Lucia's Blog
Google Logo
Image Caption goes here.

Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Monday, June 28, 2021

BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL

 

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”  
Matthew 5:7



The Beatitudes described in the Sermon of the Mount are the characteristics of those who belong to Christ’s kingdom. In Matthew 4, Jesus was preaching to the people of His day, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  Afterward, Jesus went through Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, healing all sorts of diseases and afflictions among the people.  When Jesus ascended the mountain, He imitated what Moses did when he received the Law on Mount Sinai.  Jesus was proclaiming the new law, the covenant of the kingdom of heaven.  In Matthew 5:7, Jesus declared, 
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

Mercy is not just a feeling or a sentiment that does nothing.  Mercy compels us to act.  Genuine mercy is shown or expressed in selfless acts of compassion, help, and selfless concern.  Those genuine disciples in God's kingdom are givers of mercy.  Mercy is shown, not merely felt.  In Matthew 23:23, Jesus called mercy one of the weightier matters of the law
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others."

Mercy is not a characteristic of our culture today, nor was it exercised in the first century.  The Roman philosophers of that time called mercy “the disease of the soul.”  It was a sign of absolute weakness.  The Jews also saw it this way.  In Matthew 5:43, Jesus said,
"You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy."'

The saying of that culture was to love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  In that culture, mercy was given or reserved only for those who had been merciful to you. Today, our people are no different from the Roman world of that time when Jesus declared the beatitudes or blessed declarations.   Our culture proclaims the same thing:  “If you don’t look out for yourself, no one else will.” Another slogan in our culture today is: “Don’t get mad, get even.”  Today, our people treat others as little and worthless things, where power is the supreme deity, and financial success is the most important thing in life. Whether they are "believers" or not, our people even say, “Show no mercy.”  To the minds of the Roman world of the first century and even to our minds today, mercy is expressed as weakness.  The truth is, mercy shows strength, not weakness.


I.   GOD DEMANDS THAT WE LOVE MERCY
  • Understanding Mercy:
In Matthew 5:7, Jesus said,
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”

Here, the word “mercy” is used to imply compassion, pity, and favor toward the suffering and needy (Matt. 9:27; 15:22; 17:15; 18:33; 20:30).  We have this portrayed in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10).  And though no priest or Levite offered assistance to the man who fell among robbers and was badly beaten, a Samaritan did come to his aid.  The Samaritan took him to an inn and paid for his care.  Thus Jesus asked, “Which of these three, do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (Luke 10:36).  Then the lawyer responded, “The one who showed him mercy.”  (Luke 10:37)  Here mercy is showing compassion, pity, and favor.  Therefore, mercy is not just a feeling, emotion, or sentiment that does nothing.  Mercy is action.  Mercy is genuine compassion that one expresses from the heart. It is selfless concern and action.  Those who are in God's kingdom must be givers of mercy.  Mercy must be shown and not just felt.  In Matthew 23:23, Jesus calls mercy one of the weightier matters of the Law.

Mercy is not a characteristic of our culture today, nor was it exercised in the first century.  The philosophers of that time called mercy “the disease of the soul.”  It was a sign of absolute weakness.  The Jews also saw it this way.  That is why Jesus told them in Matt. 5:43-48,
“Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy: 44 but I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; 45 that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. 46 For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the Gentiles the same? 48 Ye, therefore, shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

We can clearly see that mercy was given to those who had been merciful to them in these cultures.  Our society and culture today are no different from the Roman world of Jesus' day.  Today, our people say the same things:  “If you don't look out for yourself, no one else will.”  “Don't get mad.  Get even.”  People still behave the same way, treating others like mere objects or impediments to the power or financial success and status that have become the supreme deity in their lives. How sad!  Today when one shows mercy, he is considered weak.

Merciful means being kind and compassionate instead of being overly critical.  God is the source of all mercy, and He loves to be merciful to His children, not wanting anyone to perish.  To love mercy means to be forgiving toward others; steadfastly committed to mercy.  Even the selfish wish to receive mercy!  He who loves mercy is thankful for the mercy that God has extended to him.  The merciful one wants to give mercy to others, for he knows that God is merciful and gracious to him and that He demands that we also be merciful.

When we show mercy to others, we are demonstrating our covenant love for one another.  Loving mercy means being faithful to everyone and reaching out in love to those in need who are suffering.  The mindset of mercy impacts all areas of life.  The very heart of the Law of Moses was to love their neighbors as themselves.  It is still required of us under the Law of Christ, for He showed mercy to us when He died and offered His life as a sacrifice that we might be accepted by His Father.

