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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Where does all our true Advent Hope Rest? Answer: God is “UN” Equaled! Isaiah 40:25-26

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.

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

‘Un’ is a prefix meaning “not,” freely used as an English formative, giving negative or opposite force in adjectives and their derivative adverbs and nouns (unfair; unavailable, unappreciated, unfelt; unseen; unreliable; unrest; unlucky, unloved; unemployment) – and the list could go on for as long as we need it to.

So, I got to thinking and praying over some of the “UN” things we ought to be saying, and singing and shouting about God our Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 40:25Easy-to-Read Version

25 The Holy One says, “Can you compare me to anyone?
    No one is equal to me.”

The first chapter of Isaiah starts out with a declaration of the people’s rebellion against God, consequences for such, a call to repentance, finishing it off with prophetic statements of restoration.

Isaiah Chapter 39 ends with Isaiah revealing to King Hezekiah that the nation would be taken captive by the Babylonians.

But Isaiah chapter 40 begins with God commissioning Isaiah to proclaim that when the consequences for their rebellion is over there will be comfort for the people of Jerusalem.

Within this 40th chapter we will see declared and proclaimed the ways in which God unequivocally communicates his preeminence to his long suffering people.

UNEQUALED IN DOMINANCE.

Isaiah 40:6-8Authorized (King James) Version

The voice said, Cry.
And he said, What shall I cry?
All flesh is grass,
and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:
the grass withereth, the flower fadeth:
because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it:
surely the people is grass.
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth:
but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

God wanted his people to know that no matter how powerful some people are, no matter how long they stay in power, they are like withering grass.

No matter how rich someone is, no matter how glorious they seem, that too, will come to an end like a flower of the field.

Why? Because it’s the Lord alone who determines when their end will come.

No amount of power, no amount of money, no amount of prestige, no amount of authority is ever going to be able to overcome the power, glory of the Lord.

The Jewish nation would be taken over by the Babylonians.

King Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful man who gained control over a vast region for many years.

During their long captivity I can see the Jews wondering if anything could stop this Babylonian king.

But they were shown God’s dominance in two ways:

When Nebuchadnezzar became proud, declaring how great he thought he was, God removed him from his throne; showing this king who was really the King!

Then second when God fulfilled his promise to his people by delivering them and reestablishing them as a nation.

This is critically important for us to understand because when the powers that be-whether it’s the government or our boss or a bully-seem unstoppable they are, when the dominant power of God is factored in, not in charge of anything.

The only thing that is unstoppable is God.

The only thing that is unceasing is God.

Kingdoms crumble and empires erode but the reign of God never ends.

That’s important for us to understand because no matter what happens in our world, no matter what decisions are made, no matter what laws get put in place, nothing is ever completely set in stone; God is the one who has the final say.

So when we are oppressed we can have a dominant and dominating hope that deliverance from such oppression is definitely possible; change will happen.

When trials, tribulations and tragedy strikes and we wonder how we will ever be able to pick up the pieces; when we get devastating news and we want to give up; when the circumstances in life seem hopeless; when things look bleak.

When it seems as if there is no way out-no light at the end of the tunnel we need to remember who is in control and who has the final word.

Circumstances may be outside of our control but they are not ever out of his. God has dominance.

UNEQUALED IN CARE.

Isaiah 40:10-11New Living Translation

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.

It’s interesting that we find the words ‘power’ and ‘gentle’ in the same passage.

What a dominant, dominating picture of God.

We need this picture to dominate our hearts and our thoughts because we should only get so easily overwhelmed by God’s great and awesome power.

We could forget so easily that the God who created the universe cares about me deeply, intimately and personally.

We need to see both sides of God for the purpose of revering him but loving him at the same time.

We need to understand that God wants to hold us near in love and gentleness but that doesn’t mean he’s just an ol’ softy.

We shouldn’t take God’s gentleness for weakness.

God is tender but he’s also tough.

That awareness of His dominant and dominating power over our hearts and our souls will serve to keep us close to him while at the same time keep us in check.

Later in Isaiah, in talking about the restoration of his people, God said this in 49:10,

“They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.”

Beloved; See how he cares for us. He feeds us, he protects us, he has compassion for us, he guides us, and he leads us beside springs of waters and he satisfies us.

This is our shepherd.

This is God as our father-loving, caring, protective and patient.

And he is unequaled in such things.

Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:22-23,

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

He is unequaled in his ability to continually and faithfully provide all these things for us.

His love dominates over chaos, is greater than the darkness, his faithfulness and devotion to us is far greater and his compassion towards us will never fail.

How has God cared for you?

How has he been gentle with you?

How has he directed you?

Can you see the waters of the forest streams flowing steadily, watering the trees whose roots grow deeper in the ground to reach that life giving, nourishing waters, securing the trees to the shorelines, through the dry desert wilderness.

UNEQUALED IN WISDOM.

Isaiah 40:12-14New 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?

Here we read a series of rhetorical questions that puts God’s preeminence in perspective for us.

I can read and hear God saying,

“Who else has the ability I do?

Go and find someone who can hold the waters of any ocean in the palm of their hand. Go and find someone who can make a mountain. Find someone who can create stars and planets. Find someone who has a better plan for creating the universe or the world or the human body. Who else has done what I have done?

The problem is some people think they have.

We discover new formulas and invent new “smart” technologies; we develop vaccines and cure diseases and somehow that makes us the superior ones.

And therein lies the dangers-

We don’t need God, we can do it ourselves.

God? what god; I’m god.

Oh, how sorry a people we have become when we get to the place where we think we are as dominant, as caring, as smart, as wise or as qualified as God.

But this doesn’t just happen on a grand scale.

We can be guilty of this type of thinking on a lower scale.

How?

Whenever we don’t listen to God.

Whenever we don’t trust him.

Whenever we go our own way we are putting ourselves in place of God.

