August 31 - Heaven

Monday, August 31, 2009

August 31 - Revelation 21:22-22:7 - Heaven

After all we have experienced since before God set the world in motion, we are finally brought to the end. It's better than the beginning!

In the beginning was chaos - the earth was formless and void. But when we come to the end of all things of creation, we find that God has prepared this for us as well! God created the earth so that He could share it with His children. He created the New Heaven and the New Earth so that He would never have to be parted from us again.

That's how much He enjoys being with us!

John didn't see a temple in the New Jerusalem because the Lord and the Lamb are the temple. Wherever they walk, there will be worship. There is no need for sacrifice, that has been completed. There is no need for sun because the light will come from God. There is no night, no darkness, nothing impure, nothing shameful. All that enter the new heaven and the new Jerusalem will be made pure ... have been made pure by the sacrifice of the Lamb. (Rev. 21:22-27)

The river of the water of life will traverse the city flowing out from the throne of God. It provides water for the tree of life. This tree provides healing for the nations. All that has been dark and ugly no longer exists. The Lord God reigns.

The Day of the Lord is coming. We will face much calamity as we move forward into eternity. What that will look like is unknown. There is so much unknown regarding the end of the world. But, even though we can not know the hour or the day, even though we will not know the exact form that all of this will take, we DO know that it has been set in motion by the One that we trust with our lives. I trust Him with everything that I am, I will trust Him to care for me as He sets His final plans into place.

Jesus assures John and in so doing assures each of us. "Behold, I am coming soon."

We don't know the hour or day, but we do know that Jesus is honorable. He tells us that He is returning. I can hardly wait.

August 30 - The Throne Room

Sunday, August 30, 2009

August 30 - Revelation 4:1-5:14 - The Throne Room

If I said before that I had a favorite passage in scripture, it pales in comparison to how I view these verses. There is no greater desire in my heart and soul than to be standing before God in heaven, bowing down before Him with all that I have and all that I am and offering Him the words, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is, and is to come." (Rev. 4:8)

The glory and majesty of this scene in John's vision entrances me. From the twenty-four elders dressed in white with crowns of gold on their heads to the four living creatures covered in eyes, the spectacle barely begins to be described.

The throne, encircled by an emerald rainbow, and enabling flashes of lightning, rumbling and peals of thunder, is filled with one having the appearance of jasper and carnelian. Seven lamps blazing before the throne light up a crystal clear sea of glass.

We have met the Creator and before Him all praise and worship flow from the elders, who lay down their crowns ... those glorious crowns of gold ... before him, crying out "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." (Rev. 4:11)

Some of these images are too intricate to be comprehended by my small mind, but in the next scene, John tells us that he sees a Lamb, who had been slain standing in the center of the throne. The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders surround him. He has seven horns and seven eyes.

The beginning of the prophecy is about to occur as he takes the scroll from the right hand of God. The elders are holding harps and golden bowls. Each of those bowls is filled with incense, which is the prayers of the saints. These are our prayers.

They sing a new song of praise to the Lamb. "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals," they cry, "because you were slain and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." (Rev. 5:9)

Then, thousands of angels join in the chorus, a chorus I so desperately want to sing with them, "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise." (Rev. 5:12)

After the angels join the elders in song, every single creature in heaven, on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, join singing, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever." (Rev. 5:13)

To which the four living creatures respond with "Amen" and the elders fell down and worshipped.

"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever."

Amen. We can do no more than to fall down and worship.

September Blogging

Saturday, August 29, 2009

During the month of September, I am going to take a look at "The Word of God" and what scripture has to say about it. My Bible is a Thompson Chain Reference Bible and one of the treasures in it is the loving research that Dr. Frank Charles Thompson did in creating chains of information that flow through the Bible. I will be using his 'outline' for each day's lesson as I explore verses that speak to various points.

If you know someone that would like to join me on this daily journey through scripture, please invite them to either follow the blog, or email me at nammynools (at) cox (dot) net and I will put them on the daily mailing list. And remember, if these daily emails become too overwhelming, please let me know immediately and it will not offend me to take you off the list!

My greatest passion is the study of Scripture and my second greatest passion is teaching. It is such a joy for me to be able to share just a little bit of what I learn along the way as I read and study the Bible.

August 29 - Son of Man

August 29- Revelation 1:9-20 - Son of Man

I think all of us have an picture in our minds of what Jesus Christ looks like. That picture, though, changes from culture to culture, from region to region, from person to person.

In Revelation, the picture that John translates for us is that of the Risen Christ, the one that comes to him with a vision of what will come. This is the Coming Messiah.

I love this passage with its strong descriptive language.

In Revelation 1:10, John is praying on the Lord's Day. He is lost in the Spirit, completely focused on the conversation he is having with God. All of a sudden, he hears a voice behind him. It is a loud voice, like a trumpet. When he turns around to see the voice, he doesn't just see a man, but he sees an entire panorama.

There were seven golden lampstands and standing among them was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet with a golden sash around his chest.

Take a few moments to get that picture in your mind.

His head and hair were white like wool ... like snow and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze and his voice ... his voice! His voice was like the sound of rushing waters.

He held seven stars in his right hand and from his mouth came a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. (Revelation 1:12-16)

Now, as well as John knew Jesus when He walked on the earth, this vision nearly overwhelmed the poor man. He feel at his feet as though dead. (Revelation 1:17)

If John was this overwhelmed at seeing a man he had walked with for three years and loved dearly, more than any other person, I sincerely believe that we will not see the man we think we know from pictures hanging on Sunday School walls.

1 Corinthians 13:12 says, "Now we see but a poor reflection, then we shall see face to face."

Though John does his very best to describe the Messiah, the Coming Christ, he can barely put into words a full description of someone he knew very well. We can not begin to imagine the glory that will surround Jesus Christ when He returns from heaven.

John has seen the Messiah and wants us to be confident that we will recognize Him when He comes.

August 28 - Love One Another

Friday, August 28, 2009

August 28 - 1 John 3:1-24 - Love One Another

John's first letter is such a glorious testament to love.

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)

John absolutely adores the people to whom he is writing this letter. He wants to assure them of God's love for them. Each precious word in this chapter is meant to be internalized so that love fills the heart!

"Now that we are children of God, what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:3)

Wow! The creation story in Genesis tells us that we are made in God's image. John tells us that we don't yet understand what that looks like, but we will!

In 1 John 3:11, John goes on by telling us that the message has always been to love one another. It's a message the continually gets lost. But, a lack of love for each other is like death. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him." (1 John 3:14-15)

I have very few words that I can add to this passage - it speaks for itself.

"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth ... For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:18-19)

He finishes with: "And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us." (1 John 3:23-24)

The Spirit that was sent to us at Pentecost remains in us. This Spirit is our Counselor, our Teacher, our conscience. This Spirit reminds us continually that we live in Christ and he lives in us.

Love one another.

August 27 - Living Hope

Thursday, August 27, 2009

August 27 - 1 Peter 1:3-12 - Living Hope

You have been given a new life into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. It is kept in a safe place for you.

It's nearly impossible to see past the stress and gloom that we face every day into future glory. Peter tells us that we may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, but it is only for a little while. What a narrow focus we have when we only see the stress and trials of our every day life. This is only a short period of time in comparison to the eternity that we will spend with God in heaven!

So, why do we even have to deal with this? Well, it's pretty clear in these verses. 1 Peter 1:7 tells us that our faith is worth much more than gold is being refined so that it may be proved genuine. Can you imagine anything more exciting than to have people standing beside us in heaven when Jesus is revealed because they saw and responded to our faith?

