The Life And The Light Of Men

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5

In the beginning God spoke through the Word and said, “Let there be light.” It was those very words that brought forth life out of that which was dark and void (empty). If the light was what was needed for creation to come alive, how much more so does that need to be done in our created lives now? Of course, since we diminished that light by allowing sin to creep its way in, God Himself set in motion that actual source of light and life to redeem us from the darkness that now leaves each one of us empty.

As He begins to declare His presence to creation again, He starts with the very symbol that would foreshadow the One who was to come in Exodus 25:31- You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. The Lampstand was placed in the first section upon entrance called the Holy Place. Its light was to be tended by God’s servants, so that it never went out and so it could give forth light day and night. It was the only source of light to guide those who entered into His presence in the temple.

It is interesting to note in the command in Exodus, that the lampstand was to be made of one unified piece. The small branches were supported by the main shaft and the oil (Spirit) flowed from the base of the branches through the wicks so they gave off the light that was needed. This reminds us that our unity is only made complete in Christ who is the source of our light.

Sadly, God’s people did not do a great job of tending daily to the “Lampstand” so that His light would not go out. We recognize that as we approach this Passover season. What we witness here, should allow us also to see, that if Jesus Himself is the light of the world as scripture tells us, then there would be significance to that very lampstand being snuffed out. Not surprisingly we do. Matt 27:45 tells us- Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. Of course once the “living Lampstand”, the light of the world was crucified, darkness descended on the earth. It was during these very dark hours that God shook the very temple where man sought to gain access to Him and snuffs out its light and tears its veil. Not only that, but Mark 15:33 reveals to us that Jesus was buried, covered up (like a light hidden under a bowl) at around sunset (early evening). Just as the light of the earth descended behind the horizon, so the light of the world descended into the grave.

Lest we lose all hope, we are reminded of the power of the one who spoke the light of life into the darkness to begin with. Something that the darkness of mankind can never comprehend. Early on the first day of the week, the Son rises (Mark 16:1-2) just as the sun He created rose. It is in this profound moment that God speaks into creation again with the final, LET THERE BE LIGHT. And while the darkness still may not be able to comprehend the One that gives the very source of life, those who do step into the light recognize this one thing. That man can never snuff out what God has ordained, for we are not the source of His life, but He is the source of ours!

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
   of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

A Mystery Of Two Gardens

History teaches us about two gardens with two different scenes, and yet they really are one and the same. The continuation of an encounter between God and man, long ago. Of course, Satan manages to place himself within both gardens with the goal of destruction, but he only finds temporary success (so he believes) in both. Because of the curse of death that entered the first garden through the first Adam, we find ourselves witnessing the payment for that penalty in another garden through the second Adam and the mystery of two gardens unfolds.

Do you know what is so profound about the correlation between the two gardens? In the Garden of Eden there were droplets of blood from an animal shed to cover Adam and Eve in their sins. But this covering was merely temporary, until the answer to the curse in the future garden arrived. Luke chooses to point out to us, that in this Garden, among the Mount of Olives, Jesus the Lamb was in such agony, that His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. It’s almost as if this historian added this specific detail, because He knew to look even further back in history about the One He was proclaiming. But it wasn’t just for the symbolism of the blood that would be poured out as our covering. Place close attention to the PLACE that Jesus begins His suffering and prays for the Father’s will to be accomplished.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane. Matthew 26:36

In Hebrew, the name Gethsemane means Oil Press. The One among the olive trees that are often pressed and crushed, is Himself undergoing the crushing process. A crushing so great on His body, so that the anointing oil of His life, His Spirit, can be poured out to cover all of those who will receive His sacrifice. This is the very “crushing” Isaiah speaks of in regards to the Messiah, when he says in chapter 53:5,10-

But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.

Yet it was the LORD’S will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer, and though the LORD makes His life an offering for sin, He will see His offspring and prolong His days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

Isaiah the prophet, reveals to us the very nature and sufferings that the Messiah would endure. In fact, the very word Messiah means Anointed One. The oil from the Olive trees is often synonymous with the anointing of God’s spirit and will, as we see in Leviticus 8:10-12.

Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the tabernacle and everything in it, and so consecrated them. He sprinkled some of the oil on the altar seven times, anointing the altar and all its utensils and the basin with its stand, to consecrate them.  He poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him.

How beautifully prophetic it is, that just a few verses earlier in Matthew 26:6, we find the women with the alabaster box anointing the Anointed One with costly oil. Symbolizing that He was the tabernacle of Gods presence dwelling with us. He was the High Priest that that God had consecrated to offer Himself to the grave, so that He could destroy our greatest enemy. Preparing His body for what was so costly for Him to pour out, but so freely for us to receive. As we remember Gethsemane this Passover/Easter season and what it offered us there, let us not forget the fulfillment to God’s promise that it brought us, because of what we brought forth in that first garden.

A Faith That Stands Or Denies

Our Pastor made a profound point today as we read through John 18. He reminded us that Jesus was being sought out and persecuted in the garden for what would eventually lead to His death. Even in the face of attacks, He did not hide, but boldly and confidently stood before his attackers.

Peter on the other hand was in no danger of being arrested or under such intense persecution, yet when merely asked if he knew this Jesus, he denied Him.

As I thought through his statement to us I was reminded, such is the difference between those walking by the flesh and those filled with the Spirit. Boldness vs weakness. In the flesh we are weak, but in His spirit we are made strong. Such would be the transformation at Pentecost with Peter. He was transformed from a hot headed, fearful man who denied Jesus, into a fearless man of God who died for Him.

Knowing this, let us examine our own lives today. As we do, let us ponder in the midst of persecution from the world for our stance on Jesus and the truth of His Word, if we stand up boldly before our attackers, or if we hide from associating with His name and His truth and deny Him instead…… 

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)