The Word Became Flesh…

John 1:1-2, 14 (NIV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

I love the Christmas Story as shared in the Synoptic Gospels – (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). They provide great detail of the “human” story of Jesus … the ancestral history and genealogy … the people, places, and circumstances leading up to His birth … the visiting angels … the fulfillment of prophecies … and so much more. It is a fascinating story and so easy to let your mind wander through the images of what it might have been like to have lived in the time of Jesus’ birth. And I think we all need to know this historical story. It brings a relational aspect to Jesus as the Son of Man. His human story is much like our own. A human birth … a mother and a father … a family. He encountered the same experiences and challenges of human maturation. And Jesus navigated human existence in an unprecedented manner … unlike any other person:

Hebrews 2:14-18 (NIV)

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels He helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason He had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Indeed, we can see and understand Jesus as one of us … a human … a Son of Man … in three Gospel accounts. But the Apostle John begins his Gospel record from a different point of view – which brings a profound perspective of Jesus’ entrance into humanity that we need to consider as well. Our Verse of the Day unveils the eternal origin of His divine nature as Son of God. God Himself took on flesh and blood … to reveal Himself in an intelligible way to His human creations. I think He did so to remove the mystery of His Being and to restore the relational separation between us. Through His Son, God reconciled the world to Himself (Cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19) and that is the greatest story of all! Witnessing the glory of Jesus, John understood something far deeper about Jesus … an intimate knowledge of His grace and truth … the purpose for which He was sent into the world … a world He created though the world did not recognize Him. (Cf. John 1:10)

There are other verses we have studied in the past that comes to mind, and I think they relate to the declaration John made concerning Jesus as the “Word” of God. Jesus became the living Word of God when He dwelt among us. Jesus spoke what the Father gave Him to say and He shared it with us. (Cf. John 8:28; 8:38; 12:50) Moreover, Jesus “fulfilled” the Word of God spoken to the Prophets. (Cf. Matthew 5:17) Perhaps this is why it was written: “Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in heaven.” (Cf. Psalm 119:89)

Oh, how we need to understand Jesus is both the Son of Man and Son of God. For in both aspects of His nature – His is, indeed, the eternal, living Word of God! He came the first Advent as a baby and lived a perfect human life. And He experienced death as a human in the most unconscionable way. But, Praise God! Jesus is the resurrection and the life! (Cf. John 11:25) And He has promised to return (His Second Advent) to take us to be with Him (Cf. John 14:3) and to bring salvation to fulfillment:

Hebrews 9:24-28 (NIV)

24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did He enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But He has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

So, during this Season of Advent – I pray we will continue to remember not only the birth of Jesus, but His triumphant life that has brought us reconciliation and salvation! And let us ever keep the hope of His return … His Second Coming in our hearts so that we might live worthy of Him and be prepared when He comes. Even so, come Lord Jesus! (Cf. Revelation 22:20)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

His Love Endures Forever…

Psalm 136:1 (NIV)

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever…

Though Thanksgiving Day has passed and we have entered the Season of Advent in preparation for the arrival of the Son of God … we have reason each day to give thanks to the LORD. Indeed, when we declare, “God is good,” there is a response we usually receive, “All the time!” Indeed, God is good all the time … and all the time, God is good! He is merciful and gracious because “His love endures forever!” So, I pray we will keep thanksgiving ever before us each day of life. If we see the sun rise, let us fall to our knees and give thanks to the God of heaven for another day to serve Him … and to love one another as He commanded.

If you have a moment today, spend a few minutes and read the entire Psalm 136 as it recounts the myriad of ways God has manifested Himself to humankind. Indeed, He has revealed Himself through supernatural acts on behalf of His people. The link above is for the NIV, but I have reprinted the New Living Translation (NLT) below:

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords. His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to Him who alone does mighty miracles. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to Him who made the heavens so skillfully. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to Him who placed the earth among the waters. His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to Him who made the heavenly lights— His faithful love endures forever.
The sun to rule the day, His faithful love endures forever.
And the moon and stars to rule the night. His faithful love endures forever.

10 Give thanks to Him who smote the firstborn of Egypt. His faithful love endures forever.
11 He brought Israel out of Egypt. His faithful love endures forever.
12 He acted with a strong hand and powerful arm. His faithful love endures forever.
13 Give thanks to Him who parted the Red Sea. His faithful love endures forever.
14 He led Israel safely through, His faithful love endures forever.
15 But He hurled Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea. His faithful love endures forever.
16 Give thanks to Him who led His people through the wilderness. His faithful love endures forever.

