Strive For Full Restoration…

Galatians 6:1 (NIV)

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

Restoration! I will say it again. Restoration! That is the call upon our lives as believers! God restored us to Himself through our Lord Jesus; and it will be no different for anyone else. This is the point of ministry: to heal brokenness; to deliver the captive from darkness; to urge reconciliation with the Father; to restore lives to fullness and wholeness. We who live by the Spirit of God dwelling within us are commissioned to facilitate reconciliation and restoration of those who are caught, trapped, or ensnared in sin. And, Paul adds, we are to do so with gentleness … knowing that we ourselves at one time were enslaved to our sinful human nature.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Ephesians 2:1-5 (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 (our sinful nature) 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.

Paul wrote: “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.” (Romans 12:1) I think part of being a living sacrifice to others is being a vessel of healing and restoration … helping others experience the power of Jesus’ resurrection and to receive deliverance by declaring the truth of God’s will for our lives … yes, even our sanctification. We are not to pass judgment on others entangled in sin; rather, we need to pray for them and lead them to Jesus … the only Savior!  Jesus warned us not to be self-righteous or to have an attitude of condemnation towards other people. And Paul, likewise, confronts our inner propensity to elevate ourselves above others:

Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)

“Do not judge (condemn), or you too will be judged (condemned). For in the same way that you judge (condemn) others, you will be (condemned), and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Romans 2:1-4 (NIV)

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment (condemnation) on someone else, for at whatever point you judge (condemn) another, you are judging (condemning) yourself, because you who pass judgment do (or have done) the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So, when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do (or have done) the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment (condemnation)? Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

This is the truth that we as the Body of Christ must remember: “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (Cf. John 3:17) And it follows that Christ Jesus did not send His disciples into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through the life-changing light of the Gospel message! Yes, we who live by the Spirit are to be agents of reconciliation … resurrection … and restoration!  If we minister in gentleness and conduct ourselves with kindness, I believe we will be more effective in leading others to repentance and to the eternal life found in Jesus!  Indeed, as we have become recipients of God’s mercy and grace, let us extend that same mercy and grace to others.  Let us love one another as we have been loved by God in Christ. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. ~ 2 Corinthians 13:11

Love Each Other…

1 John 4:20-21 (NIV)

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Our Verse of the Day is quite direct in its message and delivery.  The Apostle John does not mince words.  Saying you love God but having hatred in your heart towards another believer is wrong.  It is hypocritical.  John will call you out as a liar.  Pretty strong … perhaps even harsh words to use.  John indicates there is a chasm between what you say and what your heart manifests in reality.  So, I think we all need to do a heart check from time to time.  We need to examine our feelings towards others we tend to dislike, distrust, or disagree with.  John goes on to state that “loving others” is a command.  Thus, it is not optional to obey!

As Moses instructed:

Leviticus 19:17-18 (NIV)

17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. 18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

As Jesus taught:

Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

As Paul explained:

Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of the law.

As James exhorted:

James 2:8-9 (NIV)

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

When Jesus spoke with His disciples during the last Passover meal, He told them: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Cf. John 13:34-35) No doubt there were many dimensions and demonstrations of His love that Jesus had in mind; yet I cannot help but think that being an ambassador of reconciliation with the Father was foremost – because that was the very reason Jesus was sent by the Father.  As John affirmed: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (Cf. 1 John 4:10) And so, I believe this portrait of love should be the origin of every thought … of every motive … of every action we take to love others as He has loved us. It was LOVE that compelled Jesus to finish the work the Father gave Him to do.  Indeed, this is the greatest message of love that we could ever share with another person. And it is love for others that should compel us to do so … to make the most of every opportunity we are given by the Father to share the good news of Jesus Christ.…    

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.   ~ John 15:9-17

The Ministry of Reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:19-20 (NIV)

God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God!

Our Verse of the Day speaks not only to the mission of Christ Jesus, but it addresses the mission we ourselves are called to carry out as well – helping people become reconciled with God through a relationship with Jesus!  As always, I encourage you to read the entire chapter to better understand the passage provided for study in its context:

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (New International Version)

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation. The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made Him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 (New Living Translation)

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Just think for a moment what is being communicated here.  Reconciliation with God is a work of God toward us!  He determined to reconcile sinners to Himself; and He DID so through the sacrifice of His only begotten Son.  So, I think it is quite important to recognize that reconciliation with man was initiated by God. And HOW did God reconcile us to Himself? According to Verse 19 – by not holding our sins against us!  God offered forgiveness as His act of reconciliation.  But consider the implication of that forgiveness since our Holy God, Father and Creator, cannot tolerate sin in any form.  What did He do? He held the judgement for our sins against His Sinless Son.  His Son, our Lord Jesus, paid the ultimate price for our sins.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ.” (Cf. Romans 6:23)

You might ask yourself, “Why would God do such a thing?  Why would He freely pardon the guilty and place a death sentence on an innocent man … His own Son?  The answer is “LOVE”.  God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Cf. Romans 5:8) And the Apostle John affirms this message of hope as well: “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. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (Cf. 1 John 4:9-10) This is the Good News! This is the message of reconciliation!  And we who believe in Jesus have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.

