Friday, November 30, 2012

The Infinite God

No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” 1 John 4:12-15

Over the next few weeks, my kids and I will be going through the 2-volume set by AW Tozer titled The Attributes of God as we dive into this subject as our main focus for school. In order to get through the books in that amount of time though, I will only be reading them excerpts from each chapter. To condense the material in that manner though means I must read the chapters ahead of time, and to you it means that I have the ability to share from those readings on the week day mornings I add these books to my devotional material. If you have never read Tozer's writings before, you are in for a treat. He is by far my favorite author, a man who was filled with great humility but also incredible godly wisdom that wrote in a manner that transferred, as best as words could, knowledge and understanding of a most holy God to his most ordinary people.

Today, the first chapter in volume 1 starts out talking about God's infinitude. Here is the quote that I felt compelled to share this morning with all of you:

The moon and earth turn in such a way that we only see one side of the moon and never see the other. The eternal God is so vast, so infinite, that I can't hope to know all about God and all there is about God. But God has a manward side, just as the moon has an earthward side. Just as the moon always keep that smiling yellow face turned earthward, so God has a side He always keeps turned manward, and that side is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God's manward face. Earth's Godward side, Jesus, is the way God sees us. He always looks down and sees us in Jesus Christ.” AW Tozer

In light of this quote from Tozer, it is easier to understand the scripture verse above that I shared from 1 John 4. For God to abide in us, that is shine down on us, we need the clouds of sin and death removed and the only one who can remove those clouds to give us the ability to directly bask in the light of the Lord is Jesus by the work He did to atone for all the sin which hangs over us and blocks God from our view and us from His. We can only see God through Jesus, and only the side that He makes manifest to us through Jesus is who we know as Jesus. This in essence means we will never come to comprehend all that God is. And the fact of the matter is, we do not have the ability to take all of who God is and what He is about into our limited minds and always wandering hearts. But, we do have the ability to always bask in the light of the Lord and take in as much as our hearts and minds can handle because Jesus shows us when we look to Him and enjoy the fellowship He offers us – those cloudless places of peace and joy - that is where we will know God and He will be made manifest.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” 1 john 1:1-4

But in thinking more on this subject and reading the other scripture I devote to my morning readings, I was struck by the fact that when ordinary people are allowed to see even a glimpse of the edges of the non-manward side of God, this images can be terrifying. God allowed Daniel to see a glimpse of the edge that man does not see, and what Daniel saw troubled him to the end of his life.

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts...'I, Daniel, was grieved in my spirit within my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.'...,This is the end of the account. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly troubled me, and my countenance changed; but I kept the matter in my heart.'” Daniel 7:1, 15, 28

I have to think that there are many things God doesn't show us about Himself, not that He is hiding anything bad, because we know He cannot be evil, but He hides these things because within our limited abilities we are unable to understand their greater context. The trap in the pursuit of godly knowledge with thoughts that we can find out everything there is to know about God, is to create a humanly contrived image of God from our own personal perspective. In that sort of trap we become deceived in thinking we can figure God out and know who He is from every angle. The reality is though, Jesus is the only angle we have on God and we need to be content to look at Him from the angle He gives us and learn from Him through the mediator He gives us, the Holy Spirit.

Today, your main purpose is to seek the cloudless area where Jesus sits above you and find your peace and contentment in knowing what you find there is what God has to share with you today about Himself. It is when you allow the light of the Lord to shine upon you and teach you all He has for you today, whether it be simple or profound, you will attract others to the light too and be a voice that is calling out into the clouded areas, “Here is where your joy may be full”. Just remember, it is not the volume of knowledge the Lord has to share with you while you are in His presence that gives you a greater peace. Instead, peace can be found in His presence because the cloudless place is a resting place that allows you to stop and just enjoy what God has for you today.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Real Faith In Action

