So hopefully Part 1 didn’t leave you with to many questions but hopefully wanting to know more. I don’t know if you have ever fasted so I can only speak for myself but I don’t enjoy them. After several days it gets easier but not enjoyable. So I had to think why would they enjoy this? Sadly though we usually don’t look at ourselves with the same critical eye that we look at others with. We are quick to judge others and so very merciful on ourselves. I think here in lies the problem.
Whenever we are going through things that involve others we look from our own perspectives, how this affects me, how I feel etc. In doing this we tend to pray the same way. We pray so that we feel better or that the person changes in order for us to feel better about them. We are consumed with us. Hey, I do this too and am in need of change too so I’m not dropping the hammer but we do see how plainly the scripture said we fast for strife and debate. Instead, as those who are Christians, who are to stand in the gap for those in need, we are to be praying and fasting (or sacrificing) from the perspective of others needs and troubles. We are in essence to meet the needs of theirs and not focus on ours. You’ve heard this before but to be others centered instead of self-centered.
So let’s look at the next portion of the text which explains our Gods generous heart.
6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
It’s quite the opposite many times of our prayers and fastings. I mean truly do we suffer or sacrifice or go out of our way with fasting for others? So I humbly submit a shift in focus. I know I do this often but how will we grow or be changed into His image if we only look at us. His heart is beautiful and full of mercy and love toward us. It really is the thing that will cause others to see Him in us. And then the part that always amazes me is how He always promises so much blessing to us when we walk like He walks. Let’s look at the blessing that comes when we care about what He cares about.
8 Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’
Do you see that?! He promises to take care of your right now, your needs, and to cover you in front and behind. He’s got your back! He will heal us and fast like the dawn of a new day! He says He will hear and answer your prayers. What more do we need? I mean really He always goes above and beyond for us and all the while is only asking that we represent Him properly. I would be upset if I was misrepresented. There are law suits today happening because the media misrepresents and even slanders who people really are. How will they know Him if we don’t show them?
Well I won’t continue to run away with myself. And we aren’t expected to not feel or have times of need ourselves but I’ll save that for part 3. But let’s agree to put our eyes on others and to be true ambassadors of a great and wonderful God today and may His blessings follow you.
I love to study the Bible and I equally love finding out what God thinks, what He wants, what He likes and doesn’t like. As it happens I’m currently doing an in-depth study on the word “desire” and all it’s forms in the Bible. I’m doing this to dig deeper into a revelation I saw while cross referencing a couple of passages. In the process of looking up scriptures that contain the word desire I came upon a passage in Isaiah that I am quite familiar with but today I saw it with fresh eyes since I was looking from a different perspective. It so gripped me that I needed to sit down and write about it. There is too much to put in one blog so this will be a series of three in which I take one section at a time. So don’t judge me too soon. It’s starts out a little rough but it gets oh so much better!
Isaiah 57 has just explained how the wicked live and pay no attention to how the righteous live or what happens to them. And even when the righteous do wrong God promises to restore the backslider because He says no one’s spirit within him could handle His silence for too long. Yet the wicked are promised to no peace at all. (The word wicked there means the ungodly) So I was a little confused when I began to read our text. The Scripture passage is Isaiah 58
58 “Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins. 2 Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness, And did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God. 3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’
It begins by God telling Isaiah to tell the children of Israel what they are doing wrong yet the following description looks by all accounts to be the right things to do. They are seeking Him daily and delight to know His ways. They want justice and delight in approaching God. They’ve even fasted! So what’s the problem? Why would God say that this is what they are doing wrong? Well if we read on we will begin to see the problem.
“In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers. 4 Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high. 5 Is it a fast that I have chosen, A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the Lord?
They were performing all the outward tasks and they even liked doing them. He said they had pleasure in them but they were doing them all for the wrong reasons. I’m sure we’ve all been there. We are going through the motions but our hearts, if we’re willing to look, have the wrong motives. It’s not easy being honest with ourselves but the crazy truth is we aren’t fooling the one whom we are supposedly doing them for. He see’s everything! He’s a discerner of our thoughts.
In the midst of our works and service God never wants strife among His children. They were actually fighting with one another and taking advantage of one another. They argued and debated which Paul says we should never do. It doesn’t accomplish anything but division. God say’s when did I ever tell you to do a fast like that? It’s all just meaningless rituals at this point.
When we don’t examine ourselves we lose plain and simple. We’re no better then the wicked who are far from Him. Being His, being His disciple means being like Him. It means loving what He loves and hating what He hates. And yes I did say hate. He’s been so good to us to show us how to live not just in word but also in example. Jesus modeled the Father to us so we could enter into His provision and peace. We will go on in part 2 to explain what God really wants but the kicker is it benefits you. He’s not a slave driver or someone who’s difficult and hard to please. No, the truth is, everything He asks of us is for us.
Take some time today and lets examine ourselves honestly. Why do we do what we do “in His name”? Is it really for Him? If it is then that truly is wonderful. If we need to work on it the good news is that’s all He wants.
Be Blessed today in His presence and I’ll see you in Part 2.
Are you hungry? Isn’t it funny how hunger is never really satisfied? I mean I ate yesterday but here it is today and I’m hungry again. It’s born in each of us to remain hungry. In fact, don’t we say that if you have no appetite then you must be sick? That something must be wrong? I find it sadly obvious then when we aren’t hungry to know our Savior more or be in His word that we don’t realize somethings wrong. That isn’t said with condemnation. Believe me I have been that one too more often than I care to admit. But why is it we miss the obvious observations when it comes to our own condition and growth in the Lord. Somehow we don’t want to take responsibility for our own health and maturity.
