Tag Archives: Christ

Deuteronomy 33,34; Psalm 119:145-176; Isaiah 60; Matthew 8

To the Leper: Without discrimination or hesitation: “Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed,’” (Matthew 8:3). What are my biases, my prejudices? How many times have I withheld my hands from reaching out to strangers, the homeless, those who are needy? Where did I rationalize caution when obedience would have best mirrored Christ?

To the Centurion:  Without hesitation or stipulation: “And Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him,’” (Matthew 8:7). How have routine and self-imposed obligations built a wall of separation from the immediacy outside of my world? How often have I held back from offering a hand and depended on the prompt responses of others to do what I would not?

To King David: Without fear of rejection and with assurance of God’s covenantal love and His just nature, David calls out: “Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; O Lord, revive me according to Your justice,” (Psalm 119:149). When was the last time that I praised God for His lovingkindness and supported His acts of justice? How often do I seek Him with confidence that He has loving thoughts toward me?

To Moses: Without complaint or argument: “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there…by the mouth of Hashem,” (Deut 34:5, 6). The mouth of Hashem has been interpreted as the Divine Kiss. How is it that I continue to wrestle with the sting of death instead of the joy of my salvation? Do I long to see Christ face to face only to ask about earthly matters?

After a self-examination, I am tempted to sink to the ground in despair. I still know what it feels like to sin. I have heard it said God looks down at me and sees me dipped in the cleansing blood of Christ. However, in my human nature, I do not feel perfect or holy. Yet, I will be perfect in holiness one day – not because I finally get it right or because I have stored up enough good deeds to outweigh the sins that will burn before my eyes (and the Lord’s eyes!). Rather, I will be changed from this woman struggling to fight the good fight into the beloved bride of Christ by the same resurrection power that raised Christ from the dead.

To Me/to all His beloved: “Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you,” (Isaiah 60:1). Without doubt and with a contented sigh, take a deep breath: Deut 33:26, 27 says, “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to help you, And in His excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms…”

I confess that I need God to be the Divine Warrior who is always ready to be my protector, even though I may start the fight. I need Him to be a place where I can run when my poor decisions or unintentional mistakes cause chaos and distress to chase after me. I need the assurance of God’s strong arm that delivers me with love and with power when I am least able to defend myself. Nothing can compare to the way God shows Himself to His beloved.

Janet (jansuwilkinson)

All Scripture quoted from The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Trinity Fellowship Church 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, 2002.

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, Matthew, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms, Uncategorized

Exodus 33; John 12; Proverbs 9; Ephesians 2

I may be a bit morbid, but I think a lot about the living and the dead. On one level I am asking the ageless questions about who lives and who dies and why. These questions pave the path of pain that leaves a jagged swatch of loss I cannot conceal. If you know me well, you have sat with me during those times of grief. On a deeper level I am wrestling with existential crisis questions such as the meaning and purpose in this life. These thoughts are universal.

In John 12:1 we read, “Then, six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead.” How fitting that Jesus would be in the house of the man who had tasted death and returned to life after three days!” Perhaps Jesus thought of His own imminent physical death by crucifixion. Can you imagine how that memory of seeing Lazarus walk from the cave into the light and now sitting next to him impacted Christ? Was this inspiration for Jesus to prophecy His own death?  Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain,” (John 12:23). The souls saved through the miracle of raising Lazarus would pale in numbers to the generations of souls saved through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So what did Lazarus do to deserve life after death (the first time)? Can we add to a lifespan, or is the numbering of our days unlikely to change? My curiosity was piqued after reading this interesting passage in Proverbs 9:10-11. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding, For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you,” (my emphasis.) Can it be that life is extended through the wisdom and word of God?

Of course, my next thought is an automatic negative one that says, “Yea, but what if I have molded the golden calf?”

Sometimes the New Testament Jesus is preached as if Christ brought love to a world which had only known the wrath of the God of the Old Testament. I’ve come to believe that this line of thinking may be an example of how our ways are not like His. For in Exodus 33:18, 19 when Moses had asked for a demonstration of God’s favor (remember this is after the Israelites’ faithless worship of their man-made golden calf). God said, “I shall make all My goodness pass before you, and I shall call out with the Name Hashem (Mercy) before you; I shall show favor when I choose to show favor, and I shall show mercy when I choose to show mercy.” God was about to show Moses the 13 Attributes of Mercy (see Exodus 34,) that Moses was to teach His people. God wanted them and us to invoke these attributes of mercy in prayers.

