At God’s Right Hand (Part 5 of the Apostles’ Creed)

I believe in God the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Crucified, dead and buried;

He descended into hell

The third day He rose from the dead;

He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

From the Apostles’ Creed

“The Lord said to my Lord; ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’”  Acts 2:34

Through the Apostles’ Creed, we have considered God, who is the Creator of heaven and earth, and we have seen Jesus Christ, the Son of God; from birth, suffering, death and resurrection.  What happened after Jesus’ resurrection?  Where is Jesus now and what is He doing?  And why does this matter to my faith?  As always, we look to the Word of God to answer these questions.

The Gospel writer, Luke, tells us of Jesus being taken into heaven in front of the very eyes of those that walked with Him and would passionately carry His story into faraway lands.  He writes, “While [Jesus] was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.” (Luke 24:51)  Luke continues this testimony in Acts 1:9 when he says, “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight.” In another Gospel account, Mark writes, “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and He sat at the right hand of God.” (Mark 16:19) So how can we know that He truly is there?  We have the testimony of Saul (who became Paul) who heard a voice from heaven clearly identify Himself as “Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:5) We also have the account of Stephen, one of the newly appointed disciples, who gave an eyewitness report from the site of His own death by stoning.  Take in the beauty of his words; “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  ‘Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” (Acts 7:55-56) As he drew his final breaths, Stephen was given a glimpse of His Savior in heaven, at the right hand of His Father.  This was not the ramblings of a delirious man, but a bold declaration made under the power of the Holy Spirit.  Ever the faithful witness, Stephen proclaimed aloud the majesty of what he saw.  The writer of Hebrews confirms his vision in Hebrews 8:1 which says, “We have a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven.” As an interesting aside, note that Jesus is “standing at the right hand of God.”  in Stephen’s testimony.  Why standing? Look at Acts 8: 59: “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Though Scripture does not give us details, I believe Jesus stood to receive Stephen into glory, to embrace this servant who died declaring the truth of the Gospel, and to welcome him home.

Is Jesus just sitting around on His throne waiting for us to die?  Not at all.  Romans 8:34 tells us that “Jesus is at the right hand of God, interceding for us.”  Looking at the root definitions for the word “interceding,” we understand that Jesus is with the Father, and “reminding” Him (as if God could forget) that we have taken part in His death through our faith, and that He, Jesus, has provided the perfect sacrifice for all of our sins.  Jesus reminded the Father that your angry outburst yesterday has been covered by His blood and sacrifice.  He interceded for you when you let your mind wander into sinful thoughts and for me when jealous envy overtook my heart when I saw my co-worker’s new car.  He died to provide atonement for every sin you and I have committed and will commit before our lives are done.  He lives now to intercede for us, pouring His precious blood over every stain that our sin creates.

Jesus is also at work, preparing a home for all who will believe and trust in Him.  He made this promise in John 14:2-3: “In my Father’s house are many rooms…I am going there to prepare a place for you, [and] I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  Jesus is fixing up your room in His Father’s house.  Just the right colors and furnishings, everything will be perfect for you when you arrive.  Do you suppose His portrait will be hanging on the wall?  No, for we will not need pictures, we will see Him face to face, in all of His glory.  Imagine, all of the great men and women of the Bible, the martyrs, missionaries, servants, those who preached to great audiences of people, and those who lovingly wiped feverish brows in the name of Jesus all together in the great halls of God’s house.  And oh, what wonderful reunions with those who made it home before us!  My mom will be there, and dear and precious friends that I miss so much.  We will all share in the joy of God’s house, for Jesus has been working all this time to make everything ready.  No wonder He “apprenticed” as a carpenter for thirty years here on earth.

Faith in Jesus Christ is incomplete unless we know and believe that He waits for us in heaven, sitting at the right hand of our Father, interceding on our behalf.  Faith must believe that Jesus is preparing our eternal home, and He will stand to receive us when we come to this life’s end.  Is your faith in this life alone, or is it a faith that will carry you into eternity?

Eternal Savior, I am in awe of You.  You gave your life to ransom me from death, and You live in eternity waiting for me to come home.  I will see you face to face – Oh what a glorious day that will be!  Amen.

