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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

Keep Your Eyes on the Goal

Scripture:  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. Hebrews 12:2 (MSG)

 

Observation:  Author. Gr. archēgos, “leader,” “originator,” “founder,” “pioneer” (RSV). Archēgos is rendered “Prince” in Acts 3:15; 5:31 and “captain” in Heb. 2:10, in each instance with reference to Christ, as here. Christ is the center of the plan of salvation and the source of every Christian grace. It is He who calls fallen men out of the dismal darkness of sin and into the glorious light of the gospel. It is He who cleanses them from their previous life of sin and qualifies them to become sons and daughters of God. It is He who justifies them by His grace, by virtue of His atonement on Calvary. It is He who plants their feet on the pathway to heaven.

Finisher. Gr. telēiotēs, “perfecter.” The work of justification is only the beginning of the Christian experience. We are not only to lay the “foundation of repentance from dead works” but are to “go on unto perfection” (see on ch. 6:1). We are to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We are to gain victory after victory over our besetting sins (see on Heb. 12:1) and to “grow up into him [Christ] in all things” (Eph. 4:15). Our characters are to be “transformed” by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). This is the work of the indwelling Christ (Gal. 2:20) as the “perfecter” of faith. This is the work of sanctification. See on Matt. 5:48. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (481). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  One of those famous quotes from New York Yankees’ catcher Yogi Berra, or a Yogism, goes like this:  “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”  It sounds kind of funny, kind of crazy, but it is actually very profound.  He illustrates the fact that if we don’t set goals for our life we will probably end up someplace, but not where we had hope to be.  I may wish I would have a doctoral degree, but if I don’t set in place that as a goal, and make plans accordingly, chances are I won’t get that doctoral degree.  Maybe I wish I owned a house, but if I don’t make that a goal, and work, save, and plan accordingly I may end up with nothing more than a wish.

It is the same way with marriage.  You may enter into marriage with dreams and romantic ideals, wearing rose-colored glasses, hoping things work out for you and your spouse.  Instead, you could set a number of goals and move together in the direction of reaching them.  Some of the goals you could set for your marriage should include such things as owning a house, retire from work at a certain age, the number of children you would like to have, saving money for the kids’ education, going on mission experiences together.

Of course, the most important goal is to remain married until death comes or Jesus returns.  With this goal in mind, you can recruit His help knowing Jesus will help you reach that goal successfully, and happily.  Our text today encourages us to keep our eyes on the goal, as Jesus did.  That’s how he was able to put up with the constant challenges He faced to the end.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, thank you for teaching us the importance of setting goals.  Help us to set life-long goals for our marriage and family, and help us to reach them successfully.

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He is so Close!

Scripture: So that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  Acts 17:27-28 (NKJV)

 

Observation: Not far. The whole clause is very emphatic, and literally reads: “And yet He is not far from each one of us.” There is no doubt expressed in Paul’s words; he is rather making a positive statement of fact. The Lord is near to men, even when they do not acknowledge Him. This makes it a comparatively simple matter for men to find God, for He is by their side, awaiting their awakening and aiding their efforts to discover Him. God can and does reveal Himself according to the measure of zeal and earnestness shown by those who seek Him. At this point the Stoics would see parallels between their own teaching and Paul’s thinking, but the Epicureans would be repelled, for the apostle’s words constituted an attack on the basic atheism of their system.

28. In him we live. The whole clause literally reads: “In [or “by”] Him we are living, and are being moved, and are existing.” The words of the apostle express the thought that not merely our initial dependence is on the Creator, but that all our activities—physical, mental, and spiritual—are derived from Him. In the teaching of Paul the personality of the omnipotent, omniscient God is not merged, as is the God of the pantheist, in the impersonal Soul of the world, but stands forth with awful distinctness in the character of Creator and Sustainer of all life. “Through the agencies of nature, God is working, day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, to keep us alive, to build up and restore us … The power working through these agencies is the power of God” (MH 112, 113). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (353). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

 

Application:  Sometimes God feels so far away, it is as if He were nowhere near us, just when we need Him most.  If it’s any consolation, even Jesus felt that way once while hanging from the cross at Calvary.  With the weight of the sins of the world on His shoulders, it seemed to Jesus as if He had been abandoned by His own Father with Whom He had shared eternity.  And maybe that scene gives us an indication why we feel so far away from God; sin makes us feel far from Him who is so close to us!

