Wednesday, December 19, 2007

identities of Jesus Christ

Various identities of Jesus Christ from my readings today:
  • the Resurrection and the Life
  • the King of Israel
  • the Firstfruit
  • the glory of God
  • the Son of Man
  • the second serpent on a pole
  • the Light of Life
  • the Arm of the Lord
  • the Word of God
  • the Righteous Servant of God
  • the Angel of the Lord
Wow!  That is rich!  What a joy it is to meditate on a subset of the infinite identity of Jesus Christ!
Heavenly Father, thank you so much for revealing the identity of your Son.  God, please help me know you better and enjoy you.  Lord, I want to fellowship with you.  Lord, I want to participate in your objectives of drawing men to yourself and conquering Satan and the world.  Lord, help me believe and obey.  I pray this in the name of the one who is worthy to open the scroll and judge the world - Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, December 17, 2007

hearing and shining

Proverbs 17

John 10

Revelation 6

Revelation 7


John 10 records Jesus's analogy of the Good Shepherd and His sheep, and I was really drawn to verses 4 and 5:

4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won't follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don't know his voice."

I asked myself the question, "Do I know His voice?  Do I listen to the voices of the Enemy and the World more than I listen to His voice."  For instance, on my way to catch the bus at the Park and Ride this morning, I gassed it to try to make the light but ended up running through the intersection just after the light turned red.  This is tragic, especially since I had to speed to get to the intersection in time to run it red.  As I sat on the bus (which I may or may not have caught if I had waited at the light), I appologized to God and asked Him to forgive me.  Even watching television, it is easy to listen to the world's voice - "I should buy that car... I need that big TV... That stuff will make me fashionable...  I need all of that to make me valuable..."


On the bus ride into work this morning, I was captivated by the beautiful sky that showcased the glorious transformation from night to sunrise to morning light.  It is very crisp and clear this morning, so there were a few clouds in the sky, but it was mostly a perfect vertical gradation of color from saturated red-orange at the horizon transitioning through yellow, green, and blue to a very dark, violet sky.  As the sun began to rise, I was reminded of the verse in Proverbs 4:18 -

18 The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.


Heavenly Father, please cleanse my mind and my heart.  I pray that you will shine in me and through me like the sunrise this morning.  I pray that the Light of the Son would radiate in my speech and actions.  Lord, please wash me in the Holy Spirit, and lead me to follow you.  Lord, I want to hear your voice.  I need to hear your voice.  Lord, help me dispiseTheif comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but you died and live to give me abundant life!  I praise you for the Sacrifice of the Lamb, who is worthy to open the scrolls and control time itself.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb.  Amen.

Friday, December 14, 2007

about this Jesus character

I got a great diversity of opinions about Jesus in today's reading.  In John 7, many of the religious leaders hated Jesus, and some of the general public took Him for a fraud.  However, there were others who saw His real identity - a revelation from God, no doubt.  Just in case you are wondering about His identity, Jesus clarifies in Rev. 1:
4 ... Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; 5 and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world.
   All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. 6 He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.
7 Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven.
      And everyone will see him—even those who pierced him.
   And all the nations of the world will mourn for him.   Yes! Amen!
8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end," says the Lord God. "I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One." ...
17 ... "Don't be afraid! I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.
Well, now that we know Who He Is, what are we supposed to do about it?  Jude helps us out with this one:
17 But you, my dear friends, must remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ said. 18 They told you that in the last times there would be scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. 19 These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God's Spirit in them.  20 But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, 21 and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God's love.   22 And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. 23 Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.  24 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen. 
Heavenly Father,  I praise you for being eternal, omniscient, and sovereign.  I praise you because you are so worthy to be praised!  I humble myself before you.  Thank you for bringing me into your family; thank you for making me your child.  Lord, I pray that I would live like you charge us to at the end of Jude.  I pray that I would have a better understanding of who Jesus is and that He will be the focus of my existence.  I pray this in His wonderful name.  Amen.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

second-order redundancy

I have been drawn to notice this feedback-loop of faith and obedience in my devotions of the past two days, and for a third day in a row (a second-order redundancy), I find yet another set of scriptures supporting this principle.
John 6:27 ... Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. ...  29 Jesus told them, "This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent."  ... 40 For it is my Father's will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. ...
2 John 1:3 Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love. ...   5 I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. ... 6 Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.
3 John 1:11 ... Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do good prove that they are God's children, and those who do evil prove that they do not know God.
I was meditating on this faith-obedience interaction, and I was thinking, "God, how do I obey you."  I got the impression that I simply need to follow through with (1) God's moral will and (2) His specific will in my life ( e.g., (1) I need to live my daily life in a way that is consistent with the principles of righteous living that are illustrated in the Bible, and (2) I need to diligently work on my dissertation, follow His call to teach a Sunday School class starting in January, follow His call in other roles of responsibility in the local church, etc.)
Heavenly Father, thank you for sending your Son Jesus to bring us eternal life.  Lord, I pray that I will be obedient to the Scriptures in righteous living, and I pray that I will be obedient and faithful in the specific directions you have given in my life.  Lord, I pray that I would not get bogged down with religion, but that I would have a dynamic and interactive relationship with you - that I would know and love you more.  Lord, please reveal more of yourself to me.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

more of the same (faith and obedience)

