“You know His power today if you listen to His voice,” writes the psalmist. As the lamb follows the shepherd, so “we are His people, we the flock He shepherds.” We come into God’s presence with “a joyful song” and “a shout of triumph.” (Psalm 95: 1) We “kneel before the Lord who made us; for He is our God.” We thank Him for “our salvation.”
We are not to “grow stubborn” or “test” God; we are not to allow our hearts to go astray. Instead, let us discern God’s ways. (Psalm 95: 8, 9, 10)
The author of Hebrews echoes this, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not grow stubborn as in those days of rebellion, at that time of testing in the desert, where your forefathers tried Me and tested Me, and saw the things I did for forty years. And so, I was indignant with that generation and I said, ‘Their hearts are for ever astray; they would not discern My ways; as I vowed in My anger, they shall never enter My rest.” (Hebrews 3: 7 – 11)
“A Sabbath rest still awaits” us — “the people of God.” When we enter God’s rest, we “rest from [our] own work as God did from His.” Don’t “follow the evil example of unbelief;” instead “make every effort to enter [God’s Sabbath] rest.” (Hebrews 4: 9, 10, 11)
Make this effort while today is still today; and His voice is still heard.
“You all put on Christ as a garment,” writes Paul. “There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female; for you are all one person in Christ Jesus. But if you thus belong to Christ, you are the ‘issue’ of Abraham, and so heirs by promise.” (Galatians 3: 27 – 29)
We become God’s ‘sons’ by putting “on Christ as a garment.” “To prove that [we] are sons, God sends into our hearts the Spirit of His Son, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ [We] are therefore no longer slaves but sons, and if sons, then also by God’s own act heirs.” (Galatians 4: 6 – 7)
Christ purchases our freedom with His own blood. Through the shedding of His blood, Jesus frees us from subjection to the law so that “we might attain the status of sons.” (Galatians 4: 5) And this is God’s gift to us; a gift He manufactures without our assistance; a gift He freely gives us so that we might have eternal life with Him. And not only that, but that we might have abundant life here and now. Life is not only for some remote future; it is here and now. Jesus tells the woman caught in adultery, “Go and sin no more.” Jesus tells a man on the Sabbath to stretch out his “withered arm” so that He might heal him. Jesus refuses to send away the five thousand and four thousand men (not to mention women and children) but feeds them all beyond their imagining. He gives abundant life, now and in eternity.
“You [O Lord] keep in peace men of constant mind, in peace because they trust in You.”
Daily, we renew our minds through the Word, prayer and the presence of the Holy Spirit. As our minds are changed, our trust grows. As our trust in God blossoms, peace is our fruit.
Jesus tells us that we “are strangers in the world” just as He is. He prays to the Father, “Consecrate them by the truth; Your Word is truth.” (John 17: 16 – 17) Jesus tells us that He gives us His “own peace, such as the world cannot give.” He commands us to “set your troubled hearts at rest, and banish your fears.” (John 14: 27 – 28)
The author of Hebrews calls us “that household of [Christ’s], if only we are fearless and keep our hope high.” (Hebrews 3: 6) We know that perfect love banishes fear, for fear has to do with punishment. If we fear punishment, we do not fully recognize the extent of God’s love of us.
God keeps us in perfect peace because we trust in Him.
“All of us, united with Christ, form one body, serving individually as limbs and organs to one another.”
I look at Facebook and see the Body of Christ, the Church — at least, the Facebook I know is the Church. We, all of us, are “united with Christ” and so “form one body”; but we are individuals. Each of us is unique with special gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit. With our gifts, we serve one another.
