Pay Attention To How You Hear

Luke 8:1-21

After a large crowd had gathered from the people who kept coming to him from town after town, Yeshua told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell along the path and was stepped on, and the birds flying around ate it up. Some fell on rock; and after it sprouted, it dried up from lack of moisture. Some fell in the midst of thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. But some fell into rich soil, and grew, and produced a hundred times as much as had been sown.” After saying this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear with, let him hear!”

His talmidim asked him what this parable might mean, and he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of God; but the rest are taught in parables, so that they may look but not see, and listen but not understand.

“The parable is this: the seed is God’s message.

The ones along the path are those who hear, but then the Adversary comes and takes the message out of their hearts, in order to keep them from being saved by trusting it. 

The ones on rock are those who, when they hear the word, accept it with joy; but these have no rootthey go on trusting for awhile; but when a time of testing comes, they apostatize. 

As for what fell in the midst of thorns these are the ones who hear; but as they go along, worries and wealth and life’s gratifications crowd in and choke them, so that their fruit never matures. 

But what fell in rich soil — these are the ones who, when they hear the message, hold onto it with a good, receptive heart; and by persevering, they bring forth a harvest.

“No one who has lit a lamp covers it with a bowl or puts it under a bed; no, he puts it on a stand; so that those coming in may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nothing is covered up that will not be known and come out into the open. Pay attention, then, to how you hear! For anyone who has something will be given more; but from anyone who has nothing, even what he seems to have will be taken away.

Then Yeshua’s mother and brothers came to see him, but they couldn’t get near him because of the crowd. It was reported to him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and want to see you.” But he gave them this answer: “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s message and act on it!
Luke 8:4-21

This familiar parable is one of my favorites. Jesus teaches in parables, drawing off of real life illustrations that the people would be familiar with. Everyone would understand that the type of soil that receives seed would determine the outcome, and that only one type of soil – good, rich, fertile ground – would result in a harvest. But to His disciples He reveals the deeper meaning – the seed is the message of the Gospel and the soil is the heart of a person. Some may hear the message, but it is snatched away before it even has a chance to take root. These are those that have never made a decision for Christ, they likely have a very agnostic view of God, and don’t understand their need for salvation. LORD, open my eyes to see these people and give me a love for them that I might help to sow more seeds of Your message of salvation!

The second and third types of soil have always been the most interesting to me. The first is the rocky soil – someone who hears the message and receives it gladly, but when a time of testing comes they apostatize – fall away from the faith that they thought they had. This happened because they had no depth of soil in order for the seed to take root. Sadly, there are so many churches that offer up an alter call on a weekly basis, encouraging people to come a receive the free gift of salvation, but then they never take those people under their wings and disciple them. They don’t help them learn how to read the bible, the importance of prayer, and how to confront sin, confess it, and repent from it. These people are left with nothing more than an emotion-driven prayer which will not sustain them when times of trial and testing come and eventually they will fall away from faith in Christ.

The second, the soil that is thorny, receives the message (though it’s interesting that nothing is mentioned about how it is received…). It’s “part” of their life, but they allow the worries and desires of the world to crowd out the message so that the little seed never grows, never matures, and never produces fruit. I’ve heard some people say that this doesn’t necessarily mean that this type of person isn’t saved; however, it’s hard to justify this with what Jesus says in Matthew 7: “Likewise, every healthy tree produces good fruit, but a poor tree produces bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, or a poor tree good fruit. Any tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire! So you will recognize them by their fruit.” And also what John the Baptist says in Luke 3: “If you have really turned from your sins, produce fruit that will prove it!… Already the axe is at the root of the trees, ready to strike; every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown in the fire!” It seems to me that these are “cultural Christians,” people who claim faith in Christ, but that faith has not affected anything about the way they choose to live. They are like the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3 – “lukewarm.” In fact, Jesus’ message to this church is strikingly similar to the explanation He gives for this parable:
“I know what you are doing: you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth! For you keep saying, ‘I am rich, I have gotten rich, I don’t need a thing!’ You don’t know that you are the one who is wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and nakedMy advice to you is to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich; and white clothing, so that you may be dressed and not have to be ashamed of your nakedness; and eyesalve to rub on your eyes, so that you may see. As for me, I rebuke and discipline everyone I love; so exert yourselves, and turn from your sins! Here, I’m standing at the door, knocking. If someone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me. I will let him who wins the victory sit with me on my throne, just as I myself also won the victory and sat down with my Father on his throne. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities.”

These people think they are rich, but they have no idea of how wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked they are. They are those who have nothing, those they think they have something, and even that will be taken away if they don’t repent and recognize their need. But the good news is God is full of grace and mercy and is always willing to receive a repentant sinner!

And then we have the last type of soil – the rich, fertile soil that receives God’s message with a good, receptive heart, and through persevering bring forth a harvest. I think it’s important to not the use of the word persevering. This person clings to the Word of God, trusts in His promises and their faith perseveres through all sorts of seasons – through trial and triumph, joy and sorrow. They know the One in Whom they have trusted and believe that He is faithful to fulfill and accomplish all He has promised.

Jesus ends His explanation by telling His disciples to pay attention to how they hear. The Hebrew word for hear is shema and it means more than simply hearing something and accepting it – it is a call to action. This is why He says, “My mother and brothers (My family) are those who hear God’s message and act on it.” To those who do this Jesus promises that they will be given more – more understanding, more revelation, more joy, more intimacy with the LORD. The abundant life that He came to give! Jesus says in John 14, “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me, and the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

But to those who do not receive the message with a good, receptive heart – those who just hear it, accept it, and go on living their lives apart from the holy calling that Christ has given us, Jesus says that even what they think they have will be taken from them.

Could this be why the Church is in the state it is in now? Hmm.

LORD, give me a good, receptive heart – one that hears Your Word, receives it with joy, and acts upon it so that it does it’s transformative work in my life. AMEN!

