We have received…the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:12

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The Most Important Command

 

 

 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.

(Matthew 22:37-40)


People conceived and brought into life by God don’t make a practice of sin. How could they? God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are. It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin. Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test.

(1 John 3:9-10)

When We Practice Real Love

 My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.

This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it.

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For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.  (1 John 3:18-20)

Lord, I pray that I may be used by You to LIGHTEN many burdens!

May many souls be helped through my service to Your Kingdom.  Amen.

This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.

This is the crisis we’re in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won’t come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”  (John 3:16-21)


Consider the kind of extravagant love the Father has lavished on us—He calls us children of God! It’s true; we are His beloved children. And in the same way the world didn’t recognize Him, the world does not recognize us either.

When we feel like we are not good enough to be loved by God, we should remember that God’s love is greater than our doubts. We must silence the sounds of condemnation so we can hear the voice of God’s loving assurance and remember that He has selected us to be part of His family.

 My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. All those who focus their hopes on Him and His coming seek to purify themselves just as He is pure.

 

Everyone who lives a life of habitual sin is living in moral anarchy. That’s what sin is. You realize that He came to eradicate sins, that there is not the slightest bit of sin in Him.   The ones who live in an intimate relationship with Him do not persist in sin, but anyone who persists in sin has not seen and does not know the real Jesus.

 

Children, don’t let anyone pull one over on you. The one doing the right thing is just imitating Jesus, the Righteous One.

 

If you are wondering if your faith is authentic, take a look at your life. Are you doing what is right?

The one persisting in sin belongs to the diabolical one, who has been all about sin from the beginning. That is why the Son of God came into our world: to destroy the plague of destruction inflicted on the world by the diabolical one.

 

Everyone who has been born into God’s family avoids sin as a lifestyle because the genes of God’s children come from God Himself. Therefore, a child of God can’t live a life of persistent sin.   So it is not hard to figure out who are the children of God and who are the children of the diabolical one: those who lack right standing and those who don’t show love for one another do not belong to God.

 

The central truth—the one you have heard since the beginning of your faith—is that we must love one another.   Please do not act like Cain, who was of the evil one. He brutally murdered his own brother.  Why would he do something so despicable? Because his life was devoted to evil and selfishness, and his brother chose to do what is right.

 

Brothers and sisters, don’t be shocked if the corrupt world despises you.   We know that we have crossed over from death to real life because we are devoted to true love for our brothers and sisters. Anyone who does not love lives among corpses.

 

Do you ever wonder if you are just silently sleeping through days, months, and years? There is one indicator of real life: true love for others.

 Everyone who hates other members of God’s family is a murderer. Does a murderer possess the beautiful life that never ends? No.   We know what true love looks like because of Jesus. He gave His life for us, and He calls us to give our lives for our brothers and sisters.

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 If a person owns the kinds of things we need to make it in the world but refuses to share with those in need, is it even possible that God’s love lives in him?   My little children, don’t just talk about love as an idea or a theory. Make it your true way of life, and live in the pattern of gracious love.

 

 There is a sure way for us to know that we belong to the truth. Even though our inner thoughts may condemn us with storms of guilt and constant reminders of our failures, we can know in our hearts that in His presence God Himself is greater than any accusation. He knows all things.   My loved ones, if our hearts cannot condemn us, then we can stand with confidence before God.   Whatever we may ask, we receive it from Him because we follow His commands and take the path that pleases Him. His command is clear: believe in the name of His Son, Jesus the Anointed, and love one another as He commanded.     (1 John 3)

Footnotes:

  1. 3:12 Genesis 4:8

Image So don’t be afraid, Jacob, though you are nothing but a worm.

 

    People of Israel, you little bug, you have nothing to fear.

Eternal One: I will help you. I am One who saves you,
        the Holy One of Israel.
    I will turn you into a formidable threshing sledge
        with brand new sharp blades that will mow down entire mountains
        and turn the hills into chaff.
   You will separate value from waste, and a great wind
        and a strong storm will take away what is useless and unimportant.
    You will take joy in the Eternal.
        You will glow with pride in the Holy One of Israel.
   And when people thirst, when those poor souls with parched tongues
        look in vain for something to drink,
    I, the Eternal, the God of Israel, won’t leave them to suffer. I will respond
      By making the hard, brown hills sparkle with streams of fresh water
        and causing valleys to come alive with springs.
    I will see that gentle pools wait on the desert floor for the weary traveler,
        and great fountains bubble up from dry ground;
   In the desert, I will plant cedars, woody acacias,
        myrtles, and olive trees.
    I will establish great cypresses to flourish in the desert places,
        plant oaks and pine trees side by side.

 

 They’ll see all this and understand. They’ll ponder together
    and come to know that it is the power of the Eternal One that produced this.
They will know that the Holy One of Israel created it.

Isaiah 41:14-20

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Every word you give me is a miracle word—
    how could I help but obey?
Break open your words, let the light shine out,
    let ordinary people see the meaning.
Mouth open and panting,
    I wanted your commands more than anything.
Turn my way, look kindly on me,
    as you always do to those who personally love you.
Steady my steps with your Word of promise
    so nothing malign gets the better of me.
Rescue me from the grip of bad men and women
    so I can live life your way.
Smile on me, your servant;
    teach me the right way to live.
I cry rivers of tears
    because nobody’s living by your book!

(Psalm 119:129-136)

Without faith no one can please God because the one coming to God must believe He exists, and He rewards those who come seeking.

(Hebrews 11:6) 

 

I took one look at the quitters and was filled with loathing;
    they walked away from your promises so casually!
Take note of how I love what you tell me;
    out of your life of love, prolong my life.
Your words all add up to the sum total: Truth.
    Your righteous decisions are eternal.

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He who embodied the sins of the world carries His own blood into the holy presence.

 We have seen how the law is simply a shadow of the good things to come. Since it is not the perfect form of these ultimate realities, the offering year after year of these imperfect sacrifices cannot bring perfection to those who come forward to worship.   If they had served this purpose, wouldn’t the repetition of these sacrifices have become unnecessary? If they had worked—and cleansed the worshipers—then one sacrifice would have taken away their consciousness of sin.  

But these sacrifices actually remind us that we sin again and again, year after year.  

In the end, the blood of bulls and of goats is powerless to take away sins. 

So when Jesus came into the world, He said,

Sacrifices and offerings were not what You wanted,
    but instead a body that You prepared for Me.
 Burnt offerings and sin offerings
    were not what pleased You.
Then I said, “See, I have come to do Your will, God,
    as it is inscribed of Me in the scroll of the book.” 

Now when it says that God doesn’t want and takes no real pleasure in sacrifices, burnt offerings, and sin offerings (even though the law calls for them), and follows this with “See, I have come to do Your will,”He effectively takes away the first—animal sacrifice—in order to establish the second, more perfect sacrifice. By God’s will, we are made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus the Anointed once and for all time.

 In the first covenant, every day every officiating priest stands at his post serving, offering over and over those same sacrifices that can never take away sin. But after He stepped up to offer His single sacrifice for sins for all time, He sat down in the position of honor at the right hand of God. Since then, He has been waiting for the day when He rests His feet on His enemies’ backs, as the psalm says  With one perfect offering, Jesus has perfected forever those who are being made holy,   as the Holy Spirit keeps testifying to us through the prophet Jeremiah. After he says,

 “But when those days are over,” says the Eternal One, “I will make
    this kind of covenant with the people of Israel:
I will put My laws in their hearts
    and write them upon their minds,”

then He adds,

I will erase their sins and wicked acts out of My memory
    as though they had never existed. 

When there is forgiveness such as this, there is no longer any need to make an offering for sin.

So, my friends, Jesus by His blood gives us courage to enter the most holy place.  He has created for us a new and living way through the curtain, that is, through His flesh. Since we have a great High Priest who presides over the house of God, let us draw near with true hearts full of faith, with hearts rinsed clean of any evil conscience, and with bodies cleansed with pure water. Let us hold strong to the confession of our hope, never wavering, since the One who promised it to us is faithful. Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds, not forgetting to gather as a community, as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other, especially as the day of His return approaches.

The word translated “church” in English Bibles means literally “assembly of the called”; it implies that members have said “yes” to God’s call in their lives. We assemble because we are called into being by God Himself. Some people, for reasons only they know, choose to live their Christian faiths in isolation. When they do, they cut themselves off from the gifts, encouragement, and vitality of others. And perhaps, just as tragically, they deprive the church of the grace and life God has invested in them.

Now if we willfully persist in sin after receiving such knowledge of the truth, then there is no sacrifice left for those sins— only the fearful prospect of judgment and a fierce fire that will consume God’s adversaries. Remember that those who depart from the law of Moses are put to death without mercy based on the testimony of two or three witnesses.Just think how much more severe the punishment will be for those who have turned their backs on the Son of God, trampled on the blood of the covenant by which He made them holy, and outraged the Spirit of grace with their contempt. For we know the God who said, “Vengeance belongs to Me—I will repay,”also said, “The Eternal One will judge His people.” It is truly a frightening thing to be on the wrong side of the living God.

