Friday, June 23, 2017

Mercy, faith, redemption!

Friday, June 23, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 102; 107:1-32; Num 20:1-13; Rom 5:12-21; Mt 20:29-34

Lord, let my cry come before You; don't hide Yourself from me; listen and reply as I call out to You. My days pass away like smoke; my bones burn as if in a furnace; my heart faints, withered like grass.  I am outcast and downcast, like a vulture in the wilderness, an owl in wastelands.  I lie awake all night; enemies taunt me ceaselessly; my food tastes like ashes and my drink is mingled with my tears.  Your indignation devastates me, and I am forlorn.  But You, Lord, endure forever, enthroned, mighty, lauded.  Have pity on Zion, that the nations may fear YHWH, and people yet unborn may praise You.  God looked down from heaven; He heard the groans of prisoners facing death, and set them at liberty.  God has broken my strength, but He Is almighty.  Creation will perish, but the Creator abides forever.  The children of Your servants shall dwell secure, and their descendants shall remain established before You!  Let the Lord's redeemed declare it; give thanks to the Lord, for He Is good; His steadfast love endures forever.  He has brought us to Himself from all the ends of the earth.  Some wandered in deserts, and He brought them to safe cities.  He satisfies the thirsty and hungry!  Some languished in darkness and gloom, prisoners afflicted in irons, who had rebelled against God's word and spurned His wise counsel.  Their hearts were bowed in hard labor; they fell, and no one helped them stand.  But God heard their lament and brought them forth from darkness and broke their bonds asunder.  Let them thank YHWH for His steadfast love and mighty acts!  Some were sickened by sinful ways, afflicted in their iniquities.  They lost appetite for food and for life and neared the gates of death.  They cried to the Lord, and He delivered them from their distress.  He sent forth His word and healed them.  So let them also thank the Lord for His wonderful works; let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and tell of His deeds in songs of joy!  Some went down to the sea in ships, to seek commerce; there, they encountered the deeps of the Lord--winds and waves only God can master; the currents lifted and dashed them, and their courage disappeared.  They reeled and staggered like drunks; they came to wits' end, and cried out to God.  And He delivered them from their distress; He stilled the storms and calmed the waves.  He brought them to their desired haven.  Let them thank YHWH for His steadfast love and wondrous works.  Let all extol God in the congregation, and praise Him in the assembly of the elders.

During their wilderness wanderings, the people of Israel came into the wilderness of Zin and abided in Kadesh.  There, Miriam, sister of Moses and Aaron, died and was buried.  There was no water for the people, and they banded together against Moses and Aaron, saying 'Would that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!  Why did you bring us into this wilderness, that we and our livestock alike should die here?  Why leave Egypt for this evil place?  There is no grain, nor figs, nor vines, nor pomegranates; there is no water to drink.'  Moses and Aaron went to the door of the tabernacle and fell facedown.  YHWH's glory appeared, and He spoke to Moses: 'Take the rod and assemble the people; in their presence, tell the rock to yield its water.  In this way you will give drink to the congregation and their livestock.'  Moses took up the rod, as God had commanded.  He and Aaron assembled the people, and delivered God's message: 'Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?'  And Moses struck the rock with his rod, twice; and water flowed abundantly and the people and their livestock drank all they needed.  But YHWH remonstrated with Moses and Aaron: 'Because you did not believe in Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the people of Israel, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have promised to them.'  This took place at Meribah, the waters of Contention, where the Israelites contended with YHWY and He showed Himself holy before them.

Paul wrote: Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and death spread to all mortals because all mortals sinned.  Sin was in the world indeed, before God gave the Law to humankind; but sin is not accounted where there is no law.  Even so, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like those of Adam, who was a type for the one who was to come.  God's free gift is not like the sin of His creatures.  If many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one Man, Jesus the Messiah, abounded for many.  God's free gift is not like the effects of one man's sin.  Holy judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification to many.  If, because of one man's sin, death reigned through that one man, Much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and God's free gift of righteousness reign in life, through the one Man, Jesus the Messiah.  As one man's trespass led to condemnation of all humans, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all humans.  As by one's disobedience many because sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.  Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, even more, grace also might reign through righteousness issuing in eternal life through Jesus Messiah, our Lord.

Jesus and His disciples were leaving Jericho, heading up to Jerusalem, followed by a great crowd.  Two blind men were sitting near the road; and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, 'Have mercy on us, Son of David!'  Jesus stopped and called to them: 'What do  you want Me to do for you?'  They said, 'Lord, let our eyes be opened!'  In pity, Jesus touched their eyes; immediately they received their sight and followed Him.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Discerning kingdoms: of mortals and of God

Thursday, June 22, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 105:1-45; 1 Sam 8:1-22; Acts 6:15-7:16; Lk 22:24-30

