Holy Week: His Name is Truth

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Living a lie to be politically correct is never as satisfying as living in truth.

Scriptures of the Day:

Isaiah 53:9

“He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.”

John  14:6

“Jesus declared, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father but by Me.”

John 18:23-24, 37-38

23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. 37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.”

Ever been lied to?  Silly question, I know.  There is something about deceit that is painful. It is a betrayal, an intentionally masking of truth to keep it hidden and people ignorant. Why go to all that effort?  What makes truth something people would want to hide from? If knowledge is power, than the person with knowledge is able to help others see or keep that insight to him or herself.

Sometimes we avoid truth because it is not popular or politically correct.  Sometimes we would rather avoid it because it is painful and sometimes we want to pretend we are unaware because we would then be accountable to the truth we know.

Jesus did not beat around the bush.  He not only spoke the truth, He WAS and IS Truth.  He knew how desperately His people needed to hear truth.  Being in the dark is not really living – it is existing a false life.  Why live in darkness when we can walk in the light?

When Christ walked that road to Calvary, He did not waver in telling and living the truth, even though it cost Him dearly.  When Pilate looked Jesus in the eyes and asked him what truth was, Jesus was not concerned with freeing Himself, but instead steadfastly told the truth, wanting Pilate to understand.

We are unacquainted with truth and unable to see or understand it until God mercifully reveals truth to us.  Something innately within us bursts with peace when we hear God’s Holy, sweet truth.  His truth convicts and liberates the sinner, setting the captives free from the bondage of lies.  As we consider the celebration of Easter, I am so grateful for God’s revelation of truth that would open our eyes to see such a great salvation.

Lord, help us to walk in truth at the very core of our inner being and to shine Your Truth for all to see.

Holy Week: Palm Sunday Irony

Palm Sunday

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Sometimes salvation comes in a way we least expect.

Scriptures:

Zechariah 9:9, 11

“Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.”

Hebrews 13:20-21

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep. 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

Isaiah 46:16

“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”

Exodus 24:8

“Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Happy Palm Sunday!  I confess I have missed blogging and look forward to blogging each day this week after taking an unannounced spring break.  🙂

I brought a liturgical element into our worship service this morning, palm branches for Palm Sunday.  Ok, let’s be real.  The palm branches ended up being limpy leaves, not branches.  But burdening my heart was a desire to help the worshipers at my church get a sense of the awe the people must have felt, waving palm branches as Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey.  500 flimsy leaves did not quite capture that emotion for me.

Nonetheless, I pressed on in Scripture and chose songs that would hopefully evoke the rich symbolism of these leaves representing victory.  What victory were these people hailing?  Though they thought He was coming to conquer world governments, instead He captured our hearts and ultimately achieved victory over death.

Christ’s entrance was a fulfillment of the prophesy spoken 500 years earlier by Zechariah. How amazing that God would communicate to His people how He would come into the world.  He did not want them to miss it.  Even though they could not understand fully God’s purpose in coming to them at the time, the groundwork of God’s covenant promises laid a path toward this salvation.

The blood covenant could not be paid by an animal or an ordinary person.  God had to bear the transgression of His people, Himself.  This Savior, their King – came humbly – riding on a donkey.  This manner of salvation appears so foolish to man – that a King would come riding in on a borrowed donkey – to die – rather than in a majestic array of splendor as a hero riding in to demonstrate incredible power.

He owns everything, yet He borrowed a donkey.  He lacks for nothing, yet He chose to lack. He is All Powerful, yet God chose to come in weakness.  This does not make sense until we see that He became weakness, infirmity and sin and chose the place of suffering to bear it all in our place.  He did not save us while He himself sat in a lap of luxury.  He spared no expense or detail, but simply rode in humbly.

These same fickle people who praised Him passionately as He entered Jerusalem, begging Him to save them now (Hosanna), would kill their Savior by week’s end.  Christ’s mission might have seemed like a failure, but the very people He came to save brought about their salvation unknowingly, by condemning Christ to His death.  The wordplay is hard to miss in the Scriptures above.  God inscribed His people on His palms and His people waved palm branches to their Savior.  Ultimately it would be nails driven into his palms (wrists) that would forever set His people free.

Lord, thank You for Your salvation, offered freely to sinners.  Thank you for showing us how to live and for providing for a debt we could never pay.

 

Truthful Tuesday: Carrying the Torch

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We help our children carry the torch of faith by living out our faith honestly and in humility.

Scripture of the Day:

Judges 2:10-12

“That entire generation passed away; a new generation grew up that had not personally experienced the LORD’s presence or seen what he had done for Israel.  11 The Israelites did evil before the LORD by worshiping the Baals. 12 They abandoned the LORD God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt. They followed other gods–the gods of the nations who lived around them. They worshiped them and made the LORD angry.

