The Advent Path for God’s People

Today’s Reading: Isaiah 40:1-5

40 Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord[a];
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.[b]
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Happy Tuesday Bible Journal family,

December 1st, 2020. Our last month of this very different year! Let’s continue our daily journey through Advent and the promises found in Isaiah that point to the celebration of the birth of our Lord.  In verses 1-2 written by Isaiah, it provides us a promise of hope and comfort in a time of unease. How are you feeling today?  Anything have you uneasy this morning? I know I could share a few things if you had time. But instead of letting these feelings grab hold of me and pull me under I can find some timely rest in the assurance of our Lord who promises hope, joy, peace, and comfort while already paying the price for all our sins. Romans 5:8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

In twenty-five days, we will celebrate the birth of our Lord through Christmas.  We can celebrate today and every day to come the victory has already been won through His life, death, and resurrection.  Our comfort can be found in the words spoken to Israel and us. He reminds us “comfort, comfort, my people“.

Isaiah 40:3-5 provides us with a visual and a reminder about preparing a way in our lives it’s the holiday season to focus on the greatness of our Lord.  We are not alone right now or ever.  Does it feel like you are metaphorically walking around a desert (even though today’s weather by me would feel like a tundra), are you in a valley seeking to try to peek over a horizon? Possibly you are standing on the top of a mountain now wondering how will I ever get down? Or maybe just this year has felt like you have been traveling down a rough path.  Take a deep breath.  Take time to read through these promises we are finding every day in His words.  Promises that say that even in 2020 God has us.  That we have traveled some roads during this time and made many mistakes.  This advent can be a reminder that Jesus came to this world born in human form to live a life for an example of us, but also died for us to live and one day be again with Him in His presence.  This advent more than ever before can provide hope and comfort that our Lord is right by your side every on every rough path, valley, or mountain saying prepare the way. I’m coming back one day for you! What obstacles are standing in your way? Don’t try to face them with our own pride.  As children of God, we must prepare a way for Him.  What an opportunity we have to show others our love, hope, and trust in Him this advent season.  Proclaim the coming of our Lord this start of advent! Have a blessed day.

Dear Lord,

We are all in need of comfort. We know that our only true comfort comes from you. As we live out each day in this Advent season help us to recognize and praise you for the love and sacrifice you made for us.  We love you and pray for us each to draw closer to you and the comfort of your love for us.  Amen

Enjoy this song on this brisk morning.

Humble Love in the Upper Room

Today’s Reading: John 13

As we continue through John, Lynden shared with us the assurance of God’s glory in the midst of everything going on. I pray you were able to hear that yesterday.

Today, as we read chapter 13 John has so many different topics we can focus reflect on.  There’s betrayal, denial, and the humble act of foot washing.  This is where I landed today.  The other day as I was sitting at hockey practice for my son, subtle tears came to my eyes as I thought, “What would it look like if I knew I was going to die tomorrow? Would I even think to serve others or just myself? “  Would I still be consumed with trying to keep our students and staff at school as many days as possible during this pandemic? Would I continue to run my kids to their practice? Would I call family and friends or try to cross one more thing off the bucket list? Maybe I would just hang close to my wife and read books to my daughter until she falls asleep? I wipe my eyes and reflected on Jesus the Thursday night of Passover and ultimately his death.

Jesus had different thoughts and actions that night, not of the flesh like my own. His plans were completely selfless.  He was going to serve the disciples that were around Him that evening. Even the person who was going to betray Him later that evening. In verse 3 Jesus knew that everything was put under His power.   What did Jesus do? You already know. He took the spot of what was in the Jewish culture reserved for the lowest.  He took off his outer garment and started to wash the disciples’ feet. I was listening to a sermon by pastor John MacArthur where he said, “Selfless humility is the soul of love. The humbler you are, the less interested you are in yourself, the greater your capacity to invest yourself in somebody else.”  What was the response of the disciples?  They were in shock, speechless, or wanting their hands and head washed too. So here is our example, our lesson. Can we love like this. No matter the cost can I love selflessly, humbly, in the most menial, simple necessity of life.

Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you will not understand now, but afterword you will understand. “

How will you humbly show love today? What can you do today? 

Lord, you provided the example by sending your own son. A son who gave up His own life for ours.  What love you have for us. Lord help us to love like you.  May we humble ourselves, be meek, and lowly like You so that our love can be elevated. Every day we have the opportunity to love others.  I pray you to help us to show true love with selfless regard.  Amen

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.

MacArthur, John, The Humble Love of Christ, January 18, 2015

Merciful

What does mercy look like to you? For each of us, this will look a little different, yet still, have the same result. (Amen!)  As believers, we’ve heard the words mercy and grace many times. We have been the recipient of this mercy more times than we ever deserve. I’m so grateful for every mercy that has been given and is to come. There are over 50 plus verses that talk about merciful or mercy. These were wonderful reminders about His love for us.  Our merciful verse for today is:

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

When you break down this verse you get an opportunity to read, reflect, and see God’s merciful self. God decided to send His son, Jesus, to be our example of merciful to anyone He met. Read about the mercies Jesus showed to everyone in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Amazing! This same mercy He showed then is given to us now. He paid the ultimate price, for our sins. He showed us why He is called Merciful.

God’s mercy is abundant.  There is enough for you, me, and everyone.

1 Peter 1:3 says Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Our Merciful Father gives you hope today. No matter where you are at, what you are going through, or how bad you have messed up. Our Lord’s mercy will cover you.

How has the Lord been merciful to you? Give Him thanks, praise Him, let others know about His loving mercy that is available to them. This mercy will provide you and them with the hope we all need right now.

keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 1:21

Lover

What was the first bible verse you memorized? For me, it wasn’t the shortest verse Jesus wept. (John 11:35) This verse was later in life. I remember Sunday school where I was so proud to learn my first verse. It was our verse today we will use to focus on the attribute of God as a lover.

 For God so loved the world that He gave his only son, that whosoever believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

God is love. He created us; He gives us everything, Our Lord has a place already waiting for us on a day and time He already knows. God was a lover of us when deciding to create us in His image. He is a lover of us, even in our sinful state.  So much love that He sent His own Son to come to Earth to live His perfect life, then for the sins of the world He was sacrificed for us. Only someone who loves us. 

Look back at the ways Lynden talked about the Love that drives out fear. There is much anxiety around the many events that are going on around the world. Love can drive out that fear. Life is not easy right now, and the enemy whispers lies that can easily distract us from the truth. Hold fast! We have a God who loves us. In times like this, we need to fix our eyes on the cross. Jesus gave his life so we can live eternally with Him. Jesus is a lover of all human races, and his love for us all is evident on the cross. This love is indescribable, unshakable, immeasurable, and available to us all. 

 

I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Dear God,

You provide everything we need. We need your help. You know our pain, you know the fears, and you hold them in your hand.  Lord, you provide the help we need and you cancel all fears when we put our trust in You.  We love you and desire to know you more.  We believe that you are love! Amen

 

Invisible

“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever.”

1 Timothy 1:17

Our word today to describe God is invisible.

For most of us it can be concerning that God sees and knows EVERYTHING we think and do. Yes, there are good things we all do that we want credit for from God and others. For many, their top love language is “words of affirmation,” so they want to be told good job by their spouse, parents, boss, or friends, and the idea of God saying when they meet him in Heaven, “Well done, my good and faithful servant..” may bring tears to their eyes. But, for every good thing each one of us have done, there are likely more thoughts, words and actions we just assume no one ever knows about…including God. However, Proverbs 15:3 reads, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on evil and the good.” Job 34:21 also says, “For his eyes are upon the ways of a man, And he sees all his steps…” He’s omnipresent and knows and sees all.

Unfortunately, this can cause many to struggle to come to Christ and believe their past wrongdoings cannot be forgiven. They believe past sins of theft/fraud, adultery, pornography, an abortion, drug use, being a poor parent, killing someone whether on accident or on purpose, or even just really bad words said to a family member or friend are just too much for God to look past. Even believers have a hard time coming to grips with this and letting go of past sins they know an invisible God has seen. Many are still holding on to that one sin they just can’t fully come to believe God has FULLY forgiven when they can’t even forgive themselves.

