Shelter of the Most High

Reading Psalm 91 this week, I have been comforted by the reminders of the qualities of God’s nature that bless those who believe & are faithful in Him. It is a great comfort to know that in my times of need, in all the spiritual darkness and danger and weight of this world, the Lord will always be my refuge; as verse 2 says, “I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” I feel grateful to know He will:

– protect us & deliver us from destruction

– answer our pleas for help

– be with us through troubles & trials

– rescue us from evil

– honor our faith in Him

– truly satisfy us

– lead us to salvation

I am further glad this passage does not tell us life is without trial for the faithful; I think of James 1, counting it joyful to find trials in faith to steadfastly receive the crown of life. We know in our lives, we’re not exempt from disease, pain, heartache, emotional upheaval, even death; but we know we do not need to fear these things, because the Lord offers spiritual richness, deliverance from evil, joy, hope, peace, and life everlasting, far greater and more powerful than fear or worry or anxiety about our own situations.

I reflect on Psalm 91:1; “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.” Not he who has dwelled, or will dwell; but he who dwells, actively living and being in the Lord’s presence. You can’t live in sin and still live within the Lord’s presence: I think of Romans 8:7: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” All these wonderful, comforting qualities of the Lord: in my own struggles, am I still actively seeking the Lord’s presence and living in Him, or am I living disobediently, hostile to God? We all have things inside us we are grappling with in our lives right now; being honest with yourself, what are yours? For me, anxiety and depression are daily difficulties. So I ask myself: is my love of the Lord and thankfulness of His honoring my faithfulness being held back & kept from being properly expressed by these worries & negative feelings? Do your conflicts – inner and outer – get in the way of your dwelling with the Lord, or are you using these conflicts as a measure to express joy and display your strength found in the Lord? Whatever this conflict looks like in your life, I pray that you too would recognize how you can more firmly live within all blessings of the Lord’s presence.

Judgement

Today’s reading is Hosea 13:1-16.

One of our constant prayers we share in our house is that we would turn to the Lord not only in times of trouble, but not lose sight & never stop rejoicing in Him even when things are good. This prayer takes inspiration from the repeated pattern of Israel’s behavior throughout the Old Testament, when things were tough and they needed deliverance, from their enemies or their hunger or other physical needs, they would pray and ask God for help. But when things were good and they were comfortable, they’d turn to idolatry, immorality, and the whole gamut of human sin. This pattern of behavior certainly continues today with many people, but reading and praying on Hosea 13 reminds me of the certain doom that awaits those who fall into this trap. I’ll let you read some of the verses from this passage yourself drawing analogies of God’s judgement on His people who have turned to sin, like verse 8 and 16. Warning: they’re brutal. Not something anyone would look forward to.

The truth that God’s wrath will be opened full force against the sinful is no hidden fact. Romans 1:18 says, “for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” And Isaiah 13:9, on the fall of Babylon: “Behold, the day of the Lord comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land a desolation and to destroy its sinners from it.” Hosea 13:1-2 describes the sad state of those exalted, once set aside for God, in their complacency turning away from His grace and accepting these things instead. It is a trap we must all recognize awaits when not alert of temptation as 1 Peter 5:8 warns us.

But the joy in this reminder is that as mighty as the wrath of God is, even greater is His love and mercy for us. Going back Wednesday to Hosea 11, this same God who pours out such incredible devastation against His enemies also so deeply loves us and holds compassion for us, offering joy and eternity instead of damnation. That’s where our faith comes from: not for fear from His boundless reprisal, but from amazement at His love even greater than that. And when the love of God is so great compared to the fleeting comfort of idols and trivialities we can build up for ourselves, how can we possibly refuse?

