Thursday, December 30, 2010
You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.
What evidence is there of God's work in and through me as a minister of Jesus Christ? Many Christians point to certain habits such as church attendance or membership, Scripture reading and memory, serving, giving or even evangelism. According to verse one, Paul may have been asked for some type of letter of commendation that would legitimize his ministry and identify him with the Christian church of Jerusalem. These things may all be good but none are sufficient evidence for the presence of the Holy Spirit and His work. Instead, Paul points to changed lives. The believers in Corinth couldn't deny that their lives, families and community were changed by the Spirit of the living God through Paul's ministry. They were his epistle.
Who are my epistles? Whose lives have been changed by the Spirit of the living God through me? I spend a lot of time at church and work hard to create exciting and engaging programs but these are not evidences of the Spirit's work, only my own. I can point to times in the past where I have the privilege of leading someone to Christ or helping someone grow however such evidence should be current and continuous. Who have I touched lately? What evidence is there today that I have fully submitted my life and agenda to Jesus Christ and that His Spirit is working through me? When people look at my family, my kids, do they see a continuous testimony of growth and maturity in Christ? Do my children reflect a father fully submitted to God and listening to His Holy Spirit? How can I prepare myself today to be the pen that God uses to write His name on the hearts of my family, friends and fellow man today?
Heavenly Father, use me today to touch someone's life. Let me be the pen You use to write a testimony of love and truth on the heart of someone I connect with. Let the evidence of my faith not be my own work, but Your work; the work the of the Holy Spirit through me. Give me words to say, tender mercies, patience, understanding and love. Don't let my inkwell run dry but fill me today with Your Spirit. Amen.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
How aware am I of the schemes and devices of the Devil? Nobody likes to dwell on evil or give Satan too much publicity or credit, but ignoring his presence and practices is not wise.
Paul understood that bitterness, self-righteousness, self-justification and grudges were not merely bad human habits similar to biting nails, eating too many sweets or ignoring a phone call from your mother-in-law. Instead, these are traps laid by Satan to outwit and wear out the believer.
C.S. Lewis wrote of this in his famous work The Screwtape Letters, a series of letters between the young demon Wormwood and his wise uncle Screwtape. Screwtape wrote,
“And while he thinks that, we do not have to contend with the explicit repentance of a definite, fully recognised, sin, but only with his vague, though uneasy, feeling that he hasn’t been doing very well lately. This dim uneasiness needs careful handling. If it gets too strong it may wake him up and spoil the whole game. On the other hand, if you suppress it entirely – which, by the by, the Enemy will probably not allow you to do – we lose an element in the situation which can be turned to good account. If such a feeling is allowed to live, but not allowed to become irresistible and flower into real repentance, it has one invaluable tendency. It increases the patient’s reluctance to think about the Enemy.”
To suppress such spiritual warfare is dangerous and is exactly the sort of danger the Devil likes to promote. To acknowledge the inherent spiritual nature of such tendencies is to become acutely aware of the spiritual nature of life and the reality that is even more real than the physical world around us. We are spiritual beings engaged in a spiritual battle within a spiritual world where spirituality is most often repressed.
So how aware am I of the Devil's schemes and devices? Is there bitterness or self-righteousness in me? Have I held a grudge or refused to forgive? Do I justify my attitude toward those whom I find difficult? Have I clung to laziness or grown apathetic about serving others or being generous? Do I take pride in my spirituality or my habits of piety? Do I avoid taking inventory of my life, my thoughts, my habits and my emotions? Do I fail to acknowledge the spiritual nature of life and the reality of the enemy?
Father - make me more spiritually aware. Sharpen my spiritual sensitivity and help me to acknowledge where I have been duped or tricked by the enemy. Strengthen me and save me from apathy and laziness. Humble me and save me from pride and arrogance. Empower me to resist the Devil's schemes and grant me the victory in Christ (2 Cor. 2:14). Amen.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.
The God of all comfort can sympathize with our struggles, weaknesses and loss because He too suffered. "We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet is without sin," (Hebrews 4:14). Furthermore, "though He (Christ) was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered," (Hebrews 5:8). God set out on a journey two thousand years ago to fully sympathize with and bear our pain that He may provide mercy and comfort to meet us in our time of need, (Heb. 4:16). We are not alone in our pain.
The loss, pain, struggles and trials that we face bind us together with Christ and in Christ. In other words, I am one with Jesus and I am one with my fellow man. And in these trials, I can find comfort from the one who also sought comfort (Matt. 26:39 & 27:46). I can find mercy and peace from the One who has overcome the world (John 16:33). I am ministered to by the truths of Christ's suffering and the purpose for which He suffered, my salvation.
Furthermore, in these trials, I can find purpose and meaning through a personal ministry of comfort toward others who are struggling as well. By extending the truths of Christ and His suffering I can bring meaning to my loss and purpose to my pain; the salvation of my brother or sister. Yet, when I refuse to use my circumstances and situations as a ministry to others, I refuse the great meaning which God intended for my pain. My pain becomes pointless.
May God grant us all a ministry of comfort this season as we remember the journey of Jesus Christ to fully identify with our pain and bring us so great a salvation. Amen
Friday, December 17, 2010
1 Corinthians 16:8-9
"But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries."Whenever God is behind something, there is opposition. Whenever there is an opportunity to advance the kingdom and cause of Christ, there is an enemy at work opposing it. Anything worth while will have opponents (spiritual and physical) and those causes without any opponents are probably not worth much.
At times we recognize the open door. Other times we recognize the adversaries. Adversaries should not dissuade us from the opportunities God provides. Instead, they should be a sign that God is at work and persuade us toward greater obedience and effort.
Where are the open doors in my life? Where is there obvious opposition?
How have I responded to both?
Father, help me to recognize open doors and strengthen me to endure opposition and adversaries. Amen.
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature.
The new NIV puts it this way, "Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults."
Isn't it interesting that our rating system for things that are evil, immoral and which lead to debauchery are based on age. The drinking age is 21. Movies are segmented by 13 years and 17 years. We interpret appropriate TV shows through the filter of the bed times of children; after 8:00 or 9:00 things get dicey. Even video game ratings are divided by categories of "Everyone," "Youth," and "Mature."
According to Paul, age has nothing to do with liberty. Simply because we are older or stronger or wiser with time does not mean that we have a right to entertain ourselves with darker content. Instead, the older and wiser we get the more innocent we should strive to be. Isn't it youth that back the horror films, purchase most of the indecent music and drink themselves into dropout and college shipwrecks? Yet, as we age, we come to understand the value of purity, innocence, sobriety, decency. As we have kids this lesson kicks into high gear. We recognize the innocence of a baby and are reminded of God's desire for each of us.
In wisdom and understanding we should strive for maturity but this process does not demand or require familiarity with evil. We don't need to experience darkness to know what happens there. We don't need to taste poison to know its effect. We don't need to walk a mile in anyone's shoes to know they are headed in the wrong direction. God's Word is clean and clearly defines what is good and bring life and what is and does not.
Lord, may I always strive toward maturity in understanding and innocence in evil. Make me wise to recognize the darkness and poison and paths that would lead to my downfall and strong to avoid them. Amen.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
What are the childish things that Paul put away when he matured in his faith? I have a hunch that childish ways look a lot like what love is not, described in the previous verses. Love is not impatient, impulsive, selfish, proud, self-centered, rude, self-promoting, amoral, ignorant of truth, skeptical or apathetic.
