Advent Day 5 – God With Us

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means ‘God with us’” (Matthew1:23).

God is all about relationship.  He created man for relationship.  Mind you, God didn’t need humans – there was perfect, unbroken fellowship between the Godhead – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  But it is clear throughout the Scriptures that God created mankind to share in a unique and special communion.   From the earliest days of creation, God walked with man in a very intimate way. Genesis 3:8 draws a picture of God enjoying daily fellowship with Adam and Eve. But their sin broke that fellowship they could no longer be with God in that special way.

Though man continued to pursue sin and push farther and farther away from Him, God still desired that fellowship, so much so that He commanded the Israelites “Have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8). Once again, God drew close to His people, dwelling in their midst in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and later the Temple.  But, once again, because of sin and rebellion, God had to distance Himself from His creation.  Ezekiel 10 tells the sad story of the Glory of the Lord departing the Temple. But all is not forever lost.  Ezekiel 11 brings the hope of God’s promise of a new covenant and restored fellowship.

God who is forever faithful fulfilled His promise, and the Hope of the world was born.  John 1:14 says “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.”  God came once again to live among His creation, this time as a flesh and blood man – Jesus.  He came as a baby, born as any other man, yet born with the divine nature of God.  He came to walk among us, to eat with us, and to touch His creation with the literal fingers of God.  And He came to die for us, to forever bridge the distance between God and man.  He came to restore the relationship that sin had broken, He came to be Immanuel – God with us – that we might be with Him – forever.

Read: 1 Kings 8:6-13

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Creation: Fact or Fiction?

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

It’s the simplest truth, taught to the littlest children: God created the whole world. It is the opening statement of the Holy Bible and is foundational to our understanding of who God is, and in turn who we are.  I would like to encourage you to read the first chapter of Genesis before you read any further in this devotional.

Where did the universe come from?  Modern science spins a tale of colliding gasses that somehow formed into a diverse group of planets, stars and galaxies.  Yet out of all those celestial places only one has the exact mix of Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, and Sulfur to sustain life.  Only one is the precise distance from the sun to keep the inhabitants from freezing or burning to death.  Only one produces plant life that can feed both humans and animals.   Can we seriously believe that this delicate balance was achieved by accident?  Faith tells us that God fashioned the earth purposefully for His living creations.  

The Bible says that God created out nothing.  There were no prior elements that He scooped up into His hand and rolled into a ball.  He spoke into the nothingness and the response was immediate obedience.  “Be” . . . light, water, dry ground, plant life, sun, moon and stars, and living creatures.  And they were.

The Genesis account also says that these creative events occurred over six “days.”  A lot of debate centers on those days.  Were they really 24-hour days like we know today?  Were they thousands, even millions of our years long?  Were there long “gaps” between the days?  I’ll not get into the “young-earth/old-earth” debates, because that is not my intent.  The Bible is not written as a science manual; it is written for faith.  And the first act of faith is believing that God exists; the second is believing that the Word that He has given us is true.  The creation verses say that “there was evening and there was morning” – and calls that a “day.”  The Hebrew terminology agrees with that understanding.

Does it really matter though?  Yes it really does, but not for the sake of scientific argument.

I personally believe that this indicates a 24-hour day, but my conviction is based not so much on the descriptive text but on the One who inspired the text.  If I side with the scientific versions – even from a “Christian” perspective – I have said that the very first truths of the Holy Word of God are questionable.  That leaves everything else from Genesis 2 to Revelation 22 open to debate and alteration for the sake of human agreement.  I have heard “Christians” say that Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the Whale, and many other biblical accounts are just myths.  How easy it becomes then to question to truth of the virgin birth of Jesus, His miracles and even His resurrection. Even in the church.  Think I’m stretching too far here?  Go sit through a lecture at a liberal-leaning seminary.  It’s a wonder students are still believers when the graduate.

Mankind has had one of three responses to the biblical account of creation:

Some receive it as truth and accept God as Creator.

Some receive it as a possible truth and add God to their harem of higher powers.

Some outright reject it and deny the power, and often the existence of God.

Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary science admitted that it is “[extremely difficult] or rather [impossible to] conceive this immense and wonderful universe, including man” without being convicted of the existence of God.  Yet he abandoned that “strong conclusion” and devised the evolutionary theory that the world has received as an alternative to the truth.  (Taken from a video lecture by Dr. David DeWitt).  All that he could see around him convinced him of the existence of God, but his arrogance led him to reject God.  His theory has lead millions of human souls away from God and has become entangled in the church’s teaching of creation.

