Wednesday, March 27, 2013

King David - A Man After God's Own Heart

King David was an amazing man.  It's no wonder thousands of years after his life, the world cannot forget him.  I've been reading and studying the Old Testament lately, and I've come to realize that none of the OT Patriarchs are quite like him.  Scripture tells us in two places that God Himself calls David "a man after His own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22).

I've always been curious what it means to be "after God's heart."  But after reading about King David, I came to see him for the kind of man he truly was.  I think I would have liked him!  And the amazing thing about David was something we all take for granted now.  He loved the Lord, and I'm not talking about a flippant "Oh, I love God", no, David was SOLD OUT for Yahweh.  No one before him loved God in quite the same way.  Not Abraham, not Moses, not Noah.  Not Adam, Joseph, Isaac, or Jacob.  The Patriarchs did have a love for God, and they obviously had faith in Him and obeyed His Word.  But no one loved God like David did.  No one.

David's love for God was scandalous.  Intimate.  Personal.  Childlike.

Before King David, priests were solemn, stoic, and too involved with religious ceremony to give God the time of day.  It sounds ironic, not giving God the time of day, but its true.  Worship of God involved burnt sacrifice.  Upholding His Law.  Celebrating the Feasts.  Ah, but David...  This man broke the mold.  There was nothing solemn about him.  Stoic?  Forget about it!  His heart was always on his sleeve.  While we all know he wrote the lion's share of the Psalms, there is one fact we cannot ignore:

King David invented praise.  He invented dancing and singing before the Lord.  He invented a carefree worship of the God of the universe.  No one who'd come before him would have even considered this kind of worship.  It wasn't "proper."  But because he was king of Israel, no one dared to tell him he was "doing it wrong."  Yahweh was obviously with him, therefore no one questioned it.  They went with it!  And David even commanded music and songs before the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle.

So let's explore what made David so different than all the other great men of the Bible, the very man Yahweh Himself says was "after His heart."  Let's learn how to praise God from one of the greatest men of praise who's ever lived.

1.) He LOVED to praise God.  I think the entire book of Psalms is proof of that.  He praised God through his joy, through his tears, through his triumphs, and even his sin.  King David wasn't perfect.  But he was quick to repent, knowing his wrongdoing hurt the heart of God.  And that, in turn, hurt him.

2.) He danced for God.  (2 Samuel 6:14)  Often I stand still and just sway to my praise music, even during worship at church.  But then I remember, you know what, King David danced and he didn't care who saw him!  I'm gonna dance!

3.) He sang to God.  (1 Chronicles 13:8, Psalm 108:1, Psalm 138:1)  God is more worthy than simple spoken accolades.  David wanted to SING to Him.  Perhaps this started when David was a mere shepherd boy, singing to his sheep to pass the time.  What better way to pass the time than to sing of God, the most Worthy One of all? 

4.) He obeyed God.  (2 Samuel 5:19-20)  David inquired of God's will.  He didn't want to fight the Philistines unless God was with him.  God told him to attack and David obeyed.  There are several other examples of David's obedience, but there was no hesitation on David's part.  God said it, and it was done.

5.) He loved God's Word.  (Psalm 119:97)  David confesses in this Psalm that he meditates on God's Word all day.  I suspect when he wasn't doing "king things", he was reading and studying Scripture.  He had to make sure his people were following God's Law.  After all, he was king!  John MacArthur has said in one of his seminary lectures (yes, I watch those videos), that knowledge of the Word fuels love for Christ (ie., God).  Therefore, one who loves the Word is in it all the time and the more they learn, the more they come to understand and love the depth of God.

6.) He was humble.  (1 Samuel 18:18, 1 Chronicles 17:16)  First, we see in 1 Samuel that David was shocked to be the son-in-law of King Saul.  In 1 Chronicles, he was bowled over by the fact God had chosen his family line for the future Messiah.  "Who am I?" he asks.  Don't we all ask that very same question?  We are in good company.  If KING DAVID asked the same, then it begs the question -- are all the great men of the world the humble men who don't know they are great?

7.) He loved God.  (Psalm 18:1)  I only have one Scripture reference, but there are MANY more.  This one is quite obvious.  David LOVED God.  He didn't just "love" God, he was on FIRE for Him, a Yahweh Freak.  Perhaps the very first!  (lol)  He even *invented* musical instruments to play before the Ark.  That's amazing!  (2 Chronicles 7:6, 2 Chronicles 29:26-27, Amos 6:5)

8.) He had faith in God.  (1 Samuel 17:37)  God had already proven Himself to David by delivering him from a lion and a bear, therefore he knew God would deliver him from Goliath as well. 