17 Give thanks to Him who struck down mighty kings. His faithful love endures forever.
18 He smote powerful kings— His faithful love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites, His faithful love endures forever.
20 And Og king of Bashan. His faithful love endures forever.
21 God gave the land of these kings as an inheritance— His faithful love endures forever.
22 A special possession to His servant Israel. His faithful love endures forever.

23 He remembered us in our weakness. His faithful love endures forever.
24 He saved us from our enemies. His faithful love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every living thing. His faithful love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of Heaven. His faithful love endures forever.

In addition, here are some links to some wonderful passages that I believe will bless you:

David’s Song of Praise                                             1 Chronicles 16:7-36

Glorious Presence of the Lord                                2 Chronicles 5:7-14

Defeat of the Armies                                                2 Chronicles 20:20-24

A Song for the Sabbath Day                                    Psalm 92

Songs of Joy and Victory                                         Psalm 118

Perhaps, you might write your own Psalm and list all the ways that God has expressed His steadfast love to you…. When you are finished, read it out loud and declare it to your heart in the hearing of your ears. You might be surprised at how powerful giving thanks can be….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Give Praise to the Lord…

1 Chronicles 16:8 (NIV)

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.

Inherent with giving thanks to God is the offering of praise to Him as the expression of our gratitude! And we can do so in two ways: vertically and horizontally. While I think, for the most part, we are comfortable to express our praise directly to God during individual prayer time, or perhaps, during corporate worship; I believe where we might not feel so “bold” is sharing our thanks and praise in front of other people outside of family or church. Our Verse of the Day encourages us to “proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” This level of exaltation goes beyond our homes and our local assembly. We are to declare the life of God within His people to everyone … everywhere. Let’s look at this verse in the immediate context when David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the Tent (Tabernacle); offered sacrifices; and appointed congregational worship leaders:

1 Chronicles 16:7-36 (NIV)

7 That day David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner:

8 Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done. 9 Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. 10 Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 11 Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. 12 Remember the wonders He has done,His miracles, and the judgments He pronounced, 13 you His servants, the descendants of Israel, His chosen ones, the children of Jacob. 14 He is the Lord our God; His judgments are in all the earth. 15 He remembers His covenant forever, the promise He made, for a thousand generations, 16 the covenant He made with Abraham, the oath He swore to Isaac. 17 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: 18 “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.” 19 When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, 20 they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. 21 He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake He rebuked kings: 22 “Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.” 23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim His salvation day after day. 24 Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples. 25 For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods. 26 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 27 Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and joy are in His dwelling place. 28 Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before Him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness. 30 Tremble before Him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. 31 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!” 32 Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! 33 Let the trees of the forest sing, let them sing for joy before the Lord, for He comes to judge the earth. 34 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever. 35 Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.” 36 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Then all the people said “Amen” and “Praise the Lord.”

I know this was a lengthy passage of Scripture, but I find it so expressive and powerful! I believe it truly captures the heart of thanksgiving and describes its foundations for worship. Yes, and note in Verse 7 how David first appointed Asaph and his associates to give praise to the Lord in this manner!  This is our blueprint for praise and worship! So, I pray these thoughtful, inspired instructions of David will encourage us to find liberty of expression not only during times of congregational worship … but will fill us with courage and boldness to express the praises of God with others who cross our paths. Indeed, we need to get out of our comfort zones and tell everyone what HE has done … declaring His faithfulness not only in the lives of His people before us, but in our own lives as well!

Yes, give praise to the Lord and proclaim His Name! His Name is a strong and mighty tower … a shelter like no other … and it alone has the power to save! As the Prophet Joel foretold, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Cf. Joel 2:32; Romans 10:13) And as Peter declared: “There is no other name under heaven given among mankind by which we must be saved.” (Cf. Acts 4:12) Indeed, what a beautiful, wonderful, powerful name … is the name of Jesus! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

God of Wonders…

Job 37:5-6 (NIV)

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’

I thought our Verse of the Day had a great message as I watched the gale bent trees and wind driven sheets of rain outside my window – the forces of Hurricane Nicole as it passed through our area. It reminded me again of the sovereign power of God displayed in creation, and this truth resonated even deeper today.  Coming from the Book of Job, I realized that I had not read this particular book in a while, so I thought that I would at least read this chapter and catch up on the wisdom of my patient, suffering friend. However, Chapter 37 was just a continuation of a “rebuke” directed at Job from his friend, Elihu, that had started earlier at the beginning of Chapter 35. So, I spent some time reading these chapters. Although we find at the conclusion of the Book of Job that Elihu and two other friends were misguided in their assessment of Job’s character and his relationship with God, I think their insight and contemplations about the character of God should not be ignored or dismissed. If we look at the discourse of Elihu, we can still glean some inspiration from him that will impact our theology.