If the Bible is truly the Word of God, then all of it is true and must be received and believed without compromise.  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  Faith starts right here, at the beginning.  Know what you believe and believe what you know – but be certain what you know and believe is the truth.

Father God, Creator and Sustainer of all that is, forgive us for looking to men to explain Your miraculous works.  You created by your word and You wrote it down for us to believe – not to pick apart and debate.  Create in us hearts that believe You above all else.  Amen.

I Believe in God

Know What You Believe; Believe What You Know: 

I Believe in God

“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 (KJV)

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. In my last post, we discussed the concept of worldview, which is the basis from which we determine all things related to God, the universe, life and man.  Your worldview starts with your view of God.

Belief in God is declining in the U.S. In a 1944 Gallup poll 96% of Americans claimed to believe that God exists; in 2016, that figure dropped to 89%.  But is “believing” in God enough?  Not according to the Bible.  One New Testament writer said: “You believe that there is one God.  Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19).  If the demons of hell profess to the existence of God, then there is more to faith than simply saying “Yes, I believe there is a God.”

Our key verse declares that faith believes that God exists, and there are evidences all around to prove His existence.  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.

But the word “exists” holds a deeper meaning in the original Greek than just being; it carries the impression of acceptance, companionship, belonging, involvement.  It means relationship.  To believe in God is not just intellectual assent, though we cannot miss out on that first vital understanding.  Believing in God means investing all I am in a relationship with my Creator.  It means that I am His and He is mine.  That’s the difference between how the demons believe and how faith believes.

I believe in God. This is not just a rote statement I declare, it is the deepest conviction of my heart.

Do you believe in God?

Evolution vs. Creation – What do you Believe?

hires“Although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21)

It’s the simplest truth, taught to the littlest children: God created the whole world. It is the opening statement of the Holy Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  This truth is foundational to our understanding of who God is, and in turn who we are.  Mankind has had one of three responses to the biblical account of creation:

Some receive it as truth and accept God as Creator.

Some receive it as a possible truth and add God to their harem of higher powers.

Some outright reject it and deny the power, and often the existence of God.

The Bible calls those who reject the truth godless and wicked because there is proof of God in every tree, flower, mountain, and star and even in their mirror every morning. (Romans 1:18-20).  From the highest heavens that man can see with a telescope to the smallest micro-cellular level of life, God’s fingerprint is clearly visible.  You really have to stretch to deny creation by God.  There’s too much evidence in favor of intelligent design and an intelligent Designer.

Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary science admitted that it is “[extremely difficult] or rather [impossible to] conceive this immense and wonderful universe, including man” without being convicted of the existence of God.  He said he felt “compelled to look to a First Cause” and as such even desired to be called a Theist (one who believes in God).  Yet he abandoned that “strong conclusion” and devised the evolutionary theory that the world has received as an alternative to the truth.  (Taken from a video lecture by Dr. David DeWitt).  All that he could see around him convinced him of the existence of God, but his arrogance led him to reject God and “suppress the truth by [his] wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain  . . . because God has made it plain” (Romans 1:18-19).  His theory has lead millions of human souls away from God.

You and I chose what we believe.  Are you making the right choice?

Separation

shut-doors

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”                (Matthew 27:51).

I recently started reading the Bible again from the very beginning. I’ve read it through many times, and with each reading I gain some new understanding or insight.  This time it came in the very first chapter.  In the Genesis account of creation one thing stood out to me: separation.   Over and over, the author of Genesis either used the word separate specifically or by implication.

He separated the light from the darkness (v. 4).

He separated the waters above from the waters beneath (v. 7).

He separated the land from the seas (v. 9).

He separated the day from the night (v. 14)

He created plant life and animals: birds, sea creatures, livestock, wild animals, even reptiles according to their kinds – an implication of separation (vv. 21, 24, 25).

Then He created man – after His own image, separated from all the other life forms (v. 27).

From the very first day of creation, God established this principle of separation.  He maintained this principle consistently.  When Adam and Eve chose to sin, He separated them from their perfect home—and from Himself.  He called Abraham to separate himself from his ancestral home and practices (Gen. 12:1).  Then He commanded the people of Israel to remain separated from the nations around them (Ex. 34:10-17; Deut. 7:1-11).  And most significantly, when giving Moses the directions for the Tabernacle, He commanded that a curtain would shield the Ark of the Covenant—separating the people from God.  When King Solomon built the temple in Jerusalem, a curtain again stood between God and man.

