White noise

Life is so full. Full of cares and concerns, responsibilities, obligations, and the like. There’s work time, play time, and down time. When I was single, I thought life was busy. When I got married it seemed even busier. Add children to the mix, and time becomes one of the most precious commodities. But no matter how busy life is, it seems like we always find time and ways to distract ourselves.

In a media-driven world it seems altogether too easy to create white noise in our day. Stopping to check ESPN scores, news updates, the social media feed, likes and shares, video games, movies, Netflix, or a quick stop on YouTube for short videos. All of these simply amount to us creating distractions for ourselves. We’re drawn to these things because they are easy and they matter very little. We can escape the weightier matters of life through these other mediums. We can “check out” for a bit. Some might view it as regrouping. After all, some of life’s responsibilities are just too heavy to carry.

I am as guilty as most when it comes to making time to escape. But my goal is to fill that time escaping in more profitable ways. I want to feed my emotional, spiritual, and physical health in that space. It’ll be hard. I’ll have to fight so many urges and temptations. But in the end, if I’m successful, it’ll be so worth it. For me it’s drawing, playing music, working out, and writing that fill me back up. But what fills me the most, is time alone with Jesus. Praying, studying, and journaling. He is our ultimate source of strength and regeneration. He is the vine that provides the necessary nutrients to our souls. There is no greater escape we could make than to escape with Jesus. Then we can return to life’s matters fully equipped with His spiritual strength to face whatever the world throws at us.

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah‬ ‭40:28-31‬ ‭ESV‬‬

May His peace and strength grow in His children so we can face the world full of joy and courage. God bless loved ones.

The Messiah of Psalm 118

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Often regarded as the center chapter of the Bible, Psalm 118 contains multiple prophecies regarding the Messiah. This psalm is beautiful and it paints a glorious picture of the future hope the Messiah brings. From verses 17 through 26 God addresses His chosen nation. The Messiah will be sent to Israel, be rejected, but while the temple still stands, He will be presented and His death will only be temporary. Below are three prophecies and how they played out many years later in Jesus of Nazareth.

  1. Death is not the end for the Messiah (Psalm 118:17)
    • In Luke 24 the tomb of Jesus is found to be empty. Not only that but there is an angel watching over it declaring that Jesus is risen. He says, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Jesus met with hundreds of people after He had risen from the grave. Death was not the end for Him.
    • “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20 ESV
  2. The Messiah is the rejected Chief Cornerstone (Psalm 118:22-23)
    • Jesus told several parables or stories about how the religious authorities of the time would reject Him. And most did. The parable about the landowner in Matthew 21 was particularly concise at building this theme. His time here on earth, Jesus was met by constant criticism and hostility by the religious authority.
    • “For it stands in Scripture: Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 1 Peter 2:6-8 ESV
  3. The “Blessed One” of the Lord will be presented to Israel while the Temple stands (Psalm 118:26)
    • Multitudes sang praises about Jesus as He entered Jerusalem as being the Blessed one of God. Check out Matthew 21. Not long after this, Jesus enters the Temple to cleanse it from the profane acts being done there. Not long after, the vail would be torn and the Temple period would come to a quick close. But the Temple still had to be there. Let’s not forget that Israel was without a Temple for a long time until Herod rebuilt it just in time for Jesus’ arrival on planet earth. If the Messiah had come at any other time, these three prophecies couldn’t have worked. They could only come true in Jesus.

This concludes our walk through the book of Psalms. There are so many other Psalms we could look at. Here are some that were not included if you’d like to give them a read for further study: Psalm 78:1-2, 80:17, all of 88, 89:27 and 35-37, 90:2, 91:11-12, 129:3, and 147:2-6. We’ll conclude phase II of this study by looking at a couple of the Proverbs. Stay tuned! God bless brothers and sisters.

The Messiah of Psalm 72

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The entire gospel message surrounding the life of the Messiah is presented in Psalm 72. From the birth of Jesus to His death, and ending with His exaltation and the impact on those who believe…it’s all there. Some of it is symbolism and other passages are quite clear. I’m going to divide up the three phases in a table below and put them with their New Testament counterparts. As always, I would encourage a full contextual reading of all of the passages below.

Theme Psalm 72 New Testament Meaning
The birth of the Messiah May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!

(verses 10-11)

Matthew 2:1-11 When Jesus was born, kings from all of the known world came to visit Him and bring Him gifts.
The death of the Messiah May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field!