The Word of God is crystal clear about our need to be merciful (Prov. 11:17; Micah 6:8; Matt. 5:7; Luke 6:36; Colossians 3:12-13 and James 2:8-13).  Our Lord is full of pity and tender mercy (James 5:11).  He has left us the highest example of mercy to follow.  May we always examine our hearts to see if we are acting in full pity and tender mercy even as our Father in heaven.

You see, God's mercy is a vital component of our salvation (Luke 1:76-79, 1 Peter 1:3; Jude 1:21).  Why?  Because without God's mercy toward us who were once sinners (and you know that we all have sinned in our lives), we would have perished because of our sins.  But God's mercy is conditional because if we transgress against His will and do not repent and ask His forgiveness, we will not receive His mercy.  Hebrews 10:26-31 expresses this sentiment well.
“For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries. 28 A man that hath set at nought Moses’ law dieth without compassion on the word of two or three witnesses: 29 of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be judged worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

To be merciful does not imply indulging others in their sins or overlooking the sins of others when they continue in sin, for they will not receive the mercy of God.
"What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"  (Romans 6:1-2).  

  • The Mercy of God:
We see our Lord Jesus showing mercy on many occasions.  He was moved with pity and compassion when He looked on people (Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32).  Our Lord showed compassion and love for the lost souls of men.  He showed compassion toward a sinful woman caught in adultery.  We must imitate His attitude of heart and concern for the needs of others.  The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ time failed to show mercy and compassion.  They hated Jesus for showing mercy, looking for opportunities to kill Him.  They succeeded when they nailed Him to the cross.  Even while Jesus was hanging on the cross, with nails driven through His outstretched hands, Jesus still showed mercy  when He said,
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)   

We can see an obvious contrast between mercy and forgiveness.  Our Lord's mercy is the basis of His forgiveness.
“But according to his mercy he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 which he poured out upon us richly, through Jesus Christ our Savior.”  (Titus 3:5-6)

Mercy was fundamental to extending God's forgiveness because His forgiveness flows from His bountiful mercy.  
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:4-6)

Here in Ephesians, it is easy to see the distinction between mercy and forgiveness. While Jesus was on the cross, we see His mercy as He offered the opportunity of forgiveness to them. Because of God's bountiful mercy and steadfast love, He saved us by Grace and made us alive together with Christ.

God is the Father of mercy (2 Cor. 1:3).  Hence, His children must be full of mercy as God is (James 3:17).  They must love mercy and delight in giving it (Rom. 12:8).  Mercy is a trait that defines God (2 Samuel 24:14; Daniel 9:9; Exodus 34:68; 2 Chr. 30:9).  Mercy must also be a trait that defines Christians (Luke 6:36; Matt. 5:48; James 5:11).  Thus our new temple must have a “mercy seat” in its very own heart (Matt. 5:48; Hebrews 8:10; Eph. 6:6).  And though mercy is a “weighty” matter, it is possible to downgrade it to a “minor” matter (Matt. 23:23).  It is “weighty” because mercy is a part of the very character of God.  Mercy makes one slower to anger and ready to pardon (Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 103:8).  Kindness is mercy (Psalm 117:2).

We must be merciful because this is the very character of God. Jesus declared, 
“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful”  (Luke 6:36). 

The mercy of God must renew our minds and hearts every Sunday as we partake of the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper reminds us of the mercy of God.  God’s mercy is the basis of our forgiveness. Our lack of forgiveness and our unwillingness to forgive others result from our lack of mercy toward others.  Mercy compels us to forgive others.  When we fail to forgive others, we are not merciful.  Those who are not merciful are not in the kingdom of heaven and thus cannot be children of God.  

  • Mercy Is A Challenge:
To develop mercy in our character is a challenge.  Why?  Because to show mercy, we must make ourselves vulnerable. People will hurt us when we extend ourselves to help them without reciprocation or thanks. We usually receive nothing in return when we give ourselves to those who need us.  Compassion and pity are not often praised in our world, even though it is the very heart of God that we show to them.  Mercy is no longer mercy if it is deserved. Mercy is undeserved compassion.  We must show mercy to those who do not deserve our mercy. We must have the character of God, for He extends mercy to all. God wants us to show mercy to those who sin against us. The merciful expend themselves to help others.

