Tag Archive | Salvation

The Music of “LIFE” Series ~ When He Shall Come/ Will Jesus Find Us Watching?

Ephesians 5:19 – “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

The Music of “LIFE” Series:

When He Shall Come/ Will Jesus Find Us Watching?


“Here Comes the Bride”

We who name the name of Jesus as Savior, Jesus as The Christ, have this hope, this expectation, this promise, that Jesus will return for His Bride, the Church. 

2 Thessalonians 1:10-12 says this:

“When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.  Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power.  That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

It gives us comfort and a settled peace in knowing that one day we will be with Him forever.  As He has promised “all tears shall be wiped away” and all the cares and issues of this present life will be of little consequence, ‘When He Shall Come’.

      Verse 1 :           When He shall come, resplendent in His glory,

                                   To take His own from out this vale of night,

                                   O may I know the joy at His appearing—

                                   Only at morn to walk with Him in white! 

      Verse 3:             When He shall call, from earth’s remotest corners,

                                    All who have stood triumphant in His might,

                                    O to be worthy… then to stand beside them,

                                    And in that morn to walk with Him in white!

 We have this promise and desire to be with Him when He calls, to see Him as He is!

To rejoice with others who make up the Bride of Christ, and await all that  Christ has said and promised, will come to pass.  But, the question is ‘Will Jesus Find Us Watching?

      Verse 1:              When Jesus comes to reward His servants,

                                    Whether it be noon or night,

                                    Faithful to Him will He find us watching,

                                    With our lamps all trimmed and bright?

      Verse 2:              If, at the dawn of the early morning,

                                    He shall call us one by one,

                                    When to the Lord we restore our talents,

                                    Will He answer you—“Well done”?

  Matthew 25:1-13  gives us an account of The Parable of the Ten Virgins:

1  Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their   lamps, and  went forth to meet the bridegroom.

2  And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.

3  They that were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them.

4  But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.

5  While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.

6  And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.

7  Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.

8  And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.

9  But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you; but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.

10  And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him in the marriage: and the door was shut. 

11  Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.

12  But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

13  Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.

From verse 1 we see that there are ten virgins who go to meet the Bridegroom. 

Ryrie notes that “the virgins represent the professing Jewish remnant on earth at His return.”

In this Parable of the Ten Virgins, the setting is the time of the Lord’s return to reward His faithful servants and to take vengeance against those who are not faithful.

Those of you who are familiar with the story know that this parable teaches we must be prepared for the Lord’s coming; we must be “watchful”, as it says in verse 13.  Not everyone that names the name of Christ is part of His Bride.  Only those who have received Jesus as their Savior; those who have acknowledged and confessed they are sinners and have repented of their sin and have turned the control of their lives over to trusting their lives to Jesus because they believed and accepted His shed blood at Calvary was for their sin.  Jesus Christ’s finished work paid for our sin in full.  Having made this declaration, we are born-again and have received the Spirit of Christ.  Our lives as newborns is one where we live as unto Christ and await His return.

At this juncture, let me just inject this:  what are YOU trusting in to go to Heaven; to be with the Lord Eternally; to be with the Lord forever and ever?  Are you trusting in your religion?  Are you trusting in your good deeds?  Are you trusting that you ‘do the best that you can’?  Are you trusting in that you are ‘not as bad as’ someone else?  If this sounds to you, like what you are thinking and what you are trusting in…I am sad to tell you that this is not what God’s Word says is ‘good enough’.  It is not what God’s Word says He wants of you and me.  He has told us in no uncertain terms in His Word, the Bible, that the only acceptable way to be with Him in Heaven Eternally is through Jesus Christ and his finished work on the cross.  It is a matter of faith and trust in Jesus’ finished work on the cross.  A matter of turning over your will to His will and living for the Lord Jesus Christ.  And, THAT is the good news!  It is something that as you are reading this, right now, you can change.  Stop trusting in what you think you can do and trust in Christ and what He has already done!

In our walk of faith, our attitude is to be one of expectation and vigilance; one of watchfulness; one where we focus on Eternal things until He does returns.

What then?  Can we reap in Eternal benefits and enjoy a life of God’s blessing without accountability or responsibility thereafter?  This is not what Jesus had in mind when He told us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.” – Philippians 2:12b.

I Thessalonians 5:6 tells us to not “sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober”.  We need to be alert and watching for the enemies of our salvation; we need to be edifying one another.  If we will get up and dust off our spiritually sluggish ways we will find, as it says in Ephesians 5:14, “Christ shall give thee light.”  We are not left as orphans, alone, to ‘figure it out’…Christ’s light will illumine us, if we will get up!  Get going! Redeem the time!  “Lest coming suddenly He find you sleeping.” as it says in Mark 13:36.

Will Jesus Find Us Watching?

      Verse 3:              Have we been true to the trust He left us?

                                    Do we seek to do our best?

                                    If in our hearts there is naught condemns us,

                                    We shall have a glorious rest.