That’s why these words from the Apostle Paul, declared to the Greek philosophers, are so encouraging.  He wasn’t reminding some Christians that God us near to us; He was telling those who didn’t even know or believe in God.  What that tells me is that God is near each of us even when we reject Him, deny Him, or even rebel against Him.  He reminds of His presence with words such as, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5), or “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Mat. 28:20 ASV).

On those days when we feel alone, abandoned by God, remind yourself of these words and be encouraged by knowing that God is very close to you and your family, that He will never leave us, that He will be with us every step of the way until the end of this race.

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, thank You for being with us, very near to us, even when we don’t feel close to You.  And thank You because You never abandon us in spite of ourselves.

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The Rest We Need

Scripture: Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 (NLT)

 

Observation:  Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest—Incomparable, ravishing sounds these—if ever such were heard in this weary, groaning world! What gentleness, what sweetness is there in the very style of the invitation—“Hither to Me”; and in the words, “All ye that toil and are burdened,” the universal wretchedness of man is depicted, on both its sides—the active and the passive forms of it. [Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Mt 11:28). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

 

Application:  Everyone, without exception, bear heavy burdens.  Sickness creeps into every home, uninvited and unwelcome.  Some don’t have a job, or they have jobs that pay little, or where the conditions are unhealthy, or supervisors that mistreat them.  Just about every one of us face burdens in our families with our children or our parents, with siblings, with our spouse, or with our extended families.

Today’s texts, some of the best known, best loved words of Jesus, remind us that no matter what our burdens may be, Jesus wants to lift them up off our shoulders and give us true rest.  Can He give us back our dead parent, the job lost, the foreclosed home?   Or is He offering to walk by our side to help us carry those burdens so we don’t have to do it alone and they don’t have to crush us?

In my practice as hospice chaplain and as grief and bereavement counselor I encouraged people who were grieving the illness or the loss of their loved one to talk, to tell me stories of their lives, to share their memories, good and bad.  As I have said repeatedly to them, “Pain shared is pain divided.”  When we share our pain it’s as if we’re dividing it in smaller, more bearable pieces.  But it also brings others into your life who will help you carry your pain so you don’t have to do it alone.

Who better to share your pain and your burdens than Jesus who is with us wherever we go?

 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, thank You that Jesus, and You, help us carry our burdens so they don’ have to crush us.

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He Can Hold it Together

Scripture:  God’s Son has all the brightness of God’s own glory and is like him in every way. By his own mighty word, he holds the universe together. After the Son had washed away our sins, he sat down at the right side of the glorious God in heaven. Hebrews 1:3 (CEV)

Observation:  Upholding. Gr. pherō, “to bear,” “to carry,” “to bear along,” “to bear up.” Here there may be the added meaning of movement, purpose, guidance; proceeding with definite intent. Christ is the one who is upholding all things in the entire universe and who keeps the heavenly bodies in their appointed paths. Compare the phrase, “by him all things consist,” that is, hold together (Col. 1:17). Pherō is more comprehensive than our English word “consist,” since it embraces the concept of purposeful working, of planning. This definition changes the concept from that of a mere power sustaining the physical universe to that of an intelligent Being who has a plan and is in the process of carrying it out. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (397). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application:  Have you ever felt like you marriage was unraveling before you, spinning out of control, heading down the drain pipe unable to spot it from drowning?  You fell so helpless to do anything to change its course.  You don’t want your marriage to come to an end, but seem totally unable to do anything about it.  The pain feels unbearable, the stress overwhelming, the sadness crushing.  You didn’t set out to a married life that would end in divorce.  You started, like almost every other couple, with dreams of a lifetime of love and happiness together, but now you wonder if you can make it one more day together.

