Saturday, February 18, 2017

S.T.A.N.D. On Who You Are in Christ: Spiritual Warfare III

Every week or so, we are going to explore spiritual warfare.  Join me on this journey!
Here are some familiar verses.  How do they fit in to the notion of S.T.A.N.D. (Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated)?  Everything!

3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
5  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6  To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
7  In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
8  Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
9  Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
10  That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
11  In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
12  That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. (Eph. 1:3-11)

T
hese verses summarize who we are in Christ.  Putting on the “whole armor of God” is accepting this identity and surrounding yourself with it.  When your enemy comes, he sees your armor, which is really God’s.  You are immediately identified as a soldier in God’s army.  That makes you a tempting target for Satan.  Without the armor of God on you, you don’t stand a chance.  Satan has never fought fair, and because his days are numbered, he isn’t going to start now.

Verse 3:  You are blessed and dressed because you confess that Christ is Lord.  You now possess “all spiritual blessings.”  Thus, you have a dual citizenship:  You possess all that God has for you in the heavenly realms, but you still walk on this planet.  You are encased in His armor, but underneath you are still in a physical body.  Point?  Don’t take off God’s armor.  To maintain your position in Him, stay arrayed.  Stay in Christ.  Pray, walk and talk with Him. A soldier out of uniform looks no different than a civilian.  A Christian out of armor looks no different than a non-believer.  We know how Satan treats his own.  Don’t look like one of his own.  You are emphatically not when you are in Christ.  So, look that way!

Verse 4:  You are one of His chosen.  God loves you and chose you.  Why?  Ask Him, and He will open His hands and show you His scars: "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands…"
(Is. 49:16) There was nothing you did or said that made Him call you.  There is nothing you can do or say that can make Him let you go.  You are His.  You are holy.  That means you have been set aside for His special use.  You have purpose.  You are without blame.  Why?  Your sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ.  You are clean in His eyes.  He sees you standing in Christ. His Son’s sacrifice is your new life.  You now live as His child.   

Verse 5:  God signed your adoption papers long before the universe was set in motion.  His signature was written in Christ’s blood.  You are Christ’s; you weren’t adopted only to be abandoned.  His will for you to be His gives Him great delight.  He has always been thinking about you.  He will never stop thinking about you.

Verse 6:  His grace shows you He loves you without measure.  His grace is glorious because He is.  He offers Himself to you for no other reason than He loves you.  God sees you standing in His beloved Son.  He loves His Son with an unfathomable love; because you too stand in Him, He loves you equally as much.

Verse 7:  His grace alone—not who you are, what you are doing, or what you have done—is what saves you, forgives you and enables you to walk tall in Him, richly arrayed in the finest armor possible: His Son’s blood.  Where God sees blood, you see a garment white as snow:
These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 7:14)

Verse 8:  Jesus is all we need: "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption…" (1 Cor. 1:30) Know Jesus, know Wisdom, for wisdom is not what you obtain, it is Who you know. Righteousness is also Who You know.  You are now in a position to know Him:  He has redeemed you and set you aside for holy use and to fill you with Himself.  It is only by  knowing Him that you will be able to navigate life.

Verse 9:  If you are arrayed in His armor, that is His will:  to be His, fighting the good fight and resting solely on His power and provision.

Verse 10:  We are a gathered people.  First, we are gathered in Him.  Secondly, we are gathered with each other in Him.  We are an army.  We are a body of people set aside to enact His will on this planet:  that all should come to know Him and walk in Him. We are His Body animated by love, for God is love.  His love, embodied in His Son, reached out and died for us.  We must also act in that kind of love.

Verse 11:  We have received an inheritance, which makes us heirs.  We are His family.  Only a family member can be designated as an heir: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." (Rom. 8:14-17) You have purpose and a calling, which He saw in you long before you were even born.  You are precious to Him.

Verse 12:  Our trusting in Him is the greatest gift we give back to Him.  He gives Himself as the greatest gift to us. Thus, who are we?  We are the children of God, whom He long ago sought out and pursued with love; we are arrayed in white and shine with our praises which brings Him glory. 
Point to His armor lovingly encasing you and say to the enemy, “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine!”

