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Friday, February 27, 2015

Picture of Following God


"Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. " Numbers 9:22 NLT


This is such a simple and beautiful picture of what it means to follow the LORD.

As soon as the Tabernacle was completed for the first time, the LORD showed up as a pillar of cloud by day. At night, he showed up as a pillar of fire. He hovered over the Tabernacle reminding Israel of his constant presence in their lives. Personal. Available. Protecting and providing. The faithful LORD of all!

When he was ready to move on, he'd rise and start moving. Israel would pack up their tents and the Tabernacle and march on following his cloud. As this verse indicates, sometimes they'd setup camp for a night. Sometimes for a few days, a month. Sometimes, as long as a year.

But the point is this simple but profound truth: God's people move when he says move and stay when he says stay. We live and serve at the pleasure of our King.

Moses sums this up in the next verse when he writes, "So they camped or traveled at the LORD'S command, and they did whatever the LORD told them through Moses."

That's what it means to trust and follow the LORD. And that's what he calls each and everyone of us. Those who don't trust and follow him show that they aren't really his people.


What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Made Perfect--Becoming Holy


"For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy." Hebrews 10:8 NLT


This is a promise. Circle this promise in your Bible. Then pray it regularly. God doesn't break his promises.

What's this promise, you ask? Through that one holy offering (Jesus on the cross), God forever made perfect (complete, pure, righteous) those who are being made holy (his children/disciples/followers). Made perfect. Being made holy.

That's those who are in Christ. That's an amazing promise. 

If this promise is true, it means I can't earn any more of God's favor. I have it already.

If this promise is true, it means I can't lose his favor. Because he's made me perfect (in and through Christ) I will continue to grow in holiness (sanctification). 

If this promise is true, it means I don't have to perform my way into God's favor. In fact, I can't. He doesn't look at my behavior but Christ's behavior imputed on me...His taking my place on the cross...His bearing my sin and becoming sin on my behalf for me.

If this promise is true, it means I don't have to fear death because he is with me and I will never die. (sure, this temporary body of mine will die, but not me)

One final thought. This promise is for those "who are being made holy." How can we be "being made holy" if we're already perfect? Aren't we holy if we're perfect.

Yes and no. 

Yes, we are seen in God's eyes as perfect and holy in position. This is our legal standing in God's holy court. He looks at us and sees Christ's righteousness imputed on us. Therefore, legally, we are redeemed and justified (declared right with God our judge and creator). 

No, because in practice (how we actually live) we're far from holy and perfect. We are in the process of becoming like Jesus. We're in the process of moving towards our holy position by learning to live in holy practice. That's what sanctification is. That's what being a disciple is all about. Learning to follow Christ and becoming more and more like him.

You are made perfect. You are being made holy. Wow!

So circle this promise. Pray it and praise God for it. Pray it for your kids and your friends and your neighbors. Go grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. He has done this great thing for you and me!


What is God saying to you today?

What are you going to do about it?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Does God Ever Blow Your Mind?


Two things about God I can’t comprehend:

1. God had no beginning. You can’t go back to when God was born, started or created. It just didn’t happen. He has always been. That idea is staggering to me.

2. Me not existing before God created me. God created me out of nothing. Not just no consciousness—nothing. No Darien. It’s a bit terrifying to me to consider where I would be if I wasn’t created. The answer is unspeakable.

God is so big he just blows my mind. Yeah.


What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Is the New Testament Better than the Old?

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Hebrews 8:10 NIV


God established the new covenant--the new testament--through his son, Jesus when he died on the cross. Israel broke the old covenant through wickedness and unfaithfulness. They couldn't keep the law--not even externally. So God created a new one. A "better" one. (8:6, 13)

God replaced redemption from sin through the blood of animals with the blood of his holy son Jesus for our sins--internal and external. It is for all people who repent and believe.

This is the infinitely high price paid, "So that we may serve the living God!" (8:14) We so don't deserve this.

And God gives us even more grace in that this covenant isn't on tablets of stone but on our "minds" and "hearts". Internally and eternally engraved on us by his gracious hand.

