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Today’s Scripture – June 13, 2017

Luke 1:67-75 (NIV)

His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. 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), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us–to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Zechariah’s being filled with the Holy Spirit did not enable him to do signs and wonders (these had already been accomplished in Elizabeth and Mary), but it enabled him to give the Lord appropriate praise, and even to get a glimpse of His larger plan.

First of all, he realized that God was beginning to act right then to begin the process of redeeming His people. In the past He had redeemed Adam and Eve from death, Noah from the flood, and the whole nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt and captivity in Babylon. But two huge oppressors still held God’s people, indeed all people, captive: sin and death. Zechariah could clearly see that the child Mary was carrying would be the long promised horn of the house of David, a powerful ruler who would not only rule over all of those who would become God’s people, but who would actually save them from both the penalty and the power of sin.

Zechariah could see clearly that the sending of the Messiah was way more than merely a promise kept. It was an act of unbridled mercy. God’s people had a long, long history (about 1500 years at that point) of rebelling against Him and His commands, from the days of the Exodus, all that way to the day in which Zechariah was living. Many times God had allowed them to be oppressed, conquered, and even exiled to punish them and to help them to repent of their rebellion. But He had always stopped short of allowing them to be destroyed because of the love that He had for them, and because of His faithfulness to His covenant promises.

But now God was poised to do a new thing among His people, and Zechariah was among the very first to see it clearly. Now He was not only going to save them from their most powerful enemies, sin and death. He was going to purify His people with the fire of the Holy Spirit, and enable them to serve Him in genuine holiness and righteousness in His presence for all of their days.

Father, this is a great and wonderful promise, foretold from the days of the prophets, and still available to all of Your people today. But so few of us are willing to believe that it is true. Instead, we see ourselves as vile sinners, for whom true righteousness and holiness is only a pipe dream, or a promise for the age to come. But, Father, You make it clear even in the words of good Zechariah that this promise is for us, it is for now, and You are powerful enough to pull it off in our lives. Help us, help me, to believe this promise, and to receive its fulfillment from Your hands. Make it real in my own life today. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 21, 2014

Exodus 3:16-17 (NIV):  “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob– appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt.  And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites–a land flowing with milk and honey.’”

The descendants of Israel in Egypt during their 400 year sojourn had lost track of the fact that they were God’s people, and that He was their God.  In the midst of their toiling and suffering oppression, they had no sense that He was present with them, watching over them, and putting the pieces into place that would ultimately lead not only to their salvation from slavery, but to their inheritance of the Promised Land, as He had sworn to their forefathers.

At first the process seemed too hard.  Pharaoh increased their workload in response to God’s demand that he let His people go.  And the people almost lost heart.  They couldn’t yet see how God was working His plan, even in the midst of their trials.  Then came weeks of plagues that God brought on Egypt – plagues that devastated the Egyptians, but left His people untouched.  Only then did the people begin to realize what was really happening:  that the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was really working on their behalf to set them free.  Only then did hope begin to spring up in their hearts.  Only then did the old promises, passed down through the generations, begin to glow with new life.

The thing is, God had been with them the whole time, even in the hardest of times.  He had been watching over them, guiding them, protecting them, and helping them to grow into a great nation (despite varied attempts to slow down the multiplication rate by Pharaoh!).  They were unaware of God’s presence, blind to the actions He was taking on their behalf, and ignorant of the thousands of graces that He showered on them every day; unaware of miracles that He was performing to keep them on track with His plans for them.  It was only when they found the burden too hard to bear, the trials too hot to tolerate, that they called on God to act, and their eyes were opened so that they could see His hand at work on their behalf.

