One of the most poignant moments in Scripture is the conversation between Christ and Pontius Pilate. Jesus says that “everyone who listens to Him are of the truth” to which Pilate responds, “What is truth?” What is truth? The world we live in now proclaims that truth is unique and individual to each one of us. There is no definite truth. It’s all relative. Relative truth leaves us ungrounded, without anchor, tossed back and forth by the issues of life. Our world is in a free-for-all for lack of truth. Relative person allows each person to take their own moral high ground and no one can argue one way or the other. There is no right or wrong. There is no morality. There is no way, but many ways.
The doctrine of Jesus Christ flies in the face of this philosophy when He simply says, “I am Truth.” He is. Truth is contained. It is within one space. It is set. It is a person, a person who does not change. Truth is eternal and right. This truth, not the personal relative truth sets us free. Relative truth gives us justification to remain imprisoned in our own sense of backward morality.
Truth is Christ. Christ is a mystery. God who holds every universe in the palm of His hand come in the flesh bursting through the womb of a virgin. He walks the Earth, teaches in parables declaring those who have ears, let them hear. All heard, few understood. Jesus is the most prominent man in history, the most treasured, yet the most rejected. He is the most followed and the most hated. He has truly fulfilled the prophecy of causing the rise and fall of many. People either get Jesus to the point their whole life is changed or never fully understand Him, and this is Truth. Truth is not clearly seen anymore than Christ is clearly understood. For those who know Christ intimately, it is a wonder how others can not understand. Yet for those who do not understand, devoted followers of Christ, to them, are bigots and homophobes. And this is truth, easily found and evasive all at the same time.
This is a serious matter considering that Truth is what sets us free from all of the hangups and strongholds in our life. We can’t be free from our failures to love well until we first find the truth. Truth must be found for freedom to manifest. Most remain locked up in their iniquity losing hope of being free from those things that make life so hard.
How can something be so clear and so muddied at the same time? It is because truth is spiritual. Those with the Spirit of God, while operating in the Spirit, find the truth. They are of the truth. Those without the Spirit or those with the Spirit, but for the moment, not operating in the Spirit, cannot see it. This is the conundrum. Truth is not evident to all. It is shrouded and hidden and must be found that we might have freedom.
Pulling back the veil, finding the revelation is not done by any other means but to have the Spirit of God and to operate in the spirit of God. This is a behavioral, cognitive, and spiritual act and nothing less. Jesus said that if we “abide in His word,’ we will be His disciples. A disciple is someone disciplined to do a certain thing. The Word of God is to be used to help us discipline ourselves to a certain lifestyle, a certain behavior, a certain pattern of thought. This keeps us in the spirit and there we find truth. To fully immerse ourselves into this lifestyle requires faith. It is faith, a core belief, that this way of behaving, thinking, feeling, and moving has been handed down by an all-knowing God who will lead us to a new freedom. Faith moves us to give ourselves to a lifestyle. But what moves us to faith?
Why would I choose to believe in something so strongly to change everything about my path in this life? The short answer is love. Understanding the love that Christ has for me moves me to place my life in His hands. If He would leave His celestial home to enter the flesh of man to face all the temptations of this life specifically to resist them breaking the power of sin upon mankind, then accepting God’s punishment for the sin of all the world on a piece of wood with nails thrust through just so that the opportunity of freedom is available for any who might choose to take it, how deep must His love be. If He loves me like this, I can put my life in His hands. I choose to my life in His hands. I choose faith. Faith lived out in thoughts, feelings, and behavior open my eyes to the truth that sets me free.
There is no other path for truth. We must truly have faith His words, His Word, directs us to the right heart, the right mindset, the right steps, to find Truth, freedom, and abundant life. Before freedom, there is faith. Before faith there is love. Because He loved me first, I love Him. The more I know Him, the greater I trust and put my faith in Him. Suddenly, there it is, Truth that sets me free. And now it is clear, Truth is a revelation from God given to those who believe. Our freedom from those things that steal our joy, our hope, our love, and our future is based on how much we truly have faith in God’s ways of living and thinking. How much do I believe? How much faith will I have? How disciplined will I become? How free will I be?
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” (ESV)
Heavenly Father, simply, help my unbelief. Let me live as You call me and set me free from the things of this world. -Amen
For Christmas, we were going to have some company visiting so the declaration was made that all bedrooms were to be cleaned. Of course, this is a parental declaration that should not have to be made on special occasions because rooms are to remain clean all of the time, but you know how that goes. So the declaration went out. Shortly thereafter, I saw my 12-year-old son sitting relaxed enjoying himself so peaceful and calm before the Xbox with Madden on screen. I said, “Is your room clean?” “Yep,” he replied. So naturally, I walked into his room to verify. “Come in here. There are clothes over here. You have trash on your shelf. These shoes need to be put away.” And the list went on. I have to give him credit though, he had done a pretty good job. Having raised three boys, these moments are familiar. Though not this time, there have been other times when a son of mine who would argue. I would dispel great fatherly wisdom, “Your room is not clean.” “Yes, it is.” “No, it is not. I just went in there.” “I already cleaned it,” one of them would say. Then like a great philosopher, I uttered wisdom their young and feeble minds were yet incapable of grasping, “It is clean when I say it is clean!”
They would stand there in astonishment and befuddlement attempting to recover from the vast wave of wisdom and authority laid out before them. It was the same look I had when my father poured out this age-old axiom born at the beginning of time. Not until I stood before my own flesh and blood in their yet unclean rooms did enlightenment strike me. I had made the same argument when I was just a child and stood confounded before the sage I called Father as he divulged astuteness so rich, “It is clean when I say it is clean.”
I do a lot of counseling both online through email and in office. I had thought to name the counseling part of my ministry Truth counseling. I eventually settled on Journey counseling, but Truth was the first thought. This was perfect name because the issues in our life that keep us from experiencing the abundant life God has prepared for us come from beliefs we have shrouded in emotion but lacking truth. The Bible says that the truth shall set us free while at the same time reminding us that the heart, the seat of all emotions, is deceitful above all things. In my own life and in counseling, the conversation between father and son repeats itself time and again. The truth is there, but the difficulty of grasping the truth as truth is so difficult. We want to say that what we feel is truth and the Glorious Father proclaims, “It is truth when I say it is truth.”
King David from the Old Testament, you remember him, the guy who slay Goliath, struggled with this very thing. He had committed some greatly atrocious sin, adultery and murder, but how he came to a place that he could do such things was a complete mystery. He knew what he had done, but he could not understand why.
Wow! That is so descriptive of the human experience. We know our sin, but we don’t understand why we are accepting of our sin. Of course, there is the pat answer that we are sinful. This is true, but we each have our own experience. We know that we promiscuous and we shouldn’t be, yet we continue. Why? We know that we are rebellious and disrespectful, and we know this is wrong, but we continue. Why are we ok with continuing in some behavior that we know to be harmful and wrong? Well…I will suggest to you that it goes back to what we believe to be true compared to what God has declared as truth.
In my mini-book, “Breaking Free From Your Past,” I deal with this more extensively. I hope you have read it and shared the free download with all of your friends and family. When we learn God’s truth, the only real truth, and allow it to eclipse what we believe to be true, the chains of our past are broken giving us the freedom to live a new life in the abundance of God’s plan. This is a basic principle that must be applied to the specifics of our life and everyone is different.
The mystical part of truth is that sin has put a veil over the eyes of our heart so that to find it, the veil must be lifted. In other words, a person cannot simply read the Bible and know the truth. The nature of the truth is not wrapped up in the Textus Receptus. No, Jesus said, “I am the Truth.” Truth is something that must be sought after and revealed. Without a knowledge of truth, we can never find God’s good, pleasing, and perfect plan for our life. The lack of truth in a person’s life keep them in bondage without the freedom to really live.
Tomorrow…we will delve into the path of finding the Truth as defined by the Lord.
