I DWELL IN YOUR MIDST

Num. 35:34 – You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the LORD am dwelling in the midst of the sons of Israel.

The Lord is warning His people about sin in the book of Numbers. He has just finished a long exhortation about murder and the ramifications of spilling blood in anger or any unrighteous manner and the ramifications of that sin. What He boiled it down to is this, He dwells in the midst of His people and sin is unacceptable in His presence. If that is so in the Old Testament how much more is it true in the New Testament. For the people of Israel under Moses, the Lord was “in the midst” of His people. In the New Testament the Lord actually lives inside of us. Paul taught that sexual sin was extremely offensive to the Lord in light of His indwelling presence. If the Lord dwells within us, how can we possibly sin against the Lord with our body. Here is how Adam Clarke explains Paul’s teaching.

“Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost. What an astonishing saying is this! As truly as the living God dwelt in the Mosaic tabernacle, and in the temple of Solomon, so truly does the Holy Ghost dwell in the souls of genuine Christians; and as the temple and all its utensils were holy, separated from all common and profane uses, and dedicated alone to the service of God, so the bodies of genuine Christians are holy, and all their members should be employed in the service of God alone. And ye are not your own? Ye have no right over yourselves, to dispose either of your body, or any of its members, as you may think proper or lawful; you are bound to God, and to him you are accountable.”

So Moses warned against murder because the Lord was among us, and Paul warned against immorality because the Lord is inside of us; it seems like sin in any capacity is offensive to our holy God. So how can we ever stand before the Lord? It always comes back to the blood and the power of redemption. His blood washes us and enables us to be clean before Him. The same blood that cleanses us also delivers us from the bondage of sin. So because of His work of cleansing and transforming we can rejoice in the glory of God within us.

THE WHOLE WORLD IS AN ANTHEM

MERRY TUESDAY BY PARRIS

“Those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy. You visit the earth and water it; you greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; you provide their grain, for so you have prepared it.” Psalms 65:8-9 ESV

Hey what does your morning look like? Do you check the latest story on instagram, or troll endlessly through Facebook? Worse yet turn on the tv and fill the house with news. I’m not here to get into your business by any means. Funny thing is while you were sleeping the God of creation had a busy night!

I may be guilty of all of the above too but I try to value God in my mornings and look for his handiwork and listen to the song. I find whatever transpired in my darkest night somehow looks brighter in the morning. Earth begins its sweet routine and life is good again. Some might find this brutal when they have lost so much but time, with its gentle hand, heals us through earth’s cycles. At some point in my morning I go lay down on the couch and read His glorious word, pray for my family and for the things that come up in my spirit and then head outside to reset my life. Our great manager had been circling the earth with his mercies. Martin Luther says, “God must be always attending to it with rain and heat, and must do everything to make it grow and prosper while the farmer lies at home and sleeps. God puts his crowning handiwork on everything”.

As we shuffle along through our lives we forget that the footsteps of God, who is the great fertilizer, may be traced by the abundance which he creates, he is all around us. His bounty makes the earth give vent to praise. The birds and the cows along with the grasses of the fields all respond back to his voice. The constant ripple of the waves and the hissing of the wind along with the cloud formations twirl and swirl according to his rhythm. The Treasury of David says “Nature has no discords. Her airs are melodious, her chorus is full of harmony. All, all is for the Lord; the world is a hymn to the Eternal. Blessed is he who, hearing, joins in it, and makes one singer in the mighty chorus.” Selah

HE COMMANDS WIDOWS AND RAVENS

1 Kings 17:4,9 – Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”

“Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.”

He is the Lord who commands ravens and widows. The Lord is quite amazing and loves to astound us with His unusual ways. He can supply any way He wants, He can use the rich or the poor and occasionally, even His dumb creatures to provide for His children. The two examples of provision in Elijah’s life always makes me laugh. First He chose the ravens to feed His prophet. Ravens ? Really Lord! Ravens are nasty and mischievous. They are more likely to steal your food and fight with their friends for their own food than give you any. In Elijah’s case they were generous, timely, and consistent. When the ravens could no longer find food because of the severity of the famine the Lord commanded a poor, dying widow to provide for the man of God. This woman’s obedience not only supplied for the prophet but saved her son and her own life as well. Here is how Matthew Henry described it.

