Archive for March, 2005

“And they sang a new song: �You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.� – Revelation 5:9-10

You would think that Jesus Christ would have been worthy to open this scroll because he was God. You would think nothing he did or could do would have anything to do with his worthiness. If God/Jesus is worthy just because of who he is then what does this passage really point to? It seem to me that it points to Jesus’ overwhelming love for us. The fact that God died for our sin and show us this unending and unmerited love places him in the unique position of being the only one who could ever show perfect love and concern. It comes down to this. Jesus is the only one who could have been the perfect sacrifice for us. It says, “with your blood you purchased men for God.” None of us had what it takes to be a worthy sacrifice. Jesus on the other hand was not only uniquely worth, but he was uniquely willing.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for being the perfect sacrifice for each of us. Thank you for loving us so much that you would literally dies for us. It is amazing enough to think you would send your only son, but it become even more amazing when you realize that you and the son are one in the same. Thank you Lord. Amen.

And they sang a new song: �You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation – Revelation 5:9-10

This statement is one of the most profoundly loving statements you will find in God’s word. It is so loving because it shows God’s amazing love for us. We have been taught since childhood that Jesus is God. As God, he is perfect, he is all knowing, he is all powerful and the list goes on. If all of these things are true then we would normally assume that Jesus should have been worthy to take the scroll simply because he was God, but that is not what this verse says. What made Jesus worthy to take this scroll was the fact that he was slain for our sins, the fact that he died so that we may live, the fact that his death was the ultimate sacrifice for every person who had lived, did live and would live. Basically, Jesus is worthy because he has show unending love for his creation.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for sending your son to show us true love, to sacrifice himself, to allow us to enter into your kingdom. Thank you for making a way for us to experience redemption and justification before your holy throne. Thank you for simply loving me and my human brothers and sisters. I give you my own inadequate love back. Amen.

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm�neither hot nor cold�I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, �I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.� – Revelation 3:14-22

For a long time, I never understood what it meant to be luke warm toward God. I thought if I was not doing all the “works” of Church then I might be luke warm and God would spit me out. However, I think I finally understand (at least in part). This passage is much more about going through the motions of being a Christian without having it flow from your heart. You can do all the “works” that you want, but if they don’t flow out of your heart, then they are meaningless. God wants us to follow after him with everything that we are and ever will be. He wants every part of us to yearn to follow him. You will notice that this is not so much an action as it is a state of being. People who are neither hot or cold sit in our midst each and every day and make no action to come closer to God, nor do they purposely take actions to show that they are against God (however, one could argue their inaction toward God is effectively action against God). It almost seems like this is the place Satan likes most of us to be. When you are actively seeking God you are thwarting Satan’s plans. When you are actively working against God you are on Satan’s side, but you are also recognizing that God exists. When you are neither hot or cold, you are simply doing nothing.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for guiding me to a place of being in your will. Thank you for helping me to understand what is means to “be” with you and not just “do” the Christian thing. Help me to truly be a Christ-follower with all of my being. I love you Lord. Amen.

But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’ “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse-the whole nation of you-because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.
-Malachi 3:7-10

I have often looked at this passage and focused on the promise of God to bless those who bring their tithe to him. I know this has definitely happen in my life. Megan and I are truly blessed and those blessing started after we committed to truly be Christ-followers, including tithing. However, we often ignore the first part of this passage. Tithing is not just about the blessings we will receive, it is about obeying God. When we don’t bring our first fruits to God, we are literally robbing him. That is an amazing thought. We have a God who can have anything he wants, yet he has decided to use us for his earthly resources (both financial and personal). This is profoundly humbling and challenging.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for this reminder about obeying you through our giving. While Megan and I decided long ago to honor you in this way, It is good to remember the true nature of not tithing – theft. I pray for many of the people I know who have not been able to place their faith in you enough to begin this act of obedience and service. I love you Lord. Amen.

“You place defiled food on my altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ “By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.
– Malachi 1:7-8

When you first read this passage it may not seem like it applies today. We no longer are required to bring animal sacrifices to be burnt to our Lord and God. However, we are required to bring our best to God. This can me the first fruits (tithe) of our earnings. It can me a portion of our time to volunteer in the Lords work. It can mean a consistent time of prayer, study and practice of the other spiritual disciplines. Essentially, we need to give our best to God. How often do we give God the left-overs. We go to church if we are not tired. We give financially if we feel we can. Basically, we give God a blind animal.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Forgive me for all of the times I have not given you my everything. Forgive me for all the times I have given you a blind animal. Help me to serve you with my whole life. You are my God and my King. Amen.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53: 4-6

“yet we considered him stricken by God…” These seven words say so much about our inability or unwillingness to see Jesus for who he really is. Jesus comes to earth to be a true and holy sacrifice for our mistakes, sins and transgressions. Jesus comes to earth to give us his innocence and take on our guilt. Yet, we don’t see it, understand it, or even attempt to want to believe it. We would rather turn our backs and say he must be cursed, because to say otherwise is to admit we are failed humanity. I sometimes wonder if I would have believed in Jesus if I was alive while he was on earth, or if I would have rejected him. I just thank God I have accepted him today.

