Expecting Beauty From The Ashes Of Life

to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3)

What ashes are you holding in your hand and covering your head (mind) with? Is it regret, shame, disappointment or sorrow for where you are in your walk of life? Or maybe it’s the realization of where you’re not? Do the cares and distractions of this world have you mourning or in such despair, that this all seems hopeless? Take comfort my friend. The LORD has revealed to us through Isaiah, that those who are broken and mourn can come to Him and find a crown of beauty to replace their ashes. Remember, ashes are only present as things are being burnt away. Look to His Word today to remind you of who you’re becoming through the refinement of your circumstances. Then you can rise from the ashes and find the beauty of your true identity in Christ and the joy of what is to come. 

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12) 

A Live Branch On A Dead Tree

Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS (John 19:19)

A live branch shooting forth from a dead tree is impossible, unless of course you are The Messiah. The One who comes to bring life from the dead. The One who begins the process of bearing fruit, where no fruit has been borne. And the One who is our only hope of escaping death and finding eternal life.

Last week we looked at Bethlehem and discovered why the Messiah had to enter into the world from heaven in that very town. Today, we are going to discover why Nazareth was the very town He had to grow up in before He could shoot forth on His ministry, and how we should recognize from Bethlehem until now, that we have been on a journey with the ARK in this wilderness of life.

Matthew 2:23 tells us: And He went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene. Many stumble when they get to this Messianic prophecy since they can’t find one actual prophecy in the Old Testament from one specific prophet. Of course, because we know that God cannot lie, we have to take a deeper look into this seed of truth to gain an understanding. First notice this scripture says, “spoken by the prophets”. This plural form of the word allows us to understand that there was a compilation of many prophets that were speaking towards this fulfillment of Messiah, not just one.

Isaiah 11:1 reveals to us that Messiah will be a rod that comes out of the stem of Jesse and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. This prophecy comes after a time when Solomons throne was to be taken from his son and the nation seemed as good as dead (1 Kings 11:11-13). But from this seemingly dead tree, a live branch would shoot forth. Do you know what the Hebrew word is for branch? Nezert. When an ending is added you get Netzeret or (Nazareth) which literally means: Place of the branch. So Isaiah is just one prophet speaking of the Branch (Nazarene) that will shoot forth. But since the scripture is plural, what other prophets have spoken about a (branch) that is to come forth? Let’s take a look and see what we discover.

The Rod (branch that shoots out from root) of Moses– Thus saith the LORD, In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD: behold, I will smite with the rod (branch) that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood. (Exodus 7:17) . Raise your staff (branch) and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. (Exodus 14:16)

The Rod (branch that shoots out from root) of Aaron- Numbers 17:10-11-The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff (branch) in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” Moses did just as the Lord commanded him.

The Rod (branch that shoots out from root) of David- He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine. Then the Philistine came on and approached David, with the shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, with a handsome appearance. The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine also said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the beasts of the field.” Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. (1 Samuel 17:40-45)

The Rod (branch that shoots out from root) that Jeremiah saw- And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’“Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt,’ (Jeremiah 23:5-7)

The Branch that Zechariah saw- Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you—indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch.  For behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. ‘In that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree.’” (Zech 3:8-10)

The Shoot from a Root that Isaiah saw– For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty, That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. (Isaiah 53:2) This is probably why it is written: Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”(John 1:46)

The Fulfillment that John sees-I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” (Rev 22:16)

So as you begin to look back through the prophets you begin to see that many of them spoke of A Branch that was to come. It was from Nazareth- The place of the Branch where the Messiah had to grow up and shoot forth from. As He grew up from Nazareth, He now becomes more than the first fruit branch for us, but the very vine itself that gives life. This gives deeper insight into what Acts 24:5 reveals to us: For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. Here, Jesus’ followers are identified as Nazarenes. This seems to paint a picture of us as Christians, being the offshoot branches from the Head. This lines up with Jesus’ teaching Himself in John 15:5 when He says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
Even more so we begin to understand the prophecies of the Messiah and who He really was as Hebrews 9:4 teaches us: having a golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant;

For these are the prophecies of the Messiah, the Root and Offspring of David, the Branch that was to come…

Micah 5:2- But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity.” This is the living manna!

Hosea 11:1-When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.

Matthew 2:13-15- When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son. This is the tables of the Covenant and the Law!

Matthew 2:22-23- But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” This is Aarons Rod (Branch) which budded)!

