Redemption


I Peter 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He rewards our belief in Him with the salvation of our soul

The thought of man flying through the air was a dream and imagination in the minds of many great thinkers a century ago.  Imagine one’s feet leaving the ground and soaring above the earth to destinations unknown.  The thought propelled man to draft and build models of what would one day become the airplane.  They believed.  They had never seen it, but they believed in it.

When I fly to somewhere in the world today, I don’t have to imagine the airplane.  It’s my reality.  Visionaries like Leonardo DaVinci and the Wright Brothers would be thrilled to see the realization of their dreams.  When men today speak of everyday families reaching into the galaxy through space travel, I wonder if this will one day be realized.  Help! 

@ I Peter 1
You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.  The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.  This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you.  They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward.  They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen.” (8-12)  Peter had a wonderful message for all those who believe in the risen Lord through the eyes of faith.  Even though we have not seen Him, we have received salvation!

We have received something that the Old Testament prophets only dreamed about as they prophesied about Jesus.  Well, Moses and Elijah had that little sneak peek on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 7:3); and then most believe that all the Old Testament saints met Him when He preached to them while in the tomb. (I Peter 3:19)  For the prophets, that must have been a glorious meeting – the airplane really does fly!

For 2,000 years, followers of Jesus have been waiting for the ultimate flight when the trumpet sounds, “It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed.” (I Corinthians 15:52)  Just as the early prophets believed in the promise of Christ, let’s be steadfast in our belief of the promise of eternal life in Heaven.  Let’s live each day with our ears tuned to the trumpet, our eyes looking for His glorious appearing and our hearts ready to break the sound barrier on our flight of a lifetime.  He’s coming soon.  I believe!

Moving Forward: I don’t know how long God will wait until He sends His Son to receive us, but what I do know is that I’m ready for the flight and doing my best to bring many others with me! 

Tomorrow @ Deuteronomy 10-12

Psalms 125-127 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He brings restoration to each life in amazing ways

Over the years many of the old masterpieces, paintings from centuries ago, have required restoration.  The process is tedious and lengthy.  It includes cleaning, x-raying the thickness of the canvas, filling in holes, removing the varnish, removing layers of deterioration and color and then product matching.  Since the artist has long since passed away, another artist is chosen to paint only the areas that are without paint, never adding paint to the master’s work.  The finished product is a beautiful restoration of a masterpiece to be enjoyed for many years to come.

Our Creator is also involved in the restoration of His masterpieces.  Sometimes the process is tedious and somewhat lengthy, but His process is not considerate of dead artists because He, of course, is the artist.  After years of exile and pain, Israel was on its way to restoration in our reading today. 

@ Psalm 126
“When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream!  We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy.  And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the Lord has done for them.’  Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!  What joy!” (1-3)  The painful years of exile in Babylon had softened the hearts of the remnant of Israel, and as they returned home, they sang songs of praise and joy.  The process had been difficult, but the Lord had done amazing things for them; and now with great hope, they sang, “Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert.” (4)

Regardless of the damage we have caused to the masterpiece of our life, God is all about restoration.  Sometimes the process is slow as He softens our hearts and often the process is long because there is much to restore, but He longs to hear us pray like David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.  Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation.” (Psalm 51:10-12)

Sometimes restoration can only come through our forgiveness of others.  “When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!” (Job 42:10) Job, Joseph, Daniel…sometimes we are damaged by the words or deeds of others, but when we forgive to the point that we are able to pray for them or bless them, restoration will come and make us like new.  God is all about restoration.

Moving Forward: I’m thinking today of the amazing things God has done for me and His willingness and ability to restore whatever I need.

Tomorrow @ Ecclesiastes 3-4

Hebrews 8-10 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He forgives and forgets our old life and gives us a new way of living

Countless plays, movies, and television programs have told the story of the old family patriarch who dies and the greedy heirs that gather at the family estate for the reading of the Last Will and Testament of the deceased.  Whether portrayed with humor or drama, the story is usually filled with murder and mayhem until the so-called deceased dramatically reappears having faked his death to observe who really deserves his treasure in the future.  The Jews in the book of Hebrews were dealing with a death of sorts, and in our reading today, the writer was reading the Will. 

@ Hebrews 9
For centuries the Jews had looked to the Temple and the High Priest for the forgiveness of their sins.  Now that Jesus had come, the apostles were telling them of a new way to receive forgiveness, a new covenant, and many were having difficulty accepting that the old covenant was really dead.  “But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance…So Christ has now become the High Priest…He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven…With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” (7,11-12)

I, for one, would have been thrilled to know that the bloodbath around the Temple each day had ended, but the Jews were still looking at the Temple and all it represented for their redemption.  Even though the writer had told them the old way of redemption was dead, they could still see the Temple, the old patriarch so to speak, was standing before them. Further explanation was given, “Now when someone leaves a will, it is necessary to prove that the person who made it is dead.  The will goes into effect only after the person’s death. While the person who made it is still alive, the will cannot be put into effect.” Hebrews was a statement of proof that the old man, the old covenant was dead through the death of Jesus on the cross.

The provisions of the Will were as follows, “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord:  I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’  Then he says, ‘I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.  And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.’” (10:16-18)  Not only is the old covenant dead, but also dead are our sins and lawless deeds.  Dead, forgotten.

Sometimes we find the results of our old way of life staring us in the face just as the Jews viewed the Temple and its former importance.  In our old life, we may have attended church and loved God, but after accepting Jesus as our Savior, we entered a new way of living.  The old way of living is dead, buried and forgotten by God.  We can go ahead and dig up the old man and make him reappear if we choose to do it, but as said, “The will goes into effect only after the person’s death.”

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place…For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (10:19-20,22)   Praise God!  The old man is dead, the Will is in effect, and we don’t have to even remember old what’s his name! 

Moving Forward: Some days we just have to reread the terms of the Will.  “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)  The old man is dead! 

Tomorrow @ Numbers 33-36

Numbers 21-24 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: Because He loves us so, He has provided salvation through His Son

After seeing hundreds of young lives receive salvation and a touch by His Spirit at camp one summer, we drove the 45 minutes home over the weekend to get refreshed, wash clothes and buy supplies for the next week of camp. This particular weekend my husband Tom was out ministering, but I stayed home with our children.  I got up one night to visit the bathroom, and when just about finished, I looked down at the floor and saw movement.  It was a snake.

The snake in my bathroom had to be reckoned with because this worn out body would not get needed rest for the week ahead with a snake in the house.  I prayed for His strength, woke up my 9-year-old son and loaded us up with shovels and hoes. We went after that 14-inch snake as though our lives depended on it, and got it!  Unfortunately, the Israelites’ snake encounter did not go as well for them. 

@ Numbers 21
The Israelites had just won a huge battle and defeated the Canaanites.  The Promised Land was within a few days reach after 40 years in the desert, but they became impatient.  They knew the journey ahead through Moab would be long, they were tired of manna, and they wanted to possess the land now.  They complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?’ they complained. ‘There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!’ So the Lord sent poisonous [fiery] snakes among the people, and many were bitten and died.” (5-6)  Oh…

“Then the people came to Moses and cried out, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take away the snakes.’   So Moses prayed for the people. Then the Lord told him, ‘Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!’ So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed!” (7-9)  In a vulnerable moment after a great victory, the Israelites sinned, but a replica of the very thing that had caused them pain became their salvation.  In just a short time they went on to possess their land.

I don’t remember complaining about anything that summer weekend invoking a snake encounter to bring about correction from the Lord like the Israelites experienced.  I do know that I was worn out, somewhat depleted and a perfect target for the enemy who sends His fiery darts in weak moments.  It’s often after a great victory for the Lord, like the powerful camps we had experienced or the Israelites’ mighty victory, that the enemy brings his attack.  However, Jesus has already provided the remedy for us.

“And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)  Jesus became sin (2 Cor 5:21), became the very thing that was killing us so that we may be saved and have eternal life with Him.

And we may also look to Him for salvation from the enemy’s fiery attacks against the body, soul, and spirit.  The enemy did not win in my life that weekend, and we went on for yet another great week at youth camp, lives changed by the power of God.  When we turn our focus to Jesus, high and lifted up, whatever our fiery trial may be, He will bring victory. 

Moving Forward:  Jesus lifted up! I look to Him today for salvation and deliverance because He paid the price for me on the cross. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 1-5

Proverbs 23-24

Discover His heart: God sees our hearts and knows our thoughts

“Women and children first!”  I’ll never forget that phrase called out over and over again in the movie Titanic as survivors boarded the ship’s lifeboats.  It has become the mantra for all disasters, marine and otherwise.  The few men who pushed aboard the lifeboats as if they didn’t know the protocol were considered cowards, but actually, most men were lost at sea in that disaster.

Those in the lifeboats who ignored the cries of their fellow passengers seemed heartless.  What a helpless feeling to see hundreds and hundreds of people perish for such senseless reasons – pride in a vessel that could not sink and apathy towards others – outrageous!  Oh, that we would be even more outraged by the many souls perishing all around us! 

@ Proverbs 24
“If you hold back from rescuing those taken away to death, those who go staggering to the slaughter; if you say, “Look, we did not know this”— does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay all according to their deeds?” (11-12) Some pretty tough words from Solomon, but very significant for us today.  It always amazes me that we think we could fool the One who knows everything.  When we fail to give the hope of eternal life to our friends and neighbors, we may fool them or those who are watching our lives, but we could never fool Him.

How could we not know? Our newspapers and newscasts are filled with stories from around the world of those who are killed because of their skin color, religion, heritage or simply because they are breathing – unjustly sentenced to die.  These atrocities should drive us to our knees with prayers of protection and rescue, they should compel us to give to compassion ministries for their relief and to respond to whatever doors are opened to us.  Our protest must be heard!

And speaking of those who are taken away to death, I can’t help but think of the millions of helpless little ones whose lives are snatched from them while they are growing in what should be the most secure place in the world for them.  We could never excuse ourselves by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.”  He knows that we know, yet we do so very little to stop it.

Most consider these verses a call for evangelism, “Rescue those being led away to death…” (NIV).  Rescue those who may not be innocent of sin but run through life unaware of sin and its penalty, ignorantly led to their death. The facts are this – sin entered the world in the garden, delivering a death sentence for all of us.  All those we encounter each day without the forgiveness of sin are on an eternal Titanic, forever lost from God.  Our merciful God doesn’t want anyone to perish, and He sent His Son to save them.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  Everyone who believes in Him will not perish!  It takes so little effort for us to offer a hand into the lifeboat to those who are sinking.  However, we just seem to ignore their silent cries for help at times and look past their struggles to stay afloat.

A song from the old Salvation Army songbook that I heard as a little girl comes to mind.  Yes, the song may seem ancient, but the message is lifesaving. “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.” (F. Crosby) The words and story of this old hymn are all about rescuing those who are being led to their death, rescuing them with the message of Jesus.

Moving Forward: Solomon reminds me today that God knows me, and He knows that I know that He has given me a mission. 

Tomorrow @ Amos 1-4

Ezekiel 37-42 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He longs to resurrect and restore all that is dry and dead.

“Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…Now hear the word of the Lord,” says the old spiritual taken from Ezekiel 37 that was used in the past to teach children about anatomy. “Toe bone connected to the foot bone, foot bone connected to the leg bone,” and on it goes. 

@Ezekiel 37
Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dry Bones was spectacular and breath-taking as the Lord said to him, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again!’… Suddenly as I spoke, there was a rattling noise all across the valley. The bones of each body came together and attached themselves as complete skeletons.” (4-7)  Can you imagine?  I envision a few sheep now and then, but this is way beyond my pay grade.

The Jewish exiles were discouraged about their predicament and rightly so.  They had lost their nation and their glorious temple of worship and found themselves living far from home in Babylon, but God sat poised and ready to restore them, “I am ready to hear Israel’s prayers and to increase their numbers like a flock.” (36:37)  After all that God had endured through their sinfulness and rejection of Him, He was waiting for them to pray, to call on Him once again, and then He would restore all that they had lost.

“The bones that covered the valley floor…were scattered everywhere across the ground.”(2) The bones were exposed, not buried, for all of heaven to see – He had not forgotten them. This is the nature of our God.  He waits for individuals, for churches, for nations to pray, to repent, and then He resurrects and restores that which seemed dry and dead and brings life once again.

The prophet joined God’s resurrection process when he spoke the prophetic message.  When we are focused on anything in our lives that resembles those old dry bones, whether it is our nation, our church or our loved ones and friends, we are challenged to participate in the resurrection.  We can pray!  And when we pray, should the Lord reveal a prophetic word to us, we can speak!

Israel has experienced a commotion and shaking ever since those days in exile.  Those bones have come together, the nation has returned to its homeland in part, and we pray and wait with them for that breath of the Spirit. “Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again,” (9) and give new spiritual life to them as believers in Jesus Christ, their Messiah.

Likewise, we shouldn’t be surprised if there is a commotion, a rattling if you will, when we pray because God may choose to shake things up a little to bring about resurrection in our situation.  If we are discouraged with the condition of our nation, with the dryness and lack of life in our church or with our loved ones who seem so dead to the things of God, remember that He sees those dry bones exposed before Him.  He will respond to our call for the Spirit to come and breathe life into them so they may live again.  This is the nature of our God.  “Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones…Now hear the word of the Lord!” 

Moving Forward: Thinking about our nation today, I will put aside discouragement and continue to pray for the Spirit to breathe life into us once again! 

Tomorrow @ Luke 23-24

Leviticus 16-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has reconciled us to Him through the sacrifice of His Son

One of the most valuable commodities in the world today is a pint of AB negative blood, at least it is for those who have this rare blood type.  These individuals often have blood taken and stored for their own use should they need it as a result of injury or sickness because less than 1% of the population carries this blood type.  Scary thought.  No one can live without blood.  God said to Moses, “The life of the body is in its blood,” (11) and He would know. 

@ Leviticus 17
Leviticus is filled with instructions regarding animal sacrifices and the use of their blood in attaining reconciliation with God, often sharing more detail than I think I would need to know.  But what may seem like a preoccupation on the subject was more accurately God’s desire to preserve the honor and integrity of the blood because He was looking forward to Calvary.

Animals could be used for food, clothing and even medicine, but their blood was to be used for only one thing – the atonement for sin.  “I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life that makes purification possible. That is why I have said to the people of Israel, ‘You must never eat or drink blood.’” (11-12)

My first thought is why the Israelites would need such instruction. However, this was a practice in their culture because of their idolatrous worship of other gods, such as the sacrificing to goat idols or demons mentioned earlier in the chapter.  By drinking the blood of animals in their rituals, they thought they would capture the life force or energy of the creatures.  With the most significant force of life, the Source of all energy in the Universe and the Creator of all things guiding them by day and night with a pillar of cloud and fire, it’s impossible for me to understand the attraction of drinking blood.  Doing so diluted the symbol of His atonement for their sins, and only the enemy of their souls could entice them in this way.

These scriptures should give us pause to consider our culture’s present fascination with vampires, blood and the like.  As believers, should our entertainment include anything that glorifies and focuses on sucking the blood out of people? How could I ever put before my eyes something that dishonors or discredits the only eternal life-giving blood, the blood of Jesus?  I believe that only the enemy of my soul could entice me in that way.  No, my focus should be on this, “With His own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—He entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” (Hebrews 9:12)  For our bodies, life is in our blood; but for our eternal spirits, life is in His blood.

Moving Forward:  Thinking of the old Andre Crouch song, “The blood that Jesus shed for me, way back on Calvary…the blood that gives me strength from day to day, it will never lose its power.”  Taking that song with me today.

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 11-15

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