WAITING

Rev.3:20 – Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.

Advent is the season where Christians are waiting for Christmas, we are waiting for the appearance of Christ. I know we are waiting for the second Advent, the return of Christ at the end of the age, but what if He is among us and coming to us on a daily basis? Jesus said as much when He said that when we fed the hungry we were feeding Him, or if we visited a prisoner we were visiting Him. If we have eyes to see, He comes to us every day in the hurting people that are part of all of our lives. He is there when our friends are in the hospital, He is there when someone we know is in jail, He is there when someone loses a family member in death. Jesus said when we show love to those who are hurting we are showing love to Him. Here is how Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes this coming of Christ.

“Jesus stands at the door knocking. In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us. Do you want to close the door or open it? It may strike us as strange to see Christ in such a near face, but he said it, and those who withdraw from the serious reality of the Advent message cannot talk of the coming of Christ in their heart, either.”

All of us fail to see Him in these arenas getting caught up in all of the important activities that crowd our lives. Maybe this Christmas season we can ask the Lord to open our eyes that we can see Him when He comes to us in these ways as we also wait for His soon Second Coming. When He does open our eyes then we must open our hearts to pour out His love on these hurting precious people. Maybe this is what Advent is about after all.

SEEKERS

Rom. 3:10,11 – as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;

THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;

Its interesting if you think about the reasons many people are spiritual or have a belief in God. For some its a desire to live right, for others it may be some sort of insurance policy to avoid hell. Then there are those who are all about the benefits the Bible promises; folks will pray and attend church for financial favor, marital bliss, or for the sake of the children. Of course there are those who are in health crisis or financial drama who look to heaven as their way out. The funny thing about this endless list, they are all things that the Lord will do for us but none are a reason for us to become spiritual. Notice what Paul says in this verse, “There is none that seeks God”. Did you see what the Lord is looking for? He is longing to have people who seek Him just for the pleasure of knowing Him. All of those other things are the things He does for those who love Him. Here is how R.C. Sproul describes this passage.

“We see people searching for the things that we know can be found only in Christ, but we make the gratuitous assumption that because they are seeking the benefits of God, they must therefore be seeking God. That is the very dilemma of fallen creatures: we want the things that only God can give us, but we do not want him. We want peace but not the Prince of Peace. We want purpose but not the sovereign purposes decreed by God. We want meaning found in ourselves but not in his rule over us. We see desperate people, and we assume they are seeking for God, but they are not seeking for God….. No one seeks after God. How desperately was Paul searching for God while on his way to Damascus to destroy the followers of Jesus? He was no more searching for God than I was when God stopped me in my path one night and brought me sovereignly to himself. I knew then that I did not come to Christ because I was seeking him. I came to Christ because he sought me.”

That is the whole message of Paul in the book of Romans. We are saved by grace through faith. It happened suddenly in Paul’s life, he went from a dogmatic Pharisee to a lover by one touch of God’s amazing grace.

WAITING AND EXPECTING

Ps.62:1,5 – WEB – My soul rests in God alone. My salvation is from him.

He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress.

My soul, wait in silence for God alone, For my expectation is from him.

This verse describes how hope progresses to a true expectancy. I recently described expectancy as a sure thing, like an expectant mom expecting a child. Pregnancy is the difference between hope and expectancy. In today’s verse we see the spiritual facts of life. Waiting and resting in God alone is where expectancy is birthed.

For me, the body of Christ is in a state of expectancy or spiritual pregnancy, pregnant with a shocking move of God characterized by radical conversions of what would be considered the least likely candidates. The Lord delights in saving and using the unlikely for His glory. Think about it, there was the angry Pharisee (Saul of Tarsus) who turned the Roman Empire on its ear and wrote most of the New Testament. Then there was the demonized man chained in a cemetery in Gadara who was delivered and started a spiritual awakening in Decapolis (10 cities). And who could forget the lady of the night who was delivered from 7 demons and washed Jesus feet with tears and ointment, people are still talking about her 2000 years later. I am expectant, expectant with another radical season of harvest. Here is Spurgeon on this.

