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Sunday, July 8, 2018

The King of Glory


The King of Glory
                                                                       Psalm 24
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness of it, the world and they who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the currents and rivers. Who shall go up into the mountain of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted himself up to falsehood nor sworn deceitfully.” (vs. 1-4 [NASB])

We could top there and just praise, confess, and repent. David takes us through the first two parts of prayer-adoring and confessing. David wanted to be in the Lord’s presence. He wanted to praise God, but recognized his own sinfulness. Yet, that did not get David down. He knew God had the power to make him clean so he could be in the presence of God as He sat on His throne in His temple. David recognized he needed clean hands, hands that had done no sin, and a clean heart, one that had not contemplated evil thoughts that led to evil actions or words. Remember, from the heart comes the evil a man does or the good he does. Jesus said this when he said it is not what a man puts in his body that defiles him, but what comes out of his heart and mouth that makes him unclean (Matthew 15:11). David came to the Lord and said he had confessed and the Lord cleansed him. Have you confessed and allowed God to cleanse you and make you pure so you can be in His presence to worship Him?

David did not stop with just praise, confession and repentance. He gave us something for which to thank God in verse five. He said, “He shall receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” David understood the greatest reason for him to thank God after his confession and repentance. Once a person genuinely comes before the Lord confessing and repenting, God will clean him or her. With this newly received forgiveness and salvation, the natural response is thanks and praise. David did that here. He said we must thank God for his blessings and the righteousness He gives us through the salvation Jesus provided through His death and resurrection.

With verse six, David explained who would receive this blessing and salvation. He said, “This is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek Your face, O God of Jacob.” [AMP] David used the name Jacob to refer to all the Israelites in the Old Testament. For Christians today, this means all who have believed in Jesus for salvation as the Son of God and have received His forgiveness and mercy. No one will be left out. All people are called to believe in Him and receive salvation, being made righteous-cleansed from our evil thoughts, words, and actions. Any of the people of Jacob can go up the mountain to the temple of Zion, go into God’s great heavenly throne room and stand in His presence adoring, thanking, praising, and confessing to God.

After adoring, confessing, and thanking God, the One who made heaven and earth and all that is in it, the One who makes us clean and pure, the One who gives blessing and righteousness, and will be found by His people, David brought us back to why we should worship the Lord with verses seven through ten. He said, “Lift up your heads, O you gates, and be lifted up, you age-abiding doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is the king of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates, yes lift them up, you age-abiding doors, the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord of hosts. He is the King of glory!”[AMP]  We should worship the King, the Lord Jesus, because He is mighty and victorious in battle. He took on the powers of hell and defeated them for each of us. Open up, you gates of heaven and let your King enter and take His place. He is mighty and strong in battle. Again, David explained who the King, the One we should worship? He is the King of glory, Jehovah, our righteous and all-sufficient Savior.

Just as the angels in heaven bowed down when Christ returned to sit on the right hand of the Father, He calls us to open our doors and let Him into our hearts and lives. Do you know God? Do you recognize Him in creation on earth and in heaven? He is the One who created all things and deserves adoration and praise.

Have you looked into your heart and mind and recognized you are not innocent; you are unrighteous? Jesus died so you can be clean from your sin. Confess and repent now and the Savior, the Lord who died and won the victory over death and sin, will clean and save you.

Are you one who has tasted the victory Christ gives, but have forgotten to seek and praise Him? We are of the house of Jacob and we have oh, so many reasons to thank and praise Him. He is our Savior. He died because of His love for you even while you were a sinner and far away from Him. For this, we should heartedly and with humbleness thank and praise God.

Have you wondered who this Jesus, the Son of God is? Do you need a reminder why you should praise Him? He is the mighty warrior who defeated sin and death. He died and rose again to walk into the throne room of the temple in heaven. He is the King of glory. Jesus is the One to whom the angels and all the heavenly hosts bow down and the One to whom you bowed when you confessed, repented, and accepted Him as your Savior. He is the Lord of hosts and is your Lord.

