Archive for October 2015

Ruth: Kinsman-Redeemer

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Read Leviticus 25:23-28, 48-55

As we read the story of Ruth in the book that bears her name, let’s take a few minutes to take a closer look at the term “kinsman-redeemer” in Ruth 2:20. It refers to a relative who redeems his kin from difficulty or danger. Then, as now, family was an important part of God’s gracious provision for our needs.

The duties and privileges of a kinsman-redeemer included:

  • Repurchasing lost property that a family member had sold in time of need (Leviticus 25:23-28)
  • Freeing a relative who had sold himself into slavery in a time of need (Leviticus 25:48-55)
  • Avenging the life of a murdered relative. In that society, the kinsman-redeemer had the responsibility of killing the murderer of his murdered relative, exacting a life for a life, in essence “buying back” that life (Numbers 35:6-34).

A separate Old Testament law (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) says that when brothers are living together, a childless widow of one brother should be taken as a wife by her late husband’s brother. That brother should then give her children in the name of his late brother, in order to insure the family succession. This marriage law became tied up with the kinsman-redeemer laws in the story of Ruth.

Thus the kinsman-redeemer was one who put his own life and property on the line for a needy relative. Throughout the Psalms and the prophets, God speaks of Himself as such a Redeemer for His people. When we are in need, He steps into the gap to deliver, avenge, and provide for us. God as our Redeemer becomes fully personified in Jesus Christ. When we were helpless, He came to earth to redeem us, to buy us back from slavery, to vindicate and provide for us, to claim us as His own family, and indeed, to take us as His own bride.

Job spoke for all God’s people when, in the grip of his many trials, he proclaimed his faith that God would act as his Redeemer and deliver him from death:

I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God. (Job 19:25-26, NASB)

Listen and sing:
Hymn: I Know That My Redeemer Lives
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Lord, I Am Listening

Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. (1 Samuel 3:9, NIV)

What a great encouragement when I learned for myself that God delights to speak to us. He knows how to speak to us, and He will speak to us. We don’t have to strain to hear Him or work up just the right frame of mind.

But He doesn’t shout. We need to listen.

He doesn’t insist. We need to obey. He will let us ignore Him if we choose.

We need to read the Bible with our heart and mind tuned to listen and to obey Him.

Speak, Lord.
I am listening.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: God Is Speaking
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I Desire Only You

Father,
I desire only You.
I trust only You.
I worship only You.
I seek only You.

In the morning, as I rise to work,
I desire only You.
As I drive to work,
with time to think or listen,
I desire only You.
At work, with decisions to be made,
I desire only You.
As I come home from work, weary,
where I have desired and sought
relaxation,
I desire only You.
In spare moments,
as I face each decision, each task,
I desire only You.

Facing the future,
in my home,
in my ministry,
in my daily life,
I desire only You.

Beautiful Father,
Eternal Father,
Almighty,
Loving,
Holy Father,
in whom I live and move
and have my being,
I desire only You.

I am Your child.
I ask only one thing.
Father, I desire only
You. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: God Alone
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The Lord’s Prayer

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Read Matthew 6:5-15

Tucked away in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount is the Lord’s Prayer. It has enriched my relationship with God in uncounted ways. But for our purposes here, let’s look at the Lord’s Prayer and focus on just one question: How does having God as our Father change the way we pray?

1.       When you talk to your Father, be simple. Be direct. Be honest. You don’t need to beg Him or badger Him into submission or bury Him in words. He already knows what you need before you ask. Just ask, then trust that He will give you what is best. He is your loving Father. Simple faith requires only simple prayer.

2.       Since your Father is perfect in power, wisdom, and love, what we need is always and only His best. The key to prayer is wanting only what God wants, and that should be the focus of every prayer. Pray for His glory, His kingdom, and His will. That should always be the deep cry of your heart.

3.       As you trust your Father, your usual needs and worries are boiled down into one request: Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11, NASB). Remember His promise:

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [the necessities of life] will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NASB)

4.       Weak and imperfect creatures like us cannot live in intimate relationship with our holy Father without confession and dependence:

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
(Matthew 6:12-13, NASB)

Admit your neediness to live as He wants. Without Him, sin is a debt we cannot pay and a trap we cannot avoid. But rely on Him:

God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB)

Jesus’ simple prayer models the naturalness of living in the presence of a holy God when He is our loving Father.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Our Father in Heaven
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Earth Crawlers

We were staying in Mackinaw City, on the shore of Lake Huron. Looking out over the waters, to the left was a beautiful view of the Mackinac Bridge.

From that distance, the vehicles seemed to be just creeping across the bridge. It reminded me of Genesis 1:24 where it talks about the “creeping things” God created on earth. From a higher perspective, our human race is among those creatures creeping across the surface of this tiny planet. How small and lowly we are! Only the image of our Creator makes us special. And how little we value that image, so arrogantly discarded long ago.

We crawl across the surface of this speck of dust, small, earthbound, in the grip of space and time. We are so small in mind that we mock the possibility of any reality beyond our own.