John 13:31 - 14:14
When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
“My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (NIV)
Lord, I am tired of wrestling with myself. I am tired of struggling with the parts of me that I hate. You have declared freedom for my soul now I ask You to help me live in that freedom. My prayer is David's prayer: Give me truth in my inmost place and create in me a clean heart oh God. I can't do it without You Lord. I know this full well. I have tried my whole life and I can't do this on my own power. Save me from myself that I might become who You created me to be. -Amen
I picked up a two-year-old. Pulled a hammy! Seriously! I am so old and my body is in such bad shape that just bending down to pick up a two-year-old and I pull a hamstring. I limped the rest of the day. I told people that I saw a hit and run and ran down the car that took off and that it took me a good quarter mile to catch him. You know…I don’t really want to tell people I am limping because I am so old that I can’t pick up a small child without falling to my knees in excruciating pain.
On my knees in the baby room of our daycare, two-year-olds all around me on the play mat, staring with great concern. They looked at me with pity thinking they needed to help me because I wasn’t going to make it. I saw one in the corner on a cell phone calling 9-1-1. It was there that life changed. I realized I was no longer a young man. Nope, now if I know I am going to have to go into the baby room to spell a teacher to the restroom or something, I stretch first, a good half hour. Gotta get those muscles warmed up and ready for the challenge.
I have told myself that I can no longer go out and play basketball without a good warm-up period and a full tank of oxygen. Life is different now. I think differently. If I walk into the gym and it’s a bunch of 19-year-old kids, I walk right by the court and to the snack bar to get myself a coke and a snickers because I am just watching on this day.
Changing the way we think is not easy. It takes intentionality and persistence, self-discipline. It’s a good thing that when we received the Holy Spirit that He specializes in filling us with power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). He helps us. When John the Baptist was preparing the way for the Lord Jesus to show up on the scene, his message was simple, “Repent.” (Mark 1:4). But what is repentance?
We might say that repentance is to stop sinning. To stop doing those things that we know are sinful would be repentance, right? But the word repentance does not mean to stop doing what you know is wrong. The meaning of the word is more about changing the way we think. We sin because of our thoughts about that sin. What does the Bible say…that we are dragged away and enticed by our own desires (James 1:14). If I desire things that are sinful, then the way I am thinking is wrong, in opposition to the Word of God. If I stop doing the same ole sin, but keep thinking the same way about it, eventually, it will overtake me again. To fully repent, I have to change the way I think.
When John was calling people to repent, he was calling them to change the way they think. The Bible says that we must stop conforming to the pattern of this world and be transformed by the renewing of our mind. To help people prepare for Jesus, we can’t just focus on their behavior. Their behavior is the result of their pattern of thought influenced by the world. The pattern of this world begins with thoughts and ideas about things, people, situations, and circumstances. It is how we see a moment in time and how we think to react to it.
Yesterday, we talked about being honest about sin, but it is more than that. People who do not know the Lord already think that Christianity is just a list of rules that must be followed, but Christianity is about following a way of life designed by our Father in Heaven that leads to a fulfilling, abundant and eternal life. To follow that path, we need power from the Holy Spirit to transform our thinking to see things as God sees things.
We can’t help people to be transformed unless we, ourselves, are transformed in the we think. I will give you an example. I have always struggled with food, overeating. It didn’t help that I was always trying to get bigger for football and in college, I was undersized and required to eat five meals a day. Nevertheless, it started when I was younger and to this day I will want to eat when I am tired or stressed. And at big events such as Thanksgiving, birthday parties, etc., I have a tendency to overeat. I have always known that I shouldn’t. I am fully aware of gluttony, but recently in my prayer time, the Lord began to speak to me about the way I think about food.
He reminded me that in Scripture, there has always been a morality associated with eating. And He revealed to me that I saw indulgence of food different from indulgence of other things. For example, I have never had an issue with alcohol or getting drunk, but I realized that I saw the over-indulgence of alcohol somehow worse than I saw the over-indulgence of food. This was not something conscious, but deep down. I didn’t even realize that I saw them so differently. Of course, after the Holy Spirit helped me to see it, I thought to myself, “Of course, I have been doing this.” But until that moment, it didn’t click with me. I have always known that over-eating was sinful, but now my thinking has conformed to the ways of God to a higher level. I used to think to myself, “Well, in the Old Testament, at celebrations, they ate of the ‘fatted calf.’ It was a big moment, but I realized that it never said they overate in these moments. Somehow, in the recesses of my own spirit, I had developed a way of thinking that was contrary to the Scripture much more than I thought.
This doesn’t mean that I will never overeat again, but with my thinking more in line with Scripture, my behavior is bound to change if I continue to rely on the self-discipline placed in my by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are called to prepare the way for the Lord. We must call people to repentance, a change of their pattern of thought to be aligned with the Holy Scriptures, but we can’t help people do what we are not practicing ourselves. Let’s live a life of repentance.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (ESV)
Lord, I am reminded that your Word says that we can deceive ourselves better than the devil himself can deceive us. I need Your help to think as You think. You have promised to give me the mind of Christ. Help me to attain to this so that I would love as He loves, give compassion as He gives, speaks truth as He speaks, and resists temptation as He did. Help me to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. -Amen.
A Coming King. Powerful and victorious. Expectations of freedom from the cruelty of the Roman empire dominated the belief system of the Jewish culture. They had heard the prophecies of the King who would come and establish His kingdom that would endure forever.
The King came, but not in pomp and circumstance. Instead, He rode a donkey, a donkey He didn’t even own. He did not come with a great entourage. Fisherman flanked him. No soldiers. No army. No battle. He did not set up His throne, He remained silent before Pilate, the Roman governor. Jesus was nothing what was expected. The only thing that even came close were His miracles. These were evidence that He had come from God. They knelt and praised their humble king riding on a donkey expecting the terror of Rome in Jerusalem to be brought down. But when He was accused of the crime of blasphemy and their own leaders turned against Him, confusion set in. They loved Him for the love He had given, but could the Messiah, the Coming King of Israel that would deliver them from all their enemies be arrested by their own leaders? It just didn’t seem right. This is where John the Baptism comes in.
He was the strange little prophet that hung out in the desert preacher Hell, fire, and brimstone calling people to repent of their sin. He wore a camel-hair and ate locusts. He was clear. He was not the Messiah, but there was one coming who sandals he was unfit to tie. Crowds came out to the desert to hear him, to be baptized. When Jesus brought him up to the Pharisees to discredit, they refused because all the people of Jerusalem considered John a prophet from God. His influence on the entire city was clear. And what did John do with this influence? When Jesus walked near, John proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God” then testified, “He is the Son of God” (John 1:29-34).
Someone had to point Jesus out because no one was going to recognize Him based on their understanding of prophecy. John was the one foretold of by Isaiah as the voice in the desert preparing the way for the Messiah. This word ‘prepare’ comes from an idiom meaning the men who travelled ahead of a king and smoothed out the roads so that when His royal carriage came through, it could enter easily. John the Baptism came to repair the spiritual road for the King of Kings to come to His own. As the people waited in great expectation, John came to prepare them to accept Jesus, who did not look nor act anything like the great King they expected.
The word advent means “a coming into view or arrival.” Just as they waited with expectation for a king, so do we. Their understanding of prophecy had blinded them to the person Jesus was going to be. John had to prepare the way. We are living in a new advent. We are waiting for the coming of the King of Kings. This time the King will not come and live among men as before. Men will not have a chance to gather information about this King as He walks and talks with them. They will need to already know Him before He appears to be accepted by Him. The church sits in the place of John the Baptist, called to prepare the way for the Coming King.
Construction workers repairing inaccurate and wicked images of the King. The road for the King to travel into the unbelieving heart is under construction. We must put on our hardhat, climb into the cab of our machinery and start undoing the damage done, making smooth the road, producing clarity for who Jesus is, clearing the broken pavement of inaccurate depictions of the Son of God.
The influence of John the Baptist did not come from His words alone. It was His words and His lifestyle that brought people out into the desert to listen to a sermon. We don’t understand this. Churches are trying to move to areas more densely populated to reach more people. And people do not want to drive too far to go to church. But John’s reputation, influence, and power caused people to walk out of the city into the desert to hear a sermon, to be baptized in repentance. The city was saturated with religious leaders, but no one was flocking to hear them. They did not have long lines of people wanting to be baptized being moved to total life-change. John walked the walk, but they only talked the talk. They were hypocrites, insincere, self-promoting, and greedy. John was the real deal. John was making smooth the roads they had destroyed.