How ironic that the only Living Branch would have to hang on a cursed dead tree in order to give hope to a dying mankind. Surely we can identify with Matthew 27:54- Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
This Son of God was Jesus of Nazareth, our Branch, our Messiah and our Ark of Salvation.

The Seed Of Potential

Every seed is full of potential. Left unopened in its package it is worthless. 🌱 Planted into the soil of life, its potential becomes reality. So it is with the seeds of Gods Word.

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.  And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,  but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:1-9)

This parable is spoken to those who had come to hear God’s Word. They wanted His wisdom and to know how following him could benefit their lives. But instead of giving them a self help sermon or handing out door prizes to thank them for coming, He gives them a life lesson in authentic, deep rooted faith. God, our sower, sends out the seeds of His word that are full of life giving truth to those who will allow them to be cultivated into the soil of their lives. The problem therein lies with not the seed, but the soil of our soul. As we are journeying on this path of life, God’s Word is falling all around us. Seeds of opportunity are put in front of us and because we are not interested in taking the time to let them cultivate and understand their truths, the enemy comes along and snatches them away.

The next group is described as having rocky soil. As I dug a little deeper to discover what this soil is actually like, I began to understand more the response of this type of soil. Rocky soil requires long term attention because rocks are problematic. Not just because they make working the soil challenging, but also because rocky soil tends to have fewer nutrients than other soils and holds water poorly. It’s not that this soil can’t receive a seed, but more that it is a challenge to maintain the seeds growth, so that it ever produces anything. So it is with this soil of the life that is able to receive the seed with joy, but can’t handle the difficult tending required to grow its faith. The rocky storms of life, and the difficulty and attention it requires to maneuver through them, are not what they signed up for. Because of that, it never takes root and falls away to the easy, comfortable way of its own path.

As for the seed that is sown among the thorns, this ground becomes useless. The seeds are never able to take root because there are too many thorn branches that invade the space. I think of thorns that were brought forth as a consequence in the garden from our sins. Those sins, which are centered on the lust of the flesh and the pride of life, choke the fruitfulness of God’s word right out of our life. It reveals a hard heart that can not surrender to God’s Word because it loves the world too much. Jeremiah himself prophesied about this in Jeremiah 4:3 when he said: Break up your fallow ground, and do not sow among thorns. He was fully aware that sowing seeds in soil that the sower has not de-thorned, chokes the life out of the seed and doesn’t allow the water to penetrate but rather traps the water, so no growth ever occurs.

But the good soil, has readied itself for the sower, by breaking up its fallow ground in brokenness, repentance and the readiness to receive the seeds that it needs. Once the seeds fall among this fertile soil, they receive not only the light that is needed to break open the seeds, but the water that springs it forth to life. This is the life that produces an abundant harvest for its sower.

Start today by allowing His words to be planted in the soil of your soul. Only then can each seeds life be released to bring forth all of its potential in yours.

Beauty Of A Broken Vessel

I’m sure like me, most of you girls enjoy a good shopping day! Okay, maybe not. But let’s say I dragged you along on one of mine. We decide to drive to a high end department store to purchase an item. When we arrive at the store, you locate an item on display in its beautiful box. You really want this item, but when you opened that box, you found that the item was broken into pieces. Would you move on past it? Would you pay full price for it? If you did decide to purchase it, would you walk out with it, overwhelmed with love and joy at the purchase you had just made? Would you desire to put this broken vessel on display for the world to see, and then spend all your time rebuilding it into what it should be?

As I study the life of the sinful woman in Luke 7, I can’t help but picture a life I long to have Jesus working on. How often do we try to maintain a high end department store life style? We long to have it all together, neatly packaged for all the world to see. We keep the appearances up for our friends, family and those around us because we want them to be so proud of who we are becoming, not what we once were. I fear sometimes we even try to carry out that appearance for Jesus Christ Himself. The fear of humility and being revealed before all scares us to death. We would rather spend all of our energy investing in keeping the outward appearances up, than to reveal the true beauty of our brokenness. Yet it is exactly that broken vessel that Christ wants. That is the one the Christ does seek out and willingly purchases for Himself.

