Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"I will speak of the justice of my God!"

Day #124:  Daily Bible Reading - May 1st

Scripture Reading:  Job 35 - 36 ...

God can take care of Himself.  He doesn't need anyone to defend Him against the accusations of those who complain that He acts unjustly.  Yet, God has called those who know Him to be His witnesses, to testify to His character so that all may know that He is God and that He rules with wisdom and justice over the affairs of men.  God is ALWAYS right!

As young Elihu continues to speak to Job and his friends, his goal is to uphold the glory of God as he corrects the misunderstanding and deception into which Job has fallen with the "help" of those who came to comfort him.  Job has been led astray because of his weakened condition and the accusations of his friends to the point that he now passes on their accusations and directs them toward God!  Elihu's words, and those of God later, should act as a warning to all who would question God's dealings with mankind.

It is sad to remember how Job began, when tragedy first struck.  His response was firm and his trust in the Lord appeared unshakeable.  Remember his words?  "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" (1:21).  And when his wife had told him to "curse God and die," Job replied, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (2:9-10).  Job's fall into temptation in the midst of his suffering was accelerated by the relentless accusations of his friends, but Job over-reacted.  He made the fatal error of beginning to defend HIMSELF rather than God, and he finally arrived at the place millions have since:  "What profit is it to me and what do I gain by not sinning?" (35:2-3).

What a horrible place to be - spiritually.  Elihu says, in effect, "Whom are you hurting but yourself?" (35:6-8).  He points out that God does not hear or answer the cries of those who do not acknowledge Him ... contrary to what many think today.  "God does not listen to their empty plea; the Almighty pays no attention to it" (35:13).  People who have such an attitude toward God incredibly still cry out to Him and then demand that He answer in the way THEY know is "best."  Think about this!  Question God, doubt His justice, then demand that He give you what you want ... and THEN complain and question more when He doesn't answer ... and on top of that, accuse GOD of wrongdoing.  That's how many today live their lives.  It is the pathetic reality of those who do not know the true and living God!

Now Elihu speaks of God's character.  This is the place where we SHOULD begin when questions arise in our minds or when the temptation to doubt God is placed before us by the circumstances of our lives, be it trials or suffering or tragedy.  Elihu rightly points out:  "There is more to be said in God's behalf.  I will ascribe justice to my Maker!" (36:2-3).  That should make you want to say, "AMEN!  Finally, somebody is making sense!"  Listen carefully to what he says:  "God is mighty, but does not despise men ... He does not take His eyes off the righteous" (36:5,7).

God watches over those who trust in Him, whom He has declared righteous by faith.  He also deals with sin and its consequences in ways beyond our understanding.  We have heard that before.  "But those who suffer, He delivers in their suffering; He speaks to them in their affliction" (36:15).  God is never far from the brokenhearted as they cry out to Him and ask Him for help.  He does not always take away the affliction, but He gives strength to endure and the opportunity to testify to His faithfulness.  We sometimes sing that "God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good!"  We then testify to the good things God has done.  But what about testifying that God is good in the midst of the trials?!  Isn't God good even when times are hard??  God's character doesn't change with our circumstances.

As some have said, "Life is like a marathon, not a sprint."  Judging God's character without knowledge by looking at a small, tiny part of the whole picture leads to misunderstanding and more questions.  Elihu warns of the deceitfulness of wealth and that includes only good things happening.  He says to Job, "Beware of turning to evil, which you seem to prefer to affliction" (36:21).  Trusting in the wisdom, goodness and faithfulness of God, we who believe can say that affliction is GOOD for us!  It keeps us from setting our hearts on the things and pleasures of this world and calls us to place our hope in God and in His promises in Christ Jesus.  Affliction teaches us in lessons we would not learn in any other way.  "God is exalted in power.  Who is a Teacher like Him?" (36:22).

"How great is God - beyond our understanding!"  (36:26).  And since that is true, you and I are called to speak of the justice of our God.  He is just, He is right, He is good and He is faithful to those who trust in Him and who call upon Him in times of trouble.  When you do not understand His ways, trust His character, and proclaim to those around you that God is still just, He is still right, He is still good and He is still faithful!! He IS good ... ALL the time!!!!

"O Lord, my God, I place my trust in You, in good times and in times of trouble, trial, temptation and suffering.  When I am weak, O Lord, You make me strong.  I declare to the world that You are just, that You are right, that You are holy and You are good, now and always.  I find my hope in You alone. Help me to live to glorify You, my Abba, my Father in heaven.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"God's unfailing love for those who trust in Him!"

Day #123:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 30th

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 51 - 53 …

One of the saddest things in today's "religious" climate, where any belief in any "god" is considered acceptable, is that people who don't know the true God who has revealed Himself in His Word, the Bible, do not know the God who truly IS love!  They talk about God loving everybody, but they have no idea!  The Apostle Paul, who knew the true God, prayed for the believers in Ephesus:  "I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints ('holy ones' = believers), 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"  (Ephesians 3:17-19).

There is only one way to understand how wide and long and high and deep the love of Jesus is for those for whom He died, and that is to know the depth of your sin.  David, one thousand years before Jesus was born, understood His need for such a love when he was confronted with his sin by the prophet, Nathan.  Psalm 51 was written after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had had her husband killed.  He writes, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin" (51:1-2).

David was conscious of his sin and made no excuses.  He confessed what so few are willing to admit today:  "Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are proved RIGHT when You speak and justified when You judge.  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (51:4-5).  As he says again in Psalm 53, "Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, NOT EVEN ONE!" (53:3; Romans 3:10).  People who never hear the bad news will not long for good news and will not receive the true Gospel of Jesus Christ because they don't think they need it!

We must approach God as David does in Psalm 51, for we, too, have sinned against God.  We, too, must long for God's cleansing.  "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow" (51:7).  This is the consistent testimony of Scripture, as the prophet, Isaiah, writes:  "'Come now, let us reason together,' says the LORD.  'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18).  As the words of the old hymn ask and answer, "What can wash away my sin?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus!"

The question remains:  How can sinners approach God in His holiness?  Does His love simply ignore or overcome His justice?  David understood his need for something more:  "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from Your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me" (51:10-11).  This was the Old Testament, and yet David was given the wisdom by the Spirit of God to understand that what needed to happen within him must be done by God; that he himself was incapable of transforming himself and making himself acceptable to God.

Oh, that people would realize that today and stop trying all the "self-improvement" methods offered by those who make money off of people's guilt and the burden of sin.  Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is the Holy Spirit alone who produces the new birth and He does that only through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!!  NOTHING ELSE works!  NOTHING!!!  Jesus said in John 3:  "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. … unless he is born of water (Jesus is the living water) and the Spirit" (John 3:3,5).  "The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit" (John 3:8).

Spiritual life, spiritual rebirth, comes from the Spirit of God.  And how do you know where the Spirit is working?  "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise" (51:17).  Humility draws near to God in confession of sin and places its faith totally and utterly in the grace, compassion and unfailing love of God towards those who fear Him, who come to Him in faith and who trust in His forgiveness through the blood of the Lamb, shed once and for all on the cross.

Psalm 52 contrasts those who boast in their evil, who "love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth" (52:3), with those who are righteous, who see and fear the Lord .  David writes, "They will laugh at him (the wicked man), saying, 'Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth'" (52:6-7).  That may sound strange, but it is ultimately God who scorns the wicked and who laughs at them (Psalm 2:4).  They make their stand against God and David rightly says, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God!'" (53:1).

As for David and all who know God and trust in Him:  "I trust in God's unfailing love forever and ever.  I will praise You forever for what You have done; in Your name I will hope, for Your name is good.  I will praise You in the presence of Your saints" (52:8-9).  God's love toward us is for the present and for the future.  "Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!  When God restores the fortunes of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!"  (53:6).  That day will come and all who KNOW God's love in Christ will share in the joy of His unfailing love!!

"Thank You, Father, for Your unfailing love to us in Christ Jesus.  I confess my sin and my need for forgiveness and rejoice in Your salvation.  You alone are God and I humble myself before You, asking You to fill me with Your Spirit as You continue to conform me to the image of Your Son.  Let my life bring glory to You, my God and my Savior.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Monday, April 28, 2014

"The heritage of those who know the LORD God Almighty!"

Day #122:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 29th

Scripture Reading:  II Samuel 5 - 9 ...