These are characteristic of children who have not come to understand the fullness of a parents love. If you consider it, you can hear them shout, "it's not fair!" "but I want..." "he got the seat last time!" "I don't care!" "you never ____ for me." Kids have a tendency to express unlove with remarkable accuracy. These are typical due to the short-sightedness that comes with youth.
These are unavoidable by those who have not yet come to understand the depths of God's love demonstrated through the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. Those in the world calculate and keep tabs on rights and wrongs; often avoiding forgiveness. Those who are perishing live for the moment, chasing temporary pleasures rather than eternal values. And for those led by the flesh, life is all about the self; comfort, promotion, pride and reputation.
Yet, when I came into the light and began to receive the unconditional and extravagant love of God through Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit, I matured and put these childish ways behind me. At times I still demonstrate childishness, but it's less and less common as I pursue Christ. It's less and less common as I parent my children and see the devastating effects of immaturity. It's less and less common as I come to value more the things of God.
Daily, I must choose to put away childish things and pursue maturity in Christ.
Lord, guide me to maturity in You. Strengthen me to put away childish, self-centered ways and teach me to live like Your Son who did not consider His divinity something to be flaunted but instead humbled Himself and demonstrated unconditional, undeserved love for me. Teach me to live and love like Jesus. Amen.
Monday, December 13, 2010
1 Corinthians 12:13
For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.
When we come to Christ we are uniting with Him. But simultaneously, we also unite with one another. Our baptism makes us one. We are one body, brought to life by one Spirit. This bond between us goes beyond race, language, social status and calling. If we choose to disconnect from the body or any part of it, we bleed that life blood and lose the Spirit's power and flow in our lives. Yet, if we trust the flow of the Spirit and choose to remain connected and faithful even in times of trial, disagreement or confusion, we are strengthened by our unity and the Spirit can work at healing and wholeness.
Why then should there be disagreement, division or discord in the body of Christ? Why should the body lack forgiveness or patience or mercy or the more excellent way... love (1 Cor. 12:31). When I feel discord, disagreement or division I must turn to and trust the Holy Spirit to bring back to life a connection that is dying.
Holy Spirit, flow though me and empower me to be a connected and vital member of this body of Christ. Empower me for forgiveness, patience, mercy and love. Amen.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
If we spent time regularly in introspection, self examination, confession and repentance, we would not need for the Lord to correct us. However, since prayers of confession and repentance are not on our favorite prayer lists, this discipline often evades us. Because we lack this discipline, we face discipline. Confession and repentance lead us to life change and invite the gracious hand of God into our lives rather than the hand of correction.
Communion is a celebration that should drive us toward these disciplines. To partake in the body and blood of Christ without such humility is to eat and drink the very judgment of God.
So when was the last time I sat down for a focused time of confession and repentance?... no requests, no asks, no excuses?
Father, forgive me.
Monday, December 6, 2010
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.
As a believer in Christ I have been set free from the law of sin and death. I now live under the law of the life which brings freedom (Rom. 8:1-3). There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I have a freedom to speak and act as one not under the law. However, to do so may not be most beneficial. As Paul states in the early verses of 1 Corinthians 10, I may be inviting the fellowship of demons. Therefore, I allow my conscience to be my guide and I am also sensitive to the consciences of others. If my freedom would cause my brother to stumble, I should refrain from my liberty. If my freedom should call into question my sincerity of faith, then I should think twice before my demonstration of liberty. If my liberty should cause division or doubt or even debate within the church, I should ask myself about the benefits of such a decision.
My liberty has not been granted for my sake, but for the sake of others, that I may draw many to Christ, His forgiveness and this very freedom.
Therefore, whenever I have a choice to make concerning my freedom I must ask myself these two questions. Will this decision bring glory to Christ? Will this decision draw others closer to Christ or drive them farther from Christ?
And the true blessing found in this freedom is that I have been set free from even a guilty conscience so that no matter how difficult my choice, I may live guilt free and confident that I have done what is right (Heb 10:22).
Father, strengthen my conscience toward others. Let me life for the benefit of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Remove arrogant license from me and humbly allow me to serve others in what I choose. Keep me from liberties that would make my students stumble or cause their parents to question You, Your church or my loyalty to You. Let my life be an example of the law of the Spirit of Life that brings others new life. Amen.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."
What is the crown that Paul speaks of running for? It is not eternal life, but the souls of men. He begins in verse 9:2 calling the Corinthians the "seal of his apostleship" and continues to define his apostleship by his sacrifice in order to "win some" (9:22). Paul's goal, his finish line, his prize was to win "more" (9:19). His aim is the souls of men so he disciplines his body to run the race and fight the fight with all he has.
What good would it be to live this life having fed the hungry, clothed the naked, defended the weak, cared for the sick and helped the needy just to hear the Lord say "well done, you ran hard... in circles." The point of all our earthly labor is to introduce people to Jesus Christ and to help them receive His forgiveness and salvation. We become a slave to all in order to win as many as we can (9:19).
So what does it look like to train and discipline my body to win the race? It may be praying daily for open doors, open hearts and open minds. It may be serving in all occasions so as to provide those open doors. It may be seasoning every conversation with grace and truth. It may be making intentional sacrifices about where I work, play, live, shop and travel so that I might cross paths with lost people daily.
This purpose of Paul's is mine as well.
Lord, strengthen me to run the race to win. Keep me ever mindful of the crown that lay before me. Keep me ever mindful of the soul's of my neighbors, friends and acquaintances that I might make myself a slave to all in order to win some. Amen.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights (liberties) does not become a stumbling block to the weak....
12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.
Paul was dealing with a Corinthian church debating the legality of eating meat sacrificed to idols. For Paul, it was not a matter of law but of love (1 Cor. 8:1). Christ's death freed us from the law and provided us liberty to enjoy everything that God has made and declared good (1 Cor. 6:12).
This liberty however is a tricky thing. At times, our liberty in eating meat, drinking, smoking, enjoying certain activities, using certain language, etc... can cause another to stumble in their faith and fall away from Christ. In this matter, while our actions may not be sinful in and of themselves, their consequences are destructive and thus qualify as sin.
We cannot take our liberty as a right. Though we are free to eat, we have no right to eat that which wounds the conscience or spirit of another believer. In this regard, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ (Lk 9:23). This mean to deny not only our sinful nature, but also our liberties. We crucify our rights (as Christ did His and all things associated with His divinity) and sacrifice our liberties for the sake of those we desire to save. This is what it means to be crucified with Christ and to no longer live, but to have Christ live through us (Gal. 2:20). When we are baptized, we are baptized into His death, not just his resurrection and life (Rom. 6:3). We are choosing to die to our selves and allow the sacrificial life of Christ to live through us.
So, if I have love for my brother or at least love for Christ, I will set my liberties aside, refuse to view them as rights and I will never eat meat again.
What liberties have I taken as rights? What liberties have I allowed to master me? What liberties have I allowed to would a brother or sister whom Christ died for? How can I die to myself today in order to allow Christ to live through me?
Jesus, give me the strength today to crucify my liberties and the humility to let You live through me. Amen.
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Thursday, November 18, 2010
And that is what some of you were (sinners). But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
I've been washed. I've been sanctified. I've been justified.
These works have already been accomplished for me in Jesus Christ.
