Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Eternal truths beyond transient appearances

Tuesday, May 9, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 45, 47, 48; Wisdom 3:1-9; Col 1:15-23; Lk 6:12-26

The court poet wrote this ode for a royal wedding:  My heart overflows with this good theme: You Are fairest of men, blessed by God forever.  Gird on Your sword; in glory and majesty, ride forth!  Defend the right; establish the truth; let Your mighty right hand perform dread deeds; may your sharp arrows find your enemies' hearts!  Your divine throne endures forever; your scepter ministers royal equity; You love righteousness and hate wickedness.  And so Your God has anointed You with the oil of gladness; Your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.  Stringed instruments serenade You from ivory palaces; Your ladies in waiting are daughters of kings; and at Your right hand stands the queen, robed in gold of Ophir. Let the royal consort turn fully toward her liege Lord; O queen, leave your family of origin behind, and take up the role of royal spouse.  The King Is your Lord; bow to Him alone.  The princess is decked in gold-woven robes; in joy she enters the royal palace.  Great Lord, Your sons will be princes on the earth; Your name will resound in the praises of all peoples for ever!  Let all peoples applaud and show to God loud songs of joy!  YHWH, God Most High, Is terrible--great sovereign over all the earth.  Sing praises to our God, Who reigns over all the nations; He Is highly exalted.  Great Is our Lord and greatly to be praised in God's holy city!  His holy mountain is the joy of all the earth.  All other kings blanch before Him; He alone Is ruler.  O God, we have meditated on Your steadfast love; Your fame and praise encircle the globe.  You Are Victor; Judah's daughters rejoice in Your judgments.  Tell the next generation: This Is our eternal God; He will be our Guide for ever!

The souls of the righteous are in God's hand; no torment can touch them.  Fools think that the righteous perish--that their decease is an affliction.  But in truth they are at peace, and they have assurance of immortality.  God has tested them like gold in a furnace, and in the time of their visitation, they will shine forth and run like sparks through stubble.  God rules them, and His righteous ones govern nations and rule over the peoples of His creation.  All who trust in our God will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with Him in love--His grace and mercy abide on His elect, and He watches over His holy ones.

Jesus Is the image of the invisible Creator; He Is Firstborn over all creation.  In Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible--including every spiritual power: thrones, dominions, principalities, authorities--all things were created through Him and for Him.  He Is before all creatures; in Him all creation coheres.  He Is Head over the body of believers, the church; He Is the beginning, Firstborn from the dead--so Jesus Is pre-eminent in all things.  In Him all God's fullness is pleased to abide; through Him God reconciles to Himself all things on earth and in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.  And we, once estranged and hostile in our minds, doing evil deeds, He has reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present us holy and blameless and irreproachable before God, provided that we continue in the faith arising from His faithfulness--stable and steadfast, not shifting away from the hope in the gospel we have heard and accepted, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, of which Paul became a minister.

Jesus spent all night praying on a mountain; when day came, He called His disciples and chose twelve of them, whom He named apostles: Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who became His betrayer.  Jesus came down with these and stood on a level place; He was surrounded there by a great multitude of people from all over Judea and Jerusalem and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon.  They came to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases.  Those troubled by unclean spirits, He cured.  All the crowd sought to touch Him, for power came forth from Him and healed them all.  Jesus lifted up His eyes on His disciples, and said:  'Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.  Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.  Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.  Blessed are you when mortals hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you and cast out your name as evil on account of the Son of man!  Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for look:  your reward in heaven is great--for their ancestors did the same things to God's prophets in days past.'

Monday, May 8, 2017

Human 'wisdom' or God's holy love?

Monday, May 8, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 41, 44, 52; Wisdom 1:16-2:11, 21-24; Col 1:1-15; Lk 6:1-11

Blessed are those who consider the poor; YHWH delivers them in their days of trouble; He protects and preserves their lives.  They are called blessed, and are not surrendered to the will of their enemies.  My enemies seek my demise, but God has sustained me.  I know God is pleased with me by this token:  my enemy has not triumphed over me, and I still live.  You, Lord, have upheld me by Your grace and have set me in Your presence forever.  Blessed is YHWH, God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting!  Amen and amen.  Lord, we have heard of Your deeds in our time, and have been told by our ancestors how You acted in their times.  You drove out nations to make space for Your people, because You delighted in them.  You are my King and my God; by Your grace, we defeat our enemies; You have put them to confusion who hate us.  And still, we struggle.  We will not forget You, nor depart from Your ways, Lord.  Don't cast us off forever; deliver us, for the sake of Your steadfast love.  God breaks down the wicked; but I am like a green olive tree in God's courtyards; I trust in His steadfast love forever.  God, I will proclaim Your holy Name and Your praises, everywhere and always.  I trust in God with no fear.  He keeps my tears in a bottle, and sustains me.  Thus I know that God is for me, that I may walk before God in the light of  life abundant and eternal.  

