Peace Please

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trust in you.  Isaiah 26:3

Peace.

Could you use some peace today?  I know I could.  I long to sit beside a quiet lake and soak in the peace, and I bet you would like to join me there.  Peace seems to be in high demand, but short supply. Leaders of nations meet at “Peace Summits,” students protest for peace, singers sing songs about peace, and moms hide out in the bathroom for a moment’s peace. Why, when everyone cries out “We want to live in peace!” is peace so elusive?

Peace is not in summits or protests or songs; and any mother of a preschooler knows – you can’t even have peace in the bathroom.  What does God’s Word say about peace?

Peace is vital to our relationships – Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,” and Romans 14:19 says “Make every effort to do what leads to peace,” We are to choose the way of peace between ourselves and others.  1 Peter 3:11 reminds us to “seek peace and pursue it.”  That will often require humility, forgiveness and sacrifice.  But it is worth it to have peace between our hearts and another’s.

Peace is a holy confidence in the goodness and faithfulness of God – even if our circumstances are less than peaceful.  David found this to be true – as we read in Psalm 4.  David is in “distress” (v. 1), and he prays for relief and mercy.  He talks to himself throughout this Psalm, and comes to the blessed answer: “You have filled my heart with greater joy… I will lie down and sleep in peace for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. (v. 6, 7) In spite of his troubles, David knew that God was trustworthy, he need have no fear-he could find restful peace.

Peace comes in the person of Jesus Christ.

Peace on earth must start with peace between God and man.  But we are sinful people; and God is holy.  How can we ever have peace? Peace with God comes through Christ’s sacrifice.   Romans 5:1 tells us “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus took every sin you and I will ever commit, and died on the cross to pay the price for our holiness before God.  He more than made a way to God, He is the way to God. And by His sacrifice, we can have peace with God.

Peace with God then opens the way to receive the peace of God.  Jesus gave a simple promise to His disciples and to us:  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  John 14:27. Jesus didn’t command His disciples to live in peace, rather He left His peace with them, in their hearts.  The peace of God vanquishes fear and hate, for we cannot dwell in peace and conflict.  This peace is available to all who receive Jesus Christ.

How do we live in this peace each day?  Paul’s answer is in Philippians 4:3-7:  “Rejoice in the Lord always…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We live in peace when we rejoice in God’s goodness to us, bring every need and desire before Him, and thank Him of what He will do on our behalf.  His peace will see us through every day.

Jehovah Shalom – Lord. You are my Peace.  Please remind me of your promises of peace when I am surrounded by the storm.  Calm my anxious heart with your perfect peace.  Amen

Unity (Part 9 in The Apostles’ Creed Series)

“May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me.” John 17:23

 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 thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit; The Holy catholic Church;

The communion of saints;

 In this post we look into the Apostle’s Creed and consider the “communion of saints.”  We must first establish what we mean by “communion.”  Many have considered this to be the act of Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, as it is indeed one of the Holy Sacraments of the church.  Jesus Christ established this Sacrament during the Last Supper, just prior to His death.  He commanded the taking of wine (or juice as modern churches do) to remind us of His blood that was shed for the forgiveness of our sins.  The breaking of the bread is also a reminder of the cruel breaking of our Savior’s body as He bled and died for you and me.  The observance of this Remembrance is a sacred privilege, and one that we should follow with solemnness and gratitude.

But in the context of the Apostle’s Creed, the “communion of saints” is speaking about the fellowship we share as the Body of Christ, and the unity that Jesus prayed we might have.  John 17 is the recording of Jesus’ prayer just prior to His arrest and the countdown to His death, in this passage Jesus prays for Himself as He faces the cross and for His disciples who will both endure much persecution and carry the Gospel of Christ to the world. And He also prays for “those who will believe in me through their message” (John 17:20-26).  Friend, that is you and me.  Jesus’ prayer is for a very specific thing: Unity.   He prays “that all of them may be one” (v. 21), and that our oneness will be a reflection of the oneness that he enjoys with the Father.  Why is this oneness, or unity so important?  Look at His words in verse 23: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me.”  Couple that with His words in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you much love one another.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Emphasis added)

Jesus is expressing what should be the character of the church: mutual love and unity – for only these will reveal to the world that Jesus is our Lord.

