Our Eyes Are On You

Code red! Threat level severe! Enemy forces were coming together against Judah. And King Jehoshaphat, sizing up the tri-nation army being assembled against them, came to a most reasonable conclusion, “We are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us.”

Situation desperate. So, what do you do when there’s nothing you can do?

“O our God . . . We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.”

(2Chronicles 20:12 ESV)

Jehoshaphat was afraid. He had every reason to be. But he “set his face to seek the LORD” and assembled the people to do likewise (20:4). Though the kingdoms of the nations conspired against him and his people, he determined to look to the God of heaven who rules over all the kingdoms of the nations (20:6).

“Our eyes are on You,” declared the king.

Thus, the people cry out to God, and God answers His people.

“Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. . . . Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’'”

(2Chronicles 20:15, 17 ESV)

Okay! That’s encouraging. We’ll stand firm. We’ll hold our position . . . and maybe our breath . . . as we wait to see the LORD’s salvation on our behalf.

But here’s the thing that I’m chewing on this morning. They didn’t wait to worship.

I’m thinking if it were me, I might instead be cautiously optimistic. I wouldn’t want to count my chickens before they were hatched. I’d wait for the win before I sang of the victory. I’d want to actually see the Lord’s deliverance before singing the Lord’s praise. But not Jehoshaphat and Co.

Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD.

(2Chronicles 20:18 ESV)

They had cried to the Lord. They had heard the word of the Lord. They believed the promise of the Lord. And so they gave thanks for the steadfast love of the Lord (20:21).

The horde was still approaching. They still had to face the enemy. But instead of preparing weapons, they offered up worship. Tactical planning (which would have been of no use anyway against the horde) gave way to heartfelt praising. Instead of putting his best soldiers on the front line, the king instead sent his best singers to go before the army (20:21).

Fear had given way to faith. And faith is the assurance of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1).

Though yet to be fought, the battle was already won. Though the trial was yet to be faced, the outcome yet to be determined, they were convinced that through Him who loved them, they were more than conquerors (Rom. 8:3).

And that, because “our eyes on You.”

Such is the outworking of His abundant grace. That in all things He might receive the victorious glory.

Amen?

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Growing Faith . . . Increasing Love

I know there is specific context around the letters Paul wrote to the church of the Thessalonians. That they had been saved out of the world . . . but into the frying pan. The heat of persecution surrounding them from the first day they believed.

Thus, possessing the peace of God but living in a hostile world, to quote Ben Franklin, they had to “all hang together” or “most assuredly” they would “all hang separately.” Point being that the crucible of opposition has a way of becoming a natural catalyst for unity among those being persecuted.

But even with that, as I chew on the opening verses of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, there seems to be a principle embodied within this fellowship that should be true of every gathering of believers. One of a growing faith and an increasing love.

We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

(2Thessalonians 1:3 ESV)

The work of grace God had begun in this small church, was the work of grace that continued to bear fruit as their faith grew abundantly. They remained steadfast in all the persecutions and in the afflictions they were enduring (v. 4). As each difficult day tested what they said they believed, they became more and more convinced it was true. The Spirit bearing witness with their spirit. The living Christ making Himself known as they abided in Him through every trial. “You ask me how I know He lives,” they might have sung had the hymn been around then, “He lives within my heart!” Their faith was growing abundantly.

But check out what accompanied growing faith. Increasing love. Literally, super-abounding love.

And not just among some of them, but “the love of every one of you” was increasing for one another. Their affection not restricted to their closest friends. Their willingness to serve and sacrifice for others not limited to just their small group. But the love of every one of them was increasing for every one of them.

And I know that these Thessalonian believers needed to hang together, but is it possible that there is a transcendent principle here which should be characteristic of any gospel based community? That abundantly growing faith in Christ manifests itself in super-abounding love for His people. If so, is the corollary then true as well? Show me a fellowship of believers that is not increasing in love for one another, and I’ll show you a body stuck in stagnant, inert belief? I’m thinkin’ . . .

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
~ Jesus

(John 13:34-35 ESV)

How important is love among a church fellowship? Pretty important!

If faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1 NKJV), then, according to Jesus, love for one another is the evidence we are followers of Christ.

Do we love the church more today than when we first believed? I’m thinking it’s evidence of a growing faith. Do we find ourselves increasingly compelled to seek ways to sacrificially serve one another? Then I’m wondering if it isn’t related to the transformation we are promised through the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2).

