Archive for November 2017

Christ the Tabernacle

Exodus 25 – 30; 36 – 40; John 1:14; 6:48-58; Hebrews 8:1-5 

God gave the Old Testament tabernacle so that
our senses, minds, and imaginations
might be permeated with
the glory of His presence.

Jesus Christ is that tabernacle perfected,
its intent completed.
The tabernacle was only a copy.
Jesus is the full presence of God
now living within and among us,
forever uniting heaven and earth.

He is the law of God,
all that is pleasing to the Father,
no longer engraved on stone tablets,
but written on the hearts of His people.
He is the Bread of the Presence,
spreading an eternal feast for all who come.
He is the Light forever burning,
illuminating the whole world.
He is the incense of God’s Presence,
the fragrance of His holiness,
the aroma of His unfailing love.
He engulfs us in the richness,
the texture,
the color,
the beauty of heaven itself.
He is the final, perfect sacrifice,
making us right with the Father.
He is the Great High Priest,
uniting us with the Father.

In Christ, the Transcendent God fills
our souls and our senses,
our daily routines and our highest dreams.
Jesus Christ enfolds
all we are in
all He is. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: God Is with Us! Alleluia!
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Jesus’ Family

Notice the women mentioned in these excerpts from Matthew 1:1-16:

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:
Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar 

…Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife 

…and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary,
of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (NIV)

For a Jew in biblical times, his genealogy was the leading item on his resume. It was his pedigree, and often it included only men. The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 bends tradition by including five women. And what a colorful lot they were!

Tamar entered Jesus’ family tree by seducing her father-in-law.

Rahab was a prostitute. Both she and Ruth were foreigners…outsiders…unclean Gentile “dogs”.

The woman called “Uriah’s wife” was Bathsheba. She won her place by committing adultery with King David, who then murdered her husband.

And finally, Mary was a teenager who became pregnant before she was married.

Even in his genealogy, Jesus broke down all barriers between us, and between us and God. He embraces us all as His own family if we simply trust Him. In Him there is no Jew nor Gentile, male nor female. We are all one in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26, 28, para.). Our holy God is proud to call Himself our Brother (Hebrews 2:11, para.).

Father,
our treasure is not our passing possessions or
the money that flows through our fingers,
but You and Your eternal love for us.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Family Tree
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Prepare for Christ the King Sunday

O Father, the day is coming when
every knee will bow and
every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Every heart will sing of Him.
Every life will worship Him.
All that is will glorify Him.
Everything that is not of Him
will be gone forever.
All reality will reflect
Him and
Him alone.

Father, I long for that day!
Today,
begin it in me.
Begin it here, among Your people.
The culmination of the Christian year and
the culmination of all history
is the crowning of Jesus Christ as
King of All Kings and
Lord of All Lords.
For me,
for us,
in our hearts,
in our worship,
may today be the day.

“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” (Revelation 19:6, NASB) 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Enthronement Hymn
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Fall and Incarnation

from the book, ONE WITH OUR FATHER
John 1:10-14; Genesis 2 – 3 

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:10-14, NASB)

Father, Son, and Spirit gifted the humans with the freedom
to will and speak and breathe,
to live and create and rule.
They shared with the human beings the right to
think and choose.

A Rebel, a Liar, a Hater, a Destroyer,
a created being who had turned his own gift of choice
entirely toward himself,
seduced the humans into doing the same.
They chose
their own will,
their own wisdom,
their own sovereignty instead of the Father and Son.
They chose
darkness instead of light,
shame instead of glory,
a curse instead of blessing,
grief instead of joy,
death instead of life.

But the love of the One Being was
still full and overflowing,
still giving and longing for the creature He had made.
Instead of abandoning the humans,
He drew still closer to them.
From His unquenchable love,
the One Being came to them.
He didn’t send them a messenger:
He came Himself.
He didn’t just speak to them.
He joined Himself to them.
He became one with them.
He became one of them.

When the time was right,
the Father willed, and
the Spirit breathed, and
and the Word became flesh.
Heaven and earth,
holy and human,
creature and Creator
were again One.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is seen and unseen.

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,
one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven.
By the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary, and
became man. 

–from THE NICENE CREED 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Before the Starry Universe
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You Speak

O Living God,
Almighty God,
Transcendent God,
from the silence of Your eternal completeness
You speak.
O Father, Your love never stops speaking.

You spoke this entire world into existence.
And through it, You speak Your presence with us.
You speak Your power,
Your wisdom,
Your boundlessness,
Your faithful care.
By Your speaking
You enfold us in all You are.

But You not only speak TO us, Almighty Father.
You speak THROUGH us.
Listening to Your servants, we hear
Your sovereign voice through
human lips.
You move us,
You enable us,
You inspire us to speak for You.

But Father, You speak
fully and
finally
through Your Son, Jesus Christ.
This human being always speaks with Your voice.
His words are purely Your words.
When He speaks,
all reality bows to His authority.

This Jesus Christ has filled us with
His own Spirit.
Through Him, You speak within our
hearts and
minds.
The same Voice that created the universe is now reverberating
throughout our entire beings.

O Living God,
Almighty God,
Transcendent God,
speak freely!
Speak Your will.
Speak Your love.
Speak Your holy life.
Speak Jesus Christ in me! 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Voice of God
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Today Is a Rehearsal

Father, today
as we gather,
as we worship,
as we feast at Your table,
we are preparing for another day.

Today only a few of us will come together.
Soon we will gather as
“a great multitude which no one could count,
from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Revelation 7:9, NASB*)

Today we gather in a small, local building.
Soon we will gather
“before the throne and before the Lamb.”
Even a vast, magnificent temple would be useless there, for
“the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” (Revelation 21:22, NASB)

Today we few lift our
humble songs and
stumbling words of praise.
Soon heaven and earth and all creation will
reverberate with worship that
transcends all words, and
we will add our hearts and voices to theirs.