By His blood shed on the cross my sins have been washed away.
By His death my sin nature has been crucified and I've been recreated with a Spirit nature.
By His resurrection I have been made right before God and raised to new life, abundant and eternal life.
There is nothing left for me to accomplish. Christ has done it all. I have nothing to ad to my salvation. It is a complete gift, lacking nothing.
It is by faith that I accept this gift and by grace that I live into it.
Thank you Jesus.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
1 Corinthians 5:6-7
"Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed."
What leavens my life? What little sin, habit, fixation, attitude or entitlement have I let work its way into and through my life so as to effect the whole thing?
At the first passover, the Jews were commanded to make bread without yeast because they would have to leave in haste. When God released them from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh in Egypt, there was no time to wait for even bread to rise. In the passover seder, the family lights a candle and searches throughout the house for leaven that might spoil their passover celebration.
In our lives, a little yeast, a little stale sin can ruin our celebration and journey with the Lamb of God. We cannot wait or linger for it. We can't wait for it to work its way into our habits, our words, out thoughts and our emotions. We cannot wait for it to grow into sin, broken relationships or separation from God. We must light a candle and search our hearts and minds, our words and habits. We must sweep our lives clean so that the little leaven does not ruin us.
What is the leaven in my life? Anger? Jealousy? Entitlement? Lust? Pride? Self-sufficiency? Greed? A critical heart? Manipulation and control? Laziness? Idolatry? Deception? Guilt?
There is no time to wait.
"Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting"
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
We must be careful how we judge ourselves. If we judge ourselves too lightly we risk ignoring our sin and empowering our sin nature. We slide toward pride and arrogance. If we judge ourselves too harshly we risk ignoring our pardon in Christ and empowering our sin to steal our joy. We slide toward guilt and shame.
Yet when the Lord is our judge we can be sure that He will convict us of our sin and He will liberate us by His Spirit. We live our lives for an audience of one.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
"And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?"
In chapter 2 Paul claims to have come in a demonstration of the Spirit's power. In chapter 3 Paul addresses the manner in which the Corinthians lived; immature, carnal. Immaturity and carnality are not marked by a lack of knowledge, experience or sacrifice. Immaturity and carnality are positions of envy, strife and division that we take against other brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Immaturity and carnality are guided by the human nature rather than the Spirit nature. Where I demand my own way and refuse to serve, sacrifice and submit; there I demonstrate my immaturity. Where I have settled for being a "mere man" instead of a Spirit filled man, there I am carnal.
Is there envy, strife or division in my life? Have I followed selfish demands rather than the Spirit's promptings? Have I settle for being a mere man? If so, something must change.
The opposite of envy is generosity. I must learn to sacrifice.
The opposite of strive is harmony. I must learn to submit.
The opposite of division is unity. I must learn to serve.
Lord help me to remove envy, strife and division from my life. Teach me to sacrifice, submit and serve. Let my life be marked by generosity, harmony and unity. Let me not be a mere man, but a man who demonstrates Spirit power. Amen.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
What does a "demonstration of the Spirit's power" look like?
What did Paul do in Corinth that so clearly conveyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
What does a demonstration of the Holy Spirit's power look like in my life?
(C.H. Spurgeon has a great sermon answering this exact question. You can read it at http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/0030.htm)
I love what it says in 1 Thessalonians 1:5-7,
"our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia."
According to this passage, a demonstration of the Holy Spirit's power is no so much about miracles as it is about consistent living. It's about living with deep convictions, imitating the Lord, enduring hardship with joy and modeling the fruit of the Spirit in all we do.
Too often I live on impulse rather than the Spirit's prompting. Too often I ask others to imitate me without first imitating Christ. I rarely endure suffering and where the opportunity arises I often manipulate or avoid the circumstances. Too often I strive for satisfaction or fulfillment rather than joy. I model self-centeredness rather than Spirit living.
Father, forgive me for living in my own spirit rather than Yours. Amen.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
"...no flesh should glory in His presence.
But (because) of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written,
“He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”
There is nothing about my salvation that I can boast about. I was not smart or wise enough to understand His plan. I have not been good enough to earn my way into His presence. I have not cleaned myself up enough for Him to overlook my sins. I have not, nor could I have, paid the price for my own redemption. Jesus Christ has done everything for me. I have nothing to boast about.
So if I boast it will be in what the Lord has done. And if there is anything worth boasting about it is what the Lord has done. There is no human accomplishment that even holds a candle to the work of redemption accomplished by and through Jesus Christ.
Lord, teach me to boast in You. Let me be proud of the work You have accomplished, and not my own. Let me not be ashamed to proclaim what You have done, but only of my past. Let my words be true, to honor You. Amen.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
This is what the LORD says:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
Where will my resting place be?
Has not my hand made all these things,
and so they came into being?”
declares the LORD.
“These are the ones I look on with favor:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
and who tremble at my word.
As wondrous as are the heavens and the earth, as glorious as are Zion and the Temple, the Lord has chosen to let His favor and His presence rest upon people... those who are humble and broken in spirit (Mt. 5:3-10).
I can still remember thinking this exact thought as I prayed beneath the shadow of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Thousands of Jews make their way to this wall each day to draw close to the presence of the Lord which they believe still resides beneath the Temple mount where once stood the Holy of Holies. How sad it was to see God's chosen nation strive toward a stone rather than soften their heart of stone and allow His Messiah to enter their lives. Their prayers were stuffed inside the cracks of the stone rather than whispered in their hearts to a God who's promise is to dwell within His people.
Father, thank you for your indwelling and the promise of your Spirit. Keep me humble, obedient and broken so that I might continue in your ways and honor You. Amen.
Monday, November 1, 2010
“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me;
I was found by those who did not seek me.
To a nation that did not call on my name,
I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’
“See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”
I am so grateful that God has chosen to extend His grace beyond Israel, to a nation and people that did not seek His name. This is my hope... that I might dwell in the City of God forever, to enjoy His peace and celebrate His goodness. Amen.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
A God who waits on His creation is a completely foreign idea in the minds of ancient men. God is the sovereign, omnipotent creator, holy and worthy of worship, service and sacrifice. One of such authority and sovereignty is above waiting on the needs of men.
And yet, we have a God who has humbled Himself, taken on flesh and become a servant even to the point of death (Phil. 2:5-11). This type of love is unimaginable for the most noble of men yet demonstrated by the One to whom this type of sacrifice is actually due.
How sad it is however to see how far our society and many "religious" people have gone in their view of God. Humanism has brought us to the idea that man is the pinnacle and center of the universe and that we are so great and good that any God who might exist should be pleased to please us. When life does not go our way, we believe that God should bend the universe to appease our greedy eyes and fill our hungry stomachs. Sin is no longer breaking the moral law of God and offending a righteous and just divine ruler but not quite living up to our potential. In which case, God must understand and overlook our miss-steps; after-all, we're only human. Punishment for sin then becomes unimaginable and God is rendered a benevolent, weak-willed, unjust and confused creator.
If we are to be awed by a Creator who waits on the need of His creations, we must be awed by the nature and character of that Creator first. He is just. He is Holy. He is powerful. He is wise. He is intentional. He is sovereign. He is true. He is merciful. He is vengeful. He is gracious. He is jealous. He is terrible. He is loving. He is so much more that what our feeble minds can comprehend.
