Wednesday, December 31, 2014
The year 2014 has quickly come and gone and we have seen some crazy things happen. I write this poem to encourage myself, and to encourage my readers to hang onto our profession of faith in 2015. He is worthy of our praise and loyalty, both in the coming year and always.
As a New Year Dawns...
Though all hell tempts us otherwise
Hang on to the Son
Hang on to His victory
Til the great battle's done.
Sometimes it feels like
God's gone far away
Yet that's when He begs us
Close by Him to stay.
Strange trials and testings
Get stronger each day
Yet hang on to Jesus
He'll show us the way.
Just when you wanted to
faint and to quit
He calls You now to Him
In His Presence to sit.
A new year approaches
While we still live in time
God lives in eternity
His Presence sublime.
Hang on though the day fades
Between darkness and light
In the presence of Jesus
There shall be more night.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Did you ever wonder why things are the way they are in your life? I know I have wondered it for mine. I think back to when I was just ready to graduate from high school and my "whole life" ahead of me. Such dreams, such hopes. And here I am today, over thirty years later with most of my life behind me now. There are some things I wish I had never gone through, but yet they happened any way.
If it were not for the truth contained in the above verse, I often could feel sad by the way some things have turned out, by the way things seem to appear in my life. But God is sovereign, and He has a purpose beyond mine. In that I can rejoice. Before I ever was conceived, God had my whole life known before Him. He knew all the things that would happen, and yet He allowed them for a reason.
Another verse of great comfort is II Corinthians 2:14: "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place." Now how does God do that? How could He possibly lead me in triumph in everything? Only one way, if I keep trusting Him that He knows everything that is going on in my life and is working it for my absolute good.
Life is tough, but God is always there. He knows all things that will happen to us in the future, and desires to work them for our ultimate good. When I know that God is sovereign over every little detail of my life, then my anxious heart can find rest in Him. He knows me, He knows all about me. What peace I can gain from that thought. He is not just sitting up there on a throne, waiting for me to make a mistake so He can beat me over the head somehow. No, I read about Jesus doing the very opposite for me:
In the book of Hebrews, chapter 7, Kenneth Wuest translates verse 25 this way: "He is able also to be saving completely and forever those who come to God through Him, being always alive for the purpose of continually making intercession for them."
That doesn't sound like a God ready to "get me" but a God of compassion, a God who knows everything about me and yet He loves me somehow. David wrote in Psalm 139:1-6:
1 O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
5 You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.
If this is really true, then I do not need to be afraid of hiding anything from God. Indeed I cannot hide anything from Him. He knew all of my life and every thought I would think, before I even existed. All He wants me to do is trust Him, that He is working things for the good, that He will take care of every detail of my life. He is ever concerned, ever involved, ever caring in my life.
In His Word, God proves He is ever concerned in every trial:
1 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and be troubled,
Though the mountains shake with its swelling.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah
In His Word, God proves He is ever involved with all the details of our life:
For You are my hope, O Lord GOD;
You are my trust from my youth.
By You I have been upheld from birth;
You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb.
My praise shall be continually of You.
Finally, in His Word, God proves He is ever caring of all our needs and burdens:
I Peter 5
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
In fact, He cares for me because I am in His Son, and He loves me with the very same love that He has for His Son, for Jesus prayed for us in John 17, asking His Father:
"O holy Father, maintain a watchful care over them in Your name, which You have given Me, in order that they may be one even as we." (John 17:11, Wuest translation)
"And I made known to them Your name, and will make it known, in order that the love with which You loved Me might be in them and I might be in them." (John 17:25, Wuest transl.)
Again, in the epistle of I John chapter 3, verses 1 and 2 are translated by Kenneth Wuest like this:
"Behold, what exotic (foreign to the human heart) love the Father has permanently bestowed upon us, to the end that we may be named children (born-ones, bairns) of God. And we are. On this account, the world does not have an experiential knowledge of us, because it does not have an experiential knowledge of Him. Divinely loved ones, now born ones of God we are. And not yet has it been made visible what we shall be. We know absolutely that whenever it is made visible, like ones to Him shall we be, because we shall see Him as He is."
These are just a few verses that prove that God knows all about us and our situations and is sovereign over every detail. He has done everything He possibly could to give us a sense of security and love, in spite of whatever is going on around us. Because of this, we can thank Him for all things, and when we do, it lifts us above our problems to His glorious throne, the blessed place of our sanctuary, both now and forever.
Monday, December 22, 2014
This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It proves that a Christian in fellowship with God is the happiest of all people on the planet. They are not bound up by a bunch of rules and regulations, but have the glorious liberty of the sons of God. In fact, we are promised that in II Corinthians 3:17: "Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." It is the opposite of what the world thinks. The world thinks Christians are miserable, and they can be, if they are only carnal. But the Spirit of God abiding with us always gives us hope and peace, even in difficult circumstances.
It is not having everything going right that makes a person happy. It is in knowing the Person who is Peace Personified. In Psalm 16, my Bullinger Companion Bible had a note about a note about 4 very important "P's" in verses 5 and 11. We receive these when we become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
1. A portion "The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot." Psalm 16:5
Verse 11 contains three more blessings:
2. Guidance for our path "Thou wilt show me the path of life..."
3. The presence of the Lord in our lives "In Thy presence is fullness of joy"
4. Finally, pleasures at His right hand if we are overcomers. "At Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore."
What beautiful gifts from God. The word for portion in verse 5 is manah. (#4487) It can mean a part, a portion or a lot. Did you ever think about what a privilege we have to have God included in our "lot in life?" Yes, we must make a decision to believe in Christ but He also chose us from the foundation of the world. We need to remember, especially in times of difficulty, that God will always be our portion. He is faithful to us, even if we lose faith in Him. Jesus promised in John 10:28-29: "And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them to Me,is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand." This verse was the one that really convinced me of eternal security, because we are not strong enough to even pluck ourselves out of God's hand, even if we wanted to. Thank God!
"My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." Psalm 73:26
"Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words." Psalm 119:57
"I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living." Psalm 142:5
"The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him." Lamentations 3:24
The Lord also will show us the path of life, if only we are willing. Whenever I go my own way, I end up in despair because I do not ultimately know what is best for me. Only God knows what is the best for me. Therefore, I can trust the path that He leads me on, even if it is through dark valleys at times, because He promises to work all things for good to those who love Him.
"Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies." Psalm 27:11
"Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight." Psalm 119:35
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105
"Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways." Psalm 139:3
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path... Psalm 142:3
"But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Proverbs 4:18
"Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters;" Isaiah 43:16
His presence within our lives is what gives me the courage to face each day, even though this world is filled with trouble. Sometimes, I cut off my sense of His Presence by my own personal sins. It makes me want to confess them and run back to my Father as quickly as I can. It is my belief that those in hell will experience just the opposite: a total lack of His presence and or any sense of well being forever and ever. What an awful thought. But if only we take His free gift of salvation we need never be afraid of being eternally separated from His presence.
"And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden." Gen. 3:8 (This is how humanity first went wrong...by hiding from God's presence.)
"And He said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." Exodus 33:14
"Glory and honour are in His presence; strength and gladness are in His place." I Chronicles 16:27
"Then shall the trees of the wood sing out at the presence of the LORD, because He cometh to judge the earth." I Chronicles 16:33
"If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in Thy presence, (for Thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then Thou wilt hear and help." II Chronicles 20:9
"Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy presence from the pride of man: Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues." Psalm 31:20
'For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?" I Thessalonians 2:19
"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." Jude 24-25
Finally, we enjoy true and lasting happiness when we seek Him first and His kingdom. The pleasures He has for us, like David told us about in Psalm 16, are beyond what any eye can see or ear can hear,far beyond what this world has to offer. (See I Corinthians 2:9)
"If they obey and serve Him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures." Job 36:11
"They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures." Psalm 36:8
At this holiday season, there is no better time to "take the cup of salvation"(Psalm 116:13), and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ , who died as a substitute for all of the world's sins. In believing that it included you personally, you also will be able to enjoy these magnificent promises from God's Word. I want to wish you, my dear reader, a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. And that is all because Jesus is the Reason for the Season, and our hope and joy in the life to come.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Christmas comes on the shortest and darkest time of the year for us here in the Western Hemisphere. In my area, most of the November and December days are pretty gray and dark, saying nothing of the bitter cold of January and February soon to follow. Holidays, thought to be a happy time, can evoke painful memories of people we once had in our lives who are no longer with us, through death or their own choice to separate from us for some reason. No matter the reason why, these losses seem more difficult at the holidays.
I read of many Christians being driven from their homes by persecutors, or those even being martyred for their faith. I have read of bombs being dropped on Christian villages in Africa, and of millions of Syrian refugees, living in camps. Though I have had what I would consider a difficult year, my suffering does not compare in any way to theirs. And yet, even though there is so much evil in this world, I rejoice when Christmas rolls around each year.
It is not because of presents, but I am reminded of His Presence, the best present of all. It is staggering to think that God Himself would reduce Himself to a tiny baby, and choose to be born not in a palace like royalty, but in a filthy, cold manger among animals. It is unimaginable to think that the very Creator of all the world came to visit us in His Incarnation yet mankind could find no place for Him in their inns. That He knew quite well all the suffering He would have to endure, but chose it gladly so that He could call us His brothers and sisters.
If I focus on people and my hurts, yes, I could be depressed on Christmas. But I choose to delight in the fact that this very God could love me,
me, and not only me, but all the other sinners of this world as well. He loved me so much that He took care of everything that would stand in the way of me having a relationship with Him. He actually took my own sin and shame upon Himself and gave me His very own righteousness in its place. There is no other religion on this planet that can offer you that.
"...God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation."
"He made Him who knew no sins to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." II Corinthians 5:19,21
Buddhism may proport to give karma, but only God can pour forth abundant grace upon grace upon undeserving creatures. I love what John the Apostle says: "For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses, grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ." John 1:16-17
If I focus on my failures, again, I could be depressed on Christmas. But my slate has been wiped totally clean and each day I receive a fresh start to grow in grace and knowledge of my Lord and Savior. For you see, God does not look at my sins, or yours either. They were all taken away on a single day. That is why David the King, who committed such a great sin as killing Uriah the Hittite, could say: "How blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! (Psalm 32:1)
I am not saying that we can just get away with sin with no consequences, but I am saying that God will not charge us with our sin, for He charged them all to Christ. It is to our advantage not to sin, for we will reap what we sow. But, as it says in I John 2:1-2: "...And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for ours; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."
If I focus on the world around me, once again, I could get very depressed this Christmas season. In fact, when I think of all the waste of food and money in this country on the holiday while most of the world is starving, it does make me pretty sad. But, there is coming a day when righteousness and peace will reign in this world. For my Savior not only died for the sins of the world, but He is also coming again to put down evil forever and reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The way things are going on this planet, I believe it won't be much longer until He does come again for His Second and final Advent. This time, it will not be as a meek and mild baby, but as a victorious King. Zechariah 14:3-4, 9, states:
"Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations (*who oppose Him), as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south...And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one, and His name the only one." (*my explanation)
If you happen to be reading this without the assurance that you know this wonderful Person named Jesus Christ, you can know Him today! Simply believe that God sent His only begotten Son to take your place on the cross, that He paid in full for your sins and was raised from the grave never to die again. For you see, this simple verse of John 3:16 is really the best Christmas present of all: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
Give yourself the best this Christmas. Believe in Christ today.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
I have often wondered about this verse and desire to be perfected in God's love, so that I won't let fear have any place in my life. It says that God's perfect love casts out fear but then I thought of Christ, He is Perfect Love personified and He did not fear any man. He was the ultimate picture of fearlessness as He stood before Pontius Pilate, who told Him that he had power over whether Christ lived or died.
So Pilate *said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?”
Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” John 19:9-10
He was not afraid of offending the Pharisees by healing on the Sabbath, He was not afraid to cleanse the temple and drive out the money changers, He was not afraid to speak the Truth in love. It almost sounds a bit humorous in Luke 11 when He was pronouncing woe on the Pharisees, the lawyers told Him that they also were insulted by His statements.
Luke 11:45 "One of the lawyers *said to Him in reply, “Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.”