Today our sacred meal appears
small and
symbolic.
Soon we will feast
our body, soul, mind, and spirit,
forever,
together,
each of us and
all of us.
We will drink deeply of the wine of life.
We will feast on the True Manna from heaven,
on our Creator’s complete provision for our entire being.
We will feast on
all Christ is and
all He has done for us.
We will celebrate
our eternal, perfect union
with You, Father,
in Christ, Your Holy Son.

Father, as we gather now
in our little time and place,
feed our hearts and
nourish our souls
with an undying hunger for that day. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Come, Our Lord!
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The Old Testament Law

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD
Read Leviticus 19:1-4, 9-18; Matthew 7:24-27

The Old Testament law, contained in portions of the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, has a bad reputation among many modern Christians. To them, it seems strange and completely outdated.

Read it, and yes, some of the specific regulations will seem odd. They were written for a different time, place, and situation. But the more I study the law, the more amazed I am at its beauty and depth. It legislates compassion on the needy, even at the expense of private rights of ownership. It works to shape a people of justice, righteousness, and generosity, a people who consider all fellow citizens to be their brothers and sisters, a people who, above everything else, love God with all their heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).

This is the law God promised to write on the hearts of His people (Jeremiah 31:33). This is the law Jesus came, not to destroy, but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17). This is the law whose essence is loving God and loving others (Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).

Whether the law was ever followed perfectly is not the point. It envisions a community of believers that will one day culminate in the Kingdom of God. For myself, I’m coming to think of the law, less as a set of specific rules tailored to a specific people in a specific cultural situation, and more as one step in God forming for Himself a holy people who are truly His own – a people of justice, mercy, faith, and love. The essence of the law is living at peace with God and thus at peace with each other.

The law also teaches another invaluable truth: God’s wisdom does us no good until we obey it. God’s wisdom demands trust. It demands response. It demands action. It demands change.

Remember Jesus’ parable about the wise man and the foolish man (Matthew 7:24-27). Both men had heard God’s wisdom. Both men knew His wisdom. The entire difference between a wise life and a foolish life, between blessing and destruction, was simple obedience. God’s wisdom cannot bless us until we obey it. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Is There Any Word from the Lord?
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God in Christ in Us

Father, I see Your holy beauty in Jesus Christ.
Though He is fully human,
He is fully,
perfectly,
gloriously You.

Father, You have given us His Spirit,
so display Him through us,
His Church.
When the world sees us, may they glimpse
His holy heart and
His holy life.
May they sense both
His divinity and
His beautiful humanity.
May they feel
His compassion,
His gentle patience, and
His generous heart.
May they taste
His joy,
His deep peace, and
His flaming passion for You.

Through us,
may they come to know Christ;
and through Christ,
may they come to know You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: God in Christ in Us
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Longing for God

Father, as I live here in Your presence,
every connection with You,
every word from You,
every sense of You
feeds a deep longing to be fully one with You.

Every time Your Spirit touches
my heart or
mind,
I am overwhelmed with Your reality.
I yearn to know You
without the dimness,
without the distance,
without the distraction.
I yearn to know You
for all You are,
without interruption,
forever.

I know that day will come, Father, and
when it does,
let that deep, unbroken knowing
call from me
all the worship,
all the praise,
all the living, loving response
that is possible from
a small, unworthy creature like myself.

O Living God, I long
to see You,
to know You,
to praise You. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: O Living God
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Run with Endurance

Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Timothy 2:3-6; 4:7-8

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1, NASB)

Picture a stadium. We living believers are the athletes, in the midst of a long and grueling race. At times we glance up and all around us. Who fills the stands in this immense stadium? It is the witness of all the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11…plus so many more.

Are all those believers who have left this world actually watching us now? We don’t know. Their witness is what’s in view in Hebrews 12. Their example encourages us and urges us on. If they could speak to us right now, what would they say? Or to phrase it another way, what is their example shouting to us?

“God is always, always, ALWAYS faithful!”
“Just keep trusting Him!”
“The hardship lasts only a short time. It will soon be over. Hold steady!”
“Your obedience and faithfulness will bear fruit far beyond what you can imagine!”
“Rejoice!”
“Don’t let anything hinder you!”

That last statement is what the scripture emphasizes here: let nothing hinder you…absolutely nothing! This is a long and demanding race. Top marathon runners ruthlessly shed anything that will weigh them down. They get rid of everything that will hold them back in any way. Their clothing, their own body weight, their diet, their daily habits—every aspect of their lives is examined in detail. Anything that’s a hindrance, even to the slightest degree, must go.

Consider this: even the marathon is short in comparison to life. The struggles of life are so much greater, and its stakes are infinitely higher. Our rewards are deeper, richer, and forever. If a marathon runner must exercise such self-discipline and ruthlessly shed all hindrances, how much more should we who are racing for our eternal destiny?

I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. (1 Corinthians 9:23-25, NASB)

Honestly examine your life for anything that hinders your race. What about that small sin? What about that small distraction that eats into your time, energy, or devotion? Ask a marathon runner if there are any small irritants or small encumbrances. By the end of a long run, they all loom large. Shed them now! God will be glad to help you.

Then you will be prepared to run with endurance the race that is set before you.

Father, help me lay aside everything that is
weighing me down and
holding me back.
Everything, Lord.
Every habit,
every false and fuzzy way of thinking,
every misplaced priority,
every laziness.
Fix my eyes on Jesus—
His life,
His holiness,
His complete devotion to You. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: We Fix Our Eyes on Jesus Christ
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