John 5:24 "I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. ... 28 Don't be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God's Son, 29 and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment.
1 John 4:9 God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
1 John 5:Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. 2 We know we love God's children if we love God and obey his commandments. 3 Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. 5 And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. ... 11 And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God's Son does not have life. 13 I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life. ... 20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.
Wow!  I don't know how it could be any more clear.  Our faith is proven by our obedience, and our faith grows as we obey.  It's a cycle of harmonic resonance (diverging to infinity).
Heavenly Father, please grow your love in me.  I pray that I would live in love.  Jesus, make your home in me.  Lord, grow my faith and lead me in a path of obedience for your namesake.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

how do I know I'm a Christian?

Jesus is the singular and exclusive, necessary and sufficient condition for eternal salvation!
1 John 1:1 ... we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. ... 22 And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist. 23 Anyone who denies the Son doesn't have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
And how can I know if I have faith in Jesus Christ? 
1 John 2:5 But those who obey God's word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. 6 Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.
And how did Jesus live?  In complete obedience to the Father:
John 4:13 Jesus replied, "Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life." ... 26 Then Jesus told her, "I Am the Messiah!" ... 34 Then Jesus explained: "My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work. 35 You know the saying, 'Four months between planting and harvest.' But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.
What is a person's appropriate response?
1 John 2:24 So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. 25 And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that payed the penalty of death for my sin.  Lord, I confess that Jesus is the Christ - the Messiah!  I want to obey you and be faithful to live like Jesus did - in complete obedience to you.  Lord, help me live a faithful life of obedience in the practical things that happen today.  Help me be loving and compassionate to my wife, help me share the joy of Christ with my friends, and may my heart and mind be pure before you.  I pray that you will be what I desire most.  Lord, keep me pure for you.  I pray this in the Holy name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jesus in John's writings

My wife and I watched The Nativity Story last night, and we were (again) touched by the reality of Joseph and Mary's growth in faith as they trusted God's plan for their lives.  I was also impressed with the incredible duality of majesty and humility at Christ's entrance into our world - the Miraculous Conception, the Star over Bethlehem, and the visit from wise men contrasted with His birth in a stable and a livestock feeding trough for His bed.
As we celebrate this Christmas season, I am drawn to focus on Christ Jesus more than ever before.  There are several classic scriptures from the Apostle John in today's reading that are so sweet to meditate on, especially during Christmas:
John 3:14 And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.  16 "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. ... 36 And anyone who believes in God's Son has eternal life.
1 John 1:1 We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. ... He is the Word of life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. ... 5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. ... 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. ... 9 ... if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
Jesus is the Light of the World, and His sacrificial blood pays the penalty of death for your sins and mine.  By walking in the Light, we may experience the power of the Almighty God flowing through our lives as He accomplishes His perfect will.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Son!  Lord, I praise you for your amazing plan of redemption.  Thank you, Jesus, for being so majestic and humble - the perfect God-Man who is Prophet, Priest, and King!  Lord, I pray that I will know you better and focus on you only; may nothing in this world capture my attention, but help me keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.  Lord, help me raise up Jesus in my life - that you would draw men to yourself.  I pray this in His Wonderful Name.  Amen.

Friday, December 7, 2007

cause and effect in God's economy

God created the universe perfectly, but man sinned and fell short of His glory. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life in complete obedience to the Father, died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins and mine, was buried, rose again on the third day, and before he ascended into heaven, he said:
46 ... "Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: 'There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.' 48 You are witnesses of all these things. (Luke 24)
Consequently, Peter addresses those who believe this Message with clear directives in 1 Peter 2 and 3 about how this faith practically works itself out in our daily living:
2:1 So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech. 2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord's kindness. ... 7 Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. ... 9 ... for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. ... 13 For the Lord's sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, 14 or the officials he has appointed. ... 21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.
 22 He never sinned,
      nor ever deceived anyone.
 23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
      nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
      He left his case in the hands of God,
      who always judges fairly.
 24 He personally carried our sins
      in his body on the cross
      so that we can be dead to sin
      and live for what is right.
      By his wounds
      you are healed.
 25 Once you were like sheep
      who wandered away.
      But now you have turned to your Shepherd,
      the Guardian of your souls.
3:1 In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. ... 7 In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. ...   14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don't worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way.
Wow!  That is rich!  It would take months to unpack all of that!  The great thing is, that's what I'm trying to do - obey the scriptures and gain Christ (learning more of Christ and acting more like Christ - gaining more of Christ).  Whew!  I have a lot of stuff to work on!
Heavenly Father, thank you for these rich passages of truth that focus on Jesus Christ and how that gets incorporated into my life, tangibly.  Lord, help me believe and obey.  Jesus, I want to worship you as the Lord of my life and live in complete obedience.  Lord, help me honor you.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

