“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 3.1
God is faithful is so many ways to let us know what He is doing. Here in Malachi, 400 years before the coming of Christ to earth, the announcement was made that John the Baptist would “prepare the way before (Christ)” and it happened just like Malachi said it would. Tragically the world was totally unprepared for His coming.
Think about these few simple truths about Christ as we begin the Advent season. (1) When Mary and Joseph came to Nazareth to take care of Joseph’s business as an heir of David, there was absolutely NO room for them to stay. They ended up sleeping in a cattle stall. Can you imagine a king’s son being born in a stable? Kings son’s are born in palaces, not cattle stalls. The world was unprepared for His arrival. (2) When John the Baptist announced, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world,” the world was unprepared for this announcement. While there were many who listened and received Christ as their redeemer, there were far more who saw Him as an imposter, One who was “saying” He was the Son of God, but they were unwilling to accept that. (3) When Jesus was arrested and put through a mock trial, the religious crowd of that day cried out, “We have no king but Caesar.” They were unprepared to recognize Him as the Son of God.
Ready or not, He came, He lived a perfect life, died on a cruel Roman cross, was placed in a borrowed tomb for three days and three nights, and when the women came to anoint His body that third day, the tomb was empty. The stone was not rolled away to let Him out, but to let those on the outside see that “He is not here. He has risen as He said.” You and I need to pay careful attention to what God has said, and about what is next on His calendar. I believe it is called “the Rapture” – the catching away of the children of God to go to be with Him. Just remember, ready or not, He is coming! Just my thoughts …
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12.13
The instructions are clear: “Fear God, and keep his commandments:” For the child of God what does life look like when we “fear God“? I’m convinced that the focus of our lives changes. Instead of always looking for ways to satisfy ourselves, we begin asking God, “What is it you want from me today?” His answer is “everything”; He wants all of us.
In addition to our focus changing, our very purpose for living changes. Solomon reminds us in this verse:“keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” If my “whole duty” is to keep His commandments, then I must go to the place where those commandments are given. When we think of commandments, our minds turn to Exodus 20 and the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses. But for us, we are not under the Law, but under grace. We must still give attention to what God says is important for us. The principles found in the Ten Commandments are certainly Godly instruction for us.
In the New Testament some additional commandments are given. For example, John 13.34: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” This commandment is repeated a number of times in the New Testament. Ephesians 6.2 says: “Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)” Here is an Old Testament commandment repeated for us in the New Testament.
Here is Solomon’s final word for us: “for this is the whole duty of man.” This is not simply a “suggestion,” it is the whole duty of man. When we hear the word “duty” some people respond with, “No body is going to tell ME what to do.” But look at the chain of command here. God gave the commandment to Moses. Paul restated the principle in the New Testament. God has a right to tell His children how to live.
Let’s re-examine our focus and our purpose in life and see if we need to make any adjustments. Turn to God’s Word, seek His face, and listen to His Holy Spirit. If we do these things, we will not fail to do “the whole duty of man.” Just my thoughts …
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Galatians 6.14
These words of Paul to the Galatian Christians give us cause to examine our own lives today. Read these words carefully: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ … ” It is SO easy to want to glory in ourselves when something happens in our lives. But when things are NOT going so good, we begin to look for someone to blame for what has happened to us.
The Apostle Paul spent a substantial amount of time in Roman prisons, but he did not allow his external circumstances to affect his joy and his ability to “glory … in the cross …” Whether he was in chains with a Roman guard on each side or on the street preaching, he gloried “in the cross of … Christ.”
Now see his perspective: “by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” What does it mean to be “crucified” to the world? The only purpose for crucifixion is death. Paul is telling us that he is dead to the world. When someone is dead, nothing that is going on around them has any effect on them. You can say what you want about them and it has no affect. You can do what you want to the body, and it has no affect. Paul is telling these Galatian Christians and us that the world has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to offer him that could possibly make any difference in his life.
Here is the question we must answer: “How are WE responding to this world and all that it offers us?” Are we affected by what people SAY about us? Are we adversely affected by what people DO to us? OR … are we DEAD to the world? To use Paul’s words, have we been “crucified” to the world? Only you can answer that question and the answer is between you and God. Just my thoughts …
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.” Psalm 100.4
While today is Thanksgiving Day, Thanksgiving is really an attitude that should characterize our lives EVERY DAY of the year because of who we are in Christ. We should allow these thought provoking words from the pen of the psalmist to affect the focus of our lives daily, as well as today. “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving … ” Since the presence of God was in the Tabernacle and the Temple, the Israelite realized, “When I pass through these gates, I am in His presence.”
