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In most trials, there is some element of wanting to go back–of looking back to “better times” or to life before the loss, before the betrayal–before the illness.

We need to remember the lesson of Lot’s wife.

When morning came, the angels told Lot to hurry. “Get up,” they said, “and take your wife and your two daughters who are here; otherwise you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.” But he dallied, so the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand and the hands of his two daughters — Adonai was being merciful to him — and led them, leaving them outside the city.

When they had brought them out, he said, “Flee for your life! Don’t look behind you, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain, but escape to the hills! Otherwise you will be swept away.”

Lot said to them, “Please, no, my lord! Here, your servant has already found favor in your sight, and you have shown me even greater mercy by saving my life. But I can’t escape to the hills, because I’m afraid the disaster will overtake me, and I will die. Look, there’s a town nearby to flee to, and it’s a small one. Please let me escape there — isn’t it just a small one? — and that way I will stay alive.”

He replied, “All right, I agree to what you have asked. I won’t overthrow the city of which you have spoken. Hurry, and escape to that place, because I can’t do anything until you arrive there.” . . .

By the time Lot had come to Tzo‘ar, the sun had risen over the land. Then Adonai caused sulfur and fire to rain down upon S’dom and ‘Amora from Adonai out of the sky. He overthrew those cities, the entire plain, all the inhabitants of the cities and everything growing in the ground. But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a column of salt. Genesis 19:15-26 (CJB)

Sometimes we are like Lot’s wife. Things are so bad that God is having to rain down sulfur and fire on the place we were living, but we still think about that place with longing–we still think we might want to go back.

 

Isaiah Chapter 10

Read Isaiah Chapter 10
1. What type of judgment is being described in Isaiah 10:1-4?

2. What do you learn about the poor, widows and fatherless from the following verses?
□ Exodus 22:22
□ Deuteronomy 10:18

3. What judgment does God speak over Assyria in verses 5-19?

4. What does God promise for the remnant of Israel in Isaiah 10:20-24?

5. What do these verses teach us?
□ Psalm 30:5
□ Psalm 103:9
□ Isaiah 54:7

God’s loving purpose in chastening is that we yield to Him; but if we harden our hearts, then chastening becomes judgment (citations omitted). Israel was being led astray by false prophets and foolish leaders; the nation would not listen to God’s word . . . If God cannot bring us to repentance through His Word, then He must lift His hand and chasten us. If we do not submit to His chastening, then He must stretch out His hand and judge us. God is long-suffering, but we date not tempt Him by our careless or calloused attitude.
-–W.W. Weirsbe, Be Comforted: Isaiahdsc_1872.jpg

Moving Forward

Moving Forward

    I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
Romans 12:1 (NKJV)

Paul’s passion for those in the body of Christ is evident in the opening phrase of Romans 12 where he beseeches or urges us to present our bodies as living sacrifices.

If we are to do this presentation of our bodies (our lives) to God, it will have to be by the mercies of God. That is to say that God will be and is the power behind and the heart behind our desiring to dedicate our bodies (lives) to pleasing God.

He calls us to present our bodies–a voluntary action, a volitional choice–I (we) must make to be set apart for (holy) and pleasing to God.

The sacrifice I am to make is my body–and that is really all that I have to give to God.
Under the law, it is understood that in order to cover sin, to be holy and acceptable to God, a death must occur–more specifically, blood must be shed. Leviticus 11:17 instructs us blood makes atonement for the soul.

The sacrifice that I must present under the new covenant, established by Jesus and stamped with His authority as God by His resurrection, is to die to my flesh, to my own desires. This death to self will allow the Spirit of God to reign in my body. My life will then evidence the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23, namely love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control.

Paul finishes by saying this is my reasonable service. I am a bond servant of God, and in light of what He has done for me, it a small thing for me to give my life–my sacrifice–to Him.

As Paul said in Romans 6:19, [f]or just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

We will be a slave to something. Paul makes it clear who we are to serve and what is required–nothing less than everything.

Isaiah Chapter 9

Read Isaiah Chapter 9
1. What promise do you find in Isaiah 9:2? Of whom is it speaking in the near prophecy? The far prophecy?

2. What did Jesus say in Matthew 4:15-16? What is the significance of that?

3. What do the following verses teach? How do they relate to the prophecy in Isaiah 9:2?
□ John 3:19

□ John 8:12

□ John 9:5

□ John 12:46

□ Ephesians 5:8

□ 1 Peter 2:9

□ 1 John 1:5-7

4. What does Isaiah declare in Isaiah 9:3-5?

5. Copy Isaiah 9:6. Of whom is this speaking? What will his reign be like according to Isaiah 9:7

6. What type of judgment is being described in Isaiah 9:8-12?

7. What do these verses teach about pride and arrogance?
□ Proverbs 8:13
□ Proverbs 11:2
□ Proverbs 16:18
□ Obadiah 1:3

8. What type of judgment is being described in Isaiah 9:13-17?

9. What do these verses teach about seeking the LORD?
□ Psalm 14:2
□ Psalm 34:10
□ Psalm 69:32

10. What type of judgment is being described in Isaiah 9:18-21?

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Make it count in 2019

Deuteronomy 6:5  (NKJV)

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

  • “You shall love the Lord” . . . it’s a command; just do it
  • “with all” . . .  hold nothing back
  • “your heart” . . . desire, emotions, feelings
  • “with all your soul” . . . inner being; distinct from from the flesh life
  • “with all your strength” . . . physical ability; speaks of discipline and self-control

As the new year begins and many make their plans to do better, make your plans to love God. Seek Him with everything you have. He will be found by you.