Righteousness is immortal, but by their words and deeds, ungodly people summon death, befriended death and made covenant with death: they are fit for death's party!  They tell themselves, 'Our life is short and sorrowful; there is no remedy for death; no one has returned from Hades.  We were born by mere chance, and after we die, it'll be as if we had never existed.  The breath in our nostrils is like smoke; reason is a spark kindled by our heartbeats.  When it goes out, the body turns to ashes and the spirit dissolves like empty air.  Our names will be forgotten in time; no one will remember our works; our life will pass away like traces of a cloud and be scattered like mist dissolved by sunlight, evaporated by its heat.  Our allotted time is the passing of a shadow, and death seals us up forever; there is no return.  So let's enjoy the good things at hand now; let us use the creation to the full, as in youth.  Let's drink deep of costly wine, and lavish perfume; let no spring flower go unplucked!  Let's take full advantage of every revelry, and leave every sign of enjoyment--for this is our lot.  Let us oppress the righteous poor; pay no attention to widows and gray-headed old folks.  Let might be our right, for whatever is weak proves worthless.'  They reasoned in this manner, blinded by their wickedness, led astray by their blindness.  They did not know God's secret purposes; they had no inkling of hope for the wages of holiness, nor discernment for the prize of blameless souls.  God created humankind for incorruption; He made us in the image of His own eternity, but through the devil's envy death entered God's creation.  And those who belong to the satan's party experience death indeed.

With Timothy, Paul wrote to the followers of Jesus at Colossae: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.  We always thank our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, when we pray, for we have heard of your love for the Messiah Jesus and for all His people--you depend on the hope laid up for you in heaven, since you first heard of God's grace and truth, learned first from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant, a faithful minister of Christ to our mutual benefit; and he has told us of your love in the Spirit.  From that day, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.  May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father Who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and has transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in Whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus Is the ikon o fthe invisible God; He Is the Firstborn over all creation.  

On a Sabbath, Jesus was leading His disciples through grainfields.  His disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands.  Witnessing this, some Pharisees objected: 'Why are you acting thus?  You are doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath!'  Jesus answered them: 'Haven't you read what David did when he was hungry?  He and those with him entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, though that is not lawful for any but the priests to eat--and he shared it with his companions.'  Jesus added, addressing the Pharisees, 'The Son of man Is Lord of the Sabbath.'  On another Sabbath, Jesus entered a synagogue and taught.  Among those present was a man whose right hand was withered.  The scribes and Pharisees watched Jesus to see whether He would heal the man on the Sabbath--they intended to accuse Him, if so.  Jesus knew their thoughts.  He had the man with the crippled hand rise and stand in the midst of the congregation.  And Jesus said to His critics, 'I ask you: is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good, or to do harm?  To save life, or to destroy it?'  As He looked around at them all, Jesus said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.'  He did so, and his hand was restored.  But Jesus's opponents were filled with fury, and they discussed among themselves what they might do to Jesus.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Living by God's word and God's love, in God's world

Wednesday, April 26, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 12-14, 119:1-24; Dan 2:17-30; 1 Jn 2:12-17; 
                                                             Jn 17:20-26