9.) He trusted God.  (1 Samuel 17:45, Psalm 26:1)  Faith and trust go hand-in-hand, but in the 1 Samuel text, David tells Goliath that he comes in the name of LORD of Hosts...  He had faith God would deliver him, but here, we see he trusted God to follow through on David's boast to the Philistine.

10.) He recognized God's Holiness.  (1 Chronicles 16:10, Psalm 22:3, Psalm 29:2)  Even though King David was carefree in his praise of God, he absolutely recognized Yahweh's holiness as well.  Not every act of praise will be carefree dance or joyous singing.  There are times for quiet introspection and meditation as well.  Tender moments with the Lord.  David was well aware that God fought for Israel and he never forgot that God's Law meant He was a holy God.

11.) He wasn't ashamed of God.  (2 Samuel 6:20-22)  I absolutely adore this passage in Scripture from 2 Samuel.  David's wife Michal, the daughter of the former King Saul, was disgusted by David's dancing display before the Ark.  David tells her flippantly, "I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes."  Basically, you might be affronted, but I'll never stop praising my God.  You might be aghast, but I'm going to worship Him, and I plan on doing it even more than this!  Praise God!  \O/

12.) The Lord was with Him. (1 Samuel 18:14, 2 Samuel 5:10)  You know what, I think I want this on my tombstone one day.  "The Lord was with her."  Wouldn't that be something?  Going through those long-winded geneologies in the Chronicles, every now and again you come across some guy "and the Lord was with him."  How marvelous is that?  We don't know his story, but God was with him.  You know those people that God just seems to bless over and over again?  Every prayer is answered, and quickly, too?  Even their trials are considered joy.  God is with them.  Likely because these people have a heart like David.

13.) He was thankful.  (Psalm 138:1-2)  How often do we forget to thank God?  It should be said more often than at grace before a meal.  I bet we'd be shocked at how much provision God gives us.  Yeshua told us we are worth more than many sparrows, and yet God takes care of them.  Even in your dire situation, how much more does He take care of you?  Thank Him for all you have.  Even if it isn't much.

14.) He honored God above all else.  (2 Samuel 7:22)  Looking over David's life, there is no question that he lived by the First Great Commandment.

15.) He prayed to God.  (2 Samuel 7:18-22, 1 Chronicles 29:10-19)  This goes without saying.  God and David talked all the time.  About everything.  The proof is in those painful and joyous Psalms.  Sometimes, God talked to David through prophets, sometimes directly.  But David wasn't shy about pouring his heart out before the Lord and his people, like he did at his son Solomon's coronation in 1 Chronicles.

16.) He hoped in Messiah.  (1 Chronicles 17:11-15)  What began as David's unease at living in a lovely permanent home while the Ark of the Covenant rested in a mere tented Tabernacle turned into a magnificent promise that Yahweh didn't need, nor did He ask for, a house.  The Lord God would build DAVID a house, that would one day be fulfilled in Yeshua Messiah.  And of course, we know from Psalm 127:1 "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain."

17.) God was his Best Friend.  (Psalm 25:14)  Considering how much King David prayed, how much he pored over Scripture, how much he danced and sang before the Lord, and how many Psalms he wrote, it's a safe bet to say that Yahweh wasn't only David's Best Friend, but also the Love of his life.

18.) He was childlike.  (Psalm 98, entire Book of Psalms)  There's a certain childlike quality to the Psalms.  They outline absolute trust, total love, complete devotion, amazing adoration, and worship with abandon.  Not to mention the whole singing and dancing thing.  Kids just don't care who's watching! 

From these examples, hopefully we can glean just what it means to have a heart that is after God's Own Heart.  It is a SEEKING heart.  A LOVING heart.  A WORSHIPING heart.  A CHILDLIKE heart.  A FAITHFUL heart.  A HUMBLE heart.  A PRAISING heart.  A heart that's ALL OUT for God, on FIRE, UNASHAMED, and full of TRUST in His Word.  (Which, ultimately, we know is Yeshua). 

King David was an amazing man, there is no mistaking it.  He was unique for his time in the way he loved God.  I believe the Lord set him before us as an example, not only for the Jews, but also for Christians, to follow his lead and be completely sold out for the King of kings.  King David lived the abundant life of intimate prayer and adoring worship.

We should strive to live the same. 


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Devotional: 1 Peter 5:7

Ever read something a million times and then read it again with new eyes?

