Sunday, December 30, 2018

The Faithfulness of the Lord

Today's Reading:
  • Judges 3:1 - 5:31
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Judges 3:1 - 5:31

These three chapters of Judges had a theme that repeated multiple times. First, the Israelites were left in peace. Then the Israelites increasingly began to sin and to forget the Lord. They began to worship other gods, and take on the evil practices of the rest of the world.  Next, as punishment, they were oppressed and given over to other kings. Then the people would ban together and cry out to the Lord. The Lord, ever faithful, would raise up and send a judge to successfully rescue them. They would live in peace, until they once again started to lose sight of the Lord.

Unfortunately I think that what we see out of the Israelites is reflective of Christian people all over the world. Why is it we only want to serve the Lord when we need Him to do things for us?  Shouldn't we always be cognizant of our Lord, of His commandments, of how He wants us to live?  Why do we wait until we're completely over our heads to cry out to the Lord for help?

What do we do in times of peace and prosperity? Is this the time for sinning and for leading ourselves astray of the Lord?  Or is this the time to grow in our relationship and closeness to the Lord? Thanking Him for His hand over our lives? Worshiping Him and remaining close?

The Lord is more gracious than we deserve. Every single time the Israelites called out to the Lord, he delivered them. It didn't matter how far they had strayed, He was there to pick up the pieces. I can't help but wonder how much better our lives would be if we didn't wait until everything was a mess to rely on the Lord. If God is this good to us, even when we are so far away, how much better off would we be to just remain close to Him at all times, and never stray?  I don't want the Lord to have to pick up my pieces, I want to remain close to the Lord to avoid being shattered in the first place. No matter how close we are to the Lord, we will still become broken and cracked. That is the sin nature of the world we live in. But I'd rather have God holding me from the moment it happens, then wait and have to call out to him when all feels hopeless and lost. I know that the Lord is faithful, so it is on me to remain close to Him. He has given us everything - His Word, His Spirit, and His only Son - so it is on each of us to use those things to remain in Him. The Lord will do the rest, all we have to do is trust in Him.

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.