Sanctify

Posted: November 26, 2013 in Hebrews

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,” – Hebrews 2:10-11

Sanctify

a:  to make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate.

b:  to purify or free from sin.

c:   impart religious sanction to; render legitimate or binding.

d:  to entitle to reverence or respect.

e:  to make productive of or conducive to spiritual blessing.

f:  to give official acceptance or approval to

 

Since the beginning of time, it has pleased God to bring His sons and daughters into the kingdom.  In Ephesians Paul tells us that God chose us before the foundation of the world; that He predestined us for adoption through Jesus.

There are so many more ways that we as humans might find as more ‘logical’ ways to adopt His children.  Perhaps simply speak it into existence.  Yet, in the Lord’s infinite justice and mercy, He chose to send His son to make a way for us to become His children; to be our founder.

It’s poetically beautiful and magnificent that the way of Jesus was to endure suffering.  Jesus became intimately acquainted with suffering while He was here.  He suffered the weight of God’s judgment for our sin; the humiliation, the brutality of it all.  There are no trials we face that are foreign to Him.

We cannot sanctify ourselves.  Jesus sanctified us with His blood, and He continues to do so with His Spirit.  He becomes our head.  And to think that He did all of this willingly, because we needed a Savior to sanctify us before the Father.

Jesus is not ashamed of us; hopeless sinners that we are.  He does not regret giving us His name, calling us His brothers and sisters.  Despite ourselves, He gave us his official acceptance and approval.  Right now, He prepares a place for all of His children who will lay down their arrogance and pride and accept what Jesus did on the cross.

Embrace the definitions of sanctify.  Realize that they were spoken to your heart; to your soul.  He has rendered us legitimate!

Father, permeate us with the truth of sanctification.  Whisper to our hearts that we are accepted and approved by You.

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Same

Posted: November 26, 2013 in Hebrews

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” – Hebrews 13:8

Same

a:  not changed

b:  being one without addition, change, or discontinuance

c:  unchanged in character, condition, etc.

 

I cannot claim to be the same person I was 10 years ago.  Or five years ago.  Or three years ago for that matter.  My walk with the Lord and with my family in Christ continues to shape and mold me into the person I am becoming.

We can’t find many things that stay the same in this world.  Current events shape who we are and what we think about issues around the globe. Pop culture tells us what to pay attention to.  Even events in our family can change all sorts of dynamics.  We don’t know much that remains unchanged.

I think we sometimes forget that Jesus Christ never changes.  Maybe we think that His definition of salvation has modernized.  Or maybe we think that He has started to rate sins on a scale of evilness.  We impose our own ever-evolving ideas on a Christ who is always the same.

Biblical scholar Matthew Henry writes the following about Jesus being ever the same:

“Christ is the same in the Old Testament day. As in the gospel day, and will be so to his people for ever, equally merciful, powerful, and all-sufficient. Still he fills the hungry, encourages the trembling, and welcomes repenting sinners: still he rejects the proud and self-righteous, abhors mere profession, and teaches all whom he saves, to love righteousness, and to hate iniquity. Believers should seek to have their hearts established in simple dependence on free grace, by the Holy Spirit, which would comfort their hearts, and render them proof against delusion.”

The Jesus who Paul knew so intimately is the same Jesus we can know intimately.  From before the foundation of the world Jesus is the same Savior we place our hope and trust in today.  He is the same Jesus who saves the lost today as He was when He extended His hand to you.

In this world of constant change, Jesus stands as an immovable rock that we can show to a world of sinking sand.

Father, in this ever-changing world, help us remember that you remain the same throughout all space and time.

Assurance

Posted: November 26, 2013 in Hebrews

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1

 

Assurance:

a:  Pledge, guarantee

b:  Security

c:  The state of being sure or certain about something

d:  a strong and definite statement that something will happen or that something is true

   Faith is the cornerstone of the Christian life.  It is what has confused and confounded skeptics and non-believers since the beginning of time.

   Just take Noah for example.  He had the faith to believe that God wanted him to build an ark; that there were floods coming.  He had to build this gigantic vessel amidst the taunts and jeers of his neighbors.  For 120 years Noah built and preached while he was building.  Jesus tells us that the people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark.  And they were swept away.

   Believers embrace hope; we rely on faith.  Faith and hope go hand-in-hand.  It means trusting in the security of God’s promises in Christ to us.  It is an eternal joy of the heart that carries us from day to day; especially when situations are difficult.

   We carry the light of hope into a world that so desperately needs to be permeated by the Lord’s unquenchable fire.  We possess in our very souls the assurance that God’s will is to be done and every knee will someday bow to the King.