A lot is being said these days about “unity.”  We are told we must be in harmony with one another, all in agreement over the issues we face.  We lock arms and sing songs of unity, hold rallies and offer compromises – all in the name of “unity.” And unity is a wonderful concept, but as long as there is both chocolate and vanilla ice cream, we will always have differences of opinion. 

Jesus’ desire was that we would be in harmony and agreement with one another. He said the world will believe in Him because His followers are united. So then, should we be in unity in humanitarian relief?  These good works are going on all around the world, in the poorest places, but they are not always done in the name of Jesus. Are we to be united around social causes?  Not as long as we so strongly disagree on the issues of the day.  The deep schisms between people who call themselves Christians does more harm to the name of Christ that it does any good.

 The original Greek word for unity means to be one, single, alike, the same. I don’t see a lot of this kind of unity in the Christian community.  We are so fractured and fragmented over our issues, interpretations, worship styles and what is right or wrong.

The question comes then, what is to be the unifying focus of those who call themselves “children of God.” 

The answer is found in the words of the Old Testament prophet, “I will give them singleness of heart…so that they will always fear me.” (Jeremiah 32:39) The one unifying focus for all Christians is awe and reverence – fear – of the Lord.

When God’s people walked in reverence, they were united under His banner.  (Exodus 17:15) No enemy could defeat them.  No challenge threatened them.  And all the nations around them knew “the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.” (Joshua 2:11)  That is what we are to be about; making the most of God, so the world will know and believe.

And that is why Satan, the enemy of God and of God’s people, keeps the focus on the issues that divide us.  When we are in disagreement about those minor issues, we take the focus off the greatness of God, and all the world sees is our squabbling.   Let’s drop our petty weapons of preference and join our hands in nothing less than honoring God before the world.  All the other things will disappear in the brilliance of His glory.

Holy Father, we want to tell the world that You are God, that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and that there is hope for everlasting life – but Father, we cannot even agree on the color of the carpet in our sanctuaries.  Lord, please take the blinders off our eyes and let us see that the only thing that truly matters is You.  Then, and only then, will the world know and believe.  Amen

I Did It My Way

“I desire to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart.  Psalm 40:7

 So who’s really in charge here?

 Since the days of Adam and Eve, man has challenged the authority of God. God says this, but man wants to do that.  God commands, and man rebels.  Sometimes we stomp our feet and say “NO!” like a petulant child. But most often, our rebellion is more subtle.

 Israel’s first king, Saul, is the perfect example of someone who thought he could do God’s will – his own way.  In 1 Samuel 13, God commanded Saul to destroy the wicked and evil Amalekites, long-time enemies of the Israelites.  God’s specific command was to “totally destroy everything that belongs to them… ”(v. 3) Saul and his army set out to do as God commanded, but verse 9 tells us “Saul and the army spared Agag (the king) and the best of the [livestock] – everything that was good.”

 When the prophet Samuel met up with him, He asked why Saul didn’t obey the Lord’s command.  Saul’s reply was “The soldiers brought the…best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord, but we totally destroyed the rest.” (v. 15) In essence, Saul was saying “But I did obey the Lord” (v.20)– I just did it my way.

 Have you ever thought “Well I know God said He wants me to do this, but I know He won’t mind if I do it in my own way. It will be just as good.”  As if we dare say to Him, “I know what you said, but I have a better idea.”?  Pay attention to Samuel’s reply to Saul, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice.” (v. 22) 

God wants our full obedience and He has the authority to require it of us. When God speaks, He expects us to obey. Completely. Immediately. Anything less is disobedience.

