Week 51 – The year ends soon; our reading to know God better, continues into 2019

When Jesus said, “I am the Way” He meant there is NO OTHER way. We can’t do this without Him.. TRUST HIM!

DAY ONE – Luke 14-15

It’s one thing to study the teachings and miracles of Jesus. There is no other like Him in recorded human history. But try as we might to emulate Him, to follow His example, we discover that our humanity keeps interfering. Our desire is not enough to help us over the obstacles. This is why, once again, Jesus instructed His listeners to pick up the pieces of their life (their cross) and follow Him every day. He wasn’t just showing the way; He was PROVIDING the way. Filled with the Holy Spirit, operating in complete submission to His Father, demonstrating heaven on earth, Jesus was creating a portal in His own life through which we would be able to become part of heaven’s family while living here on earth. Here is His take on things: John 6:63 (NLT) The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. Jesus’ words are not to be just studied; they are to be imbibed! We take them into ourselves by welcoming the Holy Spirit who empowered Jesus in His life. Yes, Jesus taught humility, self-giving, sacrifice, loving God, rejoicing over the lost ones who find their way home. He taught on all levels of human behavior and response. But the works He DID was evidence that the Holy Spirit is the ONLY ONE who can accomplish in us what was accomplished in Jesus’ life.

Jesus’ story of the young prodigal who wasted his inheritance and found himself eating with the pigs reveals first of all the abject poverty of spirit that universally abounds in the human arena. According to the prophet Isaiah every one of us has wandered from the Father even as that prodigal. We all left the Father’s house to go our own way and to do whatever we will. Interestingly, the young man ‘came to himself.’ Something in him remembered a better time and a better place: it was his father’s house. Why should he live in a stinking sty when he could be back home with his father? Embarrassment could have kept him away; so could his pride. It’s tough to come home a failure! But what other future is worth considering? So he carefully rehearsed his speech: “Father, I am not worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired servants.” How little he knew the great celebration awaiting him at his father’s house! In some ways we are/were all prodigals; if you are reading this and feeling homesick, rehearse your speech or whatever you have to do; but for pity’s sake, get up and get on your way home to the Father! He’s waiting for you. Welcome the Holy Spirit into your life, and He will be your Comforting Guide.

DAY TWO – Matthew 19, Mark 10:1-31, Luke 16:1-18:30

Jesus came speaking of the Kingdom of God and demonstrating its raw power by the miracles He did. Healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead–all these showed the nature of heaven, where LIGHT AND LIFE PREVAIL over all the dark aspects of our shadow world. Our shadow world needs to be fixed; heaven is already pristine. Our shadow world exalts mankind and showcases our abilities; heaven exalts Creator/Savior God and shows His great love and mercy. Our shadow world is in a state of decay and will pass away one day; heaven is in a state of constant creation and is the wave of the future. Our shadow world is a place of desperation and thus preparation for heaven, AND JESUS ASKS US TO FOLLOW HIM THERE! He taught voluminously about the things that keep us from God and mess up our world, then turned right around and said that the things that make it impossible for us to enter heaven are no match for God– “With God all things are possible!” Forget trying to fix yourself. The rich young man who broached the subject with Jesus discovered the only thing between him and heaven were his possessions; but then he was sad because he couldn’t part with them! A rich life here was more to him than heaven! Faith and trust in Jesus is the only human quality that transcends the shadow world and opens heaven’s possibilities to our consciousness. Only when we believe who Jesus is; what He did; and what He asks of us, are we able to generate the kind of faith that surrenders to the powers of heaven and puts us on a new course with eternal life.

Luke 17:20-21 (NLT) “…The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. 21 You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.” Every day as you and I make our way in this shadow world, the Kingdom of God is present and working around us. Every day people of faith in Jesus go about their business, doing the works of Christ, and you never notice them. But heaven does! Jesus is still making heaven real in this world through His faithful followers. But unless you start to believe in Him and trust Him with your life, heaven will just pass you by, and you will, like the rich man in Jesus’ story, wake up one day startled to realize you totally missed it! Is there really anything in this shadow world that is so important it should keep us from heaven, and from our Father who is there? Everyone has to decide that for himself.

DAY THREE – Matthew 20, Mark 10:32-52, Luke 18:31-19:27

When Jesus teaches about the Kingdom of Heaven, everything seems upside down and backwards! The man who invests his master’s money and increases it ten times is given even more. The first seem to be last, and the last are first. The servant receives high honors, and those who serve most are considered the greatest. And finally, in order to be given the glory He deserves, the Son of Man will be betrayed into the hands of religious leaders who will condemn Him and turn Him over to the Romans to be crucified. What kind of Kingdom is this? And why is the Master going to die instead of ascending His throne? And why is the Kingdom now but not yet? Why can’t the disciples take places of royal honor as a reward for following their King? The answers lie in the very nature of this world and the Kingdom of Heaven. Heaven was first, before this world. Yahweh God placed a piece of heaven into the newly created world, and it was called the Garden of Eden. The first humans to live there enjoyed unparalleled creativity and peace. But forced to leave the garden, they entered a world that IS ACTUALLY UPSIDE DOWN AND BACKWARDS! Everything was suddenly difficult; they experienced sweat and pain. Their bodies began to age and would lead to eventual death. The first son born to this couple murdered his brother and became a wanderer. Everything right about heaven began to go missing on earth; this lasted four thousand years. Then Jesus came–heaven on earth. Miracles occurred; people were healed and forgiven; hope was born anew. Jesus totally upset the status quo as He asked people to follow Him. And when they did, He prophesied that He would be killed but would rise again. The Kingdom of Heaven seemed far away without Him.

Everything wrong with earth is right in heaven. Though He lived here only a short time, Jesus left the priceless deposit of His own life, which He took up again in the resurrection. He left the witness of His miracles and teachings to point the way for His followers. And He left the hope that all He had done was NOT LOST but simply planted into the soil of this world to spring up again in us His followers. He asked them then to trust Him and have faith in Him, and He is asking us today to do the same thing–trust Him and have faith in Him. You see, Jesus didn’t start a religion; He started a revolution of LIFE, to be followed by eternal life in the eternal Kingdom of heaven.

DAY FOUR – Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, John 11:55-12:11, Matthew 21:1-22, Mark 11:1-26, Luke 19:28-48, John 12:12-36, 2:13-2

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT) For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. Acts 1:6-7 (NLT)  So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” 7 He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know…” A woman worships Jesus by breaking a box of expensive perfume and pouring it on his feet. People grumble because it could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus’ reply? You will always have poor people around, but I won’t always be here; her timing is perfect! Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey to fulfill an ancient prophecy. His timing is impeccable! Jesus tells the disciples that the time has now come for the Son of Man to enter into His glory. But first He has to die! Should He shrink away from this hour, from this terrible time of testing? But He came for just this time. Then He says: John 12:31 (NLT) 31 The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. Can anyone improve on God’s timing?

In the process of revealing these things and working His final miracles before His passion, Jesus taught the disciples a lesson about faith. It happened when He approached a fig tree one morning to get something to eat. There were no figs on the tree, so Jesus cursed it, and it almost immediately withered from the roots and died. Questioned by the astonished disciples, He startled them even further by declaring that if they had any faith at all, they could literally move a mountain; but they would have to believe in their heart that their faith was real. How important is it that we stop worrying about the times and seasons and live our lives every day, full of faith in Jesus! If the Father in heaven perfectly timed Jesus’ coming to earth; if He timed Jesus’ life–His miracles and teachings–perfectly; and if He timed His death and resurrection to perfection; then cannot we trust Him with the seasonal movements of our life here? If you ask me what time I think it is, I will reply “It’s GOD’S TIME!” Our Father in heaven really is in charge of the seasons. In so many words, Jesus said, “Look, just follow me. Follow the Father’s leading; follow the Holy Spirit who is guiding you. Stop being so concerned about timing; it’s all planned in the Kingdom of God. So get back to your life of praise and thanksgiving; get to work in My harvest. Now is the RIGHT TIME for that.”

DAY FIVE – Matthew 21:23-22:14, Mark 11:27-12:12, Luke 20:1-19, John 12:37-50

Authority is a powerful word. Typically it is given, or assigned to a person by a governing authority. But nobody could figure out where Jesus got His authority. In His days the Jewish religious leaders operated from their positions of authority granted by Moses over a thousand years before. Whether or not they deserved it, or used it properly, seemed to not be important to them. What was important was that they HAD it and could more or less do as they pleased. So when this ‘upstart,’ as they must have fancied Jesus to be, appeared and taught ‘with authority,’ and did miracles of all kinds ‘with authority,’ they were not only offended that He didn’t seek their approval, but also that His effectiveness threatened their little world! No wonder they challenged His authority and demanded that He explain His position. Failing in their attempt, they plotted to defend their own tenuous positions by killing Jesus. But He relentlessly pursued and exposed them before the hapless crowds who were swayed by their own superstitions and ignorance. Through the story of the vineyard owner’s terrible losses at the hands of tenant farmers, Jesus clearly showed that their challenge to His authority was actually a challenge to God’s SUPER AUTHORITY! And as John wrote, He put the ‘coup de grace’ on their wickedness and superficiality.