Job 37:1-16 (NIV)

1 “At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place. Listen! Listen to the roar of His voice, to the rumbling that comes from His mouth. He unleashes His lightning beneath the whole heaven and sends it to the ends of the earth. After that comes the sound of his roar; He thunders with His majestic voice. When His voice resounds, He holds nothing back. God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’ So that everyone He has made may know His work, He stops all people from their work. The animals take cover; they remain in their dens. The tempest comes out from its chamber, the cold from the driving winds. 10 The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen. 11 He loads the clouds with moisture; He scatters His lightning through them. 12 At His direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever He commands them. 13 He brings the clouds to punish people, or to water His earth and show His love. 14 “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders. 15 Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes His lightning flash? 16 Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of Him who has perfect knowledge?

In this particular passage, we can find truth regarding the majesty and power of God as it is displayed in familiar scenes of our physical existence. I love the imagery that Elihu uses to describe tempestuous weather … the experience of flashing bolts of lightning and the thunderous sonic booms that shake us afterwards. He entertains the reactions of both man and creatures; and he attributes these workings of nature to its Creator – God Himself. We can observe the mysterious and the miraculous in nature and never quite understand how it all works or how it all fits together. Seriously, do we really understand rain? Do we really understand the wind and its movement? Oh, scientists and meteorologists might explain “how it works,” but I think they fail to expound on “why it works.” I believe the “why” is the inherent wisdom and knowledge of God. Indeed, our Father has ordained and designed every detail of creation for His own purpose and pleasure.

As I meditate on these things, what amazes me the most is that God delights to share His creative pleasure with mankind. King David mused: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Cf. Psalm 8:3-5) How incredibly wonderful it is that we can view the starry expanses of the universe, the majestic heights of mountains, the beauty of windswept canyons, and intricacies of wave sculpted coastlines – their awe-inspiring vistas filling our eyes with amazement and our hearts with the knowledge of His perfect splendor….

So, yes, I invite you to revisit some of the colorful, poetic language found in the Book of Job … and really throughout much of the “wisdom” literature compiled in the Scriptures. People, moved by the Holy Spirit, captured a wealth of understanding about God as they contemplated and meditated on His creative works. I think, sometimes, we just are too busy in our lives to stop and notice … or to ponder the incredible design of creation and every detail within it. Maybe this verse is a reminder to stop for a moment and receive the joy of knowing everything was created for our enjoyment and delight as well. Indeed, what a gracious and loving Father we have to love and worship in return for this experience of life! So, I pray that today we will be encouraged to spend time with our Heavenly Father and to give Him thanks for the lovingkindness He displays toward us through His Creation….

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. ~ Genesis 1:1

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Ultimate Authority

Romans 13:1 (NIV)

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Our Verse of the Day is not always seen in a positive light … especially when we can survey the history of governments and rulers that have come and gone over the millennia. Some have been viewed as forces for good; while others have proliferated evil against their own people and surrounding countries. While we do not always agree with the government authorities over us, in democratic and republic forms, citizens are still afforded the privilege to cast their votes for whom they believe will best serve the purposes of God. And so, I believe we should exercise our right to vote whenever possible for this very reason….

Romans 13:1-7 (NIV)

1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

To me, the primary principal that we need to understand from this verse is the sovereignty of God. There is no vote cast … no military coup … no passing of a monarchal crown … no political violence or war that God has not permitted to occur within His greater sovereign will. Sometimes that is hard for us to understand when we see the mistreatment and suffering of innocent people under a totalitarian regime; but we trust that God will cause all things to work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Cf. Romans 8:28) In addition, we need to realize that the higher purposes of God will always result in His glory … not the glory of man or any other. (Cf. Isaiah 42:8; 48:10-11) God, speaking through Moses, declared to Pharaoh His sovereignty saying, “For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Cf. Exodus 9:15-16; Romans 9:17) On this side of history, we now know the glory God achieved through this ancient Egyptian king….

