELIVERER, AS WELL AS THEIR PRESERVER. IT IS HIS METHOD TO EXERCISE HIS CHILDREN WITH A CONTINUAL CONFLICT, JUST SO THAT THEY MAY FLEE WITH ALARM TO HIDE THEMSELVES UNDER HIS WINGS, WHERE THEY EXPERIENCE PEACE FROM IT ALL.

OUR DEPRESSED MOODS AND RESPONSES TO OUR EVERYDAY LIFE VERY MUCH DEPEND ON NATURAL DISPOSITION, ESPECIALLY ON THAT NERVOUS IRRITABILITY WHICH CAN ALWAYS CRINGE AT THE THOUGHT OF BEING EXPOSED TO EVIL. IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT FOR US BELIEVERS TO PLACE OUR HOPE IN GOD'S INWARD REVIVING OF OUR TRUST AND HOPE. AND GOD LEADS US INTO A LARGE PLACE, IN HIS OWN GOOD TIME.

AUGUST 14  JOB 32: 19 READS, “INSIDE I AM LIKE BOTTLED-UP WINE, LIKE NEW WINESKINS READY TO BURST”.

IN THIS VERSE JOB IS RESPONDING TO HIS FRIEND ELIHU’S COMMENTS BY EXPRESSING HIS FRUSTRATIONS; TELLING HIM THAT HE IS UNEASY, AND EVEN IN PAIN, TO BE DELIVERED OF HIS THOUGHTS UPON THIS MATTER. BY HIS BELLY HE MEANS HIS MIND, WHICH WAS FULL OF STUFF, AND THAT STUFF HE COMPARES TO NEW WINE IN BOTTLES, TIGHTLY STOPPED, WHICH NEED VENT, AND ARE IN DANGER OF BURSTING.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE GOSPEL IS LIKE NEW WINE OF GOOD FLAVOR AND PLEASANT TASTE. YET NEW BOTTLES ARE NOT SO APT TO BURST AS OLD ONES; ISTEAD THEY REVIVE, REFRESH AND COMFORT ALL THAT WHICH THEY CONTAIN; THE SAME EFFECTS THE DOCTRINES OF THE GOSPEL HAVE, WHEN ATTENDED WITH DIVINE INFLUENCE.

THE GOOD NEWS IS THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL, MADE KNOWN IMMEDIATELY ON THE FALL OF ADAM; BEING DISPENSED THROUGH MINISTERS OF THE WORD AS VESSELS OF OUR LORD CHRIST JESUS. WE TOO HAVE THE SAME UNEASY, READY TO BURST KIND OF FEELING, WHEN WE ARE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT, WANTING TO BRING FORTH OUR INNER JOY.

AUGUST 13    MARK 2: 22 READS, "AND NO ONE PUTS NEW WINE INTO OLD WINESKINS. OTHERWISE, THE WINE WILL BURST THE SKINS, AND THE WINE IS LOST AS WELL AS THE SKINS. BUT NEW WINE IS FOR FRESH WINESKINS".

MATTHEW 9: 17 SAYS IT THIS WAY, "AND NO ONE PUTS NEW WINE INTO OLD WINESKINS. OTHERWISE, THE SKINS BURST, THE WINE SPILLS OUT, AND THE SKINS ARE RUINED. BUT THEY PUT NEW WINE INTO FRESH WINESKINS, AND BOTH ARE PRESERVED".

THE SHRINKING OF THE PATCH OF UNDRESSED CLOTH TEARS THE OLD GARMENT, AND SO MAKES THE RENT WORSE THAN IT WAS BEFORE. WE HAVE A TENDENCY TO GO FROM ONE EXTREME TO ANOTHER. PROTESTANISM IS NOT A COMPLETE SEVERANCE FROM ROMANISM, BUT A MIXTURE WITH IT; THAT LEADS US TO THE LOSS OF BOTH THE AUTHORITY OF THE OLD, AND THE FREEDOM OF THE NEW SYSTEM. EVEN THOUGH WE AHVE BEEN EXPOSED TO THE NEW DOCTRINE, WE SEEM TO BE CLINGING TO THE OLD - MOST LIKELY OUT OF FEAR OF OFFENDING GOD - NOT REALIZING THAT WE AREN'T QUITE LIVING AND APPRECIATING WHAT CHRIST DID FOR US.

ALTHOUGH WE CLING TO THE OLD AFFECTIONATELY; THE GOOD NEWS WILL NOT BE A MERE PATCH LAID ON AN UGLY DEFECT IN OUR WORLDLY CHARACTER. IT WILL END UP TEARING THAT CHARACTER TO SHREDS. IT IS A COMMON MISTAKE THAT MOST CHRISTIANS DO BY WANTING TO HOLD ON TO EVERYTHING THEY ONCE KNEW; AND KEEP ADDING TO IT. HOWEVER OUR OLD WAYS ARE TO BE CAST OFF ENTIRELY IN ORDER TO PUT ON A COMPLETELY NEW GARMENT - THE NEW CHARACTER, THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST; THAT IS OF COURSE, IF WE WANT TO BE RENEWED AND PRESERVED, JUST SO THAT WE GROW INTO OUR HEAVENLY SPIRITUAL BODIES.

AUGUST 12    EPHESIANS 2: 13- 16 READS, "BUT NOW IN CHRIST JESUS, YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, HAVE BEEN BROUGHT NEAR BY THE BLOOD OF THE MESSAIH. FOR HE IS OUR PEACE, WHO MADE BOTH GROUPS ONE AND TORE DOWN THE DIVIDING WALL OF HOSTILITY. IN HIS FLESH, HE MADE NO EFFECT THE LAW CONSISTING OF COMMANDS, AND EXPRESSED IN REGULATIONS, SO THAT HE MIGHT CREATE IN HIMSELF ' ONE NEW MAN ' FROM THE TWO, RESULTING IN PEACE. HE DID THIS SO THAT HE MIGHT RECONCILE BOTH TO GOD IN ONE BODY THROUGH THE CROSS, AND PUT THE HOSTILITY TO DEATH BY IT".

IT IS A GOOD EXERCISE OF MEMORY FOR US ALL TO GO BACK ON WHAT WE ONCE WERE; BECAUSE WE DID NOT ALL RECEIVE THE GOSPEL WHEN IT WAS PRESENTED TO US. MANY OF US WHO NOW BELIEVE WERE, FOR YEARS, IN A STATE OF INDIFFERENCE. THOSE DAYS SHOULD MAKE US HUMBLE AND THOUGHTFUL; AND QUICKEN US IN OUR PRESENT DUTY.

JUST AS THE JEWS WERE CIRCUMCISED IN THE FLESH, YET REMAINED UNCIRCUMCISED IN THE SPIRIT; WE TOO MAY BE CHRISTIANS IN NAME; YET ARE WE ALSO CHRISTIANS IN TRUTH? WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN MANY HONORABLE NAMES AS CHRISTIANS; BUT DO WE ANSWER TO THEM? IS THERE A BROAD LINE OF DISTINCTION BETWEEN US AND MEN OF THE WORLD ' IN OUR CHARACTER '. THE HEATHEN WORLD STILL WANTS TO KNOW CHRIST; ARE WE BEING THE WILLING VESSELS THAT LEAD THEM TO HIM? THE FINAL COVENANT GOD ESTABLISHED FOR HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE, CHRISTIANS, IS NOT FOUNDED ON PROMISE; IT IS FOUNDED ON ACCOMPLISHED FACT, AND IT HAS BEEN SEALED WITH CHRIST'S BLOOD. NONE OF US OCCUPY AN UNCOVENANTED POSITION; YET IT IS SO WITH MANY, AS THOUGH NO CHANGE HAS TAKEN PLACE.

BEING UNDER A COVENANT WITH GOD BIRTHS ' HOPE ', AND HOPE BRINGS ' PEACE '. INTELLECT CANNOT PRODUCE IT, BECAUSE IT IS OFTEN BUSY TRYING TO SORT THINGS OUT, IN A WORLD WHERE NOT MUCH IS MAKING ANY SENSE; WHERE RIGHT IS CONSIDERED WRONG, AND VICE VERSA. AS PEOPLE LIVE IN A DARK AND CHEERLESS WORLD, THEY HAVE NO CHOICE BUT LOOK FORWARD TO A DARK AND CHEERLESS ETERNITY. HOW COULD THEY PRODUCE, THROUGH THEIR INTELLECT, A FUTURE OF WHICH THEY HAVE NEVER HAD A TASTE? AND WHY DID CHRIST DIE ON THE CROSS, IF WE WERE MEANT TO STAY UNCIRCUMCISED IN THE SPIRIT? CHRIST DIED SO THAT WE WOULD EXPERIENCE THE UNITY BETWEEN THE FLESH AND THE SPIRIT, AND THEREFORE BECOMING ONE NEW MAN, WITH ONE NEW DESTINATION: PEACE. THIS KIND OF PEACE IS ONLY FOUND IN HEAVEN - A PLACE WHERE NOTHING AWAITS TO BE ACCOMPLISHED BUT TO WORSHIP GOD - YET THIS PEACE IS MADE AVAILABLE AND POSSIBLE FOR US TO DEVELOP TODAY, WHILE ON EARTH, THROUGH CHRIST'S SACRIFICE, AND FERVENT PRAYERS AND SUPPLICATIONS.

AUGUST 11    PROVERBS 3: 6 READS, "IN ALL YOUR WAYS SUBMIT TO HIM, AND HE WILL MAKE YOUR PATHS STRAIGHT".

TRUSTING GOD WHOLE-HEARTEDLY ENSURES PRACTICAL DIRECTION. THE FALLACY OF CONFIDENCE IS WHEN WE CHOOSE OUR SELF-SEEKING INTELLIGENCE, WHICH CAUSES MOST OF OUR MISTAKES AND STUMBLINGS, OVER THE UNIVERSAL ONE, WHICH TAKES COGNIZANCE OF GOD AND CARRIES US OUT OF SELF. WE MUST ALWAYS AIM TO REMOVE OUR PERSONAL THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS IN ORDER TO APPROACH GOD, IF WE TRULY EXPECT TO HEAR HIS LOVING GUIDANCE.

WE MUST, OF COURSE, BE CAREFUL FOR MANY THINGS, IN THE SENSE OF TAKING THOUGHT ABOUT THEM, OR TAKING PAINS IN WORKING ON THEM. CHRISTIANITY TEACHES, "IF A MAN WILL NOT WORK NEITHER LET HIM EAT". IT ENCOURAGES US TO DO AWAY WITH RECKLESS CARELESSNESS: INSTEAD, IT INSTILLS THOUGHTFUL, CONSCIENTIOUS SENSE OF RESPOSIBILITY, WITHOUT THE ANXIETY.

MEN RARELY DIE OF HARD WORK, BUT OFTEN OF VEXING ANXIETY, BECAUSE IT IS ANXIETY THAT CHOKES THE GOOD SEED, AS MUCH AS ITS PLEASURES AND RICHES, THROUGH WHICH MEN HAVE NO ENERGY, HEART, NOR TIME FOR SPIRITUAL CONCERNS. IN THE PETTY CARES OF A SIMPLE DAY, THEY DROWN THE GRAND CLAIMS OF ETERNITY.

THE GOOD NEWS IS THE FACT THAT GOD IS REGARDING US; THAT HE IS DIVINELY INTERESTED IN OUR WELFARE; THAT HE WILL ALWAYS LEAD US IN THE WAY IN WHICH IT IS BEST FOR US TO WALK. HE IS WAITING FOR US TO 

REACH OUT TO HIM JUST SO HE WILL GUIDE OUR MINDS INTO THE SANCTUARY OF HEAVENLY TRUTH, AND HE WILL HELP OUR SOULS UP THE ENNOBLING HEIGHTS OF HOLINESS. WE ARE TO THINK WELL, TO CONSULT WISELY, TO ACT DILIGENTLY, AND THEN TO TRUST WHOLLY.

AUGUST 10     PHILIPPIANS 4: 6 READS, "DON'T WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING, NUT IN EVERYTHING, THROUGH PRAYER AND PETITION WITH THANKSGIVING, LET YOUR REQUESTS BE KNOWN TO GOD".

CHRIST TAUGHT US TO CONQUER EARTHLY ANXIETY IN TWO WAYS, BY TRUSTING IN OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, AND BY TRANSFERRING OUR CARE TO MORE WORTHY OBJECTS, SUCH AS NOBLE CONCERNS FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

WE ARE DISTINCTLY INVITED TO BRING OUR ANXIETIES TO GOD, BECAUSE ACCORDING TO GOD'S WORD, PRAYER SEEMS TO BE THE ONLY REMEDY FOR OUR CONCERNS. WE ARE TO BE ANXIOUS FOR NOTHING, BY MAKING SUPPLICATIONS FOR EVERYTHING. IN FACT, AS THE AREA OF PRAYER ADVANCES, THE AREA OF WORRIES RECEDES.

ON TOP OF IT ALL, THANKSGIVING PERFECTS THE REMEDY. IT LEADS US TO GOD'S OWN PEACE, THAT WHICH HE HIMSELF POSSESSES. IT IS THE PEACE JESUS CHRIST HAD, AND WHICH HE PROMISED TO HIS DISCIPLES, BY SAYING, "MY PEACE I GIVE UNTO YOU". IT IS NO MERE SUPERFICIAL FREEDOM FROM EXTERNAL TROUBLES, BUT A DEEP-SEATED HARMONY WITH GOD WHO IS THE SOURCE OF ALL PEACE: IT TRANSCENDS HUMAN UNDERSTANDING AND HUMAN EXPRESSION. WORRIES LEAVE US WITH BAD MEMORIES, WHEN THANKSGIVING AND GRATEFULNESS LEAVE US WITH JOYFUL ONES.

AUGUST 9    MATTHEW 6: 34 READS, "THEREFORE DO NOT BE ANXIOUS FOR TOMORROW, FOR TOMORROW WILL BE ANXIOUS FOR ITSELF. EACH DAY'S OWN EVIL IS SUFFICIENT".

IT IS HARD ENOUGH FOR US TO IMAGINE THE OBSTRUCTIVE AND TEMPTING INFLUENCE OF EVIL MEN; LET ALONE OF EVIL SPIRITS; WHICH ARE FAR WORSE TO RESIST. WE ARE ATTACKED BY UNEARTHLY FORCES, WHO HAPPEN TO BE THE MOST DEVASTATING ENEMIES WE CAN EVER MEET. OUR EXPERIENCE OF THEM CONTINUE TO GERMINATE AND DEVELOP THROUGH SPIRITUAL ATTACKS.

BEING POSITIONED RIGHT BELOW HEAVEN, WAY ABOVE FOR US TO BE ABLE TO SEE, THOSE EVIL FORCES RULE THE WORLD WITH DARK AND DESTRUCTIVE INTENTIONS. THEY PRETTY MUCH DETERMINE THE CHARACTER OF THE ARMOUR, AND THE WEAPONS, AND THE TACTICS NECESSARY FOR EACH PARTICULAR BATTLE THEY PRESENT US WITH. MONEY, MATERIAL RESOURCES, AND SCIENTIFIC SKILLS ARE USELESS. SAMSON HAS ALREADY DEMOSTRATED THE FACT THAT PHYSICAL STRENGTH CAN'T BE SUFFICIENT, AS HE LOST HIS GOD-GIVEN STRENGTH TO HIS WIFE'S MANIPULATIONS. HOW ARE WE TO FIGHT AGINST GREED, LUST, AND SELF-WILL THROUGH INTELLECT? INFLUENCES OF AUTHORITY AND OF SYMPATHY, APPEALS TO THE REASON, THE FEELINGS, AND THE CONSCIENCE DO NOT TOUCH THE ENEMY ARMY WE ARE HAVING TO FACE DAY AFTER DAY.

FIRST, WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT THE FACT THAT THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN "PEOPLE" AND "PERSONALITIES". GOD CREATED PEOPLE AFTER HIS OWN IMAGE; HE DID NOT CREATE THEIR PERSONALITIES, THROUGH WHICH THEY TEND TO INFLUENCE THE WORLD, WITH GOOD AND BAD. THERE ARE WICKED PERSONALITIES; THERE ARE DIVERSE PERSONALITIES; THERE ARE ORGANIZED PERSONALITIES, UNDER ONE GIGANTIC INTELLECT, SATAN, THAT MANAGES AND MARSHALS THE WHOLE SLEW OF THEM. HIS CRAFTINESS IS UNMATCHABLE IN THE DARKNESS, AND HIS MOVEMENTS CUNNINGLY METHODIZED. HE ATTACKS US IN AMBUSH; AND STEALS FROM US SLYLY AND STEALTHILY. HE DELIGHTS IN MISERY, AS THE GROANS OF THE OPPRESSED GRATIFY HIS MALIGNANT NATURE. HE USES PEOPLE'S WEAKNESSES IN ORDER TO TORMENT THOSE WHO ARE ABOUT TO GIVE IN TO THEIR OWN WEAKNESSES. HIS TIMING IS ALWAYS RIGHT, BECAUSE HE NEVER SLEEPS. HE KNOWS THE ONES WHO CONTINUALLY COMPLAIN ABOUT THEIR SITUATIONS; AND HE KNOWS WHEN PRAYERS AND SUPPLICATIONS HAVE CEASED. HE REIGNS WHERE DEPRAVITY BECLOUDS THE HEART, WHERE PASSION IS STRONGER THAN PRINCIPLE; WHERE SENSES ARE MORE INTENSE THAN THE SOUL; AND THE LOVE OF THE WORLD IS GREATER THAN THE LOVE OF GOD.

AUGUST 8    EPHESIANS 6: 12 READS, "FOR WE WRESTLE NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD, BUT AGAINST PRINCIPALITIES, AGAINST POWERS, AGAINST THE RULERS OF THE DARKNESS OF THIS WORLD, AGAINST SPIRITUAL WICKEDNESS IN HIGH PLACES".

APSOTLE PAUL IS DESCRIBING THE NATURE OF THE ENEMY - MEANING OUR DIFFICULTIES ARE FAR GREATER THAN IF WE HAD TO FIGHT WITH MEN; WHERE WE CAN FACE THEIR FORCE WITH SIMILAR FORCE, SWORD AGAINST SWORD, SKILL AGAINST SKILL. YET SATAN'S ATTACKS OFTEN TARGET OUR MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL STRENGTHS, WHETHER OR NOT THEY INCLUDE BODILY HARM.