      Verse 4:             Blessed are those whom the Lord finds watching,

                                    In His glory they shall share;

                                    If He shall come at the dawn or midnight,

                                    Will He find us watching there?


The world sings:  “Here Comes the Bride, all dressed in white…”

Our hope and expectation as believers and the Bride of Christ as we await His return as we read in verse 3 of ‘When He Shall Come’:

                                    When He shall call, from earth’s remotest corners,

                                    All who have stood triumphant in His might,

                                    O to be worthy… then to stand beside them,

                                    And in that morn to walk with Him in white!

Thank you for stopping by Beyond the Strait Gate today.  I hope that this short post was a blessing to you and if it was, it would be most encouraging to hear how God is working by you leaving a comment.    If you would like to be alerted to the next post, and have not yet done so, please subscribe in the column to the right where it says: SUBSCRIBE.  You will be alerted by email of the latest post.  Feel free to share and invite your friends who might be interested in a spiritual blog also. 








“…I Have Walked in Mine Integrity…”, Psalm 26, A Psalm of David

WELCOME! It is good to have you visit with me today, BEYOND THE STRAIT GATE. I hope you will take your time and spend a little time here to meditate on what God’s Spirit might have for you today. What follows is what He has given me from Psalm 26…to share with those who will come this way. Please leave your thoughts and comments at the end of the devotional and if you would like to be alerted of future posts, please do sign up in the appropriate place. Thank you so very much!

What strikes me, particularly, is the assurance David has with and before his LORD. He doesn’t deny nor ignore the fact that he is a son of Adam, a sinner. He knows full well his estate; from whence he comes. Yet he begins this psalm with an assurance before a Holy God, Who is also his Judge (and is Just), with a welcome to have God judge who he, David, is:

“Judge me, O LORD; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the LORD; therefore I shall not slide.” verse 1, KJV

David presents his case: “I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the LORD:”, and with what seems to me, tremendous confidence, declares, “I will not slide.” David’s anchor is solidly placed in Jehovah God. His faith, his trust, his “single-hearted devotion and sincerity of purpose” (as Ryrie puts it) is so solidly placed in God, David is not going to be moved, nor slip.

APPLICATION: How is my devotion; my single-heartedness; my sincerity of purpose? Can I confidently ask God to search me and judge my heart and have no fear of God’s verdict? Something to meditate and consider for myself. (How about you?) And, if I cannot be as confident as David, what is it that I must do to reach this holy standard?

David is so sure of his relationship with God that he welcomes, and invites God to test and try his faith, (verse 2): “Examine me, O LORD, and prove me, try my reins and my heart.” David has the expectation that God will be pleased and look on him favorably…WHY?? Because he has “walked in thy (God’s) truth.” (verse 3): “For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth.”

Some references to “truth” in God’s Word:

God’s WORD is TRUTH: John 17:17 –“Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”

God’s COMMANDMENTS are TRUTH: Psalm 119:151 – “Thou art near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth.”

God’s LAW is TRUTH: Psalm 119:142 –“Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness and thy law is the truth.”

JESUS CHRIST is The TRUTH: John 14:6 –
“Jesus said unto him, ‘I AM the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.”
In this verse, Jesus declares Himself to be the only means of securing Eternity with Him forever. HE is THE WAY of salvation…the only way. We cannot climb into Heaven through the side-door of good works. They count for naught in God’s eyes. Good works is man’s ‘idea’ of pleasing a Holy God, but we see clearly from His Word that it is vain; it is worthless. Accepting Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross as our Redeemer, Savior, King and Lord of our lives is what is worthy and of value to Him. Please consider this TRUTH seriously, if you have not made that transaction with Him. We must confess we are sinners to a Holy God, and then, repent, that is, turn around 360 degrees from ‘our’ way of living and living unto Him and His TRUTH. Today is the day of Salvation. Do not delay. We do not know if we have the next moment of breath.

The HOLY SPIRIT is TRUTH: John 16:13 – “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself: but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come.”

From these few verses, out of many, many that you might research for yourself, I conclude that David’s walk of faith is one that is in concordance to God and His Word.

APPLICATION: Am I walking in truth? Could my walk be improved? If I were to invite God, Who is Holy to examine my walk of faith, would He be pleased; glorified; by His invasive search of my life and my heart?

I am reminded of Psalm 139:1-4 of God’s piercing scrutiny into my life…and yours, also:
O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but lo, O LORD, thous knowest it altogether.”

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…”, Psalm 111:10a

David continues to reinforce his defense in verses 4-6 of his credibility and innocency: He doesn’t keep company with ‘vain persons’, evil or the wicked nor pretenders (of the faith). Psalm 1:1-2, echoed back to me while reading and meditating on this psalm: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” This man’s delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law he “meditates day and night.”

David is CLEAN before God and it is with this confidence and boldness that he is able to approach God in prayer. (verse 6) Here at the Throne of God, his words to God are words of praise, of thanksgiving, of recounting Who God is and all He has done.