John 12:44-50 (NLT)  Jesus shouted to the crowds, “If you trust me, you are trusting not only me, but also God who sent me. 45 For when you see me, you are seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. 47 I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. 48 But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken. 49 I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50 And I know his commands lead to eternal life; so I say whatever the Father tells me to say.”  Today’s world says, “Don’t trust authority.” But into this milieu the words of Jesus literally shout at us: “Trust me; trust God. On a day yet to come my words, my miracles, will be your judge. The RAW TRUTH I lived and spoke will judge you. So don’t be deceived by the world’s authority and its deceptions. I have come to save you.” The POWER Jesus displayed proved His AUTHORITY. It’s the same authority He gave His disciple/followers to go out and heal the sick and cast out demons. It’s the same authority He is giving us to be His followers and do His works in our days. Child of God, make yours a powerful and happy day as you share Jesus with our world.

Week 50 – Reading and Discovering God in the glorified life of Jesus

Three imperatives of following Jesus at a high level of committed living..

DAY ONE – Matthew 16, Mark 8:11-9:1, Luke 9:18-27

There are moments in life when things start to turn, and not always for the better, as we might view them. After getting from His disciples a confession that He was indeed the Messiah (the Christ), Jesus explained to them that a period of intense suffering was about to commence for Him, and that it would lead to His death. He did say that on the third day He would rise again. If you are a follower of Jesus, that isn’t good news, and Peter reacted badly. It was then that Jesus confronted them with the true cost of following Him: you have to let go of your selfish ways, take up your present life (your cross) as it exists, and be ready to faithfully move on with the Lord. Following Jesus is a bit like the traditional marriage vow: “…for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health…” If we can find it in our heart to do that, then we can better understand that following Jesus is not a rose garden in full bloom! Sometimes we are led through the valley of death. Since this world is really just a shadow of the one to come; and since this world is in a passing state, one day to be no more; how much should we embrace the life we are given and seek to live in a blessed state of thanksgiving and prayer? Luke 9:24 (NLT)  If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.

“Life” in English is expressed through three different Greek words; the one used here by Jesus means surrendering our will freely to God, and living in that state of surrender. Hard to do? Oh, yes, especially when our culture tells us we deserve to be ‘happy’ and to be ‘blessed’ and to have and do what we want! Doesn’t God want us to be happy? Jesus said what He really wants is for us to NOT PERISH! That means He wants us to find eternal life and follow Jesus to heaven so that we have eternal joy and happiness. Jesus let it be known that God’s will for Him was to die for the sins of the world so that He could save all who come to Him. All of the gains and blessings we can have in this shadow world may make life more ‘happy,’ but these don’t last forever. Better to accept all, knowing that the Lord sees all and works all things together for our eternal good. This is not ‘pie in the sky,’ as some say, but doing God’s will carries the promise of heaven gained in God’s good time.

DAY TWO – Matthew 17-18, Mark 9:2-50, Luke 9:28-56

Anyone given a large assignment with a deadline knows that it will require the utmost vigilance and perseverance to complete. Jesus Christ had a ginormous assignment and fairly short deadline to bring heaven to earth and instill God’s wonderful plans into the hearts of His followers. A glimpse into the process finds Jesus up on a mountain with Peter, James and John, having gone there to pray. What the disciples saw rocked their world, and each one years later talked about the impact on his own life. The glory of God, by the Holy Spirit, appeared as if on Jesus as shining light and whiteness. It appears that He became somewhat transparent, so that the inner glory of God was on His outward countenance. In this rarified atmosphere, the three disciples also had a glimpse of Moses and Elijah, who had lived on earth centuries before. Is there any question why this band of brothers would be willing to lay down their lives for Jesus in years to come? So He talked to them again about dying and rising from the dead. Back down off the mountain, in the presence of a demon-possessed boy and his father, Jesus rebuked the disciples for their little faith and wondered how long He had to put up with them? “Prayer…” He said. “This kind comes out only by prayer.”

So, with Jesus glorified and with the Father, and with the Holy Spirit present with us as Jesus’ representative and on His account, I ask myself, “Ray, what vigilance and perseverance are needed to live out your life and to glorify Jesus?” If I follow Jesus at the level of my commitment, I know there are several things required, so I list them–

  1. The voice from the cloud instructed the three disciples to listen to Jesus, the Beloved Son of God. I must listen to Him every day as I read the Word and relate to Holy Spirit.
  2. I must pray, pray, pray–not ‘on the clock’ kind of prayer, but ‘let’s do life together’ kind of prayer. God’s glory is resident in me as it was in Jesus through the Holy Spirit, and it’s ALL OR NOTHING!
  3. Finally, the world system lies under the influence of the evil one, meaning that the demons run rampant, persecuting and torturing whomever they can. I must bring peace, salvation and deliverance as often as I can, any place I can. I can do this. MY FAITH IS STRONG! I write today’s INSIGHT with great earnestness of spirit. I encourage you, my brothers and sisters, to step up.

DAY THREE – John 7-9

These three chapters are filled with the beauty of truth and miracles. But they are also replete with the ugliness of hatred and unbelief. Jesus is from God, and the Father has taught Him well. No one can find fault with Him without violating the truth. On the other hand, the Pharisees and religious leaders, hiding behind their claims of being Moses’ disciples, make no pretense of their hatred for Jesus. Calling Him names, ridiculing His teachings, ostracizing those who believe in Him–they are heaping to themselves sad consequences in the days to come. At the festival in Judea Jesus boldly stepped forth and taught in the temple, revealing His unique relationship with God in heaven. His confident claim was, “God is my Father…. He sent me here to make Him known to you…. If you believe in God, you will also believe in me…. If you claim to know God, then you will also know me as well; otherwise your claim to know God is false, which is why you will never hear or understand my teachings.” And so it went on, and the conflict deepened, and the hatred of the Pharisees grew by degrees. Healing the blind man, Jesus forced them to declare themselves so that their fate would be sealed. He also exposed their bigotry and hypocrisy to the masses of the people who were beginning to see the light and believe in Jesus. There was no middle ground then; and there is no middle ground now.

The Father in heaven sent Jesus into the world to reveal that God was ready to implement His great saving plan; that all who believe in His Son will be saved eternally. Israel was always the womb of God’s plans. Salvation was birthed in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. Salvation was revealed through the life and teachings of Jesus. Miracles were the proof of His claims; and the following that came alive in His disciples became the early model that has been with us for over two thousand years! Yes, this evil world system, filled with its own corruption, continues to hurl abuse on Jesus and His followers. The truth is still maligned, hatred and vitriol still spew from its innards. Yet the light and love of Jesus, accompanied by His grace and mercy which He demonstrated in life, still attest to His truth and righteousness. It will never be any easier to follow Jesus than it is now; and it will never be any harder to follow Jesus than it is now. The question is, DO WE BELIEVE IN HIM? And yes, those of us who do believe in Him, follow Him, regardless. As conflict escalates in our culture, let’s double down with our own love, grace and mercy!

DAY FOUR – Luke 10, John 10:1-11:54

The Lord chose seventy-two ‘other’ disciples. These are other than the twelve first chosen. And they are not even named! Who were they? According to Jesus, they were ‘workers.’ He was sending them into His Father’s harvest. They were sent in pairs, so that meant they could reach at least thirty-six more places in preparation for Jesus’ eventual visits. But more than that, Jesus said in John 10 that they are his ‘sheep.’ Wow! Suddenly this becomes very personal. In eastern cultures, shepherds know their sheep intimately and can identify the personal characteristics of each one! When flocks mingle at the watering troughs, the shepherd will use his distinctive call to separate them from the others. They will come back to Him! They know His voice! John 10:9-10 (NLT)  Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. Jesus’ mission, our mission, is to live in the abundance of His life and to make the Kingdom of Heaven our life message. Does the Father in heaven make a distinction regarding the ‘sheep’? Listen: John 10:27-30 (NLT) 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.” Jesus is talking about you and me, His disciples. We are included because we follow Jesus and respond to His voice. But that’s not all… John 10:14-16 (NLT) 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd. That’s us! This has gone around the world since Jesus rose from the dead; the flock is international; it’s everywhere! Hell hasn’t been able to stop it, and the Father knows every one of us. Be proud of your heritage as a follower of Jesus; you are loved and special, even if people don’t know who you are. And by the way, we will likely meet the seventy-two ‘other’ disciples when we explore heaven.

