Psalm 103:2 (KJV)
- Forgiveness of iniquities. Who other than God can forgive sin? Through Christ’s sacrifice and atoning blood, not only are our sins forgiven but our “sin nature” has been rendered “inoperative” (Rom. 6:14; Heb. 2:14-15). If we “fall short”, we need only confess and God faithfully forgives us (1 John 1:9). He then removes remembrance of them to the furthest points of existence-even to the heavens (Ps. 103:11-12). There is no other god or religion that offers such forgiveness.
- Healing of diseases. Disease is the result of sin’s entrance into the world. It was not part of God’s original plan for His beloved creation. Yet God, within His providential will, provides physical healing-both on this side and the “other side” (2 Cor. 5:1; Rev. 21:4). Spiritual healing is now available to release us from anger, shame, guilt, and unforgiveness. After His temptation in the wilderness, Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit and spoke these words in the synagogue in Nazareth, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:14-19). Jesus is our Healer today.
- Redemption of life from destruction. In Hebrew, destruction or sahat, is translated pit or dungeon; corruption or decay. Before God’s intervention (through Jesus Christ) we were “in a hole, destined to die.” The sin of one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. (Rom. 5:17) God will continually save us from the world, Satan, and our “old nature.” He is our Preserver (Ps. 145:14-20).
- Crowning with lovingkindness and tender mercies. God’s lovingkindness and tender mercies are evidenced from Genesis to Revelation, as He provides and protects His covenant people. Through our confession of faith in Christ, lovingkindness was extended to us, as Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise (Gal. 3:29). The literal translation of tendermercies is “tender and compassion.” It expresses love of a superior for an inferior; this love is seen in the deep feelings that move the superior to help. While we were without strength to save ourselves Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6).
- Satisfaction with “good things”. The NIV rendering of this verse is “He satisfies your desires with good things.” When we are obedient to God, we are in the center of His will. He will give us what is best for our life-even when we don’t see it. The result is renewal of hope and trust and the ability to continue our walk of faith. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in You!” Psalm 84:11-12 (NIV)
“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” 1 John 1:3-4
What does “fellowship with God” look like in the life of the believer? Fellowship has been described as the sharing of experiences with likeminded people. However, fellowship with God is much more, for “who has known the mind of God?” (Romans 11:34) The believer’s fellowship with the Father is dependent upon accepting His Son as Lord and Savior. It is through Jesus Christ that believers begin to “know by experience” God’s heart and mind. Such was the case with the Apostle John and the disciples were uniquely privileged to witness, first hand, the person and works of Christ.
- “That which was seen” included the many miracles of Christ; miracles that would attest to the coming of the promised Messiah (Matt. 11:2-5).
- “That which was heard” were truths that Christ declared concerning the kingdom of God and His offer of eternal life (Luke 4:43; 9:11).
- “That which was looked upon and our hands handed” recounted the disciples’ examination of Christ’s glorified body after the resurrection (John 20:27).
All of the disciples’ senses were engaged as Christ manifested (revealed) Himself and the Father. Since Father and Son were one (John 17:11, 22), the disciples concurrently experienced fellowship with the Father (v. 3). The disciple’s experience with Christ was not viewed from a distance but up close and personal.
Fellowship (koinonia or koy-nohn-ee’-ah) is translated as “communion” and “joint participation in a common life.” John’s personal witness was an invitation to the early church to participate in a life style that centered on relationship—unending communion with God the Father and the Son. Therein is the basis for John’s reason for sharing about fellowship with God: so that their “joy may be full” (v.4).
Joy (pleroo or play-ro’o) means “to fill to the top so nothing is wanting; to complete”. One explanation of joy is to cause God’s will to be obeyed as it should be and God’s promises to receive fulfillment. Joy begins and ends with fellowship with the Father and the Son (Luke 4:21).
How would you describe your fellowship with God? Have you seen, heard, and looked upon Christ presence in you daily walk of faith? Do you have joy and is it full? Many times we miss the opportunity to fellowship with God because of competing priorities and the busyness of life. Perhaps sinful behavior patterns and unhealthy influences have interrupted your fellowship with God. We are to walk daily in fellowship with God, armed with the knowledge that you are no longer “slaves to sin” but “servants of righteousness” producing fruit of holiness (Rom. 6: 22).
