in My will.” A son honors his father. We are to be like Jesus who only did what
the Father showed him. He came not to do “his” will but to fulfill the will of the One who sent him and to finish His
Nothing but the Cross
Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.
God is strong, and He wants you strong.
So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials.
And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way.
This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours.
This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
Bringing in the Sheaves—
about our Father’s business.
In Joel chapter 1, we read about how the land was ravaged not just once, nor twice
but four times.
The priests are mourning because they have no offerings to make, but they are more concerned for themselves because without these offerings the priests lose their main source of food.
This is what the LORD says: Cursed is the person who trusts humans, who makes flesh and blood his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD.”
Hear this word, you cows on the fertile pastures of Bashan,
who grow fat and happy on the hillsides of Samaria,
Who oppress the poor and destroy the needy
while you order your husbands to do your own work.
The Eternal Lord has made a vow by His own holiness:
Eternal One: The day will come when your enemy will drag you away
with hooks like sides of beef—will subdue you with fishhooks, each and every one of you.
You’ll be forced to leave through breached walls,
each one of you taken straight out and cast into Harmon, a place of exile.
I dare you: Come to My shrine at Bethel and do wrong;
come, worship Me at Gilgal, and watch your sins multiply.
Go ahead, bring your ritual sacrifices there every morning
and ten percent of your earnings every three days.
Burn a thanksgiving offering of leavened bread,
boast about your freewill offerings, and let everyone know
because these things are what you love to do, people of Israel.
So says the Eternal Lord.
Eternal One: I kept your teeth clean and your stomachs empty
when famine struck all your cities and no food could be found in your towns,
But still you did not come back to Me.
I held back the rain from your fields
when there were still three months left until harvest.
I would send rain on one city
but not on another.
I would send rain on one field
but not on another, so the dry field withered.
So people from two or three towns stumbled to one
that had water to drink, but they were still thirsty.
And still you did not return to Me.
I struck your crops with disease and mildew.
Whatever survived in your gardens and vineyards,
Whatever remained of your fig and olive trees, the locusts devoured;
and still you did not return to Me.
I sent plagues on you like the plagues I unleashed upon Egypt.
I slaughtered your young men in battle,
Stole away your horses, and sent the stench
of those bodies rotting in your camps reeking into your nostrils;
And still you did not return to Me.
I destroyed some of you as I destroyed the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah,
and those who survived were like a smoking branch plucked from the fire;
And still you did not return to Me.
So this is what I am going to do to you, Israel.
Because of what I am planning, prepare to meet your God, people of Israel!
Witness the One who shapes the mountains and fashions the wind,
who reveals His thoughts to human beings,
Who changes dawn to darkness
and treads upon the high places of the earth.
The Eternal God, Commander of heavenly armies, is His name.
Afflicted, I have seen and know what it’s like
to feel the rod of God’s anger:
An absence of light and only darkness.
Darkness—that’s where God has driven me.
Against me and me alone, over and over,
God raises His hand incessantly.
Bones are broken, skin rubbed off, and my flesh wasted;
this is God’s doing:
Besieged in hardship,
wrapped in a husk of bitter poison and trouble;
Brought to darkness like those dead and decaying,
and left there alone to live.
Cut off from every avenue of escape, God has fenced me in
and tied me up with heavy chains.
Crying and carrying on do me no good;
God shuts out my prayer.
Closed in and blocked by walls of cut stone,
what paths I have left, He has twisted and confused my steps.
Dangerous as a stalking lion or a lurking bear,
God lies in wait for me.
Dragging me off the path and tearing me up,
He has left me desolate.
Drawing back His bow, God aims
straight at me with His own arrow.
Ever true arrows, ready in His quiver,
now sink into my gut.
Echoing taunts ring ’round me from the mouths of my own people,
laughing and joking about me all day long.
Enough! He has filled me with bitterness,
saturated me with gall.
For He crushes my teeth with a mouth filled with gravel;
He humiliates me, trampling me in ashes.
Fragmented, my self knows no peace.
I cannot remember what it’s like to be happy.
“Failed,” I say to myself. “My hope fails
in the face of what the Eternal One has done.”
Grievous thoughts of affliction and wandering plagued my mind—
great bitterness and gall.
Grieving, my soul thinks back;
these thoughts cripple, and I sink down.
I remember and wait for this thought:
How enduring is God’s loyal love;
the Eternal has inexhaustible compassion.
Here they are, every morning, new!
Your faithfulness, God, is as broad as the day.
Have courage, for the Eternal is all that I will need.
My soul boasts, “Hope in God; just wait.”
It is good. The Eternal One is good to those who expect Him,
to those who seek Him wholeheartedly.
It is good to wait quietly
for the Eternal to make things right again.
