Friday, August 14, 2015

Sabbath Sanctuary: Rest in His Resurrection Power

Jesus is alive. No, it is not Easter. The resurrection is not only a message for Easter. It is the Message for all time and all ages. It transcends the chronos—it is the most significant kairos moment—ever.

I shared a few weeks ago that life seemed dreadfully unfruitful. Barrenness causes a deep wound in the heart; spiritual barrenness is almost unbearable. But God is faithful; He promises that if we remain in the Vine, we will bear fruit. Though it may seem dark now, God has not finished your story.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God {Heb. 12:2}.

What kind of love is writing my story till the end with Mercy's Pen?[1]

Your dreams are not dead. God’s promises are still yes and amen in Christ Jesus {2 Cor.1:20}. Your barrenness is over. Everything God has promised you is hastening toward you.

Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay {Hab. 2: 2-3 NASB}.

Do not be afraid though the drought is long and hard; You are a tree of righteousness—not afraid of the dry spell:

They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit  {Jer. 17:8 NASB}.

Christ is faithful. He is full of grace and truth. He did not bring you this far for you to drown. He is the I AM. He is your Deliverer. Your refuge. Christ is alive! That means you are alive—Christ in you the hope of glory {Col.1:27}. He is:

Emmanuel, the promised king, the baby who made angels sing, son of man who walked with us healing, breathing in our dust.The author of all history, the answer to all mysteries, the Lamb of God who rolled away the stone in front of every grave.[2]

Rest this Sabbath in the arms of the Father. Christ is Alive! You are alive! Your dreams are alive! He is rolling the stone away from the grave of barrenness that has kept you down. The stone is rolled away. Rest in His resurrection power.

[1] Nicole Nordeman, The Story: Mary Magdalene “Alive.” Everything surrounding The Story movement is part of an unprecedented partnership between World Vision, Zondervan, EMI Christian Music Group, Provident Label Group, Word Entertainment, Proper Management and CAA.
[2] Ibid.

Don't forget to check out my book, A Life That Sings: Finding Your Song In The Midst of Brokenness


Barnes and Noble

Westbow Press

Google Play

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Sabbath Rest: Bringing God's Presence to Earth

Originally posted 2.22.12

Sabbath rest; I don’t think God will let me leave this for some time—probably because I need it the most. My days are full of lists, and busyness, and chores, and studying, and taking care of people. I constantly feel the need to rest.  The pulling and the stress have me feeling like Bilbo Baggins; I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can't be right. I need a change, or something.[1]

I would like to go somewhere alone and sleep for a week. While more sleep is desirable, that is not the rest that God is whispering into my spirit.

In Luke 13 we find Jesus healing on the Sabbath, for which the religious leaders persecuted Him. Jesus was fulfilling the purpose of the Sabbath by ministering to the sick. Jesus, our blessed Savior, healed a woman—dried up a fountain of blood that crippled her for eighteen years. He was astonished that the religious leaders could justify leading their donkey to drink on the Sabbath, yet are outraged that a daughter of Abraham, bound by Satan for eighteen years, deserved less attention than their donkey, and should stay sick because of the Sabbath. (see Luke 13:16).

The compassion of Christ is demonstrated in vivid colors: When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.  He called her. Why? Because Jesus knew she would not come to Him on the Sabbath, and He wanted to dispel permanently, the pharisaical attitude of the day that withheld the presence of God from His people.

What is the point of having a Sabbath law explicitly for human need, if it turned into a reason for neglecting or postponing human need?[2]

What does Jesus healing on the Sabbath have to do with finding rest? When we are going through a hard season, which I am, and I know I am not alone, it is so easy to be immersed in our troubles and trials, and turn a blind eye to the needs of others. The religious leaders who chastised Jesus were guilty of the same. They were only concerned with appearing holy to the people—the needs of the people simply were dust in the wind.

Life can get tumultuous and trying, and though many of our circumstances are self-inflicted, we can experience circumstances that are out of our control. We wake up one day asking, how did I get here? How did this happen?The lyrics to Wild Horses by Natasha Bedingfield speak so poetically to how I feel:

I feel these 4 walls closing in
My face up against the glass
I'm looking out... hmm
Is this my life I'm wondering
It happened so fast
How do I turn this thing around
Is this the bed I chose to make
Its greener pastures I'm thinking about hmm

It’s so easy to be caught up in self-pity and discontent with life—but we must not allow that to take root in our hearts, or we will be lonely, bitter people; oblivious to the hurting people around us.  

