My latest teaching video on YouTube
I just finished another encouraging message from the Word of God for my ministry YouTube channel. Thought some of my followers from this site would enjoy it as well.
In the course of any given year, most of us hear our national anthem sung dozens of times. But what we hear is not really our national anthem, but only a small part of it. Every time I hear it sung, I am frustrated at having to stop singing at the end of the first stanza. We never seem to go on to the end of the song and find out why it is that we can trust that our star-spangled banner will continue to wave, and why we can be sure our land will continue to be brave and free.
Several years ago, as a high school teacher, I was given the responsibility of creating a large production in honor of our nation and our constitution, and my instructions included making sure that the whole community was involved. I immediately decided that this was my opportunity to include the last stanza of our national anthem as part of the program. I realized that most people did not know the words to that stanza at all, and, in fact, some people did not even know the song had four stanzas total.
I’m asking my blog readers to stop right now and take just a few minutes to think about the final verse of our national anthem. It has a whole lot more to say beyond the fact that we are proud of our flag and the nation for which it stands. In fact, the last stanza makes the most important statements of the whole song.
“So thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blessed with victory and peace, may this Heaven-rescued land
Praise the God that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
We need to sing this last stanza every time we sing the first one, because it is only the fact that God Himself made us a nation and preserved us as such — and that He is the one who has rescued us each and every time from destruction — that allows our star-spangled banner to wave anywhere at all.
I hear a lot of people today talking about how this country is doomed. I also hear a number of religious leaders preaching that God will judge the United States for all of its evils and allow foreign powers to come in and overthrow it. Now, I am a strong Christian, and I am deeply troubled by the abortion, drugs, crime, child abuse, pornography, and sexual laxness of our nation. But I also spend an enormous amount of time with God — in His Word and in prayer. And I believe that the Lord has made clear to me that He created this nation for His own purposes. Except for Israel, this nation is the only one on earth that can point to the fact that God literally called His own people to travel to these shores and found a new beginning.
He did so because he intended this nation to be so established in freedom and justice for all that it would be free to put forth the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an extent unknown in any other part of the world. And we have done that. True, we have not always done other things right. But the fact remains that thousands of God’s faithful people are citizens of this nation, and as such, they live Godly lives, influence others to do the same, and continue to put forth the Gospel. As long as those people are praying and keeping the door open for God to intervene in this nation — and to fight on its behalf — we will not be destroyed.
So, even though we need to work at getting our act cleaned up in a lot of ways, we can, nevertheless, take a deep breath, put a smile on our face, and continue to lift our voices in song, singing: “Praise the God that hath made and preserved us a nation.”
No matter how many atheists try to get the words changed — no matter how many elected officials misquote the words of our Constitution in order to try to keep faith out of our government — no matter what —- the words of Francis Scott Key still reverberate through the hearts of millions of Americans, and indeed this is still our motto: “In God Is Our Trust!”
If you’d like to learn the words to the remaining two stanzas of the song, you can find them here.
The subject of tithing in the New Covenant seems to be a mystery to a majority of Christians. Many of them assume, since the subject gets so much attention in Old Covenant scriptures, that it is necessarily a part of the life of a New Covenant believer as well. And in some circles church leaders consistently preach that failure to tithe under the New Covenant still carries a curse, as it did for the Israelites under the law.
This short booklet sweeps away all the mystery surrounding the subject of tithing and explains, via numerous clarifying scripture passages, what the New Covenant believer’s attitude should be toward tithing, and toward every kind of giving into the work of God’s Kingdom. Only 16 pages of actual text. Easy to understand and share.
Available from Amazon:
I originally published this article seven years ago. But it is still so relevant today — and people need this message even more now than they did then. So I’m sharing it again in the hope that new readers will be lifted and encouraged by it.
