Monday, June 4, 2018

June 4th, 2018

Equipping the Saints

“…for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…”  Eph. 4:12

This is a most significant scripture and to fully understand it, we need to return back to Eph. 4:8, which is from Psalm 68:18.  It reads, “Therefore He says, ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” 

Since Psalm 68 is a Messianic Psalm, it speaks of the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ – which effectively took captivity captive and gave gifts to men.  This is an indication of the VICTORY secured by the Lord: He took the enemy hostage.  Christ’s work and victory provided gifts for us to experience His victory in our own lives and share it with others.

Let’s return to Eph. 4:12 and seek to understand this text in context.  Verse 11 addressed how Jesus gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, for a purpose.  The purpose is made clear in Eph 4:12:

  • For the equipping of the saints;
  • For the work of the ministry; and,
  • For the edifying of the body of Christ.

The equipping of the saints can be viewed as the perfecting of all believers.  Therefore, Jesus places some among the body to equip, train, and perfect the entire body.  The saints are being equipped to do the work of the ministry, that each one has been called to do.  It is important that we know in our spirits the work of the ministry that we have been called by the Lord to do.  It is easy (sometimes!) to do a “good work” but is it a “God-work?”  “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it,” according to 1 Thess. 5:24.  Often times the Lord will use those He has placed to work through in the equipping and discipleship process.

The third aspect of this purpose is for the edifying of the body of Christ.  Paul is describing the process of edifying, or building up, the church.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

June 3rd, 2018

God and Justice 

“They scattered My people among the nations and divided up My land.  They cast lots for My people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine that they might drink.”  Joel 3:3

Our God has a position on justice and injustice, expressed throughout the Scriptures.  He is not silent, quiet, indifferent, or slack concerning His promises on this subject.  To begin our examination of Scripture on this topic, we go back to the source words found in the Greek and Hebrew.

The Greek word for “just” is dikaios.  Dikaios means: equitable; just; right.  According to Strong’s Concordance, it refers to one who acts alike to all and is impartial, as well as describing a person’s character and conduct as upright, virtuous, ethical. 

The Hebrew word for justice is “tsadaq” and is a legal term meaning: to be right; cleanse; to be put right; be innocent.  Justice and righteousness are synonymous.  If we look a little closer at the root word, we find tsadaq means one who walks in a straight path.  We can surmise from these definitions that justice involves the fair treatment of others and right choices and behavior in our own lives – to do what is right.  We are to follow Biblical standards for what is fair and just. 

In the Book of Exodus, God gives the law to His chosen people, Israel.  The next Book is Leviticus, which present the system of sacrifices to be presented to God.  It is this combination of the law and sacrifices that composed God’s justice system in the Old Testament – called “mishpat.”  The law consisted of three components - ceremonial, moral, and civil.  The ceremonial laws had to do with proper worship and it included the sacrifices, priestly system, issues relating to clean and unclean, and food restrictions.  The civil laws guided the affairs if Israel as a nation, including government and judicial systems.  The moral laws were found primarily in the Ten Commandments, and further expounded upon in the Torah with rules about the treatment of others, especially the poor, the stranger, the widow, the fatherless, the afflicted. 

This mishpat was fulfilled by and in Jesus Christ, the Messiah.  He came to usher in the law of the spirit, laws written on the hearts of believers to enable them to worship in spirit and in truth, to offer spiritual sacrifices, to submit to authority (God is the highest authority), and to love God, love our neighbor, and love ourselves.  As we shall clearly see from God’s word, loving God and loving others is a priority in the Kingdom.  Caring for the poor, the sick, the needy are vital for Kingdom life to flow into dark, hidden places.  We need faith and works and to demonstrate “pure religion.”  Where we find injustice, we are to stand for God’s justice.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

June 2nd, 2018

Boldness in Healing

“Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, and had suffered many things from many physicians.  She spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment.  For she said, ‘If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.’  Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.  And Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that power had gone out of Him, turned around in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched My clothes?’  But His disciples said to Him, ‘You see the multitudes thronging You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’  And He looked around to see her who had done this thing.  But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.  And He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well.  Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.”  Mark 5:25-34

Mark’s account of the woman with the issue of blood provides us with the most information.  Let’s focus first with the woman.  She is:
  •        Nameless;
  • Suffered a physical illness for 12 years;
  • Suffered from many physicians;
  • She was poor, as she had spent all her money in pursuit of a healing;
  • Her illness was worsening;
  • She was considered unclean and impure for those 12 years {according to Leviticus 19:25}; and,
  • She was an outcast of society for 12 years, for anyone who touched her would become unclean and impure.

She has tried everything she could that was man-made, to no avail.  She was at the end of herself.  And then she heard about Jesus, followed Jesus, and touched Jesus.  She reached for the hem of His garment, the fringes, and she was healed!  This was the boldest of moves, as whomever she touched would be considered impure!  Yet she persisted, out of her faith.  It was not the tassels themselves that contained the power – it was Jesus. The Word who became flesh had the power to heal. 

This nameless, voiceless, seemingly powerless woman had faith and exercised it.  She knew the fringes were symbolic of authority, of royalty, righteousness and purity.  The woman was constantly reminded of her affliction, recalled the commandments of God, and looked to a source of her potential healing.  Perhaps she reasoned that if she touched that hem, the fringes, it would be the good deed that would connect her to God – although she might not have known God in the flesh stood before her!  She could have been thinking that by reaching out for the hem of the kingly garment, she was reaching out for the King Himself. 