Paul quotes Hosea 13:14 in 1 Corinthians 15:55 when he says this: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” While death and misery surely await those opposed to God’s will, He has given us a golden ticket available every day of our life. It is through Jesus and His blood poured out for us that we have any hope of being spared the well-deserved wrath of God, that the sacrifice of the Lamb of God would take away our sins. As Romans 5:9 put it: “since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” I pray today for the vigilance against the temptations of the world that turn us away from the grace and glory of God; not only to have this awareness when I am tempted when weak, but to remember His deliverance from those dark times when all is well. I thank God for deliverance from the sting of death through His son Jesus Christ, and no matter what earthly destructions try to distract us from that fact, for the wisdom and discernment to recognize & pursue His truth always.

What are the Odds?

Today’s reading is on Mark 15:1-41.

Imagine you took one silver dollar, and drew an x on it with a marker. Now imagine going to Texas and throwing that silver dollar on the ground. The entire state of Texas, all 268 thousand square miles, is then covered two feet deep with silver dollars, all of them get mixed together, and you are blindfolded & asked to pick up the x-marked silver dollar on your first try. Do you think you could do it? Pretty tough odds, right?

I’m sure others have heard of Professor Peter Stoner’s famous analogy from his book Science Speaks on the sheer statistical improbablity of Biblical prophecy. The above analogy was made to represent the likelihood of just the following 8 of the 60 prophecies mentioned in Scripture happening to Jesus if He were not the Son of God & the events of His crucifixion in Mark 15 were up to pure random chance – about 1 in 10 to the 17th power – and not the precisely meticulous & awe-inspiring work of our God evidenced through Old Testament prophecy:

    • Micah 5:2: “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” (Christ’s birth in Bethlehem)
    • Malachi 3:1: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” (John the Baptist’s preparing the way for Jesus)
    • Zechariah 9:9: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Christs’s arrival in Jerusalem on a donkey)
    • Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” (Judas’s betrayal)
    • Zechariah 11:12: “Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.” (Judas selling Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver)
    • Zechariah 11:13: “Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.” (Judas’ final act of throwing his ill-gotten earnings to the temple ground in remorse)
    • Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” (Jesus’s silence before his wrongful accusers)
    • Isaiah 53:12: “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” (Jesus’s death bearing the wrath of God against our sin)

      We don’t celebrate Easter thousands of years after these events just to gawk over some weird coincidence. The fact that the Lamb of God would freely be given as a sacrifice for our justification is far more meaningful and beautiful than overwhelming odds; it is the work of all creation being moved by its Creator to display an overwhelming love & mercy for us.

Before what I’m sure will be a weekend of celebration & joy for many, it is important for us to consider the truth of Jesus’s death; he did not deserve death on a cross, any more than we deserve eternal life without His intervention. But Scripture pointed for thousands of years beforehand to the Messiah’s mission, sentencing, death, and resurrection. When Jesus willingly gave His spirit to atone for God’s wrath against us and split the veil of the temple, He opened the way for our freedom to be with God in a way that had never been blessed upon us before; it is a gift wrought of blood and selflessness that we should always remember, be thankful for, and praise Him for. 

I think in discussing this, it’s also worth noting the retelling of these events in Luke 23, where one detail is included that’s omitted in Mark’s telling: when one of the adjacent criminals joined in the execution rebukes the other for doubting Christ, he and Jesus have this conversation in verse 42: “And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And He said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.’” Jesus’s fulfillment of the Scriptures was not just a gift for those who believe right now; it is a gift continually offered and freely given until our last breath. If we believe & ask, Jesus will welcome us into His kingdom – that much we know to be true. Christ died for the many; this Easter weekend, amidst the celebration, consider how you can share the message that it is never too late, no sin too overwhelming, nothing powerful enough to stop the joy of accepting Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf.

Correct Course

Today’s reading is on Psalm 141.

Our church has recently been discussing Titus, and the role & necessity of leaders in the church to teach sound doctrine, and reproach and correct those in the church not displaying godly behavior. The importance of such is described in Titus 2:11-14: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” We seek to renounce & repent from sin, that we may be ready for Christ to come again and claim us as his own, and to do good works in His name whole heartedly.

