Keep It Together!

Starting with Moses and ending with Malachi — with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and many others along the way — God delegated many different prophets to speak to his people. There were many spokesmen, but with one voice they all made sure the world would hear of God’s plan to rescue them from sin and death.

Sometimes people think it’s still that way. They look for signs and revelations from God. They want to hear his voice directly, or they latch on to someone who claims that they have heard his voice directly. And there are certain people all too willing to exploit those who seek God this way.

The author of this letter to the Hebrews says that things have changed. Now God speaks to us through one person. That person is his Son, our Savior Jesus. If we want to know God, if we want to understand his plan for us and his message to us, then we are to listen to him. We do this today when we read what the evangelists and apostles recorded and reported in the New Testament.

By his Son, God created this beautiful world in the beginning. Jesus shows us exactly who God is. Jesus paints a portrait of God and all his characteristics so vibrant that it leaps off the canvas.

And just as Jesus created all this, created us and all our loved ones, this same Jesus continues to provide, protect and nurture us. He is the Creator and he is the Sustainer too. Just as he created all things from nothing by his powerful world, so he redeems us from our nothingness and purifies us from our sins by his powerful word — the gospel.

Jesus now sits in the seat of power, commanding and controlling all things for the benefit of his church — for your good, and my good. So when we listen to him, when he becomes our One Source (of information), and our One Sustainer (of life, peace, joy, and forgiveness), then his power becomes our power.

Keep it together, people tell us. With Jesus’ love and authority in our lives, we absolutely can and will keep it together, no matter how challenging the circumstances. Because he holds it all together for us by what he says to us — in his powerful word.

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:1-3, NIV).

Lord Jesus, help me to daily draw on your word for my life. I know that your words and promises help me keep it together. Without you, and without your word, I also am sure that I cannot keep it together. I repent of trying to live independently. Help me to know you, Jesus, as true God, and my Creator and Sustainer.

Our Bible reading for Friday, October 30, is Lamentations 3:40 – 5:22, Hebrews 1:1-14 and Psalm 119:129-136.

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Strengthen, Encourage, Comfort

“Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel” (Proverbs 20:15, NIV).

When Jesus taught, people were amazed at his teaching. John describes him as being “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, NIV). They said that they really couldn’t find anyone else who taught with authority the way Jesus did.

As a result crowds gathered around Jesus, seeking his teaching. And when they heard what he had to say, many of them went away strengthened, encouraged and comforted.

Today, when we read Jesus’s words, when we gather around him and listen to what he teaches us in the Bible, the very same thing is likely to occur. I come burdened, carrying my baggage, with my head spinning and full of the disruptive, discouraging thoughts of life in a fallen world.

Then Jesus speaks to me through the words of the Bible, and his words lighten the burden on my heart. I am strengthened, encouraged, and comforted. The gospel extends to me the forgiveness of my sins. It assures me of the Spirit’s life-changing strength. It gives me solid hope — especially the hope of a future in heaven.

Now Jesus has passed onto us the authority to share the gospel with others. And there is no greater gift, no greater responsibility, no greater cause, than to clearly and accurately teach Jesus and his promises to others.

To desire to do this, Paul write to the Corinthians, is to desire the greatest gift of the Spirit. And it is to seek the ability to strengthen, encourage and comfort those around us.

Someone who desires these things is indeed “a rare jewel.”

“Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort… I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:1-3, 18-19, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Thursday, August 20, is 2 Chronicles 10:1 – 12:16, 1 Corinthians 14:1-19 and Proverbs 20:15-24.

Lord, help me to teach your gospel message accurately, helpfully and compellingly. I want those who are around me to be strengthened, encouraged and comforted by your gospel promises, and the love that caused you to make those promises.

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Take the Truth for a Test Drive

“Seriously. I’m not making this stuff up!”

That’s the forceful claim Jesus makes about what he’s teaching. What provokes such a statement is that the people listening to him are utterly amazed. They can see he’s not an educated man. Yet, what he says is far more educated and wise than anyone they’ve ever heard before.

So Jesus tells them right up front: This teaching doesn’t come from me. It comes from God the Father. He sent me to do his will and to teach his truth.

Then Jesus says something imminently practical. He answers the question, “How can you know for sure if my teaching comes from God?”

Jesus’ answer is, “Try it. Just try it out, and see for yourself. Take my teachings for a test drive.”

His statement is made with no qualifications, no “ifs, ands, or buts.” It’s simply this, “If you choose to do the will of God, you will see.” And this is not something entirely new Jesus is saying. We’ve heard it before, going all the way back to the Psalms: “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm 34:8, NIV).

So, if you want to become convinced that Jesus is the Son of God, true God himself, your Savior from sin, your Redeemer and King, then simply try out his teachings and see. Start doing the things that he says to do. Stop doing the things he says not to do. Take his truth out for a spin and see how it drives.

And ask God himself to provide you with faith. You won’t be able to generate it on your own. It’s just not in you. But the power to believe is in the gospel!

After some time, and a few trial runs with Jesus’ teaching (especially the gospel!), you will begin to sense, then to see with greater and greater clarity, that Jesus is who he says he is. You will come to understand that he is teaching you God’s truth.

If there’s any truth to be aligned with, that’s the one… because in the end, God’s truth is the only truth. If there’s any person to be aligned with, he’s the one… because in the end, God’s Son is the only Son of God.

