Monday, December 16, 2013

Jesus, the Hope of Glory!

I understand “hope”, but what is GLORY?   What exactly is the “Glory” of God?  The glory of God is His splendor, His abundance, His fullness His honor…everything that embodies a perfect holy God.  The Glory of God has been revealed to this world through His Son Jesus Christ.  The Bible tells us that the “Son (Jesus) is the radiance of God’s Glory and the exact representation of His being”.

Yet, God’s glory was revealed from the beginning of time.  The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus, the second person of the triune God “laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens were the work of His hands.  The Psalmist tells us that “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 

And throughout the history of man, God continued to reveal His glory to a people He called out to be his own – Israel.   God revealed Himself – His splender, His abundance, His fullness - to His people through His prophets at many times and in various ways.  He revealed Himself with a cloud, or a fire, or wind or earthquake – He revealed His will and His heart by speaking to His prophets, who would then speak the Word of God to the people. Nearly 800 years before the Jesus’ birth, a promise was given through the prophet Isaiah.  He wrote, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end….”    A sign would be given: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel”, meaning “God with us”!  God spoke through other prophets of His promises for hundreds of years.

But there was a day and time when God was silent.  He hadn’t revealed Himself corporately to His people for several hundred years.  Yet, God’s people Israel  – Generation after generation had heard the reading of Isaiah’s scrolls and continued to hope in the promise that he spoke of:  One who would bring a government of peace, bearing it on His shoulders:  They were waiting for the Christ, the Messiah, Savior – a Deliverer for His people. They had heard of the God of Glory – but had not seen with their eyes…

But in the fullness of time… 

 God had sent an angel to a young girl, Mary, betrothed to be married,  from Nazareth a town in Galilee.  He said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and  will be called the Son of the Most High. … ”the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God”.  Mary believed and humbly received this announcement, then faithfully – “ May it be as you have said”…

Jesus, The Hope of  Glory  – His fullness, His spender brought to earth, in the womb of a virgin just as Isaiah had prophesied!

Mary’s betrothed husband, Joseph, had also had been spoken to.  The Lord appeared to him in a dream…do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins”.

Jesus, The Hope of Glory  – The Redeemer of Sins Revealed to a faithful man – confirming again Isaiah’s prophesy

So when she was great with child, because of Caesar’s decree for a census, they had to make the trip to Bethlehem… and Mary went into labor – And because of the crowds, there was no room in an inn –.  So the child of promise was born in a stable. Such a lowly and humble beginning for the One who was the “exact representation of the Father” – the Son of God –Immanuel - God Himself in incarnate!

That night, like every other night, there were shepherds in the fields keeping watch over their flocks. The occupation of shepherd was a very lowly occupation.  In fact, watching over the flocks in biblical days was usually the job of the youngest child in the family.  It was his or her first family responsibility. These shepherds were most likely raising the very lambs that were used in the temple sacrifices.  It was their job to ensure “lambs without spot or blemish” for the atonement for the sins of the people.  I read that often when a lamb was born out in the fields, it would be in danger of being trampled by the flock, so the shepherds would wrap them up in rags and place them in the animals’ feeding trough to keep them safe and from breaking their legs – so that they would be without blemish.    We all know the story – they were in the fields when  “an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified…Do not be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you: He is Christ (messiah) the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger”…then ‘a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace to men on who His favor rests.”  Once again, the prophets very words are confirmed .

So they hurried to find the baby – and I wonder if as they looked upon that child, wrapped in swaddling clothes (or rags), lying in a manger …Did they make the correlation?  Did they see their own little lambs wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger – the spotless lambs being being prepared for sacrifice for the sins of the people?   This moment would be forever etched in their minds – Perhaps 33 years later they would look upon that child as a man hanging on the cross and truly understand the….

