Sept 12, 2013
Sept 12, 2013
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
The ebb and flow of mankind’s connection to God is woven throughout the Bible. In the beginning, there was a strong and intimate connection of trust. When the serpent deceived Adam and Eve, their relationship with God was broken. Instead of remembering the goodness of God in giving them life and abundantly providing for them, they believed they could attain more on their own.
The struggle between prideful self-sufficiency and trust in a kind and generous God continues today. The ministry of Jesus was an open invitation to a restored connection with God. When He taught His disciples to pray, He was inviting them back into a relationship with God as “our Father.” Jesus paid the ultimate price so that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Just as a father does not despise his children’s weakness or need for help, God provided the perfection of Christ so that everyone could be welcomed in. Will you call out to Him today and trust Him with your life and challenges?
There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. Brother Lawrence
The apostle Paul lived in an age when sensuality, the pursuit of pleasure, and rebellion against the Lord were prevalent. In response, he wrote letters urging Christians not to follow in the ways of the world. Like those early believers, we are to pursue godliness by…
Presenting our bodies to God. Our total being—mind, will, physical body, personality, and emotions—are to be turned over to our heavenly Father (James 4:7). Submitting ourselves to the Lord requires both a definite decision to give Him control and a daily commitment to remain under His authority. By surrendering to Him, we position ourselves for godly living.
Becoming living sacrifices. The Christian life is built around the concept of sacrifice. Jesus left the perfection of heaven to dwell among a sinful people so He might reconcile us to God. He offered up His life for our sake—to make payment for our sins (1 John 3:16) and to bring us into His family. And as believers, we are to follow His example. Paul called it a living sacrifice, because it is ongoing and repeated daily.
Life is full of options. Many decisions involve a choice between following God’s way or our own. Maturing Christians will increasingly sacrifice their own desires and embrace His will.
A life of godliness is characterized by a heart and mind bent toward the things of God. Although we will live imperfectly, our aim should be to obey His will and please Him. Let’s commit to becoming more like Jesus, the one who willingly gave Himself as a sacrifice for us.
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
This amazing assurance of God’s unlimited ability to answer our prayers is related to a unique “power [Greek dunamis] that worketh in us.” Paul had used the same word twice before in this same epistle, speaking of “the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe” and “the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power” (Ephesians 1:19; 3:7). “Effectual working” in the original is one word, energeia, from which we get our word “energy.”
Such power working in us is actually nothing less than the presence of God Himself. Its very first occurrence is in the model prayer. “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever” (Matthew 6:13). It is this “power of God unto salvation” that is received when we first believe on Christ through the gospel (Romans 1:16). It has been so ever since the fulfillment of Christ’s promise when He told His disciples that “ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you” (Acts 1:8).
This remarkable power of God is thus imparted to us and energized in us by the Holy Spirit. Because of this, we can be filled “with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13). Furthermore, He thereby provides impregnable security for time and eternity, for we “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).
With such a resource of unlimited spiritual power working in us, God is able indeed to accomplish far more than we can ever imagine, as He works in and through those yielded to His will. HMM
Deuteronomy 14:1, 2
See how the Lord honoured Israel, he spoke of their election—”the Lord hath chosen thee;” of their adoption—”ye are the children of the Lord your God;” and of their sanctification,”—”thou art an holy people unto the Lord? These honours entailed duties, and among them that of maintaining a distinction from, the heathen around them. They were not to imitate the superstition of their neighbours, by disfiguring themselves, or by any act indicative of excessive grief.
Manifestly disgusting and loathsome.
pygarg, or antelope,
Deuteronomy 14:6, 7
Minute distinctions—God takes note of littles.
By these regulations the Jews were kept a separate people, for they could not partake in the feasts of the heathen because some one or other of these unclean creatures would be brought to table. Moreover, the thoughtful Israelite would be daily reminded of sin by the presence of unclean creatures. Neither in his labours, his walks, or his rest, could he be long observant without seeing the representatives of uncleanness, and so being reminded of his need to watch against sin.
Deuteronomy 14:9, 10
Hence, even in their recreations by the river, or voyages at sea, there were tests for their obedience, trials of their faith, and reminders that sin was in the world.
The air too, had its warnings, its things to be avoided. Even thus, in all places we are in danger of defilement. On the land, on the sea, and in the air, there are evils all around. There are snares everywhere.
“Snares tuck thy bed, and snares attend thy board
“Snares watch thy thoughts, and snares attach thy word
“Snares in thy quiet, snares in thy commotion
“Snares in thy diet, snares in thy devotion.”