If you asked most young people today, or older people for that matter, "What is your heritage?" ... how many, or how few would be able to answer.  Those who are older might respond by talking about their forefathers or their nationality or their possessions.  But what all of those things have in common is that they have in view only the things of this world.  That is the "normal" definition of the word, "heritage," but God gives us a much deeper, spiritual meaning in His Word.  A heritage is something that is passed on from generation to generation.  So how can spiritual things be "passed on?"

When David became King of Israel after Saul's death God said to him, "The LORD declares to you that the LORD Himself will establish a house for you.  When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. ... Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before Me; your throne will be established forever" (7:11-13,16).  How can a spiritual heritage be passed on?  Did you notice that it is GOD who says, "I will" do this.  As parents and as the Church, God has given us responsibilities and things to do, yet ultimately it is the grace and power of God that passes on a spiritual heritage.  It is His grace and Spirit for which we must always pray.

David was a man chosen by God and blessed by God.  It was certainly not because David was righteous or because he obeyed God perfectly, but because of God's grace to him and HIS power at work in and through David.  As God had chosen Abraham out of all the people on the earth and had made His Covenant of Grace with him, that through FAITH "it would be credited to him as righteousness," (Genesis 15:6) so God chose David, from the line of Abraham, to be king over Israel and to be the one from whom the Savior would come.  All that was happening pointed forward to what God would yet do to fulfill the promise He had made in the Garden of Eden when He cursed the serpent and said, "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between her Seed and yours.  He will crush your head and you will strike His heel" (Genesis 3:15).

God blessed David and gave him victory over all his enemies and he became more and more powerful. He revealed his heart when he desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and to build a house for the Name of God.  The incident with Uzzah reveals again the holiness of God.  It was a reminder to the people that God cannot be approached and that disobedience to God ultimately brings death.  Uzzah may have meant well, but the Ark was to be carried by men and it was not to be touched.  All these things point to Jesus and the necessity of a sacrifice for sin that allows those who believe to come into the presence of the one true God, the LORD Almighty!

In his prayer David reveals his humility before the LORD.  He was arguably the most powerful man in the world at this time in history, but he gave all the credit to God.  "For the sake of Your Word and according to Your will, You have done this great thing and made it known to Your servant. ...  You have established Your people Israel as Your very own forever and You, O LORD, have become their God" (7:21, 24).  David desired the honor of God and he understood that all that he had was a gracious gift from Him.  We read that "David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people" (8:15).  Even in the case of Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, David revealed the heart of God at work within him as he showed kindness to him far beyond what most would have done in his circumstances.  David was a powerful king, yet he had a heart for God and God described HIM as a man after His own heart (I Samuel 13:14).

David, however, was a fallible human being, a sinner like you and me.  But God doesn't forget His promises and He doesn't change His plans because of the failures of men.  David is listed in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:6) to show that God was keeping His promise.  And in an amazing bit of grace, it was Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, who would succeed David and through whom the temple would be built and the kingdom of David established.  It is a comfort to know that God can and does use sinners who humble themselves before Him, who confess their sins and repent, turning from them, and who have FAITH in Him ... God uses people like you and me to do great things for Him every day.

As we have noted before, when the angels announced Jesus' birth to the shepherds they said, "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father, DAVID, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; HIS kingdom will never end" (Luke 1:32-33).  When people read only the New Testament they miss the foundational piece of the glorious heritage that belongs to those who are the people of God today - those from every people, tribe, nation and tongue who put their faith in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of Abraham, the Son of David, the Son of God.  Jesus is the fulfillment of all of God's promises and through Him God makes those who believe the "temple of the Holy Spirit" (I Corinthians 6:19).

Our heritage as believers is nothing less than the eternal kingdom of God.  Our heritage is a gift of God and it is received by faith through the work of God's Spirit within us.  ALL the glory goes to the God of salvation, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel, the God of David and Solomon and the God of all who draw near to Him through faith in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God. KNOWING that such a heritage is ours leads to a life lived with Him and for Him.  The fear of death is removed by the death and resurrection of Jesus and life has new meaning because we know that we are here for HIM, to testify to His name and to be instruments in His hands to build His CHURCH by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  How blessed are we to have such a heritage from the LORD, our God!!

"O LORD, You are our heritage, our portion, the desire of our hearts.  You have shown me Your love and revealed Yourself to Me through Your Word.  Your Spirit, the same Spirit who was at work in David, has given me new birth and new life.  I am in awe of You and I rejoice in Your love and grace in Christ Jesus, my Savior and my Lord.  I give You praise and thanks in Jesus' name, Amen"

Sunday, April 27, 2014

"Some things never change ... praise God, some things do!"

Day #121:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 28th

Scripture Reading:  Exodus 17 - 20 ...

God is holy!  He was holy in the days of Moses, He is holy today and He will always be holy.  And because He is holy, He is worthy of worship.  God had told Moses to tell Pharaoh to let HIS people go so that they could worship Him.  Now they came to Mt. Sinai.  The journey had not been easy.  A lot happened between Egypt and Mt. Sinai ... a lot of complaining, a lot of grumbling ... and a lot of God providing for these people who just a few weeks ago had been slaves.  Whether it was water from a rock or manna from heaven, or quail from the sky, God provided for their needs.  These were a people with many needs.

By now the extreme joy of marching out of Egypt with the spoils taken from the people of the land and the journey through the Red Sea had been replaced by the reality of a wilderness journey.  Even Moses cries out to God and asks, "What am I to do with these people?" (17:4).  There were so many disputes between the people that Moses' father-in-law suggests that Moses divide the labors so that he does not wear himself out.  He advised, "Select capable men from all the people - men who fear God" (18:21).  Why should men fear God?  What does it mean to fear God?

God is holy!  And because He is holy, God is the Judge of all that is not holy.  The disputes among the people revealed their sinfulness AND their need for God's Law.  Holiness is perfection beyond what we, in our sinful state, can even comprehend.  Only God is holy.  The result of God's holiness and our unholiness is separation ... a separation that the people of Israel were about to experience in a way they had previously not understood.  As they camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai God said, "If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.  Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (19:5-6).

God told Moses to consecrate the people and on the THIRD DAY He would speak to them from a dark cloud over the mountain.  God warned the people not to touch the mountain or they would die.  "Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy" (19:23).  God then spoke the Ten Commandments and we read, "When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear.  They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, 'Speak to us yourself and we will listen.  But do not have God speak to us or we will die'" (20:18-19).  They were beginning to realize something about God ... a very important lesson:  God is holy!  Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid.  God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning" (20:20).

As God spoke to the people of Israel through Moses, He repeatedly told them "Be holy, because I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2).  The writer of Hebrews would say centuries later, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).    Isaiah had a vision of God's holiness and cried out, "Woe to me!  I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty" (Isaiah 6:5).  The entire Old Testament reveals the holiness and justice of God and the unholiness of all of mankind, including Israel.  The Law and the sacrifices pointed out the consequences of sin and the need for a sacrifice.  Only the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was and where the Presence of God was ...

ALL of this was and is a picture of mankind's need for a Savior ... and God's provision of the perfect Lamb ... His own Son.  The New Testament reveals the WAY, the ONLY way, to approach God without fear through faith in Jesus Christ, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).  Peter writes, "Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy'" (I Peter 1:16).  Then he goes on to write, "You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (I Peter 1:18-19).  God is holy, but He has made a way for sinful people to approach Him.  JESUS!!  HE is the way! And He rose from the dead on the THIRD day, making a way for us to enter into the presence of God WITHOUT fear!!

Through faith in Jesus Christ believers can approach God!!  Listen to the reference to Exodus that the writer of Hebrews makes:  "You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them ... but you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.  You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven!!" (Hebrews 12:18-23).  What a remarkable contrast!

With John we can proclaim, "To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father - to Him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen" (Revelation 1:5-6).  God is STILL holy, yet He has made a way for you and me to come to Him without fear through the blood of Jesus.  Therefore, let us come with boldness before Him and WORSHIP the Lord, our God, for HE IS HOLY!!!

"O Lord, our God, I confess Your holiness and my unholiness.  I have sinned against You and am not worthy to be called Your child.  Yet, Father, I believe that You have provided the perfect sacrifice for MY sin in Your Son Jesus Christ and I put my trust wholly and completely in Him for forgiveness and life.  Thank You, Father, for Your amazing grace.  Fill me with Your Spirit that I may be holy, as YOU are holy, and live my life to worship You!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Saturday, April 26, 2014

"Ambassadors of the King!"