Though John’s letter was written thousands of years ago, its message is still relevant for today. To both the believer and unbeliever, it is an invitation to participate with the only true Source of joy. Jesus invites us to draw near with faith (Heb. 10:22) and learn of Him (Matt. 11:29). In return, those in Christ enjoy glorious fellowship with Him. Let us be faithful witnesses to what it means to live in fellowship with God.
“Enemy, don’t crow over me. I’m down, but I’m not out.
I’m sitting in the dark right now but God is my light.”
Life is comprised of a myriad of experiences that test both our patience and our faith. The activities of daily living–caretaking for family, practicing our profession, and maintaining a “normal” schedule, often present a challenge for us. Although we may not always admit it, we sometimes feel overwhelmed, despondent, and “down right” depressed. We call this feeling by many names–bluesy, out of sorts or “in the mulligrubs” but the end result is the same. We feel like we are “sitting in darkness.” What do we know about darkness? Darkness is the absence of light.
Darkness conceals potential dangers and pitfalls that would be evident with the aid of light. In Scripture we are warned about the influence of darkness in our lives and about the Prince of Darkness, Satan. It is Satan’s desire to keep us in spiritual darkness where he can “kill, steal, and destroy” (John 10:10).
Darkness can refer to the condition of our spirit. The prophet Micah was in great despair as he looked upon the wicked lifestyles of both Israel and Judah. There was great “darkness” as the nation God had chosen to bless the world was mired in idolatry, wickedness, and corruption. Sound familiar? Though Micah sat in darkness, he found comfort and assurance in the future promise of the Light of the World, Jesus Christ (Matthew 2:5).
- God Himself is our light and “in Him there is no darkness” (1 John 1:5). God is light personified (or deified). In Him there is no flaws, defects, blemishes or error. He is the source of all knowledge and wisdom.
- God’s Word is a “light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path” (Psalm 119:105). God’s Word provides the guidance needed to traverse the circumstances we face in our life. His Word contains His promises and His power; He personally oversees His Word to perform it in your life (Jeremiah 1:12).
- God’s Spirit is “the Spirit of truth” (John 16:13) who guides us into all truth” (John 16:13). He reminds us, that we are the beloved of God and heirs to His throne. Our knowledge of who we are in Christ should dispel any feelings we may have of inadequacy and hopelessness. We can replace these feelings with God’s joy and peace.
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 (NIV)
Entering into this holiday season, WordBytes has shared two mindsets that will help us understand what really makes this time of the year special—relationships and gratitude. This shift in thinking requires that we look beyond ourselves to more intentional expressions of kindness to others. We close this series on preparing the heart for the holidays with our last mindset, which Paul describes as the “bond of perfection” (Col. 3:14)—the thing that holds everything together—love.
The first Bible verse a child usually learns is “God is love.” As that child grows, his understanding of God’s love is expanded by personally observing acts of kindness in the world. How does God disseminate His perfecting love into the world?
God loves us first. “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God is the source of love and therefore, He is the starting point of love’s entrance into the world. God’s love for us began in eternity when He gave thought to man. He created man His own image. That endowment was given to no other creature of God’s making. God gave of Himself—His own breathe (Gen. 2:7). He gave man His essence including freewill. He then blessed them and gave them dominion over the whole of creation (Gen. 3:27, 28).
We love God back. “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Once we receive the revelation of God’s love for us (Ep. 1:17), it becomes possible for us to return God’s love to Him. When we love God, He comes to live in us through the Holy Spirit (further evidence of His love). We return God’s love through our obedience to His commandments (1 John 5:3) and our willingness to serve others (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
We love others like God. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11). Jesus was asked by a devious lawyer, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matt.22:35-40). His response reflected His Father’s heart—love God first, others second. God’s love is perfected in us as we love others more than ourselves (1 John 4:12, 17). “Perfected” (teleioō) means to reach a goal or to be complete. As believers love others like God, they begin to reach their goal of spiritual maturity and become effective ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20).
We love God together. “Herein is our love made perfect…because as he is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17). After Jesus washed His disciples feet (John 13:1-20), He gave them a new commandment that they love one another. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35). The greatest witness to God’s love is how believers care for one another “in community”. It is not the geographic area that I’m speaking of, nor denomination, nor the universal church. God’s love in community is authentic fellowship with other believers, experiencing true joy from being in each other’s presence. As we love God together in community, we show how the love of God looks in the “real” world.
