Sunday, July 29, 2018

burning bush, burning hearts

artwork by Krista Hamrick

As I pondered Krista Hamrick’s beautiful artwork, which she titled, The Bible is our Burning Bush, I immediately thought of the two disciples who met the risen Christ on the road to Emmaus and they said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” This led me to a word study of the word heart, and a study of Luke 24:13-35
The word heart, kardia, does not refer to the physical organ, but is always used figuratively in Scripture to refer to the seat and center of human life. The heart is the center of the personality, and it controls the intellect, emotions, and will. Kardia gives us medical terms such as cardiac, cardiovascular, etc. Just as the integrity of our physical heart is vital to our physical life, in a similar and even more important way the integrity of our spiritual heart is vital to our spiritual life, for our spiritual life impacts not just our enjoyment of time, but of eternity. While kardia does represent the inner person, the seat of motives and attitudes, the center of personality, in Scripture it represents much more than emotion, feelings. It also includes the thinking process and particularly the will. The heart is the control center of mind and will, as well as emotion. The Scottish writer John Eadie writes, “The “heart” belongs to the “inner man,” is the organ of perception as well as of emotion; the center of spiritual as it is physically of animal life.” Biblical scholar W.E. Vine writes that kardia “came to denote man’s entire mental and moral activities, and to stand figuratively for the hidden springs of the personal life, and so here signifies the seat of thought and feeling.”

In Beginning with Moses: Christ in All the Scriptures, Pastor Steven J. Lawson writes: “The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God. Although it consists of a collection of sixty-six writings by multiple authors spanning hundreds of years, it is one book with one message of salvation. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible reveals how God saves sinners through His one and only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The entire Bible is about the Lord Jesus Christ. The Old Testament says He’s coming. The Gospels say He’s here. The book of Acts proclaim Him. The epistles explain Him. And Revelation says He’s coming again. That’s the Bible in a nutshell. The very first verse of the Bible, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” — we know that that is the Lord Jesus Christ who was God’s agent in creation. John 1, verse 3 says, “Everything that has come into being has been created by Christ,” and Colossians 1:16 says that “all things are from Him and by Him and for Him.” And then the last verse in the Bible, Revelation 22 and verse 21: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” That’s the bookends around the entire Bible. And so the whole Bible is a “Him” book. It’s all about Him, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 24:13-35 This is the passage that you’re familiar with — the road to Emmaus — and beginning in verse 13, we read “and behold two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem.” The setting is the very day of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. These two disciples on the road to Emmaus do not know. They’ve heard reports that Christ’s body is missing and that He’s been raised, and they are now leaving town. And as they are leaving town, they go back home to Emmaus. No doubt they are dejected. In fact, we’ll find out later they are very downcast and sad because this One, in whom they have put their hope, things didn’t turn out the way that they thought they were going to turn out. They thought He was going to redeem Israel and establish the Messianic rule, and it didn’t happen. Emmaus is seven miles — that’s important — seven miles northwest of Jerusalem.

Verse 14 — “And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place.” And that refers to the last week of our Lord’s life, and the trials, and the crucifixion, and His burial. And these two men are just engaged in this conversation. They’re trying to sort it out in their own mind. “What did we miss? What, what went wrong? What did we not grasp?”

Verse 15 — “While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them.” The next verse tells us they don’t have a clue that this is Jesus!

Verse 16 — “Their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, ‘What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?’” He’s trying to elicit a response from them.

Verse 17 — “And they stood still.” They just came to a standstill. They are in shock, and it says they were looking “sad.”

Verse 18 — One of them named Cleopas — answered and said to Him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” In other words, “Where on earth have you been!? Everyone knows what just happened!”

Verse 19 — “And He said to them, ‘What things?’” “And they said to Him, ‘The things about Jesus the Nazarene who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how our chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.’”

Verse 25 — Jesus says, “‘Oh foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?’ Then, beginning with Moses” — who wrote the first five books in the Bible — “and with all the prophets” — that would refer to the rest of the Old Testament canon of Scripture — “He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.”

Would you not have loved to have been a part of that small group Bible study? Just think about this: this is Jesus teaching on Jesus. That’s as good as it gets. He is the greatest expositor who ever walked the earth teaching on the greatest subject that there is in the universe! This is the living Word expounding the written Word. This is Jesus preaching on Jesus!

Where did He take them? It’s very clear that He sees Himself to be the central theme of all the Scripture. Here we see the primacy and the centrality of the Lord Jesus Christ! See the perfect unity of Scripture. Jesus here lays a very firm foundation. In verse 25, he talks about “Why are you so slow to believe,” note, “all that the prophets have spoken?” You see, Jesus understood that all of the prophets have spoken with one voice; that they have never contradicted themselves; that, as the prophets have spoken, and as it is recorded in the Scripture, that there is perfect unity and perfect harmony. No one prophet contradicts another prophet. They speak one message, one truth.

Verse 27  “Then, beginning with Moses,” who wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, “and with all of the prophets” — that would be from, what is in our Bible, from Joshua to Malachi, the entirety of all 39 books of of the Old Testament — “He explained to them the things concerning Himself,” note, “in all the Scriptures.” What the prophets spoke in verse 25 is what is recorded in the Scriptures in verse 27. The word “Scriptures” simply means “the writings.” It comes from the Greek word graphe which we use “graphics” in the English language. Jesus is referring here to the written Word of God. Jesus is asserting the perfect unity of the Scripture, from Moses to Malachi.