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” James 2:14

This morning I woke up with lots of thoughts swimming through my head about the situation we are experiencing with the missionary family who moved into our apartment in August. As we came into an agreement with them about their stay, it was agreed that our place would be a “stopping off point” for them to wait on God's next assignment. Unfortunately these past few months with this family has not been as blessed as we had hoped it to be, and actually it has been difficult to deal with this family who have given us very mixed signals about their true faithfulness to God. From what we have been able to observe of them during their stay, they have not seemed to be fruitful for God's kingdom at all. Now, here is the point that I wrestle with my thoughts because I know there are times in each of our lives that God grows us from within because the fruit He is producing is not apparent on the outside, and I would hate to condemn the works which God is doing in the lives of believers if this is a time for this family to re-group and re-charge for their next calling. But, at the same time I also struggle with the fact that I see no effort from them that they are working physically towards any options other than those that would satisfy where they would like to see their lives go – especially the husband who has chosen his hobby as the family's only means of income instead of looking for any work to support the needs of his family.

But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8

And, although I do think it is an admirable life that prays and waits on God to provide for all ones needs as this family is doing in seeking God about the next place for them to stay on their journey with Him, I also think that just hanging out and trusting while being inactive is not what God means when He asks us to be faithful. What makes these thoughts of mine all the more difficult to come to grips with is the fact that while this missionary family has been pietious in their praying and waiting on the Lord, our family has not only been gracious to their presence on our farm, but we have also been doing all of the things that God has set before us each day and working tirelessly in keeping up with the them (working on our hobby farm, campaigning per God's call in my life, harvesting and winterizing, missing out on family time as my husband was working long hours on a work project, being diligent home schooling parents for our children, blogging daily, and ministering to the needs of others in our sphere of influence as God has shown us their material and spiritual needs...all while we watch this family camp out in our apartment just barely doing enough work to cover the utilities we have asked them to cover.

Unfortunately these are the circumstances that I have been wrestling with God about. And as always, God, in His faithfulness, used scriptures this morning to speak to my churning thoughts and emotions from these circumstances as to shine His perfect light, the light I had been searching for in trying to find peace and wisdom as our time with this family continues and we prayerfully petition Him to redeem what He desires to redeem and to rebuke what He desires to rebuke to bring Him glory above all that we can say and do.

Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians talks about idleness, a broader issue related to the text I put above from first Timothy.

But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15

Each one of us needs to live a life that does not leave room for idleness, we need to continue to minister even in the quiet times of our lives and continue to reach out and be living and breathing examples of Jesus to the world whatever community we have been put into in order to show God's faithfulness through a living and breathing humble and steadfast spirit – one that acts in that manner and does not just talk about it. God is not a vending machine who dispenses things into our waiting laps, yes at times He does surprise us in providing for our means when we have done nothing to move ourselves towards that end, but in the process of waiting we are called to keep searching and looking for where He would have us go and what He would have us do in the in between times. Faith requires works and if there are no works to be shown as light and life that blesses our fellow man and witnesses for Jesus our Lord and Savior, then what we call faith is not faith at all but only a universal belief that even the demons are aware of, and that is God wills and what He wills happens.

But someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?...For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James 2:14-19, 26

To have faith means to step out with that belief, knowing that your steps in this world will not land in the wrong place if you are seeking and placing one foot into the darkness at a time and trusting in God beyond what you have set in your own heart or mind as the will He has for you into the future and the manner in which you have the capability to keep going forward to be a witness of His strength, light, and glory.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Steps Towards the Everlasting Kingdom

I am Your servant;
Give me understanding,
That I may know Your testimonies.”
Psalm 119:125

Have you ever come across a section of biblical text and thought, “If I just could understand what the real knowledge behind these passages are, then I may have a chance at starting to apply them in my life.”? Today I had that experience as I read the 2 Peter verses I have copied for you below:

...His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust...for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:3-10

In an attempt to come to a better understanding of this text and to apply it in my own life, I decided to go to my Greek New Testament word study and see what I could find out about the words that God puts before us in this passage as steps that come in succession of one another on a path by which we “will never stumble” and also be given an ample “entrance...into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” I don't know about you, but if I can understand more fully how to take the steps that keep me on that kind of path, I want to know more about it and how to most accurately place my feet on those steps.