Who’s in charge here? It is a question you must settle in your heart, then commit to total obedience – God’s way.

 Holy Father, You are truly the LORD – the Sovereign and Righteous King.  You are God and You are worthy of obedience.  Please turn my heart to always seek to do Your will Your way in Your time.  Amen.

Go Deeper: 1 Samuel 15:1-23

The Body and The Bride (Part 8 in the Apostles’ Creed)

 

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 thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit; The Holy catholic Church;

“God placed all things under His feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.” 

Ephesians 1:22

In the beautiful text of the Apostles’ Creed we come to the church; not a clapboard steeple, new multi-purpose building, or a towering cathedral.  We are talking about the living, breathing Body of Christ Jesus our Lord.  We do not actually go to church.  We are the church. If you are Christian – a follower of Christ – then you and I together make up the “holy catholic Church.”

In the original Greek language, “holy” means that which has been consecrated, or set apart, and declared acceptable to God.  Look around you on Sunday morning.  These are holy people.  Not because they wear the right clothes or say the right things, not even because they serve or usher to teach or sing.  They are holy because as Hebrews 13:12 says, “Jesus… [made] the people holy through His own blood.” His blood alone has the cleansing power that makes us acceptable to God – that makes us holy.  A congregation of people who have been cleansed by the blood of Christ makes up a holy church.

And why are we claiming to believe in the Roman Catholic Church when we are not Catholics?  This is not speaking of denomination, but of universality.  The “catholic” church is the universal church – the world-wide body of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Believers in Florida, believers in China, believers in Australia, believers in North Dakota, and believers in Haiti – all make up the universal catholic Church.

We have already established that the church is not the buildings, but the people.  The church is defined in two distinct ways: as the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ.  The church is the Body of Christ in the world today.  As Jesus walked on earth, He reached out His hands to bless and heal.  Now He reaches out to the world through the hands of His church.  In His words to the disciples Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:11).  How is that possible?  Jesus could only be in one place at a time, but when He returned to His Father in heaven, He sent His Holy Spirit to fill every believer and to enable us to do as He did.  Now, with Spirit-filled believers scattered all around the globe, the work of Jesus is multiplied thousands of times over.

When we say that the church is the Bride of Christ, we can look to a couple of specific Scriptures for support.  Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, “I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to Him.” (2 Corinthians 11:2). Paul’s promise still stands as we wait for that glorious day when our bridegroom will come and take us home.  A little Bible lesson here may help.  In John 14:2-3, Jesus tells his disciples that He is going back to the Father to prepare a place for them, that they may be with Him.  The disciples would have understood that Jesus was referring to the Jewish traditions for betrothal and marriage.  The prospective groom’s father would approach the father of a young woman and make the arrangements for their children to be married.  The groom would then return home and begin building an addition onto his father’s home for him and his bride.  Meanwhile, the bride is busy with her own preparations, making her bridal clothes and other necessary things for setting up her own home.  Only when the groom’s father was satisfied with the finished work would he allow his son to go get his bride.  The groom and his friends would make a noisy party through the streets as they went to the home of the bride.  She had no advance warning, so she had to be ready at all times to be swept away to her own wedding and her new home.  This is the picture behind Revelation 19:7: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.”  Do you see the beauty in the church being called the Bride of Christ?  He has gone to prepare a place for His bride, and when His Father deems the home ready, Jesus will come back for His beloved and we will be whisked away to heaven.

The church is to be making preparations for that glorious day when the bride comes face-to-face with her adoring Bridegroom.  Listen to John’s description of her: “[She] shone with the glory of God, and [her] brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel.” (Revelation 21:11) Oh, how we need to be ready for the Bridegroom’s return!

Jesus loves the church, because she is his hands and feet in this world, and because she is the bride that He longs to bring home.  You and I are the church.  We are the Body and the Bride.  If the church is to be ready for her glorious wedding day – it is up to you and me.  Are you anticipating the return of your Bridegroom?