This need for rebuking and correcting in order to walk just and upright in the grace of God comes to mind when I hear David’s prayer in Psalm 141: specifically, the order in which he prays these things. In times of duress and persecution, David set the great example of turning to the Lord to pray for His will to be done. In what sounds like one of those times, he prays for his enemies’ defeat, yes; but first, he prays for the correction of his own sin. He asks hopefully for the chance to be corrected in his sin. As verse 5 puts it, “let a righteous man strike me; it is a kindness.”

I think David, in his wisdom and piety, saw the true value in the words of others about his sin. Proverbs 6:23 says “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.” And in Proverbs 9:8: “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” We can not appropriately display the thankfulness we have for Christ pouring out Himself for our justification when we live in sin; and it is in the strength of faith of the believers around us, comfortable and trusting in their faith enough to speak up when they see us sin & lead us in the right direction out of love, that God blesses us with opportunity to correct our paths. David sees this, enough to joyfully celebrate the chance to be rebuked before even mentioning his enemies. He sees his own sin, and knows he must deal with that first; taking the plank out of his own eye first, as Jesus’d put it in Matthew 7.

Let this be a morning of reflection, repentance, and renewal in our promise to Christ. What sins are you struggling with that need to be surrendered to God & turned away from? Do you have others in which you can trust to be honest & forward to you about your sin & help you get on the right path? Or do you need to pray for God to help open the path to help from your brothers in sisters & Christ in recognizing and squashing your sin? Or maybe you sense an opportunity in your life to loving rebuke others of their sin, be it family, friends, acquaintances, church members, coworkers. How can your words of encouragement & truth help direct others struggling with sin back to upright and godly lives, so that the glory of God may be displayed through all our good works done in His name?

Concerning a Stranger

Today’s reading is on 1 Kings 8:41-53.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I can’t say I’m cut out for international missions work myself – but I am endlessly impressed with those who do. There are billions of people the world over who hold one of a wide variety of beliefs; the courage and fortitude to travel to those who need the hope of the true Gospel amaze me. Numerous friends who’ve done missions at one point or another over the year have all shown inspirational love for sharing the Lord’s word with many in need. When I read 1 Kings 8:41, I think of the stories I’ve heard of people around the planet they had one small encounter with and were able to introduce God’s light into the life of someone in desperate need of hope. I think of the Great Commission in Matthew 25:16-20, and of Acts 1:8 – the call to share God’s word to every corner of the earth is a clear & explicit calling of His people.

But also on my mind when thinking about this is a topic our church recently discussed: a shift on their budget from focusing on global missions to domestic, with our pastor sharing the startling projection that in the next ten years, an estimated 30% of evangelical churches in my state of Missouri are expected to close their doors for good. It’s easy to think of this passage in 1 Kings just as King Solomon asking God to listen to the pleas of those from foreign lands who visit His temple; but that statistic on my mind makes me think of the paramount importance of each of us considering ourselves missionaries, sharing the gospel in our personal world to a foreign people in need of the word of God. Balancing these thoughts when reading this passage makes me think of Ephesians 2. Paul reminds the church at Ephesus of their state before salvation – “remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” Only the death of Christ reconciles us with God and with His kingdom, Paul says – “through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

We can think of missions as something that only takes place in countries and cities states, countries, and half the planet away – but sometimes, with those billions of people who don’t know Christ – or don’t even know of Christ – chances are you will find at least one daily in your life, no matter who or where you are. Paul reminds us to remember the sobering truth of our past condition: each of us, no matter the date our spiritual rebirth happened, were once foreign to God’s people, but now we are loved & cherished by our Savior in the family of believers. Strangers and foreigners to the kingdom of God are in every corner of the earth, and the need to build up & send out missionaries will always be a great one, but the work of the people of God to spread His word to those alien to His grace is the duty of each of us, no matter where. I ask myself when thinking about this passage: am I doing enough to support missions around the globe, be it through prayer or giving or participation or any other support to take the gospel across the globe? But at the same time, am I living that same missionary life at home, acting as a citizen of the kingdom of God sharing His word with foreigners to the truth, so that they may come and pray and devote themselves to Him wholeheartedly? I’ve prayed over Isaiah 56:6-8 while considering these things, and I encourage you to do the same, and consider how you too can help the Lord’s house be called a house of prayer for all people, near and far.

