Friday, October 31
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP – ENDLESS LOVE – Part 5
lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:20, KJV
One of the most difficult subjects to write about from the heart is the topic on “love”. There is an elderly Japanese couple living in the same condominium as us and I marvel the way they both are always, I mean literally, always together. When I go for my walk, they are seen walking together; when I go to the car park, they are in the car together; when I go to the convenient store in the ground floor of the apartment, they are together. Finally, one morning, my curiosity now at the level of the pupil of both my eyes, in the lift I asked this burning question, “Are you both Christians?” The reply was a quick, “No!” I replied, “Ah So!” There was so much I could learn from both of them.
Over the years I have been told by the few friends I have that I must learn to love another but do not expect anything in return. If I were to expect being loved in return and this were not to happen, then I would be disappointed and hurt. Just love and be honest about it. Do you agree? So, as a doctor taking a medical history, I have come to the final diagnosis of the spiritual disease in question and it concerns the heart: Endless Love for God and neighbor takes its root from the heart. Until the plague in my own heart is fixed through the power of the Spirit of God and born again into the kingdom of light, there will always be this struggle to love God first with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second commandment Jesus said is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22: 37-40 I am in continual debt to love the Lord Jesus of Nazareth and those around me as a sojourner in this world until I meet the One who first loved me and gave His life for me.
† Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13: 8,10
∼ A Never-Ending Debt of Love: † Every disciple of Christ possesses a never-ending debt of love to the Lord Jesus of Nazareth. It is just that, never-ending. It is going to follow me all the days of my life. It is going to follow me into the grave and beyond. It is a relentless, all encompassing and eternal debt. And it will effect every other thing in my life…every other relationship…every thing I ever do. I cannot take a bank loan to repay this debt. I cannot borrow from friends or family to repay this debt. † The effect of this never-ending debt is two-fold: Firstly, it compels me as a disciple of Jesus to act justly, to love God’s mercy and to walk humbly before the Holy One of Israel (Micah 6:8). This never-ending debt to love the Lord compels me, despite my repeated failures and weaknesses, to continue to seek after the heart of God and persevere to make it right before God. Secondly, this never-ending debt of love to Jesus has now become my treasure that I hold dearly to my heart. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6: 21 This never-ending debt of love for God compels me to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness all my days.
∼ Inflamed Love: “Lo, I am with you always”: The Lord Jesus is surely with us now as He was with Peter and the disciples on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias in Galilee. As surely as they saw the coals of fire and fish laid there and bread, Jesus is with us in real truth. † Oswald Chambers writes: ‘And a blessed truth this is: FOR WHERE JESUS IS, LOVE BECOMES INFLAMED. Of all the things in the world that can set the heart burning, there is nothing like the presence of Jesus! If we know that Jesus is with us, every power will be developed, and every grace will be strengthened, and we shall cast ourselves into the Lord’s service with heart and soul and strength; therefore is the presence of Christ to be desired above all things. His presence will be most realized by those who are most like Him’.
∼ Remember Me, Lord: This morning, as we continue to follow Jesus of Nazareth as Kingdom Disciples with this continual debt to love God and neighbor as our self, let us remember the gift of repentance that unlocked the key into the realm of eternal paradise that the thief who was also crucified with Jesus on Calvary confessed: “Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with Me in paradise.” It is at the cross of Christ our debt to sin has been paid in full. The journey to make peace with God continues but we have the eternal assurance God will never leave us nor forsake His endless love for us. To God be the glory! Amen!
♦ Reflect: John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Thursday, October 30
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP – GO AND TEACH – Part 4
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,… Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28: 19-20, KJV
∼ No Fruit, Why?: The last Asia Pacific Consultation On Discipleship (APCOD 2012) held here in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia was the most difficult for me. I had carried the vision faithfully for 18 years since its inception. The Lord faithfully provided the means for 5 consultations since APCOD 2001 with more than two thousand participants having attended to learn how to become transformational disciples of the biblical Jesus of Nazareth. However, in the morning of the first day of the conference, the Chairman and I were having a personal ‘discussion’ of things that I did not agree with and he made this statement: “I do not see any fruit in you!” My reply was straight from my heart: “That’s because I am still at root level digging deep. There are still many dark areas in my life that the Lord is dealing with so that when the tree does bear fruit, I pray it will last.”
∼ Go and Teach: It all started in May 1996 as I stood on the shores of Lake Galilee in Israel and read Matthew 28: 19-20. I will never forget that eternal moment and sense of destiny and calling. Go and teach? How? I was just a beggar who had just found the Bread of Life and I knew I had a story to tell the world but teach? But the love of Christ to forgive me and call me to go was enough for me to respond to the invitation to: “Follow Me!”
† Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Psalm 51:10, 13 KJV
∼ A Clean Heart to Teach: King David of Israel knew that the only way he could teach and disciple his own family and people of Israel to obey the commands and walk in the ways of the LORD God of Israel was to first seek after the mercy and forgiveness of God. It required the power of the Holy Spirit of God to create a new, steadfast, fixed heart that was right before the Holy One of Israel. David had sinned against God and God alone in his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba (Psalm 51: 4). But his broken spirit and contrite heart of repentance was the key to unlock the faith of receiving forgiveness and move on as a disciple and servant of the LORD God of Israel. Once the joy of salvation was restored and the guilt of sin had been blotted out of his heart, David was now poised to move on and become one of the greatest kings of Israel and a man who would seek after the heart of God.
∼Dare to Believe? Despite all rejections from fellow Christian leaders that my determination will fail unless they had a hand in it; it would be difficult unless there were sufficient funds to organize such a large undertaking for an Asia Pacific conference, I dared to believe that the One who called me was faithful to walk with me and lead me towards His purpose to bear fruit to the glory of God. † Discipleship to Jesus is a lifestyle that begins with first acknowledging the plague in one’s own heart and seeking after the heart of God. That is a journey only the Spirit of God can fulfill because we are called to go and teach not go and convert. Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.
∼ First out of the Boat: The Spirit of God convicted the heart of the man Simon Barjona at the foot of the cross of Christ on Calvary in Jerusalem. At the Sea of Tiberias, Simon Peter decided to do what he knew best: “I’m going out to fish.” (John 21: 3) But when he heard the words “It is the Lord!”, ‘he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.’ John 21: 7 This is the same Peter who cried out, “Lord, save me!” when he challenged the Lord Jesus to call him to come towards Jesus who was then walking on water. But the moment Peter turned his focus towards the wind and away from Jesus, he became frightened and began to sink (Matthew 14:29). Now on the shores of Galilee, Peter was the first out of the boat as he ran towards his risen Savior, the Lord Jesus of Nazareth. HIS HEART WAS FIXED AT THE CROSS ON CALVARY. Peter became one of the most powerful disciples of the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth as a result of his inflamed love of God that was revealed at Calvary. A broken and contrite heart God will teach.
∼ This morning, as we set out to do what we know best – maybe it is our work, maybe it is taking our children to school, maybe it is to the market to do our daily chores; if we here the voice of God calling us to turn and serve as disciples of Christ, may we be the ‘first out of the boat’ to say “Here I am Lord, create in my a clean heart to teach” and then, then only Lord, sinners will turn back to You. Amen!
When with the ransomed in glory
His face I at last shall see,
‘Twill be my joy through the ages
To sing of His love for me. Charles H. Gabriel
Wednesday, October 29
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP – THE POTTER AND THE CLAY – Part 3
You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”? Isaiah 29:16, KJV
∼ In Plastic Surgery, I do a procedure called ‘ Injectable Fillers’ to enhance the look of an aging face. What this requires is injecting a gel-like material into certain areas of the face, especially the nasolabial areas on either side of the nose and just below either side of the lower lip. Then to mold the fillers into position so that it blends with the rest of the facial tissues, I place a finger into the mouth against the cheek and another from the outside and then with repeated movements from the inside out holding the whole cheek in between my fingers, I then mold all the injected material into the right position. It requires a skilled hand to mold the product into its final shape and desired outcome. Does this hurt? No!
However, I have seen disasters where the fillers have been injected into areas of the face but no molding has been done and the face has become disfigured or the fillers have been mixed with some foreign non-medical material like silicone and this has resulted in a deformed face. If wrongly molded and the procedure done by someone who knows nothing about plastic surgery, it can turn the world of the patient “upside down”! Does this hurt? Yes!
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”? Isaiah 29:16, KJV
∼ Biblical Perversity: The word ‘perversity’ means ‘a deliberate desire to behave in an unreasonable or unacceptable way; contrariness, waywardness, stubbornness, obstinacy.’ The character of the perversity, the upside-downness, of which the prophet Isaiah speaks of the nation Israel is of men whom he condemns were inverting the relations of the Creator and the creature, the potter and the clay. They were denying that there was a Divine order of which they formed a part. They attempted to conceal their plans even from the LORD God of Israel; and everything in the opinions and practice of the nation had become perverted and erroneous.
† Biblical scholar Rosenmuller writes: ‘It is as absurd for you to find fault with the government of God as it would be for the clay to complain of want of skill in the potter. You complain of God’s laws, and worship Him according to the commandments of people. You complain of his requirements, and offer to him the service of the mouth and the lip, and craftiness of the heart. You suppose that God does not see you, and do your deeds in darkness. All this supposes that God is destitute of wisdom, and cannot see what is done, and it is just as absurd as it would be in the clay to complain that the potter who fashions it has no understanding.’ (Commentary on Isaiah 29:16)
∼ Authentic Discipleship: Becoming a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth is a lifelong process of being transformed into Christ-likeness and molded into His image from the ‘inside out’. † A disciple knows that a pot is only good outside as it is inside. The clay pot has to be fired in the kiln and it is interesting to note that the number of firings to be done depends on how the pot is to be used! That is a revolutionary thought. A skilled potter would watch the clay carefully until the time is right to stop the turning wheel or remove the pot from the fire before it cracks and is ruined.
† Right Side Up: When we live our lives according to the lawlessness and plague in our own hearts, it turns our world upside down. To submit to God is to allow the Potter to turn our lives and the world we live in ‘right side up’. When we allow the Lord to mold our lives according to His plans and as the Lord desires, a sense of destiny takes over and we begin to walk in His ways and purposes that the Lord wants to create in our lives as His disciples. † Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” John 8:31
∼ I know that there have been many occasions in my own life because of perversity and depravity of my own heart that I would have asked this question: What does the Potter know? – knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or unintentionally. † That is the core diagnosis of the disease of the plague of sin in the heart of man when the prophet Jeremiah declared: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9) But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57
This morning, let us be still and allow God to finish His work in our lives. If we allow the Lord to turn us ‘right side up’ we can then go out into the world and turn the world “upside down” to the glory of God! Amen!
♦ Reflect: Acts 17:6, KJV And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also;
Tuesday, October 28
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP – STAY OR GO! – Part 2
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15:16
“Invitations can change your life. How you respond to an invitation can change the course of your life.” This statement I made to a group of about 17 Asia Pacific Christian leaders at the 1st International Discipleship Conference in Eastbourne, England in September 1999 has never left my mind nor my heart these past fifteen years. Did I know what I was really saying at that time – No! All I had in my hand was a piece of paper detailing a vision the Lord had placed in my heart to get up and go! Go where? I did not know! † One thing I knew I had to do: I could not stay…I had to go. And ‘Go’ I did with a vision and an invitation in my hand from the Lord Jesus of Nazareth.
I remember so very well standing before these esteemed Christian leaders from the Asia Pac region – many with years of ministry experience and holding important positions in parachurch organizations. Was I intimidated? – No! Was I worried they might reject what I had to say? – No! I remembered the words of Rev DT Niles: Evangelism is one beggar telling others where he found bread. I stood before them as a beggar who found the Bread of Life and invited them to join me in Kota Kinabalu from July 25-27, 2001 for the 1st APCOD (www.apcod.net).
∼ Today, as I look back fifteen years since I stood before this group of esteemed leaders, and ask myself: Am I still that beggar? Yes, indeed. Had I chosen to stay and not get up and go, I would not have found out that I am also a leper with plague in my own heart. I had nothing to give Jesus but a diseased heart and had I not chosen to go, I would have remained a leper and a beggar with no knowledge of the one, true, living God. † Discipleship is not giving something for nothing, discipleship to Jesus is giving nothing for something!
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,…” Matthew 28:19
∼ Something for Nothing: Peter had nothing to give Jesus except his failure. The Lord saw his broken and contrite heart and commissioned him to be a fishers of men. After the cross, Peter was a broken man and saw the plague in his own heart. Jill Briscoe writes: Discipleship is not giving something for nothing; discipleship is giving nothing for something! To stay in our comfort zone and do the things we want to do in our every day life is to miss out on the call to go and bear fruit to God. † It is in the process of going where we discover the disease of the plague in our own hearts and in our failures and weaknesses we see the cost of the cross of Christ and the victory over death to sin it brings.
† Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5: 20-21
† Jesus left His Father’s right hand to go to Calvary. The Lord Jesus of Nazareth could have chosen to stay and be worshiped in glory with His Father but chose to come and make his tabernacle among man so that all mankind would see the salvation of God and be reconciled to God. It is only when we have failed and seen the end of our fleshly efforts to be somebody or something that we stand at the foot of the cross and lay all our nothings in the hand of the Lord and get up and go in His strength and Spirit as transformed disciples of Christ.
∼ This morning, we have every reason to get up and go and be witnesses of the greatest miracle of all: The grace of God to be chosen and appointed by the only, one true living God and be an ambassador for His Son, Jesus of Nazareth. It is the going to Calvary and dying with Christ on the cross that is the cost of discipleship to Jesus. His life for ours. Come, let us go. Amen!
† But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Galatians 6: 14
Monday, October 27
THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP – TWO CHARCOAL FIRES – Part 1
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:17, NIV
∼ Singing in One Mind: In my Gratitude Journal October 24 reflection I wrote about ‘Singing in Two Minds’. I take the cue this morning from the question I proposed that Jesus might ask me should the Lord enter the place of my singing engagement when it was closing time: “Do you really love me more than this?” (John 21: 15) Would I be able to unstrap my borrowed guitar, take off my borrowed white hat and leave everything to follow the Lord? We had done one previous engagement a week before the cancellation. The warmth of the environment was just great in the fine dining place – smell of good food, people sitting and talking, some holding hands, much laughter, a clap after some of the songs we sang. It was just lovely to be surrounded by people who just embraced what you had to offer in the form of music to still their hearts after a busy day at work. Now, it is back to ‘Singing in One Mind’ to the Lord alone.
† In our hearts we know we love the Lord but are we willing to give up the warmth of what the world offers and what we offer to the world and serve the Lord only? This is the cost of discipleship to Jesus – to leave the warmth of ‘one charcoal fire setting’ where we are in the company of the world and it feels so good to be heard and loved by new friends and doing what we most love and instead join ‘another charcoal fire setting’ where the Lord Himself is present and where the warmth offered is eternal love and forgiveness.
∼ Two Charcoal fires: I was thinking about Peter this morning and why should he feel hurt when the Lord posed this question to him three times. Would we have felt hurt if Jesus posed the same question to me or to you? I know that I too would have felt hurt because one can only feel hurt if there has been a failure(s) in one’s life to reject the love of the Lord and follow the lawlessness of one’s own heart. In the face of hurting God, we feel hurt because of our own failings and because of the plague in our own heart. Only in the face of sin and total depravity of a sinful heart can we feel hurt if the Lord poses this question to us. We do what we do not want to do because of our own failures and weaknesses and bondage to sin.
