Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Sacrificial Lamb of the Lord

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 22:14 -22:53
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Luke 22:14- 22:53
Today's reading starts with the last supper and ends with Jesus being arrested. The first thing that struck me today was the powerful circle that was so carefully constructed by the Lord. Jesus and the disciples were celebrating Passover for the last supper. Passover occurred during the time of the Israelites' slavery in Egypt. In the final and most terrible plague of all, the Lord ordered that all firstborn sons throughout the land be killed. The Israelites, however, were told to smear lamb's blood over their doorways to avoid that plague. The angel of death passed over every house that had been sanctified with the blood of the lamb.

Jesus and his disciples celebrated Passover on the same night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested. Jesus laid the foundation for what would later be known to us as communion - a special, dedicated and holy breaking of bread and drinking of wine to be done in remembrance of the Lord. The bread was the body that was broken, and the wine was the blood that was spilled. This was all given to us so that we would have our truly deserved fates passed over, so that we could be washed in the sacrificial blood of the lamb. The parallels to Passover are awe-inspiring when you truly realize them for the first time, when you realize that events that took place thousands of years before were so beautifully woven together. God is the ultimate planner. God has a plan for each and every one of us. And nothing about that plan might ever seem to make sense when it is happening, but every step of the way has a purpose. A carefully crafted purpose.

Here's the kicker about God's plans - we have to let him use us to execute them. Later that night, after the Passover supper, before Jesus was betrayed, he was at the Mount of Olives. There he was praying fervently to the Lord. Verse 22:44 said that he was pouring sweat like great drops of blood upon the ground - that's how strongly he communing with the Lord. Jesus was praying that the cup of suffering be taken from him. Jesus knew what was in store for him. Jesus knew he was to be a human sacrifice. Jesus knew it was going to be terrible. Jesus was probably terrified. Jesus was 100% God and 100% man, and any man would be terrified of an impending terrible death.

Jesus, however, did not sin. He was torn up, he was anxious, he was scared, but through it all he prayed his famous words: "Yet I want your will to be done, not mine" (22:42). Even amidst the most difficult command that God had ever given him, Jesus recognized that God had a plan, and that Jesus was an integral part of that plan. Jesus fought back every inch of his flesh and surrendered completely to God's will and God's plan. And look what they accomplished together! Salvation for billions of people! A chance to be washed in the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ. To be washed free of all our sins. To become holy in the sight of the Lord. To no longer be separated by a veil. To invite the Holy Spirit to dwell within our hearts.  All of that is the result of a God who can craft the most masterful plan. So trust in the Lord when He has a plan for you. Pray that you not give into temptation. Pray that His will be done, so that the Lord can make the most beautiful thing out of your own life.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Dwelling in the Shelter of the Lord Most High: A Psalm of Protection

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 90
  • Psalm 91
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Psalm 90
My study bible states that this Psalm is a prayer from Moses, the great leader and godly man who led the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses starts the prayer by proclaiming the eternal nature of the Lord and emphasizing that the Lord created the entire earth (90:1-2). It seems that the people were under God's wrath at the time this psalm was written, for Moses cries out for the Lord to turn away from his anger and to come back to His people (90:13).

This psalm talks a lot about the brevity of life. Moses realizes that the length of the human life is minuscule to God when compared to His everlasting nature (90:10-12). Moses says that, to the Lord, a thousand years is like a day (90:4). So when we consider that, how long are our 70-90 years, really? Moses prays that people would understand the brevity of life and that we would live our lives according to the Lord, instead of the suffering that is caused by our sins. Moses says that those who walk in the Lord's unfailing love will sing for joy at the end of our lives (90:14), instead of those that live under the Lord's wrath, caused by sin, who end their lives with a groan (90:9). I pray that I continue to walk in the Lord's path, so that I might live my life through to the end with triumphant praise and joy in my heart.

Psalm 91
Psalm 91 is one of my favorite psalms. This is a very powerful psalm that speaks to the protection the Lord extends to his followers. This psalm tells us not to be afraid of anything, for the Lord's hand is always on us. Even if 10,000 are dying beside you, those who trust in the Lord will be safe (91:7).

