Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

Our Sharing Savior

Friday, May 31st, 2019

I haven’t shared here for a long time. It is not that I have not been enjoying the Scriptures, for I have… Perhaps part of the reason is other responsibilities crowd into the time required to write. Perhaps another reason is I’m not sure why I’m writing. What started as a desire to exchange thoughts about Christ really is just an outlet for what I’ve appreciated about Him, with others listening in if they like. Will it continue? I don’t know… perhaps, if I still feel an urge to write and happen to have the moments to do so.

But our Lord Jesus never stops sharing. I find myself going back to John chapter 17 many times–a chapter full of the sharing, loving heart of the sent One as He speaks to His Father in heaven. His desire is to share what He is, has and enjoys with us. Having recently witnessed a wedding, His sharing took on another dimension that I thought someone else might enjoy enough to make an attempt to put it into words worthwhile.

So what things does He, our Maker and Redeemer, our Friend and Bridegroom, have, that He wishes to share with us?

1. My Peace.Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

The Lord had to leave His disciples, but He left them with His peace, and a promise of His return. What do we need if we are to enjoy real peace in a world of turmoil? I suggest that we at least need to have certainty in regard to our current and future security and well-being, assured through the knowledge that someone who cares for us is also able to provide for us. Now as to our position before God, in order to be safe, we need the knowledge that we are at peace with God, that our sin debt has been settled, and that nothing separates us from God’s presence any more. Our Lord Jesus satisfied that requirement when He died for our sins. And so our emotional peace can only come after our soul has found positional peace (union with God) in the cross-work of Christ. “My peace I give unto you.” So our eternal well-being comes from our Savior. He made peace by the blood of His cross.

But not only that, our Savior gives us peace in the experiences of life–emotional peace. This reminds me of various places where the word shadow is found in the Scriptures. Psalm 36:7 says, “How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.” I think of the Lord’s words in regard to Jerusalem in Luke 13:34: “How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing!” Here, the Lord compares His care for a city (that should have received Him) to a hen’s care for her chicks, carefully gathering them under the shadow of her wings. He wanted to care for them not once nor twice, but how often! Such is His caring desire for the well-being of His own. A hen’s wings demonstrate care and refuge. All who come to Christ find His shadow to be a place of care and refuge.

Psalm 91:1 says, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Here we learn that our God provides protection to those who draw near and take refuge in Him.

Isaiah 32:2 “A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, And a cover from the tempest, As rivers of water in a dry place, As the shadow [or shade] of a great rock in a weary [or parched] land.” Our Lord provides for us cool refreshment and defense as does a great rock in a weary land.

Song of Solomon 2:3 “Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, So is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight, And his fruit was sweet to my taste.” As we sit under the shadow of our beloved Savior with great delight, His provision and presence is sweet to our soul.

So come, beloved, sit under His shadow, and enjoy the peace that He alone can give.

2. My Joy. “But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.” (John 17:13)

Our Lord imparts His joy to us through His Word. As we meditate upon His words to us and work them out in our lives, His joy is imparted to us. In John 15:9-11, that joy is linked with the knowledge of His love for us as we do what is pleasing to Him. Even amidst suffering, the Lord Jesus delighted to do the Father’s will, anticipating the joy of being glorified to the Father’s side and being united with His blood-bought bride (Hebrews 12:2).

3. My Glory. “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one…. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:22, 24)

In what way does our Lord Jesus share His glory with us? We know that His divine glories are His alone. But the glory of sonship (relationship with the Father), a special place of blessing and privilege, and shared love and union with divine persons are some ways in which His glory is shared with us. In a future day, we will be glorified together with Him, made like Him (1 John 3:2), and reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). We are to sit with Him on His throne… He shares that with us! (Rev. 3:21)

4. [My] Father’s Word. “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14)

The Word which He received from the Father He has shared with us. With the treasure of the Father’s words, He imparts to us wisdom, understanding, truth, revelation, promise.

