Read Judges 6
The God of the Bible is a God that speaks. He engages with his creation and desires to do so. He does not hide nor is he passive. The God of the Bible is eternally connected to his creation because he loved it into creation and love is never lost in silence. Love demands expression. Love demands to be heard. In the same way that the deepest and most fulfilling human relationships are based off of positive and consistent communication, the relationship between God and his creation is no different. In our time of need and in times of desperation God is waiting for us to engage with him so he can engage with us. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Some might ask, “How can I hear him?” The Biblical response to this questions is, “What are you willing to give up in order to hear him?” One might say that the ability to hear the voice of the living God is free for all but it is not in its essence free. In order to hear the voice of God speaking truth and authority into our lives we must be willing to listen and therefore we must be willing to give him our undivided attention. Hearing costs. Hearing his voice does not come naturally to us. We must be facing him to see him speak. We must be listening intently in order to hear what he has to say. How can we hear God speak into your life if he is daily being drowned out by your voice or the voices of others instead? He is your God. He is your creator. He is your father. He knows. Why would a person be willing to sell his/her soul to have the world? Why would you be willing to walk nervously along the road of self-doubt/self-discovery when the God of creation is eagerly waiting to speak unshakable truth and life into his/her life? This rationale is not rational but it is natural for sinners like us. The living God is waiting at the door to speak to you! Sell everything to hear his voice. He is reaching out his hand to usher you into his presence where he will speak eternal truths into your life. Take his hand and hear his voice.
How can we know the word of God if we ourselves have not heard it? How can we know the word of God if we ourselves have not seen it? The word is not meant to echo gently over the generations. The word of God must be repeated. It must be reread. It must be passed on and proclaimed. There is a perpetual need for teachers, proclaimers and messengers of the word of God in this world. The sin within us naturally prefers that the word of God fade into the background. Sin desires a compromise with God’s word. Comforting words. Sentimental words. Advice. Interesting stories. But not truth, life, a sword. The sinful soil of our human hearts must be moved by the Holy Spirit to not only accept the seed of God’s word but then to continue to nurture and cultivate its growth. Our survival depends on this! We must continue to pray that God create in us new hearts that desire the word of God as David did. Who among us can say that we crave the word of God as we crave honey to the tongue? This disposition is not an achievement of an ideal but the return to normality. It is when we begin to look upon the word of God in this way that we realize that we are finally home. From this place we will not seek out comforting and powerful passages in the scriptures but we will be hard-pressed to find any passage in the Bible that does not leave us satisfied and well equipped. The word of God can be understood as a God’s promises working through different people at different times in history but it cannot be dissected and compartmentalized according to value and importance. The entire word of God is either valuable or it is not. The entire word of God is either important to our living and survival or it is not. The entire word of God is either pointing to Jesus and the salvation of the entire world by his blood on the cross or it is not. It is not left to only the most fanatical Bible students to find worth and value in the entire text. This is not a matter of taste. This is a matter of truth and life. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was made flesh and it is in that flesh and the sacrifice of it that we receive answers, contentment and eternal life. The word of God is our collective daily bread and light to our path. The enemy knows the scriptures well but we must strive to know it better. As God spoke from the heavens to Peter, James and John on the mountain, “This is my Son whom I love. Listen to him!” Christian, listen to him!
Read Deuteronomy 23:1-8
1 John 1:5-7
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
The message of Jesus is clear. Repent! Sin no more! Carry your cross! Lose the whole world to gain your soul! These are not the words of a great compromiser. These are the words of the Lord. These are the words of the Messiah King. These are the words of Christ Jesus. In Jesus we are forgiven, accepted, loved and called beloved children. However, the gifts of Jesus follow submission to Jesus. He declares to be the only way, truth and life and he is. Therefore, to follow him and become swept up alongside him in righteousness and glory we must submit to his words and his truth. This truth demands change. It demands the sacrifice of the self in alignment with submission to the Son. As the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see the Lordship of Jesus we are also made aware of the depravity of our sinful nature without him. We are dead without him. We need a savior and he has a name. As we see Jesus as Lord and God we begin to see nothing else. He becomes everything, we become nothing. He becomes life, we become death. “Father, save me from myself!” He becomes our prize and possession. It is in this new vision that we can boldly proclaim to the world that we will gladly choose to lose all things to know Christ Jesus. In the light of Jesus the issue is not what we want, it is always and forever what he says and what he commands. We cannot seek to please the flesh while seeking to please the Son. These are opposing sides. These are enemies. Choose a side! Is your fleeting and temporary comfort in this world more valuable to you than eternity? Do you believe in eternity? If not, why not? Have you sought out the words of Jesus? Do you know what is being offered to you in his life, death and resurrection? If so, why corrupt the promises of Jesus with a false gospel of cheap grace and self-worship. To enter into the grace of Jesus we must repent. We must change. In order to change we must encounter the risen Lord and bow our knees to his Lordship over our lives. He is good, but he is also the King. We are forgiven but we have to change. If we have seen him, we love him and we seek to become like him.