So, here are those steps defined in their original Greek:
  • faith (pístis) – a persuaded consent to believe in something that holds divine truth
  • virtue (areté) – a personal excellence that is a product of the divine work of God by salvation therefore giving a person his/her full worth and efficiency
  • knowledge (gnósis)- a clear and exact knowledge which has been gained through personal experience
  • self-control (ěgkratěia) – temperance, meaning habitual moderation especially in the indulgence of appetites and passions
  • perseverance (hupomoné) – a personal quality that does not surrender to circumstances but rather puts one hope in something beyond them
  • godliness (eusébeia) - a life that is morally good, not by following commands but rather by making ones like an on-going act of worship and lived out true religion
  • brotherly kindness (philadelphía) – the acts lived out towards loving others who share a common bond of faith
  • love (agápē) – charity directed towards someone who has been ascertained as needing something from another because of their lack which has been made apparent

The scripture here makes sure to start out by saying that the pursuit of these steps must be done in a diligent manner, meaning that we must be steady, earnest, and energetic as we pursue each one and move on upward the incline towards God's kingdom. In then thinking about this progression with a diligent heart at the core of the driving force to propel our lives on, let us look at the progression in its expanded form:

...after you have been persuaded in the solid belief that Jesus alone holds all divine knowledge, then realize within your heart and soul that your personal best can only be produced through the work of the cross and the salvation you have been given – nothing else; from there allow God to teach you through the personal and intimate experiences He provides you to bring you into complete relational understanding of His word; it is then through these experiences that you develop habitual control of your sinful desires which in the past lorded over you and constantly tore you apart from God; in then making that move you will find that your circumstances no longer have a hold on your heart, but instead your heart becomes steadfast in the hope of the promises God has yet to come; this release then leads to a life directed by worship instead of worries; from there it becomes easier to see the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ because you have no needs of your own which immobilize you and that is then the position from which you are given the eyes of God to look out upon the needs of others, to discern the real lack in their lives that need to be tended to and from which you can give without hesitation because you know your supply is from the One who controls the bottomless storehouses of heaven.

This is the way God commands us to live if we never want our lives to be unfruitful or shortsighted. We are a living testimony for the Lord each day when we choose to live in the manner God has prescribed for us by taking these steps and progressing closer and closer to His kingdom - they are not steps taken once and then forgotten behind us though.  Rather these steps need to be taken each day and each morning we must put at the forefront of our mind that we are determined to walk up them again once more from the bottom to as close to the top as our day allows us. But the movement upward is not a task for the faint of heart or those who are not fully committed to the climb. The key to making these verses in 2 Peter real in each of our lives is a committed daily discipline to keep going, to not give up when we take a step back, but to keep our eyes focused on the hope of the kingdom of our Savior Jesus that does not disappoint and that will be waiting for us one day while we have been diligent in our steps to towards God's kingdom.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Testimonies in the World

I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.” John 17:15

 As Christians we should all have a story to tell of how the Lord has worked in our lives amongst the every day coming and goings in this world. The way God presents us the stories we have to share with on another are wrought amongst the every day things we experience as we allow ourselves to be transformed by His power and within the broken and parched land we live in. Jesus was well aware of our need to be in this world but not of this world in order to be the greatest living testimonies of who He was and who He could still be in the lives of ordinary men and women. When we fail to live in and amongst the lost and forsaken in this world or when we try to shelter ourselves or our families from lessons that pain and sin have to teach us, it is then we lose out on a great amount of teaching that was meant to strengthen our walks and encourage our faith all the more as we see the day approaching when our Savior Jesus will return.