Did Jesus back off then and say "Whoops, I didn't mean to offend you lawyers?" No, the next verse records, "But He said, “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, bwhile you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers." (Luke 11:46)
I wonder why I get so afraid then. Is it because I want to please people more than I want to please God? Proverbs 29:25 says: "The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe."
Snare here can be defined as a noose. Did you ever hear the expression "the social loop can become the social noose?" The more I get caught up in people pleasing, the more tied I am in trying to meet others' expectations of me, instead of just trying to please God. Way back when I was in high school, I remember that if a certain person did not smile at me in the hall when classes changed, it could actually ruin my entire day. Why? Because I was trapped in the snare of wanting everyone to like me. What a fool. I was in a dangerous position, thinking that way, for Jesus warned us that we should not even desire wanting to please everyone around us. In Luke 6:26 He warned, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way."
But the Scriptures encourage us, whenever we are afraid, to look away from ourselves and our situation and to place our eyes on Jesus. If we aim to please Him, we have nothing to worry about. Repeatedly it tells us not to be afraid, to look and rely on Him to help us.
In Psalm 56:11 it says, "In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
The fact is man can do nothing to God's children without His sovereign permission. So if something that looks humanly bad happens to me, I can rely on the promise of Romans 8:28 which says "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." I can rely on the fact that God can work any bad thing for the good in my life if I will keep trusting Him.
Have you ever thought of what Jesus was saying in John 15:9: “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love."
We are loved in the exact same way by Jesus that the God the Father loved Him. That is a lot of love! In fact, you could not ask for any more love than that. If I am loved that perfectly by my perfect God, I really don't need to be afraid except of displeasing Him. As much as I think of the love of God, I also must remember that God is holy and just. Though my sins are all paid for, one day, I will stand before Him and give an account for my life, for what I did with what He graciously gave me. That is what I should have a holy fear of, displeasing Him, not being liked by every person I know.
Romans 11:22: Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.
Paul is not saying that we will be cut off from eternal life if we do not continue in His kindness, but we can miss out on rewards that He longs to give us. In other words, this life is not a game. So, every day, I need to ask myself, "Whom do I want to please today?" Is it people who may say something nice about me to my face and then turn on me when my back is turned? Or is it in my perfect God, who never changes, nor will change His verdict He rendered about me when I believed in His Son.
Romans 4:5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.
Saturday, November 15, 2014
And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.
And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.
And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God."
I read this passage this morning and my spirit rejoiced within me. For that woman represents me and my own inability to produce anything that pleases the Lord, by my works or so called goodness. But the Lord tells me I am loosed from my infirmity. Well, just what does that mean, in practical terms?
God knows I want to do the right thing. Just like Paul says in Romans 7:15, I really want to do the right thing. Really I do. But I find myself not being able to do it. "For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do."
The woman who was all bent over really wanted to straighten up her spine. But if you look in the Greek, the words for "could in no wise lift" are "eis mē pantelēs" and EW Bullinger, in the Companion Bible, transliterates it as meaning: not unto the furthest extent, or unable to the uttermost.
If we are really honest, that should be our description of living a Christian life in our own power. The more we try, the greater we fail. Unable to the uttermost. I like that, for it gives me a real sense of relief. God is not expecting anything from me in my own power or ability. And He also is not surprised when I admit to Him my failures. As if I could hide anything from Him anyway? He knows every thought before I even think it: "Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought from afar off." (Psalm 139:2)
But, there is a perfect complement to my total and complete lack of ability to produce anything before God that He could reward at the Bema Seat. That perfect complement is God's total Divine ability, available to every one of His children, so that none of us have an excuse that will stick at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Christ is capable of saving us to the uttermost:
"Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25)
Our Great High Priest will always be there in every exigency and every emergency we face to give us what we need. One of the ways He does that is just by revealing to us His names in the Scriptures when we face various trials and temptations. Just taking the time to find the names of God in the Scriptures will tell us of all the ways He can work His Divine abilities into our own human disability. Meditating on Him, being all that you need for every situation is one of the ways He will give us that ability to overcome in our trials. But we must choose to believe that these promises are true, even more true than what we see or feel around us.
Are you in need of defending? God has promised to be a rock and fortress to His children four times in the Scriptures:
2 Samuel 2:22 And he said:“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
Psalm 18:2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Psalm 31:3 For You are my rock and my fortress;
Therefore, for Your name’s sake,
Lead me and guide me.
In Psalm 71:3, the Psalmist makes a petition from his Rock and Fortress:
Be my strong refuge,
To which I may resort continually;
You have given the commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.
By looking away from ourselves, and putting our eyes on the Author and Finisher of our Faith, meditating on who our God is for us, we will be given strength from His own endless resources. I like the idea of God being my mighty Rock and Fortress, what other names of God do you like? I would love to hear them!
Friday, October 31, 2014
So on Halloween let me just say I am tired of all the death celebration. There, I said it. I am tired of seeing them celebrate it on TV with all the ghosts and zombies, and the spirit of death that hangs over the end of October. Today, I choose to think about Christ's great victory over death, once and for all.
The enemy does not want to be reminded that he lost the battle 2,000 years ago and so he tries to make people think he is still winning. But he lost. When Christ cried, "Tetelestai!" on the cross and then rose up victoriously from the tomb, there was not a thing the enemy could do to keep Him down. So, how about a few verses today that celebrate the victory, once for all, of Christ's life over the devil's death? Maybe one for each day of October? Here are some few verses who show who the winner is today, and forever!
1) Revelation 19:6
Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns."
2)I Corinthians 15: 25-26
For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
3) John 1:4-5
In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them
and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing;and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead?"
“He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee,saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”
9)I Corinthians 15:3-5
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
10)I Corinthians 15:54-55
But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.“O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”
11)I Corinthians 15:57
but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
13)II Corinthians 5:21
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.” Having said this, He breathed His last.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.Much more then, having now been justified by
His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
17)II Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
18)I John 4:4
You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
19)I John 4:18
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
20)I John 5:4
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.
23)II Corinthians 2:14
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful."
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
30) Revelation 12:11
“And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death."