Because the blood had not been thoroughly separated from it, and it was ceremonially unclean. They might, however, sell it if foreigners cared to eat it. God requires his people to be more strict than others. Amusements and habits which might be tolerated in worldlings, would be abominable in Christians.
It is unnatural to make the mother yield her milk for the seething of her own young, and God’s people are to do nothing which would mar the delicacy and tenderness of their moral feelings. We are to be too sensitive to do anything coarse, brutish, and indelicate. Let young people be mindful of this.
On Resurrection Day itself, Jesus appeared to the disciples at various times and places. It was simply a physical impossibility for Him to be at so many different places in one day. These appearances therefore revealed that Jesus’ glorified body didn’t have the same limitations His earthly body possessed before His resurrection and glorification. The Bible makes it plain that in His glorified condition, He was able to appear, to disappear, to travel great distances, and to even supernaturally pass through a wall or the locked door of a house (John 20:26).
On the same day Jesus was raised from the dead, He not only appeared to Mary Magdalene outside the garden tomb (John 20:14-17), but to two disciples as they walked from Jerusalem to the city of Emmaus (Luke 24:13-31). When the three men sat down to eat together, Jesus blessed the food. After hearing the way He blessed the food, the two disciples instantly recognized it was the Lord—just as He suddenly “… vanished out of their sight” (v. 31).
That same evening, Jesus supernaturally traveled through the walls of a house where the eleven disciples were gathered, miraculously appearing right in front of them. John 20:19 tells us about this amazing event: “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews….”
This verse says that when the disciples gathered for dinner, they made certain “… the doors were shut….” The word “door” is thura, which lets us know this was a door that was large and solid.
But as if this were not enough, the verse tells us that these doors “were shut.”
The word “shut” is the Greek word kleio, meaning locked. Doors of this kind were usually locked with a heavy bolt that slid through rings attached to the door and the frame—like the dead-bolts we use in doors today, only heavier. This door would be difficult, if not impossible, to break down. The fact that it was locked “for fear of the Jews” tells us that the disciples had moved into a mode of self-preservation and protection.
With rumors of Jesus’ resurrection already filling the city of Jerusalem, there was no certainty that the leaders who crucified Jesus wouldn’t try to arrest the rest of the apostles and do the same to them as they had to Jesus. We know that the Roman guards who fled the resurrection site “… shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done” (Matthew 28:11). To prevent the people of Israel from knowing the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, the chief priests and elders bribed the soldiers to keep their mouths shut about what they had seen. Verse 12 tells us, “And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers.”
The chief priests and elders fabricated a story and told the soldiers what they were to say when people asked them what happened: “… Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept” (v. 13).
The soldiers’ admission that they had slept on the job would deem them worthy of punishment in Pilate’s sight, so the religious leaders further assured them, “And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you” (v. 14). The soldiers listened to the religious leaders’ plan and were satisfied with the amount of money being offered to them to keep silent. Verse 15 then says, “So they took the money, and did as they were taught….”
Once the chief priests and elders had bought the testimony of the Roman guards, they were positioned to make some serious arrests. First, we know that they were already asserting that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus. But to steal the body, they had to either overpower the Roman guards or creep past them as they slept. Either way, this would be deemed a terrible dishonor to the guards’ reputation. And if the disciples were caught, they’d potentially be put to death for this action.
To open the tomb, the governor’s seal had to be broken. Breaking that seal was an offense that required the death sentence, for this was a breach of the empire’s power. No doubt the same angry mobs who cheered while Jesus carried His crossbeam to Golgotha were still in the city. The city was already in turmoil due to such strange happenings—the sky turning dark in the middle of the day with no natural explanation; the veil of the temple rent in half; the various earthquakes shaking the entire surrounding territory. It wouldn’t take too much to put the whole city on edge and turn them against the disciples. This is why the disciples were locked behind closed doors that evening.
But although the doors were sealed tightly shut, Jesus supernaturally passed right through solid matter and appeared in the midst of the disciples. John 20:19 says Jesus came “… and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.”
No doubt this sudden appearance must have terrified the disciples. Luke 24:37 tells us that “… they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.” This is why Jesus told them, “… Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (vv. 38, 39).
Notice Jesus said, “… Handle me….” This is the Greek word psilaphao, and it literally means to touch, to squeeze, or to feel. He gave the disciples permission to examine His resurrected body to see that it was a real body and not a spirit.