Consider 1 Peter 5:7.  This verse is a great play on words.  "Cast all your cares..."  In this context, care is a noun.  These are your anxieties, your stresses, your worries, your doubts, your fears.  "Cast your cares upon Him" means to give them to Him.  "Casting" implies tossing them, throwing them at Him.  He will take them, every one.

"For He cares..."  In this context, care is a verb.  Christ is genuinely concerned for your well-being.  He wants to know all about your problems.  He loves you.  He truly does care what happens to you and will bear the burden for you if you only give it to Him.

But think about this dynamic.  You give Him your worry and stress...why?  Because He loves you.  He bears them for you.  In return, you no longer have to carry them.  You only need to be still; God will fight for you (Exodus 14:14).  He is your shield, your strength, your deliverer, your rock, your fortress, your stronghold, and the horn of your salvation (Psalm 18:2).  He is before you, and at your right hand (Psalm 16:8).  You might fall, but you will not be cast away, for God is holding on to your hand (Psalm 37:24).

But the word-play in this verse is quite fascinating.  The same word reflects itself, like a mirror, turning what was once bad into something now good.  "Cast all your cares" (bad) "upon Him because He cares" (good) "for you."

Give Him your "bad", because He gives you His good.  Toss all your "bad" at Yeshua, and receive His goodness.  All your cares were nailed to His cross.  All that's left is His goodness and His love. 

Because He cares for you. 


Friday, March 15, 2013

Yeshua's Claims as God in the Book of Matthew


For a little while now, I've had this idea on the back burner of going through the Gospels and picking out choice references where Christ alludes that He is God without actually "saying" He's God.  These references are all outside of His miracles.  I'm just focusing on the things He said.

We've all heard it before, scoffers and unbelievers claiming Christ never declared He was God.  Technically, they're right, as He never said, "Behold, I'm your God."  However, there are certain statements and bits of knowledge Yeshua made known that make NO sense for a mortal man.  The Good Lord has been after me for some time now to get this done.  By the Spirit, I was able to pull out more gems than even I had thought there were.  Within this post are 66 references to Christ's Godhood in the Gospel of Matthew alone, and there are many more, as I do admit to skimming. 

Please, feel free to share this post with others, as I believe God wants this knowledge known.  Christ quite clearly and distinctly claimed His Deity for those who have ears to hear.  I will link the Scripture references to Bible Gateway and post my thoughts after the links.  This will cut down on quoting the Scripture and adding to the length of this post.

1.) Matthew 5:11 - Why would we receive blessing from Heaven for being persecuted in Yeshua's name if He was a mere man?

2.) Matthew 5:17-20 - How does Yeshua know this if He is just a man?  This at the very least makes Him a prophet.

3.) Matthew 5:21-24 & Matthew 5:27-28 - He amended God's Law!  What?  Who could do that but God?

4.) Matthew 6:4 - How does He know what God decides to do with secret prayer?

5.) Matthew 6:14 - How does He know God will forgive you?

6.) Matthew 6:20 - Only someone who knows what Heaven is like can say with authority what will happen there.

7.) Matthew 7:1 - Only one who has the power to judge humanity can say this with any authority.  How does He know the method by which God judges?

8.) Matthew 7:13-14 - Only someone who can read the heart can say this with any kind of certainty.  How would He know who was worthy of Heaven?  And how can He know it's a narrow way and few find it?

9.) Matthew 7:21-23 - What?!  Calling Yeshua "Lord, Lord?"  Only GOD has the authority to cast souls into the outer darkness!

10.) Matthew 7:24-27 - Christ equates His words equal to God's, as He shows that it is by His teaching the house stands or falls.  Sheer arrogance if He is not God.

11.) Matthew 8:32 - Demons obey Him.  Why would they just obey some random guy?

12.) Matthew 9:2-7 - Christ forgave this man's sin.  The scribes accused Him of blaspheming, but Christ then healed the man to prove He has authority to forgive sin as well.  Only GOD can forgive sin.

13.) Matthew 9:22-29 - These were healed according to their faith.  Who can see faith of the heart but God alone?

14.) Matthew 10:5-15 - He gives His disciples authority over demons, disease, and death.  Who can do that but God?

15.) Matthew 10:19-20 - How would a mere man know what God will do in that moment?  How presumptuous to speak in this way for God unless He was God.  God said the same thing to Moses in Exodus 4:12.

16.) Matthew 10:32-33 - What?  How can a mere man have this kind of authority with God?  What "man" would God listen to in such a way, unless the one with authority was God Himself?

17.) Matthew 10:37-39 - No "man" is worth losing EVERYTHING.  How could a man have the gall to say, "Lose your life for Me and you will find it"?  He's either raving mad, or God incarnate.