We cannot know all the reasons why God exercises His sovereign will in the ways that He chooses; but we do know what God has revealed in His Word is the assurance that He is working His will for our ultimate good. We can look at the historical records of King Cyrus, King Darius, and King Artaxerxes during the captivity of Israel in the Babylonian Empire. (Cf. Ezra 6:14) We can look at the testimonies of some Old Testament Prophets:

2 Chronicles 20:5-6 (NIV)

5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard 6 and said: “Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you.

Jeremiah 10:6-7 (NIV)

6 No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. 7 Who should not fear you, King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise leaders of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you.

Zephaniah 3:7-8 (NIV)

7 Of Jerusalem I thought, ‘Surely you will fear me and accept correction!’ Then her place of refuge would not be destroyed, nor all my punishments come upon all those I appointed over her. But they were still eager to act corruptly in all they did. 8 Therefore wait for me,” declares the Lord, “for the day I will stand up to testify. I have decided to assemble the nations, to gather the kingdoms and to pour out my wrath on them— all my fierce anger. The whole world will be consumed by the fire of my jealous anger.

These are just a few examples of where the Scriptures have testified to the sovereignty of God … not only over the nation of Israel … but over all the nations and kingdoms of the earth. And if you think of these events in theological terms, the sovereign work of God has been to bring Israel into a faithful, covenant relationship with Himself. And that is what He desires for all believers! Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) So perhaps we need to view God with this perspective in mind. What God permits in the geopolitical realm is to accomplish His will and purpose in the spiritual realms of our hearts. The authorities over us are part of the context in which each of us live out the message of the Gospel. I think Isaiah 48 provides great insight into how God works in the lives of His people in order to bring them to the obedience of faith. I encourage you to read it….

Both Peter and Paul admonished believers to submit to the governmental and civil authorities over us; to show proper respect for them and their offices; and to pray for them so that we may live peaceful and quiet lives:

1 Peter 2:13-17 (NIV)

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Well, there is certainly more that could be discussed on this topic, but I think this will suffice to get us focused in the right direction.  And I hope that you will see your freedom to vote is part of the context in which God is working His will on the earth.  I urge you to exercise your right and to pray for those in office as well as those seeking office.  Pray they will be servants of God as they fulfill the responsibilities of their offices. Ask God to fill them with the knowledge of His will through all wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. (Cf. Colossians 1:9) Then, perhaps, we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Chosen People…

1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.

We have referenced our Verse of the Day on previous occasions. Yet, each time I read it and meditate on it, I experience a fresh impact on my thoughts regarding relationship with God through Christ. This is such an affirming verse for believers! We find the foundation of these assurances of election in the Old Covenant. So, I thought it would be good to look at those and see how Peter applies them to believers as partakers of the New Covenant:

Deuteronomy 7:6-11 (NIV)

6 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession. 7 The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath He swore to your ancestors that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. (See Also Deuteronomy 14:2)

Isaiah 42:5-7 (NIV)

5 This is what God the Lord says—the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

Isaiah 49:5-9 (NIV)

5 And now the Lord says— He who formed me in the womb to be His servant to bring Jacob back to Him; and that Israel might be gathered to Him – for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength— 6 He says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have preserved. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” This is what the Lord says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—to Him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” 8 This is what the Lord says: “In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, 9 to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’

1 Peter 2:4-10 (NIV)

4 As you come to Him (Jesus), a living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 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.” (Citing Isaiah 28:16) 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”(Citing Psalm 118:22) 8 and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” (Citing Isaiah 8:14) They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

For the prophetic application, we can see the OT references captured in the passage authored by Peter. Here Peter asserts that those who once upon a time were NOT a people have now become the people of God. Before, Gentiles had not received the mercies of God, but now we have received His mercy through Christ Jesus. In Christ, we have become “chosen” people. We have been chosen IN Him and set apart (made holy) as a nation gathered under its king. We have become God’s special (treasured) possession because we abide in the Son He loves us.

What I appreciate most is that Peter provides for us the reason or purpose that God has shown us such great mercy and chosen us: “that we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light!” This is what God expects from His people – praise and worship – in Spirit and in truth! (Cf. John 4:23-24) We are being built into a spiritual house to be a “holy priesthood” in order to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Does this remind you of another verse we have studied? “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. (Cf. Romans 12:1) And, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess His name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (Cf. Hebrews 13:15-16)

Jesus is the living Stone … the chief cornerstone … the Rock upon which we as living stones are being built into a temple of the Spirit. Collectively, we are the Body of Christ in whom the Spirit of God lives. We are His House … we are His Church … the “Called Out Ones” or Ecclesia (Latin). Believers have been called out of the world. In this connotation, we have been chosen out of the world and placed into Christ (His Body).