And God reminds us how much he loves us and wants to be with us when he says, "I will be their God and they will be my people." He treasures his people. (Eph 2:10)


Prayer

Lord, help me better appreciate the sacrifice you made in sending Jesus to die for my sins. Grow my comprehension of this merciful act so that I may better reflect it today. In Christ's merciful name I pray, amen.


Reflection

What is God saying to you?

What are you doing about it?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Trouble Worshiping God? Me too.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 NIV

It hurts my brain to think God created the universe. 
With words.
From nothing.
And that he keeps it going.

But what is even more incomprehensible to me is:

1. God has no beginning. He's always been there. No birth. No starting point. He is the uncaused cause. It blows my mind.

Think about it a minute. He never wasn't God. There never was a time when he wasn't God.

The other is...

2. At some point in the past, I didn't exist. Not my soul. Not my mind. Like nothing. Before he created me, I was not.

Think about it like this, "Where was I before God created me?"

Wow.

So if you're struggling with worshiping God, perhaps it's because you're view of him is too small. 

I wish I could say that I don't struggle with this. But, I do. A lot. I undersize God regularly in the way that I live. In the lack of faith I have in him. In the amount of time I live as if he's irrelevant. I blow this one regularly. But there's hope! It comes when I think rightly about God.

When I think of God as this big, I'm humbled and moved to fearful and respectful awe and worship. He is worthy. He is so worthy.


What is God saying to you?

What are you going to do about it?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

#21 Martyrs Video (2:28)




The Theban Martyrs

The Theban Martyrs (The Martyrs of Agaunum)
Guest blog post by John "Barnie" Barnes, Summerville, SC

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs was, at one time, a very well known work among Christians. Sadly, this time seems to have passed into the night.  John Foxe (1517-1587) published his initial work in 1563 which detailed the torment and savagery of the Christian persecutions from the 12 Disciples, to the early Church and right on up to his own era. If you have never read this classic you can catch it online, just prepare yourself for some very graphic scenes.

One of the hundreds of accounts of persecution and martyrdom described by Foxe involved a Roman Legion known in history as “The Theban Legion”.  These legionnaires were all recruited from northern Egypt and were stationed near the city of Thebias with a standard compliment of 6,600 men. The distinguishing characteristic of this legion was that they were, to a man, Egyptian Coptic Christians. (Coptic has to do with the ancient dialect of Egypt)

In the preceding decades Christianity had been spreading rapidly in Egypt.  This became an increasing threat to Imperial Rome and several edicts were issued to suppress this spread.  The Edict of 250 A.D. decreed that all citizens must at all times carry with them documentation that they had sacrificed to the gods.  Ponder that!  Those who refused to comply became subject to unprecedented torture and savage persecution.  It was in this setting that the Theban Legion served Imperial Rome as a tested and formidable fighting unit.

In the year 286 the Theban Legion was ordered to Gaul by Emperor Maximian to suppress a rebellion there.  The legion set sail from Egypt, landed in Italy and marched across the Alps into Gaul under the command of Mauritius and ably assisted by Candidus and Exupernis.  Upon arrival in Gaul they joined the Emperor and other Roman forces already assembled. This is where the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs account begins.

The Emperor Maximian issued an order in September 286 that the whole army should join in sacrifices to the Roman gods.  At the same time they would take an oath of allegiance to assist in the ‘extirpation’ of Christianity in Gaul.  Upon hearing these orders the Theban Legion refused to comply, withdrew and encamped near Agaunum.

Maximian, upon hearing of this action, became enraged and ordered the decimation of the Theban Legion.  This meant that every tenth man would be ‘put to the sword’.  The names of legionnaires were placed in each centurion’s helmet and 660 names were drawn.   After embracing their comrades, those whose names were drawn were then put to the sword by other Roman forces.  

Again the Theban Legion, to the man, refused to comply with the Emperor’s order to make sacrifices to the Roman gods and comply with the edict.  This further enraged Maximian who then ordered a second decimation that included about 600 men.  At this point, the blood of over 1,260 men soaked the ground of the legion’s encampment.