So, how do people become reconciled? Simply, we share the message about Christ Jesus with people who do not know the reconciliation of God.  We urge them to believe in the One that God sent into the world to reconcile the world to Himself.  We tell them about Jesus and His sacrificial death for us. We ask them to be reconciled by receiving the gift of forgiveness through the sin offering appropriated through Jesus. As Paul concluded: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” (Cf. Romans 10:17)

As I read the last verse of our passage, the thought kept coming to my mind: “Today is the day of salvation!” In 2 Corinthians 6:1-3, Paul wrote: “As God’s co-workers, we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For He says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ (Citing Isaiah 49:8) I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” There is a sense of urgency in Paul’s words. We have been commissioned to implore those who are lost to be reconciled with the Father. God is appealing, and that through us, to a world that has been ravaged by darkness and rebellion and unbelief. And though people may have hardened their hearts because of the abuse, pain, rejection, bitterness, and brokenness they have experienced in this fallen and sinful world, God is still crying out to them … speaking to their inner hearts … and prompting them to listen and to hear His voice. And He says, “Do not harden your heart!”

Hebrews 3:7-19 (NIV)

7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear His voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (Cf. Psalm 95:7-11) 12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”

This is the appeal God is making through us because He committed to us the message of reconciliation. Indeed, it is our responsibility to proclaim the message … the word about Christ! Further, it is His command to us. (Cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 1:8) And so, through prayer and fasting, God is preparing and engaging us for this ministry of reconciliation. Yes, I believe He is giving His Church a second chance to be who He has called us to be! Oh, how I pray that each one of us will be faithful and obedient to His call upon His remnant church in these latter days … for all this is from God! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. ~ Romans 5:10-11 (NIV)

Follow God’s Example…

Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV)

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Our Verse of the Day brings a challenge to us as believers in response to having placed our faith in Jesus. We have been born again of the Holy Spirit; and we have been GIVEN the right (authority) to become children of God and to receive “adoption to sonship”. (Cf. John 1:12-13; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5) And because we love the Son, we love the Father who sent Him. This is why we are dearly loved children of God. But this love did not originate with us; rather, it is our response to His love for us. (Cf. 1 John 4:19) And so we are called to walk in the way of love – in the same manner as Christ loved. Then, Paul goes on here to briefly summarize how His love was demonstrated: “He gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

This theme reverberates throughout the New Testament writings of the apostles. Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Indeed, it is central to our response to the grace of God and a commandment of Jesus Himself. In John 13:34, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Likewise, in John 15:12, Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” There is no ambiguity here. His command does not require theological research or debate. But maybe the guidance of Paul to give us descriptive and practical ways of demonstrating love to one another would be helpful….

As I thought about the many passages in which Paul addresses the demonstration of love, I kept coming back to the guiding principle where he wrote, “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. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-3) You see, love is rooted in mercy. It is in the light of mercy that we see love manifested. Think of a new born baby. It is completely helpless and defenseless upon entrance into the world. Yet mercy demands that care and nurture to be provided – behaviors we would consider a profound demonstration of love. The “living sacrifice” of parents becomes evident from the moment of birth. So, in the same way, God cares for us. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” (Psalm 103:13)

Paul will continue through Romans 12:3-21 to bring full definition to love in action; but I think the conclusion for us is that love in its highest expression is sacrificial. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) Love begins with sacrifice. It means to give something of higher value in return for something of lesser value. It means to suffer loss. This was the principle of the sacrificial system of the temple – where the people would present a highly valued animal (first born, unblemished) to be slaughtered as a sin offering to God according to the Law. Yet, incredibly, in His mercy for our helpless sinful human condition, God decided to sacrifice His best … His all … His only begotten Son as a sin offering for us … to fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law. (Cf. Romans 8:3-4)

Jesus is God’s example of love.  His love is merciful … it is gentle … it is kind and considerate … it is compassionate … it is forgiving.  Paul explained the excellence of His love in this manner: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) And Jesus explained: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love.” (Cf. John 15:9-10) And so we see that our love for Jesus is rooted in our obedience to Him … just as He was obedient to the Father.

