JACOB’S LADDER

Jn1:51 – And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

The ways of God are really quite amazing. Jacob was literally running for his life because of the deception he had spun against his brother Esau. Esau vowed to kill Jacob so Jacob took off. Forty miles later (remember Jacob was on foot) Jacob, exhausted from the journey, found a rock for a pillow and laid himself down to sleep. This was the night everything changed for Jacob. He had a dream in which the Lord appeared to him. He realized several amazing things that day. First, the God of Abraham was very real and very personal. Second, God had a plan for Jacob. Third, that if Jacob would follow the Lord; the Lord would protect him, bless him, and bring His purposes to pass in Jacob’s life. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on this passage.

“The mediation of Christ. He is this ladder, the foot on earth in his human nature, the top in heaven in his divine nature: or the former in his humiliation, the latter in his exaltation. All the intercourse between heaven and earth, since the fall, is by this ladder. Christ is the way; all God’s favors come to us, and all our services go to him, by Christ. If God dwell with us, and we with him, it is by Christ. We have no way of getting to heaven, but by this ladder; if we climb up any other way we are thieves and robbers. To this vision our Saviour alludes when he speaks of the angels of God ascending and descending upon the son of man; for the kind offices the angels do us, and the benefits we receive by their ministration, are all owing to Christ, who has reconciled things on earth and things in heaven, and made them all meet in himself.”

This dream was Jacob’s introduction to Christ. In this dream Jacob became aware of the incredible calling that was on his life. He was being called out of all his relationships that kept him from dependency on God. He was introduced into a supernatural life, “God was in this place and I didn’t even know.” Jacob was also launched into God’s purpose of redemption, “your seed will be like the dust of the earth and the stars of the sky”.

Maybe you feel like you are on the run like Jacob. God’s plans are way different than you would ever expect. Jacob went to sleep one way and woke up another way. What made the difference? He found himself at Bethel, the house of God.

THE SHEPHERD KING

Jn.1:10 NLT – He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.

If you think about what John is saying in today’s verse it is actually something that goes way beyond our ability to understand. How could the creator of all things enter into His own creation? The first few verses of John 1 describes the Word as God, the Word as being the creator of all things, and now the Word enters into the very world He created. John says it like this in vs.14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth”. What this is like is the author of a play entering his own play or a artist entering his own work of art. Creators live outside of their work, especially the One Who created all things. He created time and space and matter and everything else that exists. For Him to become part of His own creation is unthinkable. That is the story of Christmas. Here are some comments by C. S. Lewis about authors and plays.

“When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else—something it never entered your head to conceive—comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side.”

What Lewis is describing is actually the second Advent of our Lord. When the Creator enters into this creation again it will be over. The time for decisions and picking sides will be over, that’s what this Christmas season and this world are all about. Have you stopped and acknowledged the coming of our Lord? Has His birth effected you and caused you to see this world from a different perspective. That’s what happened to those shepherds that first Christmas. Two kingdoms collided as the Creator of all things took on a human body. The glory shone, the angels sang, and the shepherds bowed before this Shepherd King.

FILLED TO OVERFLOWING

John 1:16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

Have you ever been so filled that there is no other option, you have to overflow? I guess what is really important is this question: what exactly are you filled with? In today’s verse John is describing an overflowing kind of filling. He describes fulness or overflowing as grace upon grace. So much love poured on us that it is impossible to contain it, we have to overflow. John is talking about God’s love for us and how it fills us until it begins to spill out all around us. Here is a quote from Spurgeon describing the overflowing joy that comes with being filled.

“Bunyan tells us that Mercy laughed in her sleep, and no wonder when she dreamed of Jesus; my joy shall not stop short of hers while my Beloved is the theme of my daily thoughts. The Lord Jesus is a deep sea of joy: my soul shall dive therein, shall be swallowed up in the delights of his society.”

The amazing thing about Bunyan’s words, they were written from prison. He was overflowing with a joy bigger than prison walls. It is striking that John who was exiled and later martyred and Bunyan who was imprisoned for preaching Christ both spoke of a fulness of God that transcended the rest of their lives. Nothing this world could throw at them could disrupt their joy, it was supernatural and untouchable. John Trappe also talks about this fulness found only in Christ.