If you had a child who didn’t want to eat it would greatly concern you. You would even try to force the child to eat. You know that he cannot remain healthy and grow if he does not receive the nourishment necessary for life. Just a quick look at the commercials for children who are malnourished show what can happen and what may be irreversible if not dealt with.
Today while reading from a devotional by Beth Moore called Whispers of Hope, she made a statement that brought a quick yet powerful revelation to me. She said “I can’t go back and pick up last year’s mercies, and neither can you, but we can receive today’s”. Well immediately I thought of the manna that God provided for the children of Israel while they were in the desert waiting for the promise.
Try to see this with me. First the children of Israel (note they were called children) were traveling from a place of bondage to a place of promise. All of us start this way. Even just naturally speaking a child is born with the promise ahead of them of a great life.
Second they were just delivered from a bondage that was all consuming and are now free. They were just like a baby bound in the womb now born and unattached from the umbilical cord. That baby needs continual supervision, direction and correction. This was also the case for the children of Israel. They are free but now need continual supervision, direction and correction from the Lord through Moses in order to live free. It’s one thing for you body to be free but it’s another thing all together for you mind to be free because your mind will tell your body to walk right back into bondage. We become born again, set free, yet we need constant supervision, direction and correction to teach us how to walk free which leads me to point three.
They had to learn how to walk. Just like children, we must learn how to walk with constant supervision, leading and correction otherwise we can hurt ourselves and cause real injury. No one gets angry at a child learning to walk. No instead we cheer and celebrate every time they even attempt a step. We also comfort and encourage when they fall while attempting to walk. And let me just say, if we aren’t doing this we should.
Fourth and final point, they complained a lot! Isn’t it ironic how children tend to cry about everything or whine and complain about every disappointment or need and want. They even cry when you’re trying to feed them or give them rest. Okay, don’t get mad at me but so do we. Just be honest here. We complain about a lot of things. I remember being around 12 years old and being so tired and hungry after school that I stood staring into the refrigerator and just cried. It was so bad that I actually realized and told myself out loud “Jaime this is ridiculous, go to bed” and I did. I felt much better afterward. So this is what leads me to the antidote that God showed me.
The children of Israel desperately needed to learn to trust their Lord. They needed to understand His heart toward them and how much He loved them and wanted to care for them and take care of them by meeting all of their needs. He needed to teach them how to depend on Him so again after a very grievous complaining session He told them how He would feed them everyday. He would leave Manna outside every morning enough for every person for the day to satisfy them. They were instructed to go out and gather a measured amount for each person and not to take more than told or it would go bad and cause them sickness. He promised each person would have exactly what he needed and none would be wasted or left over. And of course this is exactly what happened. He made sure they had exactly what they needed for their health and well being but not to much or excess. The thing was though that they had to go gather it everyday except Sunday but they were to gather enough on Saturday for both days. This was to enforce in them the understanding of how to rest for they had come out of slavery with no rest. I could go on a rabbit trail here about this but I won’t. So back to revelation.
We all need the Word everyday to feed us the nourishment we need to be healthy and grow. But this principle applies to more than the Word and prayer. You may need grace today to face whatever lies in front of you. You may need mercy for the failures that have trapped you. You may need strength to get up and do again what drains you. You may need healing from sickness that plagues you. You may need peace to calm the storm that rages around or in you. So there is good news and bad news. The good news is whatever you need today He has promised He would give you today. He said His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-24). That His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9). In our weakness He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:11) and that by His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5). He even says “My peace I leave with you, My peace I give you (John 14:27). So here’s the bad news. If you don’t go gather it you will go without. Everyday it’s your choice. He’s told you what to do and what you need but you have to go get it.
Time is a funny thing. It races by leaving only memories and for some regrets. As Beth Moore said “I can’t go back and pick up last year’s mercies, and neither can you, but we can receive today’s”. God’s been so good and faithful and provided what you need. Now go get it!
What do you think of when you hear the names Moses, David, Jeremiah, Paul or Jesus? I have to tell you that today I saw our good good Father and He spoke some truths about Moses to me which gave me new vision regarding being parents, pastors or leaders or even a dear friend. One thing these men have in common is that they were responsible for so many people in the roles they played. Though what we’re going to look at can refer to being responsible for many or even just one.
You see Moses, though he was brought up in Pharohs house chose to be connected to his kinsmen and family, the Jews. His mother was his nurse and I’m sure she taught him all she could in the time frame that she had available to her knowing God ordained that she have that ability. Somewhere in the back of Moses mind he knew he would be the one used to redeem his people. He wanted to, yet he went about it in his own strength and in his own time and had to flee for his life robbing him of his call and purpose. It would seem like “oh boy didn’t he get that wrong”. He couldn’t save God’s people let alone himself. He believed the lie for decades that he wasn’t usable and he wasn’t God’s choice. That was until one day he turned aside to see the odd site of a bush on fire yet not burning up. Funny the things God will use to get our attention. As Moses watched, God called him out saying “Moses, Moses” and Moses said “here am I”. This is so important because we don’t know how many times God tried to get Moses attention while in his desert time. The scripture says that God didn’t speak though until He saw that Moses turned aside to see . Meaning, Moses set his mind on it to think about it. I think the Lord does this with us many times. He waits for us to turn aside and see. We need to be people who when the Lord is showing us something that we decide to ponder and think on it so He can speak directly to us. Those are moments when you realize the Lord is telling you something and it would behoove us to stop and think about it. It was here at this burning bush that God meets Moses right where he was in his desert and tells him you are my choice. I still want to use you. God very lovingly begins to tell Moses of his heavy heart for his people. He said I have heard their cry and I know their sorrows. This beautiful exchange is Father God laying the burden of His heart onto Moses.
