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Darkest Before the Dawn

“Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” Matthew 4:11

landscape outdoor ocean horizon silhouette person mountain sky sunrise sunset sunlight morning hill dawn dark dusk standing evening shadow human darkness publicdomain atmospheric phenomenon mountainous landformsHow many of us give in at the first temptation that appeals to our appetites? Or at least the second which appeals to our sense of righteousness and holiness? But certainly, many of us fall to the temptation to increase our current advantage, our current position and status, even if just by a little bit. It’s the American Dream. A comfort that we’ve earned.

Our temptations are always darkest before the dawn. Right before the sunlight breaks, we do.

But Jesus kept His eyes on the prize of our hearts for eternity. And everything in this world paled to the nothingness that it truly is in light of His one goal. Redemption.

Having stood the test, Satan left Jesus. Most of us would be thankful just to have made it that far and to finally find some peace. Incredibly though, the angels–the heavenly host–came to attend Jesus. Did they attend Him on earth as they did in heaven? Worshiping Him as the Son of God He is. Perhaps they came to lift Him up in His physical weakness, though not because of a foot-flop contrived by the father of lies. Maybe they even delivered daily bread or manna from heaven.

We don’t know exactly, just that the angels of heaven tended to Jesus in His time of need.

God may or may not send angels to attend us in our times of need and triumph. But He has promised us His Holy Spirit. He never leaves us or forsakes us no matter how appetizing the worldly offer, no matter how murky the temptation shadow that drowns our thoughts.

And if we keep our eyes fixed on the Eternal, through the Holy Spirit we can overcome the darkness before sunrise, the steepest, craggiest mountain and the wolf-infested valley. If we are faithful to the end, we will receive the victor’s rewards in heaven [Revelation 2:10 & 3:4-5].

Are you struggling through something right now? Hold fast to your faith. Fix your eyes on God Almighty. He can bring you through if you trust Him. Does all of life seem darker than it’s ever been before? Hold on just a little while longer. The dawn is near.



Born of Water and Spirit

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'” Matthew 3:16-17

Image result for flying doveOne of the amazing things about Jesus is that he never walked into a situation and announced, HeyI’m God’s Son, I’ll handle this; or, I’m in charge now, do what I say; or, Bow to me my servants or be crushed. Neither did he start spouting his resume, touting all of the messianic prophecies that he’d personally fulfilled.

On the contrary, God the Father announced the birth of His Son through the star, the angels and the kings, perfectly harmonizing every prophecy in its fulfillment. And, here again, God announces Jesus’ Sonship through a dove and a voice from the opening heavens [Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 17:5; John 12:28; 2 Peter 1:17-18].

John also attested to Jesus’ Godhood.

As for Jesus’ testimony about himself, he simply lived the life that perfectly accorded with the will of God the Father. He didn’t have to study the prophetic scriptures to know how to live, he just lived–everything about his humanity synced to God despite having complete freewill just as we all do.

The Spirit of the Lord was on him and reigned in him [Isaiah 11:2]. And this pleased God.

Here Jesus models to the world what it is to be born again of God. Not a physical rebirth, but a spiritual one.

We too can be born of God–born again of water, aka baptism, and the Holy Spirit [John 3:3-6]. Then we are adopted as His children [Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5-7; Ephesians 1:8] and, living by the Spirit, please God.

Are you born again? Have you found new life–passing through the water of baptism and the fire of the Holy Spirit? Is your will syncing to God’s?


Divine Intervention (Not What You Might Expect)

“After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.’ So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there.” Matthew 2:19-22a

Image result for dreamAgain, God faithfully protects His Son Jesus and Mary and Joseph. But it is not a physical intervention.

He didn’t give Jesus super human strength like Samson or the fabled Hercules. He didn’t give Him magical powers as pagan cultures purported their gods would do. He didn’t even physically send angels to fight off Herod and his troops so that Mary and Joseph could take Jesus to live in their homeland of Israel.

Though He could of done all of these things, God protected Jesus by His divine wisdom. He intervenes by warning through angels and dreams of angels. And, incredibly, Joseph not only believed the dreamed warnings. He acted. He obeyed.

Joepsh stayed in tune with the Holy Spirit and kept thinking. He didn’t park his brain or spiritual sensibilities, returning to Israel blindly. But he also didn’t need God to dictate every step. Joesph stayed true to the directive to protect Jesus’ physical life.

Herod was a mean old king by the time Jesus was born, not too many years later, he died. But his sons sniveled after the Romans with the same fervor. Archelaus ascended to his father’s throne. He was so ruthlessly cruel, that Archelaus only ruled for ten years before being deposed. And he was the last king in Israel. After him, Rome only appointed governors to the province.

But again, God knew from the Creation of the world what Herod’s son would be like. He knew that sending Joseph and Mary home at this time would lead them, in their earnest obedience to protect the Christ child, to live in a part of the land that was not their hometown. Nazareth in Galilee.