Day #120:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 27th

Scripture Reading:  II Corinthians 4 - 5 …

An ambassador is one who is sent to represent someone who is higher in authority.  The task of the ambassador is to speak and to do what he or she is told by the one who sent them.  In most cases, an ambassador is one who travels to a foreign country to represent the ruler or leader of his homeland.  Think of this in terms of who we are in Christ.  Paul says here in Chapter 5, verse 20 that we are "Christ's ambassadors!" and ultimately, GOD's ambassadors.  He says that it is "as though God were making His appeal through us!!"  What appeal??  "Be reconciled to God!"

Could there possibly be a more important task?  If you and I believe, really believe, that those who do not know Jesus Christ, who have not received Him as Savior and Lord, are doomed to everlasting judgment in the fires of eternal hell, can there anything be more important than being instruments of God, sent in the name and power of Jesus Christ, to rescue people from such a fate.  People have gone to extreme measures to rescue people from danger in fires and floods and other disasters.  Yet, there often seems to be little enthusiasm to rescue people from hell …

Of course, we have our excuses.  Someone has said that an "excuse" is "a reason wrapped in a lie."  Paul addresses our excuses in Chapter 4, as he addresses believers.  He commends himself and the message he brings by explaining that "if our gospel is veiled (if some people don't understand it), 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 of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (4:3-4).  But he goes on to say that for believers, "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 the glory of God in the face of Christ" (4:6).

God is at work in the Gospel, as Paul wrote to the Romans in Romans 1:16:  "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes."  Ah, but the ambassadors are weak.  You and I are not strong enough to go out and to proclaim the message.  We are sinners ourselves and we are not ready to proclaim this truth to others … so many think.  Listen to what Paul writes, "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us!" (4:7).  God doesn't expect or desire us to do this by our own power!  He wants to display HIS power IN us.

Believers live in the "not yet" … We know the truth, we are empowered by the Spirit, yet we are not yet all that God wants us to be or that WE want us to be.  Still, "we KNOW that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence" (4:14). God will finish the work that He has begun (Philippians 1:6).  "Therefore, we do not lose heart (we do not become discouraged).  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, For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal"  (4:16-18).

There's more to come!  But we can't wait until we are perfect to be ambassadors for Christ.  He can and will use us in our weakness.  Paul goes on to explain that while we live in this "earthily tent" (5:1), we long for immortality.  There is no fountain of youth, but God has promised in Christ that we will be made new!  We will put off this earthly body and be clothed with immortality when Jesus returns (I Corinthians 15).  "Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come" (5:5).

Can you say that you "would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord"? (5:8).  It must be our goal to please Him as much NOW as it will be when we are in His perfect presence in the glories of heaven and in the new heaven and the new earth.  My life is HIS … NOW!  Therefore, we have work to do.  "Christ's love compels us!" (5:14).  "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come" (5:17).  We rejoice when people come to know Christ and the Spirit gives to them the desire to please Him.  The angels rejoice in heaven over one sinner who repents and believes (Luke 15:7,10).  And WE who believe get to be God's instruments to bring reconciliation to those who were separated from God, who were "without hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12).

In one of the clearest summaries of the Gospel, Paul explains:  "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (5:21).  And then he goes on in the first two verses of Chapter 6, where we will pick it up next time, to say, "NOW is the time of God's favor, NOW is the day of salvation!" (6:2).  As aliens and strangers in this world … as those who have been brought out of darkness into His marvelous light … as those who are now ambassadors, sent out into the world to represent the King of kings and the Lord of lords, we as believers in Christ are sent to call others to be reconciled to God in the one way He has provided:  through faith in Jesus Christ!

THIS is the task of the Church, "the called-out ones."  We must not be distracted from that task and we must not make excuses for our failure to proclaim the Gospel to all creatures.  Most congregations engage in all sorts of activities and FEW, if ANY of them fulfill God's purpose to call people to Himself through faith in Jesus.  Church membership is not the same as discipleship, becoming a follower of Jesus.  Jesus said that whoever would come after Him must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Him.   Only through the work of the Holy Spirit will the transformation take place that marks a true disciple of Jesus and reveals that the sinner has been reconciled to God and united to Christ.

PRAY earnestly that the body of Christ would, in this day, renew its zeal to reach the lost and to build Christ's Church.  The day is coming (perhaps its beginning is already here) when the love of most will grow cold and many will turn away from the faith to pursue idols (Matthew 24:10-12).  "But he who stands firm to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and THEN the end will come" (Matthew 24:13-14).  If you are a believer, you are an ambassador of Christ to those around you and to those whom God will send you.  As an ambassador of the KING, our Lord Jesus Christ, take your task seriously and be equipped to share the Gospel, understanding that even though you are weak, HE is strong!!

"O Lord God Almighty, it is by Your power, and Your power alone, that we go forth to make disciples of Jesus Christ.  We have received much and You have said that for those who have received much, much is required.  Help us, now, to go into all the world with the Gospel of Your grace in Christ Jesus, that the lost may be found and reconciled to You through faith in Your Son.  Strengthen us for the task, we pray, and make us bold witnesses for Christ.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Friday, April 25, 2014

"The Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End … "

Day #119:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 26th

Scripture Reading:  Mark 13 - 14 …

Before Jesus went to the cross … before He died and rose again, He told the disciples what was going to happen:  not only what was going to happen in Jerusalem in the next few days, but what was going to happen much later, when He came again.  Timing is everything, and God sees the end from the beginning.  What happens today is connected to what happened yesterday and what will happen tomorrow.  We live one day at a time, but in God's sight one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day.  God sees everything and knows everything and knows how it all fits together.  That is a great comfort for those who know Him and who trust Him.

So Jesus reveals to His disciples that there will be some general signs that this world will not always continue as it was at that time and as it is today.  Some will come who want to deceive (13:5).  There will be wars and rumors of wars (13:7).  There will be earthquakes and famines (13:8).  All these, Jesus says are "the beginning of birth pains" (13:8).  These things have been happening at an increasingly frequent pace since the time of Christ.  I was born in 1950 and there has not been a time without war around the world.  Earthquakes and famines strike repeatedly all over the earth.  These and other "general" signs continue.

But then Jesus gives them more specific signs of His return.  I realize that there are some who say that Jesus could return at any moment, but according to Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21 and many other passages of Scripture, there are things that must happen BEFORE He comes to gather His elect, His chosen ones.  He says here, as Matthew quotes Him in Matthew 24:14, that "the Gospel must FIRST be preached to all nations" (13:10).  It appears that this is being fulfilled in our present day for the first time in history.  It has been said that there were more martyrs for the sake of the Gospel in the past century than in all the rest of the centuries since Jesus ascended into heaven combined.  Jesus says, "He who stands firm to the end will be saved" (13:13).

Then He speaks about "the abomination that causes desolation," spoken of by the prophet Daniel (9:27).  At this time there will be a time of distress unequaled at any time before that or at any time after it.  The coming of Jesus in the clouds will cut those days short (13:19-27).  Many today teach that the Great Tribulation will take place AFTER the rapture, but the order Jesus gives us here and in Matthew 24 is different.  He says, "FOLLOWING that distress 'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken' (Isaiah 13:10 and other passages).  At THAT time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.  And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens" (13:24-27).

It is important to understand these things so that we will not be deceived when the Antichrist is revealed and he performs signs and wonders (II Thessalonians 2:9-12).  Jesus will not return until these things are fulfilled.  So He tells His disciples, then and now, to "keep watch" (13:35).  We don't know the day or the hour, but we WILL, we MUST know the time, and be watching and working until He comes.

As Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples He told them that He would "not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God" (14:25).  He was referring to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb described in Revelation 19.  As Jesus went to Gethsemane, He was looking at what lay ahead at the cross, yet He was looking farther ahead, too.  The writer of Hebrews encourages believers to persevere by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, "who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Hebrews 12:2-3).

Of all the counsel I offer to people, the best thing I can tell them to do is to keep their eyes (or in some cases, to GET their eyes) on Jesus!!  Like Peter when Jesus called him to get out of the boat and to walk on the water, we hear the roar of the wind and take our eyes off of Jesus to look at the waves rolling around us and we begin to sink.  Jesus went to the cross willingly.  He said to His disciples in the garden, "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.  The spirit is willing, but the body is weak" (14:38).  We who know and love Jesus WANT to be strong, but when we try to live for Jesus by our own strength we end up looking at the trials and struggles and lose heart.  We need to keep our eyes on JESUS!  HE is able!!

