MESSIAH CUT OFF

The Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself. —Daniel 9:26

This passage gives us a little glimpse into the mystery of redemption. Messiah the prince was cut off, but not for Himself. Redemption stays a hidden secret until grace opens our eyes. The worldly man tries to comprehend these unthinkable mysteries but always comes to the wrong conclusions. His concept of God includes a worldly idea of mercy but justice never comes into view, unless this justice is for someone else. The great message of the cross includes both justice and mercy. Justice was served, my guilt was not bypassed or overlooked, it was judged at the cross. Mercy is offered to me as justice was completed in the death of Christ. Christ death was not an accident, it was the fulfillment of the Father’s plan. As Isaiah said, “It pleased the Father to bruise His Son… making His soul an offering for sin”. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on today’s verse.

“Blessed be His name, there was no cause of death in Him. Neither original nor actual sin had defiled Him, and therefore death had no claim upon Him. No man could have taken His life from Him justly, for He had done no man wrong, and no man could even have lain Him by force unless He had been pleased to yield Himself to die. But lo, one sins and another suffers. Justice was offended by us, but found its satisfaction in Him. Rivers of tears, mountains of offerings, seas of the blood of bullocks, and hills of frankincense, could not have availed for the removal of sin; but Jesus was cut off for us, and the cause of wrath was cut off at once, for sin was put away for ever. Herein is wisdom, whereby substitution, the sure and speedy way of atonement, was devised! Herein is condescension, which brought Messiah, the Prince, to wear a crown of thorns, and die upon the cross! Herein is love, which led the Redeemer to lay down His life for His enemies!”

What a plan! God Himself would become part of the human race. The creator would enter creation; not only would He enter creation He would become one of us, a human. What was the purpose? He came to suffer the consequences of our rebellion against Him. His whole life embodied by His prayer on the cross, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”

LOST FIRST LOVE

Rev.2:4 – But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.

For John this was the dividing line, the love of God. John remembered well the words of Jesus in his gospel, John 13:34,35 – “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus had taught that the world would see a distinct difference that would clearly mark His followers, they would walk in love. What was this love? It was supernatural in nature. It was born in the hearts of His followers. It was a love that came from God first, and was aimed back at God. It’s tendency was to spill over and effect everyone else in our world. Our love for God and our love for others would be the mark. That brings us back to this church in Ephesus. What had gone wrong? Everything! They had lost the passion of their first love. Here is how Gordon Fee describes it.

“The significance of this failure in terms of Johannine Christianity is to be found in the admonition, consider how far you have fallen!, which is followed by a warning that at the same time keeps the imagery intact: If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. This particular warning has created no end of trouble for later believers, who for the most part perceive the punishment to far exceed the crime. But that says more about us than it does about the author of the Johannine literature, since he perceived the whole of the Christian faith to be a matter of experiencing God’s love for us through Christ and then returning that love to him by loving others. From his perspective, to fail at this point is to fail exceedingly—if not altogether—which is why for him the “punishment” is precisely in keeping with the “crime.” And “love” for John is not simply a matter of attitude toward others; the only love worthy of the name from his perspective lies in their doing the things you did at first. Thus the only correct response to their current failure is to “repent.”

So just having correct doctrines or Christian ethics is not what marks us as followers of Jesus. We are marked by His love. This is the love that won us, satisfies us, and keeps us.

WAKE UP – SARDIS

Rev.3:1,2 – To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. ‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.

This is probably the most terrifying message to the church to me. They had obviously experienced the power of God in years gone by but time had passed them by. There was no longer the passion for His presence, the fire had seemed to go out in the preaching, the singing was good but something seemed to be missing, and when was the last time they had seen an ingathering of souls? The funny thing is, everything seemed to be right on the outside. Have you ever been to a church like that? They sang the right songs, the messages seemed solid, but something didn’t seem to be quite right. Could this be what Paul meant by a form of godliness with no power? Here is what Matthew Henry says about the church in Sardis.

“This church had gained a great reputation; it had a name, and a very honorable one, for a flourishing church, a name for vital lively religion…This church was not really what it was reputed to be. They had a name to live, but they were dead; there was a form of godliness, but not the power, a name to live, but not a principle of life. If there was not a total privation of life, yet there was a great deadness in their souls and in their services, a great deadness in the spirits of their ministers, and a great deadness in their ministrations, in their praying, in their preaching, in their converse, and a great deadness in the people in hearing, in prayer, and in conversation; what little life was yet left among them was, in a manner, expiring, ready to die.”