It is good to have to deal
with restraint and burdens when young.
Just leave in peace the one who waits in silence,
patiently bearing the burden of God;
Just don’t interfere if he falls, gape-mouthed in the dust.
There may well be hope yet.
Just let him offer his cheek when struck.
Let him be the butt of jokes.
This is the heart of the lament. Pain and despair are deep and lasting, but God’s rejection is not forever because Jerusalem is the city of the Lord.
Kept in God’s care:
the Lord won’t reject him forever.
Kindness prevails: Even though God torments sometimes,
the greatness of God’s loyal love wins out.
Keeping us down: it is not the desire or way of God’s heart
to hurt and grieve the children of men.
Hope is realized when the next generation of exiles in Babylonia receive God’s mercy and are brought back to the promised land, Palestine, in a second exodus, a journey not unlike what the Israelites experienced as they left Egypt under Moses’ leadership.
God surely causes grief and torment, but He also provides kindness that originates from His heart of compassion. The discipline administered by the heavenly Father hurts, but the pain is not lasting and actually reflects His compassion. When the Lord sends affliction, it is instructive, restorative, and temporary. Affliction and judgment may sometimes come from the Almighty, but what always springs from the heart of God is a deep and eternal mercy for His people.
Left as captives of the land
to be stomped on and crushed,
Legal action and human rights denied
in the very presence of our exalted God,
Lord, surely You do not approve it—they deny
one person’s rights and a fair trial.
Matters not who says a thing will or won’t happen
unless the Lord determines that it should.
Most High God must proclaim it so—
for both good and bad, joy and sorrow come from Him, so
Mind your complaint. Why should a person fuss
when faced with the consequences of his own wrongdoing?
Now let’s search out our thoughts and ways
and return to the Eternal.
Now let’s lift up to God in heaven
our hearts along with our hands in praise and supplication.
Now, let us admit that we persisted in wrong
and You, God, were right to deny us forgiveness.
You have wrapped Yourself in anger.
You hunted us down and became our merciless killer.
Our prayers couldn’t penetrate the cloud
You then wrapped around Yourself.
Oh, we are trash: You’ve made us so
in the eyes of all people.
Putting us down, our enemies scoff.
They gape and gawk at us.
Panic and pitfalls are all around us,
nothing but breakdown and decay.
Pouring out from my eyes are tears like rivers
over the destruction of my people, daughter Zion.
Quenched? It can’t be quenched,
this sorrow in my eyes,
Quelled only by knowing that
the Eternal looks down from heaven and sees.
Quickly I recoil from what my eyes see; I am choked with grief
at the fate of the young women of my city.
Running me down, my enemies for no reason
hunt me, a tiny bird.
Rattling my bones with stones thrown down on my head,
having flung me mercilessly in a pit.
’Round about me and over me, watery darkness closes in.
I cry out, “I’m drowning! All is lost, lost.”
Saying Your name, Eternal One, I called to You
from the darkness of this pit.
Surely You’ve heard me say,
“Don’t be deaf to my call; bring me relief!”
So close when I’ve called out in my distress,
You’ve whispered in my ear, “Do not be afraid.”
Taking up my cause, Lord, You’ve been my champion.
You’ve paid the price; You saved my life.
Terrible things have been done to me. You’ve seen it, Eternal One.
Judge my case with justice.
Their abuses against me are not hidden from You.
You’ve seen all the awful things my enemies determine to do to me.
Ugly words and uglier plans they have for me—
You’ve heard it all, Eternal One.
Under their breath, my adversaries whispering about me,
devising nasty schemes all the time.
Unkind jokes at my expense,
whether they’re sitting around or going to and fro.
Villains You will return to their recompense,
Eternal One, according to their deeds.
Visit them with anguish and an insensitivity to Your words.
Make Your curse fall hard on them.
Vehemently pummel them. Chase them down, obliterate them
from below the heavens of the Eternal, from the earth itself.
God takes Sin personally. That’s why Jesus died on the Cross.
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, (Revelation 1:5)
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
The men of that generation turned away from God, they had not kept his ordinances.
Trust God to KEEP you from being distracted from the dream He has given you.
I am my brother’s KEEPER.
but that of his men too.
“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.“
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
Malachi 3 —
These are the words of the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies:
Eternal One: Pay attention! I am sending My messenger,
and he will clear the road ahead for Me.
The Lord you seek will suddenly arrive at His temple.
And the Messenger of God’s covenant, your soul’s delight,
Watch, because He, too, is coming.
God declares His Anointed One will come, and the way will be prepared. Notice has been given: be ready.
Can anyone live through the day when He arrives?
Will anyone be left standing when He appears?
He is a purifying fire;
He is like lye soap.
