#DailyDevotion Let Us Bless The Lord And Hear His Word

#DailyDevotion Let Us Bless The Lord And Hear His Word

Neh 8:1-3  And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel.  (2)  So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month.  (3)  And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.

Neh 8:5-7  And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood.  (6)  And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.  (7)  Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places.

So Judah had just spent seventy years in Babylon. While some of the exiles gathered regularly to hear God’s Word especially the Torah (the first five books) many apparently did not. Having returned to Jerusalem the people were gathered and they wanted to hear the Book of the Law of Moses. Having done so, he brought it before the people and read it to them. It took at least 4 to 6 hours to read. Unlike some people today they were able to pay attention past ten to twenty minutes most people are able to pay attention (without all sorts of fanfare and the like). They were all very attentive.

We see the people stood when the book or rather scroll was opened. We do the same thing when the Gospel is read in our churches. After blessing the Lord the people bowed to the ground and worshipped the Lord with their faces (literally nostrils) to the ground. Now it is unfortunate today that many kneelers have been taken out of the Churches. I cannot tell you why. I know I have unfortunately heard a few voices over the years proudly say they will not bow. They are children of God and shouldn’t have to bow. Apparently the worship scenes in the book of Revelation have escaped them. Even our Lord Jesus Christ, who is God of God and Light of Light bowed down in prayer. They even lifted up their hands in prayer. Well I have to admit we don’t do a whole lot of that either. Maybe we should.

Now Ezra had some helpers among the Levites helped the people understand the Law while the people remained in their places. One could imagine as Ezra read, he often paused and the Levites distributed amongst the crowd would then helped the people understand what was read. As far as we can tell this is one of the earliest records of systematic preaching, not that it never happened before.

And so today, the Lord our God, Jesus Christ has given us Eph 4:11 “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,…” Our Lord Jesus Christ has given them to read to us the Holy Scriptures. He has given them to explain to us what those scriptures mean. Like the Israelites we should fix our attention on them that we may know what the Lord’s will is toward us and what he wants to believe and to do. Such reading and explanations (sermons) should bring us to at the very least kneel before the Lord in our hearts and raise our hearts with repentance, thanksgiving and praise for all he has done for us.

Heavenly Father, never let your word depart from us and give us ears that hear and hearts that believe all that you would tell us and give us your Spirit that we may live our lives according to your word. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

#DailyDevotion The Church is the Temple of God

#DailyDevotion The Church is the Temple of God

January 18th

Read Ezek 40:1–4; 43:1–12

Eze 43:1-7 Then he led me to the gate, the gate facing east… (3) And the vision I saw was just like the vision that I had seen when he came to destroy the city, and just like the vision that I had seen by the Chebar canal. And I fell on my face. (4) As the glory of the LORD entered the temple by the gate facing east, (5) the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court; and behold, the glory of the LORD filled the temple… (6) I heard one speaking to me out of the temple, (7) and he said to me, “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the people of Israel forever. And the house of Israel shall no more defile my holy name, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoring and by the dead bodies of their kings at their high places,

Mat 24:27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man….Rev 21:1-3 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (2) And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God….Rev 22:3-5 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. (4) They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. (5) And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

The vision of Ezekiel is more clearly seen in Revelation 20 and 21. Of course even there it is a vision so it symbolizes a greater reality.

But this is the reality that we have been promised, Jesus Christ is returning with all the saints who have gone before us and we shall be joined with them. We are, the Church, the believers in the promises of God in Christ Jesus, the very temple of God. We shall dwell in Him and he shall dwell in us.

At that time, there shall be no more evil, wickedness, sickness or death for that is cast into the lake of fire. We will live in the light of Jesus and the Father and they shall fill the desires of our heart which is true union with them and with one another.

But only those who have this faith shall be there. All are invited to this place with Christ as their Lord. The payment for being there has been paid for all by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is he who purifies us and presents us pure, holy and blameless before the Father of lights.

