It’s a Beautiful Morning

Followers of Jesus Christ are not to live in deliberate or habitual sin. We are asked, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1 -2, ESV). Furthermore, elsewhere the purposes of both grace and salvation are explained:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age. ~ Titus 2:11-12

Even so, the Bible teaches us, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins, (Ecc. 7:10) and “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8).  And life teaches us experientially that we can sometimes blow it profoundly! How many of us have asked, “Will God forgive me of this? Again???” In fact, some give up altogether that God still loves them and can forgive them.

My friend, perhaps you have asked such questions. Maybe you are wrestling with such doubts now. Believe me, I have been there numerous times. But God’s grace truly is amazing, and the death Jesus died in our stead transcends our understanding. I hope you will be encouraged by the following passages:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. ~ Psalm 103:13-14

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ~ 1 John 1:9

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17

Perhaps you have blown it big time and guilt haunts you. My friend, look to the cross and the glorious and merciful Savior who had been slain upon it and is now alive forevermore! Find refuge in His mercy and peace in His great love for you. His mercies are new every morning, and there is never a time when we are not in need of them.

One Step At A Time

Sometimes God’s leading seems to fuel more questions rather than answers. Like children we want to know where we are going, how long it is going to take to get there, why we have to stop by here, and is the driver (in this case, God) lost? We are told, however, of God’s instructions for Abraham:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. ~ Genesis 12:1 (ESV)

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. ~ Hebrews 11:8

Notice, God did not give specifics. Abraham did not know where God was leading, he only knew God told him to take steps away from what was familiar. Abraham made mistakes along the way, at times running ahead of God’s leading. This only added to the difficulties of his journey of faith, but God remained faithful.

Perhaps your journey does not seem to make any sense, do not lose heart. Obey where you know to obey; rest where God permits you to pause; be productive in any work He assigns. 

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 straight your paths. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

A Score Is Being Kept

Politics and major businesses are filled with corruption and all kinds of wickedness. So much evil is applauded, justified, and covered up—all for the love of money and power. Nevertheless, the people of God are told:

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. ~ Psalm 37:1-2 (ESV)

Furthermore, we are told to:

  • Trust in the Lord, and do good (vs.3);
  • Delight in Him (vs. 4);
  • Commit our way to Him (vs. 5);
  • Be still before Him and wait patiently for Him (vs.7).

Although the wicked see themselves  as invincible and untouchable, and they boast, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1), and “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob does not see” (Ps. 94:7), the Lord is keeping score. He is keeping track of their lies, bribes, coercion, thefts, extortion, and murders. He is preparing judgment for their persecution of the righteous and silencing the cries of the innocent.

Like pins standing proudly at the end of a lane, God’s wrath is going to charge down:

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish. ~ Psalm 1:5-6

Dear ones, the days might become difficult, but let us keep our eyes on the Lord and our faith anchored on Him. Trust in, delight in, commit your way to, be still before, and wait patiently for Him. In the end, God will preserve His own, and the wicked will face the horror of the consequences of their gross rebellion against Him.

Unchained, but Still Bound

People often view liberty as freedom from all restraints. For example, in the Scriptures we read,

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” ~ Psalm 2:2-3

However, in the New Testament we read of a poor fellow who dwelt among the tombs, driven by the demonic:

And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. ~ Mark 5:3-5

Many today boast of their “freedom” as they cast off all restraints, all the while bound tightly and oppressed by their vices, addictions, and shame. However, just as it was true for the man in the tombs, so Jesus can also heal people of such miseries today. You can know genuine freedom through Him if you will but cry out to Him in faith.