5. Our Love. “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26) “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21)

The Father didn’t spare His own Son, but freely gave Him up for our sake (Romans 8:32). If the Father was willing to give His most precious possession for us, then we can be sure that He will withhold no blessing that would be for our good. That same love that is shared between the Father and the Son is also shared with us! The Son is willing to share the Father’s love with us, and the Father is willing to share His Son with us. How overwhelmingly wonderful this truth is.

6. My Father. “go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ” (John 20:17)

Akin to the previous point, the Son of God calls us family– His Father is now our Father, and He calls us brethren. While He retains a special place as the only-begotten Son of the Father, yet we are brought in to share in a relationship which He has enjoyed from eternity past. This is so deep that only faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can take it in (Romans 8:16).

 7. My Body. My Blood. “And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22:19-20) “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread. ” (1 Cor. 10:17) “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ” (Ephesians 5:30)

How much more can one give, or how much closer can one get than one’s own body? In giving His own body for us upon the cross of Calvary, and shedding His own blood as a perfect payment for our sin, He made union with Himself possible, through faith.

8. [My] Inheritance, Wealth. “…that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6) “to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4) “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:16-18)

He became poor, humbling Himself to the cross death, to make us [spiritually] rich. The wealth we receive because of His sufferings is beyond compare. As children of God, He shares with us an eternal inheritance (1 Peter 1:4), as the Father makes us co-heirs with Him. We share His Father’s house (John 17:24, John 14:2) and His Throne (Revelation 3:21), inheriting a place in His eternal kingdom. Now isn’t that worthy of a bit of trials and toil here and now?

9. [My] Sufferings. “but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” (1 Peter 4:13)

We move to a different viewpoint as we consider our sharing Savior. If we are to share in His future glory, then it follows that we will share something of His sufferings for the present as well. We rejoice even in sufferings, recognizing that just as Christ was glorified, so we, too shall be glorified together with Him. Our short time on this earth is our opportunity to prove our love to Him in the face of trials and hardship.

10. My Yoke. My Heart. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

As we work side by side with Him, sharing the yoke which He as well carries, we come to know Him better in His meek and lowly character, and we find rest of soul in the midst of toil of body.

11. My Name. “And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:26) “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” (Revelation 3:12)

When a bride is married, she receives a new name. We, as the bride of Christ, have already received a new name as children of God, but there awaits a special time of full identification with our Bridegroom in a future day, when He will reveal Himself to us in a special, personal way. What a day that will be!

 


Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Eclipse… light triumphs

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Today’s eclipse reminds me of other periods of darkness in this world’s history. God’s judgment on Egypt was seen through a period of darkness over all the land of Egypt for three days. This earth is a land of the shadow of death, a place where sin abounds, destined for judgment. It was into this same world that Christ, the Light of the world, came, illuminating and revealing God to men. Through death, He endured the judgment of God, where in three monumental hours, a physical darkness covered the whole land, silently declaring that the weight of the sin of the whole world was being placed upon the holy Lamb of God. But Christ came out of that darkness victorious; the way into God’s presence was opened and the temple veil rent; and out of death He rose gloriously triumphant on the third day, then to seat Himself at the right hand of the throne of God. Light has triumphed over darkness, and that same gospel light shines into the hearts of people today to bring salvation to all who put their faith in the One who went through that darkness for them.

*****

And the LORD said unto Moses, “Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt.” And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days (Exodus 10:21-22)

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. (Isaiah 9:2)

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is, being interpreted, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” …And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the [spirit]. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the [spirit], he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15:33-39)

Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.” Pilate said unto them, “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.” So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Matt 27:62-28:6)

The Word Became Flesh

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

I’m enjoying some thoughts from a Greek Grammar by William Mounce called “Basics of Biblical Greek” (Zondervan 2003). A quote in that work is as follows. Sit back and take it in… and worship.