If you have not believed in Jesus Christ as the Savior, the One who lived a sin-free life and died an innocent death, who rose back to life three days later and then ascended back to heaven, He waits for you to believe in Him, and confess and repent of your sins so He will clean you from your evil thoughts, words, and actions. Jesus loves you and wants you to receive salvation so you can be free of sin and death and live in an eternal relationship with Him, receiving His blessing of eternal life. Will you come before the Lord now opening your heart, adoring God for who He is and what He’s done? Will you believe Jesus Christ is God’s Son, the One sent to be the Savior for all people so you can be cleaned from your sins and receive eternal life? Will you come before Him thanking Him for all He’s done for you and what He will do for you? Will you come before Him praising Him because Jesus, Jesus alone, is the King of glory, mighty in battle, and victorious over sin and death?

Christian, will you come before God adoring Him? Will you come confessing and repenting so God will cleanse you from your sins? Come before Him thanking Him and confessing Him with all the hosts in heaven and on earth. All creation will rise up and praise His holy name.

“All the earth shall bow down to You and sing praises to You. They shall praise Your name in song.” Psalm 66:4 [AMP]

Lord, God almighty, we get caught up in doing life and forget about you. We do, think, and say evil things. Without you we are powerless over sin and death. Jesus, you give us this power because of your innocent death and resurrection. Please forgive us now, we pray. Bring us back into a right relationship with you so we can praise and thank You with our whole being-heart, soul, mind, and strength. You, O Lord, deserve all praise, glory, and honor. Thank you for dying and defeating sin and death for us. Thank you for Your love.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Inception: Working with Refugees, Stage One


The first two articles of this refugee ministry series are called Warp and Weft of Life[1] and Conception: Empowering to Serve Refugees[2]. In them, we learned who refugees are, how many refugees are in the world, and that they come from a multitude of countries around the globe. For faith-based work with refugees, we learned prayer must enwrap any program, and God must be the One who gives the vision so steadfastness occurs when days are long, times are hard, and refugee stories are painful to hear.


With this article, we begin to understand how to start a ministry to refugees. The process of starting a ministry to refugees includes five or six stages. This article will introduce stage one-Getting to Know Refugees-of Inception: Working with Refugees. Please remember, this article is not written from an authoritative point of view, but from an experiential basis. Circumstances differ around the world and different methods, ministries, refugee nationalities, and workers will arise that need consideration when beginning and maintaining any ministry to refugees.

Stage One: Getting to Know the Refugees

God puts within all people a heart to care for others. This innate compassion is part of being created in His image. Because of this compassion for other people, we often want to help when difficulties arise in life. This is normal. First, though, we should seek God’s will to determine if we should help this person/people. After that, we must meet them to determine their real needs, not assuming we know their needs. These things comprise the subject of stage one of Inception: Working with Refugees. Within stage one are five steps with several sub-steps.

Prayer

If you are a Christian, prayer should happen before, during, and after any task. It should lead, correct, inspire, and encourage you. Because prayer with God is about relationship, this step should be natural to all Christians, just as breathing is natural. Prayer at the beginning of a task or ministry should seek to bring God into our minds and our lives as the leader of the ministry. It leads us to remember from Whom we received our innate compassion and that we received God’s compassion when Jesus died on the cross. Prayer also reminds us from Whom we get resources for ministry, Who protects us while we minister, and in Whose strength we work. Without prayer infusing the ministry to which God calls us, we grow weary, lack mental strength to continue the task, become cynical, seek glory for ourselves, and leave God out of the equation. Because of these and much more, prayer must undergird any ministry we seek to do.

The People

From the article, Conception: Empowering to Serve Refugees, we learned through prayer God will open our eyes to the people to whom He wants us to minister. For this article series, we speak about serving refugees. In a world where refugees come from around the globe, we should decide which refugees are to be the focus of the ministry in which we seek to develop and run.

Why differentiate? Because each people group has a different language, culture, history, and religion. What works with one group may not work with another. For example, many more Somalians than Congolese are Muslim. This would require different English curriculum if you were thinking of using Bible-based English lessons. Additionally, many Somalian women have never been to school so you would need to start with Pre-school or Kindergarten level language classes that tell you what an A or B is. For most Congolese, learning the alphabet first is redundant because most of them attended school during their lives.