† And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself. John 18:18
∼ In the first charcoal fire setting, there stood Peter in the company of the servants and officials of the high priest warming himself. This charcoal fire was made by the servants and officials. But Peter’s heart was cold as he had just rejected the Lord when questioned by the girl who was on duty at the door of the entrance to the courtyard. (John 18: 18) “You are not one of His disciples are you?” Peter not only rejected the Lord’s appointment to be His disciple but also rejected having any knowledge of being in the company of all the other disciples. Three times Peter denied any knowledge of being in the company of Jesus or with His disciples. That rejection hurt and it pierced the heart of the man Simon Barjona.
† When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. John 21: 9
∼ In the second charcoal fire setting, the same man Simon Barjona was now in the company of his risen Savior on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias. (John 21: 12) This time it was different. It was early in the morning, and the great high priest, Jesus of Nazareth, the risen Lord had made this charcoal fire to prepare breakfast for His own disciples. (John 21: 4) Simon Peter, the rock on whom Jesus said would build His church, now stood in the presence of his resurrected Savior with a repentant heart – a broken and contrite heart. † Only after seeing Peter enjoy his breakfast, the Lord must have also seen his broken heart and there, in that one eternal moment of truth, the Lord asked the most piercing question to Peter and this morning to ALL of us: Do you really love me? This question pierced the heart and soul of Simon Peter. It reminded him of his recent failure but forgiveness was at hand.
∼ Feed My Sheep: In the midst of recent failure and denial, Jesus gave Peter a new calling: from catching fish to making him a fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). Yes, I do feel hurt when I think of how many times I have denied the Lord and walked away from his love. But the cross stares me at the face of denial and brings me back to my first love – to love and serve God only. Jill Briscoe writes: Are you willing to let go of your past sins? Loving and serving God is a learned art – with many failures along the way.
† Peter could have told the Lord Jesus that he was not worthy to serve or follow the Lord. Instead Peter chose the second charcoal fire setting and set his heart on fire to serve the Lord powerfully. We can do the same. The question this morning is: Which charcoal fire setting would we choose? Come join me and let’s have breakfast with Jesus this morning. This would be a sinners gift of grace that can only be found at the foot of the Cross of Christ. Amen!
♦ Reflect: Hebrews 4: 14-16 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Sunday, October 26
CHOICES – CHOSEN AND APPOINTED – Part 5
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. John 15:16; NIV
∼ Let It Go: This morning I woke up to write to the Lord what was in my heart. I went to sleep late last night with every emotion in the dictionary – disappointment, sad, joyful, love, why Lord, rejection, emptiness until it was time I said to myself, “Its OK…let it go.” During this one year, I have experienced possibly every kind of emotion in the book and most of it comes from the dark sides of my life. And I know that the Lord is dealing with each one – until these four words spoken by Jesus of Nazareth during the Lord’s last Passover meal with his disciples are engraved in the four chambers of my heart: chosen, appointed, go and fruit. Nothing else matters but to love and serve God only.
∼ This past week I had been practicing with another partner, Habe, the songs to sing at a recent engagement given to the two of us at a fine dining restaurant. It was a very refreshing experience to sing all the old songs again and I was so excited that we were both chosen and appointed for this weekend. Anyway, in my heart I had chosen two songs to dedicate it to my daughter Sarah who had been studying very hard for her A-level exams and this was one way to express my love for her. The two songs were: ‘Make You Feel My Love’ and ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’. Sometime around noon the owners of the restaurant informed me to say that the singing engagement for the night was cancelled. Disappointed but in a way relieved, I went to her room and sang both the songs to her and her reply was enough for me: “Nice Daddy, nice.”
There comes a time in one’s life where nothing, absolutely nothing matters more that the love for the Lord Jesus of Nazareth. Every rejection of what the world offers is nothing compared to the peace in our hearts when we are so full of our love for the Lord that a ‘No’ from the world is a ‘Yes’ from those whom you love and care for the most. How much more the love of the Father for each of us. Love for the world and the happiness it offers is nothing compared to the Lord’s rejection of our behavior when we walk in ways that are offensive and we hurt God in the process. Now I have reached a stage where my heart is fixed and I can ‘Let It Go’ and seek after what only pleases God. ‘Do not cast me from Your presence or take not Your Holy Spirit from me.’ Psalm 51:11
∼ Chosen and Appointed by God: † This is the highest honor any human being can receive in this life. But the appointment comes with a command: Go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. This morning, let us renew our commitment to love and serve God wholeheartedly. Through the words of this song ‘To Make You Feel My Love’ how wonderful if we can just hear the voice of the Lord in reply: “Nice…nice.” It may not be a Hymn of Praise but it spills from a heart that is in love with God. We love you Lord, always. Amen!
Saturday, October 25
CHOICES – MY HOUSE OR HIS – Part 4
Choose you this day whom ye will serve: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
Truely Asia: Malaysia is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multireligious nation. The country just celebrated an ancient Hindu festival known a Deepavali, the “festival of lights”. Diwali, as it is also known, spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance, good over evil, and hope over despair. Being of South Asian descent with roots in Sri Lanka, I received many greeting cards and wishes from patients and friends thinking I too celebrate this festival. I had to explain to each one that I am a Christian but I too just celebrated a “festival of lights” called the Feast of Tabernacles which has only ONE main significance: † It offers Life from death to sin because of the work of the cross by one man named Jesus of Nazareth. So I too rejoice in being chosen by God to be the salt and light of the earth.
Truly Christian: One of my greatest blessings is to have had the privilege to embrace the faith of a generation that serves the Lord Jesus of Nazareth. Both my parents and grandparents come from a Christian heritage. The impact of growing up in a Christian home has enabled me to reject any other heritage of unbelief and stay on course to finish my journey in this earthly vessel as a sinner saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus of Nazareth. Could I have done better in serving the Lord in my own life? Yes. Could I have done better in my own house to nurture my own family to walk right before God and serve the Lord wholeheartedly? Yes.
As I continue to daily spread forth my hands towards the house of the LORD God in heaven acknowledging the plague in my own heart, the question still remains: As the head of my family, is my own home a dwelling place of the Lord God Almighty or is it my home? But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Amen!
† And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24: 15
∼ A Godly Heritage: Joshua had made up his mind. He had reached the end of his journey as a servant of the LORD God of Israel and was now making a decision that had eternal consequences: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24: 15) Joshua knew that he had to give an account of his life before the Judge of all life, the one true living God of Israel. As the head of his household, he had set himself a task of leading and influencing his family to do the same. Joshua made loving God with all his heart a daily lifelong commitment. This family of Godly heritage set Joshua and his household apart.
Serving God was not Joshua’s only option. Henry Blackaby writes: ‘Joshua could have accepted the idolatrous religion of his neighbors in the region he now lived. He could have adopted the religious beliefs and practices of his family heritage in the pagan land of Egypt. But Joshua witnessed God’s faithfulness to his own family and to the people of Israel. Joshua was convinced in his heart that the God of Israel was the one true living wise God and that serving Him would bring victory and blessing. He trusted God for victory on the battlefield, and he knew that God could also give him spiritual victory in his home.’
∼ His House Not Mine: The will to serve and obey God is not a passive will but an active one. I must will to surrender my house to the Lord God and allow God to rule in my own home and household. Oswald Chambers writes: ‘When God gives us a will to serve, it is a vision of truth and must never be questioned of what He will do, but what we will do. The proposition is between you and God. So choose wisely and correctly. † The moment you choose to serve God and be loyal to Him, you become a witness against yourself.’
∼ This is very true in my own life. The greatest challenge I face everyday is bringing Jesus into my own home. Yes, it is true. I always bring to memory the day, time, and outcome when the Lord first touched me on February 22nd 1995 at 530 am and I immediately surrendered my life to serve the Lord Jesus. I pray that same touch will envelope each of my three children to serve God wholeheartedly. Have I been an a example of such a wholehearted service to God to my family? No. But I pray each day that as I seek after the heart of God every morning and place my hope and confidence in the Lord to bless my family, God will hear from heaven, forgive and bless my house and family.
∼ This morning, let us commit to serve God unashamedly and then wait upon the LORD to teach us His ways as we number our days wisely and justly. I am sure that many of the children of Israel chose to serve and worship the LORD God that day because of Joshua’s testimony. Can our witness and testimony of a loving, faithful God bring others into the household of God today? How great thou art O Lord! Amen!
Friday, October 24
CHOICES – HAPPINESS OR JOY – Part 3
“Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since man was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment.” JOB 20: 4-5
Singing in Two Minds: Just last week I took up a new singing assignment at a top fine dining restaurant in Kota Kinabalu. Since then I must admit I have been in two minds finding it difficult to sing some of the songs I used to sing growing up because of the lyrics! I have been going through this battle in my mind – should I continue or not? Is this singing worldly songs bringing me happiness or joy or both? Yesterday’s Gratitude Journal (GJ October 23) took me four hours to write the words from my heart because it concerned ‘Loving God with my heart and soul’. What would Jesus say or do if He were to walk into the restaurant and see me singing? But this I do know: After the last song is sung and the lights are turned off, Jesus would probably ask me the same question He asked Peter on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias in Galilee, “Do you really love me more than this?” (John 21:15) I know my answer: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
‘Love me tender, love me sweet. Never let me go. You have made my life complete, and I love You so.’
Yesterday evening as I was cycling along the Likas Bay area, I stopped and listened to an old classic ‘Love Me Tender’ and my eyes well up in tears: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” I know I can sing with peace in my heart as long as I stay madly in love with the man Jesus of Nazareth as my Lord and God. There is nothing that can ever replace the choice of having the fruit of His Spirit in my earthly journey to make peace with God: Joy…not happiness.
Tzvi Freeman is a Jewish author and teacher who writes for Chabad.org. His book ‘Bringing Heaven down to Earth’ is widely acclaimed. ♦ This article is adapted from ‘Happiness is Not Being There’ and is reflective of making the choice between Happiness or Joy.
Eve came to the world. She became wrapped up with a snake. Noah came to the world. What happened to him? “He drank from the wine and was drunk.” Sarah came to the world. She descended and she came back up, as it is said, “And Abram came up , he and his wife with him.” For this, Sarah earned eternal life…that life belonged to her. (Jewish writings)
What does the story of Eve and the snake have to do with Noah and his wine? What does either story have to do with Sarah and her descent to Egypt? There are three approaches to happiness in the human repertoire. Two fail. One succeeds.
∼ A Brief History of Happiness: Eve came to the world, initially standing a step beyond it. Physical pleasure and pain were nothing more than external stimuli, providing information about what needed to be done, and what should be avoided. But Eve came to believe that happiness could be found only by experiencing the garden from within, as in I am experiencing this pleasure. That is the primordial snake—that sense of I am here. And that is the voice of the snake: “Am I happy yet?” That is where all confusion begins. Once experience became wrapped up with ego, then pleasure became wrapped up with pain, good with evil, beauty with ugliness, and all of life became as we know it today: a world where no deed is innocent and simple, no motive pure and untainted. Eve, and Adam, —and all of us—fell from her transcendent state down a rabbit hole into a maelstrom of chaos.
Then came Noah. He stepped off his ark after the flood and saw a new world. He saw the opportunity to start again, to abandon Eve’s error and to rebuild with a new strategy for happiness. The solution seemed straightforward and obvious: He drank wine, forgot himself, and was happy.
Problem is, once the ego has appeared, it cannot be forgotten. That is how memory works—as an arrow let loose, never to be reversed without being countered head-on. As for Noah, all he accomplished was to introduce confusion back into a freshly-laundered world.
Then came Sarah. She encountered the snake head-on, face-to-face, on its own territory, in the darkness of its own chamber, held tightly within its iron clutch.The primordial snake this time around was Pharaoh, a mortal being wholly obsessed with ego and power. As did the snake in Eden, he offered Sarah the opportunity to share in that power. But Sarah remained bound up with Abraham and with the One God. Even as she was in Pharaoh’s palace, she transcended it, ruled over it, and ruled over Pharaoh as well. And so, Sarah achieved eternal life. Because she healed the wound that Eve had inflicted upon the human soul. Sarah eventually had a child. She named him Yitzchak (Isaac), which means, “he will laugh.” Her life was filled with joy, and her child was a child of joy. We are the children of that child.
∼ “Am I happy yet?” Sometimes we think happiness will come from getting what we want, enjoying it, and then getting more and more things we want. Further entanglement in the same old snake. It turns out that neither of these strategies ever made anybody any happier.
What does make us happier? We all know the answer, and it seems such an easy formula: Joy. † Joy bursts in where there is no ego to obstruct it. Those who feel they deserve everything can never be satisfied. Those with no expectations, who feel they deserve nothing, that every breath is a gift from God — they carry an inner joy in all they do. Ego cannot be ignored, or swept under the carpet in drunkenness. But it can be presented with a higher context, one in which our entire sense of being takes on a whole new meaning. There is an eternal purpose, a purpose for which your soul came to this world. Bond yourself with that purpose and with the One who created you with this purpose. That is all you truly are. With purpose comes inner joy. With purpose, your life belongs to God. And it is eternal life, as your purpose is eternal.
† Feed My Sheep: “Feed My sheep” (John 21:15) That was the reply from Jesus to Peter after Peter declared his love for his Lord. Real joy can only be found in the presence of God and doing His will on earth. Godly joy lasts forever. Happiness depends on happenings. The pleasures of this world and the cravings of the sinful desires of the flesh last for a fleeting moment. That is the challenge and choice we have to make and only the grace of God can keep the joy in our hearts to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before a holy God. Amen!
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. John 17: 3
Thursday, October 23
CHOICES – Altar of Living Sacrifice – Part 2
And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, Deuteronomy 10:12; KJV
And now, Charles, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee? Wouldn’t it be great if we could require someone to just love us? Can we just love someone without any feeling? If love is just a feeling, then I suppose it is possible. But feelings by itself is temporal and temperamental and will never last. I struggle with this morning’s meditation because it concerns the requirement to love God and walk in His ways, to serve the Lord and to fear the Lord. I wonder what my LWSF (like IELTS) score would be like? Fear God – not always; walk in His ways – no, I have fallen many times and made wrong choices and ended up in enemy territory; serve the Lord – yes, through APCOD but…and to love God…with all my heart and soul…If I had to apply for entrance to any university, I would have to re-sit the exam.
∼ Love is a decision: The love God requires from us for Himself and for each other is the highest form of love – unconditional love, agape love. Can we really love the way God loves us? Jill Briscoe writes: To love the way God loves us is a love that determines to be concerned, first and foremost, for the loved ones’ well-being in every dimension of their lives – whatever the cost to ourselves and irrespective of their reaction. True but difficult to follow. In my reflection on October 12 Bitter Sweet Communion, the LORD God reveals His heart of divine love and compassion by first healing the waters of Marah before giving the commandments and decrees for the people of Israel to follow. Irrespective of their reaction that was to follow, God saw to their well-being first. Agape love.
∼ I know I fail so miserably because I fall short in every aspect of what is required of me to walk right, love right, fear right and serve right. Do I have company? Can I hear an ‘Aye’ somewhere out there? I fail because of the plague in my own heart that reflects very much the ‘altar of stones’ that dwells within (see yesterday’s reflection – October 22). So how can we know that we love God? † In the words of Jesus, “Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them.” John 14: 21 The words of Jesus takes us from the realm of feelings to the realm of doing through obedience to the commands of God. Compelled to make a choice – obey. Love is a decision that has eternal consequences.
† Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go. Deuteronomy 12:2-5
† Circumcise your hearts: Before instructing the Israelites to destroy the altars and smash all the sacred stones and places of worship in all the high places they were going to take over, Moses required all the Israelites to circumcise their hearts and not to be stiff-necked and hardened of heart against the LORD (Deuteronomy 10:16) The only way that the nation of Israel was going to be able to love God, serve God, walk right with God and fear God was through the act of circumcision of their hearts. This was the only way the altar of stones was to be replaced by an altar of living sacrifice that God would not despise.
† On Mount Ebal, the mount of curse, Joshua instructed the Israelites to offer burnt offerings and fellowship offerings as a sacrifice of atonement to please God. The curse of sin had to be dealt with first before the blessings of God could be bestowed upon the people. The altar of stones was raised on the mount of curse because of the curse of sin. Hence the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings were necessary before God could bless His people. Mt Gerizim signified obedience to God’s law bringing blessings and Mt Ebal signified disobedience to God’s law and brought the curse of sin.
∼ Christ, our Passover Lamb: Jesus of Nazareth took our sin upon Himself so that the righteousness of God would be bestowed upon us. It is not by our own personal righteousness that we get out of sin but only by the righteousness that comes from God through the work of the cross of Christ. † We cannot love unconditionally of ourselves without the love and righteousness of God that comes through the saving grace and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth. There is no other means to undo the curse of sin and remove, destroy, smash the altar of stones within us except through the cross of Christ and the circumcision of our hearts. We are not of our own. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit received from God (1 Corinthians 6: 19).
† God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5: 21
∼ Altar of Living Sacrifice: Yes, we are called to offer our bodies (which is the temple of the Holy Spirit) as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is our spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:2). This morning, in view of God’s mercy, we pray for more grace for the Lord to do His miracle in our hearts and minds and souls and whole self and smash the altar of stones within us by the power of His Spirit and raise us anew to worship God in Spirit and truth. That is a choice we MUST make because we choose to love the LORD God unconditionally and others unreservedly. In Christ’s Name alone, AMEN!
♦ Reflect: Colossians 2: 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ.
∼ 1 Corinthians 5: 7: Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
∼ Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Wednesday, October 22
CHOICES – An Altar of Stones – Part 1
You are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. Deuteronomy 11:29
The Christian life is the sum of the responses we have made towards walking in obedience to God. The journey of living as a disciple of Jesus Christ is demonstrated through the choices we make in our daily walk with God. Just yesterday I know that my choice of words, thoughts and actions were wrong choices before the Lord, because the plague in my own heart only allows for head knowledge of the teachings of the word and fails to demonstrate a response of obedience to God’s instruction to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly (Micah 6:8).
† Whatever choices we make in life, we are ultimately responsible and accountable for each one of them. God gives us no right over the consequences of our choices because He is still the Judge. Choices have consequences. The judgement from the LORD God is two-fold: Blessing or Curse : Life or Death.
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse — the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known. When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. Deuteronomy 11:26-29
∼ Two Mountains, Two Outcomes: Yesterday’s reflection (October 21) was to break camp and move on. Moses gave instructions to the Israelites to love God and follow His commands so they will have the strength to go in and take over the land they are crossing the Jordan to possess. † The FIRST proclamation the people of Israel were instructed to do involved a blessing and a curse. (Deuteronomy 11: 29) Moses instructed the Israelites to proclaim on Mount Gerazim the blessings and Mount Ebal the curses. Near the ancient city of Shechem, later Samaria and today Nablus, stand two mountains, Mt Gerazim and Mt Ebal. Mt Gerazim was fertile and full of greenery but Mt Ebal was dry and barren. Half the tribes were to stand on Mt Ebal and proclaim the curses and the other half stand on Mt Gerizim and proclaim the blessings. Joshua son of Nun would later lead the people of Israel into the promised land and Joshua then followed the instructions of Moses and led the people of Israel to these two mountains.
† Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people: “And when you have crossed the Jordan, set up these stones on Mount Ebal, as I command you today, and coat them with plaster. Build there an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones…and offer burnt offerings…sacrifice fellowship offerings there…” Deuteronomy 27:4-7
‡ Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the LORD God of Israel as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the Israelites. Joshua 8: 30
∼An Altar of Stones: On Mount Ebal, Joshua instructed them to build an altar made from uncut stones and cover them with plaster. On the altar was to be inscribed all the words of the Law of Moses. BUT what Joshua did was instructive and of eternal significance. † On the altar of stones, a sacrifice of atonement in the form of a burnt offering and peace (fellowship) offering was made to the LORD God of Israel. Mount Ebal was the Mount of curse and on it was raised an altar of sacrifice for atonement for the sins of the people of God. Joshua did not instruct the people of Israel that obedience would do away with the curse of sin as revealed in their hardened and rebellious hearts. What Joshua was pointing the whole nation of Israel to was THE ALTAR OF SACRIFICE FOR THE ATONEMENT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE. Joshua was inculcating a culture of obedience to the Law of Moses but more important was the need to offer a sacrifice of atonement in the form of burnt offerings and fellowship offerings.
∼ This morning let us reflect on this act of worship that Joshua instructed the people of Israel on Mount Ebal. The Scripture informs us that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ Romans 3: 23. The Apostle Paul writing to the church in Corinth asks this question: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;(i Corinthians 6:19).
∼ There is an altar within this temple and is this altar an altar of stones? Let us be honest and ask ourselves this question this morning – and may the grace of God grant us the humility to make the right choice to worship the Lord in spirit and truth and receive the blessings of the Almighty God, Jesus of Nazareth. Amen!
♦ Reflect: Deuteronomy 27
Tuesday, October 21
BREAK CAMP, MOVE ON – The Wilderness Journey – Part 4
“You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance…” Deuteronomy 1: 6-7
There are times in our lives where we just have to break camp and move on. The time might be now, for you and for me. These past three months I have shared a ‘slice from my heart’ every morning; recording my struggles, thoughts, past encounters and challenges on this journey to make peace with God. The reading of scripture this morning is directed to my own heart: Break camp and move on! I must admit that because of my own failings and disobedience to the ways of the Lord as a result of the plague in my own heart, I am behind the divine schedule of the plans and purposes of God in my life. It is never too late when we walk with God because the journey into the promised land is an eternal one. However it requires a heart that is fixed and steadfast and totally committed to the will of God in order to fulfill the ultimate goal to dwell in the Lord’s holy tabernacle as a citizen of heaven. But before breaking camp and moving on, let us take note of the words of wisdom from the Apostle Paul to the church at Philippi: Philippians 3: 18-20; 4:4,6:
† For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. Rejoice in the Lord always! Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
† The LORD our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. Deuteronomy 1: 6-7
∼ Break camp and move: The Israelites were camped at Mt Horeb (Mt Sinai) and Moses had a message from the LORD God of Israel to the people of Israel: Break camp and advance. For forty years the LORD had dealt with their sinful hearts and now was the time to go and take possession of the land God had promised them, the land of Canaan. This was their ultimate goal. They were forty years behind the divine schedule of God’s plan for His people Israel. It was time to break camp and move on! But move on to where? Into enemy territory – a land occupied by the enemies of Israel and people hostile to the ways of God. They were enemies of God! But before they broke camp, Moses gave the people this admonition from the LORD God of Israel: Deuteronomy 2: 7: † The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything. And they were charged with one condition while passing through the enemy territory: † DO NOT PROVOKE THEM TO WAR (Deuteronomy 2: 5)
∼ Apostle Peter writing to God’s elect (that is you and me) as strangers and aliens in this world, gives us this warning as we break camp and move on: Abstain for the sinful desires of the world that wage war against our soul. (1 Peter 2: 11) Do not provoke the enemy of our soul to wage war against us because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6: 23). We are called to live and walk as servants of God and not to use our freedom in Christ as a cover-up for evil. (1 Peter 2:16). To ‘break camp and move on’ is not into another comfort zone but into another war zone instead. It is in the battle ground of our trials and tribulations we see the hand of God in victory.
∼ Placing our ultimate trust in anything other than God is idolatry. Breaking camp is as hard as breaking a habit that we have been indulging in for a long time. It could be a sexual sin, spending money on just about anything the eye can see. It could be our limited time with reading the bible or prayer life. Whatever the situation that has kept us in our comfort zone for these many years, maybe forty, we must break camp and move on. Moving on requires resolve, obedience, trust in God, prayer and a fixed heart that seeks after the heart of God. The fuel for this new turn is the grace and mercy of God. God moved with the nation Israel and He will move with us too.
∼ Dear Lord Jesus, it was at your command and order that the people of Israel were called to break camp and move. If this is your call for us to also break camp and move on this morning, please teach us through your word how to act justly, love Your mercy and walk humbly before you O God. Lead on Lord, and we will follow! Amen!
♦ Reflect: 1 John 2:15-17; 1 Peter 2
Monday, October 20
A NEW SONG – The Wilderness Journey – Part 3
O sing unto the Lord a new song; Psalm 98: 1, KJV
Who needs to sing a new song? I do! These past few months, many folks whom I met had this one comment: You need a new song! You need friends! Well, last Saturday, October 18, sing I did! Meet new friends, I did! Growing up in a family with music in our DNA, singing was one thing we all knew how to do and enjoy. The owners of a top fine dining restaurant in Kota Kinabalu invited me to sing during their dinner time. This was really a ‘new song’ for me. Something I wanted to do for many years – sing in a restaurant! Although in the family I did not score high marks for singing second voice, but anyway, I thought I would give it a try. It was fun, doing the ballads I learnt growing up, remembering the times I used to sing at gatherings in medical school. I was encouraged to see new friends come to support my first engagement although I must admit I was nervous. Never done this before. The owners were very gracious and embraced this new found excitement in my life – singing a ‘new song’ with a borrowed guitar and a borrowed hat!
Whom do you think would encourage me the most? A carpenter. Yes. His name is Abe. During the break, we got to know each other. He showed me his hands and the injury his trade had cost him because of hitting nails. Yet, he played the guitar so well. I thought of the carpenter who gave His life for me and the injuries caused by nails pierced through both His hands because of my sin. I had every reason to sing a new song in my heart to the Lord! For He has done wonderful deeds.
“Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted. Both horse and driver He has hurled into the sea.” Exodus 15: 21
Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for him. Psalm 98: 1
On the banks of the Red Sea, the ministry of praise and worship to the LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was given birth. The people of Israel, nearly two million of them with six hundred thousand soldiers, saw the mighty victorious hand of the LORD part the Red Sea and destroy the pursuing Egyptian armies. ‘The LORD brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground’ (Exodus 15:19).
The prophetess Miriam, sister of Aaron, with a tambourine in her hand, led all the women with tambourines and dancing, to sing a new song unto the LORD God of Israel. What rejoicing it must have been! What a miracle they had just witnessed. But it was the hand of the ‘Commander in Chief’ who was working behind the scene of war. In Exodus 14: 1-4 we read: Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to turn back and camp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. Pharoah will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ And I will harden Pharoah’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for Myself through Pharoah and all His army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” Listen to what Moses answered to the terrified Israelites: The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14: 14-15)
Some of the most distressing, troubled times in our life we will never see again because the LORD promises us He will never leave us nor forsake us. God can give us a new song to sing. It will start when we meet with God and usually He chooses to meet with us in the battle field. When we are in the pits, in the valleys, in the cities of refuge, in the most distressing moments of our lives when we think ALL is lost and broken, He meets us there on His terms and in His holiness. When this happens, the key to unlock the victory in sight is repentance with a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).
Jill Briscoe writes: The important thing is to sing a song – a new song of faith and hope, of self-discovery or God-discovery, at every turn of the road, every station, every resting place.
∼ This morning, no matter what our trials and difficulties we may be facing, it is good to sing a new song to the LORD. Yes, when there is a new song in our hearts, we sing even with our maids, and friends, no matter who they are, we sing because the audience is One – the one, true, living God, Jesus of Nazareth. All we have to do is ‘Be still and oceans will part!’ Amen!
♦ Reflect: Psalm 98: 1 Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for him.
∼ Isaiah 54:17 No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, And their righteousness is from Me,” Says the Lord.
Sunday, October 19
LOOK AND LIVE – The Wilderness Journey – Part 2
“anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” Numbers 21: 8
The great orator and Roman philosopher Cicero once said, “The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter.” Yesterday I wrote about a young handsome man who sustained a severe dog bite injury to his upper lip. I will never forget the face of shock, dismay, downcast and just sheer worry about how his face would look like now that this bite had caused such disfigurement to the outlook of his whole face. What I saw in his face was a picture of the turmoil in his mind. As he lay on his bed in the Emergency ward, I noticed he had his fiancee’s small pocket mirror next to him and I am sure he must have glanced at it many times before I arrived! Yet, the love shared with him from his lovely fiancee, family and friends lifted his soul above the situation and after two weeks of treatment he was able to smile again. Love heals. Love lifts the soul. Love overcomes. Love builds. Love allows you to sing. Most of all, love brings life, only if it is focused on God. The LORD God hears our singing as well as our grumbling. Gripes and grumbling blasphemes God. (Exodus 16:7)
† For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
∼ Sin bites. Sin deceives and destroys. Sin is death. Sin kills the soul. Sin has a dwelling place. It resides in the heart and soul of man. In Matthew 6: 22-23, we read, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” The Israelites complained against God and this brought judgement upon them in the form of plagues of snakes. What their eyes could see brought them discontentment and discouragement. Instead of looking up at the pillar of cloud of fire that would confirm the presence of God and in the morning they would see the glory of God in the provision of bread from heaven (Exodus 16:6-7), they only could see and remember the good times in Egypt when their souls were filled with the pleasures of the world and sin.
† And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. Numbers 21:8
A Way Out: A Bronze Snake: The LORD judged the complaining attitude of the people BUT provided a way of escape. God’s remedy was a bronze snake on a pole. † All who looked at the bronze snake lived. A gracious God and Savior. But this was no ordinary serpent. They were instructed to make a fiery serpent. This was to remind the people of Israel that God is a jealous God and judges with fire (Matthew 3:11). The Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians not to “put Christ to the test, as some of them did – and were killed by snakes.” 1 Corinthians 10: 9; but also encouraged them that “God is faithful; and He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13.
† And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3: 14-15
∼ Jesus, Be Lifted Up: This is a glorious gospel. The Lord Jesus of Nazareth in John’s gospel chapter 3: 14 teaches the Pharisee Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council about the main rule of gaining sight of the kingdom of God. “NO ONE CAN SEE THE KINGDOM OF GOD UNLESS HE IS BORN AGAIN.” The bronze snake being “lifted up” in the wilderness was a symbol of assurance and confirmation that the LORD God of Israel will heal their snake bite and live. God was ever present with them as their Redeemer, Deliverer and Healer of all their sufferings and struggles in the wilderness journey. Jesus drew reference to this action of being “lifted up” as the Christ who would bring healing to the nation of Israel and to all the world for those who repent and turn away from the bite of sin and believe in Jesus as the Lord and God of all creation. To LOOK to the Cross was to gain sight of the Kingdom of God and to BELIEVE in Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God was to enter in and receive eternal life. “He is not here, He has risen.” (Matthew 28:6)
∼ He raised me up: The bronze serpent was not lifted up as a curiosity to be gazed upon by the healthy; but its special purpose was for those who were “bitten.” Jesus died for the sins of the world – yours and mine. The bite of sin has brought me pain and sorrow many times because of the plague in my own heart but the cross of Christ reminds me of the grace of God to forgive through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior and Redeemer to heal me of this disease and make me live and walk in holiness and communion with God. As we worship God this morning, let us look to God and live. Amen!