Help me, Lord. I can find no one who is godly!  Everyone lies; no one keeps faith. People all seem to have flattering lips and devious hearts.  Let YHWH arise and deliver those who need His help.  His promises are purified seven times, like silver in the furnace.  The wicked prowl, and vileness is exalted among the sons of men everywhere.  Lord, how long must I await Your mercy?  Consider and answer me, I pray You.  I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.  I will sing to YHWH, for He has dealt bountifully with me.  Fools deny God's existence, but He is watching seeking any who are wise.  There is none that does good!  God is the refuge and deliverer of the righteous. And when He restores His people, Jacob shall rejoice and Israel will be glad.  Blessed are all who walk in YHWH's law--who keep His testimonies, who seek Him wholeheartedly. They do no wrong but walk in His ways.  God, You have commanded us to be diligent in keeping Your statutes.  I will not be put to shame if I focus on Your commandments.  I will praise You with an upright heart and learn Your righteous ordinances.  How can one keep his way pure? By living according to Your word.  I seek you with my whole heart; do not let me stray from Your commands.  I have hidden Your word in my heart, that I might not sin against You.  I declare Your ordinances aloud; I delight in Your testimonies.  I will meditate on Your precepts and fix my attention on Your statutes.  I will not forget Your word.  Please: open my eyes to behold the wonders in Your law.  I am a pilgrim on earth; don't hide Your commandments from me.  You have rebuked those who wander from Your commandments.  But Your testimonies are my delight.

As Daniel prepared to interpret Nebuchadnezzar's dream, he asked his Israelite allies to pray, so that they would not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.  That night, Daniel received a vision that prepared him to speak with the emperor.  The prophet praised aloud: 'Bless be the name of God forever and ever, to Whom belong wisdom and might.  He controls times and seasons; he raises kings up and casts them down.  He informs the wise and gives knowledge to the understanding.  He alone can reveal deep mysteries; light dwells within Him, and he knows what is hidden in darkness.  To You, God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise; for You have given me wisdom and strength; You have revealed what was hidden to all, and have made known the king's matters.  And so Daniel alerted the king's servant Arioch that God had revealed Nebuchadnezzar's dream, 'and I will show the king the interpretation'.  Arioch took Daniel before the king, who asked, 'Are you able to tell me the dream I saw and its interpretation?'  And Daniel gave all credit to God: 'There Is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to you what will come to pass in latter days.  God has revealed all this to me in order that you may benefit from the dream and its meaning.'

John's treatise continued: The world and its lusts pass away, but those who do God's will abide for ever.  Children, it is the last hour; many antichrists have come already.  That's how we know what time it is.  They departed from among us, but they were never of us.  But You have been anointed by the Holy One, and you know the truth.  Who is a liar? Anyone who denies that Jesus is the Messiah: anyone who denies the Father and the Son is the antichrist.  And no one who denies the Son has the Father.  Those who confess the Son have the Father also.  Abide in what you have heard from the beginning; doing so, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.  And this is what He has promised us: eternal life!  I am writing about those who would deceive you.  But you really need no teacher; the Holy Spirit anointing you received from Him abides within you.  So: as His anointing teaches you all truth, abide in Him as you have learned to do.  Then, when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink in shame from before Him.  If you know that He Is righteous, you may rest assured that everyone who does right is born of Him.

The conclusion of Jesus' High Priestly prayer:  I pray also for those who will come to believe through the words of these You have given Me--that they all may be one, as You are in Me and I in You, Father, and that they all may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.  I have given to them the glory You gave to Me, that they may be one even as We Are one: I in them, and thou in Me, so that they become perfectly one and the world may know that You have sent Me and have loved them even as You love Me.  Father, I desire that they, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I Am, to behod my glory, which You have given Me in Your love for Me before the foundation of the world.  Righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You; and these know that You have sent Me.  I made known to them Your name; and I will make it known, t hat the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Preserved and empowered to serve God in this world

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 5, 6, 10, 11; Dan 2:1-16; 1 Jn 2:1-11; Jn 17:12-19

Hear my words, Lord; heed my groaning, as I pray to You, my King and my God.  As we commune, I prepare a sacrifice for You, and watch.  I come before You through the abundance of Your steadfast love.  In Your righteousness, God, lead me; make the path straight before me.  Let those rejoice who take refuge in You; defend us, that we may exult in You.  Cover us with Your favor as with a shield.  Heal me, I pray; deliver me in Your steadfast love.  Let Sin and all wickedness depart from me, for YHWH accepts my prayer and turns my enemies to shame.  The wicked proudly deny God, and slide further and further into depravity.  Let God arise and deliver the hapless.  Let God break the arm of the wicked evildoers.  YHWH hears the desires of the meek; He strengthens their hearts and brings justice to the fatherless and the oppressed.  YHWH is my Refuge; He tests both righteous and wicked; only the upright will behold His face.