The Hope of Glory, Jesus – The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of all mankind – Once again, the words of Isaiah confirmed, revealed to the young, poor, and the lowly

Then there were Wise men from the east – the Magi.  They lived in a far east land who know nothing about the God of Israel – if they did, it was only by word of mouth – He may have been a curiosity to them – they may have even heard of God’s promise of a deliver in Isaiah’s prophesy.  But they worshipped something else – the stars.  Their God was the earth and sky.  But remember, “The heavens declare the Glory of God and the earth displays His power.”   God revealed His presence, His glory, His splendor to earth by a star in the sky – The Magi were certain (not just hopeful), but certain that the brilliant star was a sign that a great king was born.  So sure, in fact, that they followed it to Jerusalem and asked where he was!  When they found Him, They gave gifts fit for a King, yet most importantly they bowed down and Worshiped Christ, the Messiah… no longer the earth and sky – but Him who made them!

Jesus, The Hope of Glory – revealed to wealthy kings and pagan worshipers –searching the creation, and finding their Creator!

Eight days later, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to be circumcised.  Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout.  He was waiting for the consolation of Israel.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.  That day, moved by the Spirit he went into the temple courts.  When the parents brought in the child Jesus …Simeon took him and took Him in his arms and praised God saying:  I can now die in peace - “for my eyes have seen your salvation”…

Jesus, the Hope of Glory revealed to a devout man- watching and waiting, believing a promise of God

There was also a prophetess there in the temple, an 84 year old widow named Anna.  She never left the temple, but worshiped day and night, fasting and praying.  At that very moment she gave thanks to God and prophesied that Jesus would bring redemption to all people.  God, revealing Himself with the voice of a prophet once again!

Jesus, The Hope of Glory - revealed once again through a prophetess - an old widow who worshiped day and night – wholeheartedly giving herself to the Lord.

Jesus Christ, the Hope of Glory – God’s fullness and splendor revealed to planet earth!  That first Christmas – Wouldn’t you have loved to be there?  What a beautiful story and a beautiful message to remember each Christmas. 

But where is Jesus, the hope of Glory now?  The Glory of God is still being revealed to us today… Jesus is still revealing Himself to us today.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes on Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”  It is God’s desire that all would see His glory…His fullness, His splendor…

He still reveals Himself in the places that seem just as impossible as a virgin conceiving a child…

He reveals Himself to the young, the old, the poor, the lowly…

He reveals Himself to the wealthy kings…the pagan worshiper

The devout and righteous

The ones who fast and pray…

 Jesus Christ has come to the world for all.  It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from, the message that came through Israel, is now offered to all  the world:  whether you are young or old, rich or poor – You could be looking for God in all the wrong places, worshiping the creation and not the creator: 

Yet, He didn’t come to earth just to display His splendor; in fact He humbled himself and laid down His deity… He came to die.   Why? - In our place, so that we wouldn’t have to.  The bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the GLORY OF GOD. And the wages of our sin is death – In the presence of a perfect holy God, we cannot stand righteous.  Jesus came to earth to give us hope – He was tempted just like we are - yet He was without sin.  Therefore He could become the perfect sacrifice for our sins. 

Do you think reaching God is IMPOSSIBLE?…  What is more impossible than a virgin conceiving a child?

Do you think you are too young or unimportant, lowly or poor?  God first entrusted the message of the good news of Christ’s birth to the young and lowly and poor. 

Have you been worshiping the wrong god?  Looking to the creation and not the Creator.  Maybe He is shining the light of His glory in your heart tonight, the star in the sky – and now He’s brought you understanding, like the Magi.

I can tell you for certain that you are not too wealthy, too important, too devout, or too righteous to be touched by the Hope of Glory – Jesus Christ. 

Do you know that you could have, just like Simeon at the Temple, been “moved by the Holy Spirit of God” read this today – so that you too could behold your salvation?

There is one thing I notice about all the biblical examples I have just given you. They all came from different walks of life, yet none were proud.  All humbled themselves and believed God’s message….

Before Jesus went to the cross, He prayed for all those who would believe: “Father I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” John 17:24

Christ doesn’t just want to give you a place in Heaven – He wants to show you His glory here on earth.