This is where it really began to sink in for me. Our loving Father hears our cries and knows our sorrows. Isaiah 53:3 says that He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and aquainted with grief. I don’t know how you see Him but oh how He loves us. Now I can imagine God the Father loving me but what comes next was shocking. You see once Moses had this exchange with God he is forever changed. He immediately obeys and goes back to his people to begin the deliverence. This man who had lost all faith became the leader of faith. Not only that but this job would last until his death. This man of faith who was used for some of the most miraculous miracles to date never entered the promised land. This is the man who was so close to God that He would meet with him face to face. This man God called His friend. Why? How could this be? I’ll tell you how. LOVE! LOVE IS HOW! Can you see it? Moses had accepted and bore the burden of the Lord for His people. Moses so loved God that he willingly loved with God’s love God’s people as God did. Even when God wanted to wipe out this people and start again telling Moses he will use him to begin again, Moses so loved the people that even in their sin he interceded for them and said count me as one of them. If you punish them you have to punish me. This even happened more than once. Yet this is why God chose Moses to begin with. He would love them as much as he did. He would love them like Jesus loved us being willing to be counted as one of us, interceeding for us on our behalf. Spairing us from what we deserved.
This is why God still chooses and uses broken people. We can understand and empathize with the lost and their terrible choices because we were those same people messing up and making terrible choices. This is why we are called to love one another. We can’t possibly love through our flesh. It takes the Spirit of God and an encounter with Him to give us His heart. But this love is how they (the world) will know we belong to Him. John 13:35 This same love can be seen in so many of those listed in the Bible whom we call prophets, teachers, disciples, hero’s and saviors. They loved who Father God loved. They weren’t perfect and that’s what made them perfect for the job. It’s what will make you perfect for what God calls you to. We are humbled by our mistakes, some small and some grieviously great. This humbling reminds us how much we all need Jesus. It reminds us how much He loves us to take our place and shows us how we should love each other remembering how much we’ve been forgiven. Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8
Even if you have messed up today I would say to you as Jesus said to Peter that “when you have returned to me, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32 Pray for those over you, your Pastors, Teachers, Parents etc. They love you and pay a high price to lead you. Honor them since God chose them to care for you as He does. Let love be your standard. You are not forgotten in the desert. Be watching and listening for Him to call your name. He will use you for His glory and redeem you from the desert. You may be the next to lead.
As I sat and read a devotional today something struck me that I’ve never really thought about before. I love those moments when things are suddenly clear. I must confess that so many things are still very foggy for me but I’ll take any clarity that my “Teacher” wants to bring focus to. The funny thing is that the thing that comes into focus wasn’t necessarily a thing that I was even confused about or even thinking about yet it was an important knowledge of a much larger picture. I don’t know about you but I can be guilty of not seeing the forest for the trees. This was a zoom out to focus and not a zoom in.
The disciples were always students, perpetual learners. Most of the time they didn’t understand and Jesus would have to take them aside and explain. I began to think about the Jewish culture and what it meant to have a Rabbi. From a young age the rabbi would choose his students and tell them to follow him. They were to continually study and learn. They’re teaching included their study of course but it was also to mimic the thoughts, words and actions of their teacher. Think about it for a moment. For years they were tutored and trained. Many times they were taught to think because they were asked a question. Rabbi’s like to answer a question with a question. Do you ever feel like you have the question but are on a journey to the answer. I feel this way a lot. I ask the Lord a question and He answers me with a question. This is necessary however if we are ever to be in the position of training others as we ourselves are. You are a constant student who is ever learning. For example, Jesus would be approached by someone blind and He would ask him what do you want me to do for you. Seems kind of silly doesn’t it? Yet many times this was the case. Much of our learning comes from asking the right question.
This is how it should be for us, always knowing we have much to learn and to not get settled thinking that we are old enough now with a been there done that attitude and have it all figured out. Sadly, so much of what we think we know we know amiss. We see through a glass darkly as the word puts it. We see through our lens, through our experiences, culture and upbringing. It’s not easy to try to see through someone elses lens. Have you ever put on someone elses glasses and things were blurry to you? That’s my point. We must be ever learning from the one with perfect vision otherwise we could be the blind leading the blind. I don’t mean to say we can’t learn from each other. Of course we can but our study and our focus should be on “The teacher”. We should always be in the posture of a student eager to learn and follow the teachers example. I can see why it was so difficult for the disciples to grip that it would be better for Jesus their teacher to “go away” as He put it, than to stay with them physically. How would they learn? How would they know what to do? Who would explain things to them? So many questions…
This is a great place to be in, wanting to learn and know what He would do or what He would say. It’s not knowledge for knowledge sake but wanting to know truth. The search for truth is a remarkable one. Why? Because truth sets free. Jesus said come learn of me. He said Seek and you will find and knock and it will be opened to you. I’m so grateful He gave His Spirit to us and didn’t leave us alone. I can’t imagine how difficult navigating this life would be without Him. When I get focused on one thing it’s His spirit that adjusts my lenses. So be encouraged if you have many questions! He will be faithful to you to help you ask the right questions and then to receive those answers that grow you.