When the high priest asked Him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"  Jesus answered, "I AM!  And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven" (14:62).  Hear Jesus' own testimony and believe in His Name and you will be saved!  Whatever trials, whatever persecution, whatever burdens you are called to bear in this life in this world, you can know that you are SAFE in His arms and that He IS with you.  "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation."

The signs of His coming are all around us.  Whether it is in your lifetime or mine, the end WILL come. But through faith in Jesus, the end is the beginning, because He IS "the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Revelation 22:13).  When it does end, where will you be standing?  I pray that you have placed your trust, your hope, your faith in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and that you have found LIFE in His name.  Then you can know that the Father is willing and ready to welcome you HOME, where you will reign with Jesus … forever!  Oh, happy day!!

"Heavenly Father, knowing You and drawing near to You through the blood of Your Son, Jesus, is the greatest privilege, the greatest blessing anyone can receive from Your hand.  Thank You, Father, for loving me, for sending Jesus to give His life as a ransom for me, for filling me with Your Spirit and moving me to trust in Your Son, and for the promise of eternal life with You when He returns.  Give me strength to endure, to stand firm, to watch and to pray until I see You face-to-face.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"A word from the LORD …"

Day #118:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 25th

Scripture Reading:  Jeremiah 22 - 26 …

People are easily deceived.  They will believe anything ... but the truth!  It is said that "the truth hurts," and when it comes to God's judgment against those who reject Him, or who pretend to worship Him, that is certainly true.  People do not want to be confronted with the reality of sin and its consequences.  We are, by nature, willing to overlook our own faults, while holding the sins of others against them forever.  Such is the state of those who do not know Jesus Christ or His Father in heaven.

God had sent the prophet Jeremiah to the nation of Judah to warn them of His coming judgment.  Jeremiah had told them to surrender and to go into exile in Babylon, but the false prophets continued to tell the people that everything would be all right and they would have peace.  It was a battle between truth and lies, between those who claimed to speak for God and the ONE prophet who really DID!  As Jeremiah warned of the judgment to come, the cause of God's wrath was obvious ... or at least should have been:  "They have forsaken the covenant of the LORD their God and have worshiped and served other gods" (22:9).

In Chapter 22 Jeremiah condemns the kings of Judah, and then in Chapter 23 he condemns the priests ("shepherds") and the prophets.  "Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture" (23:1).  "The prophets follow an evil course and use their power unjustly.  Both prophet and priest are godless" (23:10-11).  What a horrible state of affairs, and how like today in many places throughout the world and even in the United States.  People are lied to and used as pawns to build political and religious empires.  The "priests and prophets" claim to speak for God, but listen to what God says:

"Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes.  They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.  They keep saying to those who despise Me, 'The LORD says:  You will have peace.'  And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, 'No harm will come to you'" (23:16-17).  So preachers and teachers tell those who claim to believe in "God" that all is well, that no harm will befall them.  The "Interfaith Movement" of today is an example of these false prophecies that offer peace on earth, good will toward men as all people are called to believe whatever they want "for the common good."

God says, "But which of them has stood in the council of the LORD to see or to hear His word? ... If they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds" (23:18, 22).  God has spoken in His Word, the Bible, yet the false prophets of today do the same thing they did in Jeremiah's day.  They say, "I had a dream!  I had a dream!" (23:25).  "Let the prophet who has MY WORD speak it faithfully. ... Is not MY WORD like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?" (23:28-29).  God's WORD has power to condemn and power to save.

Jeremiah declares that the exile will happen and the whole country will become desolate for seventy years.  Then God will punish Babylon for how they treated His people.  The people threatened Jeremiah with death for His prophecy, but when Jeremiah promised them that the LORD had sent him and that if they killed him God would hold them guilty, they determined that it was not wise to take the chance that Jeremiah was speaking the truth, so they let him live.

If you fail to see the parallels between these events and what is happening in the visible church today you may find yourself following a false prophet and be part of the apostasy from the truth that God predicts will take place near the return of Christ and which appears to be starting at the present time.  False prophets, false teachers, offer peace to all.  Pope Francis even declared that atheists could be saved; that God loves all of His children.  Other leaders in the church who claim to speak for God teach that God is love and that ultimately everyone will be saved.  As Paul wrote to his young friend, Timothy, people are gathering for themselves teachers who will tell them what they WANT to hear, rather than what they NEED to hear.

Yet, there is hope for those who draw near to the LORD through His Son Jesus Christ, "the Way, the Truth and the Life."  God says, "I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number" (23:3).  "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.  In HIS days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.  This is the name by which He will be called:  The LORD Our Righteousness" (23:5-6).

Certainly, Jeremiah is referring to Jesus Christ, the King who will reign on David's throne (Luke 1:31-33).  In the last days God will restore the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and will draw them to Himself.  In the past few decades God has drawn millions of Jews from the nations of the world.  More will come.  Meanwhile, God is at work through His true Church, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world ... preparing the remnant from the nations to receive the King of the Jews as their King.  Jesus IS "The LORD Our Righteousness!"

Have you listened to the word of the LORD, or are you listening to false prophets?  There are two distinct parts of the message of God's Word:  Judgment is coming, but there is ONE way to escape God's wrath ... listening to God's Word and believing in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Any other message ... ANY other message, is a lie.  It is not from the mouth of the LORD!  Hear the Word of the LORD, our God today, and believe!

"O LORD, our God, Your Word reveals the truth that all people need to hear, yet only those who are given Your Spirit will listen.  I thank You for opening my ears, my heart and my mind and I pray that You will use me to speak truth to others, that they, too, may come to know You and be saved from Your coming judgment.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"If you think God has done something wrong … think again!"

Day #117:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 24th

Scripture Reading:  Job 33 - 34 …

Job and his friends needed to hear the words of God as Isaiah recorded them hundreds of years later …

Isaiah 55:6-9:  "Seek the LORD while He may be found; call on Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts.  Let him turn to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. 'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD.  'As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'"

Enough said.  It is in trying to understand and explain things that are beyond your comprehension and mine that so many people end up questioning and doubting God's wisdom, goodness, faithfulness, compassion, mercy and justice.  And in doing so, people end up like Job, in a spiritual cloud that often results in charging God with wrongdoing!  When that happens, the most merciful thing God can do is to send someone like Elihu to speak TRUTH into your life.  At first, his words may not appear to be very "grace-filled," but they are like shock-treatment for the soul.

Elihu speaks from an attitude of humility.  That's one of the first things to consider when God sends someone to you to correct you.  Is their attitude one of arrogance or humility.  Boldness does not equal arrogance.  Elihu says, "I am just like you before God; I, too, have been taken from clay.  No fear of me should alarm you, nor should my hand be heavy upon you" (33:6-7).  Elihu is not claiming to be speaking on his own and he wants Job to understand that it is God that he has offended.

"You have said, … 'I am pure and without sin; I am clean and free from guilt.  Yet God has found fault with me' …"   (33:8-10).  "But I tell you, in this you are not right, for God is greater than man.  Why do you complain to him?" (33:12-13).  Elihu then goes on to explain that God warns people in various ways and that He disciplines men to draw them away from sin.  These are questions that many people have today concerning suffering and trials.  God tells us repeatedly in His Word that "He disciplines those He loves" (Hebrews 12:4-11).  The wicked will perish, but those who have put their faith in the LORD and His forgiveness and cleansing will live.

James writes, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4).  And Paul writes that "our suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5:3-4).  Young Elihu is saying the same thing to Job here.

He says, "If there is an angel on his side as a mediator … to be gracious to him and say, 'Spare him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for him' - then his flesh is renewed like a child's; it is restored as in the days of his youth.  He prays to God and finds favor with Him, he sees God's face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state" (33:23-26).  Wow! This is the Gospel!  One higher than an angel is our Mediator and HE has paid the ransom for us!!  "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men" (I Timothy 2:5).

Those who have trusted in God's Mediator can testify:  "I sinned, and perverted what was right, but I did not get what I deserved.  He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and I will live to enjoy the light" (33:27-28).  Elihu rightly says, "God does all these things to a man - twice, even three times - to turn back his soul from the pit, that the light of life may shine on him" (33:29-30).  Such wisdom from such a young man … wisdom from the LORD!

We must never get to the place where Job was when he said, "It profits a man nothing when he tries to please God" (34:9).   Instead, we must confess, along with Elihu, "Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong. … It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice" (34:10,12).  He reminds Job, and us, that God could simply withhold His Spirit and we would breathe our last and return to dust (34:14-15).