Neighborly love

Today’s reading is on Leviticus 19:1-18.

In Matthew 22, Jesus is asked by a member of the Pharisees what the greatest commandment is. His response, in verses 37-40: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Chet wrote yesterday about how he was challenged to think about loving others, in a reflection of Jesus’s love displayed in Luke 19; I hope you’ve had some time to reflect on how you love your neighbor too.

Spoiler warning: a reflection on His first response, a quote from Deuteronomy 6, will come later. But His second answer comes from Leviticus 19:18 – “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” In this passage, God establishes how His people should leave part of their harvest for those in need; not steal, lie, or falsely swear under His name; not withhold from or harm those reliant on you, either directly or indirectly; not slander, hate, or seek vengeance upon others. All obviously timeless instructions, but capped off with that last statement: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, a man from Jerusalem, injured and in desperate need of help, is ignored by those he’d expect help from, and is instead offered above-and-beyond assistance from a Samaritan man, from a tribe with a bitter rivalry with those from Jerusalem, who was probably risking his own safety by even being near Jerusalem in the first place. A man asks Jesus who we should consider our neighbor in our shows of love; His response, in verse 36-37: “’Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’ The man said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise.’” Being a neighbor has no geographic bearing in this sense; any who need mercy, compassion, a show of love: those are our neighbors we are called to love.

All week, we’ve had writing centered around Jesus both displaying & describing incredible acts of love to those in desperate need of grace, who by our judgement, may have been very tough to show love towards. The prodigal son squandering his dad’s fortune in Luke 15; A blind man begging for mercy in Luke 18; A greedy tax collector in Luke 19. Our Savior led a perfect life, giving the ultimate display of showing mercy to those in need by dying a cross for all mankind. When we were on death’s door in our sin, Christ gave all He had to give in order that we would have life. When we are called to show love to our neighbors on Christ’s behalf in situations where our natural predilection may be to do otherwise, because we don’t care for them, or we’re too attached to our material worth to give it away, or afraid for our comfort or well-being if we go out of our way to help, I think of the good Samaritan as an example of the kind of love Christ had for us, and how Romans 5:6-8 describes the weight of this love: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” When Christ would give His life for a worthless sinner, how simple and doable in comparison does the hope of well-being for those hurting & broken around us have? How easy do the laws of Leviticus 19 seem – giving up just a portion of what you have, offering fair & truthful behavior to those around you, being a good and honest person – compared to Jesus’s desire to give up everything on our behalf? 

As a word of encouragement to wrap up on, I’d like to come back to verse 2 of Leviticus 19, where beginning this decree of the Law, God tells Moses: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” We show genuine self-sacrifice, mercy, care, and love to those the world may consider it unusual for us to show love to, rather than our typical broken inclination of complacency. In that, we fulfill God’s command to be holy, setting aside our lives to bring glory & the word of God into the lives of others. But more than just a command, I like to think of this as a promise. God has already given us everything we need to reach out to others & bring His light into their lives. All we have to do is trust Him, and in our transformed lives act upon this trust by trusting His command to live apart for Him, and we can be confident than in the love & compassion we share, He will set us aside to bring glory to Him. And for that, I pray Psalm 115:1: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!”

Loving like Jesus

Today’s reading is on John 13.