THE COMBAT IS NOT AGINST HUMAN ENEMIES, NOR AGAINST OUR OWN CORRUP NATURE ONLY; WE HAVE TO DO AWAY WITH AN ENEMY WHO HAS A THOUSAND WAYS OF BEGUILING UNSTABLE SOULS. SPIRITUAL STRENGTH AND COURAGE ARE NEEDED FOR OUR SPIRITUAL WARFARE AND SUFFERING; THROUGH WHICH WE ARE ALSO GIVEN AN OPPORTUNITY TO PROVE THAT WE ARE DEDICATED TO GOD, NO MATTER WHAT THE CIRCUMSTANCE, AND THAT WE POSSESS TRUE GRACE THROUGH OUR SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.

IF WE GIVE WAY, SATAN WILL GET GROUND. IF WE DISTRUST EITHER OUR CAUSE, OUR ARMOUR, OR OUR LEADER, WE GIVE HIM ADVANTAGE. THERE CAN BE NO DOCTRINE WITHOUT SINCERITY. THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST "IMPUTED TO US", IS A BREASTPALTE AGAINST THE ARROWS OF DIVINE WRATH; YET THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF CHRIST "IMPLANTED IN US" FORTIFIES THE HEART AGAINST THE ATTACKS OF SATAN.

THEN, WE MUST REMEMBER THIS WHEN THE INJURIOUS TREATMENT OF OTHERS PROVOKES US TO REVENGE. OUR NATURAL DISPOSITION WOULD LEAD US TO DIRECT ALL OUR EFFORTS AGAINST THE MEN THEMSELVES; YET THEY ARE NOTHING MORE THAN THE DARTS THROWN BY THE HAND OF SATAN. WHILE WE ARE BUSY DESTROYING THOSE DARTS, WE LAY OURSELVES OPEN TO BE WOUNDED ON ALL SIDES. INSTEAD, WE MUST GO STRAIGHT TO THE ENEMY, WHO SLAYS BEFORE HE APPEARS, BY USING GOD'S WORD; AND DECLARING WAR THROUGH THE SCRIPTURE. PRAYER MUST FASTEN ALL OF THE PARTS OF OUR CHRISTIAN ARMOUR, AS WE REMIND THE ENEMY - AS MUCH AS WE HAVE A NEED TO REMIND OURSELVES - THAT GOD IS GREAT: HE WILL NEVER LEAVE US, NOR FORSAKE US; GOD IS OUR FORTRESS.

AUGUST 7     ROMANS 6: 13 READS, "DO NOT LET ANY PART OF YOUR BODY BECOME AN INSTRUMENT OF EVIL TO SERVE SIN. INSTEAD, GIVE YOURSELVES COMPLETELY TO GOD, FOR YOU WERE DEAD, BUT NOW YOU HAVE NEW LIFE. SO USE YOUR WHOLE BODY AS AN INSTRUMENT TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR THE GLORY OF GOD".

THE CONVERSION OF APOSTLE PAUL TOOK PLACE WITH HIS HEAD-ON COLLISION WITH JESUS CHRIST. FROM THAT MOMENT ON, HE IMMEDIATELY LOST HIS SIGHT FOR THREE DAYS; UNTIL HE WAS GIVEN HIS NEW ASSIGNMENT IN LIFE: THAT WAS TO SERVE HIS NEW MASTER, OUR MESSIAH.

PAUL HAD ALWAYS BEEN AN EXCELLENT SERVANT; HE HAD FOLLOWED ORDERS WITHOUT ANY EXCEPTION, BECAUSE HIS DESIRE TO BE AN OBEDIENT FOLLOWER WAS PERFECTED DURING HIS DAYS OF SERVING THE LAW OF HIS YOUTH. NOW AS A MATURE INDIVIDUAL, GOD WAS READY TO CONDITION PAUL'S GREATEST ASSET AND USE IT FOR THE GROWTH OF HIS KINGDOM AND FOR THE SPREADING OF THE GOSPEL.

AS THE LIFE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL WAS CHANGED, SO THE LIVES OF ALL THE APOSTLES WERE CHANGED FROM THE MOMENT THAT THE RISEN CHRIST APPEARED TO THEM.FEW OF THEM WHO WERE TIMID AND FRIGHTENED RECEIVED BOLDNESS FOR THEIR MISSION. THE BOLDEST OF THEM ALL BECAME SO COWARDLY AS TO DENY THAT HE EVEN KNEW CHRIST AT ALL. ONCE WE UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT CHRIST AS GOD'S ONLY BEGOTTEN SON WHO DIED ON THE CROSS FOR OUR SINS, AND HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD, IN ORDER TO BE OUR INTERCESSOR AS OUR HIGH PRIEST, WE NO LONGER HAVE THE CHOICE OF GOING BACK TO THE WAY WE WERE, WITHOUT OFFENDING HIM: THE FATHER, THE SON, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT.

CHRSIT BROUGHT LIFE AND IMMORTALITY TO LIGHT THROUGH THE GOSPEL. HE SATISFIED THE YEARNING OF THE HUMAN HEART FOR A LIFE BEYOND THE PRESENT. IF WE HAVE IN OUR HEARTS THE HOPE OF BEING ONE WITH CHRIST - MEANING THE RISEN LIFE OF CHRIST ENTERS INTO, AND BECOMES PART OF THE PRESENT LIFE OF HIS PEOPLE - WHAT A TRANSFORMING INFLUENCE THAT HOPE COULD EXERCISE UPON OUR LIVES!

AUGUST 6    2 CORINTHIANS 12: 7 READS, "BECAUSE OF THE SURPASSING GREATNESS OF THE REVELATIONS, FOR THIS REASON, TO KEEP ME FROM EXALTING MYSELF, THERE WAS GIVEN ME A THORN IN THE FLESH, A MESSENGER OF SATAN TO TORMENT ME - TO KEEP ME FROM EXALTING MYSELF".

FAILURE DOES NOT COME TO THE CHURCH AS A WHOLE, BUT TO INDIVIDUALS IN IT. SOME OF THE GRAVEST OF OUR CHURCH ANXIETIES ARISE FROM THE MORAL FAILURE OF INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS, WHEN PASSIONS FOR WEALTH, SENSUALITY, OR DRINK GAIN AN OVERMASTERING ENERGY. IN SOME CASES THE SUDDNENNESS OF THE TEMPTATION COMBINED WITH THE SPIRITUAL UNWATCHFULNESS WILL LEAD UNAWARE CHRISTIANS INTO FORMS OF FAILURES THEY NEVER THOUGHT WOULD BEFALL THEM. SATAN WILL DISTURB AND INJURE A WHOLE CHURCH IF HE CAN GAIN INFLUENCE OVER ONE MEMBER; AND ONCE HE IS SUCCESSFUL, HE WILL CONTINUE TO USE THE FALLEN ONE AS ONE OF HIS MANY DEVICES.

OUR ACTION TOWARDS THOSE FALLEN BROTHERS OF OURS MUST BE EXACTLY IN HARMONY: LIKE CHRIST, WE MUST BE QUICK TO DISCERN SIN; SWIFT AND SEVERE TO PUNISH THE SIN; YET BE WATCHFUL FOR SIGNS OF GRACIOUS INFLUENCE EFEFCTED BY THE PUNISHMENT, AS WE REMAIN READY TO RESTORE AND FORGIVE THE PENITENT FOR HE IS LOVED BY GOD, REGARDLESS OF WHAT HE OR SHE HAS DONE.

ACCORDING TO ISAIAH 42: 3, GOD WILL NEVER BREAK A BRUISED REED OR PUT OUT A FLICKERING CANDLE. HIS PUNISHMENT ALWAYS FITS THE CRIME, UNTIL THERE REMAINS A TINY LITTLE HOPE FROM WHICH HE CAN START GROWING THE PENITENT HEART BACK INTO HEALTH. UNLIKE GOD, BECAUSE WE FAIL TO JUDGE THE MOTIVES OR READ HEARTS, OUR PUNISHMENTS ARE ALWAYS IN DANGER OF RUNNING TO EXCESS; FOR WE DO NOT RECOGNIZE WHEN DISCIPLINE HAS ACCOMPLISHED ITS WORK.

JUST LIKE APOSTLE PAUL, WE ALL HAVE BEEN GIVEN A THORN IN THE FLESH, BEACUSE IT IS MEANT TO KEEP US HUMBLE BEFORE GOD AND BEFORE OUR BRETHREN. AND BECAUSE OF THAT PERSONAL INIQUITY OF OURS, WE COULD NEVER BOAST ABOUT OURSELVES; NOR COULD WE JUDGE OTHERS AS IF OUR WEAKNESS WAS OF LESSER DEGREE.

AUGUST 5    2 CORINTHIANS 2: 10- 11 READS, "IF YOU FORGIVE ANYONE FOR ANYTHING, I ALSO FORGIVE HIM - FOR INDEED WHAT I HAVE FORGIVEN; AND IF I HAVE FORGIVEN ANYTHING, I DID SO FOR YOU IN THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST, SO THAT WE MAY NOT BE EXPLOITED BY SATAN - FOR WE ARE NOT IGORANT OF HIS SCHEMES".

GOD IS ASSURING US THAT HE WILL CONCUR WITH US IN FORGIVING ANYONE FOR ANYTHING. HE DOES THIS FOR OUR SAKES, AND FOR CHRIST'S SAKE. THOUGH LOVE EXISTS WHILST DISCIPLINE IS BEING INFLICTED; IT CONTINUES TO MANIFEST ITSELF UNRESERVEDLY WHEN DISCIPLINE IS REMOVED. IT IS ALSO LOVE THAT GENERATES KINDNESS AND TENDER MERCY TOWARDS ALL THOSE WHO TRULY REPENT.

OUR CHANCES OF SURVIVING SATAN'S RELENTLESS ATTACKS ARE SLIM TO NONE, IF WE ARE NOT PROTECTED AND GUIDED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. THOUGH THE UNWARY AND THE UNTHINKING ARE ENTRAPPED THROUGH IGNORANCE; KNOWLEDGE IS NO SUFFICIENT PROTECTION.

WE TREAD A VERY DIFFICULT PATH, WITH SATAN'S SNARES SURROUNDING US FROM EVERY ANGLE; HIS RESOURCES OUGHT NOT TO BE UNDERESTIMATED. IF HE CANNOT TEMPT US INTO CONSCIOUS SIN, HE WILL ENDEAVOR TO ENTRAP US INTO SOME ERROR OF JUDGMENT AND CONDUCT, WHICH MAY GIVE HIM AN ADVANTAGE OVER US. HIS DEVICES ARE SKILLFUL AND CRAFTY. IN THE TEMPTATION OF OUR LORD THIS WAS ABUNDANTLY MANIFEST, AND OUR SAVIOUR GAVE HIS DISCIPLES TO UNDERSTAND THAT THEY WOULD BE CALLED UPON TO ENDURE THE ASSAULTS OF THE SAME UNSLEEPING FOE. EVERY CHRISTIAN SOLDIER HAS TO BE UPON HIS GUARD.

AUGUST 4    IN OUR STRUGGLE TO AVOID AND OVERCOME SIN, IT IS VITAL THAT WE UNDERSTAND EXACTLY WHAT "SIN" IS. IT IS FIRST TO BE UNDERSTOOD AS "TRANSGRESSION"; MEANING "TO STEP ACROSS", OR "TO GO BEYOND A SET OF BOUNDARY LIMIT". LIMITS ARE SET FOR US TO BE ABLE TO SEPARATE ALL OF THE RIGHT RULES THAT PRODUCE GOOD RESULTS FROM THOSE THAT WILL PRODUCE THE ROTTEN KIND. WE COULD ALSO BE PLAYING WITHIN THE GIVEN LIMITS, YET RUNNING, HEAD-ON, THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF WHAT GOD HAD INTENDED FOR US TO BE. UNLESS WE ARE CONSTANTLY COMMUNICATING WITH GOD, AND RECEIVING HIS DAILY INPUT, WE COULD EASILY BE FOLLOWING SOME THEOLOGICAL AND RELIGIOUS RULES, WHILE STRAYING AWAY FROM GOD'S DIRECTION FOR US. AND THAT COMMUNICATION REMAINS OPEN, ONLY WHEN AND IF WE COME CLEAN BEFORE HIM, THROUGH SINCERE DAILY CONFESSIONS OF SIN. GOD CANNOT LOOK UPON US WHILE WE'RE POLLUTED WITH DARKNESS; JUST AS HE COULDN'T LOOK UPON HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, WHILE HE WAS DYING ON THE CROSS FOR OUR SINS.

IN OTHER WORDS, SIN IS A DIRECT DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD'S ORDER OF THINGS. IT'S THE OPPOSITE OF THE SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES BY WHICH GOD WANTS US, HIS HUMAN CREATIONS, TO LIVE. JOHN 3: 4 DEFINES, "WHOSOEVER COMMITTETH SIN TRANSGRESSETH ALSO THE LAW: FOR SIN IS THE 

TRANSGRESSION OF THE LAW". 1 JOHN 3: 4 GIVES ANOTHER EXPLANATION, "WHOEVER COMMITS SIN ALSO COMMITS LAWLESSNESS, AND SIN IS LAWLESSNESS". THE WORD TRANSLATED "LAWLESSNESS" IS THE GREEK WORD "ANOMIA"; MEANING WITHOUT LAW OR AGAINST LAW. THEREFORE SIN IS ACTIVE VIOLATION OF GOD'S LAWS AND BASIC MORAL PRINCIPLES. THIS REFERS TO ACTIONS THAT ARE NOT JUST OUTSIDE THE BOUNDS OF GOD'S LAW, BUT ACTIONS THAT ARE IN DELIBERATE REBELLION AGAINST THOSE LAWS; DELIBERATELY TRAMPLING ON AND REJECTING THAT BOUNDARY.

THROUGH FOLLOWING GOD'S BOUNDARIES, WE ARE GIVEN A CHANCE TO DEMONSTRATE THAT WE LOVE HIM FAR MORE THAN WE CARE TO EXALT OUR OWN WILL AND DETERMINATION; NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT THROUGH DISOBEDIENCE, WE INHERIT DEPRAVITY AND GUILT.

AUGUST 3    MATTHEW 6: 14- 15 READS, "BECAUSE IF YOU FORGIVE PEOPLE THEIR OFFENSES, YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER WILL ALSO FORGIVE YOU. BUT IF YOU DO NOT FORGIVE PEOPLE THEIR OFFENSES, YOUR FATHER WILL NOT FORGIVE YOUR OFFENSES".

THIS IS OF UNIVERSAL APPLICATION. THE SAINT MUST CONFESS AS WELL AS THE SINNER. THIS IS OF DAILY NECESSITY, BECAUSE IT RECOGNIZES GOD'S FORGIVING GRACE THAT COVERS ALL SIN. YET IT IS CONDITIONED BY OUR FORGIVING SPIRIT.

IF POSSIBLE, WE WOULD BE SPARED TEMPTATION; BUT IF WE MUST BE TEMPTED, WE PRAY TO BE SAVED FROM THE POWER OF THE EVIL ONE.

OUR HEARTS' DESIRE AND PRAYER TO OUR HEAVENLY FATHER EVERY DAY SHOULD BE THAT HE WOULD FORGIVE OUR DEBTS; BECAUSE UNLESS OUR SINS BE PARDONED, WE CAN HAVE NO COMFORT AND WE KNOW THAT WE ARE RUINED IN INNUMERABLE WAYS; AND NO OTHER CONDITION DOES HE ADMIT US TO PARDON, BUT THAT WE PARDON OUR BRETHREN WHATEVER OFFENSES THEY HAVE COMMITTED AGAINST US. THOSE WHO REFUSE TO FORGET THE INJURIES WHICH HAVE BEEN DONE TO THEM, DEVOTE THEMSELVES WILLINGLY AND DELIBERATELY TO DESTRUCTION, AND KNOWINGLY PREVENT GOD FROM FORGIVING THEM. GOD WILL NOT BE READY TO HEAR US UNLESS WE ALSO SHOW OURSELVES READY TO GRANT FORGIVENESS TO THOSE WHO HAVE OFFENDED US. THIS IS NOT A PLEA OF MERIT; BUT A PLEA OF GRACE.

IT IS OUR DUTY TO FORGIVE OUR DEBTORS, THOSE WHO TRESSPASS AGAINST US. EVEN THOUGH THEY OWE US A SINCERE APOLOGY, WE MUST NOT BE DEMANDING AND SEVERE IN EXACTING IT FROM THOSE WHO CANNOT PAY THEIR DEBTS WITHOUT RUINING THEMSELVES AND THEIR FAMILIES. WE MUST FORBEAR, FORGIVE, AND FORGET THE OFFENSES PUT UPON US, AND THE WRONGS DONE US; AND THIS IS A MORAL QUALIFICATION FOR PARDON AND PEACE. SUCH GRACIOUS DISPOSITION, WROUGHT OF GOD, IS A PERFECTION EMINENTLY AND TRANSCENDENTLY IN HIMSELF; JUST AS IT IS THE EVIDENCE THAT GOD HAS FORGIVEN US, HAVING WROUGHT IN US THE CONDITION OF FORGIVENESS.

AUGUST 2    I CORINTHIANS 8: 6 READS, "YET FOR US THERE IS BUT ONE GOD, THE FATHER, FROM WHOM ALL THINGS CAME AND FOR WHOM WE LIVE; AND THERE IS BUT ONE LORD, JESUS CHRIST, THROUGH WHOM ALL THINGS CAME AND THROUGH WHOM WE LIVE".

WE SUBSIST ON GOD; AS IT WAS BY HIM THAT WE WERE ONCE CREATED. AS WE HAVE OUR BEGINNING FROM HIM, SO WE OUGHT TO DEVOTE OUR LIVES TO HIM UNTIL THE END. HOWEVER, EVEN THOUGH WE SUBSIST ON GOD; IT IS BY HIS SON JESUS CHRIST THAT WE ARE UNITED TO HIM, SO HE COMMUNICATES TO US THROUGH CHRIST THE ENTIRE REALITY OF OUR EXISTENCE.