Mercy is for the living. Ephesians 2:1,4, and10 declares, “And you He made alive…God who is rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which He prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

My prayer: God, give me revelation and understanding. Without Your mercy, I have nothing. And like Moses, I say that without Your Presence, I will not move. Even though I have done nothing to deserve Your favor, I seek Your goodness through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, my Savior. Praise You for however many days to come, continually living in Your presence.

Janet (jansuwilkinson)

All Scripture quoted from The Nelson Study Bible, New King James Version, Trinity Fellowship Church 25th Anniversary Commemorative Edition, 2002.

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Ephesians, Exodus, John, M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, New Testament, Old Testament, Proverbs, Uncategorized

Genesis 48; Luke 1:39-80; Job 14; I Corinthians 2

I just found out recently that the famous fictional author, John Grisham, is a follower of Christ.  In the story I was reading they shared a defining moment in his spiritual journey and it went something like this —

Several years after graduating from Mississippi State University, when one of his classmates in law school told John he was terminally ill. Grisham asked him, “What do you do when you realize you are about to die?” The friend replied, “It’s real simple. You get things right with God, and you spend as much time with those you love as you can. Then you settle up with everybody else.”

The Old Testament is filled with moments of death only because those are also the time of blessings, just as Jacob’s upcoming passing in Genesis 48 caused him to reach out and bless Joseph’s sons.

Death was the reason Jesus came – and Jesus is the reason that John the Baptist came – two miracles expressed so beautifully in Luke 1 when Mary and Elizabeth greet each other.

Job expressed well what death looked like to him – what death looked like before Jesus. Sounds a lot like my favourite book, Ecclesiastes – few days, full of trouble, a shadow, and it does not continue. However, do not miss the hope – 

O that you would hide me in Sheol, that you would conceal me until your wrath is past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! – Job 14:13 (NRSV)

With life as short as it is and with Jesus being our only hope, it is for this very reason that I love discipling others.  Discipleship keeps things simple.  How to take the profound truths of the gospel, Jesus death and resurrection, and make them simple enough for people to pass from death to life. Paul tried to capture this struggle himself  —

So that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 2:5 (NRSV)

I still remember my much older Dutch friend as I was leading him into the simple truths of what it meant to be a follower of Christ.  We approached the topic of giving.  He could not, he said if he did the heating bill would not be paid.  We prayed.  He decided on Sunday to trust God.  When we met a few weeks later I asked if the heating bill was paid – he said yes.  When I checked in again six months later he said that he made more money in the past six months than in the past year and a half.  He passed from death to life in his walk with God, became a passionate follower of Christ and chaired the missions board at his church for ten years because others needed to hear about Jesus. He kept it simple – let them discover they could trust Him – trust His promises and place their hope in Him. 

evanlaar

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Job 34-36; Revelation 20

11Then I saw a great white throne and the One who was sitting on it. Earth and sky ran away from him and disappeared. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne. And the book of life was opened. There were also other books opened. The dead were judged by what they had done, which was written in the books. 13The sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. Each person was judged by what he had done. 14And Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15 (ICB)
I’ve been enjoying cheesy Christmas romantic comedies the last couple of weeks. They’re light-hearted and they distract me from the difficulties in the day to day of life, despite being particularly predicable.
This week I watched  a new one, called “How Sarah Got Her Wings”. It was about a woman who died and had to come back to earth to get her name on the list to get into heaven. She was desperate not to got to hell, a place where the people look pathetic and forlorn like a row of wallflowers at a junior high school dance. So the manager of purgatory sent her back to earth to do something, anything to get her name on the list. It took her a few tries, but she finally figured out the way to get into heaven.
Though the movie was cute and enjoyable, I had to shake my head at the message that’s being sent by a movie which sets up the gates of heaven to be like a hip new restaurant that you need reservations for.
The truth is the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ and He’s the only one who can make certain that my name is in the book of life. It doesn’t matter how many good deeds I have done in my life. It doesn’t matter how many amazing things I do for other people or how many sacrifices I make before my life is over. What matters is whether or not I believe in Jesus-come to earth in the flesh-that I believe that He died on the cross, and rose again, and is now sitting at the right hand of God continually interceding on my behalf.
When and only when I turn my life and my heart to Jesus, will I be able to enter heaven when my time comes. My name will be in the book of life.
Yesappa, Thank You for choosing to lay yourself down, so that in death and in life we can always be connected. Thank You for the eternity in heaven that You made possible for me. Thank You for rescuing me from the pit of hell and writing my name in the book of life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Job, New Testament, Old Testament, Revelation, Uncategorized