“I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
Thursday, October 23, 2014
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved. Jeremiah 8:20
I just glanced over at the clock on my computer and it said 9:11. Maybe to some that does not mean anything, but to me it reminds me of a bad day, a day that changed our country so that it was never the same again. A day when we lost something permanently. And then I thought to myself, "What am I doing?" I really should keep a time log of how much time I waste mindlessly surfing the Internet. Sometimes when the weather is bad my service will go out for a while and in a way, I feel a bit liberated. I don't have to check my computer. Because there is something that is addicting to me about coming to the computer to check on the latest news. Like I really need to know all the bad news anyway?
Sometimes I think about what life was like for me before all this technology. I grew up right before all the technology started invading our lives so much. And I think it probably was better back then, not constantly being connected 24/7 to the world and all its doings. For I think I will miss out if I am deprived of it, but if I sit and surf, it really doesn't do much to create happiness or real human connections for me. What about you?
And yet Jesus knew there would come a day when we would be so "advanced" technologically. As if that impresses Him. Things are changing so quickly every day now it is hard to know what is really going on. But Jesus did warn us that these difficult times would come. I think it is pretty obvious that these characteristics would describe the generation we are living in now, and it is was described even back then:
"But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" II Timothy 3:1-5
One day this past summer I was searching for related verses on the end of the age. One of them describes not just famine physically, but famine for the Word of God. For some in countries where the Bible is illegal, this literally is true. But what about here in America, with our casual take it or leave it attitude towards God's Word?
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord GOD,“That I will send a famine on the land,Not a famine of bread,Nor a thirst for water,But of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea,And from north to east;They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD,But shall not find it." Amos 8:11-12
This led me to think of the place in Daniel where he is told that the book will be sealed til the end of the age. People are running to and fro in that verse also, so I compared those verses in Daniel 12:1-4:
“At that time Michael shall stand up,
The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people;
And there shall be a time of trouble,
Such as never was since there was a nation,
Even to that time.
And at that time your people shall be delivered,
Every one who is found written in the book.
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake,
Some to everlasting life,
Some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever.
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end;
many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”
I always thought that running to and fro meant people would be able to get around quickly on the planet, and that there would be an exponential rise in knowledge. It probably does mean that. But once again, I gained some wonderful insight on this verse from E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible. In the notes, he equates running to and fro with apostasy, turning away from the true faith. He interprets an increase in knowledge with an increase in calamities or wickedness. I think any honest person could say that as our technological advances have made great strides, right along with that is humankind's intention and plan to use this technology for evil.
But, thankfully, we still do have time to take advantage of opportunities to learn God's Word. God has been so very patient with us. One day, His patience will wear out, and He will have to judge the evil on this planet. So, again, I ask myself, it's 9:11, how am I preparing myself for that day?
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21:34-36
Friday, October 17, 2014
This verse from the book of Mark struck my attention this morning. In this chapter of Mark Jesus healed the man with the withered hand and the Pharisees began plotting against Him to destroy Him. He also chose His disciples. He got in a boat because the crowds were pressing in upon Him so much. When it became so crowded that they could not even eat bread, then the statement about Jesus being out of His mind was said by His friends. In my Companion Bible, with notes by E. W. Bullinger, it says His "friends" are translated as kinsfolk, i.e. His brethren and His mother.
That really stood out to me, that these very friends who said Jesus was out of His mind were His mother and brothers! Then I thought that as a human being, Jesus was not impervious to human feelings of pain and ostracism. Imagine how He might have felt hearing them say that. His very own family thinking He was out of His mind.
Of course, this pain may have been small compared to the loneliness He felt when all His disciples abandoned Him and He was alone in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying while sweating drops of blood, anticipating the horror of bearing all our sins. He had to face that burden utterly alone. Or when He cried to His Father from the cross:
“Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
It really is true. Jesus really can identify with all of our weaknesses, for as a Man, He suffered every temptation we will ever face. He knows what it feels to be lonely, to be left out.
"Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted."
All of my life, I have longed to fit in, to find someone who thinks as I do, someone with whom I can identify completely. I have many close relationships and yet, there was a longing inside for this unconditional approval from people, something that people just cannot give. For we all have feet made of clay. And yet, all along, what a fool I was, for I did have Someone with whom I could identify.
How much more could He do to reveal to me that He loves me? And yet, somehow, I could not break through this feeling of despair. And so, I did what I do every morning, by God's grace. I read His Word. And the Spirit knew I needed help and reminded me of Psalm 139.
"O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me."
I am known by God! Oh what a glorious thought. My "longing for belonging" is forever settled as I realize my relationship with Him, a totally free gift by the grace of His Son Jesus Christ. I am a "member in particular" of the Body of Christ. And if you are in Christ, you are too!
"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular." I Corinthians 12:27
Again, in the Companion Bible from Bullinger, it says of this verse in the notes "each in his part." God has made each of us uniquely a part of His Son's very own Body. If we want fellowship, that is where we will find it. Not in anything this world has to offer.
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."
Here is a little poem I wrote today as I mused on these things:
Why do I look to man
For what You alone bestow?
Unconditional love, security
Above what man can ever know.
All my life my soul has searched
For acceptance in the wrong place.
For man, who is made of dust
Cannot comprehend Your grace.
You look down with compassion
You see me in despair,
You tell that You and You alone
Can ease the burden I bear.
Do not look then from east to west
To find someone in whom to confide.
But trust in Me, the Lord Your God
I will ever be by your side.
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
This verse has always been very compelling to me. No matter how many achievements or toys we have collected, death becomes the great equalizer. And unless we take matters into our own hands, it is God's prerogative the date and time we are appointed to die. I looked up this verse in my Companion Bible edited by E.W. Bullinger and he has a note written about the word "chance" in verse 11. In Strong's Lexicon, this word is #2694 and is transliterated pega`. Bullinger states that it is rendered as a time of misfortune. It occurs only in one other verse, I Kings 5:4 where it is translated having to do with evil or calamity.
So, according to Solomon, misfortune is appointed for all of us. I thought about that for a minute and how he, as the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes concludes 31 times, according to my count, that all is vanity. If this were the end of the story, how sad it would be. This was the man who had everything talking: riches, wine, women, fame and fortune. But somehow, after attaining all these things, Solomon forgot the source of all his prosperity: God. So his conclusion naturally is that misfortune is given to every human being who walks on the face of the planet.