Mauritius, after calling the legion’s attention to the hundreds of faithful, fellow soldiers who had already been martyred, sent this reply to Maximian:

“Emperor, we are your soldiers but also the soldiers of the true God.  We owe you military service and obedience, but we cannot renounce Him who is our Creator and Master, and also yours even though you reject Him.  In all things which are not against His law, we most willingly obey you, as we have done hitherto.  We readily oppose your enemies whoever they are, but we cannot stain our hands with the blood of innocent people (Christians).  We have taken an oath to God before we took one to you, (and) you cannot place any confidence in our second oath if we violate the first.  You commanded us to execute Christians, behold we are such.  We confess God the Father, the creator of all things and His son Jesus Christ, God.  We have seen our comrades slain with the sword, we do not weep for them but rather rejoice at their honor.  Neither this, nor any other provocation, have tempted us to revolt.  Behold, we have arms in our hands, but we do not resist, because we would rather die innocent than live by any sin.”

Perhaps some may have thought this loyal remonstrance would have changed and softened Maximian’s thinking.  However, it had a contrary effect in than the Emperor became even more enraged at the unity and perseverance of the Theban Legion. Accordingly, on September 22, 286, Maximian ordered that the entire legion be put to the sword.
And so the order was carried out with many of the legionnaires presenting their necks to the sword of fellow Roman soldiers.  It was said that in the process many Roman soldiers became converted to a belief in the God that their fellow legionnaires were so willing to surrender their very life for.

Over the years I have read many inspirational stories about the sacrifices made by Christians in their faithful service to God.  It has certainly not been intentional, but many of these accounts have been forgotten along the way.  Perhaps you have had a similar experience.  I came upon the story of the Theban Legion many years ago and I have never been able to forget the details of this incredible event.  Perhaps you will have a similar experience.

What is our response to be (this year) to this event of some 1727 years ago?  We have such touchy feely/seeker friendly doctrines today in the American Church that any attempt to connect the Theban Legion to them might cause mass fainting or even a mass exodus in many congregations.  And yet there is the stark reality that Egyptian Coptic Christians, surely Theban Legion descendants, continue to experience great persecution at the hands of Islamic extremist.  Just witness the news out of Egypt regarding the Muslim Brotherhood’s actions!

I believe our response must be to acknowledge, honor, and ‘rejoice’ over our Brothers’ of the Theban Legion and their intrepid faith.  This would simply mimic Mauritius actions upon being an eye witness to the sacrifice of 1260 of his own dear soldiers.  Let’s do it!

I have found Hebrews 12 a good place to encamp while considering the courage, faith and ‘joy’ of the Theban Legion and reflecting upon their sacrificial service to God and to man.  We can rejoice in the reality of God’s tapestry that so carefully weaves us into the testimony of these warriors, The Martyrs of Agaunum,  and be inspired by the exemplary standard they have set before us.

There is one Body, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all.  -Apostle Paul

Prepared by:
CDR                      USN®
22 August 2013

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Die to Live

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (‭Colossians‬ ‭3‬:‭2‬ NIV)


Paul challenges us in the Church to live in light of eternity. Easier said than done.

Our tendency is to live in light of what we see, hear, touch, smell and taste. Paul says, "For you died, and your life is now hidden in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (vv. 3-4)

Living in light of eternity is realizing that we've died to this life.

Dying = surrendering

Yet it's in dying that we truly live. Christ is the life I gain when I surrender my own. And his life lasts forever!

When we die to self, we truly can begin to live. When the world can't take your life away you live more boldly and courageously. The way we were intended to live.


What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Low View of God Can Be Costly

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: “ ‘Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’ ” Aaron remained silent. (‭Leviticus‬ ‭10‬:‭1-3‬ NIV)


This is a sobering passage.

The Lord expects his people to worship him on his terms. And he is holy.