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What Do You Think…

“What do you think…” Matthew 22:42a

What are thinking about right now?  What should I make for supper? What is that noise in the engine of my car?   What are my kids up to now?  Every moment, a vast number of thoughts are running through your mind, many you are not even conscience of.   Did you know that your thoughts make up who you are?  Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” (New King James Version) Your attitude, beliefs, words, and actions are all the culmination of your thoughts.  Perhaps it is time to think about what we are thinking about.  I think there are at least three important thoughts we need to consider.

We should think high thoughts of God – When Jesus asked the question we see in our key verse, He was speaking to the Pharisees.  He asked them specifically “What do you think about the Christ?” The fact that He was addressing the religious leaders of His day makes it all the more important.   These learned men spent their days pouring over the Holy Scriptures, the very words that not only described Christ, but were inspired by His very Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)  Yet they still missed the essence of who Jesus was – they could not see that He was God.  Because they did not have the right thoughts about God.   Their image of God was cast in their own minds from their own image.  They had a very human view of God.  I wonder if Jesus were to ask the same of you and me, how we might answer.  Truly, it all depends on how we think.  We are to have a high view of God. We are to think of God as He has described Himself in His Word. Leviticus 19:2 is God’s most important self-declaration: “Be holy, because I, the Lord Your God, am holy.”  When we think of God, we must first and foremost think of His holiness. Jeremiah 9:24 gives another high view of His attributes: “I am the Lord, who exercises … righteousness on earth.” (Jeremiah 9:24)  The Lord is righteous in all His ways. He has also testified to His might and power: “I am God Almighty” (Genesis 17:1).  Jesus identified Himself as one with God when He said: “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6) It is only as we think rightly of God that we can see Him as He is – Holy, Righteous, and Mighty; the Way and the Truth and the Life.

We should think loving thoughts of others – In addressing the question of (again) one of the Pharisees, Jesus reiterated the Greatest Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He then added a new wrinkle: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37, 39)  In addition to thinking high thoughts of God, we are to think loving thoughts of others.

Paul expounded on Jesus’ words in Romans 13:9 when he wrote, “Whatever other commandments there may be, are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”  He is simply stating that when we regard one another in love, as Christ has commanded (John 15:12), we will never think of lying, cheating, envying, stealing from or harming others in any way.    He says we are to “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves,” (Romans 12:10) and adds that “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”  How would your life and mine be changed if we thought of others with honor and brotherly love?  How would their lives be different if we sought the good of others before our own?  Paul said that we have a “debt to love one another.” (Romans 13:8) It is a responsibility that we bear as Christians to express love to others – it is the commandment of our Lord and Savior, who showed His love for us on the Cross.

 Lastly, I believe God would have us think true thoughts of ourselves.  One of the hardest things for us to do is to think of ourselves as God does.  Perhaps that is because the world and Satan continually works to focus our thoughts on what is wrong with us.  The message of the world is that we are terribly flawed if we are not the right height, weight (especially weight), or body shape. If we don’t have the right hair style or perfect white teeth, if we don’t drive the right car, have a successful spouse or brilliant children, we are of no value.  If that weren’t enough to destroy our sense of worth; Satan works on the flaws in us that others cannot see – flaws that we know are there.  He taunts us with temptations, then ridicules us because we succumb to that same temptation.  He continually reminds us of every failure, every wrong thought and every harsh word; and when we grieve these terrible things about ourselves, he drags us even further into the pit by insisting that in God’s eyes we are worthless.

But God wants us to know that Satan and this world are liars.  He wants us to think of ourselves as His Word declares: We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), “accepted by Christ” (Romans 15:7), “the righteousness of God in Christ” (2 Corinthians5:21), “chosen , holy and blameless before God” (Ephesians 1:4), “redeemed and forgiven” (Ephesians 1:7), “God’s workmanship, created to produce good works” (Ephesians 2:10), “light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8), “chosen of God, holy and dearly loved” (Colossians 3:12), and “made complete in Christ” (Colossians 2:10). The ultimate evidence of your worth is the same evidence of God’s love for us – “it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ. (1 Peter 1:18, 19)  The truth is that Christ thought so highly of you and me that He gave the most valuable thing He had to redeem us – He gave Himself.

