I am Precious in God’s Sight. The God of the Impossible Knows MY whole Name! I Know He Knows All Your Names Too! Isaiah 43:1-7

Isaiah 43:1-7Evangelical Heritage Version

The Lord’s New Act of Salvation

43 

But now this is what the Lord says,
the Lord who created you, O Jacob,
the Lord who formed you, O Israel.
    Do not be afraid, because I have redeemed you.
    I have called you by name. You are mine.
    When you cross through the waters, I will be with you.
    When you cross the rivers, they will not sweep you away.
    When you walk through fire, you will not be burned,
    and the flame will not set you on fire.

    Because I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior,
    I gave Egypt as your ransom,
    Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
    Because you are precious and honored in my eyes,
    and I myself love you,
    I will give people in exchange for you,
    and peoples in exchange for your life.
    Do not be afraid, because I am with you.
    From the east I will bring your offspring,
    and from the west I will gather you.
    I will say to the north, “Give them back!”
    and to the south, “Do not hold them.”
    Bring my sons from far away
    and my daughters from the end of the earth—
    everyone who is called by my name,
    everyone I created for my glory,
    everyone I formed,
    yes, everyone I have made.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

One of those things I really have a hard time with in this Christmas season are the writing an the sending of the traditional array of all those Christmas Cards.

I am always the one who is either incredibly late or incredibly lazy preferring the “contact list” on my smart phone and then dialing the ones I remember I have some kind of almost formal relationship or more than mere acquaintance.

I look at my smart phones contact list which is quite long with nearly every one of the letters of the alphabet having at least three or four and several with more.

Sometimes when I’m wrestling to figure out what is on God’s heart for me to say to them or if I am going to write a Christmas Card to them, what do I say?

Try taking “mental image” of each one, look at the names one by one and pray,

“Lord, I do not know if I remember our last conversation or I do not remember the physical face of this person, what is on your heart for this person, that family?”

“Lord, I have nothing on my heart for this person, this family, I know you know far more than I do , what’s on your heart for this person? How can I pray for them? 

The answer from heaven, the Word of God for His Children, came straight away,

“Pray that they will all come to know that they are all precious in my sight.”

So that is what I will be striving to do this year.

Another vision caught my soul, somebody who I hadn’t even met yet or learned anything at all about, that person on the street corner with their signs, the ones who will drive their cars and trucks around me, beside me and long past me and when I drive past the hospitals, rehab centers, hospices, the police stations and the Fire and Rescue stations and the packed Mall Stores, all of the restaurants,

The answer came crashing headlong into my ever questioning spirit again ….

“Even if you send no cards or make no calls, even if you only pray in silence …. “

“Pray they will ALL come to know that they are absolutely precious in my sight.”

“I know everyone of them by name and I desire each of them to know my Name!”

I cannot ever claim I have minimally mastered the art of hearing God’s voice.

But does that answer sound like God to you?

I know that’s how he genuinely wants me to learn to look at each of you, to be communicating the ancient messages of Isaiah 43: 1 -7, be continually praying its ancient truths to all my neighbors as being absolutely precious in his sight.

I haven’t mastered that, yet either.

But it definitely sounds like something original and worth my maximum effort.

Starting a new Christmas Tradition – Pray without Ceasing for my Neighbors!

Drive around some neighborhoods I am a stranger to – Pray Isaiah 43:1-7

Isaiah 43:1-7Easy-to-Read Version

God Is Always With His People

43 Jacob, the Lord created you. Israel, he made you, and now he says, “Don’t be afraid. I saved you. I named you. You are mine. When you have troubles, I am with you. When you cross rivers, you will not be hurt. When you walk through fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not hurt you. That’s because I, the Lord, am your God. I, the Holy One of Israel, am your Savior. I gave Egypt to pay for you. I gave Ethiopia and Seba to make you mine. You are precious to me, and I have given you a special place of honor. I love you. That’s why I am willing to trade others, to give up whole nations, to save your life.

“So don’t be afraid, because I am with you. I will gather your children and bring them to you. I will gather them from the east and from the west. I will tell the north: Give my people to me. I will tell the south: Don’t keep my people in prison. Bring my sons and daughters to me from the faraway places. Bring to me all the people who are mine—the people who have my name. I made them for myself. I made them, and they are mine.

(Neighbors, Neighborhoods)

The Lord created you.

He made you, and now the Lord God says, “Do not be afraid, I saved you.”

“I have named you!”

“You are Mine!”

“When you have troubles, I am with you. when you cross rivers, you will not be hurt. When you walk through fire, you’ll not be burned; flames wont hurt you.”

“That’s because, I, the Lord, am your God, I am your Savior.”

“I gave my only Son, Jesus for you. I gave him to you to make you mine.”

“You are all absolutely precious to me, and I have given you a place of honor.”

“I Love you with an everlasting Love, that is why I gave my own Son for you.”

“To save your life!”

“So don’t be afraid, because I am with you. I will gather your children and bring them to you. I will gather them from the east and from the west. 

I will tell the north: Give my people to me. I will tell the south: Don’t keep my people in prison. Bring my sons and daughters to me from the faraway places.

Bring to me all the people who are mine—the people who have my name. I made them for myself. I made each and everyone of them, and they are mine.”

I do not have to know even one of their names, I do not even have to know who they are in the grand scheme which is God’s own exclusive plan for all of them.

I just have to recognize the power of God in the Word of God for His Children to make a difference, will one day, perhaps immediately, make all the difference.

When I’m driving around, I’m walking around, and I’m praying Isaiah 43:1-7,

What might be the possible outcomes of God working in and through my neighbors?

From the first verses of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation, provides endless examples of how the presence of the Lord empowers his people to live for him.

Take Moses, for example.

He was convinced that without God’s presence in his life, it was useless for him to attempt anything.

When he spoke face to face with the Lord, he stated boldly,

“If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here” (Exodus 33:15). 

He was saying, “Lord, if you’re not with us, we are not going to make it. We will not go a single step without the assurance of your presence.”

God’s presence is what sets us apart from nonbelievers.

The Old Testament is filled with accounts of great blessings that came to those who had God’s presence with them.

For instance, God’s presence was so evident in Abraham’s life that even the heathen around him recognized the difference between their lives and his.

Heathen king Abimelech said, “God is with you in all that you do” (Genesis 21:22).

God promised Joshua that no enemy could stand against him when his presence was with him:

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1:5-6). 

When God’s Spirit is present in your life, you can be a conqueror because you securely place 100% trust in his promise to be with you in everything you do.

God shared with His Prophet Isaiah a special promise he makes to all he loves:

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine … I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior … Fear not, for I am with you” (Isaiah 43:1, 3, 5). 

With God’s presence abiding in you, you can go through any fire and not just survive, but be kept safe and protected through it all.

Just as it was with Moses, Abraham and countless others God touched because someone prayed, a high powered testimony of God’s presence in your life today.

We are God’s creations, we have come from him, his children, and whether we like it or not he will always feel an unshakeable connection to us, a desire for us.

God loves us with a parent’s love, only better than any human parent can do.

He created us, but then, maybe to pin the thought down a little stronger,

the thought is repeated with a slightly different spin in the next phrase, “he who formed you, O Israel.”

Can you hear a little more care in that?

He formed us.

He is forming us every day.

The Bible tells us over and over again that God is molding us.

He teaches us.

He disciplines those whom he loves.

We like to think God’s exclusive job is to just give us lots of cool stuff, lie the abundance of His life, but the Bible talks much more about how he brings tests, adversities into our lives to teach us His precious character and make us strong.

When I was trying to learn all I can about just what it means when God said we are precious in his sight, I looked up other places in the Hebrew Old Testament where the same Hebrew word, translated “precious” here, is used.

It’s used of precious stones, maybe diamonds or emeralds or rubies, things that are kingly expensive, just plain hard to get at and also very beautiful to look at.

1 Kings 7:9, the word is used to describe the massive foundation stones used in building Solomon’s palace, “costly stones, cut according to measure, sawed with saws, back and front.”

Take some quality time to meditate about a huge stone, weighing tons, maybe 5 feet deep, 8 feet long, 3 or 4 feet high, cut by hand out of a quarry, dragged by hand across miles of countryside without anything close to what we would consider a decent road, shaped so the front and back were smooth and the sides shaped so that it would fit perfectly with the other stones brought together.

This was before the days of high tech power tools or dynamite and it took an incredible amount of people doing an impossible amount of work to prepare even one of those stones. Every one that made it, that got fitted perfectly into the building had a huge investment in it and must have been worth an awful lot.

Is there anyone here reading this today in whom God has not already made an incredible investment to make you what you are today?

He is steadily building His church into His Image with a great deal of care, molding each and every one of us very carefully, chipping away at our rough spots, the parts that stick out and keep the other stones from fitting close to us.

It’s a huge job.

It’s an impossible job

He has invested an awful lot in us.

And that makes us even more precious.

And often times when he is chipping away at our rough spots and those tests and adversities start to fly fast and thick we can feel like he’s mad at us or has abandoned us, but no, he’s loving us and teaching us.

He’s molding us.

And we often look back at the darkest times of our lives and look at the lessons we learned there, the growth we experienced and, looking back we would not wish it has been any other way because those lessons, his wise forming, was so incomprehensibly valuable, so undeniably precious and so indescribably God.

Time shows us God’s wisdom and love are always there if we will accept them.

The first verse goes on, “Do not fear, I have redeemed you.”

That’s another reason that God loves us.

He has redeemed us.

And here we need to give some background.

These words of Isaiah are not addressed to wonderful children of God who are hanging in the temple all day, studying God’s word, obeying it wholeheartedly.

He’s writing this to a nation of Israel that had squandered God’s gift of the temple and now it had been destroyed.

When things had gotten tough they had turned their backs on God, making alliances with pagan kings, serving pagan gods.

And as they set off on their own in defiance of the god who created them and had formed them.

They were invaded.

Jerusalem was destroyed.

Most of the people were forced to migrate into exile in faraway lands. You can read about it in the Hebrew Testament in Second Kings and Second Chronicles.

These words of God’s love in Isaiah 43 weren’t spoken in a time when God’s people made it easy to love them.

They had disobeyed terribly.

They had lost their freedom and their land.

And if you back up and read the previous chapter, Isaiah 42, you will see some of the poignant phrases used to describe how God saw his people at the time.

They were:

That they are blind towards him.

They had been robbed and plundered by their enemies.

They are now trapped by their foolishness.

And who behaves well when they feel trapped by their own foolishness?

And God is really angry with them.

But it’s the anger of someone who cares. Because they are precious in his sight he wants so much more for them and he just doesn’t give up working on them.

That’s when this word “redemption” is needed.

God’s children are in trouble.

And he was taking it upon himself to sacrifice everything to bail them out.

If we take the time to ponder 2022, we may find ourselves identifying with it.

Being a parent at parent-teacher conferences is fun when your kid is the one who has all the “A” papers posted on the bulletin boards at school and when you know the teacher is just going to rave about how well your kid is doing.

But what if your kid is the one who always gives the teacher a very hard time, and there will be none of your child’s homework posted in the classroom, and he has carved nasty words into the top of his desk, and other parents are getting mad at you for what your kid has done to their kid.

That’s when love is tested.

That’s when the question gets harder,

“am I going to sacrifice everything so I can be there for my child or not?”

Our God sees himself as our redeemer, the family member who bails us out when we get in trouble.

In the Hebrew Testament, Abraham’s nephew Lot made a foolish decision to settle in the immoral city of Sodom.

One day Sodom was raided and Lot and his family were captured to be sold as slaves and all his property was stolen.

Well, old Uncle Abraham took off in hot pursuit with his servants and they made a surprise attack upon those raiders and he got his nephew back out of trouble.

In one of the most incredible stories of the Bible, the prophet Hosea had a wife who betrayed him, having affair after affair.

Finally she left him altogether.

She became a prostitute.

Then one day he found her up for sale in a slave market, used up, spiritually hardened, embittered. And Hosea redeemed his wife. He bought her out of slavery and he brought her home again and he cared for her and he loved her.

I hope we never come to speak of God’s love for us lightly.

He has paid such an impossibly high price for us.

Jesus died on the cross to redeem us from our sins.

He has put his precious name upon us, and we have repeatedly brought high dishonor upon that precious name.

But he’s our parent, our teacher, our husband, our redeemer.

He has invested so much in every single one of us we are precious in his sight.

Now go outside look around, walk around, drive around your neighborhoods.

Do you see anyone who is not absolutely precious in God’s sight?

We all probably can find someone who rubs us the wrong way.

We can all find somebody whom we know or at least suspect still needs a lot of God’s shaping before they are finished.

Let’s help each other spot them, anybody who is somebody who still needs some of God’s exclusive shaping, a lot of God’s shaping raise both your hands.

We all should have our hands up.

We may see somebody we suspect is off in exile right now, feeling very far from God, desperately grasping at straws trying to get their life back under control.

Maybe you can see that they aren’t making wise choices in that desperation.

Maybe they are uncomfortable to have around.

Maybe you can see they still have a lot of rough edges that need trimming.

But is there anyone in all of those neighborhoods who is not absolutely precious in God’s sight?

Remember how Solomon’s Temple was carefully built? It’s when the stones all come together out of the quarry, they are first hewn, then by struggle, brought to the area where they are to be placed, fitted close together that imperfections show up and out and final trimming can happen and all the stones be perfected.

He loves us when we are unlovely.

He is so committed to us that he keeps working on us, chipping away on our rough edges.

Sometimes he uses us to knock each other’s rough edges off.

Sometimes that person who just doesn’t seem to fit near you at all is just the exact person you need to show you, reveal, what work you still need done.

Verses 5 and 6 talk about God gathering the scattered Israelites from the four corners of the earth, north, south, east and west, gathering them together.

How many of us will walk or drive south today?

How many of us will walk or drive north today?

How many of us will walk or drive east today?

How many of us will walk or drive west today?

How many have rely on GPS to get around?

Look around you – at all those neighbors and all those neighborhoods too,

He’s gathering the stones to build something here. I don’t know yet all of what it will be. But every last one of us has a place because every one of us is precious.

And when he brings us stones close together and things start to rub, we can be tempted to push away.

But what kind of building can God build if the stones refuse to be shaped?

Or they themselves insist on leaving big gaps between themselves, or they look at that stone that just came in from the quarry and they see the rough edges and they say, send it back, we don’t want it, it is not precious, just throw it far away?

No, God brings us together so we can see the spots that need trimming down.

And the closer we come to one another and the more we rub against each other the more opportunity we have to grow and be conformed into his image.