It’s the opposite of our perception. The things which look like they hold much worth and value to the world, seem to be the very things our flesh is drawn to when we choose to be led by our sinful nature. Those things set themselves up in our minds in hopes of keeping us on a search for and remaining in that which has no significant value to Christ. The very things that in fact separate us from Him. This sinful women in Luke 7 had no doubt, that when she entered uninvited to this dinner with Jesus, humility and shame lurked all around her. Those who knew her, would use their piercing eyes to condemn her. Notice I said condemn. They weren’t concerned about making a correct judgement to lovingly pointing her towards the truth. No. They had such thoughts as to not even allow her the hope of truly repenting and changing. The kind of judgement that was meant to leave her hopeless and without any way to find forgiveness. But even at that moment, their thoughts, whispers and even glances could not slow her from coming to her Lords feet. She hadn’t entered into this dinner with the hopes of luring Jesus to become just another man in her life. Surely she could have. I have no doubt, like many of us, there were voids and cracks in her life that she wanted filled. We also don’t see her coming to make light of her lifestyle or even with hopes that Jesus will excuse her sins, while she seeks to justify the choices she has made to Him. Before the cross and resurrection ever happened, this woman saw a Savior who could set her free from these sins that so easily entangled. These sins that held her hostage to the glances and whispers of those within her town. The ones that would not let her sleep at night because they weighed so heavy on her heart and mind. She came so broken and saddened by her sins, that it was only her faith that would allow her to see past the opinions of others, and towards her desire to be rebuilt by the Master Potter. It was only Christ’s love and mercy that would offer all He had, to purchase this broken vessel and rebuild her into something of significant value and worth.

Ladies, I wonder, are we willing to find beauty in our brokenness? Not excuses for our sins. Not cheap grace to serve as a license for immorality (as Jude warns about). Only an earnest desire to find Jesus wherever He is, no matter who sees us and to offer Him a beautiful broken vessel. Are we the women that will have the faith to say, I no longer desire to be what I was, but to offer all I should be to the glory of our Lord Jesus? Will we cling to His feet knowing that only He has the power to turn something broken into something beautiful? I know that this is what Jesus wants for me and for you. Once He begins to build my broken heart, my broken life, why would I ever want to return to my original condition? Why would you ladies? Our love for Him should be much, because our Lord has loved us much. And yet, we must be totally willing to come before him humble and broken, with a heart so desiring to be rebuilt. If we only allow Him to repair, we are asking Him to fix what is already there in our lives. If we just bring little cracks here and there, it is like patching an old wineskin or cracked clay vessel. We are asking Him to fix areas of our lives that we think are okay to hold onto. Maybe it is an unhealthy relationship. Has the enemy placed someone in your life to tempt you or discourage you from change? Come broken and open before the Lord and ask Him to be your strength and victory. Has your bank account become your source of contentment and joy? Are you willing to compromise on values for the sake of money? Come before the Lord open and broken and ask Him to be your source of joy and contentment. He will! How the Lord so desires that my life and your life be completely open and broken before Him. Not just with a crack of transparency, that kind where just a little light can enter in. You know, just enough to expose, but not enough to need rebuilding. We must be a completely broken vessel that stands no hope except to be thrown out unless it is totally rebuilt. We need Jesus to rebuild our lives and restore it into something new. A new creation that longs to display His life-changing power! In closing, I would like to share a poem with you that I wrote as I was thinking about what we need for Christ to do in our own lives. Not what we think we need, but what He expects from us. I hope this will bless you in some small way.

Today I found a treasure box

I thought I’d throw away,

a tiny, empty, dirty box

of old and mirey clay

But then I found my favorite ring

I thought I should display,

So now this empty, dirty box

will surely have to stay

I cleaned it off, I painted it

to make it look brand new,

but then I found there was one thing

that I forgot to do

Those little cracks, they were not fixed

that paint it seeped right through,

and now I found my favorite ring

can no longer be used

Next time I’ll know when things are cracked

they can’t be fixed by my own plans,

instead they must be broken

and rebuilt by the Potters hands. (ST)

A Lot Of Righteousness?

“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.  But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:28-29)

Suffice it to say, we are truly the generation that has returned back to the days of Noah and Lot. As I study the Word to digest all of its meaty teachings, the thing that stands out to me the most, is that God is calling us to be like Noah and Lot in our wicked generation. To walk in and live by righteousness which comes through faith in Christ. The struggle that I have as I read through these accounts, is that based on the teachings and commentaries of so many pastors, I would be hard pressed to understand why Lot was considered righteous. In fact, the only justification I could find as an overwhelming consensus, was that Lot believed in God, but did nothing with his faith. Instead, he lived a life of immorality and complacency when it came to his witness, but, because he believed he was called righteous.

