CHOSEN FOR HIS GLORY

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Eph. 1:5,6 – He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

God Has a plan, He has always had a plan. Redemption is not His response to man’s rebellion, the plan for redemption has been in place before He even created man. Jesus is referred to as the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. So what about this plan? What does the Lord really have up His sleeve? You can see it in today’s verse. It is a short, simple phrase that is easy to pass over if you are not paying attention. It is the phrase “to the praise of the glory of His grace”. That’s it? Absolutely. The whole purpose behind creation is to reveal His glory. From the beauty of our world, to the complex creativity seen in the human body, to the vast expanse of the universe; it all proclaims the glory of God. Redemption and election, being chosen by the Lord magnifies one of His attributes. Election magnifies the glory of His grace. Here is how Albert Barnes describes this.

“God chooses men to be holy, not sinful; to be happy, not miserable; to be pure, not impure; to be saved, not to be lost. For these things he should be praised. He should be praised that he has not left the whole race to wander away and die. Had he chosen but one to eternal life, that one should praise him, and all the holy universe should join in the praise. Should he now see it to be consistent to choose but one of the fallen spirits, and to make him pure, and to readmit him to heaven, that one spirit would have occasion for eternal thanks, and all heaven might join in his praises. How much more is praise due to him, when the number chosen is not one or a few, but when millions which no man can number, shall be found to be chosen to life.”

So your purpose is bigger than you think. It’s not about accomplishments or titles, its not about performance or influence. It is about your story, rather it is about the testimony of Jesus in your life. We were once miserable people, following our own purposes and living just for ourselves until all of that changed. We became His story the moment our eyes were opened. Now we have discovered our eternal purpose; to glorify God simply by enjoying His grace in our lives.

LION, CALF, MAN, AND EAGLE

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Rev. 4:6,7 ¶ And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight.

This verse is part of an amazing glimpse into the scene in heaven where the Lord is being worshipped by the angels and those redeemed from sin from every tribe on the earth. John gives us a glimpse into the function of the mysterious seraphim that are closely connected to the throne of God. In Isaiah’s vision, as well as the one in Revelations, these “burning ones” are caught up in worship. They apparently lead the worship in heaven. Once there was five of these creatures before one of them fell. You know the one; Lucifer, the chief worship leader in heaven. These amazing angelic beings are totally caught up with the holiness of God. You can almost hear them if you stop and listen, “Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty. The whole earth is full of His glory. Holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty; the One who was and is and is to come”.

The early church fathers used to connect these four creatures to the four gospels. I like Augustine’s version. He said that Matthew corresponded to the lion, Mark to the man, Luke to the calf, and John to the eagle. These comparisons are quite interesting.

Matthew was the gospel written for the Jewish people. Think about it, the lion of the tribe of Judah. The first verse in Matthew refers to Jesus as the Messiah, the son of David. Of course Jesus is that messianic king portrayed by the lion and He rules all things with His mighty word. Mark is said to correspond with the creature with the face of a man. Mark’s gospel was written for the gentiles, the people of the nations. In Mark’s gospel we see Jesus as a man, the Son of Man. We also see Him moved with compassion as He ministers to the hurting members of humankind.

Next is Luke. His gospel starts in the temple and ends in the temple. The calf, the sacrifice of blood for the cleansing of sin, is the picture of Luke’s gospel. Luke gives us a portrayal of Jesus praying in Gethsemane, sweating great drops of blood. He is surely our heavenly high priest. Finally there is John pictured by the eagle. The eagle is known for soaring to the heights and for his incredible vision. This unveils the revelation of Jesus we find in John’s gospel. John takes us to the heights as we see Jesus as the Son of God from eternity clothed with human flesh. In John we find the pinnacle of the Father’s revelation, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”.

THE SUDDENLYS OF GOD

Acts 2:1,2 ¶ When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.

I have had sudden experiences with the Lord several times in my life. First was my salvation experience. In one sense you could say it took a long time; I had been on a search for the reality of God for about a year when I experienced my first “suddenly”. Christ came into my life on a summer night in 1973, suddenly everything in life began to change. Again in 1994 I had been praying for a visitation of the Spirit for a number of years. Suddenly the wind of God began to blow in our church. One day there was nothing and suddenly all of that changed. The very atmosphere became charged with God as He suddenly appeared in His house. Here is how Dick Mills describes this sudden aspect of our Christian life.

