VIDEO Faithful Fathers: Zacharias – the Restored Deserter

Now John [the Baptist] was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. Mark 1:6

In the 1950s, American churches were full of prosperous, buttoned-down, middle-class families. And then came the sixties and the countercultural revolution. Many of the children of those fifties Christian parents joined the “Jesus People Movement,” showing up at church with long hair and beards, wearing sandals and beads. Lots of fathers found it hard to accept their children’s choices.

A father in the first century wrestled with his son’s countercultural approach to life—and made some serious adjustments. Zacharias was a priest in Jerusalem when the angel Gabriel appeared and announced that Zacharias and his wife would have a son. That was fine, but their son turned out to be John the Baptist—a man who lived in the wilderness, wore a garment made of camel’s hair, a leather belt, and subsisted on locusts and wild honey. And his message to Israel was no less unique: Repent, for the Messiah is coming!

When God’s call on a child’s life is unexpected or out of the ordinary, a faithful father will do whatever he can to encourage that calling.

The more a child becomes aware of a father’s willingness to listen, the more a father will begin to hear. Gordon MacDonald


Mark, the Restored Deserter (Mark 1:1)

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Playing Hide-and-Seek?

But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”  Genesis 3:9

 

“He’s going to find me,” I thought. I felt my little heart pound faster as I heard my five-year-old cousin’s footsteps around the corner. He was coming closer. Five steps away. Three. Two. “Found you!”

Hide-and-seek. Most have fond memories of playing the game as children. Yet sometimes in life the fear of being found isn’t fun but is rooted in a deep instinct to flee. People may dislike what they see.

As children of a fallen world, we’re prone to play what a friend of mine labels, “a mixed-up game of hide-and-seek” between God and us. It’s more like a game of pretending to hide—because either way, He sees all the way through to our messy thoughts and wrong choices. We know it, though we like to pretend He can’t really see.

Yet God continues to seek. “Come out,” He calls to us. “I want to see you, even your most shameful parts”—an echo of the same voice that called to the first human who hid out of fear: “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). Such a warm invitation voiced in the form of a piercing question. “Come out of hiding, dear child, and come back into relationship with Me.”

It may seem far too risky, preposterous even. But there, within the safe confines of our Father’s care, any of us, no matter what we’ve done or failed to do, can be fully known and loved.

By Jeff Olson

Reflect & Pray

How is it comforting to know that God sees you and yet still longs for you to come to Him? How is that knowledge freeing?

The One who fully knows us unconditionally loves us.

The Believer’s Confession

1 John 1:5-10, 1 John 2:1-2

One of the concerns I often hear from believers is the fear that God has not forgiven them. Despite having confessed their sins, they’re still uncertain of their cleansing and wonder if they didn’t feel sorry enough. Instead of rising from their knees purified and restored, they feel as if a cloud of God’s disapproval and disappointment is covering them.

This kind of thinking is based on feelings, not truth. Salvation comes through faith in Jesus and His death as payment for our sins. The moment we believe, God declares us righteous in His eyes, and all our sins—past, present, and future—are forgiven. Romans 8:1 reassures us that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It’s not our confession of wrongdoing but the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

Another reason some doubt God’s forgiveness is the erroneous belief that confession maintains our salvation. If we think any unconfessed sin leaves us open to the Lord’s condemnation, we’ll continually wonder if we’ve forgotten some transgression or haven’t confessed quickly enough.

Both of these misconceptions are caused by a faulty understanding of what confession is. Confession means agreeing with God that what we have done is sinful and doesn’t fit who we are in Christ. As the Holy Spirit brings conviction, we begin to feel inner discomfort and guilt. Although we are still God’s children, our disobedience disrupts our fellowship with Him. The solution is to go to our heavenly Father and confess our wrong so we can be cleansed and restored to the peace and joy of our relationship with Him.

Days of Yore

“For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it?” (Deuteronomy 4:32)

This challenge was given by Moses to the children of Israel as they were preparing to enter the Promised Land. It was vital that they cease all complaining and begin to behave in a manner appropriate to their stature as God’s chosen people.