18.) Matthew 10:40 - It's arrogance to speak for God unless God is the one speaking.

19.) Matthew 11:11 - How would a man know who is and isn't greater than John the Baptist?  Only God can search hearts and minds.

20.) Matthew 11:22-24 - Only one who judges humanity could possibly have the knowledge of how God will deal with these cities on the day of Judgment.

21.) Matthew 11:27 - Blasphemy if He is not God!  "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father..."  He's admitting He has God's power.

22.) Matthew 11:28 - How can any man give another rest?  Are they all going to sleep on Yeshua's couch?  How can the multitudes come to Yeshua for rest?  That would be chaos, not rest.  He is speaking of prayer - and saying plainly - pray to Me.  Who do we pray to but God alone?

23.) Matthew 12:6 - Greater than the temple?  Wouldn't that be God Himself?

24.) Matthew 12:8 - The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath?  Everyone would know that GOD established the Sabbath!

25.) Matthew 12:25-28 - Demons don't cast out other demons, else the pharisees have demons as well.  Therefore the Kingdom of God has come upon them.  HE is God.

26.) Matthew 12:32 - How would He know what God forgives and doesn't forgive unless it is HE who forgives?

27.) Matthew 12:40 - He's got to be at least a prophet.

28.) Matthew 13 - All the parables about the Kingdom of God are worthless unless the Teacher has the authority to know what the Kingdom is like.

29.) Matthew 15:17-20 - Only one who sees the heart can say with authority what comes out of it.

30.) Matthew 16:16-17 - Yeshua did not correct Peter when he not only confessed he believed Yeshua was Messiah, but also God in the flesh (which is what "Son of God" means).

31.) Matthew 16:19 - Who could possibly have the keys to Heaven but GOD alone?

32.) Matthew 16:24-27 - Yeshua claims anyone who loses his life for His sake will find it.  That statement makes NO sense if He's not also God.  No man has the power to grant eternal life.  Also, He admits He will come again in the glory of His Father, with the angels, to judge the earth.  He's either stark-raving mad -- or GOD.

33.) Matthew 17:22-23 - Prophesies His own death and resurrection.  He's at least a prophet.

34.) Matthew 17:27 - He had the foreknowledge of the coin in the fish's mouth.  He's either a prophet or God.

35.) Matthew 18:3-6 - How would anyone know what the Kingdom of God is like but God alone?  Also, He exalts Himself to the same level as God for receiving people "in My name".  The Jews recognize the majesty of only ONE name -- YAHWEH.

36.) Matthew 18:19-20 - Again, the allusion is for believers to pray to God in the name of Yeshua - and Yeshua is there in the midst of them!  Impossible for a mere man, but not impossible if Yeshua is God.

37.) Matthew 18:35 - Impossible information to know unless He is the God who judges.

38.) Matthew 19:14 - Impossible to know this insider knowledge.

39.) Matthew 19:17 - He used the rich young ruler's words to show nothing and no one is good but God.  If the people believe He is truly good, then He is God.

40.) Matthew 19:21 - How would Yeshua know this guy would have treasure in heaven for selling His things and following Him?  Unless these treasures are His to give, it would be like your neighbor freely giving away your possessions to strangers.

41.) Matthew 19:23-24 - Impossible for any man to know this with any certainty except God alone.

42.) Matthew 19:28-30 - WOW.  Yeshua full-on claims He'll sit on His glorious Throne (of Heaven - God's Throne) and promises twelve thrones for His disciples and treasure for anyone who follows Him -- AND ETERNAL LIFE.  Only GOD Himself can promise this.  Either Yeshua is GOD or a madman!

43.) Matthew 20:1-16 - Impossible for a man to know how God rewards those in His Kingdom.

44.) Matthew 20:18-19 - Prophesies His death/resurrection.  He's at least a prophet.  But would God give such revelation to a madman off His rocker?

45.) Matthew 20:28 - Yeshua is alluding that He had prior knowledge before His birth, that He came specifically to serve and give His life.

46.) Matthew 21:2-3 - He's at least a prophet.

47.) Matthew 21:16 - Yeshua quotes OT text that refers to God Almighty (Psalm 8:2) and applies that to Himself!

48.) Matthew 21:22 - Impossible insider knowledge - only God can dictate how He answers prayer.

49.) Matthew 21:33-44 - Impossible to know with any authority as a mere man.

50.) Matthew 22:14 - Impossible to know this without knowing the mind of God.