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.
“How Deep The Father’s Love For Us” -Stuart Townend
Offerings to the Lord made by fire. When something is consume by flames it is completely destroyed. It is completely lost. When we make an offering to the Lord there is nothing left for us to keep for ourselves. It is all gone. We are not mutual recipients of the offering. The offering is made to the Lord at our cost and loss and for his gain and pleasure. This kind of giving is painful but it is not hurtful. God is not taking pleasure in watching you lose the things that you love. God does not demand this kind of offering simply to impose his authority over our lives and possessions.
The design of a Holy offering pleasing to the Lord contradicts the thinking of the world which asks, “What do I get out of this?” A Holy offering to the Lord is made by and through transformation. It is only when we have been personally and intimately confronted by the presence of the living God that we are able to understand giving in this way. Upon this encounter with the living God we begin to redefine words such as loss, gain, thanksgiving and sacrifice. Willingly offering up a valued possession to never see it again is a painful loss if we measure our value in this world by the possession of that object. However, in Jesus, wouldn’t we rather lose all we own to know him and be known by him? Acquiring things, objects, property, money is only meaningful if the acquisition of such things adds to our life as we know it. However, in Jesus, we know that all things in this world will pass away except for the eternal promises we have in Jesus. What does it mean to be thankful? What moves us to make thanks-giving? Does our thanks possess a short-term memory or an eternity mindset? Temporary gains will produce shallow and fleeting thanksgiving. Eternal gains will produce comprehensive and ongoing thanksgiving. Do you know what you have in Jesus? Your eternal debt was paid in full and the limits placed upon your life by death were destroyed. You have life now. You can live! To live forever eternally loved and accepted is yours in Jesus, because of Jesus. The revelation of the Gospel creates in a person a limitless and never-ending spring of living water and joyful thanksgiving. What does it mean to sacrifice something you hold dear? Why does it hurt so much to let something go? It hurts because we view the things we love in this world as puzzle pieces that complete us. When we lose a puzzle piece, part of us disappears and we feel incomplete. But what if what we needed was an entirely new puzzle, a new creation. And what if this new puzzle only worked to add pieces to the image with the promise that none will ever be taken away. Piece by piece we are becoming more whole and more who we were designed to be. This is our promise. This is the Gospel. This is ours because of Jesus. This is because of the cross. Seeing Jesus crucified frames our “loss” and “sacrifice” revealing it to be nothing in comparison to hiss. To offer anything in the name of Jesus is not to lose but always to win. To give back what was never ours is to rightfully honor the Father who has given us eternally more than we could ever give back.
Read Leviticus 25:1-7
Rest is not an option. Rest is not a luxury. Rest is not a suggestion. Rest is a commandment, a rule, a mandatory requirement in fulfilling and participating in God’s creation. God created and designed a world that functioned off of the premise that abundance and prosperity follows rest. The world around us was not designed to overwork and overproduce. Neither were we. In the same way we observe the planet deteriorating as a result of overuse, we also fall victim to deterioration as a result of overuse and overwork. The demands of our world today lead us into concluding that we must overwork in order to merely get by and survive. The world around us bullies us into a corner where we submit to the cruel and unjust reality that in order to keep up we must never stop. Since when do we live according to the promises and commandments of this world? If we are commanded to rest by the living God we are also promised by the same living God that our needs will be met in all circumstances. Therein lies the crux of the issue of rest in our modern world. It boils down to an issue of trust. Do you trust God enough to provide for and meet your needs when you rest from your work? Do you trust God enough to yield to his assessment of your physical, emotional and physical health and not your own? According to God rest is a requirement for life. In order to live we MUST rest. If we dismiss this instruction, we will die. The appetite of sin and the delusion of sin will strive to convince us that if we cease to work, we will die. The lie of Satan from the beginning was that it is utter foolishness to trust God and take him at his word. The lie from Satan establishes that we must be our own God, our own creator, our own healer, our own savior. However, in Jesus we see the promises of God fulfilled and the lies of the enemy defeated once and for all on the cross.
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The sin within us resists rest. We resist it either out of fear of falling behind or fear of being too intimately attune to who we really are and what we really think when the busyness and work around us ceases. However, the spirit of the Lord casts out fear! There is no fear in Jesus. Your needs will be met and you will not be handed a stone when in need of bread. Your needs are known by our father in heaven long before we need them. Our father in heaven is a good father and he merely asks that we trust him and listen to his son, Jesus. Do this and rest. Do this and live.
