Saturday, February 13, 2016

A PROMISE FULFILLED



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In Christ, Mark
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.’”

“‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; He will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’”

For this is what the Lord says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel, nor will the Levitical priests ever fail to have a man to stand before Me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.’”

Jeremiah 33:14-18

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

I have been writing from the Old Testament for years now and it has been such a fulfilling journey in going back and revisiting the start of creation and then God’s relationship with His people, full of ups and downs, righteous works and sinful acts of wickedness, and blessings and judgments. For in the Old Testament, we find people like you and me, people who are sinners struggling to try and get it right in life, sometimes succeeding while other times utterly failing.

In the end translation, whether in the days of Jeremiah or here in the 21st century, two truths remains the same:

1. None of us can stand before God innocent of sin and undeserving of His destruction and wrath.

2. With this, everyone needs a Savior because there is no possible way we can save ourselves.

God knew it more than 2,000 years ago and He knows it today. This is why He rendered the promise found in today’s scripture passage from Jeremiah 33, a promise that brought hope (and still brings hope) to a people in need of it. Look again at these words here:

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.’”

“‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; He will do what is just and right in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’”

For this is what the Lord says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel, nor will the Levitical priests ever fail to have a man to stand before Me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.’”  Jeremiah 33:14-18

Note that God is telling His people of a time still yet to come, a time when He will bring more than just restoration, as He has promised earlier in this chapter. For restoration is only for the moment but salvation is forever.

God said it Himself. He was going to bring a “righteous Branch” who would do what is just and right in the land and be in the line of the beloved King David (Matthew 1:1-17). He would be a coming redeemer of God’s people who would be called “The Lord Our Righteous Savior” or in shorter form, Jesus, the name God gave to Joseph and Mary to be given to His Son (Matthew 1:21-25).

And as we look at the life of Jesus, we see God’s promise fully fulfilled. Jesus did come in perfect righteousness to not only save all mankind from sin but to also to serve the people of God through selfless service as He taught, healed, drove out demons, and even resurrected during His earthly ministry. His destiny was to die, paying the price for the sins of all people, and then be resurrected in power by God, ascending to sit in authority over all creation until that day when He returns to take His faithful disciples to live with Him and the Father forever.

To remind us about this promise made in Jeremiah’s day, Jesus, speaking on behalf of His Father, said these words:

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. John 3:16

Essentially, God is reminding us of His promise fulfilled, that when we believe in Jesus, several things happen which relieve us from the two truths mentioned prior in this devotion.

For none of us can stand before God innocent from sin and undeserving of His destruction and wrath but when we believe in Jesus, we have a great Intercessor who steps into the judgment scene to inform God. His Father, that He has already paid the price for the sins of the accused. And at that moment, a sinner becomes pardoned and is assured a place eternally with God and Jesus forever.

This leads to the second truth that we can’t save ourselves but we have a Savior who can. God so loved us that He did not wish for us to perish and so He sent His Son Jesus to our rescue. All we need to do is believe in Him and we will be saved.

Friends, think about where we would be had it not been for Jesus, hopeless and destined for doom.

After doing this, give thanks to God for His promise which was fulfilled in His Son Jesus, the only One who can save, the only One who makes a way for us to be with the Father forever (John 14:6)

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Feel free to leave a comment and please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

SHEPHERDED



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In Christ, Mark
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** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In this place, desolate and without people or animals—in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks. In the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem and in the towns of Judah, flocks will again pass under the hand of the one who counts them,’ says the Lord.”

Jeremiah 33:12-13

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

As we saw in yesterday’s devotion, a day of restoration was coming for the Israelites who were exiled to Babylon, a seventy year exile imposed by God for His people’s sinful disrespect and disobedience unto Him. When they had been taken from their homeland by the Babylonians, it was hardly a day of celebration. Rather, it was a time of deep mourning and grieving as they watched their towns, homes, and kingdom ravaged and left in ruins. Everything was destroyed including God’s holy temple in Jerusalem, the very temple that the Israelites desecrated by worshiping false gods and idols within.

The Israelites were taken into captivity with nothing and everything they had which was left behind was in piles of rubble and ashes.

