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!











Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Visitor from Another World: A Christmas Thought

If you were to beam down on this planet this holiday season, what would you see?  Huge crowds of people gathered in large areas, running to and fro.  Everywhere are multi-colored lights, lavish displays of goods in windows, and large groups of people moving quickly from one busy area to another, all acting as if they were in an urgent pursuit of something...

Beautiful decorated trees would catch your eye, standing as sentinels and calling to the crowds to come and gather.  Follow the crowds back to their homes, and still the lights and decorations would continue to dazzle you.  Then leave the lighted trees and lawn displays and travel some distance away.

There, the crowds would be of a different nature, huddled together, seeking warmth and shelter.  The contrast would be overwhelming from your earlier encounter with the planet.  No colorful lights; just angry blasts of light that leave destruction in their wake.  Crying children, blood and rubble fill the streets.  People flee in an urgent pursuit of something...

Now, travel back in time.  Way back.  To a distant land.  Upon a hill stands a magnificent temple, lit up in the cool of the evening with torches.  Gray curling smoke rises, along with chanting, into the dark desert skies.

Now, wander away to a little town.  Poor, quiet and empty.  The only light is from small lamps, aglow near small windows.  You gaze into the night sky, and a star captures you with its presence. It shines not over the distant temple, but over this small town, over a small stable.  You hear the quiet cry of a baby...

You wonder... Are all those beautiful lights, crying children and this star over a small stable somehow connected?

Listen.  A distant voice is calling: "Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.  For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken falsely, and your tongue mutters wicked things. No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity.  They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil...Their feet rush into sin; they are swift to shed innocent blood.  They pursue evil schemes; acts of violence mark their ways.  The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths.  They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks along them will know peace." (Is. 59:1-4; 7-8)

It strikes you.  This is what you are witnessing.  People running to and fro, lost in the empty pursuit of what they hope will distract them from their sinful hearts.  They lie to to one another and have forgotten that character and integrity matter.  Even in the countries ablaze with the colored lights, children cry and die. Violence is everywhere; it's just more obvious in those countries where the only lights are exploding bombs. 

Peace is elusive.  Everywhere.  

Then the voice continues: "So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us.  We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.  Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like people without eyes.  At midday we stumble as if it were twilight;
among the strong, we are like the dead." (Is. 59:9-10)

The crying of the voice grows louder: "For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God, inciting revolt and oppression, uttering lies our hearts have conceived. So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey."  (Is. 59:12-15)

You hang your head.  The whole of humanity has raised its voice in one great lamentation.  Despite the noise, the lights and the tears, people seem to know something has gone terribly wrong.  Their actions have brought devastating results.  

You stand in silence.  The cry from human hearts is unbearable.  

Then you hear a Voice rising above the cry: "The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation (yasha) for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.  He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation (yeshua) on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak." (Is. 59:15-17)

Then this voice shouts an acclamation that drowns out, for a moment, the wailing from all over this planet: “'The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,' declares the Lord." (Is. 59:20)

You ponder:  Yasha means to deliver and yeshua means salvation. 

Then it hits you.  You heard the name of that baby lying in that manger, under that star...it was Yeshua.

You are not the only visitor from another world.

You board your ship with hope in your heart that this planet can be redeemed.  You wonder as you speed off into black space, looking one last time at that blue dot:  Do the people hear that same Voice?  Do they realize the Hope that awaits them?
















Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Yeshua in Isaiah: Journeying On

Thank you, readers, for hanging in there with this journey to find Jesus, through His Hebrew name, Yeshua, in the Old Testament.

We have some more verses before we leave Isaiah. These verses recount the sins and hopelessness of the people and how God, once His judgment has been satisfied, longs to bring His people back. Our God is One who seeks relationship regardless of what we have done.

Let's look at Isaiah 52:10:  "The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation (yeshua) of our God."  

I see Christ on the cross, baring His arms, bearing our sin, in front of all the people who came down that road that day, and for all time.  Did the people realize what they were gazing upon?  Would have we had we been travelling the road that day?  

Would we have even noticed the wee Baby in the manger that night or even cared?  God opens up His salvation plan for all to read, for all to see, and yet we carry on, as if nothing has really changed.  But that Baby changed everything.

Here are the lyrics from a John Elefante song (yup, we're talking the 80's) but the message is as powerful now as it was then:  

Just another early morning as the sun begins to rise,
Like a million other mornings just the same.
The people of the town begin their ordinary lives,
Unsuspecting of a world about to change.
This was not just any other day...no, not just any other day.
Little did they know that on the other side of town,
The sin of all humanity would bleed beneath a crown,
Of a man whose only blame was being born a king...

And I wish that I could have felt the rain on me,
I wish that I could have felt that rain!
I would have looked into Your dying eyes
and stared at You in disbelief and thought,
"Is this what you've been telling me, 2000 years!"

It was business as usual, nothing different at all,
As dusk would cast a shadow and the night began to fall,
But no one stopped to notice that before this day would end,
The sick and the afflicted needn't ever hurt again.
Not just any other day...It was not just any other day.
As a small crowd gathered just beneath the dying Son,
The fulfillment of a promise had been done!

And I wish that I could have felt that rain on me,
I wish that I could have felt that rain!
I would have heard with my own ears, as You shouted out in fear and said,
"Father, why have You forsaken Me?"
Not just any other day...

That Baby grew up and carried a burden heavier than any wooden cross: the sins of all of us.  

God's redemption is hiding in plain sight.  As He says in Isaiah 56:1, "Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation (yeshua) is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed."  

He revealed His plan throughout the Old Testament.  His Son's name echoed like a soft melody, calling us back to Him.  What sin had destroyed, His Son would redeem.  Christmas Day and Easter morning...two days that forever changed the world.

How can I say this with such blessed assurance?  Because they changed me.



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Yeshua in Isaiah: Glory to God!

We are continuing our study to see if Jesus ("Yeshua") is in the Old Testament, and lo and behold, He is there, whenever the word for salvation ("yeshua") is used. We are exploring Isaiah.

I read something recently that stopped me in my tracks. Isaiah's own name is replete with meaning that coincides with Jesus' name and His mission.  

From this website on Biblical names, www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Isaiah, look at what Isaiah's name means...  (My comments are in parentheses. I can't help it.)

     The name Isaiah(u) consists of two parts: The final part is יה or יהו, both abbreviated forms of יהוה; YHWH or Yahweh. (Only God alone can deliver us.)
     The first part of the name Isaiah comes from the root-verb ישע (yasha'), meaning to be saved or delivered:  (That is what we need:  deliverance from sin, ourselves and death.)
     The root-verb ישע (yasha'), probably originally meant something like to be wide or spacious (in Arabic it still does), and its counterpart is the verb צרר (sarar), meaning to be narrow, to bind or to be in distress. Our verb ישע (yasha') means exactly the opposite: to be wide, to be loose or delivered, and to be saved.  (I love how the word contains the idea "to be loose or delivered."  We are set free in Yeshua--our bonds are broken, our chains are unlocked.  We are unbound. Wow.)
     This root and its derivatives occur 353 times in the Old Testament. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes that deliverance indicates a movement from distress to safety, and generally must come from some somewhere outside the party oppressed. The one who brings this deliverance is known as the "savior," and this may be a human agent delivering from any kind of earthly oppression, to God and man's deliverance from evil. However, any human savior is regarded as empowered by YHWH, and so, all deliverance comes from YHWH; the God of our salvation and deliverance (Psalm 68:19-20).  (Wow...Isn't this amazing?)
     The derivatives of this verb are: The feminine noun ישועה (yeshua) meaning salvation (Genesis 49:18, 2 Samuel 10:11).
     For a meaning of the name Isaiah, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Yahweh Is Salvation, Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names has Salvation Of The Lord.
     A remarkable feature of the name Isaiah is that it consists of the same two elements as the name Joshua (יהושע). The name Joshua is the Hebrew form of the Greek name Jesus, and most probably the name by which Jesus the Nazarene was known by His contemporaries.

So, suddenly the passages in Luke where Jesus is in the synagogue and is handed the scroll of Isaiah, and He proceeds to read:  

     The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
     because he has anointed me
     to proclaim good news to the poor.
     He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
     and recovery of sight for the blind,
     to set the oppressed free,
     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  (61:1-2)

makes this moment in His ministry all the more powerful. The Savior is reading from the prophet whose own name echoes that salvation is of the Lord.

You could argue that if Jesus is in the Old Testament, you would expect a lot of verses to speak of Him in Isaiah, and this is true.  

Jesus quoted out of the three sections of the Hebrew Bible (which then represents the whole), the Torah, the Neviim ("Prophets") and the Ketuvim ("Writings").  So, let's see how often Jesus' name occurs in each of these divisions, which also then could be argued to cover the whole Old Testament as inclusive of Him:
  • Torah: 1 (Genesis); 1 (Exodus).  These two books cover the beginning of all mankind, our fall due to disobedience, and our need for atonement. Yeshua will be of the woman's seed and will crush the head of the serpent, who deceived Adam and Eve.  Exodus, while a huge event of liberation for His people in Jewish history, it is also a foreshadowing of the ultimate Deliverer leading His people out of bondage.  
  • Neviim: 2 (2 Samuel); 1 (2 Chronicles); 15 (Isaiah); 1 (Micah), 1 (Habakkuk); 1 Zechariah. Isaiah, whose own name means salvation, is abundant in Messianic references.  Isaiah also foretells the consequences of his people's sin--destruction and captivity--but also of their return and restoration.  No wonder Jesus read from this book when He began His ministry and that His name is abundantly used throughout it.
  • Ketuvim: 14 (Psalms)  No surprise here, either.  God made a covenant with David where He promised that his kingdom would never end. Jesus fulfilled this as King.   
So, as we approach Christmas, let's take a few more verses where Yeshua's name is mentioned in Isaiah:  

             How beautiful on the mountains
             are the feet of those who bring good news,
             who proclaim peace,
             who bring good tidings,
             who proclaim salvation, (yeshua)
             who say to Zion,
             “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

Look at these words and the words from Isaiah 61:1-2; they both carry the theme of restoration.  It is little wonder that Jesus spoke them in reference to himself.  

You also hear Isaiah in the song of the angels in Luke 2:10-14, joyously announcing the Messiah's birth.  I have italicized the overlap of the words:

And the angel (a messenger of good news) said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David (Zion) a Saviour, (salvation--yeshua) which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, ("your God reigns") and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Where was this song sung?  Over the mountains and fields of Bethlehem.

God's details about His Son in His Word take my breath away.  

Isaiah echoes in Jesus' life from the very beginning.  


























Tuesday, November 15, 2016

It Is Autumn in America

The other day, my husband had a doctor's appointment.  I went outside to wait for him and I walked over to a little park.  I watched the morning breeze gently move the last dried leaves clinging tenaciously to the branches of the oak trees. They made the rustling sound that reminded me that soon sound would disappear altogether from the trees.

Trees in winter are silent and stand as a mute witness to the season that just passed.

It was one day before the election.  I stood there looking at the trees and wondering, what season is America in?

The fiery colors in the leaves had given way to a dull brown, dry and ready to fall to the ground at any moment.  The oaks give me an insight to where I believe we are.

The green leaves and the fiery leaves are now dry.  We live a culture where kindness is derided as weakness and bombast and vulgarity (unless it's too specific in its targeting of certain groups) is celebrated as "transgressive" and "edgy."  Certain groups--minorities, women and gays--are to be treated with respect, and rightfully so.  Yet, people of faith can be mocked and excoriated--those who cling to their Bibles and their guns, as our President so tactlessly said.  His words were allowed to stand, because certain groups do not need to be treated respectfully.  Wrongfully so.

No, I am not waxing nostalgic for the "good old days."  The 60's were a time of great upheaval and the social fabric of America was torn.  Some ideas had to go--racial discrimination, women as second-class citizens--but some ideas needed to stay:  respect for differences, and treating others as you would like to be treated.  Yup, the Golden Rule in a nutshell.

We are now in autumn in our country. The leaves will all soon be upon the ground. The post-election anger and rioting is disturbing. The acrimony is overwhelming.

 Jesus spoke about anger and its results: “You have heard that it was said to the people in the old days, ‘You shall not murder’, and anyone who does must stand his trial. But I say to you that anyone who is angry with his brother must stand his trial; anyone who contemptuously calls his brother a fool must face the supreme court; and anyone who looks on his brother as a lost soul is himself heading straight for the fire of destruction." (Matt. 5:22, Phillips)

I love the Phillips translation.  It captures so well where angry words can lead.  Jesus associates anger with murder--wow.  But what you believe, you will act on.  Eventually.  Anger has a habit of building up--like molten lava. Lava bubbling up from the earth builds up the crust.  Anger about sin and its destructive effects can well up inside of us and cause us to right wrongs.  But molten lava, building up over time, will explode and cause great destruction.  Anger that is not channeled into positive action will build up and explode, leaving destruction in its wake and the fundamental problem still unsolved.  

The anger I see is explosive and sinister.  Why?  It is divisive and not seeking to unite, but ignite.

Jesus knew all too well the human heart: "But the things that come out of a man’s mouth come from his heart and mind, and it is they that really make a man unclean. For it is from a man’s mind that evil thoughts arise—murder, adultery, lust, theft, perjury and blasphemy." (Matt. 15:17-20 Phillips)

Evil thoughts are not just thoughts--they will eventually lead to action.  Jesus' list of behaviors resulting from evil thoughts is sobering.  They are also a warning.  Any generation, any group, anyone, can become an instrument of hatred.  Ideas can spur us to great good or great evil.

Those oak trees in the park reminded me that after autumn, comes winter.  Winter tests us with its cold winds, snow and rain. The skies are gray day after day, and the sun rarely shines through.  But, in the words scratched upon a wall by a Holocaust victim:

"I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.

I believe in love, even though I don't feel it.

I believe in God, even when he is silent."

But He is not silent in the winter.  We need to sit at His feet and listen, and not be distracted by the winter storm's howling and the biting cold.  We need to be His hands and feet and bring the only antidote to hate that truly works:  love.  Not mushy, gushy, sin-ignoring love, but the love of Jesus, expressing Himself through us.

Winter leads to spring.  Let this time in our nation be a clarion call to those who follow Jesus to be His voice, His love and His action.  

Spring means renewal and growth.  

Jesus means renewal and growth.







    

Monday, November 7, 2016

Election 2016 versus Eternal Value

In our survey of the Old Testament, and our inquiry as to whether Jesus is present there, we have found that His name is mentioned in many places, all within the context of "salvation," that is, yeshua, which is translated into "Jesus."

I have been slowly making my way through the book of Isaiah.  

The Jews divide the Old Testament into three divisions, Torah ("Law" or "Instruction"); Neviim ("Prophets") and Ketuvim ("Writings"). My thesis is if Jesus is in the Old Testament, He will be represented in all three areas; if you search my previous blogs, you will see yeshua is in Torah and in Neviim.  We will explore Neviim momentarily.  

Yeshua is especially rich in Isaiah, which is not too surprising, given the theme of Isaiah is salvation from captivity.

Character and name are inextricably linked in Jewish culture. Joseph is told by the angel that Mary "will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21).  

His name designates is who He is and what He will accomplish.  

Luke, who is telling the story from Mary's point of view, says, "Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.'” (1:31-33)

From the beginning His name, His mission and Who He is is all contained within the name, Yeshua.  

Now, let's look at our next set of verses from Isaiah, chapter 51:6-8:

"Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment
and its inhabitants die like flies.
But my salvation [yeshuah] will last forever,
my righteousness will never fail.
Hear me, you who know what is right,
you people who have taken my instruction to heart:
Do not fear the reproach of mere mortals
or be terrified by their insults.
For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
the worm will devour them like wool.
But my righteousness will last forever,
my salvation [yeshuah] through all generations.”

Let's spend some time with this, on the eve of one of the more contentious elections I have seen in quite a while.  

In these verses, God is reminding His people of how temporary all of this is--the world, us, the physical universe.  Scientists have given an expiration date to the sun itself--5 billion years.  Now, to us, that's a long time, but it shows that even the sun is not around forever.  

God is putting everything in perspective here.  He is saying that the only thing not temporary is Me and what I offer: salvation. Why?  Because My righteousness emanates from My character, Who I am, the great I AM--"will never fail."  In fact, God's name, Yahweh, is taken from He told Moses His name is:  "I AM Who I AM." This name means, I have always been and will always be--thus, what I am and what I do is eternal.  

Now, in theses verses, He is saying because of Who He is, we are not to be afraid of what "mere mortals" do to us.  Their threats, their bombast, their arrogance, will not last.  We mortals have an expiration date, and so does what we do.  

So, what gives what we do meaning?  We who have taken His "instruction to heart" know "what is right."  If what we do is predicated on His Word, what we do will have lasting value.  His Word will not fail as Isaiah says in 40:6-8:

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

So, all the fluster and bluster of this election season, seen from an eternal perspective, will have no lasting value unless it is predicated on the Word of God. 

So, how to proceed?  

Jesus is our salvation--He saves us from our sins.  His name throughout Scripture attests to that.  

He also came to live in us:  "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2:20)

We live by His power within us: "The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you." (Rom. 8:11)

He is our wisdom: "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."

So, we need to pray for His guidance, wisdom and direction.  That is why He came and that is why He longs to live out His life and power in us: to accomplish things on this earth that will have eternal value.  

Let us, as we approach the Savior with all aspects of our lives, echo the words of Simeon, a man who gazed upon the baby Jesus in the Temple:  "When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

'Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.'”

Amen and may God have mercy on this country.  






Thursday, October 20, 2016

What Do To With THOSE People...Part II

I just got home from a trip to the east coast.  We drove through Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

I stayed in a hotel named after Calvin Coolidge's dad and the room where the son/president stayed had no number on it--he was a bit suspicious.  I visited Emily Dickinson's house--that was a treat.  I adore her poetry and to step into her world was lovely.  I was privileged to read one of her poems to the tour group.

I suppose my affinity with Emily is how nature was her schoolhouse, and the lessons she learned about life, death, God and immortality take my breath away.  I, too, have lived in the mountains above Boise, Idaho, and have learned much about God, His character, life and love and how His hand is never too far from His creation: "Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear." (Is. 59:1)

So, as we drove through New England, and saw the beautiful fall colors of the trees, I kept asking the Lord, "What do you want me to learn from this?"  Then, this morning, looking at my previous blog post about how we deal with people who are not aligning their lives with Biblical norms, it hit me: change is slow, uneven, and sometimes rather hidden for awhile.

As my pastor points out, we are quick to shower a new believer with God's forgiveness, but we are even quicker to throw them under the Condemnation Bus when after a while, their lives are not aligning with Biblical norms.  Yet Romans 8:1-14 sounds the clarion call:

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

I quote this long portion for a reason.  It outlines the transformative process that we all undergo once we are born again.  It takes time for us to live according to Christ in us.  He provides the power; we must surrender each and every area of our lives to His lordship.  Some areas of our lives may be instantly conformed to Him; others will take time.  So, let's allow the trees of New England to illustrate the process.



Look at this tree.  Half is in glorious color; the other half still speaks of summer and spring, with just a hint of fall colors.  Why haven't the tree's leaves all turned at the same time?  One side was closer to some other trees; the other side was fully uninfluenced by other trees.  It had more direct sunlight but also more direct contact with the chilled air.  Within this one tree is a variety of color.

Doesn't this speak to our walk in Christ?  We have surrendered certain areas of our lives to His lordship and the glorious color of His power is evident.  We have not surrendered other areas and they still speak of the old nature, the old us.  We are changing, yes, but at an uneven rate.  Christ wants all of me, but not all of me wants Christ.  


Here is a group of trees, all next to each other.  Only one is showing evidence of the change, even though all the trees are nourished by the same soil and receive the same amount of light each day.  

Not too dissimilar from church, is it?  We sit with others who seem not to evince Christ's work in them, even though they are hearing the same pastor's message and fellowship with the same people week after week.  We show the power of Him in our lives and expect others to be experiencing the same rate of change that we have. 

But these trees have taught me a valuable lesson:  Change is uneven in myself.  It is equally so in others.

So, what do we do with those people?  We trust that the same loving God who is infinitely patient with us is likewise with them; if we don't see the change, pray that it will come through an obedient heart.  Pray for such a heart.  Condemnation never won anyone over.  

The church will face those people in every generation.  Why?  Because human nature needs to be transformed by Christ in every generation, regardless of the sin that is being expressed.  He wants us to reflect His glorious power and presence and can only do so with surrendered hearts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What Do We Do With THOSE People? Part I

The church, from its inception, has faced the conundrum, "What do we do with those people?" We are studying Jesus in the Old Testament through His name, Yeshua.  This ties in because if He came to bring us salvation, then who exactly is the "us"?

Yeah, I know, you're thinking, "The whole world, based on John 3:16--you should know that!" but in reality, we have always wrestled with what "the world" means and has meant throughout history.

 Let's go to the book of Acts and see this early debate:   

 When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church,      including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them. But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”

So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”
(15:4-11)


Can you see it?  All throughout the Old Testament, the Jews were promised salvation from their enemies, their sins and their captivity.  God's love never would fail them: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lam. 3:22-23)  Each generation longed for the day of Redemption, embodied by the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52-53.

Many Jews in that first century AD said, "It is Jesus!  Yeshua is the promised Messiah!"  Even though the Old Testament alluded to the universality of God's love, many Jews chose to stay focused on their own nation.  Jonah, for example, a prophet called to preach to those other people, the Ninevites, disobeyed God by running away rather than to have fulfilled his calling.

In that first century, Jesus became the Great Divide.

Earlier, Jesus asks the disciples who they think He is:

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it."
(Matt. 16:13-18)

Now, fast forward to the new church as chronicled in Acts.  It's no surprise it is Peter who broke the stalemate.  He declared the Messiah once before, and now here he is again, speaking to a wider audience.  Peter, in his flesh, would have preferred to keep Jesus exclusive to his people (remember the sheet with all the food on it that he was commanded to eat?) but now, under the Holy Spirit's revelation, he gets it: Jesus is for all people, for all time.

Let's take a moment to go into the mind of a good, God-fearing Jew in this first century, sitting in at this council and debating the issue:

Those people.  Those Gentiles.  They eat food sacrificed to idols (which we know are demons); they engage in public nudity at the gymnasium; they enjoy pederasty; they enjoy prostitutes; they worship gods--gods under every rock and in every tree, and their worship is equally as scandalous.  

Their orgies defy description, and their behavior, oh dear.  Their women are not modest.  They place unwanted babies outside to languish and die, all because some father doesn't want the child.  I could go on, but I am feeling nauseated. They, in a word, make me sick. 

Those people.  But here is Peter saying that the Holy Spirit, the Almighty's precious Spirit, has been given to the Gentiles, cleansing their hearts because of their faith (is it even possible for such people to even have faith?)  He is saying God is making no distinction.  It is true that the Law is a heavy burden, and I have failed more times than I can count to obey it, but those Gentiles...they don't even try to be moral!  They are steeped in sin.  But here's Peter saying their faith has saved them.  Our precious Messiah, Yeshua, has saved them.  Oh, Lord, what am I to think?  I feel as if the whole world is spiraling out of control...

Ponder this man's conundrum for awhile. Maybe you sympathize with his horror, or maybe you are aghast at his judgmental attitude.

Maybe you're thinking, Hey, lighten up, I am that Gentile.  I am the descendant of those people, and without Peter and Paul's courage to take the message outside the walls of the synagogue, I wouldn't be here.  

Now, fast forward to now.  Who are THOSE people we are debating about?  Think about this and pray.  We are not alone in this and yet the answer is the same for every generation:  Jesus.

To be continued...





Friday, September 23, 2016

Satan's Endgame

We are looking at Jesus in the Old Testament, especially in the book of Isaiah.  We are going to digress a bit, but not really. 

If Jesus' name in Hebrew, Yeshua, means "salvation," then one might ask, "Saving from what?"  Of course, we would respond, "From sin and death!"  

We distill Jesus' ministry down to: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Eze. 36:26) Then we would quickly add: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10)

Sin and death:  These are the two greatest obstacles from fully experiencing God in this life.  Jesus came to give us victory and life.  

We have passed Theology 101.  Or have we?

Yes, but we have missed a key point that I had driven home to me this week.  Let me share what happened.

My husband is an eminent scholar in the field of gun rights.  He was asked to speak to the Texas Bar Association in Austin on Wednesday.  The presenter before him spoke about two cases he was an expert witness for.  The stories broke my heart.

Both involved domestic violence.  Two women had hooked up with two men who were involved in the biker subculture.  The first woman was a Christian.  She met him and he was willing to go to church with her.  Over time, his drug abuse and ill treatment of her led to finally kick him out.  Her fatal "mistake" was to say disparaging things about his biker patches and his biker club.  After screaming, "I am going to kill you!" he jumped on top of her with a knife.  She was able to get the knife and she stabbed him to get him off of her.  He went to the hospital with fourteen stab wounds and she was convicted of 2nd degree murder.  Her case was overturned, however, and the judge agreed that she had indeed acted in self-defense.

The second woman, after twelve years of being involved with her biker partner, and having found him in their home having intercourse with another woman, said disparaging things about his club and his patches.  He later menaced her with a knife and having threatened to kill her and her family, she drew a gun and shot him.

The presenter was discussing self-defense, juries, and women whose self-esteem is so low that they cannot see themselves with any other guy, thereby putting themselves at risk.  It was a sobering presentation, complete with ER and autopsy photos.  

My point?  We Christians tend to focus on the sins that people commit.  We look at the adultery, the homosexuality, the greed, the pride, the abuse, the whatever, and say, "You should not do that." 

We are horrified at what people do.  The presenter did not mince words about what losers these two men were; he repeatedly used the phrase, "***holes" in describing them.  Looking at their tats, their pictures and their attitudes, it was a label that easily fit.  In fact, the audience laughed their agreement every time he used that word.

I was horrified at what he presented.  I felt anger that these men had pushed these women to such a breaking point that one was stabbed and the other shot.  I felt awful that these women stayed with these men and now themselves were being viewed as criminals.

I was focused on what everyone had done.

Let me bring up a quick analogy.  A person walks into a room filled with numerous bottles of poison. The person is trying to select which one to drink.  We run in and focus on each bottle, and list all of the consequences of drinking such and such poison.  While we are talking, the person turns around and gulps down a bottle of cyanide.  We quickly say, "How could you do that?"  We then proceed to tell the person the horrible things cyanide does to the body.  Only after much detailing of poison and its effects do we yell, "It'll kill you!"  

We focus on what the person did and what will or could happen.  Then, almost as an afterthought, do we say, "It will kill you."

Now, let's go back to our presenter.  We listened to the horrible aspects of these people's lives and what they had done.  It was almost an afterthought that all of these behaviors would result in death.

Then it hit me:  Satan does not care what you DO.  He could care less what bottle of poison you drink.  His endgame is your death:  six feet under and cold as dirt.  Did any of those four people wake up that morning and say, "What we are doing will lead to our death.  We need to stop,"  No.  The one young man laying on the coroner's table never thought he'd end his day like that.  

My point is this.  We need to stop focusing on what people DO and focus on what will happen in the future.  Your drug habit will lead to death.  Your adultery will lead to death.  Your greed will lead to death.  Your pride will lead to death.

We are so focused on the horror of the sin, we lose sight of the most horrible outcome of all:  the death of the sinner.  

Oh, come on, you say, how could my adultery lead to death?  Adultery is the poison in the bottle. Once you introduce it into your life, Satan now uses it to separate you further and further from God and as the sin courses through your spiritual bloodstream, the more vulnerable you are to his attacks.  He isn't concerned what poison you drank; he just wants you to drink it and that starts the process.  He wants you dead.  The means are not his thing; the end is.

At the end, all four lives were destroyed.  The two women served time.  One man was dead and the other severely injured.  Even though one of the women was exonerated, her life is forever changed. She is a Christian and now has left death to enter life.  I pray for the other woman and the man who survived.  Satan would like the job to be completed and until we are in Jesus, Satan will not let up until we are dead.

That is why Jesus so focused on bringing life.  He is the Antidote to the poison of sin and its result, death.  Jesus says that Satan the thief is out to "steal kill, and destroy."

As followers of His, let's focus on the endgame:  Satan's is your death, by whatever means necessary. 

Jesus' is your life, and He provided the means:  His death on the cross.   

So, in loving the sinner and hating the sin, let's expand that to loving the sinner and hating the death that awaits them, if they don't find Jesus.

Let's be diligent to show the trajectory of the sin, and not let the sin itself steal our focus on sharing the beauty of Jesus.  He is Salvation, and He is what we need to counter the wiles of Satan. 





Monday, September 12, 2016

The Servant of God: Yeshua

We have two uses of the word and name of Jesus (Yeshua) in Isaiah 49.  It would easy to just select the two key verses, but I much rather have you read the whole context.  It is powerful and speaks mightily of the Messiah to come, with His name woven into the text.  

Did the people know this back in Isaiah's day?  I doubt it, but given their captivity and their hope for deliverance, these verses would not only comfort them but echo the cry of their heart for salvation. 

We can hear the name of the One who would make release from an even more painful captivity--sin and death--possible, for us and the world.  

Jesus inaugurated His ministry by reading from Isaiah:

"He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

'The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.'

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, 'Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'”

The listeners would be very familiar with all of Isaiah.  Here is Yeshua standing before them and reading about yeshua ("salvation").  Would they grasp that the very man standing in front of them was the embodiment of true salvation?  

The captivity in Babylon did not last forever; the Jews eventually returned.  But the people went on sinning.  They still felt alienated from God.  They eventually died. 

Many generations later, a man would stand in a synagogue, and read from the words of the prophet who had promised salvation from captivity.  He would state categorically that the words had been fulfilled.  Quite a statement from a carpenter's son, if that's what he was.

Let's look at the first part of Isaiah 49.  It is powerful:  

"Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name. 
2 He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.
3 He said to me, 'You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.' 
4 But I said, 'I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.' 
5 And now the Lord says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength— 
6 he says: 'It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.' 
7 This is what the Lord says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel— to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: 'Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.' 
8 This is what the Lord says: 'In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, 9 to say to the captives, "Come out," and to those in darkness, "Be free!" They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill.'"

As we are working through the Old Testament, and finding Jesus throughout its pages, we see Him very much represented in Isaiah, who focuses mightily on the Servant of the Lord.  We all have read Isaiah 53, which describes the suffering of this Servant and His death for our healing and restoration. Yet I find it interesting that yeshua is not mentioned--the word for salvation and Jesus' name, in Isaiah 53.  

Yet yeshua is found in Isaiah 49.   

I believe that Isaiah is presenting this Servant by His character and His deeds.  

Names represent the character of someone in the Old Testament.  God's name--Yahweh--is not just what Moses was to call Him.  It is His character as well:  "I AM Who I AM."  Moses was given an insight to the One he was to serve.  This One has always been and will continue to be.  He was not made by human hands or dependent on human ritual or belief.  Moses is privileged to be introduced to Him, but whether or not the children of Israel believe in Him, this One will exist and reign in the universe He created and still sustains.  

That is why there are many names for God in the Old Testament, for each name gives an insight to Who He is, an aspect to His character.  Like a multi-faceted diamond, that catches light as you look at it from various angles, so too do the names of God give us a flash of light into Who He is.

So, Isaiah in chapter 49 is telling us who the suffering Servant IS:  He embodies salvation, for the Jews and for the Gentiles.  He is chosen in the womb to be the Servant and the Covenant for the people.

Isaiah 53 tells us what the Servant will do, how He will be received and what His mission is.  

But in the end, the two are really inseparable.  Who the Lord is and what He does cannot be divided. All He does is based on Who He is, and Who He is, is revealed by what He does.  

Have blessed day as you ponder the majesty of Who He is and what He does.












Friday, August 26, 2016

Jesus in Isaiah: Where Do You Stand in Troubled Times?

We are exploring Jesus in the Old Testament, and this next verse is a Holy Wow!  It is from Isaiah 33:6:  

"He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure." (NIV)

The word in Hebrew for "salvation" is yeshuw'ah--Jesus' name.

The King James translates this verse like this:

"And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure."

"Sure foundation" and "stability of thy times."  Wow:  This so speaks to us today.  

Right now, it's Trump This and Hillary That.  Who will  do what.  We are hoping, deep down inside, that the Right President will turn this country around.  For some, that means go deeper into a left-wing vision, of open borders, a place for refugees, free health care, limited to no ownership of guns, low-cost education and America getting out of the way of world affairs.  For others that means a wall, vetted refugees, repeal of Obamacare, 2nd Amendment rights, and America returning to being a world leader.

I am truly not trying to be nasty as I summarize what I believe each candidate stands for--these are my impressions from the speeches they have given.  But when elected, presidents tend to forget the speeches and do what they intended to do all along.  In other words, in an election years, presidential promises are pie-crust promises:  easily made and easily broken.

But notice the list of what has been said (again, my impression, not a condemnation) versus Isaiah's vision.  He, too, is looking at Someone to provide stability and certainty in the current (then and now) times.  But, Isaiah, unlike today's politicos, sees the real issue.  First, and foremost:  We need saving. We don't need yet another program, plan, promise or priority.  We need to have our hearts changed, and our standing before our God changed.  Why?  

Yup, the s-word:  SIN.  We are blinded, broad-sided and collided with sin.  It's in us, controlling us and making us blind to our deepest need:  Him.  

Our salvation in Him provides a "rich store."  Unstable times deplete our store.  Our resources.  Our hope.  We throw up our hands in numb despair and say, "What are we to do?"  But, Isaiah says that in yeshuw'ah/Yeshua comes "wisdom" and "knowledge."  

Wisdom in Isaiah is not just a desirable and much needed quality in troubled times: It's a Person. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30:  "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."

God's plan all along was for us to seek wisdom from Him and Him alone.  But, by Adam munching on the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he no longer sought God.  He sought wisdom now from within.  That "within," now having been corrupted by sin, meant that wisdom and knowledge would be anything but.  

God's reclamation of Adam's children meant giving us not only a new heart (otherwise it would be putting godly lipstick on a sinful pig) but also returning us to the real source of true wisdom:  Jesus Christ.  That is why we are no longer in Adam, but in Christ:  "So it is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit." (1 Cor. 15:45)  Jesus, as the last Adam, came to bring us back to the Garden, so to speak.  We are now able to walk in the newness of life and perfect fellowship with God because of Jesus' death on the cross.  