The motto of Village Missions, an organization dedicated to placing missionary pastors in small rural communities with the goal of establishing vital churches, is “Preach the word, love the people.” And Paul says when we increasingly believe His word, then we can’t help but love His people.

Growing faith . . . Increasing love.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Lean On Me

Honestly, I don’t think I’m bright enough to pickup on such stuff on my own. When this happens in my morning reading, I really do think it is an encounter of the divine kind.

I’m reading in 2Chronicles this morning and I encounter a synonym for faith that strikes me as unusual, and so I mark it with my light green colored pencil. I read on a bit more, and there it is again . . . and again . . . and again. Four times in these four chapters.

So I do a quick bit of e-concordance work and I find the word only appears 22 times in all of Scripture . . . and nowhere else does it seem to have this sense of trusting in God. Instead it’s used of resting or leaning on something. And as I noodle on it, I’m reminded that my God wants His people to Lean on Me.

Chronicle #1 – Abijah and the army of Judah, 400,000 valiant warriors, defeat Israel’s aggressor army of 800,000 (2Chron. 13). How come?

. . . because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers.

(2Chronicles 13:18)

Chronicle #2 – After Abijah’s death, his son, Asa, reigns in his place. And, like father like son, Asa successfully defends himself with an army of 580,000 against an Ethiopian horde of “a million men and 300 chariots” (14:8-9).

And Asa cried to the LORD his God, “O LORD, there is none like You to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on You, and in Your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.”

(2Chronicles 14:11 ESV)

Chronicle #3 – But while Asa started well, and ran well, he didn’t finish so well. In the thirty-sixth year of his reign, Israel again plays the role of aggressor against Judah. They build a great siege work against Judah. And Asa’s response is to purchase mercenary support from Syria. And the LORD, through one of His prophets, calls him on it:

At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, “Because you relied on the king of Syria, and did not rely on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Syria has escaped you. Were not the Ethiopians and the Libyans a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the LORD, He gave them into your hand.”

(2Chronicles 16:7-8 ESV)

Four times in four chapters, the importance of relying on God, leaning on Him, is repeated. Just me reading more into it than I should? Nope!

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him.

(2Chronicles 16:9a ESV)

God is actively looking for opportunities to give strong support. Casting an omniscient gaze back and forth, He’s on the watch for hearts that rely on Him, hearts that are blameless, or at shalom, with Him. Hearts at peace, because they rely on Him . . . because they lean on Him.

Oh, to be such a heart. To trust in the Lord with all my heart, leaning not to my own understanding. Acknowledging Him in all my ways, confident–leaning on Him–to direct my paths (Prov. 3:5-6).

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.

(Hebrews 11:6 ESV)

Rely on Me, says the LORD, Lean on Me.

Yes, Lord!

By Your grace. For Your glory.

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Children of the Day

We belong to the day. That’s who we are. Reminded of that as I read the first part of 1Thessalonians 5 this morning. So much confusion around identity these days, around what defines us and gives us meaning. And confusion as to who we are, leads to confusion as to how we should live. But that shouldn’t be the case for the Christian.

Our identity is in Christ. We are the people of God. Rescued from the domain of darkness, we have been brought into the kingdom of His Son, the kingdom of light. As Paul reminds me this morning, we belong to the day.

We are of the light. That’s who we are. That’s how we should live. Here’s how I thought about it 5 years ago . . .

—-

The specific subject is the second coming of Christ, a day that “will come like a thief in the night.” Paul says that it will come when most people are least expecting it. They’ll be saying, “There is peace and security” and then sudden destruction will come upon them. Jesus said that it will be like the days of Noah, when people were just doing life up until the flood hit (Matt. 24:38-39). He said it would be just as it was in the days of Lot, when people went about “eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building” until the day that “fire and sulfur rained down” (Luke 17:28-30).

But, says Paul, though the day will come as a thief in the night it should not surprise the believer like a thief . . . it shouldn’t overtake us . . . it shouldn’t catch us off guard. How come? Because, the apostle reminds us, we are children of the day.

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.

(1Thessalonians 5:1-5 ESV)

And I’m thinking of the implications of belonging to the day (5:8) . . . of having been brought out of darkness into marvelous light (1Peter 2:9) . . . of having once been blind but now I see . . . of being a child of the day.