She may have called to mind the Scripture from Malachi 4:2 – “But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings;…” and been reminded that the corners of the garment were considered as wings.  By touching the garment, the woman was demonstrating her faith that Jesus was the Sun of Righteousness who had healing in His wings!  She believed!  She expressed her belief!  She was healed!

Friday, June 1, 2018

June 1st, 2018

Spiritual Midwives

“But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive.”  Ex. 1:17

Some three hundred and fifty years had passed since the end of the Book of Genesis – the Book of Beginnings.  The Israelites (through God’s divine command to Israel, formerly Jacob) were instructed in Gen. 46:3-4 to do the following: “…I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there.  I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also surely bring you up again; and Joseph will put his hands on your eyes.”  This was God’s promise to Israel, the man who would lead the way for the birth of Israel, the people. 

Once in Egypt, the Israelites did well.  The people assimilated into Egyptian culture.  They prospered in a land that was ruled by Pharaohs and worshiped false gods.  Nonetheless, during the 350-year period the Israelites were left to worship their God, work in various occupations, and be contented with their situation.  As we turn to the opening of Exodus, we read in Ex. 1:7 that “the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.”  And then everything is turned upside down, starting at verse 8: “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.  And he said to his people, ‘Look, the people of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.”

This new king, Pharaoh, did not trust the Israelites.  He was fueled by fear.  He employed a four-fold strategy to defuse any potential threats.  Each attempt failed.  As we read through Exodus 1:1-21 we encounter the following situation:

o     An unnamed Pharaoh inflicts affliction upon God’s people;

    • God’s people increase;
    • The unnamed Pharaoh commands the midwives to kill the baby boys born to Hebrew women;
    • The midwives fear God, not man;
    • Their response cancels out death by bringing forth life;
    • God is pleased with the midwives and blesses them with families.

This unnamed ruler inflicts and afflicts God’s people; when that fails, he resorts to murderous plots.  Yet his error is in his command, for it is given to the midwife.  It is to the midwife that we turn; for in understanding this text, we understand that the Spirit of God is moving to and fro, searching for His midwives.  Our Father is calling some of His daughters to be spiritual midwives.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

May 31st, 2018

Walks in Our Midst

“These are the words of Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands…” Rev. 2:1

Jesus refers to Himself as “He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.”   He is viewed here as walking in the midst of the church – indeed, all of the churches!  He holds the stars, or messengers, in His right hand.  The right hand symbolizes authority and power; it is by the right hand that the whole person is claimed for the Lord!  He tells the church that He is near to them, so near that He walks in their midst.  He is in complete control!  What a comfort to know He holds us and walks in our midst. 
It is noteworthy that the word lampstand, or candlestick, is used to describe the local church.  Lampstands symbolize light, as they bring forth light.  Jesus is the bearer of light.  In this letter, He is reminding the church at Ephesus that He can give light and take it away.  Lampstands were part of God’s design of the Tabernacle of Moses, where they were located in the Holy Place.  The Holy Place had no windows or openings, and the light in a dark place was brought forth by the lampstand. 
Beloved, please receive this truth:  the church at Ephesus, and the church today, is called by the Lord Jesus to be a lampstand!  We are to be lightbearers in a lighthouse bringing forth light in a dark world – all to the glory of God!  Let’s pray with renewed understanding the Scripture from Matthew 5:16: “Father, You have called us to be lightbearers in a lighthouse for the community to see.  God, increase Your light in us, that our light may so shine before men, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.  Amen.”

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

May 30th, 2018

The Ark of the Covenant

“And they shall make an ark of shittim wood: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. “ Ex. 25:10

Shittim word, or acacia wood, as is written in some Bible translations, comes from the acacia tree.  The acacia tree grows in arid places; as such it is a hard and durable tree.  According to scholars, acacia wood is fragrant. Other Biblical scholars claim the shittah tree, or acacia tree, is resistant to attacks from insects.  We can understand this specific wood as being one which grows where little else can, just as Jesus came when Israel was in a dry place.  The wood is aromatic; Jesus has a sweet fragrance.  God knew the acacia wood would remain, be durable, and last.  Jesus remains, even through death, He remains as our Mediator.  He is eternal, durable, incorruptible, and His kingdom shall last forever!  What a glorious beginning to this pattern God gave to Moses! 
When we build, we are to build those things that are eternal.  We are called to recognize we are laborers and that the true Builder is the Lord:  “except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it:”  - Psalm 127:1.    God always gives the pattern, the blueprint.  As we receive the design, we construct accordingly. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

May 29th, 2018

Jesus, the Representation of God

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”  Heb. 1:3

Not only did God speak to His people by Jesus, whom He sent, and not only did God appoint Jesus as heir of all things.  Not only did God create the universe through Jesus, and not only did God have Jesus sit at His right hand after providing the purification for sins.  In addition to all these great and wondrous things, we read in this verse that Jesus, the Son of God, is the radiance of God’s own glory and the exact representation of God’s being!

The Greek for “exact representation” comes from the word charasso, which means to engrave or stamp.  One of our English words that come from this Greek word is character.  When the Book of Hebrews was being developed, an engraving on coins was very significant.  As such, this specific language would impact profoundly the hearer.  The hearer would recognize and connect the word charasso and the image engraved on a coin – usually that of rulers.  The author of Hebrews is claiming that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the very image, character, and substance of God.

If we want to know God, we need to know Jesus.