“Suddenly is a word ripe with possibilities of meaning. It has an air of spontaneity about it. In the Bible it is also translated: straightway, immediately, then and there, from that moment on, and in an instant. Suddenly is a word almost exclusive in concept to the Bible. There are not many places on the planet that offer changes that occur suddenly….. In 1890, A. B. Simpson, founder of the Missionary Alliance Church called his message, “The Four – Fold Gospel”. Aimee simple McPherson called it “The Foursquare Gospel”. Salvation is not an inch at a time incident. It very much has the suddenly factor involved in it. The Apostle Paul’s conversion showed us how instantaneous salvation is. Acts 9:3 states, “As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.” He fell to earth as Saul of Tarsus, and rose to his feet as Paul the Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. It happened that quickly.”

One of the foursquare doctrines that Sister Aimee preached was the sudden return of Jesus Christ. Paul said Jesus would appear in an atomic instant, in the twinkling of an eye. The signs of His soon appearing are all around us. Don’t be lulled to sleep by the apparent delay of His return, He will come suddenly, like a thief in the night. Make sure you are not sleeping because everything is about to change.

POT OF OIL

2Kings 4:2 And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.

I love the story of the widow and the pot of oil. The miracle of provision for this mom left in financial need on the death of her prophet husband is beautiful and displays the Lord’s supernatural provision for His own. But there is another side, and even deeper side to this story. This pot of oil is a picture of us, we are the vessels of oil that this story speaks about. As Paul said, “We have this treasure in jars of clay”. The oil, or the treasure, is the Holy Spirit. Just as the oil was the solution to this woman’s dilemma, the Spirit is the solution to all of life’s dilemmas. There is oil in the vessel, this supernatural oil effects every part of our lives. It effects our mind and intellect, it effects our physical well being, it also effects our emotions and makes us emotionally whole. If you have oil in your pot you have all the answer you need. Here is how A.B. Simpson describes this.

“Yes, our very bodies will feel the fullness. The Holy Ghost is a true tonic for physical energy and perfect health. The fullness of the Spirit is the elixir for body and brain and being. To be filled with His blessed life will make our feet spring, our nerves steady, our brain strong, our circulation regular, and our whole being at its best for God and holy service.

•  Then, also, our very circumstances keep time to the blessed fullness of the heart within.

•  Like the widow’s pot of oil that flowed out into every vessel, so the presence of God touches everything that comes into our life, and we find that all things work together for good to us if we love God and fulfill His purpose.

•  Our circumstances will become adjusted to us, or we become adjusted to our circumstances, and the whole of our life, “fitly framed together,” will become vigorous, and full of power and blessing.”

As this widow began to pour out the oil her problems were being solved. Her sons were no longer being taken into slavery and she was not going to lose her house. What saved her from her certain destruction? She had oil in the pot.

PRECISE CARE

Deut. 11:12 a land for which the LORD your God cares; the eyes of the LORD your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year.

I was looking through my eclipse glasses last Monday at our Great American Solar Eclipse when I was suddenly struck with the exactness and precision like movement of the sun and the moon. The predictability of eclipses is not because of the greatness of our scientific prowess but it comes from the precision like patterns of God’s creation. Ever since He spoke, “Let there be light” billions of luminaries began their journey all throughout this universe that is apparently infinite. Billions of celestial bodies moving in God’s precise heavenly dance, the vastness and perfection is beyond us. Then I thought about God’s care for us and for me. If He is so precise dealing with suns and moon, what about His precision with sons and daughters? He has us in His sights and cares for us intricately. Dick Mills spoke often of God’s daily precise care for all of us. Here are some thoughts from Brother Mills on today’s verse.

“This is a verse for us. It assures us that God’s watchful care can be depended on from January 1 right through until December 31, year in and year out. The Lord is telling us today just what He told the children of Israel in their day: “He who keeps you neither slumbers nor sleeps”. Ps. 121:4

Our Heavenly Father does not take days off, vacations, sick days, or leaves of absence. His eyes are ever upon us. He cares for us as much as He cared for the children of Israel. Our land is His focus just as much as much as the land promised to the descendants of Abraham. Our Lord is concerned for our homes, our families, our transportation, our jobs, our places of worship, and our safety. None of these things escapes His sight.”
I felt my faith soar as I stood gazing at the eclipse like millions of others across America. Could it be that this was a sign of His love and His coming outpouring across our land? I believe it is. He said there would be signs in the heavens corresponding with His greatest last day prophetic sign. What is that greatest sign? The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all mankind.