What a depressing thought. This book made me quite sad at one point in my life. But after reading about the term misfortune yesterday, I immediately thought of the believer in Christ, what is promised to him, by the very fact that he is in association with the Lord. These were some of the verses that immediately came to mind:
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand.
I have been young, and now am old;Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,Nor his descendants begging bread.
The believer is not abandoned to happenstance, to fate. God is in charge of every detail of his life.
The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,And His ears are open to their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
God hears His children when we cry out to Him. Our prayers reach to the highest heaven, not just to the ceiling!
When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him;When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him.
But He knows the way that I take;When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
This is not someone predestined to fate, but someone in the care of a loving God!
“Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.“Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."
I can either believe this is true, or believe that the world is meaningless, life is meaningless, so eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
I Peter 5:10
But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
God doesn't see death the way we do either, it is not a time of misfortune or hopelessness for the one who knows the Lord. Rather, it is Graduation Day.
Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints.
These are just a smattering of the verses which speak of the great care and love that the Heavenly Father has for each of His children, even in a world that appears to be spinning out of control. If you are not sure that you have that relationship with God, it is freely offered to you by Him through His Son Jesus Christ. He willingly took on humanity and lived a perfect life here on this planet, and when the time was right, offered Himself to God as the perfect sacrifice on the cross for every sin of every human being, no matter what they have done. The only thing that can separate us from having this life is unbelief that He did this for you.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
So, before the darkness in this world grows even darker, you can make a simple decision today to go from being one whom "time and chance happens to them all" to being a beloved son or daughter of the Most High God.
I leave you with this last verse from Ephesians. See how much the Father wants you to come to Him, by doing it all for you in providing Jesus Christ. Put your full faith in Him alone today.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
That is what He wants for each one of us...
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
I walked about in my own fog this morning, as fog also hid the sun outside. I watched the morning news for a half hour as I tried to wake up, but could not shake off the sense of despair at the events that are unfolding around me. People being beheaded in America, mysterious plagues becoming pandemic, the White House invaded, and the lack of security coming to light. I decided I'd had just about enough, and turned instead to my usual "first sighting" in the morning: the Word of God.
God has been surprising me lately with passages that seem to "pop out" at me. I have read them before, but suddenly something new and fresh strikes me in a way I had not seen it before. I read in I Peter 1:13 a verse of encouragement for these troubled times:
"Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (emphasis mine)
Hope. Anticipate the fact that Christ is coming soon. That brought comfort to my troubled soul. I decided to look up some cross references and I found this gem from I Corinthians 1. Keep in mind that Paul is addressing the carnal Corinthians, getting drunk at the Communion service and tolerating a brother who was in an incestuous relationship. Before he attempted any words of correction, he said this to them:
"I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus,that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge,even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you,so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." I Corinthians 1:4-9
My eyes were being taken off of me, off of my surroundings and put back onto the only right thing in the universe: God Himself. I began looking up verses concerning the attribute of His faithfulness.He was faithful to the Old Testament saints, He was faithful to provide Christ as Substitute for all mankind, and He will be faithful to come back again, just as He promised He would. As long as I fix my hope on that, I cannot go wrong. If I look at what I see around me, then I will have what Jesus described would happen to men's hearts in the last days:
Luke 21:25 “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves,men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
My heart will faint from fear and anxiety if I look to what is happening all around me. I know that I can be informed of trends and current events to be prudent, but I don't have to be occupied with them. Instead I can look to the only solution to all the problems: Christ's soon return to this planet. He will come and set things right and He will need no adviser to tell Him what to do.
I cannot help but think of Psalm 2:
Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the LORD, and against His Annointed, saying,
"Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!"
He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them,
Then He will speak to them in His anger
And terrify them in His fury, saying,
"But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain."
"I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD:
He said to Me, 'You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
'Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance.
And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron,
You shall shatter them like earthenware.'"
Now therefore, O kings, show discernment,
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the LORD with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled,
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
And so, now more than ever before, it is time for us set our hopes fully on the grace that will be revealed to us, as the Apostle Peter encouraged us to do. As we look into His Word and consider God's attributes, we will find our hearts taking courage. This is something we must do for ourselves, to get the strength required to get through these perilous times.
Even the prophet Jeremiah, weeping after he saw the devastation of his beloved country, found hope through this very thing:
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.
The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the LORD.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
In Exodus 14, the people of Israel had just been released from bondage to slavery in Egypt with a mighty deliverance by God. Yet their gratitude to God for His care and provision did not last long. It is easy for me to look at them and wonder how they could have been so blind. Yet these Old Testament saints' stories were included in the Scriptures for us, to be a warning for us, to not make the same mistake they did.
"For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ, Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so we would not crave evil things as they also craved." I Corinthians 10: 1-6
The people were bitter because they were in the desert. They failed to see God's daily provision for them: the daily manna and the shoes that did not wear out. Instead they complained about their lot in life. They wanted to return to slavery. I am not much different than they are. My life has had its own twists and turns, and sometimes the answers seem too long in coming. I look around me for human comfort in desperation, but deep down, I know that people cannot fill my void.
Only God can. Last night as I tried to drift off to sleep, I was troubled and like the Israelites, wept my own tears of bitterness. Only my cat knew I was crying upon my pillow. Instead of falling to sleep, the tears woke me up and I knew I needed to draw near somehow to Him once again. I began reading a book called The Seven Sayings of the Savior on the Cross by A.W. Pink. Only in the first few pages my heart was drawn to see my situation with a redemptive review. I can be like Moses, I can look to the tree,and behold that the cross of Calvary was hurled once for all into the sin-filled bitter waters of life on this fallen planet. For every person on this earth suffers. Some suffer more than others but more suffering occurred during that period of Christ's crucifixion than all other human sufferings combined. We have a God who knows very well what it means to hurt. He has not left us without remedy, but has given us a provision to make even the hardest trials in life sweet by our knowing and walking with Him.
I can either believe that this world is spinning out of control or that a sovereign God who loves me has all things, including my life and all that happens to me, under His loving care and concern. It may not look so good outwardly, but neither did it look good when Jesus went to the cross, or when God darkened the planet and a great earthquake occurred. (Matthew 27:45-57) But sins were being atoned for in that darkest moment of human history and God used that black moment to bring about the greatest victory: raising Jesus Christ from the dead. Death, satan, all the powers of hell itself could not keep Him in that grave.