Take him up on his invitation to give his truth a test drive.

“Jesus answered, ‘My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him'” (John 7:16-18, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, May 12, is Judges 14:1 – 15:20, John 7:14-44 and Proverbs 11:29 – 12:7.

Lord, God, Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit and the wisdom that comes from above. I struggle with faith in your word, in your truth, and in your Son, Jesus. I cannot believe on my own. I need your help. Give me the will and the strength to try your word and your truth out in my life. Use my experience of your word to persuade me that your Son, is my Savior and my Lord.

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Why Is It So Hard?

Paul once wrote about the people with whom he was sharing Christ that all they seemed to want was either miracles or worldly wisdom. Jesus alone just wasn’t all that satisfying to many of them. It was a mystery to them how Paul could get so excited about this guy.

John, the apostle, had the same issue. He would teach people about Jesus, and do so with exceptional clarity. Yet, it was apparently very easy for others to follow him with false messages, and the people would quickly listen to those instead. It got so bad, John had to write them from his prison cell on the island of Patmos and say this: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1, NIV). 

But the killer is that even Jesus himself had trouble convincing people of who he is. Despite his working miracles right in front of their eyes this occurred! In the face of teaching such wisdom that many people were amazed at the words that fell from his lips, Jesus still had people doubt who he is.

Why is it so hard? Why is it so difficult for people to believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world, the one who has the words of eternal life. What causes so many to refuse to believe?

The Bible has the answers we seek. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? The answers to all these questions are found there. And those answers all point to one person — Jesus Christ.

And Jesus’ deepest desire is for us to come to him in faith. But the reality is (as Paul states clearly in 1 Corinthians 2) that believing in Jesus is far more spiritual in nature than it is rational. The Holy Spirit is needed to overcome our strong natural resistance to Jesus caused by the sin in us.

Sin in us. Satan against us. The world and its Jesus-resistant culture surrounding us. It’s no wonder it’s hard. But never, ever think it’s impossible. It’s not, because the Holy Spirit is far more powerful than all of these put together. Times 100!

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Friday, May 8 is Judges 7:8b – 8:35, John 5:31-47 and Proverbs 11:19-28.

Lord, send your Spirit to help me believe that you are my Lord and my personal Savior. Send your Spirit to teach me that all my sins are forgiven. Send your Spirit to convince me that you have the words of eternal life!

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How important it is to hear the voice of Jesus, to tune in to the words of the Son of God. We can trust what Jesus says, and stop living in fear. We can know that what he says is true and real, and not worry so much what everyone else has to say.

The beauty is this. Now when we need true wisdom, we can listen to just one voice, and tune out the rest. His words are the words we will lift up and praise. His words are the words that will shield us from harm. His words put our fears to rest.

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4, NIV).

Jesus’ words are convincing. That’s because his words are real, and that authenticity inspires faith.

“And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.'” (John 4:41-42, NIV).

It’s so important that we carve out time every day to listen to Jesus’ voice. As we do so, his Spirit enters our hearts, and he persuades and convinces us that Jesus is real. And he especially assures us that Jesus is real help in times of trouble.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, May 5, is Judges 2:6 – 3:31, John 4:27-42 and Psalm 56:1-13.

Lord Jesus, your words are real, and they are the words of eternal life. Send me your Spirit to help me take your authentic words into my heart and trust you as the Savior of the world.

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Promises that Do Not Fail

Joshua had lived a long life. He had been with Moses while the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. He had been Moses’ successor to lead the children of Israel across the Jordan to occupy the Promised Land.

And in all that time, Joshua learned one thing for sure.

God keeps his promises. When he says something will happen, it will happen. And it will happen without fail.

That’s exactly how we got a Savior named Jesus. And it’s also how we received forgiveness, spiritual life and eternal salvation.

Kept promises. Just like the ones God made to Joshua — and later kept — when he led the Israelites across the Jordan into a land flowing with milk and honey.

“Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” (Joshua 23:14, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Sunday, May 3, is Joshua 23:1 – 24:33, John 3:22-36 and Psalm 55:12-23.

Lord, thank you for making promises to me. And thank you for fulfilling all the promises you have made. I especially thank you for the promise of a Savior, and the perfect fulfillment of that promise in Jesus, your Son, my Savior.

Header image based on "Jordan River" by Bill Rice, CC By 2.0

Closed Minds

Do you know what the number one roadblock to learning something new is?

A bad memory? Constant distractions? A bad teacher?

Nope. None of the above.

The number one roadblock to learning something new is a closed mind. And the apostles were suffering from a closed mind, even after Jesus’ resurrection. (That’s how powerful a closed mind can be!)

The apostles needed a supernatural intervention. And they got one.

“Then he [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45, NIV).

Now, here’s the bad news. Because of sin in our hearts, we all suffer from a spiritually closed mind. And there’s only one solution for it.

Have Jesus intervene — supernaturally — and open our minds, too. Then — and only then — will we be able to understand the Scriptures.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, April 28, is Joshua 13:1 – 14:15, Luke 24:36-53 and Psalm 52:1-9.

Jesus, I want to understand the Scriptures. Open my mind so that I can understand what you want me to know about you, and about your love and forgiveness.

Header image based on "firmly closed" by Jenny Downing, CC By 2.0