Philippians 2:1-8 (NIV)

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

So, what is the application? If you want to love others as God in Christ Jesus has loved you, then your life too must be sacrificial. And, further, your sacrifice must be your very best! Love must be sincere … not half-hearted. Love is the most excellent way! Whoever claims to live in Him must live as Jesus did. (Cf. 1 John 2:6) Yes, I believe this is what God is calling us to do in our generation … at this appointed time in history … as His remnant church! We are called to be “living sacrifices” to those who are helpless; to those who are defenseless; to those who are orphans and widows; to those who are abused and mistreated; to those who are prodigal; those who are lost and without God. Yes, “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.” (Cf. 1 John 4:17)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. ~ 1 John 4:8

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. ~ 1 John 4:20

A New Year … A New Creation…

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

As I read our Verse of the Day, I thought, “Wow!” What a great message to share with anyone who does not know Christ Jesus! It is a New Year! What a great time to become a New Creation! The old has gone … the new is here! It is a great time for Second Chance Church … to be a light to those in live in darkness … to be the Body of Christ we were called to be. It is a great time to affirm that 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) And the ministry we have been called to do is bring the message of hope … of healing … of deliverance and freedom to those who are in the captivity of sin. Indeed, Jesus is the light we need for this dark and deceived world….

But then I thought, this New Year will be a great opportunity for each of us to examine our own devotion to the Lord Jesus … to renew our hearts in Him. This thought led me to the Letter to the Church in Ephesus:

Revelation 2:1-7 (NIV)

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Christ Jesus commended the believers at this church for their hard work, perseverance, and enduring hardships for His Name. Still, He said, “I hold this against you … you have left your first love.” If nothing else, I challenge myself and each of us to consider whether we have drifted or left the love for Jesus that we had at first … when we were first born-again of the Spirit. Have we too become wearied, burdened, or heavy laden such that we have lost our passion … our direction … our genuine love for God? Have we begun to settle for less than what Jesus has called us to do for His Kingdom? Jesus said, “Repent and do the things you did at first.” He said, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Cf. Matthew 11:28) The Year of the Healing and Deliverance is not just for those outside of the Church … it is for those within the Church as well. We all need to self-examine and turn our hearts to the Lord Jesus as we did at first! We need to read Psalm 139 and let it penetrate our quiet time in prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me to the way everlasting.”

I believe this is what the call to participate in the “Daniel Fast” is about! It is a focused time of deep reflection … a time of self-denial … a time of repentance … a time for us to return to our first love. This is what the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart for the next 21 days. How I pray we will all spend intentional time before the Lord during our corporate fast to find out what He desires for each of us as His servants … so that we might fulfill the Great Commission … so that we might love others as Jesus has loved us … so that we might worship Him in Spirit and in Truth … so that we might reach those who are in the captivity of sin and shine as a light in the midst of darkness.

I am excited about the call on Second Chance Church to be a “deliverance” church … to be a spiritual hospital for the sick … to minister to those who need healing of the brokenness they are suffering. This vision … this mission … is something that has been resonating in my heart for the past few weeks. It can mean many things, of course; but the context for me is to reach those in bondage with the life-giving truth of the Word of God. This is nothing new for sure; but if we are going to be the church that we have been called by God to be in these latter days, then we are going to have to be intentional in our approach. This is the purpose of this blog … to be a constant reminder to return to our first love….

Our generation has been given a “second chance” to become the church Jesus first commissioned His followers to form. So, I believe we need to revisit the lives of the first Apostles … their transformations … their teachings … their courage … and their approach to ministry and discipleship. There is a call to renewal … to reformation … within the Universal Church itself to rediscover how to function and to be effective. We need to return to the organizational structures developed to minister to the lost. We need to afford believers freedom to exercise the spiritual gifts Christ has given each of them for the benefit of the church. Yes, we need to embrace and embody the apostolic example we have been given in Scripture.

The message of the Gospel is powerful and rests upon the teaching of Jesus Himself when He explained to a man named Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again (from above) he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” As Nicodemus questioned Jesus about this teaching, Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (Cf. John 3:1-8)

When we are born-again of the Spirit, we become new creations through the Spirit! And I believe this is the foundation of New Covenant … when the Lord puts His law within our minds, and write His law on our hearts. (Cf. Jeremiah 31:31-33). Jesus once shared a metaphor that I think is quite relevant to this point:

Luke 5:36-38 (NIV)

He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.