Emotions, necessary as they are, can change on a dime. It’s kind of like the weather here in Texas. They say if you don’t like it just wait five minutes and it will change. They aren’t kidding either. One day there is snow falling, I’m wearing a Parka to go into the Tundra, and the next day it’s sunny and 75 degrees outside and I’m tearing layers off and running the air conditioner. It’s completely Bi-Polar (pun intended). It’s just as remarkable to me that one day, like right after church, I can feel like I can conquer anything because Jesus is so near and the next day I’m laying face down in a ditch of self-pity. It’s ridiculous! So today while reading James 1, I saw myself and realized what a hay day the devil has been having with me and I know better. You see I wrote a blog called “Jesus is passing by” which really touches on this subject but today I would like to go deeper. As they say on one of my favorite rides at Disneyland, “Hold on to your hats boys and girls, this is going to be one wild ride.”
Now I don’t want to scare you off because we really do live in a flesh suit that feels everything that is going on around us. And just as a reminder, Jesus is there lovingly to lift us up and brush us off and set us back on our feet again. I don’t mean to deny the pain that many are feeling. Nor is this post about those who are going through grief and tremendous struggles. However for the rest of us I do hope to help us see from a different perspective the reality of suffering according to the Word.
Let’s start with a little history. James is the brother of Jesus. Talk about someone knowing you really well. This same brother didn’t believe in Jesus until after His death and resurrection. He had to be brought pretty low and I’m sure he dealt with a lot of regret but because he really did know Him, he knew how He forgives and restores. Now James is the leader of the church at Jerusalem. But instead of considering himself as anything he begins his greeting as James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. A bondservant, which means he is a slave by choice. In my above mentioned blog I told about the feelings Jesus must have felt being rejected by His family and home town (because they “knew him”) and how this prepared Jesus to teach His disciples how to be accepted and how to be rejected. You see in this life we will all have these two anchors and every thing that falls in between. Emotions, they can lift or cripple us. But the one I want to concentrate on is Self-Pity.
James says right out of the shoot in V.2 to count it all joy when you fall into various trials. Now I know that the Joy of the Lord is our strength according to Nehemiah 8:10, but what caught my eye was the word trials so I looked it up. It means many things but all it’s nouns denote suffering. That’s what hit me. Suffering. We suffer for many reasons and in many ways but then I heard the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit say “but what is suffering according to My Word?” Ouch. I knew what it was. According to most of Paul’s letters and Jesus himself we find that suffering means being persecuted for our faith. To be persecuted for our faith is a whole lot different than me dealing with my feelings about any given situation. Now again I don’t want to seem cold and indifferent but please hear me out because if you can get this it will lead to freedom in your life. It’s a freedom that changes everything. And believe me when I tell you I want you free. I want to be free. Jesus wants US free!
If suffering Biblically truly meant persecution then first we must do a complete about face in our thinking and in our attitudes about life and circumstance. We think we are suffering on every side. It’s a lie. We are blessed everyday beyond measure. This is the first truth. I know that there are exceptions to this rule here in America but hear me out. If I am sick, I can go to a doctor. I can go to an emergency room and they can’t turn me away. If I am hungry I can go to a food bank and receive food. Most of us don’t deal with real want. There are countries where there is no medicine even if you could go to a Doctor. There is no food even if you wanted it. We are truly blessed. Even if I was suffering from a disease unto death, Paul said “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8 . Death wasn’t a fear or suffering. Then that leads to the second truth. Suffering was persecution. Hebrews 11 tells us what that is. It says in V.36-37 “Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented… I don’t know about you but I haven’t even come close to dealing with these things. There are those in other countries right now who are and desperately need us to be praying for them however this is not the majority of us.
So I am forced then to look with eyes wide open at my own heart. Self-pity has a way of creeping in. When my niece was a little girl and she wasn’t happy she would hang herself over forward with arms practically dragging on the ground and head down too. It was so funny to watch. We called it “Sackloth and ashes”. She was in the depths of despair to her but in reality she was just having a pity party. I remember hearing someone say once “I’m going to go get a cupcake with a candle and throw myself a pity party” and she asked me if I wanted to come. I laughed out loud as we both knew it was nothing more than that. Self-pity. Unless I am being truly persecuted for my faith it is only then that I am suffering. So even if I am suffering persecution, James says in V.1-4to count it all joy because suffering has benefits. It produces patience and if we let patience work in us it will perfect and complete us to the point of lacking nothing. That’s a whole lot of something.
This whole understanding is a time shift. It takes me from thinking in the temporal to the eternal. It takes my mind off of what fades and passes away to that which will stand forever. It removes my love of this world and places it in the world to come. This understanding removes self-pity. Self-pity keeps me tethered to me and nothing else. How can I be about my Father’s business if I can’t see past myself? Jesus was a servant of all who said of himself that the Son of man has no where to lay His head. Matthew 8:20. He wasn’t complaining with self-pity but simply stating a fact. He said He only does what He sees the Father doing and only says what the Father is saying. This is complete humility and servanthood. I can only serve one master. It’s me or it’s Him. His life was literally a life of sacrifice and dying to self. There is no room for self-pity. If I am feeling sorry for myself I can bet my flesh is as strong as ever and I’m still on the throne of my own heart.