   In this, we have the conviction that the Holy Spirit whispers quiet truths to our hearts.  We have the conviction to feed our Holy fire by sharing the joy we have found with those who have yet to hear.  We have conviction to believe that deep truly calls to deep.

   Our task in this lifetime is to hold tight to God’s pledge to us.  Every word in the scripture is true.  Even though we have not seen, we have the assurance that God is here and active, that Jesus went to prepare a place for us, and that He is coming back.  Despite what the world looks like, He has assured us that there is more.

   We have the conviction that what we are told in the bible is truth.  That God set the world into motion and He commands all.

   In truth, this should bring us such unfathomable joy that we must share it with the world.

   Father, I pray that we might build our faith and remember that you have planted the gift of hope in our hearts.  Help us to share that with a hopeless world.

Salty

Posted: November 26, 2013 in Taste & See

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” – Matthew 5:13

Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” – Mark 9:50

Salt

1: a natural white substance that is used especially to flavor or preserve food

2: to season with salt.

3: to cure, preserve, or treat with salt

4: an ingredient that gives savor, piquancy, or zest

 

Salt seems to be as old as time.  Far before it was insinuated to be something that raises blood pressure, it was a staple of daily living.

The Israelites had an unending supply of salt for their needs.  The Dead Sea is rife with it, and after every flood, copious amounts were left along the banks and ditches.

Salt was of course used for preserving food.  There was no refrigeration at that time and salt was a handy substance to retard the spoiling process.  Salt was used to bring flavor to food.  It drew out the taste of their food.  In fact, a meal was not considered a meal without salt. It was used for medicinal purposes; they used to rub newborn babies in it.  God demanded that His sacrifices be covered in salt.  Poignantly, your very body will not function properly unless it has the correct salt to water ratio.

So how can salt lose its taste or its saltiness?  It can be contaminated with a foreign substance; dirt or dust.  It can become unusable and not fit for any use.

Contaminated salt could not be used for anything.  It couldn’t be tossed anywhere except the roads where people walked, to keep the dust tamped down.  Therefore, it was trampled underfoot.

So if God demanded His sacrifices covered in salt, and we are to be living sacrifices, then we need to have salt in ourselves. We are to be cured; to remove any contaminant from ourselves.  Likewise, we are not to be contaminated by the world.

Salt is meant to flavor our lives.  Salt brings out the zeal and passion of the many layers in God’s word and God’s heart.  Salt seasons our hearts and gives us the desire to draw people to Him.

Salt is never sugar.  It is not meant to sweeten the truth, or to drug us into complacency.  Rather, it is to bring out our flavor.  In truth, this message cannot be emphasized enough.

Do you feel dull?  Do you feel bland or as if God’s word doesn’t hold anything for your life?  Check your salt level.  If we lose our heart for God, then we will be destined to be trampled by the world.

We are called to preserve the truth in this world.  We are called to bring flavor into a flavorless world.  We are called to be God’s living sacrifices.  Life out your calling with zeal and be savored.

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Colossians 4:6

Banquets

Posted: November 26, 2013 in Taste & See

“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid.  But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.  For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” – Luke 14:12-14

Repay

1: to make return to in any way

2: to reward

 

   The verses immediately following these are some of the most beloved for those who don’t feel like they’ve got it ‘all together.’  It is Jesus’ parable about the Great Banquet.  Jesus tells the story about a great banquet a man was giving.  Everyone who had received the invitation refused to attend when the time was ready.  The excuses they made were flimsy and not believable.  Upon hearing this, the man became furious and told the servants to go out onto the streets and bring in every poor, crippled, blind and lame people they met.

   Just as it would be a challenge for a person living on the outskirts of humanity getting cleaned up and attending a great banquet, so it would have been for these people when they walked through the doors and their eyes landed upon the spread before them.

   It is the people who think they don’t need anybody except themselves who reject God.  They think they can make excuses, or push it off for another day.  They feel no guilt or remorse at rejecting an invitation.

   One day in every person’s life it will be time to make a decision.  Some will give poor excuses as to why they can’t make it.  Other will gape in astonishment at all that the man has provided for them.  Like those people in the parable, they will be both grateful and astonished at the love and joy waiting for them at the table.

    The man in the parable is of course is the Lord.  He casts off the ones who reject Him, and sweeps up everyone who thinks they’re too broken to be noticed. It is those people that God loves, the ones who know they can’t do much on their own.  The ones who have already knocked down their façade of order and perfection; these are the people who God cherishes.

   So too, are we to act in this matter.  God doesn’t want us to remain in our comfort zone, with people who we know to be safe.  He tells us to go to the people who cannot repay us, but rather who need physical and spiritual food and relief.

