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!

Singing With Gratitude…

Colossians 3:16 (NIV)

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

Our Verse of the Day was tucked in the middle of two other verses we have focused on this past week of Thanksgiving.  While it has been cited in prior commentaries, I still want us to reflect on its focus: singing to God with gratitude in our hearts.  Yes, singing psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, is another form of expression of gratitude and thankfulness. And the reason we are filled with overwhelming gratitude is the gracious and merciful life transformation we have experienced through Christ Jesus … our Lord and Savior! I think the Apostle Paul articulates this incredible life change we have received so well within the foregoing context of our verse:

Colossians 3:1-17 (NIV)

1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

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 disobedientYou 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. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Indeed, every one of our hearts should be overwhelmed by what God has done for us through Christ Jesus.  We should exalt and sing with the deepest gratitude and the highest praise from our hearts for His wonderous love!  Oh, I think of the following scripture that details the reason for our passion:

Romans 5:1-11 (NIV)

1Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And let us boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but let us also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

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.

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.

So, yes, let us sing to God with gratitude in our hearts!

Come let us worship our King!

Come let us bow at His feet!

He has done great things!

See what our Savior has done.

See how His life overcomes!

He has done great things!

He has done great things!  (Great Things ~ Phil Wickham)

Father God, I cannot contain the joyful gratitude I feel in my heart. I sing to worship you … to declare your praise … to rejoice in your salvation! Yet, who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare His praise? (Psalm 106:2) So I pray, “Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise! (Psalm 51:15) Oh, how I thank you Father, that you have chosen me in Christ Jesus to declare praises unto you … because you called me out of the darkness into your marvelous, glorious light! Indeed, I will sing: “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name! (Psalm 103:1) Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Remember His Atonement…

Isaiah 1:18 (NIV)

“Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.

As I read our Verse of the Day, the thought of ATONEMENT came to mind. Yes, its message prophesies a promise from the Lord we need to remember … a message we desperately need to hear … the gracious promise of forgiveness! And the Father has given us this assurance: Forgiveness has been granted to us through the atoning sacrifice of His One and Only Son upon the cross! So, yes, I want us to spend some time in remembrance of His Mercy … His Sacrifice … His Love … His Forgiveness … His Atonement for the redemption of our lives.

I think of King David who understood the mercies of God when he declared: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on His children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust. (Cf. Psalm 103:8-14)

Indeed, I am reminded of all the prophets who foretold this work of God … His desire to redeem our hearts … His plan of reconciliation. And centuries later, as eyewitnesses of His majesty and glory … His life, death, and resurrection, the Apostles confirmed and testified of the fulfillment of this Good News in Christ Jesus. I think of Romans 5:8 and its affirmation: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” And I think of 1 John 4:10 which proclaims: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Thus, we can see that the mercy of God and the love of God are inseparable in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus! His blood was poured out for us, and His once-for-all sacrifice was all-sufficient to obtain eternal atonement for us! Hallelujah!

The inspired writer of Hebrews articulated:

Hebrews 10:11-18 (New Living Translation)

11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest (Jesus) offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins for all time. Then He sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 13 There He waits until His enemies are humbled (subdued) and made a footstool under His feet. 14 For by that one offering He forever made perfect those who are being made holy. 15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For He says,16 “This is the New Covenant I will make with my people after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” (Quoting Jeremiah 31:33) 17 Then He says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.” (Quoting Jeremiah 31:34) 18 And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.

While there is no more sacrifice to be offered for sin, we sometimes fail. In spite of great intention and personal effort to be obedient, we sometimes entertain temptation, engage in sinful behavior, and fall short of the glory of God. (Cf. Romans 3:23) This is an especially grievous issue for those who belong to Christ Jesus and have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires … for those who strive to live by the Spirit and endeavor to keep in step with the Spirit. (Cf. Galatians 5:24-25) As the inspired writer of Hebrews admonished: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Cf. Hebrews 10:26-29)

Oh, how I thank God for His mercy and forgiveness when I fall short!