Have you ever been wronged by a close friend? A dishonest family member? A duplicitous coworker? In the moment of realization, where it sets in that someone you genuinely trusted has intentionally wronged you, it really stinks, doesn’t it? On the night of the Passover supper, the last night Jesus’ closest friends had with Him before His death, in my own humanness, I imagine the frustration someone in Jesus’ position must have felt; knowing His good friend Judas would sell His life for just a little money. I can empathize the hurt and pain that must go through someone’s head in. But no; John 13 instead tells of a truly one-of-a-kind friend, who even facing with full certainty His imminent agonizing death, decided to show love, servitude, and gratitude to His friends who needed it. In this chapter, we see an incredible example of living & showing Godly love when we probably least feel like it.

Key to the acts of service and sharing of wisdom Jesus provides the disciples in this chapter is verse 3; Jesus’s firm knowledge of God’s will for Him: “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God.” It is knowing His role in God’s kingdom that helps Jesus show how taking on the role of the humblest servant can be a radical act of love. It is knowing His blood would be poured out for us to wash us from sin, that he would tell us all in verse 8: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Or in verse 10: “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.” It is the incredible love of all His children by which Jesus would lead by example, commanding in verses 34 & 35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This outpouring of selflessness, humility, and love is the example by which we Christians are to live. Where we’d be inclined to focus on our own woes and trials, Jesus joyously put the service of others ahead of Himself. Where we’d be disappointed and hurt, Jesus showed love and encouraged the loving of others. Great leaders often lead by example; this is Jesus exemplifying the love He spoke of in Matthew 5:44: “I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Or Luke 6:27 – “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

Not only was Jesus, perfect and just as He is, able to love so radically and selfless in this moment, but John gave us direction into how we too can further mirror this part of Christ’s nature in verse 3: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose…” Christ knew and graciously accepted His role in God’s kingdom, allowing that same grace to pour out and wash not only his disciples at this last supper, but to continually wash all of us in the abound grace of God. Christ tells us in plain language that none of us stand above each other in front of the Father; it is through grace atoned through Christ’s death that saves us all alike. 

Do you stand firm in your identity in Christ? Do you seek deeper & further understanding & growth regularly on God’s path for you in life? Does this knowledge drive you love as selflessly, humbly, and radically in the presence of your detractors as Christ did? Today I pray for all of us to spend time ruminating on God’s word, what it means for our life & our role within His salvation plan, and how to better love selflessly in the face of our selfish and conceited human nature. And above all, to pray & consider how we can better show & live Christ’s new commandment: to love one another, just as He has loved us all in washing our sin in His blood.

Can’t Deny It

Today’s reading is 1 John 1:1-10.

Imagine, for a moment, what it must have felt like to be the apostle John as he wrote the letter enclosed in 1 John: the last living disciple & apostle of Jesus, still ministering to the church in his old age. He’s seen generations of believers in Christ now, and has watched the fervor and experience of the early church grow & mature. But among all else, the false teachers Christ warned about have come in & threatened sounds biblical teaching within the church. To see the threat of division come not from outside, but within, by those who want to muddle Christ’s teaching in pursuit of attempted rationalization of the truth with heresies and doubts about Christ’s human nature.

Reading 1 John 1, can you hear the sadness, the frustration, at these schools of thought that John could refute through his own life experience? That he saw, heard, touched Christ in the flesh; he knew the living Son of God himself! In this assuredness & passion, John wrote these lessons from his experience. Not out of anger or disappointment, but because of love for his fellow believers, because he wanted to set them on the path of righteousness and reassure all his fellow believers of the basis of God’s salvation works, done for their sakes.