Have I painted a dreadful picture?  Sadly, many have come to me with these feelings, at the end of their rope, looking for a life jacket before they drown.  Paul tells us some wonderful news:  Jesus holds the universe together!  Because we are part of His universe, He too can hold our marriage together.  Just as He brought healing to the blind, the sick, and the lame, He can bring healing to our relationship.  Just as He brought the dead back to life, He too can bring our dead marriage back to life and make it vibrant and exciting again.  Commit yourself anew to Him today.  Commit your marriage to Him again today.  Redouble your prayers for your spouse, for your relationship.  And then take the next, crucially important step:  Act lovingly toward your spouse, in fact, act toward them as if you were going through the most wonderful time in your relationship.  And then, expect that Jesus will hold your marriage together.  He holds the universe together, can’t He hold your marriage together, too?

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, As we struggle to hold our marriage together, we commit ourselves and our relationship to you.  Bring healing, peace, love, and laughter back, and hold it together for eternity.

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In Quietness and Confidence

Scripture: For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” But you would not.” (Isaiah 30:15 NKJV)

Observation: In returning and rest. The only hope of Judah was to turn from evil back to God. In doing so they would find confidence, rest, and peace. In looking to the strength of men they had found only disappointment, trouble, and defeat, but trust in God would bring peace, calmness, and strength. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 4. 1977 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (220). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application: Rest?  When was the last time that you can honestly say that you felt completely rested?  And yet, Jesus calls us to come apart with Him and in quietness receive the rest that He has promised. But look at the end of this verse in scripture. It goes on to state, “But you would not.”  If something has to be pushed aside in our schedules, time with Him is usually the first thing to go. After all, look at the to-do list! How can you omit the meals that need to be prepared and served, the laundry that needs to be washed, put in the dryer, folded, and put away?  And, how can you eliminate the trip to the doctor for a check-up, dental visits, or grocery store runs?

The excuses are endless.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons that we fail to spend some quiet time with Jesus is because we can’t seem to carve out big blocks of time. Who said it had to be big blocks of time?  Why not start small. Even a few quiet moments spent intentionally and consistently every day will reap big rewards. And, fit it in wherever you can. Try the morning meditations, mid-day minutes, or moon-lit moments. The key is to spend some intentional time every day in quiet reflection with Jesus.

“In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”  When was the last time that you tried it?  Take Jesus at His word. Test Him. Perhaps those few minutes alone with Him will stretch all the other hours in your day. Perhaps you will indeed find renewed strength and energy to face whatever comes your way during the day. And, don’t be surprised to see that those few moments or minutes stretch so that you find them continuing even as you bathe your baby, rock him to sleep, prepare a meal, or go on your errands.

Your strength for today is promised. The secret to securing it lies in communion with Jesus.

A Prayer You May Say: Dear Lord, in the busyness of life, help me to stop and listen to You today. I need rest. I need quietness, and I need Your strength to meet the challenges that this day will bring.

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The Author and Finisher

Scripture:  Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. Hebrews 12:2 (MSG)

Observation:  Author. Gr. archēgos, “leader,” “originator,” “founder,” “pioneer” (RSV). Archēgos is rendered “Prince” in Acts 3:15; 5:31 and “captain” in Heb. 2:10, in each instance with reference to Christ, as here. Christ is the center of the plan of salvation and the source of every Christian grace. It is He who calls fallen men out of the dismal darkness of sin and into the glorious light of the gospel. It is He who cleanses them from their previous life of sin and qualifies them to become sons and daughters of God. It is He who justifies them by His grace, by virtue of His atonement on Calvary. It is He who plants their feet on the pathway to heaven.