Esther 7-10; Revelation 3

It may be a stretch to individualize the prophetic letters to the churches mentioned in Revelation, but all Scripture speaks to me as if I’m sitting across from Jesus Christ listening. So even in the different declarations to each of the seven churches of Revelation, I hear His voice speaking correction, affirmation, and motivation to the current state of my soul.

I am comforted by Revelation 3:1-6 “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Yet, you have a few names…” (those who have not soiled their garments) “who through righteous acts will walk with Christ in white, for they are worthy.” This admonition reminds me that creeping pride of going to a great church, reminiscing about the good works I was happy to do, or taking even the smallest joy at being noticed for those works can escalate into self-righteousness and self-absorption.  How do I discern righteous acts from dead works?

Remember how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent.

Revelation 3:7-13 reminds me of my soul’s timid nature. “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” I cannot deny the great name of Christ; yet I confess that I am helped by His Spirit to declare His words when my voice is but a whisper. I keep walking through these doors – changes in locations, jobs, relationships, purpose. Sometimes the change was not what I expected and definitely not what I would choose for myself. So how can I step over the next threshold?

Hold fast what you have.

Sometimes it seems easier to play it safe. Fly under the radar. I regulate my emotions so that my thoughts and behaviors do not ruffle feathers; I agree and nod in approval to keep the peace, believing I am modeling a gentle spirit. But that is not what God has called me to do. He says in Revelation 3:14-22, “I know your works that you are neither cold nor hot…you do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…” It isn’t hard to determine the cause of inertia, but what is one to do?

Be zealous and repent; when you hear My voice, open the door.

Funny, but Christ’s admonitions do not create fear or discouragement. Even when we think that we have lost what He has given, we are reminded that God will bring us victory The messages to these churches are for those who have known Him. This is cause for celebration, and turning destruction into shouts of joy is also found in God’s word.

Esther 9:20 The Feast of Purim – remembrance of God’s deliverance from a day of destruction. “the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor.”

Dear Father God, and our Lord Jesus Christ,                                                                                                         In whatever state you find my soul, forgive me for failing you in any way. Restore the truth, comfort, and revelation of Your unstoppable will and purpose for my life, and I will turn the joy of my salvation back into worship and praise. Your presence alone can bring grace and mercy. I pray that this season of celebration is filled with preparations on holding fast to what we have heard and throwing wide open any door that separates us from hearing Your voice. Welcome, come in!

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Zephaniah; Psalm 74; II Corinthians 8

One of the most frequent arguments of man about God goes something like this, “If God rules over the day, the night, the light, and the sun; if He sets seasons and limits the oceans from covering all the land, how is it that He allows chaos and destruction in the world?” (Paraphrased, Psalm 74). A more personal, contemporary grudge with God begets questions like, “If God is a loving, caring God, then why did He allow this addiction, divorce, death of my loved one, bankruptcy, job loss, declined health… in my life?” Throughout history man has cried out to God, yet, I sense a subtle change in the way New Testament Christians are called to perceive the difficulties of life. I am reminded of Courtney’s September 22nd post quoting II Corinthians 6:3-5:

3We try to live in such a way that no one will ever be offended or kept back from finding the Lord by the way we act, so that no one can find fault with us and blame it on the Lord. 4 In fact, in everything we do we try to show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure suffering and hardship and trouble of every kind. 5 We have been beaten, put in jail, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, stayed awake through sleepless nights of watching, and gone without food. 6 We have proved ourselves to be what we claim by our wholesome lives and by our understanding of the Gospel and by our patience. We have been kind and truly loving and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Do you see the shift? It isn’t as though we are to stop asking God to intervene. There are too many Scriptures that challenge or command us to pray for self and others. The wild, uncontrollable impulse to question God’s goodness, His intentions, and His desire to deliver His “turtledove” from destruction is the difference I see in Paul’s discourse. There need be no doubt in an anno Domini son’s or daughter’s heart that God’s will is being accomplished in the lives of His children.

