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Thank God.

LORD of reconciliation, Master of mercy, Author of true joy, there is no greater hope to be found than the hope You have provided through Jesus Christ. You alone have the words of life, there is nowhere else to turn. Peace flows from the veins of Christ across all of us who were once at war with You, & You have drawn us near, glorifying Yourself. This is not our effort, but Yours, not our battle, but Yours, not our righteousness, but Yours & You alone are praised for the defeat of sin & death & victory over the grave rests with You. Open our eyes, revive our hearts & continue to draw glory to Yourself as we spread the Gospel around the world. We pray this through Christ our Lord, amen.

Luke 24:36-53
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.

I am real
You wouldn’t think you would ever read through the Scriptures & come out thankful that Jesus ate fish. It’s such a simple action, a basic thing to do. Look at His life with His disciples, how many times do you think Jesus ate fish? Grilled fish, baked fish, boiled fish, broiled fish, stewed fish, smoked fish & I’m sure the possibilities continue. But Jesus takes this common basic thing, this simple sign of something comfortable to reassure His disciples that He is indeed really there with them, present & constant. He’s no spirit, no ghost, no hallucination & He proves it by eating something they themselves prepared. I would have done some small miracle before them, shown myself through a divine sign, proving myself in that way. But He chooses something they can do & duplicate & I think that says an awful lot more.

He wanted them to know without a shadow of a doubt that He was indeed alive, present & moving forward into the next phase of life & covenant with them. A risen Savior is a real Savior, & this crew of confused & disheartened disciples needed something they could sink their teeth into, like a piece of fish. Jesus provided that for them that wonderful morning.

Forgiveness is real
Not only did Jesus want them to see & understand that He was & is real, He wanted them to remember the context of everything that had just happened & that not one moment of it all was coincidence or accident. He reminded them of the Scriptures they were raised with, a comfortable & familiar remembrance. He reminded them about Moses & the prophets & everything the Father had promised & been promising over the preceding millennia. This was the plan the whole time.

And why? This didn’t happen for nothing, right? This wasn’t something that was done simply for the sake of saying it would be accomplished. This is the promise of God to glorify Himself by the redemption of creation & humanity to Himself. This was all about God offering forgiveness to rebels like them & us & bringing peace & righteousness back into creation. This was the first step in seeing holiness win out over sin & evil. The foot of the Savior was bitten by that serpent, but his head was now thoroughly crushed. This has been the plan since the garden had to be cleared out  & Adam & Eve first perceived their own nakedness & brokenness entered the world. This was all about God’s glory & how He would provide forgiveness to all who would come to Him.

You are witnesses
And Jesus didn’t leave them out, either. In this moment where disbelief & joy slam into each other, Jesus reminded them that they had a part to play in this whole wonderful affair. This wasn’t just something done for them, but to them & would now happen through them. They are -the- witnesses to this universe altering news. They are the ones who would take this first-hand account of holy truth into the world. They are the ones with these words written on their hearts because they lived it, every single moment of it. Where they were feeling hopeless just hours before, & confused just moments ago, Jesus was letting them know from the onset that they had what everyone else needed. They have a purpose to fulfill. They are the bearers of the Gospel of love, peace, mercy, grace & forgiveness, & if this world is going to learn how to walk in the rhythms of grace with God, the it’s going to happen through them sharing all of this good news.

Joy is real
The world needs to know that joy is real. There is so much trouble, so many hurts, so many reasons to mourn & feel trapped in the brokenness & God doesn’t desire for another moment to pass from this one where people don’t know about the beacon of joy that will draw them back into wholeness with Him. Jesus knew that people outside of that room would struggle, & so He was sending out people who had struggled. Jesus knew that people outside that room would doubt, & so He sent out people who wrestled with doubt. He knew that people outside that room would deal with loss, sorrow & pain & so He sent out these people who had those feelings fresh on their hearts.

