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.'

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Believe. Turn. Live. Unto Jesus!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Devotions: Ps 101, 109, 119:121-44; Jer 18:1-11; Rom 8:1-11; Jn 6:27-40

I will sing to You, YHWH, of loyalty and justice.  I will heed the way that is blameless--when will You come to me?  I will walk with integrity of heart within my dwelling; I will not set before my eyes what is base.  This is a challenge I have faced for many years, Lord!  I hate the deeds of those who fall away; set perversity of heart far from me.  I will know nothing of what is evil!  I will look favorably on those who are faithful; I will separate myself from deceit and lying, and those who practice these sins.  Let God not be silent; let those who hate me be set aside by His power and grace. Father, keep me from joining in unkindness and cursing.  Let God's steadfast love abide with me and keep me from harm.  My heart is stricken, Lord; spare me this agony!  Save me according to Your steadfast love, and put my accusers to shame, since Jesus has triumphed over sin and death.  I will praise God with my voice, in the midst of His people.  God stands by the needy and save us from those who would condemn us to death.  Do not let the godless oppress me; teach me Your statutes; give me understanding that I may know Your testimonies.  I love Your commands above all else, and seek to direct my steps according to Your precepts.  Unfolding Your words brings light and understanding--the very things I long for!  Keep my steps steady, Lord; let no iniquity dominate me.  Make Your face shine on me, righteous Lord, and give me understanding, that I may live!

YHWH sent Jeremiah to the potter's house, where the craftsman was working at his wheel.  YHWH said, 'Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does with the clay?  I am Master; I can pluck up or cast down, build or destroy any nation, as he does with his handiwork.  Return from your evil ways and your ungodly activities!'

As God has delivered me through the Messiah's faithful sacrifice, there is now no condemnation, since I am found in Jesus.  The law of the Spirit of life in the Messiah Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.  The law, weakened by the flesh failed; but God has done what the law could not.  We walk by the Spirit, setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.  That is life and peace.  Fleshy minds are hostile to God, and neither can nor will submit to God's law.  As the redeemed, we are in the Spirit, Who dwells in us.  And all in whom Christ lives have died to sin and death, and are alive because of His righteousness.  And God, Who raised the Messiah Jesus from death, will give eternal life to our mortal bodies through His Spirit Who indwells us!

Jesus told His disciples:  don't labor for perishable food; seek food that endures to eternal life--provided by the eternal Son, on Whom God the Father has set His seal: believe on Him Whom God has sent.  I Am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me will not hunger; those who believe in Me will never thirst.  All whom the Father gives Me will come to me, and I will never cast one out.  I came from heaven to do His will Who sent Me: that I should lose nothing and no one He has entrusted to My care--all this I will raise up at the last day.  My Father's will is that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; Belieand I will raise them up at the last day.  Amen!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Life! In Christ!

Friday, March 10 - Devotions: Ps 40, 51, 54, 95; Deut 10:12-22; Heb 4:11-16; Jn 3:22-36

Mired in a desolate pit, I waited patiently for YHWH, and He drew me up and set me on a rock.  He put a new song of praise to God in my mouth!  Blessed are all who put their trust in YHWH, and who shun false mortals and false deities.  Lord, You have multiplied wondrous deeds and marvelous thoughts to us.  You help me to listen carefully; I delight to do Your will; You have written your word in my heart.  In the great congregation I will share the good news of God's deliverance, telling of Your faithfulness and steadfast love, which preserve me.  I am a sinner, but You have blessed me; bring to shame and confusion all who oppose you, all who seek me destroy me.  Hasten, Lord, my Help and Deliverer!  Wash me thoroughly; cleanse me from all sin.  I know that You desire truth in our innermost being; teach me wisdom in my secret heart. Purge me; fill me with joy; hide Your face from my iniquities; blot out my sins, dear Lord!  Create in me a clean heart, a new and upright spirit; restore to me the joy of my salvation; open my lips that I may shout Your praise--the only sacrifice that I can make that is acceptable before You, Holy Lord.  Vindicate me; hear my prayers; I leave my enemies to Your judgment and justice.  I give thanks to Your name which alone is good, and turn from all enemies.  Let all God's people make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation!  Our YHWH is a great God, the great high King above all gods.  He holds nature in His hand; all is His; and He made all that exists.  Let us worship and bow down, kneeling before YHWH our Maker; we are His flock.

Moses declaimed: 'What does YHWH your God require: fear God; walk in all His ways; love and serve Him with all your heart and soul, and keep His good commandments.  He made and owns everything, yet He has chosen you before all peoples.  So: circumcise your hearts; slough off your stubbornness and rebellion!  Our God is the only One, and He Is entirely just and impartial.  He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, for the alien and refugee.  Love the sojourners as God has loved us; serve Him, cleave to Him, swear only by His name!  He Is our Praise, and He has preserved and multiplied us, to His glory!