   God promises to repay us for what we do in our lifetime.  He knows if we reached out to the world with the mercy and grace of the Lord.  He knows if we shelter ourselves in our busy lives; making excuses for our lack of desire to spend time with Him.

   Jesus is preparing a great feast for those who love Him.  Our part is to extend the invitation to everyone who is reaching for one.  And there will be great rejoicing one day when we all pull up a chair.

“It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it…but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken.” – Micah 4:1.4

Establish

1:  to make firm or stable

2:  to introduce and cause to grow and multiply

3:  to bring into existence:  found

4:  to put on a firm basis:  set up

5:  to gain full recognition or acceptance of

6:  to put beyond doubt:  prove

“…they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree…” This was a blessing in biblical times.  Fig trees were a sign of comfort and security.  Figs took a long time to grow; they need plenty of care and nurturing.  So if someone had a fig tree they could sit under, it would mean that they had been on that land for quite a while, and that fig tree had become a symbol of prosperity.

    Fig trees were the only identified tree in the Garden of Eden. The leaves were used to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness, which would seem to foreshadow God’s continuing provisions for His people.  When God gave the Promised Land to the Israelites, God mentions vine and fig trees as being a part of the good land He was giving them.  In 1 Kings, it talks about the time when Israel and Judah lived in safety, under their own vine and fig tree.  The fig tree blossoms with good fruit when people are walking with God.

    Conversely, fig trees are also used as an indication of judgment upon the people.  In Joel 1:12 the vine is dried up and the fig is withered.  In Habakkuk 3:17 the fig tree no longer buds. Perhaps the clearest indication of how God used figs is found in Jeremiah 24, where God declares two judgments upon the people of Judah.  Jesus even curses the fig tree for not being fruitful.  It wasn’t just because He was hungry and there was no fruit.  It was an indication that the people still had no faith, even though there was every sign that their Messiah was present. The fig tree withers when there is rebellion.

    Two more important references:  In Matthew 24:32, Jesus tells us that when the fig tree’s branches become tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near and that the King is coming.  In Revelation 6:13 John compares the end of the ages as like, “a fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale.”

    These verses in Micah are referring to when everything is over; when God establishes His kingdom on earth.  God’s promises have been realized!  He has stood by His word and we have been restored and redeemed!  Everyone will want to come home to the house of the Lord!

    These promises should lift your heart to the heavens.  If God says it, it will come to pass.  God will restore those who believe.  We will be blessed; joyful and content while singing and praising the Ancient of Days.  God’s will cannot be moved or thwarted, and His foundation will be impenetrable.  And every one of us will have our own vine and fig tree, and we will not be afraid.

I am the apple of His eye.

Posted: November 26, 2013 in Taste & See

“But the LORD’s portion is his people… “He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.” – Deuteronomy 32:9-10

 Eye

1:  an attentive look

2:  close observation:  scrutiny

3:  point of view, judgment

4:  the faculty of intellectual or aesthetic perception or appreciation

   Of course we all know the traditional sense of the word eye; the photosensitive retina in the middle of an orb that allows us to see.  That’s not the definition that I want to focus on, nor is it the definition that God wants us to know.

   These verses are recounting the early days of the Israelites.  They are found in the Song of Moses.  They were among the last things Moses said to them before he died and they went on to the land that God was giving them.  It was said 40 years after they left Egypt and wandered in the desert.  Moses is reminding them: Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. (v36)

   They originally hadn’t been happy about their freedom.  The land was strange, the food was scarce and their meager comforts were all gone.  But God wasn’t about to just march them into the Promised Land.  He had some lessons for them to learn first.

   They were made to wander in the desert 40 years, learning lessons.  They learned not to fight in battles when the Lord isn’t present.  They learned the Ten Commandments, good rules to follow for life.  They learned the Greatest Commandment; Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  They were handed down laws designed to keep them safe and healthy in these foreign places.

   During this time, the Lord taught them patience, perseverance, dependence and to rely on faith.  Even when the Lord corrected them, it was a lesson to be learned.

   They didn’t remember these lessons, and so often neither do we.  We forget the lessons God has painstakingly taught us. There is no pain, no trial that we go through that God doesn’t know about.  There are pains and trials because we live in a land that is fallen.  We are not complete yet, and we won’t be until we are with Him.  He is attentive to us all the time.  We are never alone.

   In the verses following these, Moses compares God to an eagle with its young.  The baby eagles are content to rest in the nest, until they are forces from their comfort and made to fly.   Perhaps when we go through this life it would be good to remember that we will always be the apple of God’s eye.  And sometimes we need to be nudged out of our nest.