I was really struck today as I was reading through scripture just how true all of the things that Jesus does through the ordinary lives of believers to display His extraordinary qualities are. The great prophetic abilities of ordinary people when moved by the Holy Spirit become extraordinary displays of who God is because it is from those individuals where there was no self-determined or self-serving basis that comes the act of God becoming manifest in them – it was a sheer gift, which not only blessed the people around them in its profound nature, but also a gift to the messenger who unwittingly was part of the work of God. prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:20-21

To these awesome displays of God through the humble and willing lives of His servants, God desires to work and re-work the story of His unending grace. The stories we have been given are profound to those who are first-hand witnesses to the work of God, but all the more are these stories to the people who are continually blessed by the telling and re-telling of these works of God's mercy, grace, and power.

For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding[ing] careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease.” 2 Peter 1:12-15

As I have been starting to read the book of Daniel this week, and have been reading all of the wonderful stories that God allowed Daniel to be part of and to be witness to, it struck me that the way God brought King Nebuchadnezzar to such a low point (the testimony he gives in Daniel 4), even in these low places, the people who don't do the will of God, their lives are still living testimonies of all God is and was and will forever be. It does not even matter how a person responds to the eminence of God in what God can produce from the stories He has told including them because in the end God will always be glorified through every story that is told on this earth – His beauty will prevail over all the earth no matter how each man, woman, or child chooses to respond to Him. Although I would add to that thought, it would be in our best interest to pursue having a life filled with stories that give glory to God through our obedience and not through our disobedience.

I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. How great are His signs, and how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.” Daniel 4:2-3

Are you finding yourself today wanting to be sheltered away from the world to control the types of testimonies that will be made out of your life? Is their fear in your heart about what living in the world but yet not of it may lead to for you or your family? Have you purposed to share the stories God has worked out in your life to show His glory, whether or not they make you look good in the end? These questions and many more should always be on our minds as we chose to go out into the world and be witnesses for our Lord and Savior since He has purposed for us to be living testimonies amongst the world we have been asked to live in and shine His light into.  It is our trust and faith in Him that gives us the courage to be willing participants in the story He is unfolding.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Work of Sorrow

For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now 'If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?' Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.” 1 Peter 4:17-19

The focused walk of the Christian is unfathomable to the world. The fact that an individual would be willing to suffer, walk against the current of “normal”, and stand firmly focused on Jesus apart from the continual sorrows this world produces is truly an oddity. But, what is even more odd is the fact that across all cultures, all continents, and all social classes that this world uses to divide and label people, the prevailing force of Christ in the lives of Christians is an unswerving force of unity in spirit. The reason for the determined focus of commonality of those who follow Christ, from the inside at least, is obvious – when our lives are given over to Jesus and He transforms us, only thing left within each of us to drive us forward is the purpose of Christ by the means He has given us, through the circumstances He allows around us, and within the places He takes us.

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14

Salvation begins for all people in the same place, sorrow within the context our own personal sinfulness. And therefore, purpose follows suit and begins in the same place, in service of our Lord Jesus Christ who alone has the ability to save us from our fallen state. For those who have allowed the sorrow of personal sin to open their hearts and tear out the worldly labels that once dictated their actions, fears, justifications, and goals are those who accept that within Christ there is no division except amongst those who are saved and those who are unsaved. It is within the eternal division that Christ Jesus allows us to see that all other soul restraining confinements are loosed and before God there is but one line of separation.

Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter.” 2 Corinthians 7:9-11

Has the sorrow of our own personal sinfulness taken hold of your soul? Or instead, are you still focusing on what you can boast in that this world has afforded you privileges in? If you desire to follow the road of salvation, then your focus must dwell on your need to be sorrowful, broken, and empty before the Lord. Together as Christians we walk along this uncommon road with the hope that those who we walk past while moving upstream may see something beyond an oddity and turn their lives to join us in our progression of faith towards eternal glory.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanks Always for All Things thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ...”   Ephesians 5:20

As a wrap up to this Thanksgiving week-end, my church had a day of thanksgiving where most of the sermon time was set aside so that people within the church could share with the rest of the congregation what they were most thankful for this past year. The service itself was very moving, thought provoking, and beautiful as each person with varied reasons stood up and shared what they felt led by the Spirit to share. But, this evening as our small group came together, the following question was posed:  " How can we be thankful like the bible teaches us to be thankful in Ephesians 5:20?"