All of a sudden Jesus asked them, “… Have ye here any meat?” The following verses say, “And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them” (Luke 24:42, 43). After eating the fish and honeycomb, Jesus began to speak to them from the Scriptures, pointing out key Old Testament prophecies having to do with Himself. Luke 24:45 says, “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.” Jesus explained to the disciples that repentance would have to be preached in His name among all the nations, but that it was to begin in Jerusalem. This is when He told them, “… As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you” (John 20:21).
The disciple Thomas had not been present in the room that night when Jesus passed through solid matter and entered into the room. Later that evening Thomas joined them and heard the news, but by that time Jesus was already gone. He scoffed at the other disciples and said, “… Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).
Eight days later, the disciples were behind locked doors again, but this time Thomas was with them. John 20:26, 27 says, “… Then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” Of course, after this event, Thomas believed!
Jesus appeared to His disciples again, this time at the Sea of Tiberias. Peter, Thomas Didymus, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples followed Peter to the seacoast to go fishing. But after fishing all night, the disciples had caught nothing.
Then in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore and called to them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Although they weren’t sure who was instructing them, the disciples obeyed anyway—and caught so many fish that they weren’t even able to pull their nets into the boat! That’s when they recognized that the Man who had instructed them was the Lord (John 21:2-7).
Before the evening was finished, Jesus had sat around a campfire with them, eaten fish with them, and spent time fellowshipping with them. John 21:14 says, “This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.”
Then finally, the disciples gathered together on the same mountain in Galilee where Jesus had first ordained them. He appeared to them there, and gave them the Great Commission. He told them, “… All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In addition to these appearances recorded in the Gospels, First Corinthians 15:5-7 says, “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: after that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.” Acts 1:3 says “… He shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”
How about you? Do you experience Jesus Christ in the daily activities of your life, or is Jesus just relegated to church services and Sunday school? From what you just read today, you now know that Jesus was “in the midst” of His disciples after His resurrection. They ate with Him, talked to Him, and fellowshipped with Him. Jesus even helped them catch fish! The resurrected Jesus drew near to His disciples—but is He near to you as you go about the activities of your daily life?
Even though Jesus is seated right now at the right hand of the Father on High, you can know Him intimately through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Great Revealer of Jesus Christ. Just ask the Holy Spirit to show you Jesus, and He will be faithful to make Jesus real to you!
Lord, I want You to be so real in my life. I know that You are willing to make Yourself known and felt in any part of my life that I will surrender to You. So I choose right now to surrender more of me so I can experience more of You in every sphere of my existence. Jesus, please have Your way in my life. Do whatever You deem necessary to make me the kind of person I need to be to know and experience You better.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that the Presence of Jesus Christ is felt in almost every area of my life. I am surrendering more and more of me to Him every day, and as a result, I am expecting a stronger Presence of God in my life. As I give more of me to Him, He gives more of Himself to me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
“If only I had been kinder to your mother and had spent more time with you children.”
So said the aging father of a close friend of mine during a recent family visit. How tragic, to be living the latter years of life plagued with regret; plagued by the “IF ONLY‘S” of the past.
Tell me, are you viewed by your family as:
BRITTLE? – “I really can‘t do it like that!”
SELFISH? – “I don‘t have time.”
CENSORIOUS? – “How could you do such a thing?”
BITTER? – “I may forgive… but I can never forget!”
BENDING? – “Why don‘t we do it your way?”
MAGNANIMOUS? – “Let‘s do whatever will help you the most.”
COMPLIMENTARY? – “I am proud of you.”
FORGIVING? – “Ah… forget it… It‘s OK. No problem.”
Is it not true that the validity of our Christian experience is forged, tested, and revealed within the confines of intimate family relationships as in no other arena?
Children still have a choice as to whether they will follow Christ or not, as rebellion is often expressed among the progeny of the finest of parents. (Adam and Eve had perfect “parents” and still chose to rebel.)
Yet our goal must be to reflect Christ to our family in such a way that whatever their choice, at least our conscience is clear on how we related to them. Could we not seek to mirror Paul’s achievement:
“My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” (Acts 23:1b)
So, tell me: Are you BRITTLE, SELFISH, CENSORIOUS, or BITTER toward your family? If you are, then you too may be plagued in your latter years by the “IF ONLY‘S” of the past.
If, however you are BENDING, MAGNANIMOUS, COMPLIMENTARY, and FORGIVING, you may well anticipate fond memories and mutual affirmation in the latter years.