Here we see the perfect unity in the Old Testament, as affirmed by our Lord, that there is only one origin of the world. There is only one entrance of sin and death into the human race. There is only one diagnosis of man’s problem. There is only one way of salvation, and there is one standard of morality. There is one design for the family. There is one flow of human history. There is one end of the age. There is one final judgment. There is one final, eternal state. It is all taught with comprehensive, yet perfect precision in the books of the Old Testament. They looked forward to the coming of Christ just as we look back to the coming of Christ. But anytime anywhere anyone has ever been converted and brought into the kingdom of God, it is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. So that is the perfect unity of the Scriptures. Jesus now states that He Himself is the master theme of the entire Scripture. So He says, in verse 25, “Oh foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” Well, what were they to believe? The next verse opens it up, and Jesus said, “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” There are three key words in verse 26: “necessary,” “suffer,” and “glory.” And Jesus is explaining to them that it was absolutely necessary that Jesus would suffer first before He would enter into His glory.

Verse 27 — “Then, beginning with Moses and with all the prophets” — and with that statement, Jesus is putting His arms around the entirety of the Old Testament — “He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” He understood that the overarching master theme of the entire Old Testament is the Person and work of Christ. As we come to the Old Testament, we are not surprised that Jesus would make such an expansive statement as this: that, beginning with Moses and with all of the prophets, they testify of Him, and that He explained Himself in all of the Scripture.

The road to Emmaus, verse 13 tells us, was seven miles. The average person walks one mile in 17 minutes. The total walk would’ve been 119 minutes, which is less than two hours.

Verse 26 — “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into glory?” It was necessary for Him to suffer and necessary for Him to enter into glory because the Old Testament had prophesied of these things. “And the grass withers and the flower fades away, but the Word of our God abides forever,” and everything that was recorded in the Old Testament of the prophecies of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was necessary that they would be fulfilled with great precision. Now Jesus, according to verse 26, addressed those portions of the Old Testament that foretold and foreshadowed that it was necessary for Him to suffer. That was the part that they had missed. That was the part even the disciples missed. They saw only the glory. They did not see the groanings and the crucifixion. And so Jesus now must correct their misunderstanding that, before He would enter into His glory, the Old Testament stated again, and again, and again, that He must suffer. And His suffering is inclusive in His sin-bearing, substitutionary death upon Calvary’s cross.

Where in the Old Testament do we find the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ? It begins in Genesis 3 and verse 15 — the protoeuongelion, the first mention of the gospel. God Himself is the preacher in the garden, and the congregation is the Devil, the serpent. God proclaims that the heel of the seed of the woman must be bruised, but He will crush the head of the serpent. He will be bruised, and He will suffer, but He will recover from that suffering, even in that is a foreshadowing of the Resurrection. Then there was the animal in the garden that must be slain and be skinned in order to clothe Adam and Eve, and that too, a foreshadowing of the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Genesis 4, the blood of Abel’s sacrifice must be shed in order for it to be a better and more acceptable sacrifice. The ram caught in the thicket must be offered up by Abraham in Genesis 22. It was a foreshadowing of the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ, a substitutionary suffering. The Passover lamb must be slain, and the blood must be applied to the lintels of the door. But there must be a death. There must be a death of the one who is innocent on behalf of the one who is guilty.

The entire Levitical sacrificial system was a foreshadowing of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Leviticus 1 through 5, we read that the head of the house must slay the young bull and offer up the blood. He must skin the burnt offering. There is suffering in the Old Testament in foreshadowing the coming of Christ. The goat must be slain on the day of atonement. The bronze serpent must be lifted up in the wilderness. The cursed man must hang on a tree, in Deuteronomy 21. And the greater Son of David must cry out, in Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And this psalm goes on to talk about the suffering of this one. He would be surrounded by many enemies who are like roaring lions. They must pierce his hands and his feet. They must count his bones. They must divide his garments. It was foretold in the Old Testament of His sufferings that He must be betrayed by a friend who eats bread with Him. He must be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. He must not have a bone broken. He must be pierced and looked upon as a public spectacle.

The Servant of the Lord passages in Isaiah 42, 49, 50, and 52 and 53 speak of how He must suffer. He must be the despised one. He must be abhorred by the nation — Isaiah 49:7. He must give His back to those who strike Him and His cheeks must be plucked out, or His beard must be plucked out. It says in Isaiah 52:14, He must have his appearance marred more than any man. Isaiah 53:3: He must be despised. He must be forsaken of men. Same verse: He must be a man of sorrows. He must be acquainted with grief. He must bear the sins, bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. He must be pierced for our transgressions. He must be crushed for our iniquities. He must suffer our chastening and our scourging. He must be oppressed. He must be afflicted. He must be cut off from the land of the living. There is this clear message that this Messiah who will come, He must suffer rejection. He must suffer death. He must be One who will be cast down before He will enter into His glory. That is what His own disciples missed. That is what these two disciples missed. This is what we more clearly understand in the light of New Testament Scripture. The message of the cross is an offensive message. The message of the cross is one of the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ as He bled and died in the place of sinners. He laid down His life a ransom for many. It is a message of great sorrow, and suffering, and sin-bearing that runs throughout the Old Testament.

Verse 26 — It was necessary also for Him to enter into His glory. His suffering was not the end of the story. The suffering was simply the means by which He would enter into glory, because following His rejection would be His reign, and following His death would be His diadem.

In Isaiah 53 and verse 10 so clearly speaks of this prophetic necessity that He would enter into His glory after His suffering. We read, “He will see His offspring.” Now that’s strange. A man will be put to death, but He will see his offspring? “He,” referring to God the Father, “will prolong His days,” referring to the Son of God. “The good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul He will see it and be satisfied.” Verse 12 of Isaiah 53: “I will allot Him a portion with the great and He will divide the booty with the strong.”