(verse 16)

John 12:23-25

John 1:12-13

The grain in this passage is a symbol that Jesus used to reference Himself. When the “grain” dies or is harvested, it produces an abundance in the land. That abundance causes people to blossom or come to life.
The exaltation of the Messiah May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!

(verse 17)

Galatians 3:8

John 12:13

Revelation 5:8-12

The name of Jesus lives on forever and those who live in and believe in Him are blessed in the best possible way. 

In addition to all of these passages, the Psalm opens up with an address to God about His Royal Son. He is declared to be one who brings justice and care for the needy. The Son will uphold the cause of the oppressed and declare the righteousness of God. Any reading of the New Testament shows the life of Jesus did just that. Praise God for His Royal Son!

Toxic Fears

This is the third and final post in the series about certain toxins that humanity is plagued with. In the last two posts I shared my journey of mind games and poor word usage that have not been profitable whatsoever. But through my struggles in these areas, I’ve grown and become more aware of how to focus my thoughts and use my words as a life-giving agent. Today’s post is all about my fear.

I’ve been afraid of not being able to provide for my family. There’s no way around it. It has terrified me at times that my children and wife will not have all that they need. I’m not talking about wants or the menial pleasures of life. I mean their needs. I’ve been afraid of losing my loved ones, especially since I’ve lost two people extremely close to me in the last six years. One of the greatest fears I’ve had to tackle is the fear of something bad happening to my kids. Growing up I can’t remember being afraid of anything. Since having a family of my own, the fears have crept in. It’s like the more you have, the more room there is for fear. Being on my own I was care-free. Now with a wife and three kids…not so much.

I’m also a believer that it doesn’t have to be so. A family doesn’t have to open the door for fear to rule in my heart. To each of my fears above, God has spoken words of affirmation and promise. God has reminded me that Hs is ultimately the one who has been and always will be the one providing for my family. He’s also comforted me through my loss so that I can rest in the life to come, not this temporary existence. Me, and my loved ones, are living for that life to come, not for this one. Death is only the beginning and He has numbered all of our days. As far as my children go, God’s love for them far exceeds my own. He’s watching over them. He’ll give me wisdom and I can rest in that God is sovereign over my kids’ lives.

In the end, in what ever area we fear the most is where we value the most and trust God the least. I need to value Him above all things and people. His mission needs to be my mission. His kingdom and righteousness should be my aim and the rest will fall into place.

As always, here are some verses that have helped me along my journey. I hope they can be a help to you. Remember, these are paraphrases and what I felt God speaking to me through His word. I would encourage you to look up the passages yourself to read them in context and their entirety.:

Isaiah 26:3-4 tells me to keep my mind and focus on God and that’s when I will experience peace.

Isaiah 41:8-13 says that God has done great things on my behalf as He did for Israel and He is the one who upholds me. Because of that, there is nothing I should be afraid of.

Philippians 4:6-9 says that through prayer, giving thanks, and staying focused on good things God’s peace will be with me.

2 Timothy 1:7 tells me that God’s Spirit is within me so I already have power and love and sound mind.

John 14:27 is Jesus’ promise that His peace has been given to me.

Psalm 23 is a beautiful picture of being in harmony with God which brings peace in all circumstances.

Luke 12:22-34 treasure the kingdom, trust the King, and tend to others. That’s the mission of peace.

In the grand scheme of things, the only reason I fear is when my faith is lacking and my short term memory lost kicks in. God has a flawless track record in my life. There is no reason to not trust Him. It’s really the consequences of living in a fallen and broken world that we fear. And it’s hard to imagine that great of love that can overcome it on our behalf. But that’s exactly what we have in Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, if you battle with fear, draw closer to Him. He is the calm in your storm, just as He has been in mine.

His no matter what

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,”. Ephesians‬ ‭6:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There have only been a few moments in my life when I’ve had to make the choice to stand for Jesus rather than stand with the crowd, and it actually cost me something big. And I use the word “big” loosely. I’ve lost friends and family members because of my faith. I’ve lost financial opportunities as well. I’ve faced my fair share of criticism. But I’ve never had to make a choice that would put my life at risk.

I read a story recently about a man named Sebastian. He was a follower of Jesus in the early days of the church. But his station in life made his faith something of a problem. Sebastian worked directly for the Emperor of Rome in a time Emperor wanted to be worshipped as a god and had no patience for a rival. Here’s a bit of the story.

Sebastian walked through the halls of the palace daily. He had worked hard to get to this position in the royal guard, but once he had gotten to Rome, he restrained himself from the idolatrous lifestyle of imperial Rome. He only wanted to serve Christ wholeheartedly. 