“Elijah had but one meal brought him at a time, every morning and every evening, to teach him not to take thought for the morrow. Let those who have but from hand to mouth learn to live upon Providence, and trust it for the bread of the day in the day; thank God for bread this day, and let to-morrow bring bread with it…

The person that is appointed to provide for him, not one of the rich merchants or great men, of Sidon…. but a poor widow woman, destitute and desolate, is commanded to sustain him. It is God’s way, and it is his glory, to make use of the weak and foolish things of the world and put honor upon them. He is, in a special manner, the widows’ God, and feeds them, and therefore they must study what they shall render to him.”

So don’t be afraid if your brook dries up, the creator of brooks, ravens, and widows has got you. Look to Him, honor Him and His kingdom first. You too may be chased down by the ravens.

THE LAND OF THE LIVING

John 5:24 ¶ “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

The miracles of Jesus give us a glimpse into the eternal world. In John 5 Jesus healed a man who had apparently been lame for 38 years. His sickness had caused him to live a life of misery. I guess you could say he lived in the world of death. As Jesus began to share His word after the miracle something becomes amazingly clear, sickness is part of the curse of death on mankind. Jesus came to give us life. The lame man tasted the edge of the resurrection life in his miracle. This life was made very clear when Jesus conquered sickness and death once and for all at His resurrection. All of His followers will experience that resurrection at His coming. In Jesus’ ministry we see glimpses of His Resurrection power. Today, that power is being poured out on all the earth. Here is how Adam Clarke described the implications of this miracle in the words of Jesus.

“Death is the country where every Christ-less soul lives. The man who knows not God lives a dying life, or a living death; but he who believes in the Son of God passes over from the empire of death, to the empire of life. Reader! thou wast born in death: hast thou yet changed the place of thy natural residence? Remember that to live in sin is to live in death; and those who live and die thus shall die eternally.”

When we believe the Words of the Lord we are translated from the world of death into the world of life. We no longer live in the country that was so familiar to us in the past. The life of God has entered into us we and we have joined the land of the living. As you walk in this new life don’t be surprised if miracles and healings follow after you. This is just a confirmation that the new world has already begun. Sickness is only the results of death. Healing is a glimpse into Resurrection life. Today, as you read His word, listen carefully for His voice. His voice brings us into the land of the living.

STEP ON IN

John 5:2-4 – Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.

I love to see the collision of the natural world and the spiritual world. That’s what we see at the Pool of Bethesda. As rumor had it, sporadically an angel would stir the waters by the sheep gate and the first sick person who stepped in after this stirring would be healed. As a result, there was always a crowd of miserable people camped out by the pool. So in order to receive a miracle this way, you had to believe it (or you wouldn’t be there in the first place) and you had to be first in when the waters began to swirl. I’m sure there were many people in those days who didn’t believe in the angel water. Just like today, something is going on at that place on Airline Highway in New Orleans, but many wouldn’t dare be seen in those swirling Pentecostal waters. Nevertheless, the spiritual world is still invading and colliding with the natural world. Only those who believe it, wait on the Lord, and step on in, and are able to receive their miracle. Here is how Matthew Henry described the Pool of Bethesda.

“A miraculous limitation of the virtue as to the persons cured: He that first stepped in had the benefit; that is, he or they that stepped in immediately were cured, not those that lingered and came in afterwards. This teaches us to observe and improve our opportunities, and to look about us, that we slip not a season which may never return. The angel stirred the waters, but left the diseased to themselves to get in. God has put virtue into the scriptures and ordinances, for he would have healed us; but, if we do not make a due improvement of them, it is our own fault, we would not be healed.”

Today, the Spirit of God is being poured out continually, we don’t have to wait on an angel. Jesus is standing by the pool, the gathering of His believers, asking the age old question, “Do you want to be made whole?” If so, just step on in and leave the rest to the Lord.