John 15:18-19 (NIV)

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

John 17:5-7; 14-18 (NIV)

And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.“I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.

When we peer into the depths of who we are in Christ, it is evident to me that believers have been separated out by Father God, the Creator of the universe Himself, for a special purpose! This calling out … this setting apart … this sanctification … is effectuated through our faith in Jesus Christ. And God has revealed to us His purpose for doing so: “That we may declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His wonderful light!” Yes, we were chosen for this very purpose … to be a royal priesthood unto God … a holy people unto God … not for our own sake but for His glory! As the Apostle Paul affirmed, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Cf. Ephesians 2:10)

So, I pray that each of us will see ourselves as part of the greater purpose for which God the Father has called us out of the world. Yes, I hope this short study helps you to see connections in the Scriptures that you might not have seen before. And I pray it encourages you to know how deeply God loves you … and why He has saved you out of the darkness in which we once live and brought us into the marvelous light of His Son. (Cf. Matthew 4:12-16; Luke 2:25-32) It is because of His mercy that we have been drawn to His light … to be born of God and to become His treasured possession. So let us praise Him who called us! Let us worship Him in the Spirit and in Truth! Let us offer Him spiritual sacrifices as a priesthood of the New Covenant … under the authority of our great High Priest, Christ Jesus! Yes, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

The Words of My Mouth…

Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

As I read our Verse of the Day, the first thought I had was: “What words? What meditation?” So, I stopped to read the entire Psalm and find out.  I have reprinted it here for you:

Psalm 19 (NIV)

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech; they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 2 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Wow! King David had a remarkable awareness of God … an intimate relationship with Him. He understood God as the loving Creator of all things … the entire universe and all of its inner workings, the stars and galaxies, the planets, and all that fill them. David understood His inconceivable power and divine being and that God is worthy of reverence and worship from all created things. He even meditates here that the heavens testify of God’s being and His glory. Then David moves to recognition of God’s Word. Words … speech … languages are nothing more than the articulation of thoughts … of concepts. They can be descriptive or definitive. But words (and sounds) are connected to the ideas intended to be communicated and shared between living creatures. In this context, the Word of God is the articulation (revelation) of God’s thoughts and of His will. David declares the thoughts of God are perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, radiant, joy giving, wisdom instilling, righteous, pure, highly valuable, and eternal. In keeping (observing and obeying) the Word of God, we receive the reward of knowing Him in an intimate way. We discover the passion of His thoughts toward us and His sovereign will for us. We conceive and experience the “heart” of God … full of love (agape) for us – creatures made in His own image. I cannot think of any greater reward than His gift of everlasting life and being surrounded by His presence and glory.

So, what are the meditations of your heart today? What thoughts have you or will you share with God today? David gave us an awesome example that I believe God found “pleasing” to Him. As for me, my thoughts drifted to this verse in Isaiah as I began to write:

Isaiah 64:4 (NIV)

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.

1 Corinthians 2:6-14 (NIV)

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen,what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”the things God has prepared for those who love Him10 these are the things God has revealed to us by His Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

1 Corinthians 1:18-30 (NIV)

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Citing Isaiah 29:14) 20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before Him. 30 It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Lord God, may it be that only your words become the words of my mouth. May it be that the meditation of my heart is upon you and you alone.  May I see the wisdom of your Word … may it be my only guide … a lamp for my feet and a light unto my path. (Cf. Psalm 119:115) This is the meditation and desire of my heart, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. There is no one like you.  There is none besides you. You alone are Creator. You alone are Savior. You have blessed my soul with thoughts too deep for me; and yet, my soul rests in you. Indeed, those who know your Name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation! Yes, I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.” Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

He Does Great Things…

Job 37:5-6 (NIV)

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; He does great things beyond our understanding. He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth,’ and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.’