Daniel 7, verse 14, speaks of Him entering into this glory as He approaches the Ancient of Days. And it says, “To Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples and nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion and will not pass away.” This, too, is the entire message of the Old Testament.

It’s basically two-part. It is His suffering and it is His glory. In the short time that Jesus had on the road to Emmaus, He put His arms around the entire Old Testament. It says, “It is filled with the gospel message. It is filled with the message of Me.” While Christ is not the subject of every Old Testament passage, He is the speaker in every Old Testament passage. Every Old Testament passage plays its part, like putting bricks in a wall, to support the whole message that the Lord Jesus Christ — the Messiah, the Son of David, the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham — He is coming, and He will bring salvation to His people. What Jesus is doing here, on the road to Emmaus, is what we must understand that the thread that runs through the Old Testament is the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into this world. He is there in prophecy. He is there in type. He is there in foreshadowing. This is the central message of the Old Testament.

Verse 32 — They continue on into Emmaus, and Jesus gives the appearance that He is going to continue His journey. They beg him and persuade Him to stay. So Jesus stays with them and actually serves them food. And then suddenly vanishes. “And their eyes were now,” at last, “opened, and they, they recognized Him,” and as soon as they recognized Him, He vanishes into thin air.  “They said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?’”
Rembrandt's Supper at Emmaus
You want your heart to be on fire for the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you want to have a zeal for God? And do you want to throw off lukewarm-ness? Do you want to be lit up for God? And do you want to have a spiritual pulse and a spiritual heartbeat? Do you want to be able to say, “My heart is burning for God and burning for the Lord Jesus Christ?” Then read the Old Testament, and let Jesus show you Himself in the Old Testament. Read the New Testament and see the greater light of the New Testament shining upon the Old Testament.

What is important is that you see Jesus. The main thing in the Bible is the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ on a mission of salvation, on a mission of redemption, that He would save His people from their sins. If you are coming to the awareness that “I have never believed upon Jesus Christ. I have never committed my life to Christ,” you are invited to believe upon Christ tonight. He entered this world born of a virgin. He lived a sinless and perfect life. He lived the life that you and I could never live, and His perfect righteousness is what is credited to our account when we believe upon Christ. He was qualified to go to the cross, and there He was lifted up to die upon Calvary’s cross. God transferred the sin of all the people who would ever believe upon Him and He transferred that sin to Christ. And Christ, who knew no sin, God made to be sin for us. He suffered, and bled, and died upon that cross. He gave His life that you and I might have life. He shed His blood to make the only atonement for our sin. He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. They took Him down from that cross, having made the atonement for sinners. They buried Him in a borrowed tomb. And on the third day, He was raised from the dead, and He then entered into glory on the day of His ascension. He is now seated at the right hand of God the Father. And the Bible says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

You must believe in this One who suffered upon Calvary’s cross. He suffered the wrath of God in the place of those for whom He bore their sin. And He has now entered into glory. And if you’ll commit your life to Jesus Christ, He will take you into glory one day, when He returns or when you die. There is salvation in no other name. “For there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” There is one God and one Mediator between the Lord — One God and one Mediator which is the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His life a ransom for many. If you will commit your life to Jesus Christ; if you will deny yourself, and take up a cross, and become a follower of Christ, if you will enter through the narrow gate that leads into the kingdom of God, if you will take that decisive step of faith, and surrender and submit your life to the lordship of Jesus Christ, He will receive you. And one day, when you die, He will take you home to be with Him in glory. He is preparing a place for all those who will commit their life to Him.

This is the message of the entire Bible — that our all-loving, gracious God has provided salvation in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus, as He walked on the road to Emmaus that day and looked into the Scriptures with them, He said, “They testify of me. And they speak of my suffering and my glory.” May you know what it is to enter into the kingdom of God and enter into His glory one day when He comes for you.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ in all of Scripture. We praise you that He steps out of the pages of even the Old Testament as the central message, as the object of our faith, as a Savior and Lord. And Father, thank you that you have opened our eyes, that we might behold our need of Christ and see who Christ is. If there is anyone who has never come all the way to faith in Jesus Christ, oh God, we pray that they would surrender their life to Christ and enter in to the kingdom of God. Father, we pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Look up – Meditate on Luke 24:13-35  Pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look in – Meditate on Luke 24:13-35  Pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: “Because God is ______________, I will ______________.”

Look out – Meditate on Luke 24:13-35  Pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory. 

* If you liked this post, you'll
 love this bookName Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ

Weekly LinkUps…

Thursday, July 12, 2018

blessed with every spiritual blessing

artwork by Tamara Peterson

When I saw Tamara Peterson’s beautiful work of art, I immediately thought of this inspiring video by the Gaither Vocal Band and the Gatlin Brothers Band filmed at the Gaither Homecoming Tent Revival outside the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC, in  2011, performing Greatly Blessed, Highly FavoredCounting my Blessings, Great things He has done, Fighting the good fight with the Blessed Assurance that the battle is already won, Greatly Blessed and Highly Favored, Imperfect but Forgiven Child of God.

These words led me to a word study of the word “blessed” found in
Matthew 5:3 , and Ephesians 1:3 , Scripture passages that I wrap around my heart, like the Loving Arms of my Savior Jesus Christ, when I feel discouraged. 

Matthew 5:3

NASB: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Amplified: Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!

NLT: God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.

Philips: How happy are the humble-minded, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

Wuest: Spiritually prosperous are the destitute and helpless in the realm of the spirit, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Young's Literal: `Happy the poor in spirit--because theirs is the reign of the heavens.

