Read Lamentations 2
The visions of your prophets
were false and worthless;
they did not expose your sin
to ward off your captivity.
The prophecies they gave you
were false and misleading.
Accepting Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior is the only way to be reconciled to the living God by the forgiveness of Jesus for your personal debt of sin. However, it does not take care of the problem of sin. As a forgiven sinner, you live on as a sinner until your life in this world ends and your new life with the living God begins. Until then, sin is alive and active within you waiting for the perfect moment to attack and draw you away from God. And while there is forgiveness for sin, there are also consequences to acting sinfully. Never be misled into thinking that by accepting Jesus you are free from these consequences. You aren’t. We believe in our heart and profess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and we are saved. However, each day we must choose to follow Jesus. The consequence of sin is death and refusing to follow Jesus in His righteousness we will see sin active in our flesh and death will surround us. Sin strives to destroy that which God has blessed and made Holy leaving only memories of God’s goodness and power in the presence of personal conviction and despair. This pain and sadness is not inevitable. It is only a byproduct of disobeying God. It is a byproduct of choosing to indulge in sin as opposed to the Gospel. And sin is not only active with you but around you. Satan strives to surround you with false teachers, preachers and witnesses that encourage you to cling to grace as opposed to obedience. They will shun those who repent for disobedience and celebrate those who see new mercies new every morning without any noticeable transformation. They will draw you away from God’s word and teach false truths based on their own sinful understanding. God’s mercy is in fact new each and every morning but it comes at a cost. The love of God and forgiveness of man cost God the life of His son, Jesus. In turn, our love for Jesus every morning demands the cost of our own life as we would see fit. Every morning dedicate yourself to the practice of repentance, gratitude and humility. This is the life of a Christian. The lie of Satan is that you are better than you are and you need God less than you think you do. Rebuke these lies each morning and commit your ways to a loving God who has designed you to thrive amidst His grace and power.
Read Isaiah 24
How can devastation be celebrated? The prophecies in scripture concerning the end times and the return of Jesus Christ are troubling. The imagery is troubling and the fact that they are to be believed as fact is troubling. Yet, the description of the end times is accompanied by celebration, praise and worship. To many of us this is either inconsistent or terribly insensitive. How can both of these realities coexist? The solution to this problem is the word, justice. The prophecy of the end of the earth as we know it is evil without context. In the same way that seeing a young child being forcefully told to go to their room as they cry and wail for pardon is a terrible scene to witness without the context. In order to understand the judgment of the living God in the return of Jesus you have to know Jesus. You cannot make your first step in exploring Christianity the book of Isaiah, chapter 24 and leave it at that. This is a moment, a declaration, a prophecy and in the absence of context you will undoubtedly be led astray by such an incomplete representation of the living God. Does God mean every word he speaks to us through the prophet Isaiah in chapter 24, absolutely! However, we are helplessly incapable of knowing Jesus as our Lord in Savior by limiting ourselves to the book of Isaiah, chapter 24. Have you done this? Has this been your approach to knowing Jesus? Seek to know Jesus. Observe his interactions with people. Listen to how he speaks to people, those who profess faith in him and those who do not. Spend time with Jesus. What you will find is that Jesus is not only good, and merciful but he is absolutely just. His actions are not hasty, flippant, oppressive or wicked. His actions are patient, thoughtful, forgiving and righteous. Proceeding from this place of understanding we are then better equipped to enter into a chapter such as Isaiah, chapter 24. Does God forecast the devastation that will fall upon the entire earth and for all people alike? Yes. Is the scene portrayed one of complete destruction and utter devastation? Yes. However, as God does not change his character like shifting shadows, is the God behind this prophecy the same God you met in Jesus of Nazareth? Yes and it has to! Seek to know Jesus and you will find the righteous judge that you can trust and celebrate.
Read Song of Solomon 7
10I belong to my beloved,
and his desire is for me.