Some have said that the upcoming generation is leaving the church.  The foundation laid is purportedly not firm and the future generation left the faith of their predecessors.

Nothing scares me more than the faith of my children fading and being replaced with a worldly counterfeit.

I have a jealousy for their souls and a desire for them to see this walk with Christ is not mere religion, but a vibrant, cherished relationship with the Lover of our souls.

But I cannot make that choice for them.  They have to pick up the torch and choose to carry it.  As the character Sam Wise said in the movie, “Lord of the Rings”, “‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”

Praying for them and daily sharing God’s word and living it out has a much more profound effect than rules aimed at external behavior only.  So it is with us, the predecessors.  We each had to face the poverty of our own souls, grapple with sin and not allow it to master us on the inside.  We still do.

When our children see our need of God, there is no greater demonstration of active living faith.  Confessing our shortcomings yet not yielding to them shows them how to carry the torch.

Ultimately, if the faith of the future generation was dependent upon our perfection, faith would fail.  Thank God that faith is a gift from Him, nurtured with time spent with Jesus in His word and prayer.

Lord, help us to never grow weary of seeking You and discipling the precious next generation for Your glory.  May righteousness sweep across our nation and the hearts of the children return to You.

 

Mundane Monday: Folly’s Wisdom

Foolishness of the cross

Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The world might think we are foolish when we go against our flesh and worldly wisdom, but that death produces real life and wisdom in Christ.

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Corinthians 1:18

“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will thwart the cleverness of the intelligent. 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the expert in the Mosaic law? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made the wisdom of the world foolish? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world by its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased to save those who believe by the foolishness of preaching.  22 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, 23 but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. 24 But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 30 He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.

1 Corinthians 2:7-8

“Instead we speak the wisdom of God, hidden in a mystery, that God determined before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

In a moment what seemed to be foolishness, what appeared to be a colossal defeat – the greatest victory was won.  The wisest, most astonishing act of sacrifice was presented on the world stage and it did not make sense.

Being murdered, spat upon, falsely accused and dying in front of everyone the most grueling painful death can hardly be described as a coveted position, yet the King of all chose this suffering which appeared to be a meaningless tragedy at the time.

How could a cross spell victory, when it’s sole purpose is to condemn and defeat?

The victory won that day was over the wisdom of this world that trusts in itself and does not know God.  In all its wisdom the world cannot know God – unless.  Unless God would come down and do a seemingly foolish, risky thing like die for His own people that He made.

His precious life laid down accomplished the forgiveness for every sin for all time.  One act resulting in complete forgiveness and restoration conquered every heart.

If His death were the end of the story, we would indeed be fools, but Christ has risen and will come again – and next time He will come to take His bride.

Lord, thank You for the victory you accomplished by dying for all mankind.  Help us to walk in Your wisdom and never forget Your sacrifice so we walk faithfully before You.

Truthful Tuesday: Judging Judgment

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Romans 14:12

“Therefore, each of us will give an account of himself to God. 13 Therefore we must not pass judgment on one another, but rather determine never to place an obstacle or a trap before a brother or sister.”

1 Peter 4:17

“For it is time for judgment to begin, starting with the house of God. And if it starts with us, what will be the fate of those who are disobedient to the gospel of God?”

Judgment.  No one wants to be the recipient, but all have been participants in either judging others or being judged themselves.

In His perfect wisdom, God designed a system of justice in place to judge our actions.  Man sets up his own system of judgment, too, to condemn one another.

At the root of judgment from any human being is pride.  Pride in our own sinful, myopic condition that we would think we could ever be in a place to pass judgment on another creation, made in God’s image.

There are so many more motivations in the act of judgment, though. Sometimes we want to make ourselves feel better about our decisions, or we manipulate others with judgment to try to get them to do something we want.

Sounds pretty ugly.  That’s because judgment from man is going to be man-centered, but judgment that Christ gives is perfect and redemptive.

God judges our hearts to bring us to repentance and show us our sinful condition.  Man judges to prove a position, inflict pain, manipulate or inflate self.

Man cannot judge other’s motivations, for we cannot see the heart – only God can.  Still, the default sinful condition of man is to presume and judge brothers or sisters in Christ.

Despite out corrupt nature, we do not have to give in to judgment.  The heart of man is deceitful, but God.  He is gracious and able to help us lay down our judgments and put on forgiveness.  Sometimes people can hurt us and boundaries have to be put up so they cannot hurt or condemn us further.  Sometimes we have to lay down our desire to please man in his faulty judgments, too.

Maybe some of us feel we deserve judgment – we all do.  But Christ bore that judgment for us all.  In this world we have relationships that are broken from sin and ensuing consequences, and people will judge us until the day we die, but all of those judgments fall off our shoulders and are laid at the feet of our Savior – the One, perfect, Righteous Judge.