We can’t prepare the way for Jesus to return if we are not authentic in our Christian walk. Saying one thing while doing another has created deep potholes throughout history. Hypocrisy closes down the roads. No thru traffic. Authentic Christianity smooths everything, opens roads for people to see their King. Authentic Christianity pushes smooth the rubble. The King has come into the world once and they did not recognize Him. We are the body of Christ called to reflect the image of Christ, but will the world recognize Him from our life. If we accept what the King rejects, we paint a distorted picture. When we do accept what He has rejected, we must repent, make reparations, make restitution to His image. Authentic Christianity is not found within a perfect person. If so, it would be non-existent, a fairy tale like the Easter Bunny. Though perfection is far from us, authenticity never relents in pursuit of perfection. When we fail, we make it right.
We are the body of Christ, but today, we have the mission of John the Baptist. We can’t simply shout from the rooftops, we must live a lifestyle that gives our shouting credibility to those who don’t believe. If there has ever been a time of roads closed in need of repair, it is now. Let’s push away the rubble with authenticity and the testimony that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the World.
Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
A voice says, “Cry out.”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
“All people are like grass,
and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever. ”
You who bring good news to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales
and the hills in a balance?
Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord,
or instruct the Lord as his counselor?
Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him,
and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge,
or showed him the path of understanding?
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales;
he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
Before him all the nations are as nothing;
they are regarded by him as worthless
and less than nothing.
With whom, then, will you compare God?
To what image will you liken him?
As for an idol, a metalworker casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and fashions silver chains for it.
A person too poor to present such an offering
selects wood that will not rot;
they look for a skilled worker
to set up an idol that will not topple.
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.
“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
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.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
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. (NIV)
Heavenly Father, if I am honest with myself and with you, I have created rubble in people’s life. My behavior has been hypocritical at times without repentance and without restitution. I have closed roads preventing the arrival of the King into their life. But I take heart in knowing that the greatest person to tear up spiritual roads might have been Saul. You came to him, changed him, and he spent the rest of his life opening roads for Jesus. You have come to me. You have changed me. I need more change. Sanctify me through and through each moment in my thoughts and my actions. Use me to prepare the way for You to come to people who desperately need a King. -Amen.
I am more of a blue-collar preacher. I don’t put on heirs. I don’t wear a robe or a collar. In fact, I rarely even tuck my shirt in. I have realized that sometimes this is in style and other times it isn’t, but I am not sure which is which. “If Walmart don’t have it, I don’t need it.” That’s the motto that I live by along with “there is never a bad time for Blue Bell ice cream.” Anyway, the church has many different ceremonies, rituals, sacraments. They are all meaningful and symbolic of wonderful truths taught in Scripture. There are churches who practice more of these than others. The term ‘liturgical’ describes a church who practices all of these. At my church, we tend to stick to baptism and communion since those are direct from Scripture. But during the Christmas season, the liturgical calendar celebrates Advent. I am sure you have seen the advent candles and advent wreath.
The wreath represents the everlasting love of God. There are different symbolic meanings of the candles depending upon the church. There are four small candles representing the 4,000 years that the world awaited the birth of the Messiah. These candles surround one larger white candle representing the light of Christ born in a manger. Each of the four individual candles also symbolize hope, faith, joy, and peace. By 1600, it was a formal practice in both Catholic and Lutheran churches. Now, the majority of churches take part in Advent in some form. However, what I like most about the Advent wreath is the purpose of the tradition.
The tradition was not just about Christmas. Advent is intended to remind us that we have much in common with the Jewish people from the time after the prophets until the birth of Christ. They were waiting for the Messiah prophesied about by the Old Testament prophets. 700 years before Christ was born, the prophet Micah prophesied the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Isaiah, also more than 700 years before the birth of Christ prophesied that He would be born to a virgin. The prophet Zechariah prophesied more than 500 years before the birth of Christ that Israel’s king would come riding in on the foal of a donkey. Some skeptics would say there is no big deal about that because Jesus would have known this so when he asked his disciples to go and get him a donkey, he was forcing himself into this prophecy. But Zechariah also prophesied that the people of Jerusalem would welcome him into their city like a victorious king. And this is exactly what the people did. They knelt before him waving palm branches, shouting Hosanna which means ‘save us.’
They had been waiting 4,000 years with great expectation. Advent reminds us that as they were waiting for the 1st appearance of the Messiah, we, like them, are in great expectation for the return of Jesus Christ to deliver His church into Heaven. Advent is a celebration of the birth of the Christ-child, but it is a reminder that Christ the King will return again soon and this expectation should guide our life. If you knew that Jesus was to return tomorrow, how would you live your life?
We would not hold grudges. It would be a time of forgiveness. We would not join in sin. We would remain pure. We would not be stress over the small things in life. We would know the Prince of Peace would be here soon. Advent is a call for Christians to live knowing that Christ may return to Earth at any moment.
I know. Many people would say that people have been saying that Christ was soon to return for thousands of years and this is true. But the Bible also says that in the end days, there will be wars and rumors of wars. Is there any doubt that the political state of our world does not point to the end times? Scripture also says that in the end days, love will wax cold. Again, when we look at the hatred of people from one group to another, doesn’t it seem like the end times. Revelation, chapter 20 tells us that in the last days, there will be great persecution against Christians and many will be beheaded. No one knows when Christ will return. My point only is that we seem to be living in the last days. With all that we are seeing about the city of Jerusalem right now, there is so much reminding us that we are living in the last days. And we should be living in expectation that Christ may return soon.
We don’t know when this day will occur and until then we are called to love. So we must continue to take care of our families and one another. We give gifts to one another in love and to honor Christ. We still have to get up and go to work every day. Many of what we do, we should continue to do. The difference between living with expectation of Christ’s return and living as if Christ will not return in my lifetime is attitude. If the Lord is coming soon, I do not want anything to be between the Lord and myself. I want to repent of my sin. I want to make restitution to those I have wronged. I want to love more, laugh more, and live more in the abundance of Christ and not the worries of this life. Church, He is coming soon. Let’s live like it!
1 Thessalonians 4:13 - 5:11
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (ESV)
Heavenly Father, remind me each morning that this life is not the point. I am not living for treasures on Earth, but treasures in Heaven. And let me live with the Good News that you will return soon that my life will be focused on love, peace, reconciliation. Let anger, regret, vengeance be far from me. And thank you Lord for preparing a place for us to be with you forever and ever. Help me to meditate on this truth and reduce my stress, reduce my worry, my fear, and increase my joy and contentment. -Amen.
The secular Christmas. Gifts. Malls. New Shoes. Toys and more toys. Chestnuts roasting on the open fire. Nat King Cole’s beautiful voice, Santa Claus, Rudolf, and the movie Elf. The hustle and bustle of putting up the tree, getting the lights hanging on the house, the strategically placed mistletoe, traffic and more traffic is how most of the world sees Christmas. The world doesn’t want us to say, “Merry Christmas,” but most businesses would go out of business if it weren’t for that Christmas custom of giving gifts to commemorate the giving of gifts to the Christ child lying in a manger because there was no room in the inn. The world has thoroughly profited by hijacking the celebration of Jesus and now, the same world making money off of Jesus’ birth is offended when we say, “Merry Christmas.” You got to be kiddin’ me!!!!
The religious Christmas. Dressing up for Christmas Eve Communion. Nativity scenes. Children, eyes wide around grandma’s chair, listen to the Christmas story, Christmas Carols that sing of the glorious starry night when shepherds were arrested by celestial singing, “Glory to God in the Highest!” Advent wreaths, Christmas plays, Christmas Caroling from house to house, as followers of Jesus Christ, we love Christmas.
But is there something missing? Something that has been there all along from the day of Jesus’ birth. We have the nativity scene down pretty good. We sound good singing those Christmas Carols, that’s for sure. The Christmas story is almost memorized. But have we missed something? I think we have.
It’s right there in the song of the angels. Jesus was born and the angels appeared to the shepherds out in the fields keeping watch over their sheep. The angel said, “I have come to bring you good news of great joy.” Alright. Alright…so you are a King James kind of person….that’s fine. The angel said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy.” Sheesh. I hope you are happy now. It’s that word ‘news’ or ‘tidings.’ The original word means to announce, to declare, to preach, to evangelize. The birth of our Savior was and is BIG NEWS. But news is to be told, announced, declared, preached. It could be said that we are doing all of these things, but that last one ‘to evangelize’ means to convert to the faith. Isn’t this why Jesus came? He did not suddenly appear on Earth in His glorified body. He came as a man through the womb of a woman that He might live as a man. Only as a man, sinless man, would He qualify to satisfy the punishment due to all mankind because of sin. Jesus coming as a baby is not simply a story to be told. It is not simply news to be repeated. It is the foundation of salvation. Without this birth, all of mankind would have been helpless to escape the wrath of God because of the sin in the world.