 

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Our Perception Of Our Forgiveness Determines How We Love

Luke 7

When the messengers from Yochanan had gone, Yeshua began speaking to the crowds about Yochanan: “What did you go out into the desert to see? Reeds swaying in the breeze? No? then what did you go out to see? Someone who was well dressed? But people who dress beautifully and live in luxury are found in kings’ palaces. No, so what did you go out to see? A prophet! Yes, and I tell you he’s much more than a prophet. This is the one about whom the Tanakh says,
‘See, I am sending out my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.’

I tell you that among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than Yochanan the Immerser! Yet the one who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he!”

All the people who heard him, even the tax-collectors, by undergoing Yochanan’s immersion acknowledged that God was right; but the P’rushim and the Torah-teachers, by not letting themselves be immersed by him, nullified for themselves God’s plan.

One of the P’rushim invited Yeshua to eat with him, and he went into the home of the Parush and took his place at the table. A woman who lived in that town, a sinner, who was aware that he was eating in the home of the Parush, brought an alabaster box of very expensive perfume, stood behind Yeshua at his feet and wept until her tears began to wet his feet. Then she wiped his feet with her own hair, kissed his feet and poured the perfume on them.

When the Parush who had invited him saw what was going on, he said to himself, “If this man were really a prophet, he would have known who is touching him and what sort of woman she is, that she is a sinner.

Yeshua answered, “Shim‘on, I have something to say to you.” “Say it, Rabbi,” he replied. “A certain creditor had two debtors; the one owed ten times as much as the other. When they were unable to pay him back, he canceled both their debts. Now which of them will love him more?” Shim‘on answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “Your judgment is right,” Yeshua said to him.

Then, turning to the woman, he said to Shim‘on, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house — you didn’t give me water for my feet, but this woman has washed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair! You didn’t give me a kiss; but from the time I arrived, this woman has not stopped kissing my feet! You didn’t put oil on my head, but this woman poured perfume on my feet! Because of this, I tell you that her sins — which are many! — have been forgiven, because she loved much. But someone who has been forgiven only a little loves only a little.” Then he said to her, “Your sins have been forgiven.” At this, those eating with him began saying among themselves, “Who is this fellow that presumes to forgive sins?” But he said to the woman, “Your trust has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7:24-30 & 36-50

The story of this woman who comes to Jesus and worships and weeps at His feet is told in three of the Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and John’s Gospel identifies this woman as Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Jesus even says of her, “Amen, I tell you, wherever this Good News is proclaimed in all the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

The description of the accounts in Matthew and Mark are slightly different than Luke’s account. In the former, guests at the dinner, even the disciples, were angry that this woman had poured such costly perfume on Jesus – seeing this act as a waste. But in Luke’s recalling of the story, he shares a specific conversation that took place between Jesus and Simon, the Pharisee, who had invited Him to his home. In both Matthew and Mark’s versions, Simon is referred to as “Simon the Leper” who had been healed from leprosy. Neither author informs us whether or not he had been healed by Jesus Himself, but I don’t think it is far fetched to assume that. Jesus had been healing hundreds of people in the region from all sorts of diseases – including leprosy. It seems quite possible that Simon, upon being healed and therefore able to return to society and his position as one of the religious elite, would want to host a dinner in honor of the great Rabbi and Healer.

If we were to assume these things about Simon – the former leper/Pharisee – the account in Luke has even more depth than what is on the surface.Truly Luke is a masterful historian as he includes so much detail in his accounts! We can now see both Simon and Mary in Jesus’ parable of the two debtors – one who had been forgiven much and one who had been forgiven little. Simon was one of the Pharisees, of whom we know had very self-righteous opinions of themselves and hardly saw themselves as sinners. Even if Jesus had healed him of leprosy, it seems that is all he saw worthy of being thankful for. Sure, he invited Him to dinner, but even Jesus calls him out for not being a good host – you didn’t give Me water for my feet; you didn’t greet me with a kiss! But when this woman – Mary – who Luke makes sure to inform the reader was a known sinner, comes and kneels before Christ, weeps and worships at His feet, and pours out likely her most expensive and most precious possession on Him, Simon is disgusted that Jesus would even let her near Him. Simon, again, a former leper, who would have been ostracized from society, scorned and cursed and looked down upon, looks upon this woman – this sinner – with the same disdain that he once would have been the victim of for his own “uncleanliness.”

woman-washing-jesus-feet
Mary, however – whose sins were many – came before Jesus with such humility and thankfulness as she demonstrated her love of her LORD. Her trust had saved her and her sins were forgiven because she loved much. Jesus says to Simon, “Those who have been forgiven only a little love only a little.” I don’t think Jesus is implying that there is a scale that God used to rank us according to how many sins we have been forgiven – because if we’re being honest the number for each and every one of is infinite. I think what He is saying hear has more to do with our own perception of how much we’ve truly been forgiven. The more we recognize how much we have been forgiven of and how far from missing the mark of perfection we are, the more grateful and humble we will be, and as a result we will gain a posture of love and humility toward Christ and others. We won’t be tempted to look down on others with disgust because of their sin, because we will be aware of how truly depraved and without hope we too once were.

I’ve seen time and time again that those who have been saved out of horrible, tragic pasts filled with addictions, sexual promiscuity, and idolatry seem to have much greater faith and love for the Savior than those who, perhaps like me, grew up around the church and never really did anything “wrong.” In myself, this grew into a spirit of self-righteousness. I had so much pride in feeling like there really wasn’t all that much that God had to forgive me for, so it was easy to look down on others who were “far worse” than me. Praise God that He broke through my stoney, Pharisee heart and helped me to see just how little righteousness I had on my own and how much I desperately needed a Savior – to save me from my sins and fill me with His Spirit to transform me into His likeness!

Luke writes something that we should all take note of about the Pharisees after Jesus is speaking of John the Baptist: “the P’rushim and the Torah-teachers, by not letting themselves be immersed by him, nullified for themselves God’s plan.” John preached repentance, and the Pharisees, who did not see themselves as needing to repent, therefore disqualified themselves from God’s plan. And what is God’s plan? That no one would perish and that all would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). 

