What do we do to keep memories alive and fresh? We keep diaries, journals, and we rehearse orally. Yet, as so often happens, the succeeding generation, just like today, forgets, and the glory days quickly fade from memory. The Israelites were to enter a time of testing that God allowed. He did this “to test Israel…whether they will keep the way of the Lord to walk in it as their fathers did, or not.” [Judges 2:22]
When the older generation passes on, we want to recall the benefits of their wisdom, so we rehearse that we may glean what insight they left us. That is what the Israelites needed. They needed a new commitment to God and His ways. But as so often the case, the hearts of the people failed and became short-sighted. They forgot how God had protected them. The author of Judges asks us to stop and recall the past, where it was when Joshua died, and what happened after and learn the lessons of a fading memory. Recall Joshua’s words: you are disobedient children, and what you say, you will not do. How quickly we forget.
Are we sharing the past with our children? Are we teaching them the lessons of the past? Are we asking: how is this relevant to me today?
Deut 17 God knew the Israelite kings would lose sight of Him because most of their wants were selfish. That is why God gave the king some parameters to keep their focus heavenward, not here on earth. Like the king, the Israelites were not satisfied with just manna. They wanted meat a.k.a. horses, women, and money. That is why God reminded them to not multiply them.
When Jesus came on the scene, people were looking to be fed what the world would give rather than the Bread of Life come down from heaven. In fact, while Jesus served here on earth, he often asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” Not one responded I want to be more like you. Not one responded, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I lack nothing.” Not one responded I am more blessed to give than receive.
It is not wrong to ask God for things because He is our heavenly Father; “All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change.” [James 1:17] God does tell us to ask for His provision in our life as well as other things. However, when we ask with wrong motives, so we may spend it on our selfish pleasures; God is not pleased.[James 4]
Are you prepared to ask God what He wants for you and not what you want?
Is your heart right before God as you enter your closet to pray?
Deut 14 to 16 We set aside different dates to remember various events, and soon we will remember the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord. God set aside dates so the Israelites would recall events in their past and how the God of their provision was a God of promise. It is a privilege to know that one is chosen and elected to serve the most Holy God of the universe; thus, each date is to be a celebration of what God has accomplished.
As we celebrate, may we also remember the poor among us who have little to bring to the altar of sacrifice. We who have much are then to give out of our abundance to supply what the poor lack. We must not “must not harden our heart or be insensitive to his impoverished condition. Instead, open your hand and generously lend him whatever he needs.” [Deut 15:7]
Today many are poor due to extenuating circumstances due to the COVID. Today, some are in our communities, some in our churches, and some are homeless as they have lost all. Our hearts must be open to giving and giving wherever God reveals. We must remember that God is the God of provision, and He has blessed us beyond measure so that we might be able to reach out and touch the lives of those who in need.
Numbers 11 Are you a complainer? Complaining is another way of saying we are ungrateful. The Israelites had left Egypt with an abundance of materials of gold and silver and leaders that led them faithfully. Yet, the people began to be weary and with weariness began complaining. Complaining is like a plague; it infects the whole lot.
Complaining only selectively remembers the past. The Israelites began to recall the past of their lives in Egypt. Complaining is Satan’s favorite tool. He offers the sweet without the sour. He taints our memory to say it was not so bad. He wants you to remember the glory without the ugliness. That is Satan’s tool. It is what we call the selective memory syndrome. Your memory only remembers the good, and glorifies the bad. These Israelites began to think slavery was not so bad after all and began to remember the delicious foods that were abundant. Like them, we forget the ugliness of our sin and forget the price Jesus paid to release us from that sin. Beware of Satan’s tools; don’t fall into his trap and begin to whine with the “oh, woe is me” prayer.
The next time you feel a complaining infection setting in, go to God. Seek His face, seek his forgiveness for your complaining and then watch Him work.
Leviticus 1 to 4 Genesis and Exodus are books of the historical record of the Israelites and the three pictures of His presence:
The hovering cloud by day
The pillar of fire by night
The Tabernacle’s placement in the middle of the camp
Now in Leviticus, we find God calling the people and how to have a personal access to Him through the sacrificial system. Also, it will teach us how to be spiritually acceptable to God with clear instructions on how to be holy and reverent. For the Israelites to be a holy people, they must stop worshiping dead idols, a.k.a. the golden calf, and turn to the abiding, living true God, [1Thess 1:9] Have we also taken this step?
The sacrifices reminded the sinner of the costliness of sin and the needed atonement for forgiveness. The sacrificial system used an animal who became the sinner’s substitute, but now Jesus is our sinless substitute. The animal’s blood paid the price for the sinful person, but the perfect unblemished Lamb of God’s blood cleanses the sinner from all unrighteousness. Sinners transferred their sin to the animal, but now, we transfer our sin to Jesus. We are reminded that we were once dead in our trespasses but now are alive from the dead. Now, as cleansed sinners saved by grace, we are to present our bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is our reasonable service–not in payment for sin but as instruments to be used for righteousness. [Rom 6:13].
