FEAR, FOLLOW, LOVE AND SERVE Day 32
Today is the 32nd day of counting the omer.
Deuteronomy 10:12-13 “So now, Israel, all that Yehovah your God asks from you is to fear Yehovah your God, follow all His ways, love Him and serve Yehovah your God with all your heart and all your being; to obey, for your own good, the commandments and regulations of Yehovah which I am giving you today.”
Moses concisely wraps up all the teachings that God has given throughout the 40+ years since they left Egypt. He boils it down to this: fear God, follow Him, love Him, and serve Him. Do all these with your whole being (physical, spiritual, emotional, social). Then Moses appeals to each person by saying, “This is for your own good.”
Sometimes we tend to think that God’s ways are “best” but not what will really make us happy. We think His ways are best because in the end, we want to be on His side. However, in the meantime, we want to do what we think will make us happy and be for our right-now good. I looked up the Hebrew word used for “good” and it says “merry, pleasant, desirable; in order, usable; efficient; friendly, kind; morally good”. It also has to do with “festive”. The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament identifies five general areas to which the root word applies. The first two are: 1) practical, economic or material good, and 2) abstract good such as desirability. As you can see, these things are related to what we are looking for in our everyday lives.
I said all that to make a point. I think Moses was trying to get the Israelites to see God’s commandments and regulations as ones that will make them happy in the moment, not simply in the future when this life is over. And the same thing applies to us. When we are following His commandments and regulations, we experience a conscience that is free from guilt. We can live the “good life” now and enjoy the blessings that come from God and a life well lived.
The next time you are tempted to think that God is a stick-in-the-mud, remember that God’s ways are designed for your good in the here-and-now as well as for the end of this life! And the more that you experience Him, the more that you will live life to the fullest!
May 13, 2020
Day 31 MANNA IN ISOLATION
Today is our 31st day of counting the omer.
In Deuteronomy 8:2-3 (NLT) we read, “Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey His commands. Yes, He humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
It is not unusual for us to experience times of humbling and testing. To a certain degree, I think that everyone in the world is being tested at this time through the coronavirus. We have been quarantined, separated from our normal support of gathering together to worship, learn, and fellowship. We have been restricted from shaking hands and hugging to decrease the possibilities of becoming infected. Our lives are continuing to be challenged at different levels. We have been reduced to depending totally on God. And, I believe that this is what God is trying to get us to conclude! Some of us are very uncomfortable with that. We do not like it when our independence is brought low. In fact, some of us have enlarged our independence to the point that we are only focused on ourselves and what a good job we have done in protecting ourselves. Yes, God has given us brains, and we have followed truths about infection and how to avoid it. However, if we are not careful, we can become so independent that we do not realize that our nutrition and strength only come from Him.
I wonder if Yehovah is allowing us to become hungry, not for physical food necessarily, but for spiritual food and fellowship so that we can stop and be fed by our gracious Father in heaven. Oh yes, most of us will be really excited about being able to go to our favorite restaurant again. But I think God wants, through this pandemic, to get us refocused on the spiritual food that only comes from Him. I think He wants us to sit down at His table each day and eat His truths.
If we use this time to receive from His hand the truths that will satisfy our deepest needs, it will have been worth it to go through this testing. God forbid that we only focus on the physical and do not realize that as children of the Most High God, we can only live on every word that comes from His mouth.
May 12, 2020
Day 30 DESTROY OUR IDOLS
Today is our 30th day of counting the omer
Today we are going back to remind ourselves of God’s truth that Moses reviewed for the children of Israel before he died. Today’s reading is out of Deuteronomy 7:5-6 “…treat them this way: break down their altars, smash their standing-stones to pieces, cut down their sacred poles and burn up their carved images completely. For you are a people set apart as holy for ADONAI your God. ADONAI your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His own unique treasure.” (CJB)
Moses’ greatest concern for the nation was that they would forget that there is only one God and Yehovah is His name. As a result of forgetting, they would not just ignore Yehovah and not keep the greatest command to love Him with all their hearts, souls, and strength, but they would actually worship gods made by the hands of mankind. They would be drawn away from the One true God because they allowed the symbols, altars, and carved images to remain in their land. Therefore, Moses commanded them to break, smash, cut and burn everything that represented the religions of those living in the promised land. He did not care how beautiful the item was, he commanded them to destroy it all.
And then he tells them why – “For you are a people set apart as holy for Yehovah your God. Yehovah your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His own unique treasure.” They were sanctified, set apart, to be holy. They were to conduct themselves in ways that were consistent with His ways. They were to conduct themselves according to the teachings and commandments of Yehovah so that they could demonstrate to everyone on earth what the Kingdom of God looked like. These descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were and are chosen by God to be His and His alone! They were not chosen because there were so many of them. They were chosen because “the LORD loves you and He was keeping the oath He had sworn to your ancestors.” (Deut 7:8) God loved them and was prepared to give them more than they could imagine. As His “unique treasure”, He wanted to pour out blessings and riches on them that would cause the whole world to realize that the One they served really was the only true God.
We know the story of how they failed, but we must be very careful in how we judge them. For we, who have been grafted in, often fail as they did. We have a tendency to forget that anything that stands between us and Yehovah is an idol. It takes the place of the one true God, and we begin to depend on it instead of on Him. So even as Moses told the people thousands of years ago, his words of instruction are still valid for us today. It goes something like this – “Make sure that you get rid of anything that decreases your awareness and love for Yehovah. Break it down, smash it, cut it up, and burn it because anything that entices you to move your eyes from Him will ultimately separate you from Him.” Then Moses would continue. “You followers of Jesus the Messiah, sent from Yehovah Himself are set apart, sanctified, as holy for your God. You are consecrated. You are to be unique, clean, pure, devoted to and singled out for the LORD. You are His unique treasure.”
May God guide us today and through the Holy Spirit show us anything that would entice us to turn our dependence and allegiance away from Yehovah.
May 11, 2020
Day 29 NOTHING TOO DIFFICULT
Today is day 29 of our counting the omer.
Although for the last few days we have been listening to God through Moses, today I want to examine a short portion of a verse found in Genesis 18:14. “Is anything too hard for God?” The LORD is speaking to Abraham and Sarah at the time. If you look up that verse, you will find that the word “LORD” is in all capital letters. That means that God Himself, Yehovah, was the One speaking. So Yehovah asked them, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” It is not recorded that He said, “Is anything too hard for Me?” Why did God speak in third person about Himself? As I thought about this, it seemed that God was wanting to impress upon Abraham and Sarah the truth of His qualities and character. It was the all-knowing, all-powerful God who was speaking to them. “Is a child from a dead womb too marvelous for the One who called all things into existence? He can do it. Nothing is incredible for those in covenant fellowship with the Lord because nothing is too difficult for Him.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) This is basically a call to believe and proceed in one’s life on the fact that God can do the impossible! Yehovah was and is capable of accomplishing anything, at any time, in any way that He chooses.
And He is still the same today! I don’t know what the impossibility is in your life, but I know that as we count the omer, God is calling us to believe in ALL of His qualities. He is incomprehensible, all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, immutable, holy, self-existent, self-sufficient, transcendent, and without end. He is the One who spoke and everything came into being. And, He knows how to bring a resolution for the “impossibility” in your life and mine today. Most of the time He accomplishes that as He draws us closer and closer into His heart. As we intentionally choose Him today, let’s eagerly invite Him to enter into our impossibilities knowing that nothing is too difficult for Him!
May 10, 2020
Day 28 DRAW CLOSE
Today is day 28 of counting the omer.
Yesterday we talked briefly about the first verse of Deuteronomy 4. We discussed the importance of listening and obeying. Today I want to move down just a bit into that chapter and point out something that I see in verses 15-24. Moses has just been reminding them of how God came down on Mt Sinai and spoke the 10 Words to them. Then God wrote the 10 Words on stone and ordered Moses to teach them all the laws and rulings so that they could live by them when they crossed over into Canaan. Then twice in verses 15-24, he says “watch out for yourselves”. He knew, because they could not see God, how much they would be tempted to make idols that they could experience with their five senses. Bowing down to those idols would bring God’s anger, “for Jehovah your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” They had seen the fire on Mt Sinai. They had experienced the fear that came as the trumpet blast shattered the silence in their camp. They had heard Him speak. They had trembled. They had literally shaken with fear before Him. They begged Moses to go talk to God for them. Moses knew that they would forget the covenant that God had made with them. It was out-of-sight and would quickly be out-of-mind when Moses was gone. Therefore, Moses says, “watch out for yourselves”.
It is very easy to forget the true power that comes with being chosen, forgiven and adopted by God. Forgetting is a fact; it is a product, a result of the passage of time. The only thing that will stop this forgetting is intentionality. And God would call to us and warn us to draw up close to Him daily to avoid that pitfall. We must make intimacy with God and knowing Him the highest priority for our lives.
We are chosen, forgiven, and adopted, and He has given us His Holy Spirit to live within us and empower us to proceed to the witness stand and faithfully tell everyone what He has done in our lives! Let’s be vigilant!
May 9, 2020
LISTEN on Day 27
Today is day 27 of counting the omer from First Fruits to the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost.
We have been talking for the last couple of days about Moses’ review of all that Yehovah had done, taught, and required of the children of Israel since bringing them out of Egypt. He has steadfastly focused on reminding them of the most important things that they must remember and do. He knew that the thing of greatest importance was for them to obey God, be obedient to His will and ways. But, the first thing Moses tells them in Deuteronomy 4:1 is to “listen”. Isn’t that the first thing that we have trouble with? We get so focused on what we think God is saying and what we think we know that sometimes we don’t “listen”. Additionally, I find that I frequently have difficulty listening with my heart and not just with my ears.
In my Bible (CJB), I have a few words underlined in the first sentence of this chapter. Those words are: “listen”, “in order to follow them”, “live”, “will go in”, and “take possession”. Moses told the people that they first had to listen. Maybe you are thinking, “no, duh”. But listening with unplugged ears can be difficult. We all have perceptions that color what we hear. In fact, it is not uncommon for us to not hear what is said, primarily because we think we already know. This is vividly evidenced in the lives of married couples because at times we believe we already know what our spouse is thinking and how they are at their core. As a result, we believe we know what they are going to say, how they are going to say it, and how right or wrong it will be in our opinion. Unfortunately, the same thing can occur in our relationship with God. Because we think that we know what He is going to say, we may not even listen to Him. Therefore, we read His Word, with our perception of Him coloring what we think He is saying. Is it possible that He wants to challenge us today to stop, pick up His Word and look at it as though it is the first time we have seen it? We must allow His Spirit to show us things that we have never seen before. We must allow Him to clearly show us His truths. So, we must first listen with unplugged ears if we are ever going to be able to do what He says. If and when we have listened and followed Him, done what He says, then we can truly live and go into the land, into our lives, and totally take possession of it so that it obeys our God! And because we have listened and obeyed, we can destroy the strongholds that dot the land of our lives. We can clean them out and experience the power and majesty of our God! We don’t have to live with the strongholds of things from our past. We can defeat them as we LISTEN AND OBEY because Yehovah promises us that He will give us victory over every thing, every stronghold that refuses to submit to His Lordship!
May 8, 2020
Day 26 ONLY BEGUN
Today is Day 26 of counting the omer.
Yesterday we talked about Moses reviewing Yehovah’s commands to the people and reminding the people of God’s faithfulness but their lack of faithfulness. We discussed our need to be in awe of God’s presence in our daily lives, refusing to become numb to the One who is nurturing, providing and protecting.
Today we want to continue looking at Moses and the account in Deuteronomy but now in chapter 3, verse 23-25, “Then I (Moses) pleaded with Yehovah, ‘O Sovereign LORD, you have only begun to reveal your greatness to your servant and your strong hand – for what other god is there in heaven or on earth that can do the works and mighty deeds that you do? Please! Let me go across and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan, that wonderful hill-country and the Lebanon mountains.’”
Please re-read that verse out loud! When I stopped and looked at the words instead of skimming it, I was astounded. Moses says that Yehovah has ONLY BEGUN to reveal His greatness and strong hand! Did Moses really forget everything that God had done in and through him from the meeting at the burning bush up to this point in his life? Did he forget the miracles that God did in Egypt so that the empire was devastated when the children of Israel left? Did he forget that God opened the Red Sea, dried the dirt to let the nation of Israel, over 2 million people, cross over on dry ground? Did he forget how God had provided the nation with a cloud to protect them from the sun and lead them through the desert during the day and a fire to keep them warm and protect them from wild animals at night? Did he forget meeting with God face to face on Mt Sinai to receive the tablets of the 10 words, the 10 Commandments? Did he forget that he and the 70 elders of Israel ate a covenant meal with God up on Mt Sinai? Did he forget that he had to cover his face after talking with God because it shone so brightly that the people could not look at him? Did he forget how God provided manna and quail for the nation throughout their forty years of wilderness wandering? Did he forget that their clothes and shoes never wore out? Did he forget that God provided water in the desert, enough to completely rehydrate at least 2 million people? Did he forget the battle with the Amalekites when the children of Israel won as Moses held his hands up to God, with the help of Aaron and Hur? Did he forget all these things and much more? How could he say that Yehovah had ONLY BEGUN to reveal His greatness and strong hand?
Perhaps, because of all these experiences, Moses realized that Yehovah was so much more powerful than he had ever imagined. Perhaps he realized that Yehovah had so much more planned for this rag-tag nation, who whined so quickly and who rebelled so thoughtlessly. Perhaps he realized that Yehovah was more faithful to His promises than Moses had ever considered. Perhaps the truth of who Yehovah is – His character, His reliability, His love, His grace, His mercy – was really sinking in. Oh yes, Moses wanted to actually walk through the land that God was giving to Israel, but I think there must have been much more. Perhaps, just perhaps Moses was envisioning the fulfillment of the blood covenant that God had made with the children of Israel. Perhaps he was looking down through the ages to see the very Son of God, Jesus the Messiah, coming to give Himself as the Lamb of God and then later coming to reign over all the earth. Perhaps it was for these reasons that Moses said that GOD had ONLY BEGUN to reveal Himself.
Can we put our arms around a small portion of that today? Can we realize that GOD is so much more than we have ever perceived? Can we recognize that He wants to reveal Himself on such a grand scale even as He did during Moses’ life? In fact, can we recognize that this GOD, Yehovah, wants us to know and be one with Him even as the three Persons of the Trinity know each other and are One? He cares about the smallest detail of our lives, and yet through His power, He holds the universe together. We have put our GOD in a very tiny box up to now. Let’s rip that box apart and intimately KNOW and stand in awe of HIM!
May 7, 2020
NURTURE, PROTECT, PROVIDE Day 24/25
Today is the twenty-fourth day that we have been counting the omer. Well, it really is the twenty-fifth day because we started counting on Resurrection Sunday, March 12, 2020 but I did not start numbering the days until later. So, let’s go with today being the twenty-fifth day of counting the omer.
In the first chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses began to review everything that Yehovah, Jehovah, had ordered him to tell the children of Israel. He highlighted their journey for the last forty years and reminded them of the faithfulness of their God. He reminded them of their disobedience and how they whined and complained much of the time. He reminded them of how God had carried them, “like a man carries his child, along the entire way you traveled….” Still they did not trust Him despite the fact that “He went ahead of you, seeking out places for you to pitch your tents and showing you which way to go, by fire at night and by a cloud during the day.” (Deut 1:31-33)
Moses describes not only the faithfulness of God but also the gentleness with which He guides those who choose Him. Such care that He would pick them up and carry them the whole way – “along the entire way”! God did not weary in carrying them. He does not get tired as we get tired after carrying our children in our arms all day long. Moses’ description of God is handsomely crafted to show both the nurturing, protective and provisional nature of the Almighty. He carries the nation and goes in front of them to choose the right places to camp. Then He gives them visible signs that He is with them constantly by providing the cloud during the day and the fire at night. All of these demonstrate the loving care that He showers on them. And yet, in contrast, Moses reminds the people of how they grumble because they were not getting things the way they had imagined or want.
I don’t know about you, but this challenges me. Despite the fact that I know that God is taking care of me in every way, I sometimes find myself right there in the same category as the children of Israel because there are times that I grumble when things are not going the way I would choose. Perhaps we are critical of the children of Israel because we think they should have done better. After all, they could actually see the fire at night and the cloud during the day. However, I think we can understand how they got to that place of grumbling – they got so used to the fire and the cloud that it was no longer something they even associated with God. How about us? We take for granted our jobs, our possessions, our security, and even our ability to lie down and sleep at night in a comfortable environment. We take for granted our ability to regulate the temperature in our homes and vehicles. We take for granted our ability to go to the store and purchase things that are essential or things that just make life easier. And if we are being truthful, many times we even take for granted our God. We take for granted that He will be there if we get ourselves into trouble and think we need help. We take for granted that whatever we are doing must be His will because our way seems right and easy for us.
Maybe we need to step back and see how God is active in our lives each day. Maybe we need to renew our God-consciousness, our awareness of His presence. There is a Hebrew word, “kavanah” that in a practical manner means to be aware that you are standing in the presence of God (Dave Adamson, 52 Hebrew Words every Christian Should Know). If we sincerely want to know Him and drink deeply from Him who is the living Water as we have been talking about for the last few days, then we must intentionally bring our minds out of the hustle and bustle of the day and intentionally become aware that we are standing in His presence every minute of every day. Every good and perfect gift comes from Him. Every provision and every way of escaping the temptations that confront us daily come from Him. In every battle, He is fighting for us. In every step, He is making a way. He is carrying us as a father carries a child – every day, all day. He is selecting the places for us to pitch our tents and camp. He is giving us His Word for our daily nourishment and His Spirit for our continual hydration.
I challenge us all to choose to be aware that we are standing in His presence with every breath, with every step, and with every choice whether big or small. He is faithful and gentle to us. And He wants us to intentionally be constantly aware that He, the Almighty God, is with us, seeing and wanting to be recognized, acknowledged, obeyed, and loved in the deepest place of our beings. Let’s be intentional today!
May 6, 2020
Day 23 LIVING WATER
Today is Day 23 of counting the omer.
As we move through the rest of this day, let’s look at a couple of writings in the book of Psalms. Psalm 42 is attributed to the sons of Korah who were the worship leaders in the temple. GotQuestions.org and the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible say that this psalm was written after David and those loyal to him had left Jerusalem when they were running from Absalom. There is a heartsick feeling as the writer is wishing he could be at the temple praising God and hearing the people raise shouts of joy to God. There seems to be a terrific desire to be back in the presence of God. You can almost sense the depth of the desire as you read the first and second verses. “Just as a deer longs for running streams, God, I long for you. I am thirsty for God, for the living God! When can I come and appear before God?” In some versions, the word “longs” is translated as “pants”. The picture described is one of a deer that is running from place to place, panting in search of running water – living water. When the deer is panting, it is in a state of exhaustion. Then he says that the only thing that will satisfy him is God, “the living God.” The writer is briefly comparing living water with the living God. Only the living water will satisfy the thirst, and only the living God will satisfy the soul. Nothing stagnant will satisfy. It only causes the thirsty one to be thirstier and perhaps become ill from the stagnation.
The 42nd Psalm echoes David’s writings found in Psalm 63:1 where he cries out, “O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you: my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water.” And David goes on to reflect about how he spent much time contemplating God in the sanctuary because there he could more clearly see the power and glory of God.
Both men describe how desperately thirsty they are and how discouraged they are in their life situation. But they discover that as they focus their attention on God, their thirst is quenched, and the despair becomes hope, joy and strength. The author of Psalm 42 writes, “Hope in God, since I will praise Him again for the salvation that comes from His presence.” He anticipates getting back to the temple! And David writes, “My lips will worship you. Yes, I will bless you as long as I live; in your Name I will lift up my hands. I am as satisfied as with rich food; my mouth praises you with joy on my lips when I remember you on my bed and meditate on you in the night watches. For You have been my help; in the shadow of Your wings I rejoice; my heart clings to You; Your right hand supports me.”
There are a couple of applications that we can make from these two verses. The first one is that as long as we live, we will run into times of difficulty when it seems that we are totally spent and exhausted. As someone said, “life happens”, and we will become drained physically, mentally, emotionally AND spiritually. This is part of being human. And in the midst of that season or situation, we will either drink the stagnant, polluted water that sits around us, or we will run to our living God who provides living water. The living water is Jesus our Messiah. Nothing that is dead or polluted or stagnant can satisfy. The world really has nothing to offer us but that which is dying or already dead. But our living God gives us the true Water of life, Jesus who refreshes and causes living water to even flow from within us!
The second application we can make is that it is in His presence where we find our rest, strength and comfort. In Psalm 42, the author says, “…since I will praise Him again for the salvation that comes from His presence.” He is saying that salvation – deliverance – comes from being in the presence of God. When I’m in His presence, I find help and deliverance from all the episodes of life that remove me from my comfortable position in the house of God. Oh yes, I’m still experiencing the heart-wrenching situation, but if I focus on God and seek His face, I know that I shall be delivered and be in the presence of the Almighty God.
And David, in Psalm 63 focuses his mind on remembering sitting in the shadow of God’s wings. Picture in your mind the Ark of the Covenant. Remember that on top of the cover of the Ark, there were two cherubim. Any time the sun is at an angle and shining on an object, there is a shadow cast on the ground. Depending on where the sun is in the sky, the shadow can either be very long or very short. I think this is what David is remembering. He remembers sitting in the shadow of the wings of those cherubim. He was getting up as close to the Ark as possible without touching it and remembering the great joy he experienced. He remembers the fact that when he was up close to God, he was supported and given help. He is determined to worship and bless God as long as he lives. He raises his hands just simply to bless the LORD, Jehovah. Joy floods over him and all night he chews (meditates) on the truths that God has shown him as he sat at the guard post watching.
Therefore, I must run to Him to have life and not die of thirst. I must fix my mind on Him in order to experience joy and gladness even during my times of trouble and affliction. I must get back into the presence of God! For it is only when I am in His presence that my life is full no matter the circumstances. I can be more than a conqueror through Jesus! Oh, that our hearts would cry out with the same intensity for God!
May 5, 2020
TO BE TRANSFORMED on Day 22
Today is day 22 of counting the omer.
I think that today we will complete our discussion of Paul’s determined purpose. There has been so much in this one verse that has stopped me in my tracks to gaze upon the depth, longing, and wonder that he expressed in his writing.
That last phrase is the one I want to focus upon today. “and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness] even to His death.” Suffering is not something we generally say we want to experience. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of pain, whether it is physical, emotional, spiritual, or social. No part of that draws me. But there is a reality in Paul’s thinking. He is not wanting suffering simply to suffer. He is desiring to share Jesus’ suffering so that he is “continually transformed” in his inner person. Unfortunately, suffering seems to be a place where we either become more like our Lord or we turn away from Him. We either seek Him more during the pain or we seek something else – perhaps simply relief. However, Paul wants something (to know Jesus) so much that he gladly looks forward to suffering, recognizing that the suffering will bring about a radical transformation in his own spirit so that he looks like Jesus.
Then there is the word “transformed”, not just the word but the word describing it, “continually”. When I think of “transform”, I think of the children’s toys called “transformers”. If you have seen a child playing with them, you know that they generally start out as some type of vehicle. But as the child twists and turns parts, moving, opening, and spreading those parts in strange ways, you begin to see that this “transformer” is actually a mechanical individual capable of great power with amazing combat abilities. Let that sink in as you apply that to your spiritual life. I believe that the Holy Spirit is continually twisting and turning us, allowing us and even putting us into strange positions, so to speak, so that He can move and open us up to demonstrate the same power that He exerted when He raised Jesus from the dead. He wants to be so integral to our personhood that He is able to use us, flow through us and prove to an onlooking and unbelieving world that Jesus really is the Son of God. He wants to show the world that our God is the ultimate in all things and that our ability to withstand and fight against our enemies – the world, the flesh and the devil – is beyond anything that they have ever imagined. And He wants to do this continually, in every situation. As we gain strength and confidence in Him, we will trust His hands more each time. We will trust His wisdom more each time. We will trust His decisions more each time. It is at that point that we are truly being “transformed in spirit into His likeness”. This is an ongoing transformation. It is progressive; it becomes more and more with each step. And then, if we allow this transformation to continue, we will ultimately look like Him even to His death.
Why did Jesus go through all the suffering? Oh yes, I know that He willingly gave His sinless life for me so that I can be forgiven and restored in relationship with God. However, He also did it because He was totally convinced that God IS. He was totally convinced in the reality of this God who created everything and the reality of His Kingdom. He was not looking on what He could sense with His physical abilities; He was looking on the spiritual reality to the point that He endured it all without turning His back on the Father.
And that is the point to which we must all come – that we are TOTALLY convinced, and NOTHING is able to shake us from Truth.
May 4, 2020
POWER on Day 21
Today is Day 21 as we count up to Pentecost.
We have been looking at Paul’s determined purpose found in Philippians 3:10 – “that I may know Him – that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding [the wonders of His Person] more strongly and more clearly. And that I may in the same way come to know the power out flowing from His resurrection [the power that it exerts over believers]; and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death.” (Amplified, Classical Version of the Bible)
In this verse, Paul is saying that he wants three things: #1 to know Jesus, #2 to know the power of His resurrection, and #3, to be allowed to share His sufferings.
We examined much of the first sentence, word by word. We’ve tried to take in all that it means in Paul’s mind, to know Jesus, the first part of his purpose. Now today, we will move to #2 – “And that I may in some way come to know the power out flowing from His resurrection [the power it exerts over believers]….” It’s as though Paul is saying, “somehow, I have to know this power that is found in His resurrection.” He had approved the stoning of Stephen, thinking that this would stop the talk of Jesus. But, as he watched Stephen, he was amazed. How could a man respond as Stephen did? What would cause Stephen to say, “Lord! Don’t hold this sin against them!” (Acts 7:60)
Paul, one who had studied under the greatest teacher, Gamaliel the Elder, can’t understand this power of God as it is displayed through the resurrection of Jesus. So, when Paul says that he can’t wrap his mind around it, that is truly extraordinary! Paul knew the Scriptures. He was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. There was no lack of knowledge in Him. But He recognizes that there is something more in this power than he can grasp. He doesn’t necessarily know how he is going to understand this power, but this, along with intimately knowing Jesus the Messiah, is his determined purpose.
Paul frequently talks about the power of God. In 1 Corinthians 4:20, he says “for the Kingdom of God is not based on talk but on power.” The Kingdom of God is based on a power that we cannot comprehend. The resurrection of Jesus was simply one manifestation of the power of God. There is something inside me that is saying that if there is no power in our lives, there is no Kingdom. That’s a scary thought! In fact, I don’t think that Paul is saying that he wants to know the “power” with his mind, but he wants to know the “power” experientially. He wants to experience the power of Jesus’ resurrection.
Oh, that we would be determined to experience the power of God working in and through us! As we move to Pentecost, let’s ask Him to bring us to the place that we experience even a small sample of His power!
May 3, 2020
Day 20 CHARACTER DETAILS
Today is Day 20 of counting the omer.
We’ve been looking for truth out of Philippians 3:10 Amplified, Classical Version of the Bible. “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him – that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding [the wonders of His Person] more strongly and more clearly. And that I may in the same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection
[the power that it exerts over believers]
; and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death.”
Let’s continue the process today and delve into the words, “perceiving, recognizing and understanding” – ordinary words that we probably use, but let’s see if there is something perhaps that we have missed. Dictionary.com says that “perceiving” is to “to become aware of, know, or identify by means of the senses or to recognize, discern, envision, or understand”. The Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) adds this: “to understand a situation and make judgments on the information.” Now, how about “recognizing”? Dictionary.com defines it as: “to identify from knowledge of appearance or characteristics”. The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged in One Volume notes – “intelligent comprehension”. The third word is “understanding” and according to Dictionary.com, it means “a mental process of a person who comprehends”. Logos Bible Software defines it as “a mental grasp, the power of comprehending”.
The more complete phrase from the verse is: “perceiving and recognizing and understanding [the wonders of His Person]”. If we attempt to put it all together to have more clarification or a broader grasp of what Paul is saying, we might say that he wants to intelligently identify Jesus, incorporating all His characteristics. Then, Paul wants to mentally grasp and make a judgement about what he has identified. And after doing all that, he wants to comprehend the implications of all the information he has pulled together. This has much more depth than simply saying that you want to know someone. Paul is saying that he wants to get down to the nitty-gritty, pull it all together and be able to bask in the wonders of Jesus the Messiah.
The question for you and me today is: Do we want to take the time to study all the details of His character so that we are able to mentally grasp who Jesus is? The second question is: What will we do then, with the information and the implications of the information. For the truth is, if we mentally grasp, after good study, the details of His character, then we will have to say that He is the Son of God. Not only will we have to make that declaration, but the implications are that we must live our lives as He has taught and actually do all that we can to cause our lives to be a reflection of His. (I understand that there may be those who really know who He is but choose not to follow Him; however, it is my prayer that when God reveals the truth to us, none of us would want to make that choice.) This is not for the weak-minded or for those who want to play with life in a fast-and-loose manner. For since Jesus really is the Son of God, there is no way around the truth that I must live my life for Him.
May 2, 2020
Day 19 INTENSE UNDERSTANDING
Today is Day 19 of counting the omer. Just 30 more days of counting. The 31st day will be Pentecost!
Yesterday we continued exploring truth found in Philippians 3:10: (Amplified Bible Classic Version) “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him – that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding [the wonders of His Person] more strongly and more clearly. And that I may in the same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [the power that it exerts over believers]; and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death.”
Today, let’s search for truth in a few more words – deeply, intimately and acquainted. Deeply is defined as “far down or in”, “intensely”. Intimately means “in a way that involves detailed knowledge” and/or “in a private and personal way”. The word “acquainted” comes from a French word that means “to make known” and a Latin word which means to “come to know”. How do we put this together to allow Paul’s declaration to get past our walls and presuppositions so that we have a new and better picture of what it means to “know Him” today?
Paul is attempting to describe an intensity occurring in his spirit which drives him to search out as many fine details of the Messiah, Jesus, as possible. Paul is saying that he wants to be able to apply those details to himself in such a personal way that the core of his personhood comes to know and experience this One who was sent to show us Father God.
God is calling us to dig down past the top soil – that which we want others to see, – past the rocky layer beneath that provides protection for us, and on into the well-fortified encasement of our true selves – almost like NORAD, buried deep within the mountains to be able to endure and provide security and control if everything above ground is wild and threatening. It is there that God is wanting us to have such a personal and private relationship with Him. It is there that He wants to bring the truth of Himself and His Kingdom. It is there that He wants to demonstrate His love, faithfulness, grace and mercy. It is there that He wants to bring His completeness to the life that is torn, bruised, bleeding and unsure. It is there that He wants to heal and bring forth a beauty that reflects Himself alone.
This was Paul’s challenge. This is our challenge as we count up to Pentecost. Will we allow Him to enter, past all the protective layers that we have installed, and in a private and personal way, know Him? That is my prayer today for each of us. He has so much more that He wants to us to experience if we simply draw up close to Him!
May 1, 2020
BECOMING on Day 18
Today is Day 18 of counting the “omer”.
Let’s explore more of Paul’s highest purpose found in Philippians 3:10: (Amplified Bible Classic Version) “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him – that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding [the wonders of His Person] more strongly and more clearly. And that I may in the same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [the power that it exerts over believers]; and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death.”
Yesterday we looked simply at the word “progressively”. Today, I want to look at a piece of the remaining portion of that phrase: “become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him”. “To become” means that we are not stagnant; it means to “begin to be”, growing, stretching. Have you ever watched a time-lapsed video of a plant as it breaks through the ground, uncurls it’s head, stretches toward the sky, cracks open the top piece to reveal a flower that slowly opens, spreads out and displays such beauty as cannot be imagined? If you have time, click on the link and watch as a sunflower becomes! The amazing thing that I observed as I watched the YouTube time-lapse video, was the intense shaking just as the flower was being “birthed” so to speak, as it started to be revealed. So much energy was being expended just to bring forth the beauty! If you were not watching it in time-lapse, you would have never realized how hard it was working or even seen the progress. You may have only seen the end product. But the development, the becoming is the most critical piece. That sunflower would never show itself except for the unseen work. The first time I watched, I thought there must be a little breeze blowing as the plant began to grow. However, after I finished watching it and began to think about it, I realized that at each step of the development, the energy required for growth was expressed through shaking.
And I think that is perhaps the most critical part of our life in Christ. We are to “begin to be”, “become”, every day and even every minute of the day. God is not done with us! He has so much more that He wants to reveal in and through us; however, we must put out the effort, expend the energy, do the hard work in order to experience the beauty and depth of life in our Lord!
There is one more observation: as the plant grew, the old leaves fell away. Let that sink in . . . . Together with God’s loving direction, we must shed/release the old things so that the new growth can flourish!
Praying that this will be an energy-expending day and you “become” in the Lord!
April 30, 2020
Day 17 INTENTIONAL PROGRESS
Today is Day 17 for us as we count the “omer”. As I have said before, the purpose of this time of counting up to Pentecost is to cause us to intentionally increase our intimacy with the Most High God so that we are prepared for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is true that the Holy Spirit pours Himself out on us anytime we are open and seeking Him. Therefore, we do not have to wait for Pentecost to have a fresh infilling of the Spirit of God. However, I believe that God is pleased as we focus our hearts and minds on Him to seek a deeper relationship with Him, looking with great expectation to what He would be excited to give us on the Day of Pentecost/Shauv’ot/Feast of Weeks. As we understand the Feasts of the Lord, we will better see His footsteps and have a wonderful anticipation about what He is ready to do. However, He will not do what we are not prepared to receive. Therefore, we intentionally choose to increase the depth and intimacy of relationship with our God, Yehovah!
A few days ago, we were talking about Paul’s determined purpose found in Philippians 3:10. Let me quote it one more time out of the Amplified Bible Classic Version. “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him – that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding [the wonders of His Person] more strongly and more clearly. And that I may in the same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [the power that it exerts over believers]; and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death.” We have talked about the word “know”, and today, I want us to begin to look at the phrases that are used to describe and amplify “know Him”.
Let’s explore the phrase: “that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him”. If I stop and examine those words, I am challenged. What does it mean to progressively know Him? The first word is “progressively”. Dictionary.com defines “progressively” as “steadily, in stages”. I am supposing that “steadily, in stages” could be looked at as a picture of an individual driving a vehicle with a manual transmission for the first time. Because the driver is not skilled balancing the interaction between the clutch and the accelerator, the result is that the car jumps a foot or two and then stalls. The driver is both frustrated and embarrassed with their ability to get the car to move smoothly forward. I have never seen a driver be able to accomplish a steady forward movement the first or even with the second try. It takes practice and determination to become proficient in that skill. But if we back up to look at this driver, new to a manual transmission, we can see that the progressive piece is “in stages”. As the driver continues to practice, there is an obvious improvement in ability. If the driver does not practice, there is no improvement. Dictionary.com goes on to define “progressively” as “in a forward-looking, innovative manner”. I think of this “forward-looking” piece as intentionality. There is an excitement inherent in “forward-looking”, as though straining to see what it will look like when I get there, when I am able to move that vehicle forward as smoothly and easily as I would if it had an automatic transmission. And the “innovative” piece means that I choose to get outside the box to find new ways to accomplish my goal.
If we put this all together today and apply it to our relationship with God, perhaps we can say that although we may not have done the “progressively” piece before, we are going to start learning (recognizing that we won’t have it mastered at the beginning) how to develop the deep intimacy with God that we so hunger for in our deepest, most private place. And we will be resolute, determined, so that the jerks from time to time will not discourage us to the point that we quit. We will rejoice as we begin to see that we more easily are able to move our hearts and minds into the Presence of God. We will see those jerks occur less frequently and more routinely experience the smoothness of the takeoff as we become more proficient. Additionally, we are going to be straining to see God throughout the day and leaning forward with great anticipation, getting rid of things that have not worked for us in the past. As we ask God to inspire us to find and employ new ways to develop that deep intimate relationship with Him, we will be willing to explore new methods. One of the things that I am doing differently on occasions in my personal quiet time with my LORD is getting on my knees with my face to the floor instead of sitting in a chair or even kneeling at the altar. That small change radically alters my perspective. Remember, it does not take a huge change; just a little change will make a difference.
My prayer today is that we “progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him”! May our intentionality be greater than ever before as we seek to know Him!
April 29, 2020
CLARIFYING RELATIONSHIP ON Day 16
Today is Day 16 of counting the omer from First Fruits to Pentecost.
I was watching a webinar today and heard something that really jumped out at me. I think in reality, I have been talking about this truth in a round-about way for a while. The statement was “crisis clarifies priority”. As we slowly become less restricted, I think it is important for us to make sure that we have used this pandemic to clarify to us what is the true priority in our lives.
Have you discovered the true priority of your life? Is it different from what you previously thought? When much was stripped away, what came to the surface? Some people have discovered how incredibly important it is in their lives to be able to go out with friends for a social time. Others have discovered that their personal time has decreased because the children are not in school or their spouse is not at work. Some others are thrilled that they don’t have to go to work now. Some are really disappointed because they are not being able to go shopping or traveling as they would have in the past. But each of us has had to face different realities as we have gone through this COVID-19 pandemic. What is it that you want to keep when this is all over?
What do you think the nation of Israel decided was a priority as they wandered through the wilderness for 40 years? What do you think God wanted them to decide was a priority during that time? Every person who made that 40-year trip had the opportunity to “develop trust in God and to enter into the delight of covenant relationship once again.” (Pryor, 2016, p 166) But not everyone decided to do that. It could have been so edifying for each person if they had gotten past the physical and looked with spiritual eyes to see this magnificent God who provided food, clothing, drink, heat at night and a cloud to cool them during the day. The bleak desert that was a death trap that “mirrors the futility of man’s strivings and self-dependence; nonetheless God meets him there and He provides man with the vision and the means to reverse the curse he brought upon himself in the garden. Hope was given at Sinai in the revelation of God’s glorious Presence and the gift of His eternal Word.” (Pryor, 2016, p 166)
So, as we go through this 1 1/2-3 month quarantine for the coronavirus, what will we decide is of greatest priority? Will you be able to say that you have used this opportunity to develop trust in God and delight in a covenant relationship with the One who created you? Will you let go of your own rushing and pushing to get the things that so quickly pass? Will you determine that you want to depend solely on God or will you hold onto that self-dependence? What will be your most treasured memory of this experience? I am praying that your greatest memory will be the one that reflects great gains in relationship with our LORD God.
April 28, 2020
Pryor, Keren Hannah, a Taste of TORAH: A Devotional Study Through The Five Books of Moses, Keren Hannah Pryor, 2016, p 166
Day 15 His Strong House
Today is the fifteenth day that we have been counting the omer.
Today, I want us to look at just one verse in the song of Moses found in Exodus 15:2. The Complete Jewish Study Bible says that verse in this way, “Yah is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation. This is my God: I will glorify Him; my father’s God: I will exalt Him.” The word “Yah” is a name of God. The New Living Translation writes it as “LORD” which in Hebrew is Yehovah, THE name of God. At first glance, it just sounds like a song of praise to God. However, let’s take a deeper took and see what else might be buried in these words.
Let’s look at some specific words in the first sentence. The Hebrew word for “strength” means “fortress, loud, might, power, stronghold, protection”. The Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Sematic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) says this, “a condition in which one can exert great force or withstand great force, with a focus of having ability to do what is desired, intended or necessary; a place or structure which is a safe place to reside against attacks”. The Hebrew word for “song” can mean a melody but it can also denote the best products or ability, having high value. “Salvation” means deliverance or victory.
The second sentence is, “This is my God: I will glorify Him; my father’s God: I will exalt Him”. This also has some deep thoughts if we look at it in Hebrew. The Jewish Study Bible says, “This is my God and I will enshrine Him; the God of my father, and I will exalt Him. Here is how it was translated in a 2,000-year-old Aramaic version of the Bible: “This is my God, and I shall build [become] a temple for Him.” (a Taste of TORAH: a Devotional Study Through the Five Books of Moses by Keren Hannah Pryor, 2016, p 81) Keren then quotes a rabbi, S.R. Hirsch who said, “This is my God, to Him would I be a habitation.” In other words, Keren says: “I shall become his house.”
Now let’s put it all together and see what we can glean. “The one and only God, Yehovah is the powerhouse in me. Not only is it His power but He is also the fortress, strong place where I am safe from everything the world and the devil would throw at me. He is the best-of-the-best in me. He gives me my high value! He is the melody that flows through me. Through Him, I am delivered and given the victory. He is the Source and the outcome, my safe place and the complete victory that I experience!”
Moses continues to rave about his God. “Yehovah has chosen me but I have also chosen Him! He is my God. And because He is so wonderful, I will become a house for Him. Because He is so wonderful, I want Him to stay with me all the time. I want to be the place where He is so comfortable that He will want to actually live within me. I will offer myself to Him as a place to live, a place where He can be revealed to me and those around me.”
Paul tells us that we as believers are God’s temple – His home, the place where He lives! Oh, what a wonderful thought! We have been chosen to be His dwelling place! What a great honor! O that this would be at the forefront of our thoughts. For the more that we recognize this truth, the more we will daily experience His power and move in that power to be more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave Himself for us!
April 27, 2020
Day 14 COME
Today is Day 14 of counting the ‘omer’.
Yesterday we talked briefly about the importance of having true hearts. Abram’s heart was true to God as God told him to leave everything that he knew and go to a place that he had never seen. The command to “go” called for the obedience of faith. He believed and trusted God, even when he could not see. God was faithful to demonstrate to Abram that He could be trusted and that whatever He said would come to pass.
Today, we want to look briefly at the opposite “command” given by God to Moses, “come”, found in Exodus 10:1. I realize that it probably does not say “come” in your translation. However, the Hebrew word used there is “bo” (transliteration), and that word means “to come, to come in, come back to a prior point from which one previously departed”. According to a Taste of TORAH: A Devotional Study Through the Five Books of Moses by Keren Hannah Pryor, God is giving Moses “a more reassuring command. He says, in effect, ‘Come to me and we will go to Pharaoh together.’ It emphasizes the fact that God is with him and, in fact, goes before him to prepare the way. Moses simply needs to join him and cooperate with the plan already set in place. ‘Bo!’ is an invitation rather than a command, one that requires a response of trust and loving compliance.” (p 77) As I read that today, it seemed that God was encouraging me and us to come with Him as He leads us into places we have never been, or perhaps to a “prior point from which one previously departed”. Is it possible that during this time between First Fruits and Pentecost, God is wanting us to remember when we were more determined to live in accordance with His ways, days when the fire of the Holy Spirit burned more brightly in our hearts and lives. Or, perhaps He is calling us to come with Him to restore relationships that have been broken? Perhaps it is an invitation to respond to Him simply trusting that He knows all the ins and outs of the problems in which we find ourselves, and then following Him as He brings us to reconciliation and peace. Perhaps it is an invitation to us today to walk with Him more intentionally. He will be with us. He has promised to never leave us to our own strength but will be with us in every situation.
I encourage you to allow His invitation to sink in and then to trust Him and “come” to and with Him.
April 26, 2020
TRUE HEARTS on Day 13
This is Day 13 of counting the omer.
God separated Abram from the world by telling him to “go to the land that I will show you. If you do this, then I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great; and you are to be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1b-3 CJB) God was calling him to leave those familiar things, leave those things associated with other gods and determine that Yehovah, Jehovah, was the One true God. In my mind, I can’t help but think that Abram must have had some real hesitations. After all, he was living with his family. He was enjoying the prosperity of his family. His wife had her family there. However, the Bible does not support these thoughts. Instead, the Scripture says that Abram got up and started packing. This was even before God changed his name to Abraham and made a covenant with him.
In Genesis 15:6 we are told: “And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.” We have talked about the word “believe” and noted that it is more than simply a head knowledge. It means to take something into oneself to the point that it changes everything else. So, Abram was convinced to the point that his total life was changed. He was willing to stand on what he knew about this great God, Yehovah. He was willing to stake his life on the fact that Yehovah knew all things, was greater than all other gods, was gracious, and was faithful – He could be counted on to do exactly what He said. Nehemiah gives us another picture of Abraham’s heart. God found Abraham’s heart to be faithful [true, established, firm] before Him and therefore made a covenant with Abraham. (Nehemiah 9:8) Abraham’s character and his “true heart” were filled with faithfulness and loyalty to God.
God longs to have “true hearts” with whom He can covenant. He longs for us to be so convinced of who He is that our whole lives are changed. He longs for us to come to the point that we would stake our lives on the fact that Yehovah is God. He longs for us to be so sure that nothing can ever shake us from that truth. He longs for us to know Him to the point that He can share His deepest thoughts with us. He longs for intimacy with His highest creation, you and me. If we determine to have true hearts, then God will reveal Himself to us and we will know Him. We must look to Him, not look to others but to Him. He is our sufficiency. And when we do that, He will reveal Himself to us in a personal, intimate manner. He tells us, “you are never one of many to Me. You are precious and dear to My heart, yes, even as a very special treasure. For I love you more than you can ever comprehend, and I long to gather you in My embrace and hold you close to My heart.” (Roberts, Come Away My Beloved, p 26)
April 25, 2020
Day 12 STEP BACK
Today is Day 12 of counting the omer.
During our forty-nine-day trek from First Fruits to Pentecost, we are to be excitedly looking forward to the new thing that God will do in our lives. The end goal is to know God at a much deeper level than ever before! Each day, as we walk we want to examine the growth and fruit in our spiritual lives and expect that God, through intentionally reading and studying His Word, will plant the seeds needed for us to produce the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23) Sometimes we find that we have to do a lot of plowing to break up the ground in order for the seeds to be planted. Yesterday we talked about forgiveness and how important it is for us to forgive those who have hurt us. That is one of the places we must do some digging and tugging to get the roots out of the ground. As we routinely clear the weeds out of our lives and nurture the fruit of the Spirit, our intimacy with God blooms and our hearts are satisfied/filled/satiated with Him.
Today, perhaps we need to take a step backwards and really look at ourselves, the whole picture, because there is a truth in the statement, “we cannot see the forest for the trees”. So, I encourage you to just step back and look at yourself with as much spiritual honesty as possible. Ask yourself some questions: What is my bottom-line spiritual goal in life? Do I really want to know God? Do I want to be changed so that I reflect Him (just like a mirror)? If so, can I see some progress toward that goal? What has slowed me? Has anything stopped me dead in my tracks? Am I willing to confront that thing, throw it down and eliminate it from my life so that I can continue on the road to deeper intimacy with God?
May God give you clarity as you allow Him to show you your next step!
April 24, 2020
Day 11 FORGIVENESS
This is Day 11 of counting the omer.
As we progress toward the Feast of Weeks/Passover, our desire is to increase our intimacy with God, looking forward to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit! We have talked about the word “know” and “trust” and what they mean regarding a depth of relationship with God. Those are important concepts and realities that we must intentionally choose. They are foundational if we desire to progress. And there are some other foundational concepts that will either enhance or inhibit our progress toward the goal. Today I just want to look at one, forgiveness.
As I write, my mind begins to bombard me with two sets of thoughts – what God and mental health disciplines say about forgiveness and the reality and difficulty of actually making the choice and following it through to the end. You know from the teaching of Jesus that it is imperative that we forgive “for if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours.” (Matthew 6:14-15) Jesus did not mince words. And He was very clear. If we want God to forgive us, then we must forgive those who have caused us trouble. Mental health professionals tell us that forgiveness is essential to getting on with our lives. In fact, on the back of one of the books in my office about forgiveness, there is this statement by Ralph H Earle, PhD: “Envy, hostility, self-doubt, the nagging awareness that something is weighing us down … these are the telltale signs that the hurts we have collected over time have, at last, grown too heavy to bear….” Does any of this sound familiar to you?
In my second set of thoughts, I am reminded about how hard it is to forgive. We struggle between knowing that it is important to live in accordance with God’s Word and yet still experiencing the pain from the past (or perhaps the present). We struggle because we have allowed some concepts to create barriers that keep us bound down by unforgiveness. Just let me point out a few misunderstandings about the idea of forgiveness: Forgiving is forgetting. Forgiving is saying that what happened is ok. Forgiveness is a one-time decision. In reality, none of these are true.
What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is choosing to let go of the pain and anger that results from being hurt. I intentionally allow God to decide how to handle the issue. I quit trying to make the person pay. I quit being the “debt collector” as David Seamands would explain it in Healing for Damaged Emotions. I do not necessarily forget that the situation occurred; however, when I remember it and as often as it resurfaces because of re-injury, I choose to let it go. I intentionally release the individual into God’s hands. I take my hands off. Certainly, I should tell the person that they hurt me, and that it is not right that they continue the behavior. Depending on the situation, I may even have to leave the environment. That person is held responsible. But now, as far as I am concerned the person is accountable to God and not to me. As I do this, He gives healing to my injury. The barrier between me and God is removed. I can come into His Presence rejoicing that I have obeyed and have removed the chains of unforgiveness that held me hostage. This frees me to move forward toward what Paul says: “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him!” (Philippians 3:10 AMP Classic Edition)
April 23, 2020
TRUST Day 10
Today is Day 10 of counting the ‘omer’.
Let’s stop for a moment and take a look at another word as we count up to Pentecost/the Feast of Weeks/Shauv’ot. This word demonstrates the level of your/my intimacy with God. That word is TRUST. Now that is a scary word, at least to some degree. It seems to be easier to trust in things that I can know through my five senses. However, this is about trusting God who is spirit. And, trusting One who you cannot generally experience with your five senses, – now THAT is different.
Proverbs 3:5-6 is a classic couple of verses that can seriously challenge us. It says: (KJV) “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths.” (NLT) “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” The CJB puts it this way: “Trust in ADONAI with all your heart; do not rely on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him; then He will level your paths.”
There are many things we could look at today, but I’m going to simply stick with “trust”. The word in Hebrew for ‘trust’ has to do with inspiring confidence, a belief or feeling of safety and security. The New Bible Commentary notes that “trust and lean both suggest the physical experience of supporting yourself on something or someone in total and helpless reliance and commitment.”
I remember as a teen seeing a “game” in which one person stood with their back to another. The second person, after taking one step back from the first person, would put their arms out and the first person was encouraged to fall backwards. The second individual was to catch the person falling backwards. Perhaps you either have heard of the exercise or participated in it at some point in time. The purpose of the exercise or game was to increase trust or better understand trust. Wikipedia calls it a “trust fall”. I don’t know about you, but that’s a bit of a scary proposition. Is it possible that this is what we are encouraged to do through these verses?
If you have experienced some difficult times in relationships, this idea of falling backwards into the arms of God can be pretty scary. Can I allow myself to fall backwards into His arms being confident, feeling totally safe and secure, that He will always catch me? Am I willing to be confident that God has got this (whatever ‘this’ might be)? Am I willing to determine that I don’t have to figure it all out but am able to rely on God?
I believe this is the place to which God is calling each of us. He wants us to have perfect confidence in Him, to feel so safe and secure. He wants us to relax, and in total reliance, depend upon Him to take care of us. I would say to you that He is drawing you and me to know Him that intimately! He wants us to know that we can trust Him completely.
Now, let me add just three sentences from Francis Roberts’ book, Come Away My Beloved. “In your daily walk, you shall be victorious only to the degree that you trust Me. I can help you only as you ask. I shall meet you at every point where you put action alongside your prayers.”
Pretty heavy, but you can trust Him today. Just fall backwards into His arms and allow Him to be your total support and strength!
April 22, 2020
This is day 9 of counting the ‘omer’.
Perhaps the quarantine is slowly drawing to a close, and perhaps we can see a light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope that to some degree, our lives will become less tangled every few days and our comfort levels will continue to rise, though slowly, yet still rise.
I am thinking about those prospects this morning and wondering if we as individuals will allow ourselves to go back to our “normal” as pressures seem to decrease. There’s a lot of good anticipation in that, and yet, at least as your pastor, I have many concerns about that “normal”. As I spoke on Sunday, my greatest concern is that we will quickly forget our greatest need, Jesus Christ. Will we fall back into an easy lifestyle relatively speaking, a comfortable place, and not be challenged daily in areas that really are the most important. Will we forget how important it is to be focused on our LORD God? Will we forget the urgency to tell others about our Lord? Will we forget that some of our friends and family will be lost forever because we lost the urgency to tell them the most important thing? Oh, trust me, I’m definitely looking forward to the time that I can go to a restaurant, sit down, relax and eat, pay and leave! I look forward to being able to go get my hair cut! But if I forget how important it is for me to cry out to my God every day for myself, for you, and for those in my sphere of influence, then it would be better for my life to remain forever “quarantined”.
Then I was reading from one of my devotional books today given to me by a dear friend:
“O My child, do not expect the trials to be lighter than in the past. Why should you think the testings would be less severe? Lo, I prove all things, and there are areas of your life that I have not touched as yet. Do not look for respite. The days ahead may call for greater endurance and more robust faith than you have ever needed before. Welcome this, for you must surely know by this time how precious are the lessons learned through such experiences….
“Apply your heart to learn wisdom. This goal transcends every other aim, and any other good that comes out of a pressure period is an added blessing in excess.
“Seek Me above all else.”
Come Away My Beloved, Francis Roberts
When I read that short piece, it stirred me to get back in touch with reality. God has already told us in His Word that things are not going to get easier as we move toward the end of time as we know it. There are going to be many more stressful events, recurring with greater frequency. I think we may have less and less time between each episode. Jesus is returning soon. I’m really excited about that…, but it begs the question, what type of people should we be? The Apostle Peter asked the same question in his second letter to followers of Jesus not long before he was killed. In the third chapter, Peter tells them that he is trying to arouse them to wholesome thinking and refresh their memories. “I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles. Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers (ridiculers) will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, ‘What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.’ They deliberately forget that God made the heavens long ago by the word of His command, and He brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. Then He used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed. But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent (turn from their wrong, wicked thinking and behavior patterns). But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything in it will be found to deserve judgment. Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along.” (2 Peter 3:1b-12a NLT)
I encourage you today to write down spiritual things you have learned during this COVID-19 situation. Don’t let this virus go to waste. We will need all spiritual strength to endure to the end. Focus on growth in God, strengthening your knowledge, understanding, and resolve. If you haven’t already, make sure that daily you spend time with God and allow the Holy Spirit to teach you and guide you. If we do these things, then, here’s the reality – if God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31 KJV) “… in all these things we are super-conquerors, through the One who has loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor any other heavenly rulers, neither what exists nor what is coming, neither powers above nor powers below, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God which comes to us through Messiah Yeshua, our Lord. (Romans 8:37-39 CJB)
April 21, 2020
Day 8 – The Unfinished Holy Day
Today is day 8 of counting the ‘omer’. I read something this morning that I just want to briefly share because it goes along with what I sent you yesterday. It’s an added thought that I found enriching. The article noted that the Torah – teachings of God – gave no specific reason for setting aside the Feast of Weeks/Shavuot/Pentecost, other than to celebrate the wheat harvest and wave the two loaves of bread before the LORD God Almighty. Therefore, many ancient sages called it the “unfinished holy day”. According to the article, it wasn’t until later that people started associating it with the giving of the Torah to Moses on Mt Sinai. That “unfinished holy day” finally became a ‘finished holy day’ at the pouring out of the Holy Spirit just 10 days after Jesus ascended into heaven. If you look through that lens of being the “unfinished holy day”, you can see perhaps a little more clearly why God commanded the people to count the ‘omer”. Each day they counted up to finally reach 49. The next day, the 50th day, would be this great holy day. There was an excitement to see what God was going to do on that very Holy Day. And so it is with us, as we look expectantly toward the day when we celebrate the giving of the Holy Spirit to ALL flesh who receive the Son, Jesus Christ. Here’s the website if you would like to read the article. https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/the-torah-singles-out-resurrection-sunday/
One other thing about yesterday’s Cove Church Connections, I inadvertently wrote “Another website, Chabad.org, states that the primary purpose of the count ‘demonstrates our thrill for the impending occasion of receiving the Torah (teachings of God), which is celebrated on Passover.” That should have been Pentecost instead of Passover.
Now for some thoughts for today. Let’s go back to Philippians 3:10 out of the classic Amplified Bible. We looked at it on the 4th day of counting the omer. “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death.”
The word “know” is a knowledge based on, grounded in personal experience. Paul is not satisfied with hearing someone else’s experience. One of the Greek words used for “know” refers to a knowledge that comes by being close to, right up next to the thing known. We are individuals with many parts, components or spheres. We are physical, biological; we are thinking, psychological; we are social, inter-relational; and we are spiritual. If we are to really know God intimately, then all those different spheres will be included. We generally think of intimacy with God as being simply spiritual. However, if that intimacy does not spill over and affect our physical, psychological and social spheres, we really are not experiencing the depth to which our God is encouraging us to know Him.
The more I draw up to close to God and experience Him personally, the more that my physical life begins to be transformed. I choose to and intentionally conduct myself in a manner that reflects Him. I want my behaviors to reflect Him. The more that I draw up close to Him, the more I choose to transform in my thinking to reflect Him. I choose my thoughts and attitudes and bring them into alignment with Him. As Paul puts it, I “take every thought captive”. The more I draw up close to Him, the more I see my social settings and interactions through His eyes. I want to be in social settings that would please Him and have my interactions with others to reflect His interactions. And the more I draw up close to God, the more my spiritual eyes and ears are opened and cleared so that I enter His presence with anticipation of what new thing He will reveal today.
So with Paul, I declare today that it is my determined purpose to KNOW Him! And, I hope that you too, are determined to know Him!
April 20, 2020
Day 7 Counting the Omer
This is day 7 of counting the ‘omer’. Ok, I give up, what does it mean to count the ‘omer’, and what does that mean to me today? Perhaps that is what you are thinking; therefore, let’s talk about it for a moment.
What is the purpose of ‘counting the omer’? (omer literally means ‘sheaf’. It is also a measure of dried goods.) This was a command of God found in Leviticus 23:15-16 Why did the children of Israel count up for 49 days and the on the 50th day bring a new grain offering to God – an offering of bread made from the wheat harvest?
In my quest to find the answer, and perhaps some of you already know the answer, I found a couple of things that are interesting and that we might be able to use. My Complete Jewish Study Bible says that the counting helped the people reflect on the symbolic meaning of the day. It goes on to state that the counting of the ‘omer’ was “not a countdown, but a count up in anticipation of the next great work of God at the Feast of Weeks, Shavu’ot or what we call Pentecost.” (Complete Jewish Study Bible p161) Myjewishlearning.com states that part of the counting of the ‘omer’ was to move the children of Israel “from a slavery mentality to a more liberated one.” Another website, Chabad.org, states that the primary purpose of the count “demonstrates our thrill for the impending occasion of receiving the Torah” (teachings of God), which is celebrated on Pentecost. Just as a child often counts the days until the end of school or an upcoming family vacation, we count the days to show our excitement at again receiving the Torah [teachings of God] (as we do in fact receive the Torah in a renewed sense every year).”
So counting the ‘omer’ served a couple of purposes. First, it was to help them to grow up individually and as a group. They had been slaves; now they were freedmen. They had so much to learn about how to conduct themselves as freedmen. So much could be said right there about how we were slaves to sin, but now through Jesus Christ, we are free and “a new creation” in Him. You can celebrate along with that song, “Hallelujah I am free, oh what glorious liberty.” And we are to grow up and become mature in Christ Jesus our Lord. We are not to stay babies and continue behaving like babies spiritually. We are to learn how to conduct ourselves as persons who have been freed from the chains of sin and go on to maturity in Him!
Secondly, the counting of the ‘omer’ was a way of anticipating the next big thing that God had done in their lives. The celebration of the Feast of Weeks/ Shavu’ot/ Pentecost, celebrated the fact that God gave Moses the 10 words, the 10 commandments, the teaching of God. I think that perhaps on this side of Jesus’ coming, we have a tendency to forget how important and really great that occurrence was. We sometimes forget that Jesus said that He did not come to remove the things that God had declared from Mt Sinai. Nothing, not the smallest letter even, would be deleted. Jesus did not come to get rid of the teachings of God; He came to correctly teach them in contrast to the religious leaders who were strapping people with rules and regulations. Jesus was teaching the spirit of the commandments. The greatest commandment is – “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” And Jesus said, the second greatest commandment is “to love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul says that we Gentile believers have been grafted in so that we really are part of the chosen. So, if we would learn more than the letter of the law and get to the place that our love for God is so strong that nothing, nothing, nothing is more important, then everything else would fall into place.
As we have been counting the ‘omer’, my writings have intentionally had the emphasis of intimacy with God, knowing Him more and coming into a deeper love relationship with Him. We are not slaves to sin; we have been bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus Christ. If all I do is based on right and wrong legalistically, I’ve missed the depth of relationship with Him. I’ve missed the intimacy with Him. I’ve missed out on the whole point of it all, and that is having an intimate relationship with the God of the universe who loved me and loved you, each of us individually, to the point that He was willing to give up His one and only Son. I don’t know about you, but that is a level of love that I cannot understand in my humanity. That depth of love is beyond my comprehension and should bring me to my knees each time I think about it!
Therefore, each day as we “count the omer”, let’s use it as an opportunity to get to know our God more, to thrive in His teachings, to grow up more into spiritual maturity, and look forward to Pentecost when we celebrate not only the teachings of God but also the giving and baptism of the Holy Spirit as Jesus promised!
April 19, 2020
Capturing our Thoughts Day 6
This is day 6 of our counting the omer.
This morning I’ve been focused on coming into His presence. I am overwhelmed with the majesty and holiness of my God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I’ve tried to see into His holiness and release my sprit that I might know Him in a more intimate manner than ever before. To my chagrin, my mind has had a tendency to wander from one thing to another. Perhaps you have had that experience – and it’s not enjoyable or seemingly profitable. As I struggled with my wandering mind, I found myself over and over both frustrated and ashamed because of my seeming inability to focus on Him. I found myself crying out to God in the middle of it, asking Him to know my heart and how much I want to sense His presence, to have Him open my spiritual eyes that I might see Him. Every once in a while, it seemed the door opened ever so briefly, and I was overwhelmed in His presence.
My mind jumped once again, but this time to perhaps a more profitable place for I recalled Isaiah in his vision of God (Isaiah 6:1-7). Remember that it was when the most important thing/entity, the King of Judah, died that Isaiah saw the Lord, Yehovah “sitting on a high, lofty throne. The hem of His robe filled the Temple. S’rafim (saraphs) stood over Him, each with six wings – two for covering the face, two for covering the feet and two for flying. They were crying out to each other, ‘More holy than the holiest holiness is ADONAI-T’zva’ot! (The LORD Almighty) The whole earth is filled with His glory!’” (Complete Jewish Bible) Isaiah had to clear the distractions out of his line of vision. And, it seemed to me that God was encouraging me to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5b) so that nothing would preclude me from seeing Him.
I think God is trying to tell us today that sometimes the things that keeps us from sensing Him are the distractions, even when they are good things. Even the good things can get in the way of us experiencing Him in His holiness, in His righteousness, in His grace and in His mercy. If the cry of your heart is to know Him, to experience Him, to reflect Him but you don’t seem to be able to get there, then I encourage you to check out what is going on in your mind. See what has your attention, and take it captive – “make it obedient to Christ”. Our God wants to be known. He wants us to experience Him and His presence. He wants us to see Him and love Him with our whole hearts. To do that, we must make choices, sometimes hard choices. However, if we do, we will see Him at least with our spiritual eyes until He comes!
I’m attaching a link for another song that I really love. It is sung by Paul Wilbur and is called, “Show Me Your Face”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QerNC1llcL8
April 18, 2020
Looking in our Hearts on Day 5
This is day 5 of counting the ‘omer’. Let’s do some introspection and evaluation as we begin to prepare our hearts for Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks. It will be here before we know it!
Today I am reading again Paul’s letter to the Philippians and specifically in chapter 3. This whole letter is chock full of wonder and amazement about the extreme value of our Lord Jesus, Yeshua. Paul demonstrates this extreme value by first pointing out his own credentials: he was circumcised on the eighth day; he was born into the tribe of Benjamin; he spoke Hebrew and came from Hebrew-speaking parents; he kept every single piece of the Torah, the teaching of God and was a Pharisee; he had great zeal for God to the extent that he had persecuted all those who had grabbed onto Yeshua, Jesus; and he was perfect in the righteousness that is demanded by legalism – he was blameless. All of these things, all of his credentials were spotless in the eyes of the world. Those credentials gave him an advantage over everyone else. And yet, Paul says in verse 8 that he considers all of it a disadvantage in comparison with the supreme value of knowing the Anointed One, Jesus, Yeshua as “my Lord.”
How many times have we thought in our own minds that we have great credentials? We may have a college degree or maybe an advanced degree. We may have specialized training that allows us to offer skills that people need. We may have been very observant during our lives and gained wisdom that preserves us from trouble that others just seem to fall into. Indeed, we may think of ourselves as much more righteous – we do the right things and say the right things, – more righteous that most people. In fact, perhaps we even look down on others and are critical of their behaviors, the way they do things, and their thoughts. We may be very knowledgeable in theology to the degree that we are sure that we’ve understood much better than others. We may have read the Bible through more than once. In fact, we may even delight in our ability to say that we have a daily quiet time with the Lord. But can we stop for a moment and realize that Paul is telling us the truth?
It’s not that any of those things are bad. In fact, most of them are very good because they allow us to help those around us. What is destructive is if we begin to have pride, the kind that says, “look at me. See how good I am.” – If we begin to have that pride, then we are guilty of the same thing that occurred to Lucifer. In his beauty, ability and position, he came to the conclusion that he ought to be the one on the throne instead of Almighty God. The challenge is for us to “examine ourselves” to make sure that our deep motivations are still pure before God. It’s very easy for us to unintentionally get back up on the throne of our lives and declare that we have got it made. We know how to do it. We are convinced that we are right.
But now we come back to Paul, one who had seven reasons to declare and conduct himself as right, good and perfect. (By the way, ‘seven’ is the number of completion or perfection in the Bible. Therefore, Paul could say that he was complete/perfect and needed nothing more.) Look again at what he said in verse 8: “…I consider everything a disadvantage in comparison with the supreme value of knowing the Messiah Yeshua as my Lord.” (CJB)
I personally think it is a daily challenge to put myself on the altar of God and say to Him, “Lord, despite all my abilities, all my education, all my strengths, all my knowledge, all my accomplishments – all of which You have given to me – You O God, knowing You as my Lord, (the One who tells me what to do and when to do it, the One who is charge of my life, the One who sits on the throne of my life) is the most critical and essential aspect of my life.”
Here’s a song that goes along with this thought https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7d_oYr-P16M Just click on the link and draw up close to our great God!
April 17, 2020
Day 4 Going Deeper with the Lord
This is day four of counting the “omer”.
What is your personal passion today? What things have the drawing power on you to the degree that you would re-arrange your schedule, push aside all things, jump through any hoops necessary just to get to that one thing? Is it your family, boyfriend or girlfriend, your job, your social structure (friends, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc), your hobbies, your favorite pastime, your money, or even perhaps your connection to electronic devices? For each of us, it could be something a bit different.
Paul wrote down the one thing that he was searching for, straining for, in Philippians 3:10. Let me give it to you in some translations. First, the New Living Translation – “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead. I want to suffer with Him, sharing in His death.” The Message (a paraphrase) puts it this way, “I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience His resurrection power, be a partner in His suffering, and go all the way with Him to death itself.” However, I think The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition has set it out in a way that it really gets down to the heart, the core of Paul. “[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death.” Go back and read that last translation (Amplified Bible, Classic Edition) one more time. If you can, read it out loud and let it penetrate all the way down to your core.
God is calling us into the deep places of knowing Him, into places where we have never gone before. If we want to have an intimate relationship, a deep relationship in which we really know our Lord even as He knows us (and by the way, He knows all your motivations, all your desires, all your faults and failures, all your accomplishments, everything right down to your core. In fact, He knows you better than you know yourself!), then, God calls us deeper. He calls us to intentionally make Him our greatest passion. He calls us to jump through whatever hoops are necessary to be with Him.
As we count the “omer” to Pentecost, can we use this time when many of us are quarantined because of COVID-19, taken outside our “normal” activities and comfort zones, – can we use this time to go deeper in our relationship with God? My challenge for us all today is to intentionally make it our determined purpose to know Him. We certainly won’t know or grasp the depths of all that He is or all that He would want to reveal to us in one day. It’s a a journey. It’s an every day determination; it’s an intentionality that says, “This is what I want more than anything else in the world.” God wants to draw us into the depths of Himself. He has so much more that He wants to share with us! Let’s find and experience Him on a deeper level today than we have ever experienced before!
April 16, 2020
Day 3 of Counting the Omer
This morning as I am choosing to be in the presence of the Almighty God, my thoughts are drawn to a renewed recognition that I must have intimacy with my God. I cannot live without that personal closeness that allows me to be not just in relationship, but in love with my Lord and God. This has to be deeper than just knowing about Him. My heart cries out to know Him, to really know Him on that personal, intimate level. As I sit here, my mind goes back and searches for nuggets, answers. For knowing Him, really knowing Him in deep intimacy is the only place where I can receive the strength, wisdom and love that He wants to give me. How do I get there? How do we get there?
When I was in Iraq or perhaps it was soon after I returned, I received a book from a dear friend who wanted so desperately for me to really know intimacy with God. The book, “Intimacy with the Almighty” by Charles Swindoll, is full of deep thoughts, thoughts that cause me to stop and renew my and determination to know my God in the most secret place of my being. For God has deep things that He wants to share with us. But “He reserves these things for those whose hearts are completely His…for those who take the time to wait before Him.” (Intimacy with the Almighty, p. 15) The whole key to that thought is the idea of taking time to wait before Him. In today’s world, waiting is seen as non-essential, even aggravating and wasteful. But look what David says in Psalm 27. He is looking around, seeing people wanting to kill him, seeing evildoers, and seeing those who would lie about him. But as he comes to the end of the psalm, he makes this statement, “Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.” It is imperative for me to WAIT. The other verse that comes to me is from Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV), “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” The word “wait” is translated as “hope” in the Complete Jewish Bible and the New Living Translation uses “trust”.
How can we apply this to ourselves individually and perhaps even corporately? We can look at “wait” in three ways. First “wait” means to stop, put everything else aside, and intentionally be still, not allowing anything to stir us up and cause us in our minds, spirits or bodies to take off to the next thing on our agenda or the last things that concerned us. This word “wait”, can mean “to endure the tension, to look eagerly” (Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon). Just as we noted two days ago, “Be still and know that I am God” has an intentionality behind it. It is an active condition, “to let go, to release” so that we can know that God is ultimately in control. The second way to look at “wait” is to hope. The idea behind hope is to “look forward with confidence to that which is good and beneficial, often with a focus of anticipation in a future event” (Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament). Then the third way to look at “wait” is trust. This gives us just a little different perspective. To “trust” is “a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something” according to the online dictionary. Merriam-Webster defines it as the “firm belief in the character, strength, or truth of someone or something”. And Dictionary.com adds “confidence implying a feeling of security”.
So, David and Isaiah are encouraging us to WAIT – stop and endure the tension of being still, look eagerly to see God, be confident in His character, ability, truthfulness and goodness, and know that we are secure in Him. As we do this, as we WAIT for Him in the middle of a world that is turned upside down, God will reveal Himself, and once again, or perhaps for the first time, we will fall in love with the One who loves us so much, and we will begin to have intimacy with the Almighty. The result of that intimacy with Him will be the ability to endure anything and everything (to include COVID-19!) that comes our way, for then, nothing can separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord! (Romans 8:38-39)
April 15, 2020
Counting the Omer Day 2
We’ve started counting the ‘omer’ up to Pentecost, the Feast of Weeks. Yesterday, day 1 for us, we looked at “Be still and know that I am God.”. Today, day 2 for us, let’s look at another verse that may help us meditate on God a little deeper. That verse is Psalm 119:114 “You are my hiding-place and shield; I put my hope in your word.”
What is a hiding-place? Many of us would like to have a hiding-place today, away from the world and particularly away from COVID-19 and all the talk on the TV about it. Probably by now, you’ve about had your fill of negativity and the idea that the world has now changed and will never get back to what we considered to be “normal”. If you remember when you were a kid playing hide-and-seek, you probably remember quickly looking for a place that was really concealed before the person stopped counting. That was fun. But if you put yourself in the shoes of the writer of this Psalm, what would a hiding place have looked like? We don’t know the writer of this Psalm, but we think it was probably written after the exile in Babylon. Recall that when folks returned from Babylon, the individuals living around Jerusalem were very unhappy that these Jews were coming back to build up walls and rebuild their city and their temple. They were so unhappy that Nehemiah had to have all his workers carrying their swords in order to ward off those who would come to destroy. Just imagine being caught outside the city at night! That would have been terrifying. So, having a quick place to run and hide was a good thing. Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible says that God is our hiding place from the “temporal calamities. The perfections of God are chambers of retreat and safety to His people, where they may hide themselves and be safe till such calamities are over.”
The second part of that verse says, “and my shield”. You know what a shield was for – it was used to protect oneself from spears, arrows, and swords back in the days when wars were fought with such instruments. The Roman soldiers would come together as a group and all put up their shields to form a covering when the enemy shot arrows at them. Additionally, they would cover the shields with a substance that would extinguish the arrows that were burning. In Ephesians 6:16, Paul told the people to use the shield of faith to stop the “fiery arrows” of the devil. Cover ourselves with faith – that’s quite a picture.
The last part of the verse says, “I put my hope in Your word.” Psalm 119 has eight words that are used for “Torah”. Those eight words are: word, law, commandment, rules, decree, precepts, teaching. If you apply the previous sentence to verse 114, you find this “I put my hope in your commandment, teaching, precept, decree, rule, and/or law.”
So, how can we apply this verse, Psalms 119:114, to our lives. I think that God wants us to know that He has provided safety for our souls if we will hide in Him. He will quench the fiery darts/arrows of the devil if we will keep our faith that Jesus really is the Son of God and trust Him. And I think God would tell us that the first two pieces of this verse are accentuated as we actively put our hope in His teaching, His commandments. Hope in the Bible is a confident expectation of what God has promised. We demonstrate faith and trust by doing what He says. I cannot say that I have faith in God if I chose not to do what He tells me to do. To believe, trust, and to have faith will result in an action.
Just one last thing of application: Satan will do all he can to shake us up. He will attack our physical health, our mental health, our social health, and our spiritual health. If we can just keep our spiritual eyes open so that we are aware of what is going on around us, if we can back up far enough to see the forest instead of each tree, we can be confident in this and say with the Psalmist:
Oh my God, You are my hiding place and shield. I am convinced of who You are and Your intentions toward me. Therefore, I put my hope in Your Word – Your teaching, Your truth, Your commandments, Your laws. I choose to react to everything around me through the eyes of a confident expectation in what You have promised!
As we do that, His peace will cover us; His strength will enable us; and His love will hold us even during COVID-19 and all the complications resulting from it!
April 14, 2020
The Next 49 Days
Dear family and friends,
Yesterday was the day of First Fruits when God commanded people to bring a sheaf of barley to be waved before the LORD. If we look at Leviticus 23:10-21, we find the instructions for both First Fruits as well as instructions for what the people were to be doing for the next seven weeks. Looking at verse 15 of chapter 23, we find, “From the day after the day of rest – that is, from the day you bring the sheaf for waving (First Fruits) – you are to count seven full weeks, until the day after the seventh week; you are to county fifty days, and then you are to present a new grain offering to ADONAI.” (CJB) Therefore, the instructions were to count, starting on First Fruits, for the next 49 days and then the next day, celebrate with a new grain offering to God.
Please remember that all the male children of Israel were to be in Jerusalem – the place where God put His Name – three times a year. Those days were Passover (& Feast of Unleavened Bread), Feast of Weeks (Pentecost) and Feast of Tabernacles. Why were these instructions given? The whole purpose was so that the people could see where God was walking, that they would be able to see what He was doing. So, on Passover, the perfect Lamb of God was sacrificed. God wanted everyone to see His perfect Lamb being sacrificed. If you count up from First Fruits as God commanded, to the 50th day, that is the Feast of Weeks. What happened on the Feast of Weeks? The Holy Spirit was poured out upon the sons and daughters that had faithfully followed Jesus and obeyed His last instructions to stay in Jerusalem until you are covered with the power of the Holy Spirit. The reason God instructed all the male children of Israel to be in Jerusalem on the Feast of Weeks was so that they would see the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit! God is very precise! Now the last feast, the third time that all of them were to be in Jerusalem is the Feast of Tabernacles. When is that? It is the last one of the fall feasts. I believe that one day in the future, after the Feast of Trumpets and the Day of Atonement are fulfilled that the Feast of Tabernacles will be fulfilled in perhaps two ways. The first intermediate fulfilment will be when Jesus sets up His millennial reign. The final fulfilment will be when the new heaven and the new earth are created and the holy city, Jerusalem descends from heaven and God “tabernacles”, comes to live, with man for eternity!
I want to encourage you to begin to count the ‘omer’ – to count each day as we move from First Fruits to The Feast of Weeks, Pentecost and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We count up, not down. Each day, I encourage you to meditate upon personal growth in our Lord and Savior, Jesus. Remember that it is during this time that Jesus was teaching the disciples after He rose from the dead. He was with them for 40 days, teaching. Acts chapter 1 tells us that He taught them about the Kingdom of God. So, I encourage you to search for ways that you can nurture spiritual growth. There is an unfortunate and a fortunate piece of the COVID-19. The unfortunate part is that we are basically not to be out taking care of normal things and we cannot meet as a group at church other than in drive -in church services. However, the good part is that God uses trouble (COVID-19) to draw His people closer. We have more personal time generally speaking, now that we can’t just run out to the restaurants to have dinner with friends, etc. I think God wants us to use this time constructively to allow Him to speak to our hearts and to grow us up even more in Him.
I am attaching something that perhaps will give you a good start. It comes from the Israel Biblical Studies website. I think it is especially appropriate for us during this coronavirus outbreak. “Be still and know that I am GOD.”
“Of all the uplifting verses in the Book of Psalms, perhaps none better expresses the essence of a true life of faith than, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Ps. 46:10). The most fascinating words here are “be still” because they are the core of trust. Although the translation “be still” is acceptable, it does not reveal the truth expressed.
Actively Let Go
In the original Hebrew of this psalm, the word is harpu, from the verb RFH רפה meaning “to let go, to release”. A more literal translation of harpu would be “cause yourselves to let go”. The implication here is significant. Rather than merely being passive, we are instructed to actively let go in order to know that God is in control and to objectively know the saving power of God in our lives.”
May the Holy Spirit surround you and bring you enlightenment and peace as you focus on HIM!
April 13, 2020
The Day of First Fruits April 12, 2020
Dear Family and Friends,
I just wanted to stop and write before this day is over. For today is First Fruits on God’s Calendar. It is part of the seven Feasts of the Lord. Therefore, it is important for us to be mindful of it and not only understand its underpinnings but also understand how Jesus fulfilled the day of First Fruits.
If you look over in Leviticus 23:9-15, you will find the instructions. It is in the middle of God’s instructions for the designated times of Jehovah. It’s as though God has a calendar, and as we recognize the dates on His calendar, we will begin to see where and how He is walking. Let me demonstrate this. God told Moses that the month of the “aviv” was to be the first month of the year for the children of Israel. “Aviv” is a descriptive word that tells the condition of the barley. Is it ripe enough to be harvested? So, every year, the priests, when the new moon was sighted, would check to see if by the 14th of the month, if the barley would be ripe enough. If it was not going to be ripe enough for harvest, then another month would be added to the calendar. This is because the harvest was essential to the Feasts that would be coming throughout the rest of the year. So, on the first of the month, after they determined that the barley would be ready to harvest by the 14th, they would let the people know that Passover would be occurring. Then all the feasts would fall into place and occur at the right time on God’s calendar. They would be in alignment with God’s calendar.
The Day of First Fruits is a Feast that did not have a specific day. Passover was the 14th. The Feast of Unleavened Bread started on the 15th. The Feast of Weeks would occur 50 days after First Fruits, so it was dependent upon correctly identifying First Fruits. The Feast of Trumpets is on the first day of the 7th month. The Day of Atonement is the 10th of the 7th month. And the Feast of Tabernacles is the 15th of the 7th month.
The Day of First Fruits was to occur during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, on the first day after the weekly Shabbat (Saturday). So, this year, the Feast of Unleavened Bread began on April 9th, a Thursday. Saturday was Shabbat, the day the people were commanded to rest. The next day, today, April 12 then is First Fruits. This is the day that the people were to bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of their harvest to the priest.
As I noted the other day, as soon as the priests who were serving in the Temple at that time, had finished killing the last animal on Passover, they would put their lambs into the ovens and rush over to the Mount of Olives to mark 10 sheaves of barley that would be harvested early on the Sunday morning, the first day of the week. After marking those sheaves, the high priest would go into seclusion until the firstfruits were harvested and brought to him. At that point, he would come out of seclusion and wave the sheaves before God. This all had great symbolism as we look back on it now.
Hindsight is 20/20. At the time, the religious leaders totally missed what was occurring in the year that Jesus was crucified. According to Hebrews, Jesus is our High Priest who meets our deepest need. He was holy, without evil, without stain, set apart from sinners and raised higher than the heavens; He was the one who does not have the daily necessity, like the other high priests of offering up a sacrifice first for his own sin and then for those of the people. Indeed, He offered one sacrifice, once and for all, by offering up Himself. And while Caiaphas the high priest was secluding himself away, Jesus was in the belly of the earth, taking the keys of death hell and the grave away from Satan!
Then, the day after the weekly Shabbat, the Day of First Fruits, Jesus rose to present Himself to God the Father. He was the firstfruit of those who died. “He was powerfully demonstrated to be the Son of God spiritually, set apart by His having been resurrected from the dead; He is Yeshua the Messiah, our Lord.” (Rom 1:4 CJB) At the same time Jesus was presenting Himself to the Father, the high priest, Caiaphas was waving the sheaves of the barley harvest before God. Indeed, some would go a step further and state that the tombs that were split open when Jesus died, were in essence the tombs of the holy people who had been selected to be waved before the Father as Jesus went to heaven to present Himself and those souls to the Father. I do not find anything in the Scriptures to give credence to that thought. However, we KNOW that Jesus is the first fruit of the resurrection as is noted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:20!
So today, as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior/Deliverer Jesus the Anointed One, think on these things that offer an opportunity for increased understanding of how our God thinks. He does not want us to be living without a clue about what He is doing. He wants us to see with spiritual eyes exactly where He is walking so that none of us is caught unprepared for the next phase of His calendar!
April 12, 2020
Day 3 of the Feast April 11, 2020
Today is the third day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. First Fruits has not arrived but will arrive tomorrow. For now, let’s look forward to it, but also focus once again on the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
In preparation for this Feast of the Lord, the people were to ensure that all leaven had been removed from their homes. They were to eat no leaven. They were not to come into contact with leaven. As we mentioned a couple of days ago, leaven/yeast is a metaphor for sin because of how leaven – even a little bit – saturates and grows and impacts the whole of the dough.
Paul writes about the Feast when addressing those Jews and Gentiles in the congregation at Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 (CJB) “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know the saying, ‘It only takes a little leaven to leaven a whole batch of dough?’ Get rid of the old leavened dough so that you can be a new batch of dough, because in reality you are unleavened. For our Passover lamb, the Messiah, has been sacrificed. So let us celebrate the Feast, not with leftover leavened dough, the leavened dough of wickedness and evil, but with the unleavened dough, matzah, of purity and truth.”
Paul was speaking specifically about wickedness in the congregation at Corinth. And he compares the situation to leaven. Just a little bit of leaven/yeast permeates the whole bread. So it is in our lives. We cannot compartmentalize our sin because sin affects the whole. As holistic people, every part of our lives is affected by every other part. You can see this clearly in everyday life. If you are tired, hungry or ill, you will probably become grumpy. If you are socially isolated, it is very easy to become depressed. If you are engaged in behaviors or attitudes that are not compatible with our Lord God, you may become depressed or irritable or even angry. Every part affects every other part. So it is with sin. It affects every part of us. Even small, “hidden” sins leak out and affect the total person as well as the community.
There were certain traditions that were carried out to ensure that all leaven had been removed as well as to teach the children to remove the leaven. And it is interesting to note the tools that were used and see their connection to the fulfillment of the Feast by our Lord Jesus. Four tools were used to ensure that the home had no leaven: a candle, a feather, a wooden spoon and a linen cloth. The Complete Jewish Study Bible has an article about Passover: Prophetic Fulfillment and Application on page 1637. Let me quote it: “The spiritual lessons are quite striking. The leaven (sin) must be cleansed from our dwellings (and hearts). The method itself is informative. The light of the candle (the Word of God) illuminates our sin (Ps 119:11). The leaven is scooped onto the wooden spoon for removal (like the wooden execution stake of the Messiah [Jesus]). The following morning, this last bit of collected leaven is burned outside the home (in a can or bag) to symbolize its final destruction. This symbolizes Messiah’s destroying sin “outside the camp” and making freedom from the power of sin available to all who believe.” The feather represents the fact that sin was swept on Jesus as he was nailed to the cross. He carried our sin and was wrapped in linen and was taken outside the camp. While the people were removing the leaven from their physical houses, Jesus was making a way to remove the leaven from their spiritual houses.
And the Feast of Unleavened Bread is demonstrating a positive command from our God – Get rid of sin. The other side of the Feast is celebrating Jesus, Yeshua, who was without sin but carried our sin!
May your life be free from sin and full of the joy of the Lord!
Day 2 of the Feast April 10, 2020
Today is the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This will be a little bit longer than the last couple of days, but I encourage you to go all the way to the end. I promise you that it will be well worth the time!
There are two things that I want to bring out today. The first thing is that I want to go back and pick up some important facts that I didn’t get put into the email on Wednesday, Passover. The second is that each day during the Feast, the people were to present to God an offering “made by fire”.
The first thing:
The more we understand our Hebrew roots, the more we see how Jesus really did fulfill the Feasts of the Lord. All of the Feasts were given to the children of Israel so that they would see the reality when the Son of God fulfilled them all to the day and hour. Jesus died at the same time the last lamb was being killed in the temple in preparation for Passover. He cried out, “It is finished” from the cross at 3pm, the same time the High Priest announced, “It is finished” in the temple. And, what’s happening behind the scenes from Passover until First Fruits? After the High Priest and the other priests had completed all their tasks with the killing of the lambs and had put their own lambs into the ovens, they would go through the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives and mark 10 standing stalks of mature barley. Then they returned to eat their Passover lambs. After that, the High Priest would go into seclusion until after First Fruits were waved by the other priests before the Lord. Our great High Priest, Jesus the Anointed One, went into seclusion until the Day of First Fruits. Please remember that when Jesus died, there was a great earthquake. And Matthew 27:52 records that graves/tombs of holy people broke open. Some would say that this breaking open of the tombs was the marking of those who would be part of the first fruits on the Day of First fruits.
Now the second thing:
Today is the 33rd day that we have been counting the omer. In just 17 days we will arrive at Shavuot/Feast of Weeks/Pentecost
Leviticus 23:8 “Bring an offering made by fire to the LORD for seven days.” What does it mean to present to God and offering “made by fire”? According to The Jewish Study Bible, JPS Tanakh, these offerings made by fire have nothing to do with purification or sacrifices to bring about a right relationship with God. These offerings/gifts were to be sacrifices of “food and well-being”. What is God telling us that we are to do particularly during this Feast of Unleavened Bread? Food and well-being pertain both to the physical as well as the spiritual life of the individual. God is trying to impact the whole person. Moses gave these instructions during the time of the tabernacle. Later Solomon built a temple. However, 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We don’t bring food and burn it as a gift to God in a temple made with hands. So how do we keep this part of the Feast? I think we do this by bringing ourselves to God, spending time meditating on His Word, and setting aside time so that we offer ourselves to Him even more intentionally than before. This is more than just simply reading a Bible verse and praying and then going about my business. I am giving Him a gift of myself in complete surrender. Am I willing to give Him the gift of myself even more intentionally during this Feast so that I sit in His Presence, staying there so that He enjoys my presence – even as an earthly father enjoys having his son’s or daughter’s presence?
During this time when our lives are, to a great degree, shut down because of COVID-19, I encourage everyone who claims to be a child of God to intentionally sit in the presence of our heavenly Father and meditate on Him, surrendering all of ourselves to Him as never before. The other side of the coin is that as I am in His Presence, I receive strength, peace, protection and deliverance! The words of a song by Paul Wilbur come to mind, “In Your Presence, that’s where I am strong; in Your Presence, O LORD my God; in Your Presence, that’s where I belong, seeking Your face, touching Your grace, in the cleft of the Rock – in Your Presence O, God.” Follow the link and worship Him!
Feast of Unleavened Bread April 9, 2020
Passover was yesterday. I do hope that you all got an opportunity to read the emails that I sent both Tuesday and Wednesday but particularly Wednesday’s. And I hope that you were able to incorporate some of those thoughts into your time of meditation on and conversations with our Lord. If you have not received the emails, please let me know and I will forward them to you today.
Today (yesterday at sunset) starts the Feast of Unleavened Bread. According to Leviticus 23, this feast goes for seven days during which the people were to eat no leavened bread, no bread made with yeast. On the first day of the Feast, Nisan 15, they were to “have a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days, present an offering made to the LORD by fire. On the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.”
Today, let’s focus on the overall Feast – why seven days? Remember that seven is the number of completion and perfection. So, when the feast is to last seven days, that indicates that it is whole/complete and perfect.
As you know, the rationale for having no leaven/yeast was to remind them that they had no time to use yeast when they were preparing their last meal back in Egypt. During this Feast, they were to remember that God was separating them out from Egypt. He was taking them away from all that had been familiar and moving them to new places. So, having to eat bread with no leaven/yeast caused them to remember that they were taken out of places and things that would distract them from having intimacy with God. Egypt was a difficult place for them because of their slavery. However, Egypt had become comfortable to them because it was familiar. The term “leaven” has a fermenting and permeating nature. It is commonly used as metaphor for sin. Notice those words, ‘permeating nature’. No wonder it is used as a metaphor for sin in the Bible. Sin is permeating; it influences and impacts everything it touches. God has called us to be separated from the leaven of the world, not just a little bit but completely, not just for seven days, but for the rest of our lives in order for us to be complete and perfect in Him.
As we progress daily into and through this Feast of Unleavened Bread, ask God to point out things that prevent you from being complete and perfect in Him. We serve a holy God, and He is able to make us holy in Him as we intentionally choose to separate ourselves from the things that have become commonplace and distractions from intimacy with God.
Praying for you all,
Passover Thoughts April 8, 2020
I found some of this
in an email from El Shaddai Ministries and thought it was very
appropriate since Passover began last night at sundown and will continue
through today until sundown. “As we all huddle together in our homes
this Seder night, knowing that even in Israel
there is a ban on people leaving their homes as well, we can’t help but
see the Almighty’s guiding hand. Historically, this year is also the
very same time as the first Passover in Egypt. Nisan 14 was on a
Wednesday and while everyone was quarantined in their
homes for their own survival, it just so happens pretty much the whole
world is on lockdown…. Only God, the Master conductor, could
coordinate such timing and bring all these events to everyone’s
collective memory. We even have the locust plague recently
in the Middle East. Many are asking, ‘What is the LORD trying to tell
the whole world and His people more particularly with all of this?'”
That little statement was written and sent out yesterday evening. It is very thought provoking, to say the least. I encourage us all to consider doing a Seder or at least take the time to re-read the story of the first Passover out of Exodus 12 and recognize how the LORD God protected the children of Israel through the blood of the lamb. Then turn over to Isaiah 53 and see the prophecy that was given so that the people would see their Messiah. But the prophecy tells a sad story. The Messiah would not be seen for who He was and “we regarded Him punished, stricken and afflicted by God. But He was wounded because of our crimes, crushed because of our sins; the disciplining that makes us whole fell on Him, and by His bruises we are healed.” (Is 53:4b-5 CJB) T “He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the trangressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Is 53:12b NIV)
Jesus, for the last few days, has been in the Temple daily being examined. No one can find any fault in Him. It’s interesting to realize that as we are going through this day, that Jesus was being tried in the courts. By now, He has already been tried by the Sanhedrin and sent to Pilate. It is ultimately Pilate who declares that Jesus is faultless. “I find no fault in this Man.” It is ultimately Pilate who declares this Man to be the spotless Lamb of God!
I encourage you to read Matthew 27:11-66 and John 18:19-19:30 and weep as you follow Jesus through His trials and ultimate punishment. Remember once again what it took for you to have reconciliation with God. May a spirit of mourning come over you as you watch Jesus being beaten to within an inch of His life for crimes that He had never committed. It’s good for us to remember that our salvation comes to us at the price of the life of Jesus who had never done wrongly. He hung on the cross from noon until 3 pm. Stand at the foot of the cross and watch Him die for you. Consider some of the words of old hymns – “Jesus, keep me near the cross. There a precious fountain, free to all, a healing stream, flows from Calvary’s mountain”, or “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. See, from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?”
And finally, consider also reading, as you sit with others in your home, or even if you are alone, Hebrews 9:11-15. Then, I encourage each one to give a testimony of how God’s Lamb, Jesus, has covered you with His blood. What does that look like for you individually? If you are alone, speak out your testimony to God. And, then bring to a close this intimate time with our LORD God by praising Him that the blood of Jesus has been applied to your life!
May God richly bless you as you walk through this day and through this rememberance.
Preparing for Passover April 7, 2020
we move through this very important time of the year, I want us to be
sure that we think clearly, that we don’t just go through this week with
our minds in neutral. So for
the duration of this week, I intend to write daily to us all as a
congregation and challenge us to think.
It is interesting to see our current situation through the eyes of history. What can we learn from the Exodus that can be applied to our lives today? Although I’m sure that there are many other things that could be brought out, I think one of the most glaring parallels is related to the fact that Pharaoh was unwilling to acknowledge that there was anyone who had the authority to tell him what to do. In fact, if you remember some of the Egyptian history, you will remember that the pharaohs were considered gods by some and/or at least, the access to the gods by all. So when this man named Moses comes in and tells Pharaoh that another God said to let the Hebrews go so that they could travel 3 days out of town and worship, this was considered to be a slap in the face of the Pharaoh himself. How could any God have the audacity to consider Pharaoh so puny that he would have to bow before this God’s desire? And because of that arrogance, Jehovah God had to demonstrate to the Pharaoh that there was no other god that could even come close to Himself. He had already poured out plague after plague to convince the Pharaoh that there was one much more powerful than himself, but Pharaoh would have none of it. It was not until God had to levy the final plague, the death of the firstborn in every household, that Pharaoh was willing to concede that there was someone more powerful than he. And if you remember the story, you remember that it only took a short time for Pharaoh, after the death of his own firstborn son, to be sorry that he had let the Hebrew children go. Then he sent his army to race after them and bring them back. As a result, God had to wipe out the whole army to prove His point. There is no god like Jehovah!
This is a wonderful time to rejoice in our God, the One who provided our freedom from slavery to sin. But, as we get ready to remember Passover tomorrow evening, it is also a wonderful time for us to examine ourselves. Have we allowed the arrogance of the world to rub off onto us even as the coronavirus will rub onto us if we allow ourselves to get too close to it? The world proclaims that they can do whatever they want and that no one can tell them what they can or should do even as Pharaoh proclaimed. If we allow ourselves to be friends with the world who arrogantly defy Jehovah, we must not be amazed when we find ourselves defying Jehovah.
Jesus prayed that the Father would protect us since we are in the world but not of the world (John 17:16). But He also said, “No man can serve two masters. For you will hate the one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other ” (Matt 6:24 NLT) and, “If you love me, obey my commandments (John 14:15 NLT).
May God preserve you all and prepare your hearts for Passover!