1 John 1:5-10 (NIV)

5 This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us.

John 3:19-21 (NIV)

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

In these passages, the Apostle John reveals to us the reasons why confession of our sin is required. The light of God’s Word causes us to recognize our trespasses, feel conviction, and respond in repentance. He asserted: “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light!” Why? Because we understand that His light exposes us! We can no longer deceive ourselves to believe that our sins and trespasses can be hidden. Though physical darkness removes the ability of anyone to see, even darkness is as light before God. (Cf. Psalm 139:12) He is the God who sees us. (Cf. Genesis 16:13) King David said, “The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord is on His heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; His eyes examine them.” (Cf. Psalm 11:4) Thus, we cannot walk in darkness or deliberately continue to sin and then claim to live by the truth. The truth reminds us that what we have done has been done in the sight of God. His Holiness has been offended. His love and mercy have been taken for granted. His heart has been wounded. His Spirit prompts us to confess and agree with God that His judgment of all sin is righteous and just. (Cf. Psalm 51:4; Romans 3:4)

His Word reminds us that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness! We must walk in the Light because Jesus is the Light. We must live by the Truth because Jesus is the Truth! And if we ever stumble in darkness … we who live by the truth are compelled to come into the light. As the inspired writer penned: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Cf. Hebrews 4:16)

A Final Thought:

If you ever need a good example of how to sincerely confess your sin, I would encourage you to read the full confession of David found in Psalm 51.

Father God, we thank you for your precious gift of forgiveness! We worship you, Sovereign Lord, for your merciful atonement of our trespasses and iniquities! Though our sins are like scarlet, you have made them as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, you have made them like wool. The blood of your Son, Jesus, has cleansed us from ALL our sins and unrighteousness! In view of your great mercies, we offer ourselves as living sacrifices … holy and pleasing to you … for this is our true and proper worship! (Cf. Romans 12:1) Through Jesus, we offer you a continual sacrifice of praise … the fruit of lips that openly profess His Name! In humble gratitude, we will do good and share with those in need – for these are the sacrifices that please you! (Cf. Hebrews 13:15-16) Yes, may we love as you have loved us … and forgive as you have forgiven us. In the powerful name of Yeshua our Messiah, I pray! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Competent and Confident

2 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

As I read our Verse of the Day, my first thought was to ask myself a question: “Do I feel competent as a minister of the New Covenant?” And then I asked another question: “Do I feel confident as a minister of the New Covenant?” As believers, I think each question should be explored because we are parties to the New Covenant that was mediated through the blood of Jesus. (Cf. Luke 22:20) We are recipients of its promises. We are bound to its terms and conditions. And in it we are given authority to invite others to join the agreement (confession) through faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed, there is an expectation for us to live out and to share the Gospel of Christ so that others might become parties to the New Covenant as well….

The context for our verse is part of a larger defense that Paul makes to the Corinthian Church regarding his authority in preaching the Gospel … his apostleship as a minister of the New Covenant established through Jesus Christ. Paul has been dealing with “church discipline” matters, and it has ignited questions within the church regarding his leadership, teaching, and approach. Further, it has become a personal struggle for Paul to endure the pain of rejection after working so diligently to bring the brothers and sisters at Corinth to maturity in Christ. Therefore, I encourage you to read 2 Corinthians 1-4 to have a better understanding of what is happening as well as Paul’s response.

I think we need this context to understand the assertions Paul made to the Corinthians as he administered the truth to them. His confidence in doing so was not within himself or his own abilities. His confidence came from the trustworthiness of Christ Himself! Paul did not doubt the absolute certainty nor sufficiency of what Christ fulfilled through His death on the cross … the eternal atonement for our sin! In Him we received mercy and grace. Through Him we are raised to new life … we are born again! Faith in Jesus gives us the confidence we need to become ambassadors for Him and ministers of the New Covenant.