LORD, keep me humble and oh, so grateful, for all You’ve done and all You’ve saved me from! Let me not be like Simon, looking condescendingly upon sinners, but instead looking on them with love and compassion and the desire to share Your love and forgiveness that You so freely and graciously give to all who would receive it! May I fall deeper and deeper in love with You so that, like Mary, I might love much – both You and others around me! May I pour out what is most precious – my life – in order to demonstrate my love, affection, and gratitude toward You for all to see! AMEN!

Trained By The Rabbi

Luke 6

Nevertheless, to you who are listening, what I say is this:
Love your enemies!
    Do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,

    pray for those who mistreat you.
“If someone hits you on one cheek,
    offer the other too;
if someone takes your coat,
    let him have your shirt as well.
“If someone asks you for something,
    give it to him;
if someone takes what belongs to you,
    don’t demand it back.
Treat other people as you would like them to treat youWhat credit is it to you if you love only those who love you? Why, even sinners love those who love them. What credit is it to you if you do good only to those who do good to you? Even sinners do that. What credit is it to you if you lend only to those who you expect will pay you back? Even sinners lend to each other, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing back! Your reward will be great, and you will be children of Ha‘Elyon; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Show compassion, just as your Father shows compassion.
“Don’t judge,
    and you won’t be judged.
Don’t condemn,
    and you won’t be condemned.
“Forgive,
    and you will be forgiven.
Give,
    and you will receive gifts —the full measure, compacted, shaken together and overflowing, will be put right in your lap. For the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure back to you!”

He also told them a parable: “Can one blind man lead another blind man? Won’t they both fall into a pit? A talmid is not above his rabbi; but each one, when he is fully trained, will be like his rabbiSo why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye, but not notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the splinter from your eye,’ when you yourself don’t see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye; then you will see clearly, so that you can remove the splinter from your brother’s eye!

For no good tree produces bad fruit, nor does a bad tree produce good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit — figs aren’t picked from thorn bushes, nor grapes from a briar patch. The good person produces good things from the store of good in his heart, while the evil person produces evil things from the store of evil in his heart. For his mouth speaks what overflows from his heart.

Why do you call me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ but not do what I say? Everyone who comes to me, hears my words and acts on them — I will show you what he is like: he is like someone building a house who dug deep and laid the foundation on bedrock. When a flood came, the torrent beat against that house but couldn’t shake it, because it was constructed well. And whoever hears my words but doesn’t act on them is like someone who built his house on the ground without any foundation. As soon as the river struck it, it collapsed and that house became a horrendous wreck!”
Luke 6:27-49

A good disciple was one who sat at the feet of his rabbi, each and every day, listening and soaking in the rabbi’s every word. A great disciple was one who walked in the dust of his rabbi, who followed him everywhere he went, so closely that he would have been covered in the dust of his rabbi’s travels. Paying attention to the way he walked, the way he spoke, and becoming more and more adapted and conformed to the ways of his rabbi. Clearly the disciple that looked most like the rabbi was the one who spent the most time with him, such that the rabbi’s ways became his own.

As disciples of Christ, this is the kind of relationship that He wants to have with us. Not that we would just listen to His words and move on with our days, but that we would follow Him, let His words seep deep into our hearts and cause us to act. The more we spend time with Him through prayer and His Word, and the more that we apply His teachings to our lives, the more like Him we will become.

progress

A disciple who is fully trained will be like his rabbi. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” When we are trained, we will be equipped for every good work. We will be able to love those who hate us, bless those who curse us, forgive those who have wronged us, do good without expecting anything back. We will be filled with compassion, just as our good Father is full of compassion, even for the wicked and ungrateful. We will be slow to judge others, as we will be more focused on removing the sin from our own lives before condemning the sins of our brethren. We will be trees that produce good fruit and houses built on solid foundations.

We will produce good things from the store of good in our hearts. Yet, if our hearts are deceitful and wicked, then this good must come from outside ourselves. The psalmist writes in Psalm 119:
Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
    who seek him with their whole heart,
who also do no wrong,
    but walk in his ways!

How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
    let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.

I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
    I set your rules before me.
I cling to your testimonies, O Lord;
    let me not be put to shame!
I will run in the way of your commandments
    when you enlarge my heart!
Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;
    and I will keep it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law
    and observe it with my whole heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments,
    for I delight in it.
Incline my heart to your testimonies,
    and not to selfish gain!

If we want hearts that are full of goodness, truth, and righteousness, we have to fill them with more of Christ – His Word and His instruction. It will not come from ourselves, but only through time spent learning from our Rabbi! AMEN!

 

 

Drinking the New Wine

Luke 5:12-39

Later Yeshua went out and saw a tax-collector named Levi sitting in his tax-collection booth; and he said to him, “Follow me!” He got up, left everything and followed him.

Levi gave a banquet at his house in Yeshua’s honor, and there was a large group of tax-collectors and others at the table with them. The P’rushim and their Torah-teachers protested indignantly against his talmidim, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax-collectors and sinners?” It was Yeshua who answered them: “The ones who need a doctor aren’t the healthy but the sick. I have not come to call the ‘righteous,’ but rather to call sinners to turn to God from their sins.”

Next they said to him, “Yochanan’s talmidim are always fasting and davvening, and likewise the talmidim of the P’rushim; but yours go on eating and drinking.” Yeshua said to them, “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is still with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; and when that time comes, they will fast.”

Then he gave them an illustration: “No one tears a piece from a new coat and puts it on an old one; if he does, not only will the new one continue to rip, but the piece from the new will not match the old. Also, no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and be spilled, and the skins too will be ruined. On the contrary, new wine must be put into freshly prepared wineskins. Besides that, after drinking old wine, people don’t want new; because they say, ‘The old is good enough.’”
Luke 5:27-39

The parable of the wineskins and the new and old cloth has always perplexed me. But after reading through it a couple of times in the context of its teaching, it’s starting to make sense.

