What a Good Memory

What’s your favorite memory?
Do have a place or time that you enjoy thinking about, mentally revisiting? What is the first Christmas you remember? What’s the earliest birthday party that you can recall the in detail? Who has moved away or passed on and you find comfort in revisiting memories from your time with them? What memories bring you the deepest joy or stir your heart the most? Whether it’s your wedding day, the day you child was born, or the day you discovered the grace that God has for you, there are so many good memories that God has provided for us.

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Listen to David, stirred to remember the goodness of God, and put yourself in his shoes. Let your heart remember with his.

Psalm 105
1Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
    his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
    children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

God is good all the time. Remember that, okay? Whatever happened today, whoever gave you that sideways ‘complement’ the other day, whoever let you down…no matter what came about, God is good. That never changes. People can make dumb choices, have bad attitudes or completely forgot that they promised you they would do something…and that doesn’t change the fact that God has you, loves you and is providing for your tomorrow.

Human circumstances have nothing to do with how good God is, how consistent He is, how loving He is or how awesome He is…and He loves you.

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Integrity Defines Us

“The righteous who walks in his integrity –
blessed are his children after him!”
Proverbs 20:7

I was reading through the account of Jacob’s encounter and decades spent working for his uncle Laban. These two men seemingly deserved each other. Jacob had stolen his brother’s inheritance and his blessing from their father, Isaac. This was essentially an irrevocable identity theft. The family name and fortune now belonged solely to him, and there was no way to break that spoken contract.

In today’s culture, much of what causes the struggle between Jacob and Esau would be ‘solved’ by simply stating ‘Well, I didn’t mean it like that.” or “I didn’t say that.” or there would be a claim made about fake news & false reporting. Even when the situation was disastrous for them, they maintained their integrity when it came to their spoken word and commitments.

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Esau is devastated when he finds out Jacob has tricked their blind, aged father out of his blessing. But one Isaac had spoken the words, there was no way to withdraw them. Once Esau had committed his portion of the inheritance to his brother for a bowl of soup, the deal was done and the words had sealed it. What you say matters. Your word is your bond.

Today, though, words are treated like they are cheap. You can say something and act like it was never said. You can write something, or be recorded saying it and claim you never said or did that thing. And this is absolutely insane! There is no call for integrity unless someone vulnerable or oppressed has been harmed. When children are abused and mistreated, we speak up and expect hard lines. But when two adults interact with each other, like Jacob and Laban did, then we allow for all sorts of gray space that is open for interpretation. And you can’t have it both ways.

Jacob finds this out when Laban pulls the old switcheroo on him on his wedding night, subbing in his older daughter Leah. Both of them are harmed in this interaction, Leah is now committed to a man that she does not love and who does not love her, and Jacob has been cheated out of the relationship he had worked so hard to provide. This was a seven year build up & Laban swapped his daughters like they were a pair of socks. He had no personal integrity. And now Jacob gets to see what it’s like to be mistreated.

It’s a bad situation all the way around. Now Leah and Rachel will spend the next decades fighting over the affections and attention of one man who really isn’t all that different from dear old dad. At least we are given an insight into Leah’s plight and her building relationship and dependence on God. There is some good that comes from her pain…a pain that shouldn’t have occurred if integrity was a priority.

In the Bible, Jesus tells us very plainly to let our ‘Yes’ be a yes and our ‘No’ really be a no (Matthew 5:37.) Anything else, He says, filters down from evil and the evil one. What we say matters. Sticking with our commitment matters. How we treat our fellow human beings matters. And when our integrity is all that we have left, it is still worth fighting for…every single time.

When Integrity is compromised everyone gets hurt. When it is fought for, human dignity, our own reputations, and our walk with Jesus will win the day.

The Lord & The Pretenders

Father, we see in Your Word how humbled people become the moment they see Your glory or have a personal encounter with You. Moses stands on Holy Ground just to hear Your voice. The Israelites later say that they will not be able to live through listening to You speak. Prophets cower, apostles shy away &the psalmist says that You make Lebanon skip (the actual ground skips!) when You speak. Father, may we be clothed in humility when we come to You, when we speak with You. A blast from Your nostrils shatters the mightiest trees, & stars are born when You say the word. But You also grace us with Your presence in Your Word, & through the whispers of Your Holy Spirit within us. We praise You & Your mighty works, we remain humbled before You, as is right. Speak now, for Your servants are listening. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 20:41-47
41 But he said to them, “How can they say that the Christ is David’s son? 42 For David himself says in the Book of Psalms,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
43     until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

44 David thus calls him Lord, so how is he his son?”

45 And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, 47 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

Jesus had so many questions asked of Him throughout His ministry, but when He was confronted by the Sadducees, Pharisees & Scribes there were often questions of authority batted around. This time, Jesus is the One asking the question, seeking a deeper answer & understanding for those present. He has a point to make about Himself & human authority. Any religious expert worth their salt should have been able to answer a question about David & the Messiah. That should be a softball question. But here, Jesus again takes them somewhere they weren’t expecting to go. They know who David is, they know who the Messiah is, in theory, but Jesus sees & knows that they lack understanding about authority & the deity of the Messiah.