Because of this baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in the manger, surrounded by the barn animals and smell, every sin we commit can be tossed into Heaven’s sea of forgetfulness. Should we fear the wrath of God because of our sin, on Judgment Day, we might start babbling like a crazy fool all the sins we have committed asking for mercy, but mercy was already given. From the moment Adam and Eve took a bite to the moment appeared to Mary to the cries of a newborn child, mercy has already been given. And to all who shall believe on the name of Jesus, every sin is washed away. And it all starts with this baby born of a virgin. Evangelism…this is what’s been missing.
To tell the story of Jesus, we mustn’t let this be forgotten, God Incarnate, Jesus, born to a woman, raised as a man, came to Earth because only a man could take man’s punishment that whosoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life. Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth, but what an opportunity we have to tell our friends, our family, our co-workers the purpose of the birth. This is the real news. Every time the family gathers around the tree, the dinner table, the coffee table, don’t just read the story of His birth, remind people the purpose of His birth.
The birth of Christ is without a doubt a reason to celebrate, but isn’t there more. The angels tried to explain it to the shepherds. His birth was to mean peace and good will from God to man like no other time in history, not because He was born, but for the reason He was born. For all who believe, in fact any who believe, they shall encounter the Prince of Peace and the favor of the Lord. This is why it was news. This baby was going to open the storehouses of Heaven like in a new way, a new dispensation of glory like nothing the world had ever seen.
This year, with people thinking so much about Jesus, or at least hearing His name at the mall over and over again along with Santa’s from the Christmas music in every store, let’s tell the story every chance we get, but let’s tell the whole story. Maybe, this is the greatest gift: the missing part of the Christmas story, the reason God rested in the arms of a girl so young.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (ESV)
Heavenly Father, help me to tell the story. In this day of political correctness, the church has been filled with fear to speak about Christ. Help me to be bold. Help the church to be bold. Let us love the world enough to tell the story, the whole story. Let this Christmas be a time of salvation for someone as we proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. -Amen.
Can you imagine any more beautiful place to be, the Throne of Grace. Love overwhelming, unconditional acceptance. Not only to be loved, but to receive grace, mercy, strength, wisdom. A Heavenly Father ready to give to his child all that he needs though he deserves none. The Throne sits in total release of stress, worry, pressure with a surge of benevolent power all around. One day, this will be all that exists, the freedom found only in the presence of God. But it is not to be absent in our life today. Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” It is here for us to experience. We can come boldly into the Throne Room of Heaven even as we exist in the hassle and complexity of here. I want to go there.
We can’t enter into the presence of a King but with reverence. To honor Him for His position regardless of deeds, but also to praise Him for all He has done is the proper posture. When we praise, we honor Him in our hearts as His Throne and angels testify to His Kingship. He is the King of Kings and there is no challenge to His Throne. He inhabits the praises of His people when they praise Him (Psalm 22:3). He enthrones Himself. He is established as King of Glory atop the praises of our mouth. This is the only way we can enter the Throne Room of Heaven. So many of us never enter into Heaven’s Throne because we give voice to our complaints more than His praise. Can you imagine walking into the presence of God complaining about everything that is under His authority and control? “Get out!” the court official would say, “Come back with some respect for the King.” Tragic not to receive discontent for what we have already been given.
Repentance opens our heart to receive grace. As we talked about in Opening The Door of the Throne Room, without grace, we see no need for grace. It is not that the guards refuse us entrance, but pride doesn’t want to go into the Throne Room. Pride has its own throne. Repentance, but also praise establish the Throne of Grace in my spirit. These two postures of the heart transcend us from the here to the there of His Throne.
The word for ‘thanksgiving’ means ‘to extend a hand (as if giving)’ according to Strong’s Concordance. Praise gives. I must enter the realm of God’s grace giving to Him. Most times when I realize I need to be in the Throne of God, it is because I am fully aware of something I need right then. “I need. I need. I want. I want.” I am escorted out. Giving keeps me there in His presence. Giving places me in the position to receive. I must be real and authentic. He has searched my heart and knows if I honor Him with my lips pretending to be giving when I have a motive to receive. God cannot be mocked. Waiting until I need something to enter the Throne Room will almost always cause me to be tossed out. Of course, it is the Throne of Grace and I suppose many would still receive grace, but too often would discredit His name, Holiness. To take advantage of Him without reverence as seen through repentance and praise would diminish His character to some kind of bank to apply for a loan in my time of need. If unbelievers attempt to enter His salvation by what they see in me, I cannot be allowed to use God in my time of need. True praise sounds from my heart to my lips in every circumstance. I give to the One who has given me more. To God be the glory and may His character be solidified in my daily behavior. I extend a hand bringing gifts to my King.
“O come to the Father through Jesus His son and give Him the glory for great things He has done.” Why is it that I am more fully aware of my need than my blessing? Sin blinds my eyes from the good all around me. Praise opens my eyes. This is why we sing. We don’t always feel like crying out the praises of God. Our heart is hard and our spirit wounded. We cry out in pain wanting comfort from Heaven. But when I go to church, standing like the rest, the music starts and I begin to sing, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,” or “From my womb, you have chosen me. Love has called me name. I’ve been born again,” I soften and the Holy Spirit arrests my spirit. The eyes of my heart are opened to His beauty, grace, and insane amount of blessing in my life. Now I know why David sang and danced before the Lord. He had entered that wonderful place, the Throne Room of Heaven. I want to go there. Let’s repent and praise Him an we shall be there, in His majesty.
My heart, O God, is steadfast;
I will sing and make music with all my soul.
Awake, harp and lyre!
I will awaken the dawn.
I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, higher than the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth. (NIV)
I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known
through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
‘I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations.’”
The heavens praise your wonders, Lord,
your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies above can compare with the Lord?
Who is like the Lord among the heavenly beings?
In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
he is more awesome than all who surround him.
Who is like you, Lord God Almighty?
You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you. (NIV)
Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations. (NIV)
Lord, the greatest obstacles of entering Your Throne of Grace are pride and need. Teach me to love You simply for You. You have loved me with an everlasting love. You have made me and formed me. You have been good to me, kind to me, pleasant with me. Help me to love You without condition, whether You give or receive. May I sing Your praise with all my strength. -Amen.
Do you watch The Voice? My family is a singing family and they love to watch The Voice and appreciate the unknown talent that suddenly appears before the eyes of America. A couple of weeks ago, one of the contestants, Brooke Simpson, daughter of Christian evangelists sang Amazing Grace. Of course, I love that song already and being married to a singer, I have learned to appreciate a powerful rendition of a song and it was powerful. As a pastor, I loved that millions of people were being exposed to a song about God’s grace. I know that many people who had not been in church for years were moved to hear a song so embedded in their childhood. But I couldn’t help think that though that many people unfamiliar with the song were so close to this existential message, but still missed it. They could hear it. They could feel it. But they could not take hold of it.
This is the Throne of Grace for many believers. We sense it. We hear about it in sermons and songs. We can even talk about it, but we never take hold of it. We never enter into the Throne Room of God to receive power, mercy, justice, healing, grace.
How do we open this door? How do we move within the full measure of God’s presence and power? The first thing we have to remember is that it is a throne of grace. Grace, grace, God’s grace. It is not the throne simply where grace is given. It is a throne of grace, as if it were composed of grace. One day, it shall be a throne of judgment, but today and every day until Christ returns, it is a throne of grace. Walking into the Throne Room of grace requires on our part an understanding an ability to experience grace. If I am not full acquainted with grace, how can I stand before the Throne of Grace. But what is grace?
