The church had just gone through the persecution at the hands of Nero. John, the only surviving apostle, continued his ministry to a small group of Christians near Ephesus. They were distraught and disillusioned about their faith, not sure if what they believed was the cure for their woes or the cause of their persecution.
It was in that setting that John said, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life." (I John 5:13)
I am constantly amazed at the spiritual depth of my wife, Sherry. Her testimony is rich with examples of God’s ability and her trust in Him to come through for her. Sometimes I am almost jealous of her…well, not really. I am proud that she walks so closely with our Lord. But after all, I am the one with the seminary education, and the Bible scholar who has studied Greek and Hebrew! Yet the things she comes up with are astounding, learned not from a college or school, but from the feet of her Master.
I will say, “Honey, how do you know that?” And her response is often, “I just know in my know-er!”
There are times when we just need to know! This timeless verse from the pages of I John speaks an indelible word of truth for today as well as it did in the first century. No one is able to snatch us from the hand of God. Our salvation is secure in the one who gave His life for us. How do I know that? I just know it in my KNOW-ER!
When watching CNN recently, I heard Senator Barack Obama discuss his new book – “The Audacity of Hope.” He mentioned it was the title of a sermon given by his Pastor many years before. I was intrigued by the title and listened intently to his definition. [The definition of audacity is -- boldness or daring: daring or willingness to challenge assumptions or conventions or tackle something difficult or dangerous]
It also got me to thinking about the state of our world today – the conflicts in several countries, the threat of nuclear proliferation, the civil unrest, and the terror threats here and abroad. It’s hard to watch and digest the news – be it national or local.
My stomach churns when I witness the strife within my own community – the rising crime rate, the number of children without health insurance, the number of homeless persons, the leftover remnants of the fall of Enron; so many things to make one bitter and cynical.
Despite the evil in the world and what we “see,” we have to hold on to hope – for those things unseen. Despite the way people have lost sight of the miracles and blessings, we must hold out hope for God’s promise - Romans 8:23-25 (Contemporary English Version)
"The Spirit makes us sure about what we will be in the future. But now we groan silently, while we wait for God to show that we are his children. This means that our bodies will also be set free. And this hope is what saves us. But if we already have what we hope for, there is no need to keep on hoping. However, we hope for something we have not yet seen, and we patiently wait for it."
GospeLines Prayer:Father, whether it’s our personal relationships or our working relationships or our communities or any part of Your kingdom – help us keep hope alive. Help us to recognize and acknowledge Your daily miracles.
We often become numb when witnessing the devil’s handiwork. May we be reminded that whenever any one of Your children suffer, we all do.
Horatio G. Spafford was a Christian man who overcame bitter sorrow. He lost his only son to pneumonia at age four, and most of his earthly possessions were destroyed in the great Chicago fire. Overwhelmed with grief his doctor recommended in November 1873 that the family go to England for a spiritual and mental renewal. The day before the voyage he was detained by personal business, so he sent his wife and four daughters ahead, and he was to follow a few days later.
On November 22, their ship was struck by an English ship, and twelve minutes later it sank. Mrs. Spafford survived but her daughters were lost. When she reached Cardiff, Wales, Mrs. Spafford cabled her husband “Saved alone.” Shortly afterward, Spafford sailed for England to be with his wife. He told the ship’s Captain to let him know when they were at the place where his daughters drowned. On the high seas, near the place of the tragedy, he wrote these words.
“It Is Well With My Soul”
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’
Chorus: It is well, It is well.
It is well, it is well with my soul!
Tho’ satan should buffet, tho’ trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded, my helpless estate,
And has shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin (Oh the bliss of this glorious thought)
My sin, not in part, but the whole.
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And, Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds rolled back like a scroll,
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend,
“Even so”-it is well with my soul.
GospeLines Prayer:Heavenly Father, I cry out to you with heaviness; the burdens are greater than I can bear alone. My faltering faith has brought a dark cloud of doubt upon my soul. It covers the light of your existence; my personal despair brings gloom instead of sunshine. I beg you, Lord, to awaken within me a fresh anointing of your joy. Let the songs of your angels ring once again in my heart, so that I may feel your presence once more. If you cannot remove this thorn which inflicts me, at the end of the day, give me a measure of hope so that I may still say “It is well with my soul.” Praise the Lord, praise the Lord! Amen and amen.
"Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
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,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers."
~ King David's Psalm, 1:1-3
"But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit."
~ Written by the Prophet Jeremiah, 17:7-8
Jeremiah was born almost 400 years after King David's death, but, both compared the righteous man to a tree. Over 600 years later, Jesus compared the Kingdom of heaven to a tree when He said, "It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches." (Luke 13:18-19)
Jesus also compared Christian teachers or prophets to a tree. He said, "By their fruit you will recognize them... Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." (Matthew 7:16-20) "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit." (Mathew 12:33)
Who can make a tree "good"?
Trees can be wild or they can be cultivated. Wild trees grow and produce fruit at the whim of the environment. Cultivated trees are watered, fertilized, pruned and cared for so that their fruit is plentiful and nourishing.
The fruit of the tree is not for the tree, but for the one who is nourished by that fruit; and, the fruit attests to the skill (and the love) of the gardener. The tree provides rest and homes for the birds of the air and shade for passing strangers; but, the tree itself needs no shade or home.
The tree has no cares about the pollution in the air or the water nor does the tree worry and fret over insects, cold, heat or anything else of the world. Those tribulations will come and they will go; but, the quality of the fruit of the tree will be determined by the gardener's ability to overcome those things of the world.
Who can make a tree "good"…? The Gardener.
Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
Who is your gardener? If it's not Jesus, ask Him into your heart right now… give Him control of your growth and your fruit production. However, don't wait too long…
"…A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'
'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'" (Luke 13:6-8)
God's incredible mercy is giving us time; time for Jesus and the Holy Spirit to dig all around us, water us with His Word and prune the temptations of the world to help us grow and produce fruit. However, He will not wait forever. Eventually, He will say: "Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?"
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7) "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14)
I want to be a tree and I want Jesus to be my Gardener. Please, come join me in the forest of the Kingdom. The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. Be a Tree… We pray for you in Jesus' name, Amen.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
- Philippians 2:5
A visiting preacher on Robert Schuller's television program shared something that is worth remembering. It is a new insight into an old story.
The disciples said to Jesus, "Your friend, Lazarus, is very sick. They want you to go to him."
"He's not sick enough," Jesus replied.
"Lazarus is dead, now. They really need you there," they pleaded.
"He's not dead enough!" said Jesus.
A few days later, the disciples declared, "Lazarus has been dead four days. Now it is too late."
Jesus said to the bewildered disciples, "Sometimes I must wait until it is too late. Now it is time to go."
Wow! Isn't it just like Jesus to remind us that it is never too late for a miracle? By human standards we may procrastinate until our moment in history has passed, but in the mind of Jesus, it is never too late. Others may give up on that child, thinking that no earthly good will ever come out of him. But Jesus reminds us that it is never too late! Your marriage may be on the edge of collapse, or, your career could be going down the drain. Beloved, IT IS NEVER TOO LATE!
GospeLines Prayer:My Lord and my God, deliver me from procrastination which is the birthplace of failure. Set my feet in motion and rekindle the fires of faith, so I may know that as long as there is breath (and even when there is not), it is never too late for a miracle. Amen and amen.