Levi was a tax collector, called by Jesus to follow Him. Matthew left everything and followed. He then throws a banquet in Christ’s honor. Matthew wanted all his friends and family to come and meet this great Rabbi, this Man that had chosen him, Levi the tax collector, the Man that he had left everything behind to follow after. As a now former tax collector, Levi surely had many friends that were also in the profession, as well as others who held less than acceptable professions in the eyes of the religious elite – the Pharisees. The Pharisees were aghast and appalled that this great Rabbi would even associate with such disreputable people – these sinners. That was just something they did not do. They were happy to remain in their religious bubble, with all their man-made traditions and rituals that they had added on to the Word of God, while snubbing their noses condescendingly at everyone who was not as “righteous” as they.

Jesus calls them out on their self-righteous attitude – “The ones who need a doctor aren’t the healthy but the sick. I have not come to call the ‘righteous,’ but rather to call sinners to turn to God from their sins.” Jesus is not saying that these Pharisees are without need of healing and repentance, for no one is without sin. The problem is that they think they are without need of healing and repentance because they believe that their strict adherence to the oral traditions and laws were sufficient to save them. They were relying on works and self declared righteousness – themselves.

When the Pharisees ask Jesus why His disciples do not religiously practice fasting and prayer like their own disciples, He responds with this parable. Jesus came, not to abolish the old covenant (the Torah), but to fulfill and complete it by establishing a new covenant – one wherein people could come into a right relationship with God through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Before Jesus is handed over to be crucified, He says to His disciples, “In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” This statement brings more sense to His words in John 6: “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”

new-wine-new-wineskins
In this parable to the cloth and the wineskins, Jesus was saying this new covenant – this fulfillment of the old – was sufficient and complete. It was not something to be tacked on to the man-made traditions and religious rituals that the Pharisees had put their trust in. No one takes a brand new cloak and tears it apart to patch up an old worn and torn one. No one takes new wine and pours it into a hardened, crusty old wineskin.

>When we accept salvation through faith in Christ, we put on HIS righteousness alone – we don’t patch on a little bit of Jesus to our “good works” and religious observance.

“The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.” Galatians 3:24-26

>When we accept salvation through faith in Christ, we drink deeply of the Spirit, Who grows us, stretches us, and forms us into a usable vessel for His glory.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Jesus was condemning the Pharisees’ faith in their works and righteousness (which He later says that even their righteousness isn’t sufficient to save a person). He then warns that those who have tasted the old wine (those who have been relying on the man made traditions and religious rules and works-based thinking) are in danger of rejecting the new wine because they will say that the old wine is good enough.

In order to be saved we must all come to realize that salvation comes only through faith in Christ. That not one of us is righteous and able to receive salvation on our own merit, but only through the perfect, sufficient sacrifice of Christ. This faith is not just a badge that we patch on to our old way of living – this faith is transformative, as we, like Paul says in Ephesians 4, strip off our old nature and clothe ourselves in the new:
“then, so far as your former way of life is concerned, you must strip off your old nature, because your old nature is thoroughly rotted by its deceptive desires; and you must let your spirits and minds keep being renewed, and clothe yourselves with the new nature created to be godly, which expresses itself in the righteousness and holiness that flow from the truth.”

LORD, thank You that You pursued me with Your love and truth – to open my eyes and heart to Your salvation through Christ alone! Continue to clothe me in Your righteousness and fill me with Your Spirit – growing me and shaping me into a holy vessel that looks more and more like You. Rid me of any self-righteous attitudes and thoughts that decrease my dependence on You and help me to remain faithfully humble and thankful in light of all that You have done. AMEN!

If You Say So

Luke 4-5:11

He went down to K’far-Nachum, a town in the Galil, and made a practice of teaching them on ShabbatThey were amazed at the way he taught, because his word carried the ring of authority.
Luke 4:31-32

When he had finished speaking, he said to Shim‘on, “Put out into deep water, and let down your nets for a catch.” Shim‘on answered, “We’ve worked hard all night long, Rabbi, and haven’t caught a thing! But if you say so, I’ll let down the nets.” They did this and took in so many fish that their nets began to tearSo they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; and they came and filled both boats to the point of sinking. When he saw this, Shim‘on Kefa fell at Yeshua’s knees and said, “Get away from me, sir, because I’m a sinner!” For astonishment had seized him and everyone with him at the catch of fish they had taken, and likewise both Ya‘akov and Yochanan, Shim‘on’s partners. “Don’t be frightened,” Yeshua said to Shim‘on, “from now on you will be catching men — alive!” And as soon as they had beached their boats, they left everything behind and followed him.
Luke 5:4-11

Simon Peter was a fisherman by trade. It wouldn’t be farfetched to think that his own father had been a fisherman and that he learned everything he knew from him. He likely had grown up around the sea and knew all the ins and outs of his livelihood. So when Jesus tells him to pull out into the deep water during the day, Peter would have known that was not the time of day to be catching fish. He had already spent an entire evening fishing without success. Jesus’ direction sounds silly, impractical, likely to be a big waste of time and effort. Yet, Jesus’ very words carried a ring of authority – despite the fact that Peter knew it didn’t make sense to go out in the deep water in the middle of the day to catch fish, this great Rabbi who had been becoming more and more well-known throughout the region seemed to think it was a good idea. But still…if I had been Peter, I probably would have been thinking to myself, “This man clearly knows a lot about the scriptures and healing the sick, but what could He possibly know about fishing???”

“If you say so, I’ll let down the nets.”

Peter Fishing
Just a simple act of obedience that likely came from a very small amount of faith in that moment. That’s all it took. And to Peter’s shock and awe they caught so many fish that his nets began to tear and he had to holler at his fishing buddies for backup. Peter was now truly convinced that this Jesus, this traveling Rabbi was someone special – someone with whom he felt unworthy to be in the presence of.

Jesus then reassures him with those familiar words, “Do not be frightened – Don’t be afraid!” He then calls Peter, James and John into the ministry of fishing for souls – to which their response is to leave everything behind and follow after Him.

Once again I am seeing how God calls people into His service, into a holy calling and purpose, and He reassures them that they need not be afraid. “Come and be a part of what I am doing, but do not fear!”

