FATHER’S BLESSING

I was asked to give the father’s blessing over the students in my daughter’s college program at the parent appreciation banquet last week.

God gave me scripture to craft together, and I’d like to share what he gave me:

Father’s Blessing 2015

Men and women of Verity, class of 2015, it is my honor to speak over you the father’s blessing.

More than anything, I pray that you will continue to be students of scripture, that you may know God’s wisdom and gain understanding and insight from Him, to receive His instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity. May you continue to increase in learning and obtain guidance from the Lord. Remember that a healthy fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; receive His words and treasure His commandments. Make your ear attentive to wisdom, and incline your heart to understanding, for the Lord gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. As you walk in integrity, God will guard your path and watch over you. You will understand righteousness and justice and equity. Wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will watch over you and understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil. Let your heart keep God’s commandments, for length of days and years of life and the peace they will add to you. Do not let steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. That way you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. 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. Fear the Lord, and turn away from evil – it will bring healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty. You will be blessed when you find God’s wisdom – she is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

As you follow the Lord, and obey his commands, may you receive that which God promised to Israel. Blessed in the city, and blessed in the field. Blessed be your children and the fruit of your work. You will be blessed when you come in, and blessed when you go out. May the Lord cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you, and God bless all that you undertake. Let all the peoples of the earth see that you are called by the name of the Lord. Be faithful to Him, and the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you honor the Lord your God.

Women of Verity, may you be like Ruth, who was presented a choice between the comfortable, pagan world she knew, or following the one true God. She chose the path of humility, becoming one of the poorest of the poor, only to be redeemed and lifted up to become the wife of the owner of the land. May you be like Esther, who could have kept her mouth shut and lived a luxurious life as queen, but chose to put her life on the line for her people by acknowledging her God. For such a time as this, you, too, have been trained up – stand ready for the call.

Men of Verity, may you be like David, who is called a man after God’s own heart. Not because of his great virtue, but because when confronted with his sin, he repented in sackcloth and ashes, begging God for a purified heart. May you be like Isaiah, who knew he was unworthy to stand in the presence of a holy, holy, holy God, yet when the Lord cried out for a messenger he burst out with, “Here am I, Lord! Send me!” He carried a message to multiple generations of the kings of Judah, knowing it would be virtually fruitless for the present, but would have everlasting impact. Be ready when God calls, and be bold to proclaim whatever message He gives you.

May you all be salt and light in this dark world, bringing glory to God by the good works that you do. As Jesus commands in Mark chapter 16, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” The good news that Jesus Christ is the only Way to God, the ultimate Truth, the only One who gives us everlasting Life, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. The message that it is only by His perfect life, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead that the penalty for our sins is paid in order that by receiving Him, we have the right to become children of God and live with Him forever. As He commands in Matthew 28, go and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. Behold, He is with you always, even to the end of the age.

Finally, may the grace of Almighty God, the fellowship of Jesus Christ, his only Son, and the power of the Holy Spirit, be with you now and forever. Amen!

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RECONCILIATION AND SALVATION

Tom asked a question on another post, and I gave a lengthy answer which I want to repeat as a stand-alone post, because I think it is important.

Here’s what I said:

Sorry to take so long to respond. I wanted to make sure I got it right, and I am just taking some extra time to look up the verses that keep going through my mind.

First, I should be clear – being prepared for the day and the hour means being a true Christian. Salvation does not depend on anything other than faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement for my sin by His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

That said, James called it when he said, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:17-18 ESV)

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) and “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

He also said, “So, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24, emphasis mine)

So, that last verse is a command, and it involves loving God (worship) and loving your neighbor. According to Jesus’ words, if you truly love Him (and by extension God), you will reconcile with others so that your worship of God will not be hindered.

John said, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20, emphasis mine).

Scripture is clear. If we profess to be Christians, and thus profess that we love God, we must live that out by doing everything humanly possible to be reconciled with others (specifically, per the use of the term “brother”, other Christians – though we are also commanded to love our enemies as well).

