The Second Advent, Part 2

 

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:11-14 (NIV)

Expectancy influences preparation. One’s expectancy allows them to anticipate and plan for events that could potentially impact their life. We rise early to watch the morning traffic report and weather forecast for the day. Why? Because we want to be prepared–no surprises! If it’s true that expectancy influences our preparation, how are we to prepare for the certain return of Christ?

We are to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions. The 1990 War on Drugs commercial instructed young people to, “Just say no!” We are to be of the same mindset as we resist the pull of this present age. Christ has redeemed us from ALL iniquity. He has paid the price for our “freedom from sin and death”, a price that no one on earth could ever pay (Heb. 2:14-15).

We are to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives. Christ has left us His presence and power to assist us in living a holy life. The Holy Spirit enables us to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4) Reading His Word and prayer daily transforms us into the image of Christ (Rom. 12:2). “He who began a good work in us, is able to perform it (keep us holy) until the day of Jesus Christ (His second return)” (Phil. 1:6).

We are to wait for the blessed hope. As we wait for His return, we are to be working. God desires that we be zealous, “eager to do good.” Uncertainty surrounding the future is the perfect backdrop for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. “The fields are already white for harvest.” (John 4:35)

Expectancy influences preparation.  Christ is coming again. He will first return for His Church at a time called the Rapture and take us back to heaven to be with Him (1Thess. 4:13-18).  Nonbelievers, however, will be “left behind” to enter a seven-year period of trouble and desolation known as The Great Tribulation.  At the end of the Tribulation, Christ will return to the earth to judge mankind for their unbelief and their sins (Rev. 20: 11-15).

Expectancy influences preparation. By anticipating future events, we can make adequate plans for events that could potentially impact our life. Christ’s return is a certainty. With His Second Coming the world, as we know it today, will change forever. That being the case, should we not give even more attention to prepare for His return? By accepting Christ as Lord and Savior TODAY, believers have made adequate preparation for Christ’s return TOMORROW because “God has not appointed us to wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 5:9).

The Second Advent, Part 1

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mat 24:36 NIV)

Retailers kicked off Christmas 2019 in October. They hope this will improve their chances to rebound from loses they experienced in the first half of the year. Parents utilize layaways and presales to fill Christmas gift requests without “breaking the bank.” Recipes are being exchanged and updated as families prepare for special meals with friends and families.

Christmas pageants and carols are being practiced until perfection is accomplished. All this and more is being done in preparation for Christmas—the celebrated arrival of Emmanuel, the Messiah, The Christ Child.  However, I have this one question: “How are we preparing for the Second Advent—the Second Coming of Christ?”

The first arrival of Christ was foretold by many of the Old Testament prophets. We read many of these prophecies during Advent programs and church services; the most frequently cited are found in the Book of Isaiah.

  • (Isa 7:14 NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
  • (Isa 9:6 NIV) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
  • (Isa 11:1 NIV) A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
  • (Isa 28:16 NIV) So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.

Luke chronicles two believers who faithfully and enthusiastically anticipated the first coming of Christ. Simeon awaited the “Consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25-32).  Anna, an eighty-four (84) year old widow “did not depart from the temple and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 236-38). That’s anticipation!

Jesus spoke of the certainty of His Second Coming (Matt. 24:27-31; Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28).   Although He was pressed by His disciples to give the “day and hour” (Matt. 24:36), Jesus instead emphasized faithfulness, watchfulness, stewardship, expectancy, and preparation. As He ascended to heaven, the angels foretold the disciples that “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven (Acts 1: 11). That certainty!

While Christ’s first arrival marked the offering of salvation and deliverance to all mankind, His Second Coming will be ”very different” (Read Revelations 19:11-16).   The child in the Christmas manger will return as the “righteous judge” (2Tim. 4:8).

It is important that we fully embrace the reality of Christ’s Second Coming. It is equally important that we prepare for it!  For nonbelievers, the reality of Christ’s return is an invitation to repent and turn to Him TODAY. For believers, it reinforces the need to share the Good News of Jesus Christ EVERYDAY to EVERYONE God places in our path. Are you prepared for His Second Coming?