Blessed are the poor in spirit - In Scripture, there are two words translated "blessed", makarios and eulogetos (from eu = good, well + logos = word), the latter meaning that we speak well of someone (as when we hear a eulogy at a funeral, the eulogy speaking well of that person who has passed on from life to death). In contrast, makarios is not to speak well of someone, but defines a condition that exists. In other words, makarios describes something that is true about someone, not something that someone says is true about them. Makarios is a reality, an inward state of truth no matter how you actually feel. In other words, to be "blessed" as defined by makarios, one does not have to feel "happy" to be blessed. You can still be blessed and act as if you are not happy. Makarios defines one's state of being in relation to God, independent of how one feels about it at a given moment in time. There are many times I don't personally feel very "blessed" but the Bible nevertheless declares that regardless of my untoward circumstances, afflictions, and trials, I am still "blessed" by God.

Blessed: (makarios from root makar, but others say from mak = large or lengthy) means to be happy, but not in the usual sense of happiness based on positive circumstances. From the Biblical perspective, Makarios describes the person who is free from daily cares and worries because his every breath and circumstance is in the hands of His Maker Who gives him such an assurance (such a "blessing"). Makarios was used to describe the kind of happiness that comes from receiving divine favor.

Most people are interested in being happy. The pursuit of happiness is the driving force of our affluent western culture. However, when you look at the list of ingredients Jesus gives for happiness, there is a big shock in store. This is a strange list to say the least, and many of these qualities appear the very antithesis of what most of us are looking for. The major difference in this list is that Jesus is not talking of qualities in the physical realm (the area in which most people look for happiness), but in the realm of the spirit. The myth of our day is that happiness is found in satisfying our physical desires, comforts and appetites. Those desires may be entirely legitimate, but the engine room of each human being is the spirit which is designed to be inhabited and governed by God. Satisfying the body is never the source of true happiness for it is not the seat of our true appetites. Our true appetite is expressed in the famous prayer of Augustine,
"You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you."

Ephesians 1:3

NASB: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

Amplified: May blessing (praise, laudation, and eulogy) be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual (given by the Holy Spirit) blessing in the heavenly realm!

NLT: How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ.

Phillips: Praise be to God for giving us through Christ every possible spiritual benefit as citizens of Heaven!

Wuest: May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be eulogized, the One Who conferred benefactions upon us in the sphere of every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

Young's Literal: Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who did bless us in every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

Notice that in a single verse Paul uses the entire word family -- the adjective (eulogetos), the verb (eulogeo) and the noun (eulogia) and the sentence still makes supernatural sense.

Blessed: (eulogetos from eu = good + logos = word - English "eulogy" = a speech or writing that praises someone highly) is the adjective describing the One Who is worthy of praise.

Blessed: (eulogeo from eu = good + logos = word) is the verb form meaning to speak well of, to celebrate with praises, to praise. God blesses men (with favor), who in turn (because of amazing grace) can bless God, and others through prayer.

Greek Bible Scholar Spiros Zodhiates amplifies this noting that this means to bless, i.e., to distinguish with favor, to act in man’s life and accomplish His purposes instead of allowing men to have their own way. When the subject is God, His speaking is action, for God’s speech is energy released. When God is said to bless us (eulogize or speak well of us), He acts for our good as He sees our need and not necessarily our desire. Therefore, He blesses by intervening. Ephesians 1:3  referring to God who blessed us with all spiritual blessings, means the one who intervened and acted so that our spirits might be made conformable to His Spirit.

I remember reading years ago about an old Navajo Indian who had become rich because oil had been found on his property. He took all the money and put it in a bank. His banker became familiar with the habits of this old gentleman. Every once in a while the Indian would show up at the bank and say to the banker, "Grass all gone, sheep all sick, water holes dry." The banker wouldn't say a word—he knew what needed to be done. He'd bring the old man inside and seat him in the vault. Then he'd bring out several bags of silver dollars and say, "These are yours." The old man would spend about an hour in there looking at his money, stacking up the dollars and counting them. Then he'd come out and say, "Grass all green, sheep all well, water holes all full." He was simply reviewing his resources.

That is where encouragement is found—when you look at the resources in God’s Word which are yours, the riches, the facts which undergird your faith. Here are just a few of those treasures found in Ephesians 1:3-4:

Blessing: (eulogia - noun from eu = good, well + logos = word) is the act of speaking in favorable terms (praise) or the benefit of blessing. Here it speaks primarily of the spiritual benefits bestowed by God upon His family members. He confers every spiritual benefit upon His saints. He blesses because He is ready, willing and able to do so, not because we deserve His blessings or have earned them—it is all of grace. He is the source of all blessing, of every good thing. Goodness can only come from God because there is no source of goodness outside of God.

Paul is saying you may be as poor as a church mouse in the world's eyes but in the eyes of God, in terms of riches that will last forever, you are immeasurably wealthy. Even the national debt of America simply does not compare to your wealth for the former is material and temporal while the latter is spiritual and eternal.

Tennis superstar Arthur Ashe died of AIDS, which he contracted from a blood transfusion during heart surgery. More than a great athlete, Ashe was a gentleman who inspired and encouraged many with his exemplary behavior on and off the court. Ashe could have become embittered and self-pitying in the face of his disease, but he maintained a grateful attitude. He explained, "If I asked, 'Why me?' about my troubles, I would have to ask, 'Why me?' about my blessings. Why my winning Wimbledon? Why my marrying a beautiful, gifted woman and having a wonderful child?" Ashe's attitude rebukes those of us who often grumble, "Why me? Why is God allowing this to happen?" Even if we're suffering acutely, we must not forget the mercies God pours into our lives—such things as food, shelter, and friends—blessings of which many are deprived.

What about spiritual blessings? We can hold the very Word of God in our hands and read it. We have the knowledge of His saving grace, the comfort of His Spirit, and the joyful assurance of life everlasting with Jesus. Think about God's blessings and ask, "Why me?" Then your grumbling will give way to praise.

