So, When Will I See It?

May 10, 2019


But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  Hebrews 10:12-13

The enemy of God is the god of the anti-kingdom.  He does not war silently.  Peter says that he is like a lion and his roar is ferocious.  In the plains of Africa where lions roam, I’ve read that a lion’s roar can be heard five miles away if there are no competing noises.  I can picture what happens with the sound, can’t you?  Every potential prey stops what they’re doing to listen and discern how close, or how far away, their predator is.  Every living thing is on edge.

While there are certainly periods in my life that are peaceful, they are short lived.  I feel the enemy’s breath on my cheek.  His roar is the bedfellow, and the precursor, of spiritual attacks.  He customizes devastation to hurt as much as possible.  He targets my areas of weakness.  He waits for my vulnerable moments.  Where the ground is shaky beneath my feet, he lies in wait for the perfect moment to gain the upper hand.

I dream of the day when I will see consistent evidence that every enemy is under God’s feet. The picture is that of a Ruler who wins the battle against an opposing king.  Victorious in battle, he puts his foot on the neck of the enemy as a sign of conquest and subjugation.

As a child of God, I am waiting for the time when every spiritual enemy of Christ will be visibly under the authority of King Jesus.  Victory has already been declared now but I do not see that sweeping defeat as a reality.  Not yet.  There is still fighting and while I engage in the battle, where is my King?  Seated at God’s right hand in a position of rulership.  Where are His enemies?   Already beneath Him.  Look how Satan’s kingdom is described as ‘levels of rule and authority, power and dominion’ and Jesus is above them all.

 God seated Jesus at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  And He put all things in subjection under His feet.  Ephesians 1:20-21

 

At this present time, and from my earthly perspective, I am unable to see that reality.  But one day I will.  Until then, I must know who my Victor is.  I must believe that He has authority, and has conferred that authority upon me, to rule over our spiritual enemies on His behalf.  Satan will continue to act as though he still has all the power if I let him.  The Word of God is my sword and God will show me when and where to speak it, to impose limits and parameters to the activity of the anti-kingdom.  During this brief period when Satan is still allowed to roam the earth and wield some destructive powers, the church must battle and look forward to the day when every enemy will be vanquished, put under God’s feet, and then eternally subjugated.

 

Without You, I’m no match for them.  With You, and in You, there’s no contest.  The victory is Yours and the victory is mine.  Amen

Is He A Means To An End?

May 8, 2019


You did not want sacrifice and offering, but You prepared a body for Me. You did not delight in whole burnt offerings and sin offerings.  Hebrews 10:5-6

I fear it’s too easy to see Jesus as a means to an end. Here’s how it looks ~ I need forgiveness from my sins in order to gain salvation and Jesus is the One who paid for it.  I can look to Him as utilitarian, someone able to give me what I need.  I am not taken with the personal cost and the price He paid.  I am taken with getting from Him what I need.

I wonder how many sacrifices were made under the Old Covenant without any regard whatsoever to the animal who gave its life.  While God never encouraged the worship of animals, He wanted His people to be aware that the shedding of blood was costly.  The fact that a sacrifice had to be made at all pointed to the fact that sin was a serious offense.  He had much to say about people bringing their burnt sacrifices as a ritual ~ casually checking off their religious boxes.  Worship of God, the one who outrageously forgave their sin, was often forgotten in the equation.

Is this not any different than ‘fire insurance salvation’ that is resident in so many Gospel presentations?  The fear of hell is what compels us to rush to the altar.  Our tears are about us, our plight and then our relief.   Fear of death and God’s judgement is a strong motivator to make sure we are not headed for condemnation.  We are told that the death of Jesus takes care of our sin problem and by ‘accepting Him into our heart’, our eternal destiny is secured.  But isn’t this kind of presentation making Him a means to an end?  Jesus becomes a benefactor who got me out of hot water.