As I was still thinking about that discussion after getting home this evening, I thought that maybe there was a greater meaning to that particular verse if I were to look at it in its original Greek, and so I put out a few of the words and set to figuring out what I could find through a bit of investigative work.

Here is what I found:

giving thanks (eucharistéō) – means the giving of a good response repetitively by a catalyst which is undeserving of that type of response. This word is closely related to its female counterpart, eucharistía, which is used to represent Holy Communion – a celebration of thanksgiving for the cross, a symbol that in itself was very undeserving of a good response, but because of the work performed by Jesus on it, it has become a symbol of thanksgiving because of what it represents.

always (pantŏtĕ) – at all times

for (hupĕr) – over, above, and beyond the place that is being spoken of

all things (pas) – including all dimensions of the subject being considered

Therefore, if we put all of these words with expanded meanings back into the verse, we have the following passage before us:

...keep having good responses to those things in your life that are undeserving of the good responses you give them – make your good responses little celebrations of what will come out of them – making sure that your response time and time again never wavers, but that all the time and over all the encompassing factors of these less than ideal situations, even into the remotest possibilities each of those situations could bring about, you respond in the perscribed manner towards God (your only worthy audience) and in the name (or ultimate faith towards that) of Jesus the Lord...”

As our pastor concluded his sermon today, he said somethings that struck a cord with me then and now I feel needs to be repeated here: “The most convincing demonstration of gratitude is lived-out thanksgiving.” Towards God we must live out His commanded good response because He is deserving of that response from us, our situations do not change our need to behave in that manner towards Him. But the added bonus of our actions in this manner towards God is that those who are on the outside will see how we act contrary to the way the rest of the world acts when bad situations come and these choices to follow God's commands over our own natural reactions will show our faith and trust in the Lord and will be the pillars that convince the world of their need for Jesus.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Programmed for Success

The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41

This morning I took some extra time I had to get on the treadmill and do a customized work-out I programed into it many years ago. In programming this particular work-out I made it a point to push myself at different speeds and inclines to just the point that I could hardly stand the level of the work-out anymore, but instead of ending the program at the point of my fatigue I just changed around the speed and incline ratio to somewhat trick my body into thinking it was getting rest while all the while it was still pushing itself at the same level.

As I was reading my bible after my time on the treadmill, it seems there was a larger work-out for me to take into consideration and a grander program instilled into my life that the Lord wanted me to take note of today. In the same way that I very carefully programmed into my treadmill the levels I could push myself to and still withstand the pressure, God builds circumstances into our lives that push us to the peak of where He knows we can perform. And also, instead of just starting and stopping the work-out when the fatigue is too great, God makes very calculated changes in the program He sets before us so that we continue using the strength and endurance He has built up in us, but in a different way so we do not lose heart and get off the treadmill of life.

Here are some of the scriptures the Lord set in my readings this morning that put my mind into this line of thinking:

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9 steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

The work-out of life that God has set before each of us is just that, a work-out. Our job is to stay on the treadmill no matter what the next change in the program brings. We are called to endure, to be steadfast, to keep on walking and not get discouraged. In doing what we are called to do by just putting one foot in front of the other and keeping up the pace the Lord has set us upon is what then conditions our heart and lifts our soul.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Doorway of the Perfect Prince

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the
Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.”
Psalm 100: 4-5

The ease gate as it stands today
 Today, as I continued my reading through Ezekiel, I was drawn again to a passage about a gate, the east gate in particular. In the below verse you will see that the east gate was a special gate, one for a prince to enter and by which he made his offerings before the people who were entering the other gates.