Besides this, working with refugees requires knowing their cultures. In some cultures, women absolutely do not teach men. Doing so would disrespect the stature of the man. Besides this, in some cultures, women cannot wear pants or dresses/skirts above mid-calf or show their upper arms and shoulders. These things are indecent to them in certain cultures.

Because of these and other things, we must seek the refugees to whom God calls us to minister. At the start, if you are doing an ESL (English Second Language) course, differentiating among refugee cultures is not as important. What is important is giving them a life skill that will enable them to get jobs. Yet, quickly different cultures, religions, and languages will cause you to need to adapt even the basic English curriculum. It will make you return to God to determine upon which people group you need to focus.

Seeking from God the people group you need to focus on is important. Working with refugees is an admirable thing. Maintaining communion with God so He can continue to lead you in ministry is most important. He may have called you to work with a specific refugee people group, not to refugees in general. Stay in constant contact with God during your ministry with Him.

The Needs

This part of stage one is very important. To have a desire to help people and to follow through with that is admirable. To do what is necessary, not what you think is needed, is paramount. Good deeds to the wrong person or people group is not helpful. To impact refugees practically requires knowing them. Getting to know them requires conversation and investment in their lives. It means speaking to them, gleaning information, and coming to care about them as individuals. Learning about these refugees’ history is important, too.

Talking to refugees has four main purposes-to build trust, to learn of their real needs, to learn to love them, and to glean from them which people in the community holds certain roles. Conversing with refugees is the first and biggest part of working with refugees. Through it you want to ascertain at least fifteen things.

1.      Build trust by asking about:
a.       their family, interests, religious background
b.      where they live at that point in time
c.       their contact details
d.      their country of origin
e.       the languages they speak
f.        what life was like in their home country and the job they had there
g.      their family still in their home country
h.      why they left their home country
i.        how living in their host country has been for them so far
2.      What are their perceptions of their needs?
3.      What you your perceptions of their needs?
4.      What is a good day and time of the week to meet with each one and the people as a group?
5.      Determine who is the gatekeeper of the groups of refugees. Who are the leaders whose permission or acceptance of you and the program you are doing will affect attendance and benefit to the refugees you seek to help?
6.      Determine who is the activist of the group of refugees you seek to help. They, too, determine if people will attend the ministries you will offer. This activist will be a voice for the people and for the ministry you will give their community.
7.      Determine who is the caretaker of the community. This person is the one who cares for the wellbeing of each person and the group. They have no agenda in the group other than the care of the people. This person wants what is best for their people, not what is easiest or most expedient. The caregiver, gatekeeper/chief, and activist can be a supporter of the work you seek to do and receive training to do it.

Once you build trust within the community, people will realize you actually care for them and are not necessarily seeking numbers to qualify your search for legitimacy and funding. The refugees will then accept you and bring their real needs and their sorrows to you. They will begin to see you as family. Once you get to know the people from their conversations, you can research their countries and people groups, and learn their historical background. Doing all this enables you to become interwoven in their community. You become warp to their weft, and then you can minister more usefully to them. At this point, too, you can give a bolder testimony about Jesus to them and they will listen attentively because you have shown you truly care about them.

Prayer

After speaking to the refugees, gaining their trust, getting to know their needs, and getting to know their leaders, you must return to prayer. With the information you gleaned from the refugees, you bring their needs before God asking Him to tell you if these people and their needs are the ones to whom He calls you to work. Added to this, you ask God to tell you where you should begin work with the refugees. What is truly their greatest need at the moment? Where do you get help? Where can you get funding for the ministry needs? Where do you set up the ministry in the community? God knows the answers to each of these questions already. He waits for you to turn to Him and seek His will. By doing this, you acknowledge Him as Lord who knows all and you as finite in knowledge. You recognize your dependence upon God.

