Friday, January 30, 2015

Sabbath Sanctuary: The Path

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Mark 1: 1-45

Walk by Faith

There will come a time and there will come a day
You will face tests and trials but I have come to say
I will not let one of you go even when you stumble
I will protect you and cause your enemy to fumble

Though things may get hard I give My grace to you
So you can walk by faith and know just what to do
You will not smell like smoke when you stand in My Name
Those who hear My Word through you won’t be the same

So even if you can’t see all the way in front of you
Walk by faith and not by sight do as I would do
I will protect you and defend you when you do what is right
Take My grace and love with you and all of My power and might

Piper Green ©2004

In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight {Proverbs 3:6}.

Rest in Him this Sabbath; He guides your every step...the steps of the righteous are ordered (see Psalm 37:23).

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Psalms to See Me Through: Psalm 11—The Lord Is A Refuge

In the Lord I take refuge; How can you say to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain;  For, behold, the wicked bend the bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string to shoot in darkness at the upright in heart {vv. 1-2}.

It is no surprise that the devil seeks to harm those that love the Lord. Jesus warns us that we will have trouble in this world; not to frighten us or cause us to flee in fear, but so that we have peace knowing He is always with us.

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world  {Jn. 16:33 NASB}.

So that you may have peace…

The Lord is a refuge and a defense against the enemy’s attack. He is our protection—He is Jehovah Nissi our banner.

In Exodus 17, the Israelites are fighting the Amalekites and struggling in the battle. Moses however, set himself on a high place, and when he raised his hands the Israelites prevailed in battle, when he rested his arm, they faltered. Aaron and Hur set Moses on a rock and held up his arms until the the Israelites won the victory. After the victory, Moses built and altar and called the name of it Jehovah-Nissi, or Jehovah My Banner. Moses explains why Jehovah is their banner; because the Lord hath sworn he will war with the Amalekites from generation to generation. For the New Testament Church, this promise holds true still today. He will fight for us on our behalf against the devil and his minions. Jesus’ death and resurrection sealed our victory forever. He is our Banner; He is our refuge
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? (v.3)Jesus is our foundation; the devil cannot take this away. Don’t forget. Don’t bow to the devil’s schemes. Don’t panic. Rest. He cannot destroy the foundation. Build your foundation on the Lord, and when the wind and storms blow, you will not fall.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it {Matt. 7:24-27}.

 The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates.  Upon the wicked He will rain snares; Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup. For the Lord is righteous, He loves righteousness; The upright will behold His face. {Ps. 11: 4-7}.

Do you know that the righteousness of God is not only a gift He bestows on believers that have faith in Jesus, but it is a divine attribute? In the study of Systematic Theology, the righteousness of God is an attribute of God, “God’s moral purity is [H]is righteousness. This is as it were, God’s holiness applied to his relationship with other beings.”[1]“God is morally spotless in character and action, upright, pure, and untainted.”[2]

What does this mean for us? It means that “God would have remained perfectly righteous had he simply condemned everyone... at great cost to [H]imself, however, God offered salvation to these wicked human beings and did this in such a way that [H]e remained righteous. The death of Christ allowed [H]im to remain just at the same time that [H]e became the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:26).”[3] 

Verse seven then is a beautiful promise. God is righteous, pure and untainted, and we the righteous, will see His face…close your eyes for a moment and imagine the beauty of His face.

Life is hard. Dreams seem fleeting. Trouble seems to be all around. Many times it even seems the devil is gaining ground through those that hate what is right. The Lord is righteous in punishing the wicked; He is also just and righteous in welcoming us into His presence to behold His precious face. Do not fret or worry. God has you in His hand. The Lord hath sworn he will war with your enemies from generation to generation.

[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed., (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 258. 
[2] Walter A. Elwell, ed., Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd ed., (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 496.[3]Ibid., 45.

To read all the Psalms in this series click here: Psalms To See Me Through

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Just One Word

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end {Eccls. 3:11 NIV}.

Another new year is upon us. I am not sure why it surprises me, this Chronos change. Chronos is our chronological time and it often proves mundane and monotonous—especially when carrying a promise of a more vibrant time. Many times the New Year is frustrating for me as I reflect on the previous year; the list scribbled hastily and tucked neatly into my Bible; few of them accomplished. Too few. I have purposed this year not to have resolutions; a list to beg before the God of Glory; rather I want to have a year of purpose. 

Chronos betrays us, always. It devours the beauty it creates. But sometimes chronos betrays itself: it stirs in us a longing for Something Else—Something that the beauty of things in time evokes but cannot satisfy… we end up as the man in Ecclesiastes did: driven, driven, driven, racing hard against chronos, desperate to seize beauty but always gasping smoke, ashes, and thorns. Seeking purpose and finding none, only emptiness (Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, p. 37).