Let us strive to enter His rest!  God's word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword; it penetrates to divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  All creatures are laid bare, entirely transparent before our God!  And we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens--namely, Jesus, God's Son--let us hold fast our confession.  He has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet He is without sin!  Therefore, let us with confidence draw near the throne of grace, to receive mercy and the grace we need.

Jesus and His disciples traveled into Judea, where they were baptizing.  Some of John the Baptizer's followers got into a dispute with a Jew, concerning purification.  The parties appealed to John, saying that Jesus, the One John had affirmed, was now baptizing more than John himself.  John replied, 'No one can receive anything except what heaven provides.  You heard me testify: I am not the Messiah, but was sent before Him.  The bride belongs to the groom, and the groom's friend rejoices at His voice and at the approaching marriage. This joy is mine, and now is full.  Jesus comes from above, and testifies to matters no earth-dweller can know--He demonstrates that God Is true.  The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand.  All who believe in the Son have eternal life, while any who disobey the Son shall not see life; instead, God's wrath rests upon them.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

God's covenant faithfully embodied in Jesus the Messiah

Thursday, March 2, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 37; Deut 7:6-11; Tit 1:1-16; Jn 1:29-34

Don't fret or envy wicked evildoers: soon they will fade and wither.  Trust in YHWH and do good; that is the path to security.  Delight in God and He will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the Lord, and He will vindicate you like the rising of the dawn light; your righteousness will shine like the noonday sun.  Be still before the Lord; wait upon Him with patience--again, don't fret or worry over the wicked.  Refrain from anger; forsake wrath; fretfulness leads only to evil.  God will cut off the wicked, while those who wait upon Him, God will put over His creation.  In a short time, the wicked will be no more and the meek will possess the land and delight themselves in abundant prosperity.  While the wicked are plotting against the righteous, God is holding the wicked in derision--God knows, and now you do too, that a day of judgment is coming for the wicked.  Their plots and weapons will be turned upon them.  So: better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked!  God upholds the righteous; He breaks the arms of the wicked.  They will vanish away like smoke.  The wicked borrows and cannot repay; the righteous gives generously, and is generously supplied and protected.  Mortals' steps are from the Lord; He establishes them in whose way God delights.  I was young, and now I'm old; yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.  Righteous people give liberally, and God provides for them and their children.  Depart from evil, then; do good, and abide forever, by God's grace and favor.  Seek God; immerse yourself in His word; then you will not slip or depart from His level way.  Wait upon the Lord; He will exalt you.  Mark not the wicked; they will disappear; rather, mark the blameless ones and behold the upright.  There is a future for people of peace!  God is our refuge in trouble and He Is our salvation, because we take refuge in Him.

Moses told the people of Israel:  You are a people holy to YHWH your God.  He chose you from among all the peoples of the earth to be His own--not because of your numbers or virtues--rather, because of His great and sovereign love.  He has redeemed you; and your God keeps His covenant; His love is steadfast and immovable.  He destroys His enemies.  So keep His commands, statutes and ordinances!

Paul wrote to Titus: as God's servant and apostle of Jesus the Messiah, I seek to further the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of truth, which accords with godliness.  God never lies, and so we have firm hope of eternal life--already manifested in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Messiah Jesus--and this saving gospel we now share as God our Savior commands: Grace and peace from God the Father and from the Messiah Jesus our savior.  Titus, I left you in Crete to appoint elders in every town: men of one woman, whose children are believers, never profligate or insubordinate, not arrogant or quick tempered, not drunken, violent or greedy.  God's bishops, God's stewards and vicars, must be hospitable, lovers of goodness, self-controlled, holding firm the sure word as taught, and so capable of instruction in sound doctrine and in confuting unsound teaching.  May are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers: these upset whole families, and must be silenced.  They have no right to teach in God's name.  Rebuke them sharply, that they may become sound in the faith.  Their very mnis and consciences are corrupted.  They profess to know God, but deny Him by their deeds--detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good deed.

John the Baptizer had testified that God's Messiah, 'whose sandal I am not worthy to untie,' already stood amid the crowds around him.  The very next day, John saw Jesus approaching and spoke: 'Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world!  This Is He of Whom I said, "After me comes a Man Who ranks before me, for He Was before me."  I myself did not know Him; but for this reason I came baptizing with water: that He might be revealed to Israel.  I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and the Spirit remained on Him.  I myself did not know Him, but the One Who sent me to baptize with wather said to me, "He on Whom you see the Spirit descend and remain--this Is He Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit."  And I have seen and have borne witness that this Is the Son of God.'