Like a refiner of silver,
He will purify the descendants of Levi—
Until they are pure, unalloyed gold and silver.
Then they will draw near to the Eternal One,
Presenting offerings with righteous, clean hands.
Then the Eternal One will unequivocally accept the sweet offering of Judah and Jerusalem as He did in the days of old, as in the former years when the covenant was new.
Eternal One: Then I will approach you for judgment, and I will be a swift witness against the constant sorcerers; the chronic adulterers; the habitual liars; those who continue cheating wages from their hired laborer, a widow, or an orphan; and those who always reject the immigrant, not fearing Me, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies. Because I am the Eternal One, I never change; as a result, you children of Jacob have not been destroyed though your blessing may have been delayed.
From the days when your ancestors served Me, you have turned from and ignored My statutes. Return to Me and I, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, will return to you. But you shameless people ask, “How will we return? Will someone steal from God?” Yet you are always stealing from Me! But you self-centered people still ask, “How have we stolen from You?” In the tithes and the offerings you have not given Me as the law requires! You are cursed with a curse, for as an entire nation you are stealing from Me. To rectify this situation, you must bring the entire tithe into the storage house in the temple so that there may be food for Me and for the Levites in My house. Feel free to test Me now in this. See whether or not I, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, will open the windows of heaven to you and pour a blessing down upon you until all needs are satisfied. I will rebuke the swarm of locusts devouring your crops, and the devourer will not cause the produce you have grown in the earth to decay or the vines in the field to drop their grapes. And all the nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight. I, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, promise you this.
Your words of rebellion against Me have been strong. Yet you ask, “What have we said against You?”
You have said, “Serving God is a waste of time,” and, “What benefits have we received by following Him as we mourned on our journey before the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies? Now we believe the bluster of the arrogant and agree they are blessed; we encourage the wicked who also test God and escape.”
Then those who fear the Eternal One consulted each other about God’s charges, each one to his neighbor, and the Eternal One paid attention and heard. A book of remembrance was written before Him for those who honored the Eternal One and valued His name and the good reputation.
Eternal One: And they will be Mine on that day when I, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, make My unique treasure—which is the kingdom of Israel. I will have pity on them as a man has pity on his son who serves him.
And you will return and notice the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those serving God and those not serving Him.
Eternal One: Go, talk with the Israelites, and tell them that when you are settled in the land I am going to give you, and when you harvest there, you are to gather a bundle of stalks from the firstfruits of the barley harvest and present them to the priest. On the day after the Sabbath, the priest will raise up the bundle of stalks and wave them before Me so that you will be accepted. Also, on the day that the stalks are waved, you must present an unblemished, year-old male lamb to Me as a burnt offering. The grain offering you bring with it is to be four quarts of the finest flour mixed with oil. The smoke of the fire-offering will rise and be a pleasant aroma to Me. Present it along with a drink offering of 2½ pints of wine. Do not consume any bread, roasted grain, or any of the new harvest until this day when you have presented the offering to Me, your God. This directive stands for all time throughout your generations regardless of where you live.
The Feast of Firstfruits was fulfilled by Jesus in His overcoming of death seen at His resurrection. He was indeed the “Firstfruits from the dead”.
Jesus is God’s “firstfruits” of the resurrection. And, like the Israelites, God will gather the rest of the harvest at the final resurrection.
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.
But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits,
after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,
then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father,
when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.…
Luke 18 —
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?
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.
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.
He took the twelve aside and spoke privately to them.
Jesus: Look, my friends, we are going up to Jerusalem. Everything the prophets have written about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the outsiders. They will mock Him, disgrace Him, and spit on Him; they will scourge Him, and they will kill Him. And on the third day, He will rise from death.
But they had no comprehension of what He was talking about. The meaning was hidden from them, and they couldn’t grasp it.
Jesus is nearing the city of Jericho. A blind man is sitting there, begging by the roadside. He can hear the sounds of the crowd accompanying Jesus, and he asks what’s going on.
Crowd: Jesus of Nazareth is passing this way.
Then the man starts shouting.
Blind Man: Jesus, Son of King David, show mercy to me!
The people in the front of the crowd reprimand him and tell him to be quiet, but he just shouts louder.
Blind Man: Son of King David, show mercy to me!
Jesus stops and tells the people to bring the man over to Him. The man stands in front of Jesus.
Jesus: What do you want Me to do for you?
Blind Man: Lord, let me receive my sight.
Jesus: Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.
At that very instant, the man is able to see. He begins following Jesus, shouting praises to God; and everyone in the crowd, when they see what has happened, starts praising God too.
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.
Both the One who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
God is not unjust; He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them. (Hebrews 6:10)
They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings–and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers. (Revelation 17:14)