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"The Burden Is Light"

Week Twenty of the COVID-19 Series

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The God Who Chooses Us
Dec 20, 2019

Ephesians 1:3-12

"(3) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (4) For chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption to son-ship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (7) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with riches of God's grace (8) that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, (9) he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, (10) to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment - to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. (11) In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, (12) in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory."

The God Who Chooses Us

There's nothing more humbling than salvation. We might like to think we did something that made our heavenly Father look down and say, "now, there's a person worth saving," but this simply is not the case. We had absolutely nothing to offer God except our sin. And what's more, today's passage tells us that "He chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1"4). How could we possibly take any credit for something that happened before we were born?

God chose us, not when we were saved but before we had done anything noteworthy - in fact, long before we even came into existence. our part was simply to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, the offer of forgiveness by the Son, and the love of our heavenly Father. That should remove any sense of pride about how we were saved. 

What's even more amazing about our salvation is its permanency: Choosing us to be holy and blameless before Him forever, God predestined us to become His adopted children and heirs of His kingdom (Ephesians 1:4-5; Ephesians 1:11). Our future in heaven is not only free from the penalty and power of sin but also free from son's very existence. Never again will we succumb to unrighteous desires or even battle temptation. 

In light of this loving rescue plan, we marvel at the fact that God knew us before we were born and chose to save us. My friend, we should fall on our face before Jesus Christ in humble adoration, praise, and gratitude for His great love and mercy. 

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Hope Despite a Changing World
Nov 15, 2019

Psalm 46

(1) God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
(2) Therefore we will not fear, though
     the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the
     heart of the sea,
(3) though its waters roar and foam 
and the mountains quake with their
     surging.

(4) There is a river whose streams
     make glad the city of God,
the holy play where the Most High
     dwells.
(5) God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at the break of day.
(6) Nations are in uproar, kingdoms 
     fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

(7) The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

(8) Come and see what the Lord has
     done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
(9) He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the
     spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
(10) He says, "Be still, and know that I
     am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

(11) The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Where do you place your hope and security? If it's in governments, financial markets, or education, you will be disappointed. Our world is always changing. Trusted governments fail, great economies falter, and strong institutions prove to be unstable. When this happened, people struggle with fear and insecurity.

The world, however, won't become more trustworthy. Ever since the time of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-32), people have been promising a better civilization, but no man-made advance has permanently enhanced life. Certainly some institutions go through periods in which humanity is greatly benefited, but ultimately any part of society that challenges God won't last. It's because the talented and knowledgeable people involved are also sinful people. Greed, pride, and list have brought about the downfall of many civilizations.

Brilliant, charismatic leaders may clam to offer a better tomorrow, but no man or woman is the solution to the world's problems. Only Christ can deliver on His promise of hope to those of us who trust in Him. He lives in us, guiding our path, comforting us in loss and sorrow, and promising an eternal future of heavenly bliss.

This changing world can be a scary place - especially for people who trust in themselves. But those who trust in God can have hope and confidence because even in a chaotic environment, He is the one constant. His Word is always true, His power is absolute, and His promises are certain. Human institutions fail, but when Jesus Christ returns to rule the earth, all will be made right.

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Praise for the Lamb
Nov 08, 2019

Revelation 5

"(1) Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. (2) And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?' (3) But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. (4) I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. (5) Then one of the elders said to me, 'Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.' (6) Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God send out into all the earth. (7) He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him and who sat on the throne. (8) And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God's people. (9) And they sand a new song, saying: 'You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. (10) You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.' (11) Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. (12) In a loud voice they were saying: 'Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!' (13) Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!' The four living creatures said, 'Amen,' and the elders fell down and worshiped."

Anyone who isn't sure that Jesus is God and is worthy of worship should take a look at this passage. This heavenly scene opens with a dilemma - no one is found worthy to open the scroll in God's right hand until the Lion of Judah, the root of David, appears as a Lamb standing as if slain. 