Prayers of Invocation

“Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.”

1 Chronicles 16:11 (KJV)

For my 2019 Advent reading I added several books that focused on worship litanies and prayers. I have especially enjoyed reading prayers of invocation. Prayers of invocation are designed to invite the Presence of God into the time and space we’ve designated for worship. Advent, the beginning of the new Christian year, is a great time to incorporate this type of prayer into our personal spiritual discipline. Why you might ask?

Prayers of invocation cause us to give pause during the busyness of our life and refocus on God. We often forget our true purpose and eternal destiny. As children of God and joint heirs with Christ, we are to no longer live for ourselves but to live for the glory of God and service to mankind (2 Cor. 5:15). Prayers of invocation remind us of the sovereignty of God.

“Lord, into your most holy presence we now come. Calm our anxious spirits. Remove the distractions that would keep us from you here today. Break down the walls of separation that we have built to keep you from our hardened hearts. Lead us in joy and celebration of the only reality worth knowing, that you love us as we are. Free us for joyful obedience to your claim and call on our lives this day and every day.  Amen.”

Prayers of invocation open us to the work of the Spirit and help us to realize the power of God’s love. As we pray in “spirit and truth”, we invite the Holy Spirit to enter those “secret places in our heart and in our mind”—the places where the transforming work of sanctification can begin. As the Holy Spirit works within us, we are set free from the bondage of sin, healed of our brokenness, and conformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).

“Let us rise and meet our Creator. Let us raise our hands and voices in acknowledgment that God’s Holy Spirit moves among us, calling us to new life in Christ. Let us raise our eyes, knowing that this new life of stewardship for all God’s creation is seen in the life of Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.”

Lastly, prayers of invocation reveal our prideful and independent nature. When this happens we relegate God to a subordinate place on our lives. We deny the truth that God is the “Great I AM.” God is and will continue to be whatever we need to navigate in this life. Our Eternal Father is and has all we need for this present life and the life to come (Rev. 1:8).

“Lord, we come before your throne of grace not trusting in ourselves but in your marvelous and gracious love as it seeks expression among us. May we listen for your still, small voice as it speaks to us today and as it boldly proclaims the undeniable reality of your love that will not let us go. Stir our hearts and our imaginations that we may see beyond appearances of what is to the reality of what can be. In the name and spirit of the holy child, Jesus our Lord, we pray.  Amen.”

In 2020, add prayers of invocation to your prayer discipline. Invite God into your time and space in this new way. Your prayer life will be greatly expanded when you do.

Prayers from Advent and Christmas, David N. Mosser

Psalms for Thanksgiving

Oh give thanks unto the LORD.”  Psalm 105:1 (NKJ)

Tomorrow we will celebrate Thanksgiving—again.  As we prepare to join with friends and family during this time of gratitude and appreciation, my question to you is “what are you thankful for this year?”  For my answer, the Holy Spirit guided me to the Psalms.  The Psalms are recognized for their ability to capture the feelings and emotions of people “doing life”.  With that in mind, I’d like to share three psalms, Psalms 105-107, in gratitude for Thanksgiving 2019.

The opening lines of Psalms 105-107, “Oh give thanks to the LORD,” links together this trilogy of songs which praise God for His goodness and mercy to Israel.  Psalm 105 and 106, possibly originated by command of David to Asaph on the occasion when the ark of the covenant was first brought to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:12-19); Psalm 107 most likely were written during the post-Exilic period, that timeframe after the seventy-year period of Babylonian captivity.  As I read these psalms today, it is evident that their strength and intensity lie in their ability to present events of the past clearly and unabridged.  By communicating them to future generations, the nation of Israel would make sure that they would never forget what God had done for them and would result in unending praise to Him.

Psalm 105 remembered and praised God for His eternal faithfulness. “He remembers His covenant forever, The Word which He commanded, for a thousand generations” (Psalm 105:8).  Israel’s covenant relationship with God gave them “favor” as the seed of Abraham and children of Jacob.  That covenant guaranteed God would both protect and provide for His own people.  It began in time past and is still promised to the nation of Israel in the 21st century.  God is “not a man that He should lie…as He spoken it, He will make it good” (Num. 23:19).  God’s faithfulness is extended to believers today through Jesus Christ, the Mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15).  He will do everything He promised and more (Ep. 3:20).

