"And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.' ”” (Luke 15:31–32, ESV)
It was the Father's heart that offended the older brother. The Father's heart will always offend the religious heart. Father's heart is a heart of freedom, grace, love and celebration. The older brother's heart is one of works, jealousy, competition and compliant rebellion. He is measuring his life against the life of his brother. He outperforms his younger brother. But the Father is not looking at performance; He is looking at the heart of His son that has come home.
Clearly, we can say that religious people will always be offended by God's gracious heart. Religious people, or those with hints of religion still remaining in them, will always be offended by God's gracious heart towards sinners and carnal Christians. We forget God's heart when we forget the words freedom, grace, love, and celebration. Yes, we know there is a hell, and God punishes sin, but these things do not excite God's heart; they grieve Him. God rejoices when a lost, weary soul comes home! God rejoices when a carnal Christian experiences freedom.
Let us not be offended by God's gracious heart. Instead, let us embrace it. Let us embrace freedom, grace, love, and celebration—and rejoice with the Father when a son comes home! Bring on the fatted calf!
"I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." (Psalm 119:11, ESV)
Everyone who is sincere about their relationship with God desires to live free from sin. David was such a man. He, like us, desired to live a life pleasing to God. There is nothing wrong with that motivation at all! Every Christian should want to live a life pleasing to God.
David reveals his secret of how to avoid sin. One translation of this verse says, "Your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you." David's secret to not sinning was hiding God's word in his heart.
How does that work? First, when you desire to live free from sin, you want to know what God expects from you, and that answer is found in His word. Second, Jesus said in John 6:63, "My words are Spirit and they are life." There is life in the Word, not death! Sin is spiritual death. The Word is life. Therefore, if we hide the Word of God in our hearts, we are filling our hearts with Spirit and life. Third, the Word judges our thoughts and actions. It lets us know what is of God and what is not. Having that understanding empowers me to make the right choices and avoid sin.
Knowing these three things about the Word should make every believer want to fill themselves with God's thoughts by devouring His word! Make your heart the storehouse of God's Word!
"And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another." (2 John 5, ESV)
The late comedian, Robin Williams, said, "I used to think the worse thing in life was to end up alone. The worse thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone."
O' that we all would be filled with His love fresh again today! Jesus, pour out your love, on us, brand new today! May this be a day that we see new mercies and love others accordingly! Lord, may there never be a person in our lives that we make feel alone!
We can never underestimate the power of loving one another! Love has the power to heal! The power to heal marriages, families, communities, and churches. Love brings hope where there is no hope. Love breaks the spirit of loneliness and sets the captive free! Love takes the one who lives in isolation and places them in families. Love covers a multitude of sins making restoration possible. Love brings in the outcast and decimates rejection. Love is what brings people together and keeps people together over time. Love covers a multitude of sins! It makes our relationship with God a living reality!
When John says, "Love one another!" He is looking back at the point where he personally received from Jesus the command: Love one another. And it still stands today! Therefore, love one another.
"Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land;" (Hosea 4:1, ESV)
When God starts a conversation with "Hear the Word of the Lord!" you had better listen and pay close attention. It is not an advertisement or 'fluffy' words that God is about to speak. They are words that must be heard, and taken to heart, if we are to live long in the land.
I like how the ESV reads, "I have a controversy with you." It is a polite way of God saying, "I have a big problem with you." Anyone in their right mind never wants to have a problem with God. Hosea lists three things that God brings to Israel's attention. One, there is no faithfulness in the land. People go and do what they want to do without thinking about God. They are not faithful to His ways. Two, there is no steadfast love toward God. People are like Hosea's wife, adulterers toward God. Three, there is no knowledge of God in the land. The nation has forgotten God. No wonder God has a controversy with them.
The way to avoid controversy with God is easy. Be faithful to His ways. Love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Increase in your knowledge of Him by spending more time with Him. Do those three things, and God will have no controversy with you.
"Thus says the Lord: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?" (Isaiah 66:1, ESV)
Isaiah writes these words as part of a judgment, but he offers a way out of this problematic spot with God if we only respond well to Him. What God is looking for is a resting place. It is not that God is tired and wants to sleep. He is tired of Israel's wayward ways. He is tired of their sinful patterns. He is tired of not having the praises of His people to inhabit. The very people He has chosen to walk with are those found rejecting Him, which is wearisome.
God makes a statement followed by a question. "I created the heavens and the earth. The heavens are my throne, and the earth my footstool. What could you possibly build for me that I would want to rest in it?" God is still asking us that question today. If you are the Creator, and He is, what could we, the created, build for God that would serve as a worthy resting place? God gives us the answer—“... But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word." (Isaiah 66:2, ESV)
God wants our hearts to be His resting place. And this is the kind of heart He is looking for—one that is humble and trembles at His Word.