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar was deeply troubled by a particular dream; he demanded of his magi that they first relate to him the dream and then tell him its meaning.  The 'Chaldeans' claimed this was impossible, and Nebuchadnezzar moved to make good his threat to tear them all limb from limb.  In the roundup that followed, Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to the captain of the king's guard, and when he learned the reason for the coming slaughter, Daniel volunteered to meet the king's demands.  He asked his compatriots to seek God's mercy in prayer, so that they (and all the 'wise men' of Babylon) might not perish.

John's expression of concern for his 'little children' in the faith is written so that they may not sin.  But, he states, if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father: righteous Jesus, the Messiah, and He Is the expiation for our sins and for the sins of the entire world.  We may sure that we know Jesus if we keep His commandments, and walk as He walked.  This, John affirms, is nothing new, but an old commandment--and yet it is also new, in that it links believers with Jesus Himself.  Darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining.  No one in Christ's light can hate his or her brothers and sisters; loving them equates with abiding in Christ's light.

On His last night before the cross, with His closest disciples, Jesus prayed:  'While I was with them, I kept them safe in Your name, Father--the Name You gave to Me.  None is lost but the son of perdition, and that fulfills the scripture.  But now, I Am coming to You; I speak at last in this world so that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.  I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I Am not of the world.  I don't pray that You should take them out of the world, but rather that You keep them from the evil one.  Like Me, they are not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth!  As You sent Me into the world, so I Am sending them into the world.  For their sake, I consecrated Myself, that they also may be consecrated in truth.'

Friday, April 21, 2017

Jesus unveils the climax of history

Friday, April 21, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 118, 136; Dan 12:1-3, 13; Acts 4:1-12; Jn 16:1-15

Let us give thanks to YHWH, for He Is good.  Let Israel, and Aaron's house, and all who fear the Lord together proclaim:  'His steadfast love endures for ever.'  When in great distress, I called on God, He answered me and set me free.  With YHWH on my side, I fear nothing; what could mortals do to me?  I will look in triumph on those who hate me.  There is no good in trusting creatures; lean on God alone!   YHWH is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.  Hearken!  There are glad songs of victory in the encampment of the righteous:  'The Right Hand of the Lord Is exalted; He does valiantly.'  So I shall not die, but live and recount the deeds of my Lord.  Open the gates of righteousness to me, that I may enter and give thanks to YHWH:  I thank You that You have answered me.  The Stone which the builders rejected has become the Head of the corner.  This is YHWH's doing, marvelous in our eyes!  This day is YHWH's; He has made it; let us then rejoice and be glad in His day!  Blessed are all who enter into the name of YHWH; He alone Is God, and He has given us light.  Let the festal procession advance to His altar, bearing branches.  God, my God, I thank You!  You Are my God, and I extol You.  Let all give thanks to the Lord, for He Is good; His steadfast love endures for ever!  Recount His deeds: He alone does great wonders; by understanding He made heavens and earth; He made the great lights--sun, moon and stars; He smote Egypt's firstborn and brought the house of Israel out from bondage; He divided the Red Sea before them, and led Israel through but overthrew Pharaoh and his host.  He led His people through the wilderness; He struck down great kings, among them Og and Sihon, before His people, and gave the lands they had possessed as a heritage to His servants, the people of Israel.  He remembered His own in their low estate and rescued us from all our foes.  He feeds all humanity.  So give thanks to the God of heaven, for His steadfast love endures for ever.

Daniel prophesies: 'Michael, the great prince who is given charge of God's people Israel, will arise, amid a time of trouble unprecedented.  Everyone whose name is recorded in God's book of life will be delivered.  Many who sleep in the dust of earth shall be awakened--some to shame and contempt, others to joy and life eternal.  The wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars, for ever and ever.  For now, go your way till the end, when you may rest; be assured that you will stand in your allotted place at the end of days.'

As Peter and John conferred with the crowd at the Temple, their antagonists--priests, temple guards and Sadducees--came against them, arrested them, and took them into overnight custody.  The next morning, the Jewish authorities--rulers, elders, scribes, and the high priestly family, including Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, interrogated the apostles: 'By what power and name did you heal this once-crippled man?'  Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered:  'Rulers of the people and elders: if we are being examined today concerning the good deed, the healing of a crippled man, let you all know this.  This man stands whole before you by the Name of Jesus the Messiah of Nazareth, Whom you crucified, but Whom God raise from the dead.  He Is the Stone Whom you builders rejected, but Who has become the Head of the corner.  There is salvation in no one else; there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.'