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Gear Up and Stand in Christ--Spiritual Warfare II

10  Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
11  Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
12  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against  spiritual wickedness in high places.
13  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14  Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
15  And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16  Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
17  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
18  Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints…                                                                                                                                                                         
L
et’s begin our journey to understanding spiritual warfare by reviewing Ephesians 6:10-18.  The verses are very familiar.  Many writers have done an excellent job of unpacking this verses.  For our purposes, I am going to do a quick overview.  What can we learn right off the bat?
     Verse 10:  We need strength and power from God.  Whatever we think our strengths are, whatever talents we possess, whatever our spiritual track record is, we cannot do this Christian life alone.  We cannot do this spiritual warfare alone. 
     Verse 11:  We need armor to do this Christian life.  Why?  It’s a war we are in—pure and simple.  No other garment will do.  Someday we will be arrayed as His bride, but while we inhabit Earth, we are in a battle zone, and we need to be outfitted appropriately.  Why?  So we can STAND.  If you are lying on the ground, the battle’s over and you lost. 
We need to put on the whole kit and caboodle. Not one or two pieces, thinking that will suffice.  Paul declared we need “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and we are to wear the “whole armor of God.”  If we are outfitted correctly, we are then able to stand against the schemes of Satan.  Don’t bring your fist to the pistol war.  Don’t bring your ball gown to the trenches.
     Verse 12:  The armor fits the battle itself: You must be arrayed in spiritual power, provisioned by God for this expressed purpose, because the battle is in the spiritual realm with spiritual foes.  You wouldn’t bring a crossbow when the enemy has an AK-47.  You don’t fight with your flesh what is in the spiritual realm. 
     Verse 13:  Paul repeats for us put on the whole armor of God.  It’s God’s armor, and we are to put it on—not put on our armor.  We don’t accessorize His armor with our flesh; it is His and His alone. 
He invites us to put it on.  We can either choose to put on what He provides, or we can walk away (a perilous choice).  Evil days are coming and we need to be suited up before they arrive.  Our “having done all” is putting on His armor willingly and standing in His power and might.  No snoozing.  No complacency.  No taking a nap behind the tent.  Armored up and standing.  That’s what He expects of us.
     Verse 14:  Again, Paul says, “Stand.”  A fallen soldier is either dead, MIA, or wounded.  Being properly armored allows us to withstand the onslaught.  Though we may take many hits, we will still be standing.  How? We possess His strength and His mighty power.  Where?  We stand only on His truth. Truth provides the only sure footing, for no matter how the winds of warfare blow, truth takes a beating and keeps on ticking.  Why?  Because you are standing in Christ.  He is The Truth:  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6) 
     He is The Rock: Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock… (Matt. 7:24)
     Jesus alone is the only solid ground on which to stand.  Your heart will be protected by the breastplate of His righteousness as you stand.  Why?  You are facing your foe, and he will strike at your heart.  Because you standing in Christ, He has given you His heart.  Because He is standing, so are you: A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezek. 26:36-7)
       Jesus says,  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. (Luke 6:45)
     The Word says, Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Prov. 4:23 NIV)  Good advice.  A guarded heart is a protected heart. You are not just protecting your own; you are protecting His, for He dwells within you.  His heart in you is far too precious to not protect.
     Verse 15:  People who stand need shoes.  People who sleep can afford to be barefoot.  A soldier must be booted up, for the mission of declaring the Good News of Jesus Christ requires movement when ordered to do so. So, standing or marching, you need shoes. Nikes will do, for Nike in Greek means, “victory.”  Flip flops?  No.
     Verse 16:  Faith is not just your response to God’s lovely offer of grace.  It is your shield that you wave around you, showing your enemy that you are serious.  The armor is on you; the shield is around you.  The bigger your faith, the larger your shield. A dinky shield means an arrow or two will get passed it.  Upgrade.  Faith itself is a gift, so ask for more, and trade up to a larger shield.  Less will get by that greater shield and you will feel bolder as you go forth.   
     But you must stay strong in Christ to wield it.  Faith not only protects, it extinguishes.  How so?Your faith says, “No!” to Satan’s lies and to those who perpetrate his agenda. You are clothed in righteousness because of Christ’s finished work on the cross.  You respond with faith by actively moving your shield and flashing it before the enemy.  Your faith protects you from all sides when the arrows of lies, deceit, temptation and condemnation come flying in. Faith:  Don’t leave home without it. Faith:  Don’t go to war without it.
     Verse 17:  A blow to your head can be fatal and down you go.  A blow to your mind—believing the lies, falling into deceit, yielding to temptation and wallowing in condemnation—can be fatal to your ability to stand and down you go. Your salvation—your adoption into God’s family as His son or daughter because of Jesus’ sacrifice—is your covering.  To insure that the foe doesn’t get too close, mightily wave that sword at him.  The Word of God is the weapon of choice.  Jesus used it to vanquish Satan in the wilderness.  Take a lesson from the Master.  But you must know the Word.  You read the Word and the Word reads you.  So, with the Spirit  + WORD, you get SWORD
     Verse 18:  Pray. All the time.  Every chance you get.  In other words, continuously monitor the intel from HQ.  Listen for Jesus’ voice and run everything you hear by His Word.  His voice and His Word will never contradict each other.  A soldier out of touch with his CO is a soldier in danger. So, persevere.  Fight the good fight.  In other words, STAND.
     What does STAND mean?  "Spiritually Trained And Not Defeated."  Amen!