If we truly grasped what God is doing and the fact that He wants us to be a part of it, we would leave everything behind to follow Him. We would fully trust and believe that He is greater and more precious than anything the earth has to offer. Today in church our pastor talked about how when we genuinely pray that God would show us more of Himself, He rarely responds by blessing us with health, wealth, and prosperity. Instead, He often begins to loosen our grip on the things that we were holding tightly to, perhaps unknowingly. Things that we were placing our trust in other than the LORD. He does this to show us that He is all-sufficient, to grow and deepen our dependence on Him rather than ourselves and the idols we have created (jobs, money, position, comfort, etc.).

Peter encountered God in the flesh and he recognized that being a part of what He was doing was worth leaving everything he knew behind – everything he was comfortable with – to follow after Christ into the unknown. All it took was obedience and just a little faith.

I want the kind of faith and obedience that causes me to leave behind the trivial things of this life that don’t matter to chase after the Only One Who does! If You say so, I’ll go! AMEN!

Good News Without Repentance Isn’t the Gospel

Luke 2:21-3:38

the word of God came to Yochanan Ben-Z’kharyah in the desert. He went all through the Yarden region proclaiming an immersion involving turning to God from sin in order to be forgivenIt was just as had been written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Yesha‘yahu,
“The voice of someone crying out:
‘In the desert prepare the way for Adonai!
Make straight paths for him!
Every valley must be filled in,
every mountain and hill leveled off;
the winding roads must be straightened
and the rough ways made smooth.
Then all humanity will see God’s deliverance.’”

Therefore, Yochanan said to the crowds who came out to be immersed by him, “You snakes! Who warned you to escape the coming punishment? If you have really turned from your sins, produce fruit that will prove it! And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘Avraham is our father’! For I tell you that God can raise up for Avraham sons from these stones! Already the axe is at the root of the trees, ready to strike; every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown in the fire!

The crowds asked Yochanan, “So then, what should we do?” He answered, “Whoever has two coats should share with somebody who has none, and whoever has food should do the same.” Tax-collectors also came to be immersed; and they asked him, “Rabbi, what should we do?” “Collect no more than the government assesses,” he told them. Some soldiers asked him, “What about us? What should we do?” To them he said, “Don’t intimidate anyone, don’t accuse people falsely, and be satisfied with your pay.”

The people were in a state of great expectancy, and everyone was wondering whether perhaps Yochanan himself might be the Messiah; so Yochanan answered them all, “I am immersing you in water, but he who is coming is more powerful than I — I’m not worthy to untie his sandals! He will immerse you in the Ruach HaKodesh and in fireHe has with him his winnowing fork to clear out his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the straw with unquenchable fire!”

And with many other warnings besides these he announced the Good News to the people.
John 3:2-18

Having spent the last several months in the Old Testament, I can see how the idea of repentance isn’t a new concept that began to be preached during Christ’s time. Throughout the Scripture we can see how God desires that we turn away from our sinful behavior and turn back to Him in repentance. Often genuine repentance by a people or person caused God to lessen or relent His punishment.

So when John told the people that they must turn to God from their sin in order to be forgiven, he wasn’t revealing anything new. He then tells them that if they have truly repented that they should bear fruit that proves it. John is not supporting a “works based” theology, but is instead calling the people to recognize that true repentance impacts the way we live our lives. He tells them to share and care for others, to perform their jobs uprightly, to not use their power or position to intimidate or threaten people, to keep from falsely accusing others, and to be content with what they have. He reveals that our actions display the genuineness of our repentance.

Jesus bids us to come as we are. There is no sin too great that He is unwilling to forgive. But He loves us too much to leave us as we are – and the process begins with repentance. Acknowledging our sin. Our great offense that kept us from having a relationship with a holy, righteous God. Our sin that nailed Him to the cross. And then turning from it to follow after the One Who redeemed our lives. It doesn’t mean that we won’t continue to sin, but our desire should be to turn from our sin and walk in the light and grace and truth that Christ has revealed to us as we follow Him. One of my favorite quotes is, “When Christ calls a man He bids him to come and die.” To die to our sin and ourselves, and to walk in repentance and humility with our Savior.

Luke writes, “with many other warnings besides these he announced the Good News to the people.” The Good News without repentance is not the Gospel. To preach forgiveness of sins without the need of acknowledging what sin is and turning from it is watering down the beautiful, redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice. 

Don’t Be Afraid!

Luke 1:8-13, 26-38 & Luke 2:1-20

One time, when Z’kharyah was fulfilling his duties as cohen during his division’s period of service before God, he was chosen by lot (according to the custom among the cohanim) to enter the Temple and burn incense. All the people were outside, praying, at the time of the incense burning, when there appeared to him an angel of Adonai standing to the right of the incense altar. Z’kharyah was startled and terrified at the sight. But the angel said to him, “Don’t be afraid, Z’kharyah; because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elisheva will bear you a son, and you are to name him Yochanan.
Luke 1:8-13

In the sixth month, the angel Gavri’el was sent by God to a city in the Galil called Natzeret, to a virgin engaged to a man named Yosef, of the house of David; the virgin’s name was Miryam. Approaching her, the angel said, “Shalom, favored lady! Adonai is with you!” She was deeply troubled by his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Miryam, for you have found favor with GodLook! You will become pregnant, you will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua. He will be great, he will be called Son of Ha‘Elyon. Adonai, God, will give him the throne of his forefather David; and he will rule the House of Ya‘akov forever — there will be no end to his Kingdom.
“How can this be,” asked Miryam of the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered her,
“The Ruach HaKodesh will come over you,
the power of Ha‘Elyon will cover you.
Therefore the holy child born to you
will be called the Son of God.
“You have a relative, Elisheva, who is an old woman; and everyone says she is barren. But she has conceived a son and is six months pregnant! For with God, nothing is impossible.
Miryam said, “I am the servant of Adonai; may it happen to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:26-38

In the countryside nearby were some shepherds spending the night in the fields, guarding their flocks, when an angel of Adonai appeared to them, and the Sh’khinah of Adonai shone around them. They were terrified; but the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, because I am here announcing to you Good News that will bring great joy to all the people. This very day, in the town of David, there was born for you a Deliverer who is the Messiah, the Lord. Here is how you will know: you will find a baby wrapped in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.” Suddenly, along with the angel was a vast army from heaven praising God:

“In the highest heaven, glory to God!
And on earth, peace among people of good will!”