But God inserted words of hope into this bleak scene for he would set things in motion for the Israelites to return home to rebuild their towns and cities, their lives, and their relationship with God. The streets would once again be filled with sounds of joy and gladness as the people of God would worship and rejoice in Him, proclaiming His goodness and everlasting love to all. They had been abandoned by God for seventy years, a punishment for the way they had abandoned Him for other gods, but they would have their Shepherd back to guide and protect them once again.

This thought is a great lead in to today’s verses as we continue to study Chapter 33 of the Book of Jeremiah. Look again at these words here:

“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In this place, desolate and without people or animals—in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks. In the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem and in the towns of Judah, flocks will again pass under the hand of the one who counts them,’ says the Lord.” Jeremiah 33:12-13

As we see, God was renewing all things for His people, including a return to the work they did before they were taken away. The pastures surrounding Jerusalem and throughout Judah would once again spring to life providing food for the flocks of sheep to graze on as the shepherds were able to return to the business they were skilled in. They would have a place to tend to their flocks who would “pass under the hand of the one who counts them”. The shepherds were always careful to make sure they had all the sheep together in their flock. They never wanted one of their sheep to go astray.

Friends, the word of God today serves to remind us that we too have a Good Shepherd in Jesus who cares for us, the sheep of His flock. This is what He had to say about His relationship to us in this regard:

 “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the Shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

“I am the Good Shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know me—just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father—and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”  John 10:10-16

Perhaps there is no better illustration of our relationship with Jesus, our Savior, than this. He loves us, those of His flock, with a love that would lead Him to lay down His life for us, and indeed He did just that, paying the price for our sinfulness on Calvary’s cross, dying so we, His sheep, might live. Note that He also loves His sheep so much that He wishes that none of them would be left out of His sheep pen. Those who are not in Him, those who have not found their Good Shepherd, are not abandoned but rather sought after with the hope of bringing them into the flock. In the end, Jesus, our Good Shepherd desires that all His sheep would be in His care.

Today, we should rejoice and be glad that we are not left to run amok with no guidance, protection from danger, or a safe place to rest. Because we do have a Great Shepherd in Jesus who is great because He was sent to shepherd and save all sheep in the world by the greatest Shepherd of all, God the Father. Since the dawn of creation, it is He who has been the Shepherd of all people.

We know because we can draw from this beloved psalm, perhaps the best known of them all, and give thanks that we are shepherded, now and forever:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the  Lord forever.

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Feel free to leave a comment and please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

SOUNDS OF JOY AND GLADNESS



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
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** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying,

“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; His love endures forever.”

For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord.’”

Jeremiah 33:10-11

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Life’s circumstances can overwhelm us at times, leaving us feeling isolated and desolate.

Maybe you can relate. I know I can.

I don’t make it a regular point to go back and recall my past, particularly when it was a bad experience, but there are times when it is necessary because you can sometimes take a negative and turn it into a positive.

This is one of those times.

As for the toughest time in my life, it was some 26 years ago when I found out my wife had been unfaithful to me. I won’t go into how I found out because it only added to the devastation of the matter and is really irrelevant to the overall discussion but the bottom line was that a relationship of nearly ten years that bore two beautiful children was over. I found out about the infidelity two days before I was set to go on a deployment (I was in the United States Navy at the time) and the ship refused to leave me behind. By the time I returned, my wife (we were still married) and my two children were living with the person she was seeing, my next door neighbor.

I can’t tell you how maddening and humiliating that was and I knew I had to get away from it. I separated from the Navy and moved nearly four hours way, far enough to be away from the situation but not so far that I couldn’t travel to see my kids. Life as I had known it as a family man, husband, and father was over and my life at that point felt like a wasteland.

Interestingly enough, as we begin to look at the scripture passage for today from Jeremiah 33, we find another wasteland scene painted, this time by the Lord Himself. Look at His words again here:

“This is what the Lord says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without people or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither people nor animals...’”

When God brought judgment on His people, punishing them for their worshiping of false gods and idols, the aftermath of that judgment was horrific. Once a thriving kingdom which hosted the most holy city known to man, Judah found itself left in absolute ruin after the attack of the Babylonians under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar. Ditto for Jerusalem.

To make matters worse, nothing was left to inhabit the land, not that there was much left to inhabit anyways. The people and animals were all gone, leaving the cities and towns deserted and void of life.

Did I mention it was a wasteland?

