1 Peter 1:3-6 (NIV)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this, you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.
For the past several weeks, my wife and I have been looking at the possibility of taking along needed vacation from our busy lives. We have looked online at all sorts of vacation homes and places to go.
About a week ago, we finally settled on a spot and reserved a mountainside townhome in the Colorado Rockies. I have been to Colorado three times before on sky trips back in the early 1990s. I know the beauty that awaits my family when we get to our destination. The time cannot come soon enough.
I find myself often going online to look again at the views we will enjoy form our townhome on the side of the Rocky Mountains.
When I find myself being unsettled by all the chaos that is going on in our day I stop and think of our upcoming vacation and find some respite. This is as it should be. This is just a foretaste of what our eternal home should do for us these days.
When the days grow longer and it seems impossible to stake one more step we need to turn our heart toward heaven and meditate on what will be our joy when we finally arrive at our eternal home.
Is your day hard and the path steep? Are you tempted to quit before the finish? Take a glance at where you are headed and you will find your step a little lighter and your path a little brighter.
Peter said it better than I can. This vision of heaven causes us to rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.
Think of heaven more today than you did yesterday because it will be your home sooner than you think.
Someone said they thought they were already in heaven because they had spent the day with Jesus here. Guess someone else got it right too.
Here’s to happy thoughts of our eternal home.
Jonah 3:9-10 (NIV) “Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.”
Judah and Israel were a nation of wickedness. They had invented ways of doing evil. They were masters at torture and brutal treatment of others. If there was a nation that should have been destroyed, it was theirs. No concern for the things of God, no delight for righteousness or holiness. God sent a prophet to them to give them his final word.
“Forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown!”
There was no word of grace or hope mixed with the news of impending judgment. The only thing that the Ninevites had to look forward to was an absolute judgment that was justly due to them. This news was delivered by a prophet of God, and prophets of God are never wrong.
With no hope and no promise from God but absolute judgment, the king did what no one else even thought was possible. He called for a time of repentance with prayer and fasting. His command called for the fasting of not just man but beasts as well.
There was never a time like this when an evil city had repented with no guarantee of forgiveness. No one knew the outcome, but the king commanded repentance anyway.
Consider what happened as a result of the king’s command. A city of more than half a million repented and was spared judgment. Take a good look at our nation. Politicians are liars and immoral. They steal money from others through immoral taxation, and they misrepresent the truth so they can do their own thing. Even those two lead the churches are often bankrupt morally and spiritually.
Families are in crisis, crime is rising, unemployment is going through the roof. Anarchy is about to explode in our land. We murder innocent babies to the tune of 1.5 million a year. We set criminals free, and we arrest law-abiding citizens. Images to Satan are filling our capital buildings, and truth has fallen into the streets. Is there hope for America again?
If God spared the city of Nineveh when she repented in sackcloth and asked and prayer and fasting, then yes, there is hope for our nation. If God’s people will humble themselves and pray and seek his face through prayer and fasting and repentance, perhaps He will turn our country around once more.
Let us heed the call to repentance and fasting for the sake of God’s glory in our nation and in our churches.
Obadiah 1:21 (NIV)
21 Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the LORD’s.
When you read the newspapers or listen to the media pundits, it seems as if the ungodly will last forever. This is not so. They may think this is so, but they have forgotten to read the last chapter of the book. One day soon, every king, every dictator, and every autocrat will see their own little petty kingdoms perish like the early morning mist when the sun rises.
Dear Saint, take a good look around at all those who think they have power and wield influence. Very soon you will see them no more. The kingdoms of this earth will suddenly fade from view when the Lord of glory returns to set up his kingdom.
On that day, every king and every potentate will go cowering under the rocks and hills crying out to be saved from the wrath of the lamb, but it will be too late.
You may not see justice prevail right now. Still, it will, and when it does, every evil ruler and every corrupt power broker will be brought before the bar of God’s holy judgment seat.
O what day of rejoicing that will be when eternal justice is set up and the scales of justice are restored, never to be removed again.
Hear the words of James 5 when he says, “Behold the judge is at the door!”
Amos 9:13-15 (NIV)
13 “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills.
14 I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
15 I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God.
This passage in Amos speaks of a long in the future plan for Israel, God’s Chosen Nation. God created Israel to be the vehicle through which the Messiah would enter to rescue those who are redeemed. God made a promise to Israel that he would establish her in her land at the end of the days. This promise to Israel has been problematic for many. Some reach the conclusion that God broke his promise to Israel. If God has broken his promise to Israel, we must ask, “Can He can be trusted?”