He knew the world needed joy, so He sent these out who were first to experience it. This fresh message, this amazing truth was needed more deeply than anyone could imagine & this firestorm of joy would burn without ceasing for the millennia to come. The disciples carried it, you & I who are in Christ carry it & the world still desperately needs to know about it. There is work to be done, joy to be spread. The Savior is real. Forgiveness is real. We are the witness to true & lasting joy. Let the whole world hear our praises!

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A Perspective of Fire

Father, let us never forget Your presence & the wrath we have been rescued from through Jesus. Let us remember the consequence of hell that we once deserved, and the weight of our sin that He bore on the cross. May we walk in repentance, and also walk in joy, liberated from death and from ourselves. Your grace is greater than all our sin, Your love is deeper than the pit we were rescued from. May we praise Your Name forever, remembering Your holiness, mercy & grace with deep appreciation, thanksgiving & celebration! You are our joy! Amen!

Hebrews 12:12-29
12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

God has given us so many visuals over the course of human history to help us understand and cope with the concept of Him & His holiness. He has taken every effort to help us hear, see & understand His nature, His righteousness, His wrath & His justice. And the wonder of it all is that He didn’t just tell us made up stories, but that He actually has done these things, in close proximity to humankind so that we can see and feel and hear and experience Him & His presence.

Hopefully, we have all had opportunities to be in places and experience times where we know we have been in the presence of God. And while there may not have been a burning mountain top to commemorate the experience, His whisper & still small voice of direction & discernment can be just as revalatory, just as powerful as His large displays of power & majesty.

It is very important that we do not forget those moments where He has spoken to us, that they do not become pieces of history, stories to recall in conversations alone. But we need to live in that remembrance. That is why God’s children have repeated these accounts daily & weekly for millennia, to keep them fresh upon our hearts. God gives us these moments, locked in present memory so we never forget the burning mountain top where the Law was given and so we do not forget the bloodied mountain top where grace was poured out on the cross.

Through these remembrances, we find ourselves inexorably intertwined with the tapestry of His story, woven into a living memory of Him. We see Mt Sinai & we see Mt Zion and we remember them in our own hearts, as if we were there. This is our heritage. This is our faith. We live in a perspective of fire & blood so that we may also live with a perspective of hope, wisdom & mercy given so richly for us who are not worthy of such affection. Living in the rhythms of this grace helps us, reminds us to speak the same mercy, love, grace and wisdom over those who stand apart from Him. This perspective draws our hearts in as living memorials to His faithfulness & righteousness.

Memorials are meant to be revisited, experienced and shown off. These memorials are our doorway to celebration, thanksgiving & mission. Every tribe, every tongue, every nation gathered in celebration, sharing in the abundant love of Christ, equals at the foot of the cross, in life, in faith & in mission to those who have not yet seen, to those who have not yet heard. We are celebrants of hope, living memorials of His loving-kindness.

Father, let us never forget Your presence & the wrath we have been rescued from through Jesus. Let us remember the consequence of hell that we once deserved, and the weight of our sin that He bore on the cross. May we walk in repentance, and also walk in joy, liberated from death and from ourselves. Your grace is greater than all our sin, Your love is deeper than the pit we were rescued from. May we praise Your Name forever, remembering Your holiness, mercy & grace with deep appreciation, thanksgiving & celebration! You are our joy! Amen!

Purified, Redeemed & Given Peace

Father, bring us Your peace. Through Jesus Christ You have offered to us grace beyond measure. You have inaugurated our entry into Your presence with His blood, purified us and saved us from the wrath due us in Your judgment. Thank You for putting away our sin by this sacrifice. Thank You for promising us life beyond life and death. Thank You for the blessing of the greater picture of existence with You through Him. Thank You for the presence of Your Holy Spirit in this in-between time. Amen.

Hebrews 9:15-28
15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

This is a lot to take in, isn’t it? Centuries of human effort, ritual purification, sacrifice and an obvious inability to maintain moral standards left us reeling. We were desperate, the children of God were in need of relief, and the world needed a savior without even knowing they needed Him. Try as we might to deny sin’s presence in our life, we rationalize all our decisions, seek out our own way and call the effort worthwhile. We stubbornly stand in pride and deny correction when it comes.We’ve all stood silently in this place. We know our own hearts, even if we don’t speak what we feel all the time.

