December 8, 2018
GOD’S FIRST RESPONDERS
There are those whose sins have so overcome them that they are as one who thought only to play with fire, yet are now engulfed in flames. God calls us to “rescue” such sinners. Not gently, but boldly “snatching them from the flames.” Our manner is to be guided by the severity of the sin and its imminent outcome. In contrast to the “shameless shepherds” (Jude 12), who only care for themselves, we are to risk our lives to rescue sinners caught in a self-inflicted conflagration. For rescuers often get burned themselves. Yet, we act as the hands of Christ, depending on His gospel and power to rescue.
Then there are those who need our mercy and compassion. Their sins hang on them like filthy clothes. Let us remember what Jesus commanded those who witnessed His raising of Lazarus from the dead, “Take off his grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:44). Such a one may be born again, but still needs help removing the old fleshly garment of sin, which is the old nature. We are to mercifully teach them to put off the old nature and to put on the new.
We are to be as God’s first responders, sometimes as God’s fireman, rescuing sinners from sin’s flames, and other times as God’s paramedics, helping cut away their still smoking clothes.
December 6, 2018
IMMANUEL – GOD WITH US
One of the 15 psalms of ascent, written to prepare the hearts of worshipers as they climbed up to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Entourages of pilgrims like the one that traveled from Nazareth with young, 12-year-old Jesus, would have sung these songs as they came to celebrate Passover.
In this verse, the psalmist revealed his intimate knowledge of Jerusalem, although built on the hills of Zion, Moriah, Bezethah, and Acra, it was surrounded by hills at even higher elevations, such as Mt. Olivet to its East. This gave visiting pilgrims who arrived from the East an excellent view of the Temple Mount, which sat on hills surrounded by valleys and then higher mountains surrounding them. No wonder Jesus loved praying on the Mount of Olives. It gave Him a wonderful view of Jerusalem.
The psalmist compared the mountains that surrounded Jerusalem to the way the Lord surrounds His people. One can almost see him sitting on the Mount of Olives writing this psalm. Indeed, wasn’t it the Spirit of God that inspired him? And wasn’t it Immanuel, the Lord Jesus, who loved sitting in the same spot when He came?
Have you considered how the Lord is with you today?
December 4, 2018
THREE PROOFS OF SALVATION GIVEN BY JOHN
The apostle John gave several “proofs” of new birth for the believer’s assurance. The first proof he gave is that we love each other. For love comes from God. If we don’t love, we don’t know God. The second proof is that God has given us His Holy Spirit “as proof that we live in him and he in us” (1 Jn. 4:13). And the third proof, is that “we declare that Jesus is the Son of God.”
John’s purpose for writing his first epistle was clearly given: “I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13). He wanted us to “know,” to be sure that we are saved.
Do you have this assurance of salvation today?
December 3, 2018
NEW PRACTICES NOT YET PERFECTION
John here describes the fruit of being born again, namely, that those with God’s life in them, no longer make a practice of sin. Sin is no longer their habit. This is not the precondition of salvation. For salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Yet, the fruit of having received this salvation is that the child of God is putting off the old nature with its sinful desires and putting on the new nature, which loves God and neighbor.
There is a positional truth and an experiential truth in view here. First, the believer is already counted righteous before God positionally in Christ. But experientially, that same believer is still working out their salvation in this world, putting off the old man and putting on the new. So, perfection, complete sinlessness, will not be the believer’s experience until the glorified body is received. On that day, position and experience will be the same.
Until that day, let us work out what God is working in us (Phil. 2:12-13), knowing that Christ is our Advocate before the Father and depending on Him to complete that which He began in us.
December 2, 2018
WHAT’S THE TIME DELAY BETWEEN EARTH AND HEAVEN?
The angel Gabriel was sent by God in response to Daniel’s prayer during the time of the evening sacrifice. He said a command was given the moment Daniel began praying. One Hebrew scholar read Daniel’s recorded prayer aloud and noted that it took about 3 minutes.
So, we might conclude that there is no communication delay between earth and heaven when one of God’s precious ones prays. However, the angelic response time seems to be about 3 minutes.
Of course, that theory is tested by the next chapter, when Daniel fasts and prays for 3 weeks (Dan. 10:2). Again, Gabriel informed Daniel that God had immediately heard and responded to his prayer. Yet, this time it took Gabriel 3 weeks to carry out God’s command. For there was spiritual warfare with the “prince of Persia” (Dan. 10:13) that delayed him.
In both cases, the Lord heard and responded to Daniel’s prayers immediately, but the time of the response varied from 3 minutes to 3 weeks.