This is the reason we believe the Scripture. Nothing outside of Scripture can help us with our interpretation of Scripture. When our eyes do not see what the Scripture says, we tend to reject the Scripture in favor of what our eyes see.
How can this view of Scripture be correct unless there is a future for the land of Israel? The only way many in our day reconcile this passage is to reinterpret Scripture through the lens of current evidence.
Many would say that God is finished with Israel, and these passages have to be interpreted allegorically instead of literally for them to make sense.
There is one problem with that position. The text does not allow you to do that. What did God promise to Israel in this text? To bring Israel back to her land, and she would never again be uprooted from it.
God made a promise to Israel that he would bring her back to the land, which is the territory of Israel now. He said she would never be uprooted again from her land.
Who promised this? God did. If God does not keep his word to Israel, then he is seen as a promise-breaker, and we can have no confidence in His word.
However, this is not the case. We see the nation of Israel back in her land, we are watching God protect her from every possible demise.
God has kept his promise to his people for over 4,000 years. If he can keep his promise to his people for these many years, then he can be counted on to keep whatever promise he has made to those of us who have trusted in His Son.
The Scripture says God keeps his word. We believe His Word even when the evidence is to the contrary.
Let God be true, and every man a liar.
Hear who the Jewish Apostel Paul said it in 2 Corinthians 1:20 “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him, the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”
Reason to rejoice- God keeps every one of his promises.
Joel 2:25 (NIV)
25 ‘I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten– the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm– my great army that I sent among you.
My sixty-third birthday is fast approaching. Recently I have been reflecting over the years God has given me, and I find that I have wasted time and opportunities that could have been better used for God’s kingdom. I have been far too easily sidetracked by other attractions. Some of these attractions are trivial, and others are things that have caused me to grieve over the tremendous weakness of my own flesh.
I have replayed the tapes in my mind far too often of my failures and wasted moments. The enemy has learned my weakness, and he has assailed me often on these points of failure. Perhaps you have heard these tapes play in your mind somewhere in the past.
They go like this:
“Look at all the time you have wasted when you could have been investing in God’s kingdom. Look at all the opportunities you have squandered for the kingdom because you were just not in the mood! What do you think God thinks of you now?
“When you stand before Him to give an account of your life, look at all this wasted time, you will have to account for!”
These tactics work quite well when I look at the wasted time and opportunities. Why then, do I write that we have reason to rejoice in this? In times like these, the Holy Spirit gently reminds me of the promises of God found in this text.
“I will repay you for the years that the locusts have eaten. . .”
O, what ground of rejoicing this is. We worship at the throne of God, who can restore the wasted moments and opportunities and years. There is only one condition—We need to repent and turn back to him.
It is not by your faithfulness and obedience that will secure you, but your repentance and faith. We are forever unable to obey the demands of God’s law. God only asks that when we are convicted of our sin that we repent and believe the gospel once again.
As we do this, we will find a growing love for the things of God and an increasing desire to do what he commands.
Have you wasted any time or opportunity? Delay no longer and repent and believe the gospel once again.
Hosea 11:8-9 (NIV)
8 “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.
9 I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man– the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.
Gomer was a picture of the nation of Israel’s relationship with God. Even though Hosea continued to pursue Gomer, she ran out on him most nights. Every morning he would wake up and go in search for her. Each time he would find here being auctioned for some other man’s pleasures.
You can hear the anguish in the heart of God being expressed in this passage. He asks the question, “What shall I do with you?”
Reason said cut her off, “Punish her and reject her. She has never been faithful to you so why do you continue to bother?” The examples are put forth as a reason to reject Israel. Sodom and Gomorrah and Zeboim and Admah were the four cities that God overthrew in Genesis 19.
These four cities were just like Gomer. They continued to rebel against God even when he sent his own angels into the city, they rejected Him. It seems only fair for God to do the same to Israel.
When the voices of justice cry out for a judgment to be rendered there is a pause in the halls of heaven. What will God do with his own Chosen People? They have been unfaithful to Him for centuries and show no sign of improving.
Israel’s fate was all but sealed, the angels were set to pronounce judgment that would forever destroy Israel and she would be no more. The skies grew dark with impending doom. The horizon offered no future hope.
Into the darkness of hopeless despair, there was a voice that spoke clear and strong. “I cannot give you up. O Israel my heart beats for you!”
The angels were aghast at the voice they heard. It was coming from the throne and it spoke of love and compassion for Israel, not judgment and condemnation.
God had made a covenant with Israel to never forsake her. When there was no reason to believe that God would rescue Israel or ever hold her in his heart again the voice from the throne silenced all the doubters.