And so when we feel the rubbing start to happen, we don’t push away.

We need each other.

We are all absolutely precious in the sight of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit!

We need to learn how all of God plans to fit every single one of us together.

We need to learn to lovingly adapt our lives to each other.

We need to learn to talk things out when there are rough spots.

We need to see through God’s eyes, that every one of us is precious in His sight.

Take a walk through your neighborhood – Pray for all of those precious to God.

Take a drive through your neighborhoods – Pray for all of those precious to God.

Start a new Christmas tradition ….

Unleash our PRECIOUS God ….

Unleash His PRECIOUS Son Jesus Christ ….

Unleash God, the PRECIOUS Holy Spirit ….

Imagine all of the precious Miracles which are about to unfold before you ….

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

To our God and soon coming Savior, I give You thanks. God, I pray today that You will reveal the fullness of yourself to me and each of those placed in my life. As we walk and drive around our neighbors and our neighborhoods, May we each have that precious encounter from the One and Only true and living God. I pray that the desires of our hearts shall be to seek after You that we may know You, experience You and we will all learn how to be men and women precious after God’s own heart, Amen.

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O Comfort Me, O Lord; The Journey Is Too Hard! There’s a Reason for Hope! Our Unchanging God! Isaiah 40:1-11

Isaiah 40:1-11New Living Translation

Comfort for God’s People

40 “Comfort, comfort my people,”
    says your God.
“Speak tenderly to Jerusalem.
Tell her that her sad days are gone
    and her sins are pardoned.
Yes, the Lord has punished her twice over
    for all her sins.”

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
    for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
    for our God!
Fill in the valleys,
    and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
    and smooth out the rough places.
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
    The Lord has spoken!”[a]

A voice said, “Shout!”
    I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like the grass.
    Their beauty fades as quickly
    as the flowers in a field.
The grass withers and the flowers fade
    beneath the breath of the Lord.
    And so it is with people.
The grass withers and the flowers fade,
    but the word of our God stands forever.”

O Zion, messenger of good news,
    shout from the mountaintops!
Shout it louder, O Jerusalem.[b]
    Shout, and do not be afraid.
Tell the towns of Judah,
    “Your God is coming!”
10 Yes, the Sovereign Lord is coming in power.
    He will rule with a powerful arm.
    See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.
11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
    He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart.
    He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Without exception, each and every one of us needs a healthy dose of comfort from time to time.

The child at play who trips and scrapes her knee badly needs comfort from a parent or other caregiver.

The young man or woman at college with its unfamiliar surroundings needs someone to talk to.

Consider the teenager who comes of age and chooses to leave the comforts or the discomforts of their parents home and moves away to “test the waters.”

They are on their own for the first time in their lives – challenging themselves to “find their own way, start figuring out what this life is and can be all about.

Consider also the young couple whose first child was stillborn, the middle-aged couple whose child died in an accident, or by an act of violence or in combat in a foreign land, the elderly man or the elderly women whose spouse of however many years is slipping away because of some untreatable Cancer or Dementia.

Consider the person who for the first time in however many years is all alone during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season – where are their presents?

Consider those whose loved ones are in long term care facilities – those whose families do not seem to be around very much or very often or even if at all.

Those who are lying in Hospice care – nearing the end of their life’s journey.

Would you care to volunteer your time to sit with the dying to comfort them?

Consider the long term hospitalized children – treated for cancers in places like St. Jude’s Hospital in Tennessee – never far away from the challenging disease.

The men and women of our Armed Forces – serving in foreign lands far away from home – the veterans who served in times of war and in times of peace?

Feel free to fill in your own personal list of “cares and considerations” here.

Who will comfort them?

We all need someone who will shout “Comfort, O Comfort …” into our souls!

Our ever changing bodies and spirits, our ever changeable hearts, long to hear:

Isaiah 40:6-8New Living Translation

A voice said, “Shout!”
    I asked, “What should I shout?”

“Shout that people are like the grass.
    Their beauty fades as quickly
    as the flowers in a field.
The grass withers and the flowers fade
    beneath the breath of the Lord.
    And so it is with people.
The grass withers and the flowers fade,
    but the word of our God stands forever.

It is not that there is a shortage of people who would not readily come to the side of an ailing friend in the hospital or come to the home to prepare meals or to clean the house or to give aid and care and comfort to that person in need.

It is not that there is a shortage of people who would readily lend someone their ears and their silences to sit in someone’s presence and allow them to ventilate.

It is not that there will ever be a shortage of people lacking in their desire to communicate the much needed and timely, timeless message of “Yes! there is always hope!”

Saying that, we must recognize that the hands and feet and heart and soul and the voices of those whose sole purpose in life is communicating hope can only go so far – can only really be effective for a tragically limited amount of time.

Humanity has its God established limits which man cannot ever set aside.

Caregivers get tired, need their rest and recreation, bodily, spiritual renewal.

The 24 hour a day seven day a week 12 months, 365 days caregiving thing has its very definite limits and boundaries which absolutely need to be held to and respected otherwise the caregiver will be the one in need of all the caregiving.

However, humanity has this unchanging, unchangeable message of true hope.

Thank God for the power and purpose and passion of our God’s Word for His beloved Children- that there is good news for great HOPE in Isaiah’s song.

God himself says, “Comfort, comfort my people. . . . Speak tenderly. . . .”

When we need comfort, we must remember, first, that God is the Sovereign Lord over all life. He will meet us in every situation with his powerful arm.

As an old hymn puts it, “Oh, let me not forget that, though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.” Never forget it! This is our Father’s world.

Second, our Father is a loving, compassionate God.

No matter what adversities you and I may be going through today, you and I can always take great comfort that like a shepherd stays with his sheep, cares for his sheep, tends his sheep, guides his sheep, God carries us close to his heart.

With such knowledge of God’s unchanging, unchangeable care for His Children, we in turn can open up our hearts and our souls and our hands and our feet too.

Giving every ounce of thanks unto God for setting the example through Christ:

2 Corinthians 1:3-7New Living Translation

God Offers Comfort to All

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

Throughout His Word, God specifically calls Himself “The God of all Comfort, who comforts us in all of our trouble.”

Why does God call Himself “the God of all Comfort?”

Because He knows His Children will suffer in this world, and He knows well His Children will constantly, continuously need His eternal “I’m always wide awake vigilance,” His forever constant, continuous, unchanging, comforting presence.

That is precisely the role He gives Himself in these verses from Psalm 121

Psalm 121New Living Translation

Psalm 121

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever.

He is our Chief Comforter “for all of our trouble.”

Nothing is ever too big ….

Nothing is ever too small ….

We can experience His comfort now if we rest in His unchanging presence and His Word.

And there is true, everlasting and unrivalled comfort to come when God will “wipe away every tear from our eyes” (Revelation 21:4)

Revelation 21:4 gives us that very intimate and very personal image of God’s care and attention when we finally see Him face to face on that great, glorious day when we shall behold Him, when we shall finally meet Him up in heaven.

It shows his unrivalled understanding of exactly what kinds of trials we have been through and pains we have carried.

He wants to be the One who greets us in heaven, who wipes away out tears, and reassures us that sickness, sadness, uncertainty and death are all behind us.

He is not going to draft in an angel for that greeting; or even a family member we may be looking forward to seeing and meeting again past heavens doors.

He wants to be the One to receive us, give us our ultimate everlasting comfort.

In this uncomfortable world, we know the One who is our eternal comfort.

He has Overcome!

He is Victorious!

And His Kingdom can never be shaken!

That is our Strength and our Hope!

In this world which surrounds us in suffering,

We who are His beloved Children can look forward to our ultimate comfort.

We who are His beloved Children look ahead to the world where this truth is;

By the Blood of our Savior Jesus Christ, Unchanging and Unchangeable ….

Revelation 21:3-7New Living Translation

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.[a] He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.

O Comfort, O Comfort, to all of My People …. thus Saith the Lord our God!

In the name of God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Lord Jesus, God of all Comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, bless us all today with the peace of your Presence. We thank You that You alone truly know our every pain and the aches of our hearts and souls in these difficult and most discomforting, disquieting of days. You experienced poverty and hardship, suffering like we may never comprehend, rejection humiliation and death unlike no one else in all of history. You are my compassionate High Priest, who feels real sympathy for my failures and my weaknesses; who will never leave us nor forsake us nor ever leave us as orphans. Good Shepherd, carry us through, Your tired, wearied lambs, through the valley’s of uncertainty, the rushing rivers of tears flood our souls. Comfort us with the steady beat of Your good heart and comfort us with the soft whispers of Your unchanging, unchangeable, unrivalled, unconditional love. In Jesus’ name. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Who has any Hope now for “The Great I Am?” Idolatry, Equality with God? “To whom then will you compare Me That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One. Isaiah 40:12-31

Isaiah 40:12-31 New Living Translation

The Lord Has No Equal

12 Who else has held the oceans in his hand?
    Who has measured off the heavens with his fingers?
Who else knows the weight of the earth
    or has weighed the mountains and hills on a scale?
13 Who is able to advise the Spirit of the Lord?[a]
    Who knows enough to give him advice or teach him?
14 Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice?
    Does he need instruction about what is good?
Did someone teach him what is right
    or show him the path of justice?

15 No, for all the nations of the world
    are but a drop in the bucket.
They are nothing more
    than dust on the scales.
He picks up the whole earth
    as though it were a grain of sand.
16 All the wood in Lebanon’s forests
    and all Lebanon’s animals would not be enough
    to make a burnt offering worthy of our God.
17 The nations of the world are worth nothing to him.
    In his eyes they count for less than nothing—
    mere emptiness and froth.

18 To whom can you compare God?
    What image can you find to resemble him?
19 Can he be compared to an idol formed in a mold,
    overlaid with gold, and decorated with silver chains?
20 Or if people are too poor for that,
    they might at least choose wood that won’t decay
and a skilled craftsman
    to carve an image that won’t fall down!

21 Haven’t you heard? Don’t you understand?
    Are you deaf to the words of God—
the words he gave before the world began?
    Are you so ignorant?
22 God sits above the circle of the earth.
    The people below seem like grasshoppers to him!
He spreads out the heavens like a curtain
    and makes his tent from them.
23 He judges the great people of the world
    and brings them all to nothing.
24 They hardly get started, barely taking root,
    when he blows on them and they wither.
    The wind carries them off like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?
    Who is my equal?” asks the Holy One.

26 Look up into the heavens.
    Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
    calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
    not a single one is missing.

27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
    and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
    and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
    They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
    They will walk and not faint.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

What is equality?

To be equal is to be as great as, alike in quantity and quality, evenly proportioned and balanced, and uniform in operation.

Equality is correspondence in all aspects and the slightest deviation results in an equivalent.

God has called you, me, the church, to be equally yoked which requires a clear separation from the sin and darkness to maintain all aspects of His Likeness.

The world has called for us to lower our standards to be equal.

As believers, we are in this world but not of this world.

We are to love all mankind as Jesus Christ did but not become entangled in civilian affairs.

No matter what our political viewpoints may or may not be, we are foreigners in this land called the Kingdom of God with a heavenly home far, far away.

We live in a somewhat democratic society that has skewed our understanding of God’s Sovereignty and our own self-worth.

We are called to be joint heirs with Jesus Christ.

This requires a transition from this world to a place of consecrated holiness – mind, body and spirit.

Just because society has decided everything in life is either good or bad, equal and unequal, to call sin ‘equality’ – does not mean is holy acceptable to God.

Just because God decided to extend grace, mercy and love to His People did not change His Mind on His Way and Word.

We must be very careful that in growing in the love and admonition of Jesus Christ that we do not lower our standards and worth to make sin acceptable and okay as a lifestyle or social status – ever.

We are called to unequally yoked to this world and to be wholly acceptable to God which is our living sacrifice, willing reasonable service. (Romans 12:1-2)

The Way of God is Jesus Christ. He came, died and rose again so that we could be transformed not to be conformed to the sin darkened image of this world.

We must each evaluate our life according to balanced and equal measure which comes from the Word of God which wrapped in flesh is Jesus Christ. Everything in our life should be compared to His Glorious Standard which never changed.

Isaiah 40:25-26Authorized (King James) Version

25 To whom then will ye liken me,
or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high,
and behold who hath created these things,
that bringeth out their host by number:
he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might,
for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.

Who can compare to God?

Who is His Equal?

Good question.

Isaiah 40:12-31 tells of the unsurpassable Greatness and Power of God.

If we the people – meaning you, meaning me, meaning the Body of Christ would only look past the present days comprising their daily life to forever, they would see the true Glory of God and His Sovereignty that makes earthly pursuits futile.

Whose standard of living?

Whose standard of Glory is the correct measure of the “righteous, correct” life?

With our Idolatry as the “great I am” or with His Equality The “GREAT I AM”?

If we could each bring ourselves to a place of God’s Shalom and not our own, to see it definitely doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about the Lord in terms of His Power – He is still All-Powerful – His Authority is not comprised by doubt!

There is no other god ever noted in history that is like our God. (2 Samuel 7:22)

Our inability to comprehend His Being or our refusal, our own unwillingness to accept only His Dominion, His Sovereignty, His Authority, does not change His Identity or Character – it does have any impact on our future and well-being.

Humanity has decided that there is no God or placed the Lord in a fairytale status that is a great story but is not real.

There is absolutely no equal to God. (Psalm 40:5)

A life that is lived in contradiction to this Truth is perceived as rebellion against God and His Kingdom.

On Judgment Day, this will become very real to people which is heartbreaking considering the freedom we have to know and worship God. (John 14:1-14)

God has deemed you and me of great worth.

He sent His Son as a payment for your sins so that He could re-establish a connectional relationship with you and re-establish a relationship with me.

His Holy Spirit lives inside of those who call on His Name as a guide and compass to consecration and citizenship in Heaven. (John 14:15-17)

Yet few take the time to know and understand the Lord and His Great Worth.

Oh, that we could all understand the Greatness of God and His Power – it would change, transform the way we live, act and communicate as we each strive to be His People rather than blending in “equally”, “in our equality” with the crowd.

Isaiah 28:10-13New Living Translation

10 He tells us everything over and over—
one line at a time,
    one line at a time,
a little here,
    and a little there!”

11 So now God will have to speak to his people
    through foreign oppressors who speak a strange language!
12 God has told his people,
“Here is a place of rest;
    let the weary rest here.
This is a place of quiet rest.”
    But they would not listen.
13 So the Lord will spell out his message for them again,
one line at a time,
    one line at a time,
a little here,
    and a little there,
so that they will stumble and fall.
    They will be injured, trapped, and captured.