To me, that’s one of the many unbelievably cool things about God…He gives us so many examples in His Word that any and all sins can be and are forgiven through the cross and belief in Jesus, and not only that, but that He can then use those sinners to do amazing things for His glory and a great purpose. In fact, the author of 1 Timothy, Paul, formerly known as Saul, had persecuted and killed those that believed in Jesus. Just a few verses earlier he says in 1 Timothy 15-16, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I receive mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt, wrote the book of Genesis, and first received the Ten Commandments killed a man. David was of the direct lineage of Jesus, wrote most of the Psalms, and who God called, “a man after his own heart,” was an adulterer and had his good friend killed over a woman. His disciple and New Testament author Matthew was a tax collector who likely cheated people out of money. Rahab was a prostitute but was used by God to help protect two Israelite spies so they could win the battle of Jericho and then later was also part of the blood line of Jesus. The list could go on and on.

Paul also says in Romans 8:37-39…

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The fact that God is invisible causes us to have a healthy fear and reverence for God to do the right thing, yet thankfully His life, death, and resurrection let us know that because we won’t always do the right thing and will make mistakes (some really bad)…He loves and forgives us no matter what.

Check out this powerful song by Ryan Stephenson, and please…share it with a friend you think may need to hear these words today. It may not just change their day…it may change their life.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=It_xQ4NYtDQ

His Holiness

Today’s reading is Jude 24.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy,…”

Our words to describe God today are “His holiness.” Merriam-Webster defines holy as “exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one in perfect goodness and righteousness.” I’ve also heard holy described as separate or set apart.

He is the only thing that is truly holy and without sin. No matter how hard we try to be holy and do the right thing…we will mess up. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even get through a prayer without being distracted and thinking about something besides God. I find myself getting mad at my kids during an online church service for something they probably should not be doing, but are my thoughts and actions the way that Jesus would react and want me to do so?…likely not. The list could go on and on so I’ll stop. I’m sure I’m not the only one, and I imagine all who are reading this can relate.

Isn’t it ironic though that our words to describe Him today are “His holiness,” yet our verses today are really about how He makes us holy?! That’s just like Him isn’t it? I mess up time after time, but through the events that happened this last weekend nearly 2000 years ago, these verses tell me that He keeps me from stumbling more than I would already. But knowing that I will still stumble, He presents me completely blameless before the Holy Father. As I’m writing this on Easter, our Amazon Music is playing Reckless Love by Cory Asbury, and I hear the lyrics…”I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still you give yourself away…oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God..”

Humbling isn’t? He didn’t have to…but He did…He took all that suffering and all that pain..so that through His Holiness…we are made blameless and holy, too. Thank you, Jesus.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GGJ8cyYNzQ

 

Are you neighborly?

The parable of the Good Samaritan found in today’s reading of Luke 10:25-37 is one of my favorites.  This story is so rich and has many parts you can reflect on. It begins with, an expert in the law testing Jesus, who, as always, turns the questioning trap, into a convicting crossroad for us.

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

  • Love the Lord with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.

Here is where I turned to a few different resources to get some additional light on this story I’ve read through many times.  Today, the term Good Samaritan is used in many settings.  But as I listened to John MacArthur discuss this scripture in Grace To You,  I was left convicted and grateful for this timely reminder of how I can love limitlessly more towards others than just myself.

The first response from Jesus deals with our relationship with God, the second answer relates to our relationships with others.   This love we show to God and to others should be constantly and consistently.  This would be similar to how we love our neighbor.

When we love like this, Jesus quotes Leviticus 18:5 saying,  if we do this we will have eternal life.  Eternal life with Jesus sounds amazing, as we pray for this day. Only by His grace and our willingness to submit our broken lives to Him will we be there.  So where do I start today? The story of the Good Samaritan goes deeper than kindness to others.  It’s not about who your neighbor is, it is about who I am and how can I draw closer to God that will determine my love for others.  I’m convicted because I’m not even close to the compassion this story shares about the Samaritan.  No number of trips, monies donated, or kind gestures compare to the love this Samaritan shows as Jesus desires from us.  Two men who we would have thought would have stopped to help this man passed by, the other man who was already putting himself into a dangerous situation did stop to show love for him.

