Word of the Day

Trumpet Blast

Hebrews 12: 19             New Living Translation

For they heard an awesome trumpet blast and a voice so terrible that they begged God to stop speaking.

The Word of the Day for December 19th, 2018 characterized the voice of the Lord. The excerpts I used from Psalm 29: 3 – 9 read, “The voice of the Lord . . . is powerful, . . . is majestic, . . . breaks the cedars, . . . hews out flames of fire, . . . shakes the wilderness, . . .makes the deer to calve and strips the forests bare.” We see clearly that His voice is powerful, but that is not the end of the story.

This passage refers to the Israelites who were led out of captivity and sojourned many years in route to the promised land. In Deuteronomy 5: 25 their reaction to God’s voice was recorded thus, “Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, then we will die.” Is this the God you know? What was in the hearts and minds of the people that they heard Yahweh’s voice as terrible, a voice so strong and dreadful that they thought the mere sound of it would consume them? I imagine to Moses God’s voice was anything but terrible. I imagine it was like the purr of a kitten, like sweet nectar dripping from a new spring blossom.

God’s image is very often a reflection of the canvas of our heart. That which is written upon our hearts, we project as the image of God. We find this to be dangerous, though, for we have not allowed our hearts to be perfected in His love. So, we hear His voice as thunderous and angry because we know we deserve no kindness or gentleness. In other words, we remake Him and even His voice in the image of our self-esteem and self-image. He is to us as we allow Him to be.

God called David a friend. What??!! Think on that literally for a moment. God Himself says of David, “He’s my friend.” What do you imagine God says of your relationship with Him? Do you imagine Him calling you friend? Well, if you don’t, perhaps you should. Again, I say, He is to us as we allow Him to be, so we need to change the image within us. He will be to us as we allow Him to be and He wants to be our friend too.

The Bible tells us He is kind, gentle, patient, forgiving and loving but is that how He interacts with you? Are those the words you use to describe your relationship with Him. The Bible teaches us the true character of God but just because that is who God truly is does not mean those are the filters through which we allow ourselves to interact with Him. Our internal person may be telling us that we only deserve anger and reproach. Therefore, we put that image onto God even though it is not His nature.

Who do you want God to be in your life? He is love. He is the most kind and gentle of all persons or entities you will ever know. He is actually sweeter than the little kitten and more faithful and forgiving than a puppy. But, will we allow Him to express His true personality in our lives? Will we paint Him as merciless and vengeful because we know that is what we deserve?

Kenneth Hagin used to say that if you listen to a person speak long enough, he will tell you exactly where he is. The image we hold of God reveals more about who we are than about who He is. When you encounter people who know an angry God, one bent on damnation and criticism, then you know they have not allowed the love of God to wash through their souls. They have not received the divine love of the Father. They may have touched it long enough to receive salvation, but it has not penetrated their hearts and washed their conscience clean. They have not been bathed in the love of God or else they would know He is gentle and caring. If they are judgmental, it is because they know they are deserving of judgment. If they condemn others, it is because in their hearts they know they are worthy of condemnation. They reflect their hearts, not God’s. Now ask yourself, who is your God. Is He kind or vengeful? Is He loving or angry? Is He here to judge or to rescue? The answers to these questions reveal the condition of your heart.

We all need to soak in His love until we know the love of God which saves our immortal souls. He is love. Taste it, breathe it, know Him and the gentleness of His ways. Then you will hear His voice as a whisper upon a cool breeze. You will feel His gentle touch upon your fevered brow. His voice will be a sweet song rather than trumpet blast. When you receive this truth, you will be able to hear His voice more easily and sense His presence because you will allow that truth to manifest in you. Be still, He says, be still and know I am God (paraphrase of Psalm 46: 10). Breathe His calming presence and still the thunderous blast of your conscience.

Divine Destiny

Hebrews 12: 1       (New Living Translation)

Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.