No sooner had the angels left them and gone back into heaven than the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go over to Beit-Lechem and see this thing that has happened, that Adonai has told us about.” Hurrying off, they came and found Miryam and Yosef, and the baby lying in the feeding trough. Upon seeing this, they made known what they had been told about this child; and all who heard were amazed by what the shepherds said to them. Miryam treasured all these things and kept mulling them over in her heart. Meanwhile, the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for everything they had heard and seen; it had been just as they had been told.
Luke 2:8-20

Three times in these first two chapters of Luke, people are visited by a holy messenger from the LORD. These are not the chubby cherubs we see on Valentine’s cards, but mighty, fearsome, warrior-like beings that represent the Almighty God. It’s no wonder their very appearance would incite dread and fear. But in each visitation they begin with the words, “Do not be afraid…”

Do not be afraid…your prayer has been heard!”
Not only will your wife bear a son, but your son will prepare the way of the long-awaited coming Messiah!

Do not be afraid…you have found favor with God!”
Such that you will bear His Son, Who will deliver His people and reign forever!

Do not be afraidthere is Good News that will bring great joy to all the people… today there was born for you a Deliverer who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Yes, you, among the least of the people, I am announcing to you first the most important news ever to be declared!

All of these people were being invited by God to be a part of what He was doing. God, Who is fearsome, and mighty, and powerful – Whom no one can look upon without dying – wants these people to join with Him in His plan of salvation. So it makes sense that the first part of His message to them is do not be afraid.

God often reveals Himself to the people He has called into His service with these reassuring words:

“After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.'” Genesis 15:1

“That night the LORD appeared to him and said, ‘I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.'” Genesis 26:24

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

“Then the Lord said to [Jeremiah]: Do not say, ‘I am only a youth,’ for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you. Do not be afraid of anyone, for I will be with you to rescue you. This is the Lord’s declaration.” Jeremiah 1:7-8

God often invites us in to do things that others might see as crazy, unsafe, impractical. Like uproot your family and move to a land you’ve never seen. Challenge the ruler of an empire to free a chosen people from slavery. Walk around a fortified city and wait for the walls to crumble. Stand up against a giant. Remain faithful even if it means death by fiery furnace. But God always promises to be right there with us through the crazy, the unsafe, the impractical. Isaiah 41 says,
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you;
don’t be distressed, for I am your God.
I give you strength, I give you help,
I support you with my victorious right hand.

For I, Adonai, your God,
say to you, as I hold your right hand,
‘Have no fear; I will help you.”

I don’t have literal giants to stand up against. I am not worried that I’m going to be caught praying and thrown into a lion’s den. However, I do struggle with fear of man. “What will they think of me if I ask them about their faith?”
“Won’t they think I’m weird if I share the intimate, redeeming relationship I have with Christ?”
“I don’t want to make them feel awkward.” 

God is no less with me than He was with all these heroes of the faith, but I often don’t live with that kind of boldness and trust. Perhaps Timothy struggled with this same kind of fear as Paul encourages him in his second letter to his young disciple:

I’m writing to encourage you to fan into a flame and rekindle the fire of the spiritual gift God imparted to you when I laid my hands upon you. For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control. So never be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor be embarrassed over my imprisonment, but overcome every evil by the revelation of the power of God! He gave us resurrection life and drew us to himself by his holy calling on our lives. And it wasn’t because of any good we have done, but by his divine pleasure and marvelous grace that confirmed our union with the anointed Jesus, even before time began! This truth is now being unveiled by the revelation of the anointed Jesus, our life-giver, who has dismantled death, obliterating all its effects on our lives, and has manifested his immortal life in us by the gospel.

And he has anointed me as his preacher, his apostle, and his teacher of truth to the nations. The confidence of my calling enables me to overcome every difficulty without shame, for I have an intimate revelation of this God. And my faith in him convinces me that he is more than able to keep all that I’ve placed in his hands safe and secure until the fullness of his appearing.

Allow the healing words you’ve heard from me to live in you and make them a model for life as your faith and love for the Anointed One grows even more. Guard well this incomparable treasure by the Spirit of Holiness living within you.”

Paul wasn’t mad at Timothy, or frustrated that he was perhaps struggling with being bold in his faith, instead he lovingly encouraged him to press on, to follow his example, and to grow in his faith and love for Christ. The confidence in our holy calling should enable us to overcome every obstacle without shame as we trust that the One Who has called us is more than able to keep us safe until He has completed His purpose in us.

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LORD, give me this kind of faith and boldness! Help me to not be afraid of Your callings but to walk in security and peace knowing that You are with me and that You have a plan and a purpose for my life. If it’s obedience I need, strengthen my self-discipline. If it’s faith I need, increase it. If it’s humility I need, humble me. If it’s greater love for You I need, then woo me by Your grace and lovingkindness. AMEN!

A People Prepared

Luke 1

He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many people will rejoice when he is born, for he will be great in the sight of Adonai. He is never to drink wine or other liquor, and he will be filled with the Ruach HaKodesh even from his mother’s wombHe will turn many of the people of Isra’el to Adonai their God. He will go out ahead of Adonai in the spirit and power of Eliyahu to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready for Adonai a people prepared.

When Elisheva heard Miryam’s greeting, the baby in her womb stirred. Elisheva was filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and spoke up in a loud voice,
“How blessed are you among women!
And how blessed is the child in your womb!
“But who am I, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For as soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy!

His father Z’kharyah was filled with the Ruach HaKodesh and spoke this prophecy:
“Praised be Adonai, the God of Isra’el,
because he has visited and made a ransom to liberate his people
by raising up for us a mighty Deliverer
who is a descendant of his servant David.