For centuries the Hebrew people were required to keep distance between themselves and God’s presence.  Only the high priest could enter, only once per year, and only by way of a blood sacrifice.  No common person dared draw near.

Until that dark Friday afternoon.

Until the day Jesus died.

Jesus – the God-man – hung on a cross bearing the sin and condemnation for every human that ever lived.  He took your sin and mine upon His own shoulders.  He bore the weight of His Father’s rejection, crying out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Matt. 15:34). Jesus was now separated from His Father.  And as death begin to crush the life out of Him, an unseen hand reached down from heaven, into the Temple, and tore the tall, heavy curtain in two – from the top down (Matt. 27:51).  The perfect blood sacrifice had been given and man was no longer separated from his Creator.

Jesus’ death closed the chasm that stood between us and God.  We no longer have to stand apart from His holiness because Christ’s blood makes us holy.  We are free to enter into God’s presence through the sacrifice of the His one and only Son.  Paul confirms that we have been reconciled to God in his great doxology:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution

or famine or nakedness or danger or sword. I am convinced that neither death nor life,

neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,

neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation

will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”

(Romans 8:35, 37-39).

God began creation by separation, and for centuries He maintained a distance between Himself and man.  But through the blood of Jesus, God threw the barriers aside and He now invites us to “draw near” and to “approach the throne of grace” (James 10:22; 4:16).  When He tore the curtain God said, “No more separation.”  He declared “You are welcomed into My presence.”  We are no longer sinful creatures on the outside looking in; we are dearly loved children of the King of the Universe.

Holy Father, it staggers my mind to think that I can draw near to You.  I am in awe that You made it possible through the death of Your Son.  Now nothing stands between You and me, not a curtain, not a power, not anything in creation—not even my sin—because of Jesus.  Thank You Lord for loving me so much!  Amen.

Life by Design

baby_in_wombFor in Him we live and move and have our being  (Acts 17:28).

 I recently completed a Biology course in my seminary studies.  I approached this course with trepidation and a bit of frustration.  What does biology have to do with my major, which is Theology and Biblical Studies?    I’m training to tell others about God, not about the Venus Fly-Trap.  But this course is necessary to complete my degree (I had no previous college credits), so I did it, but only because I had to.  (Doesn’t that sound like a kid being told to apologize to his sister?)  I still don’t love biology, but I have a new appreciation for it and how it really does fit into theology and tells us wonderful things about God.

The Bible tells us that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) and “God created man” (Genesis 1:27).  Those verses have become the most debated statements in human history, with fewer than half of Americans holding the Bible’s claims as true.  A 2012 Gallop poll found that only 46% of Americans believe that God created humans in their complete form.  32% believe God guided the evolutionary process to man’s finished state, and 15% dismiss any concept of God’s involvement in human existence at all.[1]  In recent years, that minority have become more vocal and forceful in refuting the Bible’s claim about creation or the existence of God.

The apostle Paul says “What may be know about God is plain, because God has made it plain; 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” (Romans 1:19-20).  Psalm 19:1 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  God has left a witness of Himself in the heavens and on earth – the stars, the moon, and the sun, trees and birds and the animals—all of creation, from the vast and mighty mountains—to delicate, tiny flowers speak to us of a Creator.  Yet the unbeliever has reduced the work of His hands to evolutionary processes over millions of years in an effort to deny what nature is singing and shouting: “Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:4).

The most miraculous of all God’s creation stares back at you from the mirror every morning.  YOU are a living, breathing testament of God’s existence and power.  You are the image bearer of God, created by Him to bring Him glory.  In his message to the Athenians, Paul said, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth . . . He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:24, 25).  Again, the unbelievers reject this word and instead reason that life happened by accident, as parasitic bacteria randomly divided and morphed into molecules and cells and genes and organs and brains and arms and legs.  This is where my biology course became a theology course.