Whenever we go against what God has commanded we are saying we know the better, wiser, smarter, dominant, dominating way; we put ourselves into that place where we all believe we are the only ones who know what we really need.

Whenever the Holy Spirit reveals what we need to do but we ignore it we are telling God that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Whenever we don’t agree with how God is handling things we somehow conclude that he doesn’t have the first clue or know about what he’s doing.

“That’s not how I would’ve done it.”

That’s pride.

However, if we are humble, we will conclude that no matter how much we gain over the course of our lives, we won’t have, we can never have anywhere near the dominant understanding, knowledge or wisdom or smarts which God has.

As the psalmist declared in Psalm 147:5,

“Great is the Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”

Who’s the one who is unlimited in their understanding-us?

Who’s the one who sees everything everywhere-us?

Who’s the one who sees tomorrow-us?

We understand so little;

Our perspective is so ridiculously limited.

God is unequaled in wisdom.

UNEQUALED IN WHAT HE CAN, AND IN TRUTH, DOES DO FOR US.

Isaiah 40:25-31New Living Translation

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.

Not only is there no equal or comparison to God in what he can do that also goes for what he can do for us!

Since he will never grow tired or weary, he is a never-ending source of strength for us when we become weak and weary.

That goes for all kinds of weaknesses; not just physical.

Yes, he will give us energy and vitality to physically be able to do great things but the main way he gives us strength and stamina is spiritually.

Take some quality time today to think about it and pray over it-when was the last time you dreamed you had climbed on top of an eagle and went for a ride?

When was the last time you had this “V8 moment “, went for a long run, felt as strong, if not the stronger, at the end of the run as you did in the beginning?

Obviously these are metaphors for what he will enable us to do spiritually.

We will be able to do amazing things when God’s power is at work within us.

Nothing else comes anywhere close to what God can do for us.

Some people are good and mightily gifted at motivating us and encouraging us and making us feel good but no matter how “gifted” someone is at doing these things it always pales in comparison to God’s level of ability to do these things.

And in the past how we may have turned to things like drugs, alcohol, food or money or gambling or something else to give us a temporary, fleeting ‘high’ but nothing manmade can ever come close to duplicating a true Holy Spirit high.

If your hope is in the Lord then he will be the one who will renew your strength when you are physically, spiritually, psychologically or emotionally depleted.

Without God’s dominant, dominating power you will always be weak and weary. Without God you will always stumble and fall. Do you want to soar like an eagle?

Then put all your hope in the unequaled, unending abilities and power of God.

In a children’s book titled, “Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is?” Robert Wells takes us on a journey from observing a size we can grasp to one we can’t.

The largest animal on earth is the blue whale.

Just the flippers on its tail are bigger than most animals on earth.

But a blue whale isn’t anywhere near as big as a mountain.

If you put one hundred blue whales in a huge jar you could put millions of whale jars inside a hollowed-out Mount Everest.

But Mount Everest isn’t anywhere near as big as the earth.

If you stacked one hundred Mount Everest’s on top of one another it would just be a whisker on the face of the earth.

And the earth is not anywhere near as big as the sun.

You could fit one million earths inside of the sun.

But the sun, which is a medium-sized star, is not nearly as big as a red supergiant star called Antares.

But Antares isn’t anywhere near as big as the Milky Way galaxy.

Billions of stars, including super giants like Antares, as well as countless comets and asteroids, make up the Milky Way galaxy.

But the Milky Way galaxy is not anywhere near as big as the universe.

There are countless billions of other galaxies in the universe.

And yet, filled with ‘billions’ of galaxies, the universe is almost totally empty.

Distances from one galaxy to another are undeniably beyond our imagination.

And now, ponder and pray over and through this: the Creator of this universe is God, who with a word spoke it all into being, who is present, who is dominant, everywhere in this universe, beyond, who upholds it all with his mighty power.

Great is our God and greatly to be praised.

Our God is unequaled in power, size, wisdom, ability and greatness.

And he unconditionally cares about you and undeniably wants to do great and wondrous things in you and through you.

How unfathomable is that?

It is unparalleled, having no parallel or equal; exceptional.

It is undeniably, undoubtedly, unequivocally, unquestionably, unequaled!

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

Let us Pray,

Almighty and Ever Living Son of God, You are the great “I AM.” You are faithful to Your promises and will defeat the chaos of my doubtful, doubt-filled soul though so very numerous and powerful. I will not be discouraged because I walk in your divine presence. I will live in Your strength and courage, for You are my God. I have faith in You and Your word because I know that Your word never fails. I thank You for the many promises You have spoken over my life, and I place my trust in You. 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 – all about Our Name or ALL about God’s Fame? Some Hidden Lessons from the ‘ancient’ Tower of Babel. Genesis 11:1-9

Genesis 11:1-9 NKJV

The Tower of Babel

11 Now the whole earth had one language and one [a]speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and [b] bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called [c]Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

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

I cannot tell anyone how many times I have read this passage, prayed through this ancient text and thought and believed I knew at least a few truths about it.

Yet, as I sit here pondering this text for this devotional about our preparation for Advent with a particular emphasis upon Idolatry – these two verses hit me:

Genesis 11:4-5 NLT

Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”

But the Lord came down to look at the city and the tower the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them!

Many stories in the Hebrew [Old] Testament can be difficult to understand.

From Noah, Abraham to the prophets, sometimes the Bible can be downright confusing. Or maybe we unknowingly misunderstand the lesson of the story.

Take the tower of Babel in Genesis 11, for example. My wife and I were talking about this story this week, and she asked me what I thought it was about.

I told her what I thought I knew, but then I thought I had better look at it again.

It must have been the Holy Spirit nudging me in my rib cage because, although I thought I knew a lot about it, I realized that I had totally missed the main point.