When we face down trials and stress and grow in our faith, people around us notice this. They notice that we love Jesus even though we don't see him. They notice our joy. (1 Peter 1:8)

Much like the prophets of ancient times (1 Peter 1:10-12), our faith is not just for the moment. They lived to serve people that would live long after they had died. They had hoped for Christ's initial lifespan on earth. They prophesied about it, they prayed for it, they led their people as they waited for it.

Our lives are not just meant to be lived for ourselves. We are establishing the foundation of faith for generations to come. We pray for the second coming of the Messiah, we hope for it, we wait for it. And if we don't see it in our lifetimes, there will be those who walk on the foundation of our faith who will see it and will rejoice.

We serve those future generations. We are a living hope.

August 26 - Watch Your Mouth!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August 26 - James 3:1-12 - Watch Your Mouth!

There are certain favorite passages that are not favorites because they are so beautiful, but were chosen because they are so important in my life. This is one of those. I actually don't love this passage at all, but it is necessary to reread often for my wellbeing.

It doesn't start well for me: "Not many of you should presume to be teachers ... because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." (James 3:1)

One of the things I learned growing up with my father was that certain behaviors were expected of us because we were his children. As a pastor, people watched his family closely. If he couldn't raise his children well, how could he expect to teach them how to raise their own? Dad took his responsibility to his congregation very seriously. If he called on them to refrain from drinking to excess, then he wasn't going to drink. He knew that asking his congregation to live holy lives if he was out carousing and flirting with women, smoking and partying was hypocritical. He also knew that the expectations were higher for him than for anyone else in that congregation. He made a choice to be their pastor and he did his best to live up to the standards he set for himself.

Now, while James acknowledges that every part of the person should be kept in check, he specifically points to the tongue as the rudder that steers the sheep or the bit in the mouth of a horse. (James 3:3-5)

He finds that the tongues is the source of most evil in each person. And speaking for myself, I find it hard to disagree with him. What comes out of my mouth sometimes appalls even me. I can't believe it when I find myself gossiping and speaking badly about a person simply because I disagree with them or because they seem to have done something foolish. Who in the world do I think that I am to sit in judgment of anyone else?

In James 3:8, he says that no man can tame the tongue - it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise God and curse men who are made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. (James 3:9-10)

Just like a freshwater spring that is unable to produce salt water, our mouths should be brought under control so that only praise flows from our tongues.

This is one of those things that I will always be working to bring under control. How about you? Have you got it figured out yet?

August 25 - Who Are You?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

August 25 - Colossians 3:12-17 - Who Are You?

Do you know who you are? Do you know Whose you are? Sometimes I think we forget. I know I do.

This passage in Colossians is meant to remind us what it means to live in Christ. Not to live as a Christian, but to live in Christ.

We are God's chosen people. We are holy and dearly loved.

Read that sentence again. You are chosen by God and you are holy and dearly loved. That just means everything to me! I grew up knowing that the safest place in the world was my home. Even when kids at school belittled me and made fun of me, I knew that at home my parents believed in me and expected great things of me. They loved me because I was their daughter, not because I was a pianist or because I learned to read at an early age, or because I got good grades or stayed out of trouble (I was a good girl, I know ... disgusting). But, they loved me because I was their daughter. That's all there was to it! All of the rest of those things came because I lived a life that grew out of that love.

So, since we are God's chosen people and we have been made holy and we are dearly loved, Paul tells us that we are to live a life that grows out of that love.

Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Exercise forgiveness and over all of these things, put on love. That love that was given to you so generously should be shared with everyone. (Colossians 3:12-14)

This is what it means to live in Christ.

Can you imagine coming home each evening from work or from school to a home in which Christ physically lived? Can you imagine the peace that would emanate from that dwelling? Take a moment to shut your eyes. Place the image that you have of Jesus Christ within the rooms of your home. Do you sense His peace? (Colossians 3:15)

This is what it means to live in Christ.

Now, as you leave your home and interact with the world, the only way to do so is to fill yourself with Christ ... the Word. As you do all of these things - teaching, singing, living - it all becomes a form of worship. We are to do these things with gratitude to God. We are to do all these things in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:16-17)

This is what it means to live in Christ.

August 24 - Armor of God

Monday, August 24, 2009

August 24 - Ephesians 6:10-20 - Armor of God

When Paul wrote this letter to the Ephesians, he was in prison. Not only in prison, but chained. (Ephesians 6:20). These words of inspiration were meant for all of us and they came from a man who knew what he was talking about.

I think we often misunderstand where our true power lies. I grew up with a man whose strength was incredible. Dad could do anything. I think that was one of the reasons that he was able to function with Parkinson's for so long. He did everything possible to retain that strength as his body began to decay. But, even with all of that physical strength, there were things that overwhelmed him. It was difficult for Dad to ask for help. Fortunately, he trained his family to be there to help him and he just told us what to do! I learned early on that physical strength gave a person independence.

Paul tells us that the things of this world, though aren't the only things that attack us and physical strength is not going to protect us from those attacks.

Just about the time I figure it out, I discover that I'm actually facing down the wrong enemy. If all I do is prepare myself for an attack from something that I can see or touch, hear, smell or understand with my senses, I am missing the bigger picture. Life is transient, it's short. We have so much more life ahead of us after we leave this earth.

The images that Paul brings to us of the armor are not necessarily new. If you look at Isaiah 59:17, you find that Isaiah gave us the beginning of this picture. So, what will we do when the day of evil comes? Will we fight the battle with the tools we know from the physical world? Will we rely on our own strength? As much as my dad relied on his physical strength to get him through his life, he would never move forward in the spiritual realm with anything less than the full armor of God and I don't intend to either.

The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace will be on my feet, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. All of this combines with prayer - praying in the Spirit.

These are the things that God has given to us: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God and direct access to the Lord through prayer. I can't imagine living my life without them.

August 23 - I Love You

Sunday, August 23, 2009

August 23 - 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 - I Love You

How could I possible do a 'Favorite Scriptures' series without including the Love Chapter. This passage has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. We used to read through it in youth group on a regular basis and do different exercises with the passage. I was never terribly fond of the exercise in which I was to replace the word 'love' with my name. I had a difficult time saying the words, "Diane is patient, Diane is kind. She does not envy, does not boast and is not proud. She is not rude, self-seeking or easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. Diane does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. She always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

You see, I fail miserably at all of those things. But, it is always something to strive for!

My father taught us as children that the words, "I love you" were very important. We heard them from him many times during the day all through his life. I could never imagine not telling someone I cared about that I loved them. I'm sure it has freaked out some of my friends that I am so free with using those words, but the truth is - I love you!

The entire Bible is a love story. God wants us to know how much He loves us. The Old Testament is the story of God drawing His children into relationship with Him. He loved them so much, even though they worshipped other gods, ran away from Him, complained about His activity in their lives, ignored Him, and broke the covenant over and over. He still loved them. He loved them enough to bring them through the transition to the New Testament where He proved it again with the sacrifice of His Son to bring them into a relationship. But, that wasn't enough. God wanted all of His creation to come into relationship with Him so the New Testament is the story of Him reaching out to the world to show His love.

Everything else is transient, everything else is unimportant. Only love will remain. And when the end comes, God will finally have the relationship with His creation that He desires. Revelation 21:3 tells us that when the end comes, "the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God."

He loves us and wants to be with us.

August 22 - Nothing Separates Us

Saturday, August 22, 2009

August 22 - Romans 8:31-39 - Nothing Separates Us

Romans 8:32 just wipes me out. "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?"

I listen as people are very confused when they read about Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son, Isaac. (Genesis 22:1-19) The questions that are asked end up at, "How could God ask a man to sacrifice ... to kill ... his own son?" And then discussion ends up at the point that no one can imagine obeying a God that would ask us to do that. We place a very high value on the lives of our children.