Friday, February 3, 2017

A New Direction: Let's Talk About Spiritual Warfare

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” –C. S. Lewis

I
 am on a quest to more fully understand spiritual warfare.  I have studied it for awhile, read some books, had a few experiences, and yet…I am still unsettled about the issue. Why?  So much of what I have read about spiritual warfare has some scripture in it, but a lot of the information is driven by the author’s experiences.  Does that invalidate an author’s conclusions about spiritual warfare? No, but I found that sometimes the author’s own experiences began to take precedence over the scriptural references.  The author uses the Word, of course, but the author’s  experience become evidence in and of itself.  These experiences may be compelling, but they may lack a clear-cut parallel in Scripture.  

As writers and readers, we run the risk of a having a “Can You Top This?” kind of exchange.  We may share the author’s reading of the Word and see spiritual warfare’s reality. But what if we didn’t have the same experience the author did?  We may question what we went through.  We may even doubt that it was a legitimate encounter with evil.  We may downplay what happened, because it seems rather insignificant when we compare it to what the author said.
 
That’s when confusion steps in.  Confusion is not what the Lord wants for us as we study this: “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” (1 Cor. 14:33)
Scripture should be the only basis for our theology. I have read books where the author has developed quite a theology speaking about areas that while not directly addressed or contradicted in the Word, are hard to disprove or prove scripturally.  It may be satisfying to plug in the gaps in the Bible with well-intentioned and reasonable ideas, but if the Bible does not specifically address it, should we? 
Must the gaps be filled in to be effective in spiritual warfare?  No, I think not. What the Word says about spiritual warfare will keep us informed enough to do battle. 

I am equally seeking a balance in my understanding of spiritual warfare.  For example, I have read books and have friends who say that every disease is caused by Satan.  Mental illness is especially subject to being diagnosed as a purely spiritual condition; though some will not argue as vigorously about say, diabetes being demonically caused.  But sickness, for some, is understood as being dominated solely by demons.  The cure, consequently, is only spiritual.  

On the other hand, I know people who say Satan isn’t really needed to mess human beings up; we are all perfectly capable of doing that ourselves.  Satan is a minor player (if even a player at all) on this planet, and talking about his influence only leads, in many people’s thinking, to diminishing our personal responsibility for the chaos we see. 

I have experienced only a handful of times when I knew Satan was lurking in the situation.  I sensed his malevolent presence.  However, as I mature in Christ and my spiritual discernment increases, I sense Satan’s involvement more and more.  I agree humans need very little help to destroy their lives, but I now know they are not alone in doing so.   

Thus, this book is part of my journey to understand Satan’s influence, what the Word teaches and our response to all of it.  Scripture is my starting point.  If I cannot find a scriptural basis for my statements, I won’t comment. I want this discussion to be moderated by His Word alone.   

I am using the KISS model:  Keep It Simple Saint.  I take spiritual warfare seriously, but I do not need to recoil in fear or put on a big display to drive Satan out.  Jesus spoke and it was enough.  The Word is our authority.  Jesus did not, in His encounter with Satan, engage in debate.  He quoted the truth and the father of lies had to leave.  Why should we try to do any more or any less? 

You will also see "in Christ" in these posts. "In Christ" is the only way to do this life.  We all know He came and died for us.  We equally need to know He wants to live His life in and through us.  This verse is the key to walking in victory in all we do:

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  (Gal. 2:20)


Join me as we explore this topic.  Having a clarity of mind and of purpose is essential to being a good soldier.  We need better informed soldiers in these times of trouble, and hopefully this book will assist in achieving this goal.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Ketuvim--Yeshua is There!

We have been journeying through the Old Testament to find Jesus.  We have done just that: through His name, Yeshua ("salvation") we see how Jesus is a tender whisper throughout the Old Testament when the word yeshua is used to express salvation and deliverance.
   
If God implements the completion of His salvation plan with His Son, then you would not expect Jesus to just show up in the first century.  He would have been present throughout the unfolding of His Father's plan over the centuries as God chose His people and demonstrated His mercy and justice in the Jews and through the Jews.

Satan was cast out of heaven due to his overweening pride; since then, he has never cease to hound God's children.  He has been especially merciless to the Jewish people.  Satan has never had a shortage of willing human participants to join him in his slaughter campaign.

My deep respect for the Jewish people comes from their never-ending search for meaning.  Instead of viewing God as capricious, foul-tempered and unruly (just ask the Greeks and the Mesopotamians about their gods!), they sought Him and He sought them.  They then sang, wrote and prayed about this God, Yahweh, Adonai, Elohim, Who had revealed Himself to them.  They viewed history not as an never-ending cycle (ask the Greeks) but as a progression, with God as their Good Shepherd leading them on.

The finest king, whose golden rule of Israel also echoed of the Messiah to come, was David.  Despite all of his faults and sins, God loved Him and revealed Himself to him.

Let me draw an analogy here.  Sometimes I see God as the night sky in the mountains. Our sky right now is clear, black and the nights are so cold that the stars barely twinkle.  If I get out of my car, or all the lights have been running in the house, I look up and don't see many stars. My eyes are not acclimated to the dim light of a deep winter night in Idaho.  I don't stand outside and get acclimated, for it's 15 or 20 degrees outside.  But last night, I turned all of the lights in the house off, and stood, looking outside my dining room window.  The stars slowly came into view as my eyes adjusted.  I wanted to go outside and see the Milky Way, but it was too cold.

Whether I am looking up at the night sky or not, whether I am inside or outside, whether I see a few stars or bear the cold and stand outside long enough for all of them come into view, the night sky is still there.  It displays its beauty whether I am there or not.  I can stand in awe-struck wonder at its beauty or I can go to bed.

This is the beauty of the relationship between the Jewish people and God.  His beauty was there for them to enjoy, be awe-struck by and amazed.  Or when they weren't interested, for the burden of the Covenant had become too great for them, and they spiritually went to bed, God was still there, year after year, generation after generation.  He never stopped loving them.

He never stops loving us.  But He whispers.  He never shouts.  He guides.  He never pushes.  He coaxes, never compels.  He loves, never manipulates.  That is why the Old Testament and His working with His people is so lovely to read and behold the events that unfold.  He is faithful to His promises and to us:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord. (Lam. 3:22-26)

This was written after the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah. Even in the midst of utter heartbreak, the Jews gave meaning to the chaos they had witnessed.

Let us close our journey with a celebration of where Jesus' name is heard in the verb, yesha, or is a noun, yeshua, echoing in the Ketuvim ("Writings"), that section of the Old Testament that includes the Psalms.  David authored many of the Psalms and he gloried in his Lord.  Let us always do the same. In these troubling times, the Word of God (Jesus) is needed more than ever!