UNTIMELY BIRTH

1 Cor.15:8-10 – Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Paul’s life is a contrast of a human controlled by his natural passions and the mess that leads to, and then someone filled and consumed by the Spirit. This supernatural transformation is the definition of God’s grace. Paul’s out of control life was not one controlled by immorality or drunkenness, but it was another version of depravity. We may tend to think someone addicted to opioids or alcohol is a great candidate for God’s grace (and they are) but there are other versions of sinful behavior that need God’s intervention.

Paul was an extremely ambitious man before his conversion. You know the drill, anything goes to get to the top, and get to the top he did. He had risen to the ranks of power in Israel calling himself, “a Pharisee of Pharisees”. His allegiance to his view of Judaism and his lust for power blinded his eyes resulting in someone literally “breathing out” profanity against the followers of Christ. He lived in an atmosphere of hate leading the persecution against the Christians. Paul had become a great candidate for the display of God’s grace. Here is what the early Lutheran theologian, Hesshus, said about Paul and the phrase “untimely birth” in today’s passage.

“Untimely born – ektroma – miscarriage or abortion

I was like an untimely birth – a disgusting mass of flesh, without life and without light. I was not reborn by the Spirit, I was not made new in Christ; I was destitute of all life and righteousness; I was a most disgusting mass of flesh in the sight of God- in fact, I was persecuting the church of God.”

That is a great description of fallen man. Paul called himself an abortion or a miscarriage, a disgusting mass of flesh. Without Christ that’s what we are, absolutely disgusting. That’s why the contrast is so amazing. The grace of God is a work of metamorphosis, making us into something beautiful. One moment Paul was a disgusting mass of flesh, the next moment he was changed into a powerful man of God. No wonder grace is called amazing.

BAPTIZED IN LOVE

Matt.3:16 – After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him.

Jesus was baptized in the Holy Spirit to begin His ministry. It’s as if the Father couldn’t contain His love for His Son as He proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son”. From this day Jesus began to move in a miracle anointing that lasted until His death. If you think about it, that’s really what miracles are, God’s love reaching out to hurting mankind. Here is how Jonathan Edwards describes the love of God and the Holy Spirit.

“It further appears that the Holy Spirit is nothing but the infinite love and delight of God, by his symbol, a dove; which is the symbol of love, and which is a bird beyond all other irrational animals in the world is remarkable and wonderful for its love to its mate, both in expressions of it by billing together (rubbing bills- like a kiss) and the like while together, and for its mourning for the loss of its correlate.

And ’tis evident that the dove is used as a symbol of love in the Scriptures: Canticles 1:15, “Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair; thou hast doves’ eyes”…

It was under this representation that the Holy [Spirit] descended on Christ at his baptism, signifying the infinite love of the Father to the Son, and that thereby is signified that infinite love that is between the Father and the Son; which is further illustrated by the voice which came with the dove, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” [Matthew 3:17].”

This gets to the reason why Jesus came. He created us to experience and display His love. The fall of man hasn’t deterred His love for us and His passion to display His glory. Because of the fall Jesus Himself became a man, a perfect man. He displayed His love when He died in our place as a sacrifice for our sin. Today, anyone who believes in Him not only has their sins forgiven, they also have access to the love Jesus has enjoyed with His Father from eternity. This is what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is all about. Just as Jesus was immersed in the Spirit we can be too. Then we will hear His sweet voice, “This is my beloved son”.

HEAVEN’S SONG

Rev.15:3,4 – And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

 

Great and marvelous are Your works,

O Lord God, the Almighty;

Righteous and true are Your ways,

King of the nations!

“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?

For You alone are holy;

For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU,

FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.

The book of Revelation is a book filled with contrasts. There are terrifying images of unimaginable destruction that fill the pages of the entire book. Images like fiery mountains being hurled into the sea, one hundred pound hailstones, and huge scorpions that attack humans. There are outbreaks of boils, and plagues, apparent nuclear wars; frankly, it is obviously worse than any of us could ever dream up. On the other hand there are the scenes in heaven and glimpses of the glory of God displayed in Jesus Christ. We see Him as the lion and the lamb, the exalted King of the Universe, the Lord of the harvest, and the triumphant returning King of all Kings.