Psalm 106 remembered and praised God for His certain forgiveness.  “We have sinned…committed iniquity…done wickedly.  Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake…” (Psalm 106:6-8)   Israel’s history is replete with accounts of their disobedience and turning away from Jehovah God.  Sometimes it took the form of idolatry; other times it was willful wickedness and rebellion.  Wherever they found themselves, the nation of Israel quickly forgot God and adopted the sinful patterns of their neighbors

(v. 13).  But God always extended mercy to them.  Believers today are blessed that we can ask God for forgiveness of our sins and He will faithfully and instantaneously forgive (1 John 1:9).  There is no need for the blood of bulls and goals or heifers (Hebrews 9:13-14).  Jesus paid it all that we might freely receive forgiveness.

Psalm 107 remembered and praised God for His great works of deliverance. “Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy…and He delivered them out of their distresses.  And He led them forth by the right way…” (Psalm 107:2-7).  In God’s faithfulness and because of His forgiveness, He would continually show Himself strong on behalf of His people (2 Chronicles 16:9).  His works of deliverance would save them from their enemies (vv. 1-3), their sinful consequences (vv. 4-22) and the other storms in their national life (vv. 23-29).  And with that deliverance, came unmerited blessings—“wildernesses would be turned to pools of water and dry land into watersprings.”  Today, God continues to be our strength and very present help in time of trouble (Ps. 46:1).  He has delivered us, does deliver us, and we trust will still deliver us” (2 Cor. 1:10).

This Thanksgiving create your own psalm in honor of God’s love and provision.  Know that He loves you with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3).  Sing praise to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who demonstrated His love for us.  Even while we were in sin, He died for us that we might have everlasting life (Rom. 5:8).    Praise the Lord and give thanks!

Return to Joy

Delight yourselves in the Lord, yes, find your joy in him at all times.  Phil. 4:4 (Phillips Translation)

We began this series, “In and Out of Season:  A Call to Return” with admonitions from the Old Testament prophets Isaiah and Hosea to “Return to Repentance” and “Return to Faithfulness”.  Both teachings acknowledged our “bentness to sin” and our responsibility as individuals, the Church, and a nation to repent and come back to God.  We learned in “Return to Your First Love” that God’s love for us never changes in spite of our shortfalls and failures.  It is up to us to move back into loving relationship with Him.   This week, we close our series with an invitation to “Return to Joy.”

What is Joy?

Joy is defined as gladness of heart and is listed among the top five things[1] people desperately want in life yet “never seem to be able to get”.  Joy’s illusiveness, in many cases, is the result of people’s tendency to define joy as external to themselves—a person, place, or thing.  This conviction holds to the belief that joy is only possible when certain outcomes are achieved and is generally expressed in phrases like:  “I’ll have joy when…” or “The only thing that will make me happy is…”

Joy under Attack

As we survey the world we live it, gladness of heart is under attack.  Our attempts to navigate 21st century living seem more daunting and challenging with each new day.  Financial worries served as a significant source of stress ranking higher than three other major sources of stress: work, family responsibilities, and health concerns.  So how can we find joy?   The Apostle Paul shares the secret of not only how to find joy but also how to return to it in spite of the pressures we might face.  Paul invites the Philippians (and us) to “delight in the Lord…find you joy in Him at all times.”

Source of Joy

Paul exhorts the Church at Philippi to holy joy and delight in God.  Paul reminds the Philippian believers of their duty and privilege to rejoice in God—at all times and in all conditions—even when they suffered and were afflicted for God.

We too must not think the worst of God during our hardships or difficulties.  There is enough in God to furnish us with joy even in the worst of circumstances.  David prayed to God that He would not take His Spirit away and acknowledged that “in God’s presence is fullness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).  Jesus prepared His Disciples for the Great Commission by teaching them how “to live in The Vine”—in Jesus’ holy presence (John 15:5-11).  Jesus shared this with His Disciples so that “His joy would remain in them and be full”— complete or perfect in every way. (v. 11)

Returning to Joy

It is God’s desire that we return to joy regardless of life’s circumstances or difficulties.  Jesus describes these as “tribulations” (John 16:33).  Tribulations and trials are “natural outcomes” believers suffer as a result of living in a fallen world.