There are so many awesome declarations of the many ways in which the Lord will protect those who trust in him. Every verse of this psalm is powerful, and I encourage everyone to go read it themselves and take it to heart. In fact, so many people declare this psalm when they are facing troubles. The problem is that this psalm comes with a precondition that most people skip right over. This precondition is the very first verse of Psalm 91. It reads like this (NLT version):

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty

Notice I have underlined the word "live". The precondition on this psalm is that we must already reside very closely with the Lord for all these protections to apply to us! Verse 91:14 tells us that the Lord rescues those who love him, and protects those who trust him, and verse 91:15 says that the Lord will answer when we call on Him. I believe that is very true. The Lord, in his infinite grace, continues to answer our cries, even when we have distanced ourselves far from Him.  Too often, once the cry for help has been answered, we turn our back and/or distance ourselves from Him once more.

To obtain the truly powerful continuous umbrella of protection from the Lord, one must live in the shelter of the Lord Most High. We must keep ourselves close and dwell in the holy of holies -- that secret place that you cannot enter until you have cleansed yourself of all wrong doing and resolved to live hand-in-hand with the Lord, constantly trusting in Him - versus suddenly trusting in Him when you need help, and when it might already be too late.

Again, the Lord is wonderful and gracious. He hears us when we cry, He is sympathetic to us.  I don't believe that He is like humans - refusing to validate a person's feelings because we believe they brought something upon themselves. The nature of the Lord is not like that. Because of this grace and understanding, the Lord does come to our rescue, even if we've been far away from Him. I just want to stress that to get that ultimate, powerhouse protection that is detailed in Psalm 91, you need to dwell constantly underneath the Lord's shelter. Then you will see the fullness of the Lord's amazing, powerful, awesome umbrella of protection on your lives.

Once again, the Lord is gracious ... so gracious. If you've slipped out of that shelter, the Lord will allow you back in as quick as you move to put yourself back in there. Slip in there before the tribulations of the world hit you, and you will be truly prepared to withstand anything, for the Lord will withstand it for you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

All About the Judges: Who Should the Christian Vote For?

Today's Reading:
  • Judges 1:1 - 2:23
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Judges 1:1 - 2:23
Today's reading is the first from the book of Judges. This is an extremely relevant book in face of the upcoming general election. How so? Well, it starts, of course, with the Israelites. The Israelites conquered the land promised to them, but they failed to conquer it completely, therefore disobeying their instructions and leaving them open to strife. In verse 2:8, we learn that Joshua had died at the age of 110. Soon, that entire generation passed, and an ungodly one grew up in its place. This left the people vulnerable to attack and defeat, for the Lord was not pleased with them.

In verse 2:16, we learn that the Lord raised up judges to rescue the Israelites. We are told that the Lord was with each judge he appointed, and that during each judge's lifetime, the Lord rescued the Israelites from their enemies (2:18). We are further told that, at the death of each judge, the people's evil ways would return and they would once again defy the Lord (2:19).

I believe that the judges would intercede for the people with the Lord, thus retaining His protection. These judges were the highest powers in the land, and they revered the Lord. Here in our present time, the United States is in a state of turmoil. We are seeing the shift of this nation from being a godly nation, to a nation where the Lord is being slowly kicked out. That scares me.

It is my opinion that the most important issue of this election are the judges. It is expected that the next president will appoint up to 4 supreme court justices. The outcome will be a supreme court that is either skewed toward conservatism, or towards liberalism. That means that the next generation of laws that pass through our land will be heavily influenced by which president is elected.

So where do we want our country to go? This election is difficult in that both candidates are not very likeable, and both have abhorrent personality traits. Maybe this is Satan's influence to push the Christians to either (1) not vote; or (2) vote for the wrong candidate. Is there a wrong candidate? My answer is absolutely. As a Christian, I can not vote for things like legal abortions and same sex marriage. These things do not line up with the bible that I have read (at this point, cover to cover, multiple times through).

I am not voting for a candidate at this point. I am voting for our supreme court. A conservative supreme court. A supreme court that will help us to turn our faces back to God as a nation. A supreme court that will help intercede our case with the Lord. A supreme court that will buy us more time as a nation. I don't want to be a part of the nation that falls. Throughout the bible, we see this pattern. I am praying that we turn back now, before it's too late.