Often, people misunderstand mercy. Why?  Because they believe that mercy is to ignore or overlook sin completely.  Although God is merciful toward us, it does not mean that He will overlook our sins. Mercy recognizes the reality of sin and wrongdoing.  Jesus did not show mercy, pretending that people were not sinning. Jesus did not show mercy without convicting people of their sins. Jesus was merciful by identifying their sins and giving them hope for forgiveness.  Mercy points out and recognizes sin and shows the way to reconciliation with God. Mercy does good to others even in the face of opposition or evil.

Stop for a moment and think about what Jesus taught in Matthew.

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” 


This is a serious declaration that must impact us.  God wants His children to give their hearts to Him and others.  God does not want heartless pew sitters! He wants His children to help and heal.  God commands His children to speak kind words and show mercy to others.  Unkind words don't show mercy. They hurt people and leave them bitter.  Being merciful to others is the test that shows God's mercy to us.  Mercy acts upon opportunities to be merciful givers, like the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. Why not ponder Micah's words spoken to God's people?  
"And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy [kindness; ESV] and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8 NIV)

Being merciful does not imply that one is flippant about the Truth or stops doing what pleases God.  It is not an open door to do what we want and like (1 Thess. 2:4).  Mercy must not be misunderstood, for it does not mean that sin is ignored.  And though our God is merciful toward us, that does not mean that He will ignore our sins, for mercy acknowledges the reality of sin and wrongdoing.  Jesus never showed mercy by pretending that people were not sinning. Rather He convicted them of their sins.  He was merciful when He pointed out their sins and gave them hope of forgiveness through His own blood.  God's mercy points out our sins and then shows us the way of reconciliation with God.  Mercy does good to others even in the face of opposition, lawlessness, or wickedness.  Mercy means being patient and longsuffering toward those who cannot see things as clearly as we do (Romans 14) rather than debating with unkind words.

Indeed, mercy is a difficult challengebut we must develop it in our character.  Mercy makes one's self vulnerable.  It allows us to be hurt.  It extends self to help others without expecting anything in return.  Mercy praises the very heart of God and is not earned.  Mercy is no longer mercy if it is deserved, for it is compassion that is undeserved.  The merciful in heart show compassion even when the other person does not deserve it.  We must extend mercy to show the character of God in our lives.  We must show mercy even when others sin against us.  We must expend ourselves to help others and show mercy to them.  God wants His children to be merciful to others, for He will only show mercy to the merciful.

“For judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy: mercy glorieth against judgment.”  (James 2:13).


  1. How many times do we fail to show mercy to others when we think they should have never put themselves in the mess they're in?   
  2. How many times do we say that they're getting what they deserve?  But how terrible it is for us to demand mercy from others when we fail to give or show mercy to them just because we think they don't deserve it!  
  3. Do we expect God to be merciful toward us and give us what we deserve?  
  4. Do we expect to get what we deserve for how we have treated God?  
  5. Are you not aware that God's mercy must compel us to be gracious, kind, compassionate, and merciful toward others?  
  6. Why not allow God's mercy to transform your heart, that you might be more merciful toward others?  

Think about this!


CONCLUSION:

"They Shall Receive Mercy"


The sinner’s plea to God is found in the words, 
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). 

God only shows mercy to the merciful. 
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” 

Listen to the dreadful words of James:
"For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment." (James 2:13)

Aren't these words terrifying to hear?! Judgment will be without mercy to those who showed no mercy. We often hear the saying: "That person is getting what they deserve." But do we want that to happen to us? Do we want to receive what we deserve for how we have treated others?  And though we have made many mistakes and shortcomings, do we want to get what we deserve?  What do you think?   For that reason, we must start learning to be merciful to others with their flaws and mistakes.  

You know others have been merciful toward us with our many flaws and shortcomings. Yet how often do we refuse to help others, refusing to be merciful because we think they should not have put themselves in their mess in the first place?! So we shout, they are only getting what they deserve. It is outrageous for us to demand that others be merciful toward us when we do not extend the same kindness to them!  Additionally, we demand that God be merciful toward us, not give us what we really deserve. Do we want to get what we deserve for how we have treated God?

Mercy toward others begins when we acknowledge our own desperate need for mercy from others, especially from God. Mercy shows compassion to the helpless (Luke 10:37) and extends forgiveness even to those who repeatedly offend us (Matthew 18:21-22).  Mercy does not depend on the qualities of the offender. God showed mercy to us through the cross (Romans 5:8).
“And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”  (Matthew 18:33)

God’s mercy must compel us to be gracious, kind, compassionate, and merciful toward others.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."