Application: And when I approach the Throne of God in prayer, how do I/we come? Are our hands, ‘clean’? innocent? Is our mouth full of praise to our All in ALL for the blessings and manifold workings in our life? And, if not…if we are believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross when He shed His own blood for our sin and the sin of the world, Hebrews 4:16 tells me to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtrain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” I John 1:9 assures us “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and Just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

David concludes Psalm 26 with a resolution of heart, mind and purpose as seen in verses 11 and 12. David is resolved and committed to “walk in (his) integrity and to not be a man of “wavering faith” (James 1:8), but a man who stands sure and “evenly” before the Lord. We see this not as a prideful explosion of words, and we know this because we see from verse 11, David understands that before a Holy God, he will still need God’s mercy and His redemption as he lives as a man in this world. David closes Psalm 26 with the conviction of praising and giving testimony to the Lord “in the congregation.”

APPLICATION: Let us walk surely today and every day in the integrity that can be ours and in the measure with which we have applied God’s Word to our hearts, our minds and our lives…that before Him, we may boldly, like David, say we “have walked in our integrity and trusted in the LORD and we will not slide.”

Passion Week: Is It Nothing to YOU? – Part 2, He Took My Place, And Yours, Too!

“Who His own Self bare our sins in His own body on the tree,…that we,…should live unto righteousness by Whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray;…”
I Peter 2:24-25a KJV

Today, commonly known as Good Friday on the Christian calendar may, for some, mark the nearing of the end of a period of sacrificial abstinence. For others, it may be a day off from school or perhaps a half day of work and the beginning of a weekend filled with Easter egg hunts, family gatherings with sumptuous meals to celebrate…Uh, WHAT EXACTLY ARE THEY CELEBRATING? Do they know? And, for others, it is the reminder of the tremendous sacrifice of God, who provided a way for sinners to be brought into oneness with Him through the Cross of Jesus, the Christ.

February, the month of “LOVE”, cannot compare with the Greatest Love story given to us by God the Father, when He sent His Beloved Son to die on the cross in OUR PLACE! And, astoundingly, Isaiah 53:10 says, “…it pleased the LORD to bruise Him…” (that is, His Son, Jesus) to “make His soul an offering for sin…” Take that in for a minute! It PLEASED GOD, the Father, to bruise, Jesus, God the Son!!

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” ~ John 15:13

Jesus Christ, God the Son, gave us THE HIGHEST expression of love when He lay down His life for you and for me…ON PURPOSE!! He took OUR PLACE! He died on the cross in OUR PLACE!! Has it sunk in yet!? Jesus Christ, is the “Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world”, Rev. 13:8

Was the cross, the shedding of blood, the sacrifice really necessary? Why did Jesus willingly lay down His life for us? Was there another way…something else that could have been done to accomplish our attaining Heaven?

Let’s try to remove and peel apart the layers of all we have ever heard, ever been taught, ever imagined, ever surmised and discover for ourselves from God’s Word, the Holy Bible, to know God’s perspective concerning these questions.

We have already established from this post and previous archived posts that man is a sinner because of Adam’s sin. We are of Adam’s race and inherently, sinners. There’s nothing we can do to remove our sins: good deeds cannot make us righteous in the sight of a Holy God. He cannot look at sin and because of our sinful nature, we cannot enter into Heaven when it is our appointed time to die. We know from Old Testament Scriptures that men made sacrifices to God annually to be cleansed of their sins and sacrificed spotless, unblemished lambs. This they did year after year in hopes of pleasing a Holy God. God, made us for Himself but without a means of our being acceptable in His sight, we cannot abide with God in Eternity…our sin separates us from Him.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity (sin) of us all.” ~ Isaiah 55:6 KJV

God had HIS “PLAN” for us but only ONE, The Begotten of God: Jesus Christ, His Son, the unblemished Lamb of God could fulfill God’s purpose in bridging the path from our sinful state to His holy place. The Cross is that bridge. The Cross is that pathway to Heaven to be with God in Eternity, and Jesus, His Son, was the ONLY ONE that could fulfill His purpose for us. WE should have been crucified, but He died in our place. He Who had no sin…died for our sin. He took upon Himself, OUR SIN and hung them on the cross; the Cross, a shameful place to die! Yet, He loved us so much, that He willingly died in our place to give us a way, a means of being with God forever in Eternity…if we accept His way and His finished work on the Cross, by faith.

Why did God do it? Because of His Mercy! “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs, according to the hope of eternal life.” ~ Titus 3:5-7 God, in His Mercy, gave us what we didn’t deserve.

Because Jesus’ dying on the Cross for us is a “finished” work, meaning nothing else need be added to it, to make it complete. We do not need to add to it by doing good deeds to achieve Heaven, we need just believe in Him and His finished work as being the means of Eternity with God forever when we die. We need to confess with our mouths and hearts by a faith that believes the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross redeems us from our sin, and we will receive His gift of righteousness, because now we are in Him and He in us; all of our sins have been forgiven because the death of Christ paid for these sins fully by Jesus’ finished work.

Romans 5:17-21 says,

17. “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.

18. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

19. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

20. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

21. That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.”

I close with this question to you dear reader…WHAT IS IT TO YOU that Jesus died on the Cross for your sin and mine?

WHAT IS IT TO YOU that He took our place on the Cross?

The story doesn’t end here. Resurrection Day, some call it Easter Sunday, is yet to come. It is the day of celebrating Christ’s VICTORY over death and the cross! He lives! Jesus Himself said, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:”

What will you do with Jesus? The way to life everlasting, Eternity with Jesus Christ, is open. Will you choose life or death? We only know we have this moment right now and are not guaranteed the next moment of breath. I encourage you to choose life and to do it now, if you have never considered the choice before. Now is your opportunity for the salvation of Jesus Christ!

Author’s Note:
I am so blessed to report, thus far in the short time of this blog’s publication, Beyond the Strait Gate has been read in 14 countries throughout the world. My prayer is for God’s Word to reach “the outer most parts of the world”. If the Lord would have you to be part of reaching beyond your own Jerusalem, please forward the link to this website to those you know; to those on your salvation prayer list; to those you want to encourage.

Thank you once again for visiting Beyond the Strait Gate. I look forward to your return, if the Lord tarries. And, if you have not yet done so, please do sign up to subscribe to be alerted of the next publication.

Gleanings from James 2:14-26, Faith and Works

The Apostle Paul begins this portion of James 2 with a question:
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?”

Having looked up some of the words from this question in Strong’s Concordance, please allow me to reiterate his question with my findings:

“What is the ‘profit’ (gain, advantage) if a man says he has ‘faith’ [Grk.: pistis’] (he is persuaded, and has credence; conviction of truth; reliance upon Christ), and doesn’t have ‘works’ (deeds; toil; effort; doings)? Can ‘faith’ (his credence) ‘save’ (deliver; protect; heal; preserve) him?

The Answer…to have made a profession of faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with our lips, with our mouths, with words, is not enough.

Why is it not enough, you may be asking yourself? “Talk”, the saying goes, “is cheap.” From one of Victor Herbert’s operettas, The Gypsy Fortune Teller, a lilting aire rings out putting the thought behind this old saying to music, “If people said the things they mean, and mean the things they say…no hearts would ache, no hearts would break, and love were love alway…” Words are easily said, thoughtlessly said, emotionally said, and sometimes momentarily said. Words can uplift and encourage but also, without any action or “works” behind our words that our words may bear fruit, words evaporate instantly, as a vapor into the air, disappearing from the speaker, impacting the hearer and possibly doing more damage to the recipient, leaving them in a more devastated circumstance both emotionally and physically than before those words were said.

God hears every word we utter, and in fact, knows our words even before we speak, “For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether.” – Psalm 139:4 KJV

Verses 15 and 16 gives us an illustration of how when we give well-meaning words to others, it is simply NOT enough!

“If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; nothwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit?”

I think we can all relate…we see someone not as well off as we, ourselves, might be, and we might in the depths of our hearts ‘feel sorry’ for that person or their circumstance; we might tell them we will pray for them, we might express seemingly sympathetic words to “encourage” them…when in fact, perhaps the words only make us feel good about ourselves because we said “the right thing” or perhaps because we think someone will think well of us for having ‘said something nice’, but all those words, empty words, private thoughts about these unfortunates, are not any different than those mentioned in the Gospel of Luke’s account when a “certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way…saw him…passed by…and likewise a Levite…came and looked on him and passed by…”(Luke 10:30-32) These two men not only didn’t say anything, they didn’t do anything. NO WORKS!

We have a fine example of works in the verses that follow in this familiar parable of what is commonly known as The Good Samaritan. The Samaritan, “saw him, he had compassion on him.” Up to this point, only emotions are involved, but get ready…HERE COME THE WORKS! “And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, to set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.” (Luke 10:33-35) We have a perfect illustration of the second Great commandment we have spoken of before, concerning loving our neighbor as ourselves. Samaritans, remember, were despised of the Jews because of their mixed Gentile blood and their different ways of worship (John 4:20-22). Despised or not, it did not prevent this Samaritan to not just have an emotional response to the injured man, but put that compassion into good works.

Faith MUST HAVE works, Paul says in verse 17, because a proclaimed faith that has no substance behind it, no works, is a dead faith.

What do we say we have faith in? A system? Our religion? Our family? Our church? God? The Bible? Our bank accounts? Our job? Our education? Our insurance policies? Something else?

The only kind of faith that counts for Eternity, is a faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and His finished work on the cross of Calvary, when He shed His blood for the sin of the world.

It is not “works”, that is, good deeds, that seals our guarantee of Eternity with God when we leave this earth. No, not according to God’s Word, the Bible, in Ephesians 2:8-9. The Bible says we are saved by grace: His grace, His gift to us, His mercy, His loving us beyond our sinful nature, hating our sin but loving us and wanting us to be with Him in His Heaven where He lives, forever; for Eternity. Can we possibly fathom what Eternity is like?