LIKE A THIEF IN THE NIGHT

1Th. 5:1,2 ¶ Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

The recent solar eclipse caused me to start thinking about the return of Christ. I know what some of you are thinking, here we go again. “They have been saying that for two thousand years.” Yes ‘we’ have. The Bible predicted the first coming of Christ, ‘they’ talked about that for four thousand years; then He came. The solar eclipse reminded me about just how perfect His whole creation is. We can predict things like eclipses many years before they happen because creation is absolutely precise. So is history. The plans of God are advancing perfectly, nothing is out of place, nothing is out of timing. The Lord will return. What has to be asked; are you awake or asleep? Here are some thoughts from Barclay on the return of Christ.

“He (Paul) repeats that the coming of the day will be sudden. It will come like a thief in the night. But he also insists that that is no reason why a man should be caught unawares. It is only the man who lives in the dark and whose deeds are evil who will be caught unprepared. The Christian lives in the light and no matter when that day comes, if he is watchful and sober, it will find him ready. Waking or sleeping, the Christian is living already with Christ and is therefore always prepared. No man knows when God’s call will come for him and there are certain things that cannot be left until the last moment. It is too late to prepare for an examination when the examination paper is before you. It is too late to make the house secure when the storm has burst.”
Two things jump out at me from this quote. First, there is no excuse to be caught unaware. If we live in the light of God’s word and His love we will be absolutely ready. As the day draws near an anticipation will grow in His children. The second thing is even more sobering; there are some things that cannot be left for the last moment. No man knows the day of His coming or the day of our death, that day approaches all of us. So respond to the signs of His coming, get ready! None of us want that day to come and for us and not be ready.

Anticipation

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Rom. 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

There is something inside of all of us longing for the coming kingdom. Paul himself said that all creation is waiting in anticipation for the return of Christ and the glorification of His sons and daughters. The Message Bible says it like this “The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens”. The joyful anticipation is growing and surging inside of His sons and daughters. What we will become and enjoy is beyond our ability to understand or say, the taste we get now is awakening our appetite. If the signs in the heavens are crying out, how about us? Jonathan Edwards often spoke of the coming kingdom; here are some of his thoughts.

“The creature thus earnestly expecting this glorious manifestation and liberty of the children of God, and travailing in pain in order to it, therefore the Scriptures, by a like figure, do very often represent, that when this shall be accomplished, the whole inanimate creation shall greatly rejoice: that “the heavens shall sing, the earth be glad, the mountains break forth into singing, the hills be joyful together, the trees clap their hands, the lower parts of the earth shout, the sea roar and the fullness thereof, and the floods clap their hands”.

The glorious inhabitants of the heavenly world, the saints and angels there, that rejoice when one sinner repents, are earnestly waiting, in an assured and joyful dependence on God’s promises of that conversion of the world, and marriage of the Lamb, which shall be when that glorious day comes; and therefore they are represented as all with one accord rejoicing and praising God with such mighty exultation and triumph, when it is accomplished, in Revelation 19.”
This week we were all treated with the rare spectacle of a solar eclipse. The image is stuck in my mind of the moon covering the sun in a line across the entire continent. Every time I think of the precision in God’s creation I am totally astounded. Stunned silence and waves of joy are my response. I agree with Paul, the joyful anticipation depends as the day draws near.

CURSED

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Gal. 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

Isaiah 53:12 – He was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Redemption is quite a mystery. It is quite unthinkable for someone as holy and exalted as the Lord to even give a second thought to fallen man. Not only does He give us a second thought, His thoughts and care for us are deeper than the ocean; in other words, they are endless. He went to the most extreme measures to save us, He stooped down and became one of us; it didn’t stop there. He took the very curse that was on mankind upon Himself. That’s what the cross is, it is God’s judgement and love displayed in the same act. He took our curse satisfying the justice of God, He placed His righteousness on us displaying His great love. What is our part in this matter? We receive this gift of righteousness simply by faith. This is the foundation stone of Paul’s preaching and also the Protestant reformation. The just shall live by faith. Here are some thoughts from Luther on this unthinkable act of God.