Not exactly what you would picture would happen when the Israelites first entered into the Promised Land to settle within it and reap the rewards of a land filled with milk and honey (Exodus 3:17).

This would be a pretty sad devotion if the story ended here but it didn’t. For the Lord had good news to share, news that would predict new life breathed into the wasteland left by the Babylonian invasion. Here are His words:

“There will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying,

“Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; His love endures forever.”

For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the Lord.’”

What a drastic turn around! A day was coming when there would once again be sounds of joy and gladness heard in Judah and Jerusalem, sounds of rejoicing and glorifying God once again ringing through the air which would:

1. Give thanks to the Lord.

Before they would get to return to their homeland and rebuild the wasteland left by the Babylonians, the people of Israel would first have to finish seventy years of exile, seventy years away from home abiding in a foreign land, seventy years of experiencing a severed relationship with the God they so blatantly disregarded and disrespected. They had turned their backs on God, abandoning Him, and in return, God showed them just how bad life could be apart from Him.

Why do we need to rehash this?

Because it can show you why the people were so thankful as they lifted up their sounds of joy and gladness. Apart from God for so long, they had been restored to a place of favor in His sight. Once again, He was their God and they were His people.

2. Declare the Lord’s goodness.

If God weren’t good, He would never have made the way clear for His people to return from their captivity. He could have left them in Babylon to perish but that wasn’t God’s style. Instead, He showed His people what He had shown them through the ages. For although He was a God of judgment, He was also a God of deep mercy, grace, compassion, and forgiveness, all of which the Israelites would experience in full measure upon return to Judah and Jerusalem.

No wonder they proclaimed His goodness as they lifted up their sounds of joy and gladness.

3. Proclaim the Lord’s everlasting love.

If you were to define the greatest quality found in our Lord, you would have to say it’s His love.

It’s a love that led Him to return His people home so they could rebuild their relationship with Him.

It’s a love that led Him to send His only Son Jesus to earth to live, die, and then be resurrected so that all mankind could have a chance to live with Him, their Father, forever through the sin-atoning, salvation-providing sacrifice of His Son.

It’s a love that is available for any of His people to grasp if they allow Him to love through them.

Back to my earlier testimony because I have to tell you that the Lord brought hope into my desolate wasteland of a life just as He did the Israelites, a hope that brought me to a place where I raised sounds of joy and gladness.

For you see, God had another very special person in mind for me, a godly woman who not only showed me how to love again but, more importantly, showed me the way back to a relationship with the Lord.

And I have never turned back since.

As I returned to love in a relationship, my life wasteland turned into a life where sounds of joy and gladness dominated.

I gave thanks to God for bringing Grace, my wife’s name, into my life. I gave thanks that He received me back with open arms, even though I had walked away from Him for so long. And I gave thanks that He showed me I had a purpose that was far beyond myself, a purpose intended to serve Him and others to His glory. Every day, I try to make good on fulfilling that purpose.

I also declared God’s goodness in bringing me into a Christ-centered marriage. I have said through the 23 years we have been together that “Grace” was really my wife’s middle name because He first name is “Amazing”. People think I am joking ( they always do) but if they knew my story, they would know that I am only partially kidding because if it weren’t for her, I would have continued to be counted among the lost, those living separate from the Lord, like those Israelites who walked that road to God’s judgment in Jeremiah’s day. Through His goodness, God gave me a second chance and a fresh start in Him. For that I will ever be eternally grateful.

Finally, because I have been so committed to the Lord and His ministry work through these years with Grace, I have had so many opportunities to not only speak about the goodness of God but also His everlasting love as I share the good news of the Gospel and the salvation that comes through Jesus, the only One who can bring us to the God the Father. Just writing these words buoys my spirit inside with feelings of overflowing praise that leads me to sounds of joy and gladness.

Friends, the bottom line here is that the Lord is a Lord who takes the driest, ravaged wastelands of life and breathes new life into them, raining down His living water upon them and rejuvenating His people to where they return to a sense of thanksgiving, once again seeing His goodness and love on full display.

Won’t you join me in rejoicing in this truth today by raising up sounds of joy and gladness to Him, now and forever?

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Feel free to leave a comment and please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

NEVERTHELESS



Can I pray for you in any way? Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com.