In seeking the Lord in prayer at the end of this stage, the person who seeks to minister to refugees deepens his or her relationship with God, the One who sustains, emboldens, upholds, and enables each person. Ministering with the Lord can deepen one’s relationship with Him. Without prayer, the ministry can draw you away from God. Praying before, during, and after each stage deepens a person’s relationship with God and acknowledges Him as Lord of his or her life and the ministry.

Conclusion

When considering starting a ministry to refugees, one must seek the Lord’s will first. That is paramount. After that beginning, conversations with refugees in the community are very important. By doing this, you will establish trust by developing a relationship with them. When you speak with them, you will get to know the refugees-their history and needs-and then will know how best to help them. Added to this, when you talk with them and develop a relationship with them, you show your love for them as people, not just as a group of exiles. Doing this enables you to put yourself in their shoes and your compassion becomes empathy. This kind of relationship is what God wants from us. While talking with the refugees, you can find out who the gatekeeper/chief, activist, and caretaker of that group are, and for the whole population of refugees in your community. You will be able to decide if you can offer ministry to all refugees or if you must divide them geographically, politically, linguistically, or theologically.

Remember, more than any of these steps or stages is the need for you, for each of us in ministry with the Lord, to seek God and His will. He knows what is best for each situation, each people group, and each person. God will guide you to the ministry the people need. He will open doors for funding, volunteers, and other resources when you continue a close relationship with Him. Remember, growing in relationship with God is the most important part of our lives. Working in ministry with Him is a way to grow in our relationship with Him. Our obedience to God’s commands and teachings shows our love for Him. No matter what else you do in ministry, prayer must be paramount. It must enwrap the ministry from beginning to end and be interwoven throughout each step and stage.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Cleansed Conscience



I remember the first time I came across Hebrews 10:2. I had been a Christian for just a little while and understood Jesus died my sin penalty because of His love for me so I could live with Him in heaven. I remember how excited I was about being a Christian, to be able to live forever in heaven with the One who loves me. What joy this gives to a child’s heart! What joy it should give to everyone who believes in Jesus. I thought life just couldn’t get any better than that.

And yet, I remembered things I had done wrong. You know what mischief a child can get into–lying, disobeying, swearing. The child thinks these are not big things. I won’t have to go to jail for these so why not do them, everyone else does? Still, after I gave my life to Christ, I felt pangs of conscience. I felt remorse and fear. What, over lying and swearing? Yes, because God instills in us a conscience when He creates us. That conscience is the moral code from God Himself about what is right and wrong. Whether we want to admit it, even these little things are sins. Why? Because they were disobedience and disrespect to God and my parents. Remember those commandments in the Ten Commandments?

So, one day not long after becoming a Christian, I read Hebrews 10:1-2. It says,
“For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?”
Now, two things can happen when one reads this passage. The first response to this reality is, “Hallelujah!” When a person fully repents of all his or her sins, God removes the guilt of those sins from His judgment book because Jesus paid the price. He removed the burden of guilt from the person’s conscience, too. That means it no longer holds a sting from the sin, the sting of guilt. You realize by now the possible other reaction from reading this passage. The second possible reaction to reading this verse is surprise and then repentance. When a person sins before or after becoming a Christian, he or she must repent of each sin to receive forgiveness and cleansing of heart, mind, and soul. That is the cleansing from the stain and guilt of sin. This is of what Hebrews 10:2 speaks. The worshiper, once he or she received God’s forgiveness and cleansing, no longer has consciousness of sin. The guilt of that sin in the conscience does not linger and cause further pain like a sliver Satan might put under your fingernail to remind you constantly of how sinful you are. That power of the sin to cause guilt is gone. Jesus paid it all, and that covers the stain and guilt/consciousness of sin.

Before the writer of Hebrews arrived at this point in his teaching, he spent chapter 9 leading to it. Let me briefly outline for you what he taught before and after Hebrews 10:2 about conscience and consciousness of sin.

With Hebrews 9:9, the writer of Hebrews said the gifts/offerings and sacrifices established as rites of worship by God under the first covenant cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper. That means it cannot make a person perfect, totally clean. This means he or she cannot be in the presence of the Lord eternally.

