Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. - Gen 6:9
Abram believed YHWH and he credited it to him as righteousness. - Gen 15:6
A non-Christian celebrity recently challenged her Christian mother to a contest to see who is the better person. The celebrity sought to show that she could be a better Christian while not subscribing to the religion.
Could the celebrity win? Of course she could and maybe she did - because the game was rigged to appear to be about Christianity but, in reality, to have nothing to do with it at all.
If Christianity is about following the rules and being a good person then we are all surely lost and Christianity is nothing special. The Good News is that Christianity is about acknowledging that we are in need of a Savior and accepting the rescue that Jesus offers. As we saw when LI Adult and Teen Challenge visited, it is Jesus' purpose and heart's desire to rescue and save those who have hit rock bottom. He does not wait for us to clean up our lives; He cleans up our lives. It is not about being a good person; it is about knowing that we have the propensity to mess up and need the forgiveness and the rescue of an all-loving God.
Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven... There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken... When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” - Luke 21:10-11, 25-26, 28
When it seems as if things simply could not get any worse, take heart and look up with optimism because that means that God is about to do something wonderful! He will save you from whatever tribulation in which you find yourself
Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
- Luke 23::32, 39-43
The thief who turns to Jesus for help received more than he could imagine. His theology was far from complete and he had not even had a chance to stop stealing and living a clean life. However, he did not seek to justify or excuse himself but simply turned to Jesus for help - and the help he requested was neither for the immediate nor for the temporary. One would expect that a person in that situation would have only one thing on his mind: get me down from this cross; save my life. But this man saw beyond that and asked simply that he be remembered in the next life. And for that simple reliance on Jesus as his Savior, the thief was that day welcomed into eternal life with Jesus.
Reliance on Jesus with its implicit belief that He can save: that’s everything!
In a passage of Scripture which is speaking of believers and of Jesus, we read:
They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. - Rev 22:4b-5
Happy is this final day of the Festival of Tabernacles!
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance… I know your afflictions and your poverty… - chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation
I can know that my friend is suffering some loss but I cannot know his experience unless I have gone through the same thing myself. In the Greek, the original language of the New Testament, there are two kinds of knowledge: There is ginosko, which speaks of a head knowledge and eido, which relates a deeper, internal, experiential knowledge. In chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, Jesus again and again tells us that he experientially knows (eido) what we are going through. He experientially knows because He is right there, going through it with is. His is never simply a head knowledge of our situation; instead, Jesus laughs when we laugh and cries when we cry because He lives in us and is with always.
Happy is this sixth day of the Festival of Tabernacles!
If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for cannot disown himself. - 2 Timothy 2:13
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy - Jude 24
Both of today’s Scripture verses speak to the fact that, while all of us will stumble and fall short of the mark, God will never do either. He is always faithful, even when we are not and He is always there to catch us and keep us from falling when we stumble. We do not have to rely on our faithfulness but we can count on His.
Happy is this fifth day of the Festival of Tabernacles
That day when evening came, he [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” - Mark 4:35-38
When we are in the middle of a storm, we may tend to forget that Jesus is always in the boat with us. But if He’s in the same boat, can our boat ever sink?
Happy is this fourth day of the Festival of Tabernacles!
The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. - Acts 17:24
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. - John 14:23
In the first verse today we are told where God does not live. In the second verse, we get to see where He does live: in us!
Happy is this third day of the Festival of Tabernacles!
"YHWH himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” - Deut 31:8
To tabernacle with someone is to dwell intimately and permanently together. When my friend comes to dinner, I would not say that he is dwelling with me. Even if my in-laws come from out of state for a visit for a few days, I do not consider them to be living with us.
How different it is with Jesus! When He says He will tabernacle with us, He means being with us 24/7, through thick and thin, for all eternity. He will never leave us alone not will He ever abandon us in our times of despair, weakness and even sin. He is no house guest; Jesus’ permanent address is with us and ours is with Him.
Happy is this second day of the Festival of Tabernacles!
“The virgin shall be with child and will give birth to a son,and will call him Immanuel” - which means “God with us.” - Matt 7:14 quoting Isaiah 7:14
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. - Rev 21:3
To put the first prophecy in slightly different words, Immanuel means that God dwells with us or that he tabernacles with us. By becoming a baby that grew into a man, God physically dwelt with us here on Earth. But there is more to His name: by dying for us on the Cross, Jesus opened the door to heaven for each of us who accepts his atonement. Because of that, we can look forward to an eternity of God actually dwelling with us and us with Him. Tabernacles!