The responses from the inhabitants on earth and those in heaven provide another amazing contrast. On earth there is terror, anger, and cursing of God. In heaven you have quite a different story. We see angels, seraphim, the elders, and an innumerable host of the redeemed caught up in worship. The contrast could not be more vivid.

Here is a scene of horror of the end of the Great Tribulation from Revelation 16:17-19,21 – “Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.” And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty… And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.”

Compare that with this glimpse, the redeemed worshipping in heaven, Rev. 14: 2,3 ¶ “And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth.”

How does this effect our lives today? I guess you have to ask yourself, “which world am I focused on?” The answer to that question will define your life.

CAPTURED BY GRACE

Gal.1:15 – But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace,

Paul seemed to be fixated all his life on that moment in time on the Damascus Road that changed his life forever. Everything changed that day. What caused the change? The obvious is what he saw on his way to Damascus, he said Jesus came to him with a light shining out from Him brighter than the sun at noon day. That is quite impressive but just seeing something like that, no matter how magnificent, can’t change everything. Just seeing something outwardly, no matter how incredible, doesn’t have the ability to change us. The answer to what changed Paul that day can be seen in this little phrase at the beginning of this devotion. Paul said that God was pleased to separate him from before the time he was born by God’s grace. What is grace? Many think it is the overlooking of our sinful lives by God. That definition doesn’t even come close. Grace is the influence of God on our hearts that actually changes the things we love. We used to love sin and now we find Jesus as incredibly attractive. That love and attraction to the Lord is what separated Paul and called him into his new life. He was called to follow Jesus through the influence of grace. Here is how Augustine described grace; this is one of my all time favorite quotes.

“During all those years [of rebellion], where was my free will? What was the hidden, secret place from which it was summoned in a moment, so that I might bend my neck to your easy yoke? . . . How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! . . . You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure , though not to flesh and blood, you who outshine all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honor, though not in the eyes of men who see all honor in themselves. . . .O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.”

So what is it that keeps you from really selling out to the Lord? That is the thing that will no longer have its attraction to you and hold on you once you drink deeply from this cup of grace. Once you were a slave to the pleasure of that particular sin, that is until grace came. The pleasure found in the knowledge of the Lord replaces the foolish pleasures of sin.

LOVELY

SOS 5:16 – His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Nothing in this life is ever totally perfect. That new car that you really, really wanted inevitably gets that first ding that seems to stand out like a sore thumb. Then there is that job that you worked so hard to land and you get there, and well, it’s just another job. Of course there is that girl (or guy) that you have had your eye on and the relationship starts, well you know the rest of that story. There is no such thing as a perfect diamond, perfect round of golf, or even a perfect city. Everything in this world is imperfect, somehow tarnished by the fallen world that we live in that seems to touch everything. That’s what makes Jesus even more special, as Solomon famously said, He is ‘altogether lovely’. He is total perfection; from the moment that you meet Him and throughout years of walking with Him. You can never see any blemish in His nature or character. He is kind, powerful, holy, wise, generous, and merciful. As He appeared perfect at the beginning, the closer you get to Him and the longer you walk with Him you have to join the chorus an say, “he is altogether lovely”. Here is how Spurgeon describes this verse.

“Our love is not as a seal set upon His heart of love alone; it is fastened upon His arm of power also; nor is there a single part of Him upon which it does not fix itself. We anoint His whole person with the sweet spikenard of our fervent love. His whole life we would imitate; His whole character we would transcribe. In all other beings we see some lack, in Him there is all perfection. The best even of His favored saints have had blots upon their garments and wrinkles upon their brows; He is nothing but loveliness. All earthly suns have their spots: the fair world itself hath its wilderness; we cannot love the whole of the most lovely thing; but Christ Jesus is gold without alloy-light without darkness—glory without cloud—“Yea, He is altogether lovely.”

Have you seen His loveliness for yourself? Today is a good day to start, draw near in worship and you too will behold the beauty of the Lord.