Do you belong to the Lord? Can you answer this question with certainty or do you know what this means to belong to him in the first place? The sin within us fights the influence of any authority that is not our own. The idea that we belong to someone or something else is absolutely offensive to our flesh. To belong to someone else is to relinquish control over life completely to that person. Your rights are the rights that your owner allows you to have. The sin within us cannot fathom such a unreasonable and torturous existence. However, the eternal word of God boldly proclaims such a reality. For this reason many follow their discomfort away from scripture and into the arms of comforting, self-affirming doctrine that has no grounds in God’s word at all. For this reason many reduce scripture and the person of Jesus to helpful assistants that often make good points worth pondering but not good enough to be acknowledged as the whole truth and nothing but. To accept God’s word at face value in this way is to radically proclaim that you have forfeited ownership of your life to the one you now belong to. To be a Christian is not to exist independent of Christ and alongside him. To be a Christian is to exist united with Christ with his spirit living in you. A Christian independent of Christ Jesus is no Christian at all. To accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior is to understand his role in your life as Master, Lord, Owner. Why does this agitate our sinful nature so much? Why do we recoil at the slightest mention of not having authority and ownership of our own lives where we have the rights to make whatever decision we see fit to make? It is because we have not fully realized the depths of our wickedness and the heights of God’s forgiveness and love. The reaction to a “boss” is different than the reaction to a “good boss.” As we spend time in scripture seeking out truth in the person of Jesus Christ we witness the beauty of the Son of God. We are not worthy of his beauty yet we are given this gift by grace simply because he is good and he desires us. “How could he or why should he desire us?” some might ask. Clearly not because we’ve earned it or because we deserve that kind of affection. His love for us is often so true and so unexplainable. So friends, dedicate your life to searching out this love, knowing it, experiencing it and be transformed and let by your Master, Lord Jesus.
Read Ecclesiastes 8
Of all the things to know about the world we live in, very little of it will we ever know. We learn and we explore and our understanding grows but so do our questions. Discovery reveals more exploration and the cycle goes on and on. The only road of inquiry and exploration that does not prolong the cycle is the pursuit of the living God. In knowing and fearing God a person begins to uncover answers, solutions and truth. We will always learn more about God and we will always continue to seek wisdom by the power of the Holy Spirit to help us find peace in a world that is so wrought with mystery and inconsistency. However, with the relationship to the living God as our key we can know, we can have faith, we can have hope and we can live with confidence that our lives are being built atop a foundation that will not give way and crumble at a moments notice. Do you know God? Have you pursed him to understand truth concerning him? All else is meaningless. In knowing God a person can be perplexed by the ways of the world without being overcome by it. In knowing God a person can be shocked by the destructive nature of humanity without being surprised. In knowing God a person will know with certainty where they come from, where they are, where they are going and why the struggle in this world is what it is. The life of a Christian is one of ongoing discovery in the pursuit of wisdom. But this pursuit enters through the gate of Christ before taking any further steps. In Christ we will receive wisdom and that wisdom will bless us with peace that transcends understanding. The promise of Jesus is that we will always have what we need and in knowing God we will exist in this dark world as torch bearers of the light of Jesus. Just as the nature of darkness will continue to astonish us, so will the light of Jesus. In knowing God we can exist in this world but not of it. Not abandoning our place in this world while not being consumed by our existence in it either. To know God is to fear God and to fear God is to live with him in the peace that this world is not the end and we were created for something far greater and everlasting.
Read Proverbs 17
27 The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint,
and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.
28 Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent,
and discerning if they hold their tongues.
Christian, you were born again as an empty vessel to be filled by the Holy Spirit in order to further the Kingdom of King Jesus in this world. You were saved and you were blind and then by grace you saw for the first time. You have a testimony and you are called to be a witness to the world that you have seen a great light. You bear in your identity as a “Christian” the name of the Anointed One, Christ Jesus. You are his ambassador of reconciliation in this world of brokenness and division. You have experienced a healing in your own life that did not come from a doctor, a self-help book or a medium. You were saved by Jesus! How then can you stay silent? How then do you muffle the groaning of the Spirit within you that demands that the saving power of Jesus Christ be proclaimed from every rooftop? Have you experienced Jesus in this way? On the other hand, do you take it upon yourself to be the source of wisdom and teaching while forgetting that only by Jesus do we have instruction and wisdom from the Counselor Holy Spirit? Your identity is “child” and your job is “disciple.” As a child and as a disciple we are called to wait for our provision from the Lord. We are called to listen as we are instructed and led into the wisdom of the Lord. We must never understand our freedom in Christ as a license to instruct everyone else how to live their lives. The enemy desires to contort and poison your new life in Jesus into a destructive weapon within the Church to create death and division. The enemy will fill you with fear at the moment you are called to testify for what you’ve seen and what you know. The enemy will fill you with pride and self-righteousness the moment you are called to support and nurture the growth of another child of God. The perfect love of Christ casts out fear and in Christ Jesus nothing can separate us from the love of God Emmanuel who will never leave us nor forsake us. The enemy will always seek out opportunities to bottle-neck the spread of the Gospel and cut-off the supply of life-giving water as the focus of wisdom and power is redirected away from Jesus and onto a child of God that can do nothing apart from him. God is with you and the world needs your story. However, this story is not about you but it is what Jesus has done for you.