“Grace for grace – “Which is both repletive and diffusive; not only of plenty, but of bounty; not a fulness of abundance only, but of redundance too. In Christians is an abundance of vessels, but in Christ, is the fount, these differ (say the schoolmen) as fire and that which holds the fire. Take a drop from the ocean, and it is so much the less; but the fulness of the fire is such, that light a thousand torches at it, it is not diminished.”

This word repletive means to satisfy, satiate, or provide something in abundance. So this fulness is provided in extreme measures and diffused everywhere we go. Redundance describes an excessive amount, way more than necessary. Trappe is describing overflow as pouring out in extreme measures everywhere we go. This is the story of Christmas, the Word took on human flesh that I can be filled to overflowing with the fulness of His grace. Merry Christmas !!!!!

CHRISTMAS WONDER

I remember the great tragedy of childhood when I finally realized that my mom and dad were really Santa Claus. I was about nine years old and I was devastated. How could Christmas ever be the same? The mystery and wonder were sucked out of my little world. From the time I was nine until I was twenty one Christmas was not quite the same. How could Christmas be Christmas without Santa? That was all about to change for me suddenly. It happened just after my conversion, Christmas of 1973, that the wonder of Christmas invaded my world again. This time it wasn’t make believe. I saw for myself the mystery of the birth of God’s only Son. I was reading Christmas cards and seeing the Bible verses regarding the birth of Jesus. Suddenly my eyes were opened to what Christmas was all about; God Himself I become a man. John the Apostle said it like this in Jn.1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth”. God had become a man! Unthinkable! A virgin had given birth to God’s only Son. Here is how Eugene Peterson describes this Christmas wonder.

“Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring this fullness, this wholeness, of human life. Once a year, each Christmas, for a few days at least, we and millions of our neighbors turn aside from our preoccupations with life reduced to biology or economics or psychology and join together in a community of wonder. The wonder keeps us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.”

So have you lost the wonder of Christmas? You will not find it in the shopping mall or under the Christmas tree, this wonder can only be found at the manger, worshipping God’s only Son.

OPEN YOUR HEART TO JESUS

Jn.1:11-12 – He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

In yesterday’s devotion I spoke about receiving from the Lord. That was the first lesson I learned as I embraced the outpouring of the Spirit in 1994. Somehow, my receiver had been broken. I had been serving and counseling and praying and preaching and binding and loosing for so long that I had become stuck in the pouring out mode. Even when standing in the line to receive prayer the tendency was an aggressive, intercessory type of prayer. There is a place for that but not when you are trying to drink in the Holy Spirit. To receive from the Lord our stance needs to change. Words like compliant, humble, open, and hungry come to mind. Jesus said it like this, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink”. Here is how Spurgeon speaks about receiving.

“When I receive Jesus, He becomes my Saviour, so mine that neither life nor death shall be able to rob me of Him. All this is to receive Christ—to take Him as God’s free gift; to realize Him in my heart, and to appropriate Him as mine. Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but we have not only received these blessings, we have received CHRIST JESUS Himself. It is true that He gave us life from the dead. He gave us pardon of sin; He gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but we are not content with them; we have received Christ Himself. The Son of God has been poured into us, and we have received Him, and appropriated Him. What a heartful Jesus must be, for heaven itself cannot contain Him.”

When my heart first opened to the outpouring that summer of 1994, I felt like waves of glory were literally washing over me. I was shocked at how real and how profound this outpouring was. It was unmistakeable and undeniable. The only prerequisite was spiritual thirst which flows from a profound humility. David says 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 will make its boast in the LORD; The humble will hear it and rejoice”.

GRACE FOR GRACE AGAIN

Jn.1:16 – For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.

Paul tried his best to paint spiritual pictures with His words. He loved to use phrases such as faith to faith and glory to glory. These are called “hebraisms”. In today’s verse John tries his hand with these beautiful words”grace upon grace”. This was John’s way to describe the infinite nature of the Lord. He calls this facet of the Lord “grace upon grace”. Grace is the supernatural influence of God on our lives that enables us to see spiritual reality that was foreign to us in the past. One moment we have no interest in spiritual things, the next moment we are swimming with John and Paul in this world of grace to grace. Here is how Augustine describes this verse.