The Essence of Genuine Worship

Jesus teaches us that the worship of God is to be done in both spirit and truth (see John 4:23-24), and those who truly love Him will keep His commandments (see John 14:15-24). In essence, genuine worship is marked by obedience stemming from grateful hearts. Singing, clapping, raising our hands, and tingling sensations do not necessarily prove worship has taken place. Rather, are we coming to God through Christ and yielding to His Word and Holy Spirit? If these are neglected, then genuine worship acceptable to God is not taking place. Let us not make the same mistake as Cain, who refused to worship God on His terms (see Gen. 4:1-8).

Like A Tree Planted by Water

If you desire for your faith to grow, then you must dig into God’s Word. Furthermore, you must not simply read it, but reflect on it, believe it, and respond to what God reveals. Stop living according to the counsel, philosophies, and the ideologies of those who deny, reject, and oppose God and His Word. Truth will become clearer to you, as will the activity of God.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. ~ Psalm 1:1-3 (ESV)

Be Still and Know

Be still, and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 47:10 (ESV)

We are a busy and active race, constantly on the move, either being productive or wasting time with meaningless pursuits and practices. The distractions are endless, but all of this comes with a price: missing the voice and knowledge of God. Creation declares His glory (see Ps. 19:1-4), and God promises to be found by those who truly pursue Him (see Jer. 29:13).

Turn of the noise and take time away from distractions. Be still and know.

Sacrifices of Praise

A sacrifice comes with a cost. It is to surrender something we desire for something better, and the cost can be undesirable as the heart breaks. 

Typically, “praise” is associated with joy, gladness, and an eager willingness. Honestly, often it is. However, have you ever been in a church service with a broken heart and fractured soul? You still loved God, although you might not have “felt” like it, because your heart ached and your mind was being bombarded with an onslaught of questions. Perhaps only you and God knew what was tormenting your heart, mind, and soul: loneliness, guilt/shame, loss/grief, anxieties, betrayal, etc. And while those around you sang with enthusiasm, it was an extraordinary accomplishment that you got out of bed and made it to church.

What does all this have to do with sacrifices of praise? During these times praise is a sacrifice, feeling heavy as lead as our feeble voice struggles beneath the strain. Chances are, for many, during these times you do not want to offer such a sacrifice. Believe me, I have been there (and still am, at times). Such an offering is not without pain, but it is a sacrifice for something better (albeit, not immediately). While seemingly small sacrifices, God accepts the sacrifices of tear-sprinkled praise arising from broken hearts: “You are faithful, God!” “I love You, Jesus!” “I trust You, Lord.”

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. ~ Hebrews 13:14-15 (ESV)

Remembering His Cross in Our Pain

Pain is a part of living in a sinful, fallen world, and no one is completely immune. No doubt, some people suffer more than others, but some forms of pain are nearly universal. Who has not felt the wounds of rejection, betrayal, loneliness, and heartache? At some point, anyone who loves will experience the emotional pain of grief. Or who has not felt the pangs of anxiety and fear?

During times of pain it can appear as though our mind and feelings conspire against us, to leave is for dead in despair, but first torturing is with doubts about God’s love, care, and empathy.

I wrote the following song sometime during a severe bout with depression. I have written about this previously, but I felt as though I was in a dark, inescapable pit. I felt like a failure in every sense of the word, and God seemed light years away from me. However, God—in the person of Jesus—experienced much of the pain we feel and questions we ask, while He was rejected, tortured, then killed. 

He Is Still Worthy of Praise

Even when storms rob us of sunshine, And our laughter turns to cries; Even when our nights are the darkest, And there are no stars in our skies…

Bridge:
We look to Christ,
The Holy One who cares;
In brokenness,
We worship Him through tears…

Chorus 1:
(For) He is still worthy of praise;
He is still worthy of honor;
He is still worthy of worship;
He is still worthy of all!

(Repeat)

Even when our minds are afflicted, And questions scream with rage;
And our hearts are so deeply wounded, Feeling forsaken in some cage…

Bridge:
We look to Christ,
And bend our knees in dust.
In spite of pain,
We sing to Him with trust…

(Chorus 1)

Through loneliness and friendlessness, Through deep darkness and through sickness;
Through failure and tears, through raging fears;
Through broken dreams, and angry screams …

Through temptations, and frustrations; Through broken-hearts, and worlds torn apart;
Through death of loved ones, when grief overcomes –
Through all the loss, we remember His Cross!