Emotionally and spiritually bankrupt, God saw our deep need to be cleansed, redeemed and brought into real peace with Him. We need to remember this, drink it in & rest in Him.

And so comes Jesus.
Pause a minute. Breathe & speak His Name.

Heaven’s sacrifice once for all who would come.
Final.
He loves You deeply.
Pause again. Breathe & speak His Name, Jesus.

We needed Him so badly. Our efforts always temporary, we needed relief. And so He brings us peace by removing the need for the effort, and taking it upon Himself. This is the richness of the love of God, this is the depth of His grace. This loving Father, making sacrifice on behalf of His children, so that we might bring Him glory and that He might sing over us in His peace.

Jesus is the One who stood in the gap. The Father the One who sacrifices. The Holy Spirit the One who indwells us as we are being made holy – Our Triune God gathering us into His love.

Pause a minute. Breathe & abide in the rest He provides. Breathe. Trust in our Great High Priest who offered Himself up as the sacrifice.

Breathe.
Rest.
Speak the Name of Jesus.
Trust in Him & Praise His Name.
Walk in the rhythms of His grace today.

Father, bring us Your peace. Through Jesus Christ You have offered to us grace beyond measure. You have inaugurated our entry into Your presence with His blood, purified us and saved us from the wrath due us in Your judgment. Thank You for putting away our sin by this sacrifice. Thank You for promising us life beyond life and death. Thank You for the blessing of the greater picture of existence with You through Him. Thank You for the presence of Your Holy Spirit in this in-between time. Amen.

You _are_ an example.

George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends wrote, “People must be led out of captivity up to God. Be patterns, be examples that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them. Then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone.”

In Genesis 12, Abraham has his encounter with God that sets the course and pace of his life and radiates forward through time through the lineage of his children in faith. We have been blessed to be a blessing. Just as God called Abraham, He calls out to us. Listen:

“Now the Lord said to Abram,
“Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.
And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.
Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said,
“To your offspring I will give this land.”
So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.”
Genesis 12:1-7

We have to leave behind what is comfortable, what we know and have feelings of control over and fall in step behind Jesus. Where God directed Abraham to Canaan, Jesus guides us today to live and serve outside of what is comfortable and brings us to places where others hurt, where others struggle and where others have need. Because God, in His infinite wisdom and compassion, knows that if we take the focus off of ourselves and point our hearts toward the need of another, we will be filled in the process.

Abraham could have stayed on the family land, Terah could have remained where he knew everyone and understood how everything worked, and where he had respect. But God took them to a new place where their reputation would be built on the activity of God in their midst. Where people wouldn’t see Abram the shrewd herdsman, but they would see God’s blessing on the life of this man who just moved into the countryside, they watched his blessing increase and so Abram’s business with them brought prosperity to those around him. But God isn’t just some initiator of an economic engine. No, God worked this way through Abram so he could build positive relationships with the people in this new land, so they could see his life and his example, and with the handiwork of the Lord in their sight, they would receive a testimony about the goodness and provision of God.

Abram’s life and relocation and business and family all made up the components of the sermon of his life. When you and I look at what God is doing in our life, at all of the components that He has seen fit to incorporate in our life, then we will begin to see the story of His glory at work in us, and we will understand a little bit more of what it means to submit our lives to Him so that He can do it more and more, making an impact on the world and communities around us by His good blessing. And when we see that, we, like Abram, will want to build a point of praise into that moment, and give up even greater offerings to the Lord our God.

Whether or not we are looking to be one, we are an example to the world around us.
What would our world look like, what would our church look like, if everyone followed and was devoted as we are? We have one life to live, one Lord to serve. Find your joy in submitting to Him and bringing others to Him as worship and a sharing of blessing.

Psalm 65 // If God cares for His earth like this…

If God cares for the earth so much, the way David describes in the psalm, then how much does He care for us? If He provides rains, clothes the hillsides and feeds His flocks, then how much should we trust in His care for us?

God is good all the time, His faithfulness never ends. Let’s rejoice in Him! Let’s celebrate because of Him and give Him praise!

God’s Care for the Earth
For the choir director. A Davidic psalm. A song.

“1 Praise is rightfully Yours,
God, in Zion;
vows to You will be fulfilled.
2 All humanity will come to You,
the One who hears prayer.
3 Iniquities overwhelm me;
only You can atone for our rebellions.
4 How happy is the one You choose
and bring near to live in Your courts!
We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
the holiness of Your temple.

5 You answer us in righteousness,
with awe-inspiring works,
God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the distant seas.
6 You establish the mountains by Your power,
robed with strength.
7 You silence the roar of the seas,
the roar of their waves,
and the tumult of the nations.
8 Those who live far away are awed by Your signs;
You make east and west shout for joy.

9 You visit the earth and water it abundantly,
enriching it greatly.
God’s stream is filled with water,
for You prepare the earth in this way,
providing people with grain.
10 You soften it with showers and bless its growth,
soaking its furrows and leveling its ridges.
11 You crown the year with Your goodness;
Your ways overflow with plenty.
12 The wilderness pastures overflow,
and the hills are robed with joy.
13 The pastures are clothed with flocks
and the valleys covered with grain.
They shout in triumph; indeed, they sing.”

Numbers 24 // Considering God in our plans

“10 Then Balak became furious with Balaam, struck his hands together, and said to him, “I summoned you to put a curse on my enemies, but instead, you have blessed them these three times. 11 Now go to your home! I said I would reward you richly, but look, the Lord has denied you a reward.”
12 Balaam answered Balak, “Didn’t I previously tell the messengers you sent me: 13 ‘If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go against the Lords command, to do anything good or bad of my own will? I will say whatever the Lord says.'””
Numbers 24:10-13

We should never be so disillusioned with God that we assume that we have any kind of pull or control over Him, or that we can successfully circumvent His will. Balak was under the impression that money or his perception of his own power would be enough to accomplish whatever he wanted. But, as always, human pride has nothing on God’s actual power and no control over His will.

So many times, we want to give ourselves permission to do something without considering God, or His desires. We just do whatever it is we want to do, and we might stop to consider it afterward. Rather than consulting God, rather than weighing the cost, we decide that we know best, we just assume that our plans are without fault, and we proceed ahead with our own plans.

But no plan made without considering God is ever going to be a good plan. We can, in our limited ability, force certain things to occur. But no real change will ever take place simply because we will it. The more it is built on us and what we can do, the more shaky and crumbling our foundation will become. Balak found that out rather quickly, and even had some prophetic statements made about him and other nearby nations. God let him know, in no uncertain terms, just how secure his future was for standing against God and His people. And the pride that drew him to fight against God and His people is the same pride that would destroy him.

As we GoLove others in the Name of Christ, we must accept the guidance of the Spirit in our day to day decision making, considering God’s will before our own, and making plans with Him rather than seeking His approval after we have already started. A life lived in step with the Spirit is a life that will honor God. A life that is centered around the will of God will be a life that points other eyes and hearts toward Him, glorifying Him. A life that runs of its own volition is a life that points toward self, and the limited range of human capability. A life that will matter must be a life built on the promises and instruction of the Lord.

Numbers 23 // Only what God says

“18 And Balaam took up his discourse and said,

“Rise, Balak, and hear;
    give ear to me, O son of Zippor:
19 God is not man, that he should lie,
    or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
    Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
20 Behold, I received a command to bless:
    he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it.
21 He has not beheld misfortune in Jacob,
    nor has he seen trouble in Israel.
The Lord their God is with them,
    and the shout of a king is among them.
22 God brings them out of Egypt
    and is for them like the horns of the wild ox.
23 For there is no enchantment against Jacob,
    no divination against Israel;
now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,
    ‘What has God wrought!’
24 Behold, a people! As a lioness it rises up
    and as a lion it lifts itself;
it does not lie down until it has devoured the prey
    and drunk the blood of the slain.”