You and I exist by the will of God, our Creator, and it is only by His grace that our souls are made alive and we are reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ.  Job had testified at one time, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes - I, and not another" (19:25-27).  Through Elihu and the work of His Spirit, God is now in the process of restoring Job by confronting him with the truth.  Such confrontation, then and now, is hard and unpleasant, but in the end God accomplishes His purpose in the lives of His children.

Are you facing trials?  Are you enduring suffering?  Accept these things as they come and draw near to the One who hears your cries for help.  He may remove the trial or give you strength to endure it, but either way, trust in Him and give thanks for His constant presence and His abiding love, which endures forever!  God cannot and will not do wrong.  He WILL deliver you, in HIS time and in HIS way … and for HIS glory.  Rest in God's arms … the arms that are mighty to save, and you will find peace in the midst of the storm.  If you think God has done something wrong … think again!  HE is wiser than you and I are.  "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25).

"O LORD God Almighty, You are greatly to be praised, for You always do that which is right and good.  Help me to trust You when I don't understand Your ways and give me strength to endure discipline, that I may be trained in righteousness and follow the path You have placed before me.  I desire to glorify You and to exalt Your Name, O LORD.  Be my Guide through the storm, that my testimony may point others to You, my God, my Redeemer, my Savior.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"No man can redeem the life of another … but … "

Day #116:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 23rd

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 48 - 50 …

It seems clear that fewer and fewer people understand the word "redemption."  The word is defined as "the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment."  It has also come to mean "the action of saving or being saved from sin, error or evil."  In biblical terms it refers to people being "redeemed" or "saved" from God's just judgment against sin.  As such, the Bible says that we are ALL in need of redemption.  In our natural state, we cannot redeem ourselves and as the Psalmist writes here, "No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him - the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough - that he should live on forever and not see decay" (49:7-9).

What bothers me is that many in the church are agreeing with those in the world who say that mankind either does not need such redemption OR that it is possible for us to redeem ourselves.  "We can DO this!  We can improve ourselves, we can save our world and humanity!"  My question is this:  Can you claim to believe the Bible as the very Word of God and Jesus Christ as your Savior and still believe that you can redeem yourself?  The obvious and clear answer to that in the Bible is, "NO!"  By definition, a Christian is one who believes that only through faith in Jesus Christ, only by believing that He suffered God's wrath against our sins and therefore REDEEMED those whom God had chosen and in whom God is now at work by His Spirit to work repentance and faith … only these escape God's judgment and are saved, redeemed.

Those who claim belief in Jesus without believing THIS deceive themselves and others.  Peter wrote, "Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.  For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (I Peter 1:17-19).  What the Psalmist writes is true:  "No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him" (49:7).

But Jesus said, " … the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).  Jesus came to pay the price and on the cross He cried out, "Tetelestai!" … "It is finished!" … the debt is paid!!  THIS is what God's LOVE is all about.  In His love God doesn't overlook sin - He CAN'T!  Instead, He deals with it.  Psalm 48 speaks of the city of God and refers to Mount Zion, Jerusalem.  There, in the temple, God revealed Himself as just, holy and righteous … AND … as compassionate, merciful and forgiving.  "Within Your temple, O God, we meditate on Your unfailing love" (48:9).

Those in Zion had heard of God and had seen His power and might as He defeated their enemies.  Psalm 49 declares, along with the rest of the Bible, that there are two groups of people on the earth:  those who know the true God and those who don't.  As he speaks of the rich and arrogant in Psalm 49, he declares that those who are rich will not endure.  "Like sheep, they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them … their forms will decay in the grave" (49:14).  "BUT, God will redeem my life from the grave; He will surely take me to Himself" (49:15).  Such a bold declaration is hard to find today, but those who have tasted the grace of God know the love of the Redeemer!

The attitude of those who know God and who draw near to Him through faith in Jesus Christ is THANKFULNESS!  Psalm 50 reminds us that the "Mighty One, God, the LORD" (50:1) will come to judge in righteousness:  "for God Himself is Judge" (50:6).  People may say otherwise and "theologians" may rationalize God's justice as an expression of His love for all people, but the writers of Scripture speak with one voice (the voice of the Spirit of God) when they declare "Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces with none to rescue" (50:22).

Rather, "Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor Me," says the Lord, our God (50:14-15).  "He who sacrifices thank offerings honors Me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God" (50:22-23).  The best thank-offering you can bring to the Lord is YOURSELF!!  Jesus said, "Whoever would come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me!"

Don't let anyone tell you that "redemption" is a meaningless word.  The truth is, anyone who says such a thing proves they don't understand it … and they don't know God … and they don't understand the danger of the road they are walking, because it is wide and many others are on it.  Jesus says it leads to destruction, to death, to judgment.  The writers of the Psalms believed we needed redemption and that only GOD could do it.  We would do well to believe the same!

"O LORD, my God, in You I place my trust.  I confess that because of my sinful estate, I cannot redeem myself.  Therefore, I give thanks to You, my God, for the gift of Your Son, in whom I HAVE redemption - the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Your presence.  I surrender my life to You and ask You to strengthen me to walk in obedience to Your Word and so show myself to be a disciple of Jesus.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Monday, April 21, 2014

"How can God allow such evil?"

Day #115:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 22nd

Scripture Reading:  II Samuel 1 - 4 ...

Politics is nothing new.  While God has some of His people in places of power and influence, the old saying, "Power corrupts!" is all too often descriptive of what happens when people are placed in positions of authority.  So it was in the days of David and so it is today.  Reading these chapters it is hard to imagine that David and Joab and others who were "fighting for God" were really chosen by God or accepted by God in any way.  The things they did were horrific and many people use these things as examples to "prove" that the "God of the Old Testament" was somehow different than the "God of the New Testament."  The problem with that is simple:  It is the God who reveals Himself in the Old Testament who foretells the coming of the Savior, His Son.

What makes more sense, based on the consistent testimony of Scripture, is that God's character does not change from the beginning of time to its end.  He truly is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  He is both just and loving, righteous and merciful, all at the same time.  Just because David and his men responded as they did does not mean that God condoned or approved of such behavior.  So how do we explain it?  Think of it this way:  In the Old Testament, God accomplished His purpose through fallible, sinful human beings who were often overcome by their sinful natures and did despicable things - in the name of God.  In a sense, this was the best God had to work with.

This was the period of time before Jesus had died, risen again and ascended into heaven, and therefore before the Holy Spirit came to live within those who were born again.  Certainly, David and others who believed in the true God were influenced by the Holy Spirit ... the Scriptures tell us this is so.  But it was a different time and God overcame the sin of man, overruled the sin of man and accomplished good IN SPITE OF the tools He used!  And in a way, God does that today, too.  As the saying goes, God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.  So He had anointed David and in spite of his weaknesses and failures, David would be King of Israel.

David was a man after God's own heart because he sought the Lord and because he was aware of his sinful nature.  Later on you will hear God tell David that he would not be the one to build the temple because he had shed so much blood (I Chronicles 22:8).  God uses imperfect people to accomplish His eternal purpose.  (He uses you and me!).  Many people make the mistake of attributing everything people do to God because He is wise enough and powerful enough to turn evil to good in some way.  God, however, is NEVER the cause or author of evil.  People do not have to be "forced" to do evil ... it comes naturally!

As you read through the books of history and the kings remember that men (and Satan) are responsible for evil and that God always, in every way, is righteous AND RIGHT in all His ways.  And because He is good and right and faithful and just, you and I can trust Him in every way at all times.  Entrust your present and your future to the Lord, the Creator of the heavens and the earth.  Seek Him ... set your mind on things above, where Jesus is seated at His right hand, and live to make HIS Name great.  And when all is said and done, He will lift you up!

"Father, it seems sometimes that evil is winning and that even those who know You get caught up in the consequences of the old nature that is in conflict with Your Spirit.  O Lord, my God, empower me to overcome the sin that remains and stir my heart to praise You and to bring glory to You in the way I live my life ... in the way I live the life YOU have given me.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Live and LEARN!"

Day #114:   Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 21st

Scripture Reading:  Exodus 13 - 16 ...

As I read Chapters 13 - 16, I think of Paul's words to the Thessalonians in I Thessalonians 5:16-18:  "Be joyful always, pray continually and in every circumstance give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  The Israelites could have used that counsel as God delivered them from their slavery in Egypt.  Of course, they couldn't know Jesus, BUT, they should have known His Father!

