VIDEO Are You Ready for a New Year Relocation?

Get up, get out of this place! Genesis 19:14

All around the world people moved out of big cities during the COVID crisis. Some did so because their jobs allowed them to work remotely. Others did so to avoid crowds and congestion. Some did it to escape high taxes and governmental mandates.

Perhaps you need to relocate too.

If you’re living in one of the towns in the state of Carelessness, it’s time to call a moving van. The names of those towns are Slothful, Lazy, Greedy, Bitter, Angry, Lustful, and Irritable. The inhabitants of those towns tend to live up to their reputations, and you need to get up and get out of that place.

Try moving to one of the cities in the state of Blessing. Those towns and cities bear names like Grace, Peace, Faithfulness, Joy, Zeal, and Holiness. In these towns, the taxes are low, the air is clear, the streets are clean, the residents are harmonious, and the Lord dwells among His people.

Maybe it’s time to get moving!

My heart has no desire to stay where doubts arise and fears dismay; / Though some may dwell where these abound, my prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

Johnson Oatman, Jr., “I’m Pressing on the Upward Way”


GENESIS 19

Perfect Like Christ

Be perfect . . . as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

Perfectionism is one of the scariest words I know,” Kathleen Norris writes, thoughtfully contrasting modern-day perfectionism with the “perfection” described in the book of Matthew. Modern-day perfectionism she describes as “a serious psychological affliction that makes people too timid to take necessary risks.” But the word translated “perfect” in Matthew actually means mature, complete, or whole. Norris concludes, “To be perfect . . . is to make room for growth [and become] mature enough to give ourselves to others.”

Understanding perfection this way helps make sense of the profound story told in Matthew 19, where a man asked Jesus what good he could do to “get eternal life” (v. 16). Jesus responded, “Keep the commandments” (v. 17). The man thought he’d obeyed all of them, yet he knew something was missing. “What do I still lack?” (v. 20) he asked.

That’s when Jesus identified the man’s wealth as the vise-grip stifling his heart. He said that if he wanted “to be perfect”—whole, willing to give and receive from others in God’s kingdom—then he must be willing to let go of what was closing off his heart from others (v. 21).

Each of us has our own version of perfection—possessions or habits we cling to as a futile attempt to be in control. Today, hear Jesus’ gentle invitation to surrender—and find freedom in the wholeness that’s only possible in Him (v. 26).

By:  Monica La Rose

Our Love Life

God’s rules were given for our protection, and there are consequences for breaking them

Matthew 7:7-11

God’s love has no limit, but that doesn’t mean our behavior has no boundaries. While some people may argue that rules are stifling, any good parent knows limits are essential to raising children well (Heb. 12:6-7). And so is continuing to love them when they break the rules. This may bring two questions to mind: 

1. Why does the Lord have so many rules? They’re designed to protect us and bring peace. But God doesn’t force obedience. The Bible neither says nor implies that we have to live up to the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount in order to be loved. (See Ex. 20:1-17; Matt. 5-7.) However, following God’s rules is the path to joy and security. 

2. What happens when I sin? No one is able to sin beyond the reach of God’s redemptive grace. He will always forgive. But grace is not a license to sin. The Lord will allow us to experience the consequences of sin. 

God loves without condition. To show His great care for mankind, He gave solid principles on which people are to build their life. His affection is in no way diminished toward those who ignore biblical rules, but His heart is grieved by their defiance. He delights in believers who seek and follow His will (1 Thess. 4:1).

Lovingkindness and Tender Mercy

“Remember, O LORD, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old.” (Psalm 25:6)

These beautiful words, “tender mercies” and “lovingkindness,” may sound somewhat old-fashioned in today’s sophisticated jargon, but the divine attributes they represent have been “ever of old” and will continue to characterize our tender and merciful, kind and loving God of all grace forever. Dropping them from our conversation (even in most newer translations of the Bible) is a sad loss that, to some degree, has impoverished our speech and, perhaps, our souls.

Note some of the rich scriptural testimonies associated with them: “[The LORD] redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies” (Psalm 103:4). “Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me” (Psalm 40:11). “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1). “Hear me, O LORD; for thy lovingkindness is good; turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies” (Psalm 69:16).

Other than Proverbs 12:10 (“the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel”), all the occurrences of these two terms, either alone or together, are applied by the translators only to the Lord, never to men (the Hebrew words are rendered by other words in the King James when applied to people). This is beautifully appropriate, for our gracious God is uniquely the God of love and mercy. In spite of the fact that none of us deserve His lovingkindness or tender mercy, “the LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm 145:8-9). HMM

Satisfaction

The Lord is my shepherd;

there is nothing I lack (Psalm 23 v. 1).