Oh, that yeshua for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad! (Ps. 14:7)

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my yesha, my stronghold. (Ps. 18:2)

We will rejoice in thy yeshua, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfil all thy petitions. (Ps. 20:5)

Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my yesha; on thee do I wait all the day. (Ps. 25:5)

The LORD is my light and my yesha--whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life--of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1)

But God is my King from long ago; he brings yeshua on the earth. (Ps. 74:12)

Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his yeshua day after day. (Ps. 96:2)

The LORD has made known His yeshua;
He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the yeshua of our God. (Ps. 98:2-3)

I will clothe her priests with yesha, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy. (Ps. 132:16)

O GOD the Lord, the strength of my yeshua, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle. 
(Ps. 140:7)

For the LORD taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with yeshua. (Ps. 149:4)

Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus.








Thursday, January 12, 2017

Is the God of the Old Testament Harsh?

In our search of the Old Testament, to find Yeshua, we have come to the end of the Neviim ("Prophets") with this post.  I have been so enriched as I journey with you on this. I didn't know where it would take us, but my prayer is that your faith has been enriched as well!  We will journey through the Ketuvim ("Writings") next.

It is significant that Jesus quoted from all three divisions (Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim) of the Old Testament--the only Bible that He had.  He didn't quote from every book but quoting from each division is representative of the whole.

It grieves me when Christians make statements such as, "The God of the Old Testament is harsh, but the God of the New Testament is loving and kind."  What?  The God of the Old Testament is the Father of Jesus, and Jesus Himself.  This sentiment shows a woefully inadequate understanding of the Old Testament and of God Himself.  If anything, we are the harsh ones, with murder being the first act once our parents left the Garden.  Brother killing brother, no less.

The OT chronicles rape, murder, manipulation, incest, child sacrifice and unethical warfare...all done by us.  Perhaps it's easier to focus on God's reactions to our sin than to focus on why He reacted the way He did.

Yes, to our modern sensibilities, slaughtering the Canaanites seems harsh and unfair; but they engaged in child sacrifice and sexual immortality.  Just because our reaction to sin is blunted should in no way lessen God's response.  Raining down sulphur and fire onto Sodom and Gommorah seems harsh; but what about the negotiation between Abraham and the angel for its salvation if even one righteous person could be found?  This was a town where citizens were eager to gang rape guests, a clear violation of hospitality and morality.  We are angry about prisoner rape in our penal system and want justice for the victims, yet we label God harsh when He dispenses justice.

As I read the OT in the light of Jesus' shadowy presence, I see every effort being made to redeem mankind.  Our species could have had a very short stay on this planet after our first parents rebelled. God could have seen them right back into the dust, then and there.  But He covered their naked bodies with the skin of an innocent animal, and sent them out into a world where the seasons would allow for food to be cultivated and they would survive.

Look at all the covenants made between God and His people.  Clearly stated agreements where God will be present and providing if His children continue to be obedient are strongly affirmed throughout the OT.  His children violated the agreements constantly, but even in the midst of punishment, He preserved His children and He restored them to their land and to their lives.

Why?  Not because the God of the OT is vengeful and harsh but because He loves us.  His own Son is the very embodiment of that redemptive desire that God possesses for His children.  Let's look at the final three verses in the Neviim that speak loudly to God's desire to redeem His people and how His Son is named in that very desire.

Micah 7:7-9 declares: "Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation (yesha): my God will hear me.  Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.  I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness."

If God is as harsh as many Christians claim, then how could Micah have such assurance?  It is because of God's character.  Micah bases his confidence not on what he sees but Who he is keeping his eyes on.  God's character is one of justice and mercy.  Micah knows that salvation is coming because while God will punish sin, He loves His people enough to withdraw His hand when enough justice has been dispensed.  Because God loves His people with an everlasting love, punishment itself is temporary.

Jesus, Yeshua, when He came, demonstrated that same principle.   Because He bore the sins of mankind, His Father's judgement was deep and severe; but even death could not hold Jesus down.  He arose, gloriously restored and ascended into the Father's arms.  So, even though the penalty for sin was death, God in His love allowed His Son to pay the price and set us free.  

In Habakkuk 3:13, the prophet declares: "Thou wentest forth for the salvation (yesha) of thy people, even for salvation (yesha) with thine anointed; thou woundedst the head out of the house of the wicked, by discovering the foundation unto the neck." (KJV) 

In the NIV, the meaning of this verse is a bit clearer:  "You came out to deliver your people, to save your anointed one. You crushed the leader of the land of wickedness, you stripped him from head to foot."  

God saves His people, pure and simple.  Habakkuk saw God come down and take out the enemies of His people and save the Davidic king ("the anointed one").  Here I see two references to the Messiah and how God wants to save and preserve His people, despite the fearsome armies that descend upon His people:  One is that salvation is from God Himself.  Secondly, He has not forgotten to preserve the Davidic line through which Yeshua (the ultimate Deliverer and King) will come.  

Charles Swindoll's Insight for Living Ministries webpage puts it beautifully:

"Habakkuk’s prophecy was directed to a world that, through the eyes of God’s people, must have seemed on the edge of disaster. Even when the northern kingdom had been destroyed in 722 BC, God’s people remained in Judah. However, with another powerful foreign army on the rampage, faithful people like Habakkuk were wondering what God was doing. Hadn’t He given the land to His people? Would He now take it away? Habakkuk’s prayer of faith for the remainder of God’s people in the face of such destruction still stands today as a remarkable witness of true faith and undying hope." (https://www.insight.org/resources/bible/the-minor-prophets/habakkuk)

So, in the midst of evil and wondering where God is, Jesus' name echoes in the verse.

Finally, the day of the Lord's Anointed--the ultimate Davidic king, the Messiah--will come. Zechariah 9:9 proclaims:  "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass."

Jesus' ride into Jerusalem, a week before His death, is rich with meaning.  In fact, He sent His disciples to obtain that foal, knowing because of the OT, it would be there, waiting for Him.  

Yeshua brought salvation, is salvation and fulfills God's redemptive plan.  He came humbly to His people, offering grace and mercy.  But He will come again to dispense justice.  His work is being done, but He will not endure the cries of victims and the laughter of the evil ones forever.

Harsh?

No. Just...just.















Saturday, December 31, 2016

Change the World? First, Change Your Clothes

In our pursuit of Yeshua in the Old Testament, we have three verses in Isaiah that speak to this upcoming new year with the idea of salvation.  I am writing this on the 31st of December, and the words ring out with as much hope now as they did for His people then.

First, Isaiah 61:10:

          I will rejoice greatly in the Lord,
          My soul will exult in my God;
          For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, (yeshua)
          He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
          As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
          And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Beautiful and powerful.  No one would agree that the world today is in a lovely place.  In fact, it is very far from it.  Regardless of our recent presidential election's result, the world is still in chaos. The wolves are circling and closing in closer and closer to our front door.

Not too dissimilar to Isaiah's time.  Isaiah was speaking to Judah and Jerusalem, who were steeped in sin.  He foretold of God's desire for repentance and if His people choose to continue without doing so, judgement would fall hard and fast.  Isaiah (whose own name means "God is salvation") also speaks of a future time with kingdom ruled by the Messiah, the Deliverer.

So, these words are powerful in our time, as well as in Isaiah's. We must be covered in His garments. The kind of covering we make--religion, trying to be good enough, following rules--is ultimately inadequate. Adam and Eve could no more cover their sin with a few fig leaves sewn together than we can cover our sins with what we do:  "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."(Is. 64:6)

So, in order to change the world, we need a change of clothes. And not designer (of our own making) clothes, but ones bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus:  "God paid a high price for you, so don't be enslaved by the world." (1 Cor. 7:23) and "knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ." (1 Pet. 1:18-19)

If we are wrapped in His garments, what will people see?  Him in you. "Where ya get those threads?" is an opening to declare the greatness of Him working in you.  People who know us and our story of His work in us will be amazed and know that it could not have been by us alone that we have prevailed.

If we are wearing His garments, it's for a wedding. Weddings are public events: we are to go out and be His light to a world steeped in darkness: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 5:14-15)

We are so dressed to declare His glory, not to earn His love and approval. Jesus accomplished that for us: "In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us." (Eph. 1:4-8).   

Now, we have a mission in our new "uniform." Isaiah 62:1 declares, "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation (yeshua) like a blazing torch." If we are arrayed in a wedding clothes, how can we remain silent? We are excited about our Bridegroom, and we want to share that we can be rescued from sin and death through Him! Jesus declared Himself: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12) 

Light should not be hidden for darkness then claims the victory. Isaiah 62:11 then calls out this hope: "The LORD has sent this message to every land: 'Tell the people of Israel, 'Look, your Savior is coming. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.'" 