Please vote. Don't be discouraged as a Christian because both candidates have such poor personality traits. Remember that God can work through anyone. Yes - the Lord could even work through Hillary. But as Christians, if we are not voting, if we are not standing up to keep the Lord in our nation, then we are part of the problem.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Perseverance for the Godly (Words from Proverbs)

Today's Reading:
  • Proverbs 13:30 - 25
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Proverbs 13:12 - 25
Today's reading has a few different themes. Verse 13:20 starts off by telling us that those who walk with the wise will become wise, and those who associate with fools will get in trouble. Do you want more wisdom in your life? I know I do, especially after reading all the wonderful proverbs about how wisdom gives us life. The answer is simple - one of the ways you can gain wisdom is by associating yourself with those who are wise. Surround yourself with wise and godly people, and your perspective on life might change.

Verse 23 talks about injustice when it says that a poor person's farm may produce an abundance of food, but injustice sweeps it away. I see this as both literal and figurative. I see literal references -- especially when I hear cases of the government forcing metric tons of crops to be dumped and destroyed, in order to leave room for import items. It is sickening to see that forced waste.  Figuratively, the poor person is often persecuted unjustly. They can't afford to fight battle, and therefore some will use their power to walk all over them. All we can do is keep the Lord in our sight, and never give up faith or hope.

Verses 21, 22, and 25 specifically address sinners. We are told that troubles chase sinners, the sinner's wealth passes to the godly, and that the belly of the wicked go hungry. On the contrary, blessings reward the righteous, good people have wealth left over to pass to their grandchildren, and the godly eat to their heart's content. I know these verses might seem to be full of contradictions. After all, how many extravagantly rich sinners do we see? How often do we see the "bad" person persevere, while the "good" one struggles? There are more important things than what we see on this earth. We are in an endurance race to the end of our lives, the reward of which is eternal life with the balances restored. Don't let anyone - and certainly not the unbeliever - rob you of your end goal. All of this is not for naught. God is real, Heaven is real, and eternal life with our Lord and Savior is real. Those who struggle yet remain righteous will prosper for all of eternity. Our years on earth feel long yet fleeting at the same time; just remember they are but a drop in the bucket to all eternity.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Are we in the End Times?

Today's Reading:
  • Luke 21:1 - 22:13
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Luke 21:1 - 22:13
I find chapter 21 to have confusing timelines. This is because Jesus tells of two prophecies that are separated by a vast amount of time. I had to do some research to see if I understood these passages correctly. It seems that versus 5-24 are talking about the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, as well as the severe persecution of Christians. These prophecies would occur in the near future, and be reported in the book of Acts.

In verse 9, Jesus declares "but the end won't follow immediately". In verse 25, Jesus starts to talk to about His second coming. Jesus warns there will be strange signs in the sky, as well as roaring seas and strange tides. The nations will be under turmoil, and that people will be terrified of what they see coming upon the Earth. In verse 27, Jesus says: "Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory."

Jesus then tells us to stand up and look when these things start to happen. He goes on to talk about how fig trees, or any tree, gives signs as summer is coming. And when we see these things start to take place, that we can be assured the time is near. We should stand watch, and not be caught off guard.

Do I believe we are living in the end times? I am unsure. I certainly haven't studied enough of the bible to know (yes, I have read the bible in its entirety, but that is not the same as studying, and I have trouble placing timelines and such). I kind of feel like everyone, since the time Jesus died on the earth and was resurrected, has felt that the second coming is near. I do not know personally what all the signs are. I know that we have many terrible disasters, earthquakes, tidal waves, devastating happenstances. But I wonder, do we have more of those than before? Or, are we just more knowledgeable of affairs of the world?

I know that Daniel 12:4 talks about the increase of knowledge in the world at the end times. I definitely see that as happening right before our eyes, right this very second. We can see what is happening in another country in real time. That is just amazing to me, considering how news used to travel. Stories can be propagated throughout the entire world in minutes from the time they are written. And who needs a doctor these days? You can google and solve it yourself in a few minutes. The answer is always cancer, by the way (sarcasm intended - but you get my point). People used to have to find other people who had knowledge on a subject, and today you have an unlimited amount of knowledge at your fingertips. Literally at your fingertips. How many of us have smart phones? Little computers that go with us everywhere. Yes, knowledge has greatly increased. And for that, I am leaning towards believing that we are in the end times.

Whether or not we are in the end times, our action is to remain the same - be ready, be alert, be looking for the Lord. Never be caught unawares.