This is not to say that the children of Israel before Christ were not chastised for unbelief. Zephaniah warns that God will “…punish men who are settled in complacency, who say in their heart, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will He do evil,” (v 12). Only the foolish believed that God was uninvolved with His people and inactive.

Yet, today many still question God’s interaction with man. (Of course, I am not talking about nonbelievers who use this same argument to try discrediting God.) Focusing on the inequality in the world leads many to think that God neither blesses nor curses, and neither comes to the aid of or punishes His own. But do our circumstances evidence God’s apathy, or does complacency expose hearts fallen prey to life’s circumstances?

Maybe I just want an end to the questions. Then I remember that Jesus Christ put to rest all arguments when on the cross, He said, “It is finished!” What a relief! Like the Apostle Paul’s advice to the Corinthians, we must push on in our Christian walk, “doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago;” [a month ago, a decade ago] (my words); but now you also must complete the doing of it; that is there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion of what you have.” Whether in giving good gifts to the saints as is intended in this Scripture or in living a sacrificial life, I pray,

Dear Lord Jesus, help us to walk in victory over our circumstances. Help us demonstrate our belief in the personal intervention of a risen Savior who proved unequivocally that God is involved in our lives. Help us to focus on becoming “kind and truly loving and filled with the Holy Spirit” so that others will see You in us. Thank You for hearts dependent on the grace and mercy You daily bestow!

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Isaiah 26-29; Psalm 65; I Corinthians 4

Do you have problems with trust? I often say that I trust others to do what they say they will do, only to think silently that I doubt they will adequately fulfill the promise made or complete the requested task. Just yesterday, I spoke on the phone with someone who asked if I wanted to cancel my services since I moved. This is the third time I have “cancelled” the services by phone, and I just knew there would be some extra charge. After droning on about the inefficiency of the company, my unwillingness to accept further charges, etc., the agent repeated, “Would you like to cancel the service today?” Polite but frozen calmness and the use of fragmented sentences and monotone voice relayed my irritation. Ever the diplomat, the agent cancelled the service and assured me there were no further charges on my account. This is just one example of how I step in to gain control, become overwhelmed, and realize too late that I have failed at doing what someone else was really capable and more qualified to do. This pattern of thinking and behavior has infected personal and working relationships, but mostly my relationship with God. It all boils down to trust.

Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” If I am stressed, worried, or anxious, then do I really trust in God? And does my cynicism about the state of this world interfere with the belief that “With my soul I have desired You in the night; yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early; for when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9)? Do I really trust that the judgments of God will one day right the world? Also, do I trust in my abilities and knowledge to affect change in others, open those proverbial doors and set me in high places? Or do I seek the source of all good counsel? Isaiah 28:29 says, “This [wisdom] also comes from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.”

Psalm 65:9 reminds us that God visits the earth and waters it, and that God greatly enriches it, so that “The pastures are clothed with flocks; The valleys also are covered with grain,” (v13), yet I toy with thoughts that the good we receive in life is circumstantial and coincidental. I say that God is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance, yet do I boast about what I have received and judge others (and even myself) for what we lack?

I could go on with evidence of lacking trust…but beating me up for a lack of trust serves no other purpose than confessing my weakness. I Corinthians 4:5 says, “Therefore judge nothing before the time until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.” Come, let us learn to hand over the need for control to the One who with absolute perfection will accomplish His will in our lives.

God, I will trust You today to teach me how to be a faithful servant in the field You have provided me to tend. Though, as the Apostle Paul said, I might have a thousand teachers, only You, Lord Jesus, are rightfully called the Wonderful Counselor. I will not judge others by my standards nor interfere when Your righteousness is being poured out. I will trust that You know my needs (and those of all Your creation), and that You will increase the fruit of our labor and drop, as from an overflowing cart, abundance. Thank You Almighty God and Lord Jesus Christ for providing me opportunities to trust You today as I dwell in Your presence.  Amen.

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Filed under 1 Corinthians, 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Isaiah, New Testament, Old Testament, Psalms