God would love Israel not because she was lovely, or that she possessed something in her that attracted God to her. God loved her because he had promised to love her, period.
It is the same with us O Church. When by grace God granted us faith to believe Him and turn from our sins and trust in His Son he made a covenant with us that has bound him to us forever. (See Ephesians 1:13-14)
Reason to rejoice-We are saved not by our good works nor are we secure by our good works. We are saved by God’s act of grace in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the reason we have for rejoicing today.
Daniel 3:21-25 (NIV)
21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans, and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace.
22 The King’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.”
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
It was only three young men who opposed the edict of the King of Babylon. Just three men who knew their God and were not going to compromise their walk with him.
They stood their ground and were courageous when everyone else in the world went on passively accepting the rule of the King.
Yet three Hebrew men made the decision to not violate their faith and stood their ground in the contest of great suffering.
The edict required that they were tossed into the fire if they would not obey. The sentence was handed down, and several powerful soldiers, much stronger than these three young Hebrew men, arrested them and carried them toward the flaming inferno.
Something exciting happened on the way towards the fire. The soldiers cast these three men into the furnace, the heat of the furnace consumed them as they drew near to the flames. Still, the three Hebrew men thrived as they were tossed into the flames.
The only thing that happened to them was that their bonds that held their hands and feet were burned up.
The King, expecting instant incineration, jumped to his feet. He exclaimed, “Wait a minute, were there not three men we tossed into the fire?”
Those standing by affirmed that there were only three. “Why, then do I see four men. One of them looks like the son of the gods.”
As a result of the courage of the three Hebrew men, the King of Babylon rescinded his law and made another one that gave glory to the God of Israel.
You see, Dear Saint of God, there is no suffering we go through in this life that will not be used by our great God to bring Himself greater glory and our greater good. God will not waste any affliction of trial we go through.
This is why we can say with great assurance, “We are more than overcomers no matter what comes our way.”
Ezekiel 36:24-32 (NIV)
24″ ‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.
29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you.
30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine.
31 Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices.
32 I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign LORD. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, O house of Israel!
Are you running out of gas during this crisis?
Can’t seem to find the strength to go on? Confused about the outcomes of all of this pandemic response?
You are not alone, but you have great reason to rejoice today because your ultimate redemption is not up to you. I have highlighted all the personal pronouns in this text for a reason. All these personal pronouns speak of God’s activity in your life for his own glory.
It does not matter what anyone decides to do about all this pandemic situation; God’s plan for your life will never be frustrated. It is God that is working out your redemption and rescue, not you.
Whew! What a relief! And what an excellent reason for rejoicing. Time to lift your eyes to the skies. Raise your hands to the heavens. God is working out our own rescue from all of this one day soon.
Lamentations 3:17-26 (NIV)
17 I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is.
18 So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.”
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
The day finally arrived.
The judgment had fallen on Jerusalem and Judah. The nation that was once the picture of God’s glory and majesty was now reduced to a pile of rubble and refuse. The walls of Jerusalem were torn down, the temple was leveled. All the utensils used for worship had been carried off to Babylon. The means for worship were gone from the nation. Sacrifices were no longer offered, the altar was gone, the ark of the Covenant had disappeared, and no one knew where it went.
All visible signs of God’s presence were gone. You could walk through the streets of Jerusalem and see dead bodies that were decaying everywhere. The sounds of the worship of Yahweh were now silent in the streets. No more throngs of people joyously entering Jerusalem to offer up sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving.
Jeremiah said it best, “I have been deprived of peace. I have forgotten what prosperity is.”
This is bad enough, but he continues, “My splendor is gone, and all I hoped for from the Lord.” God no longer answers my prayers. He no longer is present with his people. Everything I had counted on before is no longer. All I can think of is bitterness and gall. My soul is downcast. I have lost hope.”
If this was our case today most who make up the Church in America or perhaps even worldwide, it would be enough to give up the worship of God. This will be the reason many will depart from the faith in the days to come.
God will not answer their prayers or visit them in unique ways. There will be a season of discipline that the Church will go through to purify her for the days ahead.
Consider what Jeremiah says as his response to all of this. “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” (Jeremiah 3:21-24)
You have to know the Word of God to recall it. You have to have the Word of God in your heart to find satisfaction in God when hard times come. Because Jeremiah knew the Lord, he was able to say in the midst of hardships that he would wait for Him because it was good to do so.
Church, we have reason to rejoice because God’s Word will be our strength and supply when nothing else will satisfy. Store up the Word of God in your heart now while you can, and you will thrive in the days coming on us.