God, Who is Holy, Who cannot tolerate sin: the barrier that stands between our being with Him, before the foundation of the world was made, had already known what and how He would resolve the sin dilemma. He would provide Himself, a Lamb, without spot or blemish, in the Person of Jesus Christ, God the Son, to bear our sin for us, that when we died, we could have the assurance of Eternity with Him forever. The price that had to be paid for our sin was Jesus bearing our sin and dying and shedding His blood for us on the cross of Calvary.

Jesus died for all men yet not all will spend Eternity with Him. Why not? Are there works that we must do? No, remember I have already said that good works are a response to having faith, not achieving faith by doing good works.

What, then, is the kind of “faith” that is in agreement with saving faith; the faith that God agrees with? Is it a faith that merely agrees or assents to things I “say” I believe in? James 2:19 says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Well, this kind of faith is no better than what Satan and his devils believe in…they agree that God is; that he exists. Yet, we know that they are not going to spend Eternity in Heaven with God. So, this cannot be saving faith…a mere intellectual assent.

When the circumstances of life take a downward turn, whether through illness, or economic devastation, or natural calamities, or grief or pain…we may pray in faith, believing God can reverse or relieve our misfortunes, and if it is His will, He can, but these are not eternal matters. It is not a saving faith.

According to Acts 16:31a, Scripture puts it this way: “Believe (that is to trust) on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” This faith is not temporal, nor intellectual, but one that relies solely on Jesus’ finished work on the cross of Calvary, and then means that “I” or “WE” are not trusting in anything we can do (works) to get to Heaven, but only on what Jesus has done. It is His “gift” to us. Like any gift, we have to receive it, or it is not ours. It may have our name on it, but until we take it for ourselves, make it our own, it is not ours.

If this is the first time you have considered this kind of faith, let me say, this is wonderful, because here and now, you have the opportunity to receive God’s gift of Eternal Life. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him….”

If Jesus is “knocking” at the “door of your heart”, asking you to let Him in and let Him take first place in your heart and life, you need to talk to God and tell Him you repent of your sin; you admit to Him, you are a sinner and there are no ‘works’ you can do yourself to make you acceptable to a Holy God; a God who cannot look on sin. Repent simply means to go full circle…and go from your ways of living your life to His way of living your life. If you tell Jesus you are accepting His taking your place on the cross for your sin, and turn from trusting in your own ways and allow Him to live in your heart ‘by faith’, THIS is saving faith. The only kind of faith that counts with God, according to His Word, the Bible.

The verses in James 2 that conclude this portion for today speak of works that that prove our faith. Once we are saved by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we do His good will, the works that we do will be works according to His will.

Our “works” after we are saved, prove our faith: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2:26

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The LORD, King of my “Heart”

The LORD, Yahweh, that is, The God Who draws near to redeem me from the tyranny of sin, is King of my heart!

If indeed, The LORD is King of my heart, it discounts the negative responses my heart could possibly encounter. It discounts my having an anxious heart. That is, a heart that frets and worries, a heart that is encumbered with the cares and the “what ifs” this life serves me on it’s platter, daily. My heart can only respond in this anxious direction, if I allow these issues to attack my soul. And, what of fear? The fear of the unknown; the fear of financial ruin; the fear of a terminal illness; the fear of….well, you could fill in the blank, I’m sure. An anxious heart, a fearful heart based on the cares of this world, leads to a troubled heart and ultimately ends with a sinful heart.

It is a definite progression; a downward progression. Yet, is it inevitable? No, it is not.

Psalm 27:1 says, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” It is a matter of perspective…a matter of our vision…a matter of our heart.

STRONG’S Concordance:
“light” -216- “luminary” (in every sense, including lightning, happiness, etc.): bright, clear, sun

“salvation”-3468- “liberty; deliverance, prosperity, saving.

“fear”-3372-revere, dread

strength-4581- a defense force; a fort(-ress), rock, stronghold

“afraid”-6342- stand in awe; (be in)fear, make to shake.

Paraphrasing, then, Psalm 27:1 with Strong’s definitions we could read Psalm 27:1 this way:
The LORD, the One who draws near to redeem me from the tyranny of sin, is my Luminary, my Clarity, and my Liberty and Deliverer. Of whom then, (or what) should I dread? The LORD, Who is near me to purchase my freedom from sin’s hold on me is my Defense, my Fortress, the Stronghold of my life; Of no oneshould I be in awe and
nothing should cause me to be shaken.

This certainly paints a picture for us of the kind of faith we can have and do have when we place our faith in the LORD and make HIM the King of our heart.

Be Thou My Vision, is an ancient Irish hymn which was translated by Mary E. Byrne, 1880-1931 and versified by Eleanor H. Hull, 1860-1935:

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

It is the presence of the LORD in our lives that makes the difference in our perspective, the difference in our vision. He, being the difference, will be the LIGHT that overshadows all else, and keep us from a sinful heart.