“The gifts we possess differ as they are allotted to us by God’s grace. and must be exercised accordingly: the gift of inspired utterance, for example, in proportion to a man’s faith.” (Romans 12: 6 – 7)
We use our gifts to the benefit of our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as for the benefit of the world in need. For we are commanded to “call down blessings on [our] persecutors — blessings, not curses.” (Romans 12: 14) We are to serve the Lord and one another “with unflagging energy, in ardour of spirit.” (Romans 12: 11) We are to “care as much about each other as about [ourselves].” (Romans 12: 16)
Each of us is special, but no one should “be conceited or think too highly of [himself].” Instead, each should “think [his] way to a sober estimate based on the measure of faith that God deals to each of [us].” (Romans 12: 3 – 4)
The man on his deathbed who recognizes his sin and repents is welcomed into the kingdom of Heaven the same as the young man who recognizes his sin and repents at his confirmation into the church body. God agrees to “pay” each the same wage; for as the wage of sin is death, so the wage of repentance is life.
God is bewildered by our complaint: ‘how come he gets the same as I do? I have served you all my life; he has just started to serve you right here at the end of his life when he has nothing more to offer. That’s not fair.’
God rebukes us; He tells us not to resent what He does with His creations. He is not unfair; He is kind. Neither the man who is dying nor the young man who is starting his life has anything to offer to God. God is the giver. We accept the gift, sometimes happily near the beginning of our lives; sometimes at their end.
Eternal life is the same for both. Recall how Jesus tells the thief on the cross, “I tell you this: today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23: 43)
“Thus will the last be first, and the first last.”
“I love the Lord because He hears my appeal for mercy. Because He turns His ear to me, I call out to Him as long as I live.”
God is merciful. God’s mercy triumphs over God’s judgement. His mercy triumphs over judgement because of His Son’s sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection. Christ’s shed blood covers our sins so that God is able to be merciful to us.
God tells us that among people “there is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All turn away; all alike are useless. There is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3: 10 – 12) Since everyone “falls short of the glory of God,” everyone is “justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3: 23, 24)
We are “declared righteous” when we “have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3: 26) Through Jesus’ work, God “hears [our] appeals for mercy.” God is able to “turn His ear to [us].” He is able to be merciful to us, who are sinners saved by grace.
“When I feel my foot is slipping, Your love, O Lord, holds me up. Anxious thoughts may fill my heart, but Your presence is my joy and my consolation.”
I slip, but God holds me up so that I do not fall. I am anxious, but God is close by; His presence keeps me joyful and consoled. God does not say to me, ‘you will never slip.’ He does not say to me, ‘you will never be worried.’ Instead, He promises to be there for me, whatever my circumstance, whatever my failure.
“Humble yourselves then under God’s mighty hand, and He will lift you up in due time. Cast all your cares on Him, for you are His charge.” (1 Peter 5: 6 – 7)
Remember, “there is no room for fear in love; perfect love banishes fear. For fear brings with it the pains of judgement, and anyone who is afraid has not attained to love in its perfection. We love because He loves us first.” (1 John 4: 18)
Know that God is ready to give us all good things, for He does not withhold His Son from us. Fear not, God is with us.
“[God] does not spare His own Son, but gives Him up for us all; and with this gift how can He fail to lavish upon us all He has to give?”
God is generous. He desires to “lavish upon us all He has.” He holds back nothing from us; all that He gives to us is His best. Nothing is too good for those of us He loves; for He gives His ultimate in His Son’s death and resurrection. And if He is willing to give His very Son, how can He not give us all else? I am convinced that God gives generously, without reproach.
The gift I covet is the gift of wisdom. James tells us to ask God for wisdom when we find ourselves short of it. If we know God gives without hesitation, then we gain the wisdom we desire. All we need do is believe in God’s willingness to give. We must not ask and then doubt; for both the gift and the One who gives it are ours even before we ask.
Take all God has to give.
“The Lord makes His unfailing love shine forth alike by day and night; His praise on my lips is a prayer to the God of my life.”
God’s love never fails; it shines on us, and from within us, both day and night — twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. God’s love is permanent. His love does not waver, fade, dilly-dally, pout, wander, hurt. His love is pure.
Our praise of Him is our prayer, acceptable to God even as we fail Him. Gratitude is our response. We are grateful for our lives, for His gifts, for His guidance, for our salvation, for His love.
When all else fails us, we know He does not. He is always present, always loving-kind. Open our lips: let us praise the Lord our God.