Monthly Archives: June 2013

Today’s Scripture – June 29, 2013

John 4:13-14 (NIV):  Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

 

There is a similarity between the physical and the spiritual so that one can use physical stuff to help people to understand the spiritual realities that underlie all physical reality.  That is the basis for every sacrament.  Bread serves as a symbol for the spiritual life and nourishment made available by the giving of Jesus’ physical body.  Wine serves as a symbol of the sin-paying blood of His sacrifice on the cross.  Immersion in the water of baptism represents death to the old life and a positive resurrection into the new, while the water itself represents the spiritual reality of washing and cleansing from sins.

The problem often is that, since the physical realities are so much more visible to people than the spiritual realities, people quickly focus on the physical.  That was the Samaritan woman’s problem initially.  She was thirsty, so when Jesus promised her living water that would keep her from ever growing thirsty again, she quickly fixated on the physical.

But the spiritual reality that Jesus was promising was the Holy Spirit living continually in God’s people, not only guiding them, but providing a constant connection between a person and God’s presence and power.  Much as the sap of a grape vine provides a vital connection between the nourishment around the roots and the fruit at the end of the branches, so the Holy Spirit communicates God’s very presence to the inmost soul of His people, resulting in abundant fruit.

But even today, too many have grown satisfied with the symbols, while missing out on the reality that lies behind them and gives them significance.  They attend worship services, sing the songs, and hear the sermons, without every actually encountering God.  They eat the bread and drink the juice of communion without ever experiencing the depth of Jesus’ sacrifice on their behalf – for them as an individual.  They do their devotions without every hearing God’s voice.  They are baptized, but never really die to their old life, and so can never experience the new life He has purchased for them.

We must become aware of the great spiritual realities that lie unseen, unrealized, even by the majority of Christians.  If we will, whole new worlds of wonder will open up to our eyes!

 

Father, I thank You for the symbols that You have given us.  And I thank You even more for the spiritual realities that lie behind them, infusing them with Your life, Your power.  Help me to never be satisfied with walking in the symbols, but to always hunger and thirst for the reality.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 28, 2013

Isaiah 1:4-6 (NIV):  Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.  Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted.  From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness– only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil.

 

Even though God takes no delight in it when His people go astray, He will discipline them, taking away His hand of protection and letting sin-broken nature and sin-twisted humanity take their course.  His desire in this discipline is for His people to realize their faults and their need for God, and turn again to Him so that He can heal them and restore their land.

Bur in Isaiah’s day, the people refused to admit their wrongs.  Even though the wealth of their nation was falling to ruins, even though their national leaders had turned away from pure worship of God to feathering their own nests and pushing forth their own agendas, even though many of God’s people had idols in their homes that they poured out offerings to in order to try to ensure good crops, they still believed that they were doing nothing wrong, and that God should happily accept the tag-ends of devotion that they were willing to spare Him out of their busy agendas and crowded weeks.  This continued among the vast majority of them, even as their nation continued to slide further and further from God’s commands and His standards, until He finally took their nation from them and sent them into exile until they repented.  Israel never did – Judah took 70 long years.

We are seeing the same dynamics at work in our own nation right now.  God’s people in America (and other parts of the world, but let’s focus on America) have drifted away from full, whole-hearted devotion to the Lord and obedience to His commands.  Even though the wealth of our nation is falling to ruins, with huge deficits robbing the people of financial prosperity in both the present and the future; even though many of our leaders in local, state, and national positions have turned away from God, and instead are totally focused on their own political futures; even though the vast majority of Christians spend more time and emotional energy and money on their TV shows, their leisure activities, and their entertainments than they do on time with God and involvement with His agenda; even though many “Christian leaders” have become false prophets, pointing people away from the pure words of the Bible and infecting them with humanistic philosophies, moral relativism, and popular culture; even though all of these things are true, God’s sad, broken people still believe that we are fine.  We believe that our relationship with the Lord is fine, and that He is pleased with our half-hearted, once-a-week devotion to Him.  We look in vain for “outside causes” for the problems that the nation is facing, refusing to see that a nation rises or falls based on the solidity of God’s people – not on our “faith,” but on our whole-hearted devotion and total obedience to God, His agenda, and His commands.  The problems, tragedies, and woes that God is allowing to impact America right now are designed to turn the hearts of God’s people back to Him so that He can heal and restore our land.