∼ Mark 1: 15 Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
∼ Act 26:18 To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
Saturday, October 18
SNAKEBITE – The Wilderness Journey – Part 1
“Pray that the LORD will take away the snakes.” Numbers 21: 7
Two weeks ago a young, handsome man attended the emergency ward for a severe dog bite to his upper lip. The injury was severe enough to require very high doses of triple antibiotics and frequent visits to the operating theatre to remove the slough or dead tissues as a result of infection despite the antibiotics. That is how serious animal bite injuries can be. Despite all the aggressive treatment, he lost 1/3rd of the upper lip and the defect required skin grafting. Today, he visited the ward and I saw him distributing sweets and chocolates to the nurses and he was so happy and cheerful despite the disfigurement to his upper lip and appearance of his face. During the week he was admitted I saw how much in love he was with his fiancee and each time I entered the room she was always there for him. His fiancee was always there at the door waiting for him each time he returned to the ward after surgery. In the ward, in the operating theatre, he never failed to greet me with a ‘thumbs-up’ sign. His lost good looks did not matter now. What mattered most to him was that he had found his true love before the dog bite injury. He was able to draw out the affection from her heart before the serious injury and that sustained her strength to love him more and see him through the difficult period of the past two weeks.
† And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Numbers 21: 6
In the wilderness journey, the people of Israel were inflicted by a plague of snakes. Snakebite resulted in deaths of many people. Because of the plague of sin in their own hearts, the judgement of God was pronounced upon them and ‘venomous snakes were sent among them.’ Numbers 21: 6, NIV The main cause of distress and death was a result of the plague of sin in their hearts was they blasphemed God, rejected Moses and grumbled against the gracious provisions of God.
There is always a ‘backstory’ to pride when it sets into our hearts. In my GJ October 14 I wrote, ‘Pride does not dwell in the desert with God’. The Israelites had seen the provisions of God to provide water to quench their thirst. At the waters of Marah, the LORD turned the bitter waters into sweet waters. The LORD provided rest and shelter at the springs of Elim. Then again the grumbling started and again the LORD brought water to gush forth from the rock that Moses struck with his staff (Numbers 20:11). They had just won a major military victory against the Canaanites ( so the place was named Hormah – Numbers 21:3; please see map) and their hearts became proud and self-confident. They became impatient with the direction the LORD God was taking them. So they started grumbling and became discouraged, discontented, and their souls were downcast. They rejected the food from heaven (manna), they grumbled at the scarcity of water and no bread. The basic amenities for life. They wanted a place that is comfortable, convenient, and pleasant to live in. † They grieved for the old life in Egypt where their stomachs were full and their hearts were content with worldly passions!
† The wilderness journey was to test and reveal the hearts of the people of Israel. The LORD wanted to draw out from their hearts all the selfishness of pride and discontent and fill their hearts with His eternal love, compassion and longsuffering nature so they could be fruitful when they entered the promised Land. This is our journey too as sojourners in this world of our temporary dwelling place.
† We should not test Christ, as some of them did–and were killed by snakes. 1 Corinthians 10:9, KJV
∼ The Apostle Paul writing to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 10 draws reference to Israel’s past history as examples for us to learn and not repeat their mistakes of rebellion against God. † The wilderness journey is a personal journey, a personal relationship with God. So often we grumble at just about everything in our own lives. I am guilty of this time and time again. The thankless, ingratitude attitude of the hearts of the children of Israel cost them their lives. We too need to be careful against greed, covetousness and ignoring God’s goodness. Pride is the forerunner of destruction. The Apostle Paul gives this warning:
† So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 1 Corinthians 10:12, NIV
∼ Be Careful that you don’t fall: And fall I have! When we fall, it is God’s way of humbling our hearts to turn towards God in repentance. The problem is many times we fall and then get back up, and then fall and then get back up. Because of the plague in my own heart, the LORD will keep His stand on me till my heart is fixed and steadfast on God. The LORD wants us, should we fall, to get up AND MOVE ON with a right attitude of heart to fix our eyes on Jesus of Nazareth, the Savior of our souls.
∼ This morning we come to the Lord Jesus with repentant hearts and remember the confession from the hearts of the people of Israel: “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” Lord please hear our prayers this morning and forgive and heal our diseases and protect our hearts Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit so we may act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before you Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!
† But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
Friday, October 17
and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others…Romans 11:17, NIV
This morning, recorded on my operation list is a surgical procedure called ‘Full Thickness Skin Grafting’. This patient presented to my clinic yesterday with an ulcerated skin cancer growing in the mid-portion of her left eyebrow. I advised that this had to be removed and her first question was, “How would you resurface the large defect that would result after excision of the growth?” I told her that I would take the full thickness skin from behind her left ear and this would then be grafted in to replace the diseased skin that has been removed. Her next question was this: “Will this skin taken from another place and grafted in survive?” My answer was a definite, “Yes” because it was taken from the same body and grafted in, it will survive because it derives its nourishing blood supply from the same body. The diseased skin cancer must be removed and new skin needs to be grafted in.
On Wednesday October 15, we had our weekly Fellowship gathering in my clinic for the hospital staff. I shared on the week that just passed and the biblical Feast of Tabernacles and what we can learn from this ancient solemn gathering commanded by God for His people Israel and the future prophetic implications of the return of the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth for us as a people of God, both Jew and Gentile. One of the brothers commented: This is the people of Israel’s past celebration. We need to think of our current status as the church and the tribulations we are facing and history is just history. And this was my reply: Romans 11: 17-21
† If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.
∼ One Olive Tree, not two: The Olive tree in scripture is a symbol of Israel. In Jeremiah 11:16-17, we read “The LORD called you a thriving olive tree with fruit beautiful in form. But with the roar of a mighty storm He will set it on fire, and its branches will be broken.” The Apostle Paul in Romans 11 is referring to one olive tree with one root system. This one olive tree has two types of branches – natural branches and wild branches. A wild olive shoot or branch ‘grafted in’ into a natural olive tree is against normal horticultural practice but this is the power of God for the supernatural to happen. The church is not a brand new olive tree but of the same one olive tree and the wild olive shoot now takes its nourishing sap from the same root system of the olive tree. Rabbi Sha’ul, Apostle Paul writes in Romans 11: 16, “If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.” “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3: 23. The olive root and tree, though in sin, is now consecrated to God for His purposes and to do His will. This is the Abrahamic covenant of faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
∼ Mark of Covenant Grace: “Do not be arrogant but tremble”:– God’s sovereign grace is not cheap grace. The grace of God has grafted in the wild olive branches. There has been a breaking off of some of the natural branches to make room for the wild olive branches (that is you and me) so we can partake of the inheritance of the kingdom of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. How thankful and grateful should our hearts be in total submission to the mercies of God. If God could “cut-off” the natural branches so you and I could be grafted in, how much more humble should we be in our hearts to feed from the mark of covenant grace that stems for the root of the olive tree of faith (on account of the patriarchs – Romans 11:28) in God. “For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable.” Romans 11: 29. Why were these natural branches cut off? Because of unbelief, hardened hearts in rebellion against God. This is what happened to the generation of Israelites in the wilderness journey. One whole generation was ‘broken off’ except Joshua and Caleb because of unbelief and disobedience.
† Grace accomplishes the impossible, the unthinkable. If we were living in the 1st century today, this would have been intolerable that God’s saving grace and mercy should flow to the gentiles, that is you and me. This was God’s divine sovereign plan from the beginning. † However, grace does not cancel out our human responsibility to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God (Micah 6:8). Grace does not cancel out our human responsibility towards sin and rebellion because of the plague in our own hearts. Grace works in accordance with our human responsibility to reject the ways and patterns of the world (1 John 2: 15-17)
∼ Cleave to God: The Feast of Tabernacles teaches us how God weaned the chosen olive tree, symbolizing the people of Israel, from self-reliance, self- righteousness and self-indulgence. In Hosea 14: 8, the LORD God reminds Israel that “your fruitfulness comes from Me.” If we are grafted in to the same one olive tree of faith in God, then our fruitfulness comes from God. Let us not be arrogant but be afraid lest we too will be ‘cut-off’ because of unbelief, hardened hearts and sin.
† This morning the words ‘cleave to God with grateful hearts’ come to my mind and heart. This was the command of the LORD God to the children of Israel in the wilderness through Moses: Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice, and ye shall serve Him, and cleave unto Him. – WALK, FEAR, KEEP, OBEY, SERVE, CLEAVE TO HIM!
∼ Love to God is the indelible token of the chosen seed; the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) and by this seal, the election of grace is certified to the believer – Oswald Chambers. Let us thank God for His gift of saving grace and mercy that we have been grafted in to the nourishing sap of the root of olive tree through faith in the Root of David (Revelation 22: 16), the Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus of Nazareth and be grateful. Amen!
♦ Reflect: Romans 11
∼ Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
∼ Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Thursday, October 16
because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands. Deuteronomy 16:15
† FEAST OF TABERNACLES: Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice. Deuteronomy 16:15, KJV (Wednesday Evening, October 8 through Thursday Evening, October 16)
FRUITFULNESS: The Feast of Tabernacles teaches us about bearing fruit to God…fruit that will last, and be thankful. Our productivity through the work of our hands is a gift of the ever loving presence of God in our lives. Whenever God allows it to rain on the land of Israel, the people prosper. Rejoicing is an outward expression of a heart that is fixed and steadfast in love with God. This past week we have studied this Fall Feast with one purpose in mind: to know the one, true, living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (John 17:3)
There is one verse in Scripture that is engraved in the depths of my soul. It speaks of the heart of God. It portrays the longsuffering character and nature of our loving Father. I grow silent each time my heart is drawn to read this one verse in Scripture and this morning I want us both to read this together. It is the LORD God Almighty speaking to to the people Israel through the prophet Malachi:
“I have loved you,” says the LORD. “But you ask, ‘How have you loved us?’ Malachi 1:2
The heart of man and the heart of God. May this Fall Feast of Tabernacles teach us not to forget the LORD but repent and return to the LORD in faithfulness to heed his wisdom and instructions to act justly, love the mercies of God and walk humbly with God. Amen.
♦ SUKKOT – FEAST OF TABERNACLES – Part Two – by Cindy Lou: HIS-ISRAEL
♦ ♦ (Adapted from HIS-ISRAEL – Appointed Times – Fall Feasts)
After the sukkah, the most visible elements associated with the celebration of the festival of Sukkot in the land of Israel are the Arba Minim, the Four Species related to the Land and fruitfulness. While the sukkah is a reminder of the temporary nature of our journey and the need for God’s supernatural provision and protection in the wilderness, the four species are related to settled productivity.
Deuteronomy 8:6-9: Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him. For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; A land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.
∼ There are seven species specifically connected with the Land of Israel. These are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. The successful growth of each of these crops is also dependent on the weather patterns and the provision and timing of the seasonal rainfall. As these are in the hands of the Creator, prayers are said at the end of Sukkot for His timely provision of rain. The prophet Zechariah also makes a millennial connection with the Feast and rain: “And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, there will be no rain upon them” (Zechariah 14:17).
You shall take on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.
Customarily in Israel today, the particular four species gathered together for Sukkot are: the lulav (an unopened palm branch), hadassim (three myrtle branches), aravot (two willow branches), and the etrog (the citron). The branches are placed together in a special holder of woven palm fronds and are held together with the etrog when praying special prayers. † During the forty year journey through the wilderness, palm trees would have been a most welcome sight to the Israelites. Their tall, waving branches signaled water and a place to settle and rest from their travels. The tree God chose to adorn the walls of His Temple were palm trees, indicating the place that contained the resting place of His Presence and the ‘living water’ of His Word – the oasis of our strength and sustenance.
The hadassim, myrtle branches, have shining, green leaves that are shaped like eyes. They remind us that we are to guard our eyes, for what we focus on and see with our eyes will inform our minds and hearts. We should regularly keep them fixed on His Word in order to study, to gain understanding, and to grow in healthy and holy relationship with Him and with one another.
The aravot, willow branches, have leaves in the shape of lips, the gates of our speech. Often this is an area of greatest weakness. The willow tree needs much water to stay healthy and strong; our minds, that inform our speech and the use of our tongue, likewise need to be constantly strengthened and refreshed with the living water of the Word. When our lips are yielded to our Father then our words, which represent our attitudes and thoughts, will be filled with His praises and will speak His words of love and truth.
The etrog is considered to be the pri etz hadar, the fruit of goodly trees, as listed in Leviticus 23: 40. The word hadar means ‘that which dwells’; thus the fruit is interpreted to be fruit that dwells continuously all year on the tree. It implies permanence, similar to the English word, ‘endure’. The etrog (citron) tree fulfils this requirement of constant dwelling, for most other fruits are seasonal but the etrog blossoms and produces fruit throughout all the seasons. It stubbornly perseveres in the heat and the cold, in wind and storm. It endures! This persistence adds depth to its beauty.
The fragrant etrog has the shape of a heart, indicating the organ that maintains our life; and which represents the very place of our Savior and Lord’s life in us. With His Spirit of Holiness indwelling and empowering us, we can persevere through life’s difficulties, we can proclaim the victory of life over death, and celebrate the promise and hope of an eternity in the glorious Presence of God. The etrog also has the shape of a flame, a symbol of God’s Word and His Spirit. May His Word indeed be written on our hearts by His Spirit of holiness; then they will be purified like gold and we will shine for His glory!
Joyful Dwelling: The sukkah reminds us of God’s commitment and devotion to us and how we are encircled by the “clouds of glory” of His protection and Presence. The portable nature of the sukkah points to the desire of God to dwell among us as His people. Immediately after Moses descended from Sinai bearing God’s atonement and forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf and the second set of stone tablets engraved with His Words – the symbol of His lasting covenant with His people – He instructed the building of His sukkah, the Mishkan, or Tabernacle (Exodus 25:8).
Once the permanent dwelling of His Holy House, Beit ha’Mikdash, was built in Jerusalem, a total of seventy sacrifices were made on the altar during Sukkot, corresponding to the traditional count of the number of the nations in the world. This signified, as foretold by the prophet Zechariah, that in the end of days all things shall be Kadosh le’YHWH, “Holy to the Lord,” and all the nations will go up to Jerusalem on Sukkot to worship the God of Israel:
Every one that survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, Adonai Tzevaot, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:16).
What joy there will be when Christ Jesus will take up his throne in Jerusalem and “the knowledge of God will cover the earth as the waters cover the seabed” (Isaiah 11:9) and all nations shall rejoice together with Israel at the great and glorious Festival of Sukkot. HalleluYah!
A Slice from the Heart: Reflections from October 12: Exodus 15: 27 – ‘They they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.’ Elim was a resting place for the two million odd people of Israel. After having their thirst quenched by the miracle sweet waters of Marah, it was a welcome sight to see the tall 70 palm trees of Elim from afar. ‘Their tall, waving branches signaled water and a place to settle and rest from their travels.’ The Presence of God (Shekinah) watched over the people of God as a pillar of fire by night as they camped near the water. The 12 springs was a ‘spiritual Elim’ of blessing as they refreshed their weary souls, restored their strength and renewed their faith in God. What a wonderful image of a gracious Father in heaven watching over His children on earth.