God does not change. (Malachi 3:6)

Let not our hearts an souls be troubled, Jesus is the only Way, only Truth and only Life! Nobody, but nobody gets to God but through Him. (John 14:1-6)

The Lord hates sin.

Always has and He always will.

His Word has not changed and will never be void. (Isaiah 55:10-13)

It will continue to circle the earth until its purpose is accomplished.

Believers love the part of this truth that pertains to blessing, favor, increase, prosperity and promises.

However, when it comes to transforming their life into a holy, consecrated vessel that houses the Spirit of the Living God and is fully committed to His Kingdom – we call out for God’s forgiveness, God’s mercy and God’s grace.

Grace is not an excuse or exemption.

It is an extension of God’s Hand to assist us when we inevitably fall.

It makes way for a quick apology when we accidentally step on God’s “Toes”.

Please understand it does not change God’s Expectation of us.

He expects us to come out of the darkness because we are now Children of the Light.

The Lord expects us to separate our lives from sin to be like Him.

We are to hate sin like God does.

He expects us to love others equally, but not their sinful habits and inclinations.

God loves every sinner, every single “life cheating” one of us.

God desires relationship with everyone – without exception!

It doesn’t matter one iota if we are male, female or unsure, where we live, work and play, what color our skin is, whether we are heterosexual, homosexual or asexual, or whatever political affiliation is upon our voter registration cards.

Isaiah 55:1-3New Living Translation

Invitation to the Lord’s Salvation

55 “Is anyone thirsty?
    Come and drink—
    even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
    it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
    Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
    You will enjoy the finest food.

“Come to me with your ears wide open.
    Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
    I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.

Jeremiah 29:10-14New Living Translation

10 This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

This invitation, these promises from God extend to quite literally everyone – without exception, without judgment, without our biases or even prejudices!

He Created Us all! He knows us inside out. His Love provided grace so we could each step out of the social circles and/or sin of this world and into His Presence where there is peace, fullness of joy and pleasures evermore. (Psalms 16, 139)

Grace did not lower His Standards or Expectations of His People.

Rather than taking a stand for a political cause, it is time for Christians to take a stand for a righteous call beginning in their own life.

False teaching is rampant and the only way to escape these lies and deceptions is to know the Truth.

God loves everyone.

He hates everyone’s sin.

Now is a good and acceptable time to ultimately know God and His Authority and Power to align our lives with His Kingdom and stop living as betrayers of His Grace and Glory accepting less than God’s Very Best and calling it “equal.”

Philippians 3:1-11New Living Translation

The Priceless Value of Knowing Christ

3 Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters,[a] rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God[b] are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.[c] For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

We cannot assume equality with God because of His Grace.

He is giving us an opportunity to reestablish a relationship with Him.

Jesus Christ is the Way, Truth and Life – the ONLY WAY.

We cannot make up our own rules or pick a doctrine that suits us the best.

He gave us His Spirit so that we could rightly divide the Word of God and pray an apply it to our life – our Ignorance of His Word is no longer anyone’s excuse. (2 Timothy 2:14-18, 2 Timothy 3: 10-17, Hebrews 4:12-13)

God expects you, me, the church to know because we called His Name First.

We are to have the same attitude as Jesus Christ. (Philippians 2:1-11)

He came to do His Father’s Will.

He gave up divine privileges so that we can regain them.

He humbled himself in obedience to God – even to death on a Cross.

What gives us the ‘privilege’ to think God would expect anything less from us?

God elevated Jesus Christ because of His Obedience, wants to do the same for us.

We must use accurate scales to measure our life. (Proverbs 16:11)

God calls for honest measures.

His Word is the most solid measurement of our life and man’s interpretation should always be evaluated next to HIS TRUTH and never as from the Source.

God finds false weights and unequal measures detestable and grace did not change His Opinion. (Proverbs 20:10)

Exactly right now is the good and acceptable time for us to discover our true worth and maximum value to God and make it our “daily cross,” live up to it.

We must each experience Jesus Christ to discover what God expects from us and do IT, rather than constantly trying to lower the bar for our own guilty pleasure.

Instead, constantly raise the bar, Continuously advancing the standard of God!

Ephesians 3:14-21New Living Translation

Paul’s Prayer for Spiritual Growth

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father,[a] 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.[b] 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

I believe the Apostle Paul was using all the possible adjectives he could think of, all the dimensions he knew, in order to give us all a ‘glimpse’ of the love of God.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
and were the skies of parchment made;
were every stalk on earth a quill,
and every man a scribe by trade;
to write the love of God above
would drain the ocean dry;
nor could the scroll contain the whole,
though stretched from sky to sky.

If we know Jesus, the Son of God who became man to die for my sins and yours, as God deeply desires we know Jesus Christ as our Savior, we would truly agree.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Creating God,

it has been told to us since the very beginning

that you are truly the Lord of all that is and ever shall be. 

You are the God of both the prince and pauper,

of feast and famine,

of the mighty and the weak —

and yet, you do not favor the strong over the powerless. 

Remind us of your unsurpassable love as we read the scriptures,

O God of True Justice. 

You have no equal ….

We cannot strive enough to be Your equal ….

Yet, We do try too hard …. Open our eyes – open our hearts –

that we may be strengthened and renewed by your Word.

In Jesus’ Name …. In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

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Preparation for Advent: Scratching My Head, Asking the Hard Question: “Why Isn’t God Fair?” Asaph’s Song Psalm 73

Psalm 73Revised Standard Version

BOOK III

Plea for Relief from Oppressors

A Psalm of Asaph.

73 Truly God is good to the upright,
    to those who are pure in heart.[a]
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
    my steps had well nigh slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant,
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For they have no pangs;
    their bodies are sound and sleek.
They are not in trouble as other men are;
    they are not stricken like other men.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out with fatness,
    their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
    loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
    and their tongue struts through the earth.

10 Therefore the people turn and praise them;[b]
    and find no fault in them.[c]
11 And they say, “How can God know?
    Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked;
    always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
    and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken,
    and chastened every morning.

15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
    I would have been untrue to the generation of thy children.
16 But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
    then I perceived their end.
18 Truly thou dost set them in slippery places;
    thou dost make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
    swept away utterly by terrors!
20 They are[d] like a dream when one awakes,
    on awaking you despise their phantoms.

21 When my soul was embittered,
    when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was stupid and ignorant,
    I was like a beast toward thee.
23 Nevertheless I am continually with thee;
    thou dost hold my right hand.
24 Thou dost guide me with thy counsel,
    and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory.[e]
25 Whom have I in heaven but thee?
    And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength[f] of my heart and my portion for ever.

27 For lo, those who are far from thee shall perish;
    thou dost put an end to those who are false to thee.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    that I may tell of all thy works.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

If God is good, shouldn’t we receive more of the Abundant things in our life?

If God is so good, shouldn’t God have given Nimrod and his people an equal opportunity to complete the Tower of Babel, become the envy of the world?

Reality is, How high could they have actually built it before the limits of their primitive technology was reached and the Tower would come crashing down?

When it then had inevitably come crashing down around them and at their feet, would they not have then learned on their own of their folly and not tried again?

Cannot mankind be trusted enough to learn these valuable life lessons on their own – making great efforts to succeed, failing and failing quite badly, even to the point of catastrophic failure, then learning from the mistakes on their own?

1 Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.

Psalms 73:1-2

I remember reading several years ago a young man named Jason Brookins, a Green Bay Packer made a huge mistake.

He misinterpreted his teams request for his playbook.

Jason thought the request was their way of telling him he was cut from the team so without saying a word to anyone, he turned in his playbook, he jumped in his car, filled up the car with gas, began the long drive to his home in Missouri. He was so despondent that he turned off his cell phone and no one could reach him.

But, as with many such stories like this one which are all over social media, his perception was wrong.

Eventually reached by the team at his parents home, the team told him they had no such intentions of releasing him. His name was on a short list asking for him to turn in his playbook so that it could be updated in time for the next practice.

It is so easy for anyone to get out of touch with what is real, what is not. When we lose our perspective of reality, we can say and do some pretty crazy things.

Our perception of reality will always affect our response to reality.

Today, I sit and wonder if some of us, during this holiday season may have lost, or have actually our spiritual equilibrium as a result of some faulty perceptions.

One of the ways we can have a faulty perception of reality is by not having all the information and that includes the facts about life, what is fair, what isn’t.

One of the major issues for all people, in all cultures, societies, backgrounds and times is the inequities of life – Life is not very fair therefore God is not very fair.

Today I would like to introduce you to the 73rd Psalm.

It is important enough that I would like you to quite literally open your Bibles to it, then actually read it and its 28 verses out loud to yourself into a mirror today.

See if by reading it into a mirror, looking at yourself, you do not find yourself identifying with the author Asaph – his heart, soul, his feelings, his emotions.

Insert the thought into your head:

“Life is not being very Fair with me, therefore God is not being very Fair with me.”

I would also would like for each of you readers out there somewhere in the world to get out a new pen and to use a notebook to take down some notes.

The 73rd Psalm was written by a man named Asaph.

We don’t know a lot about him but we an say he was a mature, godly man who served as the worship leader in the temple. Asaph wrote 12 different Psalms.

He was a man of God yet here in this psalm we read of a men who was ready to hand in his worship book to the chief priest, turn around and head for home. He almost walked away from life because his perception of reality was “mixed up.”

This psalm is very personal, and filled with gut-wrenching honesty.

In it Asaph asks the question many of us have asked at one time or another:

If God is supposed to be a just God, and bless believers, why do we struggle with health, finances, and relational turmoil while the unbelievers around us seem to enjoy prosperity? Or, we could ask it this way, why are the wicked so successful, while the righteous, good hearted among us seem to disproportionately suffer?

Asaph begins with an introduction, a summary statement, and a theological conclusion all wrapped up in verse 1:

“Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.”

Asaph is stating the universal premise for the believer: God is good.

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h389/rsv/wlc/0-1/

The word surely literally means “indeed,” “yet” and also has the idea of exclusivity: “No matter what happens, God and God alone is indeed good.”

While we can surely, indeed and yet count on this certainty, its also, at the same time, indeed and yet, at the very crux of Asaph’s understanding of the problem.

“If God is so fair and even more just, should not we at least have that many more blessings in life than those who do not even bother to care about God?”

The Human Perspective

After stating what he knows is ultimately true, Asaph looks around and from a human perspective wonders what is going on in the first half of the psalm.

Asaph was exceptionally bothered by what he had been taught in Scripture because what he had experienced in the course of life was radically different.

In verse 2, he admits that he had almost slipped.

This verse stands in stark contrast to the certainty of verse 1: But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.

God, you might be good, but I almost bailed on you.

Asaph felt like he was trying to walk on moss-covered rocks in a lake.

He came very, very close to losing his confidence in God’s goodness because of four things which he observed and tried very hard to understand around him.

The Prosperity of the Wicked

3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalms 73:3

Verse 3 tells us why Asaph almost went spiritually AWOL:

For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

The word “arrogant” comes from a root word that means a loud and clear noise.

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h1984/rsv/wlc/0-1/

The idea is that a proud person is one who toots his own horn real loud. It is also used of incessant, ceaseless, nerve fraying, ear – splitting, braying of a donkey.

Notice that Asaph is not upset with the arrogant or the wicked, he is being so jealous of them. He wants what they have. But actually this goes much deeper.

The word “prosperity” does not do justice to the original term: shalom.

This word is pregnant with meaning for the Old Testament believer.

The root of shalom is completion or fulfillment and was often used to describe the deepest peace, wholeness, harmony and physical well-being. The word is used as a greeting today but it is really a blessing asking God for a good life.

It is obvious that Asaph just does not quite perceive this, “feel this,” in the moments when his emotions were so deep and the Psalm was being written.

Why would the wicked have everything which was only promised to God’s covenant people?

For Asaph, it does not seem the least bit fair at all.

He is doing what many of us do when we make judgments based only upon what we believe we see. His perspective is on the present, maybe forgotten the future.

The Peace of the Wicked.

4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong

5 They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills.

Psalms 73:4-5

In verses 4-5 Asaph wonders why life seems so good for those who have nothing to do with God:

They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.

They are free from the burdens common to man; they are wealthy, they are healthy, immune from any enemies and they are not plagued by human ills.

They perpetually live in the fast lane but they do not seem to crash and burn.

Their life appears painless and easy.

Charles Spurgeon once said,

“Those who so richly deserve the hottest hell often have the warmest nest.”

The Pride of the Wicked

6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.

7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits.

8 They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression.

9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.

10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.

11 They say, �How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?�

12 This is what the wicked are like� always carefree, they increase in wealth.

Psalms 73:6-12

As Asaph looks closer, he sees the unbeliever has no need of God in verses 6-12.

The very people who are often the most prosperous and live the most peaceful lives are also those who are the most arrogant.

They do not need any extra jewelry because their pride glitters like an expensive necklace.

They think very highly of themselves and very little of others.

Verse 7 says that they have no limits.

They have all the time, money, and influence to do whatever they want.

These prideful people make fun of believers in verse 8 and even speak against God in verses 9 and 11.

Their pride has taken them so high that they look down on God and on God’s people.

Verse 10 indicates that this boasting and scoffing has a powerful impact on those who are trying to follow God.

Verse 12 gives a summary of what the wicked are like: Always carefree, they increase in wealth.

Let’s admit something today.

Many of us secretly look up to those who are famous and financially secure.

Many more of us look angrily with great disdain on those who are famous and those who are financially secure far beyond what we perceive is reasonable for one or two persons to have in one lifetime – when there is great hunger about.

We are jealous of those who seem to live and thrive without boundaries, of those who can so arrogantly do whatever they want, whenever they want.

Some of you teenagers who I pray are reading this, are angrily wondering right now if following God, the Father, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit is really worth it.

Asking in their hearts and souls: “Why should I or anyone else live for God, Jesus or Holy Spirit when our friends seem to be doing all right without Him?”

Asking from deep within their own hurting hearts and traumatized souls: “why God?” “why Jesus?” or “why Holy Spirit?” with so much inequality everywhere.

The Self-pity of the Righteous.

13 Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.

14 All day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.

Psalms 73:13-14

In verse 13, Asaph basically believes that there is no advantage to holy living.

He is starting to tune out spiritually when he writes: “Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure; in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.”

From a human perspective, there seems to be little reward for righteous living.

The Living Bible puts it this way: “Have I been wasting my time? Why take the trouble to be pure?”

In verse 14 Asaph wonders why he is being beat up upon while the prideful are prospering.