“For lo, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come …” (Song of Solomon 2:11-12 Amp). When I was a child, I was much troubled by fears of various kinds, and as a result I often had trouble sleeping at night. Thank God, He delivered me from all fear many years ago, so I am no longer tormented by those experiences. But I can still remember very vividly how they affected my life and what few things gave me relief from them.
When I was wakeful in the dark hours of night and those eerie wee hours of the morning, I alternated, from night to night, in my methods of dealing with my fears. Once in a great while, they were so tormenting that I ended up sleeping with my parents. But most nights I used other alternatives. Some nights I spent the time pulling the covers around me as tightly as I could, squeezing my eyes shut, and straining my ears to hear every sound. Other nights, I concentrated on staying alert to every corner of the room, the doorway to the hall, and the area beneath my bed – to make sure nothing that just might be lurking there could get to me. I couldn’t have told you what I thought might be lurking around my bedroom. I wasn’t afraid of any particular kind of person or monster. I just knew I was afraid. During some of those nights – my most sensible nights – I tried to calm my fears by reciting all the lessons from my catechism or singing “Silent Night.” Those strategies generally gave me enough relief that I sometimes even drifted back to sleep.
I have to say here that my parents did what they knew to alleviate my fears, telling me – quite honestly – that there was nothing to be afraid of. And I had studied the Word of God enough that I had learned about God taking care of little children while they slept. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, I had also learned that faith-destroying prayer that the devil himself must have written to be taught to almost every child who ever lived: “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” I actually never prayed that prayer. I think, even at that young age, I knew that a prayer like that was so faithless that it couldn’t do me any good. Moreover, even then, I realized that saying out of my own mouth that I might die during the night was just inviting death to come.
Something deep inside me told me that it couldn’t be the will of God for little children to die so young. But knowing that most adults thought that prayer was a “good” prayer and a “right” prayer for little kids to pray always left me just a little bit fearful that maybe I was wrong. Maybe God did want some of us kids to die and not get a chance to live our lives on the earth. And if I were wrong, and “they” were right, then if I let myself go to sleep, I just might die.
Anyway, none of my parents’ efforts at the time helped me overcome the problem, and it was only years later that I learned the truth about Jesus really being the same today as He was when He walked the earth over 2000 years ago. He truly does offer the same deliverance that He offered then, and when that truth took root in my spirit, Jesus delivered me completely.
But my point here is that there was one thing that always gave me relief when I was suffering those nights of fear. At just about 5:00 in the morning, I heard the birds begin to sing. Now they may start singing at other hours in other parts of the world, but where I lived, they almost always began at the same time. Every time I heard them begin to sing and looked at my clock it was always within a very few minutes of 5:00 a.m. Eventually, I didn’t even bother to look at the clock because I knew for sure when I heard the singing of the birds, it was then 5:00 in the morning, and daylight would soon be streaming through my window. The night was over. I didn’t have to huddle between the tightly drawn covers or keep watch on every corner of the room any longer.
I can still remember clearly how it felt. As soon as the birds began to sing, I immediately began to breath deeply and easily. Every muscle in my body began to relax. I stretched out, turned over, nestled my head comfortably on my pillow, closed my eyes without tension, and drifted immediately and peacefully to sleep. To this very day, every time I happen to be awake to hear the birds begin to sing (and let me hasten to add that I am never awake because of fear any more), I am reminded of the overwhelming release that came to me with that experience all those other years.
Now, of course, my thoughts immediately turn to the fact that I am permanently released from all the fear and its consequences because of Jesus and His work in my life. I cannot keep a smile from spreading across my face when those birds start to sing, and I always lift my heart to the Lord in sincere gratitude for His amazing deliverance and care.
Recently, I have been called upon to counsel and pray with a number of individuals who, although they are faithful Christians who know God’s Word and power, have found themselves bombarded by the dark circumstances of the world and dark messages from some servants of God. This bombardment has been so intense that these people now find themselves in the middle of a “night” full of confusion and fear.