Within every living being, whether plants or animals or humans, molecules and cells and genes, each with its own properties and purpose, are working diligently according to their individual design—one small part of the whole.  If one part fails to do its job, the entire cell function is thrown off.  The cells of a human being are a “factory,” producing everything the body needs to survive and function.  From the connectedness of our organs, skin, bones, muscles, and brain to the delicate intricacy of our DNA, the human body shouts of a Creator.  The beautiful dance of micro-organisms in your body, the transcribing of your DNA while you read this words, even your body’s response to drinking a glass of milk, are a wonder to behold.  And if you need any further proof of God as the Designer of life, study the stages of procreation – of how a baby comes into being.  This is no random colliding of cells, this is Design at its finest!

God fashioned all of nature, to the deepest micro-cellular level, with incredible intricacy and detail, with beauty and function that could never happen by “accident.”  If man tries to deny the Creator who is responsible for all he sees in the universe, he needs only look at creation from the cellular level to see an Intelligent Being at work.  The deeper we go in studying the biological make up of life, the more we see God.  This is not without a purpose; Paul said to the Athenians, God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17: 27).  The great theologian F. B. Meyer says, “God knows just where to find us, and in turn provides all we need to find and worship him.”[2]  God knows that man will deny Him and work to disprove Him, so the deeper man goes the more evidence he will find of a Designer.  Likewise, the farther out in space man goes, the more evidence he will find of the Creator.  It must be so frustrating to those who want to doubt God’s existence.

My friend, despite what the world says, you are no random accident of colliding parasites and micro-organisms.  God created you and signed His name deep within you, so that you will know without a doubt that you were fashioned by His hands.  He created you with intention and purpose—the greatest purpose of all—that you might know Him and love Him, because He knows and loves you.  God, the Creator of the Universe, has made Himself evident in the stars and in the cells of your body.  Get to know Him; He has more wonders to show you than you’ve ever dreamed.

Holy Father, You are the Designer and Creator of all that exists, including me.  You fashioned me with Your own hands and stamped Your name deep within me.  How can I ever deny You? No, I give you shouts of praise and bow in worship before You, Elohim—the God of Creation.  Amen.

[1] “In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human Origins” http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/Hold-Creationist-View-Human-Origins.aspx

 

[2] F. B. Meyer; Bruce H. Wikinson, Calvin W. Edwards, Paula Kirk, Eds., “January 2 Devotional” Closer Walk New Testament: New International Version, (Atlanta, Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, Inc., 1990) 8.

A Light in the Darkness

LightInDarknessGod is light; in Him there is not darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).

It is only a brief memory, when the sky went black as night in the middle of the day. I was in school when the intercom in the classroom crackled to life and the principal’s calm but strained voice came through. Everyone was to immediately get into the interior hallways and sit against the wall with our heads tucked between our knees, arms covering the back of our necks. This was no drill – this was the real thing. As we trooped out of our classroom we saw through the windows – nothing. Blackness wrapped around our school as if someone had thrown a heavy blanket over the whole building. Several of us began to cry as our teacher tried her best to put on a brave face. We knew something very bad was happening – it wasn’t supposed to be dark in the middle of the day. Several tornadoes were reported in the area that day. Eventually the weather passed and we were relieved to see light coming in through the windows again. We even spotted a rainbow in the rain-washed sky.

What a blessing when light replaces darkness – in the sky and in our lives.

The name of God that reflects His character and His first act of creation is Yahweh Ori – the Lord my Light. Genesis tells us that “in the beginning . . . the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep” (Gen. 1:1, 2). The first thing God did was “turn on the lights.” Genesis 1:3 tells us “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” Interestingly, this was not the day God created the sun, moon and stars – that occurred on the fourth day of creation. No this light was called forth “from a fixed source outside the earth,”[1] The light came from God Himself.

What is light? Light can only be described as a contrast to darkness. In both Genesis 1:4 and 1:18, when God created the sun, moon and stars, the Bible says the light was created “to separate the light from the darkness.” They are two polar opposites – darkness is nothing but the absence of light. There was nothing, utter darkness – then God emanated light from Himself and that light dispelled the darkness.

Darkness happens every day when the sun sets; it happens when the skies turn black with a storm’s fury. Darkness happens in the world when evil and wickedness rule over men. That is why God sent “the true light that gives light to every man” (John 19) – His Son Jesus Christ. The hearts of men are darkened by sin, so Jesus came as “the Light of the world’ and He promised that “whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). The light that Jesus offers is a powerful light that nothing can extinguish. John 1:5 declares “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” Jesus quoted Isaiah 9:2 when He said of Himself “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16). Consider this – when Jesus died on the cross, Luke 23:44 tells us that “darkness came over the whole land.” For several hours the darkness was like that blanket that seemed to wrap around my school – total blackness – the evidence of the death of the Light of the World. But on resurrection morning, Jesus burst forth from the grave and the Light of Life broke the grip of darkness over the hearts of men. Jesus is the Light and He brings Light to the darkness of the world.