Returning to joy strengthens our resolve and helps us to continue with the purpose God has set before us (Nehemiah 8:10).  Such strength can only come from Eternal God Who sustains us through the worst of circumstances.   When we come into the presence of the Lord, we connect with His great and eternal power that exceeds anything we can do in our own strength (Phil.  4:13).

We as believers are invited to claim the power and victory that come from serving God who is sovereign and who has overcome the world (Ps. 119:89-91).  Isn’t it time for you to return to joy?

Also Read, “A Closet Full of Joy, Part 1”

[1]  Top 5 include:   Happiness, Money, Freedom, Peace, Joy

 

Return to Your First Love

 

Nevertheless I have this against you,

that you have left your first love.

Revelation 2:4 (NKJV)

The late Bishop Gilbert E. Patterson shared the story of a couple that had been married for “quite a few years”.  As they drove down the street, the wife complained, “You don’t love me like you use to!  We use to cuddle under each other so close that you couldn’t tell where one person began and the other ended.  And look at us now!  You’re sitting way over there and I’m sitting over here by the door. The husband gently turned to his wife and explained, “This car is designed one way with the driver located on the left side of the car.  So, who moved?”

Are you feeling distant and estranged from God?  Are your prayers routine and repetitive?  Is your praise and worship predictable and puny?  When you read the Bible, do you have difficulty hearing God’s voice?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it’s time for you to examine yourself (2 Cor. 13:5) and see what is hindering your personal relationship with the Lord.  God never changes (Malachi 3:6) nor has God moved.  Maybe it’s time to return to your first love.

The church at Ephesus had persevered and endured hardship for the Lord.  This was a critical part of the early church’s responsibility to insure a clear and true presentation of the gospel (Ep. 4:1-2).  In general this church had continued in its faithful service to God for more than 40 years.   While all these “efforts” were important in the development of the early church (as it is now), there was something that was noticeably absent.  They had left their first love.

Jesus lays a charge of carelessness in cultivating their relationship with the Him.   In the literal translation of today’s text, the order of the words in Greek emphatically denote the strong rebuke directed to the church. “Your first love you have left!”  This second-generation of believers, had retained purity of doctrine but were lacking in deep devotion to Christ.

As believers, we must ask ourselves if we too are careless in cultivating our relationship with the Lord.     Remember the first time you professed your love for Jesus Christ?  With that experience came excitement and anticipation.  Are we now guilty of taking our eyes off the Lord?  Are we more concerned with our personal agendas than practicing the presence of the Holy Spirit?  Have we left our first love?

And what can we say about the Church, Christ’s bride (Rev. 19:7-9)?  The Church needs to heed the same warning given to the Ephesian church.  Orthodoxy and service is not enough.  Christ wants hearts as well as our hands and heads (Matt. 22:37).

If you feel you have left Jesus, your First Love, here are some strategies to help you return to His side (1 John 1:3).

Recommit yourself to Him.   Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Rom. 6:16)  Repent and return to Him.  Nothing you can do will ever separate you from God’s love (Rom. 8:39) and He stands faithful to forgive you (1 John 1: 9).  Recommitment involves renewing your loyalty to Christ and His lordship over your life.  This includes directing your time, talents, and treasures to the service of the Lord.

Renew your love for Him.  I will love You, O LORD, my strength (Psalm 18:1).  Tell the Lord how much you love Him.  Although He is all-knowing, He still wants to hear you tell Him how much you love Him.    Let Him know you desire Him with all your heart and soul (Ps. 42:1-2).  Show your love for Him through your praise and worship.  You are never closer to Him than when you “love on Him” (Ps. 22:3).

Reprioritize your life around Him.   Christ set the standard for priority when He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt.  6: 33).  However, to make God the center of your life is counterculture.  Everything in modern society encourages and rewards people who place themselves “at the head of the line”.  But when we place Christ first in our life, we are assured that we have chosen the “Good Part” (Luke 10:42).