Angels and the Christ Child

As I was reading the Christmas story in Luke this year, I was struck by something that I had never considered before. It was the angels. It is not that I never noticed them in the story before, but rather, I have never seriously considered what their conduct was really saying about what they were thinking and feeling. I believe that their actions confirm that they were filled with excitement and anticipation. They were like the person who buys the perfect gift for their child or friend and can’t wait for them to open it, the person who is counting down the days until Christmas morning because they can’t wait to see the expression on the recipient’s face when they open the wonderful gift. I think the angels were filled with that type of anticipation of the joy of others at the gift (Jesus) that was coming.

Can you imagine the excitement in heaven when the angels learned that Jesus, God incarnate, was going to be born a man and live among men? What anticipation they must have felt for what the Son of God could do for man. The light that surrounded Him in heaven would follow Him to earth. Oh what a great day when the darkness that hovered over man would be dispelled, banished from His presence! What great excitement the angels must have had for man.

The angels, while created being like man, share the creator’s hand. However, they are “higher” beings than man according to Psalm 8:5. Man, however, has the distinction of being created in the image of God, a description never used of the angels. This trait we share with Jesus who is described as “the image of the invisible God.” The angels are with God in heaven. In their positions in heaven, in the presence of God, the angels have seen a lot. They would have witnessed the creation of man, the flood, the ark, the tower of Babel, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the turning of Lot’s wife to salt, the exchange between God and Satan regarding Job, the battles between the angels of God and the angels of darkness, and all the other goings on in the throne room of the Most High God. I don’t think they would be easily impressed.

The Bible teaches that part of the job of the angels is to serve or minister to men. Paul says of them in Hebrews, “are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” The Psalmist tells us “[t]he angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him.” In Psalm 91, we are told, God “shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” They have a very close relationship with God and witness His glory and power without end. They are in sync with the will of God. Angels do what God likes. Of course, angels are not omniscient (all-knowing), so they have to wait to find out what God has planned, but in contrast to us, they are a lot closer to the action.

Another thing to notice about angels is that when angels appear on the scene in the Bible, people are always moved. Manoah was so upset when he saw an angel that he told his wife he was going to die. When an angel came to Daniel, he trembled on his knees and palms. When Zachariah was visited by an angel in the temple, “he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.” He left the encounter unable to speak for at least nine months. When Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, she was troubled. When Peter was in prison and the angel came and “stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands.” Now that is the stuff of action movies.

So what does the conduct of the angels in Luke 2 tell us about the events that were unfolding at that time in Bethlehem and what the angels thought about those events, given who they were, what they did, and what they knew? The story is told as follows in Luke 2:8-18:

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

We notice that this scene occurs right after Mary has brought forth the Christ child and wrapped him in Swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger. We also notice that these shepherds were no different from others who had seen angels in that they were “greatly afraid.” Also we notice that the angels are communicating with the shepherds, giving them information about the great event and where they could go to be firsthand witnesses of these amazing things (even the angels didn’t know exactly where God was going with this plan). What is really amazing is that out of nowhere, because their excitement was just too much to contain, the heavenly host of angels just breaks through from beyond our space and time and begins praising God saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” They make it clear that God’s purposes toward man are all good. Their message was clear, “this is a GOOD thing that is happening!”

The events that unfold next confirm that the shepherds received the message from the angels because they decided to go to where the baby was. We also know that they must have been moved greatly by what they saw because they told lots of folks. It should be pointed out here that part of the skill set for shepherding is not necessarily addressing crowds regarding miracles, but we see that “all those who heard . . . marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds,” so the shepherds were not staying silent or isolated with the good news.

All that to say, I was struck by how excited the angels were. They know God, and they observe man. They knew that God coming to earth as a man (Jesus), was a good thing for man. They were so excited that they wanted to tell man (shepherds), so they wouldn’t miss it. Angels, who dwell in heaven, with God, where all the really cool stuff happens, were excited for us, mankind, that God was coming to live among us. They knew that His coming would mean that we would have hope, that we would not have to continue to dwell in darkness, separated from the God who was so holy, loving and majestic – King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They saw our future to be bright with Jesus. They knew what it meant to have Jesus living with you. That is what the angels’ conduct was saying that Christmas night over 2000 years ago.

Beloved Christian sisters and brothers, what is your conduct saying about the message of Christmas? Are you, like the angels, rejoicing because you know God and you know His plans for man are for good and not for evil, to give a future and a hope? Are you, like the shepherds, going to find Jesus daily in the pages of your Bible, and sharing his love in the pews of your church, in the streets of your city, and in the corridors of your work place? Are you telling people about Jesus because you know He alone has the words of eternal life? My prayer for you . . . for me . . . is that this Christmas season, we would be like the angels and like the shepherds. Each of them did what they did because they had an encounter with God.

Merry Christmas! May the joy of the promised hope penetrate your heart.

 

The second Advent candle is called the “Candle of the Way.” This candle is also purple and represents the truth that Christ is the only way to God. For those lost in sin, Jesus Christ is the Light sent into the world to show the way out of darkness. It is also called the “Candle of Preparation,” reminding Christians to get ready to receive God.
–Jesus is the Reason for the Season, Pocket Inspiration

1. What things do you do every year to prepare for Christmas? What do you notice about those things?

Read Luke 1:5-25
2. Who is Zacharias? Who is his wife Elizabeth?

3. Why was he burning incense in the temple?

4. What happened to him while he was in the temple?

5. What is prophecy was given to him? By whom?

6. Why is the prophecy hard for Zechariah to believe?

7. What happens to Zechariah as a result of his unbelief?

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