Numbers 23:18-24

It is utter foolishness to think that we can do anything or succeed in anything that runs contrary to God’s will. Bala is obviously determined to put a curse on Israel because he is scared of them. They intimidate him and his understanding of power and authority. Their mere presence asserts more power than he can muster on his own, and so he sees them as a threat. He tries and tries to involve some sort of supernatural use on them, but repeatedly finds that it’s just not going to happen. And still he pursues it. But why?

When we are living in sin and we encounter the holiness of God, or even the holiness we see imparted to one if His representatives, we take offense at it, because it exposes our biases, our sins and the flaws in our armor. But in the end, only what God says really matters and/or will come to pass. Balak tries to buy a curse, he tries to force a curse, he wants so desperately to force Israel out of the equation, but God will not listen to the plea of the sinful or the heart of the foolish. God’s Word is what stands, and it is what should be our guide.

Balak had ample opportunity to reevaluate his motives, to reassess his situation, but rather than look inward, he only tried to force a hand that he could not deal, and he would up short. Even at the end of all these attempts, he still isn’t quite finished yet, because when we are locked into our sin, when we have fully bought into it, there isn’t much that is going to set our minds and hearts straight outside of a direct intervention by God. And even this does not deter him. In Romans 1 and 2 Thessalonians 2, God turns people over to the lies they have bought into, and Balak has claimed full ownership of the lies that run his life. God is always available, He will always accept a repentant heart, but the desire to change must come from us, He will not force His hand and circumvent our free will that He has given to us.

As Christians, we must maintain an attitude that reflects joy in that decision. We cannot force the appearance of Christian walk, we cannot fake the devotion that comes form a sincere heart. If we a re going to follow after Christ, and GoLove people as He has commissioned us to do, then our faith and following must be sincere. A fake disciple only produces fake disciples. But a sold-out heart works to produce fruit that the Spirit has planted. It is sincere, full of real joy, and that joy cannot be traded for anything while our eyes are on Jesus, and frankly, we shouldn’t want to. We cannot live or succeed in anything that stands apart from God, no mater how much we may try to force His hand.

Numbers 6 // Blessed in God

“22 The Lord spoke to Moses: 23 Tell Aaron and his sons how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 May Yahweh bless you and protect you;
25 may Yahweh make His face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 may Yahweh look with favor on you
and give you peace.
27 In this way they will pronounce My name over the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
Numbers 6:22-27

This is a favorite prayer of mine from Scripture. I have used with the gathering of the church, the joining of man & wife & spoken it to believers on their death beds.

It is no small thing to invoke the Name of God. It is a sacred moment when His Name is spoken. And when it is spoken, we do not say it and speak of Him in a way that implies that we have any control over Him, that we can make Him do anything. But instead, we are acknowledging Him, intentionally inviting Him into that moment with us and seeking out His leading.
When we pray for God’s blessing, we are acknowledging that we can do nothing to bless our own lives, to change our situation for the better. When we invite Him into our lives, we are acknowledging that only He can make something beautiful out of our messes and that only He can work for our good on the midst of us.

We need His blessing.
We need His protection.
We need His presence.
We need His grace.
We need His favor.
We need His peace.

We are lost without Him and we cannot GoLove others unless we do it -in- His Name. Anything else is merely human effort, tainted by sin and directed by the flesh. And so we seek His blessing by inviting Him in to lead, direct and move in us.

It’s the only sensible thing to do.