The great impetus of this stanza is not passive request, but a pleading of the hymn writer to lay hold on God to be Lord of his life. The writer seems to understand what Galatians 2:20a says when we read, “I am crucified with Christ…”. He wants Christ to be the One in charge of his life, the One Who lives in him. He understands that nothing and no one in this life matters more than his relationship with Jesus Christ. He wants nothing this world has to offer, but only what Jesus has for Him, and in fact, only Jesus Himself. The writer wants his focus to be 20/20…perfect vision, which is more than perfect, if Jesus is His vision. His vision is complete!

With Jesus as his only focus, his complete being will be complete and filled: his heart, his thoughts, his waking hours, his sleeping hours. The writer expresses the reliance he has in Jesus’ ever-presence with him and considers Jesus’ presence with him the illumination of his day and all of his life.

If our lives could be traced or marked by the joyous events in our lives: first cars, a new job, moving to a new home, a special vacation, marriages, children being born and toddlers taking their first steps, the first day of school and then college graduations, grandchildren, anniversary celebrations, being able to finally retire… Well, the list goes on. So many memories spring to mind and flood our souls with satisfaction and hopefully, thanksgiving for God’s blessing on our lives.

In all of these memories, did we see the Lord, Himself IN these events, or did we just see His blessings, the things we received or were granted? As we look back to these memories, how was our vision at the times of these blessings? Did we notice God’s fingerprints on our lives at these times? Did we take note of His presence and His power? His Sovereignty? Or was our vision blurred? Did we have an astigmatism? Did we not perceive His nearness. Or, were we farsighted, seeing Jesus in the remote distances of our lives and not acknowledging His near and direct presence in our lives?

Our vision of God is dependent on our spiritual character. Certainly salvation, that is being born-again, as Jesus said to Nicodemus in John 3:3, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”, is key and the precipitous point of the evidence of God in our lives. But the measure, that is the depth and breath of God in my life, is parallel to my vision, my understanding and response to Who He is; that is, my relationship to Him. Do I take Him at His Word? If I am living and responding in life as one that truly ‘hears Him’, then, I will obey His Word, and truly HE WILL BE my Light, my Salvation, my Strength, my Fortress and in responding to Jesus in this manner, I make Him KING of my heart!

In closing, there’s another verse that is dear to me, and paints a similar picture: Proverbs 18:10:
“The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”

The righteous heart seeks Jesus for his refuge. His reliance is solely on Jesus regardless of what may come his way in life. Why? Jesus is ever his vision and he has given over his life to Christ to rule in him and over all of his life.

The last verse of the aforementioned hymn says it this way:
High King of heaven, my victory won,
May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heav’n’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

May our hearts begin today with a new vision, or a renewed vision, to make Jesus the LORD and King of our hearts.

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Gleanings from James: What’s God Have in Mind?

Oh, the creaking of the gate…sounds as if I have visitors.  How good of you to visit once again as we continue delving into the Epistle of James.  

Let’s just briefly refresh our memories of what we have talked about thus far:  James, Jesus’ half brother has written this letter to the Jewish Christians that were scattered abroad throughout the world.  He considers himself a servant of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ.  (v. 1)

 From verses 2-8, James makes it clear that we should not consider nor respond to trials, temptations, testings, negatively, as God has allowed them for our good and they will result in good spiritual fruit.  We will, if we have the proper response come to that place where we will be “entire”, that is, have a mature and complete spiritual walk, (v. 4).   Our response, should we find ourselves not knowing what to do, is to ask God, and if we ask in faith, He is more than delighted to answer us.   Faith, being the key to petitioning God for wisdom.   James concludes this portion on the purpose of trials by telling us that the man that endures this time of trial, this time of testing will ultimately receive the “crown of life”.  This “crown” is His promise to all those who do endure.  Enduring, going through the trial/testing is evidence of our love for God.  

When last we met, we learned that there was a difference between the testings or temptation that God allows for His good for us, and those which emanate from our own lusts; our own desires.  We talked about how our own desires are truly at enmity with God’s desires for us.    Our desires have a negative connotation in that they spring inherently, because we are of Adam’s race.  These temptations, once consummated bring sin and sin, death.  Eternal death.  And, in closing when last we met, we talked about how we might make the transition from Eternal Death to Eternal Life by accepting God’s gift to us by faith, through Jesus Christ, God the Son. (See post dated January 14 if you are joining us for the first time.)

 As we open our Bibles today to James 1:16-18, we will consider God’s purpose in all of this.  You may be asking, “Why is this so important?”  Well, it is important TO GOD!   In verse 18a, it says, “Of His own will begat He us…”    His OWN will…

James 1:16-18:~

“Do not err, my beloved brethren.  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” – KJV

Remember, this letter is addressed to “brethren”, v. 1, that is, Jewish believers in the salvation procured for them by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross at Mt. Calvary.  

James starts off this portion with a warning to his “beloved brethren to “not err”.  With further study, you will find  that this literally means that they should ‘not be deceived’; they should not ‘wander, go astray, or be out of the way’  God has for them.  [“Be not deceived” is used elsewhere in the New Testament with the same Greek word, for those of you who might be interested in ‘digging a little more’:   I Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 6:7.]  