CHRIST, AFTER HAVING BEEN MANIFESTED IN THE FLESH, RECEIVED SPIRITUAL DOMINION AND POWER OVER ALL THINGS; HE BECAME A UNIVERSAL MEDIATOR BETWEEN US AND GOD. WHAT MEASURE OF REVERENCE AND OF SERVICE COULD WE POSSIBLY OFFER TO SUCH AWESOME LEADER WHO CONNECTS US TO THE CREATOR OF THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE? GOD WHO POSSESSES, AND HAS DISPLAYED, THROUGH HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, ALL PERFECTIONS, IS ALSO OUR MORAL GOVERNOR, AS WELL AS OUR SAVIOUR. THOSE WHO LIVE TO SERVE THIS ONLY LIVING GOD, HAVE AN ELEVATING, PURIFYING, AND POWERFUL AIM IN THE CONDUCT OF THEIR LIFE.

GOD CANNOT BE OUR FATHER UNLESS WE ARE HIS CHILDREN; THERE MUST BE THE DOUBLE RELATIONSHIP OR NONE. SOME ARE WILLING ENOUGH FOR GOD TO BE THEIR FATHER, BUT NOT WILLING AT ALL TO BE HIS CHILDREN. BUT THE TRUE BELIEVER LIVES TO PLEASE GOD; BECAUSE HE UNDERSTANDS WHAT A PRIVILEGE IT IS TO BE CALLED "A CHILD OF GOD". OUR PHYSICAL BODIES WERE FORMED BY GOD, AND ITS HEALTH IS CONSTANTLY BEING SHAPED AND PRESERVED BY GOD. HOWEVER OUR SPIRITUAL BODIES STARTED BEING FORMED WITH THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST IN OUR LIVES, THROUGH WHOM WE RECEIVE LIFE. WE DON'T JUST EXIST OR OVERCOME; WE LIVE VICTORIOUSLY, AND FEARLESSLY, AND KNOWING FULL WELL WHERE OUR ETERNAL RESIDENCE IS.

AUGUST 1    COLOSSIANS 4: 5- 6 READS, "BE WISE IN THE WAY YOU ACT TOWARD OUTSIDERS; MAKE THE MOST OF EVERY OPPORTUNITY. LET YOUR CONVERSATION BE ALWAYS FULL OF GRACE, SEASONED WITH SALT, SO THAT YOU MAY KNOW HOW TO ANSWER EVERYONE".

THE WORD OF GOD IS VERY SPECIFIC ABOUT HOW WE TREAT THE NON-CHRISTIAN. IT IS BECAUSE OF THE CROSS AND OUR REDEMPTION FOUND THERE THAT WE ARE ABLE TO SEEK TO BE WISE AND GOOD TOWARDS UNBELIEVERS. IT IS THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST THAT HAS CLEANSED US FROM OUR SINS, FORGIVEN US OUR TRESPASSES, AND ENABLED US TO BE GRACIOUS AND KIND, BY CHANGING US EVER SO SLOWLY.

TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE MANY GODS TO WORSHIP, WE APPEAR AS ATHEISTS BECAUSE WE ARE SERVING NO VISIBLE GODS; UNPATRIOTIC BECAUSE WE ARE NOT BURNING INCENSE BEFORE THE IMAGE OF AN EMPEROR; AND IMMORAL BECAUSE WE ARE NOT MEETING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. ON TOP OF IT ALL, WE ARE CALLED BIGOTS BECAUSE WE CONDEMN HOMOSEXUALITY; INTOLERANT BECAUSE WE OPPOSE ABORTION; RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS BECAUSE WE CONDEMN SIN; AND NARROW-MINDED BECAUSE WE BELIEVE THERE IS "ONE FAITH", "ONE LORD", AND "ONE BAPTISM". WE DIDN'T MAKE ALL THAT UP: THE BIBLE SPELLS IT OUT IN EPHESIANS 4: 5.

YET IN SPITE OF ALL THESE ATTACKS, WE ARE TO REMAIN HUMBLE, COMPASSIONATE, LOVING, CARING, KIND, AND GENTLE TOWARDS THE NON-CHRISTIAN. AND IF WE DON'T, WE ARE NOT DISPLAYING THE WORLD THAT JESUS CAME TO SAVE AND DIED FOR. THE REPUTATION OF THE GOSPEL DEPENDS ON OUR CONDUCT; BECAUSE THE WORLD WILL CONTINUE TO JUDGE CHRISTIANITY BY WHAT IT SEES IN US.

WHETEHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT, THE WORLD HAS ALREADY FORMED A NEGATIVE IDEA ABOUT US; BECAUSE WE ARE PRESENTING IT WITH THIS AWESOME DOCTRINE THAT CANNOT BE UNDERSTOOD THROUGH THE INTELLECT. IT IS PRICELESS; YET THE WORLD HAS CONDITIONED PEOPLE TO PAY A PRICE FOR EVERYTHING. THE MERIT DEPENDS ON THE TIME AND EFFORT SPENT ON THE TASK; YET GOD HAS ALREADY GIVEN US SALVATION THROUGH CHRIST AS OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR: WE CAN DO NOTHING TO EARN SUCH GIFT. THOSE ARE HARD SUBJECTS TO TEACH; ESPECIALLY WHEN WE'RE NOT LIVING THEM OURSELVES. LET US FOCUS ON PATIENCE FOR OUTSIDERS, WHO ARE NOT FORTUNATE ENOUGH, AT LEAST NOT YET, TO HAVE THEIR HEARTS PIERCED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT. LET US DEVELOP COMPASSION, INSTEAD OF CONDEMPT.

JULY 31    LUKE 11: 4 READS, "AND FORGIVE US OUR SINS, AS WE FORGIVE EVERYONE WHO SINS AGAINST US...".

IT IS BECAUSE WE ARE FORGIVEN BY THE MOST HIGH THAT WE POSSESS, AND WE'VE BEEN GIVEN, THE POWER TO DECIDE WHETHER OR NOT TO FORGIVE OTHERS. IT SHOULD BE A MATTER OF VITAL INTEREST TO US THAT WE ARE WALKING IN THE LIGHT OF GOD'S LOVING FAVOR, OUR SINS FORGIVEN, AND OURSELVES REGARDED AS HIS BELOVED CHILDREN, RECONCILED TO HIM IN JESUS CHRIST.

IN THE PETITION OF PARDON, IT IS CLEARLY IMPLIED THAT FORGIVENESS CAN ONLY BE REALIZED BY A FORGIVING SPIRIT. THE SOUL WHICH WILL NOT FORGIVE A BROTHER, WHO ASKS FOR FORGIVENESS, DISPLAYS THAT FORGIVENESS HAS NOT BEEN, AND CANNOT BE REALIZED. AN UNFORGIVING SPIRIT PRODUCES THE UNPARDONABLE SIN.

IN FACT, GOD'S ABIDING FAVOR IS THE VERY SUNSHINE OF OUR SOUL, THE PRESENCE OF WHICH MAKES ALL THINGS BRIGHT, AND THE ABSENCE OF WHICH THROWS EVERYTHING INTO DARK SHADOW. LAMENTATIONS 3: 44 EXPLAINS, "YOU COVERED YOURSELF WITH A CLOUD SO THAT NO PRAYER CAN PASS THROUGH". WE CAN CONTINUE TO COMPLAIN ABOUT OTHERS; WE CAN EVEN HAVE TEMPER TANTRUMS FOR WHAT THEY DID TO US; BUT IF WE WANT TO BE ABLE TO MAINTAIN AN OPEN COMMUNICATION WITH GOD, WE ARE TO PRAY JUST SO WE'LL BE GIVEN THE GRACE TO FORGIVE THOSE WHO WRONGED US. GOD HEARS EVERYTHING; THERE IS NOTHING MISSING FROM HIS END OF THE CONVERSATION. IT IS US WHO CANNOT HEAR FROM HIM, BECAUSE OF THE POLLUTION WE CHOOSE TO CARRY WITHIN OUR SPIRIT.

JULY 30     PSALM 14: 6 READS, "YOU WANT TO HUMILIATE THE OPPRESSED, EVEN THOUGH THE LORD IS THEIR SHELTER".

GOD'S WORD DIVIDES THE WHOLE HUMAN RACE INTO TWO PORTIONS: THE CHILDREN OF GOD - MEANING THE SEED OF THE WOMAN - AND THE CHILDREN OF THE DEVIL - MEANING THE SEED OF THE SERPENT. THE ENMITY BETWEEN THE TWO HAS NEVER BEEN MITIGATED, AND IT NEVER WILL. THERE IS AS WIDE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED AS THERE IS BETWEEN THE LIVING AND THE DEAD.

THERE HAVE BEEN TIMES WHEN SUCH ENMITY TOOK VISIBLE DISPLAYS THROUGH HEROD'S ORDERING TO KILL YOUNG BABY BOYS, OR HAMAN'S WANTING TO DESTROY THE WHOLE GENERATION OF ISRAEL. THESE DAYS, THE WARFARE IS NOT LESS BITTER; BUT THE RESTRAINTS OF GOD DO NOT ALLOW IT TO DISPLAY ITSELF AS IT ONCE DID; AT LEAST NOT YET. IT NOW GENERALLY TAKES THE FORM OF CRUEL MOCKINGS; IF NOT WITH THE TONGUE, DEFINITELY WITH THE HEART; OR EVEN IN THE FORM OF LOOKS OF CONTEMPT.

OUR REDEEMER SAID, "BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT, FOR THEIRS IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN". THE WAY TO APPROACH GOD'S PRESENCE IS THROUGH POVERTY; WHETHER IT BE MONETARY, HEALTH RELATED, EMOTIONALLY, OR SPIRITUALLY. WE ARE TO PRESENT OUR HUMILITY, THE FACT THAT WE ARE NOT COMPLETE WITHOUT HIM, IN ORDER TO DRAW NEARER TO HIM. GOD IS INTERESTED IN HUMBLE APPROACHES; AND NOT THE BOASTFUL ONES. THEREFORE TO MOCK CERTAIN PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY HAVE ACHIEVED ENOUGH WISDOM TO SAY, "I NEED YOU, LORD", MAKES THE OPPOSITION LOOK AND SOUND LIKE A FOOL. AND THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT THIS VERSE IS TRYING TO TELL US. IF THE CHRISTIAN HAS TAKEN COUNSEL WITH HIS OR HER OWN WEAKNESS SAYING, "I CANNOT TRUST MYSELF... I AM VERY APT TO GO WRONG, IF I DON'T PLACE MYSELF INTO THE FATHER'S HANDS, AND PRAY FOR HIM TO LEAD ME; AND TO PROTECT ME; AND TO PROVIDE FOR ME..."; THAT IS NOT TO BE A THEME FOR LAUGHTER. THOUGH WE CANNOT CONTROL THE ATTITUDES OF OTHERS AGAINST US; WE MOST CERTAINLY OUGHT TO KEEP OURS CHECKED THROUGH A SINCERE COMPARISON WITH WHAT CHRIST DID WHILE ON EARTH: HE PRAYED FOR HIS MURDERERS.

THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE DESPERATELY NEEDING PRAYERS. THEY ARE NOT WISE ENOUGH, NOR HUMBLE ENOUGH TO ASK FOR ONE; YET THEIR SPIRITUAL IMMATURITY IS EXTREMELY VISIBLE THROUGH THEIR BEHAVIOURS, REVEALING THE INNER MESSAGE, "I AM HURTING... CAN YOU PLEASE TELL GOD ABOUT ME...".

JULY 28 MATTHEW 27: 28 READS, “THEY STRIPPED HIM AND DRESSED HIM IN A SCARLET ROBE”.

THE SHAME OF NAKEDNESS CAME IN WITH SIN ACCORDING TO GENESIS 3: 7; AND THEREFORE CHRIST, WHEN HE CAME TO SATISFY FOR SIN, AND TAKE IT AWAY, WAS MADE NAKED AND SUBMITTED TO THAT SHAME; THAT HE MIGHT PREPARE FOR US A WHITE GARMENT AND TO COVER US. THE SOLDIERS THREW ONE OF THEIR OWN ROBES OVER HIS NAKED BODY, AS AN IMITATION OF THE SCARLET ROBES WHICH KINGS AND EMPERORS WORE, ONLY TO EXPOSE HIM TO THE SPECTATORS. OUR SINS WERE AS SCARLET AS THE ROBE CHRIST HAD TO WEAR, SIGNIFYING HIS BEARING OUR SINS AND OUR SHAME UNTIL HIS BODY FRAIL WAS NAILED TO THE CROSS. HIS OWN BLOOD WAS MAENT TO MAKE US WHITE AS SNOW.

CHRIST DIED FOR A HUGE CAUSE. THERE IS NO MERIT IN MERE PAIN; BUT THERE IS GREAT HONOR IN SUFFERING FOR A NOBLE CAUSE. AS PHILIPPIANS 2: 9 DESCRIBES, “WHEREFORE GOD EXALTED HIM AND GAVE HIM THE NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES”. CHRIST WENT FURTHER; HE WAS MORE THAN A MARTYR. HE DRANK A MORE BITTER CUP THAN 

ANY OTHER MAN HAS TASTED; AND HE TOOK ALL THIS SUFFERING UPON HIM FOR THE SAVING OF THE WORLD. SUCH A CROWN OF THORNS WORN FOR THE GOOD OF OTHERS MARKS ITS WEARER AS WORTHY OF THE HIGHEST HONOR.

THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST GAVE HIM THE KINGDOM OVER WHICH HE RULES. HE HAD TO WIN HIS KINGDOM FOR HIMSELF, AND IT IS “HIS” NOW, BY RIGHT OF CONQUEST. HE DID NOT USE ANY WEAPONS OF CARNAL WARFARE. HE DID NOT FIGHT WITH THE SWORD. THE SUFFERINGS OF THE WAR WERE NOT INFLICTED ON THE TERRITORY HE WAS CONQUERING, BUT ON HIMSELF. HE WON THE WORLD FOR HIMSELF BY DYING FOR THE WORLD ON THE CROSS.

JULY 27    JOHN 19: 2 READS, "AND THE SOLDIERS TWISTED TOGETHER A CROWN OF THORNS AND PUT IT ON HIS HEAD, AND PUT A PURPLE ROBE ON HIM".

CHRIST IS INDEED KING, BUT AN ODD ONE, BECAUSE HE REIGNS - NOT FROM A THRONE - BUT FROM A CROSS; AND HE IS CROWNED - NOT WITH LAUREL LEAVES - BUT WITH A RING OF THORNS. HE EXHIBITED MORAL QUALITIES WHICH HAVE EVER SINCE BEEN PECULIARLY ASSOCIATED WITH HIS NAME. HIS PATIENCE, HIS MEEKNESS, AND HIS DIGNITY WERE NEVER MORE CONSPICUOUS THAN WHEN HE WAS INSULTED BY HIS ACCUSERS. THE POWER HE DISTRIBUTED FROM THE CROSS IS A SELF-FORGETTING AND A SELF-SACRIFICING LOVE.

THIS AFFECTING CORONATION IS AN EMBLEM OF CHRIST'S EARTHLY MINISTRY: THE THORNS OF HATRED AND CONTEMPT WERE THRUST INTO HIS HEAD; YET LOVE AND LOYALTY WROUGHT THEM INTO A VICTOR'S CROWN; SYMBOLIZING THE CHARACTER OF THE RELIGION WHICH GOD FOUNDED THROUGH HIS OWN SON. THE CROSS WAS FOLLOWED BY HIS RESURRECTION; AND THE ENTOMBMENT BY HIS ASCENSION. THE PROFOUNDEST HUMILIATION AND THE MOST EXALTED GLORY BECAME ONE, AS A TRAIL OF FOOTPRINTS FOR BELIEVERS TO FOLLOW, REPRESENTING THE NATURE OF CHRISTIANITY. IT IS A RELIGION OF HUMILITY, CONTRITION, AND REPENTANCE, AS WELL AS OF PEACE, VICTORY, AND POWER. IT SMITES THE SINNER TO THE EARTH; IT RAISES THE PARDONED TO HEAVEN. JUST AS CHRIST, WE WILL REACH A UNIVERSAL DOMINION ONLY BY A TOILSOME PATH OF PERSEVERANCE, DETERMINATION, AND TIRELESSNESS, WATERED BY TEARS OF INADEQUACY. IT IS DURING TIMES OF PERSONAL WEAKNESS THAT WE DISCOVER GOD'S STRENGTH.

JULY 26    1 JOHN 2: 16 READS, "FOR EVERYTHING THAT BELONGS TO THE WORLD - THE LUST OF THE FLESH, THE LUST OF THE EYES, AND THE PRIDE IN ONE'S LIFESTYLE - IS NOT FROM THE FATHER, BUT IS FROM THE WORLD".

THOSE ARE THE PURSUITS AND THOUGHTS OF MEN WHO LIVE FOR THE WORLD; WE WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO FIND A WORLDLY MAN IN WHOM THESE LUSTS DO NOT PREVAIL; AT LEAST ONE OF THEM. THE FLESH MEANS THE WHOLE CORRUPT NATURE OF MAN. WHEN WORLDLY MEN, SEEKING TO LIVE SOFTLY AND DELICATELY, START FOCUSING ON THEIR OWN ADVANTAGES, THEIR INNER DESIRES FLOW OUT IMMODERATELY, NEVER OBSERVING ANY DUE MEDIUM, WITH EACH ATTEMPT NEEDING A HIGHER OR GROSSER VICE. THOSE WITH SELFISH INTENTIONS DELIGHT IN POMPS AND EMPTY SPLENDOR; CONNECTING THEM TO AMBITION, BOASTING, CONTEMPT OF OTHERS, BLIND LOVE OF SELF, AND HEADSTRONG SELF-CONFIDENCE.

AS SOON AS THE WORLD PRESENTS ITSELF, WITH ALL ITS LUSTS AND DESIRES, WHEN OUR HEART IS CORRUPT, WE ARE CAPTIVATED BY IT LIKE UNBRIDLED WILD BEASTS, UNTIL THAT WHICH WE FOLLOW ENDS UP RULING OVER US. ALL THE STIRRING WITHIN THE FLESH, THE DESIRING THROUGH THE EYES, AND THE GLOATING OVER POSSESSIONS, HAS NO HIGH ORIGIN; IT IS NOT OF THE FATHER, BUT OF THE WORLD. PLEASURES ARE LIKE SNOWFLAKES ON THE RIVER: A MOMENT WHITE, THEN MELT FOREVER.