(Side note: In the Bible, names are not simply labels; names indicate a person’s character, who they really are. In this case, the child conceived by the Holy Spirit and born to Mary was given the name Yeshua (Jesus), which means “YHWH saves” which is no way contradicts the prophecy that he would be Immanuel, “God with us.” Both describe who He is.)
Check this space tomorrow as we celebrate each day of the Festival of Tabernacles!
YHWH said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month YHWH’s Festival of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days. - Lev 23:33-34
Tonight at sundown begins the Biblical celebration of Tabernacles, the only holiday to be mentioned as continuing to be celebrated after Jesus’ return (Zech 14:16). For the next seven days in this spot, we will be thinking of the various meanings of this very important holiday. Until tomorrow, think of why God gave us these holidays - Passover, First Fruits, Pentecost, Yom Teruah, Yom Kippur and Tabernacles. They are not given to us for God’s benefit or simply so that we have time off from work. Each is a gift and reveals to us another aspect of God’s character and of His plan for us. In this space, we have already looked briefly at Yom Teruah (see devotional for 9.06.2021) and Yom Kippur (9.15.2021) and how those holidays speak of our relationship with Christ and the future. Join us here each day for the next week to consider the gift of Tabernacles. (Hint: a tabernacle is a dwelling.)
Hallelujah! For the Lord God Almighty reigns. - Rev 19:4
God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers… has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever…” - Ex 3:15
The word Hallelujah (or Alleluia) comes originally from two Hebrew words: Hallel, meaning praise, and Yah, the shortened form of God’s name, YHWH, or Yahweh. So, when we say Hallelujah!, we are really saying, “I praise you, Yahweh!”
How wonderful it is that God, the Creator and Maintainer of the whole Universe, has let us know His name and desires to be called by that name. He is not distant that we should call Him by the generic title of ‘God’, nor does He wish to remain only in a position of authority and have us call Him ‘Lord’. Instead, He wants us to sit on his lap and, because of our intimate relationship, be free to call Him by His actual name, Yahweh.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. - Gen 1:1Most people would be able to quickly identify a Picasso, a Salvador Dali or even maybe a Renoir. Why? Because each of these artists has a distinctive style and all of their works carries that signature. In the same way, my young daughter could easily distinguish between the music of the early Beatles and groups such as Herman’s Hermits and the Monkees.
Scientists agree that all living things on Earth share strong similarities with each other. Humans, for example, have much in common with various primates but also share genetic markers with other, less outwardly similar life forms. That much we know.
On the other hand, there are different opinions as to why all life has the same signature. One possibility that can be deduced from the data is that, just as the distinctive paintings of Van Gogh or the unique voice of Bob Dylan have attributes that identify the artist, all life on earth shares a common Creator, whose handiwork is unmistakable. This, of course, is also what the Bible teaches us.
When these things [great tribulations] begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. - Luke 21:28
This verse is an encouragement to those experiencing events just prior to the return of Jesus. However, it is also an encouragement to each of us in our daily struggles. When things are bad, we can lift up our heads in the joyful expectation that God will soon deliver us. We have a God who fights for us (e.g. Ex 14:14). Sometimes this means that God asks us to be patient (Rev 13:11 and 14:12) but we need never doubt that God sees all that is happening, cares deeply and is bringing us a deliverance and salvation that will make all that we are currently enduring seem like “light and momentary troubles” (2 Cor 4:17).
Lift up your heads: your deliverance is coming soon!
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit… will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. - John 14:26
We are truly blessed that the Holy Spirit is our Teacher and is faithful to remind us of what we have been taught but which we may have forgotten. But let’s make sure that we at least enter the classroom so that we may be taught. Let us at least hear so that there are things of which we can be reminded.
Today, give the Holy Spirit a chance to teach you. Pick up your Bible and read at least one small part. (If you don’t know where to start or how to do that, reach out to your pastor or leave a comment here.) Give God time to talk to you. Maybe that means going for a walk by yourself, mowing the lawn or sitting quietly by yourself. There are millions of ways that God can talk to you and millions of venues for that conversation but today, set aside some time to make that conversation easier and more clear.