Taking this further ~ Does this really encourage worship or am I simply preoccupied that by walking the aisle, I’ve taken care of myself?  This may seem like splitting hairs but it’s monumental.  While writing this ~ my heart is aching at how easy it is to be selfish in my response to the Gospel.  Jesus made His sacrifice all about me but am I making His sacrifice all about Him? God forbid that Jesus made it about me and I make it about me. I consider this scripture from Mark:  To love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices. Mark 12:33 

Yes, someone gave their life to forgive my sins.  Yes, I have been justified.  Yes, I wear robes of righteousness.  Yes, condemnation has been erased from my future.  Yes, I live at peace with God and I’m no longer afraid of His judgement.  However, the point is not these realities.  The point is that I’m to consider, and then worship, the One who sacrificed Himself to provide all this.  What should be front and center of every proclamation of the Gospel is the person of Jesus who came to express, with his life, the love of God for us.  It is this Love, bleeding out on a cross, that compels me to love him with all my heart, soul, and mind.  What pleases God is the worship of His Son and a discipleship based on the joy of my relationship with the sacrificial Lamb.  This distinction is what makes the difference between religious ritual and a passionate believer willing to give his life for the sake of a Savior.

Forgive me when I come with open hands and selfish expectations.  Amen

Shadows

May 7, 2019


For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.  Hebrews 10:1

The definition of a shadow is an image cast by an object.  The word doesn’t usually bring warm feelings.  Someone hiding in the shadows is a person with a questionable agenda.  Someone afraid of their own shadow is a poor soul gripped by shyness.  Someone who sees shadows in the night is one who sleeps lightly.  And we know the familiar phrase in the 23rd Psalm, ‘in the valley of the shadow of death.’ 

While the topic of shadows makes us think of something foreboding, shadows can also be beautiful.  In Acts, the sick were brought near to Peter in hopes that his very shadow would bring healing.  Acts 5:15   But this is nothing compared to the poetic descriptions elsewhere in scripture.  How about these ~ I dwell in the shadow of the Almighty.  Psalm 91:1 I am concealed in the shadow of God’s hand.  Isaiah 49:2 And, I take refuge in the shadow of my Father’s wings.  Psalm 36:7 

God is also described as One who casts a shadow, and His shadow provides shade from the heat.  Isaiah 25:4  His presence shadows His children ~ going with them wherever they go. Psalm 121:5

What can get better than God’s shadow accompanying me and providing a place of refuge?  It would be Him ‘overshadowing’ ~ as He did when Mary was overshadowed by the Spirit and Jesus was conceived.  Or, as He did when He overshadowed a dead planet and Earth came to life.  Or, as He did when He overshadowed a crowd when Jesus was speaking and they heard God declare that Jesus was His beloved Son.  Matthew 17:5

The law and the sacrificial system were shadows of more perfect things to come.  The law would be fulfilled by Jesus.  The sacrifices of animals would be replaced by the Perfect Lamb who would only have to die once.  These shadows in the O.T. were shadows of Jesus.

If you and I are in Christ, we are overshadowed when the Spirit moves in us to conceive something holy, or to heal something broken, or to prepare something yet unformed, or to sanctify something fleshly. More than just interesting concepts, they are powerful realities in the life of every believer.  While all these shadowing movements aren’t visible to the naked eye, we feel the impact and tremble, do we not?  The most powerful things are unseen but earthshattering.

Of all You have done, I know I’ve seen nothing yet.  My eyes are fixed on You.  Amen

“I Can’t Ask For That Again!”

May 6, 2019


For the Messiah did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that He might now appear in the presence of God for us.  Hebrews 9:24

Have you ever needed someone to intervene on your behalf?  Perhaps a situation was critical, so critical that you begged this person to put in a good word for you.  He agreed, things went well, and you got what you needed.  Imagine for a moment, however, that you are in a position to need this same thing again, only on a weekly basis.  You have to ask your friend for his help ~ over and over again.  You’d probably find that though he was quite willing to help you out the first time, maybe even the second, your repeated requests fell on increasingly unreceptive ears.  At some point, he felt taken advantage of.

Not so with our Savior.  Without time limits, Jesus sits at the right hand of His Father and His primary responsibility is to pray for us and mediate for us.  He brings our critical needs to God’s attention.  He defends our holiness to our enemy who thrives on making accusations against us.  Jesus doesn’t care how many times we may need the same thing over and over.  He never tires of our request.  In fact, if it’s for our ultimate good, He’ll ask for more than we’ve requested.  Generosity is in His nature.  Compassion is only a part of His many beautiful attributes.  Every unfathomable character quality of Jesus is working on my behalf as He speaks my name over and over in the presence of God.