 Instead, think back to the days after you were first enlightened and understood who Jesus was: when you endured all sorts of suffering in the name of the Lordwhen people held you up for public scorn and ridicule, or when they abused your partners and companions in the faith. Remember how you had compassion for those in prison and how you cheerfully accepted the seizure of your possessions, knowing that you have a far greater and more enduring possession.

 Remember this, and do not abandon your confidence, which will lead to rich rewards. 

Simply endure, for when you have done as God requires of you, you will receive the promise.Image 

As the prophet Habakkuk said,

In a little while, only a little longer,
    the One who is coming will come without delay.
But My righteous one must live by faith,
    for if he gives up his commitment,
My soul will have no pleasure in him.

My friends, we are not those who give up hope and so are lost; but we are of the company who live by faith and so are saved.

 Hebrews 10

 For those who love what you reveal, everything fits—
    no stumbling around in the dark for them.
I wait expectantly for your salvation;
    God, I do what you tell me.
My soul guards and keeps all your instructions—
    oh, how much I love them!
I follow your directions, abide by your counsel;
    my life’s an open book before you.

 Let my cry come right into your presence, God;
    provide me with the insight that comes only from your Word.
Give my request your personal attention,
    rescue me on the terms of your promise.
Let praise cascade off my lips;
    after all, you’ve taught me the truth about life!
And let your promises ring from my tongue;
    every order you’ve given is right.
Put your hand out and steady me
    since I’ve chosen to live by your counsel.
I’m homesick, God, for your salvation;
    I love it when you show yourself!
Invigorate my soul so I can praise you well,
    use your decrees to put iron in my soul.
And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me!
    I’ll recognize the sound of your voice.

(Psalm 119)

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Never Betray My Trust

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God may cause our circumstances to suddenly fall apart, which may bring the realization of our unfaithfulness to Him for not recognizing that He had ordained the situation.  (Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost For His Highest”) 

Come on, let’s renew our loyalty to the Eternal One!
He tore us like a lion, but He’ll heal us;
    He wounded us, but He’ll bandage us.
He’ll bring us back to life after two days;
    He’ll raise us up on the third day, and we’ll live with Him.

While not clearly a reference to the Anointed One, this is a remarkable prefiguring of the time and consequence of His death and resurrection.

So let’s know Him; let’s strive to know the Eternal.
    As surely as the sun rises, He’ll come out from His lair.
As surely as the rains come each year
    those spring rains that drench the earth—He’ll come back to us.

(Hosea 6:1-3)

For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels,

and then He will reward each person according to what they have done.  (Matthew 16:27)

This is the Lazarus Generation

“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

(Matthew 24:34)

Be Ready at Any Hour

“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

(Matthew 16:28)

Never Betray My Trust—

Get over “it” and keep walking in My will.

This is the victory that overcomes the world–even our faith.

Remember, it takes BOTH faith and patience to inherit God’s promises.  Everything changes but the Truth.

Praise the Lord for His love never fails and His truth endures forever.

Now God has saved from the punishment of sin! God’s power as King has come! God’s holy nation has come!

God’s Christ is here with power!

The one who spoke against our Christian brothers has been thrown down to earth.

He stood before God speaking against them day and night. 

They had power over him and won because of the blood of the Lamb and by telling what He had done for them.

They did not love their lives but were willing to die.

For this reason, O heavens and you who are there, be full of joy.

It is bad for you, O earth and sea. For the devil has come down to you.

He is very angry because he knows he has only a short time.  (Revelation 12:10-12)

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At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”  (Matthew 11:25)  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  (1 Corinthians 1:27)

 

  Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.  (Psalm 29:1)

You have taught children and infants to tell of Your strength, silencing Your enemies and all who oppose You.

(Psalm 8:2) 

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.  (Joshua 1:8)

And that you put on the new man which was CREATED according to God, in righteousness and true holiness.  (Ephesians 4:24)

 

Jesus left the temple. As He was walking away, His disciples came up to Him and asked what He thought about the temple buildings.

Jesus:   Look around you. All of it will become rubble. I tell you this: not one stone will be left standing.

Later, as Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately.

Disciples: We don’t understand Your predictions. Tell us, when will these things happen: When will the temple be destroyed?

What will be the sign that You are returning? How will we know that the end of the age is upon us?

In this, the last of the five major sermons, Jesus focuses on prophetic and apocalyptic themes of judgment and the end times. The disciples have been listening to the prophetic judgment Jesus has issued on the religious leaders. They have images of collapsing temple buildings, of prophets pursued from town to town, of floggings, and of blood-soaked garments. They can imagine themselves blood-soaked. When will this all happen, and what does it mean?

Jesus: Take care that you are not deceived. For many will come in My name claiming they are the Anointed One, and many poor souls will be taken in.   You will hear of wars, and you will hear rumors of wars, but you should not panic.

It is inevitable, this violent breaking apart of the sinful world, but remember, the wars are not the end.

The end is still unfolding.  

Nations will do battle with nations, and kingdoms will fight neighboring kingdoms, and there will be famines and earthquakes.  But these are not the end. These are the birth pangs, the beginning. The end is still unfolding.

They will hand you over to your enemies, who will torture you and then kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of Me. And many who have followed Me and claimed to love Me and sought God’s kingdom will turn away

they will abandon the faith and betray and hate one another. 

The love that they had for one another will grow cold because few will obey the law.

False prophets will appear, many will be taken in by them, and the only thing that will grow is wickedness.

There will be no end to the increase of wickedness. 

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But those who do not waver from our path and do not follow those false prophets—those among you will be saved.

And this good news of God’s kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, a testimony to all people and all nations. Then, beloved, the end, the consummation of all things, will come.

You will remember that the prophet Daniel predicted this—predicted the abomination that causes desolation—when you see the prophesied desolation of the holy place. (Reader, take notice; it is important that you understand this.) 

When you see this, let those in Judea flee to the mountains.   If you are relaxing on your rooftop one evening and the signs of the temple’s destructions come, don’t return to your house to rescue a book or a pet or a scrap of clothing

If you are in the field when the great destruction begins, don’t return home for a cloak. 

Pregnant women and nursing mothers will have the worst of it.

And as for you, pray that your flight to the hills will not come on the Sabbath or in the cold of winter.

For the tribulation will be unparalleled—hardships of a magnitude that has not been seen since creation and that will not be seen again. 

Indeed the Lord God your merciful judge will cut this time of trial short, and this will be done for the benefit of the elect that some might indeed be saved—for no one could survive the depravity for very long.

I cannot say this clearly enough: during this time, someone will say to you, “Look, here is the Anointed One!” or “Aren’t you relieved? Haven’t you seen the Savior down there, around the bend, over the hill and dale?” Do not believe them.

False liberators and false prophets will appear, and they will know a few tricks—they will perform great miracles, and they will make great promises. If it were possible, they would even deceive God’s elect. But I am warning you ahead of time: remember—do not fall for their lies or lines or promises. 

If someone says, “He’s out there in the desert”—do not go.

And if someone says, “He’s here at our house, at our table”—do not believe him. 

When the Son of Man comes, He will be as visible as lightning in the East is visible even in the West. 

And where the carcass is, there will always be vultures.

 And as the prophets have foretold it: after the distress of those days,

    The sun will grow dark,
        and the moon will be hidden.
    The stars will fall from the sky,
        and all the powers in the heavens will be dislodged and shaken from their places. 

That is when the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky. All the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming; they will see Him powerful and glorious, riding on chariots of clouds in the sky. 

With a loud trumpet call, He will send out battalions of heavenly messengers; and they will gather His beloved faithful elect from the four corners of creation, from one end of heaven to the other.

 Now think of the fig tree. As soon as its twigs get tender and greenish, as soon as it begins to sprout leaves, you know to expect summer. 

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In the same way, when you see the wars and the suffering and the false liberators and the desolations, you will know the Son of Man is near—right at the door. I tell you this: this generation will see all these things take place before it passes away. 

My words are always true and always here with you. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.

No one knows the hour or the day, not even the messengers in heaven, not even the Son. Only the Father knows.  

As it was at the time of Noah, so it will be with the coming of the Son of Man. 

In the days before the flood, people were busy making lives for themselves: they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, making plans and having children and growing old, until the day Noah entered the ark.

Those people had no idea what was coming; they knew nothing about the floods until the floods were upon them, sweeping them all away. That is how it will be with the coming of the Son of Man.

Two men will be plowing a field: one will be taken, and the other will be left in the field. 

Two women will be somewhere grinding at a mill: one will be taken, and the other will be left at the mill.

So keep watch. You don’t know when your Lord will come. 

