Archive for inspirational

The Sunshine of His Love

Posted in Devotional Corner with tags , , , on July 8, 2014 by Stephen Hare

This morning I woke with the early 70’s song, “Sunshine of Your Love” by Eric Clapton playing in my head.Really strange since I can’t remember the last time I heard the song. Of course, it was a great song when I was caught up in the “Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll” scene during my misspent and wayward youth, but the song really doesn’t hold any present value for me musically or in any other respect – nor do I want it playing in my head.

Fortunately, there is a redemptive “note” to this. It has caused me to reflect on what it might mean to be “in the sunshine of His love”, or in the “light of His (God’s) countenance.” As I consider the amazing grace, kindness and favor that was extended to me to draw me to Himself and that has been bestowed upon me, my thoughts are presently silenced, and my heart is full of praise and gratitude for the love of God toward me in Christ.

Further, what does it mean to be the “sunshine of His love”?

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

2 Cor 2:14-15 says this, “Now thanks be to God who always causes us to triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” So then, we are “the sunshine of His love”, His “felt” presence in every place.

Prayer:

Lord, please allow me to be so connected with you and in-step with Your Holy Spirit, that I will truly be to You a fragrance of Christ, diffusing the knowledge of Your presence in every place.

Help me to live in the sunshine of Your amazing love forever. Amen.

An Unshakable Kingdom

Posted in Devotional Corner with tags , , on April 13, 2014 by Stephen Hare

Early yesterday morning as I was preparing for work, I found myself considering this passage from the end of Hebrews 12; “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace by which we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.”

 

I wanted to share it, but had to be at work early, so only was able to share some of my thoughts briefly with my son Josh before heading out the door.

 

I find this passage to be very encouraging for a few reasons;

 

First, the writer is clear about the fact that we are presently receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. When we consider all of the incredible earthquakes, hurricanes, historically adverse weather and other such things, we understand that all the kingdoms on earth can be shaken, and we then also understand and can be sure that the unshakable kingdom we’re receiving is not of this earth.

 

The kingdom we are receiving is God’s kingdom and He is the giver of it, and so we have the assurance that we will receive it – and that He counts us as worthy recipients…royalty. Hard to fathom, considering our beginnings…but therefore all the more glorious. In Jesus’ own words, “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

 

In light of this, we are instructed to “have grace”. So, how do we acquire this grace then, what is it, and where do we find it? “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”. We must possess it, but it’s nothing that we can produce on our own. It has been made available to us in the person of God’s own Son, and by way of His atoning sacrifice and His resurrection from the dead.

 

Romans 5:2 tells us that “we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand…”. By virtue of our relationship to Jesus, we have been granted access to the grace that enables and empowers us to live in a way that is pleasing to God “acceptably, with reverence and godly fear”, and we therefore have fellowship with Him, which is what this is all about – what He has desired all along.

 

It’s so good to know that He sees the end result. He sees the fruit, when we can see only the seed that He has planted; so in spite of our own human frailty, weakness and failings, we can put our trust in the One who makes all things new and is preparing a place for us in His kingdom.

 

So much to be said about this passage, but so little time. Have to get ready for work again…

 

Hope you find this as encouraging as I do….Have a great day!

 

 

Wash Over Me

Posted in Lyrics with tags , , , , on April 7, 2014 by Stephen Hare

I would know You, I will seek You

I would hear Lord, as You speak

I am thirsty, I would drink Lord

fill my cup, wash over me

fill my cup – wash over me

I am longing for the greater

things that You’ve prepared for me

but in the longing, there You meet me

what greater thing, Lord, could there be?

What greater thing, Lord, could there be?

Lord break away the chains

of all my yesterdays

Oh give me grace to walk in all Your ways

Make me purer than before, Lord;

my light’s not so bright, that much I can see

make me holy in Your sight, Lord

so that Your Spirit can live in me

so that Your Spirit can live in me!

Lord wash away the stains

of all my yesterdays

Lord, give me grace

to walk in all Your ways

I would know You

I will seek You

I would hear Lord, as You speak

I am thirsty; I would drink Lord

Fill my cup, wash over me

fill my cup – wash over me!

Lyrics and music by Stephen Hare © 2004

To What Does Your Soul Cling?

Posted in Devotional Corner with tags , , on April 5, 2014 by Stephen Hare

“My Soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word.” Ps 119:25

“And now why take the road to Egypt to drink the waters of Sior? Or why take the road to Assyria to drink the waters of the river?”

Jer 2:18

Isn’t it so? Our souls cling to the earth and the things of it, but our souls will languish for lack of nourishment if we are drinking from the waters of Egypt.

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, but our hope is not in the earth, but in heaven. The things of heaven are tied up in God’s word, and it is His word that raises our souls out of the dust from which we came.

David says, “I will eagerly race the way of Your commandments, for You will enable me to do so.” Ps 119:32

This is for us the very picture of faith. It is absolute trust that if I will act in accordance with what God has set forth in His word – what He has told me to do, He will meet me there and enable me to do whatever it is.

It is Abraham going out into the unknown to embrace the unfamiliar because of God’s word to him.

