VIDEO Skunked

And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 5:2

One day Victoria Pierce of Nashville opened her front door and her dog raced in, yelping and covered with skunk spray. With Victoria chasing him, the dog ran through every room, rubbing himself against every cushion, rug, and piece of upholstered furniture. The whole house had to be decontaminated.

The stench of sin is worse than all the foul odors of earth. When we dishonor the commands of Scripture, it’s a stench rising to heaven. Ecclesiastes 10:1 says, “Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, and cause it to give off a foul odor; so does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor.”

Only the Bible tells us how to rid our life of the foul effects of sin. We must confess and turn from them, letting the Lord bathe us in grace. The apostle Paul said, “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (2 Corinthians 2:14). When sin stinks up your life, turn in confession to the Lord; He will forgive.

We can never be cleansed until we confess we are dirty. Max Lucado

The Love That Forgives (Ephesians 5:1-2)

Seeing Jesus

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. John 14:9

At four months old, Leo had never seen his parents. He’d been born with a rare condition that left his vision blurred. For him, it was like living in dense fog. But then eye doctors fit him with a special set of glasses.

Leo’s father posted the video of Mom placing the new glasses over his eyes for the first time. We watch as Leo’s eyes slowly focus. A smile spreads wide across his face as he truly sees his mom for the first time. Priceless. In that moment, little Leo could see clearly.

John reports a conversation Jesus had with His disciples. Philip asked Him, “Show us the Father” (John 14:8). Even after all this time together, Jesus’ disciples couldn’t recognize who was right in front of them. He replied, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?” (v. 10). Earlier Jesus had said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (v. 6). This is the sixth of Jesus’ seven “I am” statements. He’s telling us to look through these “I am” lenses and see who He truly is—God Himself.

We’re a lot like the disciples. In difficult times, we struggle and develop blurred vision. We fail to focus on what God has done and can do. When little Leo put on the special glasses, he could see his parents clearly. Perhaps we need to put on our God-glasses so we can clearly see who Jesus really is.

By:  Kenneth Petersen

Reflect & Pray

What are some ways in which your vision of Jesus may have become cloudy? How can you look to Him again with clear vision?

Jesus, please help me turn my eyes on You. Show me clearly Your path for me.

The Right Attitude in Prayer

Because God knows best, our goal in prayer should be to align our heart with His Isaiah 57:15

Prayer is a crucial discipline for believers’ spiritual growth. In fact, it’s difficult to mature in Christ without it, because prayer is how we communicate with God and thereby develop a relationship with Him. Furthermore, praying is an act of spiritual worship that brings Him honor.

When we pray to our heavenly Father, we’re acknowledging Him as “the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy” (Isaiah 57:15). He alone deserves glory, and we ascribe honor to Him when we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) Think of this as maintaining a God-ward attitude throughout the day while seeking His wise governance over every detail of our life.

When we approach God, our motives and the condition of our heart are important. The Lord dwells both in “a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and lowly of spirit” (Isaiah 57:15). Approaching prayer as a means to get our way doesn’t honor God, nor does it produce petitions that He will answer. Instead, come to the Lord in prayer with a humble, repentant attitude of worship.

Greetings from Peter

“Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord.” (2 Peter 1:1-2)

All too often we skip over the introductory verses of greeting in a Bible book, but many times these verses contain rich information. Such is the case in today’s verse.

We first notice the strange paradox in Peter’s identification of himself. He is both the authoritative “apostle,” the officially commissioned ambassador of Jesus Christ, as well as His “servant,” or bondslave. Historically, we know that Peter was one of the inner circle of disciples in whom Christ placed great responsibility, but he was also the one who denied Christ at His trial. Christ had bought him with His blood as a slave would be bought, forgiven him much, and had sent him out on a lifelong mission.

The letter is written to those “that have obtained like precious faith,” i.e., the same kind of precious faith possessed by the apostles, implying equal standing and privilege before God, obtained through His righteousness.

Peter uses two descriptive names for Christ, calling Him both “God and our Savior,” referring to His dual divine/human nature and role. Peter’s prayer for us (possessors of like precious faith) is moving. He desires the sanctifying and sustaining grace of God for us, the peace of God that brings joy even in the face of adversity, and that both would be multiplied. These traits would come “through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus, our Lord” (today’s verse). Much of the rest of the book deals with false teachers and false knowledge, but Peter would have us grow into “full knowledge” (literal translation; see also vv. 3, 8) of God through the walk of grace and peace. JDM

“Occupy Till I Come”

Matthew 21:1-22

JESUS entered Jerusalem as the Messiah (Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:26-44; John 12:12-19). He dropped all reserve and for a brief time assumed His position publicly as the long-expected One who should come. He entered as King; later He acted as Prophet and Priest. He fulfilled prophecy when He entered in the way predicted (Zech. 9:9)—but He was refused. However, one day He will enter Jerusalem as King and will reign! He knew upon this entry that He would be rejected and that the bitter way of the Cross lay just ahead. Before He can reign as triumphant King, He must die as suffering Servant.

Luke records His weeping over the city. Their eyes were blinded, their hearts hardened. What misery the years have brought upon the city that refused Him! His prophecy that the enemies would cast a trench about Jerusalem and lay it even with the ground and not leave one stone of the temple upon another was literally fulfilled.