But you should know this: If the owner of a house had known his house was about to be broken into, he would have stayed up all night, vigilantly. He would have kept watch, and he would have thwarted the thief. So you must be ready because you know the Son of Man will come, but you can’t know precisely when.

The trustworthy servant is the one whom the master puts in charge of all the servants of his household; it is the trustworthy servant who not only oversees all the work, but also ensures the servants are properly fed and cared for. 

And it is, of course, crucial that a servant who is given such responsibility performs his responsibility to his master’s standardsso when the master returns he finds his trust has been rewarded

For then the master will put that good servant in charge of all his possessions. 

But imagine that the master’s trust was misplaced, that the supposedly responsible servant is actually a thief who says to himself, “My master has been gone so long, he is not possibly coming back.”  

Then he beats his fellow servants and dines and drinks with drunkards.  

Well, when the master returns—as certainly he will—the servant will be caught unawares.

The master will return on a day and at an hour when he isn’t expected. 

And he will cut his worthless servant into pieces and throw him out into darkness with the hypocrites, where there is weeping and grinding of teeth.  (Matthew 24)

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Jesus provides a picture of the coming reality of the kingdom of heaven. As they approach the time of His sacrifice, Jesus makes sure the disciples know that soon it will be too late; the door of opportunity will close, and for many the door will remain shut. He gives them another image of the same reality to bring the picture into focus. Once they were bridesmaids waiting for their bridegroom; now they are slaves waiting for their Master. This time they are given responsibilities that will be rewarded.

The blessings of the Kingdom bring risks along with the benefits.

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He told them a parable, urging them to keep praying and never grow discouraged. The parable went like this:

 

Jesus:  There was a judge living in a certain city. He showed no respect for God or humanity.   In that same city there was a widow. Again and again she kept coming to him seeking justice:Clear my name from my adversary’s false accusations! He paid no attention to her request for a while, but then he said to himself, “I don’t care about what God thinks of me, much less what any mere human thinks.  But this widow is driving me crazy. She’s never going to quit coming to see me unless I hear her case and provide her legal protection.”

Did you catch what this self-assured judge said? If he can be moved to act justly, won’t God bring justice for His chosen people when they cry to Him day and night? Will He be slow to bring them justice?  Mark My words: God will intervene fast with vindication. But here’s the question: when the Son of Man comes, will He find anyone who still has faith?

The goal of faithfulness is not that we will do work for God, but that He will be free to do His work through us.

God calls us to His service and places tremendous responsibilities on us. He expects no complaining on our part and offers no explanation on His part. God wants to use us as He used His own Son.  (Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost For His Highest”)

Relax and let the life-changing, power of God flow through you!  Remember the electrical cord is not the power but the electricity that flows through it when it is plugged into the source. 

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Remember that Jesus is the Potter and we are the clay; our times are in His hands. 

See yourself as a clay serving vessel standing ready, willing and en-abled to be used by the master as He wills.

Consider those 6 clay water vessels at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Their primary purpose was for ritual purification

for those coming to the wedding feast.  To be filled so that they could be emptied out and in the outpouring, that others

might be cleansed so that they can partake of the blessings of the Kingdom of God. 

Jesus said that even if we offer just a cup of cold water in His name, we do not lose out; there is a reward for our

drink offering.  Our purpose for living is to be poured out as drink offerings to those who are hungry and thirsty

for really true right living.  His covenant of grace is marked by salt.  Salt shows us our true condition that we need

His outpouring or we are a dry, barren land.  Taste and see that the Lord is good; no good thing does He withhold from

those who walk uprightly with Him!

 

Jesus emphasizes that the kingdom of God will not come through valiant efforts but as people pray, “may Your kingdom come,” with persistence and with humility.

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He told another parable—this one addressed to people who were confident in their self-righteousness and looked down on other people with disgust.

 

Jesus: Imagine two men walking up a road, going to the temple to pray. One of them is a Pharisee and the other is a despised tax collector.  Once inside the temple, the Pharisee stands up and prays this prayer in honor of himself:

“God, how I thank You that I am not on the same level as other people—crooks, cheaters, the sexually immoral—like this tax collector over here. Just look at me! I fast not once but twice a week, and I faithfully pay my tithes on every penny of income.”

Over in the corner, the tax collector begins to pray, but he won’t even lift his eyes to heaven. He pounds on his chest in sorrow and says, God, be merciful to me, a sinner!

Now imagine these two men walking back down the road to their homes.

Listen, it’s the tax collector who walks home clean before God, and not the Pharisee, because whoever lifts himself up will be put down and whoever takes a humble place will be lifted up.

 

Some people brought infants to Jesus, hoping He would touch them in blessing. The disciples rebuked them for doing so, but Jesus called to the people.

Jesus: Let the little children come to Me. Never hinder them! Don’t you realize—the kingdom of God belongs to those who are like children?   You can depend on this: if you don’t receive the Kingdom as a child would, you won’t enter it at all.

Public Official:   Good Teacher, what do I need to do to inherit the life of the age to come?

Jesus: Why did you just call Me good? No one is good but God—only God.  You know what the Hebrew Scriptures command: “Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and mother.” 

Public Official:   I’ve already been doing these things—since I came of age.

Jesus: One thing you still lack—one thing; sell all your possessions and distribute the proceeds to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. Then you can come and follow Me.

 

The man heard these words and sadness came over his face, for his wealth was considerable.

 

Jesus:   What a hard thing it is for those with much wealth to enter the kingdom of God! In fact, it would be easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than it would be for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God!

Listeners:   Then who can be liberated?

Jesus:   Remember, what is humanly impossible is possible with God.

Peter:   We have left our homes and followed You.

Jesus:   I’m telling you the truth: there is nobody who leaves his house or wife or siblings or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive more than he has given up—much more—in this age and in the age to come.

He will receive eternal life.  (Luke 18: -30)

The Eternal One bless and keep you.
May He make His face shine upon you
        and be gracious to you.
The Eternal lift up His countenance
        to look upon you and give you peace.

(Numbers 6:24-26)

John 1 The Voice

This Gospel begins not with Jesus’ birth or John’s baptism but with a deliberate echo of the creation story in Genesis. It takes us back before time began to the moment when God interrupts the silence and speaks the cosmos into existence.

Only John’s Gospel names Jesus as the Logos and declares that He existed long before time was measured.

This Greek word carries a variety of meanings, all relating to the act of speaking. It could be translated “word,” a thought that comes to expression, message, declaration, reason, or the content of preaching; most are found in various translations.

It is clear that John means that logos is declared to all creation.

John’s use of logos is unique and has often been rendered as “Word.” While this is a useful translation, even a casual understanding demonstrates that “Word” reflects only part of its meaning. Most readers will interpret “word” as a unit of language—a combination of sounds generally spoken but also written—that carries meaning.

To understand what John means, readers need something more than their cultural understanding of “word”; they need a new way of thinking about it. This is why we have chosen to offer another rendering, an interpretive, poetic translation, of what may be one of the most theologically loaded words in Scripture. Since logos essentially refers to the act of speaking or bringing thoughts to expression, we have decided to use the word “voice” to capture that reality. John declares that truth has culminated in the person of Jesus. No single word captures the complete meaning of logos, but “voice” has a number of advantages.

First, “voice” manifests the act of speaking. Voice is that which is spoken and that which is heard; it comes on both sides of any communication event, bridging the gap between sender and receiver.

John intends that in Jesus God is speaking and revealing Himself to the world.

Second, a voice is distinct and personal. We can distinguish people from one another simply by their voices. In John 10 Jesus describes the fact that the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd when he calls and they follow, but they refuse to follow a stranger because they do not know his voice (John 10:1-5). John desires that we know Jesus as the Son of God and believe in Him personally as the Good Shepherd.

Third, “voice” is dynamic in that it reflects the robust and powerful activity of a living God. It is historical in that any act of speaking comes to expression and takes place in the real world as a “voice” calling, demanding a response.

It challenges any notion that the Christian faith can be reduced to rules, propositions, or doctrines that can be merely believed or dismissed and not lived out in our lives. Since in Jesus God is speaking and revealing Himself to the world, and since in Jesus we hear the Voice of God, then this new reality changes everything so we, too, must change.

In the beginning

Before time itself was measured, the Voice was speaking.

    The Voice was and is God.
This celestial Word remained ever present with the Creator;
His speech shaped the entire cosmos.
Immersed in the practice of creating,
    all things that exist were birthed in Him.
His breath filled all things
    with a living, breathing light—
A light that thrives in the depths of darkness,
    blazes through murky bottoms.
It cannot and will not be quenched.

A man named John, who was sent by God, was the first to clearly articulate the source of this LightThis baptizer put in plain words the elusive mystery of the Divine Light so all might believe through him. Some wondered whether he might be the Lightbut John was not the Light. He merely pointed to the Light. The true Light, who shines upon the heart of everyone, was coming into the cosmos.

Jesus as the Light does not call out from a distant place but draws near by coming into the world.