I am going to state up front that this teaching does not set well in my spirit and does not line up with the consistent message in the Bible in the Old or New Testaments. Because of that, I have taken some time to sit in prayer and study and ask the LORD to help me reconcile Lot and his righteousness, so that I can understand the truth. I will say, what the LORD has taught me makes far more sense to His Word and His nature than the general explanation given. Bear with me as I share.

The first thing we need to ask ourselves as we read the account of Lot in Genesis is, did Lot choose to live among the land because it looked good to him and he assumed he would prosper for his family? Did he believe that he could have an effect on others with little to no effect on himself or his family? Was he carefully taking the time to consider his future choice and the impact it could have? In fact, the Hebrew words for LIFT YOUR EYES also can mean to LOOK WITH CARE. The bible does not make known to us Lot’s motive, so we just assume one. What we can gather from the scriptures though, is that Lot believed this to be the best land for his family, and it doesn’t seem that his uncle Abraham tried to discourage him otherwise.

Just as Lot had to make a choice, reality causes us to understand that we can not be taken out of this world or live separately from society, but instead we are left to live and dwell among the wicked and the lawless in peace. In fact, isn’t this the very defense of the modern day church, that struggles with the “Church walls,” over the desire of dwelling with unbelievers and the immoral in relationship to impact them for Christ? Sadly, we couldn’t live in America, and most of it’s cities, if we take a stand against Lot for the land that he chose.

Second, we should note according to scripture, that the men of Sodom were not really fans of Lot at all. In fact they referred to him as “judging” in a mocking tone. In all actuality, it seems that they are not fans of the way Lot judges, because their views of what is considered immoral and wicked is very different from Lot’s. How is that relevant to our generation and how the Lot’s of our day stand for morality, only to be mocked and harassed by those who hold a different view to what they believe is moral in their own eyes? Of course, Lot seems to believe he can also participate in the local politics of the area given his place of prominence at the city gate. Again, how would this be any different than those in the Church who believe that Christians should place themselves in prominent places of political leadership to influence the society around them?

Scripture also never tells us that Lot did not try to minister to those he dwelled among. It would just seem that his ministry was ineffective in a place so given over to wickedness and immorality. Yet, this is no different than the days of Noah, (to which the last days generation is also compared), in the sense that NO ONE responded to Noah’s ministry. But does that mean that Noah was ineffective for Yahweh? Of course not! Instead, we can blame that on the hearts of the hearers and their desire to do what was right in their own eyes. Sadly, their ears were closed to the ministry that was right among them.

This seems to be the case in Lot’s day as he recognizes these godly men as the enter into the city and begs them not to stay in the square, but to come under his own roof for protection. It is during this time that Lot is mocked by the wicked men in his city for begging them not to do so wickedly. While it was the custom of his culture to protect those who came into your home as a guest, Lot seems to go above and beyond what is really required of him for these godly men. In his mind, he was willing to offer up his own daughters, as if he hated them, to protect that which was sent from God. All that we know from this occurrence is that God causes the angels to protect Lot and his daughters from this consequence and strikes the wicked men with blindness.

In the end, what we can conclude, is that Lot does not seem to be a man who agrees with or even participates in the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah. Instead, it would seem his intentions were to live among this people, prosper off the land and influence them. Of course even the most noble of intentions can have an influence on those around us that we bring along on our journey. Lot’s choices seems to have affected even his family in a negative way. His desire to stay among a group who were unwilling to hear and repent and even to build upon a friendly approach by calling them “breathen” does not seem to appeal to this people. Instead it seems the longer he stays, the more it impacts his wife and his children to tolerate what is going on in this society and the love for what it provides them.

What we can learn from Lot’s life is that as a Christian who has put our faith in Christ and is walking in the righteousness of His Spirit, we can also find ourselves dwelling to long in places, instead of dusting off our feet when people won’t listen. In the end our life can end up as an example to 1 Cor 3:15- If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. The intentions of our work can be good but produce nothing. That work, like Sodom, will be burned, but he himself will be saved. It is the same for the times we live in and why Christ compared those days to the days of Noah and Lot. We live among the perverse and wicked, but many will not listen. In spite of that, let us continue to stand in faith and obedience to God’s Word, so that when we too escape this world and the fire that is coming upon it, we will be called the Righteous of God.

