Posts tagged ‘God’

Worship In The Shadow

The Word of God, at its very beginning, speaks of mankind as being created in the image of God. But what is meant by that phrase? I believe there is a clue or two in the original Hebrew of the text. The word translated as “image” is “tzelem” which comes from the word “tzel” which means “shadow”. So there is a definite connection, since whenever rays of light fall on something it casts a shadow, which is a type of image. So according to the Bible, we are in the image of God in the same way that our own shadows look like we do in a way.

Another connection can be seen when, in Exodus 31 God appointed a person named Bezalel to create the Tabernacle and its furnishings. His name in Hebrew, Betzalel, literally means “in the shadow of God”. The Tabernacle was used to facilitate the worship of a God by the ancient Israelites. When a human worships the God of the Universe, it is as though he or she were standing in the shadow of God, who dwells in unapproachable light.

which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (I Timothy 6:15, 16 NKJV)

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But how does this apply to us today? In Hebrews 1:3, the author describes Jesus as the “express image of His person”. We are in the image of God in the same way a shadow shows His image, but Jesus is the express image. It’s the difference between a shadow outline and a photograph. While people can and should be able to tell that God is with us, they will only get a clear and detailed picture of God when they see Jesus. And that biblical imagery should carry over into our worship today. When we worship God, we stand in His shadow as those who are created in His image and looking upon Him who is the perfect picture of the Father.

There are some things that are true when that standing occurs. For one, in order to worship in the shadow of God, like we were created to do, He blocks our view of other things. Those lesser things may be visible in our peripheral sight, but our focus will be on the One who overshadows us. Worship occurs when we “fix our eyes on Jesus” and give our while attention to Him. As we habitually do that, we will slowly but surely be changed ourselves into clearer images of Him.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18 NKJV)

This may be bold, but I believe it is accurate. Anything that does not point us to Jesus and cause us to focus on Him is less than true worship. In the modern church over the past few decades, there has been a restoration of the truth about the joy of The Lord in Worship. What we need now is a restoration of the awareness of the awesomeness and glory of the One who alone is worthy of our adoration and worship. In doing so, we fulfill the destiny of why we were saved in the first place.

And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (I Corinthians 15:49 NKJV)

So next time you spend time in worship of God, whether alone, as a family, or with other believers, I would encourage you to focus on the One in whose shadow you stand. Contemplate the brightness of His glory, the perfection of His holiness, and the enormity of His power, and realize that as you stand there, He gazes back in love to you and knows your name, your thoughts, and the number of hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30). Know that He alone is worthy of worship, and look away form those things which have become idols in your life. Let no rival thrones survive as you gaze upon His majesty. Fix your eyes upon Jesus and from your heart, and love The Lord your God with all your might, mind and strength. You will be ruined for cold ceremony or dead rituals. But you will be worshipping in Spirit and in truth.

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Two Men Praying

This is a story, aka parable, is based on the story Jesus used that is recorded in Luke chapter 18 of the Pharisee and the tax collector. I wanted to update the characters, without changing the story, but the first obstacle was that some may think I am referring to specific people I know. That could not be further from the truth. Both people are conflations of many hundreds of people I have met in 50 years of living. So if you think I am talking about you, you are wrong. If, however, you are convicted by what the story says, then maybe the Holy Spirit is trying to get your attention regarding some things and attitudes you may be harboring. As before, I still get none of the credit or blame for the results. So here goes.

One day in a church building in a typical city, a lifelong churchgoer stopped during lunch to pray. He had been reading many stories about various ones who were preaching error, as well as articles on apologetics aimed at exposing false doctrines that disagreed with the conclusions from Scripture of the author. With all this going through his mind, he prayed this way:
“Lord, I thank you that I am not like others who go to denominational churches. I don’t listen to worldly music, I attend every church service, I only associate with those who teach correctly and agree with me, I partake of weekly communion, don’t believe any false teachings, have been baptized in water, and worship only with those acts you authorize. Thank you that I am we’ll pleasing in your sight and am doing those things necessary to stay saved.”

Out in next to the curb by the church building is a man who is too ashamed to come inside. His guilt from sin is overwhelming and he is at the end of his rope. He cries out to God and can only say a simple prayer. “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

One of these men went home that day justified.

Why? Because whenever we start thinking that our standing with God is based on the quality or quantity of our performance, we are basing our salvation on our works, not on the finished work of Christ on the cross. Our standing with God produces good works, and not the other way around. When we deny salvation to those who have not performed a ceremony, or are not doing some list of required works to maintain their saved status, we have fallen from the gospel of grace.