He turns to self-pity as he describes the emotional deluge that has come over him: “all day long I have been plagued; I have been punished every morning.”

His afflictions last all day and when he wakes up the next morning, there is a boatload of new problems waiting for him to nag and wear away at his soul.

At the end of verse 14, Asaph is filled with turmoil, confusion and despondency.

What begins as envy in verses 2 and 3 results in agonizing self-doubt.

The Unfairness of it All.

15 If I had said, I will speak thus, I would have betrayed your children.

16 When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me.

Psalms 73:15-16

16 Asaph responds to these feelings in a number of ways that are important to us to remember when we are depressed, tired, weary, and feeling the pressure.

The first thing he does is to remember that he is part of the community of faith and that he must be careful what he verbalizes: If I had said, I will speak thus, I would have betrayed your children.

He could not talk to others about his doubts because it would have done more harm than good.

Asaph is concerned for spiritual infants.

He doesn’t want to do anything to lead them astray so he chooses to keep quiet.

If he had spoken openly about his deep doubts he would have betrayed younger believers by introducing ideas which, deep within his heart and soul, he knew weren’t true because they were incomplete – they were absent the Grace of God.

Proverbs 17:28: Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.

This is admirable but it does not solve his dilemma.

His second approach is equally futile.

Verse 16 says, “When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me.”

Keeping things inside only made him want to explode.

He was miserable because he could not talk to others and he was overwhelmed because he could not figure it out on his own.

From the Trial of God to the Triumph of God

17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

Psalms 73:16-17

As we come to verse 17 we see a noticeable shift in Asaph paradigm as he goes through a reality check.

In the first half of the psalm, he is viewing life from a human outlook.

In the second half, he reframes his understanding of reality by looking at heaven viewpoint.

The first section of the Psalm deals with the trial of faith, and the last part of the Psalm addresses the triumph of faith.

We can delineate the difference this way:

Trial of God (2-16) vs. Triumph of God (17-28)

Focus on self Vs. Focus on God

Locked into present vs. Longing for the future

Slipping away vs. Secure forever

What is it that changes everything for Asaph?

The same thing that will transform our perspective: worship.

Verse 17 is the hinge point of the psalm: “Till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.”

I really like how the Message translates this:

Then I understood the whole picture.

When we just look at those around us, and when we judge God according to our own experiences, we can never have the whole picture.

Everything is put into proper perspective when we go into the presence of God.

The prosperity of the wicked had filled up his vision, but from now to the end of the psalm, God Himself, the God of the sanctuary, becomes his #1 focal point.

The word sanctuary is plural and refers to holy places. In the Old Testament, the sanctuary was a set place with certain regulations about how to approach God.

According to the New Testament, God has now taken up residence within believers. 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”

We do not have to make a pilgrimage to a special spot in order to enter the holy place but it is important to have some places where you can meet with God and gain an regain His perspective again.

If we don’t gaze at God, we will default to our human perspective and end up becoming envious, jealous and bitter.

God’s point of view is understood when we meet with Him in His Sanctuary.

When we are reminded of His attributes, His character, and His power, we see, experience both God’s judgment of sin as well as His solution offered to sinners.

It was only in the sanctuary of God that Asaph could understand the precarious predicament of the wicked and the sweetness of God’s grace and mercy in his own life.

The mysteries of life only make sense in the presence of the Majesty of God.

One of the results of revering God is that instead of focusing on the present, we are transported to eternity.

It is only then we can fully maximize, completely appreciate the gravity of a final eternal destiny apart from God.

When we look at life through the eyes of eternity, we will see four things:

The Ruin of the Wicked.

18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.

19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!

20 As a dream when one awakes, so when you arise, O Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.

Psalms 73:18-20

In verses 18-20, Asaph’s reality is reframed as he is finally able to see that God has placed the wicked on a very slippery ground. In verse 2, he felt like he was sliding away, but now he recognizes that unbelievers will be cast down to ruin.

Slippery ground originally referred to a piece of polished marble that was very slick.

From heaven’s perspective, lost people will lose their footing and have a quick ride to the bottom.

The word “ruin” was used of a desert or an area decimated by a storm.

When God’s judgment comes, unbelievers will be wiped out.

Verse 19 is the destiny of those who do not know Christ: How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!

Friends, listen carefully. Instead of jealously longing for the things that lost people have, we should have a holy horror about where their final destiny is.

Verse 20 warns us that they are living a dream, or a fantasy, that will eventually turn into a nightmare.

Judgment is real and we should not try to sugar coat the awful truth of eternal punishment.

It’s important to remember that people often get things majorly turned around.

We think that when a person dies that they leave the land of the living and go to the place where dead people go.

When we come into the sanctuary of God, we see that this is the land of the dying, and when we take our final breath here, we go to the land of the living.

The Repentance of the Righteous

21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,

22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.

Psalms 73:21-22

In verses 21-22, Asaph owns up for his myopic vision:

“When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.”

The word “grieved” is used to describe the expanding, bubbling nature of yeast as it works its way through bread.

It is also used of vinegar, which helps to describe his expanding and sour attitude toward God when he looked at life through his human glasses.

His spirit was bitter, which can literally be translated, “my kidneys were sharp with pain.”

When he wanted what the wicked had, he was being eaten up on the inside.

When controlled by bitterness, Asaph behaved like an animal.

He uses a term for a grazing animal that lives with his head hunched down, seeing only the grass, and never looking up to observe the sky.

Like an animal out to pasture, so Asaph was viewing things only from a human perspective.

One of the things that separate us from brute beasts is that animals cannot contemplate the future; they live only in the present.

When Asaph looked only at the here-and-now, he was like an ornery ox that had and quite literally desired no concept of any eternal realities.

The Rewards of the Righteous

23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.

24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.

25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.

26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

Psalms 73:23-26

I love the first word of verse 23: “Yet”

After confessing that he was bitter, senseless, and ignorant, he immediately recognizes that God has not cast him away:

“I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.”

This verse delineates two rewards:

God’s presence and God’s protection.

God is always with us, no matter what we do, or think. And, He holds on to us.

We are His possession. 

Isaiah 41:8-10 RSV:

But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
    and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
    I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
10 fear not, for I am with you,
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Psalm 73 Verse 24 describes two more rewards:

God’s guidance and God’s glory:

“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.”

God promises to counsel us and lead us through life. And, then when our time on earth is finished, He will take us into glory. We can forever rest in God grip.

We can 100% rely on His guidance and we can reflect on the glory to come.

In Psalm 73 verse 25, Asaph is finally at the point where God has always wanted him to be:

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

If you an I cannot say this with integrity today, then our perspective is more human than heavenly.

Until you and I can get to the point of saying, “God, you are all I want because you are all I need, then we are going to wonder why life does not seem fair.

Is God all you need and want?

Is God all I need and want?

Is God all the Body of Christ needs and wants?

No matter what happens to you, to me or to the church, or what we each see in others, are we able to declare with Holy Spirit conviction, we’re 100% satisfied in God, with God, in Jesus, with Jesus, and in Holy Spirit, with Holy Spirit?

Asaph knew nothing was more valuable than what he already had in God.

Do you?

Do I?

Does the Body of Christ?

In Psalm 73 verse 26, Asaph can say that no matter what happens to him, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

The word “strength” means, “rock.”

As a Levite, he knew all about a portion because his livelihood was dependent upon the tithes and offerings of God’s people (much like pastors today).

This portion, can also be translated as his “allotment” or “inheritance.”

While his present needs are taken care of through people’s faithful stewardship, his eternal inheritance is rock solid because God Himself is His 1000% portion.

Ultimately, no matter what happens to him, God Almighty is his max allotment.

Can you, I, the Body of Christ say what Habakkuk declared in Habakkuk 3:17-18?

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Heavenly Perspective: The Responsibility of Believers

27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.

28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

Psalms 73:27-28

Asaph concludes by saying he’ll fulfill two key responsibilities of every believer.

First, he will stay near to God.

Look at the first part of verse 28:

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge…

Since genuine happiness, genuine Shalom is only found in a close relationship with God, it only makes complete sense for us to get as close to Him as possible.

His nearness is “good,” which means, sweet and pleasant.

Asaph has learned first-hand that the greater our nearness to God, the less we will be affected by the attractions and distractions around us. 

James 4:8: Come near to God and he will come near to you.

Will you draw near to Him right now?

Will I draw near to Him right now?

Will the Body of Christ, the Church, draw near to Him right now?

Our second responsibility is to tell others about God.

We see this in the very last phrase of the psalm: “I will tell of all your deeds.”

Before Asaph worshipped he concluded that it was not worth it to follow God.

He was filled with envy and decided to not tell other believers about his doubts.

Please do not miss this connection.

As long as he was discontented with God he could say nothing at all.

Envy is the enemy of evangelism.

But in the second half of the psalm he reaches a different conclusion.

Once he sees the final destruction of the wicked he no longer craves what they have and now he can speak from a place of genuine and joy – filled – Shalom!

Listen carefully.

Many of us do not or will not tell others about Jesus not because we do not know how but because somewhere deep down in our hearts and deep in our souls, we do not really genuinely believe what we have is better than what others have.

Worldliness is devastating to our witness because we secretly desire to be more like lost people than we desire that they come to an eternal relationship in God.

We want what they have more than we want them to have what is ours – Christ!

One of the best motivators for evangelism is to come into the presence of God and allow Him to shift your paradigm.

Think of the people you go to school with.

Think of your immediate family, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and friends who do not know, accept, Jesus Christ as their Lord and their Savior.

Are you somehow even .01% attracted to their lifestyle?

Do you wish you could do the same things they do?

Do you wish you could have their toys?

When you, I, the Body of Christ, the Church, look in the mirror, read, pray this long and absorbing text from Psalm 73 through, take a long look at eternity,

Do we ask ourselves this question:

Where will we be when the finality of God’s judgment lands on us with a thud?

Not Home Yet?

Not Home EVER?

Hmm …..

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Truly you are good dear Lord.. your mercies are new this morning.. great is your faithfulness.. I praise you.

Purify my heart Lord.. keep my feet from stumbling and make my steps sure.. cleanse me of envy, arrogance and wickedness.

Help me to see life from your perspective Lord.. open up my eyes to the true riches of life.. give me a humble heart and drive pride far from me.

Forgive me for speaking foolish and hurtful words.. cause my mouth to speak nothing but good things.. guard my speech from foolish words and divisive chatter.. give me the desire to encourage and lift others up.

Infuse the earth with the knowledge of the Most High.. cause the wicked to understand your goodness.. bring them to repentance dear Lord.

You have given meaning to my life Lord.. all else ends in vanity.. nothing else can make my heart clean.. you are the only one Lord.. your blood is sufficient.

I remember that time when my soul was embittered.. when I was troubled in heart.. when I was brutish and ignorant.. when I was like a beast toward you.

Nevertheless you saved me from a dark future.. you have kept me continually with you.. you hold my right hand.. you guide me with your counsel.. and after death you will receive me to be with you forever.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but you God are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

It has been good to be near you Lord.. you have been a blessing of refuge to me.. I will tell of all your sweet works in my life.. there is no one like you.

Glory be to you Lord Jesus! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen

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Preparation for Advent. Idolatry – We Become Who and What we Worship. Idols and Images and God. Psalm 115:1-8

Psalm 115:1-8Amplified Bible

Pagan Idols Contrasted with the Lord.

115 Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name give glory
Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth and faithfulness.

Why should the nations say,
“Where, now, is their God?”

But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.

The idols [of the nations] are silver and gold,
The work of man’s hands.

They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
They have eyes, but they cannot see;

They have ears, but they cannot hear;
They have noses, but they cannot smell;

They have hands, but they cannot feel;
They have feet, but they cannot walk;
Nor can they make a sound with their throats.

Those who make them will become like them,
Everyone who trusts in them.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

We do not talk about idols much these days.

And when we do, it’s probably about a pop super­star or an American Idol winner.

Neitzsche who famously once wrote, “God is dead,” also wrote, “If there is a God, how can I bear not to be that God?”  

That is a core issue in our idolatrous hearts.

We would kill God so that we can be God.

It is not that we deny God; we just replace Him with ourselves.

Recently some fans of a rap artist named Kanye wrote a book called “The Book of Yeezus” where they take the Bible and replace God with the rappers name.

The “famed” rapper even has a song called, “I am God.”

This is the reality of an idolatrous heart.

Therefore, we always have a desire to be our own authority, our own god.  

Even to deny God, is to fill that gap with ourselves as the sole determiner of what is true or not. Denying God is in itself an act of making oneself God.

Ancient idols, ancient graven images were nothing more than symbols used to get what we selfishly desired. 

In our modern materialistic society our deities are no longer objects that need to be appeased or placated, but rather things that appease or placate us. 

That is the ultimate goal in idol worship.  

Genesis 11:1-4 NASB

The Tower of Babel

11 Now all the earth [a]used the same language and [b]the same words. And it came about, as they journeyed [c]east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and [d] settled there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let’s make bricks and [e] fire them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. And they said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let’s make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of all the earth.”

I have heard it said of idolatry “that it is to embrace an insufficiently educated form, and wholly inadequate view of God or to make God seem more like us.”

The outcome of this idolatrous attitude is preferring to do things for our namesake (Genesis 11:1-4), not the Lord’s.

This idolatry of self-desire is ridiculously rampant and ruinous to the utmost. 

But when the Bible talks about idols, it usually means carved images that stood in for false gods.

The Bible issues strong warnings about that sort of idol.

On their own, idols are powerless.

As Psalm 115:4-7 says, they may have eyes and ears and hands and feet, but they cannot see, hear, feel, or walk!

Yet when people worship idols, they give power to them, destructive power.

That’s why, for example, the Bible warns against greed. Greed makes an idol out of wealth.

And when wealth is worshiped, it has the power to turn people into Scrooge like misers or “Grinch” like mobsters and thieves and joy killers or market frauds.

We have all hear it before – False gods, and their images, are utterly dangerous!

John Calvin famously said that “man’s nature is a perpetual factory of idols.”

I do not believe there is anyone reading this who would not say Mr. Calvin was anything but absolutely right!

What Is Idolatry in the Bible? Its Definition and Significance ….

According to Easton’s Bible Dictionary, Idolatry is “image-worship or divine honour paid to any created object.”

Paul describes the origin of idolatry in Romans 1:21-25: men forsook God, and sank into ignorance and moral corruption (Romans 1:28).

The forms of idolatry are,

  • Fetishism, or the worship of trees, rivers, hills, stones, etc.
  • Nature worship, the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, as the supposed powers of nature.
  • Hero worship, the worship of deceased ancestors, or of heroes.