Philippians 4:8 is a great lesson in how to manage our thought life, we would do well to put these principles into practice. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

Holy Father, High and lifted up, please keep my mind focused on praising You, loving others and thinking rightly of myself.  Transform my mind Lord to think thoughts that please You. Amen

From Hell to Heaven

I believe in God the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth,

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Crucified, dead and buried;

He descended into hell

The third day He rose from the dead;

From “The Apostles’ Creed”

 “Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Romans 8:34

We are continuing our walk through The Apostles’ Creed, as we search the Scriptures for the evidences and foundations for our faith.  Our journey finds us in a place of terror – hell – a concept that has been argued for and against for hundreds of years.  Even some Christians contend that the Bible doesn’t really support the theory of hell, citing terminology and translations they claim have turned hell into something it is not.  But Jesus was very clear on the subject, teaching about this place of torment and “darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12)  As much as we don’t want to confront it, hell is the place for Satan and His demons – and it is the place reserved for those who reject Jesus Christ as their Savior.  God does not condemn anyone to hell, but by choosing to disregard God’s perfect sacrifice on our behalf, unbelievers condemn themselves.  Good as they may be, without Jesus Christ, they are cast into hell by their own pride.  Man rejects the truth of hell because hell denotes punishment, punishment denotes sin, and sin denotes the truth of “right and wrong.”  Sin is the symptom of a greater problem, that of denying the authority of Holy God to set standards of right and wrong.  . Hell is a very real place, as is heaven; one is reserved for those who accept Christ and the other for those who reject Him.  “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”(John 3:36)

Of all the foundations of the Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is likely the most important, for it undeniably reveals Him as God.  He performed great miracles throughout His earthly life, healing the sick, casting out demons, feeding the multitudes and even raising the dead back to life, but it is His resurrection that becomes the irrefutable evidence of His Deity.  Great men of the faith have done great things in God’s name, but they have died, and did not see the light of life again.  Even Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from death to life eventually died his final death.  But Jesus – Jesus rose from death to life and ascended from earthly life to heavenly life everlasting.  Death could not hold on to Him because He was and is eternal.

In His bold address to the Jews, Peter said simply “God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead…because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” (Acts 2:24)  It was not a rumor nor an exaggeration, for Peter followed by saying, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” (v. 32) Paul confirmed Peter’s words in Acts 13:30-31 when he proclaimed, “God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead, and for many days He was seen by those who had traveled with Him,”   Luke, the writer of Acts wrote, “After His suffering, He showed Himself to [His apostles] and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive.   He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3) Paul adds yet another proof in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 (sel.) “He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time.  Then He appeared to James…and last of all He appeared to me also.”

Paul calls the Doctrine of the Resurrection “as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  It is of first importance because without Jesus’ resurrection, He is just another dead religious teacher.   And a dead man cannot save anyone.  Paul said “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sin.” (1 Corinthians 15:17) Jesus Christ had to die – there is no other way for you and me to be forgiven and cleansed from our sins.  Christ had to be resurrected – there was no other way for you and me to obtain eternal life.

The Apostle Peter gives us the blessed benediction to our look at the Doctrines of Hell and The Resurrection:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

 In His great mercy, He has given us new birth into a living hope

through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

and  into an inheritance that can never perish spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you.

1 Peter 1:3-4

 Merciful Father, by Your great love and power, You have opened the way for us to turn from death to life and from hell to heaven.  We give you thanks and praise Your name for Your tender mercies.  Amen.

The Lord is Our Guide (part 2)

In the first part of this series, we looked at who our guide is, and found much comfort in knowing that the Lord is our Guide. He is the perfect Guide because He knows the way we need to go, He knows the dangers we will face, and He knows the destination.  He stays close to us as we travel and provides all we need for the journey.

In this devotional, we will look at the ways God guides us.  When we understand how He leads we will become better followers. We will be better able to discern which path is the right one, by remembering these simple truths from Scripture.

“Your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in Your truth.” Psalm 26:3

This verse shows us two ways God guides His children.  First, He leads us by His love. His love is perfect (1 John 4:18), it is great (Psalm 86:13), good (Psalm 69:16), unfailing (Psalm 143:8), and endures forever (Psalm 136).  Everything God does in the lives of His children is done according to His love.  God’s love gives us confidence in His leading.  It is a love that you and I can always trust.  1 John 4:18 also tells us that God’s perfect love drives out fear.  What is there to be afraid of when the love of God is leading us? God declared to His people, “I led them with …ties of love.” (Hosea 11:4) When love leads the way, we are compelled to follow.