Have you believed?    Just as Mary had to believe, Joseph had to obey, the shepherds had to seek, and the Magi had to bow down in worship to the True God – so do you.  Has God revealed Christ the Hope of Glory to you just now?   The Bible says “Today is the day of salvation; now is the acceptable time”.  .  It’s simple, just believe and receive.   Just pray a simple prayer: “Lord I humbly come to you.  I believe that you are the Son of God – and I am a sinner in need of a Savior.  Lord Jesus, Come into my life, and I will worship you” …AmenI

If you prayed that prayer a new life will begin for you – you’ll be a new creation – your sins are forgiven, eternity awaits you, a new hope will fill your heart…

                                                   THE HOPE OF GLORY, JESUS CHRIST!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hezekiah (Continued)

So, I continue to consider our friend Hezekiah in II Kings 18.  Let me remind you that the scripture tells us that “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord…trusted in the Lord…held fast to the Lord and did not stop following Him; he kept the commands…And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.” (vv 5-8)

 I noticed something interesting in v.4:   Hezekiah’s rule began with a spiritual cleansing of the places of worship.  He had “removed the high places, smashed sacred stones, and cut down the Asherah poles”.  All of these places of worship were directed at the gods of the day – not Jehovah – the One True God.  But the Bible tells us also that “He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made”.  That bronze snake, though, was a symbol of God’s deliverance.  I’m sure you remember:   God led His people by Moses out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and into the wilderness. He provided water from a rock and  He provided good, nourishing “manna” daily for them to eat. He destroyed enemy armies all around them, He led them faithfully through every trial – kept them warm with a pillar of fire by night and cooled with a pillar of cloud by day in the desert.   But the people grew tired of it and began to grumble and complain.  They spoke against God and against Moses.  So, God sent venomous snakes that bit the people and many died.  But, the people repented and begged Moses to pray to the Lord for deliverance.  God spoke to Moses and told him to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole.  Anyone who was bitten could merely look at it and live.  That bronze snake saved their lives.  It was also a type and shadow of Christ and the deliverance that He would bring to all mankind.  Just as the Israelites could be delivered from the curse of their sin, we too can look to Christ and live. 

That bronze snake was meant to be kept as a reminder of the forgiveness and faithful loving kindness of the Lord.  So, why would Hezekiah destroy such a good thing?  The answer is in the latter part of v. 4: “for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it”.  They were worshiping the bronze snake rather than the Lord Himself.  Matthew Henry in his commentary says, “good things, when idolized, are better parted with than kept.” 

Are there “good things” in your life that you have idolized? – a husband, a wife, a child, a house, a job, a church, a ministry,?…The list could go on.  All these good things in our lives have been given to us by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He desires to bless us with all good things, but is a jealous God.  Our hearts must be totally surrendered and our worship must be always and only to Him.   Perhaps today, we need to search our hearts and “break into pieces” any “bronze snakes” that we are worshipping. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


I’ve been reading about Hezekiah.  Are you familiar with him?  You can find accounts of his life in II Chronicles 29-32 and II Kings 18-20.  If you are familiar with him, what do you think of at the mention of his name?  Most likely you remember him as the king of Judah who was dying and God gave 15 more years of life.  You know, the one who was given the sign of his healing by God “backing the sun up 10 ten steps”…the one who was then lifted up in pride – and the added 15 years of his life were his downfall.  A son born to him during that time became the next king of Judah – Manasseh, who “did evil in the eyes of the Lord”.  He was 12 years old when Hezekiah died.   

I’ve often, through the years, heard preachers expound on this aspect of Hezekiah’s life. They say, be careful what you ask for – it may be the thing that destroys you.  They put much blame on Hezekiah for his son’s evil.    They focus on those last 15 years. But, I’m not so sure we should.
Hezekiah’s  great grandfather was Uzziah. II Chronicles 26 tells us that “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” and “as long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.”    However, after he “became powerful, his pride led to his downfall”.  In unfaithfulness and unconsecrated for the task of priest, he attempted to burn incense to the Lord in the temple.  The Lord struck him with leprosy and he “had leprosy until the day he died”.  He reigned 52 years and had great success, victories, power, and wealth – all given to him by God, yet when he died, “people said, “He had leprosy”.  I don’t know how many years he “did what was right in the sight of the Lord”, but people only remembered how his life ended.  

Fifty two years of reigning as king, doing right in the Lord’s eyes, seeking the Lord, and having success was forgotten.  His sin of pride overshadowed all the good in his past.  The history books remember Uzziah as the one who “had leprosy”.

That’s sad.