In Christ, Mark
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** Follow The Christian Walk on Twitter @ThChristianWalk
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The scriptures. May God bless the reading of His holy word.

For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the houses in this city and the royal palaces of Judah that have been torn down to be used against the siege ramps and the sword in the fight with the Babylonians: ‘They will be filled with the dead bodies of the people I will slay in My anger and wrath. I will hide My face from this city because of all its wickedness.”

“‘Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal My people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against Me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against Me. Then this city will bring Me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’”

Jeremiah 33:4-9

This ends today’s reading from God's holy word. Thanks be to God.

Nevertheless. It’s a term that simply means “in spite of that”.

An example might go like this:

Susan was afflicted with cancer but nevertheless, she was able to survive because of treatment.

Yes, Susan had a deadly disease but she was able to live in spite of that because of the medical treatment she received.

With this and an understanding of the word used in the title of this devotion, look again at today’s scripture passage from today where we see the Lord doing something in spite of the Israelites actions:

For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says about the houses in this city and the royal palaces of Judah that have been torn down to be used against the siege ramps and the sword in the fight with the Babylonians: ‘They will be filled with the dead bodies of the people I will slay in My anger and wrath. I will hide My face from this city because of all its wickedness.”

“‘Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal My people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before. I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against Me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against Me. Then this city will bring Me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it.’”  Jeremiah 33:4-9

Through the words of the Lord, we see that bad times were coming for the people of Israel in Judah. For His judgment was coming and it would be harsh. Despite the extensive preparations to safeguard the city from the assault of the Babylonians, God would ensure that the attackers would have victory and it would be a very costly loss for the Israelites as the city would fill up with their dead bodies. Such would be the penalty for inciting God’s anger and wrath. Further, God would turn His face away and hide from all that would occur in what was once a revered, divine holy city. This is how wickedness impacted God’s relationship with His people.

Well, this is no place anyone should want to be but look at the first word of the second paragraph. For although God’s was sending consequences on His people, nevertheless, He would still forgive, restore, and renew them. The city was left in ruins but in spite of that a day would come when it would rise up again from the ashes as the people returned from their seventy year exile to rebuild their homes, their city, and their relationship with God.  

In those days after the Israelites would return, the Lord would bring them health, healing, abundant peace, and security. He would rebuild them as they were before, cleansing them from the sins they committed against Him and forgetting their rebellious actions evident by their worshiping of false gods and idols.

What would result from this restoration project?

Jerusalem would once again bring admiration and renown to the Lord, a place where joy, praise and honor would be before all nations on earth who would catch word of all the good things God had done for His people. Once again, nations would look at Jerusalem with awe and be taken to a place of reverence and respect as they realized that once again the Israelites were God’s people and He was their God.

Think about how this pertains to our lives today and the best place to start is to fast forward from the Israelites of Jeremiah’s day to the Messiah Savior, Jesus, who finally came to earth after much speculation and prediction.

Consider these statements and then consider each one after the first as a progression:

1. All of God’s people were sinners after the fall in Eden’s garden and destined to be destroyed by His wrath and judgment but nevertheless God did wish for all His people to perish and so He made a way for people to find eternal life and live with Him forever by sending His Son, Jesus, to earth.

2. Jesus, God’s only Son, was crucified and died on Calvary’s cross but nevertheless He was resurrected from the grave and ascended to sit at the right hand of God, His Father and ours, making the way for others to follow.

3. We all may be sinners and separated from God because of our wickedness but nevertheless God has given us an opportunity to be pardoned from sin and to live with Him forever through His Son Jesus.

Friends, without Jesus, we are destined (and frankly deserve) to receive the fullest measure of God’s wrath and destruction. Nevertheless, His love for us was greater than His consternation and so He promised everlasting life instead of perishing to anyone who would place their belief, faith, and trust in Jesus.

Maybe you have never believed in Him before reading this devotion. Nevertheless, Jesus is ready to receive you this very moment in spite of how long you have lived apart from Him and in spite of what you may have done.

Sin may have put you in a bad way but nevertheless grace, mercy, and forgiveness can be yours through Christ.

Won’t you receive it this very moment?

Amen.

In Christ,

Mark

PS: Feel free to leave a comment and please share this with anyone you feel might be blessed by it.

Send any prayer requests to OurChristianWalk@aol.com