This could easily be written to churches that had a Pentecostal/charismatic flare 15 or 20 years ago but had somehow slipped into the modern culture; you know trying to be relevant and hip and never offensive. What is the answer? Wake up, the morning star is announcing the new prophetic day.

YOU MAKE ME SICK

Rev. 3:15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.

Rev. 3:16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

That’s one thing you never want the Lord to say about you, “You make me sick”. That verse always reminds me of a prophesy in the book of Amos: 5:23 “Take away from Me the noise of your songs,

For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.”

The Lord told the people of Israel through Amos that He was sick of their services. Whew! You thought you were the only one that got sick of church. Can you imagine? Even God was sick of the services. That’s when you really know you need a change. The Lord is not so much about how professional or talented the music is or how dynamic the preaching is. What is He after? He is after the heart. He just wants it to be real, not perfect. Here are some thoughts on today’s verse from Jonathan Edwards.

“The Scripture distinguishes mankind into three sorts: those that are cold, who are those that have no appearance or show of religion and are not to be looked upon as visible Christians; and those that are hot, those that are true Christians, that are fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, that have within them that holy ardor and engagedness of mind in religion that has been spoken of; and those that are lukewarm, that is, those that make a profession of religion and have some show of religion, but are not thorough in it, are cold, dull, and lifeless, are an indifferent sort of professor, have no great concern about the honor of God and interest of religion, who are not true Christians and never will be accepted of Christ as some of his if they continue….The lukewarm Christians are more hateful to Christ than the openly profane, than the very heathen that make no pretenses to religion. Christ declares expressly that he had rather men should be quite cold than only lukewarm…. As the stomach nauseates lukewarm water more than either cold or hot, so doth Christ abominate lukewarm Christians that are destitute of Christian zeal in religion.”

That really takes a lot of pressure off. All of us are not that talented but we can all be real. The Lord would rather endure the passionate off key singing of one of His children than the professional hirelings that have no passion. Rather than the Lord being sick of our songs He comes and sings and rejoices in the midst of His children.

TEMPORARY RESIDENTS

1 Peter 1:17 – And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judges according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:

1Peter 1:17 – NLT – And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.”

Time is precious and time is short. Most of us get distracted by the mundane that surrounds us and miss the essential that evades us. Eternity is in our hearts and always right under our noses. We are often consumed with schedules and activities that have no eternal value. Did you catch that? Eternal! What is eternal anyway? We are so accustomed to this life of calendars, clocks, and deadlines that eternal just doesn’t compute. But if the truth were known, eternal is what we are made for. Today’s verse uses the analogy of a pilgrim passing through time. Our Christian pilgrimage began when we were born again and will end when we are swallowed up in eternity. When that day arrives nothing else will even matter. Our journey will be over and our real life will begin. Here is how Dick Mills describes today’s verse.

“The Apostle Peter says that all believers in Christ are to pass the time (chronos) of their sojourn in reverence….. In this case, chronos refers to a duration of time that has a definite starting point (the new birth) a progress (our walk of faith), and a consumation (the Second Coming of Jesus). Time should never weigh heavy in the life of a Christian. Each tick of the clock brings us closer to the glorious realization of Christ physically appearing to us. God eternal, dateless, and ageless introduced time only for our convenience. Chronos allows us to relate to the past historically, to interpret the present realistically, and to face the future confidently. Our Heavenly Father originated time. He controls time. One day He will bring time (chronos) to an end and will usher us into eternal life. That life has no clock, no calendar, and no schedule. But it does have meaning and purpose. The one outstanding feature of eternity is unceasing fellowship with the Lord. When our earthly sojourn is over, time will be swallowed up in eternity.”

How much of our time is lost in television screens and social media? Could these simply be distractions that keep us from what really matters? Is there something just beyond the veil of time and space that is calling us? I believe there is. Be still and listen, your time is about to be swallowed up in God.

PERFECTED PRAISE

Matt.21:16 – and said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus *said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF’?”