And yet, if I can see my life as He saw His how free I would be. I would be living like Paul. Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”. What can man do to me?
I have a daily challenge for you. To really think about every blessing that you have from a tooth brush to clean the teeth you have, to the clothes you get to put on, truly. I know that’s funny but think about what you could not have. The things you take for granted. When you are hungry do you get to choose what to eat? When you need to get somewhere did you get to drive or ride in a vehicle? Many don’t. If we place our faith in Jesus He promises that He would meet our needs. You may not have every want but you will have your needs met.
Again I want to emphasize how compassionate and loving our Lord is and that He is right there save us when we are overwhelmed and drowning. However I would submit that we do a self check. Are we walking around in “Sackcloth and Ashes” in the pit of self-pity of our own making or is the enemy lying to you which robs you of your joy and instead you really are blessed. Ask Him what His thoughts are and try to turn your thoughts to the things that aren’t passing but eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17 says For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So let the Joy of the Lord be your strength. If you don’t know what to do James 1:5 says If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. All is not lost. Jesus said in John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” You will make it. We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37
So count it all joy my brethren when you fall into various trials. We can do this! Let’s choose freedom today and get busy doing our Father’s business.
I am a Princess. Yep, you read it right. Does that sound arrogant? Hang on and cut me some slack. I’m not looking for special treatment or have an attitude. I used to not like it when I heard other people say it. But now after some study and thought maybe I should as well you should too. Here is a term you might be more comfortable with. I’m a Sister. Both of these terms would be correct and actually carry the exact same weight and value to God for us His children. Why do we call each other Brother’s and Sister’s in Christendom? I know it isn’t used as much today in most church circles but after my devotional time today I saw its beauty and it’s weight.
I was reading in Hebrews 1. Paul is explaining how Jesus is higher than the angels, His position and theirs. The revelation began to flood in when I read V.13 which says “But to which of the angels has He ever said: “”Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”?” You see Father God is telling Jesus to take His place at the throne. Then while there Father God will make all His enemies a mere footstool for Him to rest His feet. Don’t you love that picture? Jesus, with scepter in hand, is just RESTING His feet on all those who were enemies. It’s actually kind of funny and sad. You see if the enemies of God are mere resting places for His feet no less, then why are we so terrified? Hey I’m not just preaching to you. I’m talking to me too! Let’s break down why we should not fear and trust our all-powerful God.
I am going through our church’s first of the year devotional. Today it told a story of how a father was not aware of the fact that his 18 month old daughter had toddled right into the swimming pool, but her sister did and dove right in after her. The only problem was the sister was only three years old and couldn’t swim either which didn’t seem to bother her a bit. So with the three-year old holding onto the coat of the 18 month old she stretched her arm up to her daddy from under the water confident that he would pull them out. After being pulled out the three-year old was completely unruffled with no fear. She had absolute confidence in her daddy. He could do anything and would do anything whenever she needed it. Isn’t it amazing how we know that our Heavenly Father is Master over all and yet we don’t exercise this same confidence. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think. Eph. 3:20 When did we go from understanding real trust in our Father to relying on ourselves and what we know. It is crazy to think I can control anything more than my attitude. However my Father can and will. Abba Father is willing and able to deliver us, lead us and strengthen us everyday. In fact He wants to. He’s just waiting on us.
I think many times we don’t grasp the love He has for us. What more could He have done? He died for us, was resurrected and sent His Spirit so that we could all have access to Him anywhere and at anytime. He wants to be with us always. Just as He wanted to walk and talk everyday with Adam and Eve. That was His plan and design from the beginning. His love toward us is always for us. There is nothing that I can give Him that He doesn’t have, except me. So everything He has done was to make sure I could easily get to Him completely forgiven and free to be His. His love is completely giving and selfless. Jesus sacrificed everything laying down His life for this purpose.
Most people don’t have a hard time understanding and believing that we are Gods children. Even those who don’t really practice Christianity will say we are all Gods children. But greater still is that so is Jesus. Matthew 3:17 says …This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” There are many more scriptures that reiterate this fact but you get the picture. So if Jesus is His Son and we are Gods children then we are in essence the brothers and sisters of Jesus. This can be easier to swallow than what I will say next.
Stay with me here because I’m building towards something. So we know through the death and resurrection of Jesus that He is now at the right hand of the Father sitting on the throne according to Heb. 1:3. Romans 8:17 says “And since we are his children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory….”. Well if we are heirs then there is something to inherit. We inherit His Glory. What is His glory? It is all His majesty and anything that pertains to His greatness. What is His greatness? Think about it? He is more than our Father. He’s a King! He has a realm, a kingdom and He has a will for that kingdom. A will! Get it? We are heirs to His will. We have a will and testament to tell us everything that is given to us. And in case you missed it that also means that you are not just children but you hold a position in the kingdom. You are Princes and Princesses to the throne. Every resource that is the Kings is yours for the asking. And we know that “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you. John 15:7
Now before we get ahead of ourselves we need to remember that many times a will has gifts and sometimes those gifts come with instructions. So it behooves us to ask Him what those are. We know from the verse reference above that we must abide in His words. His will and testament. Read it over and over. Let it settle in you so that you know what it says to you about what is yours and what resources you have available to you and what gifts have been bestowed on you. You see in a Kingdom the King has the ultimate authority. Scripture tell us in Matthew 28:18 that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. We must lay hold of this truth and promise.