DAY FIVE – Luke 12:1-13:30

I expect that in my half century-plus of preaching and teaching, I have commented on just about everything at least once! But if you heard me over a long period, you would have picked up major themes which keep surfacing year after year as I grow in wisdom and knowledge. Today, solidly in my senior season, I am mostly consumed with the Kingdom of Heaven versus the passing fancy of this ‘shadow’ world. No longer having to actively pursue a career, my family five generations deep, content with what I have… passion for the Lord and following Jesus is what keeps me going and growing. As Jesus moved closer and closer to the final confrontation which would finish His earthly mission, He zeroed in on major issues which kept people apart from God. He singled out hypocrisy, greed, vanity, over-concern with the basic necessities of life, and misunderstanding of how God works in our world. If only He could get people to believe, to have faith, to trust His Father-God in heaven. If only they would stop focusing so much on the temporal and pursue the eternal, if only…. Then comes this: Luke 12:49 (NLT) “I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! Wow! Did the disciples look at one another, then back at Jesus? Did He just say what we think He said? He wants to set the world on fire? Yes, friends, without the fires of heaven that come from the Holy Spirit, our world becomes the same old same old, and God and heaven are marginalized further and further from our culture centers. Jesus wanted to make heaven real. He wanted to put the temporal and eternal into perspective. He wanted to turn the world’s attention to the Heavenly Creator / Savior. And He desperately wanted to raise up a band of people who would follow Him and take His message worldwide. In order to accomplish all this He laid Himself open to criticism, accusation, growing hostility and death. He was ready to give it all up to His Father / God in order to get it back in the eternal ages of heaven. My wife and I were discussing the lyrics of Isaac Watt’s great hymn recently, and it is my answer to Jesus’ yearning to see the world divided–to see people forsake the ‘shadow’ world in favor of the real, to embrace Jesus and let go of temporal security in favor of the Kingdom of God. “Must I be carried to the skies / On flowery beds of ease, / While others fought to win the prize / And sailed through bloody seas?”*  Jesus followers, love one another as we honor the Savior who did it all! (*https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/468)

Week 49 – As I am reading thru the Bible, I am astonished how GOOD God is!

Holy Spirit is our true source of spiritual life and power to live here. It’s time to WELCOME Him!

DAY ONE – Matthew 12:22-50, Mark 3:22-35, Luke 8:19-21, 11:14-54

Our story a couple of readings ago included the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ wonderful textbook lesson on how to live in our world. Today we are treated to open, hostile confrontation between the religious leaders/teachers, and Jesus. It started with a miracle–Jesus healing the man blind and mute. In the process he cast out a demon, which was met with a caustic rebuke from a Pharisee. Jesus immediately responded to all who were listening that some sins are forgivable, including criticism of Messiah. But He made clear that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be met with the utmost calamity. Who was present when God created the world? The Holy Spirit. Who imbued and emboldened men of God through the centuries who did exploits, wrote the scriptures and gave God’s messages to Israel? The Holy Spirit. And who filled John the Baptist for His work of announcing Messiah? The Holy Spirit. Finally, under and through whose power was Jesus Himself teaching, healing, casting out demons and preaching the Kingdom of God? The Holy Spirit. Jesus recognized this confrontation as the same old Satan-inspired vitriol that has been rearing its ugly head in human behavior since the beginning of human conflict. Here it was, alive and active in the religious leaders! No wonder our Lord took such great pains to identify the source and make a big deal about it. It is a big deal! As humans, we are responsible for the atmosphere of earth in which we live our lives and go about our business. Humility and repentance properly relate us to our Creator, who sent Jesus to live with us and show us not only the Kingdom of Heaven, but the road to access the kingdom. The Holy Spirit responds to our repentance and our efforts to find God in our world. He helps us, leads us and connects us to the Lord. He then resides in us to further God’s works of grace until we are ready to live in heaven with our Savior. How we should welcome the Holy Spirit into our lives, for John the Baptist early on exclaimed about Jesus, “He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit!” Jesus is not just some good man who lived in history and left us a great example. He is God the Son and Son of God; we must deal with Him. We will eventually see Him in His glory and realize how much He loves us and did for us. He is looking for an open heart to fill. Is yours open today?

DAY TWO – Matthew 13:1-53, Mark 4:1-34, Luke 8:1-18

What could be more natural than planting seeds in a garden? In fact, in our story today Jesus talked of a farmer who, instead of planting seeds, scattered them over his prepared ground, corner to corner throughout his plot. In rocky soil some of the seed had absolutely no chance of producing a harvest. So Jesus simply described what might happen to the scattered seed, all the while knowing the erstwhile farmer needed and wanted his crop to thrive if his family was to have food. Explaining later to his disciples the elements of the story, He cleared up any mystery. It’s all about HOW WE HEAR when God speaks. When and how does the Lord speak to us? Hebrews 1:1-3 (NLT) Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 3 The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. Jesus is the Living Word of God speaking down through the ages to every soul who will listen. It’s not about church, or religion, or culture. It’s about the Holy Spirit scattering Good News seeds throughout the world through every individual who is following Jesus and is His listening disciple. Jesus’ followers, in essence, all carry a bag of seed, from which are scattered kind thoughts, smiles, good works, patient suffering, and evidences of heaven on earth. They believe in God’s creative power to release the life that is in the seed, to see to its mysterious ability to grow, and to produce the crop at the end of the cycle. They go about their business faithfully and persistently, realizing that the results are in the hands of our Creator. But they continue to HEAR HIS WORDS in their heart, and they continue to display the goodness of God.

So those who LISTEN WELL are world-changers. Those who LISTEN WELL are reproducers. And those who LISTEN WELL are accumulating an eternal harvest of blessing which they continue to share with their world. It’s not rocket science; it’s faith at work, love from the heart, and humble dependence on the Savior whose voice is still speaking.

DAY THREE – Matthew 8:18-34, Matthew 9:18-38, Mark 4:35-5:43, Luke 8:22-56, 9:57-62

Whole books have been written about Jesus’ miracles. I have wondered and marveled my whole life, along with other amazed believers, at the power, the compassion and the love of Jesus. Simply, THERE IS NO ONE LIKE HIM! Disease, demons, sickness, weather–everything IS subject to His authority; I avoided saying WAS, for Jesus IS THE SAME now as then. When the astonished disciples looked on in amazement, asking what kind of man Jesus was, after He calmed a raging sea, Jesus asked them simply, “Where is your faith?” He was serious. Evidently His disciples should have that kind of faith? And then I realized how much damage sin did to the human race. Instead of being able to handle, as Jesus did, the problems of death and dying, we work and struggle to overcome, often in the face of mounting odds. Jesus knew no sin; therefore He did not have to live with the debilitating effects of sin in His person. As He saw in the multitudes the suffering, the wasting, the confusion, it filled Him with compassion, and He wanted to raise an ARMY of people like Him to go throughout the world to bring healing and peace. Praying to His Father in heaven, Jesus pled for more disciples to do this great work. He asked us to do the same. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.” But let’s ponder the question, “Where is your faith?” Indeed. We know that faith is more than wishful thinking, more than hopeful prayers. As we will read later, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, proof of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT). But that’s not what He asked. He said, “Where is your faith?” Where is it? Where did you put it? Every day I must ask myself, “Ray, where is your faith today?” And every day, the answer will be the same, “My faith is IN a person; it is IN Jesus.” Jesus asked His disciples to put their faith in Him; but then they had to discover who He was. So He showed them, over and over, who He was and what He did through the power of the Holy Spirit. And He taught them, again and again, that He and His Father in heaven were of one spirit and mind, committed to overcoming sin’s power and even death, to bring healing and peace to the world until heaven could finish its great work. And He asked us to get involved in His good work, promising His followers all that we need to SERVE OTHERS AS HE DID. Who is Jesus? God the Son and Son of God. He showed us how to live and move and grow our faith as we live IN and THROUGH Him by Holy Spirit’s power and grace. Take your greatest challenge to Him today; let your faith IN Him create your plans to overcome.

DAY FOUR – Matthew 10, 14, Mark 6:7-56, Luke 9:1-17, John 6

The Gospel books, Matthew through John, certainly do record the deeds of Jesus and reveal who He is. But that’s not all–they also contain Jesus’ highly intentional revelations about the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, with instructions to His disciples to begin their kingdom work. In order to accomplish this, Jesus did several things..

  1. He gave them authority in His name and sent them out to heal the sick while preaching the Good News.
  2. He further demonstrated the ebbs and flows of life after John the Baptist was killed.
  3. He walked on the water, miraculously fed five thousand, and traveled to several venues, growing their faith in Him.
  4. He in more than one instance revealed the cost of being His disciple, shattering their misconceptions.
  5. He watched some disciples walk away and didn’t try to detain them, instead asking the twelve what they wanted to do.
  6. He exposed the selfish and self-centered motives of the crowds, refusing to be taken as their king.
  7. He discerned between life in the ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit,’ revealing the true way to walk with Him.

We are at a critical point in our investigation into the life of Jesus. We must decide WHAT TO DO with Him. “Do you also want to go away?” He asked the twelve. Realizing that only He had the words to eternal life, they wanted to stay and press on with Him. Granting their wish, He also pointed out that one of them was a devil–the one who would eventually betray Him. So we do have to decide–do we stay with Jesus? Do we commit to the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, leading us to the eternal Kingdom? Do we pay the price of being His disciple, or try to find an easier way? Do we put our complete faith and trust in Him as we grow in Him? Remember, He made it clear that to believe in and follow Him might put us at odds with members of our own loved family. What to do? Are we worthy of Jesus? We are if we have decided that to love and serve Him is to BE VALUED ABOVE ALL other interests. Find those friends who are true disciples and work together for HEAVEN ON EARTH! It’s really a win-win.