∼ My Heavenly Father Watches Over Me: The psalmist in Psalm 1 speaks of a blessed man who ‘is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.’ This morning we give all praise and thanksgiving with joyful hearts to our Lord Jesus of Nazareth and are assured in our hearts that as we go out to work today and bear fruit to God, our heavenly Father will watch over us this day! What a blessing! Let us rejoice as we close this week of celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Amen!
Wednesday, October 15
SUKKOT – SEASON OF OUR JOY – A HARVEST FEAST – Part One
~ by Keren Hannah Pryor: Writer and Author of ‘A Taste of Torah’
† FEAST OF TABERNACLES: Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice. Deuteronomy 16:15, KJV (Wednesday Evening, October 8 through Thursday Evening, October 16)
∼ Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, occurs at the time “when the [Fall] harvest is gathered from the fields” (Exodus 23:16); thus, it also is called Chag Ha’Asif, the Festival of Ingathering. This can be understood on a natural, personal and historic level. In the physical world of nature, the crops that were tended during the hot summer months are now ready for harvest and the produce is gathered into storehouses or sold in the markets. On a wider, historic perspective, Sukkot represents the culmination of history, the end of time, when the full spiritual harvest will be gathered at the great and final Redemption. It will be the grand finale of the drama of history!
Three mitzvot (commandments) are listed concerning Sukkot: The Festival of Booths; The Feast of Tabernacles; The Festival of Ingathering:
(1) Building and living in a sukkah or booth: Leviticus 23:42-43; KJV: Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
(2) Gathering together the four species: Leviticus: 23:40a; KJV: And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook;
and (3) Rejoicing during the Festival: Leviticus: 23:40b; KJV: and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.
∼ The sukkah or booth is the most important and visible element of celebration, apparent in its name Sukkot (plural form of sukkah). † The basic purpose of the sukkah is to remind us of the portability of the dwellings of the Israelites on their wilderness journey. Likewise, our lives are a journey and our security is not in the solid houses we build but in the One who guides and provides for us every step of the way. We deeply consider the reality that, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The temporary, fragile sukkah thus depicts the nature of our lives. Life on this earth is impermanent and frail, it has a time limit. Like the sukkah, if the weather is sunny and pleasant we feel happy and sheltered. How suddenly this changes if the wind starts to blow, clouds build and a storm closes in to spoil our sukkah or, if severe enough, causes it to collapse altogether.
Like the sukkah, our physical lives are fragile and fleeting; our goals and focus, however, are upon the infinite and the eternal. Our true home is in the endless Presence of the Creator of all.
† Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
∼ Season of Rejoicing: Z’man Simchateinu: Sukkot is associated with beauty, life and joy. It is the only appointed festival upon which God commands us to be joyful. “You shall rejoice before the Eternal, your God, seven days” (Leviticus 22:40). Our Father designed the earthly sukka, or tent, of our body and did not intend that our existence be a vale of tears. Through the trials and sufferings the world brings, He is with us and the faithful promises of His Word enable us to view life in a cheerful and optimistic light. When our hope and trust are in Him, we truly can “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Philippians 4:4).
∼ The highest point of joyous celebration in the time of the Second Temple period took place during the Water Libation ritual on the day of Hoshana Rabah. It is written in the Mishna: “He who has not seen the rejoicing at the Water Libation has never witnessed true joy!” (Sukkah 5:1). Trumpets sounded and in joyous procession the celebrants would accompany the High Priest to the Pool of Siloam. There he would fill a golden pitcher with water and carry it up to the Holy Temple, where he would ceremoniously pour the water upon the altar. The priestly choir sang and the people praised their Father and King who had cleansed them of their sins. They also were aware that the day of ultimate joy was imminent – the Eighth Day, with its promise of the arrival of Messiah and the fullness of God’s Kingdom. It was at this crescendo of the water pouring ceremony that Jesus of Nazareth, standing in the Temple Courts, loudly proclaimed:
† If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38
∼ Tears Will Never Stain the Streets of That City: Yesterday morning as I wrote the script for the ‘BackStory’ of ‘The Making of The Feast of Tabernacles’, I was moved to think how our Lord Jesus must have felt when he stood among the Jews and all those God-fearing gentiles and cried out aloud: Come to me and drink! How the Lord’s heart must have wanted ‘to gather the children of Israel together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but they were not willing’ (Matthew 23:37). Rejection hurts but humility teaches us to rejoice.
Each time I come home, the first thing I do is look for my children just to see if they are at home. How my heart longs for each one of them to acknowledge and inform me whenever they come in or go out of our home. Just so they acknowledge that the Father is at home. How much more our Father in heaven’s heart must endure longsuffering when we do not go to seek after His heart in worship and thanksgiving for His everlasting love and protection over us. But this I know, Tears Will Never Stain The Streets of That City of the New Jerusalem because there it will be eternal joy when we meet the Lord in glory. We love you, Lord, I really do. Amen!
‘I know a land where grief is a total stranger and songs of joy are the only songs we are going to sing’ – Dottie Rambo
Tears Will Never Stain The Streets Of That City (written by Dottie Rambo)
If I could count all the tears that have fallen
They would seem like an Ocean to me, And if
My heart were a window that you could look through
All the pain and scars you would see
But Tears will never stain the streets of that city
No wreaths of death on my mansion door
Teardrops aren’t welcome beyond the gates of glory
Cause the heart will never break anymore
I’d questioned the loss of a loved one,
The grave seems so final and cold,
Oh, but we’ll meet again, where death has no victory,
In a land where we will never grow old.
Well I’ve never met one man without sorrow
Never looked into eyes with no pain
But I know a land where grief is a total stranger
And songs of joy are the only songs they sing.
Tears will never stain the streets of that city
No wreaths of death on my mansion door
Teardrops aren’t welcome beyond the gates of glory
Cause the heart will never break anymore.
Tuesday, October 14
A PROPHET LIKE UNTO MOSES – Feast of Tabernacles, Part 6
“Surely this man is the Prophet.” John 7: 40
† FEAST OF TABERNACLES: Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice. Deuteronomy 16:15, KJV (Wednesday Evening, October 8 through Thursday Evening, October 16)
∼ BackStory: An interesting program that I occasionally watch on CNN is ‘BackStory’. It brings you the stories behind the stories you see on the news; the emotions and experiences of everyone involved in the news. It reveals the ‘happenings‘ that go on behind the scenes of a particular program that is about to be screened or filmed. All the discussions, the ‘street talk’, the thoughts and opinions that are taking place while intense preparations are proceeding on the front stage are recorded. As viewers we do not get to see this ‘backstory’ and what we get is a programmed display of what is in the manuscript of the screenwriter and producer of the show.
∼ BackStory in ‘The Making of The Feast of Tabernacles‘: An Awaken the Dawn writer-producer returns to the Second Temple Period and reviews the written accounts made in the Book of John Chapter 7 of the people involved in the preparations of the Jewish Feast. The questions and dialogue between the people is presented in this ‘BackStory’: The Jews were watching for the man Jesus and asked, “Where is that man?“ Widespread whispering among the crowds was noted and some said “He is a good man.” Yet, others in the crowd replied, “No, He deceives the people.” But Jesus appears and starts to teach in the temple courts. Some Jews were critical of his teaching and asked cynically, “How did he get such learning without having studied?“ When questioned by Jesus, “Why are you trying to kill me?”, the crowd answered, “You are demon-possessed. Who is trying to kill you?”, as if Jesus did not know the evil intentions of their hearts. Then some of the people of Jerusalem asked, “Have the authorities really concluded that He is the Christ?“ Some people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.” We know this man is from Galilee but when the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from. Yet, others asked, “How can the Christ come from Galilee? Is it not that He will come from David’s family and from Bethlehem? A prophet does not come out from Galilee.” The writer to the Book of Hebrews 4:7 records: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”
† PRIDE DOES NOT LIVE IN THE DESERT WITH GOD.
† A Prophet like unto Moses: Proverbs 25:2: It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings. Did the people of Israel ever believe that the man standing and teaching in their midst in the temple courts was the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ and Son of the living God, the King of Israel? The Apostle Peter speaking in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade in the temple courts where Jesus of Nazareth taught proclaimed in Acts 3: 22-23:
For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
∼ HUMILITY IS GROWN IN THE DESERT: that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. † Pride does not listen. Prideful people will try to figure it all out for themselves. This was the problem in the wilderness journey for the people of Israel. Because of hardened hearts in rebellion against God, they did not put their trust in Jehovah-Rapha to heal their pain and suffering. This was also the problem of prideful hearts of those who were present for the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem and refused to acknowledge, repent and believe that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. † There is no faith without repentance. Humility grown in the desert is a lifestyle of submission. Hudson Taylor said these words: The greatest mission of all is submission.
John the Baptist cultivated a wilderness lifestyle of patience and solitude to wait upon God to send forth the Messiah. His life of humility was prepared in the wilderness as a highway of holiness to prepare the way for the Lord. The reward of his obedience to a wilderness lifestyle was his recognition of Jesus of Nazareth as ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’ John 1: 29
∼ “Surely this man is the Prophet.”: The ‘BackStory’ emotions and street talk among the people in Jerusalem in the city and in the temple courts was one of doubt and suspicion if the man from Nazareth was truly the Messiah and Redeemer of all Israel. This morning as we continue to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, do we have any doubts whether Jesus can really help with our unbelief? If we have humility in our hearts, we can confidently approach the throne of grace and seek mercy and forgiveness in our lives from the Prophet, Priest and King, Jesus of Nazareth, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach ben David. What is required is a wilderness lifestyle of humility to hear the voice of God calling: Come to Me and drink! Amen!
Monday, October 13
WHAT ARE WE TO DRINK? – Feast of Tabernacles, Part 5
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink?” John 7: 37
∼ “What Are We To Drink?” (Exodus 15: 24) A normal human question concerning a very basic need for life: water. The people of Israel had journeyed for three days in the wilderness of the Desert of Shur looking for water. All they had to guide them in this wilderness journey was a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. But this was no ordinary cloud or fire. This was the God of Israel Himself, the great I AM leading the way of salvation into the promised land. When they finally found the water they were looking for, how they must have run towards the water and filled their jars to the brim only to find out it was not palatable to drink because it was bitter to taste. Imagine their faces; especially the mothers nursing the young children, the elderly, the frail and weak. What about the six hundred thousand odd soldiers?
Yet, as I study the Scriptures this morning, I can only think of the question I would have asked given the similar circumstances: a wasteland, dry, hot, surrounded by about two million people? Despite having seen miracles in my own life that God had performed and in spite of knowing the Scriptures and the God of my salvation, I would have asked the same question the people of Israel asked Moses, “What are we to drink?” The real question however is: ∼ Do I really know God? Do I really know His ways? Do I really trust God that He will provide for my needs during the most trying trials in my life? God’s ways are not our ways. Testing reveals our hearts and how I fail time again because of the plague in my own heart. Only by the grace of a merciful God can I still boldly come into His presence through faith in His Son, Jesus of Nazareth.
† For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’ Psalm 95:10
‡ How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the wasteland! Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel. Psalm 78:40-41
∼ The Feast of Tabernacles gives us every reason to rejoice and sing for joy because salvation belongs to our God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The same God of Israel who turned the bitter waters of Marah into sweet rivers of blessing; who led the people of Israel to the springs of Elim; who provided their daily ‘bread’ in the form of manna; who kept His oath and brought them into the Land of Canaan – ‘for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them’ (1 Corinthians 10:4) and that same spiritual Rock 1280 years later now stood before them in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The Apostle John writes: ‘Not until halfway through the Feast (of Tabernacles) did Jesus go up to the Temple courts and begin to teach’. John 7: 14
∼ During the Second Temple era and at the time of Jesus, an important part of the seven days Feast was the water pouring ritual on the altar of bronze known as the Water Libation Ceremony, also known as Nissuch Ha-Mayim in Hebrew. One reason the water libation ritual was so popular was the accompanying ceremony of the water drawing, which took place at night. This water was taken from a spring just east of Jerusalem called the Spring of Gihon. King Hezekiah later redirected the water of this spring into the city of Jerusalem through a long underground conduit known as Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Within the walls of Jerusalem, the waters of Gihon ran into a pool named the Pool of Siloam. Each day for seven consecutive days, a priest would draw an urn of water from the pool and carry it through the Water Gate. Once inside the city, they paraded the urn of water and walk up a ramp leading to the bronze altar located in the Temple Court and pour the jug full of water into a bowl that drained into the altar accompanied by a choir singing the Hallel Psalms 113-118. On the last and greatest day, they would march seven times around the altar before pouring the water.
† The ceremony of the water drawing was a jubilant occasion. As the ceremony took place, Levite’s played lyres, trumpets, harps, cymbals, and other instruments, while other Levite’s sang. In the Temple area, three golden candlesticks nearly 75 feet high were lit by young boys climbing tall ladders, and the light from these candlesticks could be seen throughout all Jerusalem. As the ceremony progressed through the night, the priest blew the shofar three times. In the manner of the text of Isaiah 12:3, “Therefore, with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation,” the evening was characterized by exuberant joy and celebration.
† Come and Drink from Me!: On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus of Nazareth stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” John 7: 37-38 ‡ The question the children of Israel asked Moses by the waters of Marah nearly a thousand years earlier, “What are we to drink?”, had eternal, cosmic implications. Here stood the Savior of the world offering an eternal blessing of salvation for those who would repent and believe in Him as the Messiah who had come. The Lord was speaking aloud about the coming outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all mankind. For those whose hearts would turn in repentance to God and believe in His Son, streams of living water would flow out from within them, an eternal spiritual “Elim” that not only provided living water but shelter and protection as well.
∼ Through the Holy Spirit we experience the inexhaustible fountain of life in Christ. Is the sin in our lives blocking the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from our lives to bless others? Are our hearts gone astray like the people of Israel and turned away from God so that we have quenched the Holy Spirit in our lives? Are we still at the bitter waters of Marah and not reached our spiritual “Elim” and drink from the eternal spring of life, Jesus? Jesus of Nazareth stood and said in a loud voice: “Come to me and drink.” WHAT IS OUR RESPONSE?
∼ What Are We To Drink?: This morning, let us draw near with faith and receive this promise that as long as we drink from the spiritual rock Christ Jesus of Nazareth, we too, like the children of Israel, can hear His loud voice calling in the Temple Courts and stand amazed and respond: ‘How marvelous, How wonderful, And my song shall ever be. How marvelous, How wonderful, Is my Savior’s love for me!’ Amen!
♦ Reflect: Isaiah 44: 3, KJV: For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:
Sunday, October 12
BITTER SWEET COMMUNION – Feast of Tabernacles, Part 4
“…for I am the LORD, who heals you.” Exodus 15: 26
The LORD draws us apart from the ways and passions of the world for one purpose: To deal with our hearts. This separated place is not to be a paradise but a wilderness because there will be nothing to take our attention from God. Solitude and afflictions bring more people to themselves and to God and there is no other means that can do this. † It is only by enduring that we learn to endure. Trials and tribulations by itself works unbelief and rebellion. Only by the grace of God that our trials and troubles work patience in us. Patience is a gift of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5: 22) and we have to really want that gift from the depths of our heart before we can receive it from God.