If we, God’s people, refuse to repent and return to Him with all of our hearts, leaving all of our worldliness, our sinfulness, and our divided hearts behind, things will get worse and worse until the nation is lost.  There is no “political solution;” no “social program” that will fix the wounds, welts, and open sores in our society that are just now becoming visible for what they are to most people.  As God said to the  people of Isaiah’s day, so He says to the people of America today:  “Come now, let us reason together.  Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.”  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18-20 NIV)

 

Father, Your analysis of our plight and its cause is, of course, absolutely correct.  Thank You that You are still willing to pardon us and heal our land if only we will turn back to You.  Thank You that we have not yet hit the point of no return (As Jerusalem did).  Help us Lord!  Turn our hearts back to You.  Spark a great revival among Your people, that we may hear Your voice clearly, that we may be struck to the hearts, and that we might truly humble ourselves and pray and seek Your face and turn from our wicked ways, so that You will hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land.  (2 Chronicles 7:14)  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 27, 2013

Isaiah 1:4-6 (NIV):  Ah, sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.  Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted.  From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness– only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil.

 

Even though God takes no delight in it when His people go astray, He will discipline them, taking away His hand of protection and letting sin-broken nature and sin-twisted humanity take their course.  His desire in this discipline is for His people to realize their faults and their need for God, and turn again to Him so that He can heal them and restore their land.

Bur in Isaiah’s day, the people refused to admit their wrongs.  Even though the wealth of their nation was falling to ruins, even though their national leaders had turned away from pure worship of God to feathering their own nests and pushing forth their own agendas, even though many of God’s people had idols in their homes that they poured out offerings to in order to try to ensure good crops, they still believed that they were doing nothing wrong, and that God should happily accept the tag-ends of devotion that they were willing to spare Him out of their busy agendas and crowded weeks.  This continued among the vast majority of them, even as their nation continued to slide further and further from God’s commands and His standards, until He finally took their nation from them and sent them into exile until they repented.  Israel never did – Judah took 70 long years.

We are seeing the same dynamics at work in our own nation right now.  God’s people in America (and other parts of the world, but let’s focus on America) have drifted away from full, whole-hearted devotion to the Lord and obedience to His commands.  Even though the wealth of our nation is falling to ruins, with huge deficits robbing the people of financial prosperity in both the present and the future; even though many of our leaders in local, state, and national positions have turned away from God, and instead are totally focused on their own political futures; even though the vast majority of Christians spend more time and emotional energy and money on their TV shows, their leisure activities, and their entertainments than they do on time with God and involvement with His agenda; even though many “Christian leaders” have become false prophets, pointing people away from the pure words of the Bible and infecting them with humanistic philosophies, moral relativism, and popular culture; even though all of these things are true, God’s sad, broken people still believe that we are fine.  We believe that our relationship with the Lord is fine, and that He is pleased with our half-hearted, once-a-week devotion to Him.  We look in vain for “outside causes” for the problems that the nation is facing, refusing to see that a nation rises or falls based on the solidity of God’s people – not on our “faith,” but on our whole-hearted devotion and total obedience to God, His agenda, and His commands.  The problems, tragedies, and woes that God is allowing to impact America right now are designed to turn the hearts of God’s people back to Him so that He can heal and restore our land.

If we, God’s people, refuse to repent and return to Him with all of our hearts, leaving all of our worldliness, our sinfulness, and our divided hearts behind, things will get worse and worse until the nation is lost.  There is no “political solution;” no “social program” that will fix the wounds, welts, and open sores in our society that are just now becoming visible for what they are to most people.  As God said to the  people of Isaiah’s day, so He says to the people of America today:  “Come now, let us reason together.  Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.”  For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 1:18-20 NIV)

 

Father, Your analysis of our plight and its cause is, of course, absolutely correct.  Thank You that You are still willing to pardon us and heal our land if only we will turn back to You.  Thank You that we have not yet hit the point of no return (As Jerusalem did).  Help us Lord!  Turn our hearts back to You.  Spark a great revival among Your people, that we may hear Your voice clearly, that we may be struck to the hearts, and that we might truly humble ourselves and pray and seek Your face and turn from our wicked ways, so that You will hear from heaven, forgive our sins, and heal our land.  (2 Chronicles 7:14)  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 27, 2013

Isaiah 42:5-7 (NIV):  This is what God the Lord says– he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it:  “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

 

When God sent Jesus to serve on the earth for a time, He had a very broad job description, given to Him before the foundation of the world, and foretold through Isaiah.  Through these prophecies, God revealed that Jesus was no fluke – he was sent as an intentional act by our God who created and sustains all things.

