Posts tagged “israel”

Advent: Love

December 21, 2019   2 minutes

Love is one of the deepest desires of the human heart. It is a powerful force, an emotion that will inspire people to do things they would not otherwise do. Kingdoms and nations have been formed, joined, and dissolved in the name of love, and it appears in nearly every popular song.

Love is a gift from God, which we see when God brought Eve to Adam; he was so overcome with love that he broke out into song! (Genesis 2:23) Sadly, sin tainted the purity of that love among humans. Yet God continued lavishing love on His people, especially those who were feeling unloved – including Leah, the unloved wife of Jacob; and Hannah, the eventual mother of Samuel. God used human love to preserve His people as well; the love between Esther and the king of Persia kept Israel from mass slaughter, and the love between Ruth and Boaz continued the line of the Messiah. Even the prophets, who would often bring news of pending judgment, were motivated out of love for the people to whom they were sent.

When Jesus walked the earth, He continued to expand our understanding of what love is. He always took time to stop and care for people along the way, showing us that love is not just an emotion, but an action. He told His disciples that the greatest love was to lay down one’s life for one’s friends; then, He actually did it! Writing to the church in Rome, Paul described it this way: “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). James challenges us to be consistent, demonstrating our love both in word and in deed. And, in Revelation, we read about the time yet to come, when Christ returns and restores the pure, true, and holy love that sin lost.

Today, as we light the candle of love, we express our love for our Savior, eagerly anticipating the day when mankind’s love is once again true and pure.

(This reading was originally written for the December 23rd, 2018 worship service at Bay Vista Baptist Church.)

Advent: Joy

December 14, 2019   2 minutes

Joy is one of the most common terms associated with our culture’s current Christmas celebrations. More than a seasonal emotion, though, joy is God’s gift to His people as we live in this fallen world. It goes far deeper than simple, momentary, transient feelings of happiness.

God’s commands to the children of Israel included joy as an act of worship. As they celebrated the various feasts throughout the year, they were to “rejoice before the Lord” (Deuteronomy 16:11). Joy permeated their songs, which we have recorded in the book of Psalms. Even the prophets, who often delivered news of God’s judgment, pointed to a coming time of rejoicing. These commands to rejoice were not given in a vacuum; remembering Who God is and what He had done should motivate them to express this joy in shouts of praise. Isaiah described it as putting on “the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

God doesn’t stop there, though; what He commands and motivates, He also provides. His arrival, two thousand years ago, brought an overflowing joy to the angels and shepherds. In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), Jesus told us to rejoice if we were treated poorly for righteousness’ sake, because our reward was yet to come. He also told His disciples that they should rejoice that their names were written in heaven more than for any earthly blessing. Paul continued this eternal perspective, encouraging the Roman church to rejoice in their salvation (Romans 5:11), and telling the church in Philippi – from prison – that they should rejoice in whatever circumstances come their way (Philippians 4:4-7). James took it a step further, telling his readers to consider it joy when they go through various trials (James 1:2-4).

Today, as we light the candle of joy, we rejoice that our Savior provides us with a reason to rejoice; and we look forward to the day when He returns to make our joy complete.

(This reading was originally written for the December 16th, 2018 worship service at Bay Vista Baptist Church.)

Advent: Peace

December 7, 2019   2 minutes

Peace is an inherent desire of the human heart. We do not like to be upset, or in constant conflict; we long for peace. While we tend to define peace as simply the absence of conflict, true peace goes much deeper than that.

The promise of peace – true peace, shalom – is woven throughout Scripture. When God’s originally-created peace was shattered in the garden, He promised one day to restore that peace. One of the most common commands in the Old Testament is “fear not,” which usually preceded a promise from God to be with His people, even though the situation they faced was far from peaceful. Israel experienced periods of relative peace as they obeyed God and faithfully served Him.

When Jesus came to earth, He brought a message of peace. In announcing His birth, the angels proclaimed “Peace, goodwill to men” (Luke 2:14). In His ministry, Jesus showed His ability to bring peace to the natural world, calming a storm with the words “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39). And, when Jesus tells His disciples about the Holy Spirit, He said “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27).

Christ-followers since that day can testify to the abiding peace of God even in the midst of difficult circumstances. And, while we know that “wars, and rumors of wars” (Matthew 24:6) will increase, we also look, with longing hearts, to that day when Jesus returns to make an end of all war (Isaiah 2:4), and restore His shalom once again.

Today, as we light the candle of peace, we celebrate the gift of peace, and look forward to the peace yet to come.

(This reading was originally written for the December 9th, 2018 worship service at Bay Vista Baptist Church.)

Advent: Hope

November 30, 2019   2 minutes

Hope, for the Christ-follower, has always been a treasured and unique aspect of our faith. From the fall of man recorded in Genesis 3, man looked forward with expectant hope for the one who would crush the head of the deceiver. While in bondage in Egypt, Israel hoped for the day when God would free them from their bonds. Then, as they wandered through the wilderness, those who were to enter the Promised Land had a hope that the God Who led them through the wilderness would lead them into the land of milk and honey.

While this hope was revealed to – and coming through – the line of Abraham, God foreshadowed that this hope was not just for the Jews. Rahab and Ruth, both members of nations defeated by Israel, were grafted into the line of hope. As Israel conquered and ruled the Promised Land, their need for judges and desire for kings had, at its heart, a desperate need for this hope of a Savior. As Israel was led into captivity, their hope was for a Messiah who would vanquish their captors.

We know how this hope unfolded; God sent His Son to this earth to free His people, not from their human captors, but from an even stronger bondage – sin. The hope that began with man’s fall had come to pass; God had kept His word! As we live in the light of this fulfilled hope, we have a new hope, also based on the promises of God. The object of our hope is the same – Jesus Christ, who will return, not as a baby, but in full glory.