During the last night before His crucifixion, Jesus addressed His closest disciples in the upper room:  'I have told you many things, so that you will not fall away.  The authorities surely will put you out of the synagogues.  The hour is coming, in fact, that anyone who kills you will think he is serving God in doing so.  They have not known the Father, nor Me.  But I said these things to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you this was coming.  I didn't say all this to you from the beginning, because I was with you.  But now I am going to Him Who sent Me.  For this reason, your hearts are filled with sorrow--but I tell you this: it is to your advantage that I go away. Otherwise, the Counselor would not come to you.  But since I Am going, I will send Him to you, and He will convince the world concerning sin, and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin because they do not believe in Me [sin is idolatry, putting anything in God's rightful place]; concerning righteousness because I go to the Father and you will see Me no more [I have descended, and will descend to the lowest place, and then the Father will exalt Me to His right hand]; and concerning judgment because the ruler of this world is judged [Sin and the satan think they are killing me, but in sending me to the cross, the powers of evil are signing their own death warrant and surrendering to God's victory].  I have much more to tell you, but you could neither understand nor bear more truth at this time.  [Wait, then, for the Spirit Whom I will send to you!]'

Bearing fruit in God's Kingdom

Wednesday, April 19, 2017   Devotions: Ps 97, 99, 115; Mic 7:7-15; Acts 3:1-10; Jn 15:1-11

YHWH reigns!  Let the earth rejoice and the coastlands be glad.  He Is surrounded by clouds and thick darkness; His throne rests on righteousness and justice.  Fire goes before Him and consumes His adversaries.  His lightnings illumine the world; earth sees and trembles.  Mountains melt like wax before YHWH, Lord of all the earth.  The heavens proclaim His righteousness, and all peoples behold His glory. All are put to shame, who boast in worthless idols; all 'gods' bow before Him.  Zion hears and rejoices; the daughters of Judah are glad, because of Your judgments, O God!  You, YHWH, Are most high over all the earth, exalted far above all 'gods'.  YHWH loves those who hate evil; He preserves the lives of His saints, delivering them from the hands of the wicked.  Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.  You righteous ones, rejoice in YHWH, and give thanks to His holy Name!
     YHWH reigns; let the peoples tremble!  He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!  YHWH Is great in Zion; exalted over all the peoples.  Let them praise Your great and terrible Name.  Holy Is He!  Mighty King, lover of justice, You have established equity and have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.  Let us extol YHWH our God; worship at His footstool.  Holy Is He!  Moses and Aaron were among His priests; Samuel, too.  They cried to YHWH and He answered them, speaking in the pillar of cloud; they kept His testimonies and the statutes He gave them.  O YHWH our God, You did answer them; You were a forgiving God to them, and Avenger of their wrongdoings.  Let us extol YHWH our God, and worship at His holy mountain: for YHWH our God Is holy!
     YHWH, not to us, but to Your name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and faithfulness!  Why should the nations ask, 'Where is their God?'  Our God Is in the heavens; He does whatever pleases Him. Their idols are silver and gold, human workmanship.  They have mouths, but
cannot speak; eyes, but do not see.  They have ears, but cannot hear; noses, but no sense of smell.  They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but cannot walk.  They make no sound in their throats.  Those who make these idols are like them, and so also are all who trust in them.  O Israel: trust in YHWH!  He Is our Help and Shield.  House of Aaron: trust in YHWH, your Help and Shield!  All who fear YHWH, trust in Him, our Help and Shield.  YHWH has been mindful of us; He will bless us--and Israel--and the house of Aaron--and all who fear Him, small and great alike.  May YHWH give you increase, you and your children!  May you be blessed by YHWH, Who made heaven and earth!  The heavens remain His heavens; but He has given the earth to the sons of mortal humans.  The dead do not, cannot, praise YHWH, nor can any who go down into silence. But we will bless YHWH now and forever.  Praise YHWH!