So, what may we conclude? God hears our prayers and responds immediately, there is no time delay. However, from our perspective, we must continue to faithfully pray, for the arrival of the answer can vary greatly.
November 30, 2018
WHO IS THIS SON OF MAN?
There are two threads of Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament. One, speaks of the Suffering Servant, as in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. The second, of the Victorious King, who would judge the nations and establish His eternal kingdom, as in the verse quoted above. The first advent (“Advent” means “coming” or “arrival”) was announced by angels to the shepherds in Bethlehem. The second advent, according to Jesus, will be announced by “the mighty blast of a trumpet” (Matt. 24:31) and the appearance of the Son of Man in the clouds (Matt. 24:30).
Who is this Son of Man? When Jesus was brought before the Jewish council and the high priest asked, “Are you the Messiah?” Jesus responded, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). Jesus used the covenantal name of God, “I AM” (“YHWH”) and quoted Daniel 7:13 in His response.
Jesus is both Son of Man and Son of God. He has come and He is coming again.
November 29, 2018
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF PRAYER WERE BANNED?
Ask Daniel. Daniel’s story is instructive to those who live as a religious minority under a worldly government. God gave Daniel wisdom to navigate the political tangle of Babylonian and Persian rule and yet remain steadfast to his faith. Even so, he still often experienced persecution and threats to his life.
How do we live out our faith at work or school, when expressing our faith is discouraged by company policies or prohibited by federal laws? As Daniel did, we should submit to the authorities over us, unless they cause us to break faith with the ultimate Authority, our God. Daniel feared the Lord more than the lions. And the Lord rescued him.
November 28, 2018
HAVE YOU SEEN THE WRITING ON THE WALL?
King Belshazzar of Babylon gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels from the treasury that his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. He and his nobles partied, praising the gods of silver and gold as they drank from Jerusalem’s Temple goblets. It was at that moment that a disembodied hand appeared, writing on the wall. The drunken king was immediately sober with fear. The prophet Daniel was summoned to read the unreadable script, which warned Belshazzer of his imminent demise. Daniel reminded the king that he had witnessed the humbling of his forebearer, Nebuchadnezzar, yet he had not humbled himself before God. Instead, he had proudly defied the Lord, even drinking from the sacred cups.
This was not Belshazzer’s first warning. He knew all of the stories and had surely heard the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar concerning the greatness and righteousness of God. Yet, he did not repent. He should have known what was in store for him. Especially, after he saw the “writing on the wall.”
November 27, 2018
WILL WE SEE OLD NEB IN HEAVEN?
This is a most unusual testimony. A pagan king bends the knee and worships the Most High God.
The Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, had defeated Judah, destroying Jerusalem’s walls and Temple. He carried off thousands of Jewish exiles, among them a young man named Daniel. After conquering much of the Middle East, old Neb settled down and turned Babylon into one of the Seven Wonders of the World, its hanging gardens, city walls, and palace, among the richest and most beautiful any where. Yet, in spite of God’s warning through the prophet Daniel to humble himself and stop sinning, Nebuchadnezzar was full of pride and unrepentant.
So God humbled him, making him live like a beast of the field. After a year, old Neb came to his senses and worshiped the Lord. His testimony of the Lord’s righteousness and power has led many to think that old Neb truly placed his faith in the God of Israel. Perhaps he became a true believer. I wonder, will we see old Neb in heaven?
November 26, 2018
LOVE COVERS ALL WITHOUT A COVER-UP
The apostle Peter emphasized the importance of staying together as a Christian community in the face of increasing persecution. The “most important” feature of such a unified community is love. For love doesn’t look for offense or imperfection. Indeed, it overlooks such things, keeping “no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5).
In Genesis 9, Noah’s son, Ham, saw his father’s drunken nakedness and told his brothers about it. However, Shem and Japheth backed into Noah’s tent, covering him with a robe, not wishing to see their father in such a state. Which of the sons acted in love? Wasn’t it the ones who covered their father’s sin?
Peter’s instruction is a reference to the Proverb, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins” (Prov. 10:12). This is not an encouragement to cover-up, compounding one’s sin by lying about it or failing to confront it privately. No, it is a covering of love that patiently seeks to maintain relationship through thick and thin. It looks for the best in others, rather than fault-finding. Love helps the sinner make things right.
It was God’s great love that moved Him to send Christ to be the covering for our sins. For Christ is our covering. His blood has covered our sins. And we are hidden in Him, having “put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27), we are now all one in Him. And since our sins are covered, there is no need to cover-up. We can be ourselves in Christ, knowing that we are deeply loved.