DAY FIVE – Matthew 15, Mark 7:1-8:10

The Pharisees question Jesus:  “Why do your disciples disregard the tradition of the elders? For they don’t wash their hands when they eat.” Jesus questions the Pharisees: “Why do you also disregard the commandment of God because of your tradition? So the REAL question is: Who decides the order of things? Who decides what is important to God? Which came first–the commandment or the tradition? When Moses received the Ten Commandments to give to Israel, it was part of the Law covenant Yahweh God struck with them. A thousand years later they mostly disregarded the commandments, holding to the traditions handed down to them, regardless of what God thought. At the beginning of the relationship, the Lord said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” Once again Jesus cut straight to the issue at hand, for He made clear that the Jewish traditions employed to judge Jesus and His disciples were mostly irrelevant. And once again, religion as a way of life pales before the relationship our Lord wants to have with us. It’s all about the heart–a good heart is the source of goodness. An evil heart is the source of evil, and everything coming out of an evil heart defiles the very atmosphere in which we live. So we often, according to Jesus, place so much emphasis on the body and mind that we forget the condition of our heart!

When Jesus spoke this parable He said, “Listen.. If you can!” Then He had to explain the whole thing to His disciples in order to correct their way of seeing things; for the Jews found the piety of the Pharisees compelling. Jesus saw it as disgusting and misleading, for it left the evil heart covered over with pretense. We must change the way we think about religion in order to truly follow Jesus. The only true religion is the one Apostle James mentioned: James 1:26-27 (WEB)  If anyone among you thinks himself to be religious while he doesn’t bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is worthless. 27 Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. And to live this way our hearts must be cleaned up and produce the goodness our Lord desires. By now we must believe that Jesus is most certainly up to something important; let’s follow Him some more to see where He is leading.

Week 48 – We have turned a corner.. Jesus has come on the scene in our reading.

People continue to search for answers instead of believing and following The Answer!

DAY ONE – Matthew 4:23-25, 8:14-17, Mark 1:21-39, Luke 4:31-44

The pattern was set; Jesus revealed why He was here. Matthew 4:23-25 (NLT) Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. 24 News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon-possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all. 25 Large crowds followed him wherever he went—people from Galilee, the Ten Towns, Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from east of the Jordan River. Luke 4:42-44 (NLT) Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them. 43 But he replied, “I must preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God in other towns, too, because that is why I was sent.” 44 So he continued to travel around, preaching in synagogues throughout Judea.  I call it a pattern, for it demonstrates the manner in which Jesus introduced the Kingdom of Heaven to His followers and the world. He preached, He taught, He healed the sick and cast out demons, and He went into people’s homes to refresh and bless them. He did this everywhere; He did it repeatedly; He  did it with authority; and He did it successfully! For months we have been reading in the Old Testament of the Bible about Almighty God’s works: the creation, the connection with Abram and his descendants, Israel; His sovereignty over the nations; and His plans to redeem and save a fallen world. Four thousand years of human history… and then Jesus appeared on the scene. Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s love and salvation. He immediately set out to reveal heaven… to reveal that there is a place where everyone is free, well, and joy-filled. He did it by healing the sick and casting out demons; by preaching and teaching Good News that works in anybody’s life. And He did it with an air of righteousness about Him not seen before! Surely Jesus is God’s answer for our world. Everything you ever wanted to know about God is seen in Jesus. Why suffering? Why so much evil in our world? Why do children get sick and die? Instead of using human reasoning to find answers, look to Jesus. Jesus came from heaven and God to reveal goodness, to demonstrate love and salvation. He came to show us how the Holy Spirit works in the world to fulfill all of God’s plans and expectations. By faith vow to follow Jesus, all the way to heaven!

DAY TWO – John 3-5

It was bound to happen. Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus was the first incident. Then the woman at the well in Samaria brought it up again. But it was the Jewish leaders who escalated the conflict to a life or death contest. It is, of course, the oldest struggle between heaven and earth–religion versus true faith in and love for God. When the Lord through Moses gave Abraham’s descendants their religion at Sinai, it was, as you remember, accomplished in external rituals and animal sacrifices–all of which could be fulfilled without true faith or love, even though Yahweh God had exhorted them to love the Lord their God with all their heart and soul. Ever thereafter, humankind seek to justify themselves through the accomplishments of religion without true faith in the Only Creator God. So here comes Jesus claiming to be sent from heaven and confronting the religiosity of Jews and Samaritans. And John the Baptist, who is joyfully aware that Jesus is baptizing and saving people through faith in His words, confirms that Messiah’s gifts are from heaven. No longer will religion or religious practices be acceptable to God as a sign of faith, for He has sent His Only Son from heaven to release salvation through faith in a Person. For claiming to be sent to earth by His Father in heaven; and for claiming that He is doing only what He sees His Father doing, Jesus now has a target on His back; and the Jews are already plotting to kill Him. It is no wonder that the world, looking at two thousand years of church history, are so bold as to convict religion and accuse christians (note little c) of creating all the problems in the world. We are called Christians because of faith in and love for our Lord Jesus Christ. But there is also a ‘christian’ religion, associated with various ‘churches,’ which has a form of godliness but denies the power of the Holy Spirit and therefore brings reproach upon the wonderful Name of Jesus. At the risk of being totally misunderstood, I assert that there is no ‘christian’ church. There are only Christians–faithful followers of Jesus Christ–who together make up THE CHURCH, the body of Christ around the world. Yes, true Christians do come together, and they assemble in a place, and it becomes known as a church. But then it divides into a thousand different ‘christian’ organizations and is still called a church, even though the world looking on is now totally confused. Perhaps it is time that Jesus’ followers leave off so many names and identities and come together in faith to truly represent our Lord through our good works and godly living. Wouldn’t THAT be a miracle!

DAY THREE – Matthew 8:1-4, 9:1-17, 12:1-21, Mark 1:40-3:21, Luke 5:12-6:19

I want to know Jesus, more and more; I want you to know Jesus as well. How do we get to know Him? By reading the Bible? Yes, but in reality it is the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal Jesus to us as we read. John said that Jesus is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit, so don’t overlook that dimension as we make our journey. We read today from three different gospels, all containing similar accounts of the same events. While minor details may vary from author to author, the stories themselves consistently reveal the power and authority in Jesus’ earthly ministry to humankind. So how do we get the most from Jesus’ life–the healings, teachings and examples? Here are some questions to ask yourself as you read each account:

  • Why did Jesus say what He said? (His words in some Bibles are in red.)
  • What do you think it meant to those who heard it?
  • What does it mean to you?
  • What did He explain in His teachings?
  • What instructions did He give?
  • After reading, what do you think you should do about what He said? (Hopefully you are taking notes!)

Obviously, not all those who  witnessed the healing miracles praised God and believed in Jesus. Why not? If Jesus was explaining and demonstrating that the Kingdom of God had come to earth, wouldn’t that be a wonderful blessing? Wouldn’t that change our outlook of how we live here? Wouldn’t that raise a ‘thank you’ to the Lord from our heart? As you see, we have only begun our readings about Jesus. By the time we are finished, hopefully God’s eternal flame will burn in your heart to see His Kingdom lived out in our world today. And hopefully you will be filled with new awe and wonder about the wonderful blessings of getting to know Jesus at a deeper level in your spirit. That is, after all, why He came.

DAY FOUR – Matthew 5-7, Luke 6:20-49, 11:1-13

Jesus was clear when He spoke to the crowd. He said, in effect, “You haven’t been at all able to keep God’s laws, and look at the mess your world is in today. Because of that, I have come, not to destroy or do away with the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them completely.” In order for redemption and salvation to come to planet earth from heaven, it was necessary that a Person keep God’s whole law. No one had ever done that, even the most righteous of those who lived in faith toward God. So our wonderful Father in heaven, Yahweh God, sent His own and only Son, Jesus, to finally live out His plan and bring salvation to the world. This great sermon taught by Jesus draws out the full implication of what it means to live the right way and to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. He summed it up like this: Do to others what you wish they would do to you. That has become known as the Golden Rule. It covers all our relationships and affects all our interactions with other people… and God.

