Archive for the ‘Devotional’ Category

I have been crucified with Christ [that is, in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 Amplified

Why is it important to be crucified with Christ? What does it mean? This verse is familiar to many and often quoted as a means to remind ourselves of our true identity as believers in Yeshua.

If I am crucified with Christ, I share my identity with Christ. I am saying, “What Christ is–I am too.” By identifying with Christ in this way, I am saying to the world that I want to be treated as Christ was–not given any special treatment or benefits not given to Him. It means that I must share in Christ’s suffering including His rejection by His society, His peers. I must not seek to be approved by the world or its religious systems–rather I must seek only the approval of Adonai as Yeshua was approved by Him. (See Matthew 3:17, Matthew 17:5)

Without entering into His sacrificial death, I have no way to approach God. By entering into His crucifixion, I join myself to Christ–accepting His sacrifice for me–essentially making it my sacrificial offering to God for my sin–past, present and future. As a result, I can enter into the presence of the Holy One, Adonai, blessed be His name.

In 2 Corinthians 5:21, we are told, He made Christ who knew no sin to [judicially] be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we would become the righteousness of God [that is, we would be made acceptable to Him and placed in a right relationship with Him by His gracious loving kindness]. (Amplified)

This verse presents the real reason to enter into His crucifixion–either He died to deliver you and me, or He didn’t. Once I have identified with Christ–it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. (Galatians 5:20)

The reality is that when I am crucified with Christ, identifying with His crucifixion and sacrificial death, I am acknowledging certain truths about God and about myself (as part of the human race):

1. Adonai (the God of the Hebrew Bible, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) exists;

2. Adonai is holy and unapproachable by sinful man, or said another way, sinful man apart from shed blood cannot approach a holy God).

3. The Christ (Jesus of Nazareth), is also God. While he lived as a man, He provided a perfect (complete) sacrifice, acceptable to God for the payment for the sin of mankind–past, present and future.

4. I acknowledge that I am a sinner by Adonai’s holy and reasonable (just) standard;

5. I need and want this sacrifice of Yeshua, made on a Roman cross on a hill in a rock quarry outside the walls of the Jerusalem 2000+ years ago, to be applied to my life, my sins;

6. I accept the lordship of Adonai over my life now and for eternity. (Pictured here is the piercing of the ear of the slave who agrees to stay with his master by choice–I am the bond servant of Christ.)

That is how I die and Christ lives in me.

I live by faith [by adhering to, relying on, and completely trusting] in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 (Amplified)

How will I know I have made this commitment–allowed these truths to bind me to Adonai? It think it will be the distinctive of love that marks my life. Yeshua said this, By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another. John 13:35 (Amplified)

Beloved, as we enter this season of preparation for our remembrance of Resurrection Sunday, let us consider what it means for each of us to be crucified with Christ, and let us live as witnesses of the truth of the risen Christ, with clean hands and pure hearts, awaiting Christ’s soon return.

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But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust [confidently] in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. Psalm 52:8 (Amplified)

How am I like a green olive tree in the house of God?

I am well-watered by the Word of God which washes over me daily as I study the scriptures. I am planted in the fertile soil–plenty of manure has fallen all around me over the years making the soil rich. I live in the glory of the Son which shines perpetually on me. And because olive trees grow wild if not properly tended, Adonai, the gardener, regularly prunes me for better growth and production.

I don’t strive to grow or worry about my leaves being green enough or when the rain will fall or how my branches will be trimmed–I confidently trust in the lovingkindness of my God, my Abba–forever and ever. I am His and He has never forsaken the righteous.


Branches of an Olive Tree on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

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I will give you treasures hoarded in the dark, secret riches hidden away,
so that you will know that I, Adonai, calling you by your name, am the God of Isra’el.
Isaiah 45:3 (Complete Jewish Bible)

This scripture is a reminder that there are times of intimacy with God that can only be understood and received in times of darkness, times of deep testing, seasons of isolation, seasons of sorrow. Times when the enemy seems to be getting the upper hand.

In such times, the believer may slip into what seems to be impenetrable darkness only to eventually discovery they are in a well-lit cave of treasures with Adonai–the King of Heaven. In these one-on-one times with the Adonai, it is possible to enjoy a closeness and intimacy with God. These can be times of great refreshing in the middle of a storm or trial when the believe is hidden in a cloak of darkness with the Light of the World.