A casual first-century reader of the fourth gospel’s prologue (John 1:1-18) would have little difficulty understanding John’s description of the Logos (Word). As a concept it was simple enough. Logos was the intelligible law of things. The Logos of God was God’s transcendent rationality that gave the universe order and purpose. A Hellenized Jew would quickly reach for a volume of wisdom literature explaining that God’s wisdom, His word (or logos), provided the universe with its form and coherence. As such the Logos of God was foreign to human ways, above us and distant from us, guiding us from afar.

John 1:14, on the other hand, would make any such reader pause in stunned silence. “And the Word became flesh (sarx) and dwelt among us.” Sarx is the earthly sphere, the arena of human decisions and emotions, human history, and human sinfulness (cf. John 1:13; 3:6; 17:2, etc.). John 1:14 contains the risk, the scandal, and the gospel of the Christian faith: the Logos became sarx. The center of God’s life and thought entered the depths of our world and took up its form, its sarx, its flesh, in order to be known by us and to save us.

This affirmation about logos and sarx is the very heart of our faith. God has not abandoned us. No lowliness, no misery, no sinfulness is beyond God’s comprehension and reach. He came among us, embraced our world of sarx in His incarnation, and loved us. It is easy enough to say that God loves the world (John 3:16). But to say that God loves me, in my frailty and my faithlessness–that He loves sarx–this is another matter. This is the mystery and the power of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.

– Gary M. Burge

A Burnt Offering

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

There were two categories of offerings for which God gave instructions to His people in the Old Testament in Leviticus chapters 1-3 and 4-6. One type was offerings for sin. When an Israelite took their sin or trespass offering to the priest, they were essentially saying, “I deserve to die, but this lamb is going to die in my place.” The other type of offering was for a sweet savor to God and was not related to specific acts of sin. I believe this second type of offering was in view when God asked Abraham to offer up His only son to God as a burnt offering (though the Mosaic covenant had not yet been given). It appeals to me that the burnt offering, being an offering of free will, was also an expression of identification with the animal that was to die. The offerer laid his hands on the offering, identifying himself with it. In Leviticus 1:4 we learn that the burnt offering was for atonement– that God might accept the offerer– but it seems to me that this offering was deeper than a simple acknowledgment of a wrong action. This was not now an acknowledgment that I deserve to die, but rather was a willing laying down of one’s own life before God in consecration, acknowledging the LORD’s worth and worthiness, while at the same time acknowledging the offerer’s own unworthiness and inability to serve God acceptably in his own strength. As the lamb of the burnt offering died, the offerer said not now, “I deserve to die,” but rather, “LORD, I give myself as a consecrated offering to Thee. In myself I cannot please Thee, but through this offering, accept my heart and life as I lay it down for Thee to use” (Romans 12:1).

God asked Abraham to give back to Him the most precious possession that he had– his own son. The miracle child. The one God had said would be the heir through whom God would bless the whole world. But now God was asking Abraham to offer him. Would not this destroy the promises? God had said specifically, “Through Isaac your descendants shall be named” (Gen. 21:12). But Abraham and Isaac were walking up a mountain, and Isaac was asking, “Father, where is the lamb?” Abraham, like Job, refused to charge God and become angry with God for requiring the return of that which He had given. Instead of being angry at God for negating His own miracle, Abraham believed God and trusted Him for another miracle. The same God who could bring life out of death at his son’s entry into this world was the God who could bring life out of death at his son’s exit from this world (Hebrews 11:19).

There on that mountain, with knife in hand, it must have felt like he was about to take his own life. His own son was on the altar, and surely Abraham would have chosen to give his own life rather than his son’s. And essentially, that is what happened on Mount Moriah (Gen. 22). It was the climax of Abraham’s song to God… “Take my life and let it be,  Consecrated, LORD, to Thee.” Abraham put the Giver before the gift and the Blesser before the blessing. God did provide for Himself a lamb that day, but He also provided the Lamb of God, His own beloved Son, as a blessing that flowed and continues to flow out to the whole world. A blessing that flowed from the faith of one man who was willing to trust God and die to himself. A burnt offering.