“Thus says the Lord God: 'The gateway of the inner court that faces toward the east shall be shut the six working days; but on the Sabbath it shall be opened, and on the day of the New Moon it shall be opened. The prince shall enter by way of the vestibule of the gateway from the outside, and stand by the gatepost. The priests shall prepare his burnt offering and his peace offerings. He shall worship at the threshold of the gate. Then he shall go out, but the gate shall not be shut until evening.'” Ezekiel 46:1-2

As I looked through a lot of commentaries and biblical references about the east gate, here are some interesting facts I found:

  • The east gate speaks of a prince that comes on a regular basis, this continual reference therefore does not point directly to the messiah as the sole prince who was to offer sacrifices after passing through this gate
  • The east is the direction from which the prince of Persia come and overtook the nation of Israel, but at the same time this prince was also referred to as a “Shepherd” of the nation of Israel who would finally bring the people back to restore their nation heading in the same manner, from the east
  • The east gate is known as the golden gate
  • The east gate in Nehemiah 3:29 tells that this gate is the gate in which"...the glory of the Lord came into the house (the temple or the Lord's house) by the way of the gate..." 
  • Outside the east gate is where there is a huge graveyard where Jewish people believe the beginning of the procession into heaven will be and therefore their bodies wait there for that day. (They are like the epitome of the Black Friday shoppers who are waiting for the best of the best deal outside the ultimate storehouse.)
  • The east gate is now under Muslim control is completely walled off.

Something else that I want to point out in more detail, is the relationship Jesus' ultimate role in entering through the gate as the worldly princes who entered through the east gate before him led the way to His ultimate sacrifice.

In relation to the sacrifice offered by Jesus, Hebrews offer us some really good insight.

And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God...” Hebrews 10:11-12

The princes of the world who were to enter through the gate were to continue with regular sacrifices, but Jesus is the one who offered a perfect sacrifice and to show that what He had offered was complete, He sat down. Now you must understand there was not a place to sit for the priests or the prince in the temple – their work was never to be completed and the act of sitting down signified completion. The fact that Jesus sat down indicates that His work was done once and for all.

But, that is not the end of the story. The east gate at this time may be walled off by those who do not want Jesus to return in His glory, but a physical wall cannot keep the Prince of Peace from making His final and everlasting entrance into this world where He will open the gate for all who are ready to be called the sons and daughters, the princes and princesses, of His kingdom for the remainder of eternity.

Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.” Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus alone will open and close the gate, but there are conditions as to who will have the ability to pass through and only those who are ready will be close enough to know the gate is open and the time has come to enter. If we are near the sanctuary of God, have lamps filled, and our watch unhampered, then when the door opens we will be included in the procession. But beware when the cares of this life take your heart away from the sanctuary, when you deplete your faithfulness to the Lord on the cares of this world, and when you let yourself become distracted from your watch for the coming of the Lord.

As the holiday season is starting, and the busyness of making all things merry and bright are upon us, take some time to plan out how you can keep your heart steadfast on the Lord above all else so that your faithfulness to Jesus' calling and His light are not hindered by anything you do to prepare for the celebration of His the birth, the One true Gate to heaven – Jesus the Christ.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Interacting with those on the Outside

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” 1 Corinthians 10:31-32

 Since today is Thanksgiving here in the United States, and it is a holiday for most to come together with their natural families who often do not all share a deep passion for the Lord, I thought it was very fitting the words the Lord had for me to share with you all this morning. I have to admit first of all that the things I am about to speak about, in the past I used to be very guilty of. It has been over the past few years that I have seen the error of my past actions. The paths the Lord has allowed me to take because of how I have crossed the lines of my own calling to minister to the Lord within my relationship to Him and my interaction with people who are on the outside of that type of understanding have been rather lonely and difficult because instead of choosing to make my worship private with the Lord I instead found ways to bring my personal relationship with the Lord as a forced and overbearing light in the lives of people around me.  It has only been by the grace of God that I can say that my humility in this subject has greatly improved and to Him I give all the praise for that transformation.