Oh, how we need this! 

May God’s mercy transform our hearts into merciful givers to others.  May we always examine our hearts to see if we are acting in full pity and tender mercy even as our Father in heaven. May we learn to be merciful to others without regard to their worthiness, expecting nothing in return, so that our gracious Father in heaven may be merciful to us.


Luci


Saturday, June 26, 2021

I NEED THEE EVERY HOUR

"Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy." 
Psalm 86:1


The song "I Need Thee Every Hour" is a  beautiful song that expresses the need for our Lord and the peace He brings to those who sincerely trust in Him, a peace that passes all understanding (Phil. 4:4-7). Our Lord graciously speaks to us with a tender voice that we may hear Him and live (John 5:25). 
"Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."

We need our gracious Lord in times of temptation and trials.  He has promised that He will stand by us to help us and provide for our spiritual needs. 
"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' 6 So we can confidently say,  'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'"  (Heb. 13:5-6)
"Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it"  (1 Cor. 10:12-13). 

But we must draw near to Him with a sincere heart and the full assurance of faith that He will do what He has promised.
"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water"  (Heb. 10:22).
"Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded"  (Jas. 4:8). 

Since life is filled with joy and pain (Phil. 4:11-12), we need the Lord to abide with us.
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing"  (John 15:4-5). 

Life is vain when the Lord does not abide with us (in faith and hope).
"Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope[a] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied"  (1 Cor. 15:12-19). 

Moreover, we need the Lord to teach us to know and do His will.
"If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority"  (John 7:17).

God wants us to do His will always. By striving to do His will, we can rest assured that He will keep exceedingly His precious promises to us.
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ"  (Phil. 1:6).
"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire"  (2 Peter 1:3-4). 

We need the Lord to fully belong to Him and be made His since He is the most Holy One.
"What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God"  (Mk. 1:24).
"But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you" (Acts 3:14).
"So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's"  (1 Cor. 3:21-23). 

And since His beloved Son gives us life and we are His, we have the hope of eternal life.
"And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son" (1 John 5:11). 

CONCLUSION:

The song "I Need Thee Every Hour" is a prayer to me that reminds me that I can talk to my God during my trying and difficult times of tribulation and grief as well as the times of happiness and peace. 

Therefore, my humble heart bows down to tell Him over and over, "I Need Thee Every Hour."

I need Thee every hour, 
Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine 
Can peace afford.

I need Thee every hour, 
Stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power 
When Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, 
In joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, 
Or life is in vain.

I need Thee every hour; 
Teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.

I need Thee every hour, 
Most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, 
Thou bless├Ęd Son.

Chorus,

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
 Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior, 
I come to Thee.



Luci



Tuesday, June 22, 2021

MY FAITH LOOKS UP TO THEE

 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  
Hebrews 12:1-2



Our afflictions in life have a way of leaving us weak and injured, not only in body but also in spirit. Our faith compels us to look up to God for strength and guidance when our hearts are fainting.  Our lives are indeed uncertain, like a “dark maze.”   Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).  Faith is “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).  

Hebrews 11 helps us grasp what faith looks like, for faith is certain in the unseen things.  Faith helps us to have the assurance that God exists and rewards those who diligently seek Him.  In chapter 11 of Hebrews, we are given a long list of heroes with that kind of faithTheir faith helped them to endure great tragedy, massive trials, and the loss of everything.  Their amazing faith helped their eyes and hearts to be focused on heaven and not the things of this world.  The faith that looks up to Jesus walks by faith and not by sight.  Since we have these heroes of faith, we are compelled to live our lives with the same faith approved by God.  Their faithfulness encourages us to run the race and finish well.  


I.   THE NEED FOR FAITH:

  • Looking to Jesus, The Founder And Perfecter of Our Faith:

In Hebrews 10, the writer concludes this chapter by reminding us that the righteous must live by faith, not by sight.  He urges us to have that faith that endures until the end and saves our souls.  Why?  Because those who give up and shrink back are destroyed. Indeed, he describes those who live by faith. When we consider the detailed description of faith in Hebrews 11, it is easy to see the many misconceptions of faith that exist today.  Why?  

    1. Because many think of faith as having any sort of spirituality. 
    2. People speak of having many faiths (Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc.). 
    3. Others speak of faith as believing that something good will happen to them (the popular teachings of Joel Osteen). 
    4. Some think of faith as something blind, taking a blind leap against known facts. 

