This Is The Day

This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24 NKJV)
Here's a verse we all know well; words we have put to song and we sing them to our Creator God. If we were to back up a few verses we would find that the psalmist is referring to the Cornerstone of our faith, and the "day the Lord has made" is the day of our salvation through Christ Jesus.
I believe God honors our appropriating this verse out of context. But how many of us really begin our day with such expectant praise! How might our days be different if, as we begin our day in prayer, that prayer was in gratitude and eager anticipation of what our Father God has planned for us that day?
How might our attitudes blossom and our demeanor be uplifted, if we would focus on one truth – That this may be the very day that your Father in Heaven has determined to be the most wonderful, fulfilling, blessed day of your life – 'A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over'. Why could it not be? Why shouldn't it be so?
I think of how we might greet each day with the anticipation of God's grace, provision, and blessings; of the opportunities He will make available to us today to be His hands and feet; of being the salt and light He has called for us to be. I think of the overwhelming honor of being used by my Father to further His holy kingdom. I think of the wonderfulness of His holy word and how, through that book, we are allowed to know Him and to seek His righteousness. I think of the comfort He allows me, knowing that when I stumble, when I fail He has already forgiven me that failure, that He will pick me up, dust me off, and hold my hand going forward.
We never know what today may bring. It may bring calamity, or malady, distress, or even death. Yes, Jesus warned us that our world is full of trouble and we will often have to endure such, but that trouble is not of God. He would not tell us to rejoice and be glad in the new day He has made only to burden that day with trouble.
What a wonderful sensation it is to know as I lay down my Bible each morning, stand up and walk out into the new day, that I have this sense of empowerment, knowing that I am loved by God, that I am His child and heir to His kingdom. He has formulated a plan for each of my days that I might prosper, have hope and a future; and that He lives within me through His Holy Spirit. Is that not awesome?
I noted above that this may be the day He has set aside as the pinnacle – the highest mountain top you will ever know. How much greater, how much higher might that mountain top be if you began your day in anticipation of such an experience. If we were to begin our day in such holy anticipation, when the blessings do occur, how much greater is our joy! "He really did. He really blessed me over and above anything I imagined!"  "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him". (1 Cor. 2:9 NIV) And now, being in the right frame of mind, we instantly know the source of our blessing and we eagerly give thanks to that Source.

I recall some years ago sharing with friends how abundantly God had blessed me and how, in my prayers of gratitude I would say to God that He had outdone Himself and no blessing could be greater. And sure enough, just as if to say "Oh Yeah, you think that was good – how about this!", and He would bring a new and greater blessing.
And if per chance the day does not bring you to the mountain top, it has still been a day of joyous anticipation as our heart and soul focuses on the goodness and faithfulness of God, rather than the travails of life.

We do serve an awesome and mighty God. Blessed be His Holy Name!!

An Encouraging Word

"People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath." (Hebrews 6:16-17 NIV)

"For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself," (Heb. 6:13 NASB)

"The LORD has taken an oath and will not break His vow." (Psalm 110:4a ESV)

It was common in New Testament times for a person to make an oath on something or someone greater than himself – such as the altar, or the high priest, or even God. Once such an oath was made, argument was over; the dispute was ended. It was assumed that no one would make such an oath unless he was fully determined to keep it.

You would think that we would just naturally take God at His word. We might ask, "Why should God feel inclined to take an oath or to swear by Himself?"

The Bible has much to say about vows, oaths, and swearing, and of course we're not speaking here of vulgarity, but swearing on something greater than ourselves. The scriptures teach us that God takes our vows very seriously. (Deut. 23:21-23; Num. 30:2; Lev. 5:4; Eccl. 5:4)

We remember Jephthah's foolish and rash vow and what it cost him – (Judges 11)

Matthew, chapter 23 is remembered for the seven woes Jesus declared against the scribes and Pharisees in Jerusalem, and one of the seven woes was all about swearing. (Matt. 23:16-22) Jesus went even farther in His Sermon on the Mount where He said that we should "not take an oath at all", but let our "Yes be Yes, and your No, No". (Matt. 5:33-37 NKJV)

So again, all these things considered, the question remains – What prompted God to swear by Himself? I think we find the answer in the scripture. We may want to look at from several translations, but the message is the same.

We must, of course, acknowledge that God did not need to make an oath. His word is every bit as good without an oath, but to accommodate the weak faith of men, God swore His promise on Himself. His promise was already unbreakable; His pledge did not make His promise any more secure. But He gave it nonetheless, as further assurance to those who are slow to believe.