Beware Of An Unbelieving Heart

Have you come to the realization yet that life can be full of disappointments, painful trials, hurtful moments and unexpected difficulties? Attacks from the enemy, that while you know he exists, you just weren’t expecting? Just like God’s people in the wilderness, we too can make the decision to follow after Him, desiring His rest, but never truly finding it because of our own dissatisfaction with the journey required to get there. Truth be told, I often find myself willing to trek on behind Him, eagerly expecting what lies ahead and keenly aware of the enemy that lies around me. I don’t doubt His presence as much as I doubt His willingness to deliver me from the trials and the painful moments that confront me. It’s the fear of being disappointed in what His will is going to be over mine. Somehow I BELIEVE my own desires and control over this journey towards His rest will offer me a better experience. What pride and what areas of unbelief still lie within my heart when I think that way. What about you? What enemy, or trial, or temptation are you facing today, that while you say you believe in Him, causes you to not believe in His ways? Can we recognize our struggle and cry out honestly to Jesus just like the father in Mark 9 who says, Help my unbelief? Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24)

Hebrews warns us against the heart that refuses to do that and instead falls away from the living God. Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. (Hebrews 3:12) And why does it fall away? Because of unbelief. In spite of all that it has seen the LORD accomplish, not only in this world, but it’s own midst, the cares of this life along its journey, consume it. The dissatisfaction of what it really requires and cost us for a future promise, turns our hearts towards what the here and now offer. Then the LORD said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all of the signs I have performed among them? (Numbers 14:11) You see, unbelief to God is the exact same thing as rejection. There is no difference. When you or I share big dreams and plans in our life with others and they don’t have confidence in our ability or even believe that we know how to make the right decision to accomplish it, it feels like rejection. Unbelief is really what causes them to reject what it is we are saying to them. Of course we know we have made some difficult sacrifices to accomplish our goals, or taken a difficult path that someone else wouldn’t dare stumble onto, but it doesn’t mean we didn’t know what we were doing. It doesn’t mean that we didn’t come out stronger because of the process.

It’s no different with our LORD. He has great plans for our future, and yet He never promised us that it would be an easy journey to arrive there. He has made us aware of the sin that can so easily try to entangle us, and the enemy that lurks around trying to destroy us. He has warned us of the persecution and rejection that awaits us and the losses we will experience along this journey. But He has also called us to encourage one another. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called Today, so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13) Why? Because sin will deceive us into believing that God doesn’t know what’s best for our journey towards His rest. It will cause us to reject His ways and to plan our own. It causes us to retreat in bitterness and fear when God leaves the enemy encamped around us, instead of believing that God has given every one of those moments into our hand and not one of them will be able to overtake us. He has already won the victory and assured us of the outcome. Let me encourage you, in the midst of your trials, while it is still called Today, your only weapon is belief!

The Measure of Man and The Plumb line That Determines It

How do we determine the worth of something or someone, and by what standard or plumb line do we gauge a man’s worthiness? I mean it’s easy to cry out against injustice to ourselves, yet we give it to others?

Since the bible has been removed for the most part from secular society, and religion has been categorized as just a set of ideas for any one group, I would venture to say the measure of a man today is NOT God’s Word for the majority. The reality is, society and our own opinion and actions are the gauge. We look at someone’s life and see immorality, but choose to overlook it when we gain something for OURSELVES. Maybe it’s money, entertainment, status or popularity. Somehow the fear of being labeled judgmental has eroded away at our capacity to deliver truth in love to others. The rust and the junk of this world have clogged our ability to not only receive, but to give the truth that comes from the living waters. At other times we may look at someone else who may engage in the exact same behaviors and we increase our shock value. Why? Because we lose something. The waters have become murky and we have lost our ability to see clearly. We follow the crowds that have latched on to a “crucify them” attitude and we need to join in to “belong”. Maybe there are bribes involved. Maybe we gain a feeling of righteousness and self respect. For whatever reason we have used society and our own view to measure the worth of something or someone.

Proverbs 20:9-10 teaches us that, Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”? Diverse weights and diverse measures, They are both alike, an abomination to the LORD.

What does this mean? What is the plumb line of God’s Word teaching us? First, only the one who has come to a true, saving faith in Christ can say that they have made their heart clean and have been purified from their sins. Of course, the only way to measure that is to measure our hearts and our life back to the plumb line of God’s Word. This is why David, who had stumbled into sin, would ask God to test him and see if there was any wicked way in him. Only Yahweh and His Word can bring cleansing and measure our worth. That is the only standard we can hold ourselves to.