Lord, thank You for the sweet victory You give to walk in freedom and forgiveness.  Thank You for bearing our judgment.  Help us to consider others better than ourselves and to discern others in the light of the grace that we have been given.

Thoughtful Thursday: Influential Influence

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our battle is not fleshly, but spiritual.

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Corinthians 15:33

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

Romans 12:12

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Timothy 3:1-6

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires,

Ephesians 2:1-2

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”

One verse my children know well as it was a mantra repeated continuously in their childhood was 1 Corinthians 15:33.  It was challenging to strike a balance between warning them about being influenced by ungodly people around them and not judging them, either.

Much like the Israelites had to be reminded to write God’s word down and keep it before them, we need reminders to be aware of the influences all around us.

Most of us do not pause to perceive why we are feeling a certain way about another person or circumstance.  We casually give in to the emotions, unchecked unless we ask God for discernment to see the spiritual influence all around us.

The prince of the spirit of the air is busy.  So are our minds, with over 2100-3000 thoughts per hour going through them.  Keeping track and being accountable for all of those thoughts is overwhelming.

But when we study God’s Word and surround ourselves with godly influences, the sorting of wicked and godly influences becomes easier.  God has made a way out and He will show us what is pleasing to Him and what is not.  The choice is ours.  There is no middle ground. Life or death. Righteousness or wickedness.

Apathy is not the answer, self-righteousness is not the answer.  There are absolute standards that God has set.  We are accountable.

Choosing to abstain from bad influences is not enough, though.  Keeping oneself unsoiled is not the same as becoming a source of godly influences for those around us.  We are a light not because we have anything inherently good in us, but because we have the light of the world within us and He is good and able to use us for righteousness.

Lord, help us to be an influence on those around us that draws people nearer to You.  Help us to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world and to live for Your glory.

Flourishing Friday: Bloom Where You are Planted

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Bloom where you are planted – others around you need to see you thrive.

Scriptures of the Day:

Isaiah 32:15

“This desolation will continue until new life is poured out on us from heaven. Then the desert will become an orchard and the orchard will be considered a forest.”

Isaiah 35:1

“Let the desert and dry region be happy; let the wilderness rejoice and bloom like a lily! 2 Let it richly bloom; let it rejoice and shout with delight! It is given the grandeur of Lebanon, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the grandeur of the LORD, the splendor of our God.”

Ok, I know.  I can be corny sometimes, but I like alliteration and every Friday has a different theme in my mind.  Today is the beautiful imagery found in the book of Isaiah.

There in the middle of the desert, where there is seemingly no nourishment around, a blossom forms and a lily thrives.  Stubbornly it stands, defying all odds.  Alone it is a witness that the harsh realities surrounding it have not snuffed out its life.

I enjoy gardening (well, sort of), and truly feel sad when one of my seeds becomes a seedling then fails to survive.  Next to another seedling that grew into a might plant, I wonder what the difference was.

Now plants can’t feel, but the analogy to me is beautiful.  The word, “Let” strikes me in the above scriptural passage, almost signifying a request or a choice.

When a plant is not thriving, sometimes we can try to transplant it to a more fertile area. The root system can be easily damaged in this procedure and the weak seedling withers. But maybe the answer was to remain.  To stay where there is seemingly no support or life and choose to add things to our environment that produce life.

Such a decision requires a choice.  Not to depend on those around us for life, but to find it within.  Not to allow toxic substances nearby to poison or embitter us, but to choose to feast on God’s truth found in His Word and let that life flow through us, instead.

Sometimes it hardly seems worth the fight.  So many around us can want us to fail, but perhaps what they need more than anything is to see us succeed; to see that God is enough.

It is not easy to choose joy and life when faced with the opposite and we can feel foolish to hope, but it is the seed of hope that becomes a reality of a longing fulfilled for those who wait on the LORD.

Lord, thank You for the grace to live an abundant life not dependent on circumstances or provision, but on You alone.  Help us to thrive for Your glory.

Thoughtful Thursday: Seize the Day!

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Seize the moments God gives and use them for eternity, for they vanish like the wind.

Scripture:

Job 14:1-2, 5

“Man, born of woman, lives but a few days, and they are full of trouble. 2 He grows up like a flower and then withers away; he flees like a shadow, and does not remain. 5 Since man’s days are determined, the number of his months is under your control; you have set his limit and he cannot pass it.”

Job paints a rather sober view of our existence, one colored by the turmoil he was encountering at the time.  I appreciate his honesty.  It is also helpful to know that our expectations should not be for a perfectly rosy life.  Such an expectation can lead to assured disillusionment.