Sin desires to have you and the wages of sin is death. Sin pursues life as its prey and will go to great lengths to destroy it. Where you find life, you find sin crouching at the door. The lie of the enemy is to dismiss sin as understandable, justifiable and acceptable “human nature.” In fact, it is human nature. However, it is a human nature, a fallen nature, that MUST be changed. It is this human nature that must be forgiven, must be saved and must be born again in the image of the Son of God. The sin within us seeks to please the flesh and the flesh is impatient. The flesh has cravings and those cravings are agitated when left unsatisfied for too long. Without the presence of the Holy Spirit we are willing to destroy in order to satisfy. Without the presence of the Holy Spirit we are prepared to kill the living in order to live a life we deem worth living. It is not God that seeks to destroy life. It is sin and sin will control us if unopposed by the name of Jesus.
When we are not willing to wait we see sin alive in us. It is the unwillingness to wait that reveals are lack of faith in a sovereign God. It is in our unwillingness to wait that we see our lack of fulfillment in the name of Jesus. Patience is not simply controlling our impatient nature. Patience is a confession of faith in Jesus Christ. Patience is a product of the spirit of Jesus transforming us into his image. Patience is a witness to the world and those around us that the promises of Jesus are true. Promises that find their place in the real world with real people with real problems. Patience is unnatural and patience produced by human hands is unsustainable. We must be patient but we must never strive to become patient apart from Jesus. We must seek to become a believer, follower, disciple of Jesus. It is in gazing at the Son of Light that we are then filled with his light and begin to reflect his light into the world. This light is patience by impatient creatures in an ever-increasingly impatient world. How long must I wait? This question is natural but it is not justifiable if we are children of the living God. How can I worship? This is a question that deserves our attention and is worthy of the name of Jesus Christ. It is in these quiet and stationary moments that the Holy Spirit seeks to transform an impatient and restless mind into a sober, thankful child who finds peace in worship. The waiting has a purpose. The waiting is for our benefit. The waiting is necessary. The waiting is the grace of God who knows that we need to rest.
The forgiveness of Christianity should offend people. There is nothing like it and it conflicts and contradicts the world we live in. The forgiveness of Christianity is not normal and we should never understand or accept it as such. The forgiveness of Jesus is everything but normal. It is not how the world works. In fact, it is not how sinful people living in a sinful world tend to want the world to work. It is unfair. It is unjust. The forgiveness of Christianity is meant to divide. It is meant to be Holy and set apart. Do we understand this? Do we believe this? Have we experienced this? Sin strives to accentuate our lust for self-glory and self-power. Forgiveness demands that both be sacrificed daily at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. There is no selfish ambition in forgiveness. It is anti-self. Forgiveness is costly and painful and it always will be. It is not something we do naturally. It is in its nature totally unnatural. It is not something we work at and develop. It is something that works within us, in spite of us with all power and glory given to the spirit of Jesus working for us. Forgiveness requires not only a deep understanding of self but also an all-encompassing love and understanding for God. In order to radically forgive as Jesus commands us to we must understand that we are recipients of this forgiveness. We must understand that WE are in need of forgiveness first, not “them.” It is Jesus who loved us first and gave his life for us as a result of OUR sins first, not “theirs.” You have been forgiven. I have been forgiven. You have life not because you did well. You have life because you have been radically forgiven by the grace of God and the life and death of Jesus Christ. In order to radically forgive as Jesus commands us to we must understand that our temporary pain, while painful, is not ultimately about us at all. We live in a broken world and sin is pervasive. You WILL be hurt in this world. Jesus does not hide this reality from us. The glory of God is not revealed in avoiding sin. Sin is here. It is around us and within us. It is in your hurt that the healing of Jesus is revealed. It is in your hurt that the forgiving love and grace of Jesus is revealed. It is in your hurt that the sovereign will of the living God to not only heal our brokenness but to anoint it in order to bless others is revealed. Christian, this is not about you. This is all about Jesus and if he saved the world through forgiveness, should we not be expected to be an extension of that gift?