Read the duration of Luke 10:33-35.  Do you see how he took care of this man walking from Jerusalem to Jericho? That is love.  Truly, and sadly the only person I take care of that way is myself. (convicted)  To some extent, we also do this for our families or close friends. Love without limits for others.  Not just my spouse, kids, physical neighbors or friends.  Love limitless everyone from the store clerk to the relative you said you would never talk to again, to a stranger on the streets?

Jesus asked the man, Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? And he said, “The one who had shown mercy for him., And Jesus said to him and to us, ” Go and do likewise!”

1 John 3:11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love on another.

Lord, I  ask for the strength and compassion to love others this way. Help me to put my selfish desires to the side and focus on others.  Help me to increase love others in my brokenness and in my circumstances no matter what is theirs.   A perfect love that we know we will all have once we are in heaven.  Help me to not set limits on the love I share with others here on Earth. Knowing there is a Kingdom waiting for us all that will have no limits of a love we will share with each other.  In your name, we pray, Amen.

 

MacArthur, John. (2003) The Good Samaritan

What Would You Do?

Today’s reading is Hebrews 2.

Has your boss ever assigned a task for you to complete you felt was “below you?” Did you grumble or complain to them or someone else….or at least under your breath at a minimum? Did you do the job to the best of your ability? I’m very grateful for the opportunity to play golf at the course I grew up working on as a kid with my Dad, brother, one of my nephews, and my son the last few days. As we told many funny stories about things that happened while my brother and I worked out there, I couldn’t help but think of one story which wasn’t necessarily funny as I read Hebrews 2. It was my 3rd summer working there, and I expected to be moving up to tasks like mowing greens and fairways. While I did get the larger responsibility to change the cups and hole location daily, I was also assigned tasks to pull weeds out of flower beds while a few of the other workers who started the same time were assigned other, more dynamic tasks. Although I would like to say I did it cheerfully, I was not happy. I felt I was above that task after a few years of working there and doing what I felt was a better than the other guys at whatever I was assigned. In fact, after a few weeks of this, I just went and found another job working construction for my Dad’s best friend.

Let’s just say I’m glad Jesus didn’t have the same mindset and find another job like me. We are told here in Hebrews 2:10 that Jesus was “for whom and by whom all things exist.” Yet, we are then told in Hebrews 2:14-18….

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”

I’m pretty sure I have mentioned this before in past writings, but when doing street ministry a few years ago for Spread Truth, one gentleman said he didn’t believe the Gospel because no God would lower himself to do what Jesus did. Essentially, he said if he were God that’s not what he would do. Well, he was right, none of us likely would because we are not God, and we can’t imagine the love He has for us and what He did. At age 18, I was already “above pulling weeds,” so how I can I fathom God coming in the flesh and suffering a brutal and painful death on my behalf, taking my place, when He didn’t have to? I can’t. But, I can get on my knees and just say thanks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTYe9sWYKdo

 

 

 

More Than Conquerors

Today’s reading is Romans 8 or as some call it…”The Great Eight.”

In reading it again, it’s easy to see why it has that nickname as it’s chalked full of so much great content that it is really hard to choose what to write on. If you’re interested in digging more into this chapter, I highly recommend the book “If” by Mark Batterson. He does a great job of breaking this chapter down in a way that may change the way you live your life..without fear…knowing God’s immeasurable love for you.