In order of us to grasp the significance of this phrase for us in this New Testament era, let’s look at 1 Thessalonians 5.18: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Our God is WITH us 24×7 because of His Omnipresence. Paul’s instructions here are very practical in everyday life. He does NOT say “for everything” give thanks, but “in everything give thanks … ” If I may be allowed a moment of personal reflection, this year has been a series of one health crisis after another. I had surgery for cancer in April, a minor heart attack after I came home, and then open heart surgery to correct the problems that caused the heart attack. After I healed from that surgery I began a regimen of chemotherapy to battle the cancer. This last week my oncologist said, “You are in remission.” To say that I am rejoicing is an understatement. I can say to you with an honest heart that the Lord taught me this simple but profound truth: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Have I enjoyed every experience? Absolutely not! Have I been able to “give thanks” through these experiences? By God’s grace, “Yes.”
May this DAY of Thanksgiving lead you to a daily ATTITUDE of thanksgiving. Just my thoughts …
“But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15.57
When we look at the context that surrounds this verse, Paul is addressing the believer’s future with regard to death. Beginning in v. 51 he says, “Behold, I show you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, (52) In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” A mystery is something about which we do not know the outcome. We have all watched a movie that was a mystery and we tried to figure out “who did it”. The reason death is a mystery is because we are still alive and have not experienced death yet. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, but we are not really sure all that was involved in that transaction. When Paul speaks of the future, he fully believed Christ could return in his own lifetime. “We shall not all sleep, but … “ When he speaks about all of us being changed, here is where part of the victory lies. Since Christ arose from the dead with a glorified body, WE too “shall all be changed … “ I am looking forward to a glorified body, one that does not have the capacity for pain. Our victory over death is not just possible, but it is certain. Christ became the first fruits of the resurrection. That means that there will be other fruit to follow – that is us. Let’s not get so bogged down with the mundane issues of this present life that we lose sight of the victory that has been promised in the next life. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8.18) Right now – today – allow the Holy Spirit to change the focus of your life to one that is centered in Christ … “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3.2) Once again, these are “just my thoughts …”
“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” 2 Corinthians 9.15
How do you describe Jesus to someone who has never heard of Him. He IS the unspeakable gift. Imagine a conversation like the following. You sit down in a restaurant on a bar stool and you strike up a conversation with the man sitting next to you. You say to him, “Tell me what you know about a man named Jesus.” And he says, “I never heard of him. Tell me about him.” And so you begin with, “He was born of a virgin …” and the guy stops you in mid sentence. “That’s impossible.” You say, “That’s not all. When he was 33 years old he was crucified on a Roman cross, but three days later he arose from the grave.” The guy looks at you and shakes his head. “You think I am going to believe that? You’re nuts.” He gets up and starts to walk away and you shout to him, “But wait. There’s more. When He died on the cross, he did so to pay for your sins and mine. Jesus is the Son of God!” The man stops in his tracks and turns around and sits back down. “I don’t believe that. No one ever loved me that much.”
Do you see the difficulty in attempting to tell about this “unspeakable gift”? How do you tell one who is unsaved about “the power of prayer”? It’s like trying to tell someone how good a cherry pie tastes when you are the only one who has tasted it. Our daily responsibility is to give thanks to God “for His unspeakable gift” and that gift is His Son, Jesus Christ. As we draw near to Thanksgiving Day, would it not be a worthwhile effort on our part to especially give thanks to God for all that He has done for us through the person of His Son? I certainly believe it would be. Just my thoughts …
“O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.” Isaiah 25.1
Isaiah makes a declarative statement in this verse: “O LORD, thou art my God …” That may not seem like much of a declaration to us, but Israel was in a constant state of flux when it came to worshiping Jehovah and worshiping idols. So, Isaiah sets the record straight: “you are MY God.” If someone was watching us in our daily routine, would they look at us and conclude that God was really OUR God? You say, “Of course!” But do we flirt with idolatry during the week and then try to put on a good image on Sunday?
Then Isaiah continues with: (1) “I will exalt thee”, and (2) “I will praise thy name …” How is God exalted in your life? What specific, intentional things do you do that exalt God? God is NEVER exalted in our lives accidentally. That only occurs when we give up exalting ourselves and make a plan to exalt God in our lives. Isaiah’s second statement says: “I will praise thy name … “ Again, praise is NEVER accidental but always something we do intentionally. Think through this past week and ask yourself, “How many times did I intentionally praise God?” Be honest with yourself.