God was testing Abraham's obedience, but He didn't ask Abraham to do anything that He Himself wasn't prepared to do. And He ended up proving just how much He loved this world with the sacrifice of His Son.

This passage in Romans, though, tells us that God did this for us. And as He offered His Son in sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice as most of us would see it, He proved to us the great love that He has for us. Without this sacrifice, God would only see the charges brought against us. He would only see our sin.

Love is at the center of everything that God has done. He loves His children, He loves this earth, He loves us! And Christ stands before Him interceding on our behalf, so that the sins we commit moment by moment are covered by Him. Christ loves us as God loves us.

What can separate us from that love?

I don't know that any of us can fully understand a love that can't be broken. Our hearts are broken all the time. Friends, family ... they all have the power to wound us. Even best intentions can be destroyed. Death of a loved one breaks our heart, there is no one on earth that can love us without exception. So, how can we comprehend the depth of a love that will never end, will never break, will never be destroyed? It's difficult!

Paul does his best to put into words the fact that there is no limit to Christ's love and his words are beautiful.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" (Romans 8:35)

No one ... nothing can separate us from that love. Even if we can barely comprehend it, even if we can't accept it, even if we try to reject it ... Christ still loves us enough to have sacrificed everything for us.

"Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:39)

And you know what? That means NOTHING can separate us from that love.

August 21 - Come, Holy Spirit

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 21 - Acts 2:1-41 - Come, Holy Spirit

There is absolutely no place I would rather be than in a room where the Holy Spirit shows up as a rushing wind and tongues of fire. Seeing and feeling the power of God manifested in that manner would be extraordinary! Every single person gathered together that day were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in tongues. But, what were they saying to each other? Acts 2:10b tells us that they were declaring the wonders of God. Of course they were! Who knows what the words were, but in heaven, the angels and living creatures are standing in the throne room doing the same thing. (Revelation 4:11, Revelation 5:9)

This chapter is also the time when Peter begins to act as the leader of the disciples. He stood before them and the immense crowd that had gathered, speaking words of prophecy from Joel. Then, he preaches about Jesus Christ and how David prophesied regarding Christ's resurrection.

This sermon (Acts 2:14-36) that Peter preached that day touched the people listening. Luke (the author of Acts) says in Acts 2:37 that the people were cut to the heart. Then they asked what the next step should be!

The message of Jesus Christ is so simple and we manage to get it all convoluted by preaching and teaching legalistic rules and regulations for being a Christian. Peter simply said, "God made Jesus, He was crucified. He was both Lord and Christ (Messiah)." Those simple words in Acts 2:36 finished his powerful message and gave the listeners a reason to change their hearts.

"Repent and be baptized so your sins may be forgiven ... The promise is for everyone." (Acts 2:39)

Following this amazing day, the believers devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Miracles happened. The believers shared everything they owned, they took care of those in need, they met every day, they ate together.

When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, not only were phenomenal gifts given to the people gathered, but the power to reach out and draw others in to the fellowship was poured out. They didn't run from it, they embraced it. They didn't try to manipulate it for selfish purposes, everything was done for the community of believers.

It is no wonder that in the early days of the church, the Good News of Jesus Christ raged through the region like wildfire. The people were willing to simply be the conduit for the power of the Holy Spirit.

These are the people we should emulate. Remove ourselves from the equation and allow the Holy Spirit to simply be the power in our lives. Oh, Come Holy Spirit!

August 20 - Forgiveness

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 20 - John 21:15-25 - Forgiveness

A few days ago, I told you how much I love Peter. I identify with that man in so many ways ... mostly in the ways that he gloriously screws things up, but also in the way that he desperately wants to show his love for his Lord, Jesus Christ.

I can't imagine anything more devastating than the moment that Peter realized he had done exactly what Jesus said he would do and that he had actually denied knowing the one man who offered him everything. His heart had to have been broken in that moment as all of his failures came crashing in around him. He probably remembered every single conversation, every time that Jesus had to rebuke him and discipline him.

After Jesus' resurrection, Jesus finds the disciples, but singles Peter out and asks three times, "Peter, do you love me?" In the Greek language, there are three different words for love: agape, phileo, eros. In the NIV translation, Jesus asks the first two times, "Peter do you truly love me?" With the added word 'truly' they are translating from the word 'agape.' This is a deep, abiding love ... the love between a father and son, the love that transcends mere humanity. Peter responds each time with the word 'phileo.' It's as if he really doesn't understand the depths of the question that Jesus is asking. He keeps telling Jesus that he loves him as a brother would love. Finally, Jesus allows that to be the question and the last time He asks, He says to Peter, "Do you love me with brotherly love?" Peter responds in the affirmative again.

Jesus offers us an incredible love ... a love that transcends anything we can know. Will we accept that love? Or will we act as confused as Peter was and offer back a limited, brotherly love ... a love that we offer each other.

Jesus' love for us was sacrificial, giving of Himself completely and totally. Everything was sacrificed so that we could know the love that the Father has for us. What will we return to Him.

Before I leave the Gospel of John, see the words that Jesus said to Peter in John 21:19, "Follow me." Jesus had promised Peter that He would make him a fisher of men if he would simply leave his nets and follow Jesus. At the very beginning of His ministry, when He was calling His disciples, Jesus said, "Follow me." At the very end of His ministry on earth, He called one more time. "Follow me."

Lord, I will follow you.

August 19 - Show Us the Father

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August 19 - John 14:1-31 - Show us the Father

The book of John is filled with so many familiar verses and passages, it's difficult to choose just one, but this passage comes at a time when Jesus is speaking to His disciples just prior to His arrest. He has so much more to teach them, but now His time is short. He has just told them that He will soon die and has also just told Peter that he will deny Him.

With all of this pressure on Him, the next words from Jesus are so tender. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me." (John 14:1)

They've trusted Jesus for 3 years. He has grown close to these twelve men. He knows everything about them; their joys, their failures and He also knows that these twelve men will take His message into the world.

Yesterday I wrote about how Jesus was the way that God communicated with the world ... He was the Word that God spoke. In John 14:5-14, Jesus expands on that theme when Philip asks Him to show them the Father.

Jesus reponds by telling them that by knowing Him (Jesus) they know the Father. He says "Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The Words I say to you are not just my own. 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." (John 14:10-11a)

And His final word on that is "You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it." There is power in the name of Jesus. He is the Word made flesh ... He is of the Father.

The last verses of this chapter promise the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Counselor, the Teacher. Jesus promises us that though He will no longer live on earth as a human being, we will not be left alone.

With the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is confident that we will be in good hands, though we must remain on the earth.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 4:27)

True peace does not come from anything in this world. It comes from knowing Jesus Christ. He alone can bring peace that passes all understanding.

August 18 - The Word Made Flesh

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August 18 - John 1:1-18 - The Word Made Flesh

I've told you that Isaiah 55 is one of my top favorite passages. Well, John 1 is probably the passage that explains the entire Bible to me. It was while reading these words that I finally got it. I finally understood the connection between the Old and New Testament. I saw how Jesus Christ moved throughout the pages of the Bible drawing everything together.

In Revelation 1:8, God says "I am the Alpha and the Omega." Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet and Omega is the final letter. He identified Himself with letters, the beginning and the end (and everything in between) of the alphabet. Words are made using these letters. The Word of God, the Alpha and Omega. God is using imagery that we understand.