Self-worth

Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

God created a masterpiece. He made the first man and the first woman in all their perfection and beauty. But mankind chose to rebel against their Creator, and God’s masterpiece was ruined. Since that day, every person born into the world is born incapable of truly pleasing God. Like a master’s painting all covered with graffiti or a sculptor’s work shattered to bits, we have been ruined by sin. Yet God in infinite grace stepped in. He didn’t gather up all His creation and throw it away. Instead, He sent the Master, the Almighty Sculptor to this world to save the marred masterpiece from eternal ruin. Here, the Creator was marred more than any man. He was nailed to a tree, and suffered beneath the wrath of Almighty God, taking our punishment in order for our sin stains to be erased. It is when we acknowledge our lost and ruined state that the grace of God reaches down and says, “Fear not, I have redeemed you, you are Mine.” Placing our faith in the One who took our place, and dying to our own self-righteousness and self-worth, we fall at the foot of the cross and rest in the worth of our Lord and Savior– and there find acceptance before God. Our acceptance is in God’s Beloved One. Our right to be in God’s display room of grace called heaven is the One who came to earth to take away all our stains and transform the shattered figure into a totally new creation.

Could we say that Jesus Christ came from heaven’s glory to die for us because we were so special, so precious, so valuable that He had to die and pay such a tremendous price for our salvation? Did our worth demand His coming? Is the price that He paid equal to the value of the thing purchased? No, it cannot be! To say such a thing actually exults us and minimizes the worth of that precious blood. It also would ignore our wretched condition before God–we did not deserve such love. To say that our worth was the reason for His sacrifice would be to minimize the wondrous grace of our God. The greatness of the price does not show our worth, but rather demonstrates the depth of how ruined we had become. It also reveals the righteous requirement of a holy God that had to be met before He could accept us. The Lord Jesus was separated from a holy God while paying for our sin. He suffered as we deserved to suffer. The price He paid demonstrated the awesome holiness of our God and at the same time God’s infinite, selfless love.

God’s way is not to choose to love worthy objects, but rather, unworthy objects. He does not help us to save ourselves, but rather chooses to save the helpless. In so doing, He engenders thankful worshipers rather than boastful braggers. God’s love does not exult its object, but rather demonstrates the glory of His character; the character of God’s love is that it is not dependent upon the recipient but rather upon who He is.

Think of it. When God saves, He places the Spirit of His Son within us. He shares His life with us, and enables us to live in Him, by His power, enjoying His love. He makes us heirs of eternal riches in His Son. He binds us inseparably with the greatest Lover in the universe. He gives us worth. He makes us into a radiant painting that is far more beautiful than the first, that radiates His glory. We become a vessel that He can fill and use, something of value to Him, that brings Him delight. We find our true purpose in life as we walk with Him and get to know Him more intimately. A vessel is valuable because of the substance it holds. Without the contents, it has nothing to boast in. Even so, Christ in us makes all the difference.

How precious to know that God’s love does not depend upon our performance or self-worth. If that were the case, we would have to continually be trying to measure up to His (unreachable) standard, hoping that He would still love us. God’s love is an eternal love. To be eternal, it must depend upon God Himself rather than upon the recipient. When we respond to that love in worship and appreciation, that brings immense pleasure to our heavenly Father.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? …I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 38-39 NKJV).

Do we have worth in Christ? Resoundingly, yes! What is Christ’s worth to God? God has united us with His Son, and our worth is in Him. “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? ” (Romans 8:32 NKJV). 

“But you are a chosen generation… His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV).