Lord Jesus Christ, give us this faith which makes us living stones in the temple of our God that your and the Father’s presence will fill us with peace, joy and happiness. Amen.

#DailyDevotion You Have Been Called To Serve

#DailyDevotion You Have Been Called To Serve

1Co 12:4-11  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;  (5)  and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord;  (6)  and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  (7)  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.  (8)  For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,  (9)  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,  (10)  to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.  (11)  All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

At least in my lifetime there has been a lot of interest in the ‘spirituals’ in verse one. In verse four they are referenced as gifts, in verse five service and verse six as works, and in verse seven a manifestation of the Spirit. In Corinth, the problem, the reason why Paul is writing about it is because some people were using their gifts, service, works and manifestations of the Spirit to laud it over their fellow believers maybe, as even today, to say if you didn’t have a particular one or manifesting the ones they were looking for you didn’t have faith and were not a Christian.

So Paul’s reference here is not to get us go and take spiritual inventories. Indeed the purpose is quite the opposite. So what is he after here? Humility and unity. For while he lists of different manifestations of the Spirit we also see another theme building. First, he invokes the Holy Trinity. These gifts has the ‘same’ Spirit. The service has the ‘same’ Lord. The works are all empowered by the ‘same’ God.  Same, same, same. Spirit, Lord, God. Whatever we have going spiritually, it is the Triune God who is the author and source. It is not of ourselves. If it is not of ourselves then we have nothing to boast about. Boasting of ourselves and judging one another based on gifts, service and works of God go against why we are given then in the first place. They are given, if they are given, to be of service to our fellow Christians. They are given to build up and strengthen the body of Christ. Any manifestation of them is to make more certain our fellows faith in Jesus not less.

And so the Spirit is the one who chooses what spiritual thing we may have, if any. It is the Spirit who apportions gifts, service and works of God to be done in the congregation. While you may certainly ask the Spirit for a particular gift, it is up to him who gets what, when, where and how and for what purpose. Anyone saying you need to have any particular manifestation of the Spirit to be a real Christian is teaching falsely and should be corrected. For the only manifestation of the Spirit that is common to all Christians was spoken of in the previous verses, the confession of faith that Jesus is Lord, the God of the Old Testament in the flesh.

Now while it is the Spirit who apportions what sorts of gifts, service and works anyone in any congregation may have that does not prevent you from asking, “How can I be of service to my fellow believers here”? If and when you see a need in your congregation and you are able to help fill that need go ahead and do so. Maybe you can even help someone else to help fill that need that they too may be built up in the body of Christ. For the words service and works are there to call us to such things as we dwell in Christ’s body. It is pleasing to him that we submit ourselves to such things and that is the example he has given us when he washed his disciples feet. Let us be busy in serving one another that we don’t have time to worry about what someone else is doing or not doing. For it is the same Spirit, Lord and God who has called both of you to be part the Lord’s body.

Heavenly Father, grant us faith that we  may humble ourselves to see how we may be of service to our fellow Christians, particularly in the place you have called us to serve as your people and empower us to do so. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

#DailyDevotion Jesus Of Nazareth IS Yahweh!

#DailyDevotion Jesus Of Nazareth Is Yahweh!

1Co 12:1-3  Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.  (2)  You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led.  (3)  Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

Now we might get ourselves into all sorts of problems with the word ‘gifts’ which isn’t there in the original Greek. It’s just ‘spiritual’ an adjective turned noun. But about such things Paul doesn’t want us to be uninformed as we were when we were pagans led astray to mute idols. We have received the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God. What is important here is no one can say ‘Jesus is accursed’ who has the Spirit and one can only say ‘Jesus is Lord’ by the Holy Spirit.

Now on that we should have ourselves a little discussion. What does it mean to say Jesus is Lord. Well there are a number of heretics out there who have fallen away from the faith who say Jesus is Lord but who do not have the Spirit. Lord here does not mean king or ruler or even the guiding star of my life. Many a false teacher can say those things. What does Paul mean when he says ‘Jesus is Lord’?