When Emperor Diocletian heard of his restraint, he had little interest in his service record. He confronted him and found out about his faith. At this, he ordered Sebastian taken outside the city and shot to death with arrows. The soldiers did their job and left his body to rot. Soon a group of Christians came to give his body a proper burial. As they lifted him, one of them exclaimed, “He moves!” “Shhh!” cautioned another. “Let us take him somewhere safe.” Sebastian was taken to one of their homes where he was treated and recovered from his injuries. As soon as he was well enough, he placed himself before the emperor again. Once he had tasted the hope of heaven, the pleasures of this world had even less appeal for him. The emperor was of course shocked to see Sebastian seemingly back from the dead. He ordered Sebastian seized and beaten to death and his body thrown into the sewer. His body was recovered again by Christians and buried in the catacombs. 

A time may come when we are all asked to choose between our allegiance to Christ and our allegiance to our physical life. Even if that day does not come, we are all asked to stand with Him no matter what. No matter the words spoken about us. No matter the judgement cast our way. If you are His, be His, no matter what. Pray for me that I will have the strength to answer that call.

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” Acts‬ ‭4:29‬ ‭NIV‬‬

A Tent and a Savior

The feast of Tabernacles is underway for 2019. A couple of nights ago my daughters and I set up our makeshift tabernacle in our backyard. We look forward to it all year long. Throughout the rest of this week we will get to sit under the tabernacle and talk about the amazing God we serve. My wife and I will share stories with our children of how God came through in big ways in our lives. We get to teach them about restoration and hope. For our kids, they get to hear how God is real in their parents lives. As they get older, they’ll have stories of their own. It’s a week out of the year that has value that cannot be measured. It’s one more way for my wife and I to explain to our young children who Jesus is and why He came to Earth. As a parent, there is nothing more valuable that I could teach them.

In 2011, two years before our first daughter was born, my wife and I began learning about the feasts of the Lord. Even though I had been a Christian all my life, these were pretty new to me. I had never studied or observed them prior to 8 years ago. Did that make me any less of a Christian? Not in the slightest. Did that make me any less saved? No a chance. However, I have come to realize that I was missing out on a huge opportunity to worship and learn about my Savior beyond the boundaries of church, small groups, and personal devotions. Now I am so thankful that my children will not have the same experience. They will get to learn about Jesus in a more full way than I did and how the scriptures present Him through intricate foreshadowing. After all, the feasts are all about Him.

When John chose to introduce his readers to who Jesus was, he selected a specific image that all Old Testament readers would have been very familiar with. He chose the tabernacle. The tabernacle itself was always meant to be a piece of Eden. Since humanity was exiled from the garden because of sin, our hearts have been longing to return. And for God, that’s His end game. Eden was the place where heaven and earth overlapped. It was where God walked among man. And when that came crashing down as man invited sin into his heart, God has set into motion a plan to restore humanity and the world to its rightful design. After God rescued Israel from bondage in Egypt, He established a special covenant relationship with them. In doing so His presence would once again be among men. This time, it would be housed in a tent of meeting. Everything with in the design of the tent had garden imagery from the tree of life to the very stitch of the fabric. It served as a reminder of what we had forfeited and where God was drawing us back to.

It’s no wonder that Jesus would be described in a way that drew readers focus to the tabernacle. In comparing Him to the tent, readers would have to reconcile several things. One, that Jesus was the way to get people back to the garden. He would be the tool of restoring humanity and all of creation. Two, that God was fully embodied in the person of Jesus. And lastly, that in order to seek out God, everyone would have to go through Jesus. Those are the realities that we get to teach our kids about who Jesus is.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John‬ ‭1:1-16‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Yom Kippur in Yeshua

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Brothers and sisters, we are atoned for! We are covered, cleansed, and ever-changing because of our Messiah Jesus. Today is the high holy day of Yom Kippur. In Israel, it’s one of the most sacred days of the calendar. For followers of Jesus, its a reminder of the depths of the sacrifice it took to make us new. It should not be a day of despair for anyone who has pledged their life to Christ. Today, we celebrate the saving power of our God. Today, we rejoice in our freedom from death itself. I pray for all of us to experience a new reverence and awe for Jesus. May our love grow deeper as we remember the life we’ve been rescued from and are continuing to be drawn out of. If we’ve strayed, let’s place our feet back on the narrow path. If we’re distracted, let’s take our eyes off of the waves of life and put them back on the one walking on the water. If we’re weary, let’s stop and sit at His feet. Today is a new day son and daughter because you are written in the book of life.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

1 John 3:1 NIV