The second little time bomb Jesus planted in His message is this: The God you don’t really know is actually your Father in heaven. Father. Think about it. We all know that when we were born we had an earthly father; some children grow up without ever knowing their father. Others grow up with a father whom they maybe wish they didn’t know, for obvious reasons. And then there are earthly fathers who, though they are not perfect, nonetheless love and care for their children. But there is ONLY ONE Heavenly Father; no other carries the light and love for His children as does our Father in Heaven. Throughout His message, Jesus continued to refer to “your Father,” as if His listeners would fully understand His meaning. But do we? How many of us can make that stretch, can look up toward heaven and feel the full weight and affection of a heavenly Father? Jesus was here to fix that. As we continue our reading, it will become abundantly clear that to know the Father, we must follow the Son! Jesus said, “You are my followers.” He called one and then another to FOLLOW HIM. He called the masses, the crowds, to become His followers. And He is still calling, to everyone who will listen, “Follow me.” It seems clear to me that anyone who follows Jesus here and now will one day be where Jesus has been, with the Father, all this time!

DAY FIVE – Matthew 8:5-13, 11:1-30, Luke 7

How is it that an officer of the hated Roman occupiers received a commendation from Jesus? He wasn’t a Jew, yet in his time of need He turned to Jesus for relief. In the course of the interview, Jesus expressed amazement at the centurion’s faith, which was resident in his understanding of authority. Having healed the centurion’s servant, Jesus exclaimed that many Gentiles would come from all over the world to sit down with the Jewish patriarchs at the great feast in the kingdom of heaven, while many Jews would be excluded in outer darkness. In this story, Jesus began to demonstrate response and responsibility. He followed this by talking about the cities where He had done so many wonderful miracles, exclaiming again that had Sidon and Tyre seen these miracles, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes–response and responsibility. Finally, after John the Baptist, full of questions, sent from prison two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He was really the waited-for Messiah, Jesus lovingly performed miracles all day and then sent the two disciples back to John to describe what they had seen and heard. The evidence spoke for itself. Turning to the crowds, he commended those who believed John and were baptized for repentance of sins, but condemned those who refused to believe John and were not baptized–response and responsibility.

Response is the way we act when we are privileged to witness acts of God’s grace in our lifetime of experience. The witness of Jesus and the acts of God’s kindness abound in our material world. Heaven’s kisses are lavished on humankind in so many ways, and yet the world goes on its way with little or no response. They literally act as if God is not there or, if He is, He has yet to do anything for them!.. while others respond with thanksgiving, offering a sacrifice of praise to the Lord for His daily blessings. Our response is bound up in responsibility; that is, since God is good and His goodness is clearly experienced in our world, we are responsible for all of that, and we will be held accountable for the  way we responded. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, and then out of love lays down His life in place of ours, we are immediately responsible. How do you respond? A “thank you” is certainly appropriate.

Week 47 – What have you discovered about God so far in our reading?

It’s time for transition.. from the Old to the New.. Jesus is the Centerpiece of God’s New Work of salvation!

DAY ONE – Nehemiah 11-13

If you can stretch your imagination for a moment, suppose that, after a chilling invasion from a foreign power, everybody who was anybody in Washington D.C. was exiled to foreign soil to live out their life. The president, his family; all congressmen and any living with them; cabinet members and their families, top military officials at the Pentagon; and the head of every government agency, along with high-ranking members of their staffs; and those who were movers and shakers in other disciplines–all were removed to their new foreign home to live in exile. The United States government would be effectively gutted and unable to function. Everything at the federal centers would shut down and throw our country into chaos and confusion. International relations between U.S. and other powers would be nonexistent. Our beloved nation would be ripe for picking by others who have waited for an opportunity. It won’t likely happen, but the scenario I created did happen in another time–to Israel, and to Judah and Jerusalem! Over seventy years later, Nehemiah came from exile to help rebuild the capital city of Jerusalem and reconstitute government as it originally existed. And if we understand that Israel–a nation really “under God” in the form of theocracy (God rules), nothing short of a religious revival would give these people a future. So Ezra the scribe and Nehemiah the temporary governor persisted in restoring all the religious festivals, the security of Jerusalem, and the replacement of the priests and Levites to their godly functions. When all was again in order, the people could breathe a huge sigh of relief and resume their place as the “holy people.” Priests and Levites were serving God in the temple, praise was being heard everyday by the singers, the festivals with the Sabbath were being regularly celebrated, and those in charge of supplies and rations were doing an excellent job. Jerusalem was repopulated by having good people move from their hometowns to the capital. It was a mammoth restoration!

Feeling he had done what he could, Nehemiah, after twelve years of involvement, returned to his place in the palace of King Artaxerxes to serve as before; but then, a few years later, he made another trip to Israel and Jerusalem to see how things were going. What he found was disconcerting, to say the least. The temple was profaned, supplies and rations had dwindled, forcing many to go back from God’s service to their fields; and the Sabbath was regularly violated with commerce and work. With great sincerity and effort he performed another restoration so that the recovery would not be forever lost. From this we understand that spiritual vigilance is absolutely necessary in every generation, and God’s leaders with God’s people must be ever persistent in our faith to pass spiritual legacy to the next generation. What can you personally do to restore righteousness in your sphere of influence? Psalm 126 (NLT)  When the Lord  (Yahweh) brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! 2 We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.” 3 Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! 4 Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. 5 Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy. 6 They weep as they go to plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.

Earth will never be heaven. Although the Garden of Eden was like a heaven on earth, it was soon soiled and corrupted by the first couple, Adam and his wife Eve, when they rebelled against God and His word. Tomorrow we turn a page into  the New Testament  of the Bible, and with it we begin our foray into God’s unfolding plans for salvation, the restoration of a kind of heaven on earth, and the great struggle to gain our eternal home in the new heavens and earth, by learning to follow the Lord daily. But before we embark, I want to tell you about a book I just read, Imagine Heaven, by Pastor John Burke. I plan to read it again, because it reminds me of Psalm 126 we just read. It’s as if living here on earth is, in a sense, a kind of exile. Those of us who know the Lord in personal relationship somehow know inwardly that this place is not our real home, not our final dwelling. There is a heaven yet to gain. There is a hell to avoid. Imagine Heaven contains the accounts of near death experiences (NDE) of hundreds of people all over the globe, whose stories, having been recorded and studied by doctors, medical people, and others, for decades, reveal a fantastic and wonderful glimpse of the heaven God has prepared, a telescopic view into the eternities, and answers to some of our deepest questions about the future. It brings together Scripture with experience to help us long for heaven as the exiles longed for their city of Jerusalem. Read the little psalm again and imagine yourself just entering heaven with your Lord. It’s like a dream, but it is NOT a dream. It’s real. So stay with us; we are about to meet God’s Answer to everything–not a philosophy but a Person! We are about to meet Jesus. And He wants to not only give us experiences of heaven on earth, He wants to take us to heaven as our final home–finally!

DAY TWO – Psalm 106, John 1:4-14, Matthew 1, Luke 1:1-2:38

After one more brief review of Israel’s up and down history in relation to Yahweh God, we step into one of the most miraculous and wondrous seasons in which the Holy Spirit explodes into the human condition, to begin the reveal of God’s loving and enduring plan to save our world from destruction. John and Jesus–a Forerunner and a Fulfillment–are God’s answers to both our questions and our needs. John was born to a post-menopausal woman with no children, and Jesus was born to a virgin teenager, engaged but still innocent. God’s angel, who stands in His presence, was sent to each of these families to announce what was about to happen. It’s really interesting to note the genealogy of Jesus, for there were several unlikely persons in the mix–the first being Rahab, a prostitute who lived in Jericho at the time of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. She was not a Jew. The second is Ruth. She was not a Jew. And the third is Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah, whom King David murdered after his passion played out. God always has to make do with what He has, but He displays His glory by redeeming what we think is not acceptable or redeemable. None of us can ever boast about who we are or where we came from, for God Himself is the source of all that is good. So in a dream, Joseph was told by an angel that his soon-to-be wife’s pregnancy was the work of the Holy Spirit, and that the child to be born would fulfill a prophecy that He is “Emmanuel, God with us.” In the angel’s announcement of the same event to Mary, the angel said that they would call Him Jesus, “for He will save His people from their sins.” The name Jesus, in English, is a contraction of God’s Name Yahweh and the word for savior; or “God saves.” Everything we are reading today is of a miraculous nature, for our God is naturally supernatural!

As the shepherds were amazed by the angelic presentation to them out in the fields with their sheep; and as they were more amazed when they went and actually saw the baby referred to, they dispersed and immediately began to share their good fortune with others, by telling the Glad News of the Savior Child. Do we have only history to talk about, or is there Good News that makes us glad also? What good news comes of the Lord’s grace in your life? What recent situation reassures you of God’s faithfulness and desire to bless your life? Tell someone about it, so others can rejoice with you!