Grace is love and kindness in the face of undeserving merit. With God, it is the immeasurable kindness and enduring, unconditional love of Jesus Christ in response to my sin, rebellion, and betrayal of Him. Grace is powerful in that I see God loving me at the worst and if He can love me at my worst, then He truly loves me. This separates God from everyone in my life. They would struggle to love me at my worst. My wife and children might be able to do it, but if I had committed adultery and abandoned my children, would they still have died for me and worked feverishly to better my life? But this is what I did to the Lord. I worshipped other idols and gods, infidelity to my Lord. I have abandoned Him, not going to church, not seeking Him, not praying, not praising. I have done this many times in my life, yet He pursues me with love so wonderful I can’t express.
The problem with grace is that to fully apprehend the significance and meaning, I must first acknowledge my sin. I have to acknowledge the things I have done that should have disqualified me from blessing. If I do not acknowledge my sin as sin, then grace has no meaning. If I do not own where I have betrayed God, hurt Him, and hurt the people in my life for which the only just response would be severe punishment from Heaven, then I cannot appreciate grace. Grace can only be fully grasped with a heart of repentance. As I am fully aware of my sin, I understand more the depth of God’s love for me.
Many people do not enter the Throne Room of God, never receiving the power, miracles, and grace He desires to pour all over us because we refuse to acknowledge our sin. Or if we do acknowledge it, we justify it explaining it away to ourselves as nothing because of the circumstances.
“ I am mean and grouchy, but that’s the only way I can get things done.”
“I had an affair, but my husband abandoned me emotionally a long time ago.”
“I lied, but had I told the truth up front, it would have caused you to stress and worry.”
Arrogant attitudes hide sins from our own eyes and keep us outside the Throne Room of God. We miss out. We are so close, but we can’t take hold of it. Don’t celebrate God’s grace from a distance. Go boldly into the Throne Room of God’s Amazing Grace. Go there often and remain there a long while each time you go.
Tomorrow, we will continue with learning how to open the door and move into the Presence of the Throne Room of God.
At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (NIV)
It is difficult Lord to admit and confess my sin. I don’t want to be that person and to confess my sin is an admission that I am that person. It is too painful to think about what I have done and how I have hurt people. Nevertheless, until I see my sin for what it is, I will never see your grace for the wonder it is. Help me Lord by breaking this spirit of pride within me and help me to humble myself in prayer. I need to confess my sin and take hold of the amazing grace that only You can give. -Amen.
He is seated upon His throne. In both the book of Hebrews and Revelation, we see Jesus depicted as a King seated upon His throne. Sitting upon a throne does not make a king enthroned. He is king whether He is in bed sleeping or mounted upon a horse ready for battle. A king is a king. Jesus is always THE King of Kings. The throne, however, is where a king gives audience to his subjects. It is upon his throne that a king will dispense both reward and punishment by his power and wisdom. Subjects will come to him in need and should he decide, he provides. Subjects will come to him bringing gifts in gratitude for what he has done. At his throne, the king receives these. Subjects come with contention and the king judges between the parties. The throne is the place where the power and authority of the king changes lives.
We are invited to come into the Throne Room of God where Christ, the King, gives audience to those in need of power, strength, and provision. He gives audience as we give praise and honor from grateful hearts. He give wisdom for our dilemmas. Calling us to the Throne Room, God invites us, implores us, to receive power from Him. A throne is in a specific place and room. So it is with the spiritual Throne of God. It is in a specific place and room. We must open the door to enter. We are not being kept out. There is no lock on the door. The handle is our to open. We must open the door, walk in, and bow before the King. But where is this door and how do we enter?
Our King is also our priest. A priest has the ministry of reconciliation. He reconciles man back to God. He closes the gap for communion between God and His creation. Our King is also our high priest. The High Priest, in the Old Testament, once a year, would go behind the curtain of the Holy of Holies where the presence of God hovered above the Ark of the Covenant. Once the priest entered the Holy of Holies, a sacrifice of atonement would be made to satisfy the wrath of God protecting the people from the ultimate consequence of their sin. In doing this, the high priest restored communion. It was a reconciliation through one man, the high priest. He represented all the people. And the presence of God was limited to this one man and to him, but one day a year.
Old Testament priests could only offer innocent animals for sacrifice. Lambs are not cognitive of temptation or sin. They live by instinct alone not with choices between good and evil as man faces daily. Jesus was tempted in every way but denied sin, thus proving His perfection. He was not simply innocent as the lambs of the field. He was perfect. This perfect sacrifice, more effectual than that of lambs and goats moved God to tear the curtain before the Holy of Holies in two, from top to bottom. Now, the presence of God was no longer limited to one man, once a year. By the Holy Spirit, the Presence of God moved out and into the world. Scripture teaches us that our body is now the temple of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Throne Room of Heaven has been replicated in our hearts. It exists within me, but that does not mean that I reside there.
There are many rooms in my heart along with the Throne Room. There is the Fear Room where I go to stress, fear, and generally freak out about something. There is the recreational room where I go to hang out with the family, play golf, or watch Tom and Jerry (Parents and Grandparents, please explain Tom and Jerry to the younger generation who missed out on such quality programming.). For me, there is also the Blue Bell Room where I go to….well, you know what that room is all about. The point is that God is always with me, but I am not always near Him. The Throne Room is in me, but I may not visit very often.
The Lord is calling us into the Throne Room that we might receive mercy and grace in our time of need. It is the Throne of Grace, the Throne of Amazing Grace. When we enter this room, not because we deserve it, but because of grace, we receive power and help in our distress. So many Christians live without the power of God because they never enter the Throne Room where the power is released. We cannot even comprehend the degree of which God wants to release power into your life. He says, “Come boldly." So many Christians have faith in Christ. They go to church. They read the Bible. They obey its principles, but they never open the door of the Throne Room within their own spirit and walk in. The door of the Throne Room in our spirit is covered in cobwebs.
Tomorrow, we will begin to talk about how to open the door, but today, I simply want to focus on the fact that God so much wants to pour power into your life. So great was His desire that He replicated the Throne Room in Heaven on Earth behind the curtain of the Holy of Holies. This was as close as He could come to humanity without a mediator, but it was not enough for Him. He wanted to be even closer so He sent His Son, Jesus, who died on the cross for our sins. God tore the curtain of the Holy of Holies and extended the Throne Room of Heaven to the soul of every believer, to make it His mercy, grace, and power even more available to you and I.
Well, what about sin? Ok, so you have sinned. Me, too. But it is the Throne of Grace. Your sins are covered. There is no condemnation at this Throne. It is encompassed in mercy, grace, love, power, miracles, hope, goodness, gifts, wisdom, opportunity, and so much more to a level we could never have dreamed. He is calling you to the Throne Room. Come boldly.
For the word of God is alive 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. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (NIV)
Thank you Jesus for doing all that You had to do, even dying on a cross, just to be near me. I love your grace that never sees my faults, but always sees my faith. I love your amazing grace that frees me from my sin and covers me with favor. Teach me to live in this grace that falls from the Throne Room of Heaven. Let me walk in this freedom always giving you praise and honor for grace beyond comprehension. Thank you for being a God who wants to give me abundant life, and not to condemn me for iniquity. Let your grace fall on me today. Let your grace pour out of me every day. To God be the Glory! -Amen.
Gladiator. Braveheart. Rocky. Now, these are movies made for men. Tough. Fighting. Blood, guts, and sweat. Defeating the enemy. I could add Shawshank Redemption, Saving Private Ryan. These are movies for men. This is what men are all about. Can I get an Amen, Men? You will never find any of these movies playing on the Hallmark channel. Nope the Hallmark Channel is loves, sweets, and kisses all the time. These are chick-flicks. Someone is always going to fall in love, then there is a problem that appears that it might ruin their love, but in the end, they are together, and my wife is crying. Nope, these are not my kind of movies.
But…here’s the deal. I love my wife and I enjoy hanging out with her. And she is always watching these chick-flick-type shows and movies. Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, and anything else with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. You know the ones I am talking about men. Anyway, a couple of years ago, she started watching this show and I watched about 2.5 seconds and thought, “Oh my goodness, I can’t handle this.” But I kept watching just to hang out with her. The televisions series was called Downton Abbey. It is off the air now, but I will confess that I got hooked. Downton Abbey was set in England in the early 1900’s. I was intrigued by the interaction between the aristocrat family and their servants. The boundaries were so firm. No one was to cross it (though it did happen occasionally). Servants did not speak with attitude. An over-the-top respect was the norm and expectation from the servants toward their employers. At the same time, the head of the aristocrat family struggled as times changed making sure that his estate continued to be profitable because he cared for his employees (servants) and wanted to make sure they were taken care of.