JULY 25    ROMANS 12: 1- 2, "THEREFORE I URGE YOU, BRETHREN, BY THE MIRACLES OF GOD, TO PRESENT YOUR BODIES A LIVING AND HOLY SACRIFICE, ACCEPTABLE TO GOD, WHICH IS YOUR SPIRITUAL SERVICE OF WORSHIP. AND DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD, BUT BE TRANFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, SO THAT YOU MAY PROVE THAT THE WILL OF GOD IS, THAT WHICH IS GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE AND PERFECT".

SINCE THE DOCTRINES OF OUR FAITH ARE OFTEN MOCKED AND RIDICULED IN THE PUBLIC ARENA, CAUSING US - OCCASIONALLY - TO MAKE SPIRITUAL OR MORAL COMPROMISES IN AN ATTEMPT TO BE ACCEPTED, THIS VERSE URGES BELIEVERS TO GIVE CONTROL OF THEIR LIVES TO GOD, IN LIGHT OF ALL HE HAS DONE FOR US. THE ONLY VITAL DECISION WE NEED TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT IS WHETHER OR NOT TO SURRENDER. AND ONCE WE CHOOSE TO ACCEPT HIS WAYS OVER OURS, OUR ENTIRE BEING - INCLUDING OUR MIND, WILL, AND EMOTIONS - MUST LEARN TO YIELD TO GOD. THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT "BECOMING A LIVING SACRIFICE" MEANS: WE ALLOW THE HOLY SPIRIT TO LIVE THROUGH US, AS WE SURRENDER TO THE SPIRIT'S GUIDANCE AND LEADERSHIP. IT IS THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT EMPOWERS US TO LIVE A GODLY LIFE; WITHOUT HIM WE CONTINUE TO FOOL OURSELVES; BECAUSE IMITATING A GODLY LIFESTYLE IS EXTREMELY EXHAUSTING.

EVEN THOUGH SANCTIFICATION - BEING SET APART - HAPPENS IMMEDIATELY, IT IS A LIFELONG PROCESS. ONCE WE DEDICATE OURSELVES TO PLEASING GOD, RATHER THAN THE WORLD, OUR GOAL SHOULD BE TO ACT AS JESUS DID: FORGIVING, LOVING, AND HELPING OTHERS; YET KNOWING WHEN TO SPEAK THE TRUTH IN LOVE, OR SHARE OUR FAITH. OUR GODLY LIFESTYLE WILL ATTRACT SOME PEOPLE TO US; AND IT WILL DRIVE OTHERS AWAY. HOWEVER THE SAME PEOPLE WHO ONCE RESISTED THE GOSPEL WILL, SOONER OR LATER, SEEK OUT A BELIEVER FOR HELP WHEN LIFE GETS TOUGH. GOD HIMSELF WILL BRING THOSE WHO ARE RIPE TO HEAR, THOSE WITH WHOM WE WILL BE ABLE TO SHARE OUR FAITH IN CHRIST AND THE GRACE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

JULY 24    JOB 12: 4 READS, "YET MY FRIENDS LAUGH AT ME, FOR I CALL ON GOD AND EXPECT AN ANSWER. I AM A JUST AND BLAMELESS MAN; YET THEY LAUGH AT ME".

WE MUST UNDERSTAND THAT THE GENERAL PUBLIC, THE UNBELIEVERS, HAVE A DIFFICULTY ADMIRING THE FACT THAT BELIEVERS CAN HAVE AN OPEN COMMUNICATION WITH GOD; THAT NOT ONLY DO THEY TALK TO GOD, BUT THEY ALSO WAIT TO HEAR FROM GOD. OFTEN WE RECEIVE A LOOK - A LOOK THAT MIGHT GO ALONG WITH SOMETHING RATHER SPOOKY - SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY DON'T QUITE UNDERSTAND THE FACT THAT GOD HAS MADE HIMSELF AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE THROUGH THE SACRIFICE OF CHRIST. THEY MAY EVEN BE AFRAID TO APPROACH THE SUBJECT BECAUSE THEY ALREADY KNOW HOW OTHERS FEEL ABOUT IT; AND THEY ARE MOST CERTAINLY AFRAID OF BEING LET DOWN, BECAUSE MOST EVERYTHING IN THIS WORLD LEADS TO BETRAYAL. ALL THINGS ARE DESIGNED BY SATAN TO LURE US INTO SAYING OR DOING THINGS WE WILL REGRET.

JOB WAS A JUST AND BLAMELESS MAN; YET HIS DAILY RITUALS AND PERFORMANCES COULDN'T SET HIM APART FROM THE REST OF THE WORLD. HE WAS DEALT WITH AWFUL AND UNEXPECTED LOSSES; YET HE REMAINED TRUE TO GOD, AND CONTINUED TO WORSHIP HIM. HE SIMPLY DIDN'T KNOW WHY PEOPLE WHO HAD LOOKED UP TO HIM ALL ALONG, WERE NOW CRITICIZING HIM, AND LAUGHING AT HIS SENSELESS LIFESTYLE THAT DIDN'T KEEP HIM FROM CALAMITIES.

THIS VERSE IS A CLEAR DEMONSTRATION OF THE INJUSTICE OF HUMAN OPINION. THOSE WHO ARE BANDED TOGETHER BY THE TIE OF SELFISH PLEASURES RESENT THE VERY SIGHT OF THAT WHICH INTEFERES WITH THEIR COMFORT LEVEL. CHRIST CAME TO EXPOSE, FOREVER, THE SELF-SUFFICIENCY OF THE PROSPEROUS AND ALL THEIR CARELESSNESS, BY REACHING OUT TO THE POOR. HE DEMONSTARTED THE FACT THAT WHEN OUR HEARTS ARE FILLED WITH PRIDE TO OVERFLOWING, THERE IS LITTLE ROOM IN IT FOR SYMPATHY AND PITY.

JULY 23    ECCLESIASTES 9: 12 READS, "FOR MAN CERTAINLY DOES NOT KNOW HIS TIME; LIKE FISH CAUGHT IN A CRUEL NET OR LIKE BIRDS CAUGHT IN A TRAP, SO PEOPLE ARE TRAPPED IN AN EVIL TIME AS IT SUDDENLY FALLS ON THEM".

WE DON'T KNOW OUR TIME; MEANING THE TIME OF OUR CALAMITY, OUR FALL, OUR DEATH, WHICH IN SCRIPTURE IS CALLED "OUR DAY AND OUR HOUR". WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT TROUBLES ARE BEFORE US, WHICH WILL TAKE US OFF OUR BUSINESS, AND TAKE US OUT OF THE WORLD, AS WELL AS WHAT TIME AND CHANCE WILL HAPPEN TO US. IT IS NOT FOR US TO KNOW ANY OF THAT. HOWEVER THE VERY REASON THAT LEADS US TO A MOMENT OF ENTRAPMENT, WHICH MAY APPEAR LIKE ETERNITY TO US, IS ALSO A PLACE WHERE WE ARE GIVEN THE MOST INSTRUCTIONS IN DEPTH BY GOD'S INTERVENING WISDOM.

WHEN GOD SEES THAT HUMAN STRENGTH OR WISDOM HAS OUTLIVED ITS MODESTY, ITS BEAUTY, AND ITS WORTH; GOD ARRANGES FOR IT TO BE BROKEN: HE SENDS DEFEAT WHERE VICTORY HAS BEEN ASSURED; POVERTY WHERE WEALTH HAS BEEN CONFIDENTLY RECKONED UPON; FRUSTRATION AND REJECTION WHERE MEN HAVE BEEN HOLDING OUT THEIR HAND FOR FAVOR AND REWARD. THOSE CHANGE OF EVENTS ARE GUARANTEED IN THE MID-COURSE OF OUR ENDEAVORS, JUST WHEN OUR LABORS ARE ABOUT TO BE CROWNED WITH SUCCESS; BECAUSE WE HAVE SEEN A GLIMPSE OF OUR OWN WISDOM OR INTELLECT; AND HAD A MOMENT TO RECOGNIZE IT, RATHER THAN GIVING GOD THE FULL GLORY. THEY MAY COME UPON US SO UNEXPECTEDLY AS TO TAKE US AS FISHES ARE TAKEN IN A NET OR BIRDS IN A SNARE, AS IF SNATCHING THE PRIZE FROM THE RUNNER, THE VICTORY FROM THE STRONG, AND LAYING THEIR PRIDE IN THE DUST.

JULY 22    JOB 8: 11- 13 READS, "CAN PAPYRUS GROW TALL WHERE THERE IS NO MARSH? CAN REEDS THRIVE WITHOUT WATER? WHILE THEY ARE STILL FLOWERING, NOT READY TO BE CUT, THEY BEGIN TO WITHER MORE QUICKLY THAN GRASS. THE SAME HAPPENS TO ALL WHO FORGET GOD. THE HOPES OF THE GODLESS EVAPORATE".

NOTHING CAN LIVE WITHOUT ITS PROPER ELEMENT OF NUTRIMENT; AND SUCH IS THE FACT ABOUT PLANTS AND TREES; THEY QUICKLY WITHER AND DIE WITHOUT WATER; JUST AS IT IS WITH MEN WHEN THEY ARE DEVOID OF DIVINE GRACE.

REEDS ARE LIKE THE HYPOCRITES; THEY ARE THOSE WHO MAKE A MERE SHOW OF FAITH WITHOUT TRUE TRUST IN GOD; THEY GROW UP QUICKLY; THEY ARE HOLLOW AND WITHOUT SUBSTANCE; THEY ARE EASILY BENT; THEY LOWER THEIR HEADS IN FALSE HUMILITY; THEY BEAR NO FRUIT; THEY WITHER BEFORE ANYONE ELSE DOES, EVEN WHILE THEY APPEAR TO BE SUCCESSFUL AND FORTUNATE; THE EXCITEMENT, THE ENCOURAGEMENT, THE EXAMPLE, THE PROFIT, THE RESPECTABILITY, AND THE PROSPERITY UPON WHICH THEY LIVE FAIL THEM; THEY HAVE NO USE, NO CONTINUANCE; THEIR HOPE EVAPORATES UNDER AFFLICTION; THEY FLATTER AND DECEIVE THEMSELVES IN THEIR HYPOCRISY.

THEY WOULD NOT BE HYPOCRITES IF THEY DID NOT FORGET THE FACT THAT THE GOD WHOM THEY HAVE GET TO KNOW AND UNDERSTAND, SEARCHES THE HEART AND REQUIRES TRUTH THERE, THAT HE IS A SPIRIT AND HAS HIS EYE ON OUR SPIRITS; THAT HE IS THE RIGHTEOUS ONE. THOUGH THEY PROSPER FOR A TIME, THEY WILL ULTIMATELY COME TO RUIN.

JULY 21     MATTHEW 24: 32 READS, "LEARN THIS PARABLE FROM THE FIG TREE: AS SOON AS ITS BRANCH BECOMES TENDER AND SPROUTS LEAVES, YOU KNOW THAT SUMMER IS NEAR".

DURING THE WINTER MONTHS, CONTRACTED BY THE SEVERITY OF THE COLD, TREES SHOW GREATER VIGOR; BUT IN SPRING, THEY LOSE THEIR TOUGHNESS; THEY APPEAR MORE FEEBLE; THEIR TISSUES SEPARATE EVER SO SLOWLY TO OPEN UP PASSAGE FOR FRESH TWIGS; SO BASED ON THIS COMPARISON, THE AFFLICITON BY WHICH THE CHURCH IS SOFTENED , DOES NOT IN ANY WAY IMPAIR ITS VIGOR. AS THE INWARD SAP DIFFUSES THROUGH THE WHOLE TREE, AFTER HAVING PRODUCED THIS SOFTNESS, COLLECTS STRENGTH TO THROW ITSELF OUT FOR RENOVATING THAT WHICH WAS DEAD, SO THE LORD DRAWS FROM THE CORRUPTION OF THE OUWARD MAN THE PERFECT RESTORATION OF HIS PEOPLE.

DURING THE STATE OF CONFUSION WHICH HAS BEEN THE CASE FOR MANY GENERATIONS NOW, THERE WILL BE AS EVIDENT A SIGN THAT THE COMING OF CHRIST IS NEAR, AS THAT BY WHICH WE KNOW WITH CERTAINTY THAT THE SUMMER IS AT HAND WHEN TREES WILL BEGIN TO GROW GREEN; AND WHEN ABUNDANCE OF GOODS AND UNLIMITED REAPING IS ABOUT TO TAKE PLACE.

THE WEAK AND FRAIL CONDITON OF THE CHURCH OUGHT NOT TO LEAD US TO CONCLUDE THAT IT IS DYING, BUT RATHER TO EXPECT THE IMMORTAL GLORY FOR WHICH THE LORD PREPARES HIS PEOPLE BY THE CROSS AND BY THE AFFLICTIONS. EACH OF THE MEMBERS MUST BE FULFILLED IN THE WHOLE BODY, THAT IF THE OUTWARD MAN IS DECAYED, THE INWARD MAN IS RENEWED DAY BY DAY. THAT'S WHAT 2 CORINTHIANS 4:16 PROMISES US SAYING, "THEREFORE WE DO NOT GIVE UP. EVEN THOUGH OUR OUTER PERSON IS BEING DESTROYED, OUR INNER PERSON IS BEING RENEWED DAY BY DAY".

JULY 20     MATTHEW 15: 9 READS, "IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING DOCTRINES, THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN".

BY THE TRADITIONS OF ELDERS, OR DIFFERENT SECTS AND PARTIES, OUR WORSHIP CAN SLOWLY TURN INTO PERVERTED PRACTICES; LEADING US INTO CORRUPT TRANSLATIONS OF RELIGIOUS RITUALS THAT WILL NEVER REACH GOD. RELIGIOUS PRACTICES ARE ATTEMPTS ON THE PART OF HUMAN BEINGS TO ESTABLISH A DECENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THEMSELVES AND SOMETHING OUTSIDE THEMSELVES; MOST LIKELY SOMETHING THEY THINK TO BE OF LIFE-SHAPING IMPORTANCE. WE'RE ALMOST ALWAYS IN DANGER WHEN AND IF WE FOLLOW THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN FOR OUR DOCTRINE AND RULE OF LIFE. WILL-WORSHIP MUST BE RECOGNIZED AND UPROOTED BEFORE IT BECOMES A PATTERN, SINCE GOD CHOOSES TO BE WORSHIPED IN NO OTHER WAY THAN ACCORDING TO HIS OWN APPOINTMENT; HE WILL NOT ENDURE MODES OF WORSHIP THAT DISPLAY TAUGHT BEHAVIOURS INSTEAD OF DISPLAYING SINCERITY OF HEARTS.

GOD HAS PRESCRIBED, THROUGH PERSONAL TESTIMONIES, A CERTAIN LEVEL OF COMMUNICATION WITH HIM FOR WHICH HE HOLDS US RESPONSIBLE AND ACCOUNTABLE. IF WE WANDER BEYOND THE LIMITS OF THE WORD OF GOD, WE START EXPERIENCING MORE AND MORE LABOR AND ANXIETY IN WORSHIPING HIM. AND SUCH BEHAVIOUR DISHONORS GOD.

MODERN RELIGIONISTS HAVE MODIFIED OR ADDED TO THE MEANING OF CHRISTIANITY AS WELL AS THE WORKS OF THE APOSTLES. A GOOD RULE OF THUMB IS: THAT WHICH CANNOT BE FOUND IN THE NEW TESTAMENT IS QUESTIONABLE, SUCH AS OBSERVANCE OF SAINTS' DAYS; LENT; THE REMOVAL OF THE CUP IN THE LORD'S SUPPER FROM THE LAITY; INFANT SPRINKLING; ETC... SUCH OBSERVANCES ARE OF MEN, AND NOT OF GOD. IN ORDER TO HAVE A SINCERE ONE-ON-ONE WITH GOD ALL WE NEED IS HONESTY; ALL ELSE IS UNNECESSARY AND MEANINGLESS FLUFF.

JULY 19     PSALM 119: 63 READS, "I AM A FRIEND TO ALL WHO FEAR YOU, TO ALL WHO FOLLOW YOUR PRECEPTS".

HERE, WE ARE NOT JUST SPEAKING OF A SIMPLE BROTHERLY LOVE AND CONCORD WHICH TRUE BELIEVERS OUGHT TO CULTIVATE AMONG THEMSELVES, AND GIVE EACH OTHER THEIR HAND IN TOKEN OF FELLOWSHIP; BUT WE MUST ALSO BECOME EACH OTHER'S HELPERS. WE MUST CONTRIBUTE TO EACH OTHER'S ADVANCEMENT IN THE FEAR OF GOD. WE MUST BE STIRRED UP TO THE MAINTENANCE OF A HOLY UNITY; NOT JUST TO KEEP US FROM IMPIOUS ASSOCIATIONS WHICH PREVAIL EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD, BUT BECAUSE THE FEAR OF GOD IS THE ROOT, THE ORIGIN, OF ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS.

EVERY LIVING THING LOOKS FOR SOMETHING AKIN TO IT, AND FINDS THAT GOD HAS ALWAYS PROVIDED THE ANSWERING THING; JUST AS GOD PROVIDED A "HELP-MEET" FOR ADAM. MALACHI EXPLAINED IT THIS WAY, "THEN THEY THAT FEARED THE LORD SPAKE OFTEN ONE TO ANOTHER"; MEANING, FOR ORDINARY RELATIONS, A COMMON OBJECT AND A COMMON INTEREST WILL SUFFICE; BUT FOR CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS, THERE MUST BE FELT KINSHIP. IF WE LOOSEN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD, WE WILL SOON HOLD LOOSE RELATIONS WITH HIS PEOPLE.

OBSERVING GOD'S PRECEPTS IS ALL ABOUT FEARING GOD; AND BEING IN A SPIRITUAL COMMUNION WITH THOSE WHO EXHIBIT THE SAME FAITH AND HOPE; AND ARE JOINED IN HOLY ORDINANCES IN THE COURTS OF GOD, WHERE RICH AND POOR, PRINCE AND PEASANT, MEET TOGETHER .