Psalm 26:3 also tells us God leads us in His truth.  Truth carries the promise of “faithfulness, reliability, and trustworthiness.” Where can we find this truth?  Jesus declared, “Your Word is truth.” (John 17:17)  Psalm 119 is filled with praise for God’s Word, declaring that it is righteous (v. 7), helps us guard against sin (v. 11), is filled with wonderful things (v. 18), is  a delight (v. 24); gives freedom (v.45), hope ,(v. 49), and comfort (v. 50); teaches us knowledge and good judgment (v. 66); is trustworthy (v. 86), eternal, (v.89),and  boundless (v. 98); keeps us from evil (v 101), is more valuable than pure gold (v. 127), is forever right (v. 144), and true (v. 151). Verse 105 proclaims, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  This verse says God’s Word is the way of truth and light.  God’s Word –His truth -is the light we need to protect us, sustain us and lead us.

“May Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Psalm 143:10

God leads us by His Holy Spirit.  In the days of the Old Testament, God’s Spirit often fell on the great men and women of Scripture, empowering and directing them for the God-task ahead, and then departing from them afterward.  Since the days of Pentecost, God’s Spirit has come to dwell within believers. He has come to stay and give us continual power and direction.  Isaiah 30:21 offers us a precious promise from God, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’”  The Holy Spirit is that voice for the believer.  Listening carefully, we will be empowered, strengthened, and led by His Spirit.

 “Lead me, Lord, in Your righteousness” (Psalm 5:8)

The Lord will always lead us in the right way.  He will always lead us according to His righteousness, which means “according to God’s proper standard.”  He will lead us in ways that agree with His character.  Psalm 139:21 is David’s plea that God will “lead me in the way everlasting.” This “everlasting way” is by definition, “the everlasting way of life, which is from of old and lasting.”  Hebrews 1:12 assures us that “God will remain the same” and Hebrews 13:8 says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  He will lead us in the righteous way He has lead his people for generations. Walking in the righteousness that is ours through Jesus Christ, we can be sure we will reach our destination.

God has promised to lead us, but it is up to us to follow Him.  If we want to go with God, we must know His ways and heed the words of Proverbs 4:25, “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you” We must continually look to our righteous Guide who leads us in the good way to the perfect destination.

Holy Father, faithful Guide; Lead me in the way everlasting, in the good way of Your love, Your truth, Your Sprit and Your righteousness.  I surrender all my ways to You and trust that Your way is always the right way.  Amen.

 Today’s devotional is dedicated to the memory of Dorothy Brillhart, a wonderful friend, encourager, adopted “grandmother,” and a godly mentor.  You were a walking testimony to the goodness and faithfulness of God.  I love you.

The Suffering Savior (part 3 of the Apostles’ Creed)

I believe in God the Father Almighty

Maker of heaven and earth;

And in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, our Lord;

Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

Born of the Virgin Mary,

Suffered under Pontius Pilate,

Crucified, dead and buried;

From The Apostles’ Creed

 

“Jesus suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood.”  Hebrews 13:12

We continue our study of The Apostles’ Creed, based on the foundational truths of the Christian Faith, by looking at the next portion which deals with the sufferings of Jesus Christ.  As difficult as it may be to consider; without the suffering Savior, we have no salvation.  Without the death of Jesus, we would still be dead in our sins.  Before we can know eternal life, we have to know the death of Christ – a death He suffered willingly for you and me.