Now, and I hate to say it, I am hooked on another one called, The Crown. It is a docudrama about the life of Queen Elizabeth. Again, to see how the ‘common’ folks gave respect and reverence to the queen and all the royals was something that, as Americans, we are just not used to seeing. We do not respect our presidents or other government officials with nearly the same reverence and respect as people gave the royal family decades ago. And this awe for the royal family was for no other reason but their position. The same was true with Downton Abbey. The homage shown to the aristocrats was for no other reason but position. I think I can easily say that our society has lost its honor for the sake of position.
We live in a day and time when anyone and everyone can be attacked and disrespected by anyone else. For all my adult life, respect for the office of the president has been absent. Sure, there are some people who still claim a piety toward the position of the president, but for the most part, the American society could care less what position someone holds. Love or hate flows out based on perception of performance. If a person perceives that the president is doing a good job, they are loyal. If they feel the person is not doing well, they feel justified to criticize and condemn quickly. And it’s not just in politics.
I’ve heard children belittle their parents. I have seen employees treat their boss with such disrespect. Around the dinner table yesterday, we were talking about Tom Brady’s explosion at one of his coaches. I am just telling you as a former high school and college football player, we never would have screamed at our coach. But we live in a new day.
Ok. So what does this have to do with God. This is supposed to be a devotional not just an assessment of society after all. Well, I think we have lost all reverence for the position that God holds. He is not simply a king, but THE KING OF KINGS. Doesn’t this position merit honor, respect, reverence? With the increase of the New Age movement influencing Christianity, too often Christianity has become a list of behaviors to fulfill instead of a person, a King, THE KING, showed honor and reverence. It has become a lifestyle rather than a relationship. Of course, the Lord has called us to behaviors, but fulfilling the behavior doesn’t mean the relationship is good. Ever hear of the Pharisees? The lack of respect for the Lord’s position as the King of the everything reduces Jesus from King of Kings to Good Teacher like so many other religions see Him.
How can you I say this? For most Christians, Jesus has become like the forgotten Grandma living in a nursing home. They rarely visit and if they do, it is for such a short time. This does not honor that person. We don’t read Scripture like we should. We are not in prayer as we should be. We do not attend church with much regularity. We don’t tell Him thank you. He is not a priority on a daily basis. We have lost reverence for who He is. We do to Him when we need something like a rich uncle or something. We are angry with Him when He doesn’t do what we want like a mean stepdad. But do we do not do a good job of humbling ourselves before Him solely because He is God Almighty.
This week, I am going to be talking about entering the Throne Room of God. Scripture calls us to approach the Throne of Grace boldly that we might receive mercy and grace in our time of need. Is it possible that so much of what God wants to do in your life has not come about because you haven’t shown the reverence, honor, and homage due Him to enter into the Throne room of God. We don’t treat Him like God, the King of all Kings, so then we don’t experience Him as the King with absolute power over all things. We restrict His kingship in our life because we treat Him like a college professor whose class we sometimes we attend. If we want Him to act like the King He is in our life, we must learn to pay homage to Him for no other reason but that He is God
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.” (NIV)
Lord, help me to not only declare that You are the King of Kings, let me interact with me as a humble servant standing before the King of Kings. Help me not to ever interact with you based on how my life is going at the time. You are always my King. Help me to submit myself before you and respond to your call to come to you daily. Help me to be reverent before You. You are God and I am nothing before You. Help me to recognize Your majesty and power that I might then experience your majesty and power as my King. Forgive me when I treat you as a simple teacher. You are above all things. You hold all things together. You are God alone. -Amen.
When I was a little boy in Lubbock, Texas, I remember laying on my cousin’s trampoline at night and looking up at all of the stars. Lubbock, West Texas, is just about a desert and the skies are clear. The most beautiful sunrises, sunsets, and clear midnight stars are the norm. They were beautiful. It was like the whole sky was covered with black felt and tiny holes everyone allowed the light of Heaven to come through. Of course, my childlike idea of the universe does not ring true, but the truth might be more amazing that my little mind could conceive. We live in a galaxy called the Milky Way. It is estimated that within our galaxy there are 200-400 billion stars like the sun. Wow!!!! And what is more crazy, according to NASA, many galaxies are larger than the Milky Way such as a the neighboring Andromeda galaxy. But hold on to your pants, the Hubble Telescope has allowed scientists to see so many galaxies. They estimate the number of galaxies in the billions. I can’t even do the math do figure out how many stars existing in all of Creation. And God placed each one. He named each one (Psalm 147:4). Scientist will tell us that the objects in space are being held up by some force that they cannot define. Of course, we know that force to be the Lord God Almighty. He is holding each of these starts in place all of the time. And starts are but one tiny element of Creation and He hold all things together (Colossians 1:17).
The point is that we have a big God. In Ephesians, Paul prays that we would be filled to the full measure of God (Ephesians 3:19). Let that sink in for minute. The word for ‘fill’ in this Scripture means to cram. God wants to cram His full presence into us. The same God who places, holds, and names billions upon billions of stars in place wants to cram His entire being into our Spirit that we might have a communion that is truly out of this world (pardon the pun 😊). The stars are reflective of His glory. They testify to His power. And let me just say that all that God does in Creation is easy for Him and as easy as He holds all things together, so He can hold our life together if we will allow Him to fully cram His presence into our spirit, full communion.
Of course, this is beyond human comprehension and Paul attempts to help us understand. He reminds us in the first chapter of Ephesians that the full presence of God was in Christ. Jesus chose to live as a man. He was all human. Yet at the same time, He was filled, crammed, with all of the presence of God. This gives us a picture of what life would be like. Life would not be easy. There is no one who can look at the life of Christ and say that it was easy. And it was not easy for those around Him either beginning with Mary, who was an unwed teenager in a culture that stones such women. One of his closest friend betrayed him and the rest were martyred save John who was exiled to island to live out his days in solitude. But in the middle of all of the problems, there were miracles, great miracles. Peoples lives were changed. Society was changed, the whole world was changed. And isn’t this what makes life full=to make a positive impact on society. We can live for our own wealth, our own possessions, but at the end of life, how empty our life would be to have a storehouse full of possessions, but not one single life changed. I don’t want to be rich. I want to have a rich life. How about you?
Paul continues his discourse in Ephesians explaining how it is possible for the full presence of God to be crammed into us for power, love, and world change. He says that Jesus is filled completely with the presence of God, and that we are the body of Christ. We, the church, are the body of Jesus Christ who is then the fullness of God. Experiencing the full measure of God can only come through Jesus Christ, but the full measure of Christ can only be experienced through the church. The church is where the fullness of God can be found. We will never be fully crammed with all of the presence of God if we are absent from the church.
I don’t mean the Sunday morning services though they are part of it. I am talking about the interaction, living out of our faith, with one another encouraging one another, spurring one another on to greater faith, knowledge, and works, holding one another accountable, and supporting one another in times of distress. This is the church. Together, we help one another move to a higher volume of God in our spirit.
At the same time, you can be at every single church activity and still never be part of the church. The true church encourages, inspires, reveals salvation, evangelizes, loves, prays, worships, and holds tight to Jesus Christ. The power of God is in this. And this is why the church is always under attack. The enemy is always trying to cause us to get disappointed with the church. This is why the enemy loves to foster division and discord. We must fight against this.
The same God who knows the names and location of billions upon billions of stars, holding them in place, knows your name. He knows your issues. He knows what you need. He knows where you hurt. And He wants to fill you with all of His love, His peace, His health and healing, His wisdom and knowledge, His power and glory. What would life be like if we allowed the Lord to do this? But it will never happen if we take church like any other hobby. If church is what Paul says it is, how can we place it at the same level as all of our other activities in this life. Church is important. The power of God in us manifests through church life. Oh…well you are just a preacher and you want people to come to church! Yes, you are right, I want everyone to go to church, to be involved in the church with the right spirit because I want them to experience all of God and I want the world to experience all of God. So, yeah, that is what I want and I won’t apologize for that.
We must be involved in the church. We must worship. We must pray. We must teach. We must preach. We must seek. We must study His Word. We must change the world.