We are called into the “new” through Jesus!  He wants us to have a new faith … a new perspective … a new purpose … and a new anointing to enter the Kingdom of God that He establishes within us!  Perhaps His parable was even prophetic when His disciples were gathered on the Day of Pentecost, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. In response to this outpouring, the text states: “And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” (Cf. Acts 2:1-13)

My friends, as we begin a new year with a renewed resolve to be more disciplined in our walk with the Lord Jesus, I pray that we will keep in mind how our born-again experience has transformed us into new creations … being conformed to the image of Christ. I think the Apostle Paul does an excellent job giving us insight into this process:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free (justified) from sin.

Romans 7:4-6 (NIV)

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Ephesians 4:17-24 (NIV)

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. 20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:5-10 (NIV)

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

And so, I pray that we will begin this New Year with the convictions of faith deeply rooted in our hearts.  May we find within us the discipline to stay in prayer … to study the Word … to fast for healing and deliverance … and to labor with boldness in the harvest field this year. The new creation has come! The old has gone, the new is here! This speaks not only to each of us as individuals … it speaks to the Body of Christ itself. Yes, let us return to our first love … let passion and compassion overtake us in our mission.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. And, write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” ~ Revelation 21:5-6

A New Year … A New Thing…

Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

This is what the Lord says— He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

Happy New Year! Our Verse of the Day is a great one to start not only the New Year … but the new vision of ministry for our community. Look at what the Lord declares through His prophet, Isaiah, to us:

Speaking to the descendants of Israel (and to us as well), the Almighty God who worked miraculous signs and wonders among the people to free them from slavery in Egypt, declares: “Forget about those former things … and do not dwell upon the past.” What? God … the Great Deliverer … who saved His chosen people is telling their descendants to give those incredible deeds no further thought? But, why? The “stories” of God’s power … His presence … His protection … His provision … should be remembered, right? They should be “seared” into our collective memory. They should be revisited and recounted as a memorial. God spoke through Moses and said to the people: “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Cf. Deuteronomy 4:9) And He spoke through King David to admonish the people: “My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old — things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done.” (Cf. Psalm 78:1-4)

Yet, centuries later, God spoke through Isaiah and said, “Forget the former things and do not dwell upon the past.” I said to myself, “There has to be something I’m missing here. So, I decided to look at the passage in its surrounding context….”

Isaiah 43:1-21 (NIV)

1 But now, this is what the Lord says— He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Sheba in your stead. 4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth— 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” 8 Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf. 9 All the nations gather together and the peoples assemble. Which of their gods foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, “It is true.” 10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I Am He. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. 11 I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior. 12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed— I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God. 13 Yes, and from ancient days I am He. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” 14 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “For your sake I will send to Babylon and bring down as fugitives all the Babylonians, in the ships in which they took pride. 15 I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel’s Creator, your King.” 16 This is what the Lord says—He who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, 17 who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. 20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

Oh, I see the broader lesson now … because the context is the Babylonian Captivity that God brought upon His people because of their rebellion, sin, and disobedience! They had broken His covenant with them; and so, they were taken from the land of their inheritance … from the city of Jerusalem … from the temple of God’s presence. The people knew God! They knew His power! They knew His holiness! They knew His statutes and ordinances! They knew His great love and outstretched arm bidding them to return to Him! Yet, despite the faithfulness of God, they refused to worship Him and keep covenant with Him. God allowed them to go into captivity for their sin and judgment for their unbelief. Still, God, in His unfailing love, announces that His former covenant … manifested through the Law and commandments and sacrificial practices … would soon fade away. Behold, He is doing a new thing! He is forming a new covenant … manifested through His Spirit! And this announcement was affirmed through the Prophet Jeremiah as well:

Jeremiah 31:23-34 (NIV)

23 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “When I bring them back from captivity, the people in the land of Judah and in its towns will once again use these words: ‘The Lord bless you, you prosperous city, you sacred mountain.’ 24 People will live together in Judah and all its towns—farmers and those who move about with their flocks. 25 I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” 26 At this I awoke and looked around. My sleep had been pleasant to me. 27 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will plant the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with the offspring of people and of animals. 28 Just as I watched over them to uproot and tear down, and to overthrow, destroy and bring disaster, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” declares the Lord. 29 “In those days people will no longer say, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ 30 Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge. 31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

What are the former things to forget? What is past that we should not dwell upon? I think, perhaps, it is the captivity that sin brought into our lives. And I think the captivity experience served a greater spiritual purpose to bring us closer to God. It warned of judgment and consequences. It revealed our need for deliverance and freedom from the darkness and oppression of sin. Jeremiah 31:3 recalls, “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” And Paul affirms this same truth in Romans 2:2-4: “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So, when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on others and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

Yes, the lovingkindness of God brings us to the realization that He does not want our sin, rebellion, or disobedience to rule over us or to imprison us so that we are separated from His presence. We were powerless to escape our captivity! Why? Because we remembered the former things … our worthless deeds … our trespasses … our rebellion and ungodliness. In self-condemnation, under the Law, we were powerless to be judged righteous before a Holy God! We were imprisoned by the thoughts of wrath held in reserve for those oppose God. But God said, “I will reveal a better plan … and unfold My plan of redemption!” It is His love … His mercies … His kindness … His New Covenant … that will prevail:

Romans 5:6-11 (NIV)

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Romans 8:1-10 (NIV)

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh (sinful nature), God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. 9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.