JULY 18    ISAIAH 29: 13 READS, "THE LORD SAID, ' BECAUSE THESE PEOPLE DRAW NEAR WITH THEIR MOUTHS AND HONOR ME WITH THEIR LIPS; BUT THEIR HEARTS ARE FAR FROM ME; WORSHIP OF ME HAS BECOME MERELY LIKE RULES TAUGHT BY HUMAN BEINGS' ".

GOD REPROVES OUR SUPERSTITIOUS AND IDOLATROUS PRACTICES; SINCE THEY ARE ALMOST ALWAYS JOINED TOGETHER; THEY LEAD TO HYPOCRISY. AN OUTWARD PROFESSION THAT BELONGS TO THE BAD JUST AS EASILY AS IT DOES TO THE GOOD ONLY MEANS THAT WE ALL ARE CAPABLE OF LOOKING AND SOUNDING HOLY; ESPECIALLY IF WE HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO GOD'S LAWS LONG ENOUGH TO LEARN. GOD IS NOT IMPRESSED WITH THE PIOUS EXPRESSIONS THAT ARE NOT SINCERE; THOSE ONLY IMPRESS PEOPLE WHO DON'T POSSESS THE GIFT OF DISCERNMENT.

GOOD MEN, OUT OF THE DEEPEST FEELING OF THE HEARTS, PRESENT THEMSELVES BEFORE GOD; AND WHILE THEY YIELD THEIR OBEDIENCE, THEY ALSO CONFESS AND ACKNOWKELGE HAW FAR THEY ARE FROM PRESENTING A PERFECT DISPLAY OF THEIR DUTIES AS CHRISTIANS. THEREFORE GOD SEES THEIR HUMBLE HEARTS, WITHIN WHICH HE FINDS ROOM TO PLANT MORE AND MORE OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT.

IF WE'RE NOT CAREFUL ABOUT BEING HUMBLE AND HONEST WITH OUR WORDHIP, GOD WILL ALLOW US TO TAKE A DETOUR WHERE WE MIGHT END UP FEARING "COMMANDMENTS OF MEN", INSTEAD OF CULTIVATING OUR FEAR OF GOD; WHICH STEMS FROM OUR INTENSE LOVE FOR HIM, WITHOUT BEING AFRAID OF HIM.

JULY 17     PSALM 16: 3 READS, "AS FOR THE SAINTS THAT ARE IN THE LAND; THEY ARE NOBLE, AND ALL MY DELIGHT IS IN THEM".

GOD TAKES UNDER HIS PROTECTION NONE BUT THOSE WHO COMMIT THEMSELVES TO HIM WITH THEIR WHOLE HEART. HERE, DAVID ANNOUNCES THE FACT THAT WE ARE UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF GOD. THE HOLY SPIRIT ASSURES US, BY THE MOUTH OF DAVID, THAT GOD IS READY TO HELP ALL OF US, PROVIDED WE RELY UPON HIM WITH A SURE AND STEADFAST FAITH. LET'S NOT FORGET THE FACT THAT DAVID, SUPPORTED BY HIS TRUST IN GOD, CONTINUED FIRM AND UNMOVED AMIDST ALL THE STORMS OF ADVERSITY HE HAD TO FACE.

THE ONLY WAY OF SERVING GOD ARIGHT IS TO ENDEAVOR TO DO GOOD TO HIS HOLY SERVANTS; FOR THEY ARE THE VISIBLE MANIFESTATIONS OF HIS GRACE, TOWARD WHOM WE ARE TO EXERCISE OUR CHARITY; WE OUGHT TO EXTEND OUR CHARITY EVEN TO THOSE WHO ARE UNWORTHY OF IT; JUST AS OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN CONTINUES TO DO FOR US.

WE MUST SEE THAT, AFTER HAVING CONFESSED THAT WE CAN FIND NOTHING IN OURSELVES TO BRING TO GOD; AND ALSO KNOWING THAT WE ARE INDEBTED TO HIM FOR EVERY THING WHICH WE HAVE; WE MUST UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT THE FACT THAT IT IS THE WILL OF GOD THAT OUGHT TO BE MAGNIFIED AND EXALTED IN THE ASSEMBLY OF THE JUST.

WE MAY LIVE TOGETHER WITH ONE ACCORD UNDER GOD'S AUTHORITY, AS WELL AS THE GUIDANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT; YET THERE IS NO SACRIFICE MORE ACCEPTABLE TO GOD THAN WHEN WE SINCERELY AND HEARTILY CONNECT OURSELVES WITH THE SOCIETY OF THE RIGHTEOUS; AND BY BEING KNIT TOGETHER THROUGH THE SACRED BOND OF GODLINESS, WE MUST BE AIMING TO CULTIVATE AND MAINTAIN WITH THEM BROTHERLY GOOD-WILL.

IT IS THE CONSPICUOUS MARKS OF HIS GLORY THAT SERVE TO DRAW OTHERS TO HIM, THROUGH WHICH HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HIS HOLINESS CONTINUE TO REFLECT; AND THAT IS HOW WE ARE SEPARATED FROM THE DEGRADING POLLUTION OF THIS WORLD. THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD FOR US ALL.

JULY 16     ROMANS 1: 7 READS, "TO ALL WHO ARE IN ROME, LOVED BY GOD, CALLED AS SAINTS. GRACE TO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR FATHER AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST".

NOTHING IS MORE FREQUENT IN APOSTLE PAUL THAN THE NAME OF SAINTS GIVEN TO ALL CHRISTIANS. BY THIS JOYFUL ADDRESS, HE SETS FORTH WHAT THERE IS IN US WORTHY OF APPROVAL; WHICH IS THE FACT THAT FIRST OUR LORD, THROUGH HIS OWN KINDNESS, MADE US THE OBLECTS OF HIS FAVOR AND LOVE; AND SECOND HE CALLED US TO HOLINESS. IT IS ONLY THROUGH HIS GRACE THAT THIS HIGH HONOR EXISTS; AND WE BECOME THE RECIPIENTS THROUGH THE FOUNTAIN OF GOD'S FREE AND PATERNAL LOVE TOWARDS US.

WE ARE UNWORTHY SINNERS BY NATURE; YET GOD'S GOODNESS OVERLOOKS ALL OF OUR INIQUITIES. HE UNDERSTANDS THE POWER OF THE EVIL ONE UPON THIS WORLD; THEREFORE HE HAS GIVEN US THE GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, WHOSE INFLUENCE OF PREPARING THE BELIEVER FOR ETERNITY IS OF DIRE IMPORTANCE. IT IS THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT GOD DEVELOPS THE RIGHT TRANSFORMATION AS A CHARACTER; MEANING, ALL OF THE RIGHT QUALITIES THAT COME BY THE GRACE OF GOD, SO WE CAN FULLY ENJOY ETERNAL LIFE NOW. THE VERY FOUNDATION OF OUR FELICITY IS THE FAVOR OF GOD, BY WHICH WE CHERISH TRUE AND SOLID PROSPERITY, AND BY WHICH ALSO OUR SALVATION IS PROMOTED, EVEN WHEN WE ARE IN ADVERSITIES. WE COULDN'T POSSIBLY PRODUCE THOSE ON OUR OWN; THERE IS WONDROUS POWER IN WAITING UPON GOD.

JULY 15    JOHN 15, 16 READS, "YOU DID NOT CHOOSE ME, BUT I CHOSE YOU. I APPOINTED YOU THAT YOU SHOULD GO OUT AND PRODUCE FRUIT AND THAT YOUR FRUIT SHOULD REMAIN, SO THAT WHATEVER YOU ASK THE FATHER IN MY NAME, HE WILL GIVE YOU".

HERE, THE SUBJECT IS NOT THE ORDINARY ELECTION OF BELIEVERS, BY WHICH WE ARE ADOPTED TO BE CHILDREN OF GOD; BUT IT'S A SPECIAL ELECTION BY WHICH WE ARE "SET APART" FOR THE OFFICE OF PREACHING THE GOSPEL. IT IS BY HIS GRACE, AND NOT OF OUR OWN MERIT, THAT WE ARE HANDPICKED TO PERFORM THE DUTIES OF A PRIEST. WE DON'T NEED TO BE SCHOLARS TO KNOW GOD IN PERSON: WE GET TO KNOW HIM THROUGH OUR PERSONAL TESTIMONIES; AND EACH PERSON'S TESTIMONY IS JUST AS VALUABLE; JUST AS HELPFUL AND NECESSARY FOR THE RECEIVER'S SPIRIT. WE SIMPLY NEED TO BE WILLING TO SHARE THEM WITH OTHERS.

THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL ALWAYS PLACE THE RIGHT PEOPLE ONTO OUR PATHS, AND HE WILL PRESENT US WITH OPPORUNITIES TO WITNESS; AS LONG AS WE ARE WILLING TO BE USED BY HIM. NONE OF US CAN REPRESENT THE PERSON OF GOD; NOR COULD WE EVER PRODUCE ANY OF HIS RESULTS, UNLESS WE ARE SOUGHT BY HIM "FIRST".

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR US TO COMPREHEND THE REASONS WHY JESUS CHOSE THOSE WHOM HE DID CHOOSE IN PREFERENCE TO OTHERS. OBSERVING HIS APOSTLES, NOT ALL TWELVE OF THEM WERE WORTHY OF HIS CHOICE; YET THEY EACH READILY RECOGNIZED THE SPIRITUAL SUMMONS, WHICH THEY FELT IN THEIR SOULS. AND AFTER HIS RESURRECTION, THEY WERE COMMISSIONED TO GO AMONG JEWS AND GENTILES, PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION BY FAITH AND OF OBEDIENCE UNTO LIFE ETERNAL.

THE SAME APPLIES TO US TODAY: WE HEAR HIS CALL; WE RESPOND WITH WILLINGNESS; AND AS WE UNDERSTAND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF HIS DEATH ON THE CROSS, WE ACCEPT, "GLADLY" AND "GRATEFULLY", THE CONSECRATED SERVICE OF OUR NEW LIFE AS ONE OF HIS VESSELS WITHIN THE CHURCH, WHICH IS HIS BODY.

JULY 14      BEING "SET APART" IS THE GREATEST GIFT WE CAN RECEIVE FROM ABOVE; BECAUSE IN A FALLEN WORLD OF FILTH AND DISAPPOINTMENTS, IT INVOLVES A GREAT MIRACLE FOR US NOT TO BE SWEPT AWAY ALONG WITH THE MULTITUDES. HOW ARE WE TO SET OURSELVES APART IF ALL WE KNOW IS THE FRUITS OF OUR NATURAL AND CORRUPTIBLE SEED THROUGH ADAM? BEING SET APART IS SOMETHING THAT WE SHOULD BE GRATEFUL FOR.

THE TRUTH IS, WE'RE EITHER SET APART NOW, WHILE WE STILL HAVE A CHANCE TO BE SANCTIFIED, OR WE'LL BE SET APART AT THE END OF THE WORLD, AS MATTHEW 13: 49 DESCRIBES, "THIS IS HOW IT WILL BE AT THE END OF THE AGE. ANGELS WILL GO OUT, SEPARATE THE EVIL PEOPLE FROM THE RIGHTEOUS". WOULDN'T WE LIKE TO BE GATHERED INTO HIS FOLD NOW, AND BECOME ONE OF HIS TRUE AND CHOSEN SHEEP; AND BE KNOWN BY HIM. 2 TIMOTHY 2: 19 EXPLAINS, "... GOD'S SOLID FOUNDATION STANDS FIRM, HAVING THIS INSCRIPTION, ' THE LORD KNOWS THOSE WHO ARE HIS...' ". WE KNOW TOO WELL HOW MUCH SCANDAL IS BEING PRODUCED BY THE APOSTASY OF THOSE WHO PROFESS THE SAME FAITH AS OURSELVES; YET BECAUSE THEY HAVE AIMED TO HAVE A MORE BRILLIANT REPUTATION THAN OTHERS, AND TO HOLD A DISTINGUISHED RANK, THEY HAVE HUMILIATED 

THEMSELVES, AS THEY INVOLVED OTHERS IN THE SAME RUIN WITH THEMSELVES. YET THE LEVITY OR TREACHERY OF MEN DOES NOT HINDER GOD FROM PRESERVING HIS CHURCH TO THE LAST.

GOD'S SOLID FOUNDATION CONSISTS OF THOSE WHO ARE SINCERE IN THEIR DEVOTION; BECAUSE THEY HAVE ALREADY PROVEN THEMSELVES THROUGH THE CONSISTENCY OF THEIR WORSHIP; EVEN IN THE MIDST OF HORRIFIC TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS. WE MUST FOLLOW SUCH PEOPLE AS OUR ROLE MODELS, AND RECOGNIZE THE FACT THAT THEY ARE TRUE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST; AND HE KNOWS THEM. THEREFORE BEING "SET APART" IS A HUGE PRIVILEGE; IT IS A DESTINATION ON ITS OWN. EVEN THOUGH IT IS NOT OUR HEAVENLY ZIP CODE, THE ULTIMATE PLACE OF ARRIVAL FOR GOD'S CHOSEN, IT'S STILL THE TICKET WE NEED FOR THE AWESOME JOURNEY THAT AWAITS US.

JULY 13    TRUE GRATITUDE IS THE HABITUAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF GOD'S NAME; IT IS THE HABITUAL CONSCIOUSNESS OF ALL THE SERVICES HE RENDERS IN SUPPLYING ALL OUR NEEDS FROM THE HIGHEST DOWN TO THE LOWEST. IT IS NOT ENOUGH THAT WE PRAISE; BUT WE MUST PRAISE IN THE RIGHT ELEMENTS. OTHERWISE WE ARE SIMPLY SLAYING ANIMALS, JUST AS THEY DID IN THE OLD TESTAMENT; WITHOUT THE NECESSARY SINCERE HUMILITY OF THE HEART.

OUR WORSHIP SHOULD CONSIST NOT OF MEANINGLESS SENSELESS RITUALS, BUT OF WORDS, HYMNS, AND PRAYERS, EXPRESSIVE OF REAL GRATITUDE, COMPLETED WITH PLEDGES OF REPENTANCE AND REFORM. HEBREWS 13: 15 READS, "THROUGH JESUS, THEREFORE, LET US CONTINUALLY OFFER TO GOD A SACRIFICE OF PRAISE--- THE FRUIT OF LIPS THAT OPENLY PROFESS HIS NAME". THE SACRIFICE OF PRAISE IS, ESPECIALLY DURING TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS, MORE VALUABLE THAN ALL THOSE EXTERNAL SACRIFICES UNDER THE LAW; BECAUSE ONLY THEN ARE WE TRULY ACKNOWLEDGING AND EXPRESSING GOD'S GOODNESS.

ONE THING TO REMEMBER IS THE FACT THAT WE CANNOT GIVE GOD THANKS EXCEPT WHEN WE ARE HEARD BY HIM; AND NO ONE OBTAINS ANYTHING EXCEPT HE WHO PRAYS. AND THAT ALSO MEANS THAT GOD CANNOT BE REALLY INVOKED BY US AND HIS NAME GLORIFIED, EXCEPT THROUGH CHRIST; BECAUSE HE IS OUR MEDIATOR.

GOD IS GOOD TO ALL, AND HIS TENDER MERCIES ARE OVER ALL HIS WORKS. HE IS KIND UNTO THE UNTHANKFUL, AND TO THE EVIL; AND HE LOVES TO SEE THE SAME DISPOSITION IN US. CHRIST SANCTIFIES OUR LIPS, WHICH OTHERWISE ARE UNCLEAN; AND OPENS A WAY FOR OUR PRAYERS, PRESENTING HIMSELF BEFORE GOD IN OUR NAME AS WE START PRAYING IN HIS NAME. IN FACT, OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR REGARDS OUR ACTS OF BENEFICIENCE AS DONE TO HIM. THEREFORE WE MUST MAKE UP FOR EACH OTHER'S DEFECTS, BEARING EACH OTHER'S BURDENS; AND WE MUST PRAISE GOD'S HOLY NAME FOR GIVING US THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING SET APART FROM THE LESS FORTUNATE.

JULY 12    GOD IS HOLY IN A UNPARALLELED AND INFINITELY PERFECT MANNER; AND CHRIST IS HIS SPOKEN WORD AND PHYSICAL MANIFESTATION FOR OUR EYES TO SEE, HEAR, AND LEARN FROM. HOWEVER MAN'S TRUE HOLINESS, THOUGH DEFINED THROUGH OUTWARD ACTS, INVOLVES THE MOTIVE AND INTENT OF HIS HEART. IT IS AN INWARD PRINCIPLE, WAY ABOVE RIGHTEOUSNESS OR MORAL EXCELLENCE; IT IS THE HARMONIOUS AND PERFECT BLENDING OF ALL GOODS HUMANLY POSSIBLE, JUST AS THE COLORS OF THE PRISM PROPERLY BLEND FROM PURE LIGHT.

ISAIAH 1: 4 READS, "... THEY HAVE FORSAKEN THE LORD, THEY HAVE DESPISED THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL, THEY ARE UTTERLY ESTRANGED".

LUKE 4: 34 READS, "...GO AWAY! WHAT DO YOU WANT OF US, JESUS OF NAZARET? HAVE YOU COME TO DESTROY US? I KNOW WHO YOU ARE... THE HOLY ONE OF GOD!".

AND ACTS 3: 14 READS, "YOU DISOWNED THE HOLY AND RIGHTEOUS ONE AND ASKED THAT A MURDERER BE RELEASED INSTEAD".

"HOLY" IS THE COMMON EPITHET GIVEN TO CHRIST. HIS LIFE AND DEATH IS THE PLACE WHERE WE BEGIN TO RECONCILE WITH THE FATHER. GOD MAKES HIS "CHOSEN" PEOPLE, GRADUALLY, "PARTAKERS OF HIS HOLINESS".