Likewise, we need to note that our competence or ability to minister to others comes through Jesus Christ. He alone is our sufficiency, qualification, and adequacy. There should be no question about “feeling” competent; rather, faith understands that the source of our abilities … our courage … our strength comes from Him who was victorious over death. Paul declared, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes….” (Cf. Romans 1:16) And the power to proclaim the Gospel comes from the same source! As Paul affirmed, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Cf. Philippians 4:13) And, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:7)

With these thoughts in mind, let’s go back to discourse of Paul on evangelism:

2 Corinthians 2:14-17 (NIV)

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

2 Corinthians 3:1-6 (NIV)

1Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.4 Such confidence (trust, reliance, certainty, assurance) we have through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent (sufficient, qualified, adequate) in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence (sufficiency, qualification, adequacy) comes from God. 6 He has made us competent (sufficient, qualified, adequate) as ministers of a New Covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

I want us to focus on the Verse 6 a moment and ask some tough questions. Do you believe that you are a “competent” minister of the New Covenant? Do you believe the message of the New Covenant established by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ should be shared with others? If you do not feel confident in your own understanding of the New Covenant, what would help you achieve more knowledge? If you do not feel confident in sharing the message of Jesus Christ, what would help you overcome your concerns?

As we have seen, Paul declared that his competence in preaching the Gospel “comes from God.” And He is our source as well! Paul states, “God has MADE us competent as ministers.” Any idea how God did so? If we look at the life of Paul, we see his zeal for the Law and study of the Scriptures as the foundation for His competence; however, Paul was not an “ambassador” of the New Covenant until his encounter with Jesus Christ. His experience with the risen Lord changed everything!

Acts 26:15-23 (NIV)

15 Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” the Lord replied. 16 “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. 17 I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them 18 to 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.” 19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; thus, I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to His own people and to the Gentiles.”

And so, I encourage each of us to consider our own competence. As believers, each of us has had an encounter with Jesus Christ. It may not have been a blinding light from heaven … but it was the light of His presence and His Spirit that captured us nonetheless. And the glorious revelation of God’s love, mercy, and grace washed over us as the spiritual new birth produced in us our new life in Christ. And we have never been the same since Christ entered our hearts and sent His Spirit to indwell us. “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.” (Cf. 1 John 4:13)

So, what might be inhibiting our competence to be ministers of the New Covenant like those who came before us? If through the past couple of millennia there had been no one “competent” to preserve the Word and to proclaim the Gospel, would we have even come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Even in the first century, there was a sense of urgency to protect the light and truth of God revealed to us through His Son. Consider what Jude wrote: “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” Perhaps there is hesitancy on our part because we still have questions about our own faith or what it is based upon. Maybe there is a lack of confidence in our knowledge that stems from a lack of spending time reading and meditating on God’s Word. Ultimately our faith is based on our confidence in the Word of God.

A Final Thought:

John 15:5-8 (NIV)

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Apart from Jesus … apart from the power of His indwelling Spirit … we can do nothing. That means we cannot be “competent” as ministers of the New Covenant if we do not have an intimate relationship with Him. We have to be empowered and equipped; and that comes from His Holy Spirit. I have observed in my own walk with Christ, that the more time I spend studying and meditating on the Word of God, the more time that I spend in prayer; the more confident I become with WHO I know. And, like Paul, I am coming to the place in my life … in my walk … where I consider everything else worthless compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus!” (Cf. Philippians 3:8) So, I cannot communicate or demonstrate with “competence” WHO Jesus is or WHAT Jesus accomplished without truly knowing Him and abiding in Him! Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Saved By Grace…

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

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.

Our Verse of the Day has probably been memorized and quoted by all of us. It affords a succinct theology of the mechanism through which salvation is accomplished. Salvation is received by faith in Jesus Christ. It is not achieved by good works a person might do … so that no person can ever boast that he or she earned salvation through their own merits. Therefore, salvation is a sovereign act of grace … it is a gift! There is no debt that you or I owe God because it was paid in full by our Lord Jesus on the cross! Indeed, God is lavishly gracious!