Father, it would be easy to criticize these people for not seeing the many ways in which You were actively present, doing everything necessary to make all of Your promises come true.  But, Lord, how often are we the same as them!  How often do we fail to sense Your presence with us, Your hand protecting us from a thousand things each day that could ruin or kill us, but from which You protect us without us even being aware of the danger!  How many ways have You gone out of Your way to bless us, and we blissfully receive the blessing without even being aware of Your hand; without a single word of thanks!  Forgive us, Lord, for being so blind, so deaf, so senseless, and so lacking in gratitude.  Open all of our senses so that we can clearly see Your hand at work, so we can feel Your presence, so we can take heart that You are near in every trial.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 16, 2013

Psalm 146:5-9 (NIV):  Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– the Lord, who remains faithful forever.  He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.  The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

So many people come to God with requests for “stuff,” or for favors, for ease of life, or freedom from worry and cares.  But with that focus on self, they are actually passing up the huge riches that He offers through relationship with Him.  It is almost like someone passing up gold nuggets laying all over the ground because their eyes are focused on the smooth pebbles laying nearby.

Our God is the Lord who upholds the cause of the oppressed.  Whenever and wherever His people are mistreated, He takes note.  He will bring the trouble caused to those He loves down on the heads of their oppressors.  And this includes far more than human oppressors.  He can throw all of the spiritual forces of darkness that oppress His people into disarray too!

Our God gives food to the hungry, just as He did the Israelites in the wilderness when He provided not only manna, but quail too numerous to count.  But in addition to physical sustenance, He also gives spiritual food that the unsaved know nothing about, (John 4:31-34) giving them spiritual power and vigor that will stand up to any challenge.

Our God sets prisoners free.  Some He sets free from physical bondage, but He sets all who come to Him free from the bonds and the power of sin, so that they can walk with Him in righteousness all of their days.

Our God gives sight to the blind.  Some He sets free from physical blindness, but He opens the spiritual eyes of all who come to Him, so that they can see the world as it truly is, and can understand His will and His ways.

Our God lifts up those who are bowed down, freeing them from the heavy yoke of sin and the brokenness to which it leads, and giving them instead the easy yoke of Jesus; the yoke of peace, and of joy in serving Him wholeheartedly.

Our God watches over the alien, those who are in this world but are not of this world because they are citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and ambassadors on a mission to expand that kingdom.  He is always with them fulfilling Jesus’ promise to be with all of God’s people to the very end of the age.  (Matthew 28:20)

Our God sustains the fatherless and the widow, holding all who call on Him close, and becoming to them father and husband.  He give them more love than they could ever imagine, and helps them to grow straight, strong, and healthy, until they reach the whole measure of the fullness of  Christ.  (Ephesians 4:13)

Our God frustrates the ways of the wicked.  They will never be able to waylay those who trust in Him to direct their steps.  And they will never be able to destroy God’s people, removing them entirely from the earth, no matter how hard they try, because God will ALWAYS preserve a righteous remnant for Himself, no matter what.

God is every faithful to His people, and will keep every promise He has made to us, from now on and forever.

Father, thank you for these wonderful promises, and the way You keep them, the way that You guide and direct me every day.  Help me to never push my own wants forward so that I overlook all that You have promised to do in my life.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 6, 2013

Psalm 45:10-11 (NIV):  Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father’s house.  The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.

God’s call to His people is always a call to leave behind our allegiance to the kingdom of this world, and to live wholeheartedly in His kingdom.  To forsake our primary allegiance to mother and father, and to turn to Him as the true Father of our souls.  (cf. Luke 14:26)  To turn away from all earthly attachments and the pursuit of things that the world hold dear, and to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  (Matthew 5:33)  To make God our first love, beyond which everything else fades quickly into the background.  (cf. Revelation 2:4-5)

To some this seems too strong, too harsh.  (It has always been so.)  To others it feels like death to all that they currently hold dear, and they shrink back from it.  But after God redeems a soul; after He saves a person from an eternity in hell; after He, of His own free will, sent His Son, Jesus, to die as a sacrifice on our behalf; is complete devotion to Him too much to ask?  Is it not an affront to all that He has done for us, saving us from an eternity of loss and separation from Him and giving us instead life to the full that we will live in from now throughout all eternity; after all of that, is it not an affront for us to live as if we were our own?  To make decisions about our lives without taking God’s plans for us into consideration?  To occupy ourselves with entertainments that, at best, do not take God or His priorities into account, or, at worst, go against all that He stands for?