During your quiet time, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal if you have left your first love. He will not condemn you (Romans 8:1) but gently redirect you to Jesus’ arms.

Return to Faithfulness

 

My people are bent on backsliding from Me. Though they call to the Most High, None at all exalt Him. Hosea 11:7 (NKJ)

As a child, I remember our worship services especially the ones with sermons that warned our congregation of the dangers of “backsliding”.  After the minister’s fiery discourse, a few members, would approach the “welcoming” altar, many times weeping and repentant.

The word backslide, in a Christian context, implies movement away from Christ rather than toward Him. A backslider is someone who is going the wrong way, spiritually. He is regressing rather than progressing. The backslider had at one time demonstrated a commitment to Christ or maintained a certain standard of behavior, but he has since reverted to old ways.[1]  Backsliding in Hebrew mean “turning away, turning back, or apostasy”.  It infers “defection”—turning away for the wisdom of God (Prov. 1:32) and away from Jehovah—the Covenant Keeping God (Jer. 3:6, 8, 11, 12).

We don’t hear much about backsliding these days.  Perhaps our focus has shifted to the “lost” versus those who “appear to be” in the ark of safety.  But backsliders are as important to God as the unsaved in that backsliding is an indication of one’s faithfulness to Him.  Faithfulness to God was an important part of the prophets’ proclamations and is central in appreciating Hosea 11.

The Old Testament prophet’s function was to not only herald the warnings of God but to also remind God’s people, Israel, to remain faithful to Him.  Through the prophets, God announced His intentions to enforce the covenant which was always in accordance with categories of blessings and curses already contained in the Law.  Even today, we need to take heed to the prophetic Word of God.  We must remain faithful to Him and if we have “backslidden”, repent and return to faithfully follow God.

One of the early writing prophets, Hosea used his own marital experience as a symbolic representation of God and Israel.  For Israel’s immorality and worship of idols, God’s punishment of Israel would be swift and severe.  Israel’s unfaithfulness would earn God’s judgment and doom.  God’s compassion toward Israel would be the only reason God’s mercy and grace would be extended (Hosea 12:6).  It would, however, call for their faithfulness to God.

Read Hosea 11:1-12

In Hosea 11 God speaks to the prophet as one would speak to a close friend and confidant.  God shares with Hosea His history of unbridled favor and goodness to Israel.  The opening verses (vv. 1-3) read like a doting parent, who has poured all their affection and attention upon their child only to receive, in return, opposition and defiance.  God’s “gentle cords and bands of love” (v. 3) only resulted in Israel’s ingratitude and unfaithfulness.

God attributes Israel’s behavior to its “bentness to backsliding.”  This “bentness” is similar to Paul’s description of “the flesh”—that unredeemed part of man that still exists within believers (Rom. 7: 17-19).  Israel was deaf and disobedient to God’s voice, spoken by Moses and His other prophets. They rebelled and became more resolute in their disobedience; adding to Israel’s injurious behavior, was their failure to exalt God (v. 7).

The positive ending to what began as a tragic narrative is that in spite of Israel’s faithlessness, God was faithful. God honored His covenant and extend mercy to Israel with the promise to ultimately restore His covenant people to Himself (vv. 10-11).

Are we guilty on 21st century backsliding?  How similar is Israel’s behavior to that which we find in our nation, in our homes, and in our individual faith walk.  That same “bentness to sin” that tempted Israel still tempts us today to unfaithful behavior. Though delivered from the bondage of sin, we may find ourselves still pursuing those things that feed our fleshly desires and wants (1 John 2:15-17).  Backsliding may manifest itself in several ways, e.g., dropping out of church, losing fervor for the Lord, walking away from a ministry or a family, or falling back into old habits.