Father in heaven, as my Jesus prepares a place for His bride, help me to work with a heart full of love, and my eyes on the skies, watching for His return.  Amen.

The Holy Spirit (part 7 of The Apostles’ Creed)

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 thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit;

 

“For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him?  In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”  1 Corinthians 2:11

The greatest life pursuit of the Christian is to know God.  To know God, we must have the Holy Spirit.  To have the Holy Spirit we must know Jesus Christ.  Here you have the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, uniquely three in one.  It is one of the great mysteries of the faith, pondered by great minds for thousands of years. No one has been able to fully explain this Holy Oneness.  I am no great theological scholar – I simply take the Trinity on faith.

First let’s establish that the Holy Spirit is a person – not an “it,” and He is equal in power, sovereignty, divinity and all other attributes of God the Father and God the Son.  We tend to think of the Holy Spirit as a New Testament entity, but the Bible tells us that the He was an active participant in the Creation.  Genesis 1:2 says “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (emphasis added). The Holy Spirit was the power that generated all creation into being.

The Holy Spirit is seen in the Old Testament imparting power, strength and wisdom to men and women used by God to accomplish His sovereign purposes.  However in that time, the Spirit’s activity within man was only for the task, leaving man when God’s work was fulfilled.  Today, since Pentecost (Acts 2:1-12), the Holy Spirit dwells within men and women who place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, not coming and going as before, but literally “taking up residence” in the heart of the believer.  Perhaps that should serve to remind us that the work of God is on-going, and we should always be about the Father’s business.

What effect does the Holy Spirit have on the believer?  Let’s see what Scripture tells us.

  • The Holy Spirit enables us to know the truth about God.  Jesus said in John’s gospel, “The world cannot accept Him [the Spirit of Truth], because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.  But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:17) Jesus said we cannot accept Truth without His Holy Spirit.  1 John 5:6 says, “It is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.”  The Holy Spirit opens our hearts and minds to the truth and enables us to receive and believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the only way to salvation and eternal life with the Father.
  • The Holy Spirit enables us to do the good works of God.  “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord works all of them in all men.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7) The Holy Spirit gives gifts to believers, then equips us to use those gifts for the good of the Church and for the Glory of God.  The good works we do for God are initiated by the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, and brought to completion by the Spirit.  God gives us the awesome privilege of being His physical hands, feet, arms and lips in this world, but it is the Spirit who does the work.
  • The Holy Spirit is the evidence that we belong to Christ.  Romans 8:9 says: “You, however are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”  The Apostle John declared, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.” (1 John 4:2, 15). The Spirit enables, even urges us, to testify to the truth of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  The Holy Spirit also produces fruit in our lives that is further evidence that we belong to Christ.  Galatians 5: 22-23 describes those fruits as: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  These fruits reflect the character of God and are only possible when we are surrendered to Christ and filled with His Spirit.
  • The Holy Spirit is our Teacher, as Jesus said in John’s gospel:  “These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:26)  “When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all true.” (John 16:13) This is a fulfillment of God’s incredible promise in Ezekiel 36:26-27: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And  I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees.”

There is so much more that we can say about the Holy Spirit:

  • He prays for us when we cannot pray for ourselves: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.  We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express,” (Romans 8:26)
  •  He brings conviction of sin: “He will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment,” (John 16:8)
  • The  Spirit reveals the thoughts and plans of the Father: “He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come  He will bring glory to me by taking form what is mine and making it known to you,” (John 16:13-14). “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God…no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God…we have received the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand…” (1 Corinthians 2:10, 11, 12).

As you see, the Holy Spirit is vital for the Christian.  He equips, empowers and enables us to do all that God desires to accomplish through us. Though we cannot fully comprehend the concept of the Trinity, we are blessed to be loved by the Father, saved through the Son, and filled with the Spirit.