Hezekiah’s grandfather was Uzziah’s son, Jotham.  What was said of him was that he “grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord His God”.  “He did what was right in the sight of the Lord”. 

That’s good.

Hezekiah’s father was Jotham’s son, Ahaz.  “He did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord…following the detestable ways of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites…he promoted wickedness in Judah and had been most unfaithful to the Lord” .   He “became even more unfaithful to the Lord”… when trouble came on him and his people.

That’s sad.

Then Ahaz died and his son Hezekiah became king at the age of 25. Even though Ahaz  followed detestable ways, promoted wickedness, and was unfaithful to the Lord, the scriptures tell us that Hezekiah “trusted in the Lord”  (II Kings 18:5).  “He held fast to the Lord and did not stop following Him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.” (II Kings 18:6,7)

That’s good

But do we remember Hezekiah for that?  No, often he is remembered for the sin of pride after God had so miraculously healed him and promised him 15 more years of life.  Then we further blame him for improperly raising his son Mannassah.

That’s sad….

But I don’t see a pattern here.  Good kings begat evil sons and evil kings begat good sons.  So what do we learn from these examples?

1)      We all have a personal choice to make.  Whether we have had a good parental example or a bad one, the choice to serve God and walk in His ways is ours.  There is no excuse for upbringing.  We cannot say, “I had a bad example growing up, therefore I cannot truly walk a righteous life”.  The fact of the matter is this:  obey God, follow His precepts and all His promises are yours.  It will be good for you and for those around you...  That’s good…

2)      Parents often blame themselves for a wayward child.  Though we do reap what we sow at times, our children do have their own choices to make.  And they often choose the way of the world. And …that’s sad.

3)      God is faithful.  If we yield our trust in Him and follow His ways, we will be blessed and God will grant us success in our dealings….  And that’s good…

4)      We must be careful to serve the Lord ALL THE DAYS OF OUR LIVES.  One indiscretion can ruin our reputation.  A soiled reputation can erase may years  of good things.  …and that’s sad..



                                 …THAT WOULD BE GOOD!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Honoring Marriage

Well, our little wren family is gone.  The little ones have grown up and left the nest.  I did, however, just happen to be out on the deck on the day of their exodus.  Three of the four little wrens had ventured out of the birdhouse and were on the patio spreading their wings for flight, chirping wildly.  I’m sure they were thrilled to be out of their cramped quarters and looking forward to the freedom to fly.  Mama Wren was coaxing them to attempt flight to a nearby row of trees. 

One last little bird remained in the birdhouse.  His three siblings made it to the small cluster of trees.  They chirped and cheered encouraging him to join them.  He took the plunge and joined his family.  They made a joyful noise for a few long minutes, then flew off.  It was fun to watch.  

It sure was a fast process – a few short weeks that were filled with sacrifice and strenuous activity on the part of the parents.  The wren couple moved in, set up house, had their chicks, worked hard to feed and care for them…then encouraged them on to live adult lives of their own – all in a few weeks’ time.   It’s the way of nature – and the way God intended it to be.  It was instinctive.

It is a perfect picture of family.  Observing the wrens made me think of my own family.  Joe and I moved into our home, set up house, had our children, worked hard to feed and care for them…then encouraged them to live adult lives of their own.  The years went so fast – so filled with hard work and sacrifice – and there was a lot of “coaxing” involved!  It was the right order of things though – the way God intended – and it brought great joy.  But, it was not instinctive. 

God created humans with a will and a spirit – different from the animal kingdom.  The wrens were “hard wired” to do what they did – they had no choice.  It is what God created them to do.

For us, God instituted marriage and family.  It was His plan and purpose from the creation of man when He formed Adam out of the dust.   God saw that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone so he made a helper – woman…then told them to be fruitful and multiply.  Why?  To bring glory to God.   His Word tells us that marriage is “a mystery, like Christ and the church.”   It is meant to be an expression of God’s great love toward us and His promise never to leave us.  Offspring are a result of that love and “the earth is filled with the glory of God” as they grow up and do the same.  Marriage is good. Marriage is not God’s plan for everyone, but it is God’s plan and His order of things – and it is good.