        Finisher. Gr. telēiotēs, “perfecter.” The work of justification is only the beginning of the Christian experience. We are not only to lay the “foundation of repentance from dead works” but are to “go on unto perfection” (see on ch. 6:1). We are to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We are to gain victory after victory over our besetting sins (see on Heb. 12:1) and to “grow up into him [Christ] in all things” (Eph. 4:15). Our characters are to be “transformed” by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). This is the work of the indwelling Christ (Gal. 2:20) as the “perfecter” of faith. This is the work of sanctification. See on Matt. 5:48. [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (481). Review and Herald Publishing Association.] 

Application:  Sometimes I wonder if we really believe in Jesus’ power and ability to help us!  Many singles rush into relationships which are not healthy or good instead of waiting for God to bring into their lives the right person, at the right time, if that is His will for them.  Others who are convinced God brought that person into the lives set out to change them and make them as they would want them to be – a replica of themselves.

If we truly believe that God has the power and ability to do anything, we need to learn to trust Him with our relationships.  If He is responsible for the start of a friendship, why not allow Him to help that friendship grow into a meaningful, lasting friendship?  And if He wanted that friendship to grow into courtship and eventually into a marital relationship, why not allow Him to do so, in His time?

Of course, the problem with trust in the area of relationships is not limited to singles.  Many married people also set out to change their spouse from the time they say their “I Dos”, and often they destroy what could have been a wonderful spouse nagging them constantly to change.  In my experience I have met many married people discouraged with their marriage and dissatisfied with their spouse.  But if we believe God is the author of our relationship, why not trust Him to make it grow and eventually bring it to a fulfilling fruition?

Keep your eyes on Jesus, not on each other.  He is the author of order in the midst of chaos.  Don’t lose sight of the direction where you want your marriage and your family to go, and with Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith, as your guide, enjoy the most wonderful journey in life, the journey toward eternity. 

A Prayer You May Say:  Father God, we entrust all the relationships in our life, specially our marriage and our family, into your hands.  Because you are their Author, we trust You also to be the Finisher of all that You do in us.

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No Condemnation

Scripture:  There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1 (NKJV)

Observation:  No condemnation. The good news of the gospel is that Christ came to condemn sin, not sinners (John 3:17; Rom. 8:3). To those who believe and accept the generous provisions of the gospel and who in faith commit themselves to lives of loving obedience, Christ offers justification and freedom. There may yet be deficiencies in the believer’s character, but “when it is in the heart to obey God, when efforts are put forth to this end, Jesus accepts this disposition and effort as man’s best service, and He makes up for the deficiency with His own divine merit” (EGW ST June 16, 1890). For such there is no condemnation (John 3:18). [The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 6. 1980 (F. D. Nichol, Ed.) (559–560). Review and Herald Publishing Association.]

Application:  One of the most moving stories from the life of Jesus is found in John 8.  It’s worth reviewing it today:

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them.  Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst,  they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act.  Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?”  This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.  So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”  And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.  When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11 (NKJV)

The Jewish law made it clear that both the man and the woman who were caught in the act of committing adultery were to be stoned.  In this case, only the woman was brought to Jesus.  It’s clear that it was a set up on their part so they could trap Jesus with His own words.  Regardless, when they could not, with a clear conscience, stone her, Jesus pronounced those precious words, “Neither do I condemn you.”  Since then, those words still bring us comfort and hope.  The apostle Paul also echoed the same sentiment with the words of our Scriptural passage for today (Romans 8:1), so that we could live with the assurance that it is not just the woman caught in the act of committing adultery whom Jesus did not condemn but also every one of us, while sinners to the core, but in Jesus forgiven and not condemned.

If Jesus, in His purity, does not condemn us, how can we, fallible humans that we are, pretend to be more righteous than our spouse or children or parents and condemn them when they have failed, or even failed us?  May the words that come from our lips be:  “Neither do I condemn you.”

A Prayer You May Say:  father God, thank You because in Your love You do not condemn us but instead shower Your love to each of us, forgive us, and asks us to share the same forgiveness to those around us.  Help us to be more gracious, to condemn less, and love more.

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