He entered our world, a world He made; yet the world did not recognize Him. Even though He came to His own people, they refused to listen and receive Him. But for all who did receive and trust in Him, He gave them the right to be reborn as children of God; He bestowed this birthright not by human power or initiative but by God’s will.

The Voice took on flesh and became human and chose to live alongside us. We have seen Him, enveloped in undeniable splendor—the one true Son of the Father—evidenced in the perfect balance of grace and truth. John the Baptist testified about Him and shouted, “This is the one I’ve been telling you is coming. He is much greater than I am because He existed long before me.”   Through this man we all receive gifts of grace beyond our imagination. You see, Moses gave us rules to live by, but Jesus the Anointed offered us gifts of grace and truthGod, unseen until now, is revealed in the Voice, God’s only Son, straight from the Father’s heart.

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Salvation comes only from our God, who sits upon the throne, and from the Lamb.

John hears that 144,000 people out of Israel are destined to be sealed, but then he turns to see an innumerable multitude from every people group in the world. What he sees reveals the truth of what he hears: the number “144,000” is not an exact count of who will be saved but is a symbolic number (12 x 12 x 1000).

Twelve” is a number that signifies all the people of God, from both the Old and New Testaments.

In reality, between the sixth and seventh seal, there is an interlude, an opportunity for people from every nation to enter into the people of God, to receive God’s mark, and to take their places among the redeemed.

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When the Lamb cracked open the seventh and final seal, a great silence filled all heaven penetrating everything for about half an hour. Then I saw seven heavenly messengers, the ones who stand before God, receive seven trumpets.

An eighth messenger came and stood before the altar carrying a golden censer. He received a large portion of incense to complement the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar that sits in front of the throne. From the hand of the eighth messenger, the smoke of the incense mixed with the prayers of God’s people and billowed up before God. The messenger filled the censer with fiery coals from the altar and cast it upon the earth, causing a great commotion of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

Throughout the ages God’s people have been asking Him for justice in their prayers and laments. Now, in response to these, God pours out His judgment.

The seven heavenly messengers raised the seven trumpets and prepared to sound them.

(Revelation 8:1-6)

If we will just learn to worship God even during the difficult circumstances, He will change them for the better very quickly if He so chooses.  (Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost For His Highest)

These are coming from the time of great suffering and affliction. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, cleansing them pure white.

Responding out of a heart filled with praise, they congregate before the throne of God
        and constantly worship Him day and night in His temple.
    The One seated on the throne will always live among them.
They will never be hungry or thirsty again.
    The sun or blazing heat will never scorch them,
Because the Lamb who stands at the center of the throne is their shepherd and they are His sheep,
        and He will lead them to the water of life.
    And God will dry every tear from their eyes.

(Revelation 7:15-17)

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Tally-ho!

Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming! 
(Song of Solomon 2:15)
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Hear the Good News

You yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed.
You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.

We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem.

They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross.
(Acts 10:37-39)

The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against His anointed one.’ (Acts 4:26) 
A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.(Proverbs 19:11)
 
But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.  (1 John 2:20)

For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.

  (John 3:34)
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Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.


For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”


If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.


This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:

Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.  (Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14, James 2:8, 1 John 3:10)
 
Do not think that I have come to revoke The Written Law or The Prophets; I am not come to revoke but to fulfill.

Jesus Fulfills the Law

“Don’t ever think that I came to set aside Moses’ Teachings or the Prophets. I didn’t come to set them aside but to make them come true.

(Matthew 5:17)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  (John 13:34) 

Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

(Romans 3:31)
 
Love Fulfills the Law

Owe nothing to anyone–except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.  (Romans 13:8)

–and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”  (Romans 13:9b)

Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

(Romans 13:10)


For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Galatians 5:14)

Who is my Neighbor?

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37),
Jesus describes the identity of the “neighbor” based on the condition of our own
heart in relation with God and responsibility towards others. 
 
The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again He will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land.

Foreigners will join them and unite with the descendants of Jacob.  (Isaiah 14:1)

Love Your Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’  

 
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.
(Matthew 5:43-45)

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Just then a scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures tried to trap Jesus.

Scholar: Teacher, what must I do to experience the eternal life?

Jesus (answering with a question):   What is written in the Hebrew Scriptures? How do you interpret their answer to your question?

Scholar:   You shall love—“love the Eternal One your God with everything you have: all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind” —and “love your neighbor as yourself.” 

Jesus:   Perfect. Your answer is correct. Follow these commands and you will live.

The scholar was frustrated by this response because he was hoping to make himself appear smarter than Jesus.

Scholar: Ah, but who is my neighbor?

Jesus: This fellow was traveling down from Jerusalem to Jericho when some robbers mugged him. They took his clothes, beat him to a pulp, and left him naked and bleeding and in critical condition. By chance, a priest was going down that same road, and when he saw the wounded man, he crossed over to the other side and passed by.   Then a Levite who was on his way to assist in the temple also came and saw the victim lying there, and he too kept his distance.   Then a despised Samaritan journeyed by. When he saw the fellow, he felt compassion for him.   The Samaritan went over to him, stopped the bleeding, applied some first aid, and put the poor fellow on his donkey. He brought the man to an inn and cared for him through the night.

The next day, the Samaritan took out some money—two days’ wages to be exact—and paid the innkeeper, saying, “Please take care of this fellow, and if this isn’t enough, I’ll repay you next time I pass through.”

 Which of these three proved himself a neighbor to the man who had been mugged by the robbers?

Scholar: The one who showed mercy to him.

Jesus: Well then, go and behave like that Samaritan.

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People Who Love Listening to Lies

God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, preach against the prophets of Israel who are making things up out of their own heads and calling it ‘prophesying.’

 “Preach to them the real thing. Tell them, ‘Listen to God’s Message!’ God, the Master, pronounces doom on the empty-headed prophets who do their own thing and know nothing of what’s going on!scavenging through the ruins. The Your prophets, Israel, are like jackals (foxes) They haven’t lifted a finger to repair the defenses of the city and have risked nothing to help Israel stand on God’s Day of Judgment. All they do is fantasize comforting illusions and preach lying sermons. They say ‘God says . . .’ when God hasn’t so much as breathed in their direction. And yet they stand around thinking that something they said is going to happen.

 “Haven’t you fantasized sheer nonsense? Aren’t your sermons tissues of lies, saying ‘God says . . .’ when I’ve done nothing of the kind? Therefore—and this is the Message of God, the Master, remember—I’m dead set against prophets who substitute illusions for visions and use sermons to tell lies. I’m going to ban them from the council of my people, remove them from membership in Israel, and outlaw them from the land of Israel. Then you’ll realize that I am God, the Master.

 “The fact is that they’ve lied to my people. They’ve said, ‘No problem; everything’s just fine,’ when things are not at all fine. When people build a wall, they’re right behind them slapping on whitewash. Tell those who are slapping on the whitewash, ‘When a torrent of rain comes and the hailstones crash down and the hurricane sweeps in and the wall collapses, what’s the good of the whitewash that you slapped on so liberally, making it look so good?’

 “And that’s exactly what will happen. I, God, the Master, say so: ‘I’ll let the hurricane of my wrath loose, a torrent of my hailstone-anger. I’ll make that wall you’ve slapped with whitewash collapse. I’ll level it to the ground so that only the foundation stones will be left. And in the ruin you’ll all die. You’ll realize then that I am God.

“‘I’ll dump my wrath on that wall, all of it, and on those who plastered it with whitewash. I will say to them, There is no wall, and those who did such a good job of whitewashing it wasted their time, those prophets of Israel who preached to Jerusalem and announced all their visions telling us things were just fine when they weren’t at all fine. Decree of God, the Master.’

 “And the women prophets—son of man, take your stand against the women prophets who make up stuff out of their own minds. Oppose them. Say ‘Doom’ to the women who sew magic bracelets and head scarves to suit every taste, devices to trap souls. Say, ‘Will you kill the souls of my people, use living souls to make yourselves rich and popular? You have profaned me among my people just to get ahead yourselves, used me to make yourselves look good—killing souls who should never have died and coddling souls who shouldn’t live. You’ve lied to people who love listening to lies.’

 “Therefore God says, ‘I am against all the devices and techniques you use to hunt down souls. I’ll rip them out of your hands. I’ll free the souls you’re trying to catch. I’ll rip your magic bracelets and scarves to shreds and deliver my people from your influence so they’ll no longer be victimized by you. That’s how you’ll come to realize that I am God.

 “‘Because you’ve confounded and confused good people, unsuspecting and innocent people, with your lies, and because you’ve made it easy for others to persist in evil so that it wouldn’t even dawn on them to turn to me so I could save them, as of now you’re finished. No more delusion-mongering from you, no more sermonic lies. I’m going to rescue my people from your clutches. And you’ll realize that I am God.’”

(Ezekiel 13)
God will Restore Israel

Therefore behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD,
 “when it will no longer be said,
‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.’
For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers.