God - bring me to know You. Open my eyes, unstop my ears, soften my heart, enlighten my mind. Remove all of my self-centered theology from me and help me to understand You. Amen.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and the year of my redemption has come.
I looked, but there was no one to help,
I was appalled that no one gave support;
so my own arm worked salvation for me,
and my own wrath sustained me.
Here in Isaiah 63, God puts together two seemingly opposite concepts into one theology. When we think of redemption and salvation we think of forgiveness, mercy, grace and love. We don't often think of vengeance and wrath or judgment. We like to think of God brushing away our sins, overlooking our offenses or turning a blind eye to our iniquity. This is not what happened on the day of salvation.
On that great day of redemption when God's only Son went to Calvary, He not only bore the weight of the cross and the pain of the whips, fists and nails, but also our sin and the vengeful wrath of God toward the sins of the world. Punishment was not withheld... only withheld from us. This was the price paid by Jesus to redeem us from condemnation, from slavery to sin and eternal separation from Him. This is a picture of that great year of Jubilee when a relative was permitted to buy back a family member in bondage or slavery (Lev. 25).
So when we think of our salvation and redemption, we must remember the cost. We cannot forget the weight of our sin, the severity of the punishment, the sacrifice of our redeemer and satisfaction accomplished at the cross. We cannot have redemption without wrath.
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:1-4)
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the LORD,
give yourselves no rest,
and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth.
The Walls of Jerusalem at night. The Tower of David overlooking Joppa Gate and the Western wall.
The Western wall.
Jerusalem is the city of God. He has established her walls, raised her towers and fortified her gates (Isa. 54:11-15). He is her foundation and she is His love (Psalm 87:1-3). In His love and provision, the Lord has established watchmen over the city to both proclaim and petition. To the people the watchmen proclaim a warning of eminent danger, attack or weakness in the walls. To the Lord, the watchmen petition for grace, mercy, protection and provision. To rest or refrain from proclamation and petition would be to leave the walls vulnerable and the people in danger.
In the days of Isaiah, the prophets were such watchmen who warned the people of sin and the destruction that follows as well as petitioned the Lord on behalf of the people.
Today the watchmen are the pastors, shepherds, leaders and teachers who have been appointed over God's church. To those who have been given this sacred trust, the Lord says, "You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest,
and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth."
In Psalm 122:6-7 He commands,
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels."
The command is to proclaim and petition on behalf of the church until the Kingdom of God is established and He sits on His throne in His Holy City which He loves. The command is to guard the walls, to protect the city, to plead with the Lord to preserve His people until His Kingdom come.
How bold am I as a watchman in God's kingdom? How ready am I to identify sin and the danger it poses to the church and God's kingdom? How diligent am I to pray and petition God for His people and those who will be brought into His gates? How relentless and restless am I to watch over the people of God?
Lord make me more diligent to do the work You have set before me. Strengthen me to pray without ceasing and to proclaim boldly. Let me not rest until I find my rest in You. Amen.
Monday, October 25, 2010
"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor."
The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him (Jesus). Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
18"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
20Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."Jesus was not cryptic about His identity. Early on in His public ministry He returned to His hometown of Nazareth, stood in the synagogue and read from the prophet Isaiah. The prophesy He chose was not random. Isaiah 61 is a messianic prophesy concerning the salvation of the Lord. The proclamation of the Lord's Spirit and His anointing clarify that this prophet is more than just a prophet. Only kings and high priests were anointed. These two offices would be responsible for such things as liberating prisoners and proclaiming Jubilee yet only the messiah (literally "anointed one") would be qualified for both, being both priest and king (Psa 110 & 2).
The interesting thing about Jesus proclamation is that He stopped half way through the prophesy. Jesus knew that His mission would be split in two halves. The re-establishment of Zion, vengeance to His enemies and restoration of His kingdom would have to wait until his second coming.
Lord prepare me for Your return. Let me be found ready and busy doing Your will. Amen.
Friday, October 22, 2010
The sun shall no longer be your light by day,
Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you;
But the LORD will be to you an everlasting light,
And your God your glory.
20 Your sun shall no longer go down,
Nor shall your moon withdraw itself;
For the LORD will be your everlasting light,
And the days of your mourning shall be ended.
John 1:4-9 says of Jesus,
4"In Him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of men.
5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
9The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world."
Jesus said in John 8:12,
"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
Again in John 9:5 Jesus said,
"While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
And again in John 12:46,
"I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness."
Then in Revelation 21:23 (also written by John the apostle) it says of the New Jerusalem,
"The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp."
I love it when Scripture ties together.
I wonder if Jesus was thinking of this passage as He claimed to be the light of the world? I wonder if John gained his love for the imagery of light from Isaiah 60?
Without question, Jesus is this light. For a season Light had come into the world but men loved darkness. Now the Light of God shines in the hearts of men who have come to receive Him. One day, the Light of the Lamb will shine so bright that there will be no need for sun or moon nor any other lamp.
Does this light live in me? If so...
Have I obscured this light from shining from me?
Have I hidden my light from a blind world living in darkness?
What could I do today to let His light shine from me?
Lord, let me be Your light today. Amen.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God;
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
so that He will not hear.
Why is it that when things do not go our way, when prayers seem unanswered and obstacles in our lives are not moved we blame God? Why do we suppose that He is not loving enough to act, just enough to intercede, powerful enough to move or merciful enough to understand?
What separates us from God and His blessing is not God nor any lack in His nature but our own sin and our sinful nature. Even our thinking is broken so that we cannot see or understand our predicament.
Therefore God in His rich mercy and love, demonstrating divine justice and infinite power, reaches into our world and accomplishes salvation by His own hand.
Then the LORD saw it, and it displeased Him
That there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no man,
And wondered that there was no intercessor;
Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him;
And His own righteousness, it sustained Him.
17 For He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
And a helmet of salvation on His head;
He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing,
And was clad with zeal as a cloak.
In love He extended His own arm. God sent His Son Jesus to be the intercessor and Savior or the world.
In mercy Jesus placed Himself beneath the wrath of God, our substitute.
At the cross the justice of God was fully satisfied being fully paid by Jesus Christ on our behalf.
At the grave His power was demonstrated; proving that He has the power to not only raise His Son from the dead, but us as well.
The Lord's hand is not too short not His ear too dull.
He has already removed every barrier from between us and patiently waits for us to receive His gifts of love, mercy, justice and power.
Have you received these gifts? Have you received the gift of Jesus?
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
Fasting is not about afflicting our souls and neglecting our bodies in order to contort the will of God around ours. Fasting is not denying our needs for a season just to gorge ourselves later. Fasting is not an appearance righteousness nor a display of piety (Matt. 6:16).
Fasting is about contorting our will around God's. It's about denying ourselves so that we may bless others. It's the acts or righteousness and the display of humility; Christ-likeness.
So when I fast, my hunger or desire should remind me of the needs of others and guide me to satisfying them. When I fast I should not simply skip a meal, but provide it for another. When I deny myself sleep, I should actively provide rest and comfort for another; providing shelter or blankets for the homeless. When I skip a luxury I ought to find my way to a hospital or prison to comforting the afflicted.