Look again at what King David wrote: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Cf. Psalm 103:8-10) And we have read what Paul asserted: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Cf. Romans 5:8) And John concluded: “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. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (Cf. 1 John 4:9-11) To me, these verses afford the best illustrations of what is meant by the gifts of mercy and grace!

In His mercy, God withholds the condemnation that humans deserve for their transgressions of His Law, rebellion, and sin. In His grace, God grants us the forgiveness (atonement) and salvation we do not deserve. God’s holiness requires the righteous judgment of all sin … yet His lavish love desires mercy and this is why He sent His Son. “For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him (Jesus) 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)

This good news of salvation through Christ Jesus alone has been affirmed by all of the Apostles! So, I hope you will meditate further on these verses … and let the grace of God become more real to your heart and life.  It truly is the greatest gift; and the story of His grace can be traced from the beginning of time. When the transgression (disobedience) of Adam and Eve became exposed, God covered them. (Cf. Genesis 3:21) When the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time, He regretted that He had made human beings on the earth, and His heart was deeply troubled. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. (Cf. Genesis 6:5-8)

Exodus 34:5-9 (NKJV)

Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with Moses there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, maintaining mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” So Moses made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped. Then he said, “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us. Even though we are a stiff-necked people, forgive our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.”

Yes, we can readily see the grace of God at work through the passage of time. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And 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. Out of His fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the One and Only Son, who is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made Him known.” (Cf. John 1:1, 14, 16-18)

And so, Paul deeply understood the mission to proclaim the grace of God in Christ Jesus with boldness and authority! His inspired thoughts on grace can be found at Romans 3:21-26, and I urge you to take some time to review his discourse there. In his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul opened with incredible passion about the grace of God:

Ephesians 1:3-8 (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, God predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves. In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us….

To the Colossians Paul wrote: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the Gospelthat has come to you. In the same way, the Gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. (Colossians 1:3-6)

Indeed, throughout the inspired writings of Paul, we see this pattern of teaching that equates the message of the Gospel with the grace of God. Jesus IS the embodiment and fullness of His grace! I just cannot see any other conclusion – which is why faith in Jesus is requisite to receive the most precious gift of His grace … eternal life.“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” (Cf. Titus 2:11-14)

Yes, grace leads us to holiness! So, it is my prayer that you and I will remember to abide in the grace that has been given to us in Christ Jesus. “For God has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.” (Cf. 2 Timothy 1:9-10)

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Carry The Load…

Galatians 6:2 (NIV)

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the Law of Christ!

As we examined our desire to “do” the will of God, we discovered that the will of God must be discerned, understood, and then put into practice through action. (Cf. James 2:14-17) In our Verse of the Day, the Apostle Paul gives us some practical instruction on “how” to fulfill our desire to do the will of God: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

What does it mean to “carry or bear each other’s burdens”? Well, let’s look at the immediate context:

Galatians 6:1-5 (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. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. 4 Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, 5 for each one should carry their own load.

Galatians 6:1-5 (NLT)

1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of ChristIf you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

As I examine the context, it appears that the “burden” we are called to bear is the action of restoring someone who has been caught in transgression (i.e., sin). The phrase implies both the responsibility we must take for our own sin as well as helping others through the temptations and weaknesses they endure as well. “You who are spiritual … you who live by the Spirit,” should not be misconstrued to mean “you who are sinless.” But those who live by the Spirit are equipped to know and understand “the root” of what is occurring in their lives and in the lives of those who have fallen, and to guard themselves from the same potential temptation or weakness. It is crucial for those who are mature in Christ to help all others in the Church to receive restoration and to move toward spiritual maturity.