EVEN THOUGH THE JEWS REJECTED CHRIST, THEY WERE STILL CALLED "HOLY PEOPLE", BECAUSE THEY WERE SEPARATED UNTO GOD, TO BE A RELIGIOUS AND CONSECRATED PEOPLE; IN THE SENSE TO WHATEVER PERTAINS TO GOD OR TO HEAVEN; SUCH AS HIS TEMPLE, ITS UTENSILS AND SERVICES; ITS MINISTERS ANS PROPHETS, ETC... THE SAME WAY, WE CHRISTIANS, NOT AS INDIVIDUALS BUT AS A BODY, ARE CALLED HOLY BECAUSE WE ARE SEPARATED UNTO CHRIST. HOLINESS IS THE EXHIBIT OF OVERFLOWING GRATITUDE AS OUR INWARD PURITY, BENEVOLENCE, AND THE DEVOTEDNESS TO OUR SAVIOUR CONTINUE TO GROW IN MATURITY. EVEN THOUGH WE'LL ALWAYS NEED MUCH IMPROVEMENT AND SPIRITUAL GROWTH, GOD ALREADY SEES US AS HOLY AND BELOVED THROUGH CHRIST, BECAUSE IT IS ONLY THROUGH CHRIST THAT WE COULD APPEAR BEFORE GOD.

JULY 11     HEBREWS 4: 12 READS, "THE WORD OF GOD IS LIVING AND POWERFUL, AND SHARPER THAN ANY TWO-EDGED SWORD, PIERCING EVEN TO THE DIVISION OF SOUL AND SPIRIT... AND IS A DISCERNER OF THE THOUGHTS AND INTENTS OF THE HEART".

THE WORD IS THE LIFE, THE PRESENCE, AND THE POWER OF CHRIST, AND IT HAPPENS TO BE WITHIN OUR BODY, IN THE VERY MARROW OF OUR BONES. IT IS FOR THAT REASON ALONE EVERYTHING ELSE MUST BE RELEASED. BECAUSE IT IS THE WORD THAT KEEPS US FROM HUMAN WEAKNESSES AND FROM ALL OTHER DEPRAVITY. THE BLOOD OF JESUS CONTINUALLY CLEANSES US UNTIL OUR SOUL IS PURIFIED, AND OUR OWN NATURE IS DESTROYED BY THE NATURE OF THE LIVING CHRIST.

THE GREATEST WORK GOD EVER DID ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH WAS WHEN CHRIST WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD; AND AS CHRIST'S RESURRECTION OPERATES IN OUR HEARTS, IT WILL DETHRONE THE WRONG THINGS, AND ESTABLISH RIGHT THINGS. WE MUST BE HUMBLE, MEEK, LOWLY...

IN ORDER TO DEVELOP LOWLINESS OF MIND, OUR CALLOUS INDIFFERENCE TO THE SUFFERING OF OTHERS WILL HAVE TO CHANGE; THE HARDNESS OF OUR HEART WILL HAVE TO DISAPPEAR; AND ALL EVIL THOUGHTS WILL HAVE TO GO. EVEN OUR MASTER "MADE HIMSELF OF NO REPUTATION" ACCORDING TO PHILIPPIANS 2: 7. HE LEFT THE GLORY OF HEAVEN, WITH ALL ITS WONDER; AND SUBMITTED HIMSELF TO HUMILIATION. HE WENT DOWN SO FAR AS TO DEATH ON THE CROSS FOR ONE PURPOSE ONLY: THAT HE MIGHT DESTROY THE POWER OF DEATH, AND DELIVER GOD'S BELOVED PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN SUBJECT TO THE FEAR OF DEATH; BOTH MENTAL AND SPIRITUAL. WE MUST DESIRE "ALL OF GOD"; AND NOT JUST WHEN AND IF HE BECOMES CONVENIENT; UNTIL WE START LIVING AND MOVING IN THE ATMOSPHERE OF HOLINESS.

JULY 10    ROMANS 5: 3- 5 READS, "AND NOT ONLY THIS, BUT WE ALSO EXULT IN OUR TRIBULATIONS, KNOWING THAT TRIBULATION BRINGS ABOUR PERSEVERANCE; AND PERSEVERANCE, PROVEN CHARACTER; AND PROVEN CHARACTER, HOPE; AND HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT, BECASUE THE LOVE OF GOD HAS BEEN POURED OUT WITHIN OUR HEARTS THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT WHO WAS GIVEN TO US".

TRIBULATION IS A BITTER TREE; WE ALL HAVE TASTED ITS BITTERNESS THROUGH A MULTITUDE OF LIFE'S DISAPPOINTMENTS. HOWEVER ALL OF THE SUFFERINGS WE ENDURE ARE SANCTIFIED TO US BY GOD'S GRACE AND THEY BECOME POWERFUL INSTRUMENTS OF INCREASING OUR CHARACTER; JUST SO WE CAN CONTINUE TO WALK THROUGH MANY PAINFUL CIRCUMSTANCES WITHOUT SUSTAINING LOSS OR DETERIORATION. THOSE ARE THE MEANS OF EXERCISING AND INCREASING OUR PATIENCE, OUR MEEK FORBEARANCE OF INJURIES RECEIVED, OR PERSECUTIONS EXPERIENCED, ON ACCOUNT OF THE GOSPEL.

IF SAUL, LATER KNOWN AS APOSTLE PAUL, WHO HAD CONTINUALLY TORMENTED BELIEVERS FOR THEIR FAITH IN CHRIST, COULD BECOME NEW WITH JUST "ONE" HEAD-ON COLLISION WITH CHRIST; WE CERTAINLY CAN SEE WHAT BLESSED FRUIT COULD BE PLUCKED OFF A BITTER TREE. SUFFERING AND SORROW CLEANSE AWAY THE CHAFF; MEANING THE PRIDE, THE SELFISHNESS, THE DISOBEDIENCE WHICH IS TO BE FOUND IN ALL OUR NATURES. SAUL HAPPENED TO BE A VERY AGGRESSIVE, YET OBEDIENT SUBJECT TO HIS SUPERIORS, UNTIL HE HAD HIS ENCOUNTER WITH CHRIST. FROM THAT MOMENT ON, PAUL'S AGGRESSIVENESS WAS TO BE USED FOR THE RIGHT PURPOSE.

JULY 9     MATTHEW 22: 14 READS, "MANY ARE CALLED, BUT FEW ARE CHOSEN". SO WHAT DOES THIS REALLY MEAN?

IT MEANS THAT GOD HAS BEEN CALLING US BACK INTO HIS BOSOM FROM THE VERY MOMENT ADAM DISOBEYED HIS ONE COMMAND. IF WE RESPOND BY CHOOSING TO SURRENDER OUR WILL TO GOD, SO HIS SPIRIT CAN START GUIDING BOTH OUR HEARTS AND OUR CONDUCTS, ONLY THEN WILL WE BE CHOSEN FOR SALVATION, AND TO HAVE A PART IN HIS ETERNAL KINGDOM.

IN ORDER TO DO SO, WE MUST SEE THE NEED FOR A NEW HEART, A DIFFERENT WAY OF THINKING, A RIGHT SPIRIT AND ATTITUDE, AND A TRANSFORMED MIND. WE MUST UNDERSTAND THE FACT THAT OUR HEARTS ARE NATURALLY DECEITFUL AND DESPERATELY SICK, IN SERIOUS NEED FOR A HEALER.

WE ALL HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO LEAD A CHRSIT-LIKE LIFESTYLE; AND FOR THAT, WE MUST ASK GOD, THROUGH HIS SPIRIT, SO WE CAN BRING OUR THOUGHTS, ATTITUDES, AND ACTIONS IN LINE WITH HIS. THIS GROWTH PROCESS INVOLVES OVERPOWERING THE PULLS OF THE FLESH, REPLACING THEM WITH THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST.

ATTENDING CHURCH ON SUNDAYS AND BEING INVOLVED IN THE WORKS OF THE BODY OF CHRIST ARE A GOOD PLACE TO START; BUT IT'S JUST A START. MANY CAN BE STUCK IN THAT STAGE, NEVER REALIZING THE FACT THAT THEIR TERRITORIES WERE DESIGNED TO ACCOMODATE FAR GREATER MISSIONS. EITHER THEY ARE AFRAID OF DSIAPPOINTING GOD, OR BEING DISAPPOINTED THEMSELVES. BUT EITHER WAY, THEY ARE ONLY LIVING A PERCENTAGE OF THEIR SPIRITUAL POTENTIAL.

JULY 8    JOB 16: 22 READS, "FOR ONLY A FEW YEARS WILL PASS BEFORE I GO THE WAY OF NO RETURN".

JOB HAD BEEN AFFLICTED WITH GREAT LOSSES AND HEARTBREAKS FOR QUITE SOMETIME. HE HAD LOST HIS WEALTH, ALL OF HIS CHILDREN, AND HIS HEALTH WITHIN A VERY SHORT TIME PERIOD. MOST LIKELY, HE WAS EXPECTING DEATH EVERY HOUR. AND BECAUSE HE DID NOT QUITE UNDERSTAND WHY ALL THESE CALAMITIES HAD BEFALLEN HIM, HE WAS STATING THE FACT THAT HE DID NOT HAVE LONG TO LIVE; THEREFORE HE NEEDED HELP FIGURING OUT HOW AND WHY HE HAD OFFENDED GOD SO SEVERELY. HE WASN'T LOOKING TO GET SYMPATHY; HE WAS SIMPLY NEEDING TO KNOW WHAT TO REPENT OF. AND IF HE COULDN'T CLEAR HIS CONSCIENCE THROUGH A HEARTFELT REPENTANCE, IT WOULD BE TOO LATE.

MOST SCHOLARS HAVE SUGGESTED THE FACT THAT JOB SAW HIMSELF AS A RIGHTEOUS MAN, BECAUSE HE HAD KEPT ALL OF GOD'S COMMANDS; AND THAT'S WHY HE WAS TRYING TO FIGURE OUR WHY GOD WOULD BE THAT ANGRY WITH HIM. HOWEVER, JOB WAS SIMPLY WANTING TO REPENT; HE COULD LIVE WITH HIS LOSSES MUCH EASIER THAN HE COULD LIVE WITH LOSING GOD'S CONFIDENCE IN HIM. HE WASN'T ALL THAT INTERESTED IN THE RESTORATION OF THE GOODS; HE WANTED RESTORATION OF HIS CONSCIENCE, AND HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

TRUE, DEATH WOULD PUT A PERIOD TO ALL OF OUR TROUBLES; AND SOMETIMES LIFE CAN BECOME THAT DIFFICULT FOR MANY OF US. HOWEVER, BEFORE WE REACH OUR EVERLASTING DESTINATION, WE MUST ALWAYS ASK GOD TO PURIFY US OF ALL WRONGDOINGS, EVEN THE ONES WE ARE NOT QUITE AWARE OF. IT IS WISE TO COME BEFORE HIM DAILY TO BE SANCTIFIED; JUST SO OUR CONSCIENCES ARE MADE GOOD.

JULY 7     UNBELIEVERS MAY SAY, "IT'S BEEN TWO-THOUSAND-AND-SOME YEARS SINCE JESUS SPOKE ABOUT HIS SECOND COMING. EVERY GENERATION SINCE THEN HAS THOUGHT THAT IT WAS THE FINAL GENERATION BEFORE HIS COMING, BUT THEY ALL DIED WITHOUT SEEING IT HAPPEN. FACE IT: IT'S JUST NOT GOING TO HAPPEN!".

HOWEVER 2 PETER 3: 3- 13 EXPRESSES THAT SUCH FOOLISH SCOFFERS FAIL TO REALIZE THAT GOD SPOKE THE UNIVERSE INTO EXISTENCE BY HIS POWERFUL WORD, AND HE HAS GIVEN US AN OBJEST LESSON OF THE TERROR AND POWER OF HIS JUDGEMENT IN THE FLOOD. THE NEXT JUDGEMENT WILL INVOLVE, NOT WATER, BUT FIRE. THE ONLY REASON GOD HAS DELAYED JUDGEMENT IS HIS GREAT PATIENCE AS HE WAITS FOR MORE TO COME TO REPENTANCE.

TRUE, EVERY ONE OF US STRUGGLES DAILY AGAINST THE WORLD, THE FLESH, AND THE DEVIL, AND MANY OF US HAVE NOT LEARNED TO HAVE CONSISTENT VICTORY OVER THESE ENEMIES OF THE SOUL. THE ONLY PEOPLE READY FOR CHRIST'S RETURN ARE THOSE WHO DAILY SEEK TO BRING EVERY AREA OF LIFE UNDER HIS LORDSHIP. BEING AVAILABLE FOR GOD GIVEN MISSIONS MAY TAKE A GOOD PORTION OF OUR TIME AND EFFORT; BUT BEING A SERVANT OF JESUS CHRIST IS TWENTY-FOUR-SEVEN. WE DON'T EVER REST FROM IT. AS APOSTLE PAUL SAID IN 1 

CORINTHIANS 6: 19- 20, "YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN, FOR YOU HAVE BEEN BOUGHT WITH A PRICE: THEREFORE GLORIFY GOD IN YOUR BODY".

OUR WORST MISTAKE WOULD BE WHEN WE THINK WE HAVE PLENTY OF TIME BEFORE OUR MASTER RETURNS, AND SO WE BEGIN TO LIVE FOR OURSELVES BY WASTING OUR PRECIOUS EFFORTS AND GIFTS ON MEANINGLESS STUFF. IGNORANCE OF GOD'S LAW IS NO EXCUSE FOR NOT OBEYING IT; BECAUSE WE ARE RESPONSIBLE TO KNOW IT. EVEN THOSE WHO HAVE NEVER HEARD OF CHRIST HAVE ENOUGH REVELATION THROUGH CREATION AND CONSCIENCE TO KNOW THAT THERE IS A RIGHTEOUS GOD.

JULY 6     IN LUKE 19: 11- 27, JESUS TELLS THE PARABLE OF THE NOBLEMAN WHO WENT TO A DISTANT COUNTRY TO RECEIVE THE KINGDOM. HE IS REFERRING TO HIS DEPARTURE INTO HEAVEN AFTER HIS DEATH AND RESURRECTION, WHERE HE WOULD SIT AT THE FATHER'S RIGHT HAND, UNTIL HE MADE HIS ENEMIES HIS FOOTSTOOL. DURING HIS TIME AWAY, HE ENTRUSTS TO EACH SERVANT A "MINA", WHICH WAS ABOUT FOUR MONTHS' WAGES. EACH SERVANT GETS THE SAME AMOUNT. WHEN HE RETURNS, HE ASKS FOR AN ACCOUNTING; BUT ACCORDING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT, WE'RE ONLY TOLD OF THE RESPONSES OF THREE OF THE SERVANTS. AND AFTER HE HAS DEALT WITH THEM, HE PROCEEDS TO JUDGE THE CITIZENS WHO DID NOT WANT HIM TO RULE OVER THEM.

THERE IS SO MUCH WE CAN LEARN FROM THIS PARABLE. FIRST OF ALL, MANY OF JESUS' FOLLOWERS HAD EXPECTED HIM TO ESTABLISH HIS REIGN OVER ISRAEL IN THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE; YET JESUS WAS REFERRING TO HIS SECOND COMING, IN THE FUTURE.

SECONDLY, THE FACT THAT EACH ONE OF THE "TEN" SERVANTS RECEIVED ONE MINA SHOWS THAT IT WAS NOT JUST THE TWELVE APOSTLES WHO WERE IN VIEW, BUT RATHER, ALL OF CHRIST'S SUBJECTS. THE FACT THAT EACH WAS GIVEN THE SAME AMOUNT SHOWS THAT IT IS NOT REFERRING TO DIFFERENT GIFTS, BUT TO SOMETHING THAT ALL FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST SHARE IN COMMON, THE WORD OF GOD. WE ALL HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE SAME GOSPEL, AND WE ARE TOLD TO DO BUSSINESS WITH IT FOR OUR KING DURING HIS ABSENCE. THE ONLY THING WE MUST NEVER FORGET IS THE FACT THAT WE ALL HAVE BEEN GIVEN THE SAME GIFT; THE DIFFERENCE IN RESULTS IS NOT DUE TO DIFFERING GIFTS, BUT TO DIFFERING LEVELS OF DILIGENCE IN USING "THE GIFT".

THIRDLY, SINCE CHRIST IS GOING TO JUDGE THOSE WHO WON'T ACCEPT HIM AS THEIR RULER, IT IS OBVIOUS THAT WE ARE GOING TO DO BUSINESS WITH THE GOSPEL IN A HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT. HOWEVER, THE GREATER RISK IS NOT TO DO BUSINESS AT ALL, BUT TO CAREFULLY WRAP UP THE MASTER'S MINA IN A HANDKERCHIEF, AND NOT EMPLOYING IT FOR HIS PURPOSES. THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL IS IN THE MESSAGE ITSELF, NOT IN THE SKILL OF THE MESSENGER. THE GIFT WILL CONTINUE TO POSSESS ITS POWER AND VITALITY AS LONG AS IT IS FLOWING THROUGH US; OTHERWISE THE SIMPLE KNOWLEDGE OF IT, IF NOT BEING USED TO GLORIFY GOD, WILL END UP BEING DULL AND MEANINGLESS.

JULY 5    PROVERBS 14: 31 READS, "THE ONE WHO OPPRESSES THE POOR PERSON INSULTS HIS MAKER; BUT THE ONE WHO IS KIND TO THE NEEDY HONORS HIM".

"THE POOR SHALL NEVER CEASE OUT OF THE LAND", SAID GOD IN DEUTERONOMY 15: 11, AND "THE POOR YE HAVE ALWAYS WITH YOU", SAID CHRIST IN MATTHEW 26: 11. THEREFORE TO HARASS AND OPPRESS THE POOR BECAUSE HE IS IN LOWLY CONDITION IS OFFENSIVE TO GOD WHO HAS MADE ALL MEN BROTHERS, HOWEVER DIFFERING IN WORLDLY POSITION.