The debt was paid and now we are saved.  

With Jesus, now as our very Wisdom from God, we ask Him for guidance and knowledge on how to navigate in these troubled times.  Our respect for God, ("fear" in the verses from Isaiah) is our "treasure": precious and of the utmost value. That respect means following the One that God sent: 
"Jesus answered and said unto him, 'If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.'" (John 14:23)

Jesus is our very Sure Foundation, our very Rock that we stand on: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matt. 7:24-27)

So, where do I stand in troubled times?  On the Rock.  

Is that synonymous with voting for Trump?  Being a right-winger?  No.  It means shutting my mouth and doing a heart check:

Am I regularly praying for those in authority?  "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Tim. 2:1-3)

Am I seeking His will for how I am to participate as a citizen?  "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it." (John 14:12-14)

Am I ready to share my faith if asked why I am doing what I am doing? In other words, do I listen to Him and move political discussions into a way to talk about eternal matters: "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:  Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ." (1 Pet. 3:15-16)

Presidents come and go.  Yes, we are citizens of this world, but we must keep the eternal perspective. 

Before election day and on the day, I will be praying.  I will not fear, become angry or bad-mouth what is going on.  Standing on the Rock gives me confidence to face the storms, pure and simple.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Not Judgin’, But Not Budgin’

This is a wee departure from our talk about Jesus in the Old Testament. It's important topic to cover,
especially these days.

So often we hear today, especially in Christian circles when controversy comes calling, “Don’t judge. That’s the unloving thing to do. Jesus calls us to love.” True enough. No one would support the idea that Jesus calls us to hate, even though some people would accuse us of doing so in His name.

Let’s explore this whole judgment thing. The old saying, “A text without a context is a pretext” may apply here. If we don’t view the scripture on not judging in its context, it can be used to shut down legitimate discussion about morality and other topics people fear will create discord and offense.

Let’s begin with the familiar verses from Matthew 7:1-3: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

These verses are very simple. Look at the larger context: These verses come from the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is laying down the principles of the Kingdom of God. Just as Moses came down off Mount Sinai carrying the stone tablets inscribed with God’s commandments, so too does Christ stand on the mountain with the new commandment of God: to love one another.

So, in this context, love rules. We want mercy from God but how we love to mete out justice to others. I want to keep my eye, but I want to take off your hand. No. The Law of Moses arbitrated relationships, between us and God first and then with each other. Fairness, mercy and compassion underpinned Moses’ Law.

Jesus’ Law is no different, except that love is the operational force, in addition to fairness, mercy and compassion. Thus, how you treat others will directly affect how God sees you. The same standard you use will be then the same standard He uses.

I want mercy, God.

Fine. Show mercy.

I want understanding for my shortcomings, Lord.

Fine. Show understanding for others’ shortcomings.

I want to do right, but when I fail, I don’t want to be punished beyond reason.

Fine. When others fail, offer a punishment that is for their restoration, not destruction.

My shortcomings are not as bad as that person’s—I deserve the benefit of the doubt.

Fine. But your prideful plank has blinded you to the seriousness of what you do.

But he’s got the sawdust of sin in his eye! I must remove it!

Fine. But your prideful plank will not allow you to see his failures objectively. Focus on you. I will focus on him. I am the Great Physician.

Now let’s look at Luke 6:36-8: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Again, fairly straightforward. Mercy is love applied to justice. Yes, people sin. Yes, people hurt one another. But Jesus is saying that judgement and condemnation are not in the vocabulary of the Kingdom of God. The word He is presenting is “forgiveness” only because that is what His Father does. If we are His children, we must follow the Father, knowing that our Father knows best.

Now, I could end right there. You could say, “There it is! We all need to love one another! When someone is sinning, who are you to say anything?”

But there’s more. Let’s go to the verses in John 5:9-15:
     So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what
     he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the
     Son and shows him everything he is doing. In fact, the Father will show him how to do even
     greater works than healing this man. Then you will truly be astonished. For just as the Father
     gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. In addition,
     the Father judges no one. Instead, he has given the Son absolute authority to judge, so that
     everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son
     is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him. I tell you the truth, those who listen to my
     message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for
     their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. And I assure you that the time is
     coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God.
     And those who listen will live."

Jesus moved, taught and judged us all with permission from His Father. All He did was in fact under commission from His Father.

We, who follow Jesus, can and should do no less.

If we are called to make a judgment, it must be based on what the Father has revealed. The Father has revealed His will in the Bible. So, if we judge, it needs to be based on that; culture, modern thinking and what makes us feel good is not the foundation upon which we judge.

What is the word "judge" mean in the Greek? There are three meaning: One means to judge, as in a court of law. 

The next meaning to critically evaluate something, or to be discerning. One of the spiritual gifts is discernment, so using it is part of our walk. We need to make judgments as we navigate this world. "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." (Matt. 10:16)  Shrewdness comes from evaluating a situation fairly and objectively; snakes do not run into rocks.  So, discernment is part of judging.  We need the Holy Spirit's revelation of the Father's will in order to be discerning and wise.

The third meaning is a judgement that condemns.  We cannot take God's authority, cloak ourselves with it and then act in His stead.  He and He alone will judge the world. 

So, does that mean we cannot judge at all?

No.  Look at John 7:24: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."  We cannot issue condemnatory judgments, but judgments based on mercy, love and compassion.  

Mercy calls sin, sin, but also factors love into the equation, as Jesus did.

Love speaks truth, but also factors patience for change into the equation, as Jesus did.

Compassion takes a person's hand, and if that person is willing, leads them into freedom by leading them to Jesus.  

Thus, we must make an inventory before we speak, and look without wavering into our motivation for saying what we want to say.  Let us ask with bold honesty:
  • Are my words based on the full counsel of God (Acts 20:27)?  Or have I cherry-picked verses to satisfy my position?
  • Have I prayed for the right words in the right tone?  The right words delivered in a harsh tone will destroy their potential for a positive message.
  • Have I prayed for the other person's heart to be open to the words I say?  Pray for tilled soil in this person's heart, so that the seed of the Word will fall into a productive place.  Only the Spirit can prepare the soil.  No argument ever won a person to Christ. 
If the answers fall in line with His Word, then I must speak, trusting that:

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Is. 55:10-11)

Walk in His authority and in His love.  The two are inseparable, as we and the Lord should be.


I am indebted to Lloyd John Ogilvie's The Greatest Counselor in the World--A Fresh, New Look at the Holy Spirit for the part on the three meanings of the word "judge."



























Friday, July 29, 2016

Jesus as the Mercy Seat

We are exploring Jesus in the Old Testament. I posted in an earlier blog that Jesus' presence is found in the Ark of Covenant.  I would like to explore this idea a bit further. Specifically, I would like to look at the covering or lid of the Ark.  In Exodus 26:34, we read: "Then put the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—on top of the Ark of the Covenant inside the Most Holy Place."

The Ark of the Covenant is really two pieces of furniture: the box itself and the lid. It was behind a curtain. There was no light in the Holy of Holies, or Most Holy Place, where it stood. The lampstand that provided the light was outside of the curtain. Thus, only God Himself and His glory would provide the light in the Holy of Holies.

Jesus constantly referred to Himself as the Light. Interesting.

The cover of the Ark was pure gold, and was to be the very dwelling place where God met His people. Remember what was in the Ark? Manna, Aaron's rod and the Ten Commandments. Yet, all are covered by this gold lid. You might expect to see them displayed to the people or set alongside the bread and the lampstand. But they are covered. Why?

Without Jesus, none of this makes sense.  But if He is the Light, then expect illumination!

You would want to proudly display the Ten Commandments, written by the very finger of God upon stone. This permanent material shows the everlasting nature of this covenant. The Law provides the very basis of your existence, and thereby grants you an identity: you are the chosen ones, living in a convenantal relationship with the Almighty King of the Universe. You would want it proudly visible, reminding you and everyone else of this special relationship.

You would want to display Aaron's rod, with its bud, to show that Aaron's priesthood is superior to all others. It budded miraculously, and has stayed budded. The staff he carried was not a dead piece of wood. It budded as if it were still wedded to the tree. Why wouldn't you want everyone to see how your priest is chosen and his staff is a sign of that favor?

You would want that manna out where everyone could see it. Remember how any extra gathered manna would rot? You weren't allowed to store it and yet, look at that! It sits in a jar, perpetually fresh. You could point to the jar and comment how God fed you and your people with bread from His very own hand.

Yet, into a box they go, and they have a lid over them. Out of sight. Nothing to brag on or point out. Covered. Now, admittedly, the gold cover is beautiful, with its cherubim adorning the top. But the ark is behind a curtain, and only one person, once a year, could go in. He sprinkled blood over the cover or Mercy Seat on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, for himself and for the people.

The Ark was not a show piece, nor its contents.

Did that bother the people? Did they desire to show something off, akin to the ostentatious displays of the Egyptians?

What if you dared to look into the Ark? 1 Samuel 6:19 shows us: "But God struck down some of the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they looked into the ark of the LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them."

So, how does Jesus illuminate the Ark and its rather odd (humanly speaking) treatment of its contents?

The contents under the lid had to be covered. Why? Without a covering, the contents are powerless in and of themselves. The blood, sprinkled over the lid once a year, illustrates the need for cleansing the people from sin. That is first and foremost.

But, those objects within the ark speak of a time to come when The Blood will bring life to the contents contained within. How so?

Hebrews 10:1-4 says, "The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared. But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins."

So, the annual covering of blood upon the Mercy Seat of the Ark was pointing to the One to come, Who would impart life through His own blood.

Let's start with the tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments.

Without the Law having a covering of blood, it stands starkly, condemning all we do. 

Paul says of the Law in Romans 7:21-23: 21, "I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me."

What is the answer to the Law with its standard of righteousness and our sinful nature? 

Paul says in Romans 7:24-5 and into 8:1-4: "Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin....So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit."

The Law needed the covering of the blood, for people had to be cleansed each year. But that very blood points to Jesus.

Now, within us (like the contents being kept inside the box) this Law is transformed into a new law: the Law of the Spirit. This law doesn't negate the older Law. Our sinful nature, made into a new nature with the blood of the Lamb, now wants to do righteous things that God asks of us.

How about the budded rod? How does something dead, like a severed branch, have life in it? It needs sap to reanimate it. It is subject to the covering of blood on the Mercy Seat each year, and yet it points to The Blood to come. This Blood becomes our very life, as Jesus says in John 15:5: "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."

We produce buds and then fruit: "But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father." (John 15:7 & 8)

Aaron and his priesthood needed a covering in order to conduct their appointed office. But a greater Priest will come and be the covering itself.

Then there's the manna. It provided life to those in the desert. The manna tells of His very life in John 6:53-8: "So Jesus said again, 'I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.'"

The manna needed a covering year after year--it was food that would only temporarily satisfy a person. But One was coming whose very flesh would satisfy forever our deepest hunger.

Jesus Himself provided the blood and is Himself the Mercy Seat--the ultimate covering--for He covers us, makes us righteousness, provides us with His own life within us and nourishes us: "For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, 26 for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus." (Romans 3:25-27)

Jesus accomplished this as our High Priest:  "Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant."  (Hebrews 9:13-15)

Hebrews 1:3 proclaims: "The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven."

No need to be a raider of the lost Ark. It disappeared for a reason. Its job was done. It pointed the way to the One to come.

Jesus became The Mercy Seat for us to encounter God. Now that the curtain is torn, and with His light flooding in, we can "come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." (Hebrews 4:16-17).

Now it all makes sense.



















     

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