It reminds me how foolish we are to live for the glory that comes from our fellow earth crawlers. We were created for so much more! Father, raise my eyes. Lift my heart to crave the glory that comes only from You, the Eternal God of all truth, beauty, light, and life. You call me to be Your own child, holy in You, complete in You, forever one with You. Lord, help me to long for nothing else!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Transcendent God
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Follow One Leader

When he, the Spirit of truth, comes,
he will guide you into all truth.
(John 16:13, NIV)

So many valid concerns, so many worthy goals, so many good things call for our attention. Focus on one aspect of your life, and other aspects seem to suffer. Care for one need, and you ignore other equally important needs.

How do we balance them all? How do we listen to all the voices calling for our attention?

Jesus gives us the freedom to follow only one leader.

He is our one Lord. He is our one source of all wisdom and all goodness.

He calls us to love Him above anything. He invites us to turn to Him whenever we need wisdom (James 1:5).

If we will listen, He will lead.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: One in Jesus
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The Father’s Only-begotten Son

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Read John 1:1-18

In the Old Testament, we first hear God calling Himself Father in relationship to the whole people of Israel. Then when the nation of Israel is formed and becomes a monarchy, God’s fatherhood is applied specifically to the king. God blessed the king as His “son” in order to bless all His people. This father-son relationship began with King David, then was extended to all David’s descendents on the throne. It reached all the way to Messiah, the Ultimate King. He would be a Son of David, and in that sense a Son of God, like His predecessors.

However, when Jesus Messiah arrived, He proved to be God’s Son in a deeper and richer sense than anyone had dreamed. He had not been created by God, then adopted as His Son, as David and all his descendents had been. He was the only-begotten Son of God.

John 1 affirms that Father and Son were together at the very beginning.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (vv.1-2, NASB)

There was never a time when the Father existed that the Son did not also exist. The Nicene Creed states their relationship well:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

The term “only begotten” refers to a son or daughter who is “unique,” “one of a kind”. John uses it to describe Jesus’ father-son relationship with God.

The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:14, 18, NASB)

Because Jesus had spent an eternity in intimate, undivided fellowship with the Father, He revealed Him to us in a unique, complete, and beautiful way.

The Christ of All Saints Day

from A Christ-centered Year,
free seasonal readings from LNWhymns.com

You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building…is growing into a holy temple in the Lord. (Ephesians 2:19-21, NASB)

On All Saints Day, Jesus unites us with all God’s children of all nations and all ages.
He was speaking of us when He said,

“I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10:16, NASB)

In His final evening before His arrest, as He talked to His Father, He prayed for us:

“I do not ask on behalf of these [disciples] alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21, NASB)

He longed to make us all one with Himself,
one with the Father, Son, and Spirit.
To express this oneness, He speaks of us and thinks of us as
His friends, His family,
His temple, His body, His bride.
It seems that no one image could fully express His desire to be
together with us in the fullest possible sense.

In Christ, we are united with all believers of every time, every nation,
every language and culture, every situation and personality.
The lives and examples of all who have gone before us
are like a great cloud of witnesses,
watching, encouraging, and cheering us on.
In Jesus Christ we share with them the same Spirit,
the same love, and the same purpose.
Together we are being prepared as the holy, beautiful, glorious bride of Christ.

On All Saints Day, Jesus unites us with all God’s children and
points us toward our shared destiny in Him.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Christ and His Bride
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When I’m Ill

Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
(Luke 23:46, NIV)

When I’m ill,
I want to escape the pain.
I want to escape the weakness and
get back to normal.

I’m frustrated when I cannot.
And when the illness is potentially life-threatening,
it’s frightening.
I feel the disease eating away at my life, and
I am powerless to stop it.

When Jesus was on the Cross,
racked with pain and His life ebbing away,
He committed himself entirely into His Father’s hands.

That’s what I do now, God.
Whatever part of my body is ill,
I put it into Your hands.

Father,
into Your hands I commit my body.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Our Healer
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You Are Our Father

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Read Isaiah 63:15 – 64:12

In today’s scripture, God has punished His people for their deep and prolonged sin, and they are crying out to Him. They want Him and need Him to look down on them, remember them, and have mercy on them in their desperate situation. They beg Him to tear open the heavens and come down to them in awesome power, as He did so many times in their past.

In their sinfulness, what is their basis for coming to Him and boldly asking for such help?

You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us
And Israel does not recognize us.
You, O Lord, are our Father. (Isaiah 63:16, NASB)

Even when our earthly fathers fail us and cannot or do not help us, in a truer, deeper sense, God is our Father. We are most truly and fundamentally His children. That thought is expressed again a few verses later:

But now, O Lord, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You are our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand. (Isaiah 64:8, NASB)

As earthly parents, we desperately want the very best for our children. But as they grow older, we increasingly realize that we can’t touch them and shape them in the areas that matter most. They are becoming, or have become, their own persons. Other voices and other examples are now influencing them.

Take comfort in the fact that God was their Father long before we were, and He will still be so when we’re gone. His Spirit is close to them in times and places and ways we can’t be. He will guide and provide for them far beyond our own ability.

Your children are most truly and fundamentally His children. Pray for them as such. Respect them as such – as fellow human beings before our Father. Trust them to Him, and make yourself completely available to Him. Let our Eternal Father be the father to your children, and allow Him to father them through you.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: A Father’s Prayer
Recording
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