Redemption


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

2 Corinthians 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He comfort to us enables us to comfort others and transforms us into His Christ-like fragrance

I love this time of the year when we celebrate Easter, a glorious day!  For Jesus, the week before His crucifixion and resurrection was filled with travel, teaching, great moments in prayer and also with fragrance.  Yes, fragrance.  “While he was eating, a woman came in with a beautiful alabaster jar of expensive perfume and poured it over his head…‘She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial.’” (Matthew 26:7,12)

As He prepared Himself for the greatest challenge of His life, the cross, His fragrance permeated His surroundings.  No doubt this fragrance blessed and comforted those who loved Him but disgusted those who were seeking to kill Him.  Because He was victorious on the cross and defeated death through His resurrection, we, too, can be victorious in our challenges and fill our world with His fragrance. 

@ 2 Corinthians 1
Sometimes we wonder why we go through the challenges we face.  Ultimately, God is concerned not so much about why, but with what we do with our challenges.  How do we respond to them?  “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (4-5)  In light of this, I have to admit that my flesh doesn’t really desire to be all that helpful to others in this way – I’ll pass on the trouble, but thank you for offering.

On the other hand, I also know the incredible joy that comes from comforting someone who is passing through a difficult place where I have been.  Solving the troubles of others may or may not be our task, but encouraging them with the hope of moving past their problems through our testimony is invaluable to them.  Acknowledging the presence of the Lord through all of our own troubles offers comfort and strength found nowhere else.  While I’m hesitant to ask the Lord to bring it on regarding troubleI’m confident of the abiding comfort He will give me when I need it most. In the process, I truly desire to share the fragrance of His comfort with others.

@ 2 Corinthians 2
“Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.” (15) In the United States, we are excessively concerned about our personal fragrance, our smell.  I’ve visited several countries around the world where I dare say a more conscientious approach to personal hygiene would be welcomed, but Americans are extreme in this.  By the time I have finished grooming each morning, I am wearing no less than eight different scents, which more than likely contribute to my allergy problems.  However, Paul was speaking of a different kind of fragrance.

“But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.  To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom.  But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume.  And who is adequate for such a task as this?” (15-16). Only those who are washed by the blood of Jesus, cleansed from the stench of sin’s decay, are adequate to represent Him by wearing His fragrance. To fellow believers, we are a life-giving perfume, but to the lost, we are a constant reminder of their need for cleansing.  Oh, that they would tire of the dreadful smell of doom and instead run to the cross, allowing His fragrant perfume to fill their lives.  I’m forever challenged to smell just like Him. 

Moving Forward: Through the eyes of the Spirit, I will look for those in need of comfort, sharing His comfort with them, wearing His Christ-like fragrance. 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 13-16

Exodus 9-12 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Our merciful God offers us many opportunities to turn our hearts towards Him.

I’ve known some stubborn people in my life, but none the likes of Pharaoh. After the snake-swallowing event with Moses, I’m reasonably sure that I would have given in and let God’s people go! Bloody water, frogs, gnats, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness – obviously Pharaoh wanted to keep his cheap labor.

For a long time, I didn’t understand the scripture that said God hardened Pharaoh’s heart because this would definitely put Pharaoh at a disadvantage even if he had wanted to let God’s people go. However, I have come to understand that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by God’s actions. I know many individuals who experience trouble in their lives because of their sins; and in blaming God for it, their hearts are hardened towards Him and His people. Jesus came to soften their stony hearts and bring healing and deliverance.

@ Exodus 12
The instructions the Lord gave to Moses regarding the Passover dinner preparations and the blood on the doorposts were detailed and non-negotiable. God was about to deliver from bondage all those who followed His instructions to the letter, and through their obedience, the sons of Israel were spared. “Pharaoh and all his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single house where someone had not died.”(30) With the death of his nation’s firstborn sons and the wailing of his people, stubborn Pharaoh finally acquiesced – Israel was free to leave.

The story of the Passover dinner paints an interesting picture. “These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover.” (12:11) Dressed for dinner! How appropriate! With the wailing of the mourning Egyptians in earshot, the Israelites were told to dress for dinner and eat quickly as if ready to leave at any moment. And they did.

I view the church today in somewhat the same position. We are dressed for dinner with our lamps full, with His blood on our heart’s door and waiting for the coming of the bridegroom. We are expecting to leave at any moment! But within earshot, if we really listen, we hear the wailing. We hear the wailing of the lost souls of our world expressed in so many different ways, needing deliverance too.

The blood on the doorpost was only for the Israelites, but it was replaced at Calvary by the blood of the perfect lamb, the perfect sacrifice, and this blood is for everyone! How can we ignore their wailing, their cries for help? Better we roll up the sleeves of our dinner dress, seek out the lost and bring them to the table. Maître d’? Table for….all!

Moving Forward: With a soft heart this day, I listen for the wail, the cry of the lost, and invite them to come and dine with me.

Tomorrow @ I Samuel 26-31

I Corinthians 11-12 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He asks that we remember His death

Every culture in the world has its holidays and remembrances, occasions that are celebrated and honored with gatherings, food and gifts. Beyond the ten major holidays we observe in the United States, it seems we are always celebrating someone’s birthday or anniversary where we set aside time to honor an individual or couple, remembering their special day.

When my family celebrates the birthdays of our children, I love to refresh everyone’s memory of the events that took place on the day of their birth. I especially enjoy sharing all the facets of our son’s birth, embarrassing little details for him. I’m not certain why I do this, but the word payback comes to mind – it was a difficult delivery. Regardless, our moments together as we remember and celebrate are filled with much laughter, joy and often sweet tears. Another day we frequently remember and honor is a day that entirely changed our lives.

@ I Corinthians 11
“For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.’ In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this to remember me as often as you drink it.’”(23-25)

These are familiar words to those who observe the Lord’s Supper, or Communion as we most often refer to it, and observe we should! We may struggle with knowing what God desires for us to do at certain times in our lives, but there is one thing we know for certain that He wants us to do and that is to remember, honor and give pause to what He did for us on the cross. “Do this,” He said, and even if we don’t know one other observance that He desires from us, we know to do this. Sometimes He observes our faithfulness in the things we know to do before He reveals the unknown.

As a child, I don’t remember a single Communion Service where I didn’t look over to see my mom’s face moistened by tears of gratitude and love as she remembered what Jesus did for her, transforming her from death unto life. My response is much the same, always humbled by His willingness to suffer the cross for me. “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) And when I remember this, I am forever humbled to tears by His grace.

“For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again.” (26) Our participation in Communion is even more than remembrance – it is our confession, each and every time, of our involvement in the new covenant, the new testament or testimony of what Christ has done for us. In a Communion Service, we are testifying to everyone present of our commitment to Him as we eat the symbols that represent His body and blood.

How appropriate that this sacred celebration would be shared with others until He comes again. One day we will gather at another Supper with the very One we have remembered through Communion, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready…Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” (Revelations 19:7,9) Oh, what a celebration!

Moving Forward: Today I look forward to my next opportunity to do this, to remember His death, His body and His blood, and what they mean to me through Communion. Whether gathering with believers or at home with my family, I will remember…

Tomorrow @ Exodus 1-4

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