But it often seems today the order of things is confused.  Marriage is not always considered to be a good choice.  Many postpone marriage until they have all the “things” they want first.  They don’t want to miss anything “good” before “settling down”.  Having children is delayed.  Couples on reality TV are convinced that they cannot happily raise a family without a” 5 piece, double-sink, en suite” to the master bedroom.  Hard work and sacrifice are not the choice when it comes to many of today’s families.  In reading Hebrews 13 today I found something interesting in two verses…

Hebrews 13:4-6 “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,     “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” 

         So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper”…

Isn’t it interesting that in the same sentence that God speaks in His word about the honor of marriage, He connects it with the warning against the love of money and the importance of being content with what we have? 

I think it is purposeful.  When two people fall in love, God has a well written plan for it:  Leave father and mother and cleave to each other in the purity and honor of marriage, trusting that the Lord will be their helper as they set up home and raise children – content and unburdened by the “love of money”. 

It’s a choice of obedience – Obedience to God’s correct order of things.  It may take being content with very little for a while (or longer).   It may mean the “5 piece, double-sink en suite” will have to wait – or perhaps will never be a reality…   It always means self sacrifice and hard work. But God’s word tells us that “All hard work brings a profit.”  And, there is blessing and joy in obedience.  Most importantly, God is honored and glorified in our lives.  Marriage and family is GOOD – it is God’s design.

Let’s honor marriage and family and home.  A world without Christ is watching us to see if somehow they can get a glimpse of God.  If marriage is a mystery – perhaps a glimmer of that mystery is revealed to them as they observe us in our homes – the way I observed the wren family. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fix Your Eyes on Jesus

I love to bird watch.  I was recently given a birdhouse and we already have a wren couple building a cozy home for their soon-to-be-hatched babies.   Sweet!

As Joe and I have been watching our little wren couple, we noticed another bird…a beautiful goldfinch.  He has been frantically flying back and forth from a little tree by our deck to every window on the back of our house.  He flies to each window, perches on the sill and knocks at his reflection over and over again.  Joe thinks he’s just “out of his little birdie mind”…I guess we’ll never really know what’s wrong with him, but I have a more romantic thought:  I think he’s looking for another goldfinch so that he too, like the father wren, can build a home and have a family.  I think he sees his reflection and thinks it’s another finch!  But that “finch” is not responding to his advances!!  THINGS ARE JUST NOT AS THEY APPEAR FOR OUR LITTLE BIRD.

Sometimes life is like that, isn’t it?   The Word of God tells us that we “see through a glass darkly” – things are just not always what they appear. We make our plans, even set up goals, and run here and there to make those plans happen.  But very often the things we hoped for are not within reach – something stands in the way.

Our little finch was looking in all the wrong places for that which would fulfill his dream.  The windows were in his way.  Where are you looking to fulfill your dreams, plans and goals?  What are you chasing that is in the way?   God’s Word, the Bible tells us that we are to fix our eyes on Jesus”.  Do you believe God’s Word?  When you feel you’ve lost your way, do you “knock” at Christ’s door by searching His Word for direction? 

Proverbs 3:5-7 gives us three things to remember in those times that we are not seeing clearly:

1.      “Trust in the Lord with all your heart”

2.     “Lean not on your own understanding”

3.     “in all your ways submit to Him”

The result:  “He will make your paths straight”

It’s a simple message – with a scripture that everyone seems to know.  But let me ask you:  Can you trust the Lord with all your heart?  Are you “leaning on” your own understanding?   Are you submitted to Him, obeying His Word?  Do you KNOW His Word? 

How can we trust in, lean on, or submit to someone with whom we are not familiar?  We can’t.  Unless we spend time in the true presence of Christ in prayer and meditation on His Word, we cannot expect our paths to be “straight”.

So, what’s the “word on the Word” today?  James sums it up for us…

James 1:22-25 “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.  Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it - not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it - they will be blessed in what they do.”

I wonder if our little goldfinch keeps forgetting that the reflection in the “mirror” of the window is not responding, and so he keeps going back to it over and over again.  How about you?  Are you looking “intently” to God’s law that will give you freedom and blessing? 

I urge you today, look to Christ and hear & obey His Word.  YOU’LL BE BLESSED IN WHAT YOU DO!