When I fast it is about contorting my will around the will of God; to reorder my priorities according to His. To set myself aside, sacrifice my rights and serve fully for the sake of Christ and the edification of others. This is true fasting.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
For thus says the High and Lofty One
Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
With him who has a contrite and humble spirit,
To revive the spirit of the humble,
And to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
"High, lofty, eternal, holy... these are the words that describe God. His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts higher than ours (Isa. 55:8-9). Yet, in His wisdom and justice and mercy He has chosen to dwell among humanity, to inhabit an earthly tent (Eph. 2:22) and minister to us. His ministry is not to those who are high and lofty in the eyes of men, but those who are lowly and humble in the eyes of God (Psa. 51:17). To those who are broken in spirit, meek and tender, God revives the spirit and strengthens the heart (Matt. 5:3-10).
What does it mean to have a humble heart, a broken and contrite spirit? Humility is more than a right view of God. It's not simply an understanding of the hierarchy of holiness. It is not a posture of piety. Humility is a theme that one lives by. It is the rhythm of one's life. It is tone of one's relationship with God and the melody of one's interactions with others. Humility is harmony, all else is discord. It is extending preference to the most lowly, forgiveness and peace to the most despised, just as God has done for us. Humility is not only the words we choose, but the thoughts behind them.
Humility is not easy. Humility is resisting our flesh, denying our sinful nature. Humility is reversing our human thinking, choosing to live counter-intuitively. It takes sacrifice and courage to set aside the strongest instincts inside our hearts and heads. But His promise is to revive and strengthen those who strive to live according to His calling. It is possible by His Spirit.
Lord, humble me and give me a contrite spirit before You and others. Let my life be a beautiful melody to You and harmony with others. Keep me from discord and teach me to set aside myself. I want to honor You. Amen.
Monday, October 18, 2010
Let the wicked forsake his way
and the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
Here in Isaiah 55, God contrasts our thoughts with His. Our thoughts are wicked and evil. They are in need of mercy and pardon. His thoughts and His ways are not ours. His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. His thoughts are expressed through His Word which will not be futile like ours, but will be powerful and effective in accomplishing His will. Like rain that waters the earth, His Word will cause growth. It will parch dry ground. It will quench thirst. It will not only satisfy, but change the landscape of our world.
Far too often I get stuck in "stinking thinking." I allow myself to believe that I am right, that my thoughts are legitimate and accurate and even justified. Instead, my thoughts are selfish, greedy, prideful, narcissistic, mean, immature and destructive. Too often I let my human emotions direct my mind instead of letting God's Word direct it. My emotions change, His Word remains the same forever. My emotions are sinful, His Word is Holy. My emotions are deceptive, His Word is clear. My emotions are destructive, His Word is effective.
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
When I let God's Word direct my thoughts, He separates my sinful emotions and stinking thinking from His will and His way. It's painful at times to allow the sword of the Spirit to divide me, but far less painful than the results and consequences of my own ways. Allowing God to divide and direct my thoughts begins will humility. Humility is being willing to admit that I am not "all that" and that my thinking is most likely wrong. Eventually my own demise will teach me this however after a while, I must learn to think this before I shoot myself in the foot. Humility gives way to confession; asking God for forgiveness. Forgiveness is like watering a dry plant. It quenches and satisfies and restarts the growth process. Forgiveness is like a reboot of the mind and enable to Holy Spirit to once again speak and be heard. The Holy Spirit will remind us of the Words of Jesus and will be our counselor according the the mind of God (John 14:26). The ultimate result of allowing the Word of God to direct our thoughts and ways is found in the last two verses of Isaiah 55.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD's renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed."
Father, renew my mind (Rom. 12:2). Divide my thoughts and emotions. Cut away whatever does not honor You and edify others. Forgive me for being selfish, immature, prideful and mean spirited. Humble me, forgive me and bring me to forgiveness with others also. Open my ears to Your Holy Spirit and let me again hear from You. Keep me from stinking thinking and guard me from myself. Amen.
Friday, October 15, 2010
For your Maker is your husband—
the LORD Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
No only does this passage speak of the Messiah's divine nature, but it also confirms His heart for His people. He reveals Himself as a husband; bound in everlasting covenant to provide for, protect, embrace, comfort and care for His bride. While we are unfaithful, He is faithful (Hosea). While we fragile and vulnerable, He is strong and courageous (1 Peter 3:7). While love is not inherent in the contemporary understanding of marriage, it is in God's definition.
Deuteronomy 7:9 - "Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands."
Jeremiah 31:3 - "I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving-kindness."
Hosea 3:1 - "The LORD said to me, "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes."
1 Kings 10:9 - "Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD's eternal love for Israel."
Nehemiah 1:5 - "Then I said: "O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands,"
While this imagery begins in regard to God and Israel, it finds its fulfillment in Christ and the church. Jesus is the divine redeemer and loving, covenant-keeping husband of Isaiah 54:5.
He reveals as much in his parable of the ten brides maids in Matthew 25:1-13 ("At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.")
Paul reinforces this Old Testament imagery in Ephesians 5:31-32, ""For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church."
With Christ as my loving, covenant keeping, faithful, provider, protector and husband, I am forced to ask myself, "how I am doing in keeping my covenant and demonstrating my love for Him?" Have I been unfaithful? Have I given my love to another? Have I shamed His name? Have I been less than passionate toward Him? Have I withheld myself from Him?
Jesus, forgive me for withholding my love. Forgive me for shaming your name with bad attitudes, for conducting myself in a manner unworthy of those who belong to You. Forgive me for not depending on You for my provision, protection, comfort and care. Restore my intimacy with You and rekindle my love. Teach me again to be the bride you deserve, without spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, but wholly devoted to You. Amen.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.
Isaiah 53 is one of the most beautiful messianic passages in all the Bible. I've been dwelling on it for some time and trying to pull out some of the deep theology and implication for my life.
It pleased the Lord to bruise and grieve and punish His seed, His Son, Jesus of Nazareth. At first read this is a puzzling passage, maybe even problematic. How could it please God to wound an innocent, righteous man? This sort of injustice could never please a just and righteous God.
However, when Isaiah writes of God being pleased, it does not refer to His enjoyment of Jesus' suffering. There was no smile on the face of God as His Son suffered at the hands of Roman torturers and endured the cross. On the contrary, God displayed his own grief as Christ hung on that tree by darkening the sky and taking away His light.
Instead, the pleasure of Isaiah 53:10 is God's satisfaction with the sin offering of His Son. God's demand for justice was served and his wrath was averted from humanity through the righteous sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He stood in our place and bore not only the sins of the world but also the wrath of God.
This sacrifice so pleased the Lord that the life of the One sacrificed (of His own volition) would be prolonged through the resurrection. And it truly pleased the Lord to offer Him an eternal kingdom where those things that truly please the lord, put a smile on His face, would prosper.
So what are the implication of this for my life. To start, God's wrath (punishment) has been averted from me. My penalty has been paid and my punishment achieved by Christ. There is nothing left for me to pay. Furthermore, the wrath (anger) of God has been turned to pleasure through the substitution and sacrifice of Jesus. I am no longer His enemy (Romans 5:10) but have been given the right to be called a child of God (John 1:12). Finally, because it pleased the Lord to receive Jesus' sacrifice, I can please the Lord with my life. Because my sin has been paid for, my offering, my worship, my service, my life can put a smile on the face of God.
Thank You Father for Jesus Christ. Thank You for the cross that has averted Your anger and wrath and my punishment. I pray that my life would put a smile on Your face. May my sacrifice truly please You. Amen.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
"Your God reigns!”