New Year’s lists do that to me. I chase these “things” I think I want or need, only to end the year in frustration and disappointment. A couple of ministries I have come across speak to this very issue; instead of lists choose to prayerfully seek a word to guide your year. Though I have not joined their movements, I am intrigued by the idea. I have grown weary of lists, prayer requests, resolutions. I need something different. A minister gave the definition of insanity the other day: insanity is doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results. That is what New Years has become to me, this running on a treadmill chasing after those things I think I need. Change will not come doing the same thing over and over; I don’t want another trip around the same mountain.
This year I don’t have a list of things I want or need; I have a word. That word is a promise the Lord spoke into my life fourteen years ago. I have carried this promise; I have prayed, fasted, cried, drank, ate, slept—breathed this promise. Nothing consumes me like this promise. I imagine this is familiar to Sarah. She waited twenty-five years for her promise of a child. Rachel screamed in anguish to Isaac in the face of her bareness, Give me children, or I'll die! (see Gen. 30:1). Imagine being pregnant for fourteen years; that is how I feel. I am bloated, swollen, hungry, tired, and willing to do anything to give birth to this baby inside me. I have tried all that I know to bring this promise to pass. Give me this promise lest I die! I have uttered such anguish often. But as every pregnant woman knows, despite all the wives’ tales and gimmicks; spicy food, walking, bumpy car rides, and herbal teas, that baby will come only when its time. There is nothing left to do but rest.   

Rest. God dealt with me a couple years ago about rest, in fact, my blog used to be named Finding Rest In God. That’s my word for 2015. Sabbath, or further sabbatismos; a lifestyle of Sabbath rest and Sabbath observance. The Greek sabbatismos is an idea far beyond church on Sunday. It is an attitude, a heart condition. This is not a legalistic ritual, but prayerfully seeking a new perspective.   

Sabbath is both a day and an attitude to nurture such stillness. It is both time on a calendar and a disposition of the heart. It is a day we enter, but just as much a way we see. Sabbath imparts the rest of God—actual physical, mental, spiritual rest, but also the rest of God–the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness… A Sabbath heart is restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval (pp.3-4).

It means that I believe God’s promise to me, even though all hell is breaking loose around me. It is changing my thinking; believing what God has promised regardless of my circumstances. 

God is more interested in changing my mindset and thinking than in changing my circumstances.

Sabbatismos is learning to rest in the promises of God. God’s promise for my life is not always easy to believe. Sometimes I question if I am going crazy; or I try to make things happen when they don’t come to pass as I envisioned.  We are all guilty of this. Like Abraham and Sarah, and many others before us, we laugh thinking things impossible. We attempt to bring things about in our own way. Yet the great cloud of witnesses that went before us, though they did doubt, laugh, and manipulate to see God’s promises come to pass, eventually made it into the Hebrews 11 famous Hall of Faith. How? The Bible says they did not waver in their faith. But we read their stories, we know they questioned God—laughed even, and attempted to usurp God’s power for the completion of their promises.

I believe the transition happened when they came to the end of themselves; realizing that only God can fulfill His promises. The stability in their faith came when they believed what God told them and entered into His rest; the rest of knowing God is performing His Word.

Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it” {Jer. 1:12 NASB}.

Circumstances may look overwhelming, storms toss your boat to and fro; causing you to cry out, Master don’t you care that we are perishing?! (see Mark 4:8). He does care, and when we rest in Him, we will not perish; we will find deliverance and rest for our souls. He may not always calm the storm, but He will calm us in the midst of the storm. Just keep your eyes on Him.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee {Is. 26:3 KJV}.

Sabbatismos is also resting in God’s Word and hearing His voice in the midst of the storm. Elijah didn’t hear God’s voice in the whirlwind, earthquake, or fire. He heard the Spirit of God whisper into the depths of his spirit—the still small voice (see 1 Kings 19:11-13). From that day forth, Elijah knew the sound of God’s voice, then he heard Him despite the whirlwind, earthquake, and fires. The Apostle John, while in exile on Patmos, heard a familiar voice, though He appeared differently than when the beloved disciple rested on His chest…he recognized The Voice:

I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet {Rev. 1:9-10}.

The very sight of Him caused John to fall at His feet like a dead man (see Rev. 3:17), but John knew His voice. I want to hear and know God’s voice. I want Him to whisper truth into my spirit. I pray for Him to whisper in the dark things to be spoken in the light.

What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops {Matt. 10:27 NASB}.

Sabbatismos. It is time to stop striving and begin thriving. I want to stop striving with feelings of being left behind, or that I have missed my door somehow. God is in control, and this baby will be birthed—a promised long anticipated. God will not leave me or forsake me. I am simply in a holding pattern. He is preparing everything on the ground to ensure a safe landing.

This year I will rest in God’s promise. If He spoke it He will bring it to pass. I need only rest in Him, believe what He tells me and enter into His rest. If I rest in Him, He will interrupt my Chronos with His right, opportune moment; His ordained kairos, and I will witness the divine of what God has done from beginning to end.  

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