God’s love released into the world bears resemblance to a large stone dropped into a quiet lake. Upon entering the motionless water, the stone creates a series of circular ripples that flow in all directions, outward from its initial source. That’s how God’s love enters the world. God is the Rock (He first loved us) and we are the resulting ripples created by the impact of His love—returning His love to Him, to others, and in community.
Powerful relationships and gratitude in action spring forth from God’s perfecting love. As we prepare our hearts for the holidays, let’s exchange the worldview of “holiday cheer” with “God’s gift” of love and good will toward men. God’s gifts will continue to return great joy and peace throughout the year and for years to come.
SELAH: Read 1 John 4:7-16, “The Source of Love”. In your first reading, make a note of the “words or phrases” that catch your attention. Read it a second time. Feel free to use a different translation or paraphrase; list “the emotions” you feel in your reading. (Awareness of Feelings). Then read the text a final time and ask Jesus to share what is your “invitation for the day” from Him. An invitation is a “personal” message, instruction, or encouragement JUST FOR YOU (versus a general application of Scripture).
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13 (NKJ)
This month we’ve been exploring the biblical truth that God is in and among us—continually, without interruption, 7X24. We experience God through our personal fellowship with Him and through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. However, there may be times when we don’t “feel” God. We feel estranged from Him, alone, and unable to hear His voice. Be assured, this is a common experience for believers. The resolution for this spiritual occurrence, however, is not to curb our prayer life or cease in reading His Word. During those times, it is imperative that we “press in.”
There are seasons in my life when it is extremely difficult to hear God’s voice. I’m not talking about unanswered prayer but times of “disturbing quietness” when l must strain to hear Him—if I hear Him at all. As I shared this experience, I found other believers had been through similar seasons of silence. Interestingly, we all described it as a period when we “didn’t hear His voice.”
In Search of an Answer
When I first experienced this quietness, I began to the search my heart for sins I might have committed yet failed to confess. It was the sin of Adam that separated him and Eve from fellowship with God in the Garden of Eden. Later Adam and Eve would experience the physical death of their body—the final separation from the world God had created for them. I asked God to forgive me of my sins, yet I still felt disconnected from my First Love (Rev. 2:4).
My next effort was to examine my devotion time with Him. I would increase my time of reading His Word. Psalm 119 became my “song book” as I sought to hear His voice.
- I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. (v. 16)
- I recounted my ways and you answered me; teach me your decrees. (v. 26)
- Yet you are near, O LORD, and all your commands are true. (v. 151)
- May my cry come before you, O LORD; give me understanding according to your word. (v. 169)
I would rise early to pray—leaving more time to “listen” and less to speak. I would “draw near” with a sincere heart with expectations that He would do likewise (James 4:8; Heb. 10:22). I would dedicate my day to praise and worship. If God inhabits the praises of His people (Ps. 22:3), He would surely respond to me as I emptied myself to Him. Yet with all the modifications to my devotional time, I couldn’t hear Him. After many days of silence, I finally experienced a breakthrough.
Learning to Press in
In Secrets of the Secret Place, Bob Sorge shared his insight into my situation.
Many of us feel like we move in and out of God’s throne room. We have times of great connectedness, and then we suffer periods of disconnectedness. We can’t always analyze exactly why a distance has developed in our hearts toward the Lord, but most of us feel like our relationship with Christ is a roller coaster ride of feeling close, then far, then close, then far, then close again. In and out. And we hate it. We were created for constant intimacy and anything less drives us crazy on the inside. It is at those times that we need to press into God like you never have in your life! Allow the desperation of your soul to help you pursue God with absolute abandonment.
God’s periods of quietness were an invitation to draw closer to Him—to “press in.” More than proximity, He desires to establish an intimate friendship with us that is walked out through the course of our everyday lives. He is not looking for a segment of our day nor a day of the week. He desires unbroken communion with us. So on those occasions when it appears that “you can’t hear God”, press in! Be of good courage for He is ever near (Ps. 73:28). Press in! Eagerly and unabashedly pursue Him, the Pearl of Great Price (Matt. 13:46). Press in!
SELAH: Read Psalm 63:1-8. Write in your journal the ways that David “pressed in” to God during his time in the wilderness. Read the text again using a different translation or paraphrase. Then ask the Holy Spirit how He wants you to “press in”.