“I can’t ask Him that again!” ~ need never be on the lips of God’s child.  Neediness does not turn Him off; it delights Him.  It is an acknowledgement that I am aware to what extent I live and breathe in Him.  I don’t pretend to be strong, in and of myself.  I am only strong ~ in Christ.  I don’t pretend to be insightful, in and of myself.  I am only wise ~ in Christ.  This is true for every good and perfect gift that comes from above.  If I’m lacking, perhaps it’s because I forgot to ask for it.  Or worse yet, I didn’t believe that it was mine to ask for.

Right now, at this very moment, Jesus’ eyes are watching you read this devotional.  He sees you taking in the truth that what you need does not disgust Him, disappoint Him, overwhelm Him, nor is it an imposition to bring up what you need to His Father.  You might say, “If He knows I need it, why doesn’t He just ask without me jumping through all these hoops?”  I believe it’s because of this ~ when we ask, we are internalizing the truth that we can ask, and should ask.  Love is more deeply understood when our petitions are vocalized, then received by the other person with pleasure.

Show me what it is I’m afraid to need.  Amen

The Kingdom and the Anti-kingdom

May 2, 2019


According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  Hebrews 9:22

For so many in our modern culture, the need for the shed blood of Christ in order to be right with God is highly offensive.  They call Christianity the slaughter house religion. The problem is that in most every culture, even as far back as we have data, blood was spilled in an attempt to make peace with deities.

For instance, while Africa is a diverse nation with many languages and customs, one thing is consistent among them all.  Blood and rituals.  Why?  Because Satan takes what God values and seeks to destroy it.  In the case of the shedding of blood, he considers that God has already declared necessary for salvation so he twists it and then connects it to his anti-kingdom.

Whether we are discussing sexuality, power, money, chains of authority, respect for human life, and every other Christian value, Satan has marched into everything sacred and created another version that is disfigured.  I must remember this every time I listen to network news.  Ponzi schemes are a perversion of the worship of God who sits on the throne when a mortal man attempts to build his own kingdom with himself at the center.  School shootings are a perversion of honoring a life that God made.  A child believes he will feel powerful and vindicated outside of the blood of Christ.  I can look at every horrific deed in the headlines and see how Satan tampered with God’s values.  Mankind bites into the forbidden fruit because the devil is a disguise artist.

But really, the idea that the blood of Christ is off-putting to many is quite inconsistent with how much our current society loves violence.  It is the thematic diet of programs being streamed.  It is the lure of most adult gaming.  With advanced technology, the killing of other people on the screen has become vivid and life-like.  We are numb to it.  Gaming has become, even for many pastors, the avenue for releasing the stress associated with the pastorate.  A few years ago, a minister in his fifties admitted to me that on particularly challenging days, he goes home to an evening of gaming to escape.

While all of this is disturbing, the main reason the blood of Christ is offensive is because it wounds my pride.  Who is God to tell me that I need His Son’s blood in order to approach Him!  I’m a good person.  Certainly, I’ve done some valuable things that earn me His favor.  Pride leads men to destruction because the chasm between God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness remains unchanged.

Before writing this final paragraph, I took a walk and told God that I don’t want this to read like an academic paper.  I don’t want it to be skimmed because the subject of His Son’s blood seems like needless review.  The point of this is for us to consider Jesus yet again.  His sacrifice never becomes old news as the implications of it invade my broken world every single day.

I stand before You forever forgiven no matter the sin.  Every drop of blood You shed paid for that.  I thank you with my life.  Amen

Who Would You Confide In?

May 1, 2019


Therefore, He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.  Hebrews 9:15

Though Jesus knew the hearts of all people, there was no way for Him to develop a relationship with everyone.  His circle of friends and acquaintances was similar to ours.  He started with His family and moved out concentrically.  As He grew older, He learned the hard lesson that even within your own family, levels of connectedness based on mutual respect and understanding will vary. He was not intimate with His brother James until after the resurrection.  And, it didn’t have the time to flourish until after Jesus came into his brother’s heart after Pentecost.