By God’s grace and the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the believer is able to see things they could never have otherwise seen . . . to know deep things that can never be known by natural man . . . to have a perspective on life which is simply hidden to those who are dead in trespasses and sin. At that moment, when, by faith, I acknowledged the need for a Savior . . . when, through no merit of my own, my sins were forgiven . . . when, due to no effort I could put forth, I was redeemed by the precious blood of Christ . . . at that moment, I was forgiven . . . I was cleansed . . . I was sealed . . . I was adopted . . . and, praise God, I was made a child of the day.

And, says Paul, it should make a difference.

So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. . . . since we belong to the day, let us be sober . . .

(1Thessalonians 5:6-8 ESV)

Keep awake and be sober . . . be alert and self-controlled (NIV) . . . stay alert and clear-headed (NLT) . . . no snoozin’ at the wheel (PJC).

What a waste to be children of the day and walk around like people of darkness. How short we fall of our potential in Christ when we take our cues from the world. How under utilized is the mind of Christ we possess, the ability through the Spirit to know the deep things of God (1Cor. 2:14-16), when we, instead, live after the wisdom of men.

Oh to live as children of the day. Awake to the realities of the kingdom of heaven about us . . . doing life with an engaged radar discerning the “truths” fed us by a world cloaked in darkness . . . pursuing that which is of God, letting pass that which is not.

Can’t do it on my own. But children of the day don’t have to. The God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone His light in our hearts, “giving us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ . . . but we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2Cor. 4:6-7). His light . . . his power . . . my holy determination to be awake and clear-headed.

Oh that, as His people, we would continue to seek to live as children of the day in a world which is shrouded in the darkness of night.

To do so by His all sufficient and enabling grace. To do so for His eternal and praiseworthy glory.

Amen?

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The Good Portion

She was distracted by many things. Her sister was determined to pursue but one thing. She was anxious, her sister attentive. She was troubled, her sister was tuned in. She welcomed the Savior into her home, her sister welcomed the Savior into her heart.

And her sister had chosen the good portion.

But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

(Luke 10:40-42 ESV)

An old, familiar story. But chewing this morning on “the good portion.”

No criticizing Martha for welcoming Jesus & Co. into her home. Who’s going to judge her hospitality? And you kind of get that there was a lot that had to be done to prepare a meal fit for a King. Understandable that Martha might have been in a bit of a tizzy over the “many things” she had to be concerned with.

But one thing, said Jesus, was necessary. While many things may have distracted, there was one thing this encounter of the divine kind demanded.

Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching.

(Luke 10:38b-39 ESV)

There is a time for serving the King, and there is a time for sitting at His feet. This, apparently, was such a time. That, said Jesus, was the one thing necessary. And Mary had chosen the good portion.

You kind of think Martha may have been cut from the same cloth as Peter. I read just last week of Peter’s distracted-ness on the mount where Jesus was transfigured. Not only does he behold Jesus in His glory, but Peter also finds himself staring at Moses and Elijah. And he too becomes distracted with the need to do something–the need to somehow serve. And so, he says to the Lord, “Let us make three tents for you.” To which Luke the commentator editorializes, “not knowing what he said.”

Give your head a shake, Pete! Your in the presence of visible glory. Seeing and hearing things that no man has seen or heard. Privy to conversations impacting eternity. And your immediate thought is what should I be doing?

But then the Voice comes from out of the cloud, and the LORD God informs Peter in no uncertain terms of the proper response when being in such an audience,

“This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”    (Luke 9:35 ESV)

Listen to Him. That was the necessary thing. That was the one thing. That was the thing Mary got. That was the good portion.

To be sure there is a time for serving Him. But how we need to know when it’s the time for sitting at His feet. A time for laboring with all our power, but also a time for listening in His presence.

Oh, to be attuned as Mary was. To know when the time is for sitting at the Savior’s feet. Abiding in the Savior’s word. Choosing the good portion.

By His grace. For His glory.

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This Is the Will of God

There’s a lot of things we don’t know up front when it comes to the will of God. A ton of details we are left to humbly try and discern as it pertains to the call He has put on our lives. All kinds of possibilities. Forks in the road demanding a commitment to one way or another. Facts to be weighed. Counsel to be sought. Decisions to be made. Truth is, this knowing the will of God thing can sometimes be quite overwhelming.

Maybe that’s why a piece of Paul’s encouragement to the Thessalonians lands so powerfully on my radar this morning. He makes known, at least in part, with great clarity and without ambiguity, the will of God.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification . . . For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives His Holy Spirit to you.

(1Thessalonians 4:3a, 7-8 ESV)

Might be a ton of stuff I don’t know, but this I do know, this is the will of God, my sanctification. This is the call of God, holiness. And this is the great provision of God, His Spirit.