This may be a familiar verse to you however, I appreciate how the New Living Translation puts forth the ideas in such a straightforward and simple way. The NIV Bible says to run the race with perseverance. The key, though, is the imparted knowledge of how we do this. It is one thing to mentally nod in agreement to run the race with all perseverance but how? What does that mean in every day application?

This translation explains that the way to successfully run the race God has set before us is to keep our eyes on Jesus. It is so easy for us to get into a works mentality when we read a verse like this and begin to look at our own strength, i.e. what should I do, when should I do it, how much should I pray, how long should I read my Bible? It becomes a list of New Year’s resolutions which rely on our will power and determination. That, however, is a prescription for failure. We have done attempted to run this race in our own strength before and have failed. Now is the time for a new model, a new prescription and one that is guaranteed to succeed.

The Passion Translation gives us further insight into this winning method, “We look away from the natural realm and we fasten our gaze onto Jesus who birthed faith within us and who leads us forward into faith’s perfection.” Isn’t that well stated? This is a race of faith, so we learn to fix our eyes upon Jesus. He is the author of our faith. The Passion Translation takes the explanation one step further by teaching that the way to keep your eyes on Jesus is to “look away from the natural realm.” In other words, we must cease looking to the world for our answers. We must look to wisdom and of course, the Spirit of Wisdom is of our Father.

We need to learn how to inquire of the Father and how to focus on Jesus? What does that mean? For one thing, it seems to mean to turn our eyes away from worldly wisdom. If we try to live on a diet of the world’s thinking, we are going to be malnourished. Certainly, most of us pray asking Yahweh for answers but do we hear Him? Do we pause to listen? One aspect is turning away from worldly media and wisdom, but the second part is turning to Jesus the initiator and perfecter of our faith. This involves developing our hearing. We cannot afford to walk around deaf anymore. The world’s way of thinking is killing us. So, how do you hear God? Where do you look when you put your eyes on Jesus?

Jesus said he only did the things he saw his Father do. In fact, what he really said is that he could do nothing of himself but rather only what he saw his father do. That is a pretty powerful statement. If we apply Jesus’ model to our lives, as I understand many Christians try to do, then where do we look? How do you really put your eyes on Jesus? Are you using the visionary capacity that is granted you in the Holy Spirit? Are you using meditation to allow Jesus to commune with your mind and spirit? Are you reading the Bible keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus there? These are all questions we should ask ourselves. We have been given the mandate, to “run with endurance the race God has set before us.” We have been told the means for accomplishing this is to fix our eyes upon Jesus. How do we even know we are running the right race if we don’t tune in to Jesus?

We each need to watch Jesus, listen to him and commune with him constantly so he can show us and even tell us what path to follow, what steps to take. As long as we follow our ideas, or the world’s wisdom we will frustrate our divine destiny. It is early in the year, only the 9th, so let’s each determine to slow down and seek our God. Let’s find out what is on His mind and what plans He has for us this year. Then, when you have clear direction from the Father, then run, run with Jesus the race Yahweh has ordained for you. It will be really fun and very rewarding.

Bless the Lord

Matthew 8: 2 – 4

A leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Tell me, what jumps out to you from this passage? There are many messages easily gleaned from these verses. As I read it recently, I was captivated by the last sentence. The facts are seen in the first two verses: evidence of faith, a request for healing, healing, and compassion. Jesus’ verbal response to the former leper is intriguing, though. The first message is this distinguishing between telling and doing. Jesus says, go do something. That actually is important because a leper would have been considered unclean and prohibited from going into the temple. However, the even more interesting part of Jesus’ statement is the directive to present the prescribed offering.

I am reminded of the story of Abram (Abraham) and Melchizedek from Genesis 14. Abram had just returned from battle when Melchizedek went out to meet him. Melchizedek brought wine, bread and a blessing. This is the blessing Melchizedek spoke over Abram, “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand,” (Genesis 14: 19 – 20). The narrative reveals that subsequently, Abram gave Melchizedek a tenth of all. That’s the tithe and this occurrence happened many years before the law. Therefore, Abram did not give a tithe out of any obligation imposed by the law. This all happened before Moses lived so you have to think it happens before Jewish custom as well because the tribes of Israel did not yet exist. Why then did Abram give a tenth of all and does this inform our lives in any way?