THE POSSESSION OF WEALTH CARRIES AN OBLIGATION TO RENDER HIGH SERVICE TO HUMANITY. SUCH DUTY OF DOING GOOD UNTO OTHERS PREVENTS US FROM BEING DISCRIMINATIVE. WE ARE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE OBJECTS OF OUR HELP. DIDN'T CHRIST STEP OUT OF HIS RICH CONDITION IN THE BOSOM AND HOME OF THE FATHER, AND BECOME POOR, JUST SO HE COULD LEAVE EVERY BROTHER - BOTH PHYSICAL AS WELL AS SPIRITUAL - WITH THE ETERNAL RICHES OF HEAVEN? BY DOING THIS, HE HAS PUT THE DUTY OF AIDING THE POOR ON THE HIGH GROUND OF HIS SOLIDARITY WITH HIS PEOPLE; SO MUCH SO THAT "IN MINISTERING UNTO THE LEAST OF THESE BRETHREN, MEN ARE MINISTERING UNTO HIM". CHRIST EVEN SAYS, "I WAS HUNGRY AND YOU GAVE ME MEAT". IT IS IMPORTANT THAT WE HAVE COMPASSION FOR OTHERS WHO ARE LESS FORTUNATE; AND WE MUST OFFER OUR BEST TO HELP THEM OUT, WHETHER THEY ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK OR NOT. IT IS NOT UP TO US TO JUDGE THEM; IT IS HOWEVER UP TO US TO BE COMPLETELY AVAILABLE TO DISPLAY GOD'S GENEROSITY...

JULY 4    JAMES 2: 5 READS, "LISTEN, MY DEAR BROTHERS: DIDN'T GOD CHOOSE THE POOR IN THIS WORLD TO BE RICH IN FAITH AND HEIRS OF THE KINGDOM THAT HE HAS PROMISED TO THOSE WHO LOVE HIM?"

OFTEN PEOPLE, FOR THE SAKE OF THE RICH, DESPISE THE POOR. THIS IS UNBECOMING AND DISGRACEFUL TO GOD WHO MADE EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US. GOD LOVES THE POOR; HE HONORS THE POOR; HE EXALTS THE POOR IN WAYS THAT PEOPLE WHO LIVE SUPERFICIAL LIFESTYLES WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO COMPREHEND. ESPECIALLY THOSE WHO ARE VEXATIOUS TO THE GOOD AND INNOCENT WILL BE HELD BACK FROM GOD'S WISDOM. IT WOULD BE UNREASONABLE TO RENDER SUCH REWARD FOR THE WRONGS THEY CHOOSE TO DO IN ORDER TO BE ABLE TO LOOK DOWN AT OTHERS, OR OPPRESS THEM.

THE RICH IN FAITH ARE NOT THOSE WHO ABOUND IN THE GREATNESS OF FAITH; THEY ARE THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN ENRICHED WITH THE VARIOUS GIFTS OF GOD'S SPIRIT WHICH THEY DO RECEIVE BY FAITH. AND SINCE GOD DEALS BOUNTIFULLY WITH EVERY ONE, EACH BELIEVER BECOMES PARTAKER OF HIS GIFTS ACCRODING TO THE MEASURE OF THEIR OWN FAITH. IF ONLY WE WOULD ADMIT THE MEASURE OF OUR NEED FOR HIM, GOD IS ALWAYS READY TO STRETCH OUR FAITH, ENLARGE OUR TERRITORY, AND FILL EVERY LITTLE CREVICE OF OUR BEING WITH MORE GIFTS OF HIS SPIRIT.

OUR LORD LIVED ON EARTH AS A POOR MAN; HE CHOSE THE POOR RATHER THAN THE RICH TO POSSESS SPIRITUAL MEANS IN HIS KINGDOM. GOD SAYS THAT THIS KINGDOM IS PROMISED TO THOSE WHO LOVE HIM: NOT THAT HIS PROMISE DEPENDS ON LOVE; BUT GOD REMINDS US THAT WE ARE CALLED UNTO THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE THAT WE MAY LOVE HIM.

JULY 3    1 CORINTHIANS 1: 27 READS, "BUT GOD CHOSE THE FOOLISH THINGS OF THIS WORLD TO SHAME THE WISE, AND GOD HAS CHOSEN THE WEAK THINGS OF THE WORLD TO SHAME THE THINGS WHICH ARE STRONG".

GOD LOVES TO REBUKE THE IDOLATRY OF HUMAN WISDOM; BECAUSE THE WORLD'S WISDOM AND EDUCATION DO NOT BRING US SALVATION. NO ONE WILL STAND BEFORE HIM SOME DAY AND SAY, "I FIGURED YOU OUT" OR "YOU DID THINGS EXACTLY THE WAY I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD". NO FLESH WILL EVER GLORIFY HIM; WE ONLY SEEK HIM AND SEE HIM THROUGH THE SPIRIT; AND TRU WISDOM BELONGS TO THE BELIEVING.

WHEN WE START DEVELOPING A SENSE OF TRUST ON ANYTHING OTHER THAN GOD, GOD WILL NOT JUST TRY TO COMPETE WITH IT; BUT HE WILL USE IT TO MAKE US LOOK AND FEEL FOOLISH, AND ASHAMED. GOD WANTS US TO HAVE A COMPLETE DEPENDENCY ON HIM, WITHOUT ANY INTERRUPTIONS. HE WANTS US TO HAVE A GOOD LIFE; A VERY FULFILLED ONE AT THAT. HE SIMPLY WANTS US TO RELY ON HIS PROVISIONS INSTEAD OF SAYING, "I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING... I'VE GOT IT UNDER CONTROL... I'LL GO TO GOD WHEN AND IF THINGS DON'T WORK OUT AS EXPECTED... ". AND WE THIS DO QUITE OFTEN, BECAUSE WE HAVE TAKEN THE MEANING OF "FREE WILL" OUT OF CONTEXT.

GOD DID ALLOW US TO HAVE FREE WILL BECAUSE HE WANTED US TO CHOOSE HIM WITH OUR FREE WILL; DESIRING HIM TO BE OUR FATHER, AND ASKING JESUS CHRIST TO BE OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR. IN THE PERSON AND WORK OF CHRIST, HIS TEACHINGS, INCARNATION, AND ATONEMENT, THE WISDOM OF GOD SHINES OUT CONSPICUOUSLY. AND IN UNION WITH CHRIST, WE BECOME TRULY WISE.

JULY 2    PROVERBS 15: 33 READS, " THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS WHAT WISDOM TEACHES, AND HUMILITY COMES BEFORE HONOR".

WISDOM DERIVES ITS MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS FROM THE FEAR OF GOD WHICH, IF IT HABITUALLY INFLIENCES THE MIND, PRESERVES A MAN FROM BEING OVERTAKEN BY SENSELESS DISTURBANCES AND MISTAKES. IT KEEPS HIM FROM INCONSIDERATE THOUGHTS, DECISIONS, AND ACTIONS, AS WELL AS COUNTLESS EXCUSES FOR NOT FULFILLING THE SIMPLEST YET THE MOST SATISFYING JOURNEYS OF LIFE. HO WHO FEARS GOD HAS A WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE AND GOOD SENSE. HE IS WELL TAUGHT.

THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD WILL NEVER ELEVATE A PROUD MAN; BECAUSE GOD SEEKS, FINDS, AND PROVIDES FOR THE HUMBLE. SOME MAY GET INTO PLACES OF TRUST AND PROFIT WITHOUT GOD, BUT GOD WILL OUST THEM. NOT ONLY WILL THEY BE CURSED; BUT THEIR MEMORY WILL BE CURSED AS WELL.

HONOR SPRINGS FROM A LOWLY ROOT; AND A CROWN IS RECEIVED WHILE STILL A TINY SHOOT. GOD PLACES HIS TRUST AND FAVOURS UPON THOSE WHO REVERE HIM AND LOOK UP TO HIM FOR GUIDANCE, FOR HELP, FOR SAFETY, AND FOR THE PRESERVATION AND THE RESTORATION FROM THEIR LOSSES. GOD DOES NOT EXALT THOSE WHO EXALT THEMSELVES. IN FACT, GOD DOES AWAY WITH THOSE WHO APPEAR AND SOUND RIGHTEOUS WHILE THEY DEFILE HIM IN THEIR HEART; HE ABASES THEM THROUGH HUMILIATION, DEGRADATION, AND SHAME.

JULY 1    REVELATION 12: 11 READS, "THEY CONQUERED HIM BY THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB AND BY THE WORD OF THEIR TESTIMONY, FOR THEY DID NOT LIVE THEIR LIVES IN THE FACE OF DEATH".

WE AS CHRISTIANS ARE TO FIGHT THE ENEMY IN THE ARMOR OF GOD; WHICH IS BY THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB - MEANING BY PROCLAIMING SALVATION TO SINNERS THROUGH CHRIST CRUCIFIED; AND BY OUR CONTINUAL INTERCESSION AT THE THRONE OF GRACE FOR THE CONVERSION OF THE FALLEN WORLD - MEANING BY CONSTANTLY TESTIFYING AGAINST THE ERRORS AND FOLLIES OF MANKIND.

LIFE IS A COMBAT. MORAL DESTROYERS OF THE SOUL MEET US JUST ABOUT EVERYWHERE, IN ALL CIRCLES OF THE SOCIETY. A CLEAR KNOWLEDGE OF THE RIGHT, AS WELL AN INFLEXIBLE LOVE FOR THE RIGHT, ARE THE WEAPONS WE NEED AT ALL TIMES. THE COURAGE TO FIGHT COMES FROM WITHIN BECAUSE, AS LONG AS GOD IS OUR STRENGTH AND OUR REFUGE, THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL FEED US THE DAILY DOSE OF UNFLAGGING AND INVINCIBLE KIND OF COURAGE NO OTHER SOURCE COULD POSSIBLY PROVIDE. IN FACT CHRIST'S SELF-SACRIFICING SPIRIT IS THE SOUL OF ALL TRUE COURAGE.

ONCE THE DEDICATION IS DEEPLY ROOTED WITHIN OUR HEARTS, IT IS EASY FOR US TO LAY OUR OWN AGENDAS DOWN IS CHRIST'S CAUSE; AND BE FILLED WITH A GREATER LOVE FOR HIS CAUSE; DESIRE TO CONFESS THEMSELVES WORSHIPPERS OF THE SLAIN LAMB; TO CONVINCE MANY OF THE SPECTATORS; TO CONFIRM THE SOULS OF THE FAITHFUL; AND TO CONTRIBUTE GREATLY TO CHRIST'S VICTORY.

JUNE 30    EPHESIANS 2: 13 READS, "BUT NOW IN CHRIST JESUS, YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY HAVE BEEN BROUGHT NEAR BY THE BLOOD OF THE MESSIAH".

THIS IS NOT ABOUT A GEOGRAPHICAL DISTANCE; NOR IS IT A REMOTENESS IN RESPECT OF OUTWARD POSITION; BUT A MORAL DISTANCE WHERE WE FALL FAR FROM GOD'S PRESENCE; AND FROM HIS FELLOWSHIP; AND FROM HIS GRACIOUS PARDONING, AS WELL AS HIS FAVOURS. WE ARE BLESSED ONLY WHEN CHRIST'S BLOOD IS APPLIED TO CLEANSE US FROM ALL OF OUR INIQUITIES AND WHEN GOD'S COUNTENANCE FALLS UPON US THROUGH CHRIST.

THE BODY IS ALWAYS INFERIOR TO THE SOUL; OF ITSELF, THE FLESH IS NEITHER GOOD NOR EVIL; THOUGH IT DOES HAVE AN EQUAL TENDENCY TO SUBJECT ITSELF TO EITHER GOOD OR EVIL. IT MAY HAVE A DESIRE OF FOOD, BUT NOT A DESIRE OF FEASTING; IT MAY HAVE A DESIRE OF DRINK, BUT NOT A DESIRE OF DRUNKENNESS.

THE INATTENTIVENESS OF THE SOUL AND LACK OF A PRAYERFUL LIFE ARE WHAT CREATE DESIRES FOR LUXURY; 

AS UNQUENCHABLE HUNGERS SET IN UNTIL CERTAIN LESSONS ARE LEARNED TO HELP US KNOW THE TRUE MEANING OF CONTENTMENT. ALL THE EXCESSES ARE OF THE SOUL; YET THE SOUL HAS NO STRENGTH WITHOUT THE SPIRIT. IF AND WHEN IT SUBMITS ITSELF TO GOD THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, IT EXPERIENCES PEACE BEYOND MEASURE AND BEYOND DESCRIPTION. AND IF IT CONTINUES TO GIVE IN TO ITS CARNAL DESIRES AND DEMANDS, ITS TURMOIL GETS OUT OF HAND UNTIL FULL DESTRUCTION BECOMES UNAVOIDABLE.

JUNE 29    ROMANS 3: 25, "GOD PRESENTED HIM AS A PROPITIATION THROUGH FAITH IN HIS BLOOD, TO DEMONSTRATE HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, BECAUSE IN HIS RESTRAINT GOD PASSED OVER THE SINS PREVIOUSLY COMMITTED".

APOSTLE PAUL IS REFERRING TO THE GRATUITOUS MERCY OF GOD, IN HAVING APPOINTED CHRIST AS OUR MEDIATOR, THAT HE MIGHT APPEASE THE FATHER BY THE SACRIFICE OF HIS DEATH; AND HE IS ALSO REFERRING THE GRACE OF GOD THAT SOUGHT OUT A WAY BY WHICH HE MIGHT REMOVE OUR CURSE. THIS VERSE IS SIMILAR TO JOHN 3: 16, "GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON".

IN OTHER WORDS, GOD, WITHOUT HAVING REGARD TO CHRIST, IS ALWAYS ANGRY WITH US; AND WE ARE RECONCILED TO HIM WHEN WE ARE ACCEPTED THROUGH CHRIST'S RIGHTEOUSNESS. GOD DOES NOT HATE IN US HIS OWN WORKMANSHIP; BUT HE HATES OUR UNCLEANNESS WHICH EXTINGUISHES THE LIGHT OF HIS IMAGE. AND WHEN THE WASHING OF CHRIST CLEANSES US COMPLETELY, ONLY THEN WILL GOD LOVE AND EMBRACE US AS HIS OWN PURE WORKMANSHIP.

WE ARE PRONOUNCED JUST, NOT BECAUSE WE ARE SUCH IN REALITY, BUT BY IMPUTATION; BECAUSE REMISSION OF SINS IS NOT FROM OURSELVES, BUT BY CHRIST'S SACRIFICE TO CLEANSE US FROM ALL IMPURITIES ANS WEAKNESSES.

JUNE 28    GALATIANS 3: 7 READS, "THEN UNDERSTAND THAT THOSE WHO HAVE FAITH ARE ABRAHAM'S SONS".

ABRAHAM WAS A MAN OF FAITH. HE KNEW NOTHING OF THE LEVITICAL LAW. NOR DID HE KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT GOD'S PLAN OF SALVATION. IT WAS A GRAND, SIMPLE TRUST IN GOD. HE DEMONSTARTED IT BY FORSAKING THE IDOLS OF HIS FOREFATHERS AND WORSHIPING THE ONLY LIVING GOD; BY LEAVING HIS HOME AND GOING PLACES IN OBEDIENCE TO A DIVINE VOICE; AS WELL AS BY PREPARING TO WILLINGLY SACRIFICE HIS SON. SUCH A FAITH WAS A PERSONAL RELIANCE, LEADING TO ACTIVE OBEDIENCE, AND ENCOURAGED BY CONFIDENT ANTICIPATION.

ABRAHAM'S RIGHTEOUSNESS WAS NOT BASED ON HIS HOLINESS; IT WAS BASED ON HIS FAITH. HIS FAITH IS WHAT DEFINED ABRAHAM'S CHARACTER, THROUGH WHICH GOD'S FAVOUR FLOWED. THOUGH IMPERFECT AND SINFUL, ABRAHAM WAS STILL PRIVILEGED TO BE REMEMBERED AS A RIGHTEOUS MAN; AND THROUGH HIM ALL NATIONS WERE TO BE BLESSED, NOT ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, BUT ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE GOD MADE TO ABRAHAM.

THE SAME IS EXPECTED OF US: WE MUST RELY ON CHRIST; WE MUST BE LOYAL TO CHRIST; WE MUST HOPE IN CHRIST; AND WE MUST ACCEPT FULLER REVELATIONS OF TRUTH THROUGH CHRIST. THE CONTENTS OF OUR FAITH MAY VARY ACCORDING TO OUR LIGHT; HOWEVER THE SPIRIT OF IT MUST BE, AT ALL TIMES, THE SAME. WE ARE BLESSED IN PROPORTION TO OUR FAITH, THROUGH A SIMILAR FAITH AS ABRAHAM DID.

JUNE 27    ROMANS 10: 12 READS, "FOR THERE IS NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN JEW AND GREEK, SINCE THE NAME LORD OF ALL IS RICH TO ALL WHO CALL ON HIM".

OUR RISEN CHRIST IS WITHIN EVERY ONE'S REACH; THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE IN HIS ACCESSIBILITY TO BOTH JEW AND GENTILE. THE THRONE ON WHICH OUR LORD SITS IS A THRONE OF GRACE; BY VIRTUE OF HIS DIVINITY, HE HEARS DIRECTLY EVERY ONE WHO CALLS UPON HIM; AND HE IS RICH TO ALL THE PETITIONERS. JUST AS WHEN ON EARTH HE ALLOWED NO ONE TO GO AWAY EMPTY; SO FROM HIS THRONE OF GRACE ON HIGH, THERE ARE NO REAL PETITIONERS BEING DISMISSED WITHOUT RELIEF.

CHRIST DOES FAR MORE FOR US THAN WHAT WE ASK OR THINK: IF WE ASK HIM TO SAVE US, HE DOES SO WITH AN EVERLASTING SALVATION; IF WE ASK HIM TO PARDON US, HE DOES SO WITH OVERFLOWING LOVE; IF WE ASK HIM TO SANCTIFY US, HE ENABLES US TO DIE DAILY UNTO SIN AND TO LIVE UNTO RIGHTEOUSNESS; IF WE ASK HIM TO MAKE US USEFUL, HE OPENS DOORS OF USEFULNESS FOR US THROUGH THE MOST UNEXPECTED OR EVEN THE MOST UNBELIEVABLE WAYS. I CORINTHIANS 2: 9-10 EXLAINS HIS RICHES THIS WAY, "... NO EYE HAS SEEN, NO EAR HAS HEARD, AND NO MIND HAS IMAGINED WHAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM. GOD HAS REVEALED THESE THINGS TO US THROUGH THE SPIRIT; FOR THE SPIRIT SEARCHES EVERYTHING, EVEN THE DEPTHS OF GOD".

JUNE 26    ROMANS 3: 30 READS, "SINCE THERE IS ONE GOD WHO WILL JUSTIFY THE CIRCUMCISED BY FAITH AND THE UNCIRCUMCISED THROUGH FAITH".