I would encourage you to read several translations of Hebrews 6:17. The one I like  is from the ESV; "So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of His purpose, He guaranteed it with an oath," (Heb 6:17 ESV) God desires that we, weak in our faith, weak in trusting Him should know that His promise is unchangeable. Concluding the chapter we read, "God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." (Heb. 6:18-20 NIV) In the ESV we read that 'encouragement' is "strong encouragement" which is a more favorable rendering of the Greek text.

Pray that to yourself; "God desires me to have strong encouragement!"  "God really desires me to be strongly encouraged!"

We are strongly encouraged by the knowledge and trust of His promises, His purposes, His goodness, and above all His faithfulness. (Ps. 27:1; 40:1-3; Jer. 29:11; Lam. 3:22-23)

What solace and comfort we are blessed with by God's encouraging word. We can know His word is true and that He is faithful to that word. In the book of Isaiah we read God's own declaration; "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Perhaps not all will find comfort in that passage from Isaiah. Not everyone accepts His word to be the ultimate truth. But we know that God's word is trustworthy and unchangeable. When we read of His promises – both good news and not so good – we can be encouraged in our faith in the one true God.

Be blessed.

Only One Answer

Don’t you just love it when you hear something that you have known for ever, said in a new way? At this weekend’s service our praise and worship leader made the comment that “Jesus is the only answer”.

That statement stuck with me all day yesterday. Yes we understand that Jesus is the Gatekeeper – in that He is ‘The Way, the Truth, and the Life’ and that no one comes to our Father except by Him.

But the message I received was that Jesus is the only answer to all our burdens. It is only through and by Him that we find ourselves brought in out of the storms. He is the only one who will drag us – sometimes kicking and screaming – out of our dark and sinful pit. We have become accustomed to our sin -like the slowly warming of the pot for the frog. But the amazing thing is that Christ does all this by His unequaled , limitless, love for us.

If you are overcome with grief – Jesus is the answer.

Whenever you are fearful – of decisions, of trespasses, of failing those you love – or even failing Him – Jesus is the answer.

If you are chained to some addiction – be it of the bottle, the buffet table, the adult bookstore, or the department store – Jesus is the answer.

When you feel shamed by your lusts, by your greed, or the lie you told –  Jesus is the answer.

If you find you cannot forgive – even yourself – Jesus is the answer.

When relationships so dear to you seem to be failing and you are lost for a solution – Jesus is the answer.

Whenever darkness surrounds you and the evil one seems to be winning – Jesus is the answer.

There is no valley, no unlit path that Jesus will not walk through with you.

There is no unreachable star that He will deny you.

Jesus is the answer for __________ (fill in your burdens)

You find at the bottom of each emailed invitation to these devotions the LORD God’s own words to Moses. “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.” (Num. 6:24-26) Verses 22-23 tells us that God is instructing Moses on how the Israelites are to be blessed. We have adopted these blessings through Him who is the answer to all we encounter and endure – or Lord Jesus.

May indeed the LORD God’s face shine upon you and may He abundantly bless you and yours, and may you be a blessing to others.

Psalm 139

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. Psalm 139:5-12

This is a most beautiful and comforting testimony of God’s love for His children. Verse 5: “You hem me in”. . .the NLT renders this, “You go before me and follow me”. David was proclaiming that God was (and is) as ever present as He had been for the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. Perhaps we don’t see the pillar of fire at night or the cloud of smoke in the daylight, but He is there, always there, always near.

Some have likened verses 7-12 as a fearful or ominous threat, similar to how we might understand the first half of Amos 9:2-3, but such is not true. We find exhilaration and overwhelming joy knowing of His watchfulness – like a sentry, vigilant of all that may befall His children.

We should expect to find Him in heaven as verse eight alludes, but how often do we think of Him in hell (Sheol)? But surely God’s infinite, eternal existence, His omnipresence, allows that He is there too. What a most dismal and dreadful vision – to be in hell, aware of God’s presence, and not have a loving relationship with Him – separated from Him – for all time.

Verse nine is most encompassing from our human limited view.  “If I take the wings of the morning” – What takes ‘wings in the morning’? David looks Eastward to the rising sun of the morning. And then to the other extreme he looks Westward – “and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea”.  For David that sea would have been the Mediterranean Sea and the uttermost part would be most Westward – thus He proclaims God’s all encompassing presence as far as he can see, from the East to the West.