Tonight at sundown the Biblical holy day of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) begins (Lev 13:26-32). Atonement, or the act of atoning, means to make amends for one’s mistakes and failures. To atone is to make reparation for one’s sins.
But which of us is able to truly make up for all the times we have missed the mark and messed up, whether by thought or deed, whether by action or a failure to act? Even with a lifetime of good deeds we can never hope to erase the consequences of the times we knowingly or even unwittingly failed to do what is right.
God Himself promised to atone for our sins (e.g. see Eze 16:63). He did this by becoming human in the person of Jesus and suffering the consequences of our sins in our place by being executed on a cross. God was able to take on our punishment because He had no sin of His own for which atonement was needed.
Tonight, as we begin the celebration of Yom Kippur, if you have agreed to let Jesus atone for your sins, you can sleep peacefully, secure in the knowledge that there is no arrest warrant with your name on it, no sentencing that awaits you, no dread calling to account for all your mistakes. Jesus has made complete reparation for all that you and I have ever done or will ever do that is outside the perfect will of God. Be at peace for your sins have been atoned for and you have been forgiven.
Now I know in part, then I shall know fully… - 1 Cor 13:12Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, please open his eyes so he may see.” So the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. - 2 Kings 6:17
The Bible tells us that what we see, touch, taste, hear and smell is not nearly as real or even as permanent as the reality of the spiritual world. In the film, The Matrix, the character Morpheus puts it like this: “If real is what you can feel, smell, taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”
The true - and lasting - reality can only be seen with spiritual eyes and is far more real than the device on which you are reading this or the table at which you eat your meals. For example, each time Jesus saw a person who the people knew was dead, Jesus knew that he or she was merely sleeping and in need of being awakened.
Let us pray as Elisha did that our eyes and the eyes of those around us would be opened and we would see things as they truly are, not as our senses tell us.
When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say. - Luke 12:11-12
When my daughter was in first grade, she worried that she would not be able to handle college. The very thought of all that would be required of her at that time was overwhelming to her. I was able to explain to her that this was why she was not going to college at the age of six and that, over the next twelve years, she would grow, learn and mature to the point where should be ready for college at exactly the right time.
It is the same with each of us. If you are anxious about the possibility of living through some future event that has been prophesied in the Bible, don't be. If you feel you're not ready for what will happen, that's because that future is not yet here. God is growing and maturing each of us and you will be ready for whatever God has in store for us at exactly the right time.
David said to Abigail, “Praise be the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgement and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands.” - 1 Sam 25:32
The Old Testament has a number of people who, at least in a part of their lives, are an example of Jesus. Abigail, who encounters David in 1 Sam 25, is one of these. David, having been wronged, has sworn to take vengeance on his enemies and is about to carry through with this grave sin. Abigail hears of David’s intention and quickly goes to meet him, places herself in his path, reminds David of God’s goodness and begs him not to continue on his present course. In doing so, Abigail does the very thing that Jesus does for each of us when we are about to sin: Jesus throws himself across our path, reminding us that our intended action is not Godly and offering us another way. We can, of course, choose to step over Jesus and continue in our folly. How much better to be like David and recognize the provision of our Lord and Savior who, as Abigail did for David, seeks to be an obstacle in our headlong pursuit of sin.
When Jesus saw Lazarus' tomb...
Jesus wept. - John 11:35
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted - Psalm 34:18
Where was God on 9/11? He was right there, weeping.
It was never God’s plan that anyone would die. Death entered into all of creation through mankind’s sin but the good news is that Jesus paid the penalty for that sin so that one day soon...
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. - Rev 21:4
Cast all your anxiety on him [God] because he cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:7
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own - Matt 6:34
We all tend to worry about things outside of our control and about things that haven’t happened but which we are certain probably will. That’s the fallen human condition. But there comes a point when it’s just too much for our brains and hearts to handle and we have a choice: sink into despair or hand it all over to God.
If that’s where you’re at, praise God who uses the troubles of the world to bring us closer to Him. Let the overwhelming troubles of this world cause you to give up your worries and realize the Good News: that you are not in control; God is!
Have you ever had someone tell you that should "just" stop eating too much or "just" stop that destructive habit or "just" straighten out your life?
Jesus never asks us to "just" do anything.
He knows how difficult it can be (see Heb 4:15).