Please forgive my long-windedness! If you have read this far, “God Bless You!” I felt like I needed to establish a foundation for the application … an application for such a time as this … for the year of Healing and Deliverance! To me, this passage is really about those who have left God … who have wandered … who have left home … who have squandered their inheritance. God is NOT telling the wayward or the lost to forget about His power … His presence … His protection … His provision over their life … or the lovingkindness that He has shown them; on the contrary, He is saying forget the former things that sent you into captivity. Understand that the Old Covenant was powerless because it was weakened by your flesh. “See, I am doing a new thing,” declares the Lord. I am making a way for you through the wilderness you have traveled! I am bringing you water in a dry and thirsty land! Come to Me all you who are burdened with your past … your guilt and shame. Forget it! I will give you rest for your soul. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Cf. Hosea 6:6) Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (Cf. John 8:36) And Paul affirmed: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!”

O Lord, how I pray that your servants will diligently go out into the streets, alleys, roads, and country lanes to share Your word of hope and encouragement … your forgiveness and reconciliation … your power of healing and deliverance … the freedom of your everlasting covenant of love. Only through you, Jesus, can we receive the Holy Spirit that does not make us slaves to fear again … the Spirit that brings about our adoption to sonship so that we can in truth become children of God who cry out, “Abba!” “Father!” Oh, I pray Lord Jesus, that your people would be vessels of your kindness … leading others to repentance … so that whosoever is captive will come to You and find rest for their souls. Lord, may they hear Your voice saying: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Come To Me and Rest…

Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

As the New Year approaches … a year declared to be a time for deliverance and healing, I believe our Verse of the Day aligns our thoughts with this mission of the Church.  Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Cf. Matthew 11:28-30) Yes, what every soul needs the most is to rest in Jesus!  He will lift the burdens of life from our shoulders. His yoke is easy; and Jesus will exert the greater strength when pulling that wearisome load with you.  You do not have to carry the burdens of life alone….  He is Healer! He is Deliverer! He is Redemption! He is Salvation! He is Restoration! He is Peace! He is Resurrection! He is Rest!  Indeed, the true compassion and love of God for you and I will not be found anywhere else other than Jesus!

Is this not the most perfect verse for the Church to summon those who have grown tired, burdened, and weary? Is that not the state of the unbeliever? Is that not the state of every prodigal? Herein lies the message of the Church to a lost world … the message we should declare to everyone who has wandered … to every lost and scattered sheep! Our Great Shepherd … the Good Shepherd … is calling His sheep to come home. Jesus says to each one: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest….

This brought to mind the Prophet Isaiah and his prophetic invitation to reconciliation with God:

Isaiah 55:1-4 (NIV)

1 Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. 4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples, a ruler and commander of the peoples.

And this is the message Isaiah foretold us to take to the unbeliever, the lost, and the wayward:

Isaiah 55:6-11 (NIV)

6 Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on them, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is My Word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

This is the word that God has sent for us to declare to those who are burdened and wearied and captive to thoughts of futility … to thoughts of unworthiness … to overwhelming thoughts of guilt and shame. God declares that His thoughts are not those thoughts. God declares He will have mercy on them … and will freely pardon! God declares His ability to overcome our inability. And His Word will not return void of accomplishment. Behold, we ourselves are fruit of the Gospel! For Isaiah foretold this great hope of healing:

Isaiah 57:15-19 (NIV)

For this is what the high and exalted One says— He who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. 16 I will not accuse them forever, nor will I always be angry, for then they would faint away because of me— the very people I have created. 17 I was enraged by their sinful greed; I punished them, and hid my face in anger, yet they kept on in their willful ways. 18 I have seen their ways, but I will heal them; I will guide them and restore comfort to Israel’s mourners, 19 creating praise on their lips. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the Lord. “And I will heal them.”