Moses did not know what to do when the people started to revolt, but at that moment, God showed him a tree. When I see things I don't like in my life, I can "see" in my mind God showing me a tree too. That tree is Christ's cross. It means the old me is gone forever, crucified with Christ, and I am now reconciled and in right relation with Him. It means knowing that God is sovereign, and is working even the hardest things in my life for an outcome that is ultimately sweet. All I need to do is to keep looking at the tree and trusting in my Savior.
"And we know with an absolute knowledge that for those who are loving God, all things are working together resulting in good, for those who are divinely summoned-ones according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28 Kenneth Wuest, An Expanded Translation)
Friday, September 12, 2014
I spent time researching dead relatives lately. It sounds morbid, but I wanted to learn more about my natural family history.In this age of the internet and digital scanning, it is amazing what you can find. I scanned old newspapers for the names of family members that I wanted to learn more about, and searched to find snippets about them. One thing I learned was that my great grandfather accidentally shot off one hand, which then had to be amputated. I didn't know that. His hardware business sadly failed, and I found the ad that advertised selling off the hardware after his death. All that was left of his being a "major merchant" in his small town.
I typed in the names of some of my aunts and great aunts and uncles. I found they attended church functions, some poured tea, some played hymns. I read reports of visitors coming in from out of state and staying in their homes. (Yes, that was big news back then.) Interspersed among these stories were recipes, old fashioned advertising, a sense of a time of nostalgia somehow lost to our modern computer age. People read the papers back then, there were not a million other stories, movies, games and channels competing for their attention. People actually talked to each other, and didn't stare at their phones all day.
And yet as I searched for little nuggets about their lives, I struggled with a sense of despair about the meaning of it all. I saw pictures of them as children, little faces full of hope in antiquated photos, and then visited them as they lived in worn out bodies decades later,still hanging on to their dignity until the end. For we are made in the image of God. Lifetimes pass so quickly, and all that was left to their memory were tiny blips in the local paper about goings on in a little town in the Midwest while the planet continues to spin in a huge universe far beyond it. What makes our lives worthwhile?
My aunts and uncles had dreams, I am told, but most of them never got further than that small town. Not so my Dad. The youngest of eight children, he was the only one who went to college and left the community. He wanted something more than the little town in the Midwest had to offer. He became a very successful businessman. That didn't make him any better than them, just different, not really understood by them.
And yet isn't that what we all want? To be understood? To be validated? To be told, "Yes, your life is important." We seek that from each other, but the only one who can really give it to us is God.
And that is exactly what He offers each and every one of us. It doesn't matter where we live: in a small town or a big city. It doesn't matter how much money we make or how fancy a car we drive. It doesn't matter if we are famous in Hollywood or obscure, with no one knowing our name. The thing that could make their lives significant, and that can make any life significant is the fact that God Almighty, the Creator of the universe, actually wants, longs to have a relationship with us, us. We can do nothing for Him to benefit Him but still He loves us and wants to be our Shepherd. (Psalm 23) He even longs for us jealously! He doesn't want us to have idols because He knows that only He can make us happy. Nothing else in this world can. Nothing. This offer of an eternal love relationship with God is enough to make any life worthwhile, no matter what the circumstances,no matter what time we live in.
For God existed in all glory forever in heaven with His Father but at a certain point in time, the perfect point in time, He decided to step down from that royal privilege and live a life just like we do on this planet. He knew hunger, fatigue, loneliness, just like my dead relatives and just like I experience today. He thought that we were worth the trouble of Him dying for us. He lived the life here perfectly, took on all our sins, offers us new resurrection life with Him forever, so that our days also can have meaning even if it seems hopeless all around us. He is the Hope, our only hope.
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
"To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Saturday, September 6, 2014
Twelve simple words spoken by the John the Baptist, yet what a world of meaning is contained within them. Have you beheld the Lamb of God lately? Have I? All we need to live the Christian spiritual life comes from truly beholding our gracious Redeemer and Lord. It is the cure for overcoming a life of fear and anxiety even in the chaos in which we live.
It is truly tempting to become fearful in this time. Jesus even predicted that fear would accompany the last days before His return. In Luke 21:25-26 He describes it: "And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming upon the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken."
We have seen these things: the natural disasters, signs in the heavens (like Blood Moons on Jewish feast days), and wars and rumors of wars. We have seen society crumble rapidly, and all sense of decency is gone.
Two thoughts then. One is for the person who may read this who has never heard that there could be good news in the midst of all the bad news in the world. John the Baptist told us what the good news was: "Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world."
Do you believe that there was a man that did take on all the sins that mankind has ever committed? All the sins you ever committed? That paid freely for them all so that the only sin that could keep a person from heaven is unbelief? That Person was Jesus Christ, the Lamb spoken of in John 1:29. The word for Lamb is Amnos #286 in the Greek Lexicon to the New Testament. It refers to the Paschal Lamb, who was offered up during the first Passover when the Jewish people were being delivered from the Egyptians. The blood of the sacrificed lamb was put on their doorposts, and the angel of death "passed over" their house. The lamb offered had to spotless and without defect, and so Jesus our Savior was spotless and without defect. If He had sinned even one time, He would not have been qualified to be the Lamb of God. But He did not sin, ever in thought, word or deed, and that is why He was qualified to become our substitute.
"For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth: Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously: Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed." I Peter 2: 21-24
He takes our sins, and we take His righteousness, by one simple act of faith in His person.
"To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." II Corinthians 5:19-21
So by placing your faith in Jesus Christ you can be relieved of worry about what will happen to you in the future, because you will then be a child of God and not a child of wrath. (Eph. 2:3) You can then, as a child of God learn about God's great love and care for you in the midst of all the evil and chaos which we temporarily see coming to a head right now. In the end, God will win. You can cast your every care upon this One who loved you so much that He died for you. (I Peter 5:6-7) You can start learning the limitless dimensions of His love for you, as the Apostle Paul wrote about in his letter to the Ephesians:
"That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and the length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled up with all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:16-19
If you have just placed your faith in Him, then Jesus simply says to come and learn all about Him in Matthew 11:28-30. You will find He is kind and gracious. We need to learn about Him every day, for only learning about His great love for us will help us to overcome in these perilous days. Beholding Him, beholding His love, that is what will sustain us like nothing else can.