The tower of Babel is not just about a brick tower some people built. It’s all about pride, rebellion, and the importance of being obedient to God’s Word.

A New Covenant

The story of the tower of Babel occurs just after Noah’s death in Genesis 11:1-9.

Noah’s Death: (Genesis 9:28-29 NLT – 28 Noah lived another 350 years after the great flood. 29 He lived 950 years, and then he died.)

But to fully understand what’s going on, we need to turn back a page or two to the part when God had established a new covenant with His creation, the earth.

After Noah and his family leave the ark, Noah builds an altar and raises incense the aroma of which is described as pleasing to God’s heart. He was so pleased with Noah’s burnt offerings that God decided to never flood the earth again.

“And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” Genesis 8:21-22

God then tells Noah and his sons about the new covenant in Genesis 9:13-17 including the very telltale sign of His covenant—the hanging of a rainbow:

13 I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. 14 When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, 15 and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. 16 When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.” 17 Then God said to Noah, “Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.” (NLT)

Sandwiched in between God thinking about His new covenant and then telling Noah’s family about it, God tells Noah and his sons to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1).”

Aged Noah only had three sons, but his family had no trouble fulfilling God’s command. They were so prolific that all of Genesis 10 is dedicated to listing all of their children and their grandchildren by name, and there were quite a few.

With the passing of each generation, each son’s family eventually established their own tribe and claimed their own nations.

So, while many were claiming territory, still many other people continued spreading across the earth and filling it.

It was during one of these migrations east that a certain group of people found a great place to build a tower.

Building a Great Tower

In the middle of nowhere in the land of Shinar (historical Babylon and currently Iraq, approximately 60 miles southwest of Baghdad), a group of migrants under the mighty leadership of Nimrod decided to stop there to build, create a village.

Nimrod was the grandson of Noah and the son of Ham.

If you remember, Ham was the son Noah cursed for teasing and making fun of his dad after he found his dad drunk and naked one night (Genesis 9:20-27).

According to the Bible, it was Noah’s curse that created the Canaanites because all of Ham’s family was then considered disobedient.

One day while the people were building the village, someone (perhaps Nimrod himself) suggested they build a tower that reached to the heavens.

When we say “heavens” we’re talking about three different heavens, the highest one being the holy throne of God.

So, these villagers are talking about creating a tower that reaches unto God Himself.

Though they knew they couldn’t actually build such a tower, their intention was clearly to make it as tall as was then humanly possible.

Why would they build such a tall tower?

Let’s look at Genesis 11:4.

“And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower whose top is in the heavens. Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

Their goal was to create something that represented their great abilities and establish a famous reputation among the other tribes.

They obsessively desired to be the very highest envy of everyone across the land. Their pride was bad enough, but that is not what got God really upset.

Remember,

they were supposed to multiply and fill the earth, but this group of people had decided to stop, put down roots, and show off how smart and skilled they were.

Their pride led the people to rebel against God’s command, to steal His glory.

God was not going to have any part of that, so there was only one thing to do.

The Lord’s Verdict

After the tower was built,

God came down to take a closer look at what the people had created, and He decisively decided he did not like it nor did He appreciate the people’s efforts.

He then had a little conversation with Himself.

“Indeed, the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” Genesis 11:6

God notices exactly how “united” they are, and they all have one language, one vocabulary which allows them to do whatever it is which they wish to do. And respect for the Lord’s commands isn’t important. So, He comes up with a plan.

“Come, let Us [the Trinity] go down and confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (v7)

God did not destroy the tower, an abandoned monument to monumental pride.

But He did scatter the people.

How He did it the Bible doesn’t say. But they were all driven away, the village construction was never completed, and their language was suddenly changed.

Now, certain groups couldn’t understand each other anymore. Those who could communicate gathered together and created new nomadic tribes, which is why, how some scholars believe is how today’s languages were originally created.

It’s interesting to note that the person who first came up with the idea to build the tower said in verse four,

“Let us make a name for ourselves lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

It turned that his prophecy was fulfilled.

So, God called the tower Babel, which means “noisy confusion” and is where the later kingdom of Babylon was later established by Nimrod ~ 2200 BCE and became an empire which reigned from ~1900 BCE to ~539BCE when they were weakened by several wars with Assyria and Persian Cyrus II conquered the city.

Avoiding the Tower of Babel

With stories like this, it can be hard to understand what the lesson might be. On the surface, it just looks like a historical account of an early nomadic tribe.

But when we take a closer look, we see can observe that God is illustrating for us the critical importance of obeying and respecting Him. We also note the danger of becoming prideful, arrogant, and thinking and believing we do not need God.

God is reminding us (again) of the consequences of sin.

Some consequences are great, and some are not.

In the case of Nimrod’s tribe, their behavior and attitudes were so bad God completely scrambled their language and forced them back upon the road to “multiply and fill the earth.”

This is the power of God and is why we need to be careful about our choices.

Genesis 11:4 NLT

Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”

One the surface, the people of Babel seem like a stellar example of what humans can accomplish as a team.

They created a gigantic tower in order to stay unified and become a powerful community.

However, to God, this was not good. If they could use their teamwork and build this tower, nothing would have been impossible for them (Genesis 11:6).

Why would God have had a problem with this?! Isn’t this the human flourishing God himself commanded in Genesis 1:28, to fill the earth and subdue it?

Because the people of Babel would take all of the glory and all of the recognition for their own handiwork and not glorify God for his blessing upon them; if God had said nothing, left them to themselves, none of them would have found him.

One must wonder how many ministries or churches with good intentions fall into this trap. We might think an enormous building with our name on it will give God the glory, honor, praise, but bigger isn’t always better in God’s eyes.

Throughout the Bible he used men who had little experience or leadership qualities and guided them to be the Godly men their situation required.

We all struggle with the temptation to rely on our works, glorify ourselves for our hard fought success, those of our congregations, instead of relying on God.