They did not realize that their day of visitation was upon them. They had their chance and did not know it. Is it not so with men today? Christ calls us, and we do not heed the Spirit’s pleading. One day He will come in judgment. Ah, that we knew the things which belong unto our peace! Pharisaism stands by and scoffs at the believer’s joy. Sadduccism criticizes in its skepticism. A wild world hurtles onward to ruin. But He will come again to reign, and woe unto His enemies in that day!

Jesus proceeded to cleanse the temple. After He enters the temple of the heart, He cleanses away all that offends. He made a rugged use of force. As He worked, He quoted Scripture (Isa. 56:7; Jer. 7:11). To the surprised and displeased Pharisees He quoted even more (Ps. 8:2). There are still those stilted and sanctimonious souls who resent joy in God’s house. The hallelujahs and hosannas have vanished from many of our churches.

The fig tree which Christ condemned to unfruitfulness is a type of the Jewish nation, having only the leaves of an external religiousness but no spiritual reality. Jesus symbolically condemns the Jewish nation, and that has been fulfilled. The fig tree is beginning to put forth leaves nowadays in the rehabilitation of Palestine by the Jewish people. This is a clear sign that the end draws nigh (Matt. 24:32-33).

The fig tree incident is also an illustration about the power of faith. Peter seemed surprised that the tree had actually withered. He should have known it would when Jesus had said so! Is not that like our faith—which asks, but really doesn’t expect to see things happen? The faith of God (Mark 11:22) orders the mountain to move and then expects to see it move! Our prayers fail because we ask and then do not believe we have what we ask. We demand to see, but faith takes without seeing and believes it has what it asked.

But the Lord also added here that we need not pray with an unforgiving spirit and expect to receive. Of course, under grace we forgive because we are forgiven, but an unforgiving spirit breaks our fellowship, and those out of fellowship cannot pray and receive because their hearts condemn them.

Jesus enters the heart as King and cleanses it as Priest. Is your heart a den of thieves?

“Love not the world.”

Hebrews 11:8-19

The portion of Scripture we shall now read gives us a retrospect of our former reading, and shows us what it was which sustained the patriarchs in their wandering and separated life.

Hebrews 11:8

Faith is a better guide than mere reason, if it be faith in God. Our knowledge is partial and may mislead us, but trust in the omniscient Lord gives us an infallible guide.

Hebrews 11:9-10

His eye saw into the far off future, and his hope was set upon eternal things. Are we also looking beyond this world for our portion? Shame will one day cover our faces if it be not so, for all the things which are seen will melt away like the mist of the morning. Heaven has a foundation, earth has none, for Job tells us concerning the Great Creator, “he hangeth the world upon nothing.”

Hebrews 11:12

Abraham himself was so aged as to be long past the years in which children could naturally be born to him; and therefore his body was as dead. Yet the father of the faithful staggered not at the promise of the Almighty God. There is no exaggeration in the description of the patriarch’s descendants, for not only the Jews, but all believers, are reckoned as the seed of Abraham. The spiritual seed are countless and glorious as the stars; and the natural or earthly seed are a great host like the sand of the sea shore.

Hebrews 11:14

Even thus at this day we are here as strangers and foreigners, and we seek a city out of sight. “Jerusalem the golden” is the desire of our hearts, but here we have no continuing city. This is to walk by faith.

Hebrews 11:15

Correspondence with the old country was easy, and the temptation to seek their fatherland was a strong one, but they persevered in the pilgrim life, and so must we. Opportunities to return to sin are legion, but we must by the power of the Holy Spirit continue to walk with God.

Hebrews 11:19

Isaac lived as if he had been raised from the dead, for he was dead in Abraham’s intent and expectation. In this way he became to the patriarch a living type of the resurrection. The faith of Abraham was tried in many fires, and so must ours be. Will it stand the test? Are we resting upon the faithfulness and omnipotence of God? Any pillars less strong than these will give way beneath us. The faith of God’s elect, which is the gift of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit, will endure and overcome and land us safely in the promised inheritance. Have we this faith or no? May the Lord grant us this most precious grace.

My rest is in heaven, my rest is not here,

Then why should I tremble when trials are near?

Be hush’d my dark spirit, the worst that can come

But shortens thy journey, and hastens thee home.

It is not for me to be seeking my bliss,

Or building my hopes in a region like this;

I look for a city that hands have not piled,

I pant for a country by sin undefiled.

True Faith Is Accompanied by Expectation

According to my earnest expectation and my hope… so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. Philippians 1:20

Expectation and faith, though alike, are not identical. An instructed Christian will not confuse the two.

True faith is never found alone; it is always accompanied by expectation. The man who believes the promises of God expects to see them fulfilled. Where there is no expectation there is no faith.

It is, however, quite possible for expectation to be present where no faith is. The mind is quite capable of mistaking strong desire for faith. Indeed faith, as commonly understood, is little more than desire compounded with cheerful optimism.

Real faith is not the stuff dreams are made of; rather it is tough, practical and altogether realistic. Faith sees the invisible but it does not see the nonexistent. Faith engages God, the one great Reality, who gave and gives existence to all things. God’s promises conform to reality, and whoever trusts them enters a world not of fiction but of fact!

Expectation has always been present in the church in the times of her greatest power. When she believed, she expected, and her Lord never disappointed her. His blessings accorded with their expectations, “and blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”