Dear Heavenly Father,

What a message in Isaiah 53. You told us the truth about sending your son. Thank you. Thank you for giving us the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Thank you for giving us ample opportunity to believe. Thank you for giving even when we reject your gift. I love you Lord. Amen.

Isaiah 50 makes it clear. God is the one who justifies us. God is the one who teaches us what is right and what is wrong. God is the one who teaches us to turn the other cheek. Essentially, God is the One. We cannot rely on our own devices no matter how much we might like to do so. Our selfish ambition and pride will lead us to destruction.

“Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.” – Isaiah 50:10-11

It is interesting the see in verses 10-11 darkness and light used as a reverse metaphor compared to other places in scripture. Usually, we reach that we should walk in the light (this would be the light of God) and shun darkness (evil). Here were read that we must be willing to walk in darkness (not evil, but lostness) because that is when we will turn toward the Lord. The light (pride, arrogance) in this passage is the light created by fire. This fire is started by human hands and does not require us to rely on God. Are you willing to walk in darkness?

Dear Heavenly Father,

I know that I tend to want to walk under my own power. I am a pridefull person who thinks I can do everything alone. I also know that I can never truly accomplish anything of true value and worth without your power. Help me to keep my eyes on you and my heart open. I love you Lord. Amen.

“But Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’
Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Your sons hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you.” – Isaiah 49:14-17

How often do we think that God has forgotten us or turned his back on us because of our failings and transgressions? How often do we believe that God is not active in this world today. We think he created it, but then left it to fend for itself. God very clearly says that he has not forgotten us. What an excellent metaphor – We all know as parents (especially mothers) that we could never forget our children. They are just as much a part of us as we are a part of ourselves. Yet, God is saying that even if a mother forgets her own children he will not because he has actually engraved us on the palm of his hand. This is such a precious promise leading to renewed faith and invigorated action. We can always count on God to be right by our side.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for being there with me each and every step of the way. Thank you for staying beside me even when I try to run from you. Thank you for loving me so much that you refuse to abandon me. I love you Lord. Amen.

The people of Israel had returned to their ancestral land with the permission of the King of Persia. He had allowed them to return to rebuild their country as long as they remained loyal to him. The people spent many years building their homes, farms, businesses and other necessary things, but they did not rebuild the focus of their spiritual lives – God’s Temple. In their day the temple was the only place where God could be properly worship, so rebuilding it was crucial. In our day, our Church buildings are not nearly as important, because we are able to worship God in any place. However, there is a very important lesson to be learned from this. The issue for us is one of priorities. Are we more interested in building our own lives – jobs, retirement, houses, cars etc. Or are we more interested in being on mission with God and having our jobs, retirement, houses, cars and everything else committed to his Kingdom work? This is the question we must ask ourselves. None of these things are wrong in and of themselves, but if we are more focused on them than God, we are in the wrong. God tells us to make him the first priority and he will take care of everything else.

Dear Heavenly Father,

It is not easy to keep you first in my life. I am always worried about having enough money to raise my family and pay the bills. I know you have promised to take care of my family, so help me to grab onto this promise and just hold on. Help me to serve you without condition or hesitation. I love you Lord. Amen.

Jude gives us a very important warning as Christ-followers. There are people among us who are not truly seeking to follow Christ. They might be there because the like the fellowship of “good” people. They might be there because they like the community aspect of the Church. Many of them are also there because they are seeking God and have not yet come to understand the truth that transforms. Other are there because they truly seek to pull people from following Christ. As Christ-followers it is our calling to be in community with the first three kind of people. Anyone who has entered into the Church without the intention of harm is heading in the right direction on their spiritual journey. We must walk with them and help them to find our Christ’s truth. These are the very people God has called us to reach. The fourth kind of person has not desire to move closer to God. In fact, they are the false prophets. There only desire it to build themselves up. We must always have our eyes open, yet we must not be overly fearful. Extreme fear may make us also shun true seekers of God. We must believe that God will protect us from these individuals and listen for his still small voice.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for coming to give us true life. Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to give us protection from those who would pull us from the faith. Help me to be a light to those who are seeking and stay far from those seeking to destroy your kingdom. I love you Jesus. Amen.