So when the time of crushing is upon you and you feel darkness descend, consider Adonai may be leading you to a secret, hoarded treasure of His presence and the secret places of fellowship with the lover of your soul.


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My soul, wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him.

He only is my rock and my salvation;
He is my defense;
I shall not be moved.

In God is my salvation and my glory;
The rock of my strength,
And my refuge, is in God.

Psalm 62:5-7

I love this. I see myself in the psalmist’s description of himself. I wait before God–Adonai Eloheinu–the King of the Universe. I bring everything–all of me–and I wait. The psalmist says, “my soul waits.” The soul speaks of the entire being–mind, heart, emotions. I hold nothing back–leave no thought to flutter away to other concerns. Every ounce of my being is focused on His glory and majesty–who He is and what He has done. It is a natural out-flow of the command in Deuteronomy 6:5 (the Shema) to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

I wait only for God–“for God alone.” I have no other Gods before Him. He is my heart’s one desire.

In the waiting, God comes. So I wait in His presence.

I wait silently. As Solomon said, “God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few.” In the silence, I am filled with expectation–hope.

The Psalmist explains the expectation in verses 6 and 7: “He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense . . . In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength,
and my refuge, is in God.” Several truths about God are embedded in these two short verses.

God is my rock–unlike sand or soil, He doesn’t shift or move. He is reliable. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is my rock of strength–a place where no enemy can reach me. He is a hiding place. In Psalm 27:5, the Psalmist tells us “in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.” The imagery is similar to this section of Psalm 62.

God’s presence–His character as my rock and my strength–allows me to say with the Psalmist–“I will not be moved. I will not be shaken.”


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The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1.

Even the psalmist acknowledges the presence of darkness in his life. To expect that in our life with God we will never encounter darkness is naive and foolish. Darkness is the human condition made worse by pride and self-righteousness. (See Romans 1) The psalmist also acknowledges that fear accompanies darkness like a one-two punch.

But God . . . God is light. It is the very essence of who He is. He has control over light–and consequently, darkness. After all, He spoke light into existence. (See Genesis 1:3)

The beauty of light is that it doesn’t compete with darkness rather light banishes darkness. Darkness must flee when light comes. Although often considered opposites, light is so much more powerful than darkness.

That being said, it is important to remember that God is the original source of light. He brings light into me, His vessel, and fills me with it. His light in me represents the work of salvation in me and everyone who is born again. (See John 3:16-21) God entered the dark abyss of my God-less soul and banished the darkness that had been there by bringing the light of His presence. His light–His very essence–dwells within me.

For You cause my lamp to be lighted and to shine; The Lord my God illumines my darkness. Psalm 18:28.

Fear not, Beloved, God is your light and your salvation. He will not allow the darkness to overtake you. Stand fast.

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When the hymn-writer wrote those words, ‘When peace like a river attendeth my soul, when sorrows like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul,’  he described the reality of the alternating of peace and turbulence in the life of a believer.   More peace and less turbulence is my goal.  But how does one “get” peace?

The Bible gives some important answers to this question.  First of all, Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”  So on the one hand, peace has been given to us by Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

Although we have been given peace, we need to live in the place of peace.  To that end, the Bible also teaches us to pursue peace.  The Psalmist in Psalm 34:14 says to “depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.”  Romans 12:18 tells us, “if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”   Romans 14:19 tells us to “pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.”   Hebrews 12:14 says, “pursue peace with all people.” (emphasis added)   These verses speak of a lifestyle that we, as believers, need to seek after.  We need to put some effort into peace-making and peace-keeping.  We need to not be the ones engaging in peace-taking.

The better news is found in the book of Isaiah where the prophet says of God in Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.”  The reality is that when our minds are focused on God, God keeps us in the peace He promised us.

May the peace of God descend upon your heart today.  May you pursue peace as much as you are able.

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Wait for and confidently expect the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for and confidently expect the Lord.
Psalm 27:14 (Amplified)

The Amplified version brings out some interesting nuances of this text. First of all, we see that it is not merely waiting that is required. Rather it is waiting for someone in particular, namely the Lord. Moreover, the waiting is not passive as one might wait for a bus or a train, but this is waiting with accompanying expectation–confident expectation in the Lord and what He will do. We can have this confident expectation because of the promises that God has made to us in His Word. Promises like . . . “I will never leave or forsake you,” “I provide a way of escape from temptation,” “I will deliver you,” “I’ll come back for you,” and many others. We are instructed by the psalmist to expect the Lord to do what He has promised to do as we wait for Him to do so.