“Behold, I am going to send for many fishermen,” declares the LORD,
 “and they will fish for them; and afterwards I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them from every mountain and every hill and from the clefts of the rocks.” (Jeremiah 16:14-16)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6)

God SO loved the world (John 3:16)…

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If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.  (James 2:8)


This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.  (1 John 3:10)

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

(Matthew 7:12)

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  (Matthew 5:16, 15, 14, 18)

Jesus: You can give that sly fox this message: “Watch as I cast out demons and perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day I’ll reach My destination. But for today and tomorrow and the next day, I have to continue My journey, for no prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.”

 

O Jerusalem! O Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and you stone the messengers who are sent to you. How often I wanted to gather in your children as a hen gathers in her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing to come to Me. Look now, your house is abandoned and empty. You won’t see Me until you welcome Me with the words of the psalms, “Anyone who comes in the name of the Eternal One will be blessed!”

(Luke 13:32-35)

One in Christ

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,

by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances,

so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.  (Ephesians 2:13-15)

There is no distance in prayer.  E-stranged loved ones need their distance–but they also need prayer more than ever.

At those times, there is just the standing by, keeping heart and door open to them–interceding.  It is a time to hang on

without wavering to God’s desire and ability to bridge the gap that separates loved ones.  Nothing can separate us

from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. 

Then Jesus answered and said to her,

O woman, great is your faith!  Let it be to you as you desire.”

And her daughter was healed (made whole) from that very hour.

(Matthew 15:28)

Lord, keep my heart open to all the wonderful possibilities of change for everything changes but the Truth. 

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.  You are Lord and You change not. 

Help me to keep looking to You in faith and patience knowing that You are working all things together for good for Your glorious name.  Amen.

This is my desire to honor You for a son honors his father.  This is my desire for you–that you desire the sincere

(pure, spiritual) milk of the Word so that you can be nurtured and grow up in the Lord being fruitful in every good

work that His name be glorified on earth as it is in heaven.  That you become rooted and grounded in the Word of God

as His planting so that the earth would be full of the knowledge of God’s glory.  Those that hunger and thirst for God

and His righteousness shall be filled.  He raises us up that we walk with Him in love fulfilling the truth that He is light

and in Him is no darkness at all.  He is the fountain of life and in His light we see.

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W(h)in, Dyin’  Or Wine and Dine?
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You Who Give Little and Take Much

The time is surely coming,” says the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread or water, but of hearing the Words of the Lord.”

Men will wander everywhere from sea to sea, seeking the Word of the Lord, searching, running here and going there, but will not find it.
Beautiful girls and fine young men alike will grow faint and weary, thirsting for the Word of God.  (Amos 8:11-13)

How bad it will be for anyone who disputes with the very One who created him!
    After all, a human being is nothing more than one clay pot among many.
Imagine the clay saying to the potter, “What do you think you’re doing?
    or “You don’t have the hands for this.”  (Isaiah 45:9)   

Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.       

(Proverbs 29:18)
 
Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.            (Isaiah 30:20)
“For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”  (Genesis 41:52)

Calamity upon calamity will come, and rumor upon rumor. They will go searching for a vision from the prophet, priestly instruction in the law will cease, the counsel of the elders will come to an end.                (Ezekiel 7:26)
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The Father Heart of God

Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees, a man with some clout among his people.  He came to Jesus under the cloak of darkness to question Him.       

At this time, Israel’s Roman occupiers have given a small group of Sadducees and Pharisees limited powers to rule, and Nicodemus is one of the Pharisees. He holds a seat on the ruling council known as the Sanhedrin, and surprisingly Nicodemus is among those who seek Jesus for His teaching. It appears that he believes more about Jesus than he wants others to know, so he comes at night.

Nicodemus: Teacher, some of us have been talking. You are obviously a teacher who has come from God. The signs You are doing are proof that God (the Father) is with You.  (John 3:1-3)

Whatever the Lord God
    plans to do,
He tells His servants,
    the prophets.
(Amos 3:7)

But when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst, They will sanctify My name; Indeed, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob And will stand in awe of the God of Israel.  Those who err in mind will know the truth, And those who criticize will accept instruction.  (Isaiah 29:23-24)

The prodigals are returning home to the Father

Remember the prodigal?
“…He arose and came to his father. 
But when he was STILL a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.”  (Luke 15:20)

The lost are found in Christ Jesus the anointed One and his anointing.  You have received an anointing from Christ’s Holy Spirit and you know all things.  The Spirit is given to lead and guide us into all truth every step of the way home.

The son represents every empty soul longing to find fulfillment and looking for love in all the wrong places. 

Jesus already went ahead to prepare a place for us that where He is, we may be.
The place of blessing is restoration for this is life everlasting and more abundant. 

It is the very heart of the Father to set the lonely in His forever family.

As the four faith-full friends who ripped the roof off  to open the earth as heaven 

to receive Jesus’ miraculous healing through God’s forgiveness,

Likewise, God has commanded us to do His work–
to imitate Christ Jesus. 

Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil for the Father was with him. 

He came not to do his own will but to fulfill the will of the Father who sent him

We were created in Christ Jesus for good works to walk therein.
As the Father sent Jesus,

Likewise, he sends us.
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Freely you have received–Freely give!   

Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.  (1 Corinthians 11:1)

O Father God, may I be conscious of the abiding of Your Ever-Present Helper, Holy Spirit, each and every day of my life.  May each and every day begin and end with Your blessing.  Amen.

Paul describes a community where every person considers the needs of others first and does nothing from selfishness;

it pulls together rather than pulls apart, and it is a body that knows its purpose and lets nothing interfere with it.

It is an extended spiritual family where others line up to become part of this sacred assembly and to make it their home because they feel encouragement and know they are truly loved.

So Paul urges the Philippians to strive for this radical unity and fulfill his joy by having the mind of Jesus who humbled Himself, became a servant, and suffered the death of the cross. Jesus becomes the example of humility and service, leading to the kind of unity Paul imagines.

 So now, my beloved, obey as you have always done, not only when I am with you, but even more so when I can’t be.

Continue to work out your salvation, with great fear and trembling,   because God is energizing you so that you will desire and do what always pleases Him.

 Do all things without complaining or bickering with each other,  so you will be found innocent and blameless; you are God’s children called to live without a single stain on your reputations among this perverted and crooked generation.

Shine like stars across the land.  

Cling to the Word of life so that on the day of judgment when the Anointed One returns I may have reason to rejoice,

because it will be plain that I didn’t turn from His mission nor did I work in vain.   ( Philippians 2:12-16 )
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Eternal One: For behold the day of burning will come, smoldering like a furnace.

The arrogant and the evil will be set ablaze like the worthless chaff of grain. Neither roots nor branch will remain.

I, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, promise this.  

But for you, the ones who tremble at the sound of My name, a warm sun of righteousness will come forth with healing in its rays, and you will go out, springing from the stalls like calves in open pasture.  

Then you will trample the criminal; your feet will make them ash on the day I am preparing.

I, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, promise this.

Remember the instructions which Moses, My faithful servant, received from Me at Mount Horeb and gave to all Israel.

Remember its statutes and judgments.

Keep watch. I am sending Elijah the prophet to you before the arrival of the great and terrible day of the Eternal One,

and he will return parents’ hearts to their children and children’s hearts to their parents,

or else I will come and strike the land of promise with a curse of annihilation.

These verses simultaneously display retrospective and prospective dimensions of Malachi’s conversation with the people, especially the temple priests, of Jerusalem. Malachi calls his contemporaries to remember the life and message of Moses and future generations to look forward to the life and message of the Elijah who is to come. As Ezra in the fifth century b.c. is like Elijah, reflecting these expectations, so John the Baptist is the messenger par excellence 400 years later when he prepares the world for Jesus of Nazareth, God’s Anointed One.   (Malachi 4)
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A long time passed. Then God’s word came to Elijah. The drought was now in its third year.

The message:Go and present yourself to Ahab; I’m about to make it rain on the country.

Elijah set out to present himself to Ahab. The drought in Samaria at the time was most severe.

Ahab called for Obadiah, who was in charge of the palace. Obadiah feared God—he was very devout. Earlier, when Jezebel had tried to kill off all the prophets of God, Obadiah had hidden away a hundred of them in two caves, fifty in a cave, and then supplied them with food and water.

Ahab ordered Obadiah, “Go through the country; locate every spring and every stream. Let’s see if we can find enough grass to keep our horses and mules from dying.” So they divided the country between them for the search—Ahab went one way, Obadiah the other.

Obadiah went his way and suddenly there he was—Elijah! Obadiah fell on his knees, bowing in reverence, and exclaimed, “Is it really you—my master Elijah?

Yes,” said Elijah, “the real me. Now go and tell your boss, ‘I’ve seen Elijah.’”