There is really nothing beautiful about feet that tread through the rocky desert dirt. However the beauty is not in the feet, nor the messenger, but in the message. Here Isaiah envisions a messenger running from the battle front, over mountains and obstacles, to pronounce to those who have not heard that the King has been victorious. Our King has conquered sin and has established peace. He has set the captives free and has punished the enemy.
So what news do my feet bring? To what extent will I go to proclaim victory over sin, peace with God and His reign?
Far too often I let molehills become mountains and persuade me to remain silent or unsent. I worry about perception, opposition, objection and rejection. I'm often too busy boasting of myself than of God, my victories rather than His.
Recently I learned of the life of Thomas Bilney, evangelist and initiator of the Reformation in England. He left behind no great office nor library of works. Instead, he left behind a list of converts that includes some of the most influential reformers; Arthur, Thistle and Stafford at Cambridge as well as Latimer, Barnes, Lambert, Warner, Fooke and Soude. Without such men, the English reformation would probably not have succeeded.
Such an movement was not begun in the academy or the church but in the public proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Father - make me passionate to preach, to share, to should of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Monday, October 4, 2010
The ransomed of the LORD will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
The image here is one of victory. The Lord leads the train of captives set free, prisoners ransomed, lost people found, hurting people healed. Their sorrow is turned to joy and their sighing turns to singing. As they enter Jerusalem, they are crowned and restored to their proper identities as children of the king. The walls are strong and the gates are majestic and their security is everlasting. They are fully, irrevocably and eternally ransomed.
This is the promise for all who call upon the Lord.
I can't wait to be in this processional.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
"See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me."
In Exodus 28:9-12, God commands the priests to inscribe the names of the 12 tribes on the stones of their breastplates so that He may be reminded of His people by name. Yet, even when Israel had strayed from God and the priests were unable to enter into His presence because of captivity or destruction of the Temple, Israel was always before the Lord. Their names are engraved on the palms of His hands. Their walls, His Holy City, Jerusalem mapped out on the palms of His hands.
I love the imagery of this declaration. When I think of the palms I think of strength, control, protection, even intimacy. It is with the palms that we carry things. It is with the palm that we gather things together. The palms cover and protect. The palms comfort and caress in love and affection. This is God's relationship with His people.
Perhaps my favorite image that comes to mind when I think about Israel being engraved on the palms of the Hands of God is the nail scars on the hands of Jesus who bore their sin and paid their penalty at the cross. This verse is not symbolic but literal and tangibly displayed at Calvary, the upper room and in eternity. It is in the hands of Christ that everything has been placed (John 3:35) since only through His sacrifice is all creation redeemed. And it is our names that are written in the book of life and will be acknowledged before the Father at the end of time (Revelation 3:5) that we may enjoy eternity with Him.
My challenge today is this; do I value the name of God as highly as He values mine? Is His name ever before me? Is His name written on my hands, my heart, my every action? Do I declare that I belong to Him as much as He does?
Father - teach me to revere Your name. Let my life proclaim Your greatness and demonstrate Your presence. May Your name be lifted up in me. Amen.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
For My name’s sake I will defer My anger,
And for My praise I will restrain it from you,
So that I do not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it;
For how should My name be profaned?
And I will not give My glory to another.
God's name is more than a title or tag or reference.
His name is Holy; so Holy that the Jews did not say it or write it.
His name is so powerful that at the name of Jesus the demons shutter and flee, the nations bow and all creation shouts (James 2:19, Phil. 2:10, Psa. 19:1 Psa. 100).
His name is so gracious and merciful that only His name can save (Acts 4:12).
Everything He does... He does for His name sake... for His glory.
And He is worthy of this... His name is worthy to be lifted up.
His name is...
- ELOHIM......Genesis 1:1, Psalm 19:1
- meaning "God", a reference to God's power and might.
- ADONAI......Malachi 1:6
- meaning "Lord", a reference to the Lordship of God.
- JEHOVAH--YAHWEH.....Genesis 2:4
- a reference to God's divine salvation.
- JEHOVAH-MACCADDESHEM.......Exodus 31:13
- meaning "The Lord thy sanctifier"
- JEHOVAH-ROHI......Psalm 23:1
- meaning "The Lord my shepherd"
- JEHOVAH-SHAMMAH.......Ezekiel 48:35
- meaning "The Lord who is present"
- JEHOVAH-RAPHA.........Exodus 15:26
- meaning "The Lord our healer"
- JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU......Jeremiah 23:6
- meaning "The Lord our righteousness"
- JEHOVAH-JIREH.........Genesis 22:13-14
- meaning "The Lord will provide"
- JEHOVAH-NISSI.........Exodus 17:15
- meaning "The Lord our banner"
- JEHOVAH-SHALOM........Judges 6:24
- meaning "The Lord is peace"
- JEHOVAH-SABBAOTH......Isaiah 6:1-3
- meaning "The Lord of Hosts"
- JEHOVAH-GMOLAH........Jeremiah 51:6
- meaning "The God of Recompense"
- EL-ELYON..............Genesis 14:17-20,Isaiah 14:13-14
- meaning "The most high God
- EL-ROI................Genesis 16:13
- meaning "The strong one who sees"
- EL-SHADDAI............Genesis 17:1,Psalm 91:1
- meaning "The God of the mountains or God Almighty"
- EL-OLAM...............Isaiah 40:28-31
- meaning "The everlasting God"
- He is..