THE JEWS WERE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH, BECAUSE THEY WERE BORN HEIRS OF GRACE, AS THE RIGHT OF ADOPTION WAS TRANSMITTED TO THEM FROM THEIR FATHERS. THEY HAD A GERMINATING FAITH FROM THE COMPLETION OF WHICH JUSTIFICATION AROSE AS A FRUIT FROM A TREE; WHEREAS THE GENTILES WERE JUSTIFIED THROUGH FAITH, BECAUSE THE COVENANT TO THEM WAS ADVENTITIOUS; THEY HAD TO ENTER THAT DOOR AND PASS THROUGH IT IN ORDER TO BE JUSTIIFED.

THE JEWS WERE SEEING THE GENTILES AS OF LESSER VALUE AT THAT TIME; THEY BELIEVED GOD WOULD ALWAYS HOLD THEM HIGHER THAN ANY OTHER NATION, BECAUSE OF HIS PROMISE TO ABRAHAM. YET THEY DIDN'T QUITE UNDERSTAND THE FACT THAT GOD OF INFINITE LOVE AND MERCY COULDN'T POSSIBLY LIMIT AND CONFINE HIS FAVOURS TO SUCH PERVERSE GROUP OF PEOPLE, LEAVING ALL THE REST OF THE CHILDREN OF MEN IN A CONDITION ETERNALLY DESPERATE. SUCH DESCRIPTION COULDN'T POSSIBLY FIT THE AWESOME IMAGE OF GOD, WHOSE DIVINE GOODNESS IS FLAWLESS.

AS GOD ACCEPTS THE JEWS BECAUSE OF HIS SOLEMN PROMISE TO ABRAHAM, HE ALSO ACCEPTS THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF HIS SOLEMN PROMISE THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR.

JUNE 25   JAMES 2: 18 READS, "BUT SOMEONE WILL SAY, ' YOU HAVE FAITH, AND I HAVE WORKS '. SHOW ME YOUR FAITH WITHOUT WORKS, AND I WILL SHOW YOU FAITH FROM MY WORKS ' ".

THIS VERSE APPEARS TO BE A COMPARISON BETWEEN A PERSON WHO BOASTS OF FAITH WITHOUT WORKS, AND THE OTHER OF WORKS WITHOUT FAITH. HOWEVER THE REAL DESIGN IS TO EXPOSE THE FOOLISH BOASTING OF THOSE WHO IMAGINE THAT THEY HAVE FAITH WHEN, BY THEIR LIFE, THEY SHOW THAT THEY ARE UNBELIEVERS; BECAUSE IT TRULY IS EASY FOR ALL THE GODLY WHO LEAD A HOLY LIFE TO STRIP HYPOCRITES OF THAT BOASTING WITH WHICH THEY ARE INFLATED.

THE MAIN IDEA HERE IS TO PROVE THAT WHICH IS IMPOSSIBLE, IN OTHER WORDS, WHAT DOES NOT EXIST: FAITH WITHOUT WORKS.

THOUGH OUTWARD UPRIGHTNESS OF LIFE IS AN EVIDENCE OF OUR DEVOTION TO GOD AND OUR FAITH IN HIS WORKS WITHIN OUR LIVES; BUT UNLESS OUR FAITH BRINGS FORTH FRUITS, WE DO NOT HAVE FAITH. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR THE UNBELIEVING TO SOMETIME EXCEL IN SPECIOUS VIRTUES AND LEAD AN HONORABLE LIFE, FREE FROM EVERY CRIME; BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN THAT EVERY ONE WHO SEEMS GOOD POSSESSES FAITH, UNLESS IT'S BEING VAINLY PRETENDED. FRUIT DOES NOT APPEAR ON TOP OF THE TREE WITHOUT COMING FORTH FROM THE LIVING ROOT OF A GOOD TREE.

JUNE 24    PSALM 73: 26 READS, "MY FLESH AND MY HEART MAY FAIL, BUT GOD IS THE STRENGTH OF MY HEART AND MY PORTION FOREVER".

THE PSALMIST IS EXPRESSING HIS DEPENDENCE ON AND HIS OBLIGATIONS TO THE GRACE OF GOD. HE IS SURE OF THE CONTINUAL FAVORS OF GOD; OF HIS GENTLE CARE AND LOVING KINDNESS. HE UNDERSTANDS THE FACT THAT, WITHOUT GOD'S POWER AND STRENGTH, HE WOULD FALL PREY TO HIS OWN FEELINGS OF FEAR, FRUSTRATION, AND ANGUISH; SO MUCH SO THAT, even WHEN HE FEELS CHASTISED BY GOD, HE FEELS FORTUNATE. THOUGH GOD HAS WRITTEN, TIME TO TIME, SOME BITTER THINGS TO BEFALL HIM; YET HE KNOWS GOD'S HAND HAS ALWAYS HELD HIM STEADY; BOTH TO KEEP HIM FROM FALLING, OR TO KEEP HIM FROM FLYING OFF FROM GOD INTO A WHIRLWIND OF DESPAIR. HE CLUNG ALL THE MORE FIRMLY TO HIM, AND HE WILL NOT SUFFER HIS ETERNAL FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD TO BE BROKEN.

JUST LIKE HIM, WE MUST ASCRIBE OUR SAFETY IN TEMPTATION AND OUR VICTORY OVER IT, NOT TO OUR OWN WISDOM, BUT TO THE GRACIOUS PRESENCE OF GOD AND THE PREVALENCY OF CHRIST'S INTERCESSION FOR US. IT IS OUR FAITH IN BOTH THAT BREAKS THROUGH THE DARKNESS OF THIS PRESENT LIFE, THE DEPTHS OF DESTITUDE AND DESPAIR; AND LIGHTS OUR SPIRITS UP WITH THE TORCH OF HOPE AND EXPECTATION FOR HEAVEN ABOVE, OUR FUTURE ABODE FOREVER.

JUNE 23 ROMANS 10: 10 READS, "ONE BELIEVES WITH THE HEART, RESULTING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, AND ONE CONFESSES WITH THE MOUTH, RESULTING IN SALVATION".

IT IS THROUGH THE SUFFICIENCY OF THE SACRIFICE WHICH CHRIST HAS OFFERED, AND A SINCERE SENSE OF GUILT WE EXPERIENCE THAT WE END UP DEPENDING UPON GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS, AS WELL AS BELIEVING TO RECEIVE HIS JUSTIFICATION.

AND AS WE CONFESS THIS ENTIRE TRUTH WITH OUR MOUTH, HAVING TAKEN IT TO THE HEART, WE BEGIN OUR JOURNEY TO SALVATION. THOSE WHO BELIEVE ARIGHT IN JESUS CHRIST RECEIVE SUCH A FULL CONVICTION OF THE TRUTH, AND SUCH AN EVIDENCE OF HIS REDEMPTION, THAT THEIR MOUTH BOLDLY CONFESSES THEIR OBLIGATION TO THEIR REDEEMER, AND THE BLESSED PERSUAUTION HE HAS OF THE REMISSION OF ALL THEIR SINS THROUGH HIS BLOOD SHED ON THE CROSS.

UNLIKE THE LAW WHICH IS FULL OF RITES, ORDINANCES, AND CEREMONIES; HIS GRACE DISPLAYS SIMPLICITY, EFFICACY, AND GUARANTEE OF GOD'S PROMISE TO SAVE US FROM ETERNAL DOOM. IN FACT BOTH JEWS AND 

GENTILES, WHO HAD BELIEVED IN JESUS CHRIST ACCORDING TO THE SIMPLE DECLARATIONS OF THE GOSPEL, WERE FREELY JUSTIFIED FROM ALL THINGS, FROM WHICH THEY COULD NOT HAVE BEEN JUSTIFIED BY THE LAW OF MOSES. NOT ONLY WERE THEY JUSTIFIED; BUT THEY ALSO HAD THE WITNESS IN THEMSELVES THAT THEY WERE PASSED FROM DEATH TO LIFE.

JUNE 22    PROVERBS 3: 5 READS, "TRUST IN THE LORD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND DO NOT RELY ON YOUR OWN UNDERSTANDING".

GOD'S WISDOM, POWER, AND GOODNESS IS FAR SUPERIOR TO OUR OWN ABILITIES OF SOLVING MATTERS. THEREFORE WE MUST REMAIN ASSURED OF THE EXTENT OF HIS PROVIDENCE OVER ALL HIS CREATIONS, AS WELL AS ALL OF THEIR ACTIONS. WE MUST BELIEVE THAT HE IS ABLE TO DO WHAT HE WILL; THAT HE IS WISE TO DO WHAT IS BEST AND GOOD; THAT HE WILL DO WHAT IS BEST FOR US, IF WE LOVE HIM AND SERVE HIM WITH ALL OF OUR HEARTS.

WITH AN ENTIRE SUBMISSION AND SATISFACTION, WE MUST DEPEND UPON HIM TO PERFORM ALL THINGS FOR US. AND IF WE TRULY DEPEND ON HIM, WITHOUT AN IOTA OF DOUBT, THEN WE WOULD HAVE NO REASON TO FRET UNPLEASANT AND UNCOMFORTABLE DETAILS OF OUR LIVES. ONLY THEN WILL WE SEE THEM AS OUR FURTHER OPPORTUNITIES TO HELP US DEVELOP MORE FAITH IN HIM, MORE UNSHAKEABLE TRUST IN HIS POWER AND HIS MIRACLES. IN FACT, THE MORE CHALLENGING THE SITUATION, THE GREATER WILL HIS MIRACLE BE, WHEN HIS PERFECT TIMING COMES TO PASS.

JUNE 21    ISAIAH 41: 10 READS, "DO NOT FEAR, FOR I AM WITH YOU; DO NOT BE AFRAID, FOR I AM YOUR GOD. I WILL STRENGTHEN YOU; I WILL HELP YOU; I WILL HOLD ON TO YOU WITH MY RIGHTEOUS RIGHT HAND".

GOD IS OUR GOD; HE IS WITH US. THIS IS A PROMISE TO ANY HELPLESS OR HOPELESS CONDITION WE MAY FIND OURSELVES IN; JUST LIKE GOD STOOD BY HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE, WHILE THEY WERE STILL REJECTING HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON. GOD UNDERSTOOD THE LIMITS OF THEIR EYESIGHT OR THEIR UNDERSTANDING. THERE WAS NO RELIEF TO THE DARKNESS THAT HUNG ABOUT THEM; YET THERE WAS THIS HUGE COMFORT: THE ALMIGHTY GOD WAS WITH THEM.

WE ARE TO THINK OF GOD AS OUR FATHER, FROM WHOM NONE OF OUR SECRETS ARE HID. HE IS OUR SAFETY, OF WHOSE WISE HELP WE ARE ALWAYS ASSURED, AND IN WHOM WE MAY FULLY TRUST, DUE TO THE IMMENSE LOVE HE HAS FOR US. THAT LOVE IS THE SOLID FOUNDATION OF CONFIDENCE; IT IS ABUNDANT, AND IT IS GIVEN, FREELY, TO ANYONE WHO WILLINGLY RELIES ON IT. GOD PROVIDES FOR US; HE DEFENDS US; HE CORRECTS US; HE GUIDES US AND REDEEMS US. GOD'S FIDELITY IS DISPLAYED IN HOW HE PRESERVES HIS PEOPLE BY FAITHFULLY DEFENDING THEM AGAINST THE CONTRIVANCES AND VARIOUS ATTACKS OF WICKED MEN.

JUNE 20    JOSHUA 1: 6- 9 READS, " BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS, BECAUSE YOU WILL LEAD THESE PEOPLE TO INHERIT THE LAND I SWORE TO THEIR FOREFATHERS TO GIVE THEM. BE STRONG AND VERY COURAGEOUS. BE CAREFOUL TO OBEY ALL THE LAW MY SERVANT MOSES GAVE YOU; DO NOT TURN FROM IT TO THE RIGHT OR TO THE LEFT, THAT YOU MAY BE SUCCESSFUL WHEREVER YOU GO. DO NOT LET THIS BOOK OF THE LAW DEPART FROM YOUR MOUTH; MEDITATE ON IT DAY AND NIGHT, SO THAT YOU MAY BE CAREFUL TO DO EVERYTHING WRITTEN IN IT. THEN YOU WILL BE PROSPEROUS AND SUCCESSFUL. HAVE I NOT COMMANDED YOU? BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS. DO NOT BE TERRIFIED; DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED, FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD WILL BE WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO".

THE BIBLE HAS BEFORE AND AFTER MOMENTS; AND THE ONE FROM WHICH WE CAN ALWAYS DRAW INSPIRATION IS THE CROSSING OF ISRAEL ACROSS THE JORDAN RIVER INTO THE PROMISED LAND OF CANAAN. WHAT WERE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT? WEREN'T THERE SOME SERIOUS RUMORS OF THE GIANTS IN THE LAND THE TWELVE SPIES HAD ALL SPOKEN OF FOR FORTY YEARS? AND WHAT WERE THEY TO DO WHEN THEY CAME TO THE FORTIFIED CITIES, AND TALL, STRONG MEN DEFENDING THEM? HOW WERE THEY TO EVER CROSS THE SWOLLEN JORDAN RIVER? WE KNOW THE STORY FROM OUR ANGLE AND WE KNOW HOW THINGS DEVELOPED ACCORDING TO GOD'S PLAN AND PURPOSE. WE KNOW THAT THE RIVER STOPPED FLOWING BECAUSE A LANDSLIDE UPSTREAM. WE KNOW THAT THE WALLS OF JERICHO FELL. WE KNOW HOW GOD WON BATTLES FOR ISRAEL IN CITY AFTER CITY. YET THESE PEOPLE DIDN'T KNOW ANY OF THAT. IN FACT, THEY STOOD AT THE SIDE OF THE JORDAN RIVER WITH QUESTIONS, UNCERTAINTIES, AND ANXIETIES.

GOD DID IMMEASURABLY MORE FOR ISRAEL THEN, THAN THEY COULD'VE EVER ASKED OR IMAGINED. GOD CONTINUES TO DO IMMEASURABLY MORE FOR US TODAY, THAN WE COULD EVER ASK OR IMAGINE. GOD DID IT FOR ISRAEL UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF JOSHUA; AND GOD DOES IT FOR US UNDER THE LEADERSHIP OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR, JESUS CHRIST. IN FACT, EVERY NOTABLE VICTORY WE HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED HAS TAKEN PLACE BECAUSE WE PLACED OUR FAITH ON CHRIST. EVERY ONE OF OUR SINCERE PRAYERS WAS ANSWERED BECAUSE WE HAD PRAYED IN CHRIST'S NAME. EVERY MIRACULOUS HEALING TOOK PLACE BECAUSE WE PLEADED WITH GOD THROUGH CHRIST'S HEALING ABILITIES.

WE ARE NOT PURE ENOUGH; NOR ARE WE CAPABLE ENOUGH TO KNOW HOW TO APPROACH GOD IN A PROPER MANNER; UNLESS WE COME TO HIM THROUGH CHRIST'S IDENTITY. BUT WE MUST CLING TO CHRIST AS ONE CLINGS TO A LIFE PRESERVER; BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT HE TRULY IS: HE PRESERVES US FROM DECAYING AND ERODING THROUGH THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR SINFUL NATURES. WITHOUT HIM, WE WOULD SURELY DISAPPEAR, WITHOUT A TRACE, IN THIS FALLEN AND FILTHY WORLD.

JUNE 19    1 THESSALONIANS 2: 19- 20 READS, "FOR WHO IS OUR HOPE OR JOY OR CROWN OF BOASTING IN THE PRESENCE OF OUR LORD JESUS AT HIS COMING? IS IT NOT YOU? FOR YOU ARE OUR GLORY AND JOY!"

IN THESE WORDS, APOSTLE PAUL STARTS APOLOGIZING FOR HIS ABSENCE. HE TELLS THEM HE WAS UNWILLINGLY SENT AWAY BY NIGHT TO BEREA; YET HIS HEART HAD REMAINED WITH THEM. HE HAD EARNESTLY DESIRED AND HAD STRUGGLED TO SEE THEM AGAIN; EVEN THOUGH HE HAD CONTINUED TO ENCOUNTER SOME OPPOSITION. HE ASSURES THE PEOPLE OF THESSALONICA OF HIS AFFECTION AND HIGH ESTEEM FOR THEM. SURELY THEY WERE HIS HOPE, AND HIS JOY, AND HIS CROWN OF GLORY, BECAUSE IN ORDER TO SAVE THEIR SOULS, APOSTLE PAUL HAD FORSAKEN ALL FOR THE GOSPEL'S SAKE. THESE PEOPLE WERE THE SEAL OF HIS APOSTLESHIP; THEIR CONVERSION AND STEADINESS WERE PROOF THAT GOD WAS USING HIM FOR HIS GLORY.

CONVERTS TO CHRIST AND PERSEVERING BELIEVERS ARE OUR ORNAMENTS; THEY ARE OUR JOY IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT. NOT ONLY DO WE PLANT THE GOSPEL AMONG OTHERS; BUT WE ALSO TAKE EVERY OPPORTUNITY OF WATERING IT; JUST SO IT WILL GROW UP INTO ETERNAL LIFE. IT IS HAPPY WHEN MINISTERS AND PEOPLE HAVE SUCH MUTUAL AFFECTION AND ESTEEM OF EACH OTHER, ESPECIALLY IF THOSE WHO SOW AND THOSE WHO REAP WOULD REJOICE TOGETHER IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AT HIS COMING. FAITHFUL PEOPLE WILL BE THE GLORY AND THE JOY OF FAITHFUL MINISTERS IN THAT GREAT DAY.

THOSE WHO EXPECT NOTHING BUT THE APPROBATION OF CHRIST WILL LABOUR FOR CHRIST; AND THOSE WHO HAVE THE GLORY OF THEIR MASTER WILL HAVE THEIR MASTER'S PRESENCE AND BLESSING. THE TEACHING HERE IS THAT WE ARE TO AIM AT NOT APPEARING BEFORE CHRIST ALONE AT HIS COMING. EVEN OUR INTERCESSORY PRAYERS WILL MATTER ON THAT DAY WHEN WE PRESENT OURSELVES BEFORE OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR.