Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Be Lifted High

Hannah Barren Tree Climbing-1
The LORD said to Moses, "Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live." So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by the snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. Numbers 21:8-9

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:14-16

The Israelites became impatient in the wilderness. They spoke against God and against Moses. They complained about everything from food to personal safety. They detested the Lord's provisions and Moses' leadership, and in doing this, the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The Israelites repented of their sin and asked Moses to pray to the LORD asking Him to take the snakes away. Instead of taking the snakes out of the wilderness, the LORD provided the Israelites with a means of escaping death, this means of escape, a bronze snake, lifted high on a pole and anyone who looks upon the snake will be saved from the deadly bite of the serpent.
This takes me back to Genesis to the serpent's first hiss at humanity. "Did God really say, you shall not eat from any tree in the garden?" nay, "You will not surely die" and again " For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be open and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:1,4,5. Subtle whispers, luring promises and partial truths caused Eve to take the first bite and since the the fall, it has been the serpent that has been given the authority to bite the flesh of man and deliver the fatal bite of death. B
efore Eve's bite into the apple, the serpent had no authority to take life. But
because of Eve's unbelief and rebellion against God, the serpent has been given this authority. Eve chose the serpent over God and in doing so the Spirit God breathed within her died and with this death, all men died and were born into sin. 1Corinthians 15:31
But just as God made provisions for Adam and Eve in the form of animal skins, where a sacrifice had to be performed to hide their nakedness, He provided a means of escape in the wilderness from the deadly bite of the viper. The viper He sent because of their grumbling and rebellion. But ultimately God provided humanity with the gift of Christ, the sacrifice of His Son. Christ, the One who spoke creation into being, and through whom all things where made, humbled Himself and came down to dwell among men. He did what we could not do ourselves. Through one man, death came into the world but also through one man, resurrection from the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:31 Sinless, perfection lifted up on our behalf where He bore our sins. He was humiliated so that we might become holy and in His humiliation we have been set free from the power of death. When you look upon Him, lifted up on your behalf, and believe upon Him, the One without sin, the bite of the serpent has no venom and death has been conquered. He conquered the grave at the cross and His resurrection ensures the believer's life, for we will not all die but be raised just as He was raised. Look upon Him, the author and perfecter of your faith. Gaze upon His sacrifice and take hold of his provision. Believe in and trust in what He has done for you, for you could not do it on your own. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift from God. Ephesians 2:8
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

More in the weeks to come about the Israelites unbelief and the bronze serpent in the wilderness.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Idol of Comfort

Gracyn JI BW TREE-1
Because my comfort would prefer for me to be numb and avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become. C.S. Lewis Song - Brooke Fraser

We live in a culture that pursues the idol of comfort. Comfort at the expense of conformation. Conformation to the only one worth conforming to, Jesus.
We would rather conform to the world than conform to the image of our Savior.
Why is this? I believe conforming to Jesus will ultimately cost us our comfort. Comfort that we pursue and believe is right around the corner if only we had the right circumstances, children, house, husband, job, church, relationships, money, security, accomplishments. But even when we get the things that we've trusted in to bring us comfort we are left hollow, empty and confused.
We conform to the world and the ideas of this world so we can feel comfortable in the world, when in reality, the Lord has told us not to conform any longer to the things of this world but to be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2. We are not to conform to the world because we are to be transformed to be more like Christ. How do we become more like Christ? We become more like Christ by the renewing of our minds in the Word of God. It is by the Word of God we are able to discern what the Lord's will is for our lives. His will takes us out of our comfort zone and ultimately transforms us to be good, acceptable and perfect. When we are in the Word of God our spiritual eyes and ears will be opened and His glorious light will shine into the dark recesses of our heart and reveal within us the things He desires to change. This dear one will bring discomfort. We, as children of God, will have to slay the idol of comfort and press through with full assurance that He who began a good work within us will see it through to completion. Confessing the sin that resides in the dark recesses of our heart and allowing the God of all comfort to comfort us so that we too can comfort others with the same comfort we ourselves have received.
It is the idol of comfort that threatens the process of transformation. It is when we pursue the idol of comfort at the expense of God's transforming work we become threatened by the feeling of being uncomfortable. Instead of being comforted, by the God of all comfort, we retreat and run to avoid the cleansing process that must take place. This cleansing process is also known as repentance. We would rather feel nothing at all than to feel the pain, loss and necessary change which comes from living a life of Godly sorrow and repentance.
If in fact, we allow ourselves to feel and our eyes to be open it will bring an inconvenience to our comfort. It will bring an overwhelming desire and a sense of urgency to reach out to a dying, desolate and lost world. It will make us uncomfortable in this world and the sin that is prevalent. It will cause something within us to stir and will bring us to our knees in prayer for a vision for our life and desperately wanting Him to use us for whatever His purpose. It will bring us to a place where we long to see Him, eagerly anticipating His return, for our eyes will be fixed on things above and not on earthly things. We will become more aware of the eternal and less aware of the temporal. We will see the world as it is, totally depraved without God. We will see ourselves in this same way for conformation to our Savior will bring us to the end of ourselves.
Are you pursing comfort at any cost? Are you bowing down to the idol of comfort at the expense of God's transforming work within you? Are you comfortable or comforted?