51.) Matthew 22:29-32 - How can a man know anything about the business of angels or even claim that the patriarchs still live?  Who could know that but GOD?

52.) Matthew 22:42-45 - Yeshua shows the Messiah, the Son of David, is called "Lord" by David in Psalm 110:1.  But David was King of all Israel, so who is Lord over David save God alone?

53.) Matthew 23:34-36 - Yeshua says HE sent the prophets and wise men and scribes.  Impossible for a mortal man who didn't exist during the times of the prophets.

54.) Matthew 23:37-39 - Again, Yeshua laments over the prophets that were slain, alluding to the fact that through them, He would have gathered the people unto Himself, but they didn't want Him.  He prophesies the Jews' destruction and His Second Coming - but if He's to die, He cannot come again unless He's God.

55.) Matthew 24 - Prophecy for the end times.  Impossible to know with any accuracy unless He is also God.

56.) Matthew 25 - End times parables and Judgment - the Judgment alone is claiming His Deity on His "Glorious Throne".

57.) Matthew 26:2 - Prophesied His death and the method of His death.  This is the first time He speaks of crucifixion.

58.) Matthew 26:12-13 - Prophesies His death again, and makes a grand, impossible statement He couldn't possibly fulfill regarding Mary of Bethany unless, as God, He can make it so.

59.) Matthew 26:20-25 - He knew beforehand it was Judas who would betray Him and He also knew exactly what Judas would do a few seconds before he did it.

60.) Matthew 26:28 - Only God can make covenants between Heaven and earth.

61.) Matthew 26:31-32 - He knows the disciples will run away at His betrayal, and also that He'll rise from the dead -- AND where He will go afterwards.

62.) Matthew 26:53-54 - Yeshua clearly admits He has angels at His disposal and also that OT Scriptures were written about Him.

63.) Matthew 26:64 - Yeshua freely admits He will sit at the right hand of God, which is an idiom to say that He has all the power of God.  Blasphemy if this is not true.

64.) Matthew 27:11 - Yeshua admits he's the King of the Jews, which is the Son of David, which is the Messiah, which is God.

65.) Matthew 28:10 - Yeshua fulfills His prophecy in Matthew 26:32.

66.) Matthew 28:18-20 - Yeshua claims all of God's power, and gives authority to His disciples in His name.  He claims to always be with us even to the end of the age, which is impossible for a mortal man, but not for an immortal God.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.  And I haven't even touched Yeshua's words in the other three Gospels.  But these examples alone leave no doubt about Who He claimed to be.  He was not a mere man.  He was either insane or He was God.

As you ponder these words of Yeshua of Nazareth, ask yourself the most important question He ever posed:  

"Who do YOU say I AM?"


Monday, March 11, 2013

The Danger of Neglecting Prayer

One's prayer life is much like walking on water.  If you're gazing at Yeshua, you can traverse the seemingly impossible task of treading upon an unstable surface.  But look away from your Lord for just a moment, and you begin to sink.

The story of Peter walking on the water can be found in Matthew 14:22-33.  The story has been used throughout Christendom as an illustration for faith.  And surely, a lesson on faith can be found within.  However, while contemplating my grumpy demeanor against my neglected prayers, I realized this story can be taken at much more than face value.

This past weekend, amid projects, errands, daylight savings, taking the kids to the park, and other activities, my personal prayer time was neglected.  I have noticed since I've drawn closer to God, that it takes much less time for me to dry out from His Living Water.  The closer I am to Him, the faster I dry out when I turn away.  And I've noticed that when I do neglect my prayers, I am not a fun person to be around.  I am moody, selfish, grouchy, testy, and have a short fuse.  It seems when I'm bathing in God's Grace, I am then able to bestow grace upon others.  Yet when I neglect God's Living Water, it is nearly impossible for me to live gracefully.

In my home, it's known that when I'm hungry I turn into "Momzilla".  No one talks to me until I've had my dinner, else they risk their heads bitten off.  Lately I've noticed the very same thing happens to me when I neglect my prayers.  Apparently, spiritual starvation makes for Momzilla as well.

In the story of Peter walking on the water, we have the twelve disciples in the boat while the Lord "catches up" to them on the water's surface.  Only one of them decides to go meet the Lord on the water -- Peter.  But before he goes, he asks the Lord to bid him come.  And the Lord does.

We see in Peter that he "prays" to God, asking Him to draw him closer.  "If it is You, Lord, command me to come to You on the water."  This is exactly what I did when I began to draw nearer to God.  I asked Him to draw me, and to help me love Him in a new, and deeper way.  Again, we see the shadows of Song of Solomon 8:4 here.  One doesn't stumble into a deeper love with God until they DESIRE it for themselves.