He provides whatever we need to do what He asks (e.g. avoid sin - see 1 Cor 10:13).
If we can't do it, He'll do it for us (see Rom 5:8 and Rev 5:1).
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. - Rom 8:28
Have you ever looked at the stars at night and been particular moved or blessed by what you saw? Do you know that God put that light in motion millions of years ago so that it would arrive at the right moment at your eyes and your heart would be touched? He had you in mind when He created the universe, He had you in mind when the Vikings came to America and He has you in mind today as events unfold from which you may not see the impact for years. But it's all good because He has you at the very center of His thoughts as all of history unfolds.
Why do we pray? What’s the point? God knows everything, including what we’re going to ask for (Matt 6:8). In addition, God has His plans and yet we are to pray that those plans are fulfilled (e.g. Dan 9:2-3, Matt 6:10 and 1 Cor 16:22). So why pray?
Because the God of the universe wishes us to be co-laborers with Him. He who ordered the heavens does nothing without letting us know His plans (Amos 3:7) and seeking our involvement. Furthermore, although we are made in His image, we are neither carbon copies nor are we mere servants. God gave us creativity and minds of our own and He is very interested in hearing our thoughts, seeing our creativity, and sharing in our plans. It is a big part of having a relationship with Him. Share your heart with Jesus today and let Him share His with you.
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven...with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. - 1 Thess 4:16
Tonight at sundown marks the beginning of the Biblical feast (holy day) of Yom Teruah, or Day of Trumpets. (Modern-day Jews celebrate this as Rosh Hashanah (New Year) for reasons we do not have the space to explain here.) Jesus has promised to return with the trumpet call of God, something that this Feast, instituted in the Old Testament, pointed to prophetically (Lev 23:23-25). We can hope and pray that this year will see the return of our Savior, God, Lord, King and Friend.
Come, Lord Jesus!
I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quite lives in all godliness and holiness. - 1 Tim 2:1
God has placed over us political leaders. Regardless of your political leanings, pray that God would guide our leaders, fill them with His Spirit and bring each of them to a saving knowledge of Him. Even if you do not agree with the leader's policies, rest in the assurance that
The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. - Prov 21:1
I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. - 1 Cor 9:22
Although Paul was talking about himself, as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write this, he was also speaking the heart of Jesus.
Do you often feel misunderstood and that even your best intentions are not appreciated? Jesus experienced the same.
Do you find that family members and others you love the most aren't interested in spending time with you? That describes Jesus' life to a tee.
Do people flat-out lie about what you've done and said? Ditto for Jesus.
Do you ever feel like you're not accomplishing your goals and mission in life? Jesus cried out, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
Jesus doesn't just know about what you're going through, He knows what it's like for you because He's been there. You are not alone. Jesus walks with you and shares your pain and will soon restore all things.
...and the wife must respect her husband. - Eph 5:33b
This statement is found at the end of a set of instructions for husbands and wives (vv. 21-33). However, we are also told that human marriage has strong parallels to the Christ and His Church. Indeed, we believers are referred to as the bride of Christ. As a result, we can and should look to the Christ/Church relationship to guide our relationship with our spouse.
But what about the reverse? If today's verse says that wives should respect their husbands and we are the bride of Christ, shouldn't we therefore be respecting Jesus?
Is there some area in which you feel that the Bible has gone off the rails, an instruction that you feel God must have meant for another time and place, a set of guidelines that God could not have really meant for you or the church today? If so, let's stop judging God and show Him the respect that says I may not always understand you, Lord, and may not always agree, but you are my Lord and my God and I trust that you always have my best in mind and are never wrong.
A man went to the doctor because he was having difficulty hearing his wife and children. Turns out the man lived right next to the elevated subway in Queens and left his windows open all the time. The doctor suggested that the man close the windows but the man declined, worried that he might miss something important happening outside.
Are you having trouble hearing God? Are the daily calamities a constant distraction? If so, perhaps the window through which the noise enters could be shut. It is unlikely that the daily news of the world is something you truly need to know about, much less is it anything you can change.
Have you ever wondered if your sin is forgiven if you don’t even know that you’ve committed it? If you don’t even know it’s a sin?
Leviticus 5:17-19 makes it clear that Jesus paid the consequence for our unknown sins just as much as He did for our known sins. In other words, He did it all!
(The Old Testament is a great resource for understanding all the ramifications of the New.)