I love words. My mother loved words. I can remember Dad and Mom sitting around in the evening debating word usage. Mom loved learning new words, she loved playing with words to see how they sounded and how they might fit with other words to create sentences. She loved to write. Both she and Dad taught us kids that reading was one of the most important things we would ever learn to do. I was reading at a very early age and I still read everything I can get my hands on. Mom always used to say that if there were words in front of me, I would stop everything to read them. My curiosity was always satisfied by reading things.

Words, spoken and read, were used to transmit the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God knew what He was doing when He used the imagery of the Word. Language was the thing that brought everyone together in Genesis 11:1-9 to create the Tower of Babel. At that point, God scattered the people and confused the single universal language and many languages were developed.

When God created the earth, He spoke it into being. Words were used to create the universe. All communication is done through words.

So, when God needed to make Himself understood to the people that He had created, the one way to do that was through the Word. Jesus Christ was the Word, the Word made flesh. The communication from the Father, the Creator of the World is Jesus Christ.

When the Word came to mankind in a form that we could communicate with and understand, He began to teach us the ways of the Father. The Gospels tell us of the words that Jesus spoke as He attempted over and over to translate the hopes and desires that God had for a relationship with His children.

God had given the Law to Moses, but that wasn't enough. John tells us that Jesus Christ brought grace and truth (John 1:17). He is the Word made flesh, come to earth to make the Father known to His people. This is how God communicates with us. The Word.

August 17 - Oh, Peter ...

Monday, August 17, 2009

August 17 - Matthew 16:13-29 - Oh, Peter ...

I love Peter. I always have. He has such deep passion for the Lord and sometimes he is just plain stupid. But, how like our relationship with God is his with Jesus.

The beginning of this passage is such an amazing look at their relationship. One day, the disciples were walking with Jesus and He decided to challenge them a little bit. "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" (Matt 16:13)

There were many different answer, but Jesus went on to ask "But what about you? Who do you say I am?" (Matt 16:15)

Peter had the answer. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

In those few words, Peter identified Jesus as the Messiah (Christ), the Savior that had come to save the world. He also identified Him as coming directly from the God of creation, the living God.

Peter knew who this man was that walked beside him. He had seen Jesus do miracles, feed thousands of people, heal the blind and the lame. He had listened as Jesus taught with an authority that no man on earth had ever exhibited. He knew who his Lord was!

That amazing insight and the strength of his faith was obvious to all that were around him and Jesus affirmed that God had revealed this mystery to Peter and went on to assure Peter that all of the power of heaven and earth would be given to him. He transformed Peter from 'Simon' a reed that flowed in the wind, to Peter (Petra) the rock on which the future church would be built.

The strength of Peter's faith would be required to fulfill the work that Jesus began on earth.

This was an amazing spiritual moment for Peter. And oh, the humanity. Several days later, as Jesus was trying to explain to His disciples the near future of suffering and death that He would be facing, Peter took Him aside to stop Him from saying those things. How could the Lord, the Messiah, face such a hideous thing? (Matthew 16:21-22)

The man that Jesus had lifted up was now called 'Satan.'

Was Peter too big for his britches? Maybe. The next thing that Jesus taught to His disciples was the importance of giving up everything, including any selfish ambitions. (Matthew 16:24-29)

Sometimes I have those amazing moments with God. I feel like together we could conquer the world. I sense the power of His hand in my life and I am ready to move forward to do whatever it is that He asks me to do. But, it doesn't take long for my selfish ambitions to set in. I hear and heed the call, but I make my own plans because I know that my creative mind can make these things happen. All of a sudden, I move from allowing God to run the show, to making Him a mere idea man. I can implement His ideas.

"Get thee behind me, Satan?" I wonder how many times the Lord has had to say those words to me as I run off to do His will my way.

August 16 - I Will Rejoice in the Lord

Sunday, August 16, 2009

August 16 - Habakkuk 3:1-19 - I Will Rejoice in the Lord

Habakkuk is one of those prophetic books that rarely gets read and yet there are so many beautiful words to be found here. Read Habakkuk 1:5, "Look at the nations and watch - and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told."

Or Habakkuk 2:14 "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."

And the very familiar Habakkuk 2:20, "But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all earth be silent before him."

The third chapter of Habakkuk though, speaks of the Day of the Lord when He will come to earth and destroy the evil and bring forth His eternal reign.

This is one of the chapters that you need to read to feel the power of the words. I could talk about them, but that's not where the power resides, it is in the way that Habakkuk hears them from the Lord and translates them for the people of Israel. He uses incredibly imaginative words and draws the reader into the images that he sees as he receives these words from God.

Habakkuk 3:1, "Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy."

These words need to be prayed and cried out by all of us regularly. We know who you are, Lord. We know what you've done in the past. Dear Lord, do those same things today, make Yourself known to the nations. And in Your wrath over our sin, we are thankful for your mercy, made known to us through Jesus Christ.

And after Habakkuk describes in glorious words the movement of God throughout the world bringing His wrath for the sin committed on earth, we see his acknowledgement of the truth of his relationship with the Lord.

Habakkuk 3:18-19, "Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights."

Today, yes Lord. Bring your will to the earth. Make Your will known to us. It may be the worst thing we've ever experienced, but You are our strength and we will rejoice in You!

August 15 - New Covenant

Saturday, August 15, 2009

August 15 - Jeremiah 31:31-38 - New Covenant

The entire Old Testament relates the story of God drawing the nation of Israel close to Him. No matter what they did, no matter how they sinned, God continued to try to bring them into a closer relationship with Him.

Jeremiah prophesied during the years just before Nebuchadnezzar took the Jews in exile. The Israelites had done everything possible to destroy the relationship that God wanted so badly with them. The northern kingdom of Israel had already gone down in flames and now the southern kingdom of Judah was about to do the same. Rather than relying on God to protect them, they had turned to surrounding nations until everything around them was consumed by the Babylonians.

Even though Jeremiah's prophecies were filled with messages of doom, there continued to be promises of a future with the Lord. He continued to want His children to be in relationship with Him. But, the time when all would be restored, was far in the future.

The New Covenant that Jeremiah speaks of is one that will unite the entire nation of Israel again. Rather than handing down laws as He did under the Mosaic covenant, God would ensure that the law was written into their minds and their hearts. He would be their God and they will be His people. (Jeremiah 31:33)

We see the fulfillment of this passage in Revelation 21:3, "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.'"

The New Covenant is set into place and then confirmed by Jesus in Luke 22:20. This New Covenant is about forgiveness. Jesus confirmed it with His blood poured out for all of us. In Jeremiah 31:34b, the Lord says, "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

He finishes this passage by stating that Israel will never cease to exist in His heart and He will never reject its descendants, no matter what it is that they have done.

The New Covenant was brought forth so that all mankind could share in the glory of the Kingdom of the Lord. We share in this because of the amazing gift that Jesus Christ offered when He became the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice.

August 14 - Come, All Who Are Thirsty

Friday, August 14, 2009

August 14 - Isaiah 55:1-13 - Come, All Who Are Thirsty

I've said that these are a few of my favorite passages and this may top the list. Well, actually, much of Isaiah sits right there at the top of glorious words from the Lord God Almighty.

The very things that we are lacking are those things that the Lord wants to offer to us. Are you thirsty? Come to the waters. If you have no money, come buy wine and milk without cost. The Lord offers us abundance and we don't know what to do with it. We work so hard to ensure that we have everything we need, when the Lord calls us to simply come to the waters. Come stand in His presence. Allow Him to pour out His blessings.

The people of Israel were ready to make a treaty with surrounding nations so that they could have peace, yet they could not bring themselves to fall before the Lord and ask Him to intervene. They insisted on doing things themselves.