God had revealed Himself in such clear ways through the plagues.  He had made a distinction between the Egyptians and the people of Israel.  The plagues had not touched them.  They had celebrated the Passover and God had moved the Egyptians to give them all they needed as they left the land of slavery.  With a mighty arm God had delivered His people.  Now, as they traveled out of Egypt God told them to consecrate every firstborn male and to remember that day when God would bring them into "the land He swore to your forefathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey" (13:5).

God said that to them not to remind Himself, but to remind THEM of His promise.  "For the LORD brought you out of Egypt with His mighty hand" (13:9).  "In days to come, when your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' say to him, with a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery" (13:14).  As they left Egypt, "Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath ..." (13:19).  God never forgets His promises.  When you read a promise in Scripture it is yours, if you believe and trust the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

In the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire God guided Israel day and night.  What a sight that must have been!  And God had more plans.  He said to Moses, "I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD" (14:4).  Even though they had left Egypt, God wanted to use Egypt to reveal His power and glory again.  We often think that what is going on in our lives is only about US, but GOD is involved and He desires to bring glory to Himself through the events of our lives.

The Israelites, however, had a short-term memory problem.  When they saw Pharaoh's army coming they were terrified and told Moses they were better off in Egypt (14:10-12)!  Moses said, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. ... The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still" (14:14).  And that's exactly what God did.  He parted the sea so they could go through on dry ground and drowned Pharaoh and the Egyptians in the sea!  And the Israelites SAW it!!

Moses and Miriam sang a song about their deliverance, testifying to God's strength and His unfailing love.  "In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.  In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling" (15:13).  Inspired by God they declared, "The LORD will reign for ever and ever!" (15:18).  Oh, God is so good and powerful and faithful.  "Be joyful always, pray continually, and in every circumstance give thanks!!"

God now leads Israel into the desert to test them.  For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water ... and guess what the people did?  They WEREN'T joyful and they DIDN'T pray and they most certainly didn't give thanks!  They grumbled and they complained and God gave them water.  In fact, God led them to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees!!!  Surely, they would now know that God was with them.

But once again they grumbled and complained.  Listen to this:  "If only we had died by the LORD's hand in Egypt!  There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death" (16:3).  They make it sound like they were in a resort in Egypt, rather than enduring harsh slavery.  Now listen to what Moses and Aaron say about their grumbling:  "You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD!" (16:8).  A lot of grumbling would stop if people understood, really understood, that they were grumbling against God!

God now provides manna for them to eat and reminds them that He is their Creator by telling them that they can collect the manna for six days, but not on the sabbath day, the seventh day.  These were GOD's chosen people.  They were special to God, not because of anything they had done or could do or would do.  God had chosen Abraham and had promised to make of him a great nation and to bring the Savior from the line of Judah.  All of this, ALL of this was for the glory of God AND for the good of His people.  But they didn't live and LEARN.

So what's the point for you and me?  Listen again to the Apostle Paul, this time as he writes to the Corinthians:  "I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and they all passed through the sea.  They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.  NEVERTHELESS, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert" (I Corinthians 10:1-5).

But now learn ... verse 6:  "Now these things occurred as examples to keep US from setting our hearts on evil things as they did!"  Live ... and LEARN.  "Be joyful always, pray continually and in every circumstance give thanks, for this is God's will for you IN Christ Jesus!"   (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).  Our God is good AND our God is with us!

"Almighty and everlasting God, You are faithful to all of Your promises and in Christ we know that we who believe are Your people by grace through faith.  Help us, Father, by Your Spirit, to TRUST You, to love You, to serve You and to find joy in following You as You lead us through this life to the 'promised land,' where we will behold Your glory and spend eternity praising YOU!!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"The challenges of ministry …"

Day #113:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 20th

Scripture Reading:  II Corinthians 1 - 3 …

Those who are engaged in Christian ministry today in any capacity understand the challenges serving Christ brings … and since Christ calls every believer to "minister" to others in His Name, everyone who believes in Jesus and who desires to serve Him experiences, to one degree or another, the same challenges.  Ultimately, the challenge comes down to this:  being faithful to Christ, loving people and fulfilling all that God calls you to do.  It is, in every way, an impossible task … if attempted by our own wisdom and strength.

But we are not alone!!  While many call the Apostle Paul the greatest of the apostles, he certainly did not consider himself to be so.  He spoke with authority because he knew he bore the authority of Christ.  He faced persecution with the strength that the Spirit of God gave him.  He endured because he knew he was not alone.  As he offers comfort to the Corinthians at the beginning of this second letter to them, he relates some of the hardships that he and those with him had faced during their journeys through Asia, preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  He says, "In our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God" (1:9).  Do you think prayer matters?  Paul did.  He gave thanks "for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many" (1:11).

In his first letter to the church in Corinth Paul had pointed out their "issues," their sins.  They were a young body of believers and remember, they did not yet have the New Testament writings of the apostles.  There was sin among them that was being tolerated and Paul spoke firmly about what they needed to do to honor Christ.  He explains in this second letter that he did not come to visit them again in order to spare them further reprimands.  He wanted to see if they would be obedient to God in dealing with the immorality that had surfaced in the church.  Now he tells them to forgive the one who had sinned (apparently there had been repentance), saying, "forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.  I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him" (2:7-8).

Church discipline, which is rarely exercised today, is intended to restore the one who has sinned, not to punish.  Awareness of our sin is necessary if we are going to repent, to turn from it, and pursue righteousness by the strength of God within us.  As Paul said in 1:21:  "It is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ."  We ALL need Christ.  The problem in the church today is that sin is tolerated rather than confronted, leaving those who are living in sin, and who are weighed down with guilt inside, without a remedy.  A guilty conscience is Satan's playground!  Confession, repentance, forgiveness and restoration brings freedom and joy!!

So now Paul goes on to explain the difference between the Old Covenant of the Law and the New Covenant of the Spirit that he is proclaiming.  First, he makes it clear that not all people are going to receive the truth  and be saved.  He says, "We are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.  To the one we are the smell of death, to the other, the fragrance of life" (2:15-16).  God's Word at the same time pronounces judgment on those who reject it and salvation to those who believe.  It is our responsibility to offer God's grace and forgiveness in the Gospel and to trust God to work through His Spirit to accomplish His purpose in the lives of those who hear it.

Because many of the Corinthians had believed, Paul could say that "You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone.  You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God" (3:2-3).  How awesome is that?!  Imagine your life as a letter from Christ to the world.  What does it say?  When people look at you, what does your life tell them about Jesus, about our Father in heaven??

The power of the New Covenant is the Holy Spirit.  Jeremiah spoke about this new covenant in Jeremiah 31:33, when God declares, "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts."  This New Covenant is more glorious than the Old Covenant (the Law) because it carries with it the power to fulfill it.  Paul speaks of the "veil" that covered the glory of God as it shone from Moses' face and as it was revealed in the Law itself.  The old nature of sin within us does not want to look at the Law because we know we can't keep it and it makes us feel guilty … because we ARE!  But the New Covenant is different and so is even more glorious.

In the New Covenant God declares that Jesus bore the penalty for our sins and that we now have access, by grace, into the very presence of God.  God now lives within believers by His Spirit, transforming us into the image of His Son.  "Whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away … and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is FREEDOM!  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (3:16-18).

Praise the Lord for His marvelous grace!!  Here is true comfort in all our trials and sufferings in this world!  Here is hope and joy in the Lord that lifts us up and gives us boldness to declare to others that there is grace and forgiveness available at the foot of the cross for all who come.  As Paul greeted the Corinthians, so we can say to those who come, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!" (1:2).  May you know that comfort that comes from knowing God's grace and experiencing His peace.  Jesus is risen!  Hallelujah!!

"Our Father in heaven, to You belongs all the glory for the message of salvation through Your Son Jesus Christ.  Thank You for sending Jesus to be my Savior.  Continue Your work in me so that I may be a minister of Your love and grace, offering forgiveness and restoration to all who believe.  May those who see Your light in me be drawn to You so that they, too, will experience the comfort, hope and joy that comes only from You, our God, our Savior, our Lord.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Friday, April 18, 2014

"The stone the builders rejected … is LORD!"