Whatever else I might be trying to figure out about the will of God for me for tomorrow, this is the will of God for me today.

I have been set apart in Christ. Consecrated by the sovereign determination and over-flowing grace of God. Declared holy through the finished work of Christ on the cross. And the will of God is that what I have been declared to be, I should be. That the divine banner of holiness which envelopes me should increasingly be the practical reality that characterizes me. That, as Paul says, I should be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). That I should put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24). That the work God began by saving my soul, should be made complete through the redemption of my character.

This is the will of God, my sanctification. This is the call of God, my holiness. And this too a work of God, by His Holy Spirit.

Sanctification is part of our salvation. It is the now part. The on-going part. The “God’s not done with me yet” part. And a big part of the will of God for my life.

Mine is to desire the will of God. To cooperate with the way of God He has chosen for me. But it’s not like God’s done His part and now I need to do mine.

Just as the gospel is the power of God for salvation, it’s the power of God for sanctification. For the faith that believed He would declare me holy in His sight, is the same faith that believes He will make me holy in His sight. While by faith I believe that I am betrothed to Christ as part of His bride, by faith I trust that on that day I will be presented to Christ “in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing . . . holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27).

The power of the gospel is that it lies not in who we are, but in who He is. The power never found in what we can do, but in what He has already accomplished. And in that power, in response to what He has done and what He has promised to do, we seek to be holy, for He is holy.

Realizing we have not been called for impurity, we determine to abstain from sexual immorality. Knowing that we have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3), we say no to the fleshly cravings for the cheap counterfeits offered by the world. Believing we are, as He has declared, new creations in Christ (2Cor. 5:17), enabled by the Spirit we purpose to put off the man and put on the new.

We behave in accordance with what we believe. Our practices informed by His promises. Our conduct directed by this confidence, “not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2Cor. 3:5).

This is the will of God, our sanctification. This is the call of God, our holiness.

All by the grace of God. All for the glory of God.

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The Substance of Faith

Paul was going crazy not knowing how the new believers at Thessalonica were doing. He had been forced to flee by night after the Jews had stirred up a mob and set the city in an uproar over Paul’s convincing persuasion among many that, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ” (Acts. 17:1-10). But while Paul had escaped the Jews’ vigilante justice, those who had believed were left behind to deal with the opposition and persecution on a day by day basis.

How would their faith hold up? That was the question pressing on Paul’s mind. So when he could bear it no longer, he sent Timothy back to Thessalonica to find out.

Five times the word “faith” appears in 1Thessalonians 3. That’s what Paul wanted to know about, their faith. How was it fairing in the midst of daily afflictions?

And, as I hover over this chapter, what occurs to me is that while faith may be the substance of things hoped for (Heb. 11:1 NKJV), standing fast might just be the substance of faith.

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you–for this reason, brothers, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord.

(1Thessalonians 3:6-8 ESV)

Timothy returned with good news about their faith. A faith not only to a creed, but a faith that was manifesting its authenticity through love. Which, for Paul, was the only thing that counted for anything–“faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6). And so Paul was greatly comforted by the report of their faith. It was like cold water to Paul’s thirsty soul (Pr. 25:25). In fact, says the apostle, it infused him with new life to know that they were standing fast in the Lord.

Might not be reading this quite right, but seems to me Paul equated a living faith with standing fast in the Lord. That though faith might be intangible, its reality was observable. They were standing firm, thus their faith was active. They endured, and so, Paul’s concerns about the state of the faith, were alleviated.

While love, joy, and peace might be the fruit of the Spirit, seems that perseverance is at least one of the evidences of faith. That persistence is an outward sign of an inward reality. That the degree to which we believe the promise is demonstrated by how we hold up under pressure. That what we really, really believe is going to be evident in how we really, really behave . . . regardless of the circumstance.

We were saved by faith. And we are being saved by faith.

. . . And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God . . .

(Ephesians 2:8 ESV)

The Thessalonians were hanging in there. Paul rejoiced at Timothy’s report. And the thanks went to God.

For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God.

(1Thessalonians 3:9 ESV)

Our mustard seeds of faith, His unfailing faithfulness. Our holy determination, His steadfast provision.

We know that’s the unseen dynamic when we find ourselves keepin’ on keepin’ on.

That while faith might be the substance of things hoped for, standing fast in the Lord is the substance of things believed.

Only by grace. Only for His glory.

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