We are told to “be strong.” The strength the psalmist has in mind is mental strength. This strength speaks of choice. We are to choose to believe God and His Word. We are to choose to allow the Spirit of God to reign in our hearts and minds. As the Spirit fills us, we will experience the resulting fruit of the Spirit, namely patience, long-suffering and self-control.

Once we choose to go God’s way, He will flood our hearts with courage–courage we know could never be our own. Once we are strengthened by this courage, we are able to wait. God is still and always in charge.

In this verse, the first phrase and the last phrase are the same; bookends that reinforce the beginning and the end of the matter–wait on the Lord. It’s worth repeating.

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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. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:1-2

In a previous blog post, (The Sacrifice), we discussed the first part of this section–the sacrifice. The second verse goes on to give further direction in terms of how to be that living sacrifice–“do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed.”

What would it look like to be conformed to this world? I think of the difference between a thermometer and a thermostat. A thermometer merely measures the temperature–in fact is conforms by either rising or contracting to reflect the temperature. It does nothing to change the temperature. In contract, the thermostat when reflecting the temperature is dropping, kicks the heater into gear. It impacts the temperature. That is what it means to not be conformed to the world–but rather to be a force for transformation.

How we should view the world is described in different parts of scripture. One helpful passage is 1 John 2:15-17 where we are told, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” For these and many other reasons found in scripture, we should not be conformed to the world.

This passage tells us some important facts about the world including what it consists of, namely “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” Also we learn that the world is passing away–it is temporary unlike God who “abides forever.”

How does one not be conformed by the world–it is all around us? James offers some suggestions: endure temptation (James 1:12), be doers of the word and not hearers only (James 1:22), seek wisdom from above (James 3:17), and do not be friends with the world (James 4:4). In Ephesians we are told to do all to stand in the battle. To that end, we are exhorted to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). These are not the only means to the end of non-conformity to the world, but rather they are a starting point. The Bible is meant to be studied and read over and over until the Word of God penetrates our hearts and minds and we become restored to the image of God inside and out.

The renewing of our minds occurs when we live and breathe God and His Word. We see a picture of this renewed mind in Philippians 2:2-5, “[be] like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:2-5 Unity is evidence that our minds are being renewed. It is one way we “prove the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

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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

When I read this passage from Romans chapter 12, I can almost smell the incense burning in the Sanctuary. It presents us with images that should conjure up the bronze altar of sacrifice in the court of the Holy Sanctuary (Temple) in Jerusalem.

Paul, the Apostle and author of the book of Romans was an observant Jew as well as a Pharisee (expert in the study of Torah). These are not accidental words or images he gave us. His life before meeting Jesus on the Damascus road (See Acts 9) was organized around the feasts, offerings and prayers in the Sanctuary. After watching the Priests and Levites prepare and offer up thousands of offerings of sheep, goats, rams, pigeons, and turtle doves, he couldn’t help but know that offerings were acts of worship to God.

This was not a sacrifice; however, to atone for sin. Jesus was the once-for-all sacrifice. No further offerings for sin are necessary. Rather this was a sacrifice in order to fellowship with God–a peace offering like those spoken of in Leviticus chapter 3.

The sacrifice God is requiring from us is a living sacrifice. We will offer God living sacrifices because He has given us new life by the power of the Holy Spirit. (2 Corinthians5:17) In asking for a living sacrifice, God is giving us a choice. A living sacrifice must choose to stay on the altar. The life must be given–not taken. Jesus is the model of such a sacrifice in John 10:18, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”

The sacrifice must also be holy. Holy means set apart for God, not profaned or contaminated. The sacrifice must also be acceptable to God. I think this is where folks sometimes get off track. They offer to God what they want to offer to God with no consideration of what God wants or what God has said about worship in His Word. This is a big mistake. God has standards of a worthy sacrifice. We must meet those standards. Consider some of the things God says about being acceptable before Him.