Even when we face disappointments, When dreams are smashed on rocks, And we watch them sink under waters, As our hearts are crushed on the docks.

Bridge:
We bow our souls,
And cannot even speak.
We want to run,
We want to die,
Yet to our God we cry … and we seek …

(Chorus 1)

Chorus 2:

God You are worthy of praise;
You are still worthy of honor;
You are still worthy of worship;
Jesus, You’re worthy of all!
You are still worthy of praise;
You are still worthy of honor;
You are still worthy of worship;
Jesus, You’re worthy of all!
… Through all the loss, we remember Your Cross …  [1]

Jesus, You’re worthy of praise.

(Words and music by G.P)

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

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[1] Geno Pyse, To Worship Is to Obey: Songs of Worship & Devotion (Rochester: GP&P, 2020), 27-29.

BEWARE of Wolves!

Jesus warns of false prophets who will “come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). Externally they will have the appearance of being persons of God, but internally they are enemies of God. Jesus goes on to say, “You will recognize them by their fruits.” That is, we can recognize them by their actions and teachings.

Jesus later warns that in the latter days “many will fall away” [from the faith], and “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray” (Matt. 24:10-11). Similarly, the apostle Paul warns, “evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). Paul, Peter, Jude, and John each warn of false teachers.

Again, the people of God are not left defenseless. Jesus tells his disciples, just prior to His crucifixion, that they would receive the “Spirit of truth” and He “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:17, 26). And He “will guide you into all the truth….He will glorify me” (16:13-14). Note, Jesus declares Himself as the truth, and God’s word is truth (see John 14:6; 17:17).

What’s the big deal? Jesus says,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” ~ Matthew 7:21-23 

It is vital that we understand mere outward appearances and professions of being a “Christian” can be dangerously misleading. Jesus says false prophets/teachers are ravenous wolves disguised as sheep of His pasture. Do not miss the serious implications of Jesus’ warning. He is emphasizing the real nature of false prophets—vicious, strategic, and deadly!

We are living in dangerous times in which many assume a person must be a Christian if they say they are or if something is labeled as “Christian.” Many feel they are “judging” if they question if someone is a Christian; however, there is a vast difference between judging and discerning. In fact, John (one of Jesus’ closest disciples) writes,

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. ~ 1 John 4:1

How are we to “test” others? What “fruits” do we watch or listen for to detect false teachers? Well this list is not exhaustive, most false teachings stem from one or more of the following:

  • Empty religion (works and activities void of God’s grace and inner workings)
  • Rejecting the authority and trustworthiness of the Scriptures
  • The condoning of behaviors God condemns (antinomianism)
  • Adding works to grace (legalism)
  • “Prostituting” the Gospel
  • Denying the Person and/or atoning work of Jesus Christ
  • Messages void of the necessity of the Cross
  • Salvation by any means other than Christ alone [1]

In our Western church culture people tend to focus on Jesus’ message of love and grace, but may we not dismiss His and the apostles’ warnings of the ever immenent danger of false prophets and their literally damnable teachings.

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[1]  Geno Pyse, BEWARE of False Prophets: Taking Seriously the Warnings of Jesus, the Prophets, & the Apostles (Rochester: GP&P, 2020), 71.

Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles each warn of false prophets and false teachers. In fact, Jesus and the apostles warn that these will go “from bad to worse” prior to Jesus’ return. Furthermore, the apostle Paul says there will be a great falling away (apostasy) from the faith. This book discusses some of the common teachings and/or practices of false teachers, and seeks to help persons to become better equipped to discern between truth and error. Study questions for group or personal study included. (184 pages)