God gave His all for every person who comes to Him in faith.  His call to each of us is to forget our people – to no longer consider ourselves people of this world, but to become whole hearted HIS people, a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging entirely to God.  (1 Peter 2:9)  God’s call is to forget our father’s house.  Before we became His people, we were children of darkness, enslaved to the enemy of our souls.  When we come to God He releases us from all of that, and calls us to forget the darkness entirely; to live instead as children of light.  God’s call is to honor Him as our Lord, the one who has bought us at a very dear price, and who now has the right to call us to live in the ways of the kingdom.

God often uses the figure of a bride and groom to describe the relationship between Him and His Church, (cf. Ephesians 5:31-32), and it is a good analogy.  Just as a bride is called to become one with her husband, body and soul, so God calls His people to become one with Him, body and soul, so that we will be united with Him forever.

Father, You did save me out of a darkness so deep that it nearly crushed the life out of me.  You did set me free from gates of bronze and bars of iron (Psalm 107:16).  You did breathe your life-giving Spirit into me, enlivening my dry-as-dust bones, giving me true life now, and the sure promise of eternal life with You forever.  And, because of all of these and so much more, I am Yours forever, with nothing held back.  Help me to live every moment of every day as your man.  Help me to hear Your voice clearly, and to make knowing Your will and doing Your will one single motion every day, all the rest of my life.  I love You with all my heart!  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 31, 2013

Ezekiel 37:1-3 (NIV):  The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.  He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.  He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

God’s people give up too easily!  God designed His people to be a mighty force, carrying salvation across the earth, changing the whole planet from the kingdom of the world to the kingdom of God.  He has give us power and authority to demolish strongholds, arguments, and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of Him; to take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).  He has provided us with the power of the Holy Spirit, and with the presence of the whole Trinity in our lives to guide, direct, and empower us to do all that He has called us to do.  And yet, all around the world, including in America, God sees the Church sitting on the sidelines, crying over our powerlessness to change anything, and praying to be taken out of the game!  It is not only confusing to see those who have been chosen and empowered to change the world moaning, and complaining, and whining, it is wrong to the point of blasphemy!  We are, in effect, complaining that God has given us a job to do that is impossible, even with His help!

We as the Church need to catch of fresh vision of what God has called us to be and to do, and we need to be revived and begin to move forward anew under God’s direction and in His power and authority.  The church in America today is much like the Church in Sardis:  we have a reputation of being alive, but we are dead (Revelation 3:1).  We are much like the dry bones that God showed to Ezekiel – no life, and seemingly no hope of getting life.  We Christians are saying that our country has moved beyond the point of recovery, that the forces opposing us are too strong – all that’s left is to hang on until Jesus comes back!  When did God ever tell His Church to merely hang on?  When did He ever advocate retreat or retrenchment?  Those actions and attitudes will never accomplish the mission He has given the Church!

The only option to allow God’s people in America to succeed is to be revived again – to let God put His life back into our dry bones, to once again breathe His life-giving, power-giving Spirit into our lives again.  To stand us on our feet again as a mighty army, equipped with divine power to smash gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron (Psalm 107:16), so that we can set free the multiplied millions in our nation held captive by sin’s shackles.  To begin again to do the work of the church in our homes, our neighborhoods, our communities.  To change the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, who will reign for ever and ever.  (cf. Revelation 11:15)

In the end, if America does fall, it will not be because the enemies of the kingdom were too strong, too united, or too clever, or because God was too powerless.  It will be because God’s people refused to trust Him, obey Him, and be the people of God, the Church.