“All the prophets of old said that Christ should be the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, blasphemer that ever was or ever could be on earth. When He took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, Christ was no longer an innocent person. He was a sinner burdened with the sins of a Paul who was a blasphemer; burdened with the sins of a Peter who denied Christ; burdened with the sins of a David who committed adultery and murder, and gave the heathen occasion to laugh at the Lord. In short, Christ was charged with the sins of all men, that He should pay for them with His own blood. The curse struck Him. The Law found Him among sinners. He was not only in the company of sinners. He had gone so far as to invest Himself with the flesh and blood of sinners. So the Law judged and hanged Him for a sinner.”
Christ took my sins and your sins on Himself. The result? I receive His own very righteousness as a gift by faith; amazing grace.

HE RESTORES MY SOUL

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He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
Ps.23:2,3

Before we met Christ, our souls were in a continuous state of shambles. Our pride and sin had blinded our eyes, our tragedies and offenses had wounded us. Our conversion began the work of restoration in our lives. Only the Shepherd could restore our soul. Here is a thought from Adam Clarke on this restoration.

“Brings back my life from destruction; and converts my soul from sin, that it may not eternally perish. Or, after it has backslidden from him, heals its backslidings, and restores it to his favor.”
After conversion we still need the restoring work of the Spirit in our lives. Temptations, offenses, and calamity tend to take their toll on all of us. Only the work of the Spirit can restore our souls so that we can walk with our Shepherd. Here is what Spurgeon says about the restoration of our souls.

“When the soul grows sorrowful he revives it; when it is sinful he sanctifies it; when it is weak he strengthens it. “He” does it. His ministers could not do it if he did not. His Word would not avail by itself. “He restoreth my soul.” Are any of us low in grace? Do we feel that our spirituality is at its lowest ebb? He who turns the ebb into the flood can soon restore our soul. Pray to him, then, for the blessing—“Restore thou me, thou Shepherd of my soul!”

The Apostle Paul says in best in Titus 3:5 “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit”.
So, how is it with your soul today. There is renewal and restoration available for us every time we step into the wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit. These are the waters of rest that the Shepherd gently and faithfully leads us to. You may feel tired or drained emotionally, there is renewal in the Holy Spirit for you. You may feel like the work of the ministry is just too much for you, good news, these are waters of rest as well as restoration. He will bring rest to your soul and strength for tomorrow’s journey. He is restoring our souls and making all things new again.

SHALL NOT WANT

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Psa. 23:1 ¶ The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Learning to trust the Lord for my provision was a very important part of my early Christian journey. Parris and I went to Bible School in California shortly after our marriage. That first year we had our son Jeremy and learned the importance of trusting God for provision. There were food bills, Bible school tuition, rent, medical bills for Jeremy’s birth, plus all the other car and clothing costs. The amazing part of that season in our life, we never did want for anything. The Lord provided and taught us that He was the source of our supply. He is our Shepherd. Here are some thoughts from Charles Spurgeon on today’s verse.

“I shall not lack for temporal things. Does he not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can he leave his children to starve? I shall not want for spirituals, I know that his grace will be sufficient for me. Resting in him he will say to me, “As thy day so shall thy strength be.” I may not possess all that I wish for, but “I shall not want.” Others, far wealthier and wiser than I, may want, but “I shall not.” “The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.” It is not only “I do not want,” but “I shall not want.” Come what may, if famine should devastate the land, or calamity destroy the city, “I shall not want.” Old age with its feebleness shall not bring me any lack, and even death with its gloom shall not find me destitute. I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because “The Lord is my Shepherd.”
Maybe you find yourself in a place of worry and fear today. You don’t see how you can possibly have enough to get by, let alone not even want. We must look to the God of David. He learned about trusting the Lord as his Shepherd when he was living in exile running for his life from King Saul. David saw God’s continual supply in impossible circumstances. When David was old he thought back at the faithfulness of the Shepherd and this was his conclusion, “I have been young and now I am old but I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread