Redemption


Revelation 1-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He redeemed our lives through His Son, the Lamb of God

Several years ago I sent a Christmas card to family and friends that had a picture of a lion and lamb resting together under a starry sky with the inscription, Peace on Earth.  I received several comments about the card and the wonderful message it brought to our hearts on many different levels.  At first glance, the peaceful setting spoke of the Christmas message and Christ’s coming to earth to bring peace to even the most unlikely scenarios, but in light of our scripture today, we come to an even greater understanding of the meaning behind the Lion and the Lamb. 

@ Revelation 5
The apostle John had been banished by the Romans to the island of Patmos for preaching the gospel.  Now in his solitude, he received an extraordinary vision from God, “This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (1:1-2)

Through revelation, John was to give a report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ!  What a daunting task!  Yet, while our witnessing is not the recorded Word of God, we are representing the testimony of Jesus Christ in part as we share the good news and what he has done for us.  We, too, have been given a task.

In Revelation 5, God held a scroll about the future, but no one was found worthy enough to open it.  As John wept over this dilemma, one of the 24 elders called out, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (5)  Jacob’s deathbed prophecy, found in the very first book of the Bible, talked about this Lion, “Judah, my son, is a young lion that has finished eating its prey…The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from his descendants, until the coming of the one to whom it belongs, the one whom all nations will honor.” (Genesis 49:9-10)  Jesus, the Lion!

Imagine the excitement that rose in John’s heart in anticipation of seeing the Lion of Judah, the powerful King, the mighty Ruler.  But John did not see a lion.  No, he saw a lamb. “Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered, but it was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders.” (6)  We will never really understand and fully realize the kingship of Jesus until we see Him first as the lamb, the lamb that had been slaughtered to remove our sins.  John the Baptist recognized Him when he called out, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)  Jesus, the Lamb!

This is the truth of my Christmas card – Jesus came as a sacrificial lamb, pure and spotless, to remove the stain of sin from our lives.  Yet, He is the Lion, our resurrected King, whose victorious reign is worthy of all praise.  “And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang:  ‘Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.’ And the four living beings said, ‘Amen!’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.” (13-14)  The lion and the lamb.  I fall down and worship. 

Moving Forward:  May my life testify today of the Lamb of God and what He has done in my life.  And I pray this testimony will draw others to the true meaning of Christmas. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 21-22

Nehemiah 5-9 NLT)

Discover His heart: He is blessed when we show respect and honor to His Word

Sometimes we forget the impact of scripture on our lives.  If we take a moment to think about it, we will remember occasions when we were distraught over a situation, but a verse from the Bible brought comfort and strength to us.  Then, there have been numerous times in my own life when I have been reading His Word, and a particular scripture gets all up in my business, if you know what I mean.  This is when the conviction of the Holy Spirit invades my life, and I am reduced to tears of repentance.  I really don’t enjoy the process, but the peace and joy that follow make it all worthwhile.  The entire nation of Israel experienced the convicting power of the Holy Spirit when the Levites read from the Book of Moses. 

@ Nehemiah 8
“Ezra the scribe stood on a high wooden platform that had been made for the occasion… they saw him open the book, they all rose to their feet.” (4-5)  As Babylonian captives, 42,000 plus Israelites returned to their home of Jerusalem.  Their Temple had been rebuilt under the guidance of their spiritual leader, Ezra, and the walls of their city had been restored under the direction of their wise governor, Nehemiah.

With purpose in their hearts, they had assembled together for the reading of God’s Word, and as the book was opened, they rose to their feet to show honor and respect for His Holy Word.  Perhaps this example is why we often stand for the reading of God’s Word when we assemble together in our churches.  It’s only right that our position and demeanor should distinguish between man’s words and God’s Holy Word.  Nothing we say in our own strength can compare to the perfect, trustworthy and pure words of God. (Psalm 19:7-8)  At the very least, our hearts should stand at attention when we read or hear His powerful Word.

