Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Eleventh Hour

Worshipping in Water-1
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches....

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" Revelation 3:20-22

Then the LORD closed the door behind them...Genesis 7:16

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things. At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the One who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.
Revelation 4:1-3
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who have fallen asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore, encourage each other with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command, "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." Acts 1:1-11
And we have the word of prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophets own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:19-21
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:36-39
For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ who has gone into heaven and is seated at God's right hand- with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. 1 Peter 3: 18-22
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way open for us through the curtain that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the DAY approaching. Hebrews 10:19-25
Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Revelation 1:4
Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. Revelation 1:3
Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Revelation 1:7
Since everything will end in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heavens and a new earth, the home of righteousness. 2 Peter 3:11-13
Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation. 2 Peter 3:15
"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Revelation 22:12-13
Jezreel Valley-1

New International Version, Key Word Study Bible
Picture above: The Jezreel Valley, Israel

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Abraham's Need for Assurance

Jewel with the Donkey-1
My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. - 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

"Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield your very great reward." But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus? " And Abram said, "You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir." Then the word of the LORD came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir." He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars-if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him,"So shall your offspring be." Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness. He also said to him, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land and take possession of it" Genesis 12:1-8 NIV

For my power is made perfect in weakness...
Two things are promised in the verses above - a son from his own body and a land. God's absolute power displayed in weakness, Abram, was a stranger in a foreign land and the husband of a barren wife. The God of the universe chooses us despite our weakness and frailties and then exults Himself through our weakness. When we trust God to use us despite our weakness, He alone gets the glory. When we trust Him to do for us what we could never do for ourselves we are given redemption and righteousness. God credited Abraham's belief in the Lord as righteousness. The verses I quoted above and below are from the NIV Bible but the New American Standard Bible actually says that Abraham believed IN the LORD and He credited it to him as righteousness.
But Abram said, "O Sovereign LORD, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?" So the LORD said to him, "Bring me a heifer, a goat and a ram, each three years old, along with a dove and a pigeon. Abram brought all these to him, cut them in two and arranged them opposite each other; the birds however, he did not cut in half. Then birds of prey came down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them away. Genesis 15:8-11 NIV
It was his need for assurance that led to a covenant being cut on his behalf. What is a covenant? A covenant is a solemn-binding agreement made by passing between pieces of flesh. It's an everlasting agreement between two parties. It acknowledges God's sovereignty and his position as sovereign administrator of covenant. If the covenant is broken it means death. This practice was common during the old and new testament times. In fact, testament literally translated means covenant. The old covenant being the Old Testament and the new covenant being the New Testament. When the two parties passed between the pieces they did so in a figure eight pattern, pointing to the slain animals and then to God, saying if I break this covenant then do to me as I have done to these animals. It was an acknowledgement that God is a sovereign judge and witness to the union being made. Abraham after being declared righteous prepared the sacrifice by cutting a heifer, a ram and a goat in two. He then waited.....
We see from the text that it was either the night before or early morning when God took Abraham outside to show him the stars in the sky and told Abraham to prepare the sacrifice, we also see that as he waited, birds of prey came to descend upon and devour the sacrifice. But, as the sun was setting, Abraham fell into a deep sleep and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. And as he slept between the pieces of flesh, a smoking firepot and a blazing torch passed between the pieces of flesh on Abraham's behalf.
I wonder if the birds of prey that tried to descend upon the sacrifice were constant reminders of the fall of man. These birds that came to nick pick the sacred offering and devour all that is Holy. The birds reminded me of the doubt I experience as I wait on the Lord. These birds swoop in during the early morning hours and whisper...."do you really believe this stuff." The doubt that settles in on me as I once again focus on my failure to perform. I wonder if while Abraham was waiting for God to accept the sacrifice, he was anticipating the walk between the pieces of flesh, thinking he had a part to play in His salvation and the promises given to him. But then sleep overcame him and the Lord caused him to give way to his weakness.
I love God's declaration to Abraham as a greeting, I am your shield, your very great reward. It makes me think of the shield of faith found in Ephesians 6:16. He declares who He is to Abraham before Abraham believed in Him. I also love the intimacy between God and Abraham and Abraham's sorrowful words to his Maker, "but you have given me no children" Genesis 15:3
Two passed between the pieces on his behalf, a smoking firepot and a blazing torch and the animals which were cut in two surrounded Abraham as he slept. These animals represent our Savior. His flesh was torn in two and only through Him do we have access to the Father. It is only by the blood of Jesus that we have been declared righteous. Our justification is by faith alone, in Christ alone. It's trusting in the finished work of Christ and allowing Him to use us in our weakness. It's when we come to the end of ourselves that we find the One who paid it all and we rest between the sacrifice in His finished work.
Sundown in Masada-1

Picture on the Top: Our friend in Nazareth Village - Nazareth, Israel
Picture Below: Sundown in Masada, Israel

Post above written January 2011