Do we exalt God for His many blessings—undeserved and unmerited?  Do we acknowledge and honor Him giving Him the glory due His name?  Or do we contentedly choose to remain silent, not lifting up our hands and souls to the Most High God (Ps. 107:8-9)? Have we left God’s Living Waters for the broken cisterns of this world? (Jer. 2:13; 14:3)

It is a great encouragement to our hope in God’s mercies to remember that “God is God”, and not man.  He is the Holy One.  He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and receive us even when we are guilty of backsliding.  God is faithful to His covenant people.  Even in our faithlessness, God still remains faithful to us (2 Tim. 2:13).

[1]   Got Questions.org

Return to Repentance

Your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.  Isaiah 59:2 (NRS)

As part of my devotions this week, I read Isaiah 59.  Although I have read individual verses of this chapter before, today’s reading struck a “spiritual nerve”.  Its reading has provided a framework for a new mini-series entitled, In and Out of Season:  A Call to Return.  This week’s WordBytes is entitled, A Return to Repentance.

STOP NOW AND READ ISAIAH 59  BEFORE CONTINUING WITH

THIS WORDBYTES.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS AT THE END.

Isaiah 59 was not written for people who had no knowledge of God—who we call “the unsaved”, but it was penned for those whom God had entered into a special covenant relationship with.  Israel had been hand-chosen by God from all the nations in the world (Deut. 7:7-9) to carry out His purpose and plan of salvation.  They were to be a “holy nation, a peculiar people that would show forth His praises” (1 Pet. 2:9).

Unfortunately, instead of heralding God’s praises, Israel went a “whoring” after other gods (Jer. 3:2; Ezek. 43:7), relying on itself and other nations.  The result was punishment—70 years captivity in Assyria and Babylon—away from the land God had promised and given to them.

In reading Isaiah 59, I see an unsettling similarity between the events leading up to Israel’s exile and where we find ourselves today—as a nation and yes, as the Church.

As a nation, we have walked away from the spiritual guidance and direction of God.  If you survey our social institutions and political systems, you will see remnants of what we once knew as “one nation under God”.  We have exchanged our “moral compass” for “individual rights”.

The lines of “right and wrong” are no longer determined by God’s holy standards but have been replaced by political affiliations and social relationships.   Man has placed himself on the throne of his heart—doing “what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).  Servility and kindness, community and brotherly love have all been sacrificed on the altar of man’s selfishness.

As the Church, we have retreated into the safety of our church walls.  Internally focused, we are more concerned with our personal needs and how we can achieve “our purpose to be all we can be”.  We have forgotten about the helpless, the homeless, and the hungry.  Jesus went outside the walls to serve mankind versus being served (Matt. 20:28).  Jesus came “to preach, to bind, to proclaim, and to open” (Is. 61.1).  Can we as the Church do any less?

Hopefully, one of the key outcomes from reading Isaiah 59 is that we will begin to recognize and repent from those “iniquities that have separated us from God” (verse 2).  God wants to be reunited with this nation and His Church.  That’s why Jesus Christ came that our sins—personally and corporately, might be forgiven AND our relationship with the Father restored (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

The Redeemer (Jesus Christ) “did come to Zion” (verse 20) and to the rest of the world—that we might turn from our transgressions.  Let us pray continuously that we as a nation and the Church will repent of those behaviors and attitudes that cause us to transgress against God.

Discovering God in the Psalms: God is Still Doing Wonders

O give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures for ever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures for ever;  to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures for ever.  Ps. 136:2-4 (NRS)

Does God still do great wonders today? When we read the Bible, it’s hard to ignore the mighty wonders of God in Creation, The Exodus, and His plan of salvation. His wonders are clearly demonstrated from Genesis to Revelation, as He reveals Himself to His creature, man.

I choose to differentiate between God’s wonders and His miracles. I view miracles as God’s favor demonstrated in a particular incident, circumstance, or time. Wonders, on the other hand, include all the acts of God’s goodness and greatness, transcending time and circumstance.

Psalm 136 is entitled, “A Litany of God’s Wonders”. In each verse, the Psalmist captures the wonders of God in the history of Israel. The Psalmists begins and ends this psalm by declaring the need to give thanks for God’s mercy. Mercy (checed) is translated as “favor and loving kindness.” It is in the context of His mercy that God’s wonders are performed. In verse 4, the Psalmist reminds us of two key facts.