Today, we light the candle of hope, praising God for the hope He has given us, both fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled.

(This reading was originally written for the December 2nd, 2018 worship service at Bay Vista Baptist Church.)

Resist Temptation When You Think You've Got It Under Control

October 24, 2017   3 minutes

This time, we’ll continue looking at how we can resist temptation, using Jesus as our example. (If you missed the last one, no worries - you can catch up here.) We’ll pick up where we left off, looking at Matthew 4:5-7.

5Then the devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple 6and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

‘He will command His angels concerning You,’

and

‘On their hands they will bear You up,
    lest You strike Your foot against a stone.’"

7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Matthew 4:5-7 (ESV)

For this temptation, Satan takes Jesus up to the top of the temple. At this point, it seems that Satan may have learned from the prior temptation, because he tries to use Scripture as part of this temptation. He uses two verses, Psalm 91:11-12, to support his claim that Jesus can do the spectacular trick he has just dared Him to do.

As with the first temptation, the request itself is not sinful, at least at first glance. At many points within Scripture, God asks people to do things that would normally lead to their deaths, yet He preserves them through the midst of that dangerous situation. This situation isn’t quite like those, though.

  • In each of those situations, the miraculous outcome brought glory to God among many people. Jesus performing this trick would bring glory to Him - not His Father - and likely would have only been visible to Satan.
  • God did not request this activity; Satan suggested it. This was not within the will of God; instead, it would have been a foolish misapplication of faith. God’s promises in one context cannot be presumed upon in completely different contexts.

Jesus is unimpressed with Satan’s knowledge of Scripture. Instead, He reaches back to Deuteronomy again to thwart this temptation.

16You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah.

Deuteronomy 6:16 (ESV)

Massah was the name given to the place described in Exodus 17:1-7, when the children of Israel were complaining that they had no water as they wandered. God miraculously provided water from a rock, but the place where this occurred was named to remind Israel of the sin that this represented. (“Massah” literally means “testing.”) Testing God indicates not only a lack of faith, but also a lack of belief in His goodness and sovereignty.

For the second time, we see Jesus using Scripture to withstand temptation. Here, the temptation was something He could easily handle; He literally could have thrown Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, and had a cadre of angels catch Him at the bottom. It would not have even been a challenge.

This is the exact scenario where we are likely to fail. We have just accomplished something great, and our confidence is high; or, we encounter a situation that we are sure we could handle without having to think about it. In these times, we must continue to rely on God. If we run into situations without thinking, we will not have time to pray, or apply our knowledge of Scripture to the situation. That is a recipe for a fall. We must know Scripture to be able to apply it, and we must be consistent in actually applying it, if we are to successfully resist temptation.

Resist Temptation When You Are Weak

October 17, 2017   5 minutes

Temptation can be difficult. Oscar Wilde wrote “I can resist anything except temptation.” Lane Olinghouse noted that “those who flee temptation usually leave a forwarding address.” Even when we do resist, we may not be pleased with the result; James Branch Cabell said “There is not any memory with less satisfaction than the memory of some temptation we resisted.”

Of course, these are all written from a human perspective; Christians are called to more than that, and to see how to do that, we can look back to one of the first events in Jesus’s earthly ministry. In this and the following two devotionals, we’ll look at three different times that Jesus resisted temptation, and see how we can follow His example.

1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4But He answered, "It is written,

‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’"

Matthew 4:1-4 (ESV)

The first temptation shows us Jesus resisting when He was weak. He had been fasting in the wilderness for 40 days and nights, and was physically weak and drained from that experience. The timeframe of 40 days is significant; we see that in several other places in Scripture, and it usually indicated something being done to completion:

Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread. There certainly isn’t anything wrong with eating, and Jesus was physically famished. However, the temptation here was for Him to use His divine power to satisfy a physical urge. His mission was to come to earth, live as we live (sinlessly - Hebrews 4:15), then give His life as a ransom to pay for our sin. Making bread materialize out of thin air, or starting with some rocky raw materials, would not have been consistent with that mission. If other humans can’t do it, He shouldn’t do it.

There is a taunt in there with the temptation. Notice Satan’s first words to Jesus: “If You are the Son of God…” Jesus was (and is) the Son of God, but He had no need to prove Himself, or respond to that taunt. He knew His identity, and He saw through Satan’s attempt to get Him to do something to prove it. As with the stone-to-bread temptation itself, though He was the Son of God, He was living as a human; this was the time for humility and humanity, not miracles and majesty.

Jesus resists Satan by using Scripture (Old Testament, no less!); specifically, what He quotes to Satan comes from Deuteronomy 8:3.

3And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 8:3 (ESV)

In this passage from Deuteronomy, Moses is encouraging Israel to remember what God has done for them, and how He has protected and provided for them as they have wandered in the wilderness for the past 40 years. It is part of the Torah, what we now call the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), which was the “Bible” for the Jews of that day. Jesus did not call upon His divine nature to resist this temptation, nor did He miraculously remove Himself from the situation; He used God’s revealed Word to defend Himself against Satan and resist this temptation.

Like Jesus, we should resist temptation when we are weak. That seems to be Satan’s favorite time to come to us, when he can tempt us with something that we think will improve our lives. To be able to resist, however, we must rely on God’s power and His Word; and, to be able to rely on His Word, we must know what it is. Pouring ourselves into God’s Word (and it into us) is the best way to prepare for whatever temptation may come our way. We must make it so familiar to us that, even when we are weak, we can bring His words to our mind, and use them to resist temptation.