The Mount Morgan gold mine in Queensland, Australia, is one of the richest in the world. For many years, though, the original landowners lived in deep poverty on the mountain's barren surface. Even though the vast wealth was out-of-sight, it was beneath their feet all the time. Many Christians live in a similar situation. They plod along and struggle through their spiritual lives, laboring every step of the way. They are unaware of the vast riches God has promised them, and therefore they do not claim them.

Grace, forgiveness, strength, wisdom, direction, the power to resist temptation, reconciliation, protection, lightened burdens—all these riches and many more are ours. But how do we become aware of them and claim them? The answer is: Prayerfully read the Bible and pay close attention when the Word of God is preached or taught.

Whenever you read the Scriptures or hear them taught, look for the truths about "every spiritual blessing" God has given to you Ephesians 1:3   When you discover a truth or a promise that clearly applies to you, say to yourself, "That's for me!" As you do, you'll be tapping into the riches of God that lie right beneath your feet.

An elderly Scottish woman stood in the doorway of her cottage and basked in the light and warmth of the summer sun. According to author J. R. Caldwell, she shaded her eyes as she looked up and exclaimed, "I've got a whole sun to myself!" Caldwell commented, "I could say the same. This is just one of the beautiful things in nature that you have as much as I have. Likewise you and I and millions of the redeemed have individually the whole heart of Christ—There is room for all.

This truth is simple and self-evident, yet its implication is so profound that it almost overwhelms us. God's gracious gift of salvation can be experienced by all who believe, and we can fully enjoy its blessings without diminishing their enjoyment by others. We who know Christ and His limitless provisions are not deprived, even though other believers are drawing on them, too. In a sense, every child of God can say, "I've got the Son all to myself." Joy, assurance, peace, and the awareness of His presence are just a few of the many benefits that are given without measure for every believer to enjoy.

Remember, if you are born again, God has given you "every spiritual blessing in Christ"

Pastor Alexander Maclaren writes: “Notice that buoyant, joyous, emphatic reiteration: ‘Blessed,’ ‘blest,’ ‘blessings.’ That is more than the fascination exercised over a man’s mind by a word; it covers very deep thoughts and goes very far into the center of the Christian life. God blesses us by gifts; we bless Him by words. The aim of His act of blessing is to evoke in our hearts the love that praises. We receive first, and then, moved By His mercies, we give. Our highest response to His most precious gifts is that we shall ‘take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord,’ and in the depth of thankful and recipient hearts shall say, ‘Blessed be, God who hath blessed us.’

Pastor Steven Cole writes: “But, why does God lavish His blessings upon us? Is it all about us or is it about Him? One of the most important truths in Scripture to grasp is that God is passionate about His glory. So, why does God bless us with every spiritual blessing in Christ? It is so that we may in turn bless and glorify Him, the giver of every good and perfect gift. Blessed by God, we bless God. Because God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, we should bless God. To bless God as we should, we need to understand how He has blessed us. You may be thinking, “But isn’t this impractical? What good are spiritual blessings to me if I can’t live comfortably in this life? Isn’t this just ‘pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die’? Aren’t those who focus on heavenly blessings not much earthly good?” Hardly! In fact, precisely the opposite is true. C. S. Lewis saw this when he wrote:
The Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have begun thinking less of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you get neither.”
Paul uses the word “blessed” in two senses in this verse. When he says that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing, he means that God has freely bestowed His good gifts on us in the person and work of His Son on our behalf. But when we bless God, we cannot give Him anything that He lacks, because He has no lack. So our blessing God means to speak well of Him, or to praise Him for His glorious attributes and for His gracious actions toward us in Christ. We thank Him for all that He is to us and for all that He has done for us and for all that He promises yet to do for us throughout eternity. We bless Him by joyfully giving back to Him what He has first given to us, namely, our time, our talent, and our treasure. So we bless God by offering up “a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” We bless God when we “do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:15). We bless God when our hearts overflow with joy in Him because of His abundant grace towards us in Christ.

Pastor Martyn Lloyd-Jones states: “There is no more true test of our Christian profession than to discover how prominent this note of praise and thanksgiving is in our life.” To what extent do you find praise, adoration, thankfulness, and joy in God welling to the surface in your daily life? If it is not as frequent as it ought to be, spend time meditating on Scriptures such as Ephesians 1 or Romans 8, which tell of the spiritual riches that are ours in Christ. Meditate on the Psalms, which are filled with the praises of God in the midst of life’s difficult trials. Allow your trials to drive you to a deeper experience of the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ for your soul. Make it your life-long quest to “count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus [your] Lord” (Phil. 3:8).
Being blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, bless the God who has so blessed you.

Pastor Warren W. Wiersbe points out that “blessed” is “an inner satisfaction and sufficiency that does not depend on outward circumstances for happiness.” Those who are “blessed” have inner lives that are rightly aligned. The root idea is “approval.” When we bless God, we are approving and praising Him; when He blesses us, He is expressing approval of us. In the sight of heaven, those who live out what Jesus is spelling out are “superlatively blessed” because the Almighty is extending His endorsement.

Pastor John MacArthur writes: “I think Martyn Lloyd-Jones gives the best illustration I’ve ever read. This is what he says. “Take, for example, the realm of music. A man may play a piece of great music quite accurately. He may make no mistakes at all, and yet it may be true to say of him that he did not really play Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata.’ He played the notes correctly, but it was not the sonata. What was he doing?   He was mechanically striking the right notes, but missing the soul and the real interpretation. He wasn’t doing what Beethoven intended and meant.” That, I think, is the relationship between the whole and the parts. The artist, the true artist is always correct. Even the greatest artist cannot afford to neglect rules and regulations, but that is not what makes him the great artist. It is this something extra, the expression. It is the spirit. It is the life. It is the whole that he is able to convey.” 