He mean this, if you go look in your Old Testament, there are a lot of places where you will see God called the LORD. It is Lord spelled with all capital letters or small capital letters (depending on the publisher). Why do they do that? Because some places in the Old Testament lord is spelled with lower case letters. Sometimes it is spelled with a capital L with lower case letters. But when it is all capital letters or small capital letters, that is telling us something. It is telling us the divine name the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had given the Israelites to call him, oftentimes called the Tetragrammaton (four letters) is what the Hebrew text has. That would be YHWH, Yahweh, Jehovah. The Jews after the exile from Babylon didn’t want to break the second commandment by saying the name of God so instead of using the name he had given them they used adonai which means Lord. You get Jehovah from using the consonants of YHWH and the vowels from adonai.

In any case, when Paul says no one says Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit he is confessing Jesus is YHWH, Yahweh, Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Heretics cannot and will not confess Jesus is the God who is the uncreated, Living God. They cannot confess he is the God of Israel become man. Only by the Holy Spirit can we confess Jesus is YHWH. That is what Paul is saying here. Jesus is not just some subordinate demi-god. He is God incarnate, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, one in being and substance with the Father through whom all things were made visible and invisible. Now if you can confess this and you believe this with your heart, then you have the Holy Spirit and faith that saves and is conforming you into his image and likeness. If you cannot say this, then you do not yet have the Spirit and do not have faith that saves yet. Turn to Jesus, confess your sins and believe he is your God, the God of the Old Testament in the flesh who has come to save you.

Heavenly Father, grant us faith and the Holy Spirit that we may always confess Jesus is Lord to your glory and to his that we may become participants in your glory at the end of the age. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

#DailyDevotion How The Lord Looks At Zion

#DailyDevotion How The Lord Looks At Zion

Isa 62:1-3  For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch.  (2)  The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.  (3)  You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.

Zion, Jerusalem, these names conjure up different things in people’s mind but perhaps chiefly a city in the Middle East in the country of Israel full of conflict and warring parties. But it should bring to our minds salvation and peace. The Zion and Israel the Lord calls to mind here is not the city built by men with human hands but the city that comes down from above made by the Holy Spirit.

Such a city the Lord cannot keep quiet about. For this city is the Church of the Living God, the Holy One of Israel. It is the Church of Jesus Christ. Though not always looking so bright now for her glory is concealed, yet her glory is the glory of Christ. In the darkness of the world the Church’s righteousness does go forth as brightness and her salvation as a burning torch for her righteousness and salvation are not her own but the Lord Jesus Christ’s. We proclaim Jesus’ righteousness and salvation to the nations. We proclaim the free gift of salvation and the forgiveness of sins to the nations and the kings of the earth. This good news of repentance and forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake is being put before the nations and kings of the world for all to see. It is not always esteemed though by them.

But on the day of the revelation of Jesus Christ all nations shall indeed she her glory and the Lord shall give her a new name. As he speaks to us in Revelation, Rev 3:12 “The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.”

For now the Church may not always seem like much. In many places humble and despised. In some places because it is filled with sinners who act contrary to her Lord’s will it is hated. In other places she is hated because she does act and speak according to His will. But the Church has a bright future at the revelation of her Lord Jesus Christ. For He says, “You will be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” We should remember this when the devil and the world try to get us down. Our destiny is not in their hands but the hands of the Living God. He says we will be a crown of beauty and a royal diadem. Yes, it may look bleak sometimes, but we should not judge ourselves on how big we are or how much influence we have in the world. We should judge ourselves on what our Lord Jesus Christ says about us and comfort ourselves and be emboldened by that. So Christian, these things spoken of by our Lord concerning Zion and Jerusalem he is speaking about you.