As I read our verse this morning … I smiled inside and appreciated the reminder: He does great things beyond our understanding!  Indeed, “Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as His counselor?” (Cf. Isaiah 40:13; Romans 11:34) As the Prophet Isaiah shared: “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. (Cf. Isaiah 55:8-9) We simply cannot know the intelligence or expressive power of our Creator!  All we can really do is marvel at Him … gaze into the heavens at His glory … or lie still in deep silence and listen to our own heartbeat! These sensory experiences weave a tapestry of reverence within our hearts for our Heavenly Father and for His Son … our Lord Jesus. “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Cf. Colossians 15-17)

But I think the greatest thing our God has done beyond all understanding … at least from my point of view … is to show each one of us in no uncertain terms: “You are loved!” Like David, sometimes it is difficult for us to understand the love and compassion of God. Sometimes doubts arise within us as we consider our own being in the light of what is known of His eternal power and divine nature. (Cf. Romans 1:20)

Psalm 8 (NIV)

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:
All flocks and herds, and the animals of the wild,
The birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

But the Apostle John assures us: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.” (Cf. 1 John 3:1) Indeed, the love of God reaches to the heavens; His faithfulness reaches to the skies. (Psalm 36:5; Psalm 57:10; Psalm 108:4)

1 John 4:9-10

This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Romans 5:6-8 (NIV)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Oh, I pray this morning that we will take hold of this truth and believe this truth!  God loves His people more than His own life! It’s incomprehensible to us because we are the created ones, but our Creator made us in His image because of His great love. Psalm 89:1 says, “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.” “For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.” (Psalm 86:13) “For great is His love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 117:2) “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:22)

A final thought for the Day!  May this passage also remind you of who you are in Christ and how greatly you are loved:

Ephesians 2:1-10 (NIV)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Eyes on the Lord…

Psalm 16:8 (NIV)

I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Psalm 16 has always been one of my favorites … and our verse is taken from there.  I want to just go ahead and reprint the entire Psalm for our reference:

Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

There are many petitions and supplications contained here … but we also see praise and thanksgiving within the context as well.  The themes that I see are to take refuge in the Lord; to keep our eyes fixed on Him; and to trust in His provision of everything we need for life. He alone is our security. He alone is our rest. He is our eternal portion and inheritance.  We have nothing except what He has given us to enjoy.  I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart is instructed. He has made known to me the path of life! He has filled me with joy in His presence! Eternal pleasures at His right hand!

Father … we thank you for your pleasant word to us.  We thank you for the encouragement and the strength your word provides us.  Our hearts are glad! Our lips sing praises to your Name!  We can rest under the shadow of your wings and trust in your abundant provision. To you we look for redemption of our bodies … the promise of eternal life through your son, Christ Jesus.  We worship you for who you are and for all you have done for us. Our joy and delight are in you! So, Lord, help us to keep our eyes fixed upon you … upon Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. (Cf. Hebrews 12:2) For it is in His Name … the name above every other name … that we pray.  Amen….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Unsearchable Things…

Jeremiah 33:2-3 (NIV)

“This is what the Lord says, He who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is His name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

I love to think about what the Prophet Jeremiah received and shared … this incredible word from our Sovereign Creator. Yes, the Lord (YAH) is His Name! “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Cf. Romans 1:20) It is this Being … God the Father … who says to us: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”  How wonderful is that word? I’m like: “Yes, I would like to know great and unsearchable things.” But then I continued to read the passage and its message of restoration … its confirmation of hope and salvation:

Jeremiah 33:14-16 (NIV)

14 “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah. 15 “‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; He will do what is just and right in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which He will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’

Well, I realize that God the Father has already fulfilled that great and unsearchable thing. His name is Jesus! Who among us can truly comprehend what God has done? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Cf. John 1:1-3; 14) Do we really understand what this means? Is this not the greatest mystery ever told? Indeed, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable. (Cf. Psalm 145:3) And so, I feel like Paul who concluded:

Romans 11:33-36 (NIV)

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His ways past finding out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor?” (Quoting Isaiah 40:13)
35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” (Quoting Job 41:11)
36 For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:8-11 (NKJV)

To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christand to make all see what is the dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; 10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the Church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him. 

Mysteries! Hidden in God since the beginning of creation! Yet, His glory and wisdom has been revealed to us in Christ Jesus our Lord! God has made known His passionate love for us! Yes, the unsurpassed love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord IS the great and unsearchable thing He has foretold. God has shown us … He has demonstrated to us … His will and purpose! God said, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell great and unsearchable things you do not know.” Well, God wants you and I to know Him! He wants us to know His great love! So the Father sent us His Son … the Word made flesh:

Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV)

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

If we want to know the Father … we need only to know the Son. Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.” (Cf. John 14:6-7) Yes, to know Jesus … to have an intimate relationship with Him … is to have fellowship with the Father as well. He is the promise of the Father … fulfilled as declared through the Prophet Jeremiah. So now anyone can know the unsearchable riches found in Jesus Christ! He is the Lord Our Righteous Savior!  He is the restoration of all things! And He is worthy of our reverence and adoration!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!