We are recipients of every spiritual blessing, great favor, and a great inheritance. We are the righteous—those in right standing with the Father by virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection—the Lord’s own inheritance. Because we belong to Him and are His heirs, God blesses our lives with deliverance, direction, and continual access into His presence. Because of His unfailing love for us, we can enter His throne room and receive His grace. When we ask Him to tell us what to do, He will show us which way to turn and will always lead us on the right path. To top it all off, He encompasses, or encircles, us with the shield of His love, which means that He covers us with His favor and with the approval that He bestows on the righteous. This is a wonderful thing to petition the Lord for, on behalf of your loved ones and for your own life.

Heavenly Father, thank You that in Christ I am blessed with every spiritual blessing. I know that I know that I know that because I have placed my trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, I am redeemed by His precious blood, He has crowned me, surrounded me, encircled me with His glory and blessing. Jesus is alive, He has come and is coming again! Thank you for surrounding me with the shield of your love and favor. Thank you for how Your favor is operating and functioning in my life. It surrounds me and encircles me like a shield. Your favor goes before me and prepares my way. Your favor opens doors of blessing and opportunity in my life. Wherever I go and whatever I do, Your favor is with me, surrounding me, encircling me. Your favor fills my life with overflowing blessing, peace, joy, fulfillment, and abundance. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

Look Up—meditate on Ephesians 1:3 …pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look In—as you meditate on Ephesians 1:3 …pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: "Because God is_________, I will_____________."

Look Out—as you meditate on Ephesians 1:3 …pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.

* If you liked this post, you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

WOW! What a powerful new book for regular women fighting the good fight!

WOW! What a powerful new book for regular women fighting the good fight!

Author Kelly Balarie has dedicated her open, honest, and transparent new book to the everyday warrior woman . . . “the one crying out in pain, the one shaving her head due to cancer, the one with a marriage hanging by a thread, the one suffering through an onslaught of mean words, the one trying to lift her head again, the one who calls herself a “bad mom,” the one pleading for a lost loved one, the one whose past beats her up, the one who goes to church yet still feels lonely, the one who’s done things horribly wrong. It is to you and to me—regular women fighting the good fight.”

I highly recommend this book, which is chock-full of 12 powerful warrior mind-sets, overflowing with helpful strategies like these:

Jesus used parables to help people imagine what His point was. Bible-centered imagination paints a picture of something new. It shows you the potential of what could be. Don’t fear it; use it for godly growth. Use your “heart brain.” Imagine how you will feel as a result of kicking a heart-hurting habit to the curb. Use the blessings of God’s Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23) as a carrot incentive to act differently. And please note: even more than what you’ve imagined, God can do. Imagine God smiling down on you as you trust Him with the scary things of your day. See yourself leaning on Him when you feel you can’t stand. Praise His name and feel Him smiling back at you through your suffering. Imagine who God has created you to be and what He has created you to do. Imagine how you feel as you let go of all that has held you back. When you set up God to rule over your life: no doubt, your heart can’t help but rule over your head.

Add the word “but” to your negative outlooks. Example: I am tired today, but God will renew my strength. Repeat in your mind, God’s love will go forth from me, as I relate to [insert the person you’re standing before]. Note: this doesn’t mean you soak in all their problems, issues, and fears; it means you love from the place of the already-saturated fullness, the complete love of Jesus within you.

Lord Jesus, bless Kelly and the launch of #BattleReadyBook indeed. Do something so big that it will be obvious it is from You. Increase her influence and opportunities to make a difference for You. Give her a continual awareness of Your Presence and Direction as she makes decisions. Protect her physically, spiritually, mentally, and relationally, and keep her from falling into satan’s traps. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.


Thursday, June 28, 2018

through the Blood of Jesus Christ

One of my favorite family board games growing up was Password, which included something that amazed me at the time — a red transparent lens and cards with some light blue text that was obscured by a myriad of red words. When you slid the cards under the red lens, the red words would disappear, and the text would magically appear. This fascinating game reminded me of a profound spiritual truth, exemplified in these two powerful story illustrations.

A pure heart is one that isn’t tainted with the stain of sin. A pure heart is one that has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. A retired pastor from Maine told how he used to sell lighting for new buildings. He was talking to the pastor of a newly built church when he looked out the window and saw a pretty white sports car. He told the pastor to look out his window, but the pastor explained that the car was red. When he walked down to the pastor’s window he saw that the car was in fact red. You see, the pastor’s window was made out of clear glass but his was tinted red. Somehow, by looking through the red glass the car appeared white. That’s what happens when God looks at us through the blood of Jesus Christ. Even though we have been tainted with the stain of sin, God sees us as free from sin. He sees us as pure white.

How does God do it? How does God forgive a man's sin? How does God take him when he's like scarlet and make him as snow, when he's like crimson and make him as pure, white wool? How does God do that? That's the gospel of the Good News. God does that through the sacrifice, and the atonement, and the Cross, and the blood, and the suffering of Jesus Christ. In Him, in our Lord Jesus Christ, God washes our sins away; gives us right standing in His presence, and accepts us as beloved—as sons and daughters—as pure and sanctified, whole, forgiven, washed, and clean. God does it through the blood of Jesus Christ.