Idolatry in the Bible

In Scripture, idolatry is regarded as of heathen origin, and as being imported among the Hebrews through contact with heathen nations.

The first allusion to idolatry is in the account of Rachel stealing her father’s teraphim (Genesis 31:19), which were the relics of the worship of other gods by Laban’s progenitors “on the other side of the river in old time” (Joshua 24:2).

During their long residence in Egypt the Hebrews fell into idolatry, and it was long before they were delivered from it (Joshua 24:14; Ezekiel 20:7).

Many a token of God’s displeasure fell upon them because of this sin.

The first, second commandments are directed against idolatry of every form.

Individuals and communities were equally amenable to the rigorous code.

The individual offender was devoted to destruction (Exodus 22:20).

His nearest relatives were not only bound to denounce him and deliver him up to punishment (Deuteronomy 13:20-10), but their hands were to strike the first blow when, on the evidence of two witnesses at least, he was stoned to death (Deuteronomy 17:2-7).

To attempt to seduce others to false worship was a crime of equal enormity.

An idolatrous nation shared the same fate.

No facts are more strongly declared in the Hebrew [Old] Testament than the vigorous extermination of the Canaanites was the punishment of their idolatry, and the calamities of the Israelites were due to the same cause (Jeremiah 2:17).

“A city guilty of idolatry was looked upon as cancer in the state; it was considered to be in rebellion, and treated according to the laws of war. Its inhabitants and all their cattle were put to death.”

Jehovah was the theocratic King of Israel, the civil Head of the commonwealth, therefore to an Israelite idolatry was a state offense (1 Samuel 15:23), treason.

On taking possession of the land by battle, the Jews were commanded to destroy all traces of every kind of the existing idolatry of the Canaanites.

The history of Israel is clearly outlined in the Bible.

For generation after generation, they repeatedly fell prey to being drawn away from the Lord to serve false gods.

This did not only happen to the common people, but to their kings, priests, and prophets, as well. 

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Timothy 4:4).

The sin of idolatry, or worshiping other gods, is in violation of the Law of God.

As a matter of fact, it breaks the first two of the Ten Commandments.

It is important to remember that disobedience is the original sin and therefore encompasses all sin. 

I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth (Ex. 20:2-4).

I have observed two areas concerning idolatry which I would like to mention:

First how it shows itself in our attitude towards church

Second, how it strains, places pressure upon our understanding of salvation.

1. Our Attitude Towards The Church

Living and worshiping with this culture centered, internet, technology driven idolatrous heart creates a dangerous consumer driven church mentality.  

When it comes to church, often the question is how does this service suit me?

How does the worship make me feel or how does it appease my senses?

Did I find the sermon appealing to my “I need to feel good today” needs?  

Was the message something I felt I wanted to hear?  

In our sinful hearts we have not gotten rid of our idols, we have only Christianized them.  

As I have mentioned earlier in this devotion, John Calvin said that the heart is an “I feel good, I will be good now, I am good” because the sermon said so” idol factory and this truth shows up in the church, moves through the week and the cycle will inevitably be repeated week after week because who expects different.

Keep this in mind, and we learned this in the Garden of Eden from that single conversation between the serpent an Eve: If Satan cannot keep you from your worshipping the true God, then he will do his best to pervert that worship.

One of the greatest perversions of worship is to make it about us.  

This includes those serving in church and those receiving the message.  

When we look at 1 Corinthians 10:31 we see that we are to do all things for the glory of God. It is to lift up God that we worship and serve. When we look at Ephesians 2:10, it shows we were made to do good works not just receive.

Philippians 2:3 states rather succinctly,

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”  

This is clearly seen in Jesus taking on flesh and humbling Himself to the point of death, for the sake of all mankind.  

Jesus demonstrated this so well when, like a slave He washed the feet of the disciples, in John 13.  

In this same chapter, the disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, yet Jesus took the role of a servant.  

Even on the Cross our Savior prayed for those that persecuted Him (Luke 23:34) and ministered (Luke 23:43; John 19:26-27).  

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for the many” (Mark 10:45).  

The point is, our idolatry makes church about service to us.

It makes worship about what appeases us the only quality worship we want.

True worship is about what we give to God because He alone is worthy, never about what we can get.  

We are called in love to serve the church, seek to serve, not seek to be served.

2. Strains Our Understanding Of Salvation

Having this idolatrous heart wrongfully makes salvation about us and about our ability to save.  

When I studied world religions, the theme of man earning his own way to God came up time and again.  

Every religion in the world is about man working and earning his salvation.

but in Christianity, we have believing with our whole heart, confessing in God and believing on His Son Jesus Christ as Savior as the way of salvation for man.

In other religions, the followers must come to their God to some how appease, earn favor and therefore still serve themselves because the ultimate recipient is the person doing the appeasing.

Systems like these work well to alleviate guilt over sin.  

We all know we are guilty.

I do not have to prove to you that you have done wrong.

I do not have to prove to anyone that they have sin.

I only have to present the evidence from their own life that condemns them.  

We live in a world full of people falling into religious systems or humanistic self-pleasure systems of worship to alleviate or numb the feelings of guilt.

When salvation is idolatrous it looks to put the power to achieve salvation in man’s hands rather than God’s.  

It will make mankind the end goal, or the highest benefactor of that salvation.

Against this is the reality that God saves us.  

In the Hebrew [Old] Testament when God saved His people, it says in Ezekiel 36:21-23 that He did it for His holy Name’s sake.  

In the New Testament in Acts 15:14, it states that God saved people from among the Gentiles “for His name.” 

Throughout Scripture, God desires to save, but the ultimate reason is for His own glory.

God saves us based upon His own purpose and desire.

In response, we who are saved return to Him a sacrifice of praise.

As His children, we praise Him, we thank Him an we pray to Him in worship for all He is and for all He has done and will do for us. Even though we receive the benefits of salvation, the ultimate purpose is to magnify the great name of God.

But then there is Jesus.

Jesus is the EXACT image of God (Colossians 1:15-20, Hebrews 1)

That’s why he can say,

“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

And that’s not about his eyes, ears, hands, or feet. It’s about power.

Because when we see Jesus, we see the Father’s love.

And there is power in that love.

It’s the ­power that saves the world – (John 3:16-17, 1 John 4:7-21).

It’s the power that makes us what we were always meant to be: not idols, but images of our heavenly Father.

2 Corinthians 3:1-6NKJV

Christ’s Epistle

3 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.

The Spirit, Not the Letter

And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the [a]Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

We become what we worship. When we worship — or pursue as ultimate — idols, we become powerless, discontent, and disconnected, just like they are.

We become WHO we worship. When we worship – or pursue as ultimate idols, we become powerless, discontent and disconnected, just exactly like they are.

But when we worship Jesus, we are made more and more like him – The way you and I view Jesus determines exactly how you and I will fervently pursue him.

Worship of our Pride and our Selfish Ambition will inevitably melt away before the undeniable greatness of our God who suffered and died and rose again. 

Do we see that as the star of the show, the hero to be praised is Jesus Christ?

When we see this indescribably grand demonstration of God, we can do nothing less than make everything we actually are all about, be about Him and His glory.

Psalm 29New King James Version

Praise to God in His Holiness and Majesty

A Psalm of David.

29 Give[a] unto the Lord, O you mighty ones,
Give unto the Lord glory and strength.
2 [b]Give unto the Lord the glory [c]due to His name;
Worship the Lord in the [d]beauty of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
The God of glory thunders;
The Lord is over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars,
Yes, the Lord splinters the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes them also skip like a calf,
Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord [e]divides the flames of fire.

The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
The Lord shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth,
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood,
And the Lord sits as King forever.
11 The Lord will give strength to His people;
The Lord will bless His people with peace.

Let us humbly come before God

Let us humbly receive His Living Word to get the full picture of who He is.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

O Lord, Mighty in Power, Perfect in Your Love, Perfect Author of my life. You say that I should have faith in You so that I will be upheld. Sometimes I do, an sometimes I fail and put more faith in myself than I know is righteous. Mighty Lord. I desire to place all my faith in You. You strengthen me. Your holy force keeps my spirit alive and burning fiercely for You. I know that with You I can overcome anything. Thank You for remaining faithful to Your chosen people. Thank You for guiding me in my life and helping me to become a vessel for Your will. I pray that I continue to put my faith and trust in You because You know all things. You know what the hearts of Your people need, and I know You will help me through whatever this life brings. Amen.

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When You Cannot nor Do not Feel Like Being Thankful this Thanksgiving, Why Should we Pray? 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18English Standard Version

Final Instructions and Benediction

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,[a] encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Signs of the Thanksgiving season are everywhere this week.

Everywhere we go we are consistently reminded by everyone an everything we see we are to give thanks for all that we have, especially our friends and family.

But what if maybe you an I do not feel thankful?

Maybe this year we are unable to locate one single reason to be thankful.

Maybe you an I are lacking close relationships or recently have gone through a major breakup or loss of a loved one. Maybe you an I do have others in our life, but our relationships are too complex, too conflictual or way too disappointing.

Perhaps the economic climate in our families precludes our usual shopping day.

Perhaps we have lost our job or have serious or chronic health problems, which make it difficult to feel thankful.

Or we might struggle with homelessness, a new high risk of homelessness or addictions, or depression or other mental health problems that make getting through every day a huge challenge we do not feel like confronting.

Maybe there is someone in our family who has become seriously ill and is now unable to participate in the festivities, maybe they have moved far away, there is no money anywhere for anybody to travel the distance now between you both.

Maybe our loved ones are members of the Armed Forces of our countries and the situation is such that no one is able to get those “orders” to travel home.

Perhaps we now have no home to go to because of major weather events which have destroyed the home or flooded it out or made it uninhabitable an unsafe.

Perhaps the home you knew or had just bought, has burned to the ground.

Perhaps the home you knew is now the home you can never go back to because you are a refugee or an immigrant fleeing a dangerous and unstable situation.

If one of these situations resonates with you, or resonates with me, we might not be feeling very thankful this season and we pray others to leave us alone.

For some other people, reminders to be thankful can bring joy. But what are the effects of being prompted to be thankful when you just aren’t feeling thankful?

Unfortunately, when you aren’t feeling thankful, even the minutest, smallest of reminders to be thankful are “offensive,” can make you and me feel even worse.

When you are struggling, being prompted to be thankful may seem insensitive.

You may feel misunderstood, alone, or isolated.

You might feel like everyone around you is thankful and full of joy, and you are alone in your thanklessness.

You may feel annoyed or even angry if it seems that others want you to be thankful to fit their schema for the holiday. If you have tried to feel thankful and just cannot bring yourself to do it, you may feel disappointed in yourself.

I confess… some days I don’t feel thankful. On those days I can still make of list of all my blessings, but instead of it propelling feelings of gratitude it makes me feel that much more guilty its not there, you cannot put it there. 

It’s a horrible feeling to be trying with everything you have to feel something you know you should be feeling but are not and do not believe you are allowed. 

Does that ever happen to you?

Is this a familiar sensation?

If this is how you feel, getting through the holiday can be challenging.

Here are some ideas for making it a bit easier.

1. Accept your feelings and be compassionate with yourself. 

You may think that you are supposed to feel thankful on Thanksgiving.

This is especially true if there are some aspects of your life that are positive, such as good health or a steady job.

However, sometimes our struggles weigh heavily on us, making it difficult to appreciate our blessings.

If this is happening to you, that is alright.

It happens to the best of us.

Not being able to feel thankful doesn’t make someone a “bad person.”

You may be having a tough time, and the tough times may be fleeting or may be more longstanding.

Either way, please see yourself as a good person, and treat yourself with the compassion and understanding that you deserve.

Accepting your feelings is important because it can bring you more peace than trying to fight them.

In addition, accepting your feelings is important because denying feelings can lead to other problems.

“Fake it till you Make it?”

If you are determined to stride into Thanksgiving pretending to feel something that you don’t, this façade can crumble in a hurry during the day, leading you to feel embarrassed or even worse than when you started in the first place.

2. Make a plan for challenging interactions. 

Many holidays have fallen apart as a result of quibbling throughout the day or full-blown arguments.

If you somehow anticipate being annoyed, irritated or provoked by someone during the day, whether it’s your mother-in-law, third cousin, or own spouse or child, make a plan now for how you will react. First, foremost – Pray to God!

Thanksgiving dinner is definitely not the most opportune time for proving that case you are right or making a case for something controversial that is vitally important to you, especially if you are out of sorts and not feeling your best.

Instead of trying to win those arguments, try embracing the goal of getting through the day with as much of God’s grace and God’s peace as possible.

To do this, you need to think about what you will do when someone sets you off or gets under your skin that will deescalate the tension.

This could be ignoring a comment, agreeing if you can, agreeing to disagree, changing the subject, or saying you aren’t going to talk about a particular topic.

Doing any of these things will probably mean that you are being the bigger person. This may not be “fair,” may seem like you are avoiding, but it will increase the chances of you making it through your day with less stress.

3. Make a plan if you are going to spend the day alone. 

For any number of reasons, many people find themselves dining alone on Thanksgiving when they rather would spend the day with others.

There are ways to get around this: inviting others to your home, asking a friend if you can join them (even if doing so is a little awkward), or volunteering at a church or at a homeless shelter or other location serving Thanksgiving dinner.

If none of these ideas appeal to you or are possible, you can still make peace with the holiday on your own. The irony here is that many of us would typically be thrilled to have a day to ourselves with no expectations for productivity.

However, the day can feel mightily empty when it’s a holiday.

Now is the time to start re-framing how you think about this day on your own.

This may not be what you wanted, but it’s what you have.

So, how can you make the best of it?

What would you do if the day were not a holiday?

Thinking about this now is important so you can research what shops or restaurants will be closed and gather whatever you need for your day now.

Remember too that a good plan does not necessarily mean that you won’t have feelings of sadness or disappointment.

But a good plan for filling the time with things you enjoy should help the hours roll by faster and with more pleasant moments.

4. End the day with something to look forward to. 

What do you most enjoy doing in the hour or two before going to sleep?

Maybe it’s a cozy spot with a good book, or a bath and glass of wine, or a long drive, or walk outside.

Whatever it is, do it.

If you have a busy day with friends or family, prioritize carving out and protecting this time.

If you are on your own, save these activities for the end of the day.

Doing this will serve two purposes.

First, you will have something to look forward to as you make your way through your day.

Second, it is a way of rewarding yourself.

By evening, you will have made it through a day that you found challenging.

This is not an easy feat, and you should take pride in what you have done.

How Does the Word of God encourage Us during particularly Hard Times?