Read Psalm 12
It is so easy to be dishonest. It is a natural inclination of the heart that we are all born with and none of us has to learn. No one instructs us in the art of deception and dishonesty. This natural ability is only bolstered and developed by the world we live in. A world where it is often more acceptable to be dishonest than to proclaim hard truths. Truths that are potentially career, reputation or life-threatening. We are quick to justify lies and we are quick to argue the necessity of being dishonest in order to survive and thrive in the world we live in. Lies can often get us what we want. Lies can often tell us what we want to hear. However, the lies of men cannot endure as the truth of Jesus do. Where the words of Jesus survive the crucible and through fire are revealed to be more enduring and more beautiful, the lies of men are easily exposed and only reveal more damage and more destruction where there is no gain. The lies of men will be revealed. Repeat that true statement, “The lies of men will be revealed.” Dishonest gain will always be brought to the light. Repeat that true statement, “Dishonest gain will always be brought to the light.” In the Kingdom of King Jesus dishonest gain cannot hide and will ultimately be revealed. Do we know this? If so, why do we continue to pursue dishonest gain? To do so is to be counted amongst “the wicked” according to the living God. To do so is to live as an enemy and aggressor against the Gospel of Jesus. Is this where you choose to be? I personally pray it is not. Truth will compromise your status in this world and it will often revoke your “honor.” Truth will often cause you to lose more than you gain. Truth will often create enemies in your life more than it will create friends and allies. However, truth is the language of God and it is the spring of living water that will always provide you what you need in all circumstances reminding you that you are loved and cared for by the God Most High. In the end we have the choice. We can choose to see dishonest gain as an affront to God and pray that Jesus save us from ourselves or we can look the other way and find contentment in lies. What will you choose?
Read Esther 3
The effect of sin is death. Sin preys on life and destroys. Sin never brings or gives life. It will always seek out life only to take it. In this way the sin within us longs to destroy us. Our natural and instinctual desire to sin will never enhance our life but slowly and unsuspectingly it will take it away. The sin within us will seek every opportunity to poison God’s good gifts from above transforming them into killers of others and killers of the self. The sin within us will look at the prospect of achievement and accomplishment only to create in us a ravenous craving for power. We love power. There is something liberating in power. We feel free. We feel as if the world has suddenly righted itself to its original design. The way it’s supposed to be. But friends, do not be so easily deceived. Does this freedom, liberation, peace you feel from obtaining a level of authority and power truly bring life or does it take it? With this power are you now seeking the fortune of others more than your own? Are you seeking opportunities to submit your life to humility? Are you seeking opportunities to serve? Are you seeking opportunities to give more of what you have to those that have nothing? Are you seeing your power as a privilege that can be taken away at any moment as opposed to a right that is rightfully yours for eternity? Sin was born out of the hunger for control. Therefore, the taste for power will always battle the spirit of Jesus within us that refers to Jesus as, Lord. It is impossible for a Christian to obtain power without dedicating it to Lord Jesus and not be destroyed by it. It is, however, possible that God will choose certain people to occupy certain positions of authority. However, those positions are no different than the positions that lack a certain level of authority. Both are investments in the Kingdom of God. Both are privileges gained by grace and grace alone. Both are gifts from above that create opportunities for thanksgiving, service, submission and evangelism. All power according to the Christian is the power of Christ. As a Christian there is power in Jesus but no power in the self. We die to ourselves and all that remains is an empty vessel filled with the Spirit of Jesus to bring glory to Jesus. Power will entice you. It will whisper to you. It will justify itself to you. Do not be so easily deceived! Flee from power and run to the cross. Power without Jesus is deadly. Power in Jesus is unstoppable and good. There is power in the name of Jesus.