As I waded with them through these troubling and tormenting circumstances and the subsequent messages that seemed to prophesy disaster, doom, and confusing instructions for “survival” of the same, I realized that each of these people was missing a very important truth. Indeed a large majority of the Body of Christ seems to be missing that same truth: The fact that we are not in the middle of a dark, scary night. We are on the verge of a brilliant day — the day when our manifested redemption is drawing nigh. “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28). If we rightly divide the Word of God as He instructs us to do, we will stop our fearful frenzy of trying to figure out how best to protect ourselves in the “end times,” and we will be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). We will get quiet long enough to hear the singing of the birds and know that all is well.
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head.” Everyone knows the song, and nearly everyone acquaints Christmas and Jesus Christ with that lowly manger on the night of His birth as a human being.
But, beloved, we must make sure that we do not continue to acquaint Jesus Christ with a little baby lying in a manger — helpless and dependent on mommy and daddy to feed, change, clothe, and protect Him. In fact, if we would bring pleasure to the heart of God, we would actually give very little attention to that lowly feeding trough, and we would focus our attention on where Jesus went from there. Because, in actual fact, where He went from there is exactly where we have gone. He took us with Him every step of the way.
Before His lowly birth into the human race, the person we know as Jesus Christ was the second person of the Godhead. He is described in the first chapter of the Gospel of John as “the only-begotten son” of the Father. The Greek term that is translated “only begotten son” actually means a being that never had a time of beginning. And because Jesus was part of the triune Godhead, He had existed for all time just as much as the Father and the Holy Spirit. It’s interesting to note that only before His redeeming work on earth is Jesus referred to by this term. Once He became a human being, suffered and died and rose again, He is never referred to by that particular term again. He is referred to only as the first-born from the dead, or the head of the church. Because He is no longer just God — but is now God and man together, His whole identity has changed.
But in the old covenant, while still the “only begotten son”, He was also the person of the Godhead who would reveal Himself in physical form to man whenever there was a need for that. Every time we see the old covenant fathers receiving a visit from what many Bible translations call “the angel of the Lord,” the men themselves recognized that they were actually in the presence of the Lord Himself. They all recognized that this person who was visiting them was part of the Godhead and, therefore, they addressed Him as Lord or they named the place where they had received Him in honor of having come face to face with their God. Jacob wrestled with that “angel of the Lord,” but when the battle was over, and that “angel” had blessed him with a new name and a new identity, Jacob named the place, “I have seen the face of God”
During the old covenant, those visits by the second person of the Godhead were very short and for very specific reasons, but the Word of God says that “when the time was fully come,” God sent forth His son, born of a woman. In other words, there was a set time at which that person of the Godhead would no longer fleetingly come and go to help man a little bit here and there along the way — but would come and stay as a man so that He could live the life of perfect obedience that a holy God demanded, and then he could give His life to pay for the disobedience of every other man, thereby satisfying God’s justice, His holiness, and His merciful love for His wayward creation.
So when the time was fully come, Jesus obediently got up from His throne, laid aside all the privileges of being part of the Godhead (Philippians 2: 6-7), and took on the same flesh that every other human being had to live in on this earth. Why did He do that? In order to live a life on this earth as a human being, facing everything we face in a world cursed because of sin and terrorized by satan and his hordes of demons. Jesus had to live life as a real man — obedient to God’s covenant — anointed by the Holy Spirit with power for ministry — and He had to do it perfectly. He did it, and the Word of God says He did it for you and me.
But then He willingly allowed the Father to lay onto Him all the sin, all the rebellion, all the hatefulness that we had perpetrated — as well as all the curse for breaking God’s laws. He was beaten with stripes beyond recognition for our healing, and He hung on the cross until He had given up every ounce of His blood for our sin. The Word says He died for all, and so in God’s mind, we all died with Him. (Romans 6:3-9, Galatians 2: 20).