Darkness also occurs when our hearts and minds are gripped with sadness, grief, hurt, anger, bitterness or despair. This is darkness within our spirit and Yahweh Ori brings His light to bear in our sufferings too. David said in Psalm 139 “If I make my bed in the depths . . . if I say surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you” (vs. 8, 11-12) When your circumstances are shrouded in darkness, when grief shakes your soul to the core, when defeat and discouragement threaten to snuff out the last rays of light in your life, you can be assured that God stands ready to bring His Light to your heart. His light encourages and strengthens us to take the next step, to get up the next morning, to draw the next breath. David also said “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light” (Ps 18:28).

Jesus also tells us that when His Light shines in our lives, we become “the light of the world” (Matt 5:14). We are bearers of His light and we have the power to shatter the darkness in the world around us. We live in His light and our lives shine that others may see. When we walk in the light of Christ we are “children of the light and children of the day” and we “shine like stars in the universe” (1 Thessalonians 5:5; Philippians 2:15). That is the kind of influence I want to have – to bring the light of love and truth into the darkness of sin and suffering.

As the creation account in Genesis shows us that God brought light into the darkness of the universe, Revelation tells us that there will be no source of light other than God and Jesus in heaven. “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Rev. 21:23). There will be no darkness, because the eternal light of the Lord will be always shining. Where there is Light, no darkness is found.

Perhaps today it is dark in your world, there may be gathering storm clouds that no one else sees but you. Maybe you have given darkness a foothold in your life through a sin that has you hiding from the light. You might be experiencing the darkness of sorrow or disappointment or hurt. Whatever the cause, know that when you invite in the Light of the World the darkness is overcome by the brightness of God’s love and goodness.

In the dark of night, in the dark night of the soul, in the darkness of evil in this world Yahweh Ori – The Lord my Light shatters darkness and illumines every shadowy corner.

Yahweh Ori – You are my Light and my salvation (Ps 27:1), You gave me eternal light when You saved me and You give me light in the dark times in my life. With You as the Light of my life I will never be overcome by the darkness.   Amen.

 

[1] John J. Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis, (Salem, Sheffield, 1975), 49.

What He Sees in Me

“What is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:4

This is a personal testimony, and I share it because I believe with all my heart and soul that is true for every person. Please prayerfully read it and let God speak to your own heart.

I’ve always believed there was nothing good in me, nothing of value. That’s been a persistent feeling for most of my life.   The thought comes to me and I just accept it and agree with it and take it as part and parcel of my identity. Recently, that same old impression came to me – “There is nothing good in me – nothing worth redeeming.” Then came the thought, “No – that’s not entirely true.” So I went to God in prayer and posed a question. “God what is the truth here? You saved me through the cross of Christ – but why? What did you see in me worth redeeming?”

I wondered, is it some innate gift or talent He’d given me? I’m a pretty good writer and teacher – maybe that is what He saw. I’m generous and loyal (sometimes too loyal) and helpful – those are good qualities worth redeeming.   I have a heart for God and His Word – that has to mean something. But I knew that all these were not the answer. And then God painted a scene in my heart that was a true revelation to me.

Go with me, back to the beginning to Genesis and creation.

Genesis 1 tells the story of the creation of the universe, the heavens and the earth, plants and animals and God’s premier creation: man. Please take a moment and read Genesis 1:26-27. Both verses record the creation of man in the image of God, the Imago Dei. What does that mean?

Without trying to delve into much deep theological theory, the creation of man in the image of God can be understood as a certain essence of God imbued in man at the time of creation. “The image is something in the very nature of humans, in the way in which we were made. It refers to something we are rather than something we have or do.”[1] “The image of God is what makes us human”[2] Humans are created as body, soul and spirit.[3] It is within this trichotomy that we bear the image of God. How it works, I cannot tell you – theologians and scholars have debated it for centuries, but the Bible says that it is part of every human.  Consider Deuteronomy 6:5 which says: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart [spirit] and with all your soul and with all your strength [body].” We share a body – a physical shell – with all creation. The body houses the soul – the seat of reason and emotion. But what truly sets us apart from all other creation is the spirit – the part that enables us to commune with God – it is somewhere in the realm of the spirit that the most distinctive image of God is found.  However, while the Scriptures tell us that we are made in God’s image “there are no direct statements in Scripture to resolve the issue.”[4] This is one of God’s mysteries and we can only accept it and rejoice in it, for this image is what God sees in man that calls out to His heart for redemption.