"when my steps were washed with butter, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!" (Job 29:6, ESV)
Despite his pain, suffering, and loss, Job remembered his history with God. It is a beautiful history he recounts (Job 29). Any man would be envious to have such a walk with God, remembering the favor of God in his life. Job is reflecting on the good old days. And they were good days to him.
Life seems to move with rhythm, like the tide coming in and going out. Things are easy and blessed for a while, and then we face surprise challenges that awaken fresh faith and cause us to draw near to God. Job's response to God, in the middle of his loss, is amazing! He never curses God, as his wife recommended. Job maintains his integrity and says nothing wrong. Once you have tasted God's goodness, you will never want to go back to anything else in life.
In verse six, Job reflects on the days when God bathed his feet with cream and the rock poured forth oil onto his path. What an anointing to have in your life! Job would enter the town square and the youth would back away from him. Older people would stand and welcome him. Princes would rise and listen to him. Job walked with incredible wisdom and integrity. Job's history with God was one of encouragement amid his pain.
How would you describe your history with God? Are your feet bathed with cream? Is your path filled with oil?
"And the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?" (Job 1:8, ESV)
Job is often blasted for saying, "That which I have feared the most has come upon me." But where God starts Job's story is here: "Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?"
God is talking about His servant Job! Listen to how God describes his servant: there is none like him on the earth. He is blameless, upright, fears God and turns away from evil. What pastor would not want a man like that in his church? Job was God's champion on the earth! If God is going to put anyone up against Satan, He will choose Job because of the kind of man Job is. He is a Kingdom man, for sure. How about you? Would God choose you to go toe to toe with Satan?
Can God say of you what He said of Job? Put your name in the blank: "_________________ is blameless, upright, fears God, turns away from evil, and there is no one like him on the earth!" Job is the kind of person that God is looking for. He is still the kind of person God is looking for. Stand for Christ today. Be the person He champions!
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12, ESV)
No one knows how many days we have in this life. I have seen people live strong beyond a hundred years and children die way before their time. The truth is no one can know when their time is up. Many people live as if they have their whole life before them. They never consider death, nor do they consider eternity. Others are always thinking about eternity and never doing anything about it.
David was a man who realized that his life was but a vapor in the presence of eternity. A vapor is here for a moment and then disappears. David saw his life in that manner. Because he realized the shortness of this life and the shortness of his days, he prayed a most beautiful prayer: “So teach us to number our days so that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
What does that mean to number our days? It means understanding the brevity of our days and seeking to make our lives count for God and others. If we realize our days here are short, a wise person asks, both God and themselves, how they can live their lives to impact the greatest number of people with the greatest good. These wise ones also seek to fulfill the dream God has, for them, in His heart. You have a heart of wisdom if you are looking for answers to these questions. Lord, help me to number my days.
"Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!'" (Zechariah 4:7, ESV)
If there is one thing I know for sure, I cannot move a mountain! All of us have faced mountains in our lives at some point. It may be the mountain of broken relationships, financial hardship, health problems, and more. Everyone will meet a mountain someday. A mountain is nothing more than something that is too big for us to move out of our way. It is a God-sized issue requiring a God-sized response.
Rebuilding Jerusalem looked like too big of a job for Zerubbabel. But Zechariah, the prophet, stepped back, looked up at the mountain of difficulty, and prophesied to it! "Who are you, O great mountain!?" Then he prophesied what that mountain was going to do. "You shall become a plain and not hinder what Zerubbabel is called to do."
You, too, can step back, look up at your problem and prophesy to it. It is a mountain in your life because it is bigger than you and your resources. It requires a God response! For that mountain to move, it must encounter the ability/grace of God. So we say, "Who are you? You are no match for my God!" Grace, grace, shouts of grace to you, O, mountain. When the mountain encounters the grace of God, it has no choice, and it must move! Grace activated by faith moves mountains!
"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16, ESV)
Paul was just speaking to the church about having a more excellent High Priest in Christ Jesus. Because we have a more excellent High Priest, we should not be afraid to approach the throne of God. Given our understanding of grace to be: God's ability in me to do the things I cannot do in and of myself. Let us, with confidence, draw near to the throne of God's ability. Think of that! The throne of God's ability! Every good and perfect thing flows from out of that throne! That throne is like a bubbling fountain that never dries up, never gets capped, and never stops flowing.
The word 'confidence' means to have a sense of openness, candor, and the ability to speak freely. As a believer, we must have this with God. It gives us great hope! This freedom and access to God is given through Christ's blood and is established in His priestly ministry.
We have this openness with God, that gives us the boldness and confidence to come to the throne of grace, where God's ability flows freely from His throne to us. There, we receive mercy and find His grace and ability to help us in our time of need. His throne is a throne of grace and mercy!
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