Day #112:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 19th

Scripture Reading:  Mark 11 - 12 …

As Jesus entered Jerusalem to go to the cross He continued to teach His disciples.  The Pharisees were unwitting illustrations of the spiritual blindness that affects all of mankind.  Thinking they knew the truth about God, they refused to listen to Jesus and would not even entertain the possibility that He WAS Who He said He was.  Instead, they tried to trick Him, to trap Him, so they would have an excuse to put Him to death.

For those of us who believe, it is so easy to see the truth because the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes.  As Jesus approaches Jerusalem He tells His disciples to go into the village and to find the colt of a donkey.  Why the colt of a donkey?  Because the prophet Zechariah had written, "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion!  Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9).  Details!  Our God is a God of details … details that confirm Who Jesus is and what He came to do.

As He entered Jerusalem Jesus went to the temple … the symbol of God's presence with His people.  The purpose of the temple was to point to God, not to provide a place to do the business of the world or to go through a bunch of religious rituals without understanding their meaning.  And what was the response of the chief priest and the teachers of the law:  they began looking for a way to kill him!  THEY were the fig tree that wasn't bearing fruit, and they were the tenants of God's vineyard who killed the Son of God when He came.

The Pharisees were continually challenging Jesus' authority.  "Who gave you authority to do this?" (11:28).  Authority is a big issue in the church today.  Who has authority to speak for God?  The Pope, the leader of the Catholic church claims to have such authority.  Others may claim the same thing, but the truth is only JESUS and the Holy Spirit have the authority to speak for God.  The Father, Son and Spirit are ONE.  Therefore, everything Jesus said bore the authority of God and everything the Bible says, having been inspired by the Spirit, bears the authority of God.

Peter writes concerning Scripture that "no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation.  For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (II Peter 1:20-21).  We who preach can speak with authority only if we proclaim the words of God that have been written down for us.  The Apostle Paul commended the Bereans because when he spoke they checked the Scriptures to see if these things were true (Acts 17:11).  More people need to do that today!  The reason false teachers can and do worm their way into the church is because people have not studied God's Word and are not willing to seek the Scriptures to see if these things are true.  They are easily led astray.

Jesus would say to His disciples after His resurrection:  "All authority has been given to Me, in heaven and on earth!"  (Matthew 28:18).  Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22-23 when He said, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes" (12:10-11).  The question of authority has been asked and answered!  There is no one like Jesus.  When asked about marriage Jesus answered, "When the dead rise they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven" (12:25).

I think of the words of Paul in I Corinthians 7:32-35.  He explains that an unmarried man or woman may devote themselves to pleasing the Lord, while a married man or woman has divided interests.  He says that his desire is that they would live in a right way, "in undivided devotion to the Lord" (vs. 35).  That's what Jesus is saying in Mark 12.  We will be like the angels, living in total devotion to the Lord, focused on Him with perfect love, in adoration and worship as we serve Him forever.  Can you fathom that?  Can you grasp loving God as you are loved by God?

One of the teachers of the law asked Jesus which was the most important commandment and Jesus repeated the words of Moses from Deuteronomy 6:4-5:  "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (12:29-30).  In heaven we will DO that!!!  Oh, can you hardly wait?!!

And then, one more question … this time from Jesus:  "How is it that the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the Son of David?  David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:  'The Lord said to my Lord:  Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.' David himself calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?" (12:35-37).  The large crowd listened to Him with delight, we are told … but they were blissfully ignorant of what He was saying.  How could a "son of David" be David's LORD?  The Holy Spirit was using David to point to Jesus, one born from David's line who was at the same time David's "son" and David's Lord!!  Jesus was claiming to be the ONE David was talking about!

Do YOU know Who He is?  "The stone the builders rejected IS Lord!"  This is how you know if you are one of Jesus' sheep?  Peter writes, "For in Scripture it says:  'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.' Now to you who believe, this stone is precious.  But to those who do not believe, 'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone,' and 'A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall'" (I Peter 2:6-7).  And he goes on, "They stumble because they disobey the message - which is also what they were destined for."

What are YOU destined for?  "The stone the builders rejected IS Lord!"  To those who believe, these words of Peter bring peace and joy:  "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light" (I Peter 2:9).  If you believe that Jesus is Lord, if you confess Him as YOUR Lord and desire to follow Him today, then you have been born again by the Spirit and YOU are one of His!  Live now declaring the praises of the One who called you out of the darkness and who brought you into His marvelous light!

"Heavenly Father, I am amazed, thankful, overwhelmed and humbled by Your grace to me in Christ Jesus.  As I see others question Jesus' authority, I yield to His Lordship and confess that He alone is Lord and His Word, YOUR Word, is true.  Teach me to know the truth and to love the truth, knowing that it leads me always to Jesus, the Christ, my Savior and my Lord, and through Him, to YOU, my Creator and my God!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Thursday, April 17, 2014

"As God has said, so it shall be …"

Day #111:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 18th

Scripture Reading:  Jeremiah 17 - 21 …

That the prophets declared the coming wrath and judgment of God upon Israel, Judah and the surrounding nations cannot be denied.  That they deserved God's judgment cannot be debated.  So do we!  Whether reading through the Old Testament or the New Testament one finds the inevitable testimony that God will pour out His wrath in judgment of mankind's utter contempt for and rebellion against His reign.  In the history of Israel before the birth of Christ, and the history of mankind since, the words written by Jeremiah so long ago stands true throughout the centuries:  "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure" (17:9).

God had established the Sabbath day not only to give mankind a "day off" from work, but to remind them that He was their Creator.  It was not only about keeping a day holy, it was about being a holy people, a people who lived with and for God.  God spoke through Jeremiah, saying, "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. … but blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in HIM" (17:5,7).  The contrast is evident, in life … and in death.

It is important to see the connections God makes between the words of the prophets spoken to Israel and the words of the apostles spoken to us.  "O house of Israel," Jeremiah writes, "can I not do to you as this potter does? …  Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand" (18:6).  When people in the days of the Apostle Paul, as in our day, challenged God's right to judge some and to show mercy to others whom He has chosen, Paul writes, "Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?" (Romans 9:21).

God says, "I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you.  So turn from your evil ways …" (18:11).  "I am going to bring a disaster on this place that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle.  For they have forsaken me …" (19:3-4).  God was very specific about the judgment He was going to bring upon Judah, as He had brought upon Israel.  Jeremiah took no pleasure in bringing this message, but he says, "If I say, 'I will not mention Him or speak any more in His name,' His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in, indeed, I cannot" (20:9).

So it is today for those called to declare God's Word to our "wise" and modern world.  The prophets, Jesus and the apostles speak with one voice, warning of the judgment to come.  Still, as we have seen before, the false prophets declare peace.  Those who would gather all religions together into a large "interfaith" gathering "for the common good" bring judgment upon themselves and all who listen to them.  They are as guilty as some in Judah who attempted to mix the worship of the true God with the worship of foreign gods and who actually sacrificed their children on their altars.

Some sent word to Jeremiah asking him to inquire of the Lord as Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, began his attack.  They said, "Perhaps the LORD will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us" (21:2).  Really?  You ignore the LORD and worship other gods, and then you want HIM to deliver you??!!  But God says, "I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in anger and fury and great wrath" (21:5).  Still, God provided a way out … but not the one they were looking for.

"Tell the people, 'This is what the LORD says:  See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.  Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague.  But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; he will escape with his life.  I have determined to do this city harm and not good'" (21:8-10).  As Moses had offered a choice in Deuteronomy 30:11-20, a choice between obedience or disobedience, so now God offers this choice to the people of Judah.  Blessing or curse lies in a choice … but the problem is, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure" (17:9).

Without the Spirit of God and the new birth, no one can or will choose obedience.  We need a Savior and we need a new heart.  Praise God for the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, through which we receive BOTH!!  As God has said, so it shall be!  All mankind shall face the just judgment and wrath of God, our Creator, and only those who are washed by the blood of Christ will be saved.  Salvation by grace through faith is our only hope … but it is a sure and certain hope.  If you rest in your own strength and try to fight the enemy using your own power, you will certainly be destroyed.

God has set before us the way of life and the way of death!  Which have you chosen?  Which will you choose?  The evidence of being born again is faith and obedience.  Through faith in Jesus you must receive Him as the perfect sacrifice for your sin and trust in Him alone for forgiveness and life.  And by the power of His Spirit who has given you new life, you will desire to please God above all else, confessing your sin, desiring to turn from it (repent) and pursuing holiness.  Do you see this evidence in your life?  Praise God! For it is His gift of grace.