Friday, August 29, 2014
Isn't it amazing that with all of our modern conveniences, most of us are more time pressured than ever? And yet with the advent of technology, there is a certain portion of my day that is given over to it, almost like an obligation. And why? What never ceases to amaze me is that no matter how many times I do the same dumb thing and think I will get a different result, I never, ever do. (The definition of insanity.)
I deceive myself thinking I need to keep up with the news. There is so much information on the internet I could never digest it all, yet I attempt this vain thing all the time. I was reading a writing book by Dani Shapiro called Still Writing, and she commented that she used to take a cigarette break from her writing (before she quit smoking). She said now that had sometimes (unfortunately)been replaced by the internet break. She did not recommend it at all, because it only served to distract from her focus, and yet the temptation to lose focus by surfing the net is so easy to do. How about checking facebook a dozen times a day? Yet this all adds up to precious minutes, minutes that add up to hours, hours that add up to days of mindless wandering all in the name of my "recreation."
On the other hand, time spent in the Word of God is never fruitless. Years ago, my sisters and I enjoyed doing counted cross stitch. We made little gifts for each other. One for my older sister had the verse from Proverbs 24:3 along with a pretty little house. The verse said: "By wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established." As I stitched along, I wondered what that verse meant.
The other day, in my reading, I came across the verse again and decided to look up some cross-references.One of them was from Proverbs 9.
"Wisdom has built her house, She has hewn out her seven pillars; She has sent out her maidens, she calls From the tops of the heights of the city: “Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks understanding she says,“Come, eat of my food And drink of the wine I have mixed. “Forsake your folly and live, And proceed in the way of understanding.” Proverbs 9:1-6
I looked up some cross references again, for the part about the food that was prepared, and it led me to Luke 14:16-24, about the wedding banquet. The primary application was for the Jews who would not accept Jesus as their Messiah, so the gospel went out to the Gentiles, but in another way, could this not be wisdom from the Word of God speaking to us?
"But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many;
and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it;please consider me excused.’Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out;please consider me excused.’Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’
And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’“And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.‘For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.’”
Could not the dinner be the Word itself, it is all prepared for us, to nourish us, build us up, to help us build our own spiritual house? But with all the distractions of technology, I let it pass me by. Yet there is no excuse, for as never before do we have the Word available to us for study, with online Bibles and teaching aids.
My husband planted some wildflowers in the front of our house, yet it was not until late in the summer that they finally, gloriously, bloomed. The colors are vivid shades of fuchsia, yellow, white, and reds. Underneath are small lacy white and delicate purple flowers. One day, I noticed they had a beautiful fragrance, but you had to bend close to the flower in order to detect it. Once you put your nose close to the petals, the sweetest smell exuded from it. Could that be how it is with the Word of God? On the whole, it just looks like a big book, formidable, even, until you pick it up and start smelling the sweet perfume within? This perfume reveals to mankind the loveliness of none other than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
My pastor says you have to build an appetite for the Word of God. Well, start with just a taste then. And know that the Bible is from first to last, His-Story.Ask God to reveal to you these truths as you peer into His lovely Word:
O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. (Psalm 34:8)
"Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." Psalm 119:18
Friday, August 22, 2014
I reacquainted myself with a tried and true method of Bible study this week. I usually like to just read in a variety of different books of the Bible every day, and eventually make my way through the whole Bible as often as I can. It is my habit every morning: read the Bible as I sip my morning coffee. Lately I added daily journaling to this habit, and writing down whatever Bible verses spoke to me each day.
One of the books I have been reading in is the Gospel of John. When I got to Chapter 7, it dawned on me that this gospel is so rich, so loaded, I wanted to slow down and look into some of the verses deeper. I have an excellent resource to do just that called Nelson's Cross Reference Guide to the Bible edited by Jerome Smith. I love everything about this resource: even down to the fine paper it is printed on. Keyed to the King James Version of the Bible, it breaks the Bible down into cross references for the whole Bible, book by book, line by line. Sometimes there are multiple references given even for just one word or phrase in one verse of Scripture.
I have explained this before, but a big stumbling block for me in my days of questioning God as a young woman dealt with the issue of fairness. How could God ever be fair when some people went to hell, I reasoned. This really tripped me up. It was not until I started to read the gospel of John that I started to find answers to this and many other questions. One day I came across this statement in John 7:17: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine..."
Suddenly I had an answer to my question! If a man was willing to know, God would make sure that person got to know! Now, back in reference to the cross reference guide, I decided to look up some of the cross references for that verse, and it was so edifying! Scripture commented on, and reinforced Scripture. As a friend of mine says, "The Scriptures are so consistent."
"If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine..." For the two little words "shall know" in John 7:17, here were some of the corresponding verses:
John 3:21 "But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."
Psalm 25:9 "The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way."
Proverbs 3:32 "For the froward is abomination to the LORD: but his secret is with the righteous." (Froward means "those who turn aside"- Companion Bible, E.W. Bullinger, p.869)
Daniel 12:10 "Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand."
Hosea 6:3 "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth."
I wrote down all these verses in my journal, and when I got to the Hosea 6 passage, I was intrigued to discover more about what Scripture said about "following on to know the Lord."
Here were some of the verses that speak of "following on" to know Him:
Proverbs 23:12 "Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge."
Daniel 11:33 "And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days."
Matthew 24:13 "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." (delivered- Bullinger, Companion Bible, p. 1365.)
Luke 8:15 "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience." (keep it-"hold it fast"-Companion Bible, Bullinger, p.1455)
John 8:31 "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed"
John 15:9-10 "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love."
Years ago, when I was confused, I would get a commentary when I found a verse of Scripture that I did not understand. Today I find this a much better way to "get the sense" of the Word as in when Ezra the priest gave the Jewish people the Book of the Law.