It is David running to meet Goliath; or the priests carrying the ark into Jordan – before the waters parted

The question must become “Will I act according to what I have heard from Him?”

“Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way.” Ps 119:37

Revival in Gods’ way can be seen as a result of the turning of our affections as well as the catalyst. “I have restrained my feet from every evil way.”

It is the focus of the heart that determines our ability to see the kingdom of God – or not. Heavenly vision therefore, requires heavenly affections; and this is where faith and obedience mix.

Will we simply act in faith on what we have heard. We get to choose what we give our attention to, and in the ongoing sense, our affections are determined by the things we give our attention to, and that is what we will ultimately be conformed to; what we will become.

So many years later, and still I am not entirely captured by His brightness. It can’t be about the memory or “shadows” of an event, but the essence and reality of it which is eternal, and not passing.

Praying today the power of the Everlasting One will turn the focus of my affections heavenward, and in the turning, there I will find Him.

Nowhere do the scriptures present the crucified life as optional, but rather, as prerequisite to the risen life that is hidden with Christ in God.

By His grace and power today, we can resist the pull of the dust to which we too readily cling, and begin afresh with new affections for Him and the things of His kingdom.

May the Lord today direct our gaze to the wonders of Himself; that we would marvel and stand in awe of His transcendent life that He stooped so low to offer to us in its every dimension That He will enable not only our minds, but our hearts to “see” and reach again for the risen life that He has made available to us.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1-2

To Whom Are We Obliged?

Posted in Devotional Corner with tags , , , on March 4, 2014 by Stephen Hare

Therefore, brethren, we are debtors – not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.”  Romans 8: 12-13

This passage makes it clear that we don’t owe our flesh anything. 

We are not under any obligation to perform the deeds that were characteristic of our way of life before we came into relationship with God; to conform ourselves to the former passions that once ruled our minds and our bodies – as when we were entirely ignorant of God and His ways.

“As obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance, but as the one who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written; “Be holy, for I am Holy.” 1st Peter 1: 14-16

The NIV has it this way;    As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.

As Paul said in so many ways throughout his letters, (and specifically in Romans 8)once we have once we have received the Spirit, we are no longer obligated to the flesh to live according to its demands.

However, once we have received the Holy Spirit, we do have an obligation to God to live according to the Spirit that He has given us. In other words, if we have received grace from God to walk in obedience, then we have an obligation to walk in obedience according to the grace that we have received from Him.

Conversely, if we have receive nothing from God, then we are obliged to live according to the flesh, and the result will be spiritual (and physical) death; and not necessarily in that order.

Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

Actual mortification (the sanctification by death to the flesh that works its way into our reality experientially, and without which no one will see the Lord) requires us to invite Jesus ( the Holy Spirit) into all of our thought processes continually; not just once in a while, but always at all times “bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (who was obedient to the point of death) and bringing all things that some would consider hidden, to the light, where “all things are laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.”

Before God, nothing created is hidden, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account. Hebrews 4:3 (CJB)

Being obligated to the flesh is a losing proposition, and leads only to death. But being obligated to God because of the grace He has provided is a marvelous gift that leads to life everlasting.

Prayer: Lord, grant us the wisdom to act according to the grace you have so lavishly supplied in the person of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to whom belongs all glory and dominion, forever and ever. Amen

Be At Peace

Posted in Devotional Corner with tags , , on February 23, 2014 by Stephen Hare

“Now acquaint yourself with Him, and be at peace; Thereby good will come to you. Receive, please, instruction from His mouth, and lay up His words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty, you will be built up; You will remove iniquity far from your tents. Then you will lay your gold in the dust, and the gold of Ophir among the stones of the brooks. Yes, the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver; For then you will have your delight in the Almighty, and lift u…p your face to God. You will make your prayer to him, and He will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will also declare a thing, and it will be established for you; So light will shine on your ways. When they cast you down, and you say, “Exaltation will come!” Then He will save the humble person. He will even deliver one who is not innocent; Yes, he will be delivered by the purity of your hands.” Job 22:21-30

For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall you be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: but you would not. Is 30:15

This passage from Job should inspire hope and confidence in the finished work of God’s redemption.  We are told first to acquaint ourselves with Him and the result will be peace. So how do we find Him who is unseen? Where do we go? We go to the scriptures where we find the record of God, given by His mouth to holy men of His choosing to reveal His nature, character and purpose for all mankind in time and eternity.

John 5:39 says, “…you search the scriptures thinking that in them you will have life, but these are they that testify of Me.”

Verse 22 tells us to receive instruction from His mouth. We are familiar with the passage that says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

This passage shows us what returning to the Lord looks like and what the result will be.

“Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.”  Isaiah 55:7

Is It Wrong to Judge?

Posted in Articles, Devotional Corner with tags , , on September 21, 2013 by Stephen Hare

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

“Judge not, that you be not judged”.

I wonder sometimes if this is one of the most well liked passages of scripture? It is certainly one that is quoted often by many. It is important though to take notice of the whole context of this statement for the sake of understanding and accurate interpretation of what is being said with regard to the broader content of scripture on the topic of judgement.