There is another illustration of this truth:  a father and his little boy were in London, watching a parade of red-coated British soldiers with their scarlet jackets. The father was looking through the window, watching the parade of those red-coated British soldiers pass by. His little boy was watching the same parade, exclaimed to his father, "Daddy, look at their beautiful white uniforms." The father said, "Son, they're not white, they're scarlet, they're red." "No," said the little boy. "Look! They are white; they are pure white!" The father, in astonishment, looked closer and then saw: around the window out of which they were viewing the parade, there was a band of red glass embellishing the window. His little boy, being unable to stand high enough to look through the clear pane, was watching the parade go by in that red glass. When you look at red through red, it is pure white. Take a red, red rose, and look at it through a red glass. It will look pure and virgin white. That is what God does with our sins in Christ. He looks at us—we who have found refuge in Him; we who have taken our sins, and our weaknesses, and all of the things that hurt us, and destroy us, we who have taken them to Jesus—the Lord looks at us through the blood of Jesus Christ. When He looks at us in the love and mercy of Jesus Christ for us, He sees us clean and pure and forgiven, “These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Rev. 7:14

And blotted out the charges proved against you, the list of his commandments which you had not obeyed.  He took this list of sins and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross. In this way God took away Satan’s power to accuse you of sin, and God openly displayed to the whole world Christ’s triumph at the cross where your sins were all taken away.

These wonderful story illustrations, along with my fascination with the board game Password, with its red transparent lens and cards, inspired me as I listened to this very compelling rendition of The Blood of Jesus by Wayne Watson, It was the blood of Jesus, The blood of Jesus, That opened heaven's door to let me in, It was the blood of Jesus, The blood of Jesus, That washed away my guilt, That washed away the guilt of all my sin . . . What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus . . .

This led me to do a word study of Hebrews 9:12

Amplified: He went once for all into the [Holy of] Holies [of heaven], not by virtue of the blood of goats and calves [by which to make reconciliation between God and man], but His own blood, having found and secured a complete redemption (an everlasting release for us).

NLT: Once for all time he took blood into that Most Holy Place, but not the blood of goats and calves. He took his own blood, and with it he secured our salvation forever. 
Phillips: It was not with goats' or calves' blood but with his own blood that he entered once and for all into the holy of holies, having won for us men eternal reconciliation with God. 

Wuest: nor even through the intermediate instrumentality of the blood of goats and calves, but through that blood of His own, He entered once for all into the Holy of Holies, having found and procured eternal redemption. 

Pastor J. B. Phillips writes: “As a candle fades into total insignificance before the full blaze of the noonday sun, so the Old Testament priesthood fades into nothing before that of Christ. Who needs a candle when standing in the full blaze of day? As the majesty of the sun obliterates whatever majesty a candle might have had in the darkness of the night, so Christ's majesty obliterates that of the Levitical priesthood.”

Greek Scholar Kenneth S. Wuest states, “The blood offered was different. In the case of the Aaronic priests, it was the blood of goats and calves. In the case of Messiah, it was His own blood. The words His own are the translation of idios. Had the personal pronoun autos been used, the reference would be merely to the fact that it was by means of His blood that He entered the Holy of Holies. But the word idios speaks not merely of ownership, but of a personal, private, unique ownership. For instance, John in his Gospel (5:18) states the fact that the Jews tried to kill our Lord because He had said that God was His personal unique Father. Had John used autos, there would have been no justification for their accusation, for each one of these Jews claimed God as his Father. John used idios, reporting the Lord Jesus as saying that God was His private, unique Father. God was His Father in a different sense from that in which He might be the Father of others. Our Lord claimed unique Sonship, and, therefore, Deity. And these Jews recognized that fact. Now, the efficacy of our Lord's blood rested, not in the fact that it was human blood, but that it was human blood of a unique kind. It flowed in the veins of One who was as to His humanity, sinless, and as to His Person, Deity. And the combination of these two, sinless humanity, and Deity, made it unique, efficacious. It was the only sacrificial blood that could be sprinkled on the Mercy Seat in the heavenly Holy of Holies, the only blood which the High Court of Heaven would accept as atonement for human sin. It was this blood poured out on Calvary's Cross that gave Messiah access as High Priest into the Holy of Holies of heaven." 

Through (dia)...speaks of the instrument by which something is affected. Notice that the Greek word is not sun or meta which would be "with." The Greek word states that He entered Heaven not with His own blood, but through (or by) His own blood. The preposition dia may be translated throughby reason of, or by virtue of. This would lead one to understand that Christ is now seated in Heaven as the High Priest by virtue of His sacrificial death and precious blood. On the Cross Jesus stated, "It is finished," ("paid in full") indicating that His blood was efficacious the moment it was shed, an interpretation that is also supported by the fact that veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

Wuest concludes: "We are not to understand that our Lord took His blood into heaven. That precious blood was poured out on the Cross and dripped into the earth. But it was by virtue of that fact that He entered heaven, having accomplished salvation by the sacrifice of Himself. It was in that bloodless, glorified human body which is an eternal testimony that sin is paid for, that our blessed Lord entered heaven."

Pastor Steven Cole concludes: "The author is showing the complete supremacy and finality of the blood of Christ over the old system. Through His death, our guilt is atoned for once and for all, for all eternity! The penalty has been paid. There is nothing that we can add to what Christ did. Through Him we have direct access to God!”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writes, “A small detachment of British troops, surprised by an overwhelm­ing enemy force, fell back under heavy fire. Their wounded lay in a perilous position, facing certain death. They all realized they had to come immediately under the protection of a Red Cross flag if they wanted to survive. All they had was a piece of white cloth, but no red paint. So they used the blood from their wounds to make a large cross on that white cloth. Their attackers respected that grim flag as it was held aloft, and the British wounded were brought to safety. In the same way, our enemy not only must respect the blood of Christ shed on Calvary's cross, he also is helpless against it. Christ's blood represents the sacrifice of One whose death removed the guilt and condemnation of our sin and broke its hold over us. It is absolute protection against the accusation of Satan and the defeating remembrances of past sins. No wonder we glory in the cross.”