God knows all. There is nothing hidden from His sight! God has seen their ways, but He will heal them. He saw us and healed us! The Lord abides with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit. He will revive! He will restore! Yes, He will heal the brokenness in each of us! He will remove the deception and disillusion of sin! He will provide salvation! He will give eternal life! All these benefits – all these blessings are found in Christ Jesus! (Cf. Psalm 103) These are the messages of hope we must speak to those who are lost, isolated, and in need of His unfailing love….

It all starts with an invitation! Jesus said, “Come!” He was sent to seek and to save that which was lost. That is you and me. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Cf. Romans 3:23) It is the open invitation God has ordained for us to share with the poor in spirit … the broken-hearted … the spiritually blind … and the weak in faith. We are commanded to go out into the streets, alleys, roads, and country lanes to find the wayward … the lost and scattered sheep who are weary and burdened and seeking rest for their souls. There is no rest apart from Jesus. There is no reconciliation except through Him. This is the appointed message we need to share. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (Cf. John 3:16-18)

So, I pray that we will be faithful in our resolve and relentless in our mission to bring hope to those who are without hope. I pray that as healing and deliverance become our focus for the coming year, we will discipline ourselves to be studying the Word of God … growing in the knowledge of His will. Indeed, His will is for us to rest in the finished work that Jesus accomplished on the cross for us. Oh, may we help others to experience the rest that we enjoy as believers…. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Light For Revelation…

Luke 2:28-32 (NIV)

Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

I hope everyone had a Blessed Christmas and a wonderful time with family and friends during the holidays. We have celebrated the season of the First Advent … the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ; but I want to take a closer look at the agency of the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of the Word of God. I’ll reprint a larger passage as the context for our Verse of the Day because I think there is an application for us:

Luke 2:22-35 (NIV)

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord” (Citing Exodus 13:2), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”(Citing Leviticus 12:1-8) 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, Simeon went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for Him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took Jesus in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Throughout the nativity story, we have seen the agency of the Holy Spirit in full power and display. Mary conceives a baby through the power of the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist is filled with the Holy Spirit even from conception as well. Elizabeth prophesies through the Holy Spirit concerning the obedience of Mary and her faith in the power of God. Joseph, through the Holy Spirit, believes the angel of the Lord he sees in a dream and takes Mary to be his wife. Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies at the birth of his son. And in our passage, we see Simeon moved by the Spirit and entering the temple to behold what had already been revealed to him by the Spirit. And I wonder, why were all these people convinced of what the Spirit of God had spoken or revealed to them? Why were they so confident and obedient to their encounters with Him?

To me, the most compelling reason is they were open to the mysterious and supernatural because of their knowledge of the Word of God. And I believe it all began with this prophecy from the Book of Isaiah. Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you all a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel (which means God with us). (Cf. Isaiah 7:13-14)

When the angel Gabriel encountered Mary and spoke to her concerning the birth of a son, he explained “the Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most-High will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Cf. Luke 1:35) Mary did not have to understand how the power of God would accomplish it, she just trusted God at His word. I think in her soul, she knew God had chosen her to fulfill this specific prophetic word. And with boldness of faith, Mary responded to the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” (Cf. Luke 1:38) Have you ever been in that place where you knew that God was fulfilling a prophetic word in your life? How did you respond?

And what of Joseph? Let’s turn to Matthew to look at His encounter with the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 1:18-24 (NIV)

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law (a righteous man), and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Citing Isaiah 7:14) 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

To me, this is another powerful testimony of someone who knew the Word of God … and its prophetic significance. Like Mary, after an explanation that the Holy Spirit was working in their lives to fulfill the will of God, Joseph was obedient to the call of God upon his life. Like Mary, Joseph did not have to understand how the power of God operated, he just trusted God at His word. I think in his soul, Joseph knew God had chosen Mary to fulfill this specific prophetic word. And with boldness of faith, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him. He had no idea what it meant or what would ultimately transpire, but Joseph knew it was best to believe God and be faithful….

In our verse, it is apparent that Simeon was well aware of the prophetic word of God concerning His Messiah. And by revelation of the Holy Spirit, Simeon knew that he would lay eyes upon the Messiah before his own death occurred. Isn’t it interesting that Simeon was looking for a child? He was at the temple when parents would be presenting their 8-day old sons for circumcision and consecration to God. What were the chances that day would be the exact day when Simeon was moved by the Spirit and went into the temple courts? Had Simeon heard the miraculous story told by the shepherds just a few days ago? Surely, he knew the prophecy of Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me One who will be ruler over Israel whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Yes, Simeon was looking for the Messiah. It was just a matter of time….