The other eleven stay within the boat.  It's safe there.  They are still being buffeted by the wind and waves, but its safer in the boat.  They can see the Lord, but they aren't going to risk the impossible for Him.  They don't have to come out onto the water.  It's a choice for every Christian.  They are still believers and they are not punished nor rebuked for staying in the boat.

Peter steps out and begins walking.  As he walks, he gets closer to the Lord.  What he is doing shouldn't be possible.  He notices the waves and fear overtakes him.  He sinks.  "Lord, save me!" he cries.  And of course, our Gentleman God does.  Ends up Peter is rebuked for having "little faith".

Peter is the one who stepped out in faith, therefore, he is the one who was rebuked for having little of it.  But the Lord Himself saved him and brought him back to the boat.

Within this story, I see a metaphor for my own prayer life.  I'm the one who asked God to call me.  I'm the one who stepped out in faith.  I'm the one who left the eleven behind to go to the Lord and do the impossible.  And yet I'm the one who sinks the moment I take my eyes off Yeshua.  And it is so true.  When I make time for prayer, I feel like I AM walking on water.  Like I've risen above it all, flying high, that nothing is too hard for me to accomplish with God.  I'm happy, vibrant, and full of grace.  Yet when I neglect my prayer, I sink into the problems of this world, of worry, anxiety, and anger, which overflows to my family.

But Yeshua, in His loving faithfulness, is not willing to let me go.  He's waiting right there, ready for me to call upon Him once more in prayer, "Lord, save me!"  And once more, He pulls me from the mire to ride upon the waves.

I suppose it takes less time for me to sink these days because I'm no longer "hopping out of the boat", as it were.  I've already hopped out if it, and now I'm walking toward God.  There's nothing to grab a hold of.  I'm halfway between the boat and the Lord.  The worries of life are just waiting to swallow me whole, but the Lord stands above them and reminds me that I have wings as eagles.  He reminds me that He is my fortress.  This world might be unstable water, but Yeshua is a ROCK, unmovable and always there to rest upon.

And the amazing thing is, no matter how far the waves have pushed me away from my Beloved, He is always right there beside me when I call upon His name.  His help is immediate.  My head doesn't even go below the water.  Which is another metaphor in itself.  My body might be under the water (the Church), but my head (Yeshua) is above the tides.

The waters of this world are dead and stagnant, but His Water is Alive.  His Water is what gives hope, faith, love, and grace.  His Water is what soothes an aching heart, quiets a worried mind, and calms a troubled soul.  When we've looked away and begun to sink down into the dead depths, we should cry out for Him and He will be right there, lifting us up to stand with Him once again.

The more we cry out to Him, the more we will stand upon the waves with Him, and the more our hearts will become rivers of Living Water, overflowing out to those we love.  ~~John 7:38


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Devotional: Ezra 3:3

Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening sacrifices.

The book of Ezra details the rebuilding of the temple after the Jews were released from their captivity in Babylon by King Cyrus of Persia.  Solomon's temple had been destroyed some 70 years earlier, and the Jews were eager to begin construction on another.  They were so eager to serve the Lord after being an entire generation without their temple, that they built the altar first and even began sacrifices upon it. 

So eager were they, that they decided to worship God despite their fear of the peoples around them.  

After the Jews had been exiled to Babylon, the land they'd once lived in had new tenants.  And these new tenants had pagan gods.  The Israelites knew there was a chance they'd be persecuted, or perhaps killed, for worshipping Yahweh upon the Temple Mount.  What's more, they did it out in the open, as their altar couldn't be hidden by temple walls.

This was very risky.  But despite the risk, they continued with the morning and evening sacrifice.  Every morning and every evening a cloud of smoke rose up from the burnt offering over the Mount.  Probably a pungent smell, too.  It would attract curious onlookers, as I'm sure prayers were loudly orated and as well as songs of praise. 

But the amazing fact remains, they worshipped God DESPITE their fear of those around them.  They worshipped God openly and not only that, there could be no mistaking their worship.  You could see the smoke.  You could smell the aroma.  You could hear the prayers.  The Israelites had been too long without their God and to be quite frank, were willing to be persecuted, and perhaps die, to worship Him.  They were not about to be exiled again.  They had the decree of a KING to help them in their cause. 