It is just as he has spoken
through the mouth of the prophets from the very beginning
that we should be delivered from our enemies
and from the power of all who hate us.

This has happened so that he might show
the mercy promised to our fathers —
that he would remember his holy covenant,
the oath he swore before Avraham avinu
to grant us that we, freed from our enemies,
would serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.

You, child, will be called a prophet of Ha‘Elyon;
you will go before the Lord to prepare his way
by spreading the knowledge among his people

that deliverance comes by having sins forgiven
through our God’s most tender mercy,
which causes the Sunrise to visit us from Heaven,
to shine on those in darkness, living in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the paths of peace.

Luke 1:14-17, 41-44, & 67-79

Now that I have finished the psalms of David, I decided to move on to the life of Christ. I wanted to read Luke’s account of the Gospel and then move on to Acts. I knew that Luke features the power of the Holy Spirit in his account of the early church and Apostles in Acts; but from the beginning of his first book, already we can see the Holy Spirit as a major player.

John was born to prepare the way of the LORD – the coming of the Messiah – to proclaim to the people the plan that had been declared since the beginning through the prophets. Amos 3:7 says, “Adonai, God, does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” God’s plan had always been to raise up a mighty Deliverer, a descendant of David, to rescue His people from their enemies and to turn their hearts back to Him. But the first part of His plan was to deal with the enemy of sin. This was how Joh would prepare the way – “by spreading the knowledge among his people that deliverance comes by having sins forgiven through our God’s most tender mercy.” This forgiveness of sin is what would allow His Light to shine into their darkness and would guide their feet into paths of peace.

And the same is true for us. In order for us to come to a saving faith, our hearts must be prepared – prepared to acknowledge our sinful nature and our need of a Savior – which leads us to repentance and acceptance of God’s free gift of salvation that is available to all the world. Charles Spurgeon said, “…when we say to them, ‘Come just as you are now, with nothing in your hand to buy the mercy of God, with nothing wherewith to demand or to deserve it,’ men want a great deal of preparing before they will come to that point. Only the grace of God, working mightily through the Word, by the Spirit, will prepare men to come to Christ thus, prepared by being unprepared so far as any fitness of their own is concerned. The only fit state in which they can come is that of sinking themselves, abandoning all idea of helping Christ, and coming in all their natural impotence and guilt, and taking Christ to be their all in all.

Beloved friends, this is the true preparedness of heart for coming to Christ, the preparedness of coming to him just as you are; and it was John’s business thus ‘to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.'”

Now I don’t think this means we go around pointing out people’s sins and trying to convict them ourselves. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. We are, however, to spread the Good News that there is a loving God from Whom we can have forgiveness of sin, freedom from death, and abundant, eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ.

I can see how the Holy Spirit moved in my heart – preparing it to receive salvation and repent of my sins – and it was through the Body of Christ. Through hearing stories of redemption, freedom, and forgiveness from shameful, unspeakable sins; through boldness and authenticity of sharing their stories of Christ’s work in their lives. It was through recognizing that “Christianity” is not just some box you check, but it’s a relationship with the God of the Universe, Who desires to dwell in us and transform us into the people He created us to be. When we as followers of Christ live our lives in the life of Christ, we get to be a part of the Holy Spirit’s work in preparing the hearts of others to receive God’s mercy and grace by coming to a saving faith. AMEN!

 

Let Your Good Spirit Guide Me

Psalm 140-144

I know that Adonai gives justice to the poor
and maintains the rights of the needy.
The righteous will surely give thanks to your name;
the upright will live in your presence.
Psalm 140:13-14

Make me hear of your love in the morning,
because I rely on you.
Make me know the way I should walk,
because I entrust myself to you.
Adonai, rescue me from my enemies;
I have hidden myself with you.
Teach me to do your will,
because you are my God;
Let your good Spirit guide me
on ground that is level.
Psalm 143:8-10

Blessed be Adonai, my rock,
who trains my hands for war
and my fingers for battle.
He shows me grace; and he is my fortress,
my stronghold, in whom I find shelter,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
who subdues my people under me.

Adonai
, what are mere mortals,
that you notice them at all;
humans, that you think about them?
Man is like a puff of wind,
his days like a fleeting shadow.
Psalm 144:1-4

This morning I woke up to a dream that I really feel was from the LORD. I was in some sort of conference where a woman was talking about immigration. As she spoke she said, “Raise your hand if you care about helping migrant families.” I timidly raised my hand and a friend who was sitting next to me shot me an incredulous look and said, “Really?!? You care about immigrants???” I sheepishly responded that I had read about ways to help migrant families and then shamefully slumped down in my chair. Because my friend was right. I didn’t really care about helping migrant families. Suddenly a big hand from someone whose face I couldn’t see reached over from in front of me and patted my leg and gave it a reassuring squeeze. I thought it was another one of my friends, but when I looked she was several seats away. And then I woke up.

I started getting ready for church, praying and thinking about what it all meant. Lately, I’ve felt as though God has been stirring my heart toward living out His purpose – it seems to be the theme as I look back over my las couple of weeks of journaling. I so often have good intentions and good ideas that never really go further than that. There are so many things that I say I care about, but my actions would certainly not match up with my words. In all honesty, immigration is not one of the things that I would say I care deeply about – it really falls pretty low on the list of causes that I feel compelled to champion. So when I shyly raised my hand to respond, I was quickly met by a questioning remark from my friend. Here’s another thing I’m just giving lip service to, saying I care about, but doing nothing about. That’s why I slumped over in shame – as the realization that my words don’t match my actions sank in. But then there was that hand – that gently, and compassionately reached over to reassure me. I can’t help but think this hand represented God. Our loving Father, Who isn’t mad at us, but wants to lead us into His abundant life. On Friday I journaled on Psalm 139, and these verses come back to mind:
Adonai, you have probed me, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I stand up,
you discern my inclinations from afar,
you scrutinize my daily activities.
You are so familiar with all my ways
that before I speak even a word, Adonai,
you know all about it already.
You have hemmed me in both behind and in front
and laid your hand on me.”