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NIV)

11 So Christ Himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip His people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. 14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

When we speak about Five-Fold Ministry of the Church, this is “how” our Lord determined that we fulfill His Law. The work of restoration (healing what is broken); reconciliation (leading people to God); and deliverance (finding triumph through Christ Jesus) is accomplished through those who are spiritual … through those who have been appointed and equipped to serve the Lord and to make disciples. And we are blessed with the incredible opportunity to fulfill the Law of Christ within the local body (assembly) that we attend. You do not have to be in the office of Apostle to make a difference. You do not need to compare yourself to a Pastor or Evangelist. God has gifted you for service and to bear fruit as He has determined. So, I encourage you to fulfill what He has chosen for you to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-10)

Remember that regardless of whether you have an “office” within the Church, those who live by the Spirit have been gifted – for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. (Cf. Romans 11:29) You are the best one equipped to help others through the same things you have experienced in life and overcame through faith in Jesus Christ. That is how God will use you to bear the burden(s) of others:

1 Corinthians 12:4-7; 27-31 (NIV)

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. And yet I will show you the most excellent way….

Paul will go on to share in 1 Corinthians 13 that the most excellent way to minister to one another is with sincere love. For we know that love covers a multitude of sins. (Cf. Proverbs 10:12; 17:9; 1 Peter 4:8) Our calling is to facilitate healing of the brokenness that sin has caused in the lives of people … and to point others to the deliverance, freedom, and reconciliation found in Jesus Christ our Lord. Our responsibility is not to judge or condemn; rather, it is to love. Love does not condone sin; but it is the power through which repentance is motivated. As Paul admonished:

Romans 2:1-4 (NIV)

1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 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?

My prayer is that we will answer the call to “carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, to fulfill the law of Christ.” And to do so, I encourage you to use the spiritual gifts that you have been graciously given … as the Spirit determined uniquely for you. You are able! You are equipped! You are called to make a difference in the Kingdom! Let’s start right here … right now where we have been placed to serve God. And let us do so in the most excellent way … to love others as we ourselves have been loved by the Lord. Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!

Removing the Veil…

1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV)

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.

Our Verse of the Day brings an important point to the table regarding our mission to share the Gospel with those who do not know the truth. Paul explains: “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.” In 1 Corinthians 1:18-19, Paul wrote: “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. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” (Citing Isaiah 29:14) And Paul observed in another place, “Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. (Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:3-5)

Therein lies the challenge that we also faced before we came to faith in Jesus; and it is the same issue for someone who is not ready to receive the message of hope and salvation. And so, we are to be servants to unbelievers for Jesus’ sake. That is our commission … our marching orders from the Lord. We are to love others as we have been loved. We are to speak the truth in love; and we are to be salt and light in this world … to be Jesus in this world. That is why I believe it is imperative that we work together with the Holy Spirit to prepare the soil of hearts God has called to salvation. What I mean is that we should be in fervent prayer for those who need salvation to be receptive to what the Spirit of God is prompting them to hear in their heart. We need to pray for spiritual ears to hear … for the spiritual eyes of hearts to be opened to see the Gospel. Indeed, the preparation of prayer is more important than our words in the beginning of leading someone to Christ….

So, this morning, I challenge each of us to be in prayer for someone who needs to see the light of the Gospel; the good news that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, within their heart. Pray that they will not seek the wisdom of this world … which is foolishness in God’s sight … and ask the Lord to unveil and reveal the truth to them. In other words, the Spirit must do the prompting and leading … for it is HE who guides us into all truth. Yes, “When He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.” (Cf. John 16:13) For you and I cannot enter the heart of a person, but we can let our light so shine before them, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. (Cf. Matthew 5:16)

Father, You call our hearts in prayer this morning for the lost and the prodigal.  We ask and pray that You will remove the veil of darkness from their hearts so that the light of the Gospel will shine before them.  We ask You, Holy Spirit, to reveal the Truth to their hearts so that they would receive Jesus into their hearts and atonement for their sins … redemption and reconciliation … deliverance and healing … grace and peace … within their souls. Yes, we pray in the Mighty Name of Yeshua Hamashiach (Jesus the Messiah), Amen.

So Now You Know…

Have a Blessed Day!