  • ·         He revealed that Jesus would do nothing on His own, but would walk in total submission to God, carrying out His sovereign will in all righteousness.  (Cf. John 5:19)
  • ·         He revealed that Jesus would actually become a new covenant for the people of the world; a covenant that would stretch far beyond the Jews to impact all of the nations of the gentiles with God’s love and grace.  (Cf. Luke 22:20; Acts 1:8)
  • ·         He revealed that Jesus would open the eyes of the blind – not just giving physical sight (Cf. John 9:6-7), but opening spiritual eyes as well.  (Cf. Luke 24:45)
  • ·         He revealed that Jesus would free those who were oppressed and held captive by satan, and trapped in sin.  (Cf. Mark 1:23-26)

All of these things that God revealed, Jesus fulfilled to the letter.  And He is still able to do all of those things through the lives of His people today!

 

Father, I can clearly see these prophecies, as well as how Jesus fulfilled them all.  And I see how He is still fulfilling them through my life, and through the lives of Your people all over the world.  Lord, keep working through us; fill up in us all that is left undone of Jesus’ life and ministry, until the whole world has been set free.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 26, 2013

Jeremiah 29:10-14 (NIV):  This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

 

These words were spoken to a people who were under God’s judgment.  They had been carried off to Babylon several years before and, at first, were expecting to be rescued immediately.  They reasoned that surely, in God’s might and in His power, He would not allow His people to experience these terrible things without coming to their rescue.

But then, as time drug on from weeks to months, and into years, hope began to wane.  Perhaps, they thought, God was not as powerful as they had imagined.  Maybe the gods of Babylon were stronger than He was!

But the problem was not with God, it was with them; they were still the same in their hearts as they had been when He had sent them into captivity.  Nothing about them had changed or improved over those few years; they still had hearts that were not focused on God.  They wanted Him only so that He could free them; so that their lives could return to “normal” again.  But their normal lives were lives of sin, disobedience, idolatry, and dissipation.

God would not rescue them until the furnace of captivity had purified the people; until the struggles and hardships had given them a whole-hearted focus on Him.  The majority of those who went into captivity never did return – their children and grand children were the ones who repossessed the land.  Still, it was vital that the people understood that the hardships they were experiencing were more than simply punishment – they were designed to melt them down, to remove the dross of sinful actions and attitudes, and to purify them to be God’s people once again – that God’s plans for them were for their ULTIMATE good; plans to prosper them, not to harm them, plans to give them hope and a future.

But it was also vital for them to understand that it was going to take 70 long years of trouble and toil to get them there!  They had sunk so far that no repentance of lips alone would put them back on the right track; they had to be changed INSIDE.  Only when they came to the point where they sought God with all their hearts would He be found by them.  Only at that point would He bring them back into the land.

It may seem strange, or even cruel to some, that God told His people that He had plans for their future, plans that would provide them with hope, but that it would be 70 years before He would work those plans – that many of the people would likely die before they became a reality.  But without that hope, without that knowledge, none of the people would have begun the arduous process of reformation that would ultimately lead to their restoration as a people.  None would have begun to really seek God wholeheartedly and begin to teach their children to do the same.  God’s plans are for the ULTIMATE good of His people, and individuals can experience that good when they enlist in the future that He is presenting, and seek Him with all their hearts.

 

Father, as I read Your word, I see many places where You show us the hope and future that You have for those who love You, and who seek You wholeheartedly.  You don’t give us a solid timeline as You did for the Jews, but the picture is there.  Father, help that picture to implant itself firmly in our hearts, so that it moves us to follow You, to completely obey You, to seek You and Your will every single day, so that we place ourselves intentionally on that road, so that we, our kids, our grandkids, can ALL find You, and receive every good You have planned for us.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 26, 2013

Jeremiah 29:10-14 (NIV):  This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

 

These words were spoken to a people who were under God’s judgment.  They had been carried off to Babylon several years before and, at first, were expecting to be rescued immediately.  They reasoned that surely, in God’s might and in His power, He would not allow His people to experience these terrible things without coming to their rescue.

But then, as time drug on from weeks to months, and into years, hope began to wane.  Perhaps, they thought, God was not as powerful as they had imagined.  Maybe the gods of Babylon were stronger than He was!