Jesus is my mediator in the New Covenant.  But what priests were truly available as mediators in the Old Covenant?  Some were righteous, some unrighteous, and even Hannah did not go to confide in Eli that her heart was in agony.  It wasn’t until He probed that she shared her agonizing story.

In our circle of acquaintances, there are only a few to whom we can disclose private things.  You and I learn how close to let people in to our innermost being.  Whether we want to reveal our dreams, or our struggles, the audience is crucial.  Friends can wound us deeply even after we share our excitement over a new venture!  The distress we feel isn’t always because they didn’t understand our pain or because they weren’t close enough to Jesus to have the wisdom we were seeking.

While David, Moses, Abraham, Hannah, and a host of other saints, poured out their complaints to God, their human Mediator was still a priest.  (And some bad ones, at that.)  But I’m celebrating this morning that Jesus came and, through His death, brought in a new covenant.  He did away with all human mediators, and He became our confidante.  He is One with whom I never have to weigh my words.  He is One who will understand what I’m saying all the time. Even if I can’t get all the words out, He knows me and can say what it is I’m trying to say.  This is the stunning reality of prayer ~ when the Spirit verbalizes our groanings with words He conceives before the Father.  What a mediator!

Perfect empathy.  Perfect mediation.  Perfect in availability.  Perfect in loyalty.  Perfect in patience.  Perfect in counsel.  No good thing is ever skewed nor at any point is He ever untrustworthy.

You call me Friend, not Master.  You woo me to move closer, not keep my distance.  There is not one valid reason I need to fear intimacy today.  I love the new covenant because You are the promise keeper.  Amen

Your Conscience. Does It Condemn You?

April 30, 2019


For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,  how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit  offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our  consciences from dead works to serve the living God?  Hebrews 9:13-14

Any of us who have lived with a guilty conscience know the relentless nagging that isn’t easily silenced.  There is only one cure for it – the blood of Christ.  Yet, we try all other cures.  I know really well of which I speak.  I tried them all.

  • I tried to just do better and not commit the same sin over again.
  • I tried to not let guilt dominate my life. I drowned my shame with distractions.
  • I tried to convince myself that I should make it up to God by performing better.
  • I tried to pinpoint why I felt guilty but thought of nothing. Guilt persisted anyway.
  • I soaked in the guilt of false accusations and believed other’s anger must be justified.

Feeling guilty can have so many roots and not all of them provide concrete evidence that there should be guilt. For instance, living with a blamer and developing an overly sensitive guilt trigger is one dynamic that produces false guilt.  But the context of this scripture is to underscore the cure for a justifiably guilty conscience.  Sin was committed and the bigger the offense, the more difficult it is to believe that God forgives and that’s that.  By faith, I must believe that the blood of Christ has cleansed me of all sin.  The past is forgiven and this day is a day permeated with God’s mercy.  It’s a new clean slate.

Does a guilty conscience have anything to do with evangelism?  Could it be that the person I’ve been sharing Christ with is impaired to see Jesus and believe because his own conscience has failed him?  The answer is emphatically yes!  As long as a person has not repented of his sin, the result is layers upon layers of deception.  His conscience is in one of three states; unreliable, absent, or seared.  Without the blood of Christ being pleaded for on his behalf, he will not be able to see his sin clearly. While ‘pleading the blood of Jesus’ yields many powerful results, the most astounding to me is the power of His blood to affect a skewed conscience, rectify its reasonings, and then cleanse it from all effects of deception.  The reason we do it for someone else is to give him an opportunity to see his sin clearly – as God sees it – and then repent.

You may be one who feels guilty today but you actually are not.  Or, you may be one who should feel guilty for something unrepented but you actually don’t.  Consciences, in and of themselves, are not reliable rudders unless they have been cleansed by the blood and then are submitted to the mind of Christ.  Only He can reveal our sin to us.  The One who knows if we sinned is the One who shed the blood to forgive it.  He is the total package.

You came to set the captive free.  For any of us who are captive, in any way, to the self-condemnation of our own skewed conscience, speak to us and help us settle this matter today.  Thank you for your shed blood.  Amen