Later, in verse 14, the writer said the blood of Christ offered to God without blemish through the eternal Spirit purifies our conscience from dead works.  Now, that’s a big jump to make. Why is Jesus’ sacrifice better than those set up by God with the first covenant? The writer explains this in verses 11 and 12. He said, Christ came as a high priest of the good things, those things that originate with God, and He entered the holy places, those not made with human hands, once for all by His own blood, not that of animals. By doing so, He secured eternal redemption from slavery to sin for everyone. That’s a lot to take in, so go read it for yourself. Since Jesus did this, He is the Mediator of a new covenant for those who answer God’s call and receive the promised eternal life. Anyone who answers this call of God gets eternal life because Jesus’ death redeemed them from transgressions committed under the first covenant. The writer of Hebrews spends the next thirteen verses explaining this to us, his readers. He tells of three things Jesus did.

·       He has entered heaven to appear in the presence of God on our behalf    (vs 9:24). This is a past tense action. He never has to do this again    because Jesus died once for all.
·       Jesus appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (vs. 9:26). This is also a past action with a future assurance.
·       Jesus will appear a second time to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him (vs. 9:28). This is a future action.

The next point the writer of Hebrews made about consciousness of sin comes in the first verses I mentioned above, in 10:1-2. He said, the law, which is just a shadow of the good things that come from God, can never clean consciences of sin. If they could, there would be no need for continual offerings every year as established in the rites of worship God gave the Israelites in the first covenant. The writer went onto say these yearly sacrifices remind the people of their sins, instead of removing them from their consciences. He said Christ came to do the will of God (vs7). Jesus did away with the first covenant to establish the second covenant. Through the offering of the body of Christ, we receive sanctification once for all (vs. 9-10). With Jesus’ single sacrificial offering, He perfected for all time those who are being sanctified (vs. 14). God says, “I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more (vs 17).

Listen carefully to what the writer of Hebrews says in the next six verses. Since we have this confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, what are we to do? Being cleansed isn’t just a receiving transaction. Covenanting is a two-way promise, a bond. The writers said next, with your hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and your bodies washed with pure water (vs. 22), you must do three things.

·       Draw near with a true heart in full assurance of your faith (vs 22). This is for you now and in the future. It is a present action with a future benefit. Note it is not just present tense, but present continuous. Draw near and keep drawing near. This command benefits you.
·       Hold fast the confession of your hope without wavering because He who promised is faithful (vs. 23). Once again this is a present continuous verb that carries on into your future. Hold and keep holding fast. This command benefits you.
·       Consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, but encouraging one another (vs 24). Notice this command benefits you and other believers as you congregate together to worship, pray, and fellowship. It is a command that holds a communal aspect. Recognize this command also is present continuous. Consider and keep on considering how to stir up one another to love and good works.

These commands are not just things on your to-do list you get to cross off once you’ve done them. They are to stay on your daily list. Why? Because God calls you to relationship with Him because of His love. His love showed itself with the ultimate sacrifice of His Only Son, Jesus, for your sin penalty so you could be with Him in an eternal relationship. Your love for God will show in your obedience of His commands and laws. Your obedience to His commands and laws will show itself in love to other people. The three commands at the end of Hebrews 10 are an extension of loving God and people. You will do these because you are growing in relationship with God.

Now, to get back to Hebrews 10:1-2. When I first saw this passage, I received such vast relief. The burden of the guilt of sin I had carried, I realized, was for the first time off my back. Still, I realized I had not repented of all my sins and I had sinned since I became a Christian. I wanted the cleansing from the stain of my sins and the guilt of my sins. Jesus’ is the way to have that. No other way exists to remove the consciousness of sin. Only through Jesus’ death and resurrection can a person gain the removal of the stain and guilt of sins from him- or herself. All the ways people devise to remove the stain of sin reminds them of their guilt. The trying of these other means allows Satan to push that sliver deeper under your fingernail. You experience that guilt continually. Daily come before the Lord repenting of your sins so you will receive forgiveness and cleansing from the stains and guilty conscience of your sins. Hear the words of the writer of Hebrews again.

“Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:22 [NASB]


Lord, God Almighty, lead me to recognize Your great love for me and the cost You paid to redeem me from sin. Forgive me of my sins, I pray. Thank You for removing the stain and the guilt of my sin. Thank You for removing the burden of guilt. Help me to love You more and grow closer to You daily. Help me show You how much I love You by my obedience to You. Amen.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

God Called My Name




God called my name one day;
I didn't recognize His voice, 
but someone taught me how to say,
I'm here, Lord, lead me, I pray.

He called me as one whom He loves,
Whispered peace when He said my name.
No doubt clouded my thought or heart;
I ran to the Father and won't be the same.

God opened His fountain of love 
Where His mercy and grace abound.
To me His arms opened wide,
Solid ground and joy I found.

O'er time His voice never failed,
But grew stronger with each new day.
Sometimes pushing me forward 
Others protecting as He led the way.

As time moves ever forward,
The Lord blesses us with new friends,
Some who teach and encourage,
Others pray and walk to the end.

Each person He brings to our path
He prepared for His service, too.
Some whose service joins your own,
Still others briefly join and depart soon.

The person God calls to His mission
Their task is not just for others;
The road walked in service to Him
Is where we grow as sisters and brothers.

Hard times, distress, persecution
Are what Jesus endured to the cross;
No more should we expect in this life
As disciples whose lives He has bought.

For the joy of giving salvation,
Jesus gave His life on the cross.
For the joy of sharing His gospel.
I give my life because He has called.

Because God called my name long ago, 
I heard His heart's melody to me.
Because Jesus loved me so much,
I gladly gave Him my heart in belief.


Saturday, June 30, 2018

Intercession Regardless




He Himself bore the sin of many and interceded for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12c [NASB]

This verse stands in stark contrast to how we would act after experiencing what Jesus did. Consider the verses before it. Isaiah prophesied in chapter 53 truths that occurred during Jesus’ life.

Isaiah said the Messiah grew up from parched land. This land was Judah a land of God’s chosen people who chose not to obey Him nor worship Him exclusively. Though Jesus lived in Judah, He carried no great stature among people. He was not a king or leader of the people according to their ways of life.

Isaiah continued with verses three and four by saying the people despised the Messiah and turned their back on Him. They considered Him contemptible and worthless. What He said did not matter to the Israelites and so they rejected Him. The people of Israel considered the Messiah as having no value for their lives and so forsook Him. Because of this, Jesus suffered and grieved for His pain and the people’s loss, the loss of relationship and salvation from God. The Messiah bore their sorrows and carried them, yet the Israelites considered Him someone whom God struck and afflicted, not One who took their punishments. They considered Him a heretic and an outcast.

Yet, Isaiah said, this Messiah was pierced for the sin, the rebellion against God, of the Israelites and the people of the world. He was contrite and shattered for their guilt. Jesus was broken-hearted for the people and broken-bodied on the cross because of the sin and guilt of people. He received the stripes, wounds, and bruises of the punishment for us so we could receive healing, and cleansing from our guilt and sins. So that none of us could say he didn’t cause the Messiah to die for them, Isaiah expressly pointed out we all, like sheep, have gone astray; we’ve wandered away from God and gone our own ways. Still, because of God’s great love for us, the sins and guilt of all of us fell on Him; Jesus bore them all for us.

Isaiah explained what happened to Jesus. He said He was oppressed, bowed down, and humbled, but He did not cry out, “Foul play,” or demand to be released. Instead, the Messiah walked like a meek lamb to His death. He did not demand a retrial, but bore the pain of our punishment because of His love for us. The oppression and judgment that was ours Jesus took and was led away to die.

While He laid aside His glory and majesty to be born as a man and suffer the indignities, judgment, and punishments from men, Jesus also was consigned to humiliation in death. The judges made Him die as a wicked man, consigned the worse form of death penalty reserved for the evilest people. The people humiliated the Messiah in life and death.