Rather than trusting any other, I will look to YHWH; I will wait for the God of my salvation, Who will surely hear me.  Enemies, don't rejoice over me: for when I fall, I will rise; when I sit in darkness, YHWH will be Light to me.  I will bear the indignation of YHWH because I have sinned against Him, until He is pleased to plead my cause and execute judgment for me.  He will bring me forth into light, and I shall behold His deliverance.  Then my enemies will see; shame will cover her who said, 'Where is YHWH your God?'  My eyes will gloat over her, and she will be trodden down, like mire in the streets.  God brings a day for raising up walls--a day for extending boundaries. And God's people will stream in from Assyria and Egypt and the River, from sea to sea and mountain to mountain.  The earth will be desolate because of its inhabitants, for the fruit of their doings.  Shepherd Your people with Your staff, the flock of Your inheritance, who dwell alone in the forest amid a garden land; let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in olden days.  Just as in the Exodus from Egypt, I will show them marvelous things!

Peter and John were going to the Jerusalem Temple at 3 PM, 'the hour of prayer.'  Near the Beautiful Gate (the eastern gate, from which God was said to come to His temple), they encountered a man crippled from birth, whose custom was to beg alms at this location.  Peter noticed the man, and said to him, 'Look at us!'  The man fixed his attention on the apostles, hoping for a contribution; he got something much greater:  'I have no silver or gold,' Peter told him, 'but what I have I give you: in the Name of Jesus the Messiah from Nazareth, walk.'  Peter took the man's right hand and raised him up; immediately, his feet and ankles became sound and strong.  Leaping up, the man stood, walked, and accompanied Peter and John into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God.  The people around them witnessed all this; and recognizing him as the former cripple who habitually begged at the Beautiful Gate, they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. [This miracle drew a crowd, to whom Peter soon preached, following which he and John were arrested by the temple police at the behest of the Sadducees.]

Jesus shared these things with His inner circle in the Upper Room on the night before His crucifixion:
'I Am the true Vine; My Father is the Vinedresser.  Every branch of Mine that bears no fruit, He takes away; and every fruitful branch He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word I have spoken to you. Now: abide in Me, and I in you.  Just as a branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine, neither can you be fruitful apart from abiding in Me.  Those people not abiding in Me are cast forth and wither; they will be gathered and thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, ask whatever you will, and it will be given you.  It is to My Father's glory that you bear much fruit, thus revealing yourselves as My disciples.  As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you; now abide in My love.  You do this by keeping My commandments, as I have kept the Father's commandments and abide in  His love.  I have said these things to you, so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.'

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Praise, prophesy, persevere

Thursday, April 20, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 146-49; Ezek 37:1-14; Acts 3:11-26; Jn 15:12-27

Praise the Lord, my soul; I will praise YHWH as long as I live.  No reason to trust eminent mortals; there is no help there.  Happy are they, rather, whose Help is from the God of Jacob, YHWH our God, Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them.  He keeps faith for ever; He executes justice for the oppressed and feeds the hungry.  YHWH sets prisoners free, opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up those who are downcast.  He watches over sojourners, sustains widows and orphans.  And He brings to ruin the ways of the wicked.  YHWH will reign to all generations.  Praise the Lord!
     It is good to praise our God; He Is gracious, and songs praising Him are in order.  YHWH builds up Jerusalem.  He heals the brokenhearted; He binds up their wounds.  He numbers the stars and names them all.  Great is our Lord, abundant in power; His understanding is beyond reckoning.  He lifts up the downtrodden, and casts to earth the wicked.  Sing to YHWH with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on stringed instruments!  He covers the heavens with clouds; He prepares rain for the earth and makes grass grow on the hillsides.  He feeds the wild things--the beasts and birds receive from His bounty.  Our God does not delight in animal strength; He is pleased by those who fear Him, and who hope in His steadfast love.  Let Jerusalem praise YHWH; praise your God, Zion!  He sustains your gates and boundaries; He blesses your children among you.  He brings peace to your borders; He fills you with the finest wheat.  He oversees everything that happens on the earth; His word runs swiftly!  He ordains snow showers and ice storms. and He thaws and melts the snow and ice.  He causes winds to blow and waters to flow.  He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and ordinances to Israel.  He does this with no other nation or people.  Let us praise YHWH!
     Praise Him, then, in heaven and on earth's prominences.  Let all angels and all His host praise God.  Praise Him, sun and moon, all you shining stars!  Let all creation praise the name of the Lord.
For by His command they all were created; He has established His creation for ever.  Sea monsters, ocean deeps, fire and hail, snow and sleet, frost and winds of storm--praise and obey our God!  Kings of the earth, and all peoples, princes, and every magistrate and ruler on earth; youth and aged, maids and men--let all praise our God.  His name alone is exalted; His glory is over all the worlds.  He has raised up a horn for His people, praise for all His saints, the people nearest to God.
     Praise the Lord; sing to Him a new song.  Praise Him in the assembly of the faithful.  Let all He favors rejoice in our King, praising His name with dancing, making melody to Him with every instrument. For YHWH takes pleasure in His people; He adorns the humble with victory.  Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy from their couches and beds.  Let God's high praises fill our throats; let us lift up the sword of the Spirit to bring God's will to pass among the nations.  Christ's victory has put the idols and ungodly rulers in eternal bondage; He has executed judgment to free His people to do His service.  This is glory for all His faithful ones!  Praise the Lord!