So, husbands, so, wives, so, brothers and sisters in Christ – fervently, doggedly pursue reconciliation as proof of your profession of faith.

As Paul says in Romans, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (That is where I don’t want anyone to make an excuse, and say, “I tried to reconcile, but he/she wouldn’t…” unless you have really, truly, before God and man, made every possible attempt to reconcile).

Blessings,

George

WHAT DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE?

What do you think…is God really involved in our daily lives? Is He really like the God described in the Bible, or has He backed off, and doesn’t get all that involved in our world? I have heard that latter opinion all too often, and it was a major stumbling block in my own battle against bondage to sin.

If you have a hard time seeing God as described in scripture, therein lies your most basic problem – you don’t really believe in the God of the Bible. Rather, you believe in a God who is shaped by your intellect, by what you think of Him, by what you perceive Him to be.

Your actions will show that you don’t fear God as much as you fear the opinion of people directly around you (and, conversely, you don’t hunger for His approval like you hunger and thirst for people’s approval).

Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.” (Ephesians 6:5-8 ESV)

God is the God of the Bible, regardless of what you may think or believe about Him or His involvement in your life.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?“(Numbers 23:19 ESV)

Adam and Eve shook off God’s authority because they wanted to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil, and they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil to become like God. It didn’t work out so well for them.

The only way to be truly free from bondage to sin (anger, adultery, fornication, lies, covetousness, etc.) is to put ourselves back under God’s authority, to allow Him to be God in our own lives instead of stubbornly wanting to decide for ourselves what role He is to play on this earth.

So, you have to decide. Are you going to acknowledge that God IS, that He is everything the Bible says, and bow your will to His will like Jesus did right before His crucifixion? Or, are you going to be like those described in Romans:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:21-25 ESV)

I never could break free from bondage to hidden sin until I truly started to fear God more than the opinions of people around me, and determined to seek His will and do it, no matter how painful, Whatever It Takes!

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto death.” (Revelation 12:11)

May you fully acknowledge the grace of God and the blood of Christ to truly set you free,

George

THE DAY AND THE HOUR

Folks love to quote Matthew 24:36, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the Angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

I propose to you that just a few verses later the Bible states exactly when Jesus is coming again:

“Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭24‬:‭44‬ ESV)

When is it that no one really expects Him? NOW

I don’t know of a single person who doesn’t think he has at least one more Planck, or yoctosecond, or whatever, before Jesus returns.

The first part of the verse says we must be ready – we must be trusting in the Blood of Christ alone as the atonement for our sins, that sets us free from slavery to sin. We should be expectant as well, like the five wise virgins in Matthew 25. As Christians we are always looking ahead to Jesus’ return:

He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (‭Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭20‬ ESV)

Yes, I am speaking a bit tongue-in-cheek…

But you should still be ready. For Jesus to come.

Now.

The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. (‭Revelation‬ ‭22‬:‭21‬ ESV)

– G

BROKENNESS AND OBEDIENCE

Have you ever prayed, “God, please change me! Make me the man you want me to be!”?

I have. Plenty of times.

On one hand, God does change us – that’s progressive sanctification. Through trials, and renewing our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit, by knowledge and reproof and correction from His word.

On the other hand, the prayer is usually meant as, “God, please flip the switch in me that will suddenly take away all my temptation to sin. Please make me behave like a Christian!”

That version doesn’t really fit scripture.

Have you ever really read the Great Commission?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) (emphasis mine)

Jesus states that He has given the apostles commands which are to be obeyed. He doesn’t say that people will be suddenly changed, and have no responsibility for how they live after becoming disciples.

Earlier, Jesus said:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36 ESV)

and

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.’” (John 14:15,21,23-24 ESV)

and

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 ESV)

God makes it abundantly clear throughout scripture, Old and New Testament, that He commands, and expects us to obey out of our love for Him.

THAT IS WHAT BROKENNESS IS ALL ABOUT!

Brokenness is not God forcing me into the image of Christ, so that in spite of my desire to sin He causes me to do what is right anyhow. Asking God, “Lord, please make me a broken man!” is like praying, “God, please force me to love you!” God wants loving, obedient servants, not blindly obedient robots. He wants the willing, voluntary slave, not forced labor.