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18New American Standard Bible

Christian Conduct

12 But we ask you, brothers and sisters, to recognize those who diligently labor among you and [a]are in leadership over you in the Lord, and give you [b]instruction, 13 and that you regard them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. 14 We urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the [c]unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek what is good for one another and for all people. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

As believers, we are taught to pray.

But what are we taught to pray?

The Word of God for the Children of God

– Begin to Reflect upon something an someone far, far greater than yourself,

Upon God, the Father an Go the Son and Holy Spirit,

Even if you do not know the words – Sing Psalms ….

For example ….

Psalm 42English Standard Version

Book Two

Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?

To the choirmaster. A Maskil[a] of the Sons of Korah.

42 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?[b]
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation[c] and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

But why should we pray when we do not feel like it?

But why should we pray when we cannot bring ourselves to do it?

Prayer, even the most silent and most anguished of prayers brings us into a time of sacred communion with God, the maker and sustainer of the universe.

God gives us life, and he sustains our daily living.

We should pray because God has everything we need and wants us to flourish.

What’s more, we should pray, even in silence, even when we feel like crying because in prayer we give thanks to God for all that he is and all that he does.

In prayer, even the most silent and anguished prayer, we recognize our ­utter dependence on God. It can be hard to admit that we are completely dependent.

But at the same time every anguished prayer opens our hearts to more fully experience the breathtaking scope of God’s amazing grace and mercy for us.

Thanksgiving in prayer is not just a good idea or a suggestion, though.

It’s a command, as the apostle Paul reminds us.

By rejoicing always, praying continually, we obey the will of God for us in Christ Jesus who taught His disciples to pray, under any and every last circumstance:

From the Scriptures:

He (Jesus) was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.
–Luke 11:1-4 (NRSV)

Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others of their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
–Matthew 6:9-15 (NRSV)

Sometimes we think of such “continual” commands as an even worse burden.

But obeying this command (1 Thessalonians 5:12-18)will bless us beyond measure, put us in the best position for loving and serving God in the world.

So when you pray today (and always), spend time communing with God, ask him for whatever you need, in the living Word of God and feel the strong rush of his grace and mercy resulting in a sense of gratitude that shapes all you do.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Creator God, your mighty hand threw chaos aside, your hand created heaven and earth, your hand threw the stars into space and the same hand which created me, now reaches down to me with the very gentlest and healing of touches. Yet God, I don’t have the strength to deal with the situation I am facing right now. I pray please uphold me with your stronger than my own righteous right hand. I don’t know what else to do now, or who else to turn to, please help me. You say that I do not need to be afraid, do not need to let my heart be troubled or dismayed because you are my God and you are with me. Still I hurt! Help me to know your presence in the midst of my circumstances and draw strength from you. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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We Are Saved By The Grace Of God. Matthew 25:31-46

Matthew 25:31-46New King James Version

The Son of Man Will Judge the Nations

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the [a]holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 “Then they also will answer [b]Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen.

Let us pray:

Dear Heavenly Father, we save for you our highest thanks and praise that through your Son, our Savior, Jesus the Christ, you have revealed your glorious will for our lives, and have redeemed us from sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts and minds to your Word and the grace contained therein, that we might come to gain a deeper appreciation for all that our Lord has done for us, and come to embrace him as our redeemer. This we ask in his holy name. Amen.

Today, we celebrate another Sunday of our church year, a Sunday, just as every other Sunday which preceded this one – we will honor Jesus the Christ as King.

It is a day to remember that through the power of the Holy Spirit, God calls us to acknowledge Jesus, and Jesus alone, who alone is the only One worthy to be our Lord, an our Savior – who will one day come, judge the world in righteousness.

Our Gospel lesson for this morning is one of two of Christ’s teachings on the subject of his future judging of the world, recorded in Matthew’s Gospel.

The first occurs at the end of what has become known as “The Sermon on the Mount,” where Jesus says:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’”

In this passage, the judgement of condemnation seems to fall upon those who use Jesus’ name in a casual manner, as if they really did not know and did not understand Jesus from the very deepest depths of their hearts and their souls.

Simply engaging in acts of ministry is not what Jesus wants. He wants us to know him in such an intimate way, that all of our actions, and all of the ways that we live our lives, naturally flow from our koinonia relationship with him.

Our Gospel lesson for today, the emphasis of our Lord’s judgement again seems to fall upon truly knowing Jesus from the heart, in such an intimate way, as we encounter persons in need, we respond to them as Jesus would have responded.

Just listen to how personal and intimate, Jesus makes his judgement.

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

The interesting thing about our lesson for today is the fact those who did what Jesus would have expected, did so without trying to earn our Lord’s good favor.

Because they knew Jesus so intimately, so personally, they didn’t even realize that they were acting the way that Jesus desired.

From knowing Savior Jesus, their life had been so dramatically and thoroughly changed, in such a way they just naturally responded to care for those in need.

It was not as if they knowingly set out and acted in such a way to earn brownie points from our Lord come judgement day.

The fact that those whom our Lord blessed and invited into the kingdom of God, did not even know that they had done these things, is a clear statement that it is not our deeds that make us righteous, but our intimate relationship with Jesus.

As the story goes, in a large Christian University, two persons were called upon to recite the 23rd Psalm of David, in a study group focusing on how hearing the Word of God proclaimed, can effect us in diverse, various ways, even change the meaning of a certain text.

One chosen to recite the psalm was a PhD professor trained in the techniques of Biblical Story Telling, speech, drama and music.

As a result, he intoned the psalm with great beauty and power.

When he had finished, those in the class applauded with enthusiasm, and asked him to repeat those verses, they again might hear his beautiful performance.

Then the second person was asked to recite the text.

She was a young first year student, who had yet to pick a major.

With no musical talent or inclination, she chose to recite the whole psalm from her own memory as she was taught to by her mom and dad, her grandparents.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…

When this young first year non-matriculated student finished reciting that psalm, not one single sound came from anyone the class, even the teacher.

Instead, the students sat quietly, in a deep mood of prayer and devotion.

Finally, the professor stood and addressed the class.

“I have a confession to make,” he said.

“The difference between what you have just heard from my student, from what you have also just heard from me, is that with all of my years of education and of my training. I may know the psalm, but she knows the psalm and loves the shepherd.”

Now I share this illustration with you today, not to simply point to the merits and differences between someone reciting the psalm versus intoning the psalm.

I personally enjoy intoning the psalms, because I deeply believe that is exactly how they were intended to be spoken and heard and felt in a worship setting.

They were ancient hymns and meant to come from the very depths of our souls.

But what is important to me, is that we intone or recite or sing the psalms with maximum conviction, as if we realize that they are written by persons who did know the Shepherd, who understood the context of the shepherd, to convey full of their relationship with God, so that we might come to know God, as did they.

And I believe that this is where these lessons of Jesus about the final judgment ask us to focus our maximum attention on not just Sundays, but every last day.

To honor God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit as sovereign.

It is not so important to know a lot of facts about Jesus, as it is to know Jesus.

Of course, the fact that I have just said this, may give maximum impetus to my readership to question why I have them learn so many facets about the Bible and Jesus. But through learning those facets, it is my hope and prayer that they might come to know God, and begin to relate to Jesus as their redeemer King!

It is for that reason, I have stressed to my readership that doing their daily devotions is more important than scoring aces on their “worldly” quizzes.

Even if my readership misses a few major points here or minor there, I can always tell, through their participation in ‘class’ if they understand truth.

And I can an do try to teach a lot of truths in the long course of my writings.

But TRUTH is – I can NEVER teach them to enter into a relationship with Christ.

That is something I have to prayerfully hand over to the grace of God, and the matchless power of the Word of God, Jesus, and His Spirit, to bring to fruition.

I think Luther put it as well as it can be stated, when he said:

“I believe that I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe in Jesus Christ my Lord, or come to him as my Savior. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith.

What a marvelous insight, for here Luther is insisting that even our belief in Christ is not something that we can take credit in.

For if it would not have been for the love of God working through the church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we would not even have the opportunity to have heard of Jesus the Christ, let alone come into relationship with him.

But all the highest praise and thanks be to God that he has given us the gift of his Holy Spirit, which has inspired his Beloved Children and church to proclaim his Word, and celebrate the Sacraments, that we might all come to know Jesus, and allow him to become, not only a part of our lives, but through our intimate relationship with him, experience the only direction by which we live our lives.

I remember this story from years past, from my own non-matriculated days.

During the French revolution, a mother of two children wondered through the woods for three days, trying to survive on roots and leaves.

On the third day, she heard some soldiers approaching and quickly hid herself and the children behind some bushes. Several of the young soldiers prodded the bushes with their bayonets, to see what a slight rustling noise might look like.

When they saw the starving woman and her two children, they immediately gave them loaves of brown bread from their own meager soldierly rations.

The mother took them eagerly, broke one into two pieces and gave one piece to each of her children. “Is she not hungry,” said the soldier’s comrade. “No,” he said, “It is because she is a mother and loves her children more than her self.”

Matthew 26:26-30 NKJV

Jesus Institutes the Lord’s Supper

26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, [a]blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”

27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the [b]new covenant, which is shed for many for the [c]remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Well, on the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus took a loaf of bread, broke it and shared it with us all. Then he lovingly gave up his all he had on the cross, wearing a crown of thorns, and was mocked as being the King of the Jews. Well, today, today celebrate that he is the King, not only of the Jews, but of the world.

As we solemnly approach this coming Thanksgiving – this time of family and togetherness, this coming season of Advent as we remember and recount the ancient story and prophetic passages from God’s Holy Scriptures, to again be aware of how they have impacted those who came before us, how they impacted our lives, how they will continue to impact them and those of our own children, and every single countless future generations of all the children yet to be born,

Then we enter into the wondrous season of Christmas, the season of gift giving, that absolutely positively the greatest gift in all history was the gift of our God,

In a matchless expression of His matchless Charity and Grace – His own Son!

Immanuel – God with Us and God within Us – Alpha to Omega – for all time!

Jesus Christ – Our King!

Jesus Christ, Our Lord!

Jesus Christ – Our Savior!

Ponder that for a while – a long while, an Alpha to Omega while.

Experience what God will most certainly do for you …..

Until then, ……

We might want to get a little more Alpha to Omega practical experience in ……

Psalm 23 AKJV

Psalm 23

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear:
though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.
(Psalm 27:3-4)

This I shall yet in everlasting praise, Pray to the Shepherd King of my life ….

To our God and soon coming Savior, I give You thanks. God, I pray today that You will reveal yourself to me and those in my life. May we have an encounter from the true and living God. I pray that the desires of our hearts shall be to seek after You that we may know You and that we will be men and women after God’s own heart, Amen.

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About Our Holding On To Our Past – Grudges and Resentments, Regrets, And Remorse’s. Philippians 3:7-16

Philippians 3:7-16Authorized (King James) Version

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Max Lucado tells a story about the late champion boxer Muhammad Ali taking someone to his barn where he stored his trophies and awards.

Standing in the doorway, he pointed to his many trophies and said, “It ain’t nothing.”

His body and his mind wracked by debilitating illnesses he had come to the conclusion when all is said and done, his accomplishments meant very little.

Centuries earlier, the apostle Paul looked back on the whole of his life and on all the things he had been successful at, all of his education he was proud of, and said, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss. I consider them rubbish.”

Apostle Paul said this not necessarily because he had a debilitating disease like Muhammad Ali but because he had met the Lord Jesus who surpassed all of it.

He had come to the conclusion he was ready to let go of whatever was behind him so that he could serve the Lord, live only by the power of the risen Savior.

As we are about to enter into Thanksgiving, Advent an then Christmas and then the New Year, are we too ready to ultimately let go of all the things that might keep us from our experiencing the maximum power of Christ’s resurrection?

Are we ready to let go of all the things that at one time seemed all-important?

Are we ready, willing and genuinely able to finally an for all time, ask the Lord today for the grace to toss out everything that stands in the way of serving him?

Today,  I would like to address “Holding on to our past,” our resentments our grudges, our regrets and our remorse’s, viewing an interpreting them each as something which can inhibit not only our personal relationships, our outlook on life, but also our sense of self-esteem, identity and spiritual growth in Jesus.

Philippians 3:10-14Amplified Bible

10 And this, so that I may know Him [experientially, becoming more thoroughly acquainted with Him, understanding the remarkable wonders of His Person more completely] and [in that same way experience] the power of His resurrection [which overflows and is active in believers], and [that I may share] the fellowship of His sufferings, by being continually conformed [inwardly into His likeness even] to His death [dying as He did]; 11 [a]so that I may attain to the resurrection [that will raise me] from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained it [this goal of being Christlike] or have already been made perfect, but I actively press on [b]so that I may take hold of that [perfection] for which Christ Jesus took hold of me and made me His own.  13  [c] Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Here, Paul is pointing out a significantly insightful truth … a significant fact,

“I have let go of the past, have strained myself towards my future in Christ.”

To obtain our future in Savior Christ – We must NOW leave the past in the past.

Yes, we must learn from it but press on … straining forward to what lies ahead.

Press on toward the ultimate goal which decisively, definitely lies ahead.

You and I cannot relate to the present … or look forward to relating to any part of our future if you and I are still choosing to remain stuck, reacting to the past.

Sadly … We bring the burden of so many, truthfully, far too many, unresolved, nonsensical, trivial, long forgotten problems into … our present relationships.

We are prone to carry, burden ourselves … emotional garbage around with us.

We rehash … We rewash – re-launder our age old grudges and resentments.

We mull over, we obsess over this stuff like a bad movie, the bitterness we hold.

We project our angers, resentments, grudges toward the those that have hurt us – we hammer them – as iron sharpens iron – so resentments sharpens grudges.

Those things we have feel guilty about, and the “if only” regrets.

It is as if we cannot get them out of our mind. “Only if”?

We rehearse our resentments, and we replay our regrets.

And many of us are weighed down by indescribable weight of all those wasted times and seasons and opportunities to receive grace upon grace upon grace.

And when we feel down … when we feel depressed?

When you carry the emotional garbage of rehashing resentments, remembering regrets, and reinforcing remorse?

Well … it tends to cause you to react to life rather than enjoying life.

Yet Paul shares with us a solution hear God’s word.

BIBLE “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind (Forgetting what lies where … in the past) and straining forward to what lies ahead. END

Beloved … Jesus is clear BIBLE “‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'” END (Luke 9:62)

Until you and I choose to intentionally stop looking backward you and I are not fit for kingdom service on this side of eternity.