When God asks questions of us, He does so to open our eyes beyond the worldview that we have set up for ourselves.When He speaks, revealing Himself, He does so to bring understanding & wisdom into the picture & into our hearts. He asks questions that lead us to His wisdom & will. He opens doors for us so we might leave behind what we thought we knew & grab a hold of His truth. Jesus does the same right here with this crowd.

Jesus references a commonly know psalm & prophecy for the Messiah, one that reminds them of His lineage from David, but also poses a question in regards to position & timing. It would not seem right that a father should call his son “Lord” or that a son would have authority over his father. We do see this happen with Joseph as he ruled in Egypt, & was in authority over his father, Jacob. But this was not the normal way of things. This passage about the Messiah probably perplexed them a little because they couldn’t break from their regular understanding & so Jesus seeks to open their eyes to real authority & His own identity in that regard.

Human authority is always temporary. Sin sees to this for us. At the best, we live a long life & then we go the way of our ancestors, but our authority does not go with us. Human authority is always temporary & it is always transferred/conferred to another person, either on purpose, at our death or by force. Position is fleeting, power cannot be maintained. We are limited because of the truth of death as a result of the Fall in the garden. But this psalm, & Jesus Himself, speak of the Messiah whom King David calls “Lord” & who is also supposed to be his descendant. This isn’t because of a twisted family tree, this is because the Messiah, who is David’s heir, also has another quality that exceeds David’s humanity. Jesus is revealing to them that the Messiah will be (and is) both fully God & fully man. It’s not one or the other. The Messiah is both David’s heir, born of flesh from his lineage, & also fully divine. Not part of each. There is never 50% of God, or 75% of God. God is whole. He is one God with three Persons, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. So the Messiah is a mystery in that regard (among others,) & He breaks open our understanding of authority.

The people needed to hear this. The Sadducees, like the Pharisees & Scribes, profited from buffering the people from God. They set up their own hierarchy, maintaining an air of distinction between themselves & ‘regular’ people who could never know God or the Scriptures like they did (sarcasm intended.) And so Jesus straight up calls them out for dressing for the part they scripted. Big hats, flowing robes, lofty (but false) human grandeur on display simply to elevate themselves above the rest. He points out how they abuse their power & take advantage of people because of it all the while having a fresh reminder of the Messiah who was sent to rescue God’s children. He exposes the deceit of the religious elite while exposing the divinity of the Messiah. And so He gives a warning, look to the Messiah, He is more than you expect. Look at the scribes & their lot, they are less than they appear.

Real authority isn’t a badge worn or a degree held. True authority comes from God, & it remains with God, & the Messiah was entrenched in every understanding of the word. You & I will encounter people every day who hold temporary authority, & Scripture reminds us as Christians to honor that position, even if the person is hard to respect. David’s son King Solomon said this:

Proverbs 21
1
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;

    he turns it wherever he will.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
    but the Lord weighs the heart.
To do righteousness and justice
    is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
Haughty eyes and a proud heart,
    the lamp of the wicked, are sin.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
    but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue
    is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.
The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
    because they refuse to do what is just.
The way of the guilty is crooked,
    but the conduct of the pure is upright.

As we walk daily under the authority of God, & with Jesus in the rhythms of His grace, we must trust the authority that God has over us all, even while we still show respect for those who hold temporary authority over us. His Holy Spirit speaks to us & within us as Christians, & His authority is right there ready to guide us if we will be still & listen.When we stand before the King of kings, we should do so with reverence & awe & with a fair bit more listening than talking.

People will always let us down & human authority has a tendency to be poorly wielded. But God’s authority is perfect, & He will always point us toward His glory rather than the shallow things we tend to reach for in life. Come now, let us bow down & bend the knee before the Lord our Maker.

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!

Hebrews 11 // Consider faith and seek it out

We have been called into a glorious inheritance and a wonderful promise when we speak of our faith in Jesus Christ. But aside from what we receive, we must consider what may be done with that life of faith for the sake of the One who made that faith possible, tangible and free.

Read, consider and pray:

“1 Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. 2 For our ancestors won Gods approval by it.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by Gods command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible.
4 By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith.
5 By faith Enoch was taken away so he did not experience death, and he was not to be found because God took him away. For prior to his removal he was approved, since he had pleased God. 6 Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.
7 By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family. By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, co- heirs of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
11 By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the One who had promised was faithful. 12 Therefore from one man — in fact, from one as good as dead — came offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as innumerable as the grains of sand by the seashore.
13 These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. 14 Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. 16 But they now desire a better place — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He received the promises and he was offering his unique son, 18 the one it had been said about, Your seed will be traced through Isaac. 19 He considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead, and as an illustration, he received him back.
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come. 21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and he worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, as he was nearing the end of his life, mentioned the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions concerning his bones.
23 By faith, after Moses was born, he was hidden by his parents for three months, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they didnt fear the kings edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaohs daughter 25 and chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the short- lived pleasure of sin. 26 For he considered the reproach because of the Messiah to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, since his attention was on the reward.
27 By faith he left Egypt behind, not being afraid of the kings anger, for Moses persevered as one who sees Him who is invisible. 28 By faith he instituted the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn might not touch the Israelites. 29 By faith they crossed the Red Sea as though they were on dry land. When the Egyptians attempted to do this, they were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after being encircled by the Israelites for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute received the spies in peace and didnt perish with those who disobeyed.
32 And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength after being weak, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead — they were raised to life again. Some men were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection, 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.”

Hebrews 9 // The One who tore the curtain

“6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

I love that God gave us rites and symbols and a rich spiritual heritage that all served as a foreshadowing to the coming of HIs Son and our salvation. I love that He chose to be creative, that He chose to give us glimpses through the fog of our reality into the deeper reality of heaven through those devices. So that these articles in the Tabernacle and Temple weren’t just pointing toward Christ (which would have been more than enough) but that they even pointed us toward heaven which we cannot see or perceive. His care and concern for us amazes me!

What is heaven like? Look at the Tabernacle, then the Temple and then to Christ Himself and His Church and peer through those overlays and layers and seek discernment from God. He has given us so much, not just in the realm of grace and hope, but even to the point of helping to satisfy, in different ways, the curiosities of our hearts and minds. He provided the way through Christ. He shared this with his people through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. He spoke of this through all His prophets and apostles. He has provided us with so much, and yet there is still so much more left se see and perceive and understand and glorify Him through! And once we’re with Him in eternity, serving and worshipping Him? My mind cannot comprehend what it will be to live unending, unaging in the presence of the perfect source of all truth, justice, love, wisdom, beauty, grace and joy.

But in Christ, we have been promised this amazing grace, that He has gone on ahead of us through the curtain, into the Most Holy Place to make atonement for us and then tearing that curtain open, revealing the way to God for all mankind through HIs perfect sacrifice. Our baptism into His death, burial and resurrection is yet another pointing toward God and His grace, another layer in the overlay to point our hearts toward Him. And as we GoLove others in His glorious Name, we do not do so from a thin conviction or a baseless foundation, but layer by layer, we speak from a richness and depth that cannot be lightly spoken or lightly taken when we speak the full Gospel message honestly and with conviction.

Praise God for the richness of HIs love!

Ears to hear

“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
Matthew 13:16-17 ESV

Remember that old saying, ‘familiarity breed contempt?’ As much as it shouldn’t apply to us in regards to our walk with Christ, it almost seems like we allow that unfortunate attitude to take root in our hearts. I love spending time hiking in the mountains, but living in central Kentucky, in the Ohio river valley, there aren’t many mountains to be found. My sister, her husband and their daughters recently moved to Denver, Colorado and are confronted with the majesty of the Rocky Mountains on a daily basis. And while they have been to see the Rockies before this, their move from North Carolina to Colorado still provided an opportunity to experience awe and wonder again at their surroundings when they moved there. It was like seeing it with fresh eyes.

But over time, the Rockies on your doorstep just become part of the landscape, and while you might be occasionally struck with a moment of beauty and an appreciation of their grandeur, they will eventually just become the Rockies on their doorstep if they don’t acknowledge them in their mind and heart.

We should never let the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News of Salvation, become commonplace to us. We need to remember that what we see and hear every week is miraculous, wheat we read about, study and live in is what so many people have longed to hear for so long. Abraham, Isaac & Jacob would love to see what we see, the Kingdom of God finally at hand.
Moses gave up the treasures of Egypt to bring God’s people out of slavery because he was looking forward to what God was going to do, and you and I live in that today (we still wait for its completion, yes) and we have the fullness of His Word given to us.

That is no small thing. Familiarity with God only breeds contempt if we become familiar with the Word, with the Gospel, and then don’t do anything with it. Those who know, but do not act (as James warns against) paint a false image of the Kingdom in their own minds and hearts. It seems boring to them, and it doesn’t mean as much. This is a great loss to them.

Those who have ears to hear, eyes to see and who put God’s Word into practice will never have contempt for it.

Seeing the Kingdom at work will always keep your outlook fresh. Living in what God has planned out for you will always make the landscape looking beautiful and will increase your wonder at what He has done and will continue to do.

The scribes and Pharisees knew the words of God but they didn’t understand the Word of God. They knew it academically, but they didn’t understand it practically. It was all head knowledge and no heart knowledge. It must never be that way for us, because it if does, the eyes and ears of our heart will grow dark and silent, and we will cease to live in love. We will only study it and examine it and we will be robbed of wonder and awe and the mystery of who God is…and that is a sad place to be.

The Gospel, the Kingdom, must be lived. Go live it. Let it be fresh in you and Go Love others so they may see what God is doing and glorify Him in their lives as they come to Him to be saved.