This is none other than Jesus Christ, who offered Himself as a sacrifice for mankind's sin. He took our sin upon Himself, suffered the punishment we deserved, and clothed us in His righteousness so that, through faith in Him, we could be reconciled with God. Now He stands in heaven, receiving praise and honor from all its inhabitants. He alone is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll, which contains God's final plans for human history.

If the angels, the elders, and the four living creatures praise the Son and the Father with such reverence, awe, and exaltation, then we who are direct recipients of divine mercy and grace can, too. The citizens of heaven hold nothing back in their unceasing worship and adoration as they humbly bow before the throne.

Considering all that our triune God has done for us, praise should be our humble and joyful response. He delights in hearing our voices raised in adoration and worship as we declare that He is worthy of all honor.

In God the focus of your thoughts and emotions as you join with fellow believers in exalting Him, or do you sing the words thoughtlessly or get caught up in an emotional experience? Although worship will be perfect only in heaven, let's start practicing now.

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The Revelation of Our Salvation
Oct 11, 2019

1 Peter 1:10-12

"(10) Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, (11) trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. (12) It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things."

If you've ever read through the Bible, you probably came to realize divine revelation is progressive. It was over the course of hundreds of years that God provided man with indications of His plan for reconciliation. That's why, as today's passage indicates, the Old Testament prophets could speak of the salvation we have in Christ even though they didn't understand how everything fit together. It was as if they were looking at a distant mountain range but had no idea how far it was from one peak to the next. 

Isaiah is a good example of this. He wrote of Israel's Messiah as a king who would rule over a restored world (Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:1-10) yet in chapter 53 described Him as a suffering servant who would die.

Though Isaiah wouldn't have been able to grasp the full meaning behind the words God's Spirit moved him to record, later revelation gives us a more complete picture. We know Jesus came the first time to sacrifice Himself for our sins, and one day He'll return in glory to rule the entire world as King of Kings.

What’s even more amazing is that angels long to look into this salvation, which we so often take for granted and see merely as the doorway by which we enter heaven. Such simplistic thinking reveals we truly don’t understand the scope of what transpired at the cross and how it effected our salvation.

We should be curious like the prophets, who sought to know more about Christ and the sacrifice He lovingly made on our behalf. When we make that a priority, we’ll learn more about our Savior and salvation, and our awe and love for Him will increase.

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Standing Tall Through Prayer
Oct 04, 2019

Nehemiah 1:1-11

"(1) The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, (2) Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. (3) They said to me, 'Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, an its gates have been burned with fire.' (4) When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. (5) Then I said: 'Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, (6) let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father's family, have committed against you. (7) We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. (8) 'Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, (9) but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.' (10) 'They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. (11) Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer and your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of man.' I was cup bearer to the king."

Nehemiah spent time praying on his knees. When he needed guidance, strength, provision, or protection, he responded with prayer. Because of this attitude of dependence, God was able to use Nehemiah to achieve His divine purposes.

This is also true for believers today. God will use us if we seek Him and make ourselves available. He wants His children to be a part of His work and has a purpose for each of us. 

If you want to follow Nehemiah's example of dependent prayer, first recognize God as the sovereign Ruler of the universe (Nehemiah 1:5). Although He's our loving Father and loyal Friend, we must never forget that He is also our high and exalted Creator, whose holiness is beyond our comprehension. We don't want to casually think of Him as "the man upstairs" or come into His presence in a frivolous manner. 

As one who respected God's holiness, Nehemiah approached Him with confession, admitting not only his own sin, but his father's and Israel's as well (Nehemiah 1:6-7). We cannot hide, deny, or cherish sin and expect the Lord to hear and answer our prayers. Purity of heart and the power of God are linked. We need the Holy Spirit to help us remain sensitive to sin and be willing to deal with it immediately.

The reason Nehemiah stood so tall had nothing to do with his natural abilities; rather, it was because he had developed a relationship of dependency on the Lord through prayer. The same can be true for you. Rely on the Lord, and let Him be your strength.

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