Remember this as we who are the Body of Christ ministers to others. God can use you to do a mighty work without a large following or famous church; you have the same God who created the heavens and the earth working through you.

Matthew 7:13-14 NLT

The Narrow Gate

13 “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell[a] is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. 14 But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

As we prepare ourselves and our churches for this new season of Advent, as we each consider the contemporary relevance or irrelevance of Idolatry – choice of all of the glory upon our name or upon God’s fame as being the only #1 priority,

As Christians, we ought to brutally examine our hearts and minds every day to make sure we are staying on the path of humble obedience while maintaining complete and absolute respect for God’s power.

The road to hell is wide, its gate is quite wide for the many who choose the way.

Straying off the narrow road which leads straight to abundant life, eternal life in God in Christ, creates a tower of Babel— “noisy confusion” —in our lives.

Stick to God’s path.

Please! Take time today to give all of the honor to God in your accomplishments.

Follow His way, and you’ll never go wrong. His way is always the best way.

Psalm 119:105-112 NLT

Nun

105 Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
    and a light for my path.
106 I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again:
    I will obey your righteous regulations.
107 I have suffered much, O Lord;
    restore my life again as you promised.
108 Lord, accept my offering of praise,
    and teach me your regulations.
109 My life constantly hangs in the balance,
    but I will not stop obeying your instructions.
110 The wicked have set their traps for me,
    but I will not turn from your commandments.
111 Your laws are my treasure;
    they are my heart’s delight.
112 I am determined to keep your decrees
    to the very end.

John 14:1-14 NLT

Jesus, the Way to the Father

14 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.[a] If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?[b] When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is.[c] From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. 11 Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.

12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. 13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

Sometimes getting to where we want to go in life can be incredibly confusing.

After Jesus told his disciples he would be leaving them, Thomas said he didn’t know where Jesus was going or how to get there.

I like Thomas’s honest questions.

He doesn’t hide his confusion.

Sometimes Christians think they need to know all the answers.

But Jesus does not scold Thomas for not understanding.

He gives him directions.

Jesus tells Thomas the way to navigate successfully.

And that way is Jesus himself.

If the goal of life is to get with the Father, to get with God, then Jesus is the way.

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

It might help to think of it this way: each one of us has a God-shaped void in us that only God can fill.

As we long to be filled with the abundant life of God, Jesus is the way there.

The truth of his Word will guide us.

And along the way, his life in us gives us the power to stay on track.

What a wonderful journey!

What a wonderful Lord and Savior!

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

Let us Pray,

Heavenly Father, I pray You would teach me all there is to learn from the wise and foolish decisions made by the post Diluvian people and the rebellious self-centered attitudes they fostered in their heart. Thank You that You are my God and Creator and my center, and that You have given me all I need for life and godliness. Help me to make the wise and right choices in life and to refuse to adopt the sinful ways of the world which unwisely encourage independence from You. May I look to Jesus day by day and rest my hope and future in You. This I ask in His dear name’s sake, 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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Christian Thanksgiving: ALL Thanks be unto God for His Unshakable Kingdom. Hebrews 12:25-29

Hebrews 12:25-29 Easy-to-Read Version

25 Be careful and don’t refuse to listen when God speaks. Those people refused to listen to him when he warned them on earth. And they did not escape. Now God is speaking from heaven. So now it will be worse for those who refuse to listen to him. 26 When he spoke before, his voice shook the earth. But now he has promised, “Once again I will shake the earth, but I will also shake heaven.” [a] 27 The words “once again” clearly show us that everything that was created will be destroyed—that is, the things that can be shaken. And only what cannot be shaken will remain.

28 So we should be thankful because we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken. And because we are thankful, we should worship God in a way that will please him. We should do this with respect and fear, 29 because our God is like a fire that can destroy us.

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

Buildings will eventually crumble, countries will rise and empires will fall; truth: nothing in this world is permanent and it will one day come to an end.

As Christians, as the Body of Christ, as God’s Church, however, we have something which will never come to end; we have the kingdom of God.

Let us be thankful for this!

Let us be thankful that whether we live or die, we have an imperishable, inheritance in an unshakeable kingdom to come (Hebrews 13:14).

Let us be thankful that this unshakeable imperishable kingdom was designed by the great designer, God himself (Hebrews 11:10).

Because of all of these truths, we can be infinitely thankful for a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28).

The kingdom of God will always be, no ruler or natural disaster can destroy it.

Think about this in relation to all the turmoil that is happening in the world with wars, socio-cultural-economic problems, and great natural disasters.

Our only innate, instinctive response to this amazing truth is one of worship!

Let us worship with reverence and awe because our God is a consuming fire.

Our God is bigger than any skyscraper touching the tip of the sky.

Our God is more powerful than the mightiest ruler.

Our kingdom is ruled by the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Our temporary home may be breaking, quaking and shaking under us right now, but our soon to be permanent home is always standing as firm as ever.

Hebrews 12:28-29Authorized (King James) Version

28 Wherefore we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Wherefore we are receiving a Kingdom ….

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/heb/12/28-29/t_conc_1145028

We are Receiving ….

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g3880/kjv/tr/0-1/

A Kingdom ….

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g932/kjv/tr/0-1/

Which CANNOT be moved ….

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/g761/kjv/tr/0-1/

Immovable!

Unshakable! 

Unshaken! 

“A kingdom that cannot be shaken.” 

“We are receiving a kingdom.”

Please exercise careful notice of how the anonymous author wrote this.

This present participle in the Greek emphasizes followers of Jesus Christ are now in the process of receiving this gift, that this process will continue into the future.

This unshakeable kingdom is not the gift of a constitution, or government or any other human institution or process—it is the gift of God.

It is a continual, continuing gift of God, who is “a consuming fire” —literally, one whose indescribable, unviewable glory would consume us as he warned Moses and others if we ever looked upon him directly.