In verses 11 and 12 we deal with darkness and again we find some scholars suggesting a negative notion of an attempt to hide from God. But once again that is not David’s message. David had, like so many of us today, faced numerous ‘dark’ times in his life, from his dealing with his own sin, to that of his sons. He had been hunted by Saul, and chased barefoot out of town by Absalom. He had known terrible tragedy to his family – and yet through it all David found solace, comfort, and joyfulness in God – knowing always that God was with him.

When we find ourselves “covered in darkness”, and even “light seems to be like night”; whether that is by our own sin or by circumstances spawned by this fallen world, what a comfort to know that God knows no darkness – He sees everything in the brightness of daylight. He sees (Rom. 5:8), He forgives (John 3:16; Psalm 103:12; Jer. 31:34), He redeems (Rom 3:24; 1 Pet. 1:18-19).  Praise His Holy Name!!

When David declared that “You hem me in”, he followed with “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me”, and how right on he was. How very wonderful it is to have such knowledge that God watches over us.

In our Sunday service we sang a relatively new song of which I’m not sure of the title. I can hear it now again as we sang out the chorus,“He (God) never gives up, He never gives up, He never gives up on me!” Over and over, “He never gives up on me!”, that chorus line rang through the congregation until it was imprinted on our hearts – God never gives up on His own.

We also note the twice promised protection of the ‘hand of God’ on us. Verse 5 promises His encompassing presence – behind and before, and then as a mother hen would gather her chicks under her wings, so God now covers us with His hand – verse 10 assures His hand will hold us.

Finally we see an echo in the closing request of verse 23; “Search me, O God, and know my heart!”, from the opening line, “O Lord, you have searched me and know me!” Considering God already knows our heart, should it not be easier to confess our shortcomings?

Be blessed.

The Patience of Our Lord

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 ESV)

Whenever this verse comes to mind I sense a renewed exhilaration of my faith in our Lord Jesus, a new promise of His faithfulness, a new reinvigorating spirit within me. How wonderful it is to know that the King of kings stands at your door and knocks.

The whole picture here is of our Lord seeking us out.  He did not wait for us to go searching for Him. This visual is particularly profound when we see it in the context of the letter to the Church at Laodicea of which I have written before (The Lukewarm Christian). Jesus had admonished the  church for their reliance on things of this world – treasures on earth. He had admonished them for their ‘lukewarm’ faith in Him, saying He is inclined to spit them out of His mouth – the Greek here more precisely renders ‘vomit’. I cannot imagine being so reviled by our God as to have Him want to vomit me from His mouth.

Some years ago I read or heard a view on this verse that I found troubling. The writer/speaker – I don’t remember which – didn’t subscribe to conventional opinion that allows us to adopt this verse to modern day convention. His thought was that it compared Jesus to some itinerant door-to-door salesman pleading to fill a compulsory quota of souls. He felt that the image demeaned our Lord and gave the one on the other side of the door the imputus for his own salvation. He subscribed to the view that this verse applied only to the church at Laodicea.

But Jesus said, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door…”. He did not say if someone from the Laodicean church hears His voice – He said anyone!

Equally profound we find His promise of grace with this statement. The church has been found deficient in its faith in Him – so much so that He has been of a mind to vomit their taste from His Holy mouth. Yet even as Paul wrote to the Romans, “but God showed His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). No matter that we are lukewarm in our faith, setting aside our addictions to things seen, rather than those unseen, overlooking our wretchedness, blindness, and nakedness –  He will still stand at our door and knock!

And the promise doesn’t end with His coming in the door. . .no, as we read further Jesus promises even more. “To him who overcomes (conquers in ESV), I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame (conquered) and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Rev. 3:20-21) This overcoming – conquering is our victory over evil. Do you see the parallel here? Our Lord Jesus, the Savior of mankind, our King the Christ, is allowing that our victory over evil is comparative to His own victory over sin. How can you not feel invigorated. Jesus has promised us the same Power that lifted Him from the grave as we trust in Him.

The invitation is to open the door of our heart, with no restriction nor reservation. He is saying to any and all that He is patient with us, He is waiting for us. Although John’s gospel teaches us that no one comes to Jesus until the Father calls them, (John 6:44, 6:65), it is still our responsibility to answer the door. He will not open the door. But He does wait for us. Waiting to bless us , comfort us, and to give us His peace and joy. God has assured us of how anxious He is to bless us (2 Chron. 16:9)

If you are unsure of your relationship with the Lord Jesus may I challenge you to open that door to your heart and receive Him. You will be forever changed, renewed, and regenerated.

May the Lord God abundantly bless you and yours, and may you be a blessing to others around you.