Read below what the Lord commanded of the priests to do when they were done with their service to Him in the temple and before they went out among the common crowds:

'But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me, they shall come near Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood,' says the Lord God. 'They shall enter My sanctuary, and they shall come near My table to minister to Me, and they shall keep My charge...When they go out to the outer court, to the outer court to the people, they shall take off their garments in which they have ministered, leave them in the holy chambers, and put on other garments; and in their holy garments they shall not sanctify the people.'” Ezekiel 44:15-16, 19

As I read these verses this morning it really struck me how important was the lesson I learned about keeping my own “holy garments” worn in worship apart from where I walk and interact with those who are on the outside of the one-on-one relationship I have with the Lord. Wearing those garments into public areas only creates barriers that brings division between those who are on the inside with the Lord and those who are on the outside. Making oneself seem holier because of a privilege that has been given to you to live on the inside with the Lord does nothing to bring people closer to God, it only shows people who are watching you that you are stuck up in your beliefs and the product of your devotion does not reflect the God you say you worship or believe in. (Case in point to the woman who left a comment on my blog from yesterday and her website that is filled with her holy garments that on her blog she has put out to air out of her own accord.)

I do not know where you will be spending this Thanksgiving day or who you will be asked to mingle with outside of your holy place with the Lord, but wherever you are asked to go and whatever types of people you are asked to eat and drink with in celebration of this national holiday, remember that the Lord sends you out that in your return to Him you will have given no offense to His name by seeking any glory for yourself, but rather that in coming back to Him your actions of the day will have left evidence in the lives of others for the need to gain salvation through Christ Jesus because His peace and love were evident in all you said and did while around them.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Lord's Hatred

'Come now, and let us reason together,'
Says the
'Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.'”

This morning my bible readings led me to some interesting thoughts about the cross and God's love. Too often I think we as Christians see God within His attribute of love and yet we do not spend an equal amount of time on His attribute of hate. In just making that statement I may have offended some of you since God is perfect and it would seem wrong for me to say that God is hateful at all. But hear me out on this and I hope to bring us to agreement through God's word.

First, read the following two sets of verses which each talk about a hatred both God the Father and God the Son have:

These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.”
Proverbs 6:16-19

But to the Son He says:
'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
have loved righteousness and
hated lawlessness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.'”
Hebrews 1: 8-9

The Old Testament reference to “hatred” is the word is in the verb form of perfect simple action that shows ones violent hatred towards a foe, and in this case it is God's perfect hatred towards the foe of the world – Satan and all the evil that comes forth from his unrighteousness and which is present in each of us since the fall of mankind. God the Father is then One who must act out on the hatred of this foe and all evil that it produces – that is the perfection of His hatred towards His enemy and the works of His enemy.

The New Testament reference to “hated” is a bit different though as it refers to a specific action that is directed towards the hatred of something, and in this case it is hatred against everything that goes against the law of the Lord, or again righteousness. This specific act we as Christian know is the act of sacrifice that the Son made on the cross, the perfect and final act that destroyed sin and made its final blow against the lawlessness of this world and the instigator of it.

Theses slight differences, broken down int their original meanings of “hate”, not only show that both the Father and the Son each have a hatred for unrighteousness, or sin, but they also show the unique role each of them has in how God deals with the sin in our lives and how He balances it with His love for us. To say that God is love and not recognize His hatred of sin is to deny the entire character of God. If God were all love then there would have been no need for the cross. But as we see above, God's hatred for sin is equally a part of Him as His love for mankind and His entire creation.