People really get hung up on the tithe and I just thank the Lord that my teachers led me to tithe early in my Christian life. Folks get all twisted here about Old Testament, New Testament, the law, grace, etc. There is no need for this theological maelstrom. You can figure this out for yourself. Clearly there is something going on here. The similarity between the telling of Abram’s story and the recounting of the leper’s experience with Jesus is revealing. First God blessed. Then man blessed God. Abram didn’t tithe in order to get God to do anything. God had already done everything. He gave the enemy into Abram’s hand and then sent His high priest with bread, wine and a blessing. Abram’s offering was a response, not initiative.

The same is true in the case of the leper but in this instance, Jesus had to teach the man as to a proper response. He said, go show yourself and present the prescribed offering. Other translations use the word gift instead of offering which I believe casts a different light on the matter. It makes me think of a gift of thanksgiving. God has done something wonderful. Does it not seem reasonable to express our faith, gratitude and thanksgiving in a tangible way?

Here is what I trip over – Why in the world do we resist giving to God? Was Abram concerned with how Melchizedek would use the tithe? He was not even asked to give, he just did, willingly and with a good heart. What makes Abram different from us? How is it that he could so easily give Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils without grumbling or worry? What is hard about it for us? Did Abram look at Melchizedek and judge the man or did he make his offering to God?

Jesus directed the leper to go give to God as an appropriate response to the gift of healing. Have we come so far in our societies that this is a foreign concept? Have we become cultures of takers rather than givers such that the thought of doing something nice for those who bless us is unique? Tips have become mandatory in many establishments rather than a deliberate blessing for someone who has treated us well? And, if so, is that something that has tainted our giving impetus. Or is it more basic than any of these sociological questions? Are we just self-gratifying pleasure seekers for whom the next toy is more important than thanksgiving for all the blessings our Father daily bestows upon us?

This passage makes me want to bless my Father. He will never be impressed with the pittance I lay upon the altar, but I pray that the condition of my heart and the appreciation and love with which I give, will bless Him. How much joy do you think you may find in a love offering from you to the lover of your heart? “Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name,” (Psalm 103: 1).

Immersed in the Flow

Psalm 36: 9 – 10

To know you is to experience a flowing fountain, drinking in your life, springing up to satisfy. In the light of your holiness we receive the light of revelation. Lord, keep pouring out your unfailing love on those who are near you. Release more of your blessings to those who are loyal to you.

Our Christian walk is a journey as the very name implies. One does not walk and remain in the same place. Therefore, the first question is, are we travelling or are we rooted in place? Are we still journeying with Jesus or have we stopped and set up camp? Secondly, if we are walking with Jesus, where are we going? I suggest that today’s verses offer the answer.

We should all aspire to know God as an intimate friend, to know Him at least as well as we know our spouses or our best friend. In truth, He is both; your spouse and your best friend, if you so choose. As we come to know Him more and more, we discover that knowing Him is living in that flowing fountain of which David wrote in this psalm. David tells us this fountain satisfies. In fact, it really is the only thing that will every fully satisfy you. Most of you know that. What we don’t know, sometimes, is how we gain full access to that fountain and how we drink from it.

Well, again, David was way before his time. He is what makes the book of psalms so unique because we could just as easily pluck this book out of the Old Testament and insert it in the pages of the New Testament. Really, we would understand much more of David’s writings if they were being read in the New Testament because we bring a different mindset to our reading of the Old and the New. Therefore, our New Testament mindset would help us understand or better absorb David’s writings because he wrote with specialized knowledge and revelation that typically only New Testament writers had.