I think our focus really needs to turn from considering self-worth to considering that Christ is everything, and I am in Christ. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  (Galatians 2:20 NKJV)

Scriptural references: (hover over reference to read the verse)
Romans 5:18; 8:8; John 3:16; Isaiah 52:14; 53:6; 43:1; Luke 18:13; Ephesians 1:6; 2:8-9; Romans 5:6-8; Isaiah 43:25; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:20-21;  Romans 8:17; Ephesians 1:11-14; 2 Timothy 2:21; Also consider: John 1:27; Luke 15:21

To Clarify: This article is not meant to minimize the fact that God has created mankind in His own image and that God values life. Genesis 9:6 shows us that it is a serious thing to take the life of another human being: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man” (NKJV).  Life is from God and belongs to God, and to kill one who is made in the image of God is a very serious offense. Matthew 10:29 reminds us that God even cares about the death of a sparrow (though not created in Him image) and lovingly provides for His creation. There is a difference, I believe, between (1) the fact that mankind has been ruined and rendered useless by sin to the point of enmity against God and is therefore unworthy of God’s blessing and (2) the fact that we were made by God, belong to God (in the aspect of creation), and still have something of his image upon us, though it is severely marred by sin. We are a soul that will exist eternally, a soul with feelings and emotions which the heart of God longs to win to Himself (Luke 13:34). The human spirit, when made alive, has the capability of interacting with and appreciating his Creator, and in that aspect, there is a potential value to God found in each individual born into this world.

112. They led Him away

Sunday, June 14th, 2015

After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.  (Matthew 27:31)

I marvel at those words… “led Him away.” And who were they leading away to crucifixion? God’s King (Psalm 2:6)! God’s Shepherd (Zech. 13:7)! Consider the humility of the Savior. They mocked Him by clothing Him in royal apparel and bowing down to Him. They led God’s shepherd as a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7), and He did not open His mouth in protest. They did not want the righteous rule of God’s King, nor did they desire the tender care and guidance of God’s Shepherd. They led away to execution the very One who desired to lead them to God, and they executed the only one who was able to bring righteousness to this groaning world. Yet in the all-wise purposes of God, Christ was not really following men to the cross. No, men could not force Him to give His life, and God had a plan to bring deliverance to this world and defeat the devil with his own weapon of death. God’s perfect Servant (Isaiah 42:1) was following His Father’s will to that hill called Golgotha. The sword of judgment awoke upon God’s Shepherd, and the Lamb of God paid the price of our salvation with His blood. Now that One whom they led away in rejection draws all to Himself through that same death (John 12:32).

Men once said “we have no king but Caesar.” But a day is coming when all will glorify God’s Son when He sits upon the throne of David, and God’s king will reign over all the earth. God’s Shepherd “shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11). What a day that will be!

111. Sorrows unseen

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

The day of the Passover came. It was the day when the Passover Lamb “must be killed.” Many viewed the suffering of the lambs that died that day as they remembered how God had graciously and mightily delivered His people out of Egyptian bondage to be a people for Himself, which was symbolized by the redemption of every firstborn by blood (Ex 4:22-23). Many saw a suffering lamb, but few appreciated the suffering Lamb of God who was taking away the sin of the world.

And He bearing His cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha. (John 19:17)

The weight of the cross that day must have been enormous, but far greater than this was the weight of our sin that He bore (1 Pet. 2:24).

And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced. (John 19:37)

As the hard hammer came down on those rough nails, the pain from the piercing of the nails had to be excruciating; but far greater than this were mankind’s hard-hearted words against the loving heart of the Son of God (Luke 23:35).

And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is, being interpreted, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:33-34)

When all His disciples forsook Him and fled, it must have brought sorrow to the Lord’s heart; but this was nothing to compare with the hours of darkness where He was separated from His God on account of our sin. None could go through that valley of death with Him. None could know the depth of that suffering and separation which He endured.

Lord, kindle within me a renewed appreciation for Your incarnation, humiliation, consecration, sufferings and crucifixion, and yes, Your exaltation in resurrection, and redemption.