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Faithful God's sovereign love sets us free forever

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 121-126; Prov 4:1-27; 1Jn 4:7-21; Jn 11:30-44

I raise my gaze to the hills: where will my help come from?  It comes from YHWH, creator of heaven and earth.  He never sleeps, and He will keep me from stumbling or being pushed around.  YHWH is my Keeper; He shades me from the hot sun, protects me in the moonlit night.  He keeps me from all evil and sustains my life.  YHWH watches over my going forth and returning home, for ever.  So I am thrilled when it's time to go to God's house for worship.  I was blessed to visit the Holy City, Jerusalem, to which the nations make aliyah, going up in pilgrimage.  I pray for the peace of Jerusalem, Lord, and of all the holy land; indeed, Jesus, You have made all the earth holy ground, the kingdom of our God.  Let there be peace on earth and with those who please our God.  I turn to You, Lord, for succor and for strength.  Have mercy on us and free us from the contempt of the proud and wicked.  If You had not sustained us, the hostility of evil men and evil spirits would have swallowed us alive.  Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us up to enemies.  He has broken the snare and set us free!  Those who trust in Him are like Mount Zion--immovable, abiding forever.  As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so YHWH is round about His people.  Let there be peace for the Israel of God.  When God acts to deliver us, we are enraptured--laughter fills our mouths, and we shout for joy. YHWH has done great things for us; we are restored, as streams restore the Negev.  May all who sow with tears, reap with shouts of joy!  We go out in tears to sow; we return home with the harvest, proclaiming the praise of our God.

Listen to the wisdom of our elders; obey the commandments of our God.  Pursue wisdom; get insight--for Wisdom will guard you and exalt you, crowning your life and work with beauty.  Follow in the paths of righteousness; hold onto godly instruction.  Shun the paths of the wicked; turn away and move on with the Lord and His people.  Evildoers cannot rest; they cannot sleep apart from doing wicked things.  They devour wickedness and drink the wine of violence.  But the path of the righteous is like dawn, shining ever brighter till noonday, while the way of the wicked is in deep darkness--there is no telling what will cause them to stumble.  Hold fast, dear ones, to wisdom; hide these words in your heart; they are life and healing for anyone who does this.  Keep your heart with all vigilance,  Separate yourself from deception and lying.  Look forward; look up.  Do not swerve right or left; the Way is straight and narrow; the ditches are wide and treacherous.  Turn from evil; hold fast to wisdom, and do what is good.

Let us love one another; love is of God, and by loving we are born of God and know God.  His love is manifest in the advent of His Son, and we may live through Him.  Love is God's expiation for our sins through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.  And if God loves us so, we also must love one another.  If we do, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.  We can know this because God the Holy Spirit is in us. The eternal Father sent His Son as Savior of the world.  God abides in all who confess that Jesus is the Son of God; and this perfects love in us, swo that we may have confidence for the Day of judgment--as He Is, so we are in this world.  Perfect love casts out all fear, for fear springs from punishment, and anyone who fears is not perfected in love.  We love because God first loved us; and we must love our brothers and sisters, whom we can see--if not, we lie when we claim to love God.  This is His command: that all should love God, and all should love our brothers and sisters also.

Jesus had waited several days after receiving news that Lazarus of Bethany was dying.  Then, He made His way to visit that household.  Martha hurried out to meet Jesus, and He affirmed to Her: 'I Am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in Me, even if they die, will live--and never be separated from Me in death.'  Then Jesus called for Mary and she hurried out to meet Him.  She fell at His feet and said, 'Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.'  Seeing her tears and the grief of other mourners, Jesus was deeply moved and stirred in His Spirit.  He asked where they had laid Lazarus; they said, 'Come and see, Lord.'  And Jesus wept.  The Jews were divided--some touched by His grief; others miffed that Jesus had not prevented Lazarus' death.  Jesus came to the tomb and directed that the stone sealing its opening should be moved aside.  Martha remonstrated--her brother had been in the grave four days, and she expected a foul odor.  But Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that ifyou would believe, you would see the glory of God?'  So they rolled away the stone, and Jesus lifted His eyesw and said, 'Father, I thank You have heard Me.  I now that You always hear Me, but I say this for the benefit of bystanders, that they may believe that You have sent Mer.'  Then, Jesus cried aloud, 'Lazarus!  Come forth!'  And the man came out of the cave, hands and feet still bound with bandages and his face covered with a cloth.  Jesus directed those standing by, 'Unbind him, and let him go.'