 “Every good gift, every perfect gift”, that is both the gift and the act of giving is from God.  It all comes from Him.  It is of His will that we received anything at all, that is good.   Let us be careful to not take the credit for what God does.  Our place is to point to Him, for He is the Provider for all that we have.  

Strong’s Concordance:       

                             “perfect” – 5046 –  complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.);  of full age.

                            “Father of” – 3962 – parent

                             “…lights” – 5457 – To shine  or make manifest , especially by rays; luminous (in the widest application) ; fire; light.

                            “variableness” – 3883 – not fickle

                             “shadow” – 644 – no obscuration

                             “turning – 5157 – revolution; turn

From these Greek definitions of the Scripture words, we have the distinct conclusion that God, is the parent and Giver of every good and complete gift that he gives us  to complete us in every phase of our living, whether it be in our livelihood, our prosperity both physically and spiritually, emotionally, mentally and also, our moral fiber, just to name some of the areas He distributes His goodness to us.    From this verse we also see that Father God is not a fickle God, not one that changes His Mind, but is resolute, unlike mankind.  What a great security to know that our God is immutable, He never changes.          

So now we come to the question for the day, What’s God Have in Mind?  Verse 18, gives us this answer.    

     God had a purpose when we who are called by His Name were born again; saved.  He “begat” us with “truth”.    The Truth is His Word, and it is by His Word, that is 100% without error, that we came to know of His Way of salvation…through Jesus Christ.  

     We have just celebrated Christmas, the celebration of the birth of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.    See the following account from the Gospel of John:

                   “In the beginning was the Word,  and the Word was with God , and the Word was God.”   – John 1:1.  Jesus Christ is the “Word” that is being spoken of here.  

“The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that wasmade.  In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.”         John 1:2-4.  

“…as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.  Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  John 1:12-13

Here’s Christmas:  “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.) full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14.

Begat: Begotten…What is on God’s mind?  Verse 18 of James 1 tells us why:  “that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.”  

  The “we” in verse 18 is in reference to the Jewish believers.  They were the guarantee of a fuller harvest.

  And, how then, does that apply to us?  We, who are saved believers of Jesus Christ, are part of the guarantee given to the Jews…part of the fuller harvest.  Today we are to be used, just as the early Jewish believers were used, for a fuller harvest.  In order for us to be useful to God’s purpose for His Name’s sake, we must go through those trials, testings, we learned about in verses 3-4.    As we   grow in our living Beyond the Strait Gate, according to His Word, we are accomplishing His good will for our lives.  

Knowing that God knows what He is doing, and that His way is Perfect, let us be glad and thankful that He loves us enough to make us all that He would have us to be.  Let us embrace God’s method of teaching us endurance with JOY; seeing the trial as a good gift; a perfect gift.

Gleanings from James: Testing vs. Temptation

    From a previous post, we noted in James 1:2 and 1:12 regarding ‘temptations’, that it was a good thing…we were to ‘count it all joy when we fell into… temptations’.  Temptations brought forth a good and right result, patience, being one result.  And, from verse 12, if we endured temptations or testings, we would ‘receive the crown of life’, a promise to all those that loved the Lord.    Testings as used in  these verses were used to prove us, designed to strengthen and manifest one’s character.  If we failed the test or trial, we are aware of our short-coming and our need to go through this testing again, until we come to that place where our character is what God would have us to become.   Certainly, these are of God’s choosing for us.

Today’s verses, James 1:13-15, use the word ‘temptation’ in quite a different manner:

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man:  But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.  Then, when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” ~ KJV

    Let’s briefly examine today, the difference in the use of the word, “temptation” and derivitives of this word.  

In verses 2 and 12, the same Greek word is used: ‘peirazo’.    

Strong’s Concordance – 3985 – a putting of proof by experiment (of good); to prove; to test; to try.   Let us note at this juncture, all good things come from God.  

     A few verses to acknowledge God’s goodness to mankind and by no means a comprehensive example of God, and His goodness.  I encourage you to take out your concordance and do a self-study throughout the Bible seeking out God’s goodness.  It is a humbling and rewarding exercise in getting to know God as He is and Who He is.

     Psalm 8:12a, “Yea, the LORD shall give that which is good;…”            

     In Genesis 50:20, “…but God meant it unto good, …to save much people alive.”  An example from Joseph’s life in bringing about ‘good’ to benefit many, through the trial in Joseph’s life.  [I encourage you to read the full account of Joseph’s life from Genesis to get the full impact of this verse.]

     Psalm 86:5, “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.”

     Psalm 86:15, “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” 

Psalm 119:67-68, “Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy word.  Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statues.”   

    In verses 13-14 we have some key words to consider.  Once again, using our Strong’s Concordance:

verse 13 –  “tempted” – 551 – apeirastos – Not temptable;

verse 14 –  “tempted” – 3986 – peirasmos – experience of evil solicitation, discipline or provocation;

– “lust” – 1939 – longing; desire.   