Hope is here, now, even in the darkest times.  Why?  Because hope is not just a good intention or warm feeling floating out there.  Hope is a Person:  Yeshua, Jesus, our Bridegroom.  He clothes us now to bring His message to the world and He will return to restore this planet.

He truly makes the new year new.

















Monday, December 26, 2016

Who Would You Have Been? An After Christmas DayThought

I sincerely hope your Christmas was merry and bright.

The day here in Idaho arrived sunny and cold.  The snow drifts outside our house are two feet high and look like frozen tsunamis about to hit our house.

I have been thinking a lot about those who journeyed two thousand years ago to what we now call "Christmas Day." Who would I have been?  A curious shepherd?  An earnest king?  A conniving tyrant?  Who do I relate the most to?  A busy innkeeper?  A young woman?  A bewildered husband?

Let's walk to the manger.  Those people are still with us, for in them, we see ourselves and our world.

Mary:  Big news is only scary if you forget how big our God truly is.  But if you know Him, and know that the wind and waves still obey Him, seas still part and bread from heaven still falls, then the news is simply an invitation to walk more deeply in Him.

Joseph:  We don't always understand one another.  We guess at others' motivations and secrets and this unknowing is disturbing.  Solution?  Listen to God.  Seek to know His heart, His ways and His guidance.  Then, what others is doing is less our focus; we pray and focus on more of what we should be doing.  "Doing"is just another word for obedience.  God loves a willing heart.  Will we ever understand?  Maybe, maybe not, but serving Him as He calls us should be our heart's desire.

The Shepherds:  Are we willing to leave our livelihood and go seek out breathtaking news?  Are we willing to trust God to watch over what we are doing, so we may go and seek out what He has called us to go and see?  It's easy to believe in God sitting on a hillside, with our world contently munching the green grass all around us.  It is quite another to leave what we know, and to seek out what we don't.  It takes courage and curiosity.  It takes faith to trust to leave what we know and seek something bigger.  God cannot be contained.  So neither should our faith.

The Innkeeper:  Are we so busy that an obvious need is quickly dismissed?  Yet, our God is a Champion of the second chance, the second glance.  The innkeeper did both and so honored God by his reconsideration of the couple standing before him.  Our first reaction to a need does not have to be the last reaction.  We, too, can look again and respond with love this time.  God has made a way; let's partner with Him and be part of it.

The Wise Men:  "Seek and ye shall find."  Sometimes that means searching with all your heart for truth, unafraid of where it may lead.  Are we willing to search His Word with great diligence, and then act on what we now know?  Do we then bow on bended knee in humble reverence when we find His truth?  For truth is not an abstraction, but a Person.  He says that He is the "Way, the Truth, the Life."  The gifts we lay before Him are our heart, our soul, and our mind.  Valuable beyond measure, He can build a kingdom with such gifts.

The Tyrant:  Do we seek Jesus with smiles, while in our hearts we long to eliminate Him from our lives?  Do we act like we care to serve Him, while the king of self cries for our sole allegiance?  Do we ask lots of questions, appearing to be a sincere seeker of the truth, while we plot to overthrow the truth with our own version, one that, of course, makes us the king of our world?  Do others sense our lack of sincerity, (despite our best efforts to look otherwise) and they slip away from us, leaving us surrounded by those who think and act just like we do?

The Baby:  Is love such a powerful force in us that we are willing to leave the courts of heaven to enter the halls of hell?  Are we willing to serve God with such devotion, that even when it scares us, we say, "God, Thy will be done."?  Do we allow our God to so powerfully dwell in us, that when others are around us, they sense Him in what we say and do?

The Manger:  We are wood.  We are filled with hay.  We are dirty and unkempt.  But, will we allow this beautiful Baby to fill us?  Do we hold Him with such love and reverence that we are lit up with His light?  Whatever He touches becomes beautiful.  His life in us is beautiful.  He takes mangers and makes them into thrones.  Are we willing to allow Him to transform us into His dwelling place?

Let us pray for this new year.  Change is in the air, just as it was 2000 years ago.  Let us walk in the light of His love, and let that love drive out all fear.

God bless you!











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