Obadiah said, “But what have I done to deserve this? Ahab will kill me. As surely as your God lives, there isn’t a country or kingdom where my master hasn’t sent out search parties looking for you. And if they said, ‘We can’t find him; we’ve looked high and low,’ he would make that country or kingdom swear that you were not to be found. And now you’re telling me, ‘Go and tell your master Elijah’s found!’ The minute I leave you the Spirit of God will whisk you away to who knows where. Then when I report to Ahab, you’ll have disappeared and Ahab will kill me. And I’ve served God devoutly since I was a boy! Hasn’t anyone told you what I did when Jezebel was out to kill the prophets of God, how I risked my life by hiding a hundred of them, fifty to a cave, and made sure they got food and water? And now you’re telling me to draw attention to myself by announcing to my master, ‘Elijah’s been found.’ Why, he’ll kill me for sure.

Elijah said, “As surely as God-of-the-Angel-Armies lives, and before whom I take my stand, I’ll meet with your master face-to-face this very day.”

So Obadiah went straight to Ahab and told him. And Ahab went out to meet Elijah.

The moment Ahab saw Elijah he said, “So it’s you, old troublemaker!

It’s not I who has caused trouble in Israel,” said Elijah, “but you and your government—you’ve dumped God’s ways and commands and run off after the local gods, the Baals. Here’s what I want you to do: Assemble everyone in Israel at Mount Carmel. And make sure that the special pets of Jezebel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of the local gods, the Baals, and the four hundred prophets of the whore goddess Asherah, are there.”

So Ahab summoned everyone in Israel, particularly the prophets, to Mount Carmel.

Elijah challenged the people: “How long are you going to sit on the fence? If God is the real God, follow him; if it’s Baal, follow him. Make up your minds!

Nobody said a word; nobody made a move.

Then Elijah said, “I’m the only prophet of God left in Israel; and there are 450 prophets of Baal. Let the Baal prophets bring up two oxen; let them pick one, butcher it, and lay it out on an altar on firewood—but don’t ignite it. I’ll take the other ox, cut it up, and lay it on the wood. But neither will I light the fire. Then you pray to your gods and I’ll pray to God. The god who answers with fire will prove to be, in fact, God.

All the people agreed: “A good plan—do it!

Elijah told the Baal prophets, “Choose your ox and prepare it. You go first, you’re the majority. Then pray to your god, but don’t light the fire.”

So they took the ox he had given them, prepared it for the altar, then prayed to Baal. They prayed all morning long, “O Baal, answer us!But nothing happened—not so much as a whisper of breeze. Desperate, they jumped and stomped on the altar they had made.

By noon, Elijah had started making fun of them, taunting, “Call a little louder—he is a god, after all. Maybe he’s off meditating somewhere or other, or maybe he’s gotten involved in a project, or maybe he’s on vacation. You don’t suppose he’s overslept, do you, and needs to be waked up?” They prayed louder and louder, cutting themselves with swords and knives—a ritual common to them—until they were covered with blood.

This went on until well past noon. They used every religious trick and strategy they knew to make something happen on the altar, but nothing happened—not so much as a whisper, not a flicker of response.

Then Elijah told the people, “Enough of that—it’s my turn. Gather around.” And they gathered. He then put the altar back together for by now it was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes of Jacob, the same Jacob to whom God had said, “From now on your name is Israel. He built the stones into the altar in honor of God. Then Elijah dug a fairly wide trench around the altar. He laid firewood on the altar, cut up the ox, put it on the wood, and said, “Fill four buckets with water and drench both the ox and the firewood.” Then he said, “Do it again,” and they did it. Then he said, “Do it a third time,” and they did it a third time. The altar was drenched and the trench was filled with water.

When it was time for the sacrifice to be offered, Elijah the prophet came up and prayed, “O God, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, make it known right now that you are God in Israel, that I am your servant, and that I’m doing what I’m doing under your orders. Answer me, God; O answer me and reveal to this people that you are God, the true God, and that you are giving these people another chance at repentance.”

Immediately the fire of God fell and burned up the offering, the wood, the stones, the dirt, and even the water in the trench.

All the people saw it happen and fell on their faces in awed worship, exclaiming, “God is the true God! God is the true God!

Elijah told them, “Grab the Baal prophets! Don’t let one get away!

They grabbed them. Elijah had them taken down to the Brook Kishon and they massacred the lot.

Elijah said to Ahab, “Up on your feet! Eat and drink—celebrate! Rain is on the way; I hear it coming.

Ahab did it: got up and ate and drank. Meanwhile, Elijah climbed to the top of Carmel, bowed deeply in prayer, his face between his knees. Then he said to his young servant, “On your feet now! Look toward the sea.”

He went, looked, and reported back, “I don’t see a thing.

Keep looking,” said Elijah, “seven times if necessary.”

And sure enough, the seventh time he said, “Oh yes, a cloud! But very small, no bigger than someone’s hand, rising out of the sea.”
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Quickly then, on your way. Tell Ahab, ‘Saddle up and get down from the mountain before the rain stops you.’”

Things happened fast. The sky grew black with wind-driven clouds, and then a huge cloudburst of rain, with Ahab hightailing it in his chariot for Jezreel. And God strengthened Elijah mightily. Pulling up his robe and tying it around his waist, Elijah ran in front of Ahab’s chariot until they reached Jezreel.  (1 Kings 18)

Jesus (quoting Deuteronomy):   It is written, “Man does not live by bread alone. Rather, he lives on every word that comes from the mouth of the Eternal One.”  (Matthew 4:4)

Jesus doesn’t work miracles out of the blue, for no reason, for show or proof or spectacle. He works them in intimate, close places; He works them to meet people’s needs and to show them the way to the Kingdom.

God strengthens the weary
    and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care.
Young people will get tired;
    strapping young men will stumble and fall.
But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength.
    They will soar on wings as eagles.
They will run—never winded, never weary.
    They will walk—never tired, never faint.

(Isaiah 40:29-31)
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Jesus Changes Water Into Wine
 
Three days later, they all went to celebrate a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was invited   together with Him and His disciples.   While they were celebrating, the wine ran out; and Jesus’ mother hurried over to her son.

Mary: The host stands on the brink of embarrassment; there are many guests, and there is no more wine.

Jesus:   Dear woman, is it our problem they miscalculated when buying wine and inviting guests? My time has not arrived.

 But she turned to the servants.

Mary: Do whatever my son tells you.

 In that area were six massive stone water pots that could each hold 20 to 30 gallons.  They were typically used for Jewish purification rites.   Jesus’ instructions were clear:

Jesus: Fill each water pot with water until it’s ready to spill over the top;   then fill a cup, and deliver it to the headwaiter.

They did exactly as they were instructed.   After tasting the water that had become wine, the headwaiter couldn’t figure out where such wine came from (even though the servants knew), and he called over the bridegroom in amazement.

Headwaiter:   This wine is delectable. Why would you save the most exquisite fruit of the vine? A host would generally serve the good wine first and, when his inebriated guests don’t notice or care, he would serve the inferior wine. You have held back the best for last.

 Jesus performed this miracle, the first of His signs, in Cana of Galilee. They did not know how this happened; but when the disciples and the servants witnessed this miracle, their faith blossomed.

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.

(Isaiah 35:1)Image

On Earth As In Heaven

With a wedding as the setting of Jesus’ first sign, John shows how Jesus’ ministry isn’t limited to just “spiritual” things,

but is His blessing for all of life.

 Jesus then gathered His clan—His family members and disciples—for a journey to Capernaum where they lingered several days.  The time was near to celebrate the Passover, the festival commemorating when God rescued His children from slavery in Egypt, so Jesus went to Jerusalem for the celebration.  Upon arriving, He entered the temple to worship. But the porches and colonnades were filled with merchants selling sacrificial animals (such as doves, oxen, and sheep) and exchanging money.   Jesus fashioned a whip of cords and used it with skill driving out animals; He scattered the money and overturned the tables, emptying profiteers from the house of God.   There were dove merchants still standing around, and Jesus reprimanded them.

Jesus: What are you still doing here? Get all your stuff, and haul it out of here! Stop making My Father’s house a place for your own profit!

 The disciples were astounded, but they remembered that the Hebrew Scriptures said, “Jealous devotion for God’s house consumes me.”  Some of the Jews cried out to Him in unison.

Jews: Who gave You the right to shut us down? If it is God, then show us a sign.

Jesus:   You want a sign? Here it is. Destroy this temple, and I will rebuild it in 3 days.

Jews:   Three days? This temple took more than 46 years to complete. You think You can replicate that feat in 3 days?

 The true temple was His body.   His disciples remembered this bold prediction after He was resurrected.

Because of this knowledge, their faith in the Hebrew Scriptures and in Jesus’ teachings grew.