To understand the significance of Jesus’ death, we must know a little about the Old Testament system of animal sacrifice.  From the earliest days of creation, a sacrifice was necessary to cover man’s sin.  The first such sacrifice occurred in the Garden, when “the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife Eve.” (Genesis 3:21)  The first animal sacrifice was performed to cover, not the naked bodies of Adam and Eve, but the shame of their sin. As the nation of Israel formed, God gave the people a complicated system of animal sacrifices that had to be performed to cleanse them from their sin.  Yes, it is horrible, but it was intended to be an unpleasant and sobering reality – that sin is offensive to Holy God.  In the giving of the Law, the Lord said: “The life of a creature is in the blood…it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Leviticus 17:11) Hebrews 9:22 says “The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” A study of the Old Testament sacrificial system will show that these sacrifices were meant to point the way to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Pontius Pilate was the Roman Governor over the province of Judea and was well known for his cruelty, for taking bribes and for antagonizing the Jews.  The gospel writers point out that Pilate wanted to release Jesus, finding no basis for a charge against Him (Luke 23:20, John 19:12).  However, Mark 15:15 revels his true character, “wanting to satisfy the crowd,” Pilate turned Jesus over to the Jewish rulers, with his authorization to crucify the innocent man.  Under his approval, Jesus was subjected to humiliation and insults, and was physically persecuted prior to His crucifixion.

Jesus was first scourged.  Stripped, with His hands tied to a post above His head, the flagellum (a whip with small balls of lead attached to heavy, leather thongs) was brought down, digging deep into the flesh and underlying muscles.  The floggings stopped just short of the relief of death.  Following this, the soldiers crafted a “crown” of vines with sharp, viscous thorns which they pressed deep into Jesus’ skull and put a robe around Him, pressing it into the torn, ragged flesh of His back.  They mocked, and beat Him, then ripped the robe away from His back, tearing the wounds open again with excruciating agony.

Being led away to the place of His crucifixion, Jesus stumbled under the weight of the heavy, wooden cross.  At the site, Jesus was forced to the ground, laid on His raw and bloody back and His arms were secured to the crosspiece, with huge spikes, approximately 4-6 inches long.  These spikes were driven between the bones in His wrist, and then He was lifted up onto the main beam, where the crosspiece is secured and more nails were driven into His feet.  Most crucified victims died from asphyxia, as their weakened legs could no longer push up against their feet to draw breath.  Jesus, however, did not suffocate, but “called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit my Spirit!’  When He had said this, He breathed His last.”(Luke 23:46)  One of His followers, Joseph of Arimathea, emerged from the shadows of His secret discipleship, claimed the body of Jesus, and lovingly wrapped and placed His body in a tomb.

Why would Jesus suffer so great a death when He was an innocent man?  Love.  I’ve heard it said that “It wasn’t the nails that held Jesus to the cross, it was love.”  I believe that is true. Jesus’ love was so great it led Him to give His life to save yours and mine.  His life was not taken, it was willingly given.  It was a sacrifice of suffering that He endured because He knew that without His death, we could not have life.  Only the blood of Jesus the perfect Lamb of God could forever cleanse us from our sin. 1 Peter 4:8 tells us that “Love covers over a multitude of sins.”  The love of Christ compelled Him to shed His blood to cover over the multitude of your sins and mine.

Holy Savior, “What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul?”*  How I praise You for your sacrifice of love. Amen.

* At­trib­ut­ed to Al­ex­an­der Means

 

The Lord is My Guide

“The Lord your God…went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.”  Deuteronomy 1:32-33

How do you get to a place you’ve never been if you don’t know the way or how long the journey may take or what you will encounter as you travel?

The uncertainty of the future is something we all grapple with at some point in our lives.  No matter how well-thought out our plans may be, life is full of the unexpected and the unknown.   A woman wakes up a wife, and lays down the same night a widow.   A husband and father clears out his desk wondering how he will provide for his family tomorrow.  A family loads the last of their belongings into a truck and drives away from a “foreclosure” sign in their front yard.  A difficult diagnosis, a child in serious trouble, a spouse who walks away – we all will face life-altering situations.  Real life on this rock is full of unforeseen twists and turns. “What do I do now?” “Where do we go from here?”  “How will I cope with this?” It’s pretty unnerving to not know what’s up ahead.

I understand this uncertainty-I have recently experienced it in my own life.  As I prayed and sought God’s Word for direction, I was impressed with a couple of thoughts I’d like to share with you.

God is our guide along the way – “[The Lord] leads me…He guides me…” (Psalm 23: 2, 3)

I am an American History buff, and I especially enjoy stories of explorers like Lewis and Clark, who traversed and mapped out much of the North American continent.  Their mission was successful in part because they had experienced guides, generally Native Americans, to lead them and to help them steer away from trouble.  An effective guide has to know where he’s going and what dangers may be ahead. He has to know the safest places to cross a river or camp for the night, and who is friendly to strangers passing through.  A good guide knows the end of the journey as well as the beginning. God is a faithful and perfect guide, because He knows the destination, He knows the path we need to take, and He knows the challenges we will encounter.  He knows how to help us through dangerous territory, and the best place to stop and rest.  God has already planned the way we need to take and knows every step along the way. We need not fear, only follow closely, confident of His leading.