- ABBA.............................Romans 8:15
- ADVOCATE.........................I John 2:1 (kjv)
- ALMIGHTY.........................Genesis 17:1
- ALPHA............................Revelation 22:13
- AMEN.............................Revelation 3:14
- ANCIENT OF DAYS..................Daniel 7:9
- ANOINTED ONE.....................Psalm 2:2
- APOSTLE..........................Hebrews 3:1
- ARM OF THE LORD..................Isaiah 53:1
- AUTHOR OF LIFE...................Acts 3:15
- AUTHOR OF OUR FAITH..............Hebrews 12:2
- BEGINNING.........................Revelation 21:6
- BLESSED & HOLY RULER..............1 Timothy 6:15
- BRANCH............................Jeremiah 33:15
- BREAD OF GOD......................John 6:33
- BREAD OF LIFE.....................John 6:35
- BRIDEGROOM........................Isaiah 62:56
- BRIGHT MORNING STAR...............Revelation 22:16
- CHIEF SHEPHERD.....................1 Peter 5:4
- CHOSEN ONE.........................Isaiah 42:1
- CHRIST.............................Matthew 22:42
- CHRIST OF GOD......................Luke 9:20
- CHRIST THE LORD....................Luke 2:11
- CHRIST, SON OF LIVING GOD..........Matthew 16:16
- COMFORTER..........................John 14:26(kjv)
- COMMANDER..........................Isaiah 55:4
- CONSOLATION OF ISRAEL...............Luke 2:25
- CONSUMING FIRE......................Deut. 4:24, Heb. 12:29
- CORNERSTONE.........................Isaiah 28:16
- COUNSELOR...........................Isaiah 9:6
- CREATOR.............................1 Peter 4:19
- DELIVERER..............................Romans 11:26
- DESIRED OF ALL NATIONS.................Haggai 2:7
- DOOR...................................John 10:7(kjv)
- END....................................Revelation 21:6
- ETERNAL GOD............................Deut. 33:27
- EVERLASTING FATHER.....................Isaiah 9:6
- FAITHFUL & TRUE........................Revelation 19:11
- FAITHFUL WITNESS.......................Revelation 1:5
- FATHER.................................Matthew 6:9
- FIRSTBORN (3)........................................Rom.8:29,Rev.1:5,Col.1:15
- FIRSTFRUITS............................1 Cor.15:20-23
- FOUNDATION.............................1 Cor. 3:11
- FRIEND OF TAX COLLECTORS & SINNERS.....Matthew 11:19
- GENTLE WHISPER.........................1 Kings 19:12
- GIFT OF GOD............................John 4:10
- GLORY OF THE LORD......................Isaiah 40:5
- GOD....................................Genesis 1:1
- GOD ALMIGHTY...........................Genesis 17:1
- GOD OVER ALL...........................Romans 9:5
- GOD WHO SEES ME........................Genesis 16:13
- GOOD SHEPHERD..........................John 10:11
- GREAT HIGH PRIEST......................Hebrews 4:14
- GREAT SHEPHERD.........................Hebrews 13:20
- GUIDE..................................Psalm 48:14
- HEAD OF THE BODY.......................Colossians 1:18
- HEAD OF THE CHURCH.....................Ephesians 5:23
- HEIR OF ALL THINGS.....................Hebrews 1:2
- HIGH PRIEST............................Hebrews 3:1
- HIGH PRIEST FOREVER....................Hebrews 6:20
- HOLY ONE...............................Acts 2:27
- HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL.....................Isaiah 49:7
- HOLY SPIRIT............................John 15:26
- HOPE...................................Titus 2:13
- HORN OF SALVATION......................Luke 1:69
- I AM....................................Exodus 3:14, John 8:58
- IMAGE OF GOD............................2 Cor. 4:4
- IMAGE OF HIS PERSON.....................Hebrews 1:3 (kjv)
- IMMANUEL................................Isaiah 7:14
- JEALOUS..............................Exodus 34:14 (kjv)
- JEHOVAH..............................Psalm 83:18 (kjv)
- JESUS................................Matthew 1:21
- JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD................Romans 6:23
- JUDGE................................Isaiah 33:22, Acts 10:42
- KING.................................Zechariah 9:9
- KING ETERNAL.........................1 Timothy 1:17
- KING OF KINGS........................1 Timothy 6:15
- KING OF THE AGES.....................Revelation 15:3
- LAMB OF GOD...........................John 1:29
- LAST ADAM.............................1 Cor. 15:45
- LAWGIVER..............................Isaiah 33:22
- LEADER................................Isaiah 55:4
- LIFE..................................John 14:6
- LIGHT OF THE WORLD....................John 8:12
- LIKE AN EAGLE.........................Deut. 32:11
- LILY OF THE VALLEYS...................Song 2:1
- LION OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH............Revelation 5:5
- LIVING STONE..........................1 Peter 2:4
- LIVING WATER..........................John 4:10
- LORD..................................John 13:13
- LORD GOD ALMIGHTY.....................Revelation 15:3
- LORD JESUS CHRIST.....................1 Cor. 15:57
- LORD OF ALL...........................Acts 10:36
- LORD OF GLORY ........................1 Cor. 2:8
- LORD OF HOSTS.........................Haggai 1:5
- LORD OF LORDS.........................1 Tim. 6:15
- LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS..............Jeremiah 23:6
- LOVE.................................1 John 4:8
- MAN OF SORROWS.........................Isaiah 53:3
- MASTER..................................Luke 5:5
- MEDIATOR................................1 Timothy 2:5
- MERCIFUL GOD............................Jeremiah 3:12
- MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT................Malachi 3:1
- MESSIAH................................. John 4:25
- MIGHTY GOD...............................Isaiah 9:6
- MIGHTY ONE...............................Isaiah 60:16
- NAZARENE.................................Matthew 2:23
- OFFSPRING OF DAVID.......................Revelation 22:16
- OMEGA....................................Revelation 22:13
- ONLY BEGOTTEN SON........................John 1:18(kjv)
- OUR PASSOVER LAMB........................1 Cor. 5:7
- OUR PEACE................................Ephesians 2:14
- POTTER...................................Isaiah 64:8
- POWER OF GOD.............................1 Cor. 1:24
- PRINCE OF PEACE..........................Isaiah 9:6
- PROPHET..................................Acts 3:22
- PURIFIER.................................Malachi 3:3
- RABBONI (TEACHER)........................John 20:16
- RADIANCE OF GOD'S GLORY..................Heb.1:3
- REDEEMER.................................Job 19:25
- REFINER'S FIRE...........................Malachi 3:2
- RESURRECTION.............................John 11:25
- RIGHTEOUS ONE............................1 John 2:1
- ROCK.....................................1 Cor.10:4
- ROOT OF DAVID............................Rev. 22:16
- ROSE OF SHARON...........................Song 2:1
- RULER OF GOD'S CREATION..................Rev. 3:14
- RULER OVER KINGS OF EARTH................Rev 1:5
- RULER OVER ISRAEL........................Micah 5:2
- SAVIOR...................................Luke 2:11
- SCEPTER OUT OF ISRAEL....................Numbers 24:17
- SEED.....................................Genesis 3:15
- SERVANT..................................Isaiah 42:1
- SHEPHERD OF OUR SOULS....................1Peter 2:25
- SHIELD...................................Genesis 15:1
- SON OF DAVID.............................Matthew 1:1
- SON OF GOD...............................Matthew 27:54
- SON OF MAN...............................Matthew 8:20
- SON OF THE MOST HIGH.....................Luke 1:32
- SOURCE...................................Hebrews 5:9
- SPIRIT OF GOD............................Genesis 1:2
- STAR OUT OF JACOB........................Numbers 24:17
- STONE....................................1 Peter 2:8
- SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.....................Malachi 4:2
- TEACHER...................................John 13:13
- TRUE LIGHT................................John 1:9
- TRUE WITNESS..............................Revelation 3:14
- TRUTH.....................................John 14:6
- VINE......................................John 15:5
- WAY........................................John 14:6
- WISDOM OF GOD..............................1 Cor. 1:24
- WITNESS....................................Isaiah 55:4
- WONDERFUL..................................Isaiah 9:6
- WORD.......................................John 1:1
- WORD OF GOD................................Revelation 19:13
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
"To whom will you compare me or count me equal?
To whom will you liken me that we may be compared?
I once heard it said that God created us in His image and we returned the favor.
Far too often we think of God in human terms, with human conditions and limitations. Too often we liken Him to earthly relationships and experiences. Parents, family, friends, society, the church or other significant people in our lives let us down so our esteem of God is let down as well... as if God is bound and dependent to the experiences of this life.
He is "God and there is no other (Isa. 45:5, 14, 21)."
To think of God through human experiences and earthly terms leads us away from prayer (He's not listening) away from worship (He's not involved) away from Holy Spirit dependence (He's too busy) away from listening for Him to speak (He's not interested).
We cannot allow our mortal experiences shape our understanding of our immortal God. To think of God as less than He is... is to have a God less than He is.
Instead, we must discipline ourselves to pray, worship, trust and listen even when it doesn't make earthly sense. We must remind ourselves of the divinity of God, His "unearthlyness." We must meditate on His attributes and dwell on His Word that we might be guided back to His Truth, away from our earthly impressions.