This continual, continuing gift of an unshakable kingdom, whose giver is God himself, and whose incarnation is Jesus Christ, is a gift that comes with power.

It is an awesome power and an undeniable glory which sends us to our knees in humble prayer, thanksgiving, praise and worship, with maximum reverence and maximum awe. That’s the only natural posture appropriate to such a great gift. 

The unshakable kingdom we are receiving as followers of Jesus Christ, as the Body of Christ, is not any single global movement or a global church denomination.

It is quite literally, an quite awesomely, quite magnificently: the reign of God.

American philosopher also known for his writings on Christian spiritual formation Dr. Dallas Willard captured the Biblical essence of this “kingdom” as

“the range of God’s effective will, where what God wants done is done.”

Therefore, it is defined by the clarity, authority and inspiration of God’s revealed word, the Bible.

The unshakable kingdom is summed up:

in the person, reign, and ministry of Jesus Christ, in whom “all things hold together,” “all the fullness of God dwells” and through whom “all things in heaven and on earth” are reconciled to God (Colossians. 1:17-20).

In other words, wherever Jesus Christ reigns as Savior and Lord—in our lives, our friends, our workplaces, our neighborhoods and our communities—now, and with increasing reign, there we’ll find and receive the unshakable kingdom.

A dear brother in Christ reminded me of these verses as together we have faced this question:

What is at stake for followers of Jesus Christ as we face a culture conflict that is increasingly shaped by the forces of aggressive secularism, moral relativism, religious pluralism, individual autonomy, a utopian hope in secular authority (however repressive it may need to be)?

A people with a Kingdom focus, called to be an instrument of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit for the healing of communities, and nations.

If you dwell on that whole statement as I just did—with the whole Body of Christ in attendance at one time—you realize this is a GARGANTUAN picture.

The man, Master Rabbi Jesus said, “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” (Luke 11:20).

The ‘finger of God’ is a phrase that is also used in Exodus 8:16-20 by Egyptian priests referring to the plagues that God sent upon their whole entire nation.

In Deuteronomy 9:10

it refers to the method by which God himself inscribed the Ten Commandments on the tablets of stone that Moses brought down after 40 days, from Mt. Sinai.

During our prayer times, during the course of our praise an worship times, we welcome “the imperceptible touch of the finger of God” in healing ministries to the whole person (body, soul and spirit), in deliverance ministries (following Rabbi Jesus’ example) and in many patient, caring, quiet counseling and small group venues where we witnessed real people changed by real the power of God.

Contemplate this if we dare to:

Human dignity is restored—in the image of God.

Not in the image of any faith Denomination

– but in the IMAGE of GOD ALONE!

You see, a people who are receiving that unshakable kingdom of God, who have that exclusive, unshakably prioritized kingdom focus, will, with all eyes on God 

unhesitatingly welcome and invite that power beyond ourselves to change ourselves—through the utterly unshakable power of the intercessions of God, the Holy Spirit.  

This Biblical world view is a sharp, stark alternative to the materialism that omits the sovereignty of God entirely in the secular utopian (even culturally Marxist) world views dominating our global socio-economic-culture wars.

If we think and ponder and prayerfully meditate: Frankly, a people with this kingdom focus will be the only ones who can offer true hope to people in need.  

In Romans 14:17, the Apostle Paul hints at this when he writes to the followers; “for the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but a matter of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” 

In keeping with such joy and peace,

he then prays

“May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13).

As the Body of Christ, this kingdom focus is meant to create a culture that is supposed to be overflowing with hope precisely because of our confidence in the matchless and unshakable power of God—not in our limited weak kneed selves. 

It is supposed to be highly contagious.

In my days of working with homeless veterans I heard so many testimonies of people who walked off the street because of a personal invitation into program.

Meetings and small groups were overcome by the love of God, overflowing with hope, and led into the gentle and redeeming reign of Jesus Christ in their lives!

But we have such hope to offer in and through the reign of Jesus Christ and the unshakable kingdom of God.  

The Body of Christ, the Church in the world, even as we try to diagnose all of the problems and try mightily to engage our dying culture in praise, worship and in prayer, we must do so with the Gospel – Good News of our only Savior Jesus Christ. 

What needs to come from our testimonies is this: There is an alternative, a world-view where Jesus Christ reigns as Lord and Savior, where the poor are lifted up, prisoners set free, people healed, the oppressed released, human dignity restored and God’s favor poured out in abundance (Luke 4:16-21).

Isaiah 2:1-4 AKJV

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

And it shall come to pass in the last days,
that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established
in the top of the mountains,
and shall be exalted above the hills;
and all nations shall flow unto it.
And many people shall go and say,
Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
and he will teach us of his ways,
and we will walk in his paths:
for out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
And he shall judge among the nations,
and shall rebuke many people:
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruninghooks:
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

The Body of Christ, Children of God with a Kingdom of God focus, called to be an instrument for the healing of all the diverse arrays of local communities, for the healing of all worlds nations – swords into plow shares, learning Shalom alone? 

What an incredibly unshakeable theology for the Body of Christ to LABOR for!!!

Steadfastly and Immovably and Unshakably, Do We Dare to Go Where God IS?

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

Let us Pray,

Heavenly Father, thank You that I have been saved by grace through faith in Christ. Thank You that His kingdom can never be shaken and that in my Savior Christ Jesus, this kingdom is my inheritance. Accept my humble praise and everlasting gratitude for all that Christ has done for me. May I live my life in reverence to You and may the things I do, and say, be acceptable in Your sight. I ask this in Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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Earthquake! Unleashing the Power of Praise and Thanksgiving! Acts 16:22-34

Acts 16:22-34NASB

Paul and Silas Imprisoned

22 The crowd joined in an attack against them, and the chief magistrates tore their [a]robes off them and proceeded to order [b]them to be beaten with rods. 23 When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely; 24 [c]and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the [d]stocks.