The truth is that none of these descriptions are Biblical faith.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)


Consider a few translations that help us understand what the writer of Hebrews teaches us about faith.  

"Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (NIV/TNIV)

"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (NLT)

"To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see." (GNB)


The NLT seems to apply the text well.  The GNB does an excellent job of simplifying the concept and maintaining an accurate message.
    1. Faith is the basis of our whole Christian life. 
    2. Faith is the basis of our hope.  
    3. Faith is an expression of our confidence in what God has revealed.  
    4. Faith looks upward and above toward things unseen away from the things of this world.  

Our song, “My Faith Looks Up To Thee” reminds us and encourages us to keep or fix our eyes on the unseen reward, "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith... " (Heb. 12:2).  It encourages us to look up to Him in faith because He is the Lamb of Calvary who was offered as a sacrifice to take away our sins (1 Pet. 1:18-21; 1 John 1:18-21).  
    1. Our faith also looks forward to Christ’s coming (Hebrews 10:38). 
    2. Faith is trusting that God’s unseen promises will actually happen.  
    3. Our faith will lead us to be approved by God as we put our trust or confidence in Him alone.  
    4. The heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 trusted God despite their trials and hardship.  
      1. They triumphed because of their faith, their trust in God.  
      2. They clung tightly to God’s promises as they relied on God’s Word and remained faithful.

That picture of faith is portrayed in Hebrews 11:3 as a powerful example. 

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”  (Hebrews 11:3)


The universe and everything created came into existence by things that cannot be seen. God commanded the universe into existence by His words that cannot be seen.  Yet those unseen words brought into existence the visible worlds. Our visible world was created by an invisible God who spoke an invisible command.

“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)


Hebrews 11:6 is key to our teaching about faith.  
    1. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.  
    2. Without faith:  relying on His promises, depending on His Word, and faithfulness toward God, it will be impossible to make it to heaven.  
    3. Without faith, our eyes will compel us to focus on the things of this world.
    4. Without faith, we will definitely shrink back and give up. 
    5. Without faith, we will not make it to heaven.  
    6. Without faith (complete reliance on God), life’s difficult circumstances will cause us to shrink back and give up.  
    7. Faith is the certainty that God exists and cares.   
    8. Faith in God is not just mental affirmation or acceptance.  
    9. Faith is being certain of things we cannot see.  
    10.  Faith believes in the God we cannot see.  
    11. Faith believes in God’s words and promises.
    12. Faith believes that God rewards those who sincerely seek Him. 

We must have this kind of faith to be found pleasing to God.  Without this kind of faith, we will shrink back and lose our reward.   These things are tied to our endurance (Hebrews 10:36).  


II.   RUNNING THE RACE WITH ENDURANCE:
"Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised."  (Hebrews 10:35-36)
 
In Hebrews 10:36, the writer pointed out our need for endurance. We have a race set before our eyes that demands endurance.  We have already read in Hebrews 11 of the heroes of faith who ran the race set before them with endurance. Do you suppose Abraham did not need endurance? Indeed, he did.  Like him and all the other heroes of faith, we must have endurance to finish our race well.  So how can we finish our race, exercising athletic discipline?   Consider the writer’s answer in Hebrews 12:2

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

The answer is to look to Jesus. We must fix our eyes on Jesus only. He must be our focus in this life and nothing else.  

“No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:13)


We get what we focus on.  Sadly, we are often distracted by this world, taking our attention away from Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. We must determine to look to Jesus, fix our eyes on Him, not on sin and earthly things!  Jesus must be our focus in life and nothing else.  Our eyes must be fixed on the promised reward, not on earth.  Jesus focused on the joy set before Him.  He did not focus on the physical but on the goal.  Are your eyes focused on Jesus, or are they focused on the things of this world? Is your focus heaven or hell? Remember, we will get what we focus on.  We must focus our minds on what Jesus did and how He endured.  

  • What Jesus Did:

Jesus is the pioneer, the perfecter of our faith. Hebrews 2:10 describes that language for us.

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”


Jesus is our trailblazer, for He has blazed the trail ahead of us, beckoning us to follow.  His way is not an unknown road. Jesus shows us the way.  Jesus has shown us the road we must walk to bring our faith to completion.

  • How Jesus Endured:

How did Jesus do it? 