The end of all things is the renewal of all things. The end of this world is the beginning of the Kingdom of the Lord. So why do we fear it? Why do we recoil from talking about it? Why are our conversations not framed by what is sure to come? If the end ushers in the Kingdom of the Lord and his Messiah we must understand what this means. In order to love and long for Christ’s return we must understand who “Christ” is. Jesus Christ fed those who had no homes and no food regardless of who they were. Jesus Christ reached out a hand of forgiveness and mercy to rescue a woman from public humiliation and death. Jesus Christ understood a father’s doubt that the impossible could become possible and proceeded to heal his son. Jesus Christ brought a young girl back to life with the sweet words of, “Sweetheart, get up.” Jesus Christ endured public abuse, torture and death for crimes he did not commit and said nothing to deliver himself from injustice. Jesus Christ is Lord and the end will be the beginning of a world ruled by him. Now do we understand the rejoicing? Now do we understand the praise? Our faith and the entire world is moving close and closer to the Kingdom of the Lord. However, to partake in this kingdom we must repent. We must acknowledge that Jesus IS Lord. We must trust that Jesus will be with us by the Holy Spirit and will achieve his good and perfect will in our broken and sinful lives. He is Lord and he is able. But never edit, sanitize or hide the end from those you love. Tell them the end is near but tell them the whole story. Tell them what this means. Tell them about our Lord. Tell them about King Jesus. Tell them that the end will be the renewal of all things and the beginning of his Kingdom. While many people are hesitant and often resistant to accepting Jesus as Lord, all people want a world ruled and governed by someone like him. He is the ideal. He is perfect and he is beautiful. This is our hope and this is our peace. Jesus come quickly.
The grace of Jesus is the battleground. It is the issue of grace that is most fiercely attacked and perverted. Therefore it is over this issue of grace that we must most fiercely contend and defend. Grace is the most precious thing. It means that in our imperfection and sin, God still loves us. It means that even at the very core of an idolatrous and sinful heart, God’s forgiveness in Jesus remains victorious. Grace means that we are not only understood as imperfect yet loved but that the gift of eternal peace in the Kingdom of Heaven was bought for us, not by our sacrifice but that of Jesus, the perfect and sinless Son of God. The grace of Jesus is unparalleled and undeserved. Yet, it is fully ours by faith alone. How is that just? How can it be that simple? How can it be that easy? These are reasonable questions. Yet, they are not questions asked by someone pursuing the grace of Jesus only to find a license to live in sin. The sinful heart looks tirelessly for more justification to sin. The sinful heart will use anything and anyone in order to excuse and promote the ongoing appetite for sin. Including Jesus and his gospel. The message of grace in Jesus can radically transform a sinner’s heart but it can also radically ingrain and cultivate sin within a person if left unchecked by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the absence of the Holy Spirit the grace of Jesus is simply a “get out of jail free” card. Without the Holy Spirit the grace of Jesus is cheap, convenient and powerless to change anyone. The free gift of God’s forgiveness paid for by the blood of Jesus should drop us to our knees in repentance. It should knock the wind out of our spirits that we were saved from death at the last minute by the intercession of the Son. As we regain our breath only praise, thanksgiving and humility should propel the next words that leave our lips. The free gift of God’s grace should break our heart for the price Jesus paid before it lifts our hands in rejoicing and praise that we sinners are loved and forgiven and not measured by impossible standards of perfection. The latter is just as true but if rejoicing enters our hearts before repentance the enemy can so easily step in on the glorious gift of God’s life-giving grace in Jesus and take the life Jesus paid so much for us to receive..
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Do you recognize the impact of what you say? Do you choose your words wisely? Do you anticipate the far-reaching implications of what you bring to a conversation? The Spirit of Jesus creates in us a sensitivity to such things. We no longer speak with others with careless and haphazard abandon. We no longer approach conversation as a mere activity but a privileged and blessed opportunity. Conversation is not simply a transaction of words and sentences. Conversation is communication. What are you trying to communicate with the words you so carefully choose? Or, are you careful? In Jesus there is no option, we MUST be cautious and we MUST be careful. We must ask the Lord Jesus to not only transform our sinful heart but to provide us with a heavenly wisdom to guide and direct our words for building up and not tearing down. Is what you are about to say worth saying? Does it need to be said? What will it bring to the conversation at hand? Will it cause some to stumble unnecessarily? As we grow in Jesus this checklist will become more natural and less time-consuming. But perhaps it’s time-consuming nature is a good thing. Perhaps it’s best that we err on the side of silence and not noise. Listening does more to unite and talking does more divide. Err on the side of listening. Listen to others and listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Beware that the enemy does not use you as an instrument of his destruction. He will try. There is nothing the enemy desires more than division in the Church. His entire existence rests on this. A united Church is a strong and enduring Church. A strong and enduring Church is a listening and loving Church. Is unity a hallmark of your church, marriage, family, community group? In Jesus it MUST be. And if not, why? Ask this difficult question. Why does division reign in your life. Why are there more people prepared to avoid you as opposed to embrace you? Division is not always a result of poor and foolish word choice. However, poor and foolish word choice will always cause division. Seek unity and seek to speak unity through love into the lives of those around you. Don’t allow the devil a foothold and proactively address the spiritual illness before it becomes life threatening.