Ephesians 3:14 - 4:13
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge —that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called ; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (NIV)
Lord, how many times have I sabotaged your plan for my life by pushing You out of my spirit just long enough to sin. Then I hate myself for it. I want to be filled with all of Your glory. I want to know You deeply and hear You sweetly in my heart. Lord, the idea that the church is the fullness of You is sometimes hard because there is discord and insincerity sometimes. Teach me to love the church for what it can be and help me to be a part of making it what You desire that my life would be changed and the lives of many would be changed forever by Your Holy Spirit and the work of Jesus Christ. -Amen.
OK, so I realize that the Lord wants me consider trials and tribulations as pure joy. Yeah, ok. I am still working that one 😊. And the Lord has said that hardships in this life are supposed to be discipline. It is not always discipline that a father might give to his son, but also discipline like a personal trainer screaming in your face, “Push! You can do it! One more rep! Fight through the pain!!” That is reminding me of our college strength and conditioning coach. He spit when he yelled and I am sure that motivated us even more. So I guess when I have financial problems, sickness, a traffic ticket, or even a hangnail, I can imagine the Lord in my face, “Fight through the pain! You can do it!” He wouldn’t do this until he saw that I had reached my limit, then he tried to push me past my current level of strength. The difference is that my strength comes from Him and to fight through the pain, I am not pushing up 225 pounds off my chest, but I am fighting to maintain my faith, to love when it hurts, and to hope in the bleakest of moments. I am still in training.
But when the Lord first speaks of our Old Testament friend, Job, He calls Job ‘blameless.’ Blameless? In the first chapter of Job we see him lose everything, then it says that through it all he does not sin against God. It seems he has reached some kind of pinnacle. He is blameless. The discourse between his three friends revolves around their belief that he must have sinned to experience such tragedy, yet they cannot find any sin in him. Job declares himself as pure. Oh..oh yeah…there it is. Even Jesus refuted the title ‘good’ when He was called ‘Good Teacher.’ I struggled with that one for a while, but then Scripture says that Jesus was tempted in every way. Purity would not allow for temptations. He was as pure as a human could be which He was choosing to live as a human being on Earth. But we know the Father in Heaven cannot be tempted-now that’s what purity is. When Job said he was pure, everything began to make sense.
I couldn’t understand that if God considered Job blameless why He would discipline Job. If Job was at the peak of spiritual fitness, what is the point? But as soon Job declared his own purity, I realized he could still go further spiritually. That is the whole point of the book of Job-we never run out of room for spiritual growth. But how could the Lord call Job blameless if he still had room to grow. Blameless almost seems perfect. But perfect is perfect and blameless is not perfection. Blameless means Job had done nothing that anyone could point to. To that point in his life, Job had not ever acted in a way or said anything that someone could find any kind of spiritual deficit. He was blameless. But the Lord knows the pitch-black ocean depths of our hearts. He can see where we can still grow and mature and He moves us to focus in on that space in our hearts.
All that Job went through was not enough to move him, at first. But as time went on, Job began to complain that God was unjust in his chastisement of Job because he believed himself to be pure. Finally, in Chapter 32, Elihu rightly and angrily calls Job out for being self-righteous. Job was able to handle the issues when they happened, but as he continued in his disease with painful boils from head to toe, mourning the loss of his children, bankrupt, everything began to get to him. I know. I hear ya. I don’t know of anyone, including myself, that would have handled what Job experienced as well as Job, yet the Lord looked at Job’s incredible spiritual maturity and said, ‘There is still more room to grow.’ Wow! Then the Lord allowed these circumstances to come to Job and to remain. As they remained, Job was pushed into circumstances he had never experienced. He was finally pushed beyond what his spiritual maturity could maintain. He began to question God. He began to justify Himself rather than God (32:2). And the Lord said, “Push through the pain! You can do it! Don’t stop fighting!” Job was pushed beyond his current level of spiritual maturity. He could either quit or increase his faith. He could have just cursed God and died as his wife told him or increase his understanding of God’s ways.
There are some issues in life that I can handle well. I maintain my faith, my integrity, my love for others. But inevitably, the Lord will allow me to go through something that I have not faced yet to push me past my current level of spiritual strength. If the Lord does not do this regularly, I will stop growing. I will simply rely on the strength I have already obtained, never pushing beyond what I know I am able to do. I would never be challenged and without the challenge, I could easily forget that I needed the Lord. This is what happened to Job.
The level of his spiritual maturity far exceeded his trials and tribulations and he forgot that he needed God. He became self-righteous, so sure of his own spirituality that when the Lord challenged him, he did not accept it as discipline. He chastised God for being unjust.
Why does the Lord allow tragedies like rape, murder, church shootings, cancer, heart attacks, tsunamis, and tornados? We must continue to be pushed beyond our current spiritual level. We must put forth effort to grow and to grow, we need resistance. We need the hardships. We need the trials. We need these things. They challenge us to either give up and die, or increase the strength of our faith.
I am nearly 50 years old now. AARP is sending me their promotional mail every week! But when I was in my physical prime, in the weight room every day, red-faced coaches yelling, spit shooting, I loved it. I loved the pain and I loved what I became physically, stronger, bigger, faster.
The pain of life, if we allow the Lord to use it, will make us so spiritually strong. We will overcome and help others do the same. We will appreciate the pain, maybe even consider it pure joy. We will like who we become, not by our own strength, but by the Holy Spirit working within. This is why God allows suffering. This is why He doesn’t stop every tragedy. He is increasing the strength of the church one soul at a time. He is increasing our faith, our love, our wisdom, our peace, our influence for good. Pain is good, and we should give thanks for what God is going to do in us through our suffering.
Then Elihu said:
“Hear my words, you wise men;
listen to me, you men of learning.
For the ear tests words
as the tongue tastes food.
Let us discern for ourselves what is right;
let us learn together what is good.
“Job says, ‘I am innocent,
but God denies me justice.
Although I am right,
I am considered a liar;
although I am guiltless,
his arrow inflicts an incurable wound.’
Is there anyone like Job,
who drinks scorn like water?
He keeps company with evildoers;
he associates with the wicked.
For he says, ‘There is no profit
in trying to please God.’
“So listen to me, you men of understanding.
Far be it from God to do evil,
from the Almighty to do wrong.
He repays everyone for what they have done;
he brings on them what their conduct deserves.
It is unthinkable that God would do wrong,
that the Almighty would pervert justice.
Who appointed him over the earth?
Who put him in charge of the whole world?
If it were his intention
and he withdrew his spirit and breath,
all humanity would perish together
and mankind would return to the dust.
“If you have understanding, hear this;
listen to what I say.
Can someone who hates justice govern?
Will you condemn the just and mighty One?
Is he not the One who says to kings, ‘You are worthless,’
and to nobles, ‘You are wicked,’
who shows no partiality to princes
and does not favor the rich over the poor,
for they are all the work of his hands?
They die in an instant, in the middle of the night;
the people are shaken and they pass away;
the mighty are removed without human hand.
“His eyes are on the ways of mortals;
he sees their every step. (NIV)
Lord, I want to be stronger. I want to not be washed away by the issues of this life. I don’t want a roller coaster spiritual life where one day I stand strong and the same day, I fall hard. Help me to see all pain and suffering as opportunities to grow. Forgive me when I have become angry with you or others during trials and give me strength to fight through the pain, maintaining my integrity, increasing my faith. I need help with this Lord. It is such a struggle. Move in my heart today. -Amen
He was a righteous man and, oh, was he blessed. Everything he did God touched and blessed it. His family was blessed. His business was blessed. His heart was blessed. And He served God willingly and faithfully. Then he lost everything. What do you do when blessings fall away?
This is the essence of the story of Job in the Old Testament. In one day because of a series of tragedies, his children are killed. He loses all of his wealth due to robbers. All of his servants are killed. And not too long after this, his falls ill and his entire body is covered in boils from head to toe.