First of all, we must be obedient. (1 Samuel 15:22, John 14:15, 1 John 5:2-3). We must also be merciful. (Hosea 6:6, Matthew 5:7; 9:13) We must come before God with clean hands and pure hearts. (Psalm 24:3-4) We must approach God through Jesus, our Mediator. (John 14:6) These and the other requirements laid out in the Word of God are what make us acceptable to God. We must meet His standards–not the standards of men or the standards of our own minds.

Here are some other posts on Romans 12: My Reasonable ServiceRomans 12: Acceptable to GodRomans 12: Holy?Romans 12: How shall I present my body? ,Romans 12: Presenting your bodyDoes God require me to be holy?

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     Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

Paul mentions this “one thing” he does to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of him. The Amplified version tells us “that” refers to “perfection.” Perfection is why Christ took hold of Paul and why He has taken hold of us. He desires that we might be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. (See Matthew 5:48)

So what is this “one thing” Paul says that he does? “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Examining Paul’s statement more closely we see that he is really speaking of doing three things: forgetting those things which are behind, reaching forward to those things ahead, and pressing toward the goal

What does it mean to forget? The dictionary has several definitions of forgetting which carry with them a lack of intentionality. However, Paul’s statement has no such connotation. Forget in this case means to cease to think of something or someone by choice. To say it another way, he is telling us to no longer have those things in the center of our thoughts or focus.
What would Paul be thinking of that we need to forget? What are some of the things “which are behind?” Perhaps Paul was thinking of the things that he had done that offended God. Perhaps he was thinking of his own sin in persecuting the church. One had to forget one’s past–Paul knew that. Too much focus on past wrongs might cause a person to become paralyzed with guilt and/or shame.

Paul may also have been thinking of the religious life he left behind–the life of a Pharisee. He was, in his community, a man of considerable stature–his future was bright. Earlier in Philippians chapter 3, Paul describes himself as “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” He had what many of his contemporaries would have envied. But those things he chose to forget.

We need to choose to forget both the good and the bad. Having repented, we need to forget how bad we were, our sin, our wrong conduct, our failures. We cannot focus on them or make them the center of our thoughts. We need also to choose to forget our successes–who we were in the world’s eyes, how much we had accomplished–our bright future. Forget–choose to forget. We choose to forget not because these things are not important–but rather because in comparison to the prize we are seeking there are not important.

Reaching Forward
Reaching is an action which speaks of intentionality beyond one’s current location or circumstances. It suggests there are thin–a goingt location, beyond our ability, perhaps even beyond our imagination. Thus, we must reach forward. It is a complement to the forgetting what lies behind. Reaching forward necessarily requires letting go of what was before, things that mattered in the past become less significant as we move toward what lies ahead.
So what might Paul be thinking of as he speaks of “reaching forward to those things which are ahead?” Paul might be thinking of the work for God, e.g. the next city he will visit or the next group of people to whom he will minister. He might also be thinking of spiritual progress such as a greater closeness to God, a greater freedom from sin, a greater zeal for God and bringing Him glory, or a greater sorrow over sin. But he might also be thinking of setting himself more steadfastly toward heaven and eternal life with God.

Pressing Toward the Goal
Paul tells us that he presses toward the goal–further emphasizing the forward momentum of his life. The word “press” is not passive. It speaks of determination and diligence. Paul is telling us that with great energy and desire, he moves toward the goal. He sees it, and with all the force he can muster, he explodes in that direction. But what is the goal? Paul says it’s “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” One day we, all believers will receive a call from God–a call to come out of time and into eternity. I believe that is the prize Paul was looking to, pressing toward eternal life forever with God without suffering, sin, sorrow, tears, pain or separation.

Why does Paul consider this one thing and not three things? I believe he refers to this combination of actions as “one thing” because they must all be happening together–in concert. Reaching forward is just how the press toward the goal is initiated. The reach turns into the press as we gain momentum and neither the reaching nor the pressing can happen unless we forget the things behind, things which cling to us and threaten to hold us back, and move our focus onto what lies ahead. Once free from the past and reaching out toward what lies ahead, which will be different for every believer, we are moving, toward God. As we catch His scent or spy the train of His robe, we are energized to press toward the prize–toward what every breath has been leading to since we took our first one. Toward God.

May this one thing that Paul speaks of be the one thing you do as well!

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