Life will throw at us every kind of trouble and we will be tested on every side. But if we know who we are and who’s we are we will remain confident in our Father who happens to be the King to reach down and save us. The key is to trust and know without fear that He is right there ready to take our hand and pull us to safety and without harm. You may be in the fiery furnace today but He is the fourth man in the fire with you and He will remove your bondages and bring you to safety and freedom. Or you may be drowning in circumstance, emotion or worse. I can promise you, based on His will, that He is there to save you. He loves you with an unselfish love and wants you to trust that His will for you is the abundant life. He is a good father who is worthy of your trust. Then your faith in Him during your trials will be the testimony to those around you fulfilling the very purpose you were called to. You don’t have to sweat the details. His word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. Psalm 119:105 If you are following the Will, He will make sure you are in the right place at the right time. You are a son or daughter of the Most High, a Prince or Princess to the King.
Be blessed this New Year.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! 1 John 3:1
What offends you? Are you offended at the quote above? Are you offended that the problem of offense can lie inside of us and not from those outside of us? Believe it or not this is not about politics or the normal mumbo jumbo about offenses. As I was reading today in Luke 7 Jesus is questioned by the disciples of John the Baptist whether or not He is the Messiah they have waited for. John himself had sent his disciples. This is the same John who baptized Jesus and saw the dove descend and remain. How could he not know who this was? How could he question what he lived his whole life for? Yet at times, don’t we all?
I have always wondered about this and realized today when spending time with the Lord in His Word what the answer was. Jesus always speaks to the real issue. So many times when we read, that is all we are simply doing, reading. However, I find that in order to understand His Word I must put myself in the room and watch the scene, not just read it. I see more clearly and hear the tones and feel the emotions like watching a great stage play. His Word comes alive and I am moved by what I see, hear and feel, which happened today. I read how Jesus was moved with such compassion seeing a widow weeping on her way to the burial of her son. I could hear her and I understood to some degree her weeping. She would now be completely alone. No one would be there to help or comfort her or to take care of her. Then Jesus, full of compassion says to her do not weep. I could just hear Him say it. I could feel His grief in wanting her to be whole in spirit and not be so broken. Remember that He came to bind up the broken hearted and our brokenness moves Him. When we are grieved He grieves also. Recall back to when Mary and Martha were weeping because their brother Lazarus had died. The scripture tells us that Jesus wept too. He wept with the same bitterness they wept. He felt their pain and I promise you He feels yours. Here in Luke 7 He felt this widows pain. He comforted her and then spoke to her death and said live. Her son was restored to life and now she could live again. I know many times we lose loved ones or those dear to us but Jesus still knows how to speak life to our death. Sometimes it’s a work with people (outside of us) but sometimes it’s a work on the inside (a work of the heart). This leads me back to John the Baptist.
John had given his entire life to preaching the message of the coming Messiah. He told everyone to prepare the way of the Lord. He was fearless when confronting the Pharisees and scribes. He knew the Messiah was coming. He was overcome when he saw Jesus coming and wanting to be baptized. He said Jesus should baptize him not the other way around. But Jesus always qualifies us. He loves using you and I to accomplish His wonderful work. We always feel unworthy yet Jesus comes and loves fulfilling the will of His Father and uses us, His body, to complete the work. He always includes us and never pushes us out. We are always wanted and usable if we will simply yield and believe Him.
So there, at the Jordan River, John baptized Jesus and the heavens opened and the dove descended with a voice from heaven saying “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Wow! If I heard a voice from heaven I don’t think I’d ever forget it let alone doubt it, yet sadly, we do. This same John is now in prison! He isn’t feeling the miraculous or seeing for himself the power of God at work. He is sitting in a jail cell alone. You and I might feel the same way John did. Maybe even feel betrayed in some way. Or he may at least be thinking what in the world did I give my whole life for, just to sit in this jail? God what are you doing? Why are you doing it this way? Isn’t there another way? Even Jesus, when praying in Gethsemane, asked for another way. However Jesus knew that surrender of our will is always the key to the answer. For Jesus, His prayer was finished with “Not My will but Yours be done”. When we are stripped of our comfort zone and pruned of all we think we know we begin to question everything. We try to make sense of it all in an attempt to comfort ourselves from the pain we are feeling. So in desperation John calls for some of his disciples and tells them to go to Jesus and ask Him are You The Coming One or do we look for another? Did you hear it? They said coming (future tense) not the one already has come. There is much doubt already present in this question. It wasn’t even a question of just making sure. It was an “I think we missed it”, which is full of fear. But look at what Jesus says. He tells them to go to John and tell him the things they have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
Let’s unpack this a little. First, Jesus cares when you have questions or doubts and He is all to willing to answer your questions. The key is you must go to Him directly for the answers. You will learn that He will always give you the answer. Now he may use people to help show you things or explain what things mean just as He used the disciples to go tell John the answer but people are never the answer. Jesus is always the answer. His words alone are the words of life. People have good intentions but they can’t speak life to your soul. Unless their words are His words they remain only that, words.