He did it in the same way that the heroes of the faith did it in Hebrews 11. Their eyes were fixed on the promised reward, not on earth. Jesus focused on the joy set before Him. He did not focus on the physical but on the goal. He looked to the purpose He came to accomplish on earth.  Jesus endured the cross and its shame because of the joy set before Him.  He could look beyond the cross because He did not focus on its weight and shame.  He saw the joy of salvation as a result of His act.  He could see the joy of salvation offered by His act. Jesus did not focus on the temporary suffering of the cross, the mocking, and the shame of the cross. The suffering, mocking, and shame meant nothing to Him because His joy was greater than the shame.  As Jesus endured till the end, so must we endure even amid our suffering and pain.  When we fix our eyes on Jesus and the joy set before us, we endure the sufferings and trials.  Joy is the result of our endurance.  Hope helps us to endure and have joy amid our sufferings and trials.  

Jesus looked beyond the cross because He knew that God keeps His promises and would surely exalt Him to the right hand of the throne of glory. Jesus’ faith enabled Him to accomplish His goal.  Because He believed, He received His reward, and God was able to keep His promises. The same thing is true for us. When we look to Jesus in faith, we see through our suffering and know that God keeps His promises, promises of a better country, and a great reward.

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”  (Hebrews 11:13-16)


Hebrews 11:13-16 is key to our faith.  Notice that all those heroes died in faith, not receiving the things promised.  They acknowledged they were strangers and exiles on earth. Faith compels us to focus on God’s heavenly things, not on the things of this world. Faith compels us to serve God without focusing on what we will receive right now. To serve God in such a way is idolatryIt is not faith! Faith is believing in the unseen, not what can be seen right now.  
    1. The heroes of faith saw their promises from afar. 
    2. They saw their promises because they believed in the unseen without receiving the promises. 
    3. They were so confident of God’s promises and reward that they could see the unseen.
    4.  Though they did not receive the promises, they were so confident in their faith that they could see what they were going to receive.

Indeed, this world was not their home. They were seeking a better home (Hebrews 11:14).  They were traveling through life to go to a better country (Hebrews 11:16).  
    1. When our focus is on this world, we will go back to it.  
    2. When our main focus is this earthly life, we will shrink back and cling to the things of this world.  
    3. When our hearts are on earth, we want to stay here.  
    4. When this world’s physical and material things are more important to us than the better country that God has promised, heaven will not be our home.

The heroes of faith desired a better country. True faith desires more than what the eyes can see.  And though God made everything that our eyes can see, we must walk by faith, faith in the unseen.  There is something better and greater, our heavenly country.  So let us not trade in our heavenly country for the temporary, fleeting pleasures of this world that our eyes can see.

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”  (Hebrews 11:16)


The words in verse 16 are encouraging words. God is not ashamed to be called our God. God is willing to accept us as His people.  What a glorious picture! The writer of Hebrews reminds us of what is awaiting us.  God has already prepared a city for us. Notice that this statement is in the past tense. The reward is already waiting for us! Since our reward is certain, we must desire the better city, not the temporary pleasures of this world.  

Moses chose to share the oppression of God’s people rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin

“He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.” (Hebrews 11:25-26)


Moses traded the temporary pleasures, looking forward to the great eternal reward.

“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40)


In Hebrews 11:13-16, the writer stresses that what we receive now must not be as important to us as what God has promised for us later. Knowing this, 
    1. Let us not give up true faith. 
    2. Let us trust in God completely to receive His promises.  
    3. Let us not throw away our confidence, which has a great reward. 
    4. Let us endure and finish our race well.  
    5. Let us strengthen our faith and grow stronger in the Lord, enduring life’s difficulties and gaining victory.  
    6. Let us keep doing the will of God even amid our times of suffering.  

Remember that if we endure faithfully until the end, we will receive the promised reward.  Oh, what a glorious day that will be! 

The writer quotes together Isaiah 26:20 and Habakkuk 2:3-4. The righteous live by faith. When we live by faith, we do not put our trust and confidence in the things of this world:  the physical, material things. When our faith looks up to Jesus, we will never give up even when we suffer tragedy and loss.  We will never shrink back and give up because we know we will be destroyed. God has no pleasure in those who give up.  Thus, let us not lose heart and lose our faith, for we must preserve ourselves through faith.  Let us not turn away from God, listening to Satan’s lies. Life in God is better than possessions, fleshly desires, and power. Jesus did not use His power of divinity to obtain these things. His fulfillment in life was the kingdom of God. True satisfaction comes from God, not from physical, temporary things.