Naomi Zacharias is an inspiring woman; she penned a wonderful book, The Scent of Water: Grace for Every King of Broken. She describes a time in her life that was very dark. The words she composed tore at my heart, as I had to admit I often feel as she described; her life was not the life she wanted.  The struggle she was going through—she did not sign-up for.

I heard an interview with her concerning the book. She explains that she launched Wellspring International, a branch of her father’s apologetics ministry, to reach out and help the hurting. Naomi found herself in many countries of the world helping organizations that were reaching out to women and children at risk. She found herself in remote parts of the earth as well as familiar ones.  She found so much joy and beauty in the midst of horrific circumstances. The women she met she describes as beautiful and hopeful in the midst of their tragic sufferings. She inspired me when she explained that going into the world to help others didn’t make her ugly situation disappear, however, helping others caused her to forget about her own pain.

Is that not a part of what Sabbath is about—isn’t that what Jesus did by seeking out those He knew would not have come to Him? Should we not be doing the same?

For six days God filled this planet with good things and living beings, but on the seventh He filled it with His presence. God’s presence is the source of the very blessings of life and happiness promised through the Sabbath. Separated from God’s presence, human life is but a fleeting shadow.[3]

God consecrated the Sabbath so that we would consecrate ourselves to Him, and spend time in His presence. Jesus wanted to bring back the presence of God by healing the sick in the temple on the Sabbath. We need to stretch out and help others, reach out to others and forget about ourselves, our pain, and take the healing touch of Jesus to a lost and hurting world. Let’s be people of His Presence.

Only those who stretch out their hands and offer water to the thirsty discover, disguised among them, Jesus. Only those who trudge up the mountain, willing to grow blistered and weary on the narrow trail, witness his transfiguration. Only those who invite the stranger in to share bread realize they’ve entertained angels unawares, sometimes even Christ himself.[4] 

How can I help someone? I don’t have the opportunity or the resources to travel to the ends of the earth like Naomi (though I wish I did). It is not about me. Jesus needs us to reach the world for Him. I can pray for the sick and for the hurting, and take the Good News of the Gospel to this fallen world, and make room for God’s Presence in the Earth.

I can’t tell you how to help someone, but I challenge each of us to partake of the rest that Sabbath offers, by asking God to open our eyes, to watch and pray, to show us who He needs us to touch today for His kingdom—to bring His presence back on the earth.

[1]J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1966), 34.
[2]J.H. Wright, Knowing Jesus Through The Old Testament, (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 207.
[3]Samuele Bacchiocchi, Divine Rest for Human Restlessness, (Rome: Pontifical Gregorian University Press., 1990), 86.
[4]Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2006), 49.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Psalms To See Me Through: Psalm 18—The Psalm Worth Repeating Part II

Then the earth shook and quaked; And the foundations of the mountains were trembling
And were shaken, because He was angry. Smoke went up out of His nostrils, And fire from His mouth devoured; Coals were kindled by it.  He bowed the heavens also, and came down with thick darkness under His feet (vv.7-9). 

When first reading this prose, it seems out of place from the first six verses. The poetic praise of David for God’s deliverance begins as a beautiful time of worship. David is thankful for all the deliverances he has experienced from the hand of God. The intro to this Psalm reads; A Psalm of David the servant of the Lord, who spoke to the Lord the words of this song in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul; David cultivated a grateful heart. He abruptly ends his time of worship with a discourse describing an angry God. However, upon deeper reflection, we have insight into who God is angry with—it is not David, but David’s enemies that incur God’s wrath.  

He rode upon a cherub and flew; And He sped upon the wings of the wind (v. 10).