Now Jesus knew that John knew the scriptures and all the prophecies regarding the Messiah and what He would do. So Jesus used the Word of God as a confirmation to John by reiterating that He was doing what the prophecies said the Messiah would do. Likewise Jesus will use His Word to speak to you and tell you who He is. He doesn’t want us living off what other people have said. It’s like having faith in faith. There is no substance to that. We have faith in Jesus! We must know in whom we have believed and be persuaded in who He is. Here is an example. I can tell you all about my husband. What he likes and dislikes and how he acts and responds to different situations but unless you know him there is no depth of understanding. You wouldn’t know if you ran into him on the street simply based off of all the information about him that I gave you. You may guess but you wouldn’t know him. You may even recognize him by a description I gave you but you still wouldn’t know him. I know him so well that when he calls I know him by his voice. I don’t even need to see him. I don’t have to ask him who is this. Prove to me you’re my husband. Or just like how you may recognize a movie star in a photo or on the TV“““` but you don’t know them. Do you see how silly it is to try to know God by others? We must know Him for ourselves. Jesus was reminding John of all the ways he knew Him.
Then lastly, Jesus says this: “And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Wow! Jesus is doing it again and speaking to the heart of the matter. What was really going on was that John was offended. He was offended that Jesus would allow him to be in prison. He was offended that everyone else was seeing miracles but he was not. He was offended that he had given everything and this is what he got in return. Ouch! That speaks to me. I will admit I have been offended by Jesus before too. I’m ashamed of that. Because what am I really saying? I am saying that this shouldn’t be happening to me. I deserve better than this. I shouldn’t have to be dealing with this. I, I, I. What I hear there is pride. I’m foolish enough to think I know better than Jesus how things should go or happen. John’s disciples had battled pride before when they were upset that disciples were now leaving following after John to follow Jesus. But John knew the answer and said “I must decrease and He must increase”. Though John knew this, it didn’t make it any easier to have to decrease. Are you being pruned? Are you learning to surrender? Are you having to decrease? This is where John was. His purpose was coming to a finish. He had run the race God had for him. Being in this place can cause all of us offense.
So what is offense exactly. Well according to the Lexicon it is to cause to stumble, to be entrapped in. The Greek-English dictionary of the New Testament say’s this: Cause to sin, to give up his faith, give up one’s faith and be led into sin, fall into sin; reject, desert, have doubts about; anger, shock. Have you been there? Have you ever been angry or shocked with God? Have you ever doubted Him or fell into sin because you were mad? Can I try to comfort you? If John, whom Jesus said “among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the baptist”, can have doubts while in a difficult place, then so will we. And our precious Jesus will love us and answer our questions and remind us who He is if we will ask.
Beloved, you are in the palm of His hand and He won’t drop you. You may be in a very difficult place. You may need this Jesus to speak life into your soul again. You may be in a prison of doubt and need His words of assurance and comfort. You may be offended and angry and not understand what’s happening. I can tell you the answer is Jesus. He alone was the answer and He alone is your answer. His words can bring back the hope of your future. His plans for you are good. Jeremiah 29:11 says “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Isaiah 59:1 says, “See, the Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor are his ears to dull to hear.” He see’s you, He hears you and He will answer. Let’s lay our offenses down and trust the one who knows the beginning from the end. Isaiah 55:9 tells us “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways. And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Instead of being offended by this truth we can be encouraged by it. He knows what He is doing. This Savior who was there at creation is there with you now and He will be faithful to complete the work He has begun in your life. (Philippians 1:6)
I know this isn’t a spiritual quote or even one made by any spiritual persons but the truth is the same. Both Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy said in their speeches that “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. If we are in Jesus and we have done our best to follow His instructions, and though it may be painful while we are walking in obedience, than this is truth you can stand on. Jesus always tells us to fear not. Why? Because He knows the end of the story. He knows what He’s doing in you, with you and for you. His plans are always so much bigger than ours. Just as His death was the key to resurrection life for not just himself but to all who would believe, so His plans for you are not just about you but for all those your life will touch. Let’s lay down our offenses and lay them at the feet of the one who loves us with an all sufficient love and trust the plan He has for our lives. It will be worth it all!
What’s in a word? I know that normally we say what’s in a name but today I wanted to mull over what’s in a word. The word that seemed to keep jumping off the pages and onto my eyeballs was “Marvel”. We even have a comic strip of super hero’s called “Marvel comics”. Why do we put together the superpower or supernatural with Marvel? Is it a clue to the depths of our feelings and hopes, or maybe even our faith? I would venture to say it is. This should prove to be a thoughtful journey. We begin this journey in Luke chapter 2.
The scene begins with Mary and Joseph traveling for the census where Mary goes into labor and gives birth to Jesus in a stall full of animals. Just nine months earlier in Luke 1 we see that Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel to tell her she was highly favored and that she was chosen to carry the Son of God who would save His people from their sins. She showed great faith in declaring “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word”. And we know she really did believe by faith what the angel said because when Mary went to see her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist, Elizabeth exclaimed to Mary “Blessed is she who believed, for the fulfullment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” So we know Mary was full of faith and I think it would be safe to say that she was hanging on every word spoken to her by the angel. I know I would! I mean this could ruin her reputation. Her future will forever be altered and not because she chose it initially. She was chosen and had to face what she believed about God in her innermost being. We will see later how this was one of the purposes of Christs coming. But first let’s look at the Shepherds.