Our world is consumed with protecting investments. Seminars are replete with: give me your money and I will invest it and bring you dollars untold. As Paul closes this personal letter to Timothy he leaves him with one charge and it has nothing to do with the investment of money. Instead, he charged Timothy and us in turn, to invest and protect the gospel message. We are to “protect what has been entrusted to [us].” [2Tim 1:14]
He has entrusted us with the precious gospel message. We are to protect it because it is the life-giving message of hope. Practically we protect or guard this investment by being vigilant or intentional to stand firm in the faith. We conduct ourselves as a model of purity and righteousness. We are to be a Christ-like model in speech, conduct, love, faithfulness, and purity being conscious about how we live and what we teach. Intentionally we are to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness.” [1Tim 6:11] And we are to do it until “the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ…” who is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.”[1Tim 6:15-16]
We, who are believers, are charged with being the guardians of the TRUTH. How are we at guarding the investment Christ has left us?
Advent Series #2 1John 3 to 5 Compassion is the trait of sharing and caring for others in their time of need. The Apostle John lived his last years in Ephesus, but his heart is seen for the prisoners he ate, slept, and worked with on the Isle of Patmos. He never mentions that time other than in Revelation, but we can see his heart in this letter.
First, he recalls some have lost loved ones to death, and he mourns with them. He reminds them that if they were believers, they have entered eternity coming face to face with Christ. Don Wyrtzen wrote a hymn that shares this sentiment:
“But just think of stepping on shore-And finding it Heaven! Of touching a hand and finding it God’s! Of breathing new air-And finding it celestial! Of waking up in glory-And finding it home!”
The Apostle John wants us to keep the gospel message alive, and we do it as we “love other Christians.” After years of brutality as a prisoner himself, John could have been bitter. Instead, he comes alongside us to ask: how can you say that the love of God resides in you if you lack compassion for those in need?
It may be Advent, but the message is the same all year round: Christ is the gift God has given to us, and we are to share that gift with others.
When the month of March arrives, we say it came in like a lamb and will go out like a lion or the reverse. This year, due to the pandemic, we might use that same phrase. How will 2020 leave, and how will 2021 arrive? For me, I am ready for a new month and then a new year! In the meantime, as December arrives, I want to ask, are you and I ready to receive the Christ child? Or are we putting him on a shelf?
Many are facing a bleak Christmas and New Year because of illness or loss of a livelihood. Paul is a good example for us because he continued to boast of his relationship with God, even in hard circumstances. Not even a thorn in the flesh, which he asked the Lord to remove, could dampen his spirit. He said I am content with weakness, insults, trouble, and persecution. Also, Paul told the Corinthians, “I boast about you even in my suffering.” Can we say the same?
Advent is a perfect time to stop and reflect on God’s goodness in the midst of a hard time and give God praise. I have put together some Advent devotionals and will share them here each day to help you. It is hoped that with each day, you will join me in giving God praise!
Luke 8:26-39 Dr. Luke uses his pen to share with us that a true disciple loves as God loves and shows compassion as He does. In Luke 8:26-39, the focus is on the principle that works must accompany a disciple’s faith. James shared this same principle: “faith without works is dead.”
Dr. Luke shares the vibrant story of the healing power of Jesus. He removes the stigma of the devil’s works, which are impotent to His power, and as we read this story of the demoniac, we are confronted with the power of sin versus the healing power of Jesus. Jesus’ heart was touched with the compassion and love the Father has for the lost. It is His love that draws him to this Gentile that the question asked by the disciples might be answered: “who is this man?” This is a question Dr. Luke continues to present to his audience and answers through Jesus’ healing, rebuking the wind, and as he reverses the effect of the evil one’s power. In doing so, the disciples are given evidence that “the gospel, …is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” [Romans 1:16]
Lastly, Jesus, full of mercy for the swine herders, leaves them a disciple who is a witness to God’s power lest they say to God that they did not know. They are now without excuse, as Paul noted in [Romans 1:20b]. The healed demoniac is a lesson in discipleship. We are to be God’s witness, and reveal what God has done for us.
Luke 4&5 Are you satisfied with your life the way it is? It seems that those in Israel were, and when Jesus arrives on the scene, they are amazed, astonished, or filled with resentment. Returning to his hometown, he is selected to read from Isaiah in his Nazareth synagogue. The listeners were amazed at the gracious words coming from him—until He explained that God healed those who were Gentiles. In an instant, the listeners were transformed from meek and mild Dr. Jekyll to the evil Mr. Hyde and, in their rage, sought to kill him. Leaving Nazareth, he headed to Capernaum, where three events show he is empowered and anointed to heal by the Spirit. First, he heals a demon-possessed man, then heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever and lastly, he rebukes the unclean spirits. Many are astonished, but not all. Jesus encounters the religious leaders who call him a blasphemer because he forgave a paralytic of his sins. In fact, Luke sums up these amazing, astonishing encounters with this idea; the old is good enough, or as we say, don’t rock the boat.
Do we, too, respond, “The old is good enough;” when we are not ready for Jesus to change us or our situation? Do we feel comfortable with excuses like I am not prepared? Jesus is challenging us to be filled as He was with the Holy Spirit and alter our landscape with His power.