Mark says when you see “therefore,” see what it’s “there for.” Take note right away because verse one starts off by saying, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We live in a world where committing a crime or doing something wrong comes with punishment..or most agree it should any way. This makes it natural to wonder when we have something go wrong in our life such as losing a baby, getting sick, getting downsized from your job, or you or your child get sick if God is punishing us for something we did. Paul makes it clear hear right away that when Jesus was nailed to the cross, so was our sin. Jesus also makes this clear in John 9:3, “Jesus answered, ‘It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” This is very hard for us to comprehend…it’s just not natural. But, first 1 John 4:16 tells us, “God is love.” God’s true love means God doesn’t always stop these things from happening because good can come from it in a way that is incomprehensible to us on this Earth and that we may never know while alive. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” He loves us and allows only what’s TRULY good to happen..and only He knows what’s TRULY good. If we knew what was truly good, we would be God.

The principle and main point in Mark’s book, “If,” is that the word “If” in Romans 8:31 is a true game changer in how we live our life, “…If God is for us, who can be against us?” When we wake up knowing every day that God wants us to succeed, it changes the way we live. We can we live without fear because when know God loves us and wants what’s truly best for us. We already discussed that “God is love,” and 1 John 4:18 tells us that “…perfect love casts out fear.” We can replace “love” with “God” and say…’..perfect God casts out fear.’ Subconscious doubts of God’s best intentions for your life will result in many fears! Don’t doubt his love!

How do we know His unfailing and unconditional love?

The following verse, Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will He not also with him graciously give us all things?” Drop the mic.

Because of this, Paul says in verse 37, “..we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us?” When we know the game we’re playing to win is not in life which doesn’t matter, but for eternal life in Heaven…and we know we already have the title belt through His love…it changes everything. Let us not live like Jesus and our sins are still nailed to the cross, He’s risen and our sins are erased permanently giving us eternal life and making us “..more than conquerors through Him.”

 

Preparing for the end

Today’s Readings: 1 Thessalonians 3 and 4

Its difficult to think about death and when our end is to come. I would honestly say, I take my life for granite most days. Selfishly, I have three children under the age of eight and would love to see them grow up to be both wonderful men and women of God. I just celebrated our 10 year anniversary and would love to have at least 50 more. But, I realize that I’m not the one who will decide that.  God will!  I recently attended a funeral for my late Uncle Rob Voltz, which was a reminder of the brevity of our lives. I haven’t attended very many funerals, they are hard to attend. Since putting my faith in God, I tend to reflect and wonder about any opportunities I could of had to share how much I cared for them and the promises God had made for those who believe.  I remind myself of Psalm 90:12 which says Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Even now as the rest of my family is in bed, I think about the lost opportunities today to share Christ in actions, words, and love.  

Uncle Robs card showed him hitting a golf ball into a beautiful sunset.  It said,

“Lord, when my last putt has dropped into the cup and the light of my last day has faded, may I be able to turn in to You, a scorecard to show I did my Best. 

This quote reminds me of one of my favorite verses written by Paul in 2 Timothy 7 where he knew his life was coming to an end as he sat in prison.  He said, ” I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”

How will you finish the race? How will you turn in the scorecard showing your best?

1 Thessalonians 3 and 4 share wisdom from Paul earlier in his ministry that tells the Thessalonians and us as believers how we should prepare for His coming.  And, even though we don’t know the precise moment when Jesus will return we know that our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. Romans 13:11. 

A few reminders from Paul in preparation for this day are;

  • Keep the faith – that we will face trials in this life still our endurance comes from our hope in the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 1:3 That we pray for any area that is lacking faith. verse  3:10 Read more in 1 Peter 4:12-19
  • Live in order to please God –  God’s will sanctified – verse 4:1-3.
  • Live in a way that controls your own body and is Holy and Honorable.  verse 4:4-7. Read more in 1 Corinthians 6:12-20.
  • Lead a quiet life – not stirring up conflict, living peacefully in the midst of trials.
  • Be sanctified by God. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 Let the Holy Spirit lead your life.  Allow him to change you from the inside out.

 

Dear Awesome Father,  We love you.  May our lives reflect the truth even in the face of difficulties. That in our day to day interactions with our family, friends, and strangers we model a fearless faith-filled attitude that pours out love to theirs. That in our moments where we are lacking in faith you lift us up.  Lord, as we wait and prepare for your coming gives us courage to share with others your promises and how you have changed our lives; and as you call us one by one God, we can be sanctified awaiting to be in your presence.  Amen