“For my expectation is from him. We expect from God because we believe in him. Expectation is the child of prayer and faith, and is owned of the Lord as an acceptable grace. We should desire nothing but what would be right for God to give, then our expectation would be all from God; and concerning truly good things we should not look to second causes, but to the Lord alone, and so again our expectation would be all from him. The vain expectations of worldly men come not; they promise but there is no performance; our expectations are on the way, and in due season will arrive to satisfy our hopes. Happy is the man who feels that all he has, all he wants, and all he expects are to be found in his God.”

I love that statement, “Expectation is the child of prayer and faith”. What are you pregnant with. Take some time to wait on the Lord, expectancy will be the fruit.

PASSION

Psa. 27:4 – One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD And to meditate in His temple.

All of us want to have passion about something, it’s just not often we choose the right things to feel strongly about. We are excited about cars, clothes, food, and football but often have lukewarm feelings about spiritual things. There is a reason for that; our nature is corrupted and without the intervention of grace the most excellent things are unappealing to us; unless or until…. that is until we see beauty and excellency for ourselves. The beauty of God becomes like a blinding light once the blinders come off of our eyes. Suddenly we find ourselves engrossed in the beauty of God. Here is David Brainerd’s moment of seeing beauty for himself.

“I stood still, wondered, and admired! I knew that I never had seen before anything comparable to it for excellency and beauty; it was widely different from all the conceptions that ever I had of God, or things divine. I had no particular apprehension of any one Person in the Trinity, either the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost; but it appeared to be divine glory. My soul rejoiced with joy unspeakable to see such a God, such a glorious Divine Being; and I was inwardly pleased and satisfied that He should be God over all forever and ever. My soul was so captivated and delighted with the excellency, loveliness, greatness, and other perfections of God, that I was ever swallowed up in Him…….I felt myself in a new world, and everything about me appeared with a different aspect from what it was wont to do.”

So what is that turns your a switch on? You can tell a lot about your spiritual condition by what excites you. If you are dull to spiritual things what can be done about it? I guess to find the answer we need to go to David Brainerd’s mentor, Jonathan Edwards. Edwards said that our affections are effected by what we behold. He would say, “put yourself in the place of spiritual allurement”. Beholding Christ in the written word, hearing Christ centered messages, and pressing into worship is the place where it happens. In His presence you too can find true passion beholding the beauty of the Lord.

FOLLOWING THE CLOUD

When the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward. Exodus 40:36

I think far too often we get things backwards. We have an idea or dream and press on to see it come to pass, and then we ask God to bless it. We see the Lord as just someone there to facilitate our plans and purposes, this is far from the plan that He has for us. In today’s verse we see a different perspective. The children of Israel, while traveling through the wilderness, were being taught total dependency on God.They were to always follow the cloud. Following the cloud was the place of guidance, protection and sure victory. Here is how Watchman Nee describes the need to follow the glory of the Lord.

“Just as all God’s speaking to His people in those far-off days was from between the cherubim of glory, so all His leading of them onward was by means of that same glory. In the cloud by day and the fire by night, the glory of God appeared, and by it they moved. For us too all revelation of God’s will issues from His glory. See the glory of God in relation to any matter and we have discovered God’s leading in regard to it. You ask me, “Is this His will? Is that?” I reply by asking in turn, “Is God’s glory resting there?” Discern that, and you need wait for nothing further. For the divine glory itself expresses the divine will. Guidance is thus simply a matter of correspondence to that. Where God’s glory rests, we need not ask the way.”

This thinking may be foreign to you, it starts from a place of rest rather than a place of doing. Just following a plan or setting goals is not good enough. We must hear from the Lord by spending time in His Word. It is in seeking the Lord in His word that He speaks to us. Then we begin to sense His leading and see the glory of the Lord clearly leading us. When we follow the cloud no enemy can stand before us. When we take matters in our own hands we have no guarantees. Maybe you are facing some challenges or obstacles in your path; if so, take some time to draw near to the Lord. Hearing from Him will give you courage to go forward. After all, if God be for us who can be against us.

WHAT DOORS ARE OPENING IN YOUR LIFE IN 2018?

Rev.3:8 – I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it…

What kinds of open doors are opening up before you in the next year? The Lord opens doors that no man can shut, we just have to be in a place to see them and be willing to go through them. I was recently looking up today’s verse in several commentaries. Here is a short thought from several of them. John Wesley spoke about a door of joy open to us as we serve the Lord.