Still, God was pleased and delighted to break His Son, making Him to bear grief. He was pleased to do this so He would see His children. The Lord would increase the days of His people and His will would occur. Jesus humbled Himself to become a man, suffer persecution and infamy, and die as an evil person. It would enable God’s plan for His people to be with Him forever. Through the anguish and trouble of the Messiah, God’s judgment of the people would be satisfied. Because of the knowledge and wisdom of Jesus, God’s serving Son, who served both people and the Father, many would receive justification, cleansing and righteousness, through His carrying their burden of sin and guilt.

Because of all this what did Jesus do?  
·         Grew and lived in a parched land
·         Lived humbly as a man with no power or glory
·         Lived despised, considered worthless, and rejected by people
·         Knew sorrows and grief
·         Bore our grief, afflictions, pain, and sorrow
·         Became considered as a sinner stricken by God
·         Received our death punishment of sword, nail, and cross
·         Accepted the oppression and afflictions by people without crying out His personal innocence
·         Took the title of outcast as He was led outside the city gates
·         Died the worst death, that of a wicked man upon a cross
·         Bore the weight and punishment the sins and guilt of people
·         Received God’s pleasure
And despite what people did to Him, He interceded for the transgressors and continues to intercede for us. Jesus taught His followers to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you in Matthew 5:44. He lived this out on earth and does it in heaven now.

This last statement of Isaiah 53 is important. Even though people and their sins caused the need for a sin sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins, Jesus interceded for us. Before He died and with His death, He interceded for us with God. Since His death, Jesus intercedes for us while sitting at the right hand of God. Paul stated this in Romans 8:34 when he said, “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” [NASB] Intercede means to plead for us, to supplicate or petition. Jesus petitions God for us for our salvation, needs, and forgiveness. Who of us, if we faced the inhumanity to the extreme Jesus did, would pray to God begging Him for mercy for the people who tormented, oppressed, and persecuted us? Yet that is what Jesus did and does for us even today. Isaiah told us of what the Jews would do to Jesus and expressed why Jesus came to live as a man on earth. This shows God’s great love for us even while we were/are sinners.

Isaiah closed this chapter of prophecy about the fore-coming Messiah by reminding the Israelites how great is God’s love for them. Even though they persecuted, oppressed, and killed His body, Jesus interceded for them to the Father in heaven to help them and us, and not to give us what any of us deserves. That is love! God gives us what we don’t deserve. Jesus pleads our cause even though we struck Him with our transgressions.

What greater love is there than God’s love!
Our love cannot compare to His.

“The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5b [NASB]

Lord, thank you for reminding me of my sin against You. Thank you for forgiving me each of my sins as I repent of them. Please help me remember how great Your love is that you would die for me and continue to plead for me with the Father. I do not deserve Your love, yet You give it anyway. Help me to live as Jesus did and pray for my enemies and those who I consider unworthy of help from You. Thank you for Your love. Amen.


Saturday, June 23, 2018

Ripples



Looking as walking see a pond of greenish brown surrounded by its uneven edges and a footpath lightly traveled showing dirt and grass. This pond, in its bigness, holds fish, minnows, ducks, dragonflies, water plants, and other water insects. It’s teeming with life in it, on it, and around it. It is an attraction to which many species of creation flock.

What causes this flocking? Is it the big picture, the beauty and peace of the place? Possibly. Is it the nourishment it provides? Maybe. Is it the safe haven it gives? Perhaps. It may be because of all these and so much more.

What could this more be? Well, people look at the big picture when considering the pond and its surrounds. It’s a place to go. Birds look at its big picture and see a place to rest, bathe, and feed. Bugs look at the big picture and see a place to find food, rest, and re-create. Fish have only the one picture. It is home and provides haven, food, family, recreation, and a place to re-create. For each of these species, like for humans, the pond is a place to get what is needed for life. It’s like a person’s home and family are places and people from which to gain sustenance, security, rest, and peace.