Perhaps the most creative and artistic person in the Bible, David was a virtuoso harpist, a military genius, a capable administrator, and a cultural innovator. He led a sweeping renaissance of Jewish culture. Perhaps his most enduring literary achievement was to write and/or compile this psalm, the most-loved and well-known of all. It comforts, satisfies, and meets the deepest longings of the human heart.

It starts straightforwardly with the simple words, “The Lord is my shepherd.” “Lord” is emphatic here. It is the Lord who makes our faith distinctive. No other person fits: not Mohammed, not Buddha, not Gandi.“My” personalizes the relationship, revealing intimacy and closeness.

“Shepherd” is the most comprehensive and intimate metaphor in the Psalms. The shepherd lives with his flock and is everything to it—guide, physician, and protector.

The last phrase, “there is nothing I lack,” means that God will fulfill my deepest personal needs and that I will find meaning and true identity in him. In short, I don’t need God plus anything or anyone. All my emotional and psychological longings for significance and security will find fulfillment in the Lord.

Personal Prayer

Thank you, Lord, that you meet all my needs and that you are the key to my wholeness and fulfillment.

Divine Re-parenting

I call on you, God, because You will answer me.—Psalm 17:6

Using the Scriptures, we can build up a picture of God. So set up a canvas in your soul and allow the Holy Spirit to paint a picture for you of the Father using the palette of God’s Word. As you read, let God re-parent you, and a fresh, clear and accurate picture of the Father will be drawn.

The first thing you need to know about your heavenly Father is He is never too busy for you. Were your parents ever too busy for you? Were there occasions when you cried out for them and they were not there? Well, be assured that your heavenly Father is not like that. Even though He has a million and one things calling for His attention and a gigantic universe to run, He pays as much attention to you as if you were the only person on the face of the earth. Such is His relationship with you that it is as if there were not another soul in the universe. You don’t have to share His attention with anyone—except, of course, when you are in prayer or fellowship with others. And even then He relates to you as if you were the only being in existence.

You may be too busy for your heavenly Father, but, take it from me, your heavenly Father is never too busy for you. Look once again at the text at the top of this page. It is written especially for you.

Prayer

O Father, burn this thought deep into my soul—I am Your special child. You relate to me as if I were the only one on the face of the earth. How wonderful. How truly wonderful. Thank You, Father. Amen.

Further Study

2Sm 22:7; Ps 139:11-18; Mt 6:6-8; 1Jn 3:21-22

Why can we pray with confidence?

Now pray confidently!

Adorn the Doctrine

Titus 2:10

Adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:10). To “adorn the doctrine” means that by his daily living the believer will seek to beautify that which is already inherently beautiful.

There are arts which make their own direct appeal to the beholder. The visual arts come under this heading. There are other arts, however, which demand an interpreter. Their beauty cannot be appreciated without one—music, for example. To the musically illiterate, a page of music is a collection of black blobs scattered indiscriminately over rulings of five lines and four spaces, and joined without seeming rhyme or reason to other short upright lines, a jumble of unintelligible markings. If these musical symbols are to live for me as they did in the mind of the composer before he committed them to paper, someone has to bring them to life.

This is the function of the performer. By virtue of his skill he can make the otherwise incomprehensible light up with meaning. When a genuine artist plays the passage in question he recreates it as a thing of beauty and joy. He has adorned the doctrine. By contrast, were I to try to play the same passage you might well tear out your hair and say I was murdering it. We will be agreed that by his capacity or lack of it, a player can enhance or diminish the beauty of a composer’s work.

We have to accept the unwelcome fact that the Christian gospel is to some as meaningless as a page of music to the man who cannot read music. He hasn’t a clue! The Christian faith needs interpreters, and this is where we come in. We can adorn the gospel or disfigure it. By our lifestyle we can make the “doctrine of God our Savior” positively appealing or utterly unlikeable. We can make it or mar it.

The Army Founder, in welcoming the Revised Version of Scripture in 1885, said: “If this revision throws any new light upon the precious volume, I accept it very gratefully. I am interested just now in a further translation. I want to see a new translation of the Bible in the conduct of men and women.”

The character of our witness must be appealingly attractive. Not without reason do the Scriptures speak of “the beauty of holiness.” The beauty of holiness is not a kind of external cosmetic, which is, as the saying goes, only skin deep. But Christian doctrine is adorned by the development of Christ’s own character in the life of the believer.

Frederick Coutts, The Splendor of Holiness