So here we are nearly 2000 years later with a different anticipation. We are looking for the Second Advent of Christ to be fulfilled. And what prophecies have already fallen into place? What “sign” has the Lord Himself given us? Is there some other assurance we feel is needed to convince us His Word will come to pass? What else might be needed? Well, as I thought about these questions, I remembered Matthew 24:14 when Jesus declared, “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.” Interestingly enough, with all of our modern technology, this still has not fully occurred. And then I thought of this parable that Jesus told, and I feel moved to share it here:

Luke 14:1, 7-24 (NIV)

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, He was being carefully watched.

7 When Jesus noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, He told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 12 Then Jesus said to His host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” 15 When one of those at the table with Him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the Kingdom of God. 16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yokes of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Why this parable? Well, think about it a moment. The parable is in reference to “the feast in the Kingdom of God.” Perhaps, this is similar to the Parable of the Wedding Feast recorded in Matthew 22 where Jesus spoke to them and said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding….” Of course, here we understand that the servants were the prophets of God sent to Israel to invite them to the marriage banquet of God. However, the invited guests “were not willing to come.” They (the invited guests) all alike began to make excuses explaining why they were too busy to be bothered … though God had made elaborate preparations for them to come and enjoy. So, the king determine that his banquet should be filled with anyone who had not been originally invited … and so He ordered His servants to go out into the streets, alleys, roads, and country lanes to find people who might actually desire a seat at the table and appreciate His generous kindness….

From this parable, I believe there is another “prophecy” that needs to be fulfilled before the Second Advent occurs! Indeed, there is a banquet in preparation and there are new invitations being sent out! The Bride of Christ … His Body … the Church is making herself ready for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb! Oh, yes, when Jesus arrives to take us to be with Him … where He is (Cf. John 14:3), that Great Supper will be ready and waiting. And I believe that those who are led by the Holy Spirit … are indeed the servants whom God has called … whom Christ has appointed … to invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. Yes, God has ordained for us to minister to the poor in spirit … to those who live in brokenness … to those who live in darkness … and to those unable to walk in faith. We have been called and anointed to love and to bring healing and reconciliation just as Christ Jesus did for each of us.

Like Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Simeon, Anna, the Apostles, the disciples, and all those who have been obedient to the faith and mission of the Church since the Day of Pentecost, we too must know and be obedient to the Word of God through the power and anointing of His Holy Spirit. And so, I pray the work of the Holy Spirit to fulfill the First Advent will continue to work in us and through us to fulfill the Second Advent! And I believe that work is to invite … to fill up the banquet hall for the feast in the Kingdom of God – that Great Supper of the Lamb! We do not have to understand how the power of God will accomplish His work; we just need to trust God at His word and be obedient to the command of the Lord. I pray that within our innermost beings, we will know that we know God has chosen us to fulfill His prophetic word. And with boldness of faith, I pray each of us will respond, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.”

Revelation 19:6-9 (NIV)

6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the Wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) 9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

Revelation 22:6-7 (NIV)

6 The angel said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent His angel to show His servants the things that must soon take place.” 7 “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll….

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Even so, come, Lord Jesus ~ Revelation 22:20

A Changed Direction…

Luke 2:1, 4-5 (NIV)

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. So, Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 

Our Verse of the Day addresses a change of circumstances in the Advent Story that served to fulfill the prophetic words of Micah surrounding the location for the birth of the Messiah.  Micah 5:2 foretold: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Let’s read the narrative Luke provided for the nativity…

Luke 2:1-21 (NIV) ~ The Birth of Jesus

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be bornand she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, He was named Jesus, the name the angel had given Him before He was conceived.

I love to imagine the scenes of this story unfolding and sensing the disruptive circumstances placed on the young expecting couple.  I admire them for their faith, their obedience, and their trust in God throughout the entire ordeal – thrust upon them at the most inopportune time. I wonder if they knew it had to be this way – that the birth of their son had to occur at “the set place.” Did they consider the prophecies of scripture as they packed their belongings for the journey south to the City of David? Were they excited about how God had orchestrated these events according to His will? It really is hard to imagine if they understood the significance of this turn in the road … their lack of resources to make the journey … and Mary so close to delivery. I feel so humbled when I think of them … the hardships they endured. Yet, I somehow believe they were so close to God in those circumstances and felt a great peace within themselves.  Somehow, they knew in their hearts the sovereignty of God was trustworthy. Perhaps Mary recalled the what the Angel Gabriel had spoken to her: “No word from God will ever fail.” (Cf. Luke 1:37)

Yes, Jesus arrived! His advent is sure and well documented. And we know on this side of history all that transpired in His life … the purpose for which He was sent by God … and His final words: “It is finished….” (Cf. John 19:30) His birth … His life … His resurrection … changed the course of human destiny forever. And it happened because Mary said, “Yes.” She responded to Gabriel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Cf. Luke 1:38) Likewise, Joseph said, “Yes.” “He did what the Angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” (Cf. Matthew 1:24) The plan of salvation ordained before the foundation of the world continued to unfold because of their obedience and faith! And I believe we have been called to follow their example … to walk in their footsteps. Yes, I believe the Father desires each one of us to respond “Yes” to His Son, Jesus! As Jesus affirmed, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.” (Cf. John 6:29) Then, we are to follow Him. As Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (Cf. John 12:26) Oh, what great lessons we continue to find in the Christmas Story!