DAY THREE – Matthew 2, Luke 2:39-52

Roger Federer, the great tennis player, had just won his match to advance at Wimbledon. As I watched him leaving the court, an enthusiastic fan held up her banner for all to see these words: “All hail King Roger!” This is the stuff of celebrity worship, and it goes on all the time in sports and entertainment. In our reading today, we meet three wise men, guided by a celestial wonder, who traveled for weeks to find the young Jesus. Matthew 2:2 (NKJV)  “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” This is the stuff of prophetic significance which changes outcomes in our world! Jesus turned out to be the greatest world changer who ever lived–His virgin birth, His supernatural life, His sacrificial death, and His unheard of resurrection. No one in history has even come close. But with all of this, He had a human beginning–born in a cattle stall in Bethlehem, fleeing to Egypt as an infant, returning to live in obscurity during His childhood in Nazareth. All of these fulfill statements spoken during the hundreds of years leading up to His entrance into our sphere. I suppose we humans are wired to worship someone, somewhere. Why waste worship on other human beings, no matter how star studded, when there is truly One who was born to be a king? Not just a king, but the King of Heaven. It didn’t look like that at first; when He was twelve, His parents frantically searched Jerusalem for Him for three days, finally discovering Him in the temple, where He was confounding the Jewish intellectuals with His spiritual wisdom.  Luke 2:49-52 (NKJV)  And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. 51 Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Who is this boy? We know so little about His childhood, but these glimpses of His family give us clues about what we are soon to discover.

It is likely that there are objects of worship within you. Are they worthy of that level of attention and admiration? Do they hold up to the “eternity” test, or are they merely creatures and things of temporal affection that will soon pass? If we have ever taken time to examine our interests and priorities in the light of what is yet to come, this would be a good time to evaluate where your road is taking you. Are you with Jesus?

DAY FOUR – Matthew 3, Mark 1:1-11, Luke 3, John 1:15-34

It was time for transition. Israel had waited four hundred years for Messiah to come. Moses and the prophets had looked forward and had all spoken of Someone special who would arrive to lead Israel to God. And now there was a man named John who was traveling all over Judea, preaching about the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.’ So compelling was his message, so powerful was his preaching, and so eccentric was his personage, that multitudes came out to hear him and were confessing their sins. John’s answer was to baptize them in water and announce the arrival of One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. We are often already in transition before we realize it. Occasionally we have passed through transition into a new season and see it only as we look back. All of this was true as John lifted Messiah’s banner high for all to see, all the while claiming that he was not Messiah. According to John, Jesus was close behind, and when He appeared, the people were to follow Him, for He was the Son of God and had authority to baptize individuals with the Holy Spirit. Expectation, alarm, confusion, questioning,  followed John wherever he went. Disciples willingly followed him. Some thought he was a prophet, or Elijah, or even Messiah himself. But John said “No”. As prophesied by Isaiah some 700 years earlier, John correctly identified himself as a ‘forerunner’ or ‘crier’ who runs ahead of another preparing and clearing the way. As such then, his ministry lasted for only a few months, for Jesus was ready. After being baptized by John, Jesus went into the wilderness to meet the devil in a personal contest that lasted forty days. Then He walked into Galilee.

Are we again in transition? Perhaps our whole world is? When Jesus appeared publicly for his short season of ministry, many believed Him. Some scoffed and denounced Him. The world at that time was in transition, for religion was about to be replaced by relationship with a Person. A thousand years of the Jewish religion was giving way to God’s Son who would lead people to know the Heavenly Father. And now another two thousand years have come and gone. Is this the time we are all waiting for? Will Jesus return soon? The crowds who heard John looked for Messiah. Who is looking for Him today? I AM! I am as expectant, as believing, as hopeful as I can be. Are you? Do you realize the world is in transition, or will you awaken to the saddening awareness that it passed without you?

DAY FIVE – Matthew 4:1-22, Mark 1:12-20, Luke 4:1-15, 5:1-11, John 1:35-2:12, Matthew 13:54-58, Mark 6:1-6, Luke 4:16-30

Did you note in your reading that, after His baptism, Jesus went, or was driven, full of the Holy Spirit, into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil? After forty days of fasting and prayer with His Father in heaven, Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit. He was ready. His FIRST message announced that the Kingdom of God had come, and it was time to repent of sins and believe the Gospel. His FIRST miracle was impressive: turn ordinary water into the best wine at the wedding! His FIRST visit to His home town of Nazareth was met by a very cool reception from those who thought they knew Him–this might explain how ordinary his early life appeared to be. No matter how you viewed Jesus, He would not be ignored. Some would leave everything and become his disciples. Others would reject Him outright. The crowds would clamor around Him because they wanted to hear Him teach or because they wanted some kind of miracle or concession from Him. But be aware, few ignored Jesus. Yes, He divided the crowd. Yes, He created a new level of spiritual excitement and expectation. And yes, He attracted attention every place He went. But what was it, really? The answer is, He was full of the Holy Spirit and worked in the power of the Spirit. When He called a disciple, the Holy Spirit was at work. When He performed a miracle, the Holy Spirit was at work. And when He taught and preached, the Holy Spirit was at work. When you couple that with the realization that He had no sin in His life, it is a powerful, transforming reality. Jesus was ready to bring heaven to earth, to fulfill God’s plan to save all who were willing, and to link earth back to heaven through His Holy Spirit connection!

May I suggest that, as we read through the New Testament books, you fix your eyes on Jesus? Relate everything you read back to Jesus–whether the author is Dr. Luke, Matthew, or any of the apostles, including Apostle Paul. Jesus is the key to every mystery, the interpretation of every belief, and the foundation stone of all of heaven’s Good News. He is Son of God and God the Son. He is calling you to follow Him for the rest of your life.

Week 46 – Getting to know God in His absolute love and salvation…

Look who is listening in… Ordinary men who did extraordinary things after they prayed and obeyed

DAY ONE – Malachi 1-4

Malachi’s prophecy is very unusual. In a one-sided conversation, Yahweh God brought the priests and people of Israel into dialogue to expose their destructive behavior and bring needed corrections. It’s interesting, for it demonstrates that in our daily lives, the Lord is listening in and absorbing conversations occurring in private homes, businesses, committees, government chambers, etc. After hearing their discussions over a period of time, God gave Malachi this brief message of confrontation. Reading through it, I picked up the almost sarcastic manner in which the Lord addressed the priests. It’s as if the priests and leaders had made a list for themselves giving permission for the way they were living. Using our imagination, let’s replicate their list…

  • It’s okay to bring God the worst of our flocks for sacrifice.
  • It’s okay to disrespect the Lord by the things we say and do.
  • It’s okay to break our promises in order to cheat God out of our best offerings.
  • It’s okay to leave God’s paths and tell the people whatever we want, causing them to stumble.
  • It’s okay to betray each other, violating the covenant of our ancestors.
  • It’s okay to divorce our wives and submit them and our children to a cruel future.
  • It’s okay to cheat God out of our tithes and offerings; after all, what we have is ours!

When we see the list, we object that no one actually made such a list; but a careless and self-serving lifestyle does eventually result in self-justification, especially if we think that God doesn’t care or notice how we live.

In our shadow world, the only reality we know, it is difficult to grasp the pure, powerful love God has for us. In the multi-dimensional world of light and love, our Lord presides over time and eternity carefully and determinedly in order to gather to Himself an ever growing family of ones He loves and who love Him in return. Every one of us in some way stumbles over love and wholeness as we try to cope with our realities. Through His unrelenting grace, God calls to us again and again to trust Him and be His faithful followers. His great promises cannot be broken or withdrawn, but we can certainly forfeit their blessings if we choose to ignore or reject the Great Creator who is loving and saving us. Malachi was the last prophet to speak to Israel for a period of four hundred years. This was God’s last recorded invitation in the Old Testament: Malachi 4:2 (NLT)  “But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.

DAY TWO – Ezra 7-10

We return now to Ezra. Many years passed since the remnant exiles returned to Judah and Jerusalem and began work on the replacement temple of God. Artaxerxes, present king of Babylon, was moved by God to encourage one of his nobles, Ezra, to return to his homeland and aid the building process. In order to understand this appointment, we need to know more about Ezra. Ezra 7:1-6 (NLT) He was the (16th generation) …son of Aaron the high priest. 6 This Ezra was a scribe who was well versed in the Law of Moses, which the Lord, the God of Israel, had given to the people of Israel. He came up to Jerusalem from Babylon, and the king gave him everything he asked for, because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him. While it doesn’t specifically say so, we can conclude that over the decades, men like Daniel, his three Hebrew friends, and other faithful Jews who served the Babylonian kings had great influence over them, for Artaxerxes made clear his fear of and preference for Israel’s God. Ezra 7:23-26 (NLT)  Be careful to provide whatever the God of heaven demands for his Temple, for why should we risk bringing God’s anger against the realm of the king and his sons? 24 I also decree that no priest, Levite, singer, gatekeeper, Temple servant, or other worker in this Temple of God will be required to pay tribute, customs, or tolls of any kind.’ 25 “And you, Ezra, are to use the wisdom your God has given you to appoint magistrates and judges who know your God’s laws to govern all the people in the province west of the Euphrates River. Teach the law to anyone who does not know it. 26 Anyone who refuses to obey the law of your God and the law of the king will be punished immediately, either by death, banishment, confiscation of goods, or imprisonment.” And so, by the good hand of God, Ezra and his contingent arrived at Jerusalem to take stock of the current conditions. And what he found shocked him, so that he tore his clothes, pulled his hair and beard, and fell prostrate before the Lord with fasting and mourning. Before anything else could be done, the serious problem of intermarriage with the pagans in the land, accepting their idolatrous customs, had to be fixed! There was no easy way. It took months of serious negotiations and painful separations to restore God’s people to their intended place with the Lord. And that’s what transforming revival is about. Does anyone believe that spiritual transformation would be good for our land… in our day? May the good hand of the Lord our God be upon each of us to leave God’s print on our generation.