Today’s passage screams of the Apostle John who wrote, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke of the Spirit who those who believed in Him were to receive; the Spirit was not yet give, because Jesus was not yet glorified,” (John 7: 37 – 39). From his innermost being living water will flow, said Jesus. This river of living water, he said, is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, then, is the flowing fountain of thirst satisfying water of which David wrote in today’s psalm selection. I hope you see this. The Holy Spirit is to be the flow we live in and that flow is also that which we thirst for and the only thing which truly satisfies. We, like David, must experience this flowing fount of life, light and revelation. To the degree we do not walk and live and breathe in this flow, that is the degree to which our lives degenerate rather than regenerate. Life is in this walk with Jesus. Breath is in the Spirit. Love and light always issue from the Father. He is the flowing fountain from which love, light and life stream. This flowing river, which is the Holy Spirit of God, is Yahweh’s distribution system. Upon its waves ride the blessing, revelation and victory.

To know you, David wrote, is to experience a flowing fountain, drinking in your life, springing up to satisfy.” Then, roughly 1000 years later, John explained that this flowing fountain is the Holy Spirit.  We are to be baptized in that holy water. In this water is the life of God which is springing up to satisfy. In it is the light of revelation and in it is the unmatched love of God. So, jump in. Immerse yourself in these healing waters. Soak in the revelation which comes only by God’s Spirit. Be blessed, be healed, be satisfied. Get a little wetter each day. Come on in, the water is fine!

God of the Sword

Psalm 35: 1 – 3                 God’s Word

O Lord, attack those who attack me. Fight against those who fight against me. Use your shields, both small and large. Arise to help me. Hold your spear to block the way of those who pursue me. Say to my soul, “I am your savior.”

How many facets of Yahweh do you know personally? He has many titles He connects to people through. Whole books have been written on the “Names of God” though I would argue those aren’t His names as much as they are positions or titles. For example, your name may be Mary, but you may also be known as a CEO, a musician, mother, daughter, grandmother, etc. We all hold many positions in life and in the lives of others. God is the same. His name is Yahweh but He is God, Father, Lord, Master, King, Provider, etc. He is warm and comforting in His role as Father but He is also a proud and bold warrior, one unparalleled and He dons His armor and weapons on your behalf.

It may sometimes be hard to see God in this way if you have been relating to Him as a loving parent. It is important that we realize He is our advocate and more than that, He is our defender. If someone threatens us, then they have to deal with Him. When I have been in stressful situations before, I have thought, “My Dad is bigger than your Dad.” It is, perhaps, a childish idea but one which reframes problem situations very quickly for me. In verse 3 the Passion Translation reads, “Stand for me when they stand against me!” The essence of that idea is not only comforting but empowering also. We need not cower. We have a very strong general at the head of the column leading the way but one who will also stand shoulder to shoulder with us in the time of trouble.

These verses reveal that He has shields with which He is able to block the way. He will not allow the enemy to get to us. Surely, that is comforting. The NASB reads, “Draw also the spear and the battle-axe to meet those who pursue me.” While the spear and battle axe can be used to fend off attacks, don’t you also get the impression that He has them for offensive tactics as well? He has a buckler and a shield. We see that from verse two so why does He also draw the battle axe and the spear. I think His defensive posture with these weapons at the ready is a clear message to the enemy that should they breach the boundary, Yahweh God is ready and willing to defend His kid.

Lastly, I know we are supposed to pray for our enemies, and do, but isn’t it good to know that you have a well-armed giant at your side should those enemies not hearken to the voice of prayer and intercession? And, if you turn your eyes to the left and right, spiritually, you will see that He has legion upon legion of warrior angels arrayed in their battle armor too. Fear not my beloved. The army is at your side.

Salvation Cometh

Psalm 34: 22

None of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

Psalm 34 is one of the truly great psalms of David and in running a search, I find I have written on it several times, especially verse 10. I have never, however, written on verse 22 before. As I read Psalm 34, I found so many great messages and fabulous verses but what of this lonely verse here at the end of this great psalm? Does it have anything to say to you today? Here is what I heard as I read.