God brought the prophet Ezekiel out from Jerusalem; by the Spirit, God put the prophet in the center of a valley filled with human bones, very dry.  God asked Ezekiel, 'Son of man, can these bones live?'  Ezekiel replied that only God knew that answer.  So God said to him, 'Prophesy to these bones: "Dry bones, hear God's word: See, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.  I will lay sinews on you, and cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with new skin, and put ruach within you, and you shall live; and you shall now that I Am YHWH.'  Ezekiel did as he was told, and the bones were enfleshed and inspired, 'and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedinglyly great host.'  God told the prophet: these are the whole house of Israel.  You will know that I Am YHWH when I open your graves and raise you, my people, in resurrection life.  Then I will place you in your own land, and you will know Me and know that I have done what I have promised.  This is the Lord's word.

Peter and John had encountered a paralyzed beggar, lame from birth, and in Jesus' name, he had been healed.  The man leaped up, walked, and entered the Temple with the apostles--he who had previously been both unable to enter and barred from admittance.  Everyone nearby witnessed all this, and they were filled with wonder and amazement.  Peter addressed the crowd drawn by this spectacle: 'Men of Israel, why stare in wonder or think that we made this man walk by our own power or piety?  No: this is the doing of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, Who glorified His Servant Jesus, Whom you delivered up and denied to Pilate, even when the procurator had decided to release Him.  You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked instead for a murderer to be released as a boon to you.  You killed the Author of life, but God raised Him from the dead.  And we are witnesses to all this. But the name of Jesus, by faith in His name, this man was made whole and strong, whom you all see and know.  The faith that is through Jesus has given this man perfect health in the very presence of you all.  I know that you and your rulers acted in ignorance.  But God fulfilled what He foretold by all His prophets: that His Messiah should suffer.  Now therefore, repent; turn in a new way, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Messiah appointed for you, namely Jesus, Whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouths of His holy prophets.  Moses said, 'The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet from your brethren, as He raised me up.  Listen to him; do what He tells you.  Know that every soul who does not listen to that prophet will be destroyed from among the people.'  All God's prophets, from Samuel on, said the same things.  You are the descendants of the prophets, members of the covenant that God gave to your forbears, as He said to Abraham, 'And in your posterity shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.'  When God raised up His Servant, He sent Him first to you, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness.'

On His last night with the apostles prior to His crucifixion, Jesus gave them these words:  'This is My commandment: love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.  You are My friends, if you do what I command you.  I no longer call you servants, for I have made known to you everything I heard from My Father.  You did not choose Me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear good fruit, that will abide.  Therefore, whatever you ask in My name, He may give it to you.  Again: love one another.  Know this: if the world hates you, it hated Me first.  The world would love you if you belonged to the world; but I chose you out of the world--and therefore, the world hates you.  A servant is not greater than his master; if some persecuted Me, they will persecute you; and if some kept My word, they will keep yours also.  All this is done to My account, because they don't know the One Who sent Me.  They would have no sin if I had not come and spoken to them; but now, they have no excuse for their sin.  If I had not done in their midst the works no one else did or could do, they would not have sin; but now, they have seen and hated both Me and My Father.  This actually fulfills what is written in their law:  'They hated me without cause.'  But with the Paraclete comes, Whom I shall send you from the Father, namely the Spirit of truth, Who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness to Me, and you also are witnesses, because you have been with Me from the beginning.'