Many times, when in the midst of temptation, I would pray, “God, please help me!” (meaning, “God, please intervene and do something to prevent me from committing this sin!”)

God’s response over the years has been, “I already have helped you. Jesus died to set you free from bondage to sin. Go read Romans 6 again!”

I am without excuse! God is the sovereign Creator of the Universe – He gets to set the rules! It is my part to love and obey.

The most beautiful bit, should I choose to accept it, is that God doesn’t just put it all on me to bear alone. As he says in Romans:

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7 ESV)

and in John:

“’And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.’” (John 14:16-17,26 ESV)

He commands, He expects love and obedience, but He also gives us encouragement, reminders, and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us to conquer the nature of sin that still plagues us! (See Romans 8 and Galatians 5, for a start…)

So, when you are beset with temptation, and sin rears its ugly head, and you feel utterly hopeless and stuck in bondage, don’t shake your fist at God and ask Him, “WHY?!?” Instead, stare at yourself in the mirror, take a deep gut check, and admit that you are making a decision – whether you will a) draw on the power of the Holy Spirit and the finished work of Christ on the cross, and take the path of brokenness in loving obedience…or b) shake off God’s hand and take the path of disobedience, sin, and destruction. Every day. Every hour. Every temptation.

You have to decide.

The Love of God and the Peace of Christ be with you always!

George

WHY OPENNESS AND BROKENNESS?

So, what is the point of being completely open and honest with your wife, and walking in brokenness before God in your marriage? Why can’t my sin be just between God and me? Won’t my marriage be much more peaceful if I just deal quietly with God over my sin, rather than upsetting my wife with it?

The answers begins with the purpose of marriage:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-32

Thus, the goal of my marriage is to present to the world a picture of Jesus Christ and his relationship to the church. One aspect of that relationship is that he died for the church, setting us free from bondage to sin and taking the punishment for our sin. He also died and rose again to restore our relationship with God, which, for Adam, was daily fellowship, just as Jesus Christ has fellowship with his father:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1John 1:7

If I wish to have fellowship, I must walk in the light. Not just fellowship with God, but fellowship with my wife.

In the broader context of 1 John:

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1John 1:5-10

In short, if I am hiding my sin from my wife, claiming that I am not ____________ (fill in the blank…”looking at pornography” “committing adultery” “cheating on the finances”), then I am walking in darkness. If I am walking in darkness, I cannot have fellowship with my wife. If I am not in fellowship with my wife, we are not a picture of Christ and the church. If we are not a picture of Christ and the church…we have missed the whole point of marriage.

Get it?

Peace,

George

THIS IS NOT BROKENNESS

Psalm 36:1-4 (HCSB)
1 An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked person: There is no dread of God before his eyes,
2  for in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to discover and hate his sin.
3 The words of his mouth are malicious and deceptive; he has stopped acting wisely and doing good.
4 Even on his bed he makes malicious plans. He sets himself on a path that is not good and does not reject evil.

This passage is key in my own journey toward Christian brokenness. Not only have I had to discover my sin by admitting it is sin (masturbation, gluttony, misuse of money, deceitfulness), but I also have to learn to hate my sin. Until I have done both of those things, I cannot break free from bondage to my sin, and I cannot set my family free from the effects my sin brings into the home.

I cannot lie – I still have areas where I have not learned to fully hate my sin. I don’t hate gluttony enough. I don’t hate my lifestyle of living in debt enough to pursue being debt-free with gazelle-like intensity (Proverbs 6:5). I am still malicious and deceptive in my speech, even though I try very hard not to be. It takes a long time to change habits that developed over 40 years.

The main point is, I can’t give up! At least, not if I still claim to be a Christian, seeking after God, becoming more like Jesus each day.

It is not easy, but you can do it! I can do it! By the power of God’s Holy Spirit, and the Blood of the Lamb! Openness and Brokenness! For God’s glory!

And they overcame him by the Blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death. – Revelation 12:11

Under His Blood,

George