God is always with us – “The Lord your God will be with you where you go.” (Joshua 1:9)        A good guide stays close to his travelers.  Even though the guide must lead from the front of the pack, he never gets too far away from them.  He knows that his charges may get lost if they cannot see him.  A good guide carefully watches his company and knows when they need to stop and rest or when someone may be in need of help. Likewise, God knows we need the comfort of His presence as we make our way through unknown territory.  He knows we will become afraid or wander from the path if we lose sight of Him.  He is carefully attentive to us, knowing when we need encouragement, strength and help. His promise to Joshua is one of the most precious in all of Scripture, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Joshua 1:5) We must trust His promise and believe He is right beside us.

 God will provide along the way – “These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.” Deuteronomy 2:7

A good guide make sure his company has all they need to survive the long journey ahead. Because he has taken the route before, he knows the best hunting areas, where to find fresh water and those ripe, juicy berries.  As He guided them through the wilderness, God provided the Israelites with water (Exodus 15:22-25; 17:1-6), food (Exodus 16:4; Numbers 11:31-32) and even kept their clothes from wearing out – for forty years (Deuteronomy 29:5).  He has infinite resources to meet all our needs and He loves to care for His children.  I love Isaiah 49:10 that says, “He will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.”  Jesus reminds us that our Heavenly Father knows all our needs, and is committed to provide all things for us if we will trust in Him (Matthew 6:25-33)

Whatever you are facing today, whatever unknowns loom large before you, God knows the way.   He has promised to be with you, to care for you, and to lead you all the way through. Listen to Psalm 48:14 – “For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our Guide even to the end.” This is a Guide that you can trust.

Where is God leading us?  What is at the end of this journey?

“I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

He is leading us Home.

My Father, my Guide; I cannot see what tomorrow holds; but I know Who holds tomorrow.  Take my hand and lead me God, for I trust in You.   Amen.

I Believe (part 2 of the Apostles’ Creed)

  • And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, Our Lord,
    Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
    Born of the Virgin Mary,

    From “The Apostle’ Creed”

    “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21

    As we look intently at the Apostles’ Creed, we first established our belief in God, the Father and Creator of all things.  We next come to belief in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Here is a major hurdle for many – they are able to accept the existence of God; but they balk at the idea of God having an earthly Son. It is a challenge to our intellectual age to believe that this Jesus is indeed both human and divine.  But faith in Jesus Christ can withstand the challenges if we look to God’s Word for understanding and truth.

    Christmas is the time when Christians celebrate the earthly birth of Jesus, but He has always been in existence and is as eternal and timeless as God the Father.  We know that by John’s Gospel which says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2)” “The Word” is Jesus Christ.  The original Greek for “Word” is “Logos,” and it is a title of Christ, emphasizing His own deity (or “God-ness) and communication of who God is and what He is like. John use of the word “beginning” speaks to Jesus’ position of divine authority and power – the same authority and power that is of God.  God the Father Himself confirmed the identity of Jesus.  In Matthew 4:17, at Jesus’ baptism, God spoke from heaven and said “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Mark’s Gospel also records the Father’s words at the Transfiguration of Christ saying, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!” The writer of the book of Hebrews affirms this as well saying, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representative of His being,” (Hebrews1:3).  The Bible confirms over and over that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God.  He has the same attributes of holiness, righteousness, authority and power as the Father. He is eternal, from before the world was formed, and  He will be throughout all eternity, the never-ending God.

    Our key verse confirms the deity of Jesus by saying that He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. There are some things that we call “divine mysteries” in the Christian faith, and this is one of those.  How this divine conception occurred is known only to God, but the Bible clearly reveals the power of the Holy Spirit at work in all Christ did. His miracles, works and teachings were all through the influence of the Holy Spirit.  Luke 4:36 declares, “All the people were amazed and said to each other, ‘What is this teaching? With authority and power He gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!’” It was the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from death to life. (see Ephesians 1:18-20)  The power of the Holy Spirit was further evidence that Jesus, though He was fully man, was also fully God.

    Jesus was born of a very human woman, Mary, the wife of Joseph – but because He was divinely conceived, His mother was a virgin when He was born.  That is miraculous indeed!  God had already prophesied that the mother of the Messiah would be a virgin; Isaiah 7:14 foretold, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and you will call Him Immanuel.” For many hundreds of years thereafter, every young Jewish girl wondered if she would be the mother of her Messiah.  Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Savior of all the world.  I love Mark Lowery’s song, “Mary Did You Know?” that says

    “Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
    And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.”

    Mary knew that there was something special about her baby boy, Luke 2:51 says “His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”  I don’t know if this virgin girl could have ever imagined how her life would be forever changed by her Son.

    The great Apostle Paul wrote of this Jesus: “He is the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation.  God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him.” (Colossians 1:15 & 19)

    Jesus Himself declared: “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) Just as God is who He says He is, Jesus Christ has also clearly identified Himself.  He has said “I AM.” The heart of faith bows in worship and adoration before the Son of God.

    Jesus, you are human – yet Divine.  You are perfect – yet you came to live among the imperfect.  Somehow you wrapped your perfect, divine glory into a human shell and came to save me.  My heart sings Your name and Your praise!  Amen.

God is Not First Place in My Life

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.”   Luke 14:26

Sometimes the Bible appears to contradict itself.  Our key passage seems to conflict with Jesus’ command to “Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12”   Loving others is so vital to the life of a Christian – why on earth (or heaven) would Jesus make such a strange statement?  What could He possibly mean?

This morning as I was in prayer, I asked God to help me always give Him the highest place in my life, to love Him above all else – my husband, son, friends and passions.  I want Him to always be at the top of my list, if you will.  Isn’t that what we have always been taught – to give God “first place” in our hearts, assigning our families, friends and passions 2nd, 3rd and so on?  It does seem like the best way to order our priorities

But I heard a still, small voice very clearly say – “I don’t want first place in your heart child, I want all of your heart.”  Then the Spirit brought to mind Jesus’ words in Mark 12:30, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”  He even emphasized the word “all.”   “But Lord,” I said, “that doesn’t leave any room for anyone else, not my husband or son or friends.”  “Exactly.”, came His reply.

Then I understood.  God doesn’t want to be one among many loves in our life, not even the highest love above all the rest.  He want to be our only love.  Not our highest priority, but our only priority.  Not first place, but the only place.  God loves us with complete and total devotion and love, and He desires the same in return from us.  He created us for the sole purpose of a love relationship.  He did not create us so that we would worship Him, though He deserves our worship – His angels worship Him night and day.  He did not create us because He needed us to do His will on earth, though we are called to a life of service – He is all powerful and doesn’t need us for anything.  He created us for LOVE.  To love Him alone and to receive His love.  The truth is, He didn’t even create us to love others.

You see, we think that if we place God at the top of our list, and all others below Him, we will have plenty of love to go around to everyone.  So why then, do we tend to run short?  Jesus’ words in Mark 12:30 (2 paragraphs above) are from The Shema, a daily prayer of the Hebrew people as a confirmation of their belief in God.  Shema, in the original Hebrew language means “hear” and is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  Jesus added to the Shema in Mark 12:31 by saying “The second [command] is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”  Jesus was teaching the people, and us, that love for others comes out of the overflow of a heart that is fully devoted and in love with God.  Jesus’ words in our key verse are not contradicting His commandment to love one another, but He paints a picture of hearts so fully consumed with love for the Lord God, that, in comparison, we hate our mother and father, husband, wife and children.  For if we truly love God with all of our hearts, that love will be so overwhelming, there will be more than enough love to pour out on our family and friends, our neighbors, strangers, and yes – even our enemies.  If He is our only priority, then His passion will become our passion.  His desire will become our desire.  We will not be “so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good.”  Rather when we become fully consumed with God, we are able to do the most good here on earth.

