Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up.
The people standing before Ezra had a hunger for God's word. Would that today we had that same hunger to hear His voice.
Should we be so casual with a God so holy? Proper reverence does not forget His nearness to us—especially through His Son, our brother, Jesus Christ. The very purpose for which God sacrificed His Son was so that we would be able to draw near to Him, intimately. But He is still God, a most holy God, and, to paraphrase A. W. Tozer, when we fail to worship Him earnestly, we are most certainly worshipping ourselves...
"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
In a common world, the follower of Christ is to be uncommon. The Christian's path is challenging, for we are to thread our way through a minefield of temptations, distractions, and proffered compromises. We are not to permanently detach ourselves from this world, since it is, in Jesus' terms, a "field... white for harvest." We are always to be serving, reaching, "harvesting" those that do not yet know our Savior.
In a fallen world in which common decency has become uncommon, we are called to be different. We are called to reflect the image of Christ to those who may never have met Him...
"As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth."
It is always fascinating to read of a pre-incarnate appearance of the Son of God in the Old Testament. There were, for example, the several times He showed up during the life of Abraham: by the oaks of Mamre to announce that Sarah would bear a child, to Hagar after she had been banished with her son Ishmael, to stop the knife with which Abraham was about to kill his son Isaac.
Perhaps equally fascinating are those times an Old Testament figure recognizes a need for some one or some thing that can only be fulfilled in the person of the incarnate Son of God: Jesus the Christ. The lamenting Job is such a figure...
"But He knows the way I take;
When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold."
The Prosperity Gospel assumes that when we enjoy good health, plenty of money, and are happy, these blessings prove that God is pleased with us. Conversely, when we don't enjoy these blessings, it marks God's displeasure, and/or that Satan has been given too much free rein in our lives. Trials, sickness and disease, poverty, chronic unhappiness—all are signs that something is amiss in our relationship with God.
There is an ancient Greek term for that philosophy: twaddle...
I had many things to write to you, but I am not willing to write them to you with pen and ink; but I hope to see you shortly, and we will speak face to face.
3 John 1:13-14
God, the Maker of all things—including electronic devices—wrapped us in flesh for a reason. He could have wrapped us in plastic and glass, but those materials are not warm and pliable to the touch. While they can be touched, they do not touch back; they do not hold, they do not cradle, they do not embrace.
God designed human beings not for efficiency, but for communion—both with Himself and others. We are not machines; we are people. And when we abandon our humanity in favor of the cold, long-distance digital realm, we have abandoned part of what God has intended for our good...
"...that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil."
The meteorologist knows that there is a specific, natural explanation for every drop of rain and every flake of snow that falls from the sky. The naturalist can expound at length about the climatic and seasonal influences upon deciduous trees that cause them to drop their leaves every year. But the poet knows that above science is heaven—and the hand of God. The believer knows that even before He created man, God created (and thus controls) science. Science may have its rules, but God created the rules; clouds may form according to natural laws, but God created those laws...
But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard it, they mocked us and despised us and said, "What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?"
Modern Israel—at least with Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister—does not care what the world thinks of them; they are going to do whatever is necessary to defend themselves. Instead of sacrificing their children to the god of public opinion, they do whatever is necessary to protect them. The nation of Israel does not care what others think. It will not compromise, just to get along, with those who hate them.
We, as Christians, need to learn that lesson; we need to stop trying to get along with the world and just stand for what we know to be right. We need to stop trying to get the world to love us. It will never love us. Get over it.
For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
You see, it is a state of mind, really. It is a mystical, other-worldly, sometimes confusing, sometimes ecstatic, utterly liberating state of mind. More than a belief, more than just a philosophy, far more than just rules or an action, it is a way of life—a way of living.
Real, substantial, authentic thanks-giving is the product of a heart that has been broken; not broken in the soap opera, smarmy dime-romance sense—"Oh, my boyfriend's left me for another girl, sha-na-na."—but the reductive brokenness that results in a life renewed, a life rescued from the abyss. The first step upward toward God is trod upon the shattered remnants of the old self, a life broken, a heart contrite...
But King David said to Ornan, "No, but I will surely buy it for the full price; for I will not take what is yours for the Lord, or offer a burnt offering which costs me nothing."
1 Chronicles 21:24
Is what we give to the Lord off the top, or is it only from that which is left over? Is what we place in the offering plate a generous portion of the gross, or only a percentage of what is left after we've paid everyone else? Do we give our time and labor to the Lord even when it is inconvenient, or only when we have some spare time on our calendar?
Do we, like David, truly have a heart for God? Is He truly Lord of our life—or just an acquaintance we sing to on Sunday mornings?
He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house;
He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me.
Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land,
So as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity.
We live in an homogenized society. Sharp distinctions are frowned upon; firm convictions are ridiculed. The very idea of standing strong against just about anything, saying "No!" with a firmly set jaw, is fast becoming archaic. But if we are unprepared to take this stand at the point where society ends and our family begins, then where else?
We recently published our teaching notes for a 14-session, topical study of the names, titles and terms used for Jesus the Christ--including, for example, Word, I AM, Son of Man, Lamb of God, Alpha and Omega. Suitable for private study, or teaching a class, these notes are available as a downloadable PDF file (60 pages). Remember: This and all of our resources are available free of charge, offered to the glory of God.
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