 During the Passover feast in Jerusalem, the crowds were watching Jesus closely; and many began to believe in Him because of the signs He was doing.  But Jesus saw through to the heart of humankind, and He chose not to give them what they requested. He didn’t need anyone to prove to Him the character of humanity. He knew what man was made of.    (John 2)
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Stand in the Water and Touch the Fire

     Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness—they will be filled.
     Blessed are the merciful—they will be shown mercy.
     Blessed are those who are pure in heart—they will see God.
     Blessed are the peacemakers—they will be called children of God.
     Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness—the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

 And blessed are you,

blessed are all of you, when people persecute you or denigrate you or despise you or tell lies about you on My account.  

But when this happens, rejoice. Be glad.

Remember that God’s prophets have been persecuted in the past.

And know that in heaven, you have a great reward.
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Salt draws out the good flavors subtly hidden in food and preserves what would otherwise spoil, as do those who claim to be children of God.

 You, beloved, are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes bland and loses its saltiness, can anything make it salty again?

No. It is useless. It is tossed out, thrown away, or trampled.

 And you, beloved, are the light of the world. A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden.  

Similarly it would be silly to light a lamp and then hide it under a bowl.

When someone lights a lamp, she puts it on a table or a desk or a chair, and the light illumines the entire house.  

You are like that illuminating light.

Let your light shine everywhere you go, that you may illumine creation,

so men and women everywhere may see your good actions, may see creation at its fullest,

may see your devotion to Me, and may turn and praise your Father in heaven because of it.  (Matthew 5:6-16)

    Prophecy has often been described as “speaking truth to power.”
 
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

But do this with gentleness and respect,
(1 Peter 3:15)
 
You are to offer them before the LORD,

and the priests are to sprinkle salt on them and sacrifice them as a burnt offering to the LORD.    (Ezekiel 43:24)

 
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.  (Luke 1:53)
 
 Taste of His goodness; see how wonderful the Eternal truly is.
    Anyone who puts trust in Him will be blessed and comforted. (Psalm 34:8)

The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the LORD will praise Him– may your hearts live forever!        (Psalm 22:26)

I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.            (Psalm 81:10)           
He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness.        (Hebrews 5:2)

The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.    (Psalm 34:10)
 
All your children will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their peace.    (Isaiah 54:13)

You will drink the milk of nations and be nursed at royal breasts.

Then you will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.        (Isaiah 60:16)
 
So that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this,

that the Holy One of Israel has created it.  (Isaiah 41:20)

It takes both faith and patience to inherit the promises of God.
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The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.
 (Ecclesiastes 7:8)
   

ImageSince God has so generously let us in on what He is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.

If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way. No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.

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Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

 

 If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ LIFE all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!

 

 We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!

 

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4)

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We need to ask God to open our spiritual eyes that we might see the spiritual needs around us, especially in the lives of people who need to be transformed by Christ.  This is the greatest need of every person on Planet Earth.

For it is God who works in you both to WILL and to DO for HIS good pleasure.  (Philippians 2:13)

Father, may I live as a child of Yours walking in the Light as You are in the Light in the fellowship of One, whole and

complete, fulfilled in Your unfailing love and Your truth which endures forever unto a thousand generations that love You.

We love because You first loved us.  For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son that whoSoever believes

shall not perish but have Everlasting Life.  Everything changes but the TRUTH.  Jesus is the Way, the TRUTH and the Life;

no man comes to the Father but through Him.  For it is in Him that we live, move and have our being.  Man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  Jesus is the Living Word sent by God the Father to heal and deliver from sin and death.  Jesus ever lives to intercede for the saints of God.  For we have an Advocate with the Father.

And His Holy Spirit is given to lead and guide us into all TRUTH revealing the One given to set us free.  Who the Son sets

free is really free.  You will know the Truth and the TRUTH will make you FREE!

Work your imagination FREE from imprisoning and unreliable fears by FIRST of all RECOGNIZING that God is at work within you for good.

Remember Joseph who not only was betrayed by the jealous and murderous envy of his own brothers in slavery in Egypt.

Liars and thieves could not keep Joseph from fully serving God no matter what, no matter where.  God was with Joseph

and made him fruitful in affliction.  See the heart of a true servant of the Lord in Joseph’s response to his brothers

concerning their part in placing him in those trials–

Joseph:  Don’t be afraid. Am I to judge instead of God? It is not my place. Even though you intended to harm me, God intended it only for good, and through me, He preserved the lives of countless people, as He is still doing today.  So don’t worry. I will provide for you myself—for you and your children.  (Genesis 50:19-21)

This same sentiment is expressed in Paul’s letter to the Romans (8:28). God can take even the meanest intention and make it work for good for His devoted followers.

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The Truth, Nothing but the Truth so Help me God!
As an intercessor, be careful not to seek too much information from God regarding the situation you are praying about, because you may be overwhelmed. If you know too much, more than God has ordained for you to know, you can’t pray; the circumstances of the people become so overpowering that you are no longer able to get to the underlying truth

Our work is to be in such close contact with God that we may have His mind about everything, but we shirk that responsibility by substituting doing for interceding. And yet intercession is the only thing that has no drawbacks, because it keeps our relationship completely open with God.Image

What we must avoid in intercession is praying for someone to be simply “patched up.” We must pray that person completely through into contact with the very life of God. Think of the number of people God has brought across our path, only to see us drop them! When we pray on the basis of redemption, God creates something He can create in no other way than through intercessory prayer.

(My Utmost For His Highest)

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God Offers Comfort to All

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.

When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.

For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.

Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation!

For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you.

Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 

We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us. (2 Corinthians 1 :3-7)

 

 

Lord, help me to keep my feet on the straight and narrow path.  Help me to seek Your comfort always in time of need. Amen.

God is Able to make All grace Abound toward you that you Always having All sufficiency in all things may abound to every good work.  2 Corinthians 9:8

 

 

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He who embodied the sins of the world carries His own blood into the holy presence.
It was about time for Jesus to be taken up into heaven. He turned toward Jerusalem and was sure that nothing would stop Him from going. (Luke 9:51)
Give God thanks—even as you FACE trouble!

Lev Nishbar

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit. A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise. זִבְחֵי אֱלֹקים רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרָה: לֵב נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה אֱלֹקים, לֹא תִבְזֶה (Tehillim/Psalm 51:19)

Those who SOW in tears; REAP in joy!

Those who are broken in heart – the nishberei lev – have discovered that they cannot control their own lives, that they are inwardly “shattered,” and therefore need divine help. Contrary to conventional wisdom, God helps those who cannot help themselves; He prefers to use broken vessels in His service (Psalm 51:19).
As Tozer also wrote, “Beware of any Christian leader who does not walk with a limp.”

Remember, God gave great victory to Gideon and his 300.

Remember, God renamed Jacob (the supplanter, the deceiver) to ISRAEL (prince with God, an overcomer) with a limp.

When someone is hurting or brokenhearted, the Eternal moves in close

and revives him in his pain. (Psalm 34:18)

Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will give you strength, and for sure I will help you. Yes, I will hold you up with My right hand that is right and good. (Isaiah 41:10)

Deuteronomy 4:7
What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?
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My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 85:9
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.

Yet you are near, LORD, and all your commands are true.

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 51:17, Psalm 85:9, Psalm 119:151, Psalm 145:18, Psalm 147:3)

My friends, we are not those who give up hope and so are lost; but we are of the company who live by faith and so are saved.
(Hebrews 10:39)

What can we say about all these things? Since God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

So concludes an almost breathtaking succession of encounters between Jesus and people in need. Each story is unique; Jesus responds to each person as an individual, and there is no detectable formula to His way of treating people—except that in every case, His interactions are characterized by love and compassion.

Now Jesus takes His ministry of teaching the kingdom of God in word and deed to a new level: He sends out His disciples to do what they have seen Him do. Jesus commissions the twelve to multiply His ministry. They will go out from and then return to Jesus with reports of what they’ve experienced and learned. But it’s hard for them to get any time alone to talk. There are so many people who want time with Jesus!

Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction. (Isaiah 29:24)

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. (Psalm 25:9)

In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:6)

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)

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But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;
for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. (Psalm 118:20)

The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives. (Proverbs 16:17)

Trust and Obey

Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when He arrives.  (1 Peter 2:12)

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 “However, I have this against you: you have abandoned your first love.   Do you remember what it was like before you fell?

It’s time to rethink and change your ways;  go back to how you first acted.

However, if you do not return,  I will come quickly  and personally remove your lampstand from its place. 

 “Let the person who is able to hear, listen to and follow what the Spirit proclaims to all the churches.

I will allow the one who conquers through faithfulness even unto death to eat from the tree of life found in God’s lush paradise.”  (Revelation 2:4-5; 7)
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God frequently changes circumstances and people WHEN we in a very PERSONAL way PRAY
that His Will be done in our own spheres of influence.

Believe in the simplicity of God’s solution!  BELIEVE!

Fear not; only BELIEVE!  Then you shall see the glory of God revealed.
       
I pray, dear Lord, that my perception may not be BLOCKED by intellectual pride or distrust
but that I may simply BELIEVE in You.  Amen.