Heavenly Father, no mind can comprehend the glories you shall dress the Church of your Son Jesus Christ with at his revelation. May your words of promise grant us faith and strength to endure until that day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

#DailyDevotion Jesus Becomes Our Substitute

#DailyDevotion Jesus Becomes Our Substitute

 Luk 3:21-22  Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened,  (22)  and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

When the Baptist was preaching and baptizing all the people into a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins who else shows up to receive this baptism? Jesus! Now that is quite strange. Jesus, conceived of the Holy Spirit, has no sin. He never sinned in word or thought or deed. From what does he need to be baptized? Of what sin need he be repentant of?  Of course we know the answer is no and none. So why does Jesus go and get baptized?

Well we know in our baptism we are joined with Jesus’ crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. We become one with him. When Jesus is baptized he is baptized into our sin and death. Jesus becomes one with us and does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Jesus as our high priest repents of our sin, confesses it and takes on our death that we walk in daily. He sets himself apart to become our substitute.

Quickly after being baptized Jesus will be carried by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. In our stead and in the place of Adam who fell into temptation, Jesus trusts his Father in heaven and does not take the bait. He does not sin. This he does in our place and for us.

In baptism Jesus was set apart to be the sacrifice for our sins. No works of our could ever make up for the wrongs we have committed. Any good we do we’re supposed to do anyway. Nothing we did could ever take away the debt we have incurred by our iniquities. But Jesus as our substitute could. For Jesus is no ordinary man.

Now it is true, Jesus is true man. Everything necessary to be truly human Jesus is. But the Father also spoke these words after Jesus’ baptism, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” We see here Jesus is true God as well. He is God’s beloved Son. He is the Word of the Lord, the Dabar YHWH. He is the Angel of the Lord (YHWH), the second person of the Trinity. One with the Father and the Holy Spirit. As True God and True Man Jesus can do for us what we could not do for ourselves. While no man could atone for our sins, the one who is God and Man can.

Because Jesus willingly takes this upon himself, because he offers up himself in baptism to this course of action, to be the atoning sacrifice, the scapegoat, to make peace between God and man, the Father is pleased with him. In our stead he obeys the will of the Lord in all its ways and fashions. In our stead, on the mountain the Lord provides, he offers himself as our Passover Lamb that the angel of death will pass over us. As there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood he sheds his blood for us upon the cross and takes away the sin of the world. For this the Father in heaven is well pleased with Jesus.

Jesus is the Father’s beloved Son. Now someone pointed out the other day that in Hebrew beloved is David. So when the Father says Jesus is my beloved Son he is affirming Jesus is David. Not David reincarnated, but David’s seed. He is the seed of David that takes the place of David. As the shoot and root of Jesse, Jesus takes David’s place. He is to sit on David’s throne forever. That throne is at the right hand of the Father where he sits today since his ascension into heaven and from whence he shall return with his reward with him. Now in Jesus, all this is yours too.

Heavenly Father you sent your beloved Son Jesus to become our substitute for sin and death that we might have righteousness and life. Give us faith to receive this and pour out your Holy Spirit upon us that we might live it. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

#DailyDevotion The Baptist Preaches The Good News

#DailyDevotion The Baptist Preaches The Good News

Luk 3:15-20  As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ,  (16)  John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  (17)  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  (18)  So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.  (19)  But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done,  (20)  added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

The Lord God had been quiet to Judah for centuries now. There had not been a prophet. But the times were such, much like today, the people were expecting the Lord’s anointed to come on the scene. There had been a number of attempts of people claiming to be the messiah but those had failed. Now John was on the scene. He looked like a prophet. He certainly sounded like a prophet. Perhaps he was the anointed one, the messiah of God.