If now you long for a new life and new hope in the LORD, draw near with confidence, knowing that it is He Himself who is drawing you to come to Him … and He will never turn you away.  As certainly as He will carry out His judgment upon those who reject Him, He will save all those who humble themselves and come to Him in the Name of His Son, Jesus.  So let it be written … so let it be done!

"O LORD, our God, Your holiness demands judgment upon those who reject You, who turn away from You to other gods of their own making, and who disobey Your Word.  Thank You for Your grace in Christ Jesus, that through faith in Him we can come boldly to Your throne, confessing our sin and trusting in Your forgiveness!  To YOU be praise, glory and honor, in Jesus' name, Amen"

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Wisdom does not necessarily come with age ... "

Day #110:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 17th

Scripture Reading:  Job 31 - 32 ...

We spoke last week about pride sneaking up on Job and in Chapter 31 Job continues to try to defend himself against the attacks leveled against him by his "friends."  Attempting to declare his innocence of all wrongdoing, he used the word "if" over and over and over again.  He says, "IF I have done this" or "IF I have done that" or "IF I have not done this or that" ... "If ... if ... if ... "  You want to just interrupt and say, "Job, STOP!"  But in Job's defense, it is a bit difficult to ignore accusations being made repeatedly by those who claim to be your friends.  I don't want to make Job out to be "worse" than he was.  He had been through a lot, and his friends were not helping.  They offered him no comfort, did not point him to the God who is faithful and responded as though they KNEW Job better than he knew himself.

Finally, young Elihu, who had been listening to this long, drawn-out conversation, decided to end his silence.  He explains that he hesitated to speak because Job and his friends were all older than he and he expected them to speak with wisdom.  He explains that he was "angry with Job for justifying himself rather than God"  (32:3).  How many have done the same through the ages.  Wanting to maintain our innocence is folly.  "There is no one righteous, no not one!" (Romans 3:10).  We all know that, yet it seems some need to be reminded of that truth.  There is benefit in confessing our sin AND in knowing that God is always just and righteous in all He does.  When you try to justify yourself it often results in questioning God and thus makes you feel distant from Him at the very moment when you need Him most.  How much better to confess your sin, trust in God's grace and draw near to Him.

As believers we know that we have a great High Priest, Jesus, who is seated at the Father's right hand and Who is interceding for us.  Job believed in God and in His forgiveness, but somewhere Job and his three friends had taken their eyes off of God and became entangled in an endless and foolish debate that led only to a deadend.  Mercifully, young Elihu now decided to speak.

He says, "The spirit within me compels me ..."  It was GOD's Spirit within Elihu that prompted him now to speak.  He said "It is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding."  This is what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2, when speaking about wisdom from the Spirit of God:

"For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him?  In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.  We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. ... The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God ... he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. ... But we have the mind of Christ" (I Corinthians 2:11-16).

True wisdom doesn't come with age; it is a gift from God through the work of His Spirit.  As you listen to young Elihu speak over the next few chapters you will hear more wisdom in a short time than you heard from Job's other friends over this whole long discourse.  There are people in this world who are "smart," by the world's standards, but few who are truly wise.  The wisdom of man does not lead to the one, true God; it cannot, because true wisdom requires humbling yourself before your Creator and acknowledging that HE, and not YOU, is God.

Job needed God.  Job's friends needed God.  You need God and I need God.  He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourself and in due time God will lift you up.  Job would learn that lesson, first from Elihu and then from the mouth of God Himself.  Be quick to listen and quick to learn.  Wisdom can be yours when you are willing to humble yourself and draw near to the One who holds Your life in His hands.

"Father, it is comforting to know that Your grace and love are sufficient for my every need.  I gladly and willingly humble myself before You, confessing my sin and resting in Your forgiveness through faith in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me, Lord, to seek Your wisdom.  Fill me with Your Spirit so that I can share Your wisdom with others and give You glory for who You are.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"O worship the King!"

Day #109:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - April 16th

Scripture Reading:  Psalms 45 - 47 …

In reading through the Bible, those who are given ears to hear ... and eyes to see ... and minds to understand ... and hearts to accept ... readily see the truth that this is God's testimony concerning Himself and His purpose and plan for the earth and for all those who have lived, are living and ever will live upon it.  The words of these psalms were written and sung by God's people some 3,000 years ago, yet they speak clearly of Jesus and God's purpose to reign over all the earth.  The past and the future come together and merge into one arrow pointing to the majesty, power and wisdom of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

It is virtually impossible as a Christian to read Psalm 45 and not think immediately of the descendant of David who will reign over the nations.  The writer mentions "the king" (vs. 2) and speaks of his splendor and majesty.  "In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness …" (vs. 4).  At one time he speaks of God:  "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever …" (vs. 6), and of one whom God has set "above your companions" (vs. 7).  This "one" will be "married" to his bride and "the nations will praise you for ever and ever" (vs. 17).

The entire Psalm speaks of the coming King, descended from David, before whom the nations will bow.  He will be united with His Bride, the Church, and we will be "led in with joy and gladness" as we "enter the palace of the king" (45:15).  This picture of the wedding of the King and His Bride is repeated in Revelation 19:6-9:  " … the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready" … "Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!"  Only those who are united to Christ by faith through the work of His Holy Spirit will share eternity with Him in the new heavens and the new earth.  For these there is good news even as we live in this world.

Psalm 46 transports believers into the presence of the God who is with us.  When God SEEMS far away, the truth is that He is "our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. THEREFORE, we will not fear!" (46:1-2).  Fear is not of the Lord, our God.  God dwells in His holy place, and He has determined that through the cleansing blood of Jesus, WE are the place where He will dwell!  Thus the refrain, "The LORD Almighty IS with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress" (46:7,11).  Notice the specific nature of this declaration.  It is not just any "god" that is with us, but the Almighty God, Yahweh, the great "I AM," the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!

There is so much "noise" in our world today that tries to drown out God's voice; thus, the call to "be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" (46:10).  Where do you find strength?  Where do you find a refuge, a fortress, where there is peace and rest?  God rules over the nations.  He holds you in His hands.  He is with you and will never leave you.  His purpose will be accomplished and all the earth will praise Him.  You and I who believe have the privilege of doing that TODAY and every day!  But that will happen only if you know Him and know that HE alone is God AND that through faith in His Son Jesus Christ He IS with you - NOW and forever!

The result is expressed so beautifully in Psalm 47:  "Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.  How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth!" (vss. 1-2).  See again the relationship of God to the nations.  He subdues them, while choosing His inheritance.  How do you know if you are part of His inheritance?  You will praise Him!!  God is and will be exalted over all things.  He IS the King of all the earth and is worthy of praise, so why don't all people praise Him?  Because they don't know Him, they don't confess His Name and they do not come to Him in the only way that God has provided:  through faith in Jesus Christ.

Most people refuse to acknowledge any king; they refuse to believe that anyone rules over them.  The sinful nature wants to rule itself - thus the conflicts, wars and turmoil all over the earth.  It will be so until He comes before whom every knee will bow and whose name every tongue will confess.  The Psalmist wrote of Him more than 3,000 years ago.  We know who He is!  When Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do you say I am?", He was calling them to acknowledge that He is the One the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets spoke about.

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciples and said, "This is what I told you while I was still with you:  Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms" (Luke 24:44).  It was Psalms like these that Jesus was referring to, for they speak of His majesty, truth, humility and righteousness.  Even now Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, reigning over all things until He comes to reign as King upon the earth over all the nations.  And He will come again to defeat His enemies and ours and we will reign with Him!

Since these things are true, what difference does it make in your daily life?  When you are tempted to be discouraged, to give in to temptation, to live for the things of the world, do you see how believing in Jesus and knowing that He IS King gives you direction, focus, purpose and meaning for everything you do?  In your family, in the Church, at work and in your leisure, Jesus calls you to serve Him and to remember who HE is, so you will know who YOU are:  a child of THE KING!

Worship the King with joy today and find in Him all you need, remembering that "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  therefore, we will not fear … The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress!"

"Almighty God, through Your anointed King we find strength, rest, hope, joy and peace.  Help me daily to set my heart and my mind on worship, giving my life to serve You in the name of Your Son Jesus and by the power of Your Spirit who lives within me.  Remind me often that not only will You give me all I need, but that You ARE all I need!  May I be still amidst the rush of the world so that I may know that YOU are God, and live to give You praise, in Jesus' name, Amen"