25 Now about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened. 27 When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul called out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” 29 And the jailer asked for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas; 30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

The Jailer Converted

31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of God to him together with all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 And he brought them into his house and set [e]food before them, and was [f] overjoyed, since he had become a believer in God together with his whole household.

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

Allow me to ask the question:

Exactly what amount of praise is too much to give to a God who has delivered us from the bondage of sin and filthy habits? How much worship is over-the-top for a God whose own Son shed His blood so that we might have abundant life?

Some say that Praise is embarrassing or will turn people away from the church.

Yet those same people will spend 2 hours at a secular concert with their hands in the air, never once thinking that they might “turn off” other potential fans.

Some say preachers should never be loud and boisterous when they speak, but yet those same people cannot stand to hear a lifeless sportscaster or boring talk show host blather on about some obscure topic which has no connection to life.

The truth is this, the world is max hungry for the real thing: Genuine worship from genuine people, offered up to the only God who is worthy of our praise.

An old song from a secular artist said, “it might be the devil, or it might be The Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

On that note, I would definitely have to say, even shout this at the top of my lungs: it might be for the world, or it might be for Jesus Christ, but you WILL lift your hands, you WILL lift your voice, you WILL move those happy little feet.

Church, we cannot make apologies for being exactly who we are in Christ.

Psalm 150 NASB

A Psalm of Praise.

150 [a]Praise [b]the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty [c]expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.

Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with tambourine and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and flute.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Everything that has breath shall praise [d]the Lord.
[e]Praise [f]the Lord!

As Christians saved ONLY by the Charity and Grace of Almighty God, we are called to unleash the power of praise and thanksgiving every day of the year.

What power?

An Earthquake! reaching, breaching, to the very gates of the devil himself.

The power to defeat the devil, setting him on his heels and unlock victory!

Most people think and even believe that praise is what you do ONLY after you get what you are believing or praying for, but that simply isn’t true.

The devil wants to keep us from thinking about praise and thanksgiving while you and I are in the process of believing, being faith-filled and faithful because he knows too well it’s a vitally important key to our achieving breakthrough.

Remember when Paul and Silas were locked up in the bowels of a prison?

Things definitely looked pretty grim. Most people would be begging and pleading with God to get them out, or considering all the ways they’d served Him and wondering how they could possibly deserve what was happening.

Instead, Paul and Silas just sat there in that dank prison, in their chains and leg stocks and they “were praying and singing hymns to God” (Acts 16:25, NIV). 

The result?

“All the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose” (verse 26). All the doors. Every chain. All because of praise and thanksgiving to God.

Do you and/or I need an Earthquake?

Do you and/or I need a breakthrough?

In bondage, max imprisoned to sin, do we need that prison door opened?

The “unbreakable” Chains of sin to come loose or just plain shattered apart?

When you learn what can be accomplished in the spirit realm, you will want to activate and then unleash the max power of praise and thanksgiving in your life every day, unleash the max power of praise and thanksgiving with these truths.

1. Praise and Thanksgiving Balance the Scale

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” –Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Notice how the Apostle Paul phrased Philippians 4:6 to say we are to fervently present all our requests to God “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving.”

Quite often, we get so wrapped up in our needs and desires that our prayers can end up sounding like a long list of what we don’t have, what we want and what we need, without much time spent praising the One whom we are petitioning.

There’s nothing wrong with asking for God’s help, but we should also be taking the time to thank God for everything He has done and is doing for us.

Praise and worship and thanksgiving balance the scale in our prayer lives and can quite literally mean the difference between receiving and going without.

Does the fervency of our praise and worship equal the fervency of our prayers?

Is your and mine scale balanced? Don’t wait to offer praise and thanksgiving to God until things are just as you like them to be—praise Him in every situation,

Praise Him for who He is and what He’s done in your life.

Praise Him that you and me are saved, delivered, healed and headed for heaven.

Praise Him with everything we have and with everything we are because He is God, as our Creator, Restorer, Friend, Counselor, Comforter and Strong Tower.

There was, is and forever will be so much for everyone to be max thankful for!

Take time to thank Him each and every day.

Then, watch as power is released and overwhelmingly unleashed into your circumstances in a way that scared and begging prayers can never accomplish.

2. Praise and Thanksgiving Neutralize the Devil

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” –1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

Ever wonder why the devil tries to get you to mumble, complain and grumble?

He knows it is a strength sapper, a faith drainer and a dream killer, a separator.

He knows it will keep you wandering around in the wilderness for 40 years, instead of arriving in your promised land in 11 days. (No! Nope! thank you!)

More importantly, he doesn’t want you to know this: Praise and thanksgiving neutralizes the attention we give to the devil – they are like kryptonite to him.

Praise and thanksgiving are powerful spiritual weapons that come from highly developed faith, and they are often the final step before receiving from God.

They are sure signs you have Proverbs 27:17 trust and faith in His Word, have eradicated all unbelief, and have fixed your mind and soul solely on His Word.

That is truly an extraordinarily powerful, Earthquake generating, place to be!

“Praise is much more than just music; it is a powerful, spiritual warfare tool. God never meant for you to fight your battles alone—Praise will shift the battle from you to God. Praise gives you strength and stops Satan in his tracks.”

How do praise and thanksgiving give you strength?

They build your faith and keep you thinking right.

They keep you and me on the right path towards the abundant life in Christ.

When you and I slip into wrong thinking, Satan can gain access to our lives.

Praise and thanksgiving are vital weapons in our warfare against Satan.

So, when you and I are standing in faith and things start to look opposite of what you and I are believing for, keep the highest praises of God on your lips.

Continue to praise Him for the answer.

Continue to worship Him for the answer.

Continue to pray to Him for God hears you and He IS definitely the ANSWER!