If we ponder this pond closer, what will we realize? Consider it as God’s creation interacts with it. The wind causes ripples and the sun, moon, and stars cause reflection. Each ripple of light can remind us of each light that passes through our lives. This ripple, the one that sparked bright white, is the person who cared the most for you when life was darkest. She walked with you, prayed with you, and held your hand. The next ripple, a shimmering blue, reflects the sky and the endless possibilities. It reminds you of that person who entered your life showing you the things you could do or be and where you always knew you could find home. Next, the wind blew and the light blinked so that a twinkling amethyst caught your eye. This ripple is the person who shone in your life to best reveal your strengths and greatest characteristics. She drew attention to herself and reflected onto you so others would see you and notice your worth and their need of you. Again, the wind blew and a ripple crossed the water as the moon’s beam cast upon it. This ripple, though onyx-dark, cast out it’s glimmer to remind you even dark days have brightness in them. They are not only darkness. This person comes along to show you the things you can learn and how you can grow when little light shows and much is dark. Finally, as the moon begins to ebb to its darkest point, the slight ripple of water casts out a deep purple glow. The person who reflects this ripple, this swell, is the one who shone brightest and most beautiful. This one gave you greatest hope that dawn comes after darkness, peace comes after the storm, beauty comes with the darkest colors, and dawn will break again. This ripple brings you an inhalation of expectation for the hope of the beauty of the new day, for the encounters to be made, for the provisions that will come, for safety within its brilliance and depth, and for the renewal in its savoring.

Each of these ripples is part of the whole, the lake in its entirety with actions by the Creator. None stands alone nor can be without the light and wind that beams or blows from outside of itself. This lake is like life. We can have haven, peace, food, family, recreation, and a place to re-create within it, but without that which comes from outside of itself, that is given to make it more, it is a sphere of its own. Its beauty is contained and confined within what it can make of itself. When, however, the Creator casts His hand toward the lake with light and wind, a greater magnitude of purpose and benefit comes to and from the lake. It beams forth not only contained beauty, but reflected strength, hope, acceptance, honor, peace, knowledge, beauty, and expectation.

Each of the ripples would not have been without the Master blowing upon the water. Each of the reflections could not have shown their brilliance without His light casting its gleam upon the water. The ripples, individually, represent each of us as God’s children. He uses us to shine forth His light, but He is the One who makes the ripples with His breath to bring us into the sphere of people who need to know He is in control. One time, God will use us to bring peace, another time hope, then another to share strength, etc. God’s light is the beam that glows on and from His children. His wind is what blows the water. We, His children, are the ripples who affect the lives of others like the ripples affect the lake. None of us are or can be the source of the light or of the wind. We do not cause the ripples that bring strength, hope, acceptance, honor, peace, knowledge, beauty, and expectation that is lasting. Only God can give those lasting gifts and, when He causes the ripples, we are the result and the gifts are lasting.

Without the Master’s hand, the lake and its surroundings are beautiful and peaceful. They provide nourishment, safety, home, recreation, re-creation, and family. With the Master’s hand, the lake provides more than these. It reflects the lasting gifts only God can give, and He uses His children to do this. We are the ripples God creates and uses to reflect His love, strength, hope, acceptance, honor, peace, knowledge, beauty, and expectation to the people to whom He sends us or by whom we are surrounded.

Do you accept this duty? Will you obey God and let Him use you to provide these God-gifts to other people?

Today you might be the sparkling white, the shimmering blue, twinkling amethyst, glimmering onyx, or glowing purple. I can remember the person who was the glimmering onyx from God for me. This person led me to Christ. I can remember the person who sparkled bright and walked with me praying for me as I traveled a hard place in life. This person reminded me God had not left me alone. I remember the person who twinkled like amethyst. She showed me my good qualities and the strengths I had to contribute to this world.

We can only reflect God’s lasting gifts to people when we are His children and He uses us for His purposes. Have you accepted God’s gift of eternal life through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus? Will you let Him use you to reflect His love to people who need more than life, food, home, family, beauty, and recreation? God’s wind is blowing and His light is gleaming. Will His wind blow and make you a ripple to reflect His lasting gifts to other people?