Aaron is the high priest of Israel. His two oldest sons are next in line and have been anointed accordingly. But they take too lightly the importance of doing everything exactly as the Lord commands. They disobey the Lord and pay the consequences.

They burned incense before the Lord in a way that was, "Contrary to his command." "So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD."

This is a difficult passage to read. Even though we know that the Lord is holy, we sometimes feel like this punishment was over-the-top, not fitting the crime. But this is because we have such a low view of God, his holiness and, therefore, our sin.

We do not fully appreciate how offensive it is to a holy God when we disobey his commands. Any of them.

Think back to Adam and Eve. Their sin of eating the fruit caused them to die...them and all their descendants (besides Enoch and Elijah) including us.

And for what sin? What sin did they commit?

They disobeyed their dad.

Once again, it seems like too extreme a punishment for the crime to our American and human sensibilities, doesn't it.

But God is holy. "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of his glory." (Isaiah 6:3) Those angels do nothing but repeat that phrase over and over and over again in heaven. Forever. He is holy.

Holiness means without sin. Pure. Without blemish. Perfectly righteous.

If you fix yourself, say, a 3-egg omelet, are you still going to eat it if you find out one of the 3 eggs was rotten? Just 1 of 3. Will you still eat it? Probably not. You will likely declare your omelet ruined.

Sin does that to us. Even just one sin. But instead of a sickly omelet we die. Sin leads to death. It's a big deal. Because a holy God is a big deal.

Aaron's response is appropriate in this passage.

"Aaron remained silent."

He knew there was nothing that he could say against a holy God even though he likely grieved and maybe was angry with God (I would have been).

Moses explains God's actions  by reminding Aaron of Exodus 14:4. God will treated as he should be or there will be consequences. God will either be honored by his people or he will honor himself through judgment.

I doubt that comforted Aaron but it served as a reminder to all (us included) that we only approach God on his terms and live.

We have a choice. We can trust and obey the Lord or we can disobey. But we will pay the consequences. We will reap what we sow (Gal 6).

It comes down to do you really believe he's not only all-powerful but all-good. He is. "His love endures forever."

But he is holy too. We must not forget this. And we must be holy as he is holy. It's how we follow him.

If you have unconfessed sin in your life, I encourage you to confess it to God right now. Repent (not just being sorry but changing your thinking about this disobedience) turning from your ways to God's ways. He will forgive you.

"If we confess our sins he faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse (purify) us from all unrighteousness." 1 John 1:9


What is God saying to you right now?

What will you do about it?

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Passion for People

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Putting Hope in the Next President

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God. (‭Psalm‬ ‭146‬:‭3, 5‬ NIV)


The Psalmist writes about whom we put our trust. We can put our trust in powerful people like influential political leaders or we can put our trust in the LORD. The rest of Psalm 146 describes the LORD and why he's worthy to put our trust in.

But our tendency is to put our trust in what and who we can see. We see it every presidential campaign in America. People get behind a candidate that they believe will be worthy of their service, their support and their hope. But they--we-- often disregard or forget the LORD our Creator, Provider and Helper.

I wish I could say I'm not tempted to do the same--but I am. But the Psalmist reminds me here, "Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save." Because they can't.


What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Are You Testing God?

So they quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD to the test?” (‭Exodus‬ ‭17‬:‭2‬ NIV)


I was convicted about this verse today.

The line that got me was, "Why do you put the LORD to the test?" I would never want to do that.

But I have.

How, you ask? Well, the same way the Israelites did. They "quarreled" with their leader as he was following the LORD.

Yeah, I've done that. Many times.

It just hit me today--the combination of me quarreling (read: arguing or complaining) with someone following the LORD who's trying to lead others to do the same. It is us putting "The LORD to the test."

I don't know exactly what putting the LORD to the test means. But it sounds ominous like pushing him too far with a wicked, foolish heart. I don't want to do that. Complaining and arguing with a heart not beating with His is sin. No wonder it tests the LORD.


So what?

Who are you criticizing? Be careful? What or who are you complaining about? I don't think you want to "put the LORD to the test either."