DAY THREE – Nehemiah 1-4

Desperate times call for desperate actions. And one man, sensing the desperate conditions in his homeland, wrote this incredible story into his memoirs. Nehemiah was a palace resident in Susa, where King Artaxerxes reigned over Babylon. Hearing a report from persons just returned from Jerusalem, he was stunned and dejected. Thinking that surely progress was being made, now he now learned that the walls of Jerusalem lay broken, and rubble filled the city. If Jerusalem was to have any future, something must be done. Nehemiah first prayed and fasted before Yahweh God, humbling himself with repentance for himself, his family and the Jewish people. Months went by. One day as he was serving the king and queen, the king saw that Nehemiah was troubled. When allowed to explain, Nehemiah requested permission to leave the service for a time to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. This had staggering implications; it was surely a divine call to Nehemiah from God Himself. You’ve read the story, now let’s look deeper. This man, with letters from the king, showed up out of the blue in Jerusalem, secretly surveyed the city’s damaged condition by night, then revealed a plan to the leaders to rebuild the wall… and they BOUGHT IT!  What amazes me is the number of people who came from all over Judah, leaving their own homes and occupations to take up the work. When opposed by non-Jewish residents, they quietly continued about their task. And when openly threatened, they armed themselves and stood guard over their own sections of the walls and gates! Nothing was easy for the returning exiles. Not only did they struggle to rebuild their nation, they discovered to their chagrin that old idolatries had surfaced again and were being exposed by the prophets of God who called them to return to the Lord and the covenant given through Moses.

Having read several books dealing with the modern exodus of Jews from many lands back to Israel, beginning in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, it is obvious that God is the architect of history and has been in control all this time. Rebuilding their land has been tedious and at times dangerous, but the Jews have persisted, and modern Israel, reborn in 1948, rivals the most technological, industrial and productive nations in the world! This is the hand of God! With God’s hand on your life, what can you do to make a difference?

DAY FOUR – Nehemiah 5-7

I was once asked to talk to a group about servant leadership. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that ‘servant leadership’ is an oxymoron. That is to say, in the natural world, the concepts of servant and leader tend to be at odds with each other. A servant by nature defers to others in his service; and a leader by nature steps forward to create a path for others to follow. Can the two truly meld into one? Nehemiah’s example suggests that they not only can but are powerful when they do. Evidently, as the king’s cup-bearer, Nehemiah had numerous duties within the household administration of King Artaxerxes, requiring him to develop leadership qualities as well as a servant’s character. His leave to return to Judah and the great task that lay before him challenged and taxed all of his resources. In the process of leading the effort to rebuild Jerusalem it became necessary to also rebuild the identity and character of the nation lost in the 70-year exile. Nehemiah would serve as governor for twelve years, but not before demonstrating sacrificial and self-giving leadership before the people. Again and again, shocked by the self-serving of the nobles and officials, Nehemiah brought forceful correction and exhorted them to take on the righteous character of Yahweh God as they reclaimed their true nature as God’s holy people. Little by little, as his influence and common sense caught on, the disjointed culture regrouped and displayed a social pattern that stood apart from the rest of the nations around them. The Jews, as God’s people, had to learn to walk again.

Jesus was the ultimate example of servant leadership, as Paul describes: Philippians 2:5-8 (NLT) You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8 he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Leader? Oh yes. Jesus took twelve men under his mentorship and laid the foundations of a movement that has changed the world. Servant? The ultimate, as already mentioned. He surrendered His will to God in order to bring salvation to the world. So our character Nehemiah, long before Christ appeared on the scene, stood forth among his people as a true ‘servant leader.’ In what ways are you inspired to serve or lead as needed?

DAY FIVE – Nehemiah 8-10

“…because they had heard God’s words and understood them.” (8:11) This is always the beginning of a spiritual revival. Both Ezra and Nehemiah were godly men who realized what was wrong and had a sense of what needed to be done. And together they did it. It amounted to a reconstitution of the Covenant.

  • The walls of the city were rebuilt to define the locus of God’s Presence among them.
  • The Law was read publicly to arouse the conscience of the people.
  • God’s festivals were once again celebrated and kept as reminders of their identity.
  • The Sabbath was restored to honor Yahweh.
  • The Law was read again publicly, with explanations, after which open repentance commenced for several hours.
  • They lifted their voices in prayer to publicly review Israel’s history from Egypt to the present. Nothing was held back. Their memories were charged with God’s faithfulness!
  • Finally, the people made a promise to God and signed their names to it before returning to their homes. This was serious business, and it brought into harmony all the forces that had made Israel a great nation among nations. It also released God’s power and blessing upon these returned exiles.

Can there be a true revival of religion in America? How about in your town… or your family… or your own life? What can you personally do to encourage revival in the space you occupy? What can you do to encourage your friends and family to remember what it’s like when God is honored and served publicly? Where is our collective conscience, and what is tolerated across a wide spectrum that defines our present culture? Thankfully there are millions of the Lord’s followers who are praying over the current state of things. Large convocations periodically raise a voice in public, calling for repentance to God and restoration of godly attitudes and actions. Prior to the American Revolution, leading citizens, aware of a destiny that lay ahead for this nation, hammered out a Declaration of Independence, then pledged their lives, their fortunes and their honor to see it through. That’s what it took then, and that is what it would take now to see true spiritual revival in our land.

Week 45 – Reading thru the Bible, we see God’s imprint on EVERYTHING!

Jews return to their homeland… and the man who would kill the rest of the exiles in one day!

DAY ONE – Ezra 4-6

“I never promised you a rose garden.” So goes the line from a song a generation ago. And so was the experience of the exiles returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. Yes, the Lord God turned the heart of a king to open the door and pave the way for them. And yes, he financed their expedition and early efforts. Did they expect the people living in the land to just welcome them with open arms and rejoice over their religious revival? It didn’t happen that way. Instead, there was firm resistance to the returning Jews to rebuild the temple. For that temple represented God’s sovereignty over whoever lived there. It bespoke an ancient identity which would necessarily isolate anyone else not genealogically connected. And it foreshadowed a new independence under God which threatened the form of government already in place. So the current residents started a campaign of harassment, fake news and legal action to stop the rebuilding process. And it worked… for a while, that is. Then God stepped in again, empowering Haggai and Zechariah, prophets with powerful messages, to encourage the builders. And when the current king, Darius, made a search, he discovered the edict of his predecessor Cyrus authorizing and ordering all that the residents were trying to stop. He further ordered the governor to pay for all building expenses out of the royal treasury! Talk about a turnaround! No, it wasn’t easy for the Jews, but it was right. It required all the courage and perseverance they could summon. And it forced them to rely upon Almighty God to finish what they had begun.

This story is not unlike the confrontations of ideals and values going on in our culture and government right now. When some folks cannot get their way in a matter, they resort to harassment, sometimes violence, legal actions and even blatant lies to reinforce their position. What will keep God’s people on course?

  1. Make sure your values represent God’s righteous kingdom in this earthly setting.
  2. Make sure your motive is to glorify the Lord and reveal His saving grace and impeccable character.
  3. Make sure your behavior is honest and above board.
  4. Be ready to suffer indignity and/or loss as you stand on your scruples. It won’t be easy.
  5. Be ready to go all the way in representing your spiritual convictions, leaving the outcome to the Lord.

No, it’s not a rose garden. It’s life… but the faithful ones will get to smell the roses in God’s time.

DAY TWO – Haggai 1-2

So far as we can tell, Haggai received messages from Yahweh God for only four months–from August 29 to December 18 (our calendar)! That was in the 2nd year of King Darius, the successor to Cyrus, who opened the door for Jews to return from Babylon to Judah. The foundation of the new temple had lain idle and unbuilt for some twenty years after its inception. Meanwhile, the Jews had gone on with their life, rebuilding their homes and communities, planting/harvesting their crops, raising their children. The only problem was, things weren’t working out very well. Into that reality stepped Haggai, to give three separate messages from Yahweh, explaining their predicament and offering real help. In order for God to help them, the people would have to help God! Imagine that… and repeatedly, in His messages, the Lord referred to Himself as Yahweh of Heavens Armies–Yahweh Sabaoth. This God of heaven, this Creator, this God associated deeply with Israel’s history, was not off on some trip to somewhere in his universe, busy with celestial matters. No, this God of theirs was real and present and deeply involved with all that mattered–their lives, their prosperity, their future. He encountered them and responded to them. He chided them and plead with them. He turned their fortunes backward but promised to bless them, if only they would build His house and restore His worship in the land. It is obvious from what we now know about Israel and Judah that they have always represented the God of heaven on earth, and especially to the nations around them. God has NEVER let them be, never left them alone, even to this very day. And ALL of this is part of His plan to save the world from assured destruction until He has grown a ginormous family and gathered them to Himself!  So we see, everything matters to God.

