The God who Restores

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I saw something very cool this morning as I was reading in Revelation. “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (2:7). Do you recall the last time we saw the tree of life? It was way back in Genesis, chapter 3 to be exact. After the fall of Adam and Eve, God banished them from the Garden of Eden and said “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (3:22). Because they knew evil (notice the passage said they knew good and evil, but not good from evil) it would be a cruel thing to allow them to live forever with that burden.

Yet the Revelation verse shows that man is restored to all the good things God created for him to enjoy. The bounty of His blessing, the delight of His presence, and the promise of eternal life.

God restores. It is His nature to restore things that are broken. And not only in heaven but also here and now. I have seen broken marriages restored. Broken dreams reignited. Broke relationships knitted back together. Broken minds healed. Broken lives renewed. And broken hearts made whole. He is Elyshib – the God who restores. And He is working to restore you.

Is God Still Speaking?

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Sometimes God gives us exactly what we ask for. Amos was not a “professional” prophet, but he faithfully opened his mouth and spoke for Almighty God. He chastised Israel for turning away from God’s Law and disregarding and oppressing the poor. He called out those who were “complacent,” who lived in excess and ease and had no compassion for the downtrodden. Amos extended God’s hand of peace and life in calling for the people to repent and seek Him.

But they wanted no part of God – no wait, that’s not quite true. They wanted His blessing and favor. They didn’t want repentance and obedience. They rejected the word of the Lord and “commanded the prophets not to prophesy” (2:12) saying, “Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the house of Isaac” (7:16). They told Amos to shut up. But they were really telling God to shut up because Amos was speaking the very words of the Lord. And so He did. “‘The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign Lord, ‘when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of God” (8:11). That is terrifying. Back in Deuteronomy Moses told the people of God “[These] are not just idle words for you – they are your life” (Deut. 32:47). A famine of the words of God was life-threatening. The people of God were taken captive for seventy years, and when they were graciously allowed to return home, God was silent. They had told Him to shut up and he gave them exactly what they demanded. For four hundred years.

The Word of the Lord has been stripped from almost every public place in America. God’s people have been told to stop proclaiming God’s Word. Not just in the public square, but even in God’s own house. (No, really. Google “Governor demands to review Pastor’s sermons.”) If you speak up for truth, you will be told to sit down and shut up.

Thankfully, God did not stay silent forever. John tells us that God once again sent His Word to His people, not through prophets, but in His Son, Jesus Christ, who is “The Word made flesh” (John 1:1, 14). He still speaks and His message is this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Oh, hear the Word of the Lord. He is speaking to you, Beloved.

Look Up!

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War. Poverty. Unrest. Disease. Hate. Violence. Shutdowns. Layoffs. Recession. Politics. Confusion. Facemasks. Distance. Disorder. Death. Sadness. Fear. Anger. And that’s just the first half of the year. It’s no wonder we are weary. I want so much to encourage you Beloved. There’s only one thing I know that will.

Jesus is coming again!

We’re not the only generation who needed encouragement. As the church took root and grew, the Roman government and the Jews began to persecute Christians. They oppressed, tormented, tortured, and put them to death.

How did they endure? With the promise of Christ’s return.

Listen to Paul: “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.

How will you and I persevere?  The same way they did.  By reminding ourselves of Christ’s promised return.  Paul closed his passionate message by saying, “Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thess. 1:18).

What words? Jesus is coming again!

The prophets of old foretold it, Jesus Himself proclaimed it, and for two thousand plus years, God’s people have kept their eye on the eastern sky, watching for His glorious return. I pray that the promise of His return fills you with hope and Joy and strength to persevere in life – and in this crazy year.

Beloved, Jesus is coming again!

The Face in the Mirror

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“He has taken me to the banquet hall and his banner over me is love” (Song of Songs 2:4). 
As we settled into our home, we started hanging pictures.  My husband spotted a mirror I had set aside and asked me where I wanted to hang it.  I said, “Nowhere that I can see my reflection – I don’t like looking at myself.”  When I look in the mirror I see age and weight and baggy eyes.  I see dark circles and wrinkles, many brought on by anxious moments and sleepless nights.  These are on the surface, but their roots go deep and remind me of the mistakes I’ve made and the sins I’ve committed, the things I did that I wish I hadn’t done, and the things I didn’t do that I wish I had.  I identify myself by my failures and faults, and I imagine that God does too.  I know I’m not the only one.  I read your posts and hear your hearts.
But here’s what the Lord spoke to me recently: “Satan has convinced you that you wear your mistakes, your past, your failures and sins like a banner across your chest and that I am judging you by that banner, but he is a liar. The only banner I see when I look at you is my banner of love.”   That banner is the blood-red flag of mercy hanging from the top of the cross.  And Jesus stands with us before the Father saying “This is my beloved – isn’t she beautiful!”
All my wrinkles and bags and extra pounds are still there, but because of Jesus Christ, the only thing that shows in heaven’s mirror is God’s redeeming love.  Beloved, that’s the truth about the reflection in your mirror too.

The Truth About Love

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“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (2:15-16).
The heart and soul of true love is the love of God. This is perfect love (1 John 4:18). And it is nothing like the “love” this -world desires. In our culture today, “love” means “anything goes.” Love, in the modern sense, is unrestrained permissiveness. If I claim to love you, I should never stand in the way of you fulfilling your desires. But what if I know that your desires are self-destructive. Should I, in “love,” allow my granddaughter to play with the phone charger? That’s her little heart’s desire. Or should I keep her from something that can hurt her? Shouldn’t I also care about someone blindly following the whims of this sin-sick world into self-destruction?
Today, eros “love” – sensual love – has taken hold of the culture. “Love” has become anything that satisfies the flesh, no matter how perverse or damaging. And responding in “love” means we affirm and applaud this twisted version of love. But that is not love. The truest expression of real love was at the cross: “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loves all humankind, and He knows that sin is not in our best interest, but salvation is. He acted out of perfect love to provide what we needed most.
What this culture calls “love” is often nothing more than self-indulgence. Real love is holy love. And because He is the definition of love, anything outside of God is not love. Friend, it is time for us to speak the truth in love about love.