–  “enticed” – 1185 – allured; beguiled.

verse 15 –  “sin” – 266 – offence

–  “finished” – 658 – consumated

–  “tempted” – 3985 – (man) proven

–  “death” – 2288 – thanatos – death (be…)

      Taking our findings, let us try and understand what these verses are saying, having already established that God is good and His very nature is holy; no evil ‘thing’ comes from God and when He has allowed trials and testings in our life (“temptations”, verse 2), they are for the proving of our character and for our perfecting or maturing us to a completeness in becoming a more Christ-like nature.

 We find in verses 13-15 of James, that when we are tempted to do evil, to do that which transgresses against God and His Word, (see Psalm 51:4), that we are tempted, that is, provoked, because of our own fleshly and evil desire to fulfill our own longings and desires.

 Perhaps, we should stop a moment to think about what it is that might easily provoke us to sin.  What are the ‘traps’, the “weaknesses”  in the areas our lives where we might be easily beguiled and cause us to offend/to sin against God.   If we might have an awareness of not only what they are but when it is that we are most vulnerable to them occuring, perhaps we could be prepared with God’s Word to battle against the allurements to our flesh, that we might “not sin against God.”

     Verse 15, goes on to say, that when we DO give in to this ‘lust’ to satisfy our own longings, it can only lead and culminate in sin.  There are no degrees of sin; one sin is not more evil than another.  To God, sin is sin.  It is separation from Him, because He is holy.

     No one else is at fault…just ourselves.  (No, the devil did NOT make you do it!  We DID IT, because WE wanted to do it.)  

And, sin, Scripture says, when it is finished, when it is  “consummated”, results in “death”.  

Well, you might be thinking, that is the way it is…everything eventually dies.  Yes, that is true.  Why is that?  Perhaps you, who have come through, Beyond the Strait Gate, are new to these concepts from God’s Word and have never considered why it is that all things eventually, DIE!?  

For the answer to this, we would have to go back to the Garden of Eden.   Back to where creation began and God planted the perfect sinless man and woman in His paradise He made for them.  All was provided for man, and in this state of perfection, death was not heard of, until that day came when God’s enemy allured the woman, Eve, to sin against God and His Word to them.  It all comes down to ‘disobedience’.  You know, it is the same for us today.  When we sin against God, it is because of disobedience to His revealed Word in the Bible.  You know the story, and if not, you can read it in     Genesis 3.  As you read, you will find Eve’s human nature, just like ours,  at work.  We don’t like to be blamed for our wrong doings…so it was in the beginning.  Each one, blamed the other for their transgression.  Yet, as Scripture already has taught us from James, we sin, when we are allured by our own lusts…and when we ‘give in’ to these desires, we sin.  

      What about this question of death.   As we continue reading in Genesis 3, we find God’s judgment on Adam and Eve because of disobedience: not only did they receive a condemnation of death, Genesis 3:19, but this ‘death sentence’ affects every living thing .    In being “evicted” from the Garden, out from the reach of the tree of life because of disobedience against God,  Adam and Eve set the standard for all mankind.   Perfect man became a sinner.  We are Adam’s race.  We, too, inherently, are sinners.  Thus, we all die.  

 This was not what God had in mind when He created man.  He made us for Himself, and the plan was for us to live with Him forever.  So, He had a “plan B”, if you will.  He sent His Son, Jesus, who is God come down from Heaven for one purpose: to die on the cross of Calvary, shedding His blood, to pay the penalty for our sins. That is God’s remedy for mankind.   What is our part?

     God hates our sins, but He loves us and does want for us to be with Him in His Eternity, Heaven, with Him.   But, alas, sin doesn’t abide in Heaven.  Heaven is His Home and can be our home also, if we accept the gift of Jesus’ finished work on the cross of Mt. Calvary, when He shed His blood and died for our sin.  However, like any gift, we have to receive it.  We receive His gift by faith, through the grace given us by God.   Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” – KJV

The question that now remains for us…’will we accept the gift of Eternal Life provided for us by God the Son, or will we die…like Adam, in our sin?

Ponder the question today.  Meditate on it.   If you are a believer in Jesus Christ and profess Him as your Savior, then, we continue and endeavor to live according to His Word, embracing the ‘temptations’ He allows in our lives to prove us, that we might be worthy of His gift of Eternal Life.    

     If you are not a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, the challenge today is to consider what you have heard Beyond the Strait Gate, and if you are convicted of your need for His forgiveness and desire a life with Him in His Eternity, thereby living forever, then, you need to do business with Him.    Go to Him in prayer, admitting you are a sinner and do not deserve eternal life.  But, if you believe He died for our sin and rose from the grave to purchase a place in Heaven for you, ask Him to come into your life and take control of your life; to forgive you of your sin and save you.  He asks us to repent, that is to make 180 degree turn around from our way of life to His way of life.  If you are willing to do this and place your trust in Him for your salvation from sin, praise God!    

John 6:47 says this, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.”

     I would love hearing from you, and in particular, if you have made this decision to believe in Jesus Christ by faith.  Like a newborn babe, we need to know what steps to take to grow and become a strong Christian.