You are God and there is no other.
Monday, September 20, 2010
“ Remember these, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
I have formed you, you are My servant;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me!
I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions,
And like a cloud, your sins.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
How merciful! How patient! How gracious!
That God would choose to forget our sins so that He might remember us!
This forgetfulness did not come as easily for God as it does for us.
It is not as if our sin faded away with time like a dull memory or was misplaced like an annoying bill. His forgetfulness came at a high price, the life of His Son. It was a sacrificial work, active and intentional, not passive, circumstantial or accidental. It is His sacrificial forgetfulness that enables Him to remember His people and look upon them as Holy, beloved and belonging to God. How merciful! How patient! How gracious!
Lord I am humbled by your mercy and the lengths You have gone to remember me. Teach me to remember You each moment that I might also forget my sin, abandon my transgressions and live my life as You will me to; holy, beloved and belonging to You. Amen
Friday, September 17, 2010
22 "Yet you have not called upon me, O Jacob,
you have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel.
23 You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings,
nor honored me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with grain offerings
nor wearied you with demands for incense.
24 You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me,
or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins
and wearied me with your offenses.
25 "I, even I, am he who blots out
your transgressions, for my own sake,
and remembers your sins no more.
Our lives are a perpetual offering unto God. We will either offer up a sweet aroma of sacrifice and obedience or become the stench of sin and rebellion. We will either live intentionally, offering up to God our time, talent, treasures and attention or we will ignore His Word, His presence, His will and His calling.
Lord, make me always mindful of Your calling on my life. Let my life be a sweet smelling offering of sacrifice and obedience to You. Strengthen me and discipline me to obey and sacrifice that I may be a sweet smelling aroma to You. Amen.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
What a beautiful passage about God's desire to have an intimate relationship with those He has redeemed! God did not set forth a generic calling for universal salvation. His calling was intentional, specific, intimate and personal.
The words used here in Hebrew are the same used in Genesis when God created man in His own image (Gen. 1:26-27) and formed Adam from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7). There in Genesis, the creation and formation of man was very different than anything else because God took lengths to make it personal. He created man in His image, breathed His breath of life into his nostrils (Gen. 2:7), formed his body with not only His words but His own hands! Just as mankind is set apart from all of creation, Israel was set apart from all of mankind.
And so that Israel notices such a difference, the Lord calls them by name. This verse actually declares that the name the Lord uses when He calls Israel is "mine." Think about that! When God considers the nations and peoples of the earth He thinks... "there's Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Rome, China, America... Mine."
I believe the same holds true for the church and followers of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4-14). He has not initiated a generic plan of redemption nor extended a universal salvation. His calling is specific, personal and intimate. And those whom He elects He gives the right to be called "children of God" (John 1:12). To those who overcome He gives a new name (Rev. 2:17) and God's own name is written on him (Rev. 14:1).
I am God's. He knows my name and has called me by His name. I am created in His image and recreated in the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ. Daily He is forming me and conforming me to His will. His breath and His Spirit are in me. His eyes and His hands are upon me. I am God's. What is there that I should fear? I am God's. Amen!
Monday, September 13, 2010
"Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him
and he will bring justice to the nations.
I wonder what Israel had in mind as they first heard this prophesy? When we think of justice we often think of the bad guys getting what's coming to them and the good guys finally getting what's been kept from them. I imagine the thought of the Messiah bringing justice put a smile on their face of Israel as they imagined something similar.
So that Israel fully understands God's vision of justice, Isaiah continues with this theme of divine justice throughout this chapter.
A bruised reed He will not break,
and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out.
In faithfulness He will bring forth justice;
He will not falter or be discouraged
till He establishes justice on earth.
In His law the islands will put their hope."
Throughout Scripture, God contrasts Israel as the land and the gentiles as the sea. The Philistines lived by the way of the sea and were enemies of God and His people. Israel was defined by waters on each side, the Mediterranean on the West and the Jordan river on the East. In Revelation, the angel of chapter 7 is commanded, "Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God (3)."
I wonder how Israel's view of Messiah's justice changed when they heard that the Islands would put their hope in Him? What could these islands be but gentiles who would come to believe in Jehovah and come to submit to His law? How was this possible? How is this just?
Isaiah 42:6-7 continues this thought...
"I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness;
I will take hold of Your hand.
I will keep You and will make You
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness."
These verses are not about Israel but about the Messiah. He will be called in righteousness. There is no righteousness to be found in Israel but the Messiah would be without sin and be found worthy to take the hand of God on behalf of Israel. He would not simply be the bearer or author of a new covenant, He would be a new covenant. This new covenant would not be for Israel alone but for the gentiles as well. While the imagery of blind captives trapped in dungeons of darkness must have conjured up thoughts of captivity for the Jews, it was really God's promise to the gentiles. This must have sent Israel scratching their heads at best and perhaps even angry.
So Isaiah continues to make sure that Israel understands the full extent of divine justice.
(16) "I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them."
As His creation, formed in His image and reflecting His glory, God promises not to forsake the gentiles. This is an extension of His theme of justice, yet not the justice that Israel imagined. They (Israel) were not God's special object of mercy and grace. They were not His only subject of patience and deliverance. Israel was simply God's chosen tool to demonstrate and deliver justice to the nations. Jesus would be "the atoning sacrifice for our (Israel's) sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2)." It is only right and just that God extend salvation to all of His creation. In other words, divine justice is far more about the giver of justice than the subject of this justice.
So what is my image of justice? Is it wrapped up in my identity, my experience and my prejudice or is it wholly about God, His character and His standard? Does my vision of justice indistinguishably mix with mercy and grace regardless of the subject? Do I seek to exercise this version of justice?
Lord, take away my prejudice. Make me an agent of Your justice. May I too be a light to blind eyes. May I too deliver a message of deliverance for those trapped in darkness. May I too be filled with compassion and passion for those who are lost. May I know divine justice and make it known. Amen.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Why do you say, O Jacob,
and complain, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God"?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
God is not lost, weak, ignorant or blind... yet we tend to be.
When we are lost, weak, ignorant or blind, He shows up.
When we hope in the LORD, we are renewed, strengthened.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Indeed it was for my own peace
That I had great bitterness;
But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption,
For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.
This is Hezekiah's prayer and song of praise after his brush with deathly illness. In it, Hezekiah identifies some deep truths about our world, our condition and our God. First, suffering is a part of life and a part that brings life. We cannot know the benefit of peace unless we know the bitterness of war. Second, we are at war with God, enemies separated by our sin and deserving death (Rom. 5:10). Finally, it was only God's love that compelled Him to deliver Hezekiah's soul from the grave and restore him to the land of the living. It is His love that causes Him to cast our sins behind him and patiently wait for our repentance and return. It is His love that sent Him to the cross to not simply ignore our sin for a season but pay for it for eternity. It was His love that caused Him to take up our infirmities and pay for our iniquities. By His wounds we are truly healed (Isaiah 53:3-5).
It was Hezekiah's physical illness that led him to understand his spiritual illness and to recognize the love and grace of God. What do the trials of my life lead to? Do I allow trials to reduce me to depression or increase my faith? Do I accept the fleeting realities of this world or do I persist to the spiritual truths beyond it? Do I pity myself or praise Him?
Lord, keep my eyes open in trials to see You and Your truth. Amen.