reaching your full potential in Christ

I went to men's prayer breakfast this morning at our church where our pastor is going through a series about "The man God uses."  Today we talked about "Surrender: avoiding the waste of underemployment" in a study of the Apostle Peter from Matthew 4:18-20.  Peter was originally a fisherman, but Jesus called him to be a fisher of men.  If Peter had stayed doing what he was doing (fishing for fish), then he would have been underemployed according to God's economy.  Pastor shared these three points:
  1. Jesus sees a surrendered man for what he will become.
  2. Jesus calls a surrendered man to forsake all for His call.
  3. Jesus promises a surrendered man His presence and power.
This morning's Bible reading was really enhanced by looking at these passages through the lens of God's economy (i.e., God's good pleasure and plan to dispense Himself into us via Jesus Christ).  Summarizing: our faith in Christ leads us towards obedience, which is a practical demonstration of our faith.
Heavenly Father, I believe that you have a specific plan for my life, and I want to live out the wonderful things you have planned for me.  Lord, help me hear your call, and give me faith to obey and prove that your will really is the best!  God, I want to serve you with all my heart!  Help me, Lord.  I beg you in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

choosing sides

I was impressed by the account of Jesus's betrayal and "trial" in Luke 22.  At the "trial," the soldiers blindfolded Jesus, hit Him [in the face], and then mocked Him about prophesying which one hit Him.  Can you imagine sitting blindfolded while people punch you in the face?!  You wouldn't know when to expect the blow, so it would just be one unsuspected recoil after another.  He sat through that for you and me, and that's how ugly our sin is.  It was practically you and me striking Him in the face and mocking His lordship.
Some of James's remarks resonate harmonically after those sobering thoughts, particularly chapter 4:
4 ... Don't you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. ... 6 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, "God opposes the proud but favors the humble."   7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
I think in verse 8, James was drawing from Psalm 24:3-5:
3 Who may climb the mountain of the Lord?
      Who may stand in his holy place?
 4 Only those whose hands and hearts are pure,
      who do not worship idols
      and never tell lies.
 5 They will receive the Lord's blessing
      and have a right relationship with God their savior.
Application - I need to make a clear decision in my mind to be a friend of Christ and not to be friends with this world.  There needs to be a clear distinction between my life as a Christian and any non-believer's lifestyle.
Heavenly Father, give me clean hands and a pure heart.  Lord, I lift up my soul only to you; show me any idols in my life.  Lord, I want to humble myself before you; I want to draw close to you, and I pray that you will draw close to me.  Please forgive me of hurting you.  Jesus, thank you for enduring the horrible treatment and the cross.  I pray that I will live in honor of your sacrifice.  I pray this in the name that is above every name, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

sunrise and growth

As I was driving to prayer breakfast this morning, I came over a hill, and there before me was one of the most gorgeous pre-sunrises ever!  It was a saturated orange-red at the horizon and faded into a pastel orange and blue in the sky with a little pink and yellow mixed in.  I thought it was really cool when I read this verse after seeing that:
Prov. 4:18 The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
      which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.
So, where else do you see "shin[ing] ever brighter until the full light of day" in Scripture?  I'm glad you asked.
James 1:2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. 
Another pair of verses from Proverbs and James that I find interestingly coupled are:
Prov. 4:25 Look straight ahead,
      and fix your eyes on what lies before you.
 26 Mark out a straight path for your feet;
      stay on the safe path.
 27 Don't get sidetracked;
      keep your feet from following evil.
James 1:25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. ... 27 Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.
How do I practically apply this today in my life?  First, I must be faithful to continue reading God's Word on a daily basis and meditating on it to allow Him to speak truth to me through the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit.  Second, I must immediately implement/practice what I heard to make it truly learned.  In principle, this is very simple; in practice, it is trench warfare in the mind.  I need to be more conscious of what I am thinking and actively try to think about God more.  I need to be careful to control what I look at - careful against sexual and material lust.  In Luke 21, Jesus is describing the events preceding the end of the world, and He instructs us not to be "filled with the worries of this life."  It is so easy to think about our immediate and present circumstance, but we must force ourselves to think about Christ and His Kingdom.
Heavenly Father, thank you for this beautiful day, and thank you for your Word that guides and guides and guides.  Lord, please give me wisdom because I really need it - I am ignorant and worn out.  I need you to save me from my self.  Lord, I want to do you will; I want you to accomplish your plan of salvation and renovation in my life.  Lord, make me like the "gleam of the dawn" brightening to the "full light of day."  I want to be like the sun - reflecting the Light of the Son.  Lord, help me remember and practice these things today.  I pray this in the powerful name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hooray for Hebrews!

Here are a few of my favorite verses:
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God's throne. ... 12 So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13 Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong. ... 28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our God is a devouring fire.
Verses 12 and 13 really spoke to me this morning because my wife and I stayed up very late last night (this morning) working on projects for our graduate school responsibilities.  It is so easy to feel discouraged and defeated, but we must never give up!  I'm reminded of 1 Corinthians 15:58 -
So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word that is daily bread to my spirit and soul!  Lord Jesus, please give me strength to obey these Scriptures.  Lord, use me as a testimony of your goodness in the middle of stress and opposition.  I praise you because you are Holy and ever worthy of praise!  I pray this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.