If you and I are looking back … if you and I are holding on to “If Only’s …” well, then, you and I are not making a very stout effort towards walking in God’s will.

Truth is … No one is immune – we each definitely get stuck there sometimes.

So … how do we approach such an “impossible” idea -stop – let go of the past?

Well first you must let go of your bitterness of your grudges.

Paul shares this truth to the believers gathered in Ephesus.

Ephesians 4:30-32Amplified Bible

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [but seek to please Him], by whom you were sealed and marked [branded as God’s own] for the day of redemption [the final deliverance from the consequences of sin]. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor [perpetual animosity, resentment, strife, fault-finding] and slander be put away from you, along with every kind of malice [all spitefulness, verbal abuse, malevolence]. 32 Be kind and helpful to one another, tender-hearted [compassionate, understanding], forgiving one another [readily and freely], just as God in Christ also forgave [a]you.

Get rid of all bitterness.

Get rid of all rage.

Get rid of all anger.

Chuck it!

Throw it away!

Eliminate it!

Beloved do not hold on to resentment.

If you do, it will ruin your relationships.

There are few things in life that can cause more danger to a relationship then bearing grudges and resentment beyond their useful shelf-life (one second).

Beloved bearing grudges and resentments does not resolve anything.

Remember when you are bearing grudges, being resentful, it probably does not upset the other person over much, it only … it only upsets you.

You remain the one who hurting.

Resentment never affects or hurts the other person it only affects you.

Hear God’s word from Job: BIBLE “to worry yourself to death with resentment would be foolish, senseless to do …… you are only you’re hurting yourself with your anger.” (Job 5:2 and Job 18:4)

Yes … we can backpack our grudges around over our shoulders, be resentful towards people who have hurt us … but they will never … change the past.

Resentment is a clear waste of time … or as the scriptures state … it is foolish … because it never resolves the problem …… it only makes it infinitely worse.

And the truth be told … Our resentment …. makes us a slave … to the one …. we resent.

When you say to somebody, … “You are making me so mad” … you are in essence … admitting to a weakness.

You are making me mad.

That means … we are admitting that we cannot control our own emotions.

You are admitting that others control you …. Others have the power to make you happy or mad.

Beloved, know this truth nobody … no one can make you mad without your permission. REPEAT

Some of us may have been hurt in the past.

But that past does not have to keep on hurting us in the present.

Lay that resentment at the Cross and allow God’s grace and power, to move within you.

Allow the Holy Spirit to transform you.

Psalm 51 Amplified Bible

A Contrite Sinner’s Prayer for Pardon.

To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David; when Nathan the prophet came to him after he had sinned with Bathsheba.

51 Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my wickedness and guilt
And cleanse me from my sin.


For I am conscious of my transgressions and I acknowledge them;
My sin is always before me.

Against You, You only, have I sinned
And done that which is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak [Your sentence]
And faultless in Your judgment.


I was brought forth in [a state of] wickedness;
In sin my mother conceived me [and from my beginning I, too, was sinful].

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being,
And in the hidden part [of my heart] You will make me know wisdom.

Purify me with [a]hyssop, and I will be clean;
Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Make me hear joy and gladness and be satisfied;
Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.

Hide Your face from my sins

And blot out all my iniquities.

10 
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right and steadfast spirit within me.
11 
Do not cast me away from Your presence
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
And sustain me with a willing spirit.
13 
Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted and return to You.

14 
Rescue me from blood guiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation;
Then my tongue will sing joyfully of Your righteousness and Your justice.
15 
O Lord, open my lips,
That my mouth may declare Your praise.
16 
For You do not delight in sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
17 
My [only] sacrifice [acceptable] to God is a broken spirit;
A broken and contrite heart [broken with sorrow for sin, thoroughly penitent], such, O God, You will not despise.

18 
By Your favor do good to Zion;
May You rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
19 
Then will You delight in the sacrifices of righteousness,
In burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.

We must learn to yield the past to God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Are you and I holding resentments … grudges against someone from the past?

A brother a sister? A father or a mother? A spouse, a coworker?

A Church?

A Denomination?

I have found many adults are still fighting their parents unconsciously.

They feel they were unloved, ignored, verbally abused, physically abused, intimidated … manipulated.

Many have buried that hurt deep and have never addressed it.

And if they have buried it … in essence they are still holding on to it.

We need to dig it up and let go; we need to lay this at the foot of the cross.

Beloved we will not be able to fully relate to our present relationships if have allowed bitterness to take root … if we are still holding on … to the past.

The anonymous writer of Hebrews puts it this way: 

Hebrews 12:14-17Amplified Bible

14 Continually pursue peace with everyone, and the sanctification without which no one will [ever] see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of God’s grace; that no root of resentment [bitterness] springs up and causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 and [see to it] that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that later on, when he wanted [to regain title to] his inheritance of the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no opportunity for repentance [there was no way to repair what he had done, no chance to recall the choice he had made], even though he sought for it with [bitter] tears.

Make NO Mistake about this: every last ounce of that bitterness, that Bitterroot if it takes a secure hold of our hearts and of our souls, will absolutely, definitely, decisively, directly, maximally impact all our every single current relationships.

Some of us may have allowed bitterness, anger, hurt to pile up from the past.

And instead of taking it out on that person … you take it out on your husband … or on your wife … or on your children, your friends, your neighbors, churches.

Beloved that is wrong … and that’s worse than wrong … is not definitely fair.

So … let go and let God move and have his way in your life.

Trust that he loves you.

It’s time to move on … to strive forward … in your new life in Christ.

It’s time to forgive and to lay this bitterness at the foot of the cross.

Remember the prayer that we are taught to pray on each Sunday?

Father forgive us … forgive me my trespasses … only … only as I forgive others.

We must also be willing to give up our gloom.

Gloom a word not used very often anymore.

Gloom a combination of Sorrow, grief, sadness, heartbreak, and worry.

Everyone experiences some type of gloom in their life.

Many of you have experienced major losses, some in the past several years.

And loss, … gloom, … hurts.

And mourning … grieving is a natural part of life.

There is nothing wrong with mourning.

In fact, the scriptures are clear, 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-14Amplified Bible

A Time for Everything

3 There is a season (a time appointed) for everything and a time for every delight and event or purpose under heaven—


A time to be born and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.

A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.


A time to throw away stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.

A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to [a]tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to keep silent and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

What profit is there for the worker from that in which he labors? 10 I have seen the task which God has given to the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.

God Set Eternity in the Heart of Man

11 He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. He has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]—yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end.

12 I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good as long as they live; 13 and also that every man should eat and drink and see and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God. 14 I know that whatever God does, it endures forever; nothing can be added to it nor can anything be taken from it, for God does it so that men will fear and worship Him [with awe-filled reverence, knowing that He is God].

In fact, Jesus says “blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

It is alright … it is OK to grieve and to weep.

We know that Jesus Wept at the Tomb of Lazarus. (John 11:35)

Yet there is a significant difference between mourning and moaning.

Moaning is self-pity … “poor me”.

When we moan, we empower gloom … we allow gloom to rule the outlook… of our life.

Beloved … pain is a part of life.

Everyone experiences pain.

Everyone hurts and has heart aches.

Yet, … hear me on this … do not allow your pain to make you … it’s prisoner.

So (1 finger) let go of your grudges (2 fingers) And let go of your gloom.

If you don’t, … they will strangle you.

Yet … how do we let go of gloom… when it is strangling us?

Well, … except … what cannot be changed.

Many of you may be experiencing pain … from events … that happened … many years ago.

The key to Peace of Mind can be found in one word… and that word is … acceptance.

Acceptance of God’s will.

Allowing God’s way … in your life.

God is on his throne … and he is working … all things together for your good.

All Things … The Good … the bad … and the ugly.

Let go of your grief and give it to Jesus.

And if you do, it will release you … from the clutches of its pain.

Play it down … and pray it up.

Spend more time praying then complaining.

Or as a seasoned Christian friend would always say … “Go to the throne … before you go to the phone.”

Beloved … focus on what is left … not on what is lost.

You might be saying … you do not understand how much I have lost … and how little is left?

And you are right … I will never fully understand.

But this I know … little is much … in the hands of almighty God.

For he takes all things … the good … the bad … and the ugly … and works them for good… for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:28)

Beloved … self-pity … is more damaging to you. more dangerous … and to your life and my life and the life of the church … than any tragedy we will ever face.

Why? Because … self-pity perpetuates pain, and ultra magnifies resentments.

Let go of your grudges.

Give up your gloom. And lastly give up your guilt.

Some people refuse to accept forgiveness from God.

They hang on to their guilt.

In fact, … many … hold on tightly to it … like an iron clad security blanket.

In a way … they have locked themselves in a prison … and thrown away the key.

And allowed the guilt … of what they have or have not done, to play … over and over and over … to rent space at no cost nor given consequence in their mind.

Beloved … That is not the message of the Gospel.

We have a forgiving gracious God, … a God of second chances.

But you need to lay your guilt down.

Yet how do you let go of guilt?

Well there are two approaches one is right and the other is wrong.

2 Corinthians 7:8-10Amplified Bible

For even though I did grieve you with my [a]letter, I do not regret it [now]; though I did regret it —for I see that the letter hurt you, though only for a little while— yet I am glad now, not because you were hurt and made sorry, but because your sorrow led to repentance [and you turned back to God]; for you felt a grief such as God meant you to feel, so that you might not suffer loss in anything on our account. 10 For [godly] sorrow that is in accord with the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but worldly sorrow [the hopeless sorrow of those who do not believe] produces death.

These two approaches to guilt and both illustrated in the lives of two of Jesus disciples, Peter, and Judas.

Both Peter and Judas, on the night before Jesus was taken into custody, denied and publicly Jesus.

They both sinned.

Yet as we know … they both responded very differently to this guilt.

One response was right, and one response was wrong.

The way Judas responded was self-condemnation.

Here God’s word: BIBLE “when Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse. Then he went out and hanged himself.” END (Matthew 27:3-5)

Judas took his life in his despair.

He allowed his despair … his sin … to overwhelm him.

He felt that life was no longer worth living … so we went out … and took his own life.

Peter, … on the other hand, … his response … was not condemnation but confession.

Again, hear God’s word BIBLE “then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken and he went outside and wept bitterly.” END (Matthew 26:75)

Peter also experienced remorse but he wept bitterly and obviously … confessed his sin and sought forgiveness.

How do we know he did that, … because not many days later God … used him in a mighty way.

You can almost hear him say Jesus I failed, I let you down Forgive me.

Have you ever said that?

Jesus I have let you down, I have been unfaithful, I have not followed your ways?

Beloved we have a forgiving God.

We have a God who forgives.

And that can be seen in the life of Peter.

For on the day of Pentecost Peter spoke and 3000 people were saved.

We must come to the throne and confess our sins and we most come to the throne for forgiveness.

Hear again God’s Word: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

Thank you, Lord, for this glorious promise.

Thank you, Lord, for this ancient and glorious promise of a future beyond all;

Isaiah 2:1-4English Standard Version

The Mountain of the Lord

2 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

It shall come to pass in the latter days
    that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
    and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,[a]
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war anymore.

And the House of the Lord will be established above all houses.

On the highest of His mountains and not upon our wee little ant hills.

and many peoples shall come, and say:

Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that HE may TEACH us HIS ways and that we may WALK in ONLY HIS PATHS.”

HE shall judge between the nations (and the churches and the denominations).

HE shall decide the DISPUTES.

And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nations will not lift up swords against nations, or resentful angry words be lifted up and raised high against and between churches and denominations.

Neither shall they learn war ANYMORE!

How much emotional garbage are you and I still carrying against each other?

Lay that worldly garbage down at the cross.

Give them all to Jesus.

Let go of the past and embrace God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit so His joy can permeate the present and all things can become new.

Beloved you and I are a new creation In Christ Jesus.

As beloved Children of God,

You and I are sanctified and continually being sanctified.

Lay your burdens at the foot of the cross and look into your Saviors’ eyes.

He loves you and wants your entire life to be filled to the brim with His joy.

Sing, Sing and Sing some more.

Give them all … give them all

give them all to Jesus

and he will turn your sorrows,

he will turn your sorrows,

Yes, He will turn your sorrows, into joy.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

O God, my Strength, I put my trust in You. You have never forsaken those who seek You. You have never let me down. I know that You never will let me down because my life so far has been a living testimony of Your greatness and not to my many resentments and my multitude of grudges. Mold me into Your image, and hold me close to You. Reveal to me thy grace, how to mature as a Christian and daily improve on my walk of faith. Steady my trust in You so that it never wavers, no matter what battles I face on this earth. I declare that my faithfulness to You will be strong at all times and in all places and during even the very worst of circumstances. Amen.

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Individually and as God’s Church, How Can We All Avoid Letting a Bitter Root Grow Out of Our Lives? Hebrews 12:15-17

Hebrews 12:15-17 English Standard Version

15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

Arugula, Coffee, Dill, Dandelion Greens, Jerusalem Artichokes, Kale, Sesame Seeds, Turmeric, Ginger, Lemons and Limes and Grapefruits, Peppermint, Cocoa, Eggplant, Green Tea, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Cranberry, Cabbage.

What do those foods have in common?

Your up and coming Thanksgiving Day feast – all those old family recipes lovingly passed down from the meal tables of one generation to the next?

Your own modern and contemporary efforts to load up the dinner table with an array of healthy salads, healthy spread of fruits and vegetables for the children?

Great ideas all around – healthy habits, physical health and wellness matter!

Well worth the time and effort for everyone whose task it is to prepare meals to foster a healthy body and a healthy mind through an array of very healthy food.

But, actually ….

The real intent of my listing the food items is for what they all have in common.

They all have a bitter taste when consumed.

We have probably overlooked or learned to cover up all those bitter flavors by adding various other food items such as some spices and sweet salad dressings.

Most of the time that is what is required to get us to eat those foods because the tasting of that bitter taste, learned early enough, means we rush to avoid them.

Despite the fact their nutritional values and their long historically well known healthy benefits for our bodily functions should interrupt, preclude our hates.

The bitter taste left in our mouths from these foods leaves a lasting memory.

Do we go out of our way to avoid them at all costs or decide to keep them on our tables, in our stomachs and in our lives – taking advantage of their healthiness?

On the other side of that “bitter taste” of food is ….

The bitter feelings associated with such emotional experiences as betrayal and anger and sadness, fear and anxiety and worry and depression.

Most of us have experienced the feeling of bitterness at some point, and can agree that it is a distressing emotion.

And once it rises, and takes “roots in our hearts” and “root in our souls” the feeling can linger and spread for a long time unless it is dealt with correctly.