God saw His image – the Imago Dei in me, and that was worth saving.   So He pursued me – me, who’s never been pursued in her life – and drew me to His Son. He saved me through the cross of redemption, through the blood of His Son and in saving me He imparted His Spirit to me, [5] and His Spirit brought my spirit to life. [6] He brought Image and Spirit together to create a perfected being – perfected, meaning completed, as Hebrews 10:14 says – “by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”  (Perfect – teleioo – to perfect, complete, finish, to reach a goal, be fulfilled, made complete.)  He restored me to God’s original design – complete in Image and Spirit.

Now God sees in me His completed design. He does not see my faults and failings, my shortcomings, my weight, anxieties, character flaws, temper or  impurities – because of Jesus – He no longer sees my sin. He does not see this worthless perspective I’ve always held of myself.  He sees a completed, beautiful and whole person. I don’t know what that means to you, but it means the world to me. In Christ I am made complete.

Ah, but that’s not all there is! There is coming a day – a grand and glorious day – in the resurrection when I will receive my spiritual body,[7] and the total transformation is gloriously accomplished and I will be fully perfected – body, soul and spirit.

This can be your testimony too. You were made in the image of God and the redemption of Jesus Christ is available to you – just receive this wonderful gift – it is given freely. Will you be complete in Christ?

Holy Father, I don’t pretend to understand all of this with perfect knowledge, You left it a mystery. But one thing I know – “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing” (Psalm 16:2). But with You I have everything-I am made complete!

A word of thanks to Rev. Michael Shockley for his theological assistance.  Love you “Dad!”

[1] Millard Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 2nd Edition, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 176.

[2] Gerhard von Rand as quoted by Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 171.

[3] See 1 Thessalonians 5:23

[4] Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 175.

[5] See Luke 11:13, John 7:39, Romans 8:16, 1 Corinthians 3:16,

[6] See John 6:63, 1 Corinthians 6:17

[7] 1 Corinthians 15:35-54

The Greatest Story Ever Told

There is no one like the God of Jeshurun (Israel), who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in His majesty.” Deuteronomy 33:26

I grew up on fairy tales and stories of damsels in distress and spent much of my early life dreaming of my knight in shining armor. It’s such a romantic thought. I would be kidnapped and held captive by someone who was just mean and evil and wanted to defeat everything good. My situation would be so dire, but then, here would come my beloved hero, to defeat the enemy and rescue me. I would be swept up on his white stallion and we would ride off – of course into the sunset – to begin our “happily-ever-after” life together. Even as I grew older and left fairy tales behind, I still looked for that one guy who would right all the wrongs and make everything wonderful. I figured out that, no matter how wonderful he is, no man will every measure up to that expectation.

That is until I met the One Man who did. No, it’s not my husband, though he is a great guy. My beloved hero is Jesus Christ. And the scenario is not just my fantasy fairy tale; it’s really true, for me and for you. It’s true for every person that lives today, that ever lived, and that is yet to live.

There really is someone who is completely evil. His name is Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub, and he is the enemy of the One who is pure and good – God, the Heavenly Father. God created a perfect world (Genesis 1:1) and then perfectly created two beings in His image: man and woman – we know them as Adam and Eve (Genesis 2:7). Satan slid his way into this perfect place and took them captive to sin, and because of sin, to death (Genesis 3:1-6). This curse of death and sin has been passed down to every human being (Romans 5:12). We are all held against our will by Satan. You may find that strange given how humanity has chosen sin for thousands of years, but our true will – the soul which God placed in man at creation – longs for Him. But our feet are in the stocks, even as we roam the earth, bound by the enemy of God. Why us? Why does Satan attack man? Because we are God’s beloved creation, made in His image, and what God loves, Satan hates.