Jesus is the One who is the anointed ruler over the lawless deeds of this world. By His work on the cross, He assumed His throne over unrighteousness and covered each of us in our sinfulness so that through Him we can come to the Father and not receive the indignation the Father would have to administer to us as a product of His character. Instead the work Jesus did on the cross allows us to receive His perfect love and mercy, things we truly should have no right to considering our condition.

Yes, God is love. But His love does not come from His overlooking our sin. The love of the Lord is more complicated then just overlooking offense after offense. What the love of the Lord really looks like is Jesus hanging on the cross, mutilated beyond recognition as a human being. Such a deep hatred God has for sin that the brutal sacrifice of His only Son is what He was willing to offer so that His hatred could be quench and we could once again become holy in His sight.

In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10

It is good to remember that there is nothing we can do on our own to remove God's hatred towards our sinful state. We could live lives that are so close to perfect, so full of penance, so ritually devout, and still never come anywhere close to the work that is necessary to bring us before the Lord perfectly clean and holy. Jesus' work on the cross is what we must accept, it is what we must be always thankful for above anything else, and it is what we need to remember each time we to come before the Lord in holy fear because it is a gift that we could never earn and which we for sure do not deserve.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gate of Righteousness

“Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I will go through them,
And I will praise the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord,
Through which the righteous shall enter.

I will praise You,
For You have answered me,
And have become my salvation.”
Psalm 118:19-21

The past few days I have been reading through Ezekiel and the visions he was given from the Lord of His new temple. I can't say most of it was really engaging reading for me since I tend to be more of a visual learner and all the words about dimensions just tend to fog up my thinking. But today as I started to read about the gates into the outer temple court and the inner temple court I couldn't help thinking about what it would be like to walk up those stairs and enter the temple for myself.

Then he went to the gateway which faced east; and he went up its stairs and measured the threshold of the gateway...On the outer court was also a gateway facing north...After that he brought me toward the south, and there a gateway was facing south...Then he brought me to the inner court through the southern gateway...And he brought me into the inner court facing east; he measured the gateway according to these same measurements...Then he brought me to the north gateway and measured it according to these same measurements...” Ezekiel 40: 6, 20, 24, 28,32, 35

Above, I have put the best schematic I could find of what the temple was that Ezekiel saw and what the gates looked like that you had to enter to gain access to the temple. In the Psalm above that, the psalmist talks about the “gates of righteousness” and how the Lord must open them because He controls access to them. It is within those gates then that the psalmist says he praises the Lord because the Lord has become his salvation. Truly, it isn't until the gates have been entered, and one is standing in the temple of the Lord, that ones soul can be in a place where true worship and praise is possible. A place that is apart from the chaos of the world and where a person can be enraptured by the fullness of God and nothing else.

Jesus said that the gates that lead to the Lord are narrow, just as they are in comparison to the gates which Ezekiel saw in the Lord's temple. The steps are steep and the gates are narrow, in the temple and in Jesus.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Matthew 7:13-14

It is one thing to look on the temple from the outside and be impressed with its beauty and majesty. But it is a whole different thing to enter the gates and experience the temple from the inside – to be admitted in to be part of the Lord's people and engage in worship and praise in the presence of the Lord. That type of worship is only possible through the blood of Christ shed for our sinful nature.  We have no ability on our own to gain access through any gateway to the Lord. It is only through Jesus, the true gate, the righteous door to salvation, that we can enter into the sanctuary of the Lord and serve Him with a pure heart that sees nothing but His glory and worthiness to be praised.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” Hebrews 9:11-15

Jesus is the only way to God, no matter what the world may say is right or wrong about that statement. Within the bible we are given the truth of who gives us access to the one and only living God, and that is Jesus – the perfect lamb – the One who confirmed an everlasting covenant – our only possible mediator to the Father – the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

[Jesus] is...Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises...merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 8:6,12
As Americans prepare for thanksgiving, which is to be celebrated here in just two days, we as Christians need to all the more prepare our hearts, souls, and minds to be always giving thanks to the Lord because of the access He has granted us to Himself through Jesus.