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:2, 3 ESV)

But wait, those men in Luke 18 were under the old law and not under the new system. For one, are you saying that under the New Covenant it is more difficult to be saved? Well not to worry. In Luke 16:16 Jesus said that the law and the prophets were only in force until John the Baptist, but after that people could enter into the Kingdom of God. Yes, people were being saved when they believed on Jesus even during His earthly ministry.

So I would ask you to read the little story again and ask yourself this question in light of Romans 10:9-10 –
In the story above, which one went home justified before God?

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Hijacking the Rainbow

So one thing that annoys me is when words are redefined or symbols are changed from what they were first intended to be. This is especially true when some person or movement takes something that God has set aside as a reminder of His goodness and covenant promises and flips it on its head into something opposite of what God intended. Me example would be taking the word “Christian” and the symbol of the cross and letting it be used by Westboro Baptist Church.

But there is another example that is permitting our society. Please don’t misunderstand me here. If a person or group of people want to have a symbol, they are free to do so in our nation where free speech is protected. But when someone takes something God-ordained and uses it to symbolize that which God calls and abomination, then it is a direct affront to, and a mocking of, God Himself. Read this short passage and try to guess what I am referring to here.

“And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:9-17 NKJV)

The scene is this. The judgment of God has fallen on sinful mankind and everyone has suffered judgment via flood. As a symbol of the covenant Jehovah makes with Noah, God designates the rainbow (the first one ever seen) as symbolic of His promise to never again use a worldwide flood to judge sinful mankind. In doing so, it would also be a reminder of the reasons that flood judgment came in the first place.

What society is doing now, by making that same rainbow a symbol of the homosexual movement, is to say the following things.
1. Mankind is showing a lack of the fear of The Lord.
2. Mankind is saying that they do not believe that God will judge sin. In fact, they are daring Him to do so.
3. Mankind is saying that we, as fallen, sinful people, have the authority to determine what is good and evil. We have erred in the same way as Adam and Eve when they decided they could define good and evil for themselves.

So does that mean we hate people because of who they sleep with? Of course not! It means that I love them enough to warn them of the dangers of mocking God and presumptuously assuming for themselves the authority to decide good and evil. It means I love them enough to tell them that God only wants what is best for them, and that His warnings are not arbitrary, but designed for their protection.

But the time has come for us to say “no” to the hijacking of the symbol of God’s covenant. The time has come to tell the world that the rainbow is symbolic of the judgment of God that sin will inevitable bring. But such judgment is not something that any of us must endure, for Jesus Christ has taken upon himself that penalty in our place. Come to Christ in full surrender, submit to His lordship, and escape the wrath to come!

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It Doesn’t Exist!

Have you ever seen a city ordinance banning feeding of unicorns? Did you ever check the U.S. Fish & Wildlife regulations to see if it was legal to catch mermaids? Of course not. Why? Because they don’t exist, that’s why! It would be ridiculous to ban something, or even to pass a law allowing something, that was impossible or didn’t exist. But right now, the courts and the voting public seem to be doing just that.

One thing we need to do is to change our verbiage. We need to start saying “so-called gay marriage” instead of saying “same sex marriage” because gay marriage doesn’t exist. How can I say that? Well, because the Bible says that. God, the very Creator of the universe, exercises sole jurisdiction over marriage, and here is why.

    God invented marriage


Back in Eden, God created man and woman and brought them together as husband and wife. Since God invented marriage, we do not have the authority to change it.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24 NKJV)

    God defined marriage, and Jesus Christ confirmed that definition


Jesus Christ himself repeated the definition during his earthly ministry. What our Heavenly Father has declared may not be altered by mankind, no matter what the culture desires.

And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’ ? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

    God performs the marriage

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Did you catch the last part of the passage I just quoted? When a man and woman are married, it is God Himself who joins them together in matrimony. Look at that again:

So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:6)

And later on, the Apostle Peter wrote that husband and wife are “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7)
So no matter what ceremony any couple decide to go through, and no matter how sincere they are, they are not truly “married” unless God joins them together.

No legislator, judge or public vote can make the impossible possible. It is Jehovah God who instituted, defined, and performs all real marriages, and anything we call marriage is presumptuous in His eyes and smacks of the very pride that God hates. Does that mean that homosexual couples can’t have a relationship that is recognized by the state that carries certain benefits that married couples also have? Not at all. But don’t call it same sex marriage, because same sex marriage doesn’t exist.