“What, then, is “grace for grace”? By faith we render God favorable to us; and inasmuch as we were not worthy to have our sins forgiven, and because we, who were unworthy, received so great a benefit it is called grace. What is grace? That which is freely given. What is “freely given”? Given, not paid. If it was due, wages were given, not grace bestowed; but if it was reply due, thou wast good; but if, as is true, thou wast evil, but didst believe on Him who justifies the ungodly (What is, Who justifies the ungodly? Of the ungodly He makes pious), consider what did by right hang over thee by the law, and what thou hast obtained by grace. But having obtained that grace of faith, thou shalt be just by faith (for the just lives by faith); and thou shalt obtain favor of God by living by faith.“

So the first moment we taste the grace of God we enter into this beautiful world. What this verse teaches us is that first taste is just that, the beginning of an unfolding, unending, unsearchable encounter with the Living God. He attracts us by grace, satisfies us, sustains us, and inspires us. He helps us in our darkest moments, fills us with unspeakable joy, and gives us a clear understanding of our purpose in life. Grace is more than pardon, it is actually the divine, given influence on our soul that changes our world. So go ahead and get started. Dive into the ocean of grace. Maybe you too will begin to talk this new language describing the indescribable world of God.

ZOE LIFE

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS-

“Ζωὴ-The fountain of life”

John 1:4 “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”

ROBERTSON WORD PICTURES said, “The power that creates and sustains life in the universe is the Logos.”

The Gospel of John mentions life (Ζωὴ) 36 times. If you think about the gospel of John he uses simple words to explain the most complex truths of Christ. Life, bread, light, water, are repeated over and over again. The Zoe life of God is “the peculiar mode of the divine operation upon men”. In other words redemption will always be summed up as supernatural and indescribable.

Pulpit Commentary has a great way of interrupting the Ζωὴ life of god. It says; “There is one impassable chasm which neither history, nor science, nor philosophy can span, viz. that between nothing and something. The evangelist has found the only possible method of facing it by the conception of One who from eternity has within himself the potency of the transition. The assertion now is that life, ζωή, with all its manifestations and in all its regions; that the life of plant, tree, and animal, the life of man, of society, and of worlds as such; that the life of the body, soul, and spirit, the life transitory and the life eternal (ζωὴ αἰώνιος), was in the Logos, “who was God and in the beginning with God, and he communicated to the Son his own Divine self dependence.”

Wow what a mouthful! Who can describe the life of God in the soul of Man! He breeches the chasm we created! We see Jesus giving life throughout his life and he continues to give us of himself now! “Life, in all its energies, past, present, and future, is an outcome, an effluence, of the Eternal Word.” (Pulpit) And we have all of that on a daily basis the rest of our lives! What a precious treasure we have indeed!

Again Pulpit commentary says, “John was reaching after something far more momentous even than that dogma of ancient faith and modern science.”The light of men” seems to be the faculty or condition, the inward and outward means, by which men know God. “The light of men” is the conscience and reason, the eye of the soul by which the human race comes into contact with truth and right and beauty. In the life of conscience and reason a higher and more revealing light is made to shine upon man, upon his origin, upon his Divine image, upon his destiny.”

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We can call it divine illumination. My friend you need to give more credit to the divine within you and reach forth what your destined for! Christ himself has come to live within imparting the Ζωὴ (Zoe) kind of life!

He was there

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS-

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God

He was the light shining in the darkness. John 1:1

Before the world was, there was Christ and he gave the world its existence. The more we dive into the word the more we remain in awe of a mighty Savior, the more redemption takes on a fuller and deeper meaning. He forever is the “the light shining in the darkness” over fallen man. It does one well to ponder the present ministry of Christ. Christ was “there through it all”. He saw Adam and Eve as they grabbed the first bite of unbelief, he watched Noah as he built the ark, stood by Abraham before he killed Issac and he provided another offering. He oversaw the killing of all the firstborn of Egypt while the plague passed over the Israelites. He has been on task throughout eternity and he ever lives to make intercession for us now. Christ is there and he is ever there and he made his way among us.