In this poem that depicts the account of Job’s life, God is speaking to Satan about the righteousness of Job. Satan answers with this question, “Does Job serve God for nothing?” The premise of his question to the Lord was that Job was faithful and righteous because of all of the blessings in his life. God had put a hedge of protection around Job so that no harm had come to him and in every way, he was blessed of God. It takes us to a deception of the Devil that we fall prey to often without realizing it. The idea Satan is proposing is that righteousness and blessings should always run together. In other words, if I am faithful in my service and faithfulness to God, I can expect blessings. When God blesses, it is a reward for living right and putting Him first in our life. Of course, if this is true, then the opposite would also have to be true, that if a person is not living right, they should not be rewarded with blessings. But what do you do when you are living right, according to His word, serving Him the best you know how but the blessings fall away? And what do you do when you see someone that you know could care less about God, His Word, His will, or anyone else for that matter, yet they life is blessed?
If you have ever been frustrated at your lack of blessings or jealous of someone else’s blessings, you have fallen into this trap from Hell. Now, you have heard me say a million times that God wants to bless you and surely He does. I mean, it’s everywhere in Scripture. Jeremiah 29, for I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you. 1 Corinthians 2, no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind can conceive the plans God has for you. Luke 6, give and it shall be given to you, pressed down, shaken together, and running over!!! God wants to bless you, no doubt! The struggle we have with this trap so stealthily laid out for us is our understanding of God’s desire to bless us.
Heaven. Eternity. Love. Joy. Serenity. These are the greater blessings. The Lord wants you to enjoy the things of this Earth. Why do you think the Promised Land was filled with milk, honey, and grape vines so luscious? Why do you think things like food (especially Blue Bell vanilla bean ice cream ), sex, sports, and good books are so enjoyable? God wants you to enjoy life here and now. He wants you to be blessed in this life. But God never settles for less than His very best and the blessings found in the Earthly realm are more than inferior to the eternal blessings. Love, joy, peace, these are eternal blessings. He gives these to us now, but as wonderful as is the love and joy He pours into our hearts now, they are but the smallest fraction of the love, joy, and peace we will experience in eternity. These are the blessings He really wants to give us. New cars, big houses, promotions at work, heck, even supernatural healings are nothing compared to what we will experience one day.
The story of Job eradicates the idea that the righteous will be rewarded with blessings. Ok, ok…OK!!!! It eradicates the idea that the righteous will be rewarded with Earthy blessings. Sometimes the temporal blessings corrupt our heart keeping us from receiving the greater blessings of eternity. If you miss this principle, you will be ambushed.
Job struggled with this. He struggled understanding why his righteousness was answered by such tragedy. His friends were certain that the curses he was experiencing were the punishment for sin, but the Lord Himself had called Job blameless. There was no sin that caused the loss of everything.
Falling into this trap will altar our understanding of God’s character. If righteous is SUPPOSED to be rewarded with Earthly blessings and protection, and if unrighteousness is SUPPOSED to be punished with hardship and pain, how do we process things when the righteous suffer and the unrighteous thrive? Our idea of God will begin to turn and morph. The seemingly unfairness of it all will cause us to see God playing favorites. If rewards do not come to the righteous and believe they are supposed to, but they do go to the unrighteous, but they shouldn’t, the only way we can process this is that God just likes some people more than others. We might see someone else living an awesome life while we are suffering and think to ourselves that God just doesn’t like us as much. Our walk with God will become a mystery, always wondering if we are living good enough for God to like us. But if our barometer of His love is Earthly blessings, we are already trapped dogs in the cage of Satan and we don’t even know it.
Job was righteous, yet suffered. Hmmm…that reminds me of someone….oh yeah…Jesus. When Job suffered, he too thought it was unfair. He never let go of his faith in God, but the suffering revealed places where He still needed to grow in his faith and understanding of God’s character and ways. Listen to his struggle:
When I think about this, I am terrified;
trembling seizes my body.
Why do the wicked live on,
growing old and increasing in power?
They see their children established around them,
their offspring before their eyes.
Their homes are safe and free from fear;
the rod of God is not on them.
Their bulls never fail to breed;
their cows calve and do not miscarry.
Here is the truth. The Lord knows what we need to receive the greater blessings of Heaven. Sometimes, I need to be blessed. I just need to know that God is with me and He hasn’t forgotten me. I am at a point that if I don’t see God soon, I may fall. The Lord, in His omniscience, knows this and He blesses me. But there are times when I need to go through the valley. I don’t want to, but I need to. I need suffering so that I have an opportunity to increase my faith, to learn to pray more fervently, to tighten my grip on the Lord. I will be very honest with you. I hate the valleys of life, but they are good for me that I might also enjoy the eternal blessings of increased love, joy, and peace. And if the valleys help me to do these things, are not even the valleys a blessing?
What do you do when are living right and faithful to the Lord, but the blessings are not there? Well, I know what we should do…hold on tighter and let Him prepare us for the greater blessings of eternity.
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.
His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.
One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.”
Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.
One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”
While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you! ”
At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.”
In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. (NIV)
Lord, I have fallen into this trap. I have been angry when You allowed me to suffer and I have been jealous when others have prospered. Today, I see that I have fallen into this trap, but by the power of Your Word, I am breaking out of this trap. Today, I promise to love you no matter what. Today, I promise to praise You no matter what. Today, I promise to only hold tighter to you in bad times and consider trials and tribulations as blessings preparing me for something greater. And I will give you the praise for the strength to do this in Jesus' name! -Amen and amen!
I love the miracles of the Bible. Someone asked me recently why miracles do not still happen. I simply said, “They do.” Do you believe in miracles? Isn’t that part of the Christian walk-to believe in miracles? If we don’t, do we not shatter the image of God we say we have believed in? C. S. Lewis defined a miracle as something unique that breaks a pattern so expected and established we hardly consider the possibility that it could be broken. I love this definition. It moves beyond what the eye can see. And what does the Bible say, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).
This past Sunday, we witnessed a miracle. An ex-bodyguard to a Colombian drug lord turned holiness preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray for miracles like this. We pray that the Lord would move on the hearts of people and change them. We pray a lot. But in his story, Felix Varga explained how his wife, Lydia, not only prayed for over seven years for him to turn his life over to the Lord, but she lived out a Gospel by which all miracles are born.
So often, we pray and pray for miracles, but we don’t do a lot. We pray for someone to be changed, but we are not bold in our love and we are not bold in our proclamation of the Gospel to that person. For seven and half years, Lydia prayed. Her prayers brought power. We could say that it brought the power of Jesus Christ into her husband who was living La Vida Loca for sure. But could it be that the power of Jesus Christ, through her prayers, gave her the strength she needed to keep living a life of love and holiness in the face of demeaning and debased behavior by her husband? This is what I believe. The prayers, more than anything, gave her the ability to forgive him on the spot when she caught him kissing her best friend. It was strength to get up from the porch where she had slept all night because Felix had locked her out of the house, and kiss him saying, “Cristo te ama” (Jesus loves you!”).
When we pray, do we pray for a supernatural intervention in the hearts of others? Sure we do and there is nothing wrong with this, but miracles of the heart come out of someone living La Vida Santidad (The Holy Life). It requires a great deal of strength and power to live out the will of Jesus Christ in our life. Resisting the temptations of vice is the easy part. Loving unconditionally in every moment is the challenging part, but the closer we come, the closer our miracles. We must pray for God’s moving of hearts that need to be moved, but we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. We are the body of Christ. We are His hands and feet. We are the courier and carrier of the presence of God into someone’s life. We must love, pray, serve, give, and preach as precursors to miracles.
Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. I am not at all dismissing the Lord’s power to do miracles with a simple word from His mouth. But when it comes to miracles of the heart, He will not force a heart to change. Hearts are changed by the influence of the Holy Spirit who works through us.
Need a miracle? Good. Pray. Love. Serve. Give. Preach. Live the life of holiness and people everywhere you are will be influenced by the Holy Spirit. He is alive and active through you. Though not everyone will respond to the Lord, many will. Miracles will abound. You will be a vessel and the power of God will surge through you.
2 Corinthians 4
Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (NIV)
Heavenly Father, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t need you in my life. And You are always with me. Sometimes, Lord, I so desire to see you move in a miraculous way. Help me to remember that I am the vessel of your miraculous moments. Help me to remember that I am nothing, but You desire to use me to break down pain, anger, and jealousy in the hearts of people. Remind me that I am nothing, but within me is the hope of God, the promise for tomorrow, and the change someone needs. Let my prayers give me strength to live as a vessel for Your power to those all around me. -Amen
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