When the locals began to discourage them from building and bribed officials to frustrate their work, the Israelites feared not and continued on.  When their enemies again tried to stop them with a letter of complaint to the current king of Persia, King Darius, the king sent back his own letter, endorsing the prior decree of King Cyrus, and even went further, explaining that any and all who tried to stop the Jews from rebuilding their temple would themselves be impaled on a beam from their own home!

During this time, as messages from Jerusalem took so long to be conveyed back and forth over a great distance to Persia, one of the chief builders of the temple, Zerubbabel (who is named in both Joseph's (Matthew 1:12) and Mary's (Luke 3:27) genealogy of Christ in the New Testament), needed encouragement in his endeavor for the Lord.  And God Almighty Himself had pity on him and sent His Word to the prophet in Zechariah 4:6-7 -- “So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’”

Indeed, they had nothing to fear.  

Two kings had decreed it, and God had willed it.  Nothing could stop it.

May we draw our own courage from this story.  Courage to worship God openly among the people surrounding us.  Courage to speak up for Him and do His will, despite the fear in our hearts.  Courage to pray, courage to sing, courage to be willing to face persecution, and maybe even be disputed and our reputation tarnished.  The Israelites didn't need two decrees from worldly kings.  All they needed was the endorsement from Yahweh, Lord of Hosts, and His will would be done.  

And indeed, that is what we ourselves have, an eternal endorsement from God Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth, who has reconciled us to Himself through His Son, Yeshua Messiah. 

Let us learn the lesson God taught Zerubbabel and His people as they worshipped at an open-air altar, unsure of the future of their temple:

If God is for us, who can be against us?  ~~Romans 8:31


Monday, March 4, 2013

Devotional: Isaiah 58:10

If you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.

Today, I asked God what text He wanted me to study.  I opened my Bible, curious about the highlighting I'd done previously in the middle of the book.  It was Isaiah 58, a chapter the Lord had led me to once before.  This particular verse jumped out at me, and I figured this was the one God wanted me to take a closer look at.  

The first line states: "If you pour yourself out for the hungry".  Most people might give to the hungry, maybe feed them a meal, give them some money, or pray for them.  But the text says "pour yourself out." This brings to mind a pitcher pouring out water.

Water flows freely when poured.  Nothing stops it.  It conjures images of generosity and refreshment.  Pouring yourself out also reminds me of emptying yourself of "self", and filling yourself up with God, allowing HIS Living Water to flow from your heart.

The second line says: "and satisfy the desire of the afflicted".  The desire of the afflicted is to be healthy, in no more pain, either mental or physical.  You put their needs before your own and serve them.  You don't just help them, you satisfy their desires.  You continue to help until they are well once more.  Until they can stand on their own.  Whatever it takes, your time, your money, your possessions, your strength.

"Then shall your light rise in the darkness".  You will become a light in a dark land.  Within you will be hope.  Love.  Mercy.  GRACE.  The more you pour yourself out, the more you feed the hungry and help the poor and afflicted, the more you will look like CHRIST.  All charity is GRACE.  Perhaps these folks made poor business decisions.  Ate the wrong things.  Smoked all their lives.  Maybe they ruined their health by taking drugs or were abused by their spouses.  It matters not the "why" of how they hit hard times.  What matters is being a LIGHT to them, and that is Grace.  

The "darkness" is their affliction, their medical issue, their poverty, their shame, their nakedness, their hunger, their homelessness.  But the light within you will shine, and they will see a glimpse of God through you.

The final text in this passage says, "and your gloom be as the noonday".  This is a very telling text.  Some translations say "your darkness" rather than "gloom".  But the gist remains the same.  Your problems will become strangely dim in comparison.  If you help the needy and feed the hungry, if you truly make a habit of pouring yourself out for others so that the light of God can shine through you, then your problems will be as nothing.  Compared to having no fresh drinking water, your water heater on the fritz is no big deal.  Compared to having empty cupboards, your lean grocery budget is not a huge issue.  Compared to the death of a loved one, your annoying cold is nothing to worry about.  Compared to having no shoes, your beat-up pair of tennies is not a high priority.

When you help those in need, you become acutely aware of all you have to be thankful for.  When you help the hungry, you begin to see how greatly God has blessed you, even if you'd previously thought He'd been ignoring you.  When others become the focus of your life instead of yourself, your eyes are on their problems and not your own, and thus, your "gloom becomes as noonday".  You are happy to help them.  Your joy comes from serving them.  You know without a doubt God blesses you, and in that, you are content.  Your problems are no longer mountains.  Your valleys are no longer so vast.