In v.8 the scene shifts from Mary, Joseph and Jesus to the Shepherds in the fields just doing their jobs. The verse says that the shepherds were living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an Angel appears standing before them glowing! They were terrified and the Angel tells them not to be afraid because he has good news that will bring great joy. He then tells them about Jesus’ birth and where to find them. The shepherds are so astonished they immediately set out to see for themselves. Then there in the manger they see Jesus just as the angel had said. So they did what anyone else would do. They began to tell everyone what had happened to them and what they saw. V. 18 tells us that all those who heard it “Marveled” at those things that were told to them. It is probably a good place to explain what to Marvel means. It’s very simple. It’s to wonder, to be amazed, to be astonished, to admire. The story of Jesus’ remarkeable birth and all it’s surrounding components should cause us to Marvel! To ponder and think about it and its implications for our lives. We should be amazed at His love for us that the “Darling of Heaven” would leave His kingdom and come die for us. And that’s just the beginning!
Fast forward to V. 25 to the day that Mary and Joseph go to the temple to present Jesus to the Lord, as was the custom according to the law of Moses. There at the temple was a man named Simeon whom the Bible says was a just and devout man and on whom was the Holy Spirit. So now we know he was quite a man! That day the Holy Spirit directed Simeon to go to the temple. When Simeon saw Jesus he said “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” Then there it is again. V.33 And Joseph and His mother “marveled” at those things which were spoken of Him. I kind of struggled to understand that they marveled at this since they had first both been appeared to by Angels. Mary to her face and Joseph in a dream. Then the shepherds come and tell them that angels appeared to them to tell them about Jesus and what He would do. This is where I really began to think about this word Marvel. I mean doesn’t it seem like if you have a supernatural experience like that, that you would begin to let it sink in? It’s as if they were hearing it for the first time, both times. But wait, it gets better.
Simeon blesses them but then says this to Mary, “Behold this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against”(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Now we’re getting to it. That word thoughts means to reason, to question and consider. It’s deliberation of turning thoughts over in the mind; reckoning by mental questions, opinions, designs, and disputes. The “Word Wealth” in my bible says this: Deliberating with himself, settling accounts, and suspicious because of his state of indecision. Through one’s acceptance or rejection of Christ, the real thoughts of one’s heart toward himself and toward God become clear.
I hope you’re still tracking with me here. When we are confronted with Jesus and all His glory this will happen: We will begin deliberating in our minds, asking questions and having suspicions. This happens because we are faced with our true thoughts towards God and ourselves. Maybe Mary kept marveling because she somehow couldn’t believe that something so wonderful could come from her and it wasn’t necessarily her doubting in God but in herself and her calling, or the doubt that she really was highly favored. We are forced to see what we really believe about Him and Us! Simeon said this is one of the reasons for His coming; So that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. How can we believe what God has said to us or about us until we know what we even think about God. Throughout Jesus’ ministry we saw over and over how the Pharisees, Scribes and Saducees thoughts toward God were challenged by Jesus himself. He told them they didn’t even know Him, that they were of their father the devil! Whoa, that’s pretty strong stuff. Our thoughts should not be gained by other peoples opinions and beliefs or the traditions of men but from our own experience and study of His Word. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure even when you have heard from Him, and maybe even supernaturally, that word will be challenged. Think of Mary. She had no doubt that the angel Gabriel visited her and told her what and how this all would happen yet I’m sure she was thinking this can’t be right as she goes into labor and there is no place for her to give birth except in the barn with the animals. She was alone and had no other women there to help her. Or even years later as Jesus is hanging on a cross! What did she believe then? You must realize that if God says it, even when it’s challenged, it will surely come to pass as He said. So let’s go back to the text.
While they were at the temple a prophetess named Anna prophesied of His redemption. So in one day they receive two confirmations of who He is. Then the text jumps ahead to when Jesus is twelve years old. His family has traveled to Jeruselem for the feast per their custom. When the feast is ended and they have begun to journey home Mary and Joseph realize that Jesus isn’t with them. They travel back looking for Him and find Him in the temple where it says in V.46 “Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed…”
Time has passed since their visitations with Angels and of prophecy’s about who He was and what He would do. Maybe is was time to encourage themselves in their faith about the promises of God. Maybe they got so used to just living life and raising children that they forgot what was promised about Jesus and His purpose. I’m not sure why it was so surprising and amazing that Jesus would be in the temple and discussing the things of God after what they were told about His life. But this I do know. When we see Jesus at work His nature causes us to question, as it should. When we see Him moving in us or in others we should Marvel and see if we still hold firm to His promises and plans for our lives.
What are our thoughts towards God and Ourselves? This leads me to one last gem here that struck me. Let’s not forget our Savior came as a baby. A baby! A baby that needs to be raised and trained. If Jesus needed prophecy’s and confirmations of who He was and what He would become then so do we and so do our children. As we raise our children we must ask the Lord His thoughts and plans for our lives and those of our children so that we can train them up in the way they should go. Jesus was in the temple and our children should be also. We should be taking them to the house of God to teach them and train them how to hear from the one who knows their purpose. A place where they can ask questions and listen and learn what thoughts to think towards God and toward themselves. The world will tell them they are someone else. They need, no, we all need to know what He says about us. You may be a Mary, called to be a mother or you may be a Simeon, full of the Holy Spirit and serving at the church. You may be an Anna, a prophetess to the people of God. Whatever He has called you to, I challenge you to Marvel. Marvel at His greatness and power. Marvel at His love for you no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve come from.
Jeremiah 9:23-24 says this “Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgement, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight, says the Lord.”
Don’t let the worlds feeble attempts of greatness cause you to marvel. Marvel at Him, at the one who created it all from nothing and let Him show off His superpowers on your behalf! Jesus is my Superhero and no one else compares!