Because of disobedience and rebellion from hardened hearts, many of the people of Israel died in the wilderness of the desert and did not enter Canaan rest. Only Joshua and Caleb survived that generation and were blessed to enter Canaan rest. Today, the Scripture warns us to ‘hear His voice and do not harden your hearts’ (Hebrews 4:7-11) so we may enter the Sabbath-rest of God prepared by the way of the Cross of Christ for the people of God. Yet, we will endure much testing and trials in this life so that our lives become a highway of holiness through which many others will come to know the saving grace of God through faith in the Spiritual Rock, Christ Jesus of Nazareth, who accompanied the people of Israel through the wilderness journey. ‘…for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 1 Cor 10:4
∼ Jehovah-Rapha: I am the LORD, who heals you: The Feast of Tabernacles reminds us of the God of Israel’s protection, provision, and care during the forty years wilderness journey. † Healing is a central theme throughout the wilderness journey. It is best understood and approached as if one is visiting the High Dependency Ward in a General Hospital for the first time. As the accompanying doctor, I take you through all the acute beds and I show you the various horrible diseases inflicted on the patients – leprosy, plagues, boils, infected wounds – and as we exit the ward I tell you that the LORD God of Israel will not bring such suffering on you and me…if…if we do what is right before His eyes and obey His laws and commands. Will we listen and obey His instructions? This is what happened to the people of Israel.
They have just crossed the Red Sea and seen the mighty work of the LORD God destroy the Egyptians before their eyes. They had witnessed the various horrible diseases and plagues inflicted upon the Egyptians. Now they were a free people, free to worship the only one true, living God of Israel. The ministry of music and worship is given birth on the banks of the Red Sea when Miriam (Aaron’s sister), with a tambourine in her hand and together with all the women, starts to sing ‘The Song of Moses’ to the LORD (Exodus 15: 20-21). But their singing would soon turn to testing of their hearts. † ‘Then Moses led the people of Israel into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter‘ (Exodus 15: 22-23). Then the people grumbled against Moses. Even though they were led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night revealing the presence of God with them (Exodus 13:21), yet they believed what their eyes could see: No water in sight! And the LORD tested them in the dry and thirsty land and said:
“If you listen carefully to the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.” Exodus 15:26
† The heart of God is revealed here as a gracious God who HEALS FIRST in compassion and love. Jehovah-Rapha – The LORD Who Heals – God does a miracle first and quenches the thirst of His children first before laying down His command and decrees to walk right before Him. Jehovah-Rapha reveals his gracious concern about Israel’s physical health. They saw God heal the bitter waters, making them fit to drink. Here in Marah, which means “bitter”, God showed Israel that the LORD was the source of all health. ‘and the LORD showed Moses a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet’ (Exodus 15:25). Sweet to the lips of the children, to the elderly, to the sick, to the weary, to the tired, to the feeble and lame – two million odd people including 600,000 thousand fighting Israelite men who would have grown weak. What a gracious Father in heaven we serve; long suffering, full of compassion and faithful even to the faithless.
† Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water. Exodus 15: 27
∼ From Marah to Elim: From Bitterness to Blessing: Did the grumbling Israelites know that there is a place called Elim in the Desert of Shur? An oasis of twelve springs and seventy palm trees ready to provide shade to the weary sojourners in the wilderness (Exodus 15: 27). The Scriptures even tell us the number of springs and trees provided by Jehovah-Jireh – The God Who Provides. This was truly a bitter sweet communion between the people of Israel and the Holy One of Israel. From the bitter waters of Marah to the springs of Elim!
As I look back at my own life’s struggles and bitter waters, much of it is due to the plague in my own heart and of my own doing against the heart of God. Yet, the Lord has always turned the trials into sweet experiences of knowing Him more and drawing closer to God. The trials and wounds remain as scars of history but His story through our lives continues and there will always be a spiritual “Elim” where God refreshes and restores health in us to continue to serve Him only. Our duty and calling is to trust in the Lord and lean not in our own understanding of the circumstances of the ‘bitter waters’ that we are in. Patience will leads us to the source of all life, Jesus of Nazareth. Amen!
Saturday, October 11
SEE YOUR WAY IN – Feast of Tabernacles, Part 3
Do not forget the LORD your God…Deuteronomy 8: 11
∼ Deuteronomy 8:1-20, NIV: Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the LORD promised on oath to your ancestors. 2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. 4 Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. 5 Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you. 6 Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in obedience to him and revering him. 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land—a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills. 10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
11 Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 He led you through the vast and dreadful wilderness, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. 16 He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. 17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. 19 If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.
∼ As God’s offspring, children of the resurrection, there is only one way into the promised inheritance of God: Obedience to the commandments of God that comes from a heart that is in total submission to the Lordship of Christ Jesus of Nazareth. The people of God stand at the threshold of entering into the promised land that God swore He will give to them and we learn from Israel’s history that there are no exceptions to holiness: Without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
∼ The Leader, Moses dies: The man appointed by God to bring the Hebrew people out of captivity, out of slavery, out of bondage into Canaan rest was himself to die and not be privileged to see God fulfill His promise to His people Israel. Moses had just received one of the greatest commissions in history to be God’s instrument to deliver the nation of Israel and guide it to the Promised Land. Yet, the LORD’s anger burned against Moses when he grumbled that he could not speak (Exodus 4: 14). The LORD wanted to kill him because he was disobedient in not circumcising his son (Exodus 4:24). And then again in the desert, Moses disobeyed God by smiting the rock for water and paid the price of disobedience by forfeiting his destination of entering into Canaan rest. † THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS TO HOLINESS. To remember the wilderness journey is to first remember how God prepared the life of Moses to be a highway of holiness through which God could bring redemption to millions of people.
∼ Forty years behind schedule: Why? What could have taken eleven days from Kadesh Barnea into the land of Canaan took forty years because Israel hardened their hearts and departed from the ways of the LORD (Hebrews 3:7-11; Psalms 106: 13-33). Because of their rebellion they fell short of Canaan rest that God had promised them. There were rich blessings to be had in keeping the commandments of God, in honoring Him and in walking in His ways. But there were dire consequences when they transgressed those commandments or set aside the worship of God or espoused the way of the heathen in the land they were entering in. Moses admonished them that when they are settled comfortably and enjoying the fat of the portions of the land: † DO NOT FORGET THE LORD YOUR GOD. While prosperity and poverty had slain the thousands, prosperity and pride had slain tens of thousands. Bill McDaniel.
∼ The Song of Moses: Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock of his Savior – Deuteronomy 32: 15
Jeshurun is a poetic name for Israel which means upright. Yet despite all the blessings, Jeshurun abandoned God. I know in my own life, I have been like Jeshurun. As I read Deuteronomy Chapter 8 this morning and reflect on the wrath of God during the wilderness journey, it is so easy to forget that there is a day coming when all the rejoicing will be over and all the fat portions will fall away and decay. What is left is the ‘heart recordings‘ kept in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12) that the man appointed by God, Jesus of Nazareth, will read and call to judge. The God of Israel has given us His word so that we may act justly, love His mercy and walk humbly before our LORD God Yeshua.
During this season of rejoicing, let us together ‘Try to Remember’ the abundant goodness and mercies of God in our lives and never ever forget the LORD our God, even through all our trials, afflictions, blessings and even our prosperity. Remember only to follow the ways of the LORD. Amen!
♦ Reflect: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20; Hebrews 3: 7-11
Friday, October 10
SEE YOUR WAY OUT – Feast of Tabernacles, Part 2
Out of Egypt I called my son. Hosea 11:1, NIV
FEAST OF TABERNACLES: Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice. Deuteronomy 16:15, KJV (Wednesday Evening, October 8 through Thursday Evening, October 16)
Since I started my Gratitude Journal (GJ) on July 8th, three months ago, I am amazed at how much I can remember and recall the events in my past years through the enlightening of the eyes of my heart to know the hope of my calling: out of Egypt into the kingdom of light. I know the year, the date, the day, the time, the place this spiritual event occurred and what that one week of inexplicable joy meant to me.
On Wednesday, February 22nd 1995 at 5.30 am in Lucky Heights, Kota Kinabalu, I received the gift of the Holy Spirit. I was enveloped in the most incomprehensible baptism of ‘fire’ that “opened” my eyes to see my way out from death to sin into life in Christ. My heart was ‘burning’ from within me and I knew I was set free – free from captivity, free from bondage to the slavery of sin, free from darkness of the soul into the light of life. I remember going to work in the hospital on “fire” for God. But was it all a season of rejoicing these past years since 1995? An emphatic No! There have been many seasons of rebellion because of the plague in my own heart and only by the mercies and grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ I am still able to come into the presence of the living God and beg for mercy lest I be disqualified to continue to serve God .
† We live within a meta-narrative. The ‘Exodus from Egypt’ story is our story…my story. The spiritual Rock that has accompanied us through these many years as sojourners in the world is Jesus of Nazareth (1 Corinthians 10:4). We must ‘see our way out’ of the old life, our spiritual “freedom”, not by our own strength but by the resurrection power of God. Until we see ourselves free from our modern day afflictions of our own ‘Egypt’ – our troubles, anxieties, sinful desires of the flesh and worldly passions – set free by the power of the victory of the Cross of Christ , we cannot rejoice in the presence of the Creator God and Father in Heaven during this season of Tabernacles. The biblical Feast of the Tabernacles follows after the Passover Feast that reminds us of our first taste of sanity from captivity as slaves in ‘Egypt’.
Brocha Taub writes: The Talmud teaches, “In every generation, one must see himself as if he went out of Egypt.” The word in Hebrew for Egypt is Mitzrayim — the archetype of all of our former existence as peoples enslaved by Pharaoh in Egypt several thousand years ago. However, before one can see himself as if he went out of Egypt, he must first perceive that he is, in fact, in Egypt.
Think: How many of us, before we were set ‘free’, considered the fact that we were powerless over our addiction, but found some way to rationalize it? How many times were we confronted with the consequences of our actions, but denied we needed help? How many of us insisted we could handle things on our own, that we could control our problem? The rock-bottom induced realization of our utterly limited nature became our first taste of sanity. Recognizing our human condition — admitting our powerlessness — was a revolutionary adjustment of perspective that, for the first time, created a real ability to ‘see our way out’ from ourselves. Our first true step into spiritual “freedom” became our first real step out of Egypt. As such, it’s apparent that the key to “going out of Egypt” lies in the very recognition of one’s nature of being, actually, in Egypt. Again, the Talmud teaches: “In every generation, a man is obligated to see himself.” In that moment of rigorous honesty, when the illusion of ourselves as master gives way to our powerless existence as slave, we will be freed, today.
† Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure: Isaiah 46:8-10, KJV
∼ This morning as we reflect on the saving grace of God in our lives, let is remember the former things of old and give thanks to God. The Feast of Tabernacles is a powerful testimony of the risen Savior of the world, Jesus of Nazareth and that God in His mercy ‘now commands all people everywhere to repent’ (Acts 17: 30). Throughout the week of this season of rejoicing, we effect the simultaneous revelation of opposites: a season of rejoicing and a season of rebellion and I pray this week will humble our hearts to allow God to search those areas that hinder us from doing His will and be blessed. Amen!
Thursday, October 9
“WHERE IS THAT MAN?” – Feast of Tabernacles, Part 1
“Where is that man?” John 7: 11
Joy is the fruit of the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22). Not happiness and not “lol” used in SMS text messaging. There is a holy “trinity” of three words that envelope the whole concept of biblical joy and that is: blessing, delight, fruit. This is best expressed by the psalmist in Psalm 1: Blessed is the man…who delights in the law of the LORD…he is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season. Whatever he does prospers.
† “Where is that man?”: The Lord Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of the law of the LORD. Speaking to the crowds gathered on the mountainside by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus declared, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” Matthew 5: 17, KJV To delight in the law of the LORD is to take delight in the one from God who came to fulfil the law, and that is the LORD Jesus Himself. The blessing to be God’s offspring, chosen by God, is to joyfully obey the command of God and do His will: to bear fruit, fruit that will last (John 15:16).
∼ The Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near (John 7:1). The disciples were anxious that Jesus display his miracles to the world so the disciples in Judea could see that he is from God. Yet, some of the Jews were waiting to kill the Son of Man in Jerusalem. “Where is that man?” Jesus is the reason of the season of delightful joy: rejoicing in the blessings of God. Real joy can only be found in the presence of God and in His word. Jesus is the absolute source of joy. † To joyfully do the will of God is to prosper in the blessings of the work of our hands. The Scripture promises that “Whatever he does prospers.” Deuteronomy 16:15.
† The essence of the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles is to rejoice knowing the man Jesus of Nazareth as both our Lord and God. He made us, as we are His. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. (Psalm 100:3) Our response in this season of rejoicing is to do the will of God. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives for ever. 1 John 2:17 To follow after the ways of the world, and seek after the desires of the flesh, under the power of Satan, brings death and destruction. This is the unholy “trinity” of the cost of disobedience to the laws of God. † The season of rejoicing must be understood and juxtaposition against the season of rebellion against the Holy one of Israel. Both have eternal consequences. Life and Death. Because of sinful, unbelieving hearts, the people rebelled against God in the wilderness and God swore on oath they will never enter into His rest (Hebrews 3: 7-19).
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure: Isaiah 46:8-10, KJV
The Feast of Tabernacles is one of the “pilgrimage” festivals listed in Leviticus 23. It commemorates the Exodus from Egypt, the construction of the Holy Tabernacle, and the forty years of wandering in the wilderness of the Sinai desert. During that time the Hebrew people could see the Presence (Shekinah) of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob dwelling in their midst: a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21). † The Apostle Paul writing to the church in Corinth warned of learning from Israel’s history and journey through the wilderness. The source of all their blessings, provisions, protection and deliverance was Christ Jesus of Nazareth:
† And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4
† Where are you? Do you know the man Jesus of Nazareth? Do we really know Jesus of Nazareth as both Lord and God? Just as the Jews in Jerusalem at this time nearly two thousand years ago were looking for the man Jesus with the intent to kill the Son of God, I am reminded of the same question the LORD God asked Adam in the Garden of Eden after they had disobeyed God: Where are you? (Genesis 3:9) Can we respond?: I am here Lord, have mercy on me.
Yes, this morning, as we enter into a week of rejoicing in the Feast of Tabernacles, let us first remember the goodness and mercies of our loving God and Father in heaven. Let us remember the things of long ago and be thankful with a grateful heart. We cannot rejoice nor understand the reason for this season until we see the risen Lord Jesus as God the Provider, Jehovah Jireh, through all these years as pilgrims sojourning through this world. Where is that man? He is the risen Lord Jesus of Nazareth and the Lord reigns in you and me! Amen!
♦ Reflect: John Chapter 7, Hebrews Chapter 3
Wednesday, October 8
FOOLS FOR CHRIST – Part 2 – Judgement
“My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” 1 Corinthians 4:4
Every patient that visits my clinic has to fill out a Registration Card and in one of the columns is this question: Your Religion? My nurse has been given strict instructions to notify me if these words are entered: Atheist, None. Before the consultation begins I address this column first, of course, with the patient’s permission! The conversation nearly always goes like this:
Me: “So, I notice you have no religion”. Patient: “Yes.” Me: “Do you believe there is ‘good’ and ‘evil’? Patient; “Yes Doctor, definitely.” Me: Then you believe there is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’? Patient: “Yes, definitely.” Me: Are you a good person? Patient: “Of course! I try to do my best but of course I think I am always good!” Me: “OK. So you have a conscience, right?” Patient: ‘Yes, of course.” Me: “WHO PUT IT THERE?” Patient, after a slight pause: “Must be God- lah!” (lah– is a Malaysian slang word) Me: “Then you must believe “There is a God.” I would then spend a few minutes how real God is and then introduce the patient to the man Jesus of Nazareth. † Conscience has only one purpose and direction: It points all mankind to the Creator God who has appointed a man to judge the world with justice (Acts 17:31).