So let’s leave the manger and go on to the cross. We hung there in Jesus until the price was paid. But when His body came down from that cross and was put into the grave, that act too was simply one more step in the journey. It was not a stopping place. Because three days later, when God the Father was able to proclaim the price was paid and He could then justly give eternal life to the human race because of what Jesus had done on our behalf, Jesus rose from that grave. The Word says (Ephesians 2: 1-7) that God brought us up out of that grave with Jesus — in Him, to be exact. But that’s still just one step in the journey. There’s more, and it’s the most exciting part of all.
When Jesus had finished His redeeming work and was resurrected — carrying us with Him — He then moved back into Heaven — right into the throne room from which He had begun His journey. But this time, according to the Word of God, He did not enter that throne room as an individual person. He entered it as the Head of His new Body — the body of believers — who died, were buried, and were resurrected in Him. Let’s refer once more to that passage in Ephesians 2, which says clearly that God seated us– in Jesus — at His very right hand — to reign there forever.And what do we reign over? Why everything in life. Romans 5:17 says, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one Jesus Christ.”
So, beloved, this Christmas do not linger at the manger too long. Observe it, yes, as the symbol of the fact that the Lord of the universe willingly came to this cursed planet to accomplish God’s purpose of salvation. Move on to the cross, but do not linger there too long either. Move on to the grave and experience the glorious, exhilarating reality of having been brought up out of death into eternal life. But go on further. Go forward from the open grave to the throne. That’s where we have our reality now. We are seated in Jesus at the right hand of the Father.
And the next time you find yourself in serious trouble — in circumstances that look impossible — remember that you are not supposed to be looking at those circumstances from a world point of view. You need to look at them from where you are actually seated.. Look down on those problems and those circumstances, and when you pray about them, don’t grovel and whine and beg. You’re praying from your position at the right hand of the God of the universe. Let His faith, his joy, and His vision be your own and take authority over those circumstances. Proclaim God’s Word to them and over them.
You’re in a royal position now because the Lord you serve and worship is no longer lying in a manger — no longer hanging on a cross — no longer lying in a grave. He’s reigning at the right hand of the Father God — and so are you. Making us righteous enough to take that position, beloved, is the whole reason Jesus came to the manger in Bethlehem. For Him, putting us in our legal position on the throne at the right hand of God is what Christmas is all about.
I find it very hard to trust people nowadays. I’m not sure why, but I have to assume it’s because so many people have let me down and/or virtually ‘knifed me in the back,” to use a worn-out — but exceedingly descriptive — phrase. I won’t use this post to list the times and details of those kinds of experiences. That would do no good for anyone — least of all me. And I can honestly say that I have, with the Lord’s help, been able to forgive all those actions by others against me. And, in fact, in most cases — again, with the Lord’s help — have put them out of my conscious mind to the point that I’d have to make concerted effort to remember those details. I’m very grateful that I’m at that point in my life.
However, just because we forgive hurts, attacks, and injustices by others does not mean that we automatically acquire renewed trust in those people. And, unfortunately, it’s true that when you know you cannot trust most people, then it’s pretty hard to trust any at all. But thank God, He can help us. He can lead us to relationships with people who really are trustworthy, and He can give us the faith and courage to take the steps that lead us back into trust.
The main reason He can do that is because He is so trustworthy Himself. Our loving Father God means every promise He ever made to us. And He’s made at least one that will cover every single need we will ever have. And He tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:20 that every promise (from the Old Covenant and the New Covenant) has already been answered “Yes” in Jesus. There’s no way God will ever go back on any promise He’s given us in His Word, because, according to this passage of scripture, He cannot change His mind or decide He’s not in the mood to answer “Yes.” It’s already a done deal, so we can trust Him, no matter what.
And, of course, that’s why He can tell us in Proverbs 3 that we should trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and lean not unto our own understanding. I’m so grateful that, in a world where so many people can’t help but hurt each other and break trust, we have a God whom we can trust with our whole being. We can literally stake our lives on His love, His Word, and His faithfulness. We can trust and not be afraid.