Friday, February 24, 2006

The Redeemed

“‘I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.’ Sing for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done this; shout aloud, O earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.” Isaiah 44:22-23

This passage describes the Lord’s heart for the nation of Israel and for each of us. Even though the Israelites forsook their Heavenly Father and began to worship other gods, he was willing to forgive them, sweep away their sins, and take them back. For us, he is willing to adopt us as his sons and daughters despite our natural sinfulness and our repeated patterns of sinning against him. This is absolutely amazing!

Look up at the sky and watch a cloud pass by – there for a time, but quickly passing by. Consider the morning mist – present for a short time, but then burns off. God treats our sin in a similar way. Our sin is present and he completely and justly hates it, but due to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, he sweeps it away.

God pours out his wrath on his Son instead of us, the guilty. He is holy and must punish wrong doing, and he loves us, providing the solution for our sins. He sweeps away our offenses and our sins, and he redeems us for himself. He brings us into his family and gives us the righteousness of Christ.

This is glorious news! We should shout aloud and burst into joyous song for the Lord has redeemed us. He has swept away our sins and saved us. This is an amazing display of his glory, power, and love.

Stand amazed today at your loving Heavenly Father and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Forget God???

God miraculously rescues the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, he faithfully provides for them for 40 years of wandering in the desert, he stops up the Jordan River to allow them to cross into the Promise Land, and he helps them defeat the Canaanites as they take possession of the land. God’s chosen people with their faithful God protecting and providing for them at ever turn. Yet Judges 2:10 describes the shocking news of the next generation of Israelites, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.”

How can this be? How can the faithfulness of God be forgotten? How can the nation God has chosen neither know him nor what he has done for them?

Scripture doesn’t describe the process, but if the nation of Israel is like us, we can imagine how this might happen:

1. Maybe they were distracted by what the good they found in the Promised Land, focusing more on the gifts of the land instead of the Giver.

2. Maybe they became enchanted with the idols of the Canaanites and began to worship them instead of the only true God.

3. Maybe they failed to tell their children about the goodness and faithfulness of God.

Let’s make sure that we rejoice in our Lord and let everyone around us know of our love for him. Let’s make sure that no one is ever surprised to find out that we are Christians. And let’s commit to educate our children in all that the Lord has done for us and Christians throughout the ages, inspiring our children to know and love him as their personal Savior.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Our Words Matter

In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul lays out what a Christian should believe – the essential truths of the Christian faith. Then he transitions to how a Christian should live.

In 4:29 he pauses to provide extremely helpful guidance for how a Christian should speak. He states, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

First, a Christian should be marked by what he doesn’t say. The term used for “unwholesome” literally means “rottenness” and “giving off rottenness.” These are words that have a destructive effect on those around us – gossip, slander, malice. Theses should not be on our lips.

Second, a Christian should say words that are helpful for building others up and benefit those who hear. Christianity isn’t demonstrated just by avoiding evil; we must also pursue good. With our mouths, we need to encourage, be thankful, communicate gratefulness, and help those who are down. Our words are to be a blessing to others and meet the needs of those around us.

Notice Paul focuses on the effect our words have on others. We live in a community and function in various groups – our family, our classmates, our friends. Our words can make our social circles stronger or weaker. A genuine Christian should aim to build up others and avoid tearing them down.

How do you talk to your parents and siblings? How do you talk with your closest friends? Evaluate yourself with the standards of Scripture laid out in Ephesians 4:29, and seek develop a personal, biblical conviction regarding your words.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Promise for the Weary

Are you wiped out physically, emotionally, or spiritually? Than Isaiah 40:29-31 is a prescription and a promise for you, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

We have a God who is in the business of giving strength to the weary and power to the weak. He knows our condition, understands our deficiencies, and comprehends our needs. Plus, he is capable of renewing us with physical strength, renewed focus, grace for the new day, and a fresh passion for living for him.

Everyone becomes tired and weary. Young and old wear out physically, get to the end of their emotional strength, and go through spiritually dry seasons. We shouldn’t be surprised when this happens to us. It should remind us that we are human and have limitations. We each need rest, sleep, and renewal. This shouldn’t surprise us, but it should humble us.

What do we do? What is God’s prescription? It is to hope in him. We many have limitations, but God does not. We may grow weary, but God does not. We may stumble and fall, but God does not. We may be overwhelmed by our circumstances, but God is not. And when we realize how strong, stable, and firm our God is, we will learn to trust him and hope in him all the more.

The result will be a renewal of our strength. We will still have our limitations, but there will be new grace for the new day head. We will be equipped to run again, to walk again. Trusting in God, we will be ready to face the challenges of every day life.

Lord, help us to hope in you.