Sound familiar? Oh, this is my life. It is so much easier for me to just deal with it than let the Lord actually guide me. Trust issues? Oh I have them. But, at what point am I proving to the world that I don't trust the Lord - that I don't trust that He even exists. Because if I stand in this world and declare that I believe in God and that I believe He will care for all my needs, how can I deny Him the chance to actually meet my needs?

But, God, the Creator of all things, who has deigned to come to earth in the form of a man, Jesus Christ, will have mercy on us ... on me. He will freely pardon. (Isaiah 55:7-8) All we have to do is seek Him, turn to him, call on him.

I am but a flicker in His creation. The Lord's purpose will be achieved with or without me. He does not need me to accomplish His desires. But ... He wants me.

The beauty of the words in Isaiah 55:10-12 brings me to tears every time.

"As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands."

We recognize that the word which goes out from the mouth of the Lord is the same word that we see over and over again - Jesus Christ - the word made flesh. The prophecy in these words are that He will go out and will not return empty. We are God's desire and purpose. He has come to ensure that we will be present in the throneroom.

Joy and peace ... the celebration of the accomplishment of God's purpose in Jesus Christ. We will participate in all of that!

August 13 - To Us a Child is Born

Thursday, August 13, 2009

August 13 - Isaiah 9:1-7; 11:1-16 - To Us a Child is Born

We take these words from Isaiah for granted, but think about the moment that he received them from the Lord. Can you imagine what was racing through his mind as he began hearing the Lord speak these words to him?

Much of the prophecy that Isaiah delivered to the people of Israel was a warning. The Lord was desperately trying to get His people to stay away from other gods and out of the hands of the armies that were surrounding them. He wanted His people to stay close to Him, yet they kept running off to things that seemed more exciting.

Isaiah's time with the Lord had to have been stressful and then comes the day that the Lord says to Isaiah, "Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress," and the great prophecy of the child coming to save a nation was given.

Consider the power of these words, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Isaiah 9:2)

Light coming in to darkness. John 1:4 says about Jesus, "In him was life and that life was the light of men." In John 8:12, Jesus said "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

The light of life will dawn on the land of the shadow of death. The Lord Almighty promised and brought forth the light to save His people.

Now, Isaiah 9:7 tells us that the child who will bring a peaceful government will reign on David's throne and this will all be accomplished by the zeal - by the power - of the Lord God Almighty. (Isaiah 9:6-7). As we turn to Isaiah 11, this is confirmed by the words, "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit." (Isaiah 11:1)

The peacable kingdom, a place where judgment is pronounced by righteousness and peace will rule over everything. "In that day, the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people..." (Isaiah 11:10-11) as the Root of Jesse will stand forth bringing all nations to himself. Isaiah goes on to say that the kingdoms will be reunited. In Isaiah 11:13, Ephraim is used to signify the northern kingdom of Israel while Judah represents the southern kingdom.

The Lord promises that there will be a highway for the remnant of his people, a path for them to return to Him. (Isaiah 11:16).

We see the continuation of this promise in Revelation 7:4, when God calls forth 144,000 from all of the tribes of Irael. The remnant will never be forgotten. And as for the peacable kingdom, we first see the signs of this in Revelation 20 when Christ conquers the beast and locks him away for one thousand years. Christ brings all nations to himself and they reign with him.

Finally, we see that the healing of the nations comes in Revelation 22:2. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city. We will see His face. And they will reign for ever and ever. The promises of Isaiah, the continuation of these promises in the Revelation, are trustworthy and true (Rev. 22:6). We can be sure of one thing. Jesus is coming soon.

August 12 - I See the Lord

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

August 12 - Isaiah 6:1-13 - I See the Lord

This is probably one of my very favorite Old Testament passages. Not only do we get to see Isaiah's commissioning, but we are given a glimpse into the throneroom of God!

Isaiah identifies the time period for us. History records Uzziah's death in 739/740 bc.

Isaiah was given a vision in which he sees the throneroom. The Lord is seated and the glory of the Lord fills this throneroom. The train of his robe is so grand that the entire temple is filled with it. There were angels - seraphs with six wings flying above the Lord singing "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."

Revelation 4:8 shows us the four living creatures, each with six wings, singing "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord god Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come."

Both Elijah and John were seeing the same event occurring, can you imagine the glory that we have ahead of us?

At the sound of their voices, the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. This smoke is more than likely the incense of worship. The entire temple was filled with angels, seraphs, elders and creatures standing before the throne in worship.

Then, Isaiah realized where he was and exactly who he was. He was a man of unclean lips and lives among people of unclean lips. How can he stand before the King, the Lord Almighty? Then, one of the seraphs took a coal from the altar and touched his mouth with healing. His sin was atoned for.

How could Isaiah respond with anything other than "Here I am. Send me" to the query from the Lord after having received such a blessing. His guilt was removed. The Lord had prepared him to be a prophet to the people of Israel. He would have to help them face some of their darkest days, but he would be bringing news of a future glory that they would barely be able to understand. He would bring them news of a Savior.

August 11 - The Lord Speaks

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August 11 - Job 38:1 - 42:6 - The Lord Speaks

Job had finally reached the point where he began to question what was happening to him. Why in the world do the innocent have to tolerate such injustice? Elihu, one of his friends was there to speak beautiful words, but by the time we reach Job 38, God is ready to speak. Not only does He have plenty to say, but He intends for Job to listen, so He comes in a whirlwind! The power of the storm and the power of His words will ensure that Job pays attention and takes these words to heart.

He begins by challenging Job and then tells him to stand there like a man because God is about to question him.

While the poetry is gorgeous and the descriptions of all are amazing, I particularly like the little reminders that God inserts as He is talking to Job, such as Job 38:18b, "Tell me, if you know all this." Or the sarcastic comment in Job 38:21, "Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!"

Oh yah ... the Lord is definitely planning to remind Job and his friends that though they think they have all the answers, they actually don't even know which questions to ask!

In Job 40:2, the Lord finally asks a question of Job that expects and answer, "Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!"

And Job responds, "I am unworthy - how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer - twice, but I will no more." (Job 40:4-5)

The Lord is not ready to be finished with Job. He speaks from the whirlwind again, telling Job to brace himself like a man for there are more questions.

The glorious power of the Lord is revealed in these chapters as we see how He is the creator and designer of all of creation. Not only does He make everything that we see, but He knows how they all work together and are intertwined to make this earth the perfect place for mankind to live. From the greatest leviathan to the young of the mountain goat, from the stars in the heavens to the foundation of the earth, the Lord has intimate knowledge and rules over all things.

Job replies finally to the Lord in Job 42:1-6. His reply shows him to be repentant and chagrined. What was he thinking when he questioned the motives of the Lord, the Creator of the Universe?

"Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know ... My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."

The man who had everything and lost it came to find out that he was nothing in the eyes of the Lord unless he gave himself fully to the Lord.

August 10 - A Whisper

Monday, August 10, 2009

August 10 - 1 Kings 19:1-18 - A Whisper

It's one thing to read the story of the challenge between Elijah and the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Their god did not burn up the sacrifice and the Lord not only burnt up the sacrifice that Elijah placed before him, but the water soaked wood, the stones and the water in a huge trench around the sacrifice. After this incredible show of power, the Lord then brought rain to a land destroyed by drought. (1 Kings 18:16-46)

However, all of this power did not go well with Ahab's mistress - Jezebel. She was furious and threatened Elijah with his life. Poor Elijah. He was terrified. Now this is the stuff that makes me realize just how silly we all are. The Lord demonstrated His incredible power in ways that could leave no doubt, yet Elijah still didn't know how to trust Him with his measly little life. Sound familiar? Oh, it does to me. What fools we humans are when we don't realize the actual source of our power.

Exhausted from running, Elijah rests under a broom tree. He's done. As he lay down to sleep in the shade of the tree, he tells that Lord that he might as well be dead, he's had enough. But, you know what? The Lord cares for us in amazing ways. An angel showed up to feed him and give him something to drink. The angel showed up a second time. This time, Elijah was told that he needed to eat because the journey ahead would be too much. (1 Kings 19:5-7)

The Lord didn't waste time with pity or trying to placate Elijah in his misery. He just met Elijah's needs and prepared him for the next part of the journey. Forty days and nights Elijah traveled to reach Horeb, the mountain of God (also known as Mount Sinai - the same place that Moses spent 40 days after receiving the Ten Commandments). When he got there, he crawled into a cave, probably just a crevice, to spend the night. (1 Kings 19:8-9a)

Notice the words of 1 Kings 19:9b. "And the word of the Lord came to him." I keep finding more and more references to the Word of the Lord as I traverse the Old Testament. Yes, this is Jesus Christ, who showed up to deal with Elijah.

"What are you doing here, Elijah?" he asks. Elijah's response is fairly pitiful. "I've been zealous for the Lord. The Israelites broke the covenant, your altars and killed prophets. I'm all that is left and now they are trying to kill me." (1 Kings 19:10)

When the Lord told him to stand on the mountain to wait for the presence of the Lord to pass by, Elijah obeyed. A great wind shattered the rocks, an earthquake occurred, a fire burned. But the Lord was not in the overwhelming power of those natural events.

The Lord came to Elijah in a gentle whisper and asked again, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" Now, with all of this power surrounding me, I'm not sure I would have continued to whine, but Elijah repeated the words he had said earlier to Jesus.

Again, the Lord did not placate him in his misery or allow him to feel sorry for himself. These words in 1 Kings 19:15-18 are a renewed call to ministry. "Go back the way you came." Elijah had to return to the places that had terrified him because there were people that were ready to follow the Lord. He was not allowed to wallow in his terror, but was forced to follow the call of God.

It is never about us. It is always about the power of God in us.

August 9 - Wisdom

Sunday, August 9, 2009

August 9 - 1 Kings 3:1-15 - Wisdom

Did you ever wonder what the people of Israel did while waiting for the Temple to be built? Huh. I never did. But, it occurs to me that I probably should have. 1 Kings 3:2 tells us that the people were still sacrificing at the high places because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the Lord. That's just interesting! This habit actually began during the times of the Judges. The Canaanites felt that the closer they were to heaven, the greater the possibility that the gods would accept their offerings. So ... when in Rome ...

As I read stories about Solomon, the one word that seems to predominate is 'abundance.' Everything Solomon did was in abundance. When he went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices (1 Kings 3:4-5), he offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. A thousand! If you read 1 Kings 4:20-28, you see huge numbers for daily provisions. 1 Kings 10:14-29 extols Solomon's splendor and in 1 Kings 11:1-13, we find that he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Abundance.

But, with this burnt offering on this day, God comes to Solomon as he sleeps and offers to give him whatever it is that he would desire.

Solomon's response is beautiful (1 Kings 3:6-9). He acknowledges the kindness of the Lord to his father and acknowledges that he, himself is simply a servant king in place of David. At this point in Solomon's reign, he recognizes his human limitations. He is but a child in the midst of the people that the Lord has chosen. They are a great people, too numerous to count or number.

"Oh Lord, give to your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?"

Solomon could have asked for anything from the Lord: wealth, long life, death of enemies. But, he asked for discernment. And with this request, he identified himself as one of the greatest kings that would ever live. He received wisdom in abundance.

And because he asked for this, the Lord honored him with riches and honor and a long life if Solomon would but walk in the ways of the Lord and obey His statutes and commands.

How do I honor God with my requests? Are they made to further my agenda or to further His kingdom. I love Solomon for this. He had grown up as a privileged young prince, but it meant more to him to honor his Lord, than to expect great things for himself.

August 8 - The Young King

Saturday, August 8, 2009

August 8 - 1 Samuel 16:1-13 - The Young King

Samuel had become a powerful prophet of the Lord to the nation of Israel. When they wanted a King (1 Samuel 8), the Lord had brought Saul to Samuel to anoint as the first King of Israel (1 Samuel 9-10). Samuel said farewell to the people of Israel as they now had a king (1 Samuel 12), but all of a sudden, the power rushed to Saul and he believed that he could reign over God's people without actually accepting input from the Lord. In 1 Samuel 15, we see that the Lord rejects Saul. Samuel was the one who had to deliver the news to the King. Saul begged and pleaded, but he could not manage to be strong and stay within the Lord's guidelines. We see in 1 Samuel 15:35, "Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him."

He had put his life into doing the work of the Lord and this loss grieved Samuel greatly.

1 Samuel 16 opens with the Lord asking Samuel how long he plans to mourn for Saul! God is ready to get on with this. It's time to anoint the new king of Israel.

Since the day that Samuel responded to the Lord in the temple as a boy, he has been willing to go wherever the Lord sends him and do whatever the Lord asks him to do. Even when he is afraid of Saul's wrath, he knows that walking with the Lord is the better thing to do.

The Lord provided an opportunity for Samuel to be in Bethlehem so that he wouldn't have to ile about his travels there. But, the elders of the community were worried that the great prophet of the Lord had come to execute judgment on them. (1 Samuel 16:2-5)

After consecrating Jesse and his sons, he invited them to the sacrifice. Each of the sons stood before Samuel while he spoke with the Lord about them.

Eliab was tall and looked as if he could be a king, but the words from the Lord remind us of a man's true intentions and how closely God looks at our hearts, "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7b)

Then came Abinadab, Shammah, and seven other sons of Jesse, but none of them were chosen by the Lord. Rather than question the Lord's intent, he asked Jesse if there were any more sons.

When David was brought in from tending the family's sheep, the Lord said to Samuel, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one." (1 Samuel 16:12b)

In front of all of his brothers and his fathers, Samuel poured the anointing oil on the young boy. The Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power that day even though he didn't leave with Samuel.

What a change in this boy's life was to occur. With the power of God filling him, he could do anything and he entered into the service of the King.

We don't see Samuel again until 1 Samuel 25:1 when we are told that he has died and all Israel assembled and mourned for him, then buried him at his home in Ramah.

David was a man after God's own heart, he was chosen by God to be King of Israel and through his line, the Savior of the world would be born. He began his life as a simple shepherd boy, anointed by a great prophet. When the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, he was given the power to change the world.

August 7 - Here I Am

Friday, August 7, 2009

August 7 - 1 Samuel 3:1-21 - Here I Am

The story of Samuel coming into Eli's service by the faith of his mother Hannah fills the first two chapters of this book, but the story of Samuel hearing God's voice is one of my favorites. And there are so many intricate parts of this story that I seem to have skimmed over previously!

First of all, read 1 Sam. 3:1b, "In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions."

There have always been times when it seems as if the Lord is far from us, we don't feel Him as close, we don't hear His voice and we don't have any idea what it is that He wants us to do. This story, however shows us that even though that may seem to be what is going on, something is coming and the Lord is never far away.

The next detail that I love is that Samuel was lying in the temple of the Lord where the ark of God was. (1 Sam. 3:3)

Talk about setting yourself up to be a part of God's plan! We used to do a lot of prayer vigils in my father's churches as we prepared for spiritual events. For twenty-four hours, someone was in the sanctuary of the church in prayer. Mom and Dad generally took the wee hours of the morning. One morning about 3:30 am, Mom was in the front of the sanctuary with a hymnal and Bible, trying desperately to stay awake and also trying to stay a bit holy before God. There were candles lit on the altar, but not much more light. All of a sudden, BAM! Something fell to the floor and Mom flew out of the pew screaming. She didn't hear any more noise, but immediately hit her knees and began praying as loudly and rapidly as possible. That's how Dad found her when he showed up at the top of the hour. (A hymnal had fallen out of a rack in a back pew)

She placed herself firmly in the hands of God that night, in His house, before His altar. This is where God found Samuel. And He called to Samuel, who was just a boy. Since the voice of the Lord was rare, Samuel was sure that the only person who might call him was Eli, so he rushed to the old priest's side to offer his assistance.

After the third time, Eli realized that Samuel was actually hearing from the Lord and sent him back with instruction to offer himself to the Lord. His words to Samuel were encouraging and frightening. He promised to do something in Israel that would "make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle." (1 Sam. 3:11) But, the Lord also assured Samuel that Eli's family would not be able to escape their sin.

Samuel and Eli dealt with all of that. Eli's response to the tough words from Samuel was "He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes." (1 Sam. 3:18). If only we could allow God to live in our lives with that attitude.

So, after opening this chapter by telling us that the word of the Lord was rare and there weren't many visions, the close of the chapter tells a different story because of the faith of one young boy.

This boy grew to a man that walked with the Lord - "he let none of his words fall to the ground." (1 Sam. 3:19)

"And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. And Samuel's word came to all Israel." (1 Samuel 3:20-4:1)

Years had passed with very little coming to Israel from the Lord. Samuel's obedience and devotion to the Lord brought about a change that transformed the nation of Israel!

August 6 - Be Strong and Courageous

Thursday, August 6, 2009

August 6 - Joshua 1:1-18 - Be Strong and Courageous

Moses has died and the yoke of leadership has passed to Joshua. It is up to him to take the people of Israel through the final leg of their journey. Those who sinned so greatly against the Lord have all died, and new generations of Israelites are ready to enter the Promised Land. They had been hearing about this promise their entire lives. Fear and excitement filled every family as they approached the Jordan River.

The Lord's response to Joshua is indicative of His response to us when we face uncertainty. He begins by telling Joshua what to do (Joshua 1:2), then He tells Joshua what He will do for them (Joshua 1:3-4). He follows this by assuring Joshua that He (the Lord) would always be with him and would never leave or forsake him (Joshua 1:5).

Now the phrase that gets the most attention from this chapter shows up in Joshua 1:6, "Be strong and courageous." This is spoken 4 times in this chapter alone.

Moses had been such a powerful, strong leader. The Lord had assured Moses that He would always be with him when He called him from the burning bush on Mt. Sinai. After all of Moses' fears and doubts had been laid to rest, all that was left was the assurance that God would never leave His side. Through the years of travel, the sin, the excitement, the depression, the sense of loss, the new things they had seen, the Lord had never left Moses. And Moses went from being the cowering fool that was afraid to speak in public, to the man standing before the tribes of Israel in Deuteronomy 33, blessing them with glorious words.

This is a lot for Joshua to live up to. Before Moses died, he laid his hands on Joshua and the spirit of wisdom had filled the young man. (Deut. 34:9). But, read the words from Deut. 4:10-12 to understand the shoes that Joshua had to fill!

"Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt - to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of Israel." (Deut. 4:10-12)

Now, Joshua was to lead an entire nation of God's children into the Promised Land. These people had followed Moses for 40 years. No wonder God assured him and encouraged him with the words, "Be strong and courageous."

God says it again in Joshua 1:7 and then again in Joshua 1:9. He reminds Joshua, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and very courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."

After the third command from God, Joshua begins delivering orders to the people to gather their supplies and prepare to cross the Jordan in three days. It is time to take possession of the land that the Lord God had given to them.

Because the Lord was with Joshua and he spoke with the authority that comes from knowing where his strength lay, the people responded.

In Joshua 1:16-18, they answer him by saying that they will follow him and do what it is that he asks of them. As they obeyed Moses, they will obey him.

Their final words as a community to Joshua were, "Only be strong and courageous."

These people knew that with God anything was possible, but sometimes their leader might forget that. The only way to walk with God and do His will is to be strong and courageous. We sometimes forget that God calls us to do things that might terrify us or be firmly outside our realm of understanding. Four times Joshua heard those words ... how many times will it take for these words to sink in for us.

"Be strong and courageous."

August 5 - Love the Lord Your God

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

August 5 - Deuteronomy 6:1-25 - Love the Lord Your God

By the time we get to the New Testament, the Jews have fully lost the intention of the Law that God gave to them through Moses. The wandering Jews of the Old Testament were a band of nomads that desperately needed to band together in unity under one God. Through the Law that Moses related to them, they received guidelines and instructions for every facet of their lives.

While Paul shows us that it had become restrictive in his time, when it was initially set into place, it was done so with incredible care by God. Maybe it's like the things that my father set into place as a child for me. There were a lot of restrictions around my activities, but as I look back, I realize that they were there to keep me safe and protected.

As Moses was leading the children of Israel through to the Promised Land, they acted as very young children. They had been living among the Egyptians for so long that they didn't understand self-rule, or even many of the basics of cleanliness and food preparation.

This passage introduces "The Shema," an integral part of the Jewish Prayer Life. 'Shema' means 'Hear,' the first word: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one." (Deuteronomy 6:4) These words are their central faith statement. As they traveled throughout the mideast, they would continually come into contact with polytheistic societies.

The Lord is One is a statement that separated them from everyone else. It was immediately followed by "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:5).

The next portion of this (Deut. 6:6-9) is a command that we seem to take very lightly. "These commandments are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

In other words, not only were they to constantly ensure that they would remember these commandments, but to do that, they should constantly talk about them ... always have the Word of the Lord on their lips.

In Deuteronomy 6:20, Moses tells the people that their children will ask the meaning of these Laws. They will know them so well because of the constant retelling, but when it comes time to explain the meaning behind them, it is important to have a response.

"We were slaves of Pharoah in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Before our eyes, the Lord sent miraculous signs and wonders ... But he brought us out from there to bring us in ... The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear Him so that we might prosper and be kept alive. And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness." (Deuteronomy 6:21-25)

The Lord gave them life. He brought them out of Egypt. He performed miracles. He brought them to the Promised Land. When they asked why they needed to follow His decrees, they needed to be constantly reminded of this incredible gift.

We have been given a gift that is even more astounding. It is a free gift. We can't earn it, we don't deserve it. Jesus Christ made the final sacrifice to ensure our freedom. Why do we follow Jesus? The gift of His life ... even more profound than the gift of our lives.

August 4 - The Tabernacle

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August 4 - Exodus 40:1-38 - The Tabernacle

The previous five chapters detailed the preparations, designs and creation of the Tabernacle. Finally, in Chapter 40, we see the entire thing being put together. The Lord gave the instruction to Moses who carried them out in great detail.

This was an incredible gift to the Israelites. The Lord showed them how to build a tent, a tabernacle, so that He could travel with them as they traversed the desert on their route to the Promised Land. He was not intending to ever leave them alone again. He had promised Moses in Exodus 3 that He would be with them and this was his way of ensuring that they would have visible sign of His presence and a place that they could come to worship.

Hebrews 8:5 says "They (the high priests) serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven." Just as we saw in Genesis 1:26 that man is a shadow image of God, the Tabernacle was created to be a copy ... a shadow of the true Temple of God found in heaven.

We see portions of this in the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John. In Revelation 4, we see the throne room, and in Revelation 8:3-5, we see the golden altar before the throne which holds the incense. While the Tabernacle required a lamp to be burning at all times, to see in the darkened room, we find in Revelation 21:23 that God gives light and the Lamb is its lamp. In fact, by the time we get to the end of all things, the Temple is no longer needed because we stand before the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb and they are its temple (Rev. 21:22).

Moses finished the work of preparing the temple (Exodus 40:33). Everything had been set precisely in place. As close as a copy can come to being perfect, God had achieved His goal.

The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle) and the glory of the Lord filled it. God's glory was so great as He filled that tabernacle, that even Moses could not enter.

By this, the people knew that God was present among them. When the cloud lifted, they knew it was time to set out. If it didn't lift, they stayed put. During the day, they saw the Lord in the cloud and at night, they saw fire.

There were millions of people traveling with this Tabernacle and Exodus 40:38 tells us that the cloud and the fire were within eyesight "of all of the house of Israel during all their travels."

The Lord was present among them. He showed them His presence by residing in the Tabernacle, a copy of His temple in Heaven. He left the glory of heaven to travel with His children. Later, He would leave that same glory to live among us as a human in the form of Jesus Christ. There is nothing God will not do to ensure that He has a relationship with His children.

August 3 - The Glory of the Lord

Monday, August 3, 2009

August 3 - Exodus 33:12-23; 34:29-35 - The Glory of the Lord

I'm about to tell you an odd story, but it symbolizes the relationship my mother had with God. She died in March of 1987. The previous August, we had a rather amazing Family Camp with our church at a retreat center. She'd had cancer for well over a year and had been through incredible treatment for it. Of course we did our best to be positive, but we just didn't know. As she, Dad and I returned to our cabin for the night, we settled down and she told the two of us that she wasn't going to live that much longer. I think we were both a little startled, but waited for her to tell her story.

During the time of worship and prayer that evening, Mom had a vision. In that vision, she saw God. They even had a conversation because she was so shocked at how young He looked. He reminded her that He was the God of creation, not a dying God. However, the next thing that she said to Him was from Exodus 33:20 when God said to Moses, "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live."

She just asked God - does this mean I am going to die? He assured her that she was, but that she wasn't to fear her death and she knew that she had to tell us and anyone else that would listen about the reality of the God of Creation. Seven months later, she was gone.

This is probably one of the reasons that I love these stories about Moses finding himself in the presence ... the actual presence of God. Moses had no problem pouring out his fears and doubts to the Lord. He continually stood before God pleading for the people of Israel and in this passage we find Moses again standing before God asking to be taught His ways. Look at Exodus 33:13, "If I have found favor in your eyes, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people."

It goes on to say that "The Lord replied, 'My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest.' Then Moses said to him, 'If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.'" (Exodus 33:14-16)

Without God walking with us, we can't afford to spend much time in the world. We will be battered and torn, we will become exactly like the world with nothing to distinguish us.

God went on to assure Moses that He would be with them and then He says, "I will do as you ask because I am pleased with you and I know you by name." He knows us by name.

Please spend time reading through the rest of this passage - God's response to Moses asking to see His glory is amazing! (Exodus 33:19-23)

When Moses comes down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets, his face was radiant because of His proximity to the Lord. He wore a veil over his face because the Israelites were so afraid of him, but he removed it whenever he entered the presence of the Lord. (Exodus 34:29-35)

These moments in the history of Israel are the centerpoint of their faith. At this time, God is giving the Law ... the essence of their relationship together ... to Moses. He went back and forth from the people to the Lord bringing forth the commandments that would cement the covenant between God and His people.

August 2 - I AM

Sunday, August 2, 2009

August 2 - Exodus 3:1-4:16 - I AM

I prepared this passage for a sermon earlier this summer and discovered how much it resonated with me. I think we are all a little like Moses - absolutely scared to death to do what it is that God wants us to do.

It all starts out quite exciting. We have a mountaintop / burning bush experience and believe that God is powerful enough to do anything. For heaven's sake, He appeared within a bush that was on fire, but didn't burn. We feel the power of God when we approach and it is so overwhelming that we realize we are standing on holy ground. Moses knew exactly who it was that he was speaking with on the mountain and he was so afraid that he hid his face from God.

But, then came the moment after God reminded Moses of all the things that God had done for the Israelites and that He wanted to continue caring for them. God said, "So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." (Exodus 3:10)

Wham. Bang. Moses went from standing before God in awe and reverence to being commanded to leap out of his life into something he was not prepared to do. And the next thing he does is question God and he doesn't stop questioning God until he absolutely infuriates Him.

"Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt" (Exodus 3:11)

"Suppose I go to the Israelites ... and they ask me 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" (Exodus 3:13)

"What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The Lord did not appear to you'?" (Exodus 4:1)

"O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither int he past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue." (Exodus 4:10)

And finally, when the Lord had set all of those aside, Moses tossed out one last panicked plea, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." (Exodus 4:13)

Each of these pleas from Moses brought incredible responses from God. When Moses asked "Who am I?" God didn't spend time talking about who Moses was. He reminded Moses that He, God, was with Him. What else could Moses possible need? (Exodus 3:11-12)

When Moses asked "Who are you? What is your name?" we are given an incredible gift in that God reveals His name to Moses for the first time. "I AM" or Yahweh. This is a name that spans past, present and future and insists that God is present in everything that is occurring. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He IS!! (Exodus 3:13-14)

God performed miracles with Moses' staff and hand in response to the third question and when Moses worried over his lack of articulate speech, God assured him that He had created the mouth and had the power to do anything with mankind that He desired. He also assured Moses that He would help him speak and teach him what to say. (Exodus 4:11-12)

But, Moses' lack of confidence finally overwhelmed the conversation. God wouldn't call anyone else, but was willing to allow Aaron to travel with Moses as his spokesperson. (Exodus 4:14-16)

Now, why is this like me? Well, my confidence fails me most of the time. I constantly question how I am going to do things that God has called me to do and I worry all the time that I will be a huge failure.

It seems as if I will never learn that it is never about my skills or talent or sense of self. It is always about "I AM" being present in my life.

August 1 - It Was Good

Saturday, August 1, 2009

August 1 - Genesis 1:1-2:1 - It Was Good

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1:1-5)

I think that relationship between Jesus Christ, the Word and God's creative power is incredible. Since Jesus is the Word and the entirety of Genesis 1 contains the words "And God said" prior to each creative event, my mind can barely contain my imagination as I see this taking place.

There are so many different actions that God takes during these seven days. He speaks creation into being with his Word ... Jesus Christ. Many times just the fact that the Word speaks the command causes the action to happen. 'Let there be light' and there was light. (Genesis 1:3) Sometimes the scriptures simply says 'And it was so.' The power of the Word brings creation into being.

Then, He makes things: 'So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it.' (Genesis 1:7).

Then, each day, God looks at His creation and sees that it is good.

When God created the living creatures in the water and the birds in the sky, He blessed them and commanded them to multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:22)

When He made the livestock and wild animals, He did it in a highly organized manner. Genesis 1:25 says, "God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds." These were not random ideas that He tossed out. It took mankind ages to create the organizational systems for plants and animals, something that God implemented at the very beginning. Our minds were finally released to see the beauty of the plan.

Then, comes mankind. Made in the image of the Godhead ... in our image. The word 'image' comes from the Hebrew 'tselem' which means phantom, illusion, shadow, shade, resemblance. We were made in the shadow of the Lord most high. The next word used, 'demuwth' is translated as likeness which means similitude, similar. So, we resemble and are similar to the God that reigns over us.

Every good thing that had been created was given to man with a command to be fruitful and increase, to fill the earth and subdue it. Then, God looked at everything that he had made and it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)

And thus, the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. (Genesis 2:1)