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Offend In Jesus?

There is an interesting passage I have been meditating on that has always seemed odd to me. John the Baptist is a prophet whom I have always admired, especially since Jesus spoke so highly of him. But there is an incident that occurs when John is in prison that I have always interpreted as a time where he was having doubts about his ministry. That never made complete sense to me, since Jesus was the same man John had called “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”! After taking another look at the accounts in Matthew and Luke, I have come to another conclusion for you to consider. Let’s look at what Luke said.

When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ ” And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (Luke 7:20-23 NKJV)

I think one problem was that I would stop at the end of verse 22. But in verse 23 Jesus not only reassures John that He is in fact the Messiah, but also reminds him to focus on the big picture of His mission, and not be offended because someone else is getting a miracle deliverance and seemingly John is not. What do I mean by that?

Well just a few chapters earlier in Luke, Jesus gets up to read in the synagogue from Isaiah and fulfills a prophetic picture of what His earthly ministry would be.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18, 19)

Jesus, by giving the answer He gave about the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the lepers being cleansed, and the poor having the gospel preached to them, is reminding John of a couple of things.
1. It’s not about you.
2. Focus on and give thanks for what God is doing, not on what He is seemingly not doing.
I believe John asked the question, not because He was starting to doubt that Jesus was the Messiah, but because he knew the prophecy Jesus was fulfilling from Isaiah 61. John was trying to say, “the sick are healed, the lame walk, but what about delivering this captive?” And that is why Jesus added verse 23 to His reply to John’s disciples and reminded him not to be offended.

So what are some applications of this for us today?

Have you ever been striving for something in prayer with God? Maybe it was for restoration of health. Perhaps you were struggling financially, or were battling an addiction. And in the heat of the battle someone comes along that prays one time, and gets an instant reply. They quickly return to health, or get an inheritance from a long lost uncle, or are delivered from an addiction. Or a marriage or other family relationship is healed. While all of this is going on, you are still in the trenches doing battle and calling upon The Lord for deliverance. In times like these, it would be easy to resent what God has done for the other person rather than “rejoicing with those who rejoice”. Rather than focusing on what God has done and being thankful, we are tempted to turn inward and focus on what has not been done and become offended. This is dangerous ground, for a root of bitterness will defile us and those around us if we do not dig it out. (Hebrews 12:15) We are serving a Savior who has promised that He will never leave us, and will be with us always (Matthew 28:20) and that is a promise we can rest in.

Another application of this principle of not being offended when someone else gets an answer from God can be seen in two other miracles that Jesus performed. I would like to call attention to how these stories would have changed if resentment and bitterness had been harbored and offense had been taken.

In Luke chapter 8, Jairus comes and begs jesus to heal his little girl. When Jesus was walking with Jairus to his house to heal her, a ceremonially unclean woman with an issue of blood causes Jesus to stop when she reaches out, touches His garment, and is healed. While Jesus is ministering to her, Jairus’ servants come and tell him that his daughter had died. Can you imagine how different things would have been if he had become offended and lashed out in anger because this woman’s miracle had delayed Jesus from getting to his daughter before she died? He would have gone into unbelief and lost a daughter.

Or what about the man who was lame from birth, who sat at the Beautiful Gate by the temple in Acts 3? What if, when Peter and John mentioned the name of Jesus, the beggar had been offended because Jesus was a frequent visitor to the temple, and had healed thousands of people, but had never stopped and healed him? His miracle would literally have passed him by.

So don’t short circuit your answer from God by becoming offended when someone else’s prayers are answered. Rejoice with those who rejoice and gain courage from the knowledge that Jesus knows exactly what He is doing. Be heartened in the promise that He will never leave you or forsake you. You have not been abandoned. And in contentment, rest in the assurance that God is working all things together for good for saints like you that love Him. (Romans 8:28)

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Hope Fully Living

Hope is one of those words that can be difficult for someone to define. If you have hope, you know it. If you don’t, and are hopeless, you know that, too. But what is hope? How would you define it? More importantly, how does God define it in the Bible? Let’s take a look in Romans chapter 15.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13 NKJV)

The first thing we need to realize is that Jehovah is a God of hope. He has so much hope that it is a part of His very nature. That means He is the source of all hope for His children. Biblical hope can best be defined as “a confident expectation”. God does not wish for things. No, that implies that He is uncertain of the outcome and is just “hoping it all turns out right”. No, God knows the end from the beginning.