Read Nehemiah 2:11-20
The faith you have in the Lord Jesus will not strengthen itself. There is no autopilot. There is no cruise control. Faith in the Lord is developed, strengthened, evaluated, assessed, shared, challenged. It is a living and breathing life of faith. This requires immense focus, devotion and perseverance. The moment we become complacent and ignore the weaknesses in our faith is the moment we ignore the words of our Lord Jesus to, “abide in me.” This is a guarantee. This will happen. Perhaps this is already happening. The living God is a God of mercy and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a Gospel of grace. However, be careful how much grace you give yourself. Never hold yourself to a standard of perfection because only Jesus, only the living God is perfect. But never allow yourself so much leeway that it creates in you a weakened believer with a license to sin. Ask yourself the tough questions. Do I love Jesus? Would I lose everything to have him? Do I devote my strength, time and industry to furthering the Gospel of Jesus in my own mission field and ministry? Ask yourself these questions in the presence of the Lord that he might reveal the truth to you. Humble yourself as he speaks and reveals to you the weaknesses in your life and faith as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Then act. Change. Repent. This is life or death. His instruction is not recommendation or opinion. He is directing you into repentance, into holiness and into eternal life. This will require change and the change will create friction between you and this world. The world will not accept the gravity you place upon your faith. It will mock and jeer at the level commitment you have to Jesus. It will see you as delusional, naïve, stupid, childish. But Christian, these are not the words of life nor are they the words of your Creator Father in Heaven. Never allow these words to follow or torment you. They are lies and they have no weight to them. Escape the temptation to devote energy to defending yourself from persecution or assimilating to the world so as to not be made uncomfortable. Your energy is precious and it must be used to strengthen your faith. This is a good endeavor. This is a worthy endeavor. This is the only true endeavor.
Read Ezra 8:15-36
22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
How often do you fast? Do you understand fasting? Do you believe in fasting? What is fasting?
How often do you silence the world and yourself in order to hear what God is saying? Before doing are you quick to stop and devote your entire attention and being to being still and knowing the God is God. The living God is a deliberate God driven by purpose and objective. He has ordained your steps and each of those steps has been laid out for a purpose to achieve a particular objective. We must deny our nature to move before we know and speak before we think. Stop. Be still. He has called you into a life with eternal ramifications and consequences. This is a blessing but a responsibility. This is bigger than you. You are a disciple commanded to teach others about Jesus. You are a missionary called to a mission of making Jesus known to the people in your respective mission field. The task upon us is exponentially larger than we could ever imagine. It is God’s grace and mercy that we are not made aware of the entire job tasked to us.
Do you know this? Do you believe this? Are you aware of this?
How then can you accomplish any of what God requires of you without remaining close enough to the living God to hear his voice and see his feet moving just ahead of your own. Be still and know. God is with you and he is making a way right now. He is speaking.
Do you hear him?
The world we live in creates a formidable obstacle between us and the Lord but we are not called to silence the world. Regardless of what we do the world rages on at unbearable volumes we cannot control or contain. No, we are called to silence ourselves. Be still and know. Deny yourself. Fast. Give up that which creates an internal obstacle between you and the Lord. God is making a way but he needs you to hear and understand what comes next. Say no to the flesh and say yes to the Lord. Fasting is a proclamation of faith. It establishes priorities. It is not magic. Nor is it a commandment. However, we are all commanded to communion with the living God and communion requires communication. Prayer is our ongoing dialogue with the living God and fasting is a choice. It is a decision. It is a moment where we can proclaim our heart’s desire to be still and know nothing but God.
Read 2 Chronicles 21:4-20
7 Nevertheless, because of the covenant the Lord had made with David, the Lord was not willing to destroy the house of David. He had promised to maintain a lamp for him and his descendants forever.
Grace and the Gospel are inseparable. In light of the promises of God you cannot have one without the other. You cannot divorce the two. In embracing the Gospel of Jesus Christ a person is embracing the transformative power of amazing grace. We have not done enough. We can never do enough. We exist in between two realities. Our past behavior does not prove our righteousness and the reality or our fallen nature determines that at no point in the future will we ever be deemed righteous enough to coexist with a perfect and holy God. Apart from Jesus, this diagnosis is hopeless and crushing. Apart from Jesus we are left striving for something we will never attain. But the Gospel of grace is not the proclamation of our goodness. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The reality is that you are a sinner. Present tense. You do not make wise decisions as you should. You are tempted by ungodliness. You are not Holy as he is Holy. But the promise of the Gospel was not a promise that at a certain point in time man would become righteous and able to earn his way back into God’s presence. The promise of the Gospel was that in spite of man’s sin and wickedness, by grace, the living God was preserving the house of David to make way for the lamp. The light of the world. Jesus. Although God has bestowed great love and mercy upon his people, his people have never proven that they deserve it. On the contrary, his people, we, have proven that we do not deserve it. However, he has. By grace. God’s love for his people is so great and beyond our comprehension that in not wanting any to perish, he waits. He waits and continues to speak, continues to protect, continues to provide, continues to love. Look upon the cross. See Jesus. Experiencing the grace of God. Let is transform you from the inside out. Let it transform how you see yourself and the world. Self-righteousness will always create a calloused heart unable to love as God created us to love. Submission to the gospel of grace will break your heart, mend it, transform it and then allow you to carry with you the light of the world shining brightly within you proclaiming that Jesus and only Jesus saves. Amen.