Of course many chose to measure the worth of others based on differing standards. One who practices evil we will call good, while another who practices good we will call evil. Of course at the very same time we also measure one person’s evil as acceptable and another person’s evil as deplorable, even though they are the exact same actions. In other words, we rationalize something as acceptable even when the LORD says it isn’t…period. Our worthless, fraudulent balancing scales of morality and worth are detestable to the LORD.  The Septuagint points it out as a warning against judging a neighbor by a standard which we do not apply to ourselves.

In these days of hypocrisy, wickedness and lawlessness, let the cry of our hearts be that we do not get washed away in the ideology of an immoral society, who use their own desires as a gauge for worth or moral direction. May we learn from what the LORD reveals to us in Amos 7:7-8. When God declared He was laying the plumb line among His people, it was because He was declaring an end to their attempts to justify their wicked ways. Let us return to His ways and instead lean on the foundation of God’s Word and His Son as our plumb line for truth. Only then will we remain steady upon these raging storms of deception in the coming months and years, and not come crashing down on sinking sand. Only then will we be found hanging our lives and our nation on fair and balanced scales which are of the LORD.

An Unholy Mixture

As I sit and read the Word, I am often reminded that again there is nothing new under the sun. What an encouragement to see that the Lord has given us His Word to remind us and strengthen us when the enemy comes back to attack again. How often we see and learn that the tactic has not changed, only the package.

The apostate church today stands to learn much from the Words of the Lord in Ezra 4.  We have compromised holiness and purity by allowing a mixture and now many have found themselves working, not for God, but for the enemy himself. What has always been a strategy tool for Satan, has now become a tool for today’s church.  Post-modernism/liberalism screams from the outside to be a part. “We worship the same God,” they cry.  The church, using no discernment, (but hungry for numbers) welcomes and tolerates all in. Once in, the leaven begins to ruin the whole lump. Before too long you can hardly recognize truth, and the few who still stand for it are weeded out, and told to catch up with the times and be more loving. In my study time I was amazed to see that this was not the first time this tactic was used by the enemy. I was even more excited to see that during Ezra’s point in history, God’s people did not give in to the attack of the enemy and yoke with those who proclaimed to serve the “same” God. Of course that response was not at all warmly received.

Ezra 4-  When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”  But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.” Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Even in Ezra’s time, there were the many who proclaimed loudly that they worshipped the same God and deserved to be a part of what God was doing. What a blessing that God’s people knew enough to be exclusive when it came to yoking with just anyone to do God’s work.  Even though in this day we have become the temple for the Living God, we are still commanded to be separate and use the same discernment and authority that the Jews in that day used, even when our enemies come railing against us. Sadly enough, many of the men in the church today take no stand. Instead they just hold the door open wide and invite all in to join. Don’t get me wrong, we are called to GO OUT and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, and there is no exclusivity in that. All are welcome to repent and respond. But to worship and carry on God’s work, well that is exclusive. That is reserved only for those who have truly been changed by the work of the Lord. The fruit of that will be a surrendered life, one who has cast aside self and idols and instead is living a life of obedience to the Lord.  Lest we think that these commands were only for the Old Testament, we need look no further than 2 Corinthians 6:14. The Lord commands us not to be yoked together with unbelievers (that includes those we have discerned to be false teachers and unrepentant brothers).  As the people of Ezra’s day had learned, an unholy mixture could have dangerous consequenses. Will we learn from Israel’s history, or will we continue on the path of destruction? Will we awaken from our lumber and return to properly attending the Bride of Christ? Our only hope is repentance. Then the Lord will hear and forgive us and welcome us richly into the Kingdom He has prepared for us!

When the Guilty Go Free

What weighs heavy on your heart and mind today? What is the enemy trying to hold you captive as a prisoner to? Is it bondage to addictions, the desires of this world or the shame of your past? Maybe it’s the echoing voices in your mind that you are hopeless because of hypocrisy or sins in your own life that you have spent years trying to cover. Or maybe it’s the heavy chains of loneliness and despair because your life doesn’t look the way you intended it to.

Let me encourage you to stand back with me for a moment and take in the accounts of what plays out throughout history, so that we fully understand God’s plan that has been set into motion from the foundation of the world to set those of us who are captive free.

Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel. And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel. (Lev 16:7-10)cT

While there is a time difference between the Day of Atonement sacrifice and the Passover sacrifice, there is a greater connection and lesson for us all in them both. We watch their meanings become unveiled before our eyes, when we step away from the Old Testament temple sacrifice and into the New Testament sacrifice that is taking place with Jesus. A key part of the Day of Atonement at the temple in Lev 16 was the sin offering involving two goats. One interesting requirement was, when they were chosen, they had to be as similar as possible to one another and then the lots were drawn. As we fast forward and focus in on the day Jesus was delivered to Pilate to be crucified, we notice a stark similarity. The two “goats” are similar in their human flesh. They are similar in the nation of people that they come from. They are similar in the temptations that they both experienced. And they are similar in their names. Jesus comes before them bearing the name Son of God, (His father). Barabbas stands before them bearing his name, which in Hebrew is translated, Son of a father. Scripture tells us in John 8:44 who our father is though, when we live in sin and unbelief. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

There were two options once the lots were drawn. One was inscribed, “to the Lord” and the other, “to Azazel.” Whoever the lot fell to as bearing the words “To the Lord”, was offered as a sacrifice for all. Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

Over the other, the High Priest confessed all of Israels sins and it was taken away into the wilderness. So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood;  see to it yourselves.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Now the scapegoat would never be seen again, representing the removal of the Israelites sin. From all of my research into this translation and the meaning, I discovered that Azazel was the representation of a demonic being whose name means “goat escapes”. The book of Enoch (a historical writing outside of scripture) speaks of Azazel when it says in 1 Enoch 10; And the whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sin. This goat who escapes and goes free, does so bearing the guilt and the evidence of the sins of the people. He is sent into the wilderness, to the one from whom sin originated with in this fallen world. This is probably the exact lesson Paul had in mind when he teaches in 1 Cor 5:5- I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
As this goat is removed from among God’s people, casting sin and its guilt back where it belongs, the sacrifice to Yahweh is now offered to cover and atone for those same sins and to remove them from their midst. Jesus as the sacrifice chosen “to the Lord” now becomes our permanent offering. His blood covers all our sins, once and for all.

Barabbas, (like us), becomes the scapegoat who bears the evidence and guilt of our sins, but the sacrifice chosen to Yahweh, Jesus the Christ, is the very sacrifice that allows the guilty to go free. It releases us from the guilty chains that bind us, and sets us free from the death sentence that we deserve, just as Barabbas the murderer was set free that day. The guilt of his own sin, which was also the guilt of his own people, were the very sins that condemned an innocent man to die. This was the plan from the foundation of the world. And however it is meant to be the fulfillment of the law, this one thing we can be sure of. Through the sacrificial offering of Jesus, our sins are both forgiven and forgotten, and we the guilty and convicted are now set free! Praise God for that. For because, as in Egypt, our perfect Passover Lamb has been sacrificed and we have permanently been set free from the bondage of our sin and God’s wrath has been satisfied, we no longer need a Day of Atonement. For our High Priest has completed the task, and our sins and its judgement have been cast back on the one from whom they originated. Now only he, his demons and those who reject this sacrifice “to the Lord” await their final judgement as they wander in the wilderness and of those who do accept the offering and find the Promised Land, it shall be known of us……….the guilty go free.

What’s the One Thing That We Lack?

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words  he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property. (Mark 10:17-22)

Yesterday my husband allowed me the opportunity to receive one of the most beautiful necklaces I have seen. I could have stared at it for hours and can hardly wait to put it around my neck and wear it out for everyone to see. But the longer I found myself admiring this piece of jewelry, the more I started noticing I was becoming to wrapped up in the gift itself, instead of my husband who had given it to me. It was actually because of him and his work that I was even able to have what I was holding in my hands.

This reminds me of the account of the rich young ruler when he comes to Jesus. He recognizes Jesus as One full of wisdom and who does what is good. He truly does desire to learn from Him and to find assurance of eternal life. Can you relate to how this young ruler felt in his desires? I sure can. We can attend bible study’s and sit through countless sermons in a building or on media, hungry for the wisdom of God and the answers of His kingdom. We can recognize that He is good and even desire to do those same good deeds that He performed and taught about. But having the desire and coming to Jesus to discover the truth, is not the same thing as actually BELIEVING it and surrendering to its actual truth.