There is something special about children and revival and worship. Jesus went so far as to say unless we are converted and become like little children we will never enter the kingdom of God. What is it about children that qualifies someone to enter God’s kingdom? I think the mystery is hidden in today’s verse. Do you see it? The pharisees couldn’t enter the kingdom because of worship. What stops a person from true worship? It centers around ego, image, and pride. Only the humble, those who acknowledge the greatness of the Lord, are capable of worship. True worship begins when someone sees God’s greatness. In that light they also see their own smallness. People who are self important and stuck on other’s perceptions of themselves can never worship. David said it like this , Ps.34:1,2 – “I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.” George Whitefield was often pelted with rotten eggs and worse while he preached. Check out his observations of children.

“Whitfield says, “I cannot help adding that several little boys and girls, who were fond of sitting round me on the pulpit while I preached, and handed to me people’s notes—though they were often pelted with eggs, dirt, & c., thrown at me—never once gave way; but on the contrary, every time I was struck, turned up their little weeping eyes, and seemed to wish they could receive the blows for me. God make them, in their growing years, great and living martyrs for him who, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, perfects praise!” He who delights in the songs of angels is pleased to honor himself in the eyes of his enemies by the praises of little children. What a contrast between the glory above the heavens, and the mouths of babes and sucklings! yet by both the name of God is made excellent.”

Praise and worship is quite liberating. Not only is praise perfected in us when we are converted and become like children, we too experience the power of being adjusted and repaired in that atmosphere. I don’t care what the big boys and self important say, I’m gonna worship Him anyway.

GODS MOUTHPIECE

MERRY FRIDAY BY PARRIS-

“Do you think that you can reprove words, when the speech of a despairing man is wind?” (Job 6:26)

The Lord has really been speaking to me about what kind of voice we are to this world? All through this year and beyond I truly want to stay a mouthpiece or a trumpeter for my Father. Are we just another voice in the wind as the book of Job describes? Are you still singing the “old song” of this world? Yelling at the tv, traffic, our bosses like everybody else? And let’s not forget our kids, and even our pets? I shudder looking back raising my kids and the frustration that grew within me at times. If only I could have put the apron over my head like Susannah Wesley did and lift my voice to God instead of my circumstances! Thank God my kids laugh when we talk of those days! But in 1994 at a young age of 37 the Lord arrested me and took me down into the ocean of his love and begin a slow reboot and rebuild in my life. Today I find myself still walking out that touch in my life. I want to open my mouth wide so he will fill it.

I love the story of Blind Bartimeus—”And blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me” Mark 10:46-52.

Spurgeon elegantly says, “Me thinks we hear his shout. It is not to be imitated; no artist could throw into an utterance such vehemence or such emotion as this man would cast into it.—”Thou Son of David, have mercy on me ” Every word would tell, every syllable would suggest an argument, there would be the very strength, and might, and blood, and sinew of that man’s life cast into it; he would be like Jacob wrestling with the angel, and every word would be a band to grasp him that he might not go. “Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.” The gate of heaven is to be opened only in one way, by the very earnest use of the knocker of prayer. Thou canst not have thine eyes opened until thy mouth is opened. Open thy mouth in prayer, and he shall open thine eyes to see; so shalt thou find joy and gladness. It is the burning lava of the soul that hath a furnace within—a very volcano of grief and sorrow—it is that burning lava of prayer that finds its way to God.”

Yes the Master Jesus stops and looks our way! Let your mouth become a burning lava of prayer flowing to the throne room of God. For we know “The kingdom of Heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.” Cold prayers never win God’s ear. Draw your bow with your full strength if you would send your arrow up as high as Heaven. Go ahead and blow that trumpet!

WORD FOR MARTYRS

Rev 2:10 – Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

The book of Revelation is full of stories about martyrs. One of the passages that haunts me is found in Revelation 15, I call it the song of the martyrs. “And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.”

These are those who gave their lives for the testimony of Jesus during the Great Tribulation. They were worshipping God for the privilege of dying for His Name.

Who better to encourage martyrs than Jesus, the One who gave His life for us. Today’s verse is a word of encouragement to future martyrs in the church in Smyrna. The bishop himself, Polycarp, would give his life in several years. Here are some observations on this verse from Adam Clarke.