Perhaps we think that, because we have accepted Christianity as our religious pursuit, none of this Israel connection matters to us. Think again. It matters deeply, because all that the Lord began in Israel He is working in us and through us. Yet He is not done with Israel either, not one bit. Israel is still the lynchpin of history and the crystal ball of the future. The saving of the world through Israel and the church is basically one and the same, only in two great movements that are forever interlinked. It is through Father Abraham and his faith, that righteousness was first reckoned to a man, and it is through God’s Son, Jesus (Yahshua), that righteousness was perfected and became a human reality. Lift up a prayer today for your world, and remember to thank God for Israel!

DAY THREE – Zechariah 1-7

A contemporary of Haggai, Zechariah received this series of short, intense messages aimed at calling those returned from Babylon to take careful note of their ways. First and foremost, they show that Yahweh God retained a vital interest in Jerusalem and the Temple, and that He was determined to have a people who would fulfill their divine destiny under His watchful eye. They had been scattered to the four winds, but now the call was going out to bring them back, for the Lord fully intended to crush the nations who had dealt with His people so cruelly and without compassion. In order to do that, Jerusalem and the Temple had to be rebuilt, the order of worship reestablished, and the Spirit of God restored to His rightful place. Their government having been destroyed when they were in exile, it was necessary to stand Jeshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor before God’s angel and deal with their identity. In a vision, Zechariah watched as the high priest received bright new clothes to replace his filthy ones and the governor heard God say, “‘It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit,’ says Yahweh of Heaven’s armies.” Zerubbabel would soon place the capstone on the new temple while shouting “Grace! Grace!” As readers of these historical events, our eyes may occasionally get glassy as we wonder at all the symbolism and its meaning. We mustn’t be put off by what isn’t familiar to us; rather we must see the big picture of God’s dealings concerning His own interests that began with the original couple in the Garden of Eden and will end in the new heavens and earth with His wonderfully begotten and burgeoning family taken from all the nations of the world!

Our modern world with its constantly changing conditions and shifting centers of power, driven by economic and political interests on a worldwide scale, can present confusing options. We know that God exists. We are not always sure whose side He is on. We hope we can make it to heaven somehow. And into this milieu God Himself speaks through His prophet:  Zechariah 7:8-10 (NLT) Then this message came to Zechariah from the Lord: 9 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. 10 Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other. Forget religion, which is primarily an attempt to make ourselves acceptable to God. Rather, embrace the Lord Himself by loving Him with all your heart, your soul, your strength. Receive Him with humble heart. Follow the instructions in the above verses. And leave the OUTCOMES to His sovereignty. He was able then, and He is able now.

DAY FOUR – Zechariah 8-14

These chapters read like a colorful travel brochure with invitation to visit Israel! The Israel God is describing is vibrant, compelling and not to be missed at any cost. But as we continue to read, it is like boarding a space shuttle and heading off into the distant future at warp speed! One may recognize several Messianic passages which reveal details of Jesus’ life, yet several hundreds of years in the future. And by the time we get to the end we are seeing details of Jerusalem in the end of time as we know it. One passage in the last chapter sounds like a description of nuclear fallout on God’s enemies. But let’s remember the context in which Zechariah is prophesying: the Temple of God. God’s house was started by the remnant exiles but still lies unfinished. Obstruction by non-Jews living in the land had brought the project to a standstill for twenty years. So Zechariah joined Haggai in delivering God’s words to the people, challenging them to a life of righteousness and industry. Finish the project; do what is right; treat each other with honesty and integrity. And it turned out that God’s plans were much bigger than they realized; more far-reaching than the imagination; more powerful than all the nations combined. God through this prophet was revealing His plans that stretch into an age that lies ahead of even us, though we can now see its approach fairly clearly. Living in the moment, Israel failed to understand their crucial role in resolving all of history in the centuries that lay ahead.

At this point in our reading we are very close to the end of the Old Testament history of Israel and Judah. And we are very close to the Revelation of God’s most powerful option, the eternal successor of King David, Jesus of Nazareth. We must focus on the power of God’s restoration of the Holy People for the purposes of completing His eternal plans regarding the nations. The whole world is now caught up in heaven’s drama, and not a single nation has risen that is able to deter or defeat God’s intentions that appeared in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. The first couple embodied a kind of heaven on earth, and through the miracle workings of the Creator eventually found its way into Abraham’s descendants, and finally into our current reality. There is much to be said about this, and of course that truth lies in the New Testament. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We will finish our story of the return of the exiles, we will see the temple restored and life in Israel moving ahead, awaiting God’s next great triumph.

DAY FIVE – Esther 1-10

God is not mentioned, not even once. This story is entirely about the Jews and about a wicked plot to annihilate them on a single day. Who are the characters in this story? There is King Xerxes, who reigns in the fortress of Susa, over all of the Babylonian Empire. There is Queen Vashti, whose insolence causes her to be banished. Then Esther, a young Jewish woman, whose identity is kept hidden, becomes the new queen. There is Haman, a king’s official, who hates the Jews with a royal hatred. And finally there is Mordecai, Esther’s uncle and protector, who discovers the sinister plot to destroy the Jews. And though Yahweh, God of the Jewish people, is not named in this story, His sovereignty and intervention are plastered all over its pages.

We get keen insight into the nature of life in the empire and the power of kings through this story. Xerxes ruled over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. With nothing better to do, he threw a lavish celebration that lasted for six months, feting his nobles, officials and friends, with rivers of wine and sumptuous feasts. Later, two of his officials plotted to assassinate him, but Mordecai the Jew discovered the secret and revealed it to the king, whose life was spared. In the meantime, Haman’s star had been rising in the government of King Xerxes, and he received a high promotion that allowed him to shine before the public. Enamored with his own importance and achievements, Haman conceived a wicked scheme to annihilate the entire Jewish population scattered throughout the kingdom, all in one day. All of the empire wass thrown into confusion. In sackcloth and mourning, Mordecai the Jew, Esther’s uncle and protector, sent her a secret message, revealing the scheme hatched against her people. With no official standing, Esther wondered what she could do; but with Mordecai’s encouragement she decided to risk her life by appearing before the king unbidden. Now note this: it’s very important, for Esther sent word back to Mordecai to entreat all the Jews living in Susa to neither eat nor drink for the next three days, an expression of their mourning over their impending doom.

As we have said, God is not mentioned, not even once, in this historical account. But because we have been reading through the Bible for months now, we already know about the Lord’s sovereign relationship with the Jews, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We know how He delivered them from Egypt with an unprecedented display of power; how He established them at Sinai under Moses; how He brought them into Canaan, giving them their Promised Land. And we know how He scattered them to the nations after they incessantly persisted in idolatry and the evil practices of the nations around them. But we also know about His plans to save the world through the Jewish people.

The power of  prayer with fasting is written into the warp and woof of Esther’s story.  Deep mourning, despair, the sense of hopelessness, lay behind this desperate action of Mordecai and the Jews of Susa. But we mustn’t forget the power of love and beauty that rose to challenge the dark, vengeful behavior of one man. Haman wonderfully succeeded in creating the decree that would allow the annihilation of all the Jews who remained in the empire during the post exile years. Now, with victory over his enemies assured, he congratulated himself to his wife and noble friends as his star reached its zenith. Exultant that he alone had been invited to celebrate with the king and his beautiful Queen Esther, not just today but again tomorrow, his joy was unbounded. He would kill Mordecai and wait for the rest of the extermination on its scheduled day.

But King Xerxes couldn’t sleep. He reviewed the books and was reminded how he was saved from assassination by Mordecai. What should be done? Mordecai should be exalted. So the next morning, the day Haman would kill Mordecai, he had to instead put a royal robe on this man, set him on the king’s horse, and parade him through the city proclaiming his honor! And at the Queen’s banquet that same day, he was exposed as the evil schemer! Condemned, he was impaled on the pole he designed and erected for Mordecai’s execution! At Esther’s request, an edict was issued granting the Jews to defend themselves on the day of their annihilation, and fear of these Jews fell over the empire. Who can go against them? Who can succeed in destroying them? No one, not as long as Yahweh God is watching over them and keeping them.

Even today, the Festival of Purim is still celebrated in Israel, commemorating the salvation of the Jews when their enemies were set to wipe them out. God isn’t mentioned, but was He there? Did He cause a young Jewish beauty to capture a king’s heart? Did He promote Mordecai? Did He expose wicked Haman? Did He save the Jews from annihilation, even though they chose to live where they were instead of going back to Judah and Jerusalem? History suggests that yes, we can see God’s imprint all over this incredible unfolding of events. The characters, the timing of events, the fasting with prayer, the triumph of good over evil, and the continuing celebration of victory among the Jews today–God is clearly seen behind it all.  Give thanks today; the Lord is watching over us!