Far too many of us negate the work of Christ in our lives. In our hustle and bustle of everyday life the precious blood of Christ seems to slowly loose its mark upon us. Our redemption story becomes more like a fairytale of bygone years. Somehow we make it all about ourselves again. Going to church, reading his word, being thankful all become laborious! No wonder our faith grows weak and our prayers silent. He becomes a God that once was rather than he is and will continue to be. My friend your lamp has run out of oil and the light is slowly becoming extinguished. The Shulmaite in the Song of Solomon experienced a Holy Ghost awakening when she desired his kisses again. When he took her into his chamber she exclaimed. “look not upon me for I am black, they made me a keeper of the vineyards and my own vineyard I have not kept”. She knew somewhere, somehow she had left her first love. She got caught up in the things that make her sorrowful (the blackness of life) and spent her years toiling under the burning sun. She had forgotten how he loved her and brought her out of all of that. How precious it is that Christ comes to us again and again, telling us how we are loved, like his special rose. He takes each part of us and shows us the beauty in it. My friend Christ can be the light shining in your present darkness. Somehow the little foxes came and took your joy away, ate away the words sown deep within and left you barren. He is there with you now waiting for you to turn to him.

THE LIGHT OF LIFE

John 1:4,5 – In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

Billy Graham finished his race this week, he will be sorely missed. He had an unusual ability to always keep his focus on eternity. I suppose the more real eternity becomes to you the more you tend to focus on it, he has finally entered into eternity for himself. I had the privilege of meeting Rev. Graham in 2005 just after Katrina slammed New Orleans. Rev. Graham insisted on coming personally to the meetings here and actually preached and gave the altar call at the Smoothy King Arena. I was asked to pray with the converts from the altar call on the last night of the meeting, it was one of the great honors of my life. His message was the same as it has always been, Jesus is the only way to heaven, you must believe He died on the cross, rose from the dead, and accept Him into your heart. The simplicity of his preaching was quite profound. Here is an excerpt from his book “Where I Am”.

“Scientists really don’t know what light is, but we all know its many effects. We know that there could be no plant, animal, or human life upon the earth without light. God put the sun in precise balance and distance from the earth. If it were a few miles closer, we would be burned up. If it were a farther distance from the earth, we would freeze. What the sun is to the earth, Jesus Christ is to the spiritual world. What effect the sun has on nature is the effect Jesus has on our cold, lifeless, and sinful natures. Christ wants to turn His light on in our hearts. He wants us to be reflectors of His divine Light. I have traveled to every continent in the world and have been a witness to the difference God’s light makes in the people who possess Him. We are His light in a dark world….Every day should be lived with eternity on our minds. If we did this, we would live differently, with purpose and resolve to please the eternal One who is Bread and Light and Vine and Shepherd.”

Meeting Billy Graham improved my life, meeting Jesus has changed my life permanently. Maybe you feel like darkness has tried to strangle the very life out of you. Be encouraged, in Christ there is both light and life for everyone who believes.

HEAVEN’S PORTAL

John 1:50,51 – Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these. And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.

In this verse, Jesus is calling His disciples to follow Him. He is about to lead these men on a spiritual journey that will lead them into access into heaven itself. Christ came to become the portal, the doorway into life. He did what none of us could ever do, He lived a sinless life and became our sin offering opening the door into a new kind of life. He was calling Nathaniel in this verse to this incredible life; He is calling us in the same way. He is giving us access into the heavenly world through faith in His blood. Here are some thoughts from Adam Clarke on today’s verse.

“What a glorious view does this give us of the Gospel dispensation! It is heaven opened to earth; and heaven opened on earth. The Church militant and the Church triumphant become one, and the whole heavenly family, in both, see and adore their common Lord. Neither the world nor the Church is left to the caprices of time or chance. The Son of man governs as he upholds all. Wherever we are praying, studying, hearing, meditating, his gracious eye is upon us. He notes our wants, our weakness, and our petitions; and his eye affects his heart. Let us be without guile, deeply, habitually sincere, serious, and upright; and then we may rest assured, that not only the eye, but the hand, of our Lord shall be ever upon us for good.”

Not only has He opened this portal for us, He is also watching us. Just as He saw Nathaniel under that tree, He saw you as you opened your eyes this morning. He is watching every move you make with interest and compassion. He is not far off and uninvolved in your life, He is involved in every minute detail of all you do. I think this is what struck Nathaniel, Jesus noticed him and cared for Him. Nathaniel had no idea the journey that was ahead of him as He followed Christ that day, He just knew he was following someone who had him in His care.