 

Holy God, You are so much bigger than I can comprehend.  Please fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may be a vessel fit and ready to do Your will. Amen

The Fear of the Lord

“Be sure to fear the LORD and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.”  1 Samuel 12:24

 What are you afraid of?  What fills you with fear, makes your heart pound and sets your nerves on edge?  Spiders, snakes, lion and tigers and bears? Oh my!  Or a lonely life, financial hardships, sickness, or a wayward child?  In our day and time we are fed a steady diet of fear by the media.  Children are learning to be afraid of things I never even thought about when I was young. This world can be a very frightening place – so maybe I’ll just stay inside my house.

No one likes the feeling of fear, yet multiple times in the Old Testament we hear God saying to His people, “Fear the Lord your God!”  Isn’t He known as the God of love and peace and joy?  Yes, without question – God is full of love, peace, joy and so many other wonderful attributes, but the command to “fear the Lord” is not a contradiction.  Let’s look a little closer at “fear” in the Holy Scriptures.

When God says that we are to “fear the Lord” it means that we are to regard Him with the reverence and awe that is due Him.  He is worthy of every person’s respect and submission – He is God – high and exalted, seated on His righteous throne with the earth as His footstool.  Psalm 95: 6 tells us “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker, for He is our God.”  We owe Him reverence and worship because He has created us and He has redeemed us.   When we give Him the honor that he deserves, we will find that there are many benefits and blessings for us.

Psalm 25:14 offers one of the benefits I love the most: “The Lord confides in those who fear Him.”  The fear of the Lord opens the way for an intimate friendship, the kind that allows for confidential conversations.  Note that this verse says that The Lord is the one who confides; He takes us into His confidence and shares wonderful truths with those who fear Him.  God says in Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” This means that He will reveal to us things we would never think to ask Him about.  I don’t know about you, but I want to be God’s intimate friend and know what’s on His mind.  Imagine that.

We also find that “those who fear Him lack nothing.” (Psalm 34:9)  The Scripture is very clear in Psalm 111:5: “He provides food for those who fear Him.” Do you have a need? Come before God with humility and reverence and seek His provision.  Out of His great abundance, He has promised to meet the needs of those who fear Him.  And He has promised to meet more than just our physical needs; “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3) He will give us everything we need the godly life He has called us to.  As a matter of fact, God goes even a step further. Psalm 145:19 says “He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him.”  He will meet the needs, and fulfill the desires of those who fear and reverence Him.

In Proverbs we learn that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom [and] knowledge.” (Proverbs 9:10, 1:7) Would you like to lead a wise life?  Do you desire knowledge?  These come as a result of reverence before God.

Fear of the lord is life-giving and life-enriching. Proverbs 19:23 tells us “The fear of the Lord leads to life;” Proverbs 14:27 says: “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life;” and Proverbs 10:27 promises that “The fear of the Lord adds length to life.”  When we life in the fear of the Lord who is Life, we are blessed with life.

One of the most important benefits of living in the fear of the Lord is found in Exodus 20:20, “The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”  One aspect of “fearing the Lord” that we fail to talk about today is fear of the Lord because He is holy, and His holiness is an awesome thing.  You may be thinking of “awesome” as something dramatic and wondrous, but by definition it means to be afraid, be frightened, and be filled with dread.  If we really understood the awesome holiness of God, we would be frightened as well as awed.  Consider John’s account of Jesus’ arrest.  “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to Him, went out and asked them, ‘Who is it you want?’ ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ they replied. ‘I am He,’ Jesus said.  When Jesus said ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:4-6-emphasis added) The terminology used here tells us that Jesus’ arresters fell to the ground as if to die; for the weight of Jesus’ deity and holiness was thrown against them in those three words: I am He.” The fear of the Lord will keep us from sinning, because we cannot bear the wrath of a God who is both holy and awesome that will fall on the unrepentant sinner.

What can we do, we who are steeped in sin? Are we doomed forever? Is there hope for us who live under the fear of the Lord?  We look to the cross of Jesus, and here we find love, awesome love, divine love, perfect love.  1 John offers us this hope: “God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in Him.  In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment…There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives our fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”(1 John 4:16-18-emphasis added) Jesus Christ took the full wrath of this God who is both holy and awesome, and gave us love instead – perfect love.  This is why we no longer fear the awesomeness of God, but we regard this awesome One with reverence and awe.  For He has cast our sin from us and bathed us in His blessed and pure, perfect love.

Holy, Awesome Lord God, in love You came and in love You gave, and by Your love I am saved. What more can I say but “thank You.”  Amen.

The King is Coming!

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 thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

 

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”               Acts 1:11

From heaven to earth, to death, life and back to heaven; we have looked at Jesus, God’s Son.  We have one last perspective from which to consider Him, that of the returning King.  Have no doubt: Jesus will come again!  The prophets of old foretold it, Jesus Himself proclaimed it and generations of God’s people have kept their eye on the eastern sky, watching for His glorious return.

In the days following Christ ascension to heaven, the Holy Spirit came and anointed Jesus’ followers, filling them with extraordinary power and boldness to proclaim the Gospel.  And proclaim it they did!  Acts 2:41 says “About three thousand were added to their number that day,” and verse 47 says “The Lord added to their number daily.”  As the number of believers grew, both the Roman government and the Jews began to see these Christians as threats to their positions, and so began the great persecution.  Christians were being oppressed, tormented, tortured and put to death.  They began to run for their lives, and, providentially, spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ as they traveled.  No matter where they went, persecution, oppression and hatred followed at their heels.  Jesus sought out great men of the Christian faith to encourage His followers, men like Peter, James and the writer of much of our Christian Doctrine – Paul.  Oddly, Paul, at one time vehemently hated the Christians, but an encounter with Christ changed his life and his mission, now he was the Lord’s “chosen instrument” (Acts 9:15).

In his first letter to the church he established in Thessalonica, Paul wrote extensively about the second coming of Jesus Christ.  Listen to the passion in his words as he wrote: “The Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). This was great news to the weary and oppressed Christians – and it is good news for you and me.  We may not have enemies literally chasing us from our homes and threatening our lives – though in many non-Christian nations, this is a real threat – but we do have an enemy who is harassing and threatening us, oppressing us and condemning us.  Satan is as real an enemy to you and me as the Romans and Jews were to the early Christians.  The day is very likely coming soon when government and societal oppression and persecution will be a real-life threat for Christians in this nation.

How will we persevere?  The same way they did.  By reminding ourselves of Christ’s promised return.  Paul closed his commentary about the Lord’s coming by saying, “Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thess. 1:18) Jesus has promised to come again, to raise the dead in Christ to life and to call the living to Himself.   He will bring judgment against those who have oppressed and persecuted His people.  He will bestow His glory on those who received Him as Lord and Savior.  This is what Paul meant when he said, “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17).  

When Jesus came in His first Advent, He came as a helpless baby, lived as a humble servant, and died as the suffering Savior.  But when He returns He will come with power and authority, and there will be no doubt that Jesus Christ is LORD.

Hear the words of the Old Testament prophet Zechariah – “The day of the Lord is coming… On that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west.  The Lord will be king over the whole earth.  On that day there will be one Lord, and His name the only name” (Zech. 14:1, 4, 9-emphasis mine).

Hear the glorious words of Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (emphasis mine). This is the hope of the early Christian, and this is our hope today. 

Oh I pray that you know Him as your Lord and Savior.  I pray that the promise of His return fills you with hope and joy and the strength to persevere in this life.  I pray that when the King of kings and Lord of lords returns in all of His great glory, that you will join me in proclaiming,

“My King has come! Oh, praise the name of Jesus! My King is here!”

God of my heart, You have promised to return for me, and Your word is as sure as Your name.  Be my hope and my vision as I wait for that glorious day!  Amen

A Word of Wisdom

“Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.”  1 Kings 3:9

Solomon was known as the wisest ruler in history.   He was the second son of King David and Bathsheba, and though we do not know his chronological age when he took the throne, he described himself to God as “only a little child. (1 Kings 3:7)” Surely after following in the huge footsteps of his father David, Solomon must have been overwhelmed by the responsibility before him.  So when the Lord came to him and said “Ask for whatever you want me to give you,” Solomon made a plea for wisdom.  God granted Solomon’s request in a huge way, “God gave Solomon very great insight and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. (1 Kings 4:29)” Solomon knew that without great wisdom, he could not be the leader that Israel needed.  He also knew there is only one source for true wisdom – the Lord God Almighty.

Humans have desired wisdom since the beginning of creation.  In the account of the first sin, Eve was tempted with the lure of wisdom (Genesis 3:5-6), but it was not the wisdom that God offered to Solomon.  Eve succumbed to the “wisdom” that the Apostle James warned about:  “If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.  Such ‘wisdom’ does not come from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. (James 3:14-15)” You see, when God told Adam that they were not to eat from the tree of “the knowledge of good and evil, (Genesis 2:17)” it was not to keep them from having any intelligent thought; it was to protect them – and us – from the influence of evil.  For God knew that once man was exposed to the concept of evil, we would be consumed by its continual drawing.  The wisdom that the devil and the world offers to us is a selfish, self-seeking, prideful and deceptive wisdom that will always lead us away from God and into the darkness of worldliness and sin.

The wisdom that King Solomon received is also described by James: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:13, 17)” The wisdom from God is a life-giving wisdom.  It fills us with the character of Christ and is the opposite of the false wisdom of the world.  Look at all that this godly wisdom offers to us.  James says we will have understanding – the kind of understanding that will enable us to stand firm in what is right.  Wisdom will be proven by the good life we lead, which means turning ourselves away from sin and wickedness and turning towards what is right, beautiful and excellent.  Humility is always the hallmark of godly wisdom – this humility is shown through the gentleness, kindness and consideration we show to others in Jesus name.  Our hearts and our hands will be pure; and Psalms 119:9 tells us that purity comes from living according to God’s Word (which is one way that He imparts His wisdom to us).

When we read that godly wisdom is peace-loving, we generally think that this is a person who goes to great lengths to establish peace in their relationships, but the original Greek is expressing a personal sense of harmony, tranquility, safety and a lack of strife; it is having freedom from emotional worry and frustration. When godly wisdom is the rule in our lives, we are more apt to make decisions that ensure freedom form worry and frustration.  In essence, we could say this is a person who loves the peaceful life they live.

A gentle, considerate nature and a submissive and compliant attitude will also mark us as people who have been blessed with the wisdom of heaven.  Can you image how your work, home and other relationships will be transformed by these traits?  As we consider the characteristics of mercy and impartiality, we can look again at James words: “Mercy triumphs over judgment! (James 2:13)  Mercy, love and compassion will always have the upper hand over judgment and partiality in the thoughts, words and actions of the godly wise.  James also says that a truly wise person will be sincere.  There is no place for hypocrisy in the life of a Christian; for our Savior Jesus Christ is the Truth of God.  A wise and sincere person does nothing for a prideful show, but rather always turns any honor and glory to Christ.

Do you, like me, desire to be a person filled with godly wisdom?  Then we must go to the same source as King Solomon – we must go to God.  James encourages us to seek wisdom with these words: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.  James 1:5) Our wise King Solomon proclaimed the same truth in Proverbs 9:10: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Surely this was the wisdom that Eve could have enjoyed, if she had trusted and obeyed God rather than seeking wisdom on her own.  This wisdom is available to you and me if we will ask God, trust Him to give us what He has promised and obediently walk in the wisdom and ways of the Lord.  Let’s commit to be wise men and women of God.

Holy Father, I come to you with my hands and heart open wide to receive the wisdom that only You can give. Fill me Lord, that the world my see Your perfect wisdom in me.  Amen.