I searched extensively for an accurate portrait of the cherubim; I searched in vain. The most accurate is the description of them on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. The glory of God rested between the cherubim when He spoke to Moses or when the high priest was ministering in the Holy of Holies. They are mostly portrayed as babies with wings, flying through the air with their bow and arrow, likened to cupid. They guarded the Garden of Eden with flaming swords. Cherubim are not baby angels, they are mighty warrior angels;

As is the case with many heavenly realities, their character and appearance is so far beyond human imagination and present comprehension that they must be described in earthly terms obviously designed to convey something surpassingly supernatural (Ezek. 1: 5, 14; 28: 12-14).[1]

It is no wonder then that I could not find an accurate picture (except the Mercy Seat). My imagination is awake with a vision of God riding on a cherub with the wings of the wind to rescue me. He is my Rescuer. My Defender. My Saviour. My Refuge. My Strong Tower.

Your locks will be iron and bronze, And according to your days, so will your leisurely walk be.  “There is none like the God of Jeshurun, Who rides the heavens to your help, And through the skies in His majesty. “The eternal God is a dwelling place, And underneath are the everlasting arms; And He drove out the enemy from before you, And said, ‘Destroy!’  “So Israel dwells in security (Deuteronomy 33:25-28a emphasis mine).

Just as the Lord heard the cries for help from Israel, and from David, He hears you and me. He rides the heavens in all His Majesty and Glory to rescue His people when they cry out to Him. He defeats our enemies and brings us to safety. Trials will still come; enemies will still attack, but God empowers and strengthens us with His grace to defeat them and to overcome.

How can we have confidence like David? David cultivated a grateful heart, and a worshipful spirit. The Psalms penned by David reflect his heart toward God. He worshiped God through every trial; He was the One David called upon at the first sign of trouble. Sometimes the prose of figurative language can cause us to read over David’s poetic praise, and not understand how it can apply to us. David’s description of God’s power and wrath is colorful indeed, but it is important to remember, that David’s words are figurative. He did not actually see God ride through the heavens on a cherub. He did not see the earth shake and the foundations of the mountains tremble. He did not see smoke out of His nostrils, and fire from His mouth. He did not see God come down from heaven with thick darkness under His feet. He did not see these events literally, but through God’s wondrous and majestic creation, and through metaphoric language, as well as through the eyes of the Spirit, he describes God’s character and His deliverance from how well He knows God, to describe for us what God is doing behind the scenes that we cannot see. Moses and David both saw God riding through the heavens through spiritual eyes.

Let’s travel to 2 Kings: 6 and meet up with Elisha and his servant. They are taking shelter in a house in a stand-off with the Arameans who aim to capture Elisha. The man of God and his servant are completely surrounded. Elisha is completely confident in God; the servant is petrified. Elisha attempts to comfort his servant with his trust in the Lord to deliver them from this situation, but the servant believes it to be impossible. Elisha prays to God for the eyes of his servant to be opened so that he can see that the army of God’s angels actually have the enemy surrounded; Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them (v.6).

The Lord will do the same and more for us. We may not see mountains tremble, but Christ declared that we can cast mountains into the sea (Mark 11:23). He has given us power to trample on serpents and scorpions (Luke 10:19). He has empowered us to have power over the enemy; He said we will have trials, but that He has overcome them all (John 16: 33).

He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him, Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies. From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds, Hailstones and coals of fire. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, And the Most High uttered His voice, Hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows, and scattered them, And lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them (vv. 11-14).

Then the channels of water appeared, And the foundations of the world were laid bare
At Your rebuke, O Lord, At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils. He sent from on high, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, And from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, But the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me(vv.15-19).

The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness; According to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord, And have not wickedly departed from my God.  For all His ordinances were before me,  And I did not put away His statutes from me.  I was also blameless with Him, And I kept myself from my iniquity. Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His eyes. With the kind You show Yourself kind; With the blameless You show Yourself blameless; With the pure You show Yourself pure, And with the crooked You show Yourself astute (vv.20-26).

David finishes his Psalm of worship painting a majestic picture of God’s deliverance. Though David’s enemy was strong, and could overpower him, he continued to trust in God’s deliverance. He saw in the natural when he was finally free from Saul.  He saw it spiritually because of His trust in God’s faithfulness, His deliverance, and His nature and character. He Knew God. He knew God intimately because he nurtured his relationship with God in thanksgiving and worship. That is how we can know God intimately too, through His Holy Writ, and by nurturing a thankful heart, and a worshipful spirit.

[1]Terry Law, The Truth About Angels (Lake Mary: Charisma House, 1994), 115.