In Matthew 7:1-5  Jesus is not teaching that we are not to judge at all, but is laying out the rules for judging.  We must first judge ourselves (remove the speck from our own eye) before we attempt to judge the behavior of others (so we may see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye).

First, it is important to examine the definition of the word “‘judgment” and I would like to examine the word from a couple angles for clarity. A judge obviously must make judgments or he could not be a judge, right?

judg·ment

noun \ˈjəj-mənt\

: an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought

: the act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought : the act of judging something or someone

: the ability to make good decisions about what should be done

1

a: a formal utterance of an authoritative opinion

b: an opinion so pronounced

2

a: a formal decision given by a court

b (1): an obligation (as a debt) created by the decree of a court (2): a certificate evidencing such a decree

3

acapitalized: the final judging of humankind by God

b: a divine sentence or decision; specifically: a calamity held to be sent by God

4

a: the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing

b: an opinion or estimate so formed

5

a: the capacity for judging : discernment

b: the exercise of this capacity

A judge makes assessments based upon the evidence that is presented in a court of law, in other words, he assesses the situation and states his conclusion of the matter; his judgment. He either acquits the person if they are determined to be innocent or he passes sentence according to the measure of their guilt in the matter.

The two definitions that I want to develop are these;

  1. Making character assessments
  2. Imposing sentence 

Making Character Assessments:

Each one of us must make character assessments where others are concerned or we will obviously (by default) make some very bad choices about the types of people we choose to associate with or invite to hang out in our living room. ( The exercise of the capacity of discernment…)

The scriptures show us that Jesus hung out with tax collectors and sinners, and in the proper context it’s not at all inappropriate for us to engage with people who are morally corrupt in their understanding and lifestyle.

If we do not interact with them, how will they have an example of what is good, and right and acceptable? We are to be the light of the world.

The power of God’s grace and the gospel of the kingdom is to be shared and preached in any and every place and is sufficient to break the hardest heart and to free from the darkest bondage of sin.

However, even though I would (and did for years) preach the gospel in a prison where murderers, drug addicts and thieves are separated from society for their crimes, I would not invite them to “drop by my home any time”.

Why you ask? Because it would not be in the interest of sound wisdom or discretion to invite such obvious potentially destructive elements into my life and family without disastrous results. And I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else either.

Would you invite a child molester to hang out with your children? Really? If you can’t judge a child molester as being an unfit guardian for your children, you really shouldn’t be a parent.

So…we must make character assessments, or “judgments” about others in order to live according to God’s standards. If we live according to the standard of God’s word, we use wisdom in choosing our associations and friendships.

The scripture tells us that if we love the world and the things in it, that the love of the Father is not in us, and that we are not to be “unequally yoked” with unbelievers.

Oxen are yoked together for their combined strength, but if one is stronger than the other, the weaker will be led by the stronger. We are not to be associated with someone whose unbelief is stronger than our faith. If we do, we will be corrupted by their ways and pervert the ways of God.

  1. Imposing Sentence

God is the judge. We are not God.

While I have shown clearly above (and it is equally clear in God’s word) that we must judge the behavior of others, we cannot determine a person’s eternal outcome. I cannot say of another “You are not worthy of God’s kingdom, and will surely end up in hell.”

I can share what God’s word says about sin and the certain consequences of continuing in it.

“I warned you before and tell you again that no fornicator, no idolator, adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God”.   I Corinthians 6:9

This list is repeated in some detail in Galatians 5:19-21

The very next verse says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.”

It is a level playing field. We all begin in our corrupted state because we were born in sin, but “If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away and all things have become new. 2 Cor 5:17

But let’s not stop there –  let’s read on…

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.  And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this.  So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough?  Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.

But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.  For what have I to do with judging those who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. (Pretty clear, right?”) Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”

That is not my judgment, it is God’s. I didn’t say it, God said it in His word, and it is His word that will judge each of us ultimately.

The person here is judged as “evil” because of their evil actions, but later after they have turned from their sin, Paul encourages the church to receive him again so he will not become discouraged. Paul reproved the church for their liberality with the situation.  It is therefore the church’s responsibility to judge so that we are not judged by God.

“For if we would judge ourselves, we will not be judged.”  1 Corinthians 11:31

For those of you who don’t think it is right to judge under any circumstance (and I know you’re out there…),  what do you do with this passage…?

“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?”

What is my point, or conclusion of the matter?  It is this;

As God’s ambassadors and representatives, we are to rightly interpret and speak what God’s word has already said. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness.” 2 Tim 3:16

And it is clear from the scriptures that we have looked at here that there is a clear distinction between making necessary character assessments for the purpose of maintaining the purity of the church (ourselves) and imposing a sentence on another person’s life, which is God’s place, not ours.

God’s purpose in judgment is essentially two-fold; it is to make a distinction between what is acceptable to Him and what is not through His dispensing of justice; and to demonstrate His mercy for His redemptive purposes that are clearly seen in His Son Jesus Christ by His death and resurrection from the dead.

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  John 7:24

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