He entered the Holy Place...Jesus entered the "better" Holy Place. In the Old Covenant the Holy Place was on earth, while the believer's Holy Place is now in heaven. The Old Covenant Holy Place was made with human hands, but the believer's is a "more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation.”

Once for all...unlike the sacrifice of the high priest, who repeatedly entered the Most Holy Place with blood once a year, Jesus' sacrifice was complete and did not need to be repeated. The work of atonement is done and therefore, praise the Lord, it cannot be undone!
Having obtained...(heurisko gives us our English eureka from the exclamation attributed to Archimedes on discovering a method for determining the purity of gold) means that they attained a state previously not known. Heurisko or eureka expresses triumph on a discovery and what a "discovery"...eternal redemption!

Eternal...(aionios from aion) means perpetual eternal, everlasting, without beginning or end (as of God), that which is always, not mere duration is contemplated, but quality; a redemption answering in its quality to that age when all the conditions of time shall be no more...a redemption—not ritual, but profoundly ethical and spiritual.
Redemption...(lutrosis from lutroo = to release on receipt of a ransom; lutroois derived from the root verb luo = to loosen that which is bound, freeing those in prison, release from prison, opening of what is closed, destroying of foundations, putting off of fetters) describes a ransoming, a liberation, or a deliverance.

Pastor Charles Spurgeon writes, “The Jewish high priests went once a year into the holy of holies. Each year as it came round demanded that they should go again. Their work was never done; but “Christ entered once,” and only once, “into the most holy place, obtaining eternal redemption.” I love that expression, “eternal redemption”—a redemption that really does redeem, and redeems forever and ever. If you are redeemed by it, you cannot be lost. If this redemption is yours, it is not for a time, or for a season, but it is “eternal redemption.” Oh, how you ought to rejoice in the one entrance within the veil by our great High Priest who has obtained eternal redemption for us! What if I say that the inner shrine has expanded itself and taken in the holy place, and now all places are holy where true hearts seek their God? Had our High Priest merely lifted the veil and passed in, we might have supposed that the veil fell back again. But since the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom, there can be no need for a new entrance, for that which hinders is taken away. No veil now hangs between God and His chosen people; we may come boldly to the throne of grace. Blessed be the name of our Lord who has entered in “once!” Christ has entered into the true holy place—not into that which was curtained with a veil, which was but a type, and which was put away when the veil was rent from the top to the bottom as Jesus died. He has entered into the immediate presence of God, and He has entered there once for all, “obtaining eternal redemption. Do you "wrestle" with your eternal security experiencing fiery missiles like, "Am I saved forever? Can I lose my salvation?" If you are attacked by such thoughts, you would do well to meditate on the eternality of the Messiah's redemption. May your mind be continually renewed by the Spirit "as you learn more and more about Christ, Who created this new nature within you."

When Jesus was crucified, He entered the Most Holy Place once and for all by shedding His own blood as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. When He died, the thick veil separating the people from the Most Holy Place was torn. Think of it! Because of Jesus, we have unlimited access to the Lord. We don’t have to wait for a once-a-year meeting with God. We don’t have to ask someone else to go to the Lord on our behalf. We can enter His throne room anytime night or day. Since Christ died on the cross, we no longer need to offer animal sacrifices because Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins! We forget that God offered His perfect Son, whom He loved and prized. Have you thanked Him for the sacrifice He gave for you? God the Father beckons us also to come to Him and to entrust our hopes and dreams, our possessions, our families, and our careers to His control. He calls us to commit every worry or burden to His care, and He graciously summons us, through the shed blood of His Son, to leave even our lives in His powerful hands. And He has provided prayer as our means of doing this. When we “let go and let God,” we will begin to experience His power transforming our lives more and more into the image of His Son, Jesus. He frees us from striving to fulfill the letter of the law and draws us into intimate communion with Him. This new covenant through our rebirth in Christ Jesus provides a brand new relationship so that everyone might know Him. When we realize that God takes the initiative to work within us by His Spirit what is pleasing to Him, we can rest from our futile attempt to live the Christian life in our own strength. This is such great news—it doesn’t depend on me! God has forgiven us, cleansed us through the blood of Jesus Christ, and given us His Spirit, and He will complete His work in us as we trust in Him.

Lord Jesus, thank You for giving Yourself as an offering so that I could be free! As I receive the Father’s forgiveness through Your offering of Yourself, I will praise You and thank You for the freedom that forgiveness gives! I entrust my spirit, my very life, into Your hands this day. You are mighty beyond my ability to imagine, and You have made the way for me to do so . . . through the blood of Jesus Christ. How I praise You for prayer, for through it I can let go and give over control of my life to You! With all my heart I thank you, Jesus, for being the perfect sacrifice for my sins and the sins of the whole world. When Your blood was presented on the heavenly mercy seat and You offered up Your Spirit, the veil of the temple was forever rent, providing me access into the very presence of the Father. How I thank You. Lord, I come, I come . . . in Your precious name I pray, amen.

Look up – Meditate on Hebrews 9:12. Pray to see what it reveals about the character of God.

Look in – Meditate on 
Hebrews 9:12. Pray to see how you might apply it to your life. Be propelled to ask galvanizing questions about your discoveries: “Because God is ______________, I will ______________.”

Look out – Meditate on Hebrews 9:12. Pray to see how you might apply it to your relationships with others. Let the nature of God impact on every relationship, for your good, and for His glory.  

* If you liked this post you’ll love this book – Name Above All Names Devotional: Focusing on 26 Alphabetical Names of Christ

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