What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Be Aware, Then Trust

And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. (‭Exodus‬ ‭14‬:‭31‬ NIV)


This is how we should respond when the LORD shows up in our life.

No, we will never see the LORD split the waters for us to pass through. But we in Christ do see his mighty hand at work all around us. (if we're looking)

Sure, it's often much more subtle than the parting of the Red Sea--but not less real. Harder to believe--maybe. But believable nevertheless.

How do we respond though. When God does answer a prayer are we in awe or cavalier? Amazed or bored?

The Israelites were a tough group of people. They were skeptical, cynical and hard-hearted. They were ready to kill Moses and run back to slavery in Egypt whenever things got tough. They were not easy to win over.

But here we see they have a moment of sanity--of, well, faith. They are still blinking their eyes over the sight of the Red Sea washing back into place over the heads of the Egyptian army. The whole army.

Israel narrowly escaped Egypt. Every man, woman and child. Every animal. Safe. Free. So in this brief moment, with their defenses down, they react. Almost reflexively. And scripture says,

"The people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant."

This is the proper response to power exercised mercifully on your behalf. This is how we should respond to the LORD daily.

A few observations...

They responded to God's power over their powerful (so it seemed) enemies.

They responded to God's mercy...

HE saved them.
He SAVED them.
He saved THEM.

Their response was fear...

Awe.
Respect.
Gratitude.
Fear. (yes, real fear)
Trust.

They responded appropriately.

Their faith in God and his ambassador (Moses) followed. It's what he wants from each of us.

He works in our lives to get us to where we simply live trusting him every step of the way.

Trusting him in our job.
Trusting him in our family.
Trusting him with our future.
Trusting him with our life. Our death. Our eternity.
Trusting him as he works through his imperfect leaders.
Trusting him through difficult and painful circumstances.
Trusting him when it feels like he's abandoned us.


Takeaways...

1. Be aware of God working in, around and through us. Pause when he does. Give yourself time and space to respond appropriately.

2. Trust God and his leaders...his "servants".


What is God saying to you right now?

What are you going to do about it?

Monday, February 02, 2015

Rescued and Rescuer

This is how you are to eat it: with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. (‭Exodus‬ ‭12‬:‭11‬ NIV)


The LORD's Passover was an intense night, to be sure. Following his instructions was the difference between your firstborn living and dying. God gets Pharaoh's attention and gains the release of his people on this night.

What stood out to me in this verse is the way the LORD tells Israel their Passover meal:

"With your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste."

Knowing that Israel is about to leave Egypt in mass, the LORD is telling them be ready to go at a moment's notice. Don't even start eating until you have everything packed up and ready to go. Once you've eaten a large meal you'll be sluggish and won't move as quickly when the time comes. So be ready to go. THEN you can eat.

And when you start eating, "Eat in haste." Eat quickly. Like military men, don't waste much time on personal or civilian affairs. The battle is upon you. This is not the time to feast.

I can't imagine how hard it is to get one to two million men, women and children (plus livestock) to quickly move in the same direction in the middle of the night. These instructions start to make sense in light of this challenge.


So what?

This stands out to me. This posture of readiness and urgency was practical--even necessary.

Their mission: Be rescued and then help rescue others around them.

This is not unlike our situation as Christ-followers.

We're to live with a sense of urgency. We're to live ready to trust and obey the LORD each day all day. We're to live as the rescued and the rescuers. In short, we're to live in light of eternity. This life is but a vapor.

In contrast, many Christians live as if they are going to be here a long time. We build our little kingdoms of comfort and security as if this were our true home. We forget that our true home awaits us. That God's eternal kingdom is what we're to invest our time and energy into. (Matt 6:19-24)

So what does it look like to live in light of eternity?

Living in light of eternity is:

1. To live with a sense of urgency as we learn to trust and obey the LORD (and lead others to do the same).

2. It's to live ready to serve others even as Jesus has served us.

It's to live as the rescued and the rescuer.

Let's join the LORD in his holy search and rescue mission...together!


What's the LORD saying to you today?

What are you going to do about it?