In this account, the rich young ruler acknowledges that Jesus is good, but that is very different from acknowledging that He is LORD and GOD. Notice that Jesus asks him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” It is this very question that is supposed to move the young man, and even us, into the recognition that Jesus is only good because He IS God. The human flesh, at its roots, is wicked. We desire, by nature of the flesh, that which goes against what is good. We can be selfish, greedy, hate-filled, jealous, and on the list goes. The reason we even desire to do good, is because God in His very nature is good. The question for us today remains, do we recognize Jesus as a good man who we desire to learn from, or do we recognize Him as being God Himself showing us what the very nature of goodness looks like?

As soon as Jesus asks the young man this question, He moves right into directing him to the very commandments the rich ruler understands to be required to make one “good”. I have no doubt he acknowledged that these commandments were from God and that he strove to live by them. His answer alone reveals the pride he felt in having honored God by keeping those commandments. The problem is, like many of us are in danger of doing in our lives, this young man was picking and choosing which commandments (teachings) He was obedient to and was neglecting the most important one. The scary thing is, he doesn’t seem to realize it. Look back at the scripture. Do you notice throughout the list of commandments that Jesus does list (because He knows where the young man has obeyed) which ones are actually absent? Jesus skips over the first 4 commandments, because He is aware that these are the ones keeping this young man from finding eternal life. Of course instead of pointing that out, Jesus out of a heart of love for this young man, wants him to discover for Himself which commandments he is breaking and that keep him from finding eternal life. I love how Jesus doesn’t come to condemn us, but instead longs for us to discover on our own, why we are already condemned, so that we recognize our need for Him and follow Him as our way from death to eternal life, that just like this rich ruler, we so desperately desire.

For many of us, like me with the necklace, it becomes the very things we hold in our hands and that we WORK for and chase after that keep us distracted from the truth though. Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler, to sell all he had and give to the poor, wasn’t because Jesus is against money or even the enjoyment of the good gifts that He has given. It’s because He fully understood that the bondage that kept this young man from knowing eternal life and the One who gave it, was his LOVE of money and the things of the world. He assumed he was keeping the commandments, but He was already guilty of breaking the first four! He had already placed other gods before the LORD. He was already worshiping another image in the form of mammon and possessions and those had become his idols. Jesus Himself had taught in Matthew 6:24, that we can’t serve both God and money, for you will love one and hate the other, or hold to one and despise the other. Only one will have control over your life, allegiance and decisions. By doing these very things he was misusing the name of God, because many others saw him as a keeper of the law, but in fact he was disobeying it. When we do this, we lead many astray in their worship of God and cause them to believe they are good and have clean hands, when in fact we are still dirty and so are they. This was the danger of the religious leaders in Jesus’ day and clearly why this young rich ruler was confused. The Pharisees and Sadducees taught one thing and Jesus another. This is no different in our times and the reason why so many are confused who identify with the church today. Last, he was not truly keeping the Sabbath. For the fulfillment of the Sabbath was standing in front of him and he couldn’t recognize it. This young ruler no doubt had pride in his hard work and what he felt it had earned him. Now he somehow believed he could keep working hard and earn his way into eternal life. Yet Jesus Himself is our Sabbath. It is only when we recognize that He is the Son of God who is the fulfillment of the law and the perfect sacrifice sent to take away our sins, that we can understand true rest from our own works and find eternal life in His.

In the end, the answer Jesus gave him so that he would discover the way to eternal life, became the very answer that sent him away sad and was the evidence of what truly had his heart. Having NO other gods before Yahweh, so that it proved that he loved the LORD GOD with all his heart, mind and soul, was the one thing he lacked. All the other commandments hung on that one. This would be why Jesus answered an expert in the law in Luke 10:25-28 with the more direct commandment. Take time to read it today. There is still much more for you to discover. Let us also ask ourselves as we come to Jesus to study His words and seek His wisdom and find assurance in eternal life, if we lack anything? Are we still putting our hope in our own “goodness” and works or are we resting in His? Are we acknowledging His name and partially obeying Him, but putting other gods before Him, therefore exposing the truth of our heart? If so, may we look intently into His Word so that we can come face to face with the truth. And as we hear it, may we recognize that if we are, we must repent and return to loving Him with our whole being. Then unlike the rich young ruler, we will not go away sad and grieving in our hearts, because we are in love with the perishable gifts that are given, but instead we will find that we lack nothing because we are in love with the One who gives us good gifts and that in Him we do have eternal life ahead!