God knows everything about you and me as well. He hasn’t decided for us, but He knows exactly what we will face, the motives that will shape our decisions and how we will respond. Even still, He entrusts us to keep the gospel, the good news of His Son Jesus, safe. To study and show ourselves approved. To keep the doctrines sound. To pass on the truth of His Word to each subsequent generation.

And He intervenes in our life with wisdom, first and foremost.

In what specific way is God calling you to minister the gospel? Are you living true to your God-given directive? Are you living in tune with the Holy Spirit as your guide?


From Father to Son

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16-17

hand black and white kid old love young finger father child contrast monochrome together arm holding baby parent son close up dad family hands emotion thumb interaction sense monochrome photography human actionGod is love. He constantly and faithfully wills for our good–good as defined by who He is. And His good and faithful love is eternal, desiring to reconcile–restore right relationship between–all humanity to Himself.

Sin separates us from our holy Creator God [Isaiah 59:2]. But God wants to make us whole in our relationship with Him.

He accomplished this through the person of Jesus Christ.

Having promised redemption–providing a way for us to regain possession of eternal life–from the first [Genesis 3:15], He set apart a holy nation a remnant of people who would acknowledge Him as God, through whom to send His Son Jesus. That people was Israel. He put His word into the mouths of prophets, reminding the world of the redemption to come and so all would recognize when the Redeemer had come.

And many didn’t.

Even today, many fail to recognize the reality of sin, heaven and hell. They fail to understand their need for a Savior or to confess that Jesus alone is that Lord of all. They, therefore, refuse eternal life, because belief on Jesus is all it takes to attain eternity. They choose, instead, the condemnation due their sin.

But Jesus didn’t come so that we would be condemned. He didn’t come carrying a sword to vanquish a human enemy. He came as a tiny baby to love the whole world and to give His life in exchange for the wages of our sin [Romans 6:23]. He is the only way and truth and life [John 14:6]. The Son and the Father are one [John 10:30]. Without faith in Jesus, no one comes to God the Father [Hebrews 11:6-8]. Not coming to faith in Him results in holding on to our sinful condemnation.

Because of this, we must come to know Jesus, the Son of God. We must understand His light in our darkness [John 1:5] and daily allow ourselves to be made more and more in His image [Romans 8:29]. He is the Word of God and God sent His Spirit to teach and remind us about all Jesus speaks to us [John 14:26]. Therefore, we must study the Word to show ourselves approved [2 Timothy 2:15] and to always have an answer for the hope that we have in Christ [1 Peter 3:15].

Do you know your Redeemer? Will you choose to know Him better–to allow His light to penetrate the recesses of heart and soul?


First Love

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

Image result for great loveGod is love. He loved us first. He loves us most. He loves more than we could ever ask or imagine. Constantly. Faithfully. Mercifully. Full of grace, pressed down, shaken together and running over [Luke 6:38].

His love for us is holy. We are set a part as children [1 John 3:1], not the human toys purported by pagan mythologies. We are prepared as His spotless bride [Revelation 19:7-8], not exploited as harlots like in the mythological pantheons.

His love for us is sovereign and transcendent. That’s why His anger stirs when we continually and blatantly sin against one another [Matthew 18:21-35; Romans 6:1; James 2:13]. And when we sit in judgment on other people’s sins while disregarding our own [Matthew 7:2-5; Luke 6:41-42].

His love for us is righteous and good. It wills only for our eternal best. It treats us only with rightness–that which is infinitely and precisely correct according to God’s moral law. Never impatiently or unkindly. Never enviously, boastfully or arrogantly. Never dishonoring us or using us for His own gain. We do not easily trip God’s temper, and our reciprocal love toward God covers over the multitude of our sin. His love does not delight in evil. Period. But it rejoices when a sinner finds the truth, the way and the life. God’s love eternally protects as we trust in Him. His love eternally hopes we will choose to repent, though, He already knows whether or not we will. His love perseveres from the beginning to the end of human history, pursuing our hearts to return to Him–our first love, who first loved us.

In His eternal wisdom, His love will never fail us [1 Corinthians 13].

But our finite human love will fail us every time. Unless we deny our flesh and take up the cross of Christ [Matthew 16:24; Luke 9:23], our sin-warped love will fixate on another thing, like money, and become the root of all evil [1 Timothy 6:10]. Or like physical and material desires, temptations that will grow into full blown death [James 1:15]. It will fixate on finite, sinful human beings and fail to meet our self-absorbed, insatiable expectations. Leaving us with the sense of being robbed and cheated rather than whole.

God’s love for us is holy–wholeness itself.

His love for us is just. It respects our freewill even when it hurts God’s heart [Deuteronomy 5:29]. He will give to each as each has chosen–the righteous to everlasting life and the unrighteous to everlasting condemnation [Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:15 & 21:27].

Do you know the depths of the riches of God’s love for you? Do you realize that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all Creation will be able to separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus [Romans 8:38-39]?

It’s true. The only thing that can separate you from God’s love is you.


Living the Ultimate Lie

“‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'” Genesis 3:4-5

Image result for crownGod is sovereign. And ultimately, Satan’s original lie is a question of sovereignty to both humans and angels alike [Isaiah 14:14; Revelation 12:4].

Did God really say?

As if the creature has any authority–the power or right to give orders, make decisions and enforce control–to call God’s dominion into question. God made everything. Satan made nothing and has no power to create.

Satan was a creature twice over–first as the angel of light, Lucifer, he rebelled and also convinced a third of heaven to usurp God’s authority over their own lives. Now here, cast out of heaven to be the prince of this world [John 14:30; Ephesians 2:2], Satan assumes the form of the serpent, a lowly creature, yet sleek and agile. How easily did he worm his way into Eve’s presence without detection and drop down over her shoulder for a chat.

You must not eat from any tree in the garden?

Questioning God’s right to be Eve’s sovereign. If God is sovereign, then He must also be good. But if He forbade you to eat, to nourish your hungry flesh, then He is not good and, therefore, not sovereign.

Eve falteringly defends God’s goodness–we may eat…God provides for and sustains us–but she also adopts Satan’s question of sovereignty, adding–we must not touch the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or we will die.

You will not certainly die.

Questioning God’s omniscience. The creature, Satan, wants Eve to question whether or not God is all-knowing. Because to be the Sovereign God He must know everything about everything He created. If on one point God is unaware, then His authority fails over that detail and everything related to it and, then, He is not infinitely sovereign. He is finite as we, His creation, are.

For God knows that your eyes will be opened, and you will be like Him.

Once again questioning God’s goodness, omniscience, sovereignty, as well as His justice, righteousness and love. As if Satan himself possesses any of these attributes?

Satan is the antithesis of good. He knows nothing except what his senses have taught him. And he has absolutely no authority. He cares nothing for justice, only for himself. He has no rightness in him, everything is crooked, warped and twisted by sin and rebellion against God. And he loves no one but himself. With all of this, all Satan is is a liar–and the father of lies [John 8:44]–driven to steal, kill and destroy the treasures and lives of this finite earth [Matthew 6:19-20 & 10:28; Luke 12:4; John 10:10].

And yet, many accept Satan as their authority. They accept his lie, wanting to be their own sovereign god. Rebelling against God’s authority in favor of their own selfish, finite attempts to rule self. The sad truth, is that self-godship is an illusion. Satan knew from the beginning that rebellion against God would not make us our own sovereigns. On the contrary, by insisting on controlling our own lives, we lose them–all freedom, all power, all blessings, all provision, hope, peace and purpose, all joy, and love and mercy and grace and justice is lost to us.

Because, as the creation, we have no authority or power to provide any of these things for ourselves. We can only accept them from the loving hand of our Almighty, Sovereign God.

Are you living the ultimate lie?


Hallowed, Vain or Profane?

“He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.”” Luke 11:2

Image result for clean lipsGod is infinitely holy. That means that everything about Him is also holy. His name alone bears a holiness that could crush or redeem a person.

Jesus instructed his disciples to respect God as their own Father and to revere His name as holy, willing His kingdom’s presence. It seems almost paradoxical to consider God our Father–in light of the casual relationships many of us have with our parents–while at the same time honoring Him with all due reverence.

So it is the third clause that binds the first two together in our understanding. Jesus is reminding us that we are God’s children and, therefore, coheirs of God’s kingdom with Christ [Romans 8:16-17 & 9:8]. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and we will reign with Him  [1 Timothy 6:15; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 17:14, 19:16 & 20:4-6].

But claiming to be His children and doing things in His name versus living as His children and giving all glory and honor to Him are two different things [Matthew 7:21-23].

In the second commandment, God instructed us not to use His name in vain–that is in an empty manner [Exodus 20:7]. Remember that rendering something holy means that it is filled with a special purpose. God redeemed us to make us holy–to refill us with the special purpose with which He created each and every one of us.

The devil seeks to empty our lives of all that our good and loving God seeks to give us in more abundance [John 10:10]. Satan wants to use us up in vain–emptiness–and spit us out. God wants to breathe purposeful life into our freewill.

And He rightly expects us to treat Him accordingly. To speak His name with reverent purpose rather than emptily tossing His holiness about like an empty wrapper.

His name fills us with hope, peace and healing. His name is a strong and mighty refuge in our stormy world [Proverbs 18:10]. His name is above all names, a firm foundation and mighty to save [Exodus 18:11; Isaiah 63:1; Zephaniah 3:17]. His name casts out demons–and they shudder in fear [Mark 9:38; James 2:19]. His name causes the nations to tremble [Psalm 99:1]. And at His name every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He alone is God [Romans 14:11; Philippians 2:10].

His name is full of life. It is the wholeness that we, as sinners, so desperately need. It is the purpose that fills our lives and makes us holy.

And using it in vain only drains all of the fullness, wellness and purpose out of our lives.

Have you spoken God’s name in emptiness? Have you used it to profane–that is irreverently to disrespect? God will forgive it if you ask, and He will make you wholly holy to His glory and honor–only reverence His name as you wear it before this world.