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. Psalm 14: 1
† Conscience records differently in different people. Whatever the recording, it is always followed by JUDGEMENT. ‘Preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight, they will be life for you,..’ Proverbs 3:21-22
∼ A very close relative of mine after reading the GJ October 6 reflection titled ‘Playing the Fool’ asked me, “Are you calling yourself a ‘fool’ then? Without a hesitation I said, “Yes!” I explained the number of times I have acted and behaved as if ‘There is no God’ only to realize that I have sinned against no one else but God. In Psalm 51: 4, King David of Israel, after committing adultery with Bathsheba, cries out to God from under the weight of conviction of his conscience and soul: Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
The Apostle Paul speaking to the intellect in the city of Athens in his sermon on Mars Hill declared under no uncertain terms that the living God who created the whole world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and the earth. “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28 † Oswald Chambers writes: Conscience is that faculty in me which attaches itself to the highest that I know, and tells me what the highest I know demands that I do what is expected of me. It is the eye of the soul which looks out either towards God or towards self. Conscience is the gateway to life in God or eternal death and destruction separated from the living God.
† The Battle Ground of Conscience: If conscience is the eye of the soul, then that is the battle ground of conflict between the Spirit of God and the lust of the works of the world, the flesh and the devil (1 John 2:15-16). It is the battle ground between the ‘fool for Christ’ who loves God and the foolishness of the one who loves the world. This is the war against the soul that the Apostle Peter warns us to be aware and guard our hearts against: I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; 1 Peter 2: 11 A ‘fool for Christ’ will steadily face himself with God and his conscience will always be under the obedience of God’s law that is written in his heart by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit of God.
∼ The point is, will I obey? † Cain hardened his heart when his conscience was confronted by God Himself but turned away towards the lawlessness of his own heart (Genesis 4: 7). Judgement cost him his inheritance as the first born and total separation from the presence of the living God. † Saul rejected the counsel of God through the prophet Samuel and built himself a monument to glorify himself (1 Samuel 15:12) instead of yielding his conscience to his Creator God, repent and serve his God as the king of Israel. Judgement cost him the kingdom of Israel, his family and ultimately Saul took his own life.
If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 1 Corinthians 3:18
∼ The liberty of conscience that Christ Jesus reigns and rules in our hearts and minds is the liberty of realizing the dominance of Jesus of Nazareth as Lord of all life. To ‘become a fool’ for Christ means obedience to do the will of God which is always good, pleasing and perfect. The love of God means Calvary and it is at the foot of the Cross of Christ where all fools for Christ must meet and surrender our conscience to the living God. May the Lord grant us mercy and grace to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly. Amen!
∼ If Jesus is not LORD of ALL, He is not Lord at all! Lysa Terkeurst
♦ Reflect: Philippians 2:12 ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling‘.
Tuesday, October 7
FOOLS FOR CHRIST – Part 1 – Carnality
If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. 1 Corinthians 3:18
There is a difference between intellectual darkness and spiritual darkness. To gain scientific knowledge to overcome my intellectual darkness, I can feed my intellectual curiosity by reading books, surfing the internet, attend scientific meetings and gain knowledge through learning. But to overcome spiritual darkness, only the power of the Holy Spirit of God can give me the ‘Spirit of wisdom and revelation to know God better and through the eyes of my heart I may be enlightened in order that I may know the hope of God’s salvation in Christ Jesus’ Ephesians 1: 17-18. This wisdom in Christ Jesus is foolishness to the world and to those who are perishing for rejecting the word of God and the message of the Cross of Christ.
† Carnality is a sign of being worldly and deceitfulness is a symptom of carnality. The Scripture reveals that ‘the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?’ Jeremiah 17: 9, KJV. Only God, who knows the heart of all men and gives to each man what he deserves (1 Kings 8:39). No natural man on earth understands carnality because he belongs to the world and is an enemy of God. For everything in the world – the signs of carnality – lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life – comes not from God but from the world (1 John 2: 16). The evidence of carnality is when the carnal nature of a Christian desires what is contrary to the Spirit of the living God and the Spirit desires what is contrary to the carnal nature of man. † That is the proof of carnality and is the difference between being a fool in the world and totally separated from the presence of God and becoming a “fool” for Christ who lives by the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:16-21).
† Intellectual darkness comes through ignorance but spiritual darkness comes through disobedience.
† Deceitfulness is proof of carnality. The LORD reasoned with Cain: “If you do what is right will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4: 7 Cain followed after the lawlessness of his heart. He yielded to the carnality of his flesh and deceit in his heart and his disobedience to turn to God resulted in his total separation from the presence of God. The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception. Proverbs 14:9
† Saul builds a monument to glorify himself instead of honoring God with his life and ministry.
Saul’s admission of playing the fool is interesting (1 Samuel 26:21). The Scripture reveals the dialogue between the prophet Samuel and Saul. In 1 Samuel 9:19, Samuel invites Saul to eat with him and ‘in the morning I will tell you all that is in your heart’. And at daybreak as they walked together to the edge of the town, Samuel spoke to Saul and gave him a message from God. Then Samuel anointed Saul as leader over the kingdom of Israel and his inheritance (1 Samuel 10:1). later as Saul was about to leave Samuel the prophet, GOD CHANGED SAUL’S HEART. † Yet, pride and disobedience destroyed the heart of Saul to turn away from God. What did Saul do to earn the wrath of God and lose his inheritance of the kingdom of Israel to David? PRIDE and SELFISH AMBITION – Saul built a monument to honor himself instead of obeying the word of instruction from God through the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 15:12). Jealousy, hatred, malice, slander, deceit, anger, discord, witchcraft (1 Samuel 28 – Saul and the Witch of Endor) was proof of carnality (acts of the sinful nature: Galatians 5:19) that Saul rejected the wisdom of God and chose the way of the world.
∼ The golden rule for becoming a “fool” for Christ is not intellect but obedience to God. Are we “fools” for Christ or are we ‘playing the fool’? I know because of the plague in my own heart I have been both. There is this constant struggle between the things of this world and the things of God and only by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can I come before the Cross of Christ and beg for mercy and wisdom from God to act justly, love mercy and continue to walk humbly as a “fool” for Christ. The lives of Cain and Saul are examples of choosing foolishness and deceitfulness according to the lawlessness of the heart. ‘But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Galatians 6:14) Amen!
Monday, October 6
PLAYING THE FOOL
“I have sinned:..I have played the fool,…” 1 Samuel 26:21
As I write this morning’s study in my Gratitude Journal, I am aware of the seriousness of the title the Lord has purposed in my heart for today: Playing the Fool. As I look back over the past years, there are so many issues in my life that I just wished I had been more serious and taken extreme diligence to guard against so that physically I would be much healthier, financially I would be much more secured than now, and spiritually I would be much more wiser. Had I not played the fool, I know the situations that I was in the past years and are currently in now would have been much more different. I would be on safer ground and certainly spiritually stronger having gained a heart of wisdom and understanding against conforming to the seductions of modernity and patterns of the world (1 John 2:15-16).
Spiritually however, I could cover up all those many instances I know in my heart ‘I played the fool’ and just seek refuge in ignorance and self-denial and again term them as innocent ignorance (GJ October 5) or I could come face to face with God, repent and plead for mercy saying, “I have sinned: …I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.” These are the very same words of admission spoken by the first king of Israel to the one he was pursuing in his heart, mind and soul to kill as recorded in 1 Samuel 26: 21:
Then said Saul, I have sinned: return, my son David: for I will no more do thee harm, because my soul was precious in thine eyes this day: behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.
The question is: Was king Saul of Israel’s admission of wrongdoing sincere and truthful? Was he deeply remorseful and truly sought the forgiveness of David before the presence of the LORD God of Israel or was he just playing the fool ?
Saul, thirty years old, had all the makings to be a good, powerful king anointed by God. In 1 Samuel 10:9, God changed Saul’s heart and prepared him for kingship over Israel. He came from a well- respected family. His father Kish, from the tribe of Benjamin, was a mighty man of good standing and valor (1 Samuel 9:1-2). Saul too was a strong man and the people of Israel were more concerned about his outward physical stature than the condition of his heart. They wanted a man to be their king who would seek after their own hearts and not after the heart of God. The prophet Samuel even went further to assure Saul that God was with him and the Scripture reveals that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Saul in power (1 Samuel 10:10; 11:6). He was blessed with the gift of prophesy and was even more blessed to be in the company of the prophets of Israel and valiant men ‘whose hearts God had touched’ 1 Samuel 10:26!
Yet, even with all these ‘credentials’ that the Most High God of Israel was with Saul in power and might, the first display of foolishness of heart was at the time of his coronation and appointment to be chosen king. Saul was found hiding himself among the baggage (1 Samuel 10:22). Second display of foolishness was confirmed by the prophet Samuel himself. Saul was given strict instructions to wait upon the LORD God before attacking the Philistines at Gilgal but again, his heart turned away from trust in God to fear of failure and defeat. “You acted foolishly” declares the prophet Samuel. The result of his disobedience was Saul lost the kingship over Israel. Playing the fool in Saul’s life grieved the heart of God. Later Saul built himself a monument to honor himself for the victory over the Amalekites. Pride is the forerunner of destruction. Proverbs 16:5 The LORD detests all the proud of heart. be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel: ”I am grieved that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” 1 Samuel 15: 10. And the prophet Samuel declares the word of the LORD to Saul “For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.” 1 Samuel 15:23
† Lawlessness of the Heart: The door for deceit, vengeance, jealousy, hatred, malice, and unforgiveness entered into the heart of Saul the moment he disobeyed God and followed after the lawlessness of his own heart. That is the result of playing the fool with the gift of being chosen as a child of God. Saul imagined that David was a malicious enemy plotting to seize his throne, so he took with him 3,000 of his most valiant men to hunt him down and kill him. He humiliated David in front of all his own men and accused him of wrong doing. God knows the heart of all men. At the end of his life, the LORD God turned away from Saul. † The price of playing the fool was total separation from the living God and Saul fell on his own sword and took his own life.
∼ Let us pray in our hearts for the fear of the LORD to reign and rule in our hearts always. Obedience brings forth the mercy of God. The key to unlock the glory of God in our lives is repentance from a heart that is focused on serving and doing the will of God only. Amen!
♦ Reflect: 1 John 2:17: The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives for ever.
Sunday, October 5
A FOOL’S PARADISE
“Out of the heart…” Matthew 15:19
This week I bought a new bike and yesterday evening I went for my first ride along a new walkway for both joggers and cyclists by the Likas Bay area near our condominium. It was fun changing gears and I felt this ‘youthful enthusiasm’ infectious until I nearly went off the pathway on to the rocks on the left of the cycling path while trying to adjust the music on my mobile phone. I quickly jammed my brakes, took a sigh of relief and immediately tried to think in which category of fools was I in? The point I am trying to make is that I trusted my innocent ignorance of being competent enough to ride my bicycle at the same time adjust my mobile knowing full well that this was my first cycle ride after fifteen odd years. A fall could have been nasty for me especially since I am taking blood thinners after my open heart surgery three years ago.
† So too in our Christian walk. We ‘mature’ from being a simple fool (stage one) to an unreasonable fool (stage three) because we begin by trusting in our ignorance and we call this innocence. Then we continue acting unjustly, lacking any good sense of judgment, and in the name of innocent ignorance we then call it purity. To add insult to injury, when we are corrected and reprimanded at the reactionary fool stage (stage two) we retort saying we never felt we had crossed over any spiritual boundaries at all because of innocent ignorance. We resent what the Scripture reveals, we resent the word of God on Sunday morning and continue living and acting as an unrepentant, unreasonable fool until our sin finds us out and we fall miserably into a planet full of broken-world people. (see GJ October 4 – A Fool’s Day)
The Bible is full of fools. Cain was one of them. The depraved condition of his ‘heart disease’ had progressed on to stage three: An Unreasonable fool. As I study the heart of Cain this morning, I am humbled in fear at the dialogue between the LORD God and Cain. Cain was a hard-working man who ‘worked the soil’ Genesis 4:2. His offering of some of the fruits of his labor was not looked upon favorably by the LORD who instead blessed the sacrifice of Cain’s brother Abel. Cain exhibited all the emotions and reactions of a reactionary, pratin fool (stage two) – jealousy, anger, malice, hatred and deceit was already in his heart plotting evil schemes against his brother Abel. Proverbs 12: 20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil.
† But the LORD God who knows the hearts of man reasoned with Cain: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Genesis 4:6-7 So many times I have heard the promptings of the Holy Spirit warning me about the danger of continuing in sin and unrighteousness before God but I still continue to love the foolishness of deceit because of the plague in my own heart. Only by grace can we come to the foot of the Cross and beg for mercy through repentance to our Lord. Had Cain repented and turned away from the evil desires of his heart and submitted to the authority of the LORD God, the end result might have been different. † But instead the Scripture reveals the end result of the heart of ‘An Unreasonable Fool’: Total separation from the presence of the living God (Genesis 4:16). Cain killed his brother Abel and the LORD put a curse on his life. There was no more fruit from his labor to ‘work the soil’ and he lived the rest of his life as a restless wanderer in ‘A FOOL’S PARADISE’. Proverbs 17:24 …but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.
† Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. 2 Corinthians 7:10
∼ Jesus Christ is the sole authority of the human heart. Am I prepared to trust His authority and Lordship in all areas of my life or do I prefer to trust in my innocent ignorance? † As long as I live in the refuge of ignorance, I am living in a fool’s paradise.
“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed.” Acts 17:30
This morning, let us prayerfully read this portion of Scripture spoken in prayer by the king of Israel who wrote the book of Proverbs, Solomon son of David. Let us pray the Lord Jesus will grant us a heart of wisdom and understanding to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God: 1 Kings 8: 38-40 “to whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by anyone, or by all Your people Israel, when each one knows the plague of his own heart, and spreads out his hands toward this temple: then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways, whose heart You know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men), that they may fear You all the days that they live in the land which You gave to our fathers. Amen!
♦ Reflect: Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
∼ 1 Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Saturday, October 4
A FOOL’S DAY
As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly. Proverbs 26:11, KJV
Fools: The word FOOL, FOOLISH or FOLLY occurs ninety-six (96) times in the book of Proverbs. The word ‘fool’ occurs seventy-seven (77) times in the English bible, forty-three (43) of them occur in the book of Proverbs. The reason this has happened is because one has departed from the Word of truth and instructions from the Lord in walking right before a holy God.
† The nature of being a fool is best studied as a disease of the heart. It reflects the plague in our own heart and can only get worse – from an Acute stage of SIMPLE INFECTION to a Chronic stage of GANGRENE and DEATH.
† The book of Proverbs was written by Solomon son of David, king of Israel for the purpose of attaining wisdom and discipline in order to live a prudent life in the fear of the LORD; doing what is right, just and fair. The key is ‘in order to’ and any other road taken would lead us to ‘disorder’ and destruction. This morning’s meditation is directed to the plague in my own heart and I pray the Spirit of God would enable me to listen, discern, learn and understand the sayings and riddles of the wise. I will be sixty-three years old next month and I am still learning to walk right before God. The Scripture warns me that ‘the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God‘ 1 Corinthians 1:18. ‘Being saved’ is a life long process of discipleship to walk after the Lord Jesus of Nazareth and into Christ-likeness.
∼ Proverbs speaks of three (3) different kinds of fools: We are sinners because of who we are not because of what we do. By nature we are depraved and need to discern what the Word is teaching us this morning to allow the Holy Spirit to create a heart of wisdom.
♦ Firstly, A Simple Fool: Being ‘simple‘ is not evil. This is where a child starts out. A ‘new’ Christian may start out as one and we can stumble and fall many times but the word of God teaches us how to get up and shake the dust off our feet and continue walking in the faith. Sometimes, even being sixty years old, we can still act and behave as a simple fool and lack judgement. Irrespective of age, one can still be a simple fool and deserve the rod of correction before the foolishness gets bound up in the heart and leads us to the next level of fools.
Proverbs 22: 15; KJV: Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
Sometimes we want to stay as ‘simple fools’ and just don’t want to grow up in the faith! † The danger is that we will begin to love those simple foolish ways. Proverbs 1: 22: How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? It is at this stage when we have to make a conscious choice to reject the simple mindedness and foolish ways and seek after the wisdom of God in the word of God. WHY? Because ‘they shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay (kill) them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.’ Proverbs 1: 31-32 Even at this acute stage 1 of being a simple fool and turning away from the word of instruction can result in death and destruction. † The greatest danger to a simple fool is moral impurity. It is at this early stage of the disease that we inherit folly (foolishness; lack of good sense; lack of good judgment) Proverbs 14: 18; 15:21. Treatment: Listen, discern the word of God and be crowned in prudence and live in safety in the house of the LORD (Proverbs 1: 33). Yes, listen, God is calling you and me and ALL ages: Hear His voice:
Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man. O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. Proverbs 8: 4-5
If we still cannot hear the voice of God and turn to God in repentance because our lives are too loud and full of our simple foolish ways of the heart, then here is the result: A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. (Proverbs 22: 3)
♦ ♦ Secondly, A Reactionary Fool: A ‘reactionary‘ fool is one who is attracted to those who are openly doing what they secretly desire to do in their hearts. This is a stage of deceitful foolishness. Just because someone is acting foolishly and you know it is wrong in the eyes of God and you find yourself following after their foolish ways, that is a reactionary fool. Such a fool rebukes Godly wisdom and turns away to follow the ways of the world (1 John 2: 15-16). There are spiritual ‘stocks’ and ‘nooses’ (Proverbs 7:22) and a ‘fowler’s snare’ (Psalm 91:3) that have only one purpose: death and destruction to our lives. Like an ox is taken to the slaughter, a reactionary fool is now taken to the stocks for correction and imprisonment. He is now trapped in his own folly.
† The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall. Proverbs 10: 8; KJV- A prating fool is one who rejects and disregards spiritual boundaries. I have been guilty of this and even when instruction has been given by others to stop and turn around, I have continued in the ways of a prating fool and fall I did as a result of lack of sound judgement and good sense! A reactionary or prating fool brings trouble to himself and to his family and all around him (Proverbs 11: 29). The only inheritance is the wind of destruction.
♦ ♦ ♦ Thirdly, An Unreasonable Fool: An ‘unreasonable‘ fool stands to no reason at all. He rebukes all instruction, departs from the ways of the Lord, and all his judgments are without reason. He will quarrel, get angry when corrected or advised, and provokes the wrath from others. Stone is heavy and sand is a burden, but provocation by a fool is heavier than both. Proverbs 27: 3 This is the endstage of the disease which is now ‘CHRONIC’ and if not corrected will lead to GANGRENE and eventual DEATH of the soul. Though you grind a fool in a mortar, grinding him like grain with a pestle, you will not remove his folly from him. Proverbs 27: 22
† † An unreasonable fool is now in a state of chronic endstage disease where ‘every inclination of the thoughts of his heart is only evil all the time’ (Genesis 6: 5) and the heart of God is now grieved and the Spirit is quenched in his soul. This type of fool is now a servant of lies and deception and believes that prosperity in this life is the way to succeed. ‘…and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.’ Proverbs 1:32
Lastly, Proverbs 17: 24 states: A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth. There is no end in sight except the saving grace of a merciful God. Thank God for the Cross of Christ. Even to the ends of the earth, the Lord promises to reach out to anyone, even an unreasonable fool ‘whose eyes wander to the ends of the earth’, to save through the power of the message of the Cross of Christ.
∼ Was yesterday ‘A Fool’s Day’ for you? How grown up am I spiritually? Yesterday was ‘A Fool’s Day’ for me. I have acted as one on many other occasions too – spiritually, emotionally, verbally, physically and only by the grace of God I have been able to come before the Lord and acknowledge the plague in my own heart and seek forgiveness through repentance from a foolish heart at the mercy of a gracious God.
I started this morning’s Journal because of the fear of the LORD in view of my foolish behavior and actions yesterday. If that means growing up and out of my foolishness spiritually, praise God. Let us pray for more of the fear of God in our lives so we may act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with our Lord and Savior Jesus of Nazareth. Amen!
♦ (This morning’s reflection and study is from a sermon by Pastor Reg Kelly at Liberty Faith Church titled: Fools)
♦ Reflect: Luke 12: 13-21 – The Parable of The Rich Fool
Micah 6: 8: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
Friday, October 3
BY THE RIVERS OF BABYLON
But how can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? Psalm 137:4
In 1978 I had just completed my internship training as a medical doctor in the General Hospital, Kuala Lumpur. The disco era was in full flight and the pop group Boney M was hitting the waves. ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’ was on the lips of practically every one, including mine, and this hit song brought out all the moves and grooves from just about any age group that I can remember. Written and recorded by two Jamaican songwriters, the song was a cry against oppression and a plea for freedom from captivity in a repressive society under an unjust government system. The lyrics of the song was taken from Psalm 137: 1: By the rivers of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.
I did not know the heart and mind behind the composers of this song and their deep struggle with oppression and repression in their own country but what I did know as a young doctor very much in the world, that the song and tune just about rocked the world! † And rocked the world it did for the people of God, the children of the Kingdom of Judah. They were a people with a broken-world experience; unprepared when it happened, disarmed as it did happen, and terribly shaken with remorse and despair after it happened.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? Psalm 137: 1-4
∼ By the Rivers of Babylon: Psalm 137: 1-4 expresses the lamentations of the Jewish people in exile following the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Previously, the Kingdom of Israel, after being united under Kings David and Solomon, was now split in two. The Kingdom of Israel to the north was conquered by the Assyrians in 722 BC and the Kingdom of Judah, home to the tribe of Judah and part of the Tribe of Levi was free from foreign invasion until the Babylonians swept through their country. The Babylonians conquered the people, burned Jerusalem, tore down the holy Temple of the LORD, and had taken captives of the people of Judah back to Babylon.
† How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you,…Psalm 137: 4,6
∼ Tongues and Harps: There by the rivers of Babylon, the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the captives, people in exile, people in a strange and foreign land mourned for Jerusalem, the holy Temple and their worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As Christians, ‘Babylon’ is symbol of the world system. Apostle Peter, writing to God’s elect refers to believers as ‘strangers in the world’. To conform to the patterns of the world is to live ‘in exile’ and under the influence of the world, the flesh and the devil. 1 John 2: 15-16 teaches us that ‘If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man (lust of the flesh), the lust of his eyes, the boasting of what he has and does (the pride of life) – comes not from the Father but from the world.
† When our hearts are in ‘Babylon’, in the dominion of darkness and ‘in exile’, apart from God and held as ‘prisoners of sin‘, we are unable to praise and worship God because praise starts from the heart that is in total submission to God. The people of Judah mourned for the chance to worship God. Their hearts were tormented because they were ‘in exile’ in Babylon, in captivity, in oppression and unable to worship their God with their tongues. When they remembered Zion and the unfailing love of being in the presence of the Holy One of Israel, their tongues would cling to the roof of their mouths and they hung up their harps unable to play their instruments and worship God.
† I hung up my harp: So often we find ourselves held “captive” in a difficult situation as if we are in a “foreign land” or deceived by the pleasures of the world, the flesh and the devil that we “hang up our harps” unable to worship God in spirit and in truth. This past year I was taken “captive” where the powers of this world rule and reign. I hung up my harp. My tongue would cling to the roof of my mouth and I found myself unable to worship God. I found myself sitting on the banks of the “rivers of Babylon”, totally separated from the God of my salvation. How I mourned to return to the arms of my loving Father and seek His forgiveness. Only the Father knows the heart of a grieving son but God’s grace is sufficient to bring us back to the Lord, and cleanse the holy temple within us to worship God again.
∼ Do you find yourself in “a foreign land” and unable to make music for the Lord? Have you hung up your harp? Do you feel this morning that you are sitting by the “rivers of Babylon” longing to return to the heart of a loving, living God and Father in heaven? † Only a person with a broken-world experience can feel the passion and lamentations of the heart while sitting by the “rivers of Babylon” totally separated from the heart of God. When we acknowledge the plague in our own hearts and find ourselves “captive” to the pleasures of the world and have sinned before the Lord, Godly sorrow brings forth repentance leading to salvation. Let us pray this morning that the mercies of God will deliver us from the “rivers of Babylon” and grant us a clean heart and steadfast spirit to praise God with music that pleases God and exalts the Name of Jesus of Nazareth our Lord and God. Amen!
♦ Reflect: 2 Corinthians 7:10: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
Thursday, October 2
TONGUES AND HARPS – Reflections on Psalm 57
My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. Awake up, my glory; awake, psaltery and harp:..I will awaken the dawn. Psalm 57: 4-8
I have studied, prayed over and dissected Psalm 57 under the microscope to get a real feel of the heart of the man David son of Jesse and his conversation with both his own soul and with the heart of God while hiding in a cave from King Saul (1 Samuel 24). Psalm 57 has become my ‘footprint’ and shadow of my own life’s turmoil and struggle and it is from this Psalm that the title of this blog and Gratitude Journal AWAKEN THE DAWN has taken its root from.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. James 3: 9
∼ Tongues and Harps: With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings: I am guilty of this a hundred fold! The tongue is an instrument of righteousness that God created so man would seek after the heart of God and with a fixed, steadfast heart worship God with their tongue. Praise and worship begins from the heart (GJ September 30) but because the heart is deceitful and desperately sick (Jeremiah 17:9), we can also curse with our tongue. When the heart has sinned before God by an unkind word spoken against a friend or loved one, or we are in a state of remorse and sadness overwhelms the soul, it is almost impossible to worship God and the result is silence as if the tongue is stuck against the roof of the palate and unable to move.
David was a musician from youth. As a young shepherd boy, he would sing and worship God with his harp. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him and David blessed the Lord with the talents God had given him. Saul engaged the sweet singer of Israel to sing for him (1 Samuel 16:21). Yet, there was slander and deceit in the heart of Saul and he inflicted much damage and humiliation on David even to the point of wanting to take his life. With three thousand armed men carrying swords and spears, their verbal slander, insinuation, falsehood and ridicule was more painful than poisoned arrows. (1 Samuel 24:10-12)
† Yet, even in the midst of the ‘lions whose souls were set on fire to kill him’ Psalm 57: 4, David was able to ‘lie’ down and take rest as his soul took refuge beneath the shadow of the wings of God. David knew WHO GOD IS and that the weapons set against him will not prosper, including the terrible instrument of the tongue. On the blade of every spear and every sword was this inscription: It shall not prosper. Once he acknowledged the plague in his own heart before his sovereign God, his heart was now fixed in repentance and ready to worship God. Even before the light of day, he got his instruments of praise ready, his harp, his lyre, his men, all gathered before the God of all creation to worship and give thanks and praise: Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth.
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgement thou shalt condemn.- Isaiah 54: 17
† The Apostle James explains this in James 3:11: Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? Proverbs 4:23 teaches us to ‘Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life’. Matthew warns us in Matthew 15:18 that ‘the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them’. † But our Lord Jesus said on the last and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles,” Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” John 10: 38
∼ This morning, as we awaken the dawn and a fresh day begins in our life’s journey to make peace with God, let us pray that our tongues will always sing praises of thanksgiving from a grateful heart that is full with the springs of living water, the Holy Spirit, that comes only from a forgiving, merciful, gracious God. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth, always and forever more. Amen!
♦ Reflect: James 3; Matthew 15: 18-19
† (‘Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart’ is the first song I played at 6..00 am on the balcony of our condominium at Lucky Heights, Kota Kinabalu, on the morning of my baptism of the Holy Spirit on February 22nd 1995 at 5.30 am. The journey continues to allow the Spirit of God to fix the plague in my own heart so I can sing this song with a clean heart and blessed tongue to worship God in spirit and in truth. Amen!)
Wednesday, October 1
AWAKEN THE DAWN WITH A NEW SONG – Reflections from Psalm 57
Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Psalm 57: 8-10
Anyone needs a new song? I do! What better time in the day than to AWAKEN THE DAWN WITH A NEW SONG, to wake up early in the morning and have a new song in your heart to bless the Lord. The Scriptures begin with the words of the LORD: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. † The first order of creation was the separation of the light from the darkness that was already ‘over the surface of the deep’. And there was evening, and there was morning – the first day (Genesis 1: 3-5). Even before the two great lights were created on the fourth day – the sun and the moon – there was first the first day of creation and the separation of light from the darkness. This, I believe, is the condition of the heart even before we see the breaking of dawn in the morning. † Spiritually, only our Creator God can separate the light from the darkness of our soul through His word because ‘God is light, in Him there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5). Only God can create a fixed heart, prepared and ready for worship.
† Praise begins from the heart. Before we meet with God, the heart must be emptied from all darkness and the light of the Word of life must so fill the soul to begin afresh to praise and worship the LORD with a new song. Only the power of the Spirit of God can write the lyrics of a new song in our hearts because if God is the composer of the new song every morning, the only response is…to sing for joy… because joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit of God. What is important is to sing a new song of faith, hope and love in the Lord Most High, the Creator who orders into being all of life that has breath because we serve a living God.
∼ In the depths of despair, in the darkness of his soul, King David of Israel trusted in the faithfulness of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Elohim – the Name of God as Creator and Judge of the Universe – to save him from the utter chaos and turbulence in his life. Elohim, the Creator of evening and morning, night and day, would also bring judgement on all evil in man and in this world. Declaring his innocence before King Saul and before the LORD, David called out to Saul, “May the LORD judge between you and me. ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you” 1 Samuel 24:13-14. David knew that judgement belongs to God. He had every reason to trust in the saving grace of the Most High God to grant him mercy and spare his own life from the danger that surrounded him.
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
† God’s faithfulness begins afresh each morning. David knew that and the Word of God confirms the attributes of God to each of us every morning, without fail. In joyful expectancy for God to act and send forth from heaven His mercies and grace to intervene supernaturally, David’s heart was fixed, in a state of preparedness, ready to meet with the LORD. Being the sweet singer of Israel, he mobilized the talents God had given him, got his instruments ready, the harp and the lyre, and started to awaken the dawn with praise and thanksgiving with a steadfast spirit within him. David wanted his praises to not only be heard among the six hundred men who were in his company but wanted the Name of God to be exalted among all the nations till the heavens!
† When we trust in the Lord’s faithfulness to usher in the dawn of each and every morning as created by our Creator Himself, we are assured that God will intervene in our impossible situations with His grace and mercies afresh every new day. We can depend on it! Our response is to ready our hearts afresh with a new song of praise every morning and AWAKEN THE DAWN with all our talents and blessings as we offer our lives as a living sacrifice to please God. Great is Thy Faithfulness O God! Amen!
♦ Reflect: ∼ Psalm 108