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ (Isaiah 46:10)

God is the God of hope precisely because He is certain of the outcome of things that have not yet happened from our perspective. So we can anchor our hope in the one who isn’t up in heaven crossing His fingers and hoping for the best.

But how does God give that hope to us as His children? By “joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13). You see, nice we come to a realization of the nature and character of the One in whom we have placed our trust, we can experience deep joy. Because of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross, we now have access to God. In prayer and in reading, studying and meditating n His Word, we can daily come into his presence and have that faith built up and our hope reaffirmed. As The psalmist David wrote:

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalms 16:11)

We not only have joy, but with God, we have fullness of joy!

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: (1 Peter 1:8 KJV)

Another byproduct of the hope we have in God is peace. Even in the midst of life’s darkest hour, we can be at peace with God. We have a calm assurance that God is on our side because if He was willing to save us by His death, He will also see that work through to the end by His life, and constant intercession for us. God gave us grace to save us, but that same grace goes on to change us as well.

For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10 KJV)

So as we increase in peace and joy, we increase in hope. They all go together and build upon each other. So no matter what you are going through (and some of us are really going through it), even if it is the valley of the shadow of death, we need not fear, for God is with us (Psalm 23). We know that we receive our hope from Him who is the very “God of hope” and can rest in His love and will for us.

that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus,(Hebrews 6:18-20a NKJV)

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Our Covenant Keeping God

Throughout history, Jehovah has always dealt with mankind according to covenants. He is a God of order, and does not rule in an arbitrary or capricious manner. Rather, He lets us know the conditions of His covenant so that we know what His promises are and can then exercise faith in His Word to us. Thus, Jehovah establishes covenant relationships and has signs to serve as a reminder of that covenant. Unfortunately, due to the divisions of our Bibles into Old and New Testaments, there is a common misperception that there are only two covenants. In fact, there are three covenants contained in the Hebrew Scriptures and one in the Greek Scriptures.

The first covenant, one that is still in force, is the Noahic covenant. It was established between God and Noah after the flood.

“And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. (Genesis 9:9-13 NKJV)

I am thankful that this is in effect, as another worldwide flood would be a bummer. The sign of this covenant is the rainbow, and still occurs today. In Hawaii, it occurs on a daily basis! This covenant is also one that is unconditional, and was entered into after Noah sacrificed an animal on the altar in worship. Thus it was established by the shedding of blood.

The next covenant I want to consider is the Abrahamic covenant. In this one, God covenants with Abraham to give his descendants through Isaac possession of the land of Israel perpetually. Jehovah also promised that through Abraham’s seed (Jesus) all nations will be blessed. This covenant is also unconditional, and is still in force. In fact, those of us who have been reconciled unto God by His Son are those who are part of “the blessed.”

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3)

On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates— the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” (Genesis 15:18-21)

Again, there were no conditions listed, and the covenant was sealed with a blood sacrifice.

The next covenant was the Mosaic covenant, made between Jehovah and the nation of Israel. This covenant was conditional unlike the others. It is within this covenant that most of the Bible is given. This covenant was given at Mount Sinai and was in force until John the Baptist (Luke 16:16). The covenant, though perfect from God’s side, was beyond human ability to fully keep. It was designed to be temporary, and served to condemn the world under sin. The sign of the Mosaic covenant was circumcision. This covenant was fulfilled at the cross when Jesus Christ ushered in the New Covenant with the shedding of His own blood. While the Mosaic covenant has been fulfilled and is not in force, but in no way does that negate the Noahic or Abrahamic covenants.

The current covenant is the covenant of Grace. It was also initiated by the shedding of blood, but this time by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. The sign of our New Covenant are both internal and external. Internally, we experience circumcision of the heart at baptism (Colossians 2:12), and externally we show the covenant to others when we partake of the elements of communion on the first day of the week. What is the significance of this? It is that we are in covenant relationship with Jehovah God, whose nature is that of a covenant maker and keeper. He is not going to change His mind and decide to cancel our covenant. We are secure in Christ. No one is ever lost because God abandoned them or lost them. Jesus doesn’t fire people; they quit on Him! His part of the covenant is completed. We only need to accept the offer of salvation as He has prescribed, and walk in covenant obedience to Christ.

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20, 21)

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