Where do we find that kind of all-consuming love? Here is where it gets really awesome.   1 John 4:7 says “love comes from God.” and verse 19 says “We love because He first loved us.” Love is also a fruit of the Spirit, (Galatians 5:22-23) a by-product of the heart that abides in the love of Christ. (John 15:9) Get this: The love we have for God comes from … God.  It comes to us when we open ourselves up fully to Him, surrender our hearts completely to Him and let Him fill us with His love.  Do you see the full circle here? What an amazing truth!

Is it any wonder that we live in a world so starved for love? Nations are overwhelmed with war, poverty, disease and a lack of care and compassion from the world.  Humanitarians declare the need to love and care for our fellow human beings.  Religion teaches the mandate of Christ to love others.  Yet we are falling farther and farther behind. In 1965 Jackie DeShannon recorded Hal Davis and Burt Bacharach’s song, “What the World Needs Now.” The lyrics say “What the world needs now is love, sweet love; no not just for some, but for everyone.”  Truly, what the world needs now is men and women who are filled with love for God that flows from the love of God and spills out on everyone around us. Oh, if only we could understand that when we reject God and His love for us we are rejecting the very thing this world needs!

I am committed to no longer give God first place in my heart and life.  He is no longer my highest priority.  I am committed to giving Him all of my heart and life.  He is now my only priority.  Will you give Him all of you?

Holy Father, loving God – I want to love your with all of my heart, mind, soul and strength.  I want to be a conduit of your love – sweet love – to everyone around me.  I empty myself of everything else and open my heart to You.  Amen.

I Believe

“I believe in God the Father Almighty,

Maker of Heaven and Earth”

From “The Apostles’ Creed”

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”  Hebrews 11:6

What does it mean to “believe in God?” What must you believe about God?  Why should you believe in God at all?   Man has been wrestling with the concept of belief in God for thousands of years.  The most brilliant minds from every side of the issue have argued for and against belief in God.  We make it so complex with our human perspectives. But it really is simple: “God is who He says He is.”  Belief in God is the very foundation of faith, in fact, it is the foundation of our lives.

The Apostles’ Creed makes it first bold statement of affirmation by saying “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.”  Our intellectual world would stop us right here and argue against the existence of God.  But a person of faith believes that He is.  Our key verse declares that faith believes in the existence of God, and there are evidences all around to prove He does exist.  God has revealed Himself through His creation.  Romans 1:19-20 says “What may be known about God is plain to [men], because God has made it plain to them.  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 men are without excuse.”  The Psalmist David said “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands…Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”  (Psalm 19:1, 3).  The world around us professes to the reality of God.  This world was not created by some “cosmic accident” It was created by God, who also created man and He gave earth everything necessary to sustain life.  God is “the Maker of Heaven and Earth.”

A person of faith knows and believes in God as both Creator and Father.  He is exalted in Heaven, over all of His creation; yet He is a very intimate and personal Father.

The first mention in Scripture of anyone professing to believe in God was Abram – Genesis 15:6 says “Abram believed God and it was credited to Him as righteousness.” Abram (later renamed Abraham) believed in the existence of God, but He also believed God.  His belief, his confidence was revealed by has obedient actions.  But the first point of decision – to believe God or not believe Him – was exhibited in the Garden.  For Adam and Eve, God’s very first created human beings, believing God was not a matter of “is He real or isn’t He?” – but “will we believe what He has said is true?”  They walked with Him daily (Genesis 3:8), so His existence was never questioned.  They knew He was real.  Their crisis of belief came, not with a challenge to His reality, but with the serpent (the Devil) planting a seed of doubt – “Did God really…” (Genesis 1:1).  When Satan cannot cause us to doubt the existence of God, he will cause us to doubt the heart of God. He has been using the same line to plant, cultivate, grow and harvest huge fields of doubt in the hearts and minds of men ever since.

By definition; believing is “to accept something as true, genuine or real; to have a firm conviction; to consider to be true or honest, to accept the word or evidence of.” (www.merriam-webster.com) Belief in God is not wishful thinking or just an opinion we hold to; belief in God is based on the actual evidences of His existence and of the truth of His Word. Belief in God is belief in His character of faithfulness and truth, belief in His power and goodness; it is belief that trusts and obeys.

I do believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth. This is not just a rote statement I declare, it is the deepest conviction of my heart.

Do you believe in God?

God Almighty, You have made Yourself known through nature, Your Word, Your Son and Your Spirit.  Please open our hearts that we may believe.  Amen.