God alone does wonders. It is in the remembrance of God’s wonders that He sought Israel’s faithfulness and trust. That remembrance of God’s wonders is even more critical for us today as we tend to minimize God’s ability and glorify man’s accomplishments.

God’s mercy endures forever. God lives in eternity and therefore, is not limited to the confines of “time”. God’s forever includes both “chronological time” and “the social times” in which we find ourselves. God’s mercy, favor, and loving kindness are always available.

While God has done great wonders in the past, He is still doing wonders today. Perhaps we miss God’s wonders in our lives by crediting them to luck or as happenstance. Perhaps we attribute His wonders to our own abilities or to our social networks and connections. All the above are foolish thinking. It is God alone Who stands ready to “show Himself strong” on behalf of man (2 Chronicles 16:9).

It has been said that we are one generation away from losing our belief in God. The result is a country that minimizes the supernatural power of the Most Holy God. One minister observed, “Man has humanized God and deified himself.” Let us continue to share the many wonders of God–those in the Bible and in our lives. This includes the greatest wonder of all, our salvation.

As I view our nation and the challenges we face, it is evident that our future lies not in political leadership, technological breakthrough, nor financial health. We’ve tried them all. Our future lies with “the God of gods, the Lord of lords; to Him who alone does great wonders” (Ps. 136:4).

Discovering God in the Psalms: Victory over Darkness

Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

Psalm 139:12 (NKJ)

Children are typically afraid of the dark. It is in the dark where “things go bang in the night” and where unseen dangers may lie. Darkness is defined as the absence of visible light. Darkness is changed only by the introduction of light. One can never fully appreciate the value of light until they have experienced the unsettling feeling of being “in the dark.”

Although children fear the darkness, there is one time when they ignore that fear—when it’s time to play “hide and seek.” Darkness provides the “perfect condition” for its execution; it is in the darkness that a person can remain unseen as they blend into the trees’ shadows and the surrounding houses. If, however, this game were to be played with God, one would find themselves at a marked disadvantage. Why? Because darkness and light are alike to Him—the night shines as the day. It is God’s omnipresence that provides the believer the “perfect condition” for victory over darkness.

Light and darkness are a natural phenomenon associated with day and night. People also use the terms metaphorically, especially in Scripture where the two are given theological significance. In the Old Testament, God acted at Creation to separate and distinguish between darkness and light, night and day (Gen. 1:4, 5, 18). Darkness was also associated with judgment and distress (Ex.10:21; Ps. 91:6), God’s hiddenness (Dt. 4:11; 5:23) and divine intervention (Isa. 9:2; Ps. 18:28). Darkness is a powerful New Testament image. While darkness is used as a moral metaphor to describe sinful acts and sinful life style (Rom. 13:12; Eph. 5:11), it also used to describe the evil power, holding people in its dominion (Col. 1:13).

Darkness in our scripture text references the oppressive nature of darkness. “Hide” in Hebrew means to “to crush or bruise.” In the Old Testament it is used only here and in Genesis 3:15 and Job 9:17. Even believers feel spiritual darkness’ crushing power as it attempts to control them through their unredeemed flesh (Rom. 7:17-25). It is here that God’s omnipresence can lead believers to victory through darkness.

Darkness cannot hide. It is God’s presence (through His indwelling Spirit) that exposes and dispels darkness. Believers are rescued from the realm of darkness to become children of the light (Eph. 5:8, 14). They share a place in God’s kingdom of light (Col. 1:12) and even act as light in this dark world (Mat.5:14-16). The believer’s life reflects Jesus’ light and ultimately declare his praises (1 Pet. 2:9). It is in Christ that we have victory over darkness. Jesus Christ was the “change agent” that was introduced into darkness (Mat. 4:16) giving life and light to all who would receive it (Ps. 36:9).

The prophets promised that one day God Himself would live among men to replace the sun as their “everlasting light.” Isaiah 60:19-20 reads:

“The sun shall no longer be your light by day, Nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; But the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, And your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, Nor shall your moon withdraw itself; For the LORD will be your everlasting light, And the days of your mourning shall be ended.”

Praise God for His Light.