But John would have none of it. He would tell them that he is not the Christ. His message concerning himself and the Christ was, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  (17)  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  John did not see himself worthy to untie the Christ’s the Messiah’s sandal. But they were looking at the right time. John was proclaiming the time for the Messiah was near. He was coming to baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. And in prophetic fashion he said it again with a parallel saying, he would be gathering the wheat into the barn and burn the chaff with unquenchable fire. The Holy Spirit would be gathering those who belonged to the Messiah through baptism and the preaching of the good news. Through baptism he would be putting his name on those who would be saved and be giving them the Holy Spirit. Through the preaching of the good news the Holy Spirit would be gathering and bringing people to be baptized into his name. The good news up to this point was baptism for repentance and the forgiveness of sins and the Messiah was near. For us similarly, the Messiah has come and his name is Jesus of Nazareth. He has commanded baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. He has called and gathered you and he continues to call and gather his people into his kingdom. This is free gift of God.

But for those who will not believe the good news and for those who reject being baptized into Christ Jesus, on the Last Day, the Lord will send his angels to gather up all those wicked people and cast them into the Lake of Fire. Then he will send his angels to gather his people into his eternal kingdom. So be repentant. Cast away your former life of sin. Believe on Jesus Christ and be baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit and do the good the Lord our God and Father would have you to do.

Heavenly Father, give us ears that listen to your Word even as people listened to John and submitted to his baptism. Grant us faith and your Holy Spirit that we may live repentant lives turning away from sin and turning towards the light of Jesus. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

#DailyDevotion Have You Been Raised To A New Life?

#DailyDevotion Have You Been Raised To A New Life?

Rom 6:4-11  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (5)  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  (6)  We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  (7)  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  (8)  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  (9)  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  (10)  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  (11)  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Baptism is not merely getting wet in water. It is not just getting submerged in water. Baptism is being joined to Christ. This being united with Christ is not just symbolic or parabolic, it is a true and mysterious union with Jesus Christ. When we are baptized at Christ’s command in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, a spiritual reality takes place. We are joined, body, soul and spirit with Jesus. In baptism we are joined with Jesus’ death. There we have the certainty that the death we deserve has been taken care of and we need not face that death ever again. You actually were and are joined with Jesus on the cross in baptism.”

You are also joined with Christ in his grave. He was buried in the tomb. You are buried in the water. His burial has now become your burial. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, you too are raised in newness of life. You are a new creation in Christ Jesus. His life now becomes your life. We have died to our old way of life and have been call to live a new life in Christ Jesus.

Not only have we been raised spiritually with Jesus in baptism, but just as Jesus was raise bodily from the tomb, you too have the promise that your physical body will also rise from the grave on the Last Day when Christ returns. You have been truly and really united with Jesus. What has happened to him will happen to you and where Jesus is so are you. You are one with Jesus in baptism.

Baptism frees us from sin. We don’t have to listen to the dictates of the devil anymore. We don’t have to listen to the impulses of our sinful flesh anymore. Your body, your flesh has been crucified with Jesus. Having died in baptism, you have been set free from sin. If you find yourself in sin, return to your baptism. I don’t be baptized again, but rather remember what Jesus has done for you in baptism, whose you are and who are you. Remember the name of the Christ Jesus is on you and you are his holy temple. Then do not listen to flesh which wants to dominate you again. Let the Holy Spirit, the forgiveness of sins, your baptism rule your life.

Now Jesus has died and risen from the dead, he will never die again. His death was once for all, for all people, for all sin. Being joined with Jesus in baptism you certainly will also rise from the dead to immortality and life. Jesus now lives for God. You too, St. Paul reminds us, consider yourselves as dead to sin, for you really died in baptism and it has lost its claim over you. Daily remember the good news of you baptism, daily or hourly or by the minute or second if necessary. In baptism, you belong to Jesus and to God now. So be alive to God in Christ Jesus. Live as if your sins are forgiven, you have been freed from the power of sin and death. Live as if you will live forever for in Christ Jesus, indeed you will. You need not fear death anymore. You’ve already died. Now you possess eternal life. This is your gift in being baptized into Jesus.

Gracious God and Father, grant us to remember our baptism into Christ Jesus that we may cast away our sinful inclinations and live the life of love you would have us live in the life of Jesus. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.