Thank YHWH; call on His name; make His deeds known among all peoples.  Sing to Him; sing praises and tell of all His wonderful works.  Glory in His holy name; let their hearts rejoice, all who seek YHWH.  Seek Him, then; seek YHWH and His presence.  Keep in mind His marvelous acts of power, love and mercy.  He Is--YHWH our God; His judgment extends worldwide; He Is mindful of His covenant for ever--His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, with Jacob--an everlasting covenant: 'I will give to you the Land of Canaan, your portion as an inheritance.'  YHWH chose Israel when they were of little account, wandering among the nations; He protected them from more powerful peoples and rulers.  God had already sent Joseph to Egypt, before drought and famine beset His chosen people.  Joseph was sold by his jealous brothers into slavery; his feet were bruised with fetters; his neck was in a collar of iron.  God tested Joseph, and by grace, Joseph passes His test.  Egypt's king freed him and made Joseph lord over Pharaoh's house and the land of Egypt, to instruct the princes of the land and to teach wisdom to their elders.  Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.  YHWH made His people very fruitful, stronger than their foes.  God turned Egyptian hearts to hate His people, to deal craftily with His servants. And in time, YHWH sent Moses and Aaron to work signs and miracles before Pharaoh.  He sent darkness; He turned their waters to blood and caused their fish to die and their land to be overrun by frogs.  God's servant spoke, and swarms of flies and gnats beset Egypt.  Hail and lightning devastated the land; God smote their vines and fig trees.  Locusts overran the land and devoured all plant life, but left Goshen intact, where the children of Israel dwelled.  Finally, God struck down all the firstborn, human and animal, throughout Egypt, but passed over the households of Israel.  He led the Israelites forth with silver and gold; Egypt was glad when they departed, for fear of God had overwhelmed the former masters.  God guided His people in the wilderness, with a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night.  He brought them quail and manna, the bread of angels, to eat, and water to drink, even in the desert, from the Rock He opened before them.  For YHWH remembered His holy promise and Abraham, His servant.  So God led forth His people with joy and singing; He gave them the lands of nations, and they took possession of the cities and fields, the fruits of the former residents' toil--to the end that His people should follow God's statutes and obey His laws.  Praise YHWH!

When Samuel became old, he put his sons over Israel as judges.  His firstborn was Joel, and his second, Abijah.  They ruled in Beer-Sheba.  But these sons perverted justice; they took bribes; they did not follow God, but turned aside after selfish gain.  Then, the elders of Israel assembled and came before Samuel at Ramah.  They said to him, 'Look!  You are old and your sons do not walk in your ways.  Appoint a king for us, to rule us as kings rule other nations.'  This displeased Samuel, and he prayed to YHWH.  But YHWH said to Samuel, 'Listen to all the people say to you.  They have not rejected you; rather, they haver rejected Me from being King over them.  From the day I delivered them from Egypt to this very day, they have forsaken Me and served other gods; they're treating you as they have always treated Me.  So now, hearken to their voice and solemnly warn them about the ways of a human king who would rule over them'  Samuel did as God commanded: 'The king you want will conscript your sons to be his charioteers, cavalry and foot soldiers.  He will appoint captains of thousands and of fifties, and will force others to plow his ground and harvest his crops.  He will set others to making weapons and equipment for wars.  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and bakers and cooks.  He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves for his own, and will take a tithe of what you raise and harvest for yourselves, and use it to reward his officers and servants.  He will take for himself your male and female slaves, and the best of your domestic livestock.  In short, you will be slaves of your mortal king.  And on that day, you'll cry out to YHWH for respite, but He will not answer you on that day.  But the people refused to heed Samuel's words; they insisted: 'No!  We will have a king over us, so we can be like all the other nations, so that our king may go out before us and lead us in battle.'  Samuel reported their words to YHWH, and God told His man, 'Hearken to their voice, and make them a king.'  And Samuel dismissed the people, saying 'Every man: to your own city.'  

The Jewish opponents of the evangelist and deacon Stephen instigated false accusations against him; they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes against him before the Jewish council.  The high priest demanded that Stephen answer their false charges.  So he did: 'Brothers and fathers, listed to me.  The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham, while he was yet living in Mesopotamia, and said, 'Depart from your land and kindred and go hence, to a land which I will show you.' And he obeyed, living in Haran until Abraham's father died.  Then, he relocated to this land in which you are now living.  God promised him land and descendants, but at that time, gave him neither.  God told him that his descendants would be aliens in a place where foreigners would enslave and mistreat them for four centuries.  God told him, 'I will judge the nation that enslaves your descendants, and they shall come out and worship Me in this place.'  And God gave the Israelites the covenant of circumcision.  In this manner Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.  When the patriarchs became jealous of Joseph, they sold him into slavery in Egypt.  But God was with him and rescued Joseph from all his afflictions, and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made Joseph governor over Egypt and the king's own household.  A great famine overtook Egypt and Canaan, and our ancestors could find no food.  Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, and sent his remaining sons there to buy grain; on their second visit to Egypt from Canaan, Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and then Joseph's family became known to Pharaoh.  At the king's bidding (but doing God's will), Joseph called Jacob his father and all his kindred, a total of 75 souls, to relocate to Egypt under Joseph's care.  So Jacob went down to Egypt; there he died, and presently, so did our other forefathers, and they were carried back the Shechem and laid there in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver, from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.  

At the Last Supper, with Jesus in the upper room before His crucifixion, the apostles disputed over which of them should be considered the greatest.  Jesus said to them, 'The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; those in authority over them are alled benefactors.  But it is not so with you: let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.  Consider which is greater: one who sits at table, or one who serves?  It's the one at table, correct?  But I Am among you as One Who serves.  You are the ones who have persevered with Me in My trials; and to you, I assign a kingdom, as My Father assigned a kingdom to Me--that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.'  

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!]'