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer. This may be addressed particularly to Polycarp, if he was at that time the bishop of this Church. He had much to suffer; and was at last burnt alive at Smyrna, about the year of our Lord 166. We have a very ancient account of his martyrdom, which has been translated by Cave, and is worthy of the reader’s perusal. That account states that the Jews were particularly active in this martyrdom, and brought the sticks, by which he was consumed. Such persons must indeed have been of the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer.”

The head of the church in Smyrna was Polycarp, disciple of John. It is from Polycarp that we know that John authored Revelation. These early Christians had a different perspective of eternity and dying. Some of the early church fathers were known to request prayer that they would be chosen to die for Christ. I haven’t heard prayer requests like that lately. What can we learn from these early Christians? First, there is a grace that is bigger than anything, even death. Secondly, that eternity is real and should be in the forefront of our thoughts. Finally, that we have a cause worth living for and worth dying for. Until we see that for ourselves we haven’t really begun to live.

RENEWAL AND REFRESHING

Acts 3:19 – Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;

This promise became from precious to me during an unusually difficult season in my life. I had been pastoring Victory Fellowship for a number of years and had experienced favor and blessing on everything from family to church and in my personal spiritual experience. The body of Christ went through a season of very unusual difficult times in the late 1980’s and the blowback from that was effecting every part of my life. I was feeling it with family drama, financial and ministry problems, and my spiritual condition was not the best. These problems brought me to a place of spiritual hunger and thirst, times of refreshing began to break out in my life. I love the Amplified Bible’s rendition of this verse. “So repent (change your mind and purpose); turn around and return [to God], that your sins may be erased (blotted out, wiped clean), that times of refreshing (of recovering from the effects of heat, of reviving with fresh air) may come from the presence of the Lord”. Here are some thoughts from the Life in the Spirit Commentary.

“To urge them to turn from sin to faith in Christ, Peter said that “Times of refreshing [will] come from the Lord.” For years the Jews have been expecting the messianic age, the golden age of blessings. The prophets themselves spoke about the coming of spiritual strength and blessings. This new age has dawned with the coming of Christ. Peter’s “times of refreshing” is one way of speaking about the baptism in the Spirit. The people can now experience the renewal or “refreshing” of their souls through the joys and the power of the Holy Spirit. As a result of their repentance, not only will their sin be forgiven and they will receive relief from their guilt, but they will also experience spiritual renewal through the Holy Spirit.”

So maybe you are feeling a little exhausted and out of breath by the adversity that we all face in this life. Living in this world guarantees resistance and exhaustion. We can take courage from this incredible promise, the Lord send times of refreshing again and again from the presence of the Lord. The Lord is faithful to His people, spiritual hunger and thirst is a sure sign that renewal is well on the way.

MIGHTY TO SAVE

Isa.63:1 – Who is this who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah, he who is splendid in his apparel, marching in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.”

I have an unusual memory that I recall from time to time of a street preacher in Seoul, Korea. Parris and I were there attending a church growth conference with Dr, Yonggi Cho and were taking a break at an outdoor sidewalk cafe. A Korean street preacher approached us and began to preach to us in his best English sermon. He said Jesus is mighty to save. He is able to save, heal, and provide for us. I clearly remember him repeating, “He is able; able to save, able to heal, and able to supply all of my need”. He had that sermon down, he seemed excited to find an American to preach it to. Jesus is mighty to save. His salvation is complete; able to save us to the uttermost. Here is how Charles Spurgeon describes today’s verse.

“By the words “to save” we understand the whole of the great work of salvation, from the first holy desire onward to complete sanctification….. Christ is not only “mighty to save” those who repent, but He is able to make men repent. He will carry those to heaven who believe; but He is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness love it, and to constrain the despiser of His name to bend the knee before Him. Nay, this is not all the meaning, for the divine power is equally seen in the after-work. The life of a believer is a series of miracles wrought by “the Mighty God.” The bush burns, but is not consumed. He is mighty to keep His people holy after He has made them so, and to preserve them in his fear and love until he consummates their spiritual existence in heaven.”

Salvation is the work of God. Think about it for a moment; the work of God begins with a holy attraction. The Bible often calls this spiritual hunger. Unexplainably we find ourselves attracted to the Lord. Once that happens you are done, He will not stop until you are finally consumed by His love and transformed by His power. He is mighty to save.