And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
Friday, August 15, 2014
By God's grace, thirty years ago this coming Monday I became joined to my beloved life's companion. I look back and wonder how the time could have passed so quickly, the kids grown, raised and gone, and now we two are grandparents to two delightful little grandsons. God has brought us through many times of testing and trial, but I am so thankful we are together to share this milestone. I am glad or all the things God has taught me. I learned these things the hard way. After thoroughly discovering my own ways didn't work, (and through the help of a Titus 2 woman, Mrs. Judy Seligman) I found God's ways did.
When I walked down that aisle, I foolishly thought that my husband's purpose was to make me happy. It was an impossible task, something the very first woman discovered in the garden of Eden. After Eve ate the forbidden fruit and then gave it to her husband Adam to eat, mankind fell into sin and death, and God told her: "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you." (Genesis 3:16)
Was that some kind of cruel joke on Eve? Or was it a place of safety for her? I used to definitely think it was a cruel joke, even on the day when I walked down the aisle. The word for desire in Genesis 3:16 is tĕshuwqah. It means desire, longing, craving. I had a craving alright, to make sure I got what I wanted. But I did not realize that women are especially vulnerable to the enemy's lies and deception, and God gives the authority for the household to the man, not the woman.
How was it that I did not know that in I Corinthians 11:3 it states: "But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." I was created for my husband, and he was not created for me, just as Eve was created to be Adam's helpmeet?
And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Genesis 2:18 It is up to each woman to find out what her husband wants from her to be his helpmeet. There is true satisfaction in finding it.
And yet, for my heart's ultimate happiness I do not have to rely on my husband. For he is only human and has good days and bad days, just like the rest of the human race. I can aim to fulfill my God given role as the Holy Spirit empowers me, but there is One who is even closer. Proverbs 18: 24 tells me, "A man who has friends must himself be friendly,But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." I believe that Jesus Christ is that friend. He will never stop loving me. He is the One who tells me to submit to my husband and He does it for my safety, not to be a killjoy. I can trust Him to work through my husband and turn my husband's heart if my husband even if he appears to be making a foolish decision. For like the king in the book of Proverbs, I can ask for the head of my home's heart to be turned, for Proverbs 21:1 states: "The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes."
I simply turn to the Lord in prayer and entrust the situation to Him. Even if the answer is no, I can still trust God to work all things in my favor if I love God. Therefore, there is no need to worry or plead or try to twist my husband's arm. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
When I got married, I wanted to know God, but had many misconceptions about Him, His grace, and especially the finished work of Christ. I thought God was a hard taskmaster. I thought I had somehow to add to Christ's finished work. It was my husband who first heard about the light yoke and easy burden of Christ and told me I needed to hear it. I am so grateful that he did.
And so I say, here's to the next thirty my dear Kevin. Thank you for hanging in there with me, and loving me, warts and all.
To young wives who may read this, hang in there, grow in grace, read the Word, and may you too find yourself happily married thirty years later.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
The above was today's verse on my perpetual calendar, a gift from a sweet daughter in law. A perfect promise for this day, and for every day. For He ever proves Himself faithful and true.
I've been asking God lately to revive my Spirit within me, for in many ways, I resemble the believers in the church at Ephesus, who Jesus said lost their first love. He told them in His first of seven addresses to the seven churches in Revelation 2:2-5:
"I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. You also possess endurance and have tolerated many things because of My name and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first.Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent."
So many things distract me from my first priority. There are too many good books to read, movies to watch, crafts to do. I spend time with Him in the morning but somehow lose the closeness as the issues of the day press in on me. My world crowds out Christ, just like it did when there was no room for Him in the inn. Slowly, Jesus gets put on the back burner of my life, even though I have the best of intentions, and I've lost my first love.
The other evening at a ladies Bible study we talked about Jesus' remarks to the woman of Samaria in John 4 and how the water He offered her represented the Holy Spirit. I made the comment that we probably never in this lifetime could fathom the depths of what Jesus was saying when He told her about the living water He could give to her.
Thanks to the wonderful BlueLetterBible.org website, I looked into some of the words we talked about:
Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.” John 4:10
If I only knew (oida)which can mean, in its Biblical usage:
to know of anything
to know, i.e. get knowledge of, understand, perceive
of any fact
the force and meaning of something which has definite meaning
to know how, to be skilled in
to have regard for one, cherish, pay attention to (1Th. 5:12)
the gift (dorea) a free gift with emphasis on its gratuitous character (definition from Hebrew and Greek Lexicon Spiros Zodhiates, ed.)
living water: a metaphor of an inanimate thing:bubbling up, gushing forth, flowing,with the suggested idea of refreshment... is figuratively used of the spirit and truth of God as satisfying the needs and the desires of the soul
(from Thayer's Greek Lexicon) http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2198&t=HCSB
That is what Jesus was offering to the Samaritan woman: the gift of the Holy Spirit, freely available to anyone because of what He did for us on the cross. I get tired and weary, but the Holy Spirit that He gives is ever fresh and ever bubbles forth real life. It is not something we can produce ourselves, but comes from a realm totally outside of us.
Jews never spoke to Samaritans, yet there was Jesus, offering this freely flowing spiritual water to a woman who obviously had some failures in her life, just as I have failures in mine. He offered her something we all crave: a drink of refreshment that quenches eternal thirst. This thirst can't be satisfied by possessions, by prestige, by the accolades of others. It only comes from having a relationship with the God who created the universe. We become forever cleansed from our old lives and old habits by taking one sip of this Living Water. Once we have truly tasted it, nothing else in this world will satisfy us.
The Samaritan woman was not alone in her thirst, so was the Psalmist:
Psalm 42: 1-2 "As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God.I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God?" ~ Psalm 63:1 "God, You are my God; I eagerly seek You.I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without water." ~Psalm 143:6: "I spread out my hands to You; I am like parched land before You."
Though I have partaken of some of that living water, I still have so much more to drink! Every morning I need a fresh sip and every time I step out of bounds, I quickly can name the sin for my sake to God, and quickly refresh myself in the living water of the Spirit again. There is yet so much more to take in, so much more of His Spirit to drink, so many more promises to believe. In all of the ten thousand distractions, there is still only one way to be satisfied in this world:
Taste and see that the LORD is good. How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8
He gave me a reminder of the treasures, of the riches that are behind every single one of His statements to us. And He also reminded me that in eternity, we still will be musing on the wonder that came the moment we drank from His life giving fountain.