Hebrews 10 // Encouragement towards righteousness

“19 Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh), 21 and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.
23 Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, 25 not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:19-25

So, since our Great High Priest has opened the way to the heart of God through His own flesh & blood, since He has borne the weight of all our sin & shame and provided shelter from death and pain and sorrow, let us then live accordingly & in thanksgiving. If you were about to step in front of a bus today & a loved one pushed you out of the way only to be struck and killed themselves, would you live each day thankful for them and their love for you? If you were sick, dying and needed a transfusion, a kidney or a bone marrow transplant and a relative gave that up for you so you could be well and live, would you be grateful every day? The comparisons could roll on and still none of them would measure up to what Christ has done for us, yet we sometimes seem to forget, and our thankfulness wanes, our gratefulness comes up lacking.

And that is why the author says, “Let us hold on to our confession of faith without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” It’s a loving reminder that God is steady still in that love that saved us, so we should also be steady in our lives of thanksgiving & faith. It’s not a crazy or unexpected thing that we should live our lives as a sacrifice in return, poured out for Him. So, let us hold on without wavering to that wonderful faith!

And in this life of love & thanksgiving & faithfulness, we learn that our eyes are not simply focused on self, but instead our eyes focus as His eyes do, on others. The more we draw near to Him, the more we see and understand how it is we are to live and love in His Name. So, we GoLove each other, we promote good works, we make the gathering of believers a priority and encourage one another in that same love that sustains us.

I will never understand the people who claim Christ, yet do not make the gathering of His Bride a priority. I do not understand people who say that they can ‘do church’ on their own. That’s like saying, “I can be a crowd by myself. I can be a community of one.” It’s nonsense, and it’s a denial of one of the most basic parts of our life in Christ. So go, love others, show that same love to the bride of Christ and live in that beautiful faith today.

Suffering happens with Christ, count it a blessing // Philippians 1

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
Philippians‬ ‭1‬:‭27-30‬ ESV

Again,
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”

and earlier in the chapter,
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”

and this,
“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.”

In Western culture, we have been coddled and encouraged to believe that Joel-Osteen-Word-of-Faith-Benny-Hinn-affluence lie, that this life, when lived in Christ is meant to be a life of comfort, wealth and prosperity. If we are all good little boys and girls, pray hard enough and send in enough ‘seed money’ that this life will be one of health, wealth and opportunity. We can ‘speak things into being’ as if we are God, and we then determine what makes ‘our best life now,’ simply based on what our flesh desires. This is a false gospel and stand contrary to the example Jesus left for us to follow.

When we open the Bible, what we find instead is that the best life we can live is one that identifies with Christ. True privilege in this world comes from suffering as He did or because of His Name. It’s not about things, or shallow fleshly pursuits. This life is all about living for Christ, and living as Christ. Suffering, rejection and scorn mirrors what Christ experienced. We should not shy away from it when God allows us to undergo hardships for His sake.

Does that mean this life should only be made up of suffering? No, of course not, but we must know, understand and believe that this life is not about some degree of personal comfort, a lack of effort on our part, praying blessings on ourself that we don’t need to share or that illness is an indicator of a lack of favor from God.

Our Father is not so petty and childish. He isn’t so shallow or simple minded. The depth of His love goes so far beyond money and health, and proceeds into the things and issues of the heart that really matter. Being rich isn’t a sign of God’s favor or a curse. It simply is. If we have money, then we must be good stewards of that money so that God is glorified and others are blessed in His Name. If we have time or talents and skills that we can use for Him, then our life goal should be to see Him glorified through those gifts, talents and skills in the time He has afforded us to GoLove others in His Name and for the sake of His glory.

Do I need to keep going?

Suffering does not indicate a lack of favor and ease does not serve as an indicator of an abundance of grace. We must seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. We do not concern ourselves with what the world says is important. We instead focus on Christ, on emulating Him and walking as He walked. And as clear as I can see, Jesus wasn’t in pursuit of wealth, prestige, ease and status. He was homeless, didn’t have a big bank account or drive a fancy camel train.

We should go and do likewise and seek to honor God through faithful service out of thanksgiving for what He has done. Let the world keep all of the soon-to-be-dust-and-ash it wants. We have eternal things to be concerned with…

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