Post written October 2009

Monday, August 8, 2011

Abundantly Pardons

Mommy and Jozy-1

Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will ABUNDANTLY PARDON. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways", declares the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts" Isaiah 55:6-9
For as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how are formed, he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:11-14
The verses above are often misquoted and in their misquotation the real meaning and passionate call to salvation is often missed. We use these verses to explain away the things we don't understand about life and God when in reality these verses are about the limitless love of God to a dying and desolate soul. I know it's not popular to use the words dying and desolate to describe the condition of the human soul without God but I can honestly say that during my college years there were moments I would have referred to myself this way. I believed the lie that there was no way the Lord could forgive me and while embracing this lie I covered up my sin and shame by living my life the way I saw fit with no regard to God. Depression has a way of bringing you to your knees and I am thankful that the Lord brought me to the end of myself.
Oftentimes, when we sin we turn away from God. For a long time, I did my best to silence Him because to admit there is a God I must also admit that I was not god. I didn't know what the Bible said but I did know that within myself I wasn't following some higher moral code. I sought answers everywhere but not from the One who was calling me unto Himself. The Bible tells us that He knew every one of our days before ONE of them came to be. Our story was written before the foundations of the world. Psalm 139:16 He knew every sin, every moment and yet He still chose us for Himself and for His purposes. His ability to redeem a desolate soul and His power to change our innermost being is all about Him and not about us and our ability to muster up anything from within ourselves. I have no ability within myself to muster up enough belief, faith or love apart from His precious Son living within me and doing the work for me and through me. For He knows how I was formed, he remembers that I am dust. Psalm 103:14 (More on this verse in a later post).
We see from the verses above that salvation is for everyone who comes to Jesus. God desires to ABUNDANTLY pardon our sins. He calls us, to seek Him, to call upon Him, and to forsake our sinful ways and thoughts and to accept His Son, Jesus as the final sacrifice and atonement for our sins. For it is by His grace that we have been saved not by our works. It is by His death that we receive life. Our minds can't comprehend nor can our human intellect understand a holy infinite God who loves us and desires to pardon everyone who comes to Him, believing that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Hebrews 11:6. According to the verses above, there is no room for penance or working for our salvation for only God pardons sin and He does so through faith in His son, Jesus. God doesn't pardon sin reluctantly but abundantly.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, who is now at work in in those who are disobedient. ALL OF US also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of the sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us ALIVE with Christ even when were dead in transgressions. Ephesians 2:1-4
I am a girl who is redeemed from the futility of life apart from God and made alive in Christ. I was once far off but have been brought near to God through the blood of Christ, for Christ preached peace to those who were far away and to those who were near. The punishment that brought me peace was upon him and by his wounds I am healed. Ephesians 2:13,17, Isaiah 53:5
Re-post written December of 2009