From what John speaks of, we can tell these false teachers would have likely been downplaying the truth of sin, speaking against the setting aside of oneself for Christ in word and action, denying their own sinful nature, even being active sinners themselves while teaching God’s word. John, in his knowledge of Christ’s word straight from the source, says this in verses 9 & 10: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” To deny our sinful nature is to deny scripture truth: The prophet Isaiah said it in Isaiah 53:6: “We like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Paul wrote it in Romans 3:10-12, quoting Psalm 14: “As it is written, ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; on one does good, not even one.’” We are all sinners, falling short of following God as we should; to deny this, is to deny how amazing it was for Christ to die on all our behalf.

In wanting to follow, seek, and be in fellowship – share in possession of eternal life – with God, we choose to set ourselves aside & forsake the temptation of the world’s darkness to live in the light of God’s righteousness. In our walk, as verse  9 says here, if we are faithful, we confess our sins – we admit our wrongdoings, and acknowledge the truth in God’s plan for us over our own plans for ourselves. But looking ahead to 3 John 11, he writes: “do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.” In our walks with Christ, as we mature and become intentionally more like Him, our hearts will more naturally wish to turn away from sin and turn to Him instead. It is in this transformation of our will, our faith in Christ and the power of salvation becomes evident. In Christ’s death and resurrection, we die to sin, are buried in His death, and are freed from sin in His sacrifice for us, as Paul describes in Romans 6. To summarize, as Romans 6:10-11 says: “For the death He died, He died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives, He lives to God. So you also much consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ.” This transformative power in our lives is simply both the outcome & indicator of dying to sin & being alive to God – that we would say no to our sinful nature, and instead say yes to God’s will.

I am thankful that in our walk with God, and in the healing power of our death to sin & resurrection into the Kingdom of Heaven, we experience transformation. That we would be able to grow & change in the light of His word, rather than suffer in the darkness of the world alone. I praise my Lord Jesus Christ for making a way for us in eternal life, by offering Himself as a fully human sacrifice, who’s authority over heaven and earth outweighs any knowledge or strength of our own. And beyond all, I am thankful for the love of God, who would pour out His son for our behalf so we may have eternal life. Empowered & uplifted by the words of 1 John this morning, I pray for the light of God to shine through us believers, that those in the dark may see the love He brings & offers.

Up Top

Today’s reading is on Luke 9:28-36.

When’s the last mountaintop moment you had? When you last felt, spiritually, on top of the world? (Maybe physically if you’re actually into mountain climbing or something?) That moment of intense, intentional focus & closeness to God’s presence. Maybe a spiritual conference or church gathering; an intense small group gathering, or much-needed prayer circle; maybe even just a particularly convicting, revealing moment of prayer and revelation of the Lord’s will in your life. Anything come to mind? Do you remember how it made you feel? That comfort, warmth, joy, that you want to hold onto afterwards?

The biblical significance of the mountaintop is a logical one: people drawing close to God in earnest, both metaphorically and literally closer to the heavens, and a significant spiritual closeness occurring. Moses on Mount Sinai receiving God’s commandments; Elijah calling the wrath of God upon Baal’s prophets from Mount Carmel; Jesus’s ascension from the Mount of Olives, foretold by the prophet Zechariah; in the transfiguration of Christ, an occasion described in Luke 9:28, as well as Matthew 17 & Mark 9. Jesus takes Peter, James & John up a mountain, where Christ’s sudden transfiguration occurs, and the full radiance of Heaven’s majesty shines through Him upon the three disciples. Even the likenesses of Moses and Elijah appear to discuss Jesus’s coming death, representing, as Jesus explained in Luke 24:44, “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” pointing to His death & resurrection. 

Peter mentions setting up three tents for Jesus and His two visitors, basically expressing how much he wants to just stay here in this moment. Peter wants this moment of intense glory, the full radiance and amazement of Christ’s true glory, to be a lasting celebration, to camp out and cherish this holy closeness to God’s work as long as possible. Alas, soon it is over. But not before the disciples have confirmed without a doubt, from the very voice of God, the true nature of Christ.