Apparently, the Israelites had a lengthy Bible Study that day as they stood assembled together.  Over the 70 years of captivity, Aramaic rather than Hebrew had become the first language for many of the younger Israelites.  Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites went to great lengths to translate and interpret the scriptures so that all could understand their meaning.  This is the role of our pastors today as well, to read the Word of God and explain it in a way that all will understand.  Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”(4:6) Thankfully, the Holy Spirit anoints His Word and the lips of His servants, and He touches our hearts as we listen.

“Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were interpreting for the people said to them, ‘Don’t mourn or weep on such a day as this! For today is a sacred day before the Lord your God.’ For the people had all been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.” (9)  Just like King Josiah when he heard the words of the law for the first time, the hearts of the people were tender to God’s Word, and they were remorseful for their many sins of the past.  The scriptures had revealed to them the high cost paid for their low living.

But now the people had repented, the Temple was standing, and the walls had been rebuilt – it was time for celebration!  “And Nehemiah continued, ‘Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (10)  With sins forgiven, it was time to celebrate the goodness of the Lord in their lives.

God doesn’t want us to live in guilt over our past sins and mistakes.  “If we confess our sins to him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (I John 1:9)  It’s time to celebrate and put on the garments of praise for the spirit of heaviness! (Isaiah 61:3)  Then His joy will be our strength to celebrate His goodness and to live in obedience to Him.  It’s difficult to sin against God while celebrating His goodness and mercy with great joy in our hearts…it really is. 

Moving Forward:  With joy in my heart for His forgiveness and grace, I move through this day celebrating His goodness. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 140-142

Malachi 1-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He came to heal our hearts and open the door to eternal life with Him

“Mommy, I feel so clean inside.”  As a three-year-old, I really didn’t understand all that had taken place in my life the day I asked Jesus to cleanse me from my sin.  I’m not sure how dark and deep my sins could have been at such a young age, but I remember the cleansing, the warmth, and wholeness that came deep within me that morning.  I still feel it today, and there’s just nothing else like it!  Our prophet today, Malachi, ended the Old Testament with encouragement about One who was coming to bring cleansing, warmth, and wholeness to the lost. 

@ Malachi 4
“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings.  And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.” (2)  In the first three chapters, Malachi had chastised the Israelites for their sins in marrying pagans, robbing God of the tithe and unfaithfulness to the family, but now he came with a message of hope for the future.

Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness, was coming to bring healing to their sick hearts, and the freedom they would experience would send their hearts leaping for joy.  The sun can be a destructive fire or a warm glow to our lives, but those who would turn to God would feel the cleansing, the warmth from the Son of righteousness and complete wholeness.  There would be nothing else like it!

“Look, I am sending you the prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord arrives.  His preaching will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.” (5)  God was giving the Jews a heads up on how they could recognize the Sun of Righteousness.  There would be a prophet, a forerunner, who would announce the arrival of the Messiah as foretold by Isaiah, “Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, and he will prepare your way. He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’ This messenger was John the Baptist.” (Mark 1:2-4) With such a clear marker, I’ve never understood how they missed Him.

“Otherwise I will come and strike the land with a curse.”  But then Malachi ended his message and the Old Testament with a curse.  On judgment day, those who have not asked Jesus to cleanse them from their sins will be judged accordingly, and the Sun of Righteousness will be a consuming fire.

Those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior, the One who came to destroy the curse, will experience His grace, cleansing and the warmth from the Sun of Righteousness. The redeemed will no longer be cursed but will experience the blessing from the final words of the New Testament in Revelation 22:21, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.”  Thank you, Jesus, for coming and removing the curse, making us clean inside. Thank you for opening the door to eternal life with you.  I feel the warmth.

Moving Forward:  I’m blessed beyond measure today because of the Son of righteousness, Jesus, and the promise of eternal life He has brought to me.  I move through this Christmas Season with a grateful heart for what it truly means to celebrate His birth. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 19-20

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

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