“I have given before thee an opened door – To enter into the joy of thy Lord; and, meantime, to go on unhindered in every good work.”

The Lord is the source of all of our joy. The good news is that it multiplies when we are involved in His endeavors. Matthew Henry believed that liberty, freedom itself, comes from the Lord. He believed the Lord has opened doors of liberty for us. Here are Henry’s words.

“I have set it open, and kept it open, though there be many adversaries. Learn here, Christ is to be acknowledged as the author of all the liberty and opportunity his churches enjoy.”

I love that, there is not only freedom but plenty opportunities that come from proceeding through His open doors. John Trappe believed that these open doors would not only advance the kingdom, they would also prove to be beneficial to us. Here is what Trappe said about this verse.

“A fair opportunity of doing thyself good; which those that go about to deprive thee of shall be sure to lose their toil and tallow (blessing).”

Not only are we blessed, those that attack us end up losing their blessing. Finally, William Barclay said that open doors of ministry are all around us. We don’t have to go on a mission trip to find open doors of ministry, they are right here. Here are Barclay’s thought on this verse.

“There is a door of missionary opportunity before every man and he need not go overseas to find it. Within the home, within the circle in which we move, within the parish in which we reside, there are those to be won for Christ. To use that door of opportunity is at once our privilege and our responsibility.”

The truth is that there are many doors of ministry and blessing right in front of us. Embrace the Lord and He will gently lead you through them.

MEDITATE

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I will meditate in thy precepts.Psalms 119:15

It’s too easy to stay satisfied with a surface level faith. Far too many of us have a basic set of beliefs that we hold to and may even use them to structure our lives to one degree or another. It takes time and effort to live our lives in a deeper place. It is the blessing of spiritual hunger that reveals the shallowness of our faith and calls us to that place of delighting ourselves at the banquet table of the Lord. Learning the art of Biblical meditation can be a huge part of this quest for more. Look at this interesting definition of the Bible word ‘meditate’ from the Mounce wordbook.
to utter a sound, moan, meditate; to mutter; from the base meaning of uttering a sound of any kind comes figure of meditation, the act of thoughtful deliberation with the implication of speaking to oneself
So if I want to practice Biblical meditation it involves the written word. Take a passage of scripture that ministers to you; think about it, say it out loud, and spend some time chewing on it. This is Biblical meditation and it can bring you into a deeper faith that is more alive in your life. Here is how Spurgeon describes it.
“There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on his Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser’s feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches, or else the juice will not flow; and they must well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom.”
I love to read my Bible. Certain passages, like Ephesians 1 and John 1 and 15, have been my favorites and I have meditated on them hundreds of times in my spiritual journey. Take one of your favorites and chew on it for awhile. You may find yourself drinking some of heaven’s wine.

HE LIVES IN THE STORM 

And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
Matthew 14:25
What a day it had been for the disciples. They had seen some incredible miracles. Blind people, deaf-mutes, paralyzed, lepers and those tormented by demons… all had been healed. The crowds were immense. Jesus had fed over 5000 people with just a little boy’s lunch. What a day! But now, all those miracles seemed like a distant memory. The disciples were rowing their boat across the sea, and Jesus was off praying on some mountain. It was dark, incredibly dark. The wind was blowing and waves were crashing over the bow. Their lives seemed to be in danger. The miracles of the day had become a distant memory. That warm afternoon sun, the joyful singing and the incredible teaching all seemed so long ago. The waves and wind had swallowed the joy of the afternoon, and now they looked like they were about to swallow the disciples themselves. Suddenly, the disciples saw something coming toward them on the water. Was it a ghost or some sort of demonic manifestation? Surely their lives were over. But then Peter recognized Jesus. Jesus was coming to them, walking on the water. Jesus was coming, cloaked in the turmoil of the storm. The Lord loves to hide Himself in the storms of our lives. Just when all seems lost, there He is. He knows that when we are at the bottom, our hearts can begin to open to Him like never before. Maybe you are in a great storm today. All seems lost. What else could possibly go wrong? If you will look out into the darkness of your storm, you may see Jesus coming your way.