Then Isaiah tells us WHY he has made these two declarations: (1) you have done wonderful things; (2) your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. The question is never, “Has God done wonderful things in my life?” but rather, “Have I RECOGNIZED the wonderful things God has done in my life?” We dare not stray from God’s counsels of “faithfulness and truth.” God’s faithfulness allows us to face the unknown with confidence because we KNOW He is already there. God’s truth allows us to recognize error when we hear it because we have been saturated with THE truth. These are just my thoughts …
“But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” Psalm 3.3
This verse is the answer to the problems the psalmist encountered in vs. 1-2: “LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. (2) Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah”
David’s concerns were very real: (1) how are they increased that trouble me! (2) many are they that rise up against me. (3) Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. He felt as though he was being attacked from all sides. There wasn’t anyone to whom he could turn for help. And THEN he remembered “But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me … “ A warrior under attack needs protection on every side. He realized that God was his shield. I wonder if you and I have come to that realization – God IS our shield too.
The second half of the verse reads: “my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” David said, My glory is not found in myself, but in Him.” Then he describes God as “the lifter up of mine head.” Can you envision God saying to you, “Let me lift your head. Look around you. Things are much better than you have imagined. I want you to see and know that I am everything you need.” These are just my thoughts …
“Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. (4) Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name.” Psalm 63.3-4
One of the things I love about reading the Psalms is the constant reminder that I must praise the Lord. It is not that I don’t already know this, but I need the truth reinforced in my daily life so that I learn to praise God intentionally.
When reading v. 3, one might think the psalmist overstates his case: “Because thy loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.” When you think of the word “lovingkindness” what comes to your mind about God? Lovingkindness is “tenderness and consideration toward others.” When we apply that to God, He IS tender toward us. The very fact that He forgives us because of Jesus’ payment for our sin is an act of tenderness toward us. When you think of how an earthly father treats his children, if he is the right kind of father, he is tender with them. I realize some reading this may have grown up in a home where father was anything but tender, but remember that our Heavenly Father is the PERFECT father. We are blessed to HAVE life because our Heavenly Father acts in lovingkindness toward us.
V. 4 encourages us with two thoughts: (1) I will bless thee while I live, and (2) I will lift up my hands in thy name. The first one SEEMS obvious, but how frequently do we do it? One must THINK about blessing God in order to do it. Sometimes when I am sitting in church and the song we are singing speaks to my heart, I raise my hand “in (His) name” because I am blessed. If raising my hand was simply to impress others, it is an act of vanity and pride. But if I raise my hand, not even aware of others around me, because the Holy Spirit has spoken to me so clearly, then I have lifted my hand in His name. May the Lord help us today to think about the words of these two verses and intentionally praise the Lord and if the occasion arises, lift our hands in His name. Just my thoughts …
“I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will show forth all thy marvelous works.” Psalm 9.1
One week from today will be Thanksgiving Day. We are all probably getting into “Thanksgiving spirit” gradually. But I think the psalmist interrupts us in our “gradual” run up to the official time for Thanksgiving. Look at his attitude: “I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart …” Could we …would we all agree that as Christ followers, EVERY DAY ought to be a day when we praise the LORD with our whole heart? I believe praising God is more than just saying, “Praise the Lord.” I believe that my attitude ought to reflect a praising heart. I believe my actions ought to reflect a praising heart. I believe even my “reaction” ought to reflect a praising heart. A heart filled with praise is difficult to hide. Others NEED to see us when we are in the midst of a battle, whether emotional, spiritual, financial, or any other, and EVEN THEN we choose to praise Him. It is easy to praise God when every thing is going well – the kids are all well, the bills are all paid, we have a tank full of gas, the cupboard is filled with food, and things are going well with the spouse, But when the bottom drops out of any ONE of those things, there goes our praising heart.
Look at the next phrase: “I will show forth all thy marvelous works.” Can I suggest that the only time we forget to praise God is when we have chosen to forget all His “marvelous works”? Everyone reading these words can stop and begin to enumerate the times when God has demonstrated His marvelous works on our behalf. Why, then, do we so easily forget them? Don’t allow Satan to steal your praising heart by simply allowing you to forget God’s marvelous works. Just my thoughts …