But the problem was not with God, it was with them; they were still the same in their hearts as they had been when He had sent them into captivity.  Nothing about them had changed or improved over those few years; they still had hearts that were not focused on God.  They wanted Him only so that He could free them; so that their lives could return to “normal” again.  But their normal lives were lives of sin, disobedience, idolatry, and dissipation.

God would not rescue them until the furnace of captivity had purified the people; until the struggles and hardships had given them a whole-hearted focus on Him.  The majority of those who went into captivity never did return – their children and grand children were the ones who repossessed the land.  Still, it was vital that the people understood that the hardships they were experiencing were more than simply punishment – they were designed to melt them down, to remove the dross of sinful actions and attitudes, and to purify them to be God’s people once again – that God’s plans for them were for their ULTIMATE good; plans to prosper them, not to harm them, plans to give them hope and a future.

But it was also vital for them to understand that it was going to take 70 long years of trouble and toil to get them there!  They had sunk so far that no repentance of lips alone would put them back on the right track; they had to be changed INSIDE.  Only when they came to the point where they sought God with all their hearts would He be found by them.  Only at that point would He bring them back into the land.

It may seem strange, or even cruel to some, that God told His people that He had plans for their future, plans that would provide them with hope, but that it would be 70 years before He would work those plans – that many of the people would likely die before they became a reality.  But without that hope, without that knowledge, none of the people would have begun the arduous process of reformation that would ultimately lead to their restoration as a people.  None would have begun to really seek God wholeheartedly and begin to teach their children to do the same.  God’s plans are for the ULTIMATE good of His people, and individuals can experience that good when they enlist in the future that He is presenting, and seek Him with all their hearts.

 

Father, as I read Your word, I see many places where You show us the hope and future that You have for those who love You, and who seek You wholeheartedly.  You don’t give us a solid timeline as You did for the Jews, but the picture is there.  Father, help that picture to implant itself firmly in our hearts, so that it moves us to follow You, to completely obey You, to seek You and Your will every single day, so that we place ourselves intentionally on that road, so that we, our kids, our grandkids, can ALL find You, and receive every good You have planned for us.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 25, 2013

Isaiah 59:1-2 (NIV):  Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

 

Many people have strong opinions as to why God doesn’t act more strongly to fix the ills of this world.  And those opinions often form a false dichotomy:  that God is either too weak to fix things, or that He just doesn’t care.  But God’s arm is not too short to save His people.  He can still perform the same mighty miracles that He did at the Exodus.  He is still the God who can create a whole universe with a word from His lips.  He has not aged a single moment in the thousands of years that have elapsed since He called forth light out of the darkness, so He has not grown weak or had a lessening of His power.

So does He not care enough to fix our broken world that people are born into?  He cares so much that He sacrificed His only Son on the cross to save all mankind, to redeem all nature, and to destroy the works of the devil.  He cares enough to be completely involved in drawing all people to Jesus, and in commanding all of His people all over the world to GO and make disciples of all nations.  And for those who do go, He provides them with divine power to be witnesses of Jesus, and of all that He can do to change the world.

But, as I said, these two options form a false dichotomy that ignores the real answer to the question:  What is keeping the sweeping changes that God wants to see (and paid a monstrously high price to see) from happening?  It is sin, just as it always has been.  The sins of God’s people, their unrighteousness, their self-centeredness, and their compromise with the world, have separated us from God, and have closed His ears to our prayers.  Prayers go unanswered not because God is uncaring or unable, but because they are being prayed by people to whom He will not listen.  If someone is living a life contrary to God’s precepts and character, He will not listen or answer.  If someone is loving the world and the things in it, if they cherish their possessions and their entertainments more than they cherish God, finding hours to sit at a ball game or in front of a television set, but having a hard time finding even a single hour each day to spend with Him, then He will not hear their hastily said prayers.

Make no mistake, it is the prayer of a genuinely righteous person that is powerful and effective at changing things, and no other.  (James 5:16b)  The only prayer that God will hear and answer from one not living in accordance with His commands is the heart-felt prayer of repentance and surrender.

 

Father, this is a hard teaching, but its truth is shouted all through Your word, and is reinforced by Your actions all through the ages.  Forgive us for taking You for granted, for expecting answers to our prayers when we don’t have You and Your will at the very top of our agendas and our lives.  Help us.  Change us.  Move us into the right place, so that we CAN pray prayers that are powerful and effective.  Amen.

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