Job was a man also familiar with storms. Storms of one sort or another had stolen everything

that was precious to him. Adding insult to injury he could see another storm approaching on the horizon but this one proved to be quite different. Out of this storm Job heard the voice of the Lord, he heard the Lord say something like, “Get on your feet and face me like a man”. Job was about to have a God encounter. The other storms had stolen his family and his property, this one a was about to give everything back. What was the difference, the Lord was walking in the midst of this storm. Maybe you feel like you have lost so much you have nothing left to lose, sounds like you are ready for a divine visitation.

STAY FILLED

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Heb. 3:1 ¶ Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession,

There was a cult that had become pretty strong back in the seventies. It was led by a man that had studied a lot of historical information about Christ. His plot was to undermine orthodox Christian faith by contradicting common thoughts about the earthly life of Jesus. He was somewhat successful because people followed the logic, if he is right about these little known facts about the life of Jesus, and the church is wrong, he must be right about everything else.

His focus was obviously wrong. It’s not important if we know the calendar year Jesus was born in or whether or not He owned His own home; what is vitally important is that we know Him personally and intimately. In today’s verse we are exhorted to consider, or have another close look at Jesus Himself. Looking to Him will change our perspective of everything. One glimpse of the glory of the Son of God will sort everything out. Here is how Andrew Murray describes this phrase “consider Jesus”.

“The word consider, from the root of the Latin word for Star, originally means to contemplate the stars. It suggests the idea of the astronomer, and the quiet, patient, persevering, concentrated gaze with which he seeks to discover all that can be possibly known of the stars which the object of his study are. And Jesus, who is God, who became man, and perfected our human nature in His wonderful life of suffering and obedience, and now dwells in heaven to communicate to us its life and blessedness—oh, what reason there is for saying, Consider Jesus. Gaze upon Him, contemplate Him. For some increased knowledge of the stars what devotion, what enthusiasm, what sacrifices are oft-times witnessed. Oh, let the study and possession of the Son of God waken our devotion and our enthusiasm, that we may be able to tell men what beauty and what glory there is in Jesus.”
This is exactly what happened on the Day of Pentecost. The disciples had seen Jesus ascend into heaven just ten days before. They were contemplating Him in His glorified state. Peter said that the outpouring of glory on that Pentecostal morning was the result of Jesus being exalted to the right hand of God. When we see Jesus exalted to the right hand of the Father and glorify Him; we too will be swept away by that Pentecostal blessing.

LOSING JESUS ON THE JOURNEY

I sought him, but I found him not.
Song of Solomon 3:1
One of the strangest stories in the Bible was the one where Mary and Joseph somehow left their twelve year old son, Jesus, in Jerusalem as they headed back to Nazareth. What were they thinking? It took them three days to find Him. Can you imagine what they were thinking? I wonder if they were thinking up a story to explain to the Father how they had lost His Son? This funny story speaks to all of us about our spiritual journey. Mary and Joseph had lost Jesus while actually on a religious pilgrimage. We too can lose Jesus in all our religious endeavors. Hopefully we will have enough sense, like Mary and Joseph, to go back where we lost Him. Have you lost the sense of His nearness? If so, what could have caused this loss of His nearness? Charles Spurgeon shares some insights on this truth from Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”.
“Tell me where you lost the company of Christ, and I will tell you the most likely place to find him. Have you lost Christ in the closet by restraining prayer? Then it is there you must seek and find him. Did you lose Christ by sin? You will find Christ in no other way but by the giving up of the sin, and by the Holy Spirit to mortify the member in which the lust doth dwell. Did you lose Christ by neglecting the Scriptures? You must find Christ in the Scriptures. It is a true proverb, Look for a thing where you dropped it, it is there. So look for Christ where you lost him, for he has not gone away.”
This thought from Spurgeon can be quite helpful though powerfully convicting. Could it be that compromise or sinful behavior has caused you to lose your sense of the Lord’s presence? Maybe you have been neglecting time with God in His word. It’s easy to lose your way when you are not reading the scriptures. Or possibly its in lack of prayer. Not spending time seeking His presence in prayer can easily cause you to lose your way. So what shall we do? We should follow the lead of Mary and Joseph. They last saw Him in Jerusalem so to Jerusalem they went. Where do you last remember seeing Jesus? Better get started back, time is wasting away.