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Richest of Fare

Jozy in the Candy-1
"Come, all you who are thirty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. " Isaiah 55:1-3
What costs us nothing cost Him everything. We who have nothing are invited to come to the One who has everything. The One who is King over all creation humbled Himself and became nothing so that we could have everything. Jesus Christ; Who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross! Therefore, God exulted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:6-11
My self-saturated mind can not grasp God's infinite Grace. The Grace that screams, "it is finished!" And yet if it was anything less then it would be about me and not Him. God eternal, the same God who spoke creation into being, humbled Himself, came and dwelled among men, not as a king but as a servant. Not just a servant but the final atoning sacrifice for our sin. A man who knew no sin became sin for us and not just a man but God. Come, you who have no money, come buy and eat. Isaiah 55:1 What must I do to do the works God requires? Surely, I must do something. "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." John 6:29
Come buy wine and milk without cost. Isaiah 55:1
We try and earn our way to freedom. The struggle within ourselves is to make it all about what we've done and yet Jesus tell us that it's work to believe in and trust in what He's already done on our behalf. Our wrestling is to die to self, to die to that within us that struggles for independence from God. To die to the flesh that screams, "it's about me and what I'm doing," as if what we do justifies us before God.
I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves of bread and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. John 6:26-27 . The greek word work for is ergazomai; it means in the sense to labor for, to earn one's food. The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Spiros Zodiates. We can't earn our salvation. We can't do enough to be justified before God apart from Christ. Our good deeds are worthless apart from Him. It's His Spirit within us that justifies us before God, we receive His Spirit when we trust in what He has done and ask Him to forgive us and come within us. Human nature never changes. Just as in Jesus' day so it is in our day, we want to work the works of God, independent of Christ. We want to have the benefits of Christ without the cost of belief and trust. We want the credit and the accolades and yet when we receive them, it's never enough to satisfy the deep longing and need within us that only Christ can satisfy. Why do you spend money on what is not bread and labor on what does not satisfy? Isaiah 55:2
Give us this bread that gives life to the world. Jesus declares, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. John 6:35.
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good and your soul will delight on the richest fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. Isaiah 55:2
Lord, forgive me for my unbelief and help me to believe. Help me to take hold of every provision in Christ and strengthen my faith. Strengthen what remains so that I can bring You glory. Forgive me for thinking my salvation is about me and not about you. Forgive me for making it about what I do instead of what has already been done on my behalf. Give me freedom in Christ and save me from my wretched independence. I take hold of your provision, Christ and place my trust in Him. I cling to Him in my need and rest in His provision which has already been made on my behalf. I eagerly await His coming and the culmination of events when I will see Him face to face. Thank you Lord that I do not lack any Spiritual gift as I eagerly wait for my Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep me strong to the end, so that I will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called me into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. 1Corinthians 1:7,8

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Gate

The Gate -1
"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
John 10:10
A little background, Jesus heals a blind man on the Sabbath. The blind man was brought before the Pharisees and teachers of the law for questioning. The Sabbath is the Jewish day of rest where no work is to be done. The Pharisees threw the blind man out of the synagogue for telling the truth that Jesus did in fact heal him on the Sabbath and that he was indeed blind from birth. After being thrown out of the synagogue, Jesus found him and asked him, "do you believe in the Son of Man?", to which he replied, "Lord, I believe".
Some of the Pharisees' followed him out of the synagogue, in doing so they ran into, Jesus who was outside waiting to confront their hypocrisy, He states, "For judgement I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." John 9:39. The religious leaders responded,"What? Are we blind too?" Jesus answered,"If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains."
He goes on to say in John 10. "I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a strangers voice." "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All whoever came before me were thieves and robbers ,but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd . The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. John 10:1-14
You see Jesus' audience was the religious leaders of his day and some of his followers. He was clearly stating who He was by claiming that He was the gate for the sheep. Jesus also states that He is the good shepherd. Jesus' sheep listen to his voice and follow him. They recognize false teaching, in fact, they flee from it! I wanted to mention the audience because Jesus in the above passage is quoting the Book of Ezekiel.
Let's jump back to the Old Testament to the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel lived during the time of the Jewish exile in Babylon. He was deported from Judah and taken captive to Babylon. All the Jews were living in captivity during the time of Ezekiel's prophecies. Ezekiel was written around 571 BC. 500 years before the birth of Christ. I want you to notice the woe of Ezekiel...Woe to the shepherds of Israel that only take care of themselves. Remember Jesus just healed a boy on the Sabbath. In fact most of Jesus' miracles took place on the Sabbath.
You see, Ezekiel, claimed that there would be a shepherd who would care for his flock unlike the religious leaders of his day and the days leading up to Christ. The Pharisees' would have known what Christ was claiming by stating that he was the shepherd of the sheep. They would have realized that He was claiming to be the Messiah. They knew the prophecy spoken but they refused to accept the testimony.
The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherd's take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
"Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I WILL RESCUE my FLOCK from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. For I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. He goes on to say, I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice. Ezekiel 34:1-11, 16
Are we still refusing to accept the testimony of who Jesus was and is and why He came? Ezekiel's prophecy was about the the coming Messiah the true shepherd who would come and take care of the people. Jesus tells us plainly in His word that He is the only way and that He is the great shepherd of the sheep referred to in Ezekiel.
He shows us His heart in these verses. His desire to care for us. His desire to look for us and to heal us. His desire to hide us in the cleft of the rock to shelter us from the storm. We have a compassionate, Great Shepherd, who yearns to care for us. Jesus is still searching for His sheep. He is still tending His flock. He still comes after those who have wandered off. How are you going to respond to him today? In Hebrews Paul tells us, that "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."
One Shepherd, One Flock, One King, All Nations!
"Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to LIFE, and only a few find it."
Jesus' words in Matthew 7: 13-14