This passage is just a snapshot, though, into the process God was guiding Job through. Job learned to appreciate his position before an Omnipotent God, but he had not yet learned that he was unworthy of any kindness from His Creator.

A lot of grappling with how a good God could allow suffering had to take place before Job would realize in the presence of God that He was unworthy.  Complaining about the deficient conditions he was in would not produce the righteous life God desired, but walking through trouble would change him into a grateful man of God who no longer took for granted the blessings God gave.

Although Job’s suffering is hard to hear, the lessons “caught” are precious.  Since we have a short life, we ought to live it well.  Climbing ladders for our own selfish gain or expecting a perfect trouble-free life will not be investing in eternity.  God help us to not waste the moments we have been given.

Although we live in a fallen world, the expectation of blessing is ours in Christ, but it is often veiled and hidden from our eyes.  We see blessings where God might see the blessings as stumbling blocks.  We see burdens where God sees a thing of beauty in the making.

Lord, You are all-knowing and know what is best.  Help us to live our lives down here in holy fear, grateful for every blessing and not straying from the mission you have given us – to know You and make You known.

Truthful Tuesday: Prevention or Provision of Blessing

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The prevention of blessing in our lives is either caused by God’s sovereign grace or our disobedience.

Scriptures:

Genesis 16:2 ESV

“And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.”

Genesis 17:1-2

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”

Walking in the Spirit means sometimes God prevents or leads in a way that does not make sense.  We want the typical blessings of life and do not understand that God’s timing is best.  So it was with Sarah.  God made a promise and she was going to make sure it happened.  Whenever we have to strive to produce God’s promise, we are probably missing the leading of the LORD.

I do not blame Sarah.  I’ve done the same thing myself.  She did not want something wrong, she just went about it the wrong way.  Compromise is like that.  It happens when we follow our own inclinations instead of waiting on the LORD and trusting His timing.

What did God want Abraham and Sarah to do?  To walk before Him blamelessly.  What is intriguing about this requirement is the word “that” which follows God’s command. Waiting on God is all about relationship.  He makes a covenant with us and WE can prevent God’s blessings in our lives when we simply do not walk with Him in obedience.

We can be like a toddler, wanting what we want and all the while God is saying, “come and fellowship with me.  I want to bless you.”  Those who would seek Him would receive the blessings and the greatest of blessings which is Himself.  Those who would seek the blessings miss out entirely on the purpose of the covenant.

If we break His covenant He is still faithful, but we might not see the promise fulfilled or see it massively delayed.

Remember the Israelites in the desert?  That trip should have taken eleven days, but instead it took forty years.  BUMMER.

Even if the journey becomes difficult, walking in the Spirit and trusting in God’s plan and timing is far better than veering off course.  God might prevent us from something, but He is always leading us to another.

Obtaining blessing apart from God’s perfect will feels empty, but the peace of Christ that comes from abiding in God and walking in His ways is unsurpassed to any blessing we were seeking in the first place.

Lord, thank You for Your faithfulness, trustworthiness and promises.  Help us to wait upon You, knowing Your plans and ways are perfect.

Friday: It’s Party Time!

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

There is no more joy that can be found on this earth than in Jesus.

Scriptures:

Isiah 24:14-16

“They raise their voices, they shout for joy; from the west they acclaim the Lord’s majesty. 15 Therefore in the east give glory to the Lordexalt the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea.  16 From the ends of the earth we hear singing: “Glory to the Righteous One.”

Isaiah 25:6-8

“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;  he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth.  The Lord has spoken.”

The weekend is here … finally!  So many of us live for the weekend, for a break from the tortuous routine of daily living.  Hoping for an escape from boredom, we pursue relief, even partying as a refuge.

Maybe it’s hobbies or parties – drinking, maybe it’s drugs.  Maybe relationships.  But in all the human pursuits of this earth, eternity knocks on the door of all of our hearts and the longing for something more is not quenched by a momentary celebration or diversion. No, we need something – someOne more.

When I read the verses above, I can’t help but smile.  God is not a spoil sport.  He designed everything for our enjoyment and eternity with Him is going to be filled with joy and delight in His perfect presence.  Parties on this earth pale vastly in comparison to what God has in store for those who love Him!

Those promises the world offers?  Counterfeits.  We can let them go and find real, lasting answers in God alone.  He alone satisfies our soul’s deepest need and desire.

No more death, no  more sorrow.  No tears seen there.  Only perfect peace and joy, enveloped in His love.  Think on that this weekend.  You are loved with an everlasting love.  Right now we can seek Him and know Him and be filled with His Holy Spirit to overflowing.

Lord, thank You that we can know You and enjoy You now.  Thank You for the gifts you lavish on us each moment – Your peace, Your unconditional love, Your Joy and faith in troubled times.  Help us to find our joy in You and to spread it to all the world.