CONCLUSION:

Let us not grow weary but instead let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the leader of faith, to endure and finish the race set before us.  Stop and think for a minute about what Jesus suffered and endured.  We must follow Jesus and the example of the cloud of witnesses that walked the path of faith before us.  They were able to endure because they laid aside every weight that slowed them down from righteousness.  They got rid of everything, every sin, to endure and not grow weary or fainthearted (Hebrews 12:3).  

Our suffering has not been to the degree that Jesus suffered. Let us not forget this!  Jesus suffered all the way to the point of death, and so did many of the heroes of faith recorded in Hebrews 11. We must not feel sorry for ourselves when suffering.  Nor should we grow weary and give up. Instead, we must consider the life of Jesus and the cloud of witnesses.  It is easy to be discouraged, throw in the towel, and give up!  But we must acknowledge that we are fighting a big enemy, Satan, and are engaged in a war against sin.  We must remember that our battle is not even close to what Jesus had to endure for us.  

We, children of God, are not excluded from suffering and hardship.  We are not promised a smooth life filled with rainbows and sunsets.  Remember the exhortation given in Proverbs 3:11-12.  

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 


Let us not take the Lord’s teaching lightly. God never promised an easy life. Hardship in life must be looked at as God’s method of training and discipline. Parents love their children by correcting and disciplining them.  God trains and disciplines us into shape because He is our Father, and we are His children.   God allows bad things, hard things, and difficult things to happen to us to teach us, reprove us, discipline us, and whip us into shape. Yes, God spanks us!  What kind of Father would God be if He gave us an easy life?  Stop and think about this!  Every child needs correcting and hardship to learn. We learn from pain and change because of hardshipsWe need correction and hardships to be shaped into the image of God.

Difficult times bring about the fruit of righteousness in our lives. And though life is difficult and full of pain, we must not give up and quit!  Instead, we must look to Jesus in faith and allow Him to teach us God’s lessons.  Hardship is good for us, for it helps us change and bear fruit to the glory of GodThus, let us be strong, get a grip, pull ourselves together, and stop whining.  Let us lay aside everything except our faith and endurance!  Let us allow God to heal us when we feel like we are falling apart under the weight of suffering.  

In Hebrews 11:6,  we are told that  “it is impossible to please God without faith.”  Without faith, we won’t make it when life falls apart in difficult times. Without God’s correction, reproof, discipline, and whipping, we are not going to see the Lord and receive the reward that is awaiting us.  Yes, life is full of suffering, hardship, and difficulties! But are we going to throw away our eternal inheritance with the Lord just because we are suffering and life is hard?  Do we prefer to be rejected by God and not receive the blessing He has promised us just because we find it difficult to endure our suffering? We have not suffered to the point of shedding blood like Jesus! So let us be strong and look through the suffering, fixing our eyes on Jesus and our eternal reward!  Let Jesus be our main focus and never trade away God’s blessings and His reward for a  few crumbs of this physical world.

Our beloved song, “My Faith Looks Up To Thee,” reminds us that we must look up to Jesus in faith because He is our Mediator who has promised to hear our prayers to the Father (1 Tim. 2:5).  We must look up to Him in faith because He has promised to give us strength, for His grace is sufficient to help us endure our trials and tribulations.  He is the supreme embodiment of God’s Grace.  When we put our faith in Jesus, His grace will help us bear our heavy burdens (2 Cor. 8:9; 12:7-9).  

Our Lord and Savior bids darkness turn to day and wipes our tears and sorrows away through God’s Grace (2 Eph. 2:13-14, 17-18).  Jesus has promised to be with us amid our sorrows and trials.  He urges us not to be afraid, for He has promised to remove our fears and anxieties if we put our faith in Him.  Thus, we must put our faith completely in Jesus and trust Him to help us, through His Grace, endure, run our race, and finish well, whatever life throws at us. Let this be our motivator when life is hard and full of tears!  

Even in death, Jesus has promised to be with us.  Jesus removes our fear and distrust.  As a result of this, those who die in the Lord will have rest (Rev. 14:13).  Thus we must put our faith completely in Jesus, as did the centurion of Matthew 8:5-11. We have the hope that at life’s end, we may sit down with the saints of all ages in the kingdom of heaven.

“When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.’ 7 And he said to him, 'I will come and heal him.' 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.’ 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”’  (Matthew 8:5-11)


Therefore, let us walk this life of trouble, suffering, and hardship, always looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.  Let us turn our hearts to Him and say, "My Faith Looks Up To Thee."