Don’t be moved, slowed down by circumstances; keep your eyes on God’s Word; pray, praise and thank Him as the “ant hill” mountain in front of you is moved.

Earthquakes from our Praise and Prayers will always send the devil packing!

Even physical weariness has to flee when it’s faced with real joy-filled praise.

The next time the devil tries to stifle your effectiveness, to drain you of the strength and wealth and victory that are yours in Jesus, turn him back with those powerful weapons – lift both of your hands higher an higher yet, your whole voice and your whole heart to God. Give Him praise and thanksgiving!

You an I ought to be shouting praises to God our whole way to work and also shouting our way back home and as we enter our homes to greet our family!

If there’s anything the devil can’t stand, it’s an Earthquake generated by praise.

If you and I have taken territory from the devil and he’s coming against us to get it back, this is not the time to sit down and whine about how things aren’t working out. It’s not the time to decide God has taken His hand off your life.

It IS time to get into the Word and get yourself re-anchored in God’s promises.

It’s time to keep those promises constantly before your eyes and in your heart.

It’s time to pray the prayer of faith and take your stand on the basis of His provision.

It is time to continue to do the things you know to do.

When Satan starts shaking your mountain, don’t retreat and run for cover. Speak to the mountain with the authority you have in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Then, when we are done with that, start to unleash praise and shout the victory!

3. Praise and Thanksgiving Bring God on the Scene

But You are holy, O You Who dwell in [the holy place where] the praises of Israel [are offered].–Psalm 22:3 (AMPC)

Do you ever feel like you really need God to show up? You’ve been fighting the good fight, but boy, are you getting tired! That’s OK—but giving up is not. God never loses a battle. And when you do things His way, you and me won’t either.

So, what should you do? Start praising. Praise when you don’t feel like it and keep praising because praise and thanksgiving bring God on the scene.

He inhabits the praises of His people!

You can praise your way to healing, praise your way to a financial breakthrough, praise your way out of any circumstance, any catastrophic event in your souls.

When there is trouble—unleashing praise and thanksgiving bring victory!

You can see an example of that in 2 Chronicles 20

where a multitude of forces was marching against Israel, leaving the army of Israel so outnumbered, they literally didn’t know what to do. So, they fasted and prayed, praised and worshiped until they had received a word from God.

“Be not afraid or dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (verse 15, Amplified Bible, Classic Edition).

Do you know what they did in response to that word?

They put together a praise choir!

That’s right.

They appointed singers and praisers’, and sent them out in front of the army! 

And when that choir began to sing, the Word tells us that “the Lord set ambushments against the men…who had come against Judah, and they were [self-] slaughtered” (verse 22).

When it was all over, not one Israelite had fallen—and not one of their enemies had escaped.

What’s more,

when they came to take the spoil, they found so many cattle, goods, garments and other precious things, it took them three whole days to haul it all home.

Now, that’s an Earthquake generating victory!

And it all began with an Earthquake of praise.

Are you looking for that kind of victory today?

Then stand up and shout, “Glory!”

After all, you and I are in the same situation those Israelites were.

You and I have an army marching against us, but Jesus has already defeated it. He won that battle for you on Resurrection morning.

That is the kind of power you can have right now in your life.

If you are not familiar with praising God, or it makes you feel uncomfortable, ask God to show you how.

You can start by reading the Psalms aloud.

They speak of the great and mighty works of God.

They praise Him for His goodness, power and mercy.

God is faithful to perfect your praises!

Praise is not something you do when things are rosy.

God is always worthy of your praise.

The Bible says to offer the sacrifice of praise—that means when it feels like a tough thing to give.

More importantly, praise and thanksgiving are more than a pleasant song or a few uplifting words about God.

They do something.

They release the very presence of God Himself.

When the presence of God comes on the scene, your enemies are turned back.

Sickness and disease can’t stay on your body.

Poverty can’t stay in your house.

So, when you praise and worship and pray,

“enter into his gates WITH THANKSGIVING, and into his courts WITH PRAISE: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4, KJV). 

Praise and thanksgiving are integral parts of prayer.

They are you and God working together—your prayer and His power. 

You can pray amiss, but you can’t praise amiss.

Praise God.

Praise Him in the morning. Praise Him at noon. Praise Him at night.

If you and I have never max praised God in our life, then get started right now.

Praise Him for freedom.

Praise Him for healing and Calvary. Praise Him for the Name of Jesus.

You’ll even find that when you have a need, if you go to God and simply praise Him, you’ll get your answers while you’re thanking Him!

That’s why Philippians 4:6 tells us to mix thanksgiving in with our prayers. There are so many reasons to praise the Lord!

Now we know how to unleash the power of praise and thanksgiving, we can take these truths, put them in remembrance as we pray, engage in spiritual warfare. 

Never underestimate the importance of praise, worship and prayer.

It’s one of the most powerful spiritual weapons you have!

1 Corinthians 15:50-57 NASB

The Mystery of Resurrection

50 Now I say this, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does [a]the perishable inherit [b]the imperishable. 51 Behold, I am telling you a [c]mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised [d]imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this [e]perishable must put on [f]the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this [g]perishable puts on [h] the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. 55 Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

God will generate that Earthquake ….

God will project that Earthquake into the direction it needs to go.

God will get definite and decisive results from that Earthquake!

God will definitely achieve a decisive breakthrough ….

Miracles will definitely happen ….

My Miracle will definitely happen ….

Your Miracle will definitely happen ….

Because He has already done it for His own Son – The Tomb is still EMPTY!

And all praise and thanks be unto God, we have access to the throne of God.