The writer of Hebrews wrote this verse hoping to protect the early believers and the early church from the inevitable, undeniable destruction bitterness causes.

The image of a sour root growing up among a body of believers was a powerful way to remind God’s people about the dangers of letting unforgiveness and discontent well up within our hearts.

And as Ironic and even laughable as it will surely sound to some reading this, to say that if we are not careful, it can happen before we realize there is a problem.

Fortunately, the living and active Words of God’s Holy Scripture offers us the prevention and the sure reminder that there is a remedy and there is a sure cure.

What Is This Verse Talking About?

Simply put, Hebrews 12:15 is a clear instruction about guarding and protecting the integrity of a church body.

Each section conveys a sense of urgency to the command.

“See to it…”

This directive is given to everyone who is part of the church – leadership and lay members alike. All who would go to the greatest lengths possible to call themselves part of the family of God need to be ready to respond in obedience.

“… that no one falls short of the grace of God”

Repeatedly, according to our God’s Holy Scriptures, wrong heart attitudes like unforgiveness and self-righteousness can keep a person from receiving grace.

God will never force Himself on us, and so if we trust in our own goodness and lack humility, then we will all definitely miss out on the working of His healing grace not just in our hearts and minds, but in our neighbors’ hearts and minds.

“…that no bitter root grows up”

The lack of God’s grace in our lives results in a sense of bitterness. For when we are self-centered, we expect others, and God, to fill our needs all the time. We are more impatient, and more bothered when things don’t go the way we plan.

“…to cause trouble and defile many.”

What kind of trouble?

If our inner attitudes and thoughts are full of that bitterness, it will appear in outward words and actions and deeds that significantly impact those around us at home and in church negatively – and perhaps reach into the world beyond.

The Apostle Paul was very aware of this possibility in each of us. And he had no doubt seen how one person’s behavior could compromise a whole congregation’s health, and its influence in the world. He often mentioned this idea in letters to churches he had planted.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31).

Ephesians 4:31

“Your boasting is not good” (1 Corinthians 5:6).

“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness” (Romans 3:14).

This idea harkens back to warnings Jesus gave His disciples using the image of yeast, or leavening, being spread through bread dough and affecting the whole loaf. This represented how the wrong teachings of the religious elite would contaminate the minds and hearts of His followers, and weaken their witness to others.

“’But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:11-12).

“…Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy’” (Luke 12:1).

Luke 12:1

What Is the “Bitter Root”?

Bitter roots have been born out of simple disagreements, or unintentional offenses.

However they start, it’s essential that the initial upset, frustration or hurt is dealt with. If the air is not cleared, the seed for division and pain is planted.

Once bitterness has settled into a person’s heart, into their souls it eventually comes out in harsh words or in actions that often impact others they talk to.

What Is the Message of Hebrews All About?

Authorship of Hebrews has long been debated.

Scholars have found evidence both for and against the Apostle Paul being the one who wrote it.

Other suggestions include Luke, Barnabas, Phillip and Apollos.

Whoever the anonymous author was, the purpose was to prove the authority of Christ and encourage believers to be encouraged, persevere in their faith walks.

The Epistle to the Hebrews was an attempt to reach at least two specific groups in the church at that time: specifically, Jews who had converted to Christianity but felt the need to pull back into the ways of Judaism which they understood, and new believers who had not yet fully learned and embraced following Jesus.

Many Hebrew Christians at the time were going through both severe social and economic, sometimes physical persecution from both the Jews and Romans.

Some were considering returning to their former religious life.

The Epistle to Hebrews was an attempt to remind these believers of Biblical truths, and to encourage, reassure them that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

What Else Happens in Hebrews 12?

Hebrews Chapter 12 starts with the word “therefore,” which is used to refer to something that has already been stated, and also to build on it.

The author goes on, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,” and gives and impressive list of people of faith from the previous chapter. The author gives this directive to the followers of Christ:

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Hebrews 12:1-2

The next several verses talk about how we should welcome and value God’s discipline in our lives.

It is meant to bring us good, and to make us stronger spiritually.

And as we grow, we will begin to seek a new unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ – enrich ourselves in the taste of God’s Word (Psalm 34:8) shared at a time of meal and koinonia fellowship, communion – crucial part of God’s plan.

How We Can Apply This to Our Lives?

Those who truly want to follow Christ are called to a higher standard of behavior. Scripture gives us lots of guidance about what that looks like.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:12-13).

Colossians 3:12-13

This verse can be lived out in both spiritual and very practical ways.

In these contemporary times, in terms of our inward heart attitude: 

– Do not let old grudges fester or allow new grudges to take root
– Be content with what God has for you (Philippians 4:10-13)
– Study the Scriptures, Pray regularly together for others to be blessed

In terms of what we say and do outwardly:

– Avoid gossip
– Use our words to encourage and support each other
– Be ready to gently guide others in this area

In terms of how we communicate with each other:

– Share if you’ve felt offended or hurt by someone
– Be willing to try and work an issue out together
– Ask for help if you’re struggling with bitterness

Depending on our own current situations and circumstances, from whatever perspective or angle or theology or ideological bent life has dictated to us all;

You are either going to accept or will take great offense at the next statement:

Hebrews 12:15 contains a significantly encouraging message which can be as timely (mightily ironic and laughable also) today as when it was first written.

Ironically – For as humans, how we so easily, freely and decisively and directly we can be easily tempted to let disagreements or trouble make us hard-hearted.

But as God’s chosen and much beloved children, if we really want to, we can all ask for His power to cut away any root of bitterness and keep it out of our lives.

Ironically, while I was reading and praying and considering Hebrews 12 the other day, I just wondered, “Is it more difficult to live in peace or to be holy?”

Or is it easier or even tastier or more palatable to sit together at a table sharing and quietly or noisily or bitterly bearing our burdens, and smiling at each other.

Of course, when God commands me to do two things, I must 100% try doing both – steadfastly, immovably, whole-heartedly, obediently and faithfully.

Then I read, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

Does that mean I will not see the Lord unless I am holy?

Or that others will not see the Lord unless I am or they are holy?

And is living in peace also required in order for me and others to see the Lord?

If others will see the Lord only through my peace and holiness, I consider that as an overwhelming and awesome an terribly accountable responsibility.

If I won’t see the Lord unless I am peaceable and holy, that is a terrifying threat.

The next verse, however, speaks about grace:

“See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God.”

Of course!

Without grace, none of us can live peacefully together, and none of us can be holy. Without grace, we can’t be a peaceful, holy influence on others either.

That made me feel better.

Living in peace and holiness are important and necessary—and what a comfort it is to know that God’s matchless grace empowers us to live that way for him.

And when we fail, that same grace will forgive, accept, and encourage us to “make every effort” again.

It always comes down to grace.

1. Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Refrain:
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

2. Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
threaten the soul with infinite loss;
grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
(Refrain)

3. Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
brighter than snow you may be today.
(Refrain)

4. Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?
(Refrain)

If we genuinely want to receive the grace in the spirit in which it was first given!

If we truly want to receive the grace in the moment in which it was first given!

What should we all do, both individually and together, do to make these verses from Hebrews to come alive, to be made relevant and true, a revelation of God?

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

Heavenly Father, search my heart an search my soul, oh God, and help me to identify any seeds of bitterness that may be lurking within. There may be bitterness from recent events in my life or from things that happened long ago, but the bitterness still remains in my heart. Lord, by your grace please root out this bitterness and replace it with Your grace and forgiveness, mercy and kindness. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN.

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The Glory of our Mutual Relationship. Peek-a-Boo I See You! Playing Hide-and-Go Seek with God. Proverbs 25:2

Proverbs 25:2Amplified Bible


It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.

I don’t believe it to be coincidence that C. S. Lewis started with a simple game of hide-and-seek when he penned The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

Please remember, The land of Narnia was only revealed in all its glory through Lucy’s participation in the process of intentional concealment and discovery.

Although Lewis may or may not have intended it as such, his story depicts the process of hide-and-seek that God often uses to reveal both His glory and ours:

Proverbs 25:2Authorized (King James) Version

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing:
but the honour of kings is to search out a matter.

The Process of Mutual Glory

He does not have to do it, but with an undefinable charity, God chooses to most fully glorify Himself by involving us, His Children, in the glorification process.

Lest we be overly concerned, it’s not as if we are snatching away glory rightly due Him by uncovering out what He has hidden. Instead, we bask in the glow of His glory when we do so, and become blessed by our closer proximity to Him.

Think of when God concealed Himself from Moses on Mount Sinai, for example.

God hid Himself from Moses, yet Moses’ face beamed after the experience.

Though no one an see God and live, God revealed only a backward glimpse of Himself to Moses, yet his servant radiated with a glory of his own because of it.

We could call it a process of mutual glory. God gets glory by hiding. We get glory by seeking – and finding our greatest satisfaction when we find Him. As John Piper put it, “God is most magnified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

Do you ever wonder if God is playing hide-and-seek with you?

Even if it does feel like it sometimes, God does not play games with us.

Not even “peek-a-boo I see you, do you see me?” or “I hide-and-you seek.”

Or maybe it is you and I who are playing “peek-a-boo” and hiding from God?

Let me tell you, hiding from God does not work either.

This world does not give much attention to things eternal and invisible.

It is unfashionable, uncool, and extremely odd to be interested in God.

But I am with C.S. Lewis: “How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing, it is irresistible.”

When you meet God, there is nothing that compares to him.
There is nothing that could replace him.
There is nothing that could be better than him.

Acts 17:24-29The Message

24-29 “The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of sky and land, doesn’t live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn’t take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don’t make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually find him. He doesn’t play hide-and-seek with us. He’s not remote; he’s near. We live and move in him, can’t get away from him! One of your poets said it well: ‘We’re the God-created.’ Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?

God does not play peek-a-boo or hide-and-seek with us.

Because he wants to be found.

He wants to be in real relationship with us.

God is not remote, he is near.

In fact, we cannot get away from him!

Being in the presence of God is irresistible once you’ve experienced it.
Being in the presence of God is a renewing experience.
Being in the presence of God is as good as it gets in this life.

St. Ignatius of Loyola has said “He who carries God in his heart bears heaven with him wherever he goes.”

Hiding and Seeking Forever

Only the One who already knows can hide.

That’s the whole point of the hide-and-seek game isn’t it?

The one who conceals knows where he or she is hidden, but no one else. 

It would not be all that much fun if the seeker began with infinite knowledge of the exact location of all those have hidden.

But if the Hider had infinite knowledge, He could systematically share it, piece by piece, with the seekers.

If the seeker was created with an innate instinct for seeking – and finding – the process would be the most mutually fulfilling one imaginable.

Psalm 119:17-24The Message

17-24 Be generous with me and I’ll live a full life;
    not for a minute will I take my eyes off your road.
Open my eyes so I can see
    what you show me of your miracle-wonders.
I’m a stranger in these parts;
    give me clear directions.
My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous!—
    insatiable for your nourishing commands.
And those who think they know so much,
    ignoring everything you tell them—let them have it!
Don’t let them mock and humiliate me;
    I’ve been careful to do just what you said.
While bad neighbors maliciously gossip about me,
    I’m absorbed in pondering your wise counsel.
Yes, your sayings on life are what give me delight;
    I listen to them as to good neighbors!

Sometimes I genuinely wonder if that is what Jesus wants us to learn when He taught us to pray for God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, it will be like?

Could it be an endless process of God hiding –wisdom, truth, reason for praise, beauty, complexity, or the depths of His love – and of our seeking Him out with all faces glowing, hearts burning, and voices gratefully proclaiming His praises?

I hope so.

I Fervently Pray it to be so … to the Glory of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Psalm 119:1-8The Message

119 1-8 You’re blessed when you stay on course,
    walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
You’re blessed when you follow his directions,
    doing your best to find him.
That’s right—you don’t go off on your own;
    you walk straight along the road he set.
You, God, prescribed the right way to live;
    now you expect us to live it.
Oh, that my steps might be steady,
    keeping to the course you set;
Then I’d never have any regrets
    in comparing my life with your counsel.
I thank you for speaking straight from your heart;
    I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.
I’m going to do what you tell me to do;
    don’t ever walk off and leave me.

So, let’s get interested in God! Let’s dig deeper, let’s seek God with our whole heart and soul! No matter what is our situation, no matter how materialistic the world around us is, no matter how odd the world thinks we are, let’s seek God!

But even there, if you seek God, your God, you’ll be able to find him if you’re serious, looking for him with your whole heart and soul. (Deuteronomy.4:29, MSG)

Let’s get “crazy” interested in seeking God and finding God.

Let’s ask God to reveal and ignite our faith, refuel our faith, and renew our faith.

Psalm 119:49-56The Message

49-56 Remember what you said to me, your servant—
    I hang on to these words for dear life!
These words hold me up in bad times;
    yes, your promises rejuvenate me.
The haters hate me without mercy,
    but I don’t budge from your revelation.
I watch for your ancient landmark words,
    and know I’m on the right track.
But when I see the wicked ignore your directions,
    I’m beside myself with anger.
I set your instructions to music
    and sing them as I walk this pilgrim way.
I meditate on your name all night, God,
    treasuring your revelation, O God.
Still, I walk through a rain of derision
    because I live by your Word and counsel.

Let’s get interested in what God is doing in this world and how we can partner with him. Let’s get interested in God and his wisdom, his grace, his love, his peace, and his plan for this world! Let’s get interested in the ways of God.

Psalm 119:9-16The Message

9-16 How can a young person live a clean life?
    By carefully reading the map of your Word.
I’m single-minded in pursuit of you;
    don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted.
I’ve banked your promises in the vault of my heart
    so I won’t sin myself bankrupt.
Be blessed, God;
    train me in your ways of wise living.
I’ll transfer to my lips
    all the counsel that comes from your mouth;
I delight far more in what you tell me about living
    than in gathering a pile of riches.
I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you,
    I attentively watch how you’ve done it.
I relish everything you’ve told me of life,
    I won’t forget a word of it.

Because there is nothing else in the world that can satisfy our needs, our wants, and our desires than God. There is nothing else in the world that can ignite our spirit. There is nothing else in the world that can hold our interest for eternity.

In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,

Let us Pray,

To our God and soon coming Savior, I give You thanks. God, I pray today that You will reveal yourself to me and those in my life. May we have an encounter from the true and living God. I pray that the desires of our hearts shall be to seek after You that we may find You finding us, that we may know You as You know us and that we will be men and women after God’s own heart, who diligently, faithfully and over zealously seek after the maximum magnitude of their great God’s glory before our own. Amen.

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