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All the nations have gathered together So that the peoples may be assembled.

Who among them can declare this And proclaim to us the former things?

Let them present their witnesses that they may be justified, Or let them hear and say, “It is true.” 

You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.  “I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me.”  (Isaiah 43:9-11)
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GIVE THEM UP!

Judgment Proclaimed

Declare this in the house of Jacob And proclaim it in Judah, saying,

Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
Who have eyes but do not see; Who have ears but do not hear.

‘Do you not fear Me?declares the LORD. ‘Do you not tremble in My presence?
For I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, An eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.…”
 
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This is why I speak to them in parables:Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”  
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” (Matthew 13:13-14)

So that, “‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!‘” (Mark 4:12)

Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? (Mark 8:18)

He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn–and I would heal them.”  (John 12:40)

Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”  (Acts 28:26)

ImageBut how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That’s why Scripture exclaims,

A sight to take your breath away!
Grand processions of people
    telling all the good things of God!

But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act.

Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: “Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?

The point is:

Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ’s Word is preached, there’s nothing to listen to.   (Romans 10:4-17)

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You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides Him there is no other.            (Deuteronomy 4:35)
 
See now that I Myself am Me! There is no god besides Me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of My hand.”       
(Deuteronomy 32:39)

 But you remain the same, and your years will never end.  (Psalm 102:27)
 
Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD–with the first of them and with the last–I am He.”  (Isaiah 41:4)

So that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.  (Isaiah 41:20)

Here is My servant, whom I uphold, My chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on Him, and He will bring justice to the nations. ”       (Isaiah 42:1)

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
   
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Psalm 122

A song of David  for those journeying to worship.

This is a Davidic psalm celebrating the grandeur and significance of Jerusalem and its temple. It is ironic that Jerusalem means “city of peace” since more battles have been fought over it than over any other city.

I was so happy when my fellow pilgrims said,
    “Let’s go to the house of the Eternal!”
We have made the journey, and now we are standing
    within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem! What a magnificent city!
    Buildings so close together, so compact.
God’s people belong here. Every tribe of the Eternal
    makes its way to Jerusalem
Just as God decreed for Israel
    to come together and give thanks to the Eternal.
In Jerusalem, justice is the order of the day because there sit the judges
    and kings, the descendants of David.

 Ask heaven to grant peace to Jerusalem:
    “May those who love you prosper.
O Jerusalem, may His peace fill this entire city!
    May this citadel be quiet and at ease!”
It’s because of people—my family, friends, and acquaintances
    that I say, “May peace permeate you.”
And because the house of Eternal One, our God, is here, know this:
    I will always seek your good!

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Teach a child how to follow the right way;
    even when he is old, he will stay on course.   (Proverbs 22:6)

Psalm 127

A song of Solomon for those journeying to worship.

Psalm 127 is attributed to Solomon, underscoring the futility of human endeavor apart from God. It is similar in tone and theme to other wisdom literature.

Unless the Eternal builds the house,
    those who labor to raise it will have worked for nothing.
Unless the Eternal stands watch over the city,
    those who guard it have wasted their time.
God provides for His own.
    It is pointless to get up early,
    work hard, and go to bed late
Anxiously laboring for food to eat;
    for God provides for those He loves, even while they are sleeping.

Know this: children are a gift from the Eternal;
    the fruit of the womb is His reward.
Your sons born in your youth are a protection,
    like arrows in the hand of a warrior.
Happy is the man who has
    his quiver full, for they will help and protect him when he is old.
He will not be humiliated when he is accused at the gate,
    for his sons will stand with him against his enemies.

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What are you waiting for? Return to your God!
    Commit yourself in love, in justice!
Wait for your God,
    and don’t give up on Him—ever!  (Hosea 12:6)

 

Then Jehoshaphat took a position before the assembled people of Judah and Jerusalem at The Temple of God in front of the new courtyard and said, “O God, God of our ancestors, are you not God in heaven above and ruler of all kingdoms below? You hold all power and might in your fist—no one stands a chance against you! And didn’t you make the natives of this land leave as you brought your people Israel in, turning it over permanently to your people Israel, the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived here and built a holy house of worship to honor you, saying, ‘When the worst happens—whether war or flood or disease or famine—and we take our place before this Temple (we know you are personally present in this place!) and pray out our pain and trouble, we know that you will listen and give victory.’  (2 Chronicles 20:5-9)Image

 

The businessmen engage in wholesale fraud.
    They love to rip people off!
Ephraim boasted, “Look, I’m rich!
    I’ve made it big!
And look how well I’ve covered my tracks:
    not a hint of fraud, not a sign of sin!”

 “But not so fast! I’m God, your God!
    Your God from the days in Egypt!
I’m going to put you back to living in tents,
    as in the old days when you worshiped in the wilderness.
I speak through the prophets
    to give clear pictures of the way things are.
    Using prophets, I tell revealing stories.
I show Gilead rampant with religious scandal
    and Gilgal teeming with empty-headed religion.
I expose their worship centers as
    stinking piles of garbage in their gardens.”

Are you going to repeat the life of your ancestor Jacob?
    He ran off guilty to Aram,
Then sold his soul to get ahead,
    and made it big through treachery and deceit.
Your real identity is formed through God-sent prophets,
    who led you out of Egypt and served as faithful pastors.
As it is, Ephraim has continually
    and inexcusably insulted God.
Now he has to pay for his life-destroying ways.
    His Master will do to him what he has done.

(Hosea 12:7-14)

I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

(Romans 7:15-25)

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Released from the Law, Bound to Christ

Grace is no license to sin. As creatures, we are made to serve our Creator. In the absence of truth, we will serve somebody or something. It’s an essential part of our nature. Our only choice is this: whom will we serve? At one time, we all served sin and grew weak under its deadly power over us. Now, through God’s grace, we have become servants of obedience that sets us right with God, each other, and ourselves. We must daily decide whose servant we are and offer Him our hands, our feet, our hearts, our eyes.

Before Christ came, Moses’ laws served as our guardian. Christ came so that we could receive God’s approval by faith.

Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.  (Galatians 3:24) 

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak–

Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.  (Romans 10:4)

Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.  (Galatians 3:25)

ImageBut Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 19:14)
And now they’ve come to kick us out of the country you gave us. O dear God, won’t you take care of them? We’re helpless before this vandal horde ready to attack us. We don’t know what to do; we’re looking to you.”

 Everyone in Judah was there—little children, wives, sons—all present and attentive to God.

Then Jahaziel was moved by the Spirit of God to speak from the midst of the congregation. (Jahaziel was the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah the Levite of the Asaph clan.) He said, “Attention everyone—all of you from out of town, all you from Jerusalem, and you King Jehoshaphat—God’s word: Don’t be afraid; don’t pay any mind to this vandal horde. This is God’s war, not yours. Tomorrow you’ll go after them; see, they’re already on their way up the slopes of Ziz; you’ll meet them at the end of the ravine near the wilderness of Jeruel. You won’t have to lift a hand in this battle; just stand firm, Judah and Jerusalem, and watch God’s saving work for you take shape. Don’t be afraid, don’t waver. March out boldly tomorrow—God is with you.”

Then Jehoshaphat knelt down, bowing with his face to the ground. All Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping God. The Levites (both Kohathites and Korahites) stood to their feet to praise God, the God of Israel; they praised at the top of their lungs!

They were up early in the morning, ready to march into the wilderness of Tekoa. As they were leaving, Jehoshaphat stood up and said, “Listen Judah and Jerusalem! Listen to what I have to say! Believe firmly in God, your God, and your lives will be firm! Believe in your prophets and you’ll come out on top!”

After talking it over with the people, Jehoshaphat appointed a choir for God; dressed in holy robes, they were to march ahead of the troops, singing,

Give thanks to God,
His love never quits.

As soon as they started shouting and praising, God set ambushes against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir as they were attacking Judah, and they all ended up dead. The Ammonites and Moabites mistakenly attacked those from Mount Seir and massacred them. Then, further confused, they went at each other, and all ended up killed.

As Judah came up over the rise, looking into the wilderness for the horde of barbarians, they looked on a killing field of dead bodies—not a living soul among them.

 When Jehoshaphat and his people came to carry off the plunder they found more loot than they could carry off—equipment, clothing, valuables. It took three days to cart it away! On the fourth day they came together at the Valley of Blessing (Beracah) and blessed God (that’s how it got the name, Valley of Blessing).

 Jehoshaphat then led all the men of Judah and Jerusalem back to Jerusalem—an exuberant parade. God had given them joyful relief from their enemies! They entered Jerusalem and came to The Temple of God with all the instruments of the band playing.

When the surrounding kingdoms got word that God had fought Israel’s enemies, the fear of God descended on them. Jehoshaphat heard no more from them; as long as Jehoshaphat reigned, peace reigned.

(2 Chronicles 20:12-30)

 

 

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