God knows my heart, my desires, and my thoughts. He knows what I will do before I even act or speak. He knows the plan and purpose He has for me. He has hemmed me in both behind and in front and has laid His hand on me. I just need to trust Him, lean into His leading, and then act in obedience and faithfulness. Today’s reading in the psalms just seems to reaffirm that.

I know that Adonai gives justice to the poor
and maintains the rights of the needy.
The righteous will surely give thanks to your name;
the upright will live in your presence.
God uses His people to help and fill the needs of the poor and needy – people who are hurting in a broken world. We get to be apart of what He is doing to restore people to a right relationship with Him as we glorify His Name and walk in His presence – living as lights in a dark world.

Make me know the way I should walk,
because I entrust myself to you…
Teach me to do your will,
because you are my God;
Let your good Spirit guide me
on ground that is level.
God promises to direct our steps, to lead us down the path of abundant life as we walk in His will. He has given us His Spirit to guide us as we submit to Him and trust in His ways.

Blessed be Adonai, my rock,
who trains my hands for war
and my fingers for battle.
He shows me grace; and he is my fortress,
my stronghold, in whom I find shelter,
my shield, in whom I take refuge…
God has equipped us and enabled us to do the good works that He created in advance for us to do. He extends grace to us when we fall short and is the One in Whom we find our strength and protection. If God is for us, who can be against us?

So now I need to press into God and trust Him to lead me down the path of faithfulness He would have me walk in. I think I get overwhelmed sometimes, because there are so many good causes that need our attention, and I want to do all the things which results in not doing much of anything at all. So my prayer is that God would help me find what I am passionate about to bring glory to His Name. I know I was made for more than a comfortable, suburban, stay-at-home-mom life. I want my life to be poured out for Him and for others – to make the most of this short, fleeting shadow of a life that I have been given! AMEN!

Immortal Until He’s Done With Me

Psalm 124, 130, 133, & 138-139

You keep me alive when surrounded by danger;
you put out your hand when my enemies rage;
with your right hand you save me.
Adonai will fulfill his purpose for me.
Your grace, Adonai, continues forever.
Don’t abandon the work of your hands!
Psalm 138:7-8

Adonai, you have probed me, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I stand up,
you discern my inclinations from afar,
you scrutinize my daily activities.
You are so familiar with all my ways
that before I speak even a word, Adonai,
you know all about it already.
You have hemmed me in both behind and in front
and laid your hand on me.
Such wonderful knowledge is beyond me,
far too high for me to reach.

Where can I go to escape your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I climb up to heaven, you are there;
if I lie down in Sh’ol, you are there.
If I fly away with the wings of the dawn
and land beyond the sea,
even there your hand would lead me,
your right hand would hold me fast.
If I say, “Let darkness surround me,
let the light around me be night,”
even darkness like this
is not too dark for you;
rather, night is as clear as day,
darkness and light are the same.

For you fashioned my inmost being,
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I thank you because I am awesomely made,
wonderfully; your works are wonders —
I know this very well.
My bones were not hidden from you
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes could see me as an embryo,
but in your book all my days were already written;
my days had been shaped
before any of them existed.
God, how I prize your thoughts!
How many of them there are!
If I count them, there are more than grains of sand;
if I finish the count, I am still with you.

Examine me, God, and know my heart;
test me, and know my thoughts.
See if there is in me any hurtful way,
and lead me along the eternal way.
Psalm 139:1-18 & 23-24

>The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me.

>The LORD has hemmed me in both behind and in front and has laid His hand on me.

>I cannot escape His Presence and He will never abandon me.

>He intricately fashioned every part of me, including my inmost being.

>My days were numbered in His book before I even existed. 

>God’s thoughts toward me are infinite.

Do I live as though these beautiful and precious promises are true? Or do I live in fear and insecurity – lack of faith and striving for control? Even though my heart believes and trusts that these promises are true, I think my mind sometimes is more prone to drift into the latter way of living – concerning myself with what I can see right in the moment, which can cause fear and anxiety and the need to control to creep in, instead of resting in God’s promises of His love for me.

Paul writes in Philippians 1, “And I am sure of this: that the One who began a good work among you will keep it growing until it is completed on the Day of the Messiah Yeshua…
And this is my prayer: that your love may more and more overflow in fullness of knowledge and depth of discernment, so that you will be able to determine what is best and thus be pure and without blame for the Day of the Messiah, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Yeshua the Messiah — to the glory and praise of God.”

Filled with the fruit of righteousness – to the glory and praise of God. We are meant to share in God’s likeness, in His righteousness. Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:3-4, “God’s power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowing the One who called us to his own glory and goodnessBy these he has given us valuable and superlatively great promises, so that through them you might come to share in God’s nature and escape the corruption which evil desires have brought into the world.” God’s promises enable us to share in His nature and to resist our sinful one.

So if I am not growing in my likeness of Christ and if I am giving into my fleshly desires, it seems that what’s missing is my faith in God’s promises. God has given me everything I need for life and godliness. The Passion Translation says, “Everything we could ever need for life and complete devotion to God has already been deposited in us by his divine power.” My flesh often hinders me from living out my faith by convincing me that I don’t have time, it would be too much of a burden, or people would think I’m odd. I feel like I often have really good intentions or ideas, but often my own selfishness prevents me from acting on them. And I think it comes down to the fact that I trust God for my salvation, but my faith wavers when it comes to some of His other promises – including the fact that He has a purpose for me that He will complete until Christ returns. But I have to trust that this is true. I have to act on His promises and have faith that He has empowered me with His Holy Spirit to die to my flesh and share in His divine nature – bearing fruits of righteousness.

One of our pastors has a phrase that he uses quite often, “I’m immortal til God’s done with me.” If our days our already recorded in His Book, we should be able to live our lives in the freedom of walking fully and devotedly in His will for us – nothing should be too hard, too scary, or too crazy – if it is for the purpose of building His Kingdom. This is how I want to live – unashamed, unafraid, and unapologetically devoted to the One Who gave His life for me, so that others may come to know of His valuable and superlatively great promises! AMEN!