In helping others, you ultimately help yourself.  You become more like Christ.  And it shows in the Light you shine all around.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Light of the World

Yeshua describes Himself many times in Scripture as the "Light".  The Light of God is also mentioned at length in the Old Testament.  I got to thinking about Christ as the Light of the World after considering this verse in 1 John 1:5 -

I wanted to know what Scripture considers "light".  There are three definitions I've found.

1.)  God's Light is His Glory. (Revelation 20:11)
2.)  God's Light is His Wisdom. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
3.)  God's Light is Life.  (John 1:4)

Using these definitions, we can infer a few things from the text in 1 John 1:5.  If there is no "darkness" in God, that means His Glory is absolute.  There are no shadows, He's pure bright light.  He shines like the sun on all sides, no part of Him would be dark. 

His wisdom is complete as well.  There is nothing He doesn't know.  If it can be known, it is known by God.  This includes how many grains of sand are in the entire universe, how many atoms are in my body to how many different galaxies (and stars) exist.

If God's light is life, then we know there is no death in God.  He is eternal.  This also infers that sickness is darkness and health is life, considering the fact that light cannot die and sickness allows for death.

It's interesting, while thinking more and more about the light of God, a few more things come to mind that can't really be directly connected to the light by Scripture, but makes sense as attributes of God's light.

1.)  Light is Morality (Ten Commandments, Love God, Love thy Neighbor).
2.)  Light is Fruits of the Spirit (Love, Kindness, Gentleness, Joy, Peace, Patience, Goodness, Faithfulness, & Self-Control).

If there is no darkness in God, then we know He has no hate in Him, He's never unkind, never rough, never unhappy, never full of unease, never impatient, never evil, never unfaithful, and never loses control. 

Light is also warm.  Fire casts light and also warmth.  So does sunlight.  Therefore, God could be considered warm and inviting. 

Something also struck me about the Light of God, however.  In watching a video on white light, it's actually made up of a spectrum of different colors; red, green, and blue.  When viewed through a crystal or water, light can be refracted into a rainbow.

How interesting that God's covenant with Noah was His "bow in the sky" (Genesis 9:12-17).  This is, of course, refracted sunlight, and not the Glory of God.  But the metaphor of "light" being broken into so many colors is fascinating.  Why did God create light in so many colors?  Maybe some scientist out there knows the reason for light being in so many colors.  But being the whimsical, spiritual person I am, I wonder if it's another way of viewing God's Light.

Could it be that each color represents all of God's attributes for the fruits of the Spirit?  Could it represent all knowledge that can be known?  Do the colors somehow tell the story of Yeshua's sacrifice and salvation?  Or is it just pure beauty that God wanted to show off?

There is another rainbow associated with God, and that's the one surrounding His Throne (Revelation 4:3). 

This rainbow, however, is described as a green one -- the color of an emerald.  Does this imply that God's Glory can be refracted, but only to the green spectrum?  Maybe things work differently in Heaven than on earth.  What, exactly, refracts the light of God's Glory?  His Throne?  The sea of glass?  Maybe it doesn't matter.

One thing is for sure, the Bible is full of references to the darkness and the light.  The majority of the references are metaphors for wisdom: "Thy Word is a light unto my feet and a lamp unto my path..." (Psalm 119:105).  It wasn't until Yeshua that we learned the "Light" was a person (John 8:12)!  Not only was He Wisdom, but also Life. 

A few noteworthy facts about the Son of God -- the Light of the World was born at night.  Very fitting that He should arrive in this world in the darkness (Luke 2:6-11).

When He was crucified in the middle of the day, darkness fell at His death (Matthew 27:45).

The resurrected Christ was first encountered in the light of Easter morning (Matthew 28:1).  It's not merely daylight Yeshua was first seen at, but the first light of dawn.  It was indeed a "new day".  Christ had become the firstborn of the resurrected dead (Colossians 1:18).  Scripture says that God's loving kindnesses are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).  Imagine the new loving kindness on That Day!  Death had been conquered!  The Light of Life had overcome the darkness of the grave.  Interesting how joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5), or how help comes in the morning (Psalm 46:5). 

Christ is also known as the "Morning Star" (Revelation 22:16). 

I can't help but wonder if that title of His was due to His resurrection in the morning.  But what's even more interesting is this -- Revelation 2:28 states to the one who conquers, "He will give them the Morning Star."  Our inheritance is the Light -- Yeshua Himself!

Our eternity will be filled with amazing realities.  We will be given the light of Life, the light of Wisdom and Knowledge, and the light of God's Glory!  We are children of the Day (1 Thessalonians 5:5) because the Morning Star has risen with the dawn.  With Christ in us, we are now the Light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

Go shine your light.