Interesting, Luke’s telling of the Transfiguration includes one fact, in verse 28, the other apostle’s recollections do not: that Christ had taken them to the mountain specifically to pray. To draw away and have intentional closeness to God, setting their time and effort aside explicitly for talking to Him and being in His presence. Setting aside our time & effort for dedicated prayer and Scripture is such an important practice, especially for experiencing a real, genuine focus on God’s working in our hearts & minds. Especially in moments of sharing that with others, as the three apostles had here to an incredible degree, seeing their dear friend & Savior displaying the full glory of God. But when we experience those spirit-filling moments, when we’re called to listen and hear the truth from God and see His glory, what happens next? Are we expected to stay still and enjoy our blessing from there? No; none of these people, after their mountaintop moments, spent the rest of their life on that mountain. They took the word of God, and what they’d experienced, and went down & shared the joy and might and power they experienced with others. They went and glorified God to the people below and demonstrated the effect God had in their life in those moments.

Lord, I pray a prayer of thanks this morning for sharing with us the glory of your son Jesus Christ, who stepped down to earth to fulfill the laws of Moses and the Prophets, and die for our sin in our place. We thank you that we would be able, at any time, to seek conversation & closeness to you, and that when we do, your word and your glory would be revealed to us. We pray that, in those times between our moments of prayer and Scripture, that we could seek glorification and honor of your word, above all else, to those around us, that they may share in the joy we experience with you.

Light of the World

Maybe it’s just the early sunsets lately speaking to me, but does it feel like we live in dark times? With all modern society’s distractions and trappings and other avenues for self-fulfillment, it seems that more & more people are trying to find something to fill their life in ways other than God. Of course, God is working in many ways through many believers & many great works are being done in His name, but it can be easy in our humanly narrow vision to feel defeatist these days about the plague of spiritual darkness.

If you relate to seeing this darkness in the world, perhaps Isaiah 60 is the Friday celebration of God’s glory to read. In it, the prophet describes the coming glory of the final Kingdom of God. Verses 1-3; “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Isaiah has foreseen a world shrouded in darkness, drawn to the joy and celebration of those who know God’s glory. This chapter describes a glorious kingdom built up on God’s glory, with nothing to want and nothing but peace to be had among God’s chosen. In verses 10-12 of this chapter, and verses 19 & 20, Isaiah prophesies the forthcomings of Revelations 21, displayed in verses 22-27: “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

There will come a day when the glory of God’s kingdom will be all that’s left, as has been foretold. We know, as Jesus puts it in John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” I think of David’s song of deliverance in 2 Samuel 22, verse 29: “For you are my lamp, O Lord, and my God lightens my darkness.” In a world of spiritual darkness, of distance & separation from God, we have an incredible guiding gift in knowledge & trust of the goodness & sanctity of the Lord God & our Savior Jesus Christ, who is with us and grants the faithful unfailing hope in the darkest & toughest of times, as many of us can attest.

But even more than just this life of hope, it is worth noting how it’s worded when Paul references this scripture in Ephesians 5:11-14 when he writes, “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness’, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” Our coming into the light form darkness is akin to death, and in rising in the light from darkness, we find life. Chet went into it yesterday in his powerful writing on Romans 6; we become dead to sin, and alive in Christ in accepting Him. 

When we accept Christ and His light shines on us, we are called to shine that light to that world of darkness that needs it, that all the world & its leaders may seek His glory. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells His followers: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” We can live as slaves to sin & death, indistinguishable from the darkness of separation from Christ around us, or in anything we do, we can show hope, joy, and strength in Christ in a way that people will notice, and will draw others to Him. Is the celebration of God’s glory not reason enough for this? Is the glory of His people and His kingdom as the prophet Isaiah describes here not amazing enough to draw even the most downtrodden & hopeless into a hope that can overcome anything? I would pray for us all this morning, that in a world of spiritual darkness, we would joyously thank the Lord for shining the light of His glory upon us, and a song of thanks that we may shine His light for the world to see.