For this they needed to regain a sense of historical perspective, and Moses urged them to study the history of the world since the beginning. Presumably, this would be possible only through studying the book of Genesis “since the day that God created Adam [same word as ‘man’] upon the earth.”

It is significant that “the days that are past” were implied by Moses to have begun essentially at creation, with no hint of any long geological ages before that. The 25 or more centuries from Adam to Moses had provided enough history to instruct that particular generation about God’s plans for the world, to prepare them for their own key role in their accomplishment, and to appreciate the real meaning of their own lives as they awaited the promised redeemer who was to come someday with salvation.

Now, if the Israelites needed a true historical perspective, we need one today far more. In addition to what they had, we now also have the history of Israel, the first coming of Christ, God’s completed revelation, and the Christian dispensation from which to learn and profit. Our understanding of God and His purposes should be far greater than theirs, so we have much greater responsibility. May God help us to study and believe and understand all that has gone before, as recorded in His Word, so that we also can be prepared to fulfill our own role in God’s great plan of the ages for eternity. HMM

Why Do Wasted Religious Activity

I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.

—Psalm 122:1

There is probably not another field of human activity where there is so much waste as in the field of religion….

In the average church we hear the same prayers repeated each Sunday year in and year out with, one would suspect, not the remotest expectation that they will be answered. It is enough, it seems, that they have been uttered. The familiar phrase, the religious tone, the emotionally loaded words have their superficial and temporary effect, but the worshiper is no nearer to God, no better morally and no surer of heaven than he was before. Yet every Sunday morning for twenty years he goes through the same routine and, allowing two hours for him to leave his house, sit through a church service and return to his house again, he has wasted more than 170 twelve-hour days with this exercise in futility….

I need only add that all this tragic waste is unnecessary. The believing Christian will relish every moment in church and will profit by it. The instructed, obedient Christian will yield to God as the clay to the potter, and the result will be not waste but glory everlasting.   BAM100-101, 103

Lord, what an awesome responsibility to come before Your people week after week as Your messenger! I can only do this as Your Holy Spirit feeds my own soulfeed me today, Lord, as I prepare for this Sunday. Amen.

 

Be not anxious for the morrow

Be not therefore anxious for the morrow.—Matthew 6:34 (R. V.)

I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee; be strong and of a good courage.—Joshua 1:5, 6.

I have laid help upon one that is mighty.—Psalm 89:19.

 

Thou hast Thy help upon the mighty laid;

In Him I trust, nor know to want or fear,

But ever onward walk, secure from sin,

For He has conquered every foe within.

Jones Very.

 

Why should we, then, burden ourselves with superfluous cares, and fatigue and weary ourselves in the multiplicity of our ways? Let us rest in peace. God Himself inviteth us to cast our cares, our anxieties upon Him.

Madame Guyon.

 

If we may take one test or sign by which to judge of advance in the spiritual life, it would be this—whether more and more calmness is being maintained in the midst of all the disturbances and troubles which are wont to come, which may ever be looked for in some form or other, whether there be peacefulness of mind, and order of thought in the midst of all that once too much distracted and agitated the soul.

T. T. Carter.

 

He With Us and We With Him

“The fear of the Lord prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.” Prov. 10:27

There is no doubt about it. The fear of the Lord leads to virtuous habits, and these prevent that waste of life which comes of sin and vice. The holy rest which springs out of faith in the Lord Jesus also greatly helps a man when he is ill. Every physician rejoices to have a patient whose mind is fully at ease. Worry kills, but confidence in God is like healing medicine.

We have therefore all the arrangements for long life, and if it be really for our good, we shall see a good old age, and come to our graves as shocks of corn in their season. Let us not be overcome with sudden expectation of death the moment we have a finger-ache, but let us rather expect that we may have to work on through a considerable length of days.

And what if we should soon be called to the higher sphere? Certainly there would be nothing to deplore in such a summons, but everything to rejoice in. Living or dying we are the Lord’s. If we live, Jesus will be with us; if we die, we shall be with Jesus.

The truest lengthening of life is to live while we live, wasting no time, but using every hour for the highest ends. So be it this day.