Father, this is strong medicine, but it is exactly true and right.  Lord, we have fallen so far that sometimes it does seem that our nation has already slipped beyond hope, that our bones are so dry and lifeless that we have no hope of recovery.  But, Lord, this very call means that all hope is not gone – it is NOT too late for us.  Oh, Lord, revive us again!  Lift us, Your people, up on our feet to do Your work in our sin-sick and evil-torn nation.  Fill us with Your Spirit and Your power so that we can tear down the strongholds of evil in our nation, so that we can see our nation turn the corner back to You.  Forgive us, Lord, for betraying You by carrying Your name and then being powerless, hopeless, and prayerless, for giving up and digging in instead of marching forward in Your strength.  Raise us up, Father, from the dust and ashes.  Make us Your Church.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 5, 2013

Isaiah 35:8-10 (NIV):  And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it.  No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

 

When Jesus died and rose from the dead, it opened a way, the Highway of Holiness, to any who are willing to enter it through the atonement purchased by Jesus.  No longer is real genuine holiness reserved for a special few – the way is now opened for all!  And this is no mere positional holiness, people somehow being declared holy in relation to Jesus while still held in the bonds of sin.  It is real holiness, with all on the way freed not only from sin’s penalty, but from its power as well.

The way of holiness is a way of safety, with no lion or other ferocious beast on it.  This, of course, symbolizes the fact that the devil and his demons cannot be found on the Holy Way – he has no power over those who have been made clean, and who choose to walk in the way of God.  No wicked person can walk the Holy Highway, but only those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

The Highway of Holiness leads right into Zion, the New Jerusalem, the spiritual city where God’s people live, where life in God’s kingdom is a day-to-day reality.  They live in joy and gladness here and now, with all sorrow and sighing gone, because they live continually in God’s presence.

It is sad that so many of God’s people have been taught that they must wait until heaven to walk in the Highway of Holiness and to live in the New Jerusalem.  Because they have been led to believe that, they miss out on the current, real-world reality of God’s holiness operating unfettered in their lives, melting them, and molding them into the very image of Jesus.

 

Father, thank You for the reality of Your love and Your holiness operating in the lives of Your people – a reality that reaches all the way to me!  Help me to walk today and every day in the Highway of Holiness, and to experience the New Jerusalem as a here-and-now reality.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 5, 2013

Isaiah 35:8-10 (NIV):  And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it.  No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

 

When Jesus died and rose from the dead, it opened a way, the Highway of Holiness, to any who are willing to enter it through the atonement purchased by Jesus.  No longer is real genuine holiness reserved for a special few – the way is now opened for all!  And this is no mere positional holiness, people somehow being declared holy in relation to Jesus while still held in the bonds of sin.  It is real holiness, with all on the way freed not only from sin’s penalty, but from its power as well.

The way of holiness is a way of safety, with no lion or other ferocious beast on it.  This, of course, symbolizes the fact that the devil and his demons cannot be found on the Holy Way – he has no power over those who have been made clean, and who choose to walk in the way of God.  No wicked person can walk the Holy Highway, but only those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

The Highway of Holiness leads right into Zion, the New Jerusalem, the spiritual city where God’s people live, where life in God’s kingdom is a day-to-day reality.  They live in joy and gladness here and now, with all sorrow and sighing gone, because they live continually in God’s presence.

It is sad that so many of God’s people have been taught that they must wait until heaven to walk in the Highway of Holiness and to live in the New Jerusalem.  Because they have been led to believe that, they miss out on the current, real-world reality of God’s holiness operating unfettered in their lives, melting them, and molding them into the very image of Jesus.

 

Father, thank You for the reality of Your love and Your holiness operating in the lives of Your people – a reality that reaches all the way to me!  Help me to walk today and every day in the Highway of Holiness, and to experience the New Jerusalem as a here-and-now reality.  Amen.

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