May our faith look up to Jesus, our Lamb of Calvary and Savior divine, to find strength amid our suffering and hardship.  May He be our guide when life’s dark maze we tread and griefs around us spread.  May our faith look to Jesus to bid darkness turn to day and wipe sorrows’ tears away.   May we never grow weary but instead fix our eyes on Jesus, the leader of faith, to endure and finish well the race set before us and receive the reward that awaits us.

I hope the words of this lovely song compel you to look to Jesus in faith amid life’s trials and tribulations.

My faith looks up to Thee, 
Thou Lamb of Calvary, 
Savior divine!
Now hear me while I pray, 
Take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day 
Be wholly Thine!

 May Thy rich grace impart 
Strength to my fainting heart, 
My zeal inspire!
As Thou hast died for me, 
O may my love to Thee
Pure, warm, and changeless be, 
A living fire!

While life’s dark maze I tread, 
And griefs around me spread, 
Be Thou my guide;
Bid darkness turn to day, 
Wipe sorrow’s tears away,
Nor let me ever stray 
From Thee aside.

When ends life's transient dream
When death's cold, sullen stream
Shall o'er me roll
Blest Savior, then in love
Fear and distrust remove
O bear me safe above
A ransomed soul!


Luci

Monday, June 14, 2021

MY FOURTH BOOK: WALKING THE NARROW WAY

 




Dear Friends,

I am pleased to announce the completion of my 4th book, "Walking The Narrow Way."  I have a link that will take you to the publisher's page, Gospel Armory, where you can order the book at a pre-published discount price.  I am very happy that this book will be available to the public.  I hope that it will bear much fruit for the Lord.  To Him be the glory!



Luci


Friday, May 21, 2021

CHRIST LIVETH IN ME

 
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me." 
Galatians 2:20



Our lovely song "Christ Liveth In Me" reminds us of our walk with Christ. A walk that must be walked by faith so that Christ may live in us. When we are crucified with Christ and allow Him to live in us, there is great joy. We have light when Christ lives in us. 

Our sins separate us from God and make us distant from Him. We were once far from God and dead in our trespasses and sins. When we were disobedient to God and living in darkness, our hearts did not have the light of God.
 "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. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth."  (1 Jn. 1:5-6)  

Because of our disobedience, we were children of wrath. 

As a result, we were separated from Christ and the Father and without hope. But Christ's blood drew us closer to God and reconciled us back to Him.
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.  Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."  (Eph. 2:1-3, 11-13)


However, when we come to Christ and surrender to Him, we find the light we need through God's Word.
"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (Psalm 119:105)

When Christ lives in us, we have life and love, for it comes from Him. 

God made the sun to give us light during the day (Genesis 1:14-18). God has provided light to help the flowers and the grass to grow (Matt. 6:28-30). Because of Christ, God gives us life and love, for Christ is the Light of the world.
"Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12)

We have the Spirit of Christ when we crucify our flesh and allow Him to live in us. 

His Spirit dwells in us through His revealed Word.
"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit." (Ephesians 5:18)

"By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit."  (1 John 4:13)

In the seed lives that power which produces a new flower, plants, or trees after its own kind.
"And God said, 'Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.' And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.'" (Genesis 1:11-12)
"You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body."  (1 Cor. 15:36-38)

"His Son dwelleth in me."  

When Christ dwells in us by faith, ruling our hearts, we are filled with all the fullness of God and His glory.
"So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."  (Eph. 3:17-19)

For Christ to dwell in us, we must long to be transformed and shaped into His image, for this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." (2 Cor. 3:18)

Therefore, we must dwell on this wondrous thought as one of those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, worthy of praise, and excellent.
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  (Phil. 4:8)

Christ lives in those who are His faithful children. 

Christ lives in us when we surrender to His will with complete obedience. Christ will lead our souls into all righteousness and salvation when He lives in us and rules our hearts. Therefore, I will rejoice because  "Christ liveth in me."

I hope this beautiful hymn may stir your soul the way it stirred mine.

Once far from God and dead in sin, No light my heart could see, 
But in God’s word the light I found–Now Christ liveth in me.

As rays of light from yonder sun, The flowers of earth set free,
So life and light and love came forth From Christ living in me.

As lives the flower within the seed, As in the cone the tree,
So, praise the God of truth and grace, His Spirit dwelleth in me.

With longing all my heart is filled That like Him I may be,
As on the wondrous thought I dwell, That Christ liveth in me.

The chorus,

Christ liveth in me, Christ liveth in me;
O what a salvation this–That Christ liveth in me.





Luci