Ephesians 2:17-22 NASB

17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but you are fellow citizens with the [a]saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the  cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy  [b] temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

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

Let us Pray,

Father, Miracle-Worker, You raised Your Son from the grave. We have seen the empty tomb with our own eyes. We believe the witness of Your Scriptures, therefore I put my trust and my faith in You because I know that nothing is impossible with You. Just as You told Sarah about the coming birth of Isaac, I know You will make a way when there is no way. You raised Lazarus from the dead. You made the dry bones have flesh again and then made breath enter them. Father, You look out for Your people, and for that, I praise You. You are the same God today as You were then. I believe in the power of Your hand. I believe in Your intervention. My mind has silenced the critics. I cannot hear the non-believers. All I hear is You, my Father. What harm can come to me when I walk with You? Gloria! Alleluia! Amen.

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

Let us Praise and Worship Him with our whole hearts too….

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A Christian’s Expression of Love for Thanksgiving: How Big a Collection of “Memorial Stones” to God’s Goodness and God’s Faithfulness? Joshua 4:1-7

Joshua 4:1-7 ESV

Twelve Memorial Stones from the Jordan

4 When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

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

In this time and season of my life, I am finding that I tend to forget things.

I forget names and faces and places.

I have looked for my cellphone WHILE I was talking on it.

I have looked for my glasses while they were sitting right on top of my head.

I have searched high and low in my house for my truck keys when all the time they were attached to one of the belt loops on my pants, resting in my pocket.

The struggle is real — and becoming more real than I like with each passing day and I find it is not just with the everyday stuff, it happens with the big stuff, too.

Have you noticed it is easy to remember the hard things?

Have you also noticed that it is hard to remember the good things?

I don’t want my habit of forgetting to push me into a place of doubt and worry.

I want to remember the faithfulness of God.

I want to always remember to say: Thank God for His Faithfulness in all things.

But, truth be told, I do not always remember to say “Thanks be to God!”

Forgetting is an issue which has been around as long as there have been humans on the earth.

Thankfully, God instituted various precepts to help people remember.

One of the most common seen in the bible was to build an altar or a memorial.

Joshua 4:4-7 NASB

So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe; and Joshua said to them, “[a]Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel. 6 [b]This shall be a sign among you; when your children ask [c]later, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ then you shall say to them, ‘That the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.’ So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever.”

The Israelites had seen God do miraculous things: delivering them from Egyptian captivity, splitting the Red Sea, providing manna in the desert, and giving them the ten commandments.

Now, after forty years of wandering in the wilderness, they were finally arriving in the land of Canaan, the land long promised by God to the Patriarch Abraham.

God did not want them to forget this moment, so He commanded them to make a “memorial” out of twelve stones taken from the midst of the Jordan River.

The word “memorial” is translated from the Hebrew word “Zikkaron” which means a “sign, symbol, or marker that evokes remembrance.”

https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h2146/esv/wlc/0-1/

Zikkaron is a memorial or act of remembrance is about remembering the past in such a way that it impacts our present and even our expectation of the future.

Have we taken the time to notice exactly how often, in our fast paced internet, technology driven world we can easily forget moments when God has revealed Himself, His faithfulness, His will, or His calling to us in a significant manner?

It is significant, it is very important for us to make time to establish spiritual markers in our hearts, minds, and souls even more concrete ways such as pictures, or blogging, scrap booking or some other very obvious eye catching conversation starter so that we will not soon forget these divine moments.

Remembering past spiritual markers by some visible means often gives us a better perspective on remembering what God wants to do in the present and His direction for the future; it also helps to prevent us from not so faithfully moving backwards, and can serve as an “AHA!” inspiration for others in difficult times.

Most importantly, these markers remind us and others of exactly who God is.

Joshua 4:20-24New American Standard Bible

20 As for [a]those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set them up at Gilgal. 21 And he said to the sons of [b]Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ 22 then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed, just as the Lord your God had done to the [c]Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed; 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, so that you may [d]fear the Lord your God [e]forever.”

How can we do this now?

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24New American Standard Bible

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit, 20 do not utterly reject [a]prophecies, 21 but examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good, 22 abstain from every [b]form of evil. 23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will do it.

Building a memorial or collecting memorial stones, or an altar can’t look like what it did in Joshua’s day. That would probably break most city ordinances!

But there is still a way: start a [collection of] memorial jars – altar jars.

Begin now – wash it out and bathe it in prayer.

At the start of every month – get a new jar – wash it, bathe it in prayer!

At the start of every new year, get an empty jar – wash, bathe it in prayer!

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy — even an old spaghetti sauce jar will do.

Then, as you experience moments of God’s faithfulness, write them down or add a coin or two or twelve (magnifying God’s faithfulness), put them in your jar.

You can do this at anytime of the day or whenever you “suddenly” remember something blessed just happened – you “recognize” a prayer being answered.

Remember to write down the big stuff, write down the small stuff — Thank God: “My friend was healed from cancer!” or “I was blessed by God today.”

Write down the moments you and I usually or always take for granted — “It is freezing outside but my heater is working!” Or something you are celebrating —  “My life became another day older today!” “My first coffee was great!”

The truth is: we will remember the year more accurately is pretty awesome on its own. But there’s infinitely more. Every time you write something down, it is an opportunity for remembering to worship and expressing a gratitude to God.

In addition to that, every time someone else sees your jar, and all of the little tiny notes inside, or how “coin” heavy it is it becomes a conversation starter.

Let’s step into this season of thanksgiving and Advent and Christmas with faith and expectancy. At the end of this year, I believe your “memorial” jar will be full …… and so will your whole heart and so will your whole soul and your whole life.

Then, in 2023, start again – to watch and see whose faithfulness is revealed!

Precisely, how much are we genuinely thankful and exactly, how much are we genuinely grateful, unto God, the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit?

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

Let us Pray,

O Lord God, Mighty in Power, Infinite in Grace and Charity. You say that I should have faith in You so that I will be upheld. I do, Mighty Lord. I 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 to remember, and I know You will help me through whatever this life brings. Amen.

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