Our God is all about rescue and salvation. You have only to read the rest of the psalm to realize that. We talk a lot about John 3: 16 but I don’t think we understand it. I don’t think it has ever penetrated the fibrous matter of our hearts to lodge itself in the tender nucleus where love resides. God so loves every single person on this planet that He allowed His son, His dear and precious child, to be mutilated, beaten and ultimately killed so that not one of us should perish. He sacrificed His beautiful, perfect child so that all the wretched people of this planet could escape that which was due each of us, eternal torment in hell. This is no small thing. It is a lynchpin of Christianity. Ultimately, though, the act of giving the sacrificial, unblemished lamb is not the most important aspect of Christianity. It is merely an obvious outcome when we finally come to understand 1 John 4: 8, “God is love.” You see, when you understand 1 John 4: 8 then John 3: 16 becomes a necessary consequence of who God is. It had to be this way. It’s not a decision. Because God is love, He really had very little choice. He is compelled to rescue those whom He loves. All that is required is that we call upon Him. He cannot, and will not, violate free will. He gave away the power of choice but when you realize that He is moved by compassion you further understand that everything He does is driven by love and love requires Him to rescue you, even from yourself.

This verse from today’s psalm or 1 John 4: 8 is the ultimate salvation scripture. To my way of thinking it is better than John 3: 16. It is because God is love that He sent His beloved. It is God’s driving passion that everyone should enter heaven and live out eternity with Him. He has plans upon plans for getting people into eternal blessing. Jeremiah 29: 11 tells us that God has good plans for us, plans for our well-being, not our destruction, plans for a future and for hope. He has a plan in place to save us from calamity. That is our Father.

People have a very skewed sense of salvation and condemnation. What’s worse, the church even, or especially, has confused Him as the God of condemnation, the God of damnation. That couldn’t be anymore wrong. How hard is it to understand that He is love? When He poured Himself out into the earth, love entered in and love acts a certain way. It saves and nurtures. It is neither vindictive nor critical. God knew what He was getting when He chose us. He isn’t crazy or stupid. He has always had a plan for our ultimate happiness.

So, if you are worried about someone who died without you knowing whether they made a declaration for Christ or not, worry no longer. God has plans to get us into heaven. I am not saying there aren’t wicked people who will choose hell rather than redemption. Unfortunately, there will be some who burn but when doubting those Thomas’ and miscreants see Jesus face to face, they will fall in love with him just like you did. What happened to Thomas once he saw Jesus? He believed, didn’t he? So, fear not. Trust love to find a way. Trust love to rescue us out of the most dire circumstance, even our own doubt and unbelief. Trust God who is your true parent, the lover of your soul.

Trinity Divinity

Psalm 33: 6

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host.

This is an interesting verse because we see the trinity at work creating the earth and the universe. We learned from the apostle John that Jesus is the Word. Therefore, when David wrote that the heavens were made by the Word of the Lord, we recognize the involvement of Jesus in creation. Do you remember the devotions written about the Holy Spirit where we learned that the Spirit actually is the breath of God? (For a review click here to see the Word of the Day titled Creative Breath.) God breathed and created. The Holy Spirit was hovering over the void awaiting God’s Word. Then the Word was spoken and the Spirit brought into the earth the manifestation of that spoken Word. God breathed again and human beings were given life.

Old Testament believers didn’t know about the trinity as you do today. Actually, pre-Christian religions regarded the number three as significant but they didn’t know the fullness of why it was special. The Jews were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah but they didn’t realize that he had already played a significant role in their lives. The Spirit was an even greater mystery. Today, though, you can have a relationship with the Father but also one with the Son and with the Spirit.

It seems this is a great place for us to begin the new year, thinking of how we might integrate our lives with each of the people of the trinity and enjoying the power of the trinity. At the same time, we are all setting goals which impact us as triune beings. Perhaps you have a dietary or exercise New Year’s resolution. That effects your body. Maybe you are dedicating yourself to a more routine prayer life for this year. That is a goal which impacts your spirit. And then, perhaps you are going to read more this year or take some classes. The third part of you is involved in that goal, your soul. So, this may be a good time to reflect upon your relationship with God as one triune being to another. It could be the beginning of a wonderful year.