How it moved God’s great heart with compassion, to see us, His beloved creation bound in chains of sin and unable to rescue ourselves. So He sent us a Hero, a Knight in shining armor. He sent us a Savior, His own and only Son. In what is only a God-miracle, He set His glory aside and poured His divinity into a mortal shell. The perfect Son of God became the perfect Man, Jesus. He came, not on a great steed, but in a young woman’s womb. He came, not to brandish a sword and kill a mortal enemy, but to carry a cross up a hill and crush the head of the enemy of our souls (Genesis 3:15). He came to take on every sin of every person in every age – He came to bear your sin and mine (Romans 6:10). He suffered. He bled. He died a cruel and torturous death for one reason: because He loves you and me. He came to set us free.

He came to give us life –the life we were created for, before Satan and sin took us captive. This life is ours once again, because Jesus did not stay in the grave. God raised Him from the dead, and He is alive today (Ephesians 1:20). His death set us free from the curse of sin (Romans 8:1-2). His resurrection gives us life, eternal life, forever life (1 John 5:11). That “happy-ever-after”? It is a promise, not a fairy tale. Heaven awaits, the place of pure perfection, our forever home (John 14:2). One day, Jesus will come again to earth. He will come to finish the battle of good vs. evil. He will bring His enemy, our enemy, to his final destruction. And guess how He will come? Yep, on a white horse (Revelation 19:11). He will come as the Rider who is Faithful and True – the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And He will right every wrong, and put an end forever to evil.

This is not just a great fairy tale, though the world tries to claim it is. This is the true reality. This is the over-arching picture of God’s plan. He created us. He loves us. He saw us captive to sin and death and evil, and He sent His own Son to rescue us. I hope this is real for you. I hope you have received this gift of freedom and life that God has offered to you. For those without Jesus, the final fate of Satan in their eternal fate as well. The promise of forgiveness and redemption and eternal life is only for those who have received Jesus Christ as their Savior. If you do not know Jesus, please examine the evidence in the Scriptures I’ve highlighted. Ask Him to show you the truth. And pray the prayer at the close of this devotional. Please let me know if you do. I want to rejoice with you. If you already know Jesus, pray a word of thanks for what He has done for you.

This is real life. This is the only question that matters: What will you do with Jesus?

Dear God, I know that I am held captive by sin and my fate is death. I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ, died to set me free from sin and death. I receive this wonderful freedom and the promise of eternal life. Thank you God, for saving me. Teach me to love you and walk in Your ways all my days. Amen.

Hope in the Darkness

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”  Isaiah 9:2

When do we most need hope?  In the darkness, in the season of pain and heartache and despair.  When it is hardest to find.  Our 3rd day of this Advent series focuses on the hope we must have to survive those seasons of darkness.  The hope in the promise of the Light of Jesus Christ.

I recall a trip to the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, and a room deep within the caverns where the park guide turned out all the artificial lights – the room was plunged into total darkness.  For a moment I was overcome by a sense of despair and fear.  In that pitch black darkness I lost all orientation, had no idea where the exit was, or where anyone else was.  If my friend had not grabbed my hand, I would have thought myself completely alone.

There are seasons of our life that are like that cave adventure, when it seems that we are lost in a deep, black darkness.  We are overwhelmed with despair, confused and disoriented-not knowing where to turn or how to escape, and we feel completely and utterly alone.  I know this one well.  I walked out of that cave in the park, but years later fell into a pit of emotional and spiritual utter darkness that lasted nearly two years.  Yet God brought me through.

While we stood in the darkness inside that cave, the guide lit one small match.  With that single flickering flame, the darkness was overcome.  In my season of darkness God kept one small flame flickering for me – His Word, and in the Scriptures I found the promise of light.

You see darkness is the absence of light – but where there is even the smallest light, darkness has lost its power.

From the first day of creation, God determined that light should overcome darkness: “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  God saw that the light was good and He separated the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:3-4).  He created the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day “to separate light from darkness” (v. 18).

Adam and Eve plunged this world in to the darkness of sin, and so we are disoriented in spiritual darkness.  Rather than the sun and moon and stars, we walk in the distorted light of the world.  And so God sent His Son, Jesus to be “the Light of the world” (John 8:12).  His light overcame the darkness of sin and evil; and His light can overcome the darkness and despair of living in this world with all its struggles and heartaches and pain.

Paul wrote “God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).  This Advent season, as you enjoy the lights of Christmas, let the light of the Christ Child come in and dispel the darkness.  Live in the Light of Jesus Christ.

Holy Father, You have declared through your Son that “darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).  Let Your wonderful light shine in and through me Jesus – not only at Christmas, but all the days of my life.  Amen.