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

A Changed Faith…

Luke 1:68-70 (NIV)

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to His people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David (as He said through His holy prophets of long ago)

As part of the Christmas story … we have the parallel narrative surrounding the birth of John the Baptist, who would be the forerunner to announce the coming of the Messiah to Israel. He would be known as the herald, a prophet of the Most-High God; the one who would announce Jesus as the Messiah … the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world … at the appointed time. So, I think we need to review the birth of John the Baptist, and the prophetic word spoken over him by his father, Zechariah.  Our Verse of the Day is the beginning excerpt of that longer “Song of Zechariah.”

Luke 1:57-80 (NIV)

57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

Zechariah’s Song

67 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to His people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn (symbolizes a strong king) of salvation for us in the house of His servant David 70 (as He said through His holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— 72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember His holy covenant, 73 the oath He swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve Him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, 77 to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” 80 And the child grew and became strong in the Spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

This is an incredible prophetic word from the father of John the Baptist at the time of his birth.  Not only did Zechariah declare the role of his son to be the forerunner to announce the coming Messiah (Anointed One) and His role to effectuate salvation for the Jewish people, he proclaimed the covenantal prophesies that would be fulfilled in the Messiah. This is a portion of New Testament scripture that we do not want to miss or overlook. The Christmas narrative as well as the foundations of the message of Christ (how we come to faith) are being laid here in the Gospel record. It is important for us to see the covenant promises of God as they advance between Abraham and King David and the coming Messiah. The role of John the Baptist is to “prepare the way (for the coming) of the Lord” – as prophesied in Isaiah 40.  Remember, there is a multitude of prophesies converging on the Advent of Jesus Christ; and John the Baptist was ordained by God to open of hearts of people to the coming reality. John initiated a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and told the people to believe in the One coming after him, that is, in Jesus. (Cf. Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24; and Acts 19:4)

What is our takeaway? I see the application in this: There is a Second Advent foretold … the Second Coming of Jesus!  Daniel prophesied: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into His presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Cf. Daniel 7:13-14) And the Gospel writers affirmed that when Jesus spoke about the “end times,” He declared: “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Cf. Matthew 24:30-31; Mark 13:26-27; Luke 21:27-28) In the Gospel of John, Jesus said He would go and prepare a place for us; and He promised to come back and take us to be with Him so that we might be where He is. (Cf. John 13:2-3) And Peter asserts: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise (to return), as some understand slowness. Instead, He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (Cf. 2 Peter 3:9)

And therein lies the application. The time is growing short and the final curtain call is being drawn.  The Lord Jesus wants everyone to come to repentance! Yes, whosoever will must ready themselves for the coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory!  And so, we the Church, have a role to play just as John the Baptist did at the First Advent.  Our role is to “prepare the way (for the coming) of the Lord!” We must urge those who do not know Jesus that the hour of repentance is now! He Is Coming Soon! It is time for the Prodigal to repent and return to the Lord. It is time for the Remnant Church to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people! (Cf. Jude 1:5) The TRUTH has drawn a line in the sand. It divides and separates light from darkness! The LIGHT has already come! His name is Jesus! Yes, “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (Cf. John 1:3) When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Cf. John 8:12) And, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (Cf. John 12:46)

As believers, we have a mandate to enter the time of harvest. (Cf. Luke 10:2) And just as Paul testified before King Agrippa, so we must fulfill our role as the Church … as servants who follow Jesus … to go where Jesus is. (Cf. John 12:25-26) Even now, I hear these same words resonate in my spirit: “Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to themto open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Cf. Acts 26:16-18)

O Church, do you not know that we have been given a SECOND CHANCE to be HIS Church? Indeed, this is our assignment for this time … for this generation … to prepare this people for His coming … to give His people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. How I pray we will use every opportunity we have been given to “prepare the way of the Lord” for His Coming! Let us, our generation, now be the voice of one crying out in the wilderness of this culture. Yes, I pray that we will not fear but will be bold and courageous for such a time as this….  Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!