And His Name Shall Be Called…

…Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

These are the names attributed to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6. I have read these words many times. I have sung them and heard them sung by others. Today, the Lord wanted me to really think about what they mean.

Wonderful Counselor. Jesus is a source of guidance for us. His words provide us wisdom and counsel. And, since we read in John 1:1 that Jesus is the Word, that applies to every word of the Bible. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is our guide. He shows us how we should live. As the Word of God, He is a light to our path. Jesus truly is a Wonderful Counselor.

Mighty God. Jesus is the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. Through Him, all things were made. Although He was born as a human child, with all of the frailties we humans have, He was also God incarnate. He has the power to heal and the power to restore. Even in His earthly form, He was able to heal the sick, raise the dead, restore sight to the blind, and enable the lame to walk. He defeated the powers of darkness. Jesus is a Mighty God.

Everlasting Father. This name puzzled me a bit. Jesus is the Son of God. The Father is the first person of the Trinity. So, how could Jesus be the Everlasting Father? As I thought about this, I was reminded of what Jesus Himself has told us. He said that He and the Father are one and that the person who has seen Him has also seen the Father. Jesus points the way to the Father. As part of the triune God, Jesus is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is eternal. Jesus is the Everlasting Father.

Prince of Peace. Jesus brings us comfort and peace. When we seek Him through any trials and tribulations that we face, He brings us peace. In John 16:33, Jesus tells us that in this world we will have trouble, tribulations, and trials, but in Him we have peace. Why? Because He has overcome the world. Jesus reigns and He is the Prince of Peace.

Thank You, Lord, for Your Word, for Your Son, Jesus. Thank You that He is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

Does God Cry?

“Does God cry?” That was the question asked of us by our worship pastor at a choir rehearsal one evening. One response was that we know Jesus cried (John 11:35) and, since Jesus is one with the Father, then the answer must be yes. But, Jesus was also human. Couldn’t it just be the human part of Him that cried? Another response was that, since man was created in God’s image, and we know that man cries, then God must cry also. When the discussion ended, we had come to the conclusion that Goes does cry.

The next day, I decided to search Scripture for an answer to this question. While I could not find a Scripture that said definitively that God cries, I did find one that hints to it: Genesis 6:6. In that verse, we read that, due to man’s rebellion, God was sorry He created him. In one version of the Bible, it says that it broke His heart; in another it says that He was grieved in His heart. I pulled out my thesaurus and discovered that a synonym for the word “grieve” is “cry.” So, if God grieved, it is quite possible that He cried.

I would like to believe that, when we cry, when our hearts are broken or we are grieving, God cries along with us. Since God loves us, it makes sense that He would cry with us. A song by the Gaither Vocal Band says that when we cry, God cries, and when we hurt, God hurts. I believe that is true.

The Bible tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart. Since we know that to be true, wouldn’t it stand to reason that, if David cried, then God must cry, too? 1 Samuel 30:4 says that David and his men wept aloud to the point where they had no strength left to weep any more. 1 Samuel 20:41 says that both David and Jonathan wept together, but it was David who wept the most. So, I believe in my heart that God does cry.

Quiet Time with God

This morning, I read a devotion about spending quiet time with God. I am blessed to be able to do this on a daily basis. For the past several months, I have made it a regular part of my day to spend time with God. My day doesn’t feel complete until I do.

The Holy Spirit reminded me today that spending time with someone with whom you have a close relationship is important. Spending time with that person is vital to making the relationship grow. But, it should also be something you desire.

I am blessed to be married to a wonderful woman. Our relationship is important to me and so is spending time with her. It is something that I desire greatly. I love every minute that I spend with her. Nothing makes me happier in our relationship than just being with her. We don’t need to be doing anything special. Just the fact that she is there with me is enough.

That is what a relationship with the Lord should be like. We should look to spend time in His presence, happy just to know He is near. Psalm 16:11 says that fullness of joy is found in the Lord’s presence. I can say “Amen!” to that as it has become very true for me. I feel joy when I spend time with Him–worshiping Him, talking to Him, listening for what He has to say to me, or just sitting in His presence.

I read Matthew 6:6 today and found it to be very enlightening. Jesus says that, when our Father in heaven sees what is done in the secret place (our quiet time with Him), He rewards it openly. I have seen the truth of these words in my own life. As I have spent time in the secret place, God has rewarded me by enabling me to touch others with the thoughts He gives me. That is a true reward!

Thank You, Lord, for Your presence in my life!

God’s Love Never Fails

Nothing can separate us from God’s love. His love never fails. It never ends. That is a thought that is beyond wonderful!

Romans 8:38-39 tells us that there is nothing that can separate us from His love. Nothing in heaven and nothing on earth. Not death, not life, not even the powers of hell. In the New Living Translation, it says that not even our fears for today or our worries about tomorrow can separate us from God’s love for us.

That is a very comforting thought! When we look at the things going on in the world today–things like terrorism and natural disasters–it is easy for us to fear for today and, most certainly, to worry about tomorrow. But there is one thing that we don’t need to fear, one thing that we don’t need to worry about, and that is God’s love. God has told us in His word that nothing can take that away from us.

As I meditated on Romans 8:38-39, the Holy Spirit brought another verse to my mind, Hebrews 13:8, which tells us that Jesus is the same today as He was yesterday and He will be tomorrow. He never changes. The same is true for God’s love. It never changes, never fails, and never ends. How amazing is that? Thank You, Lord, for Your love that never fails!

Then God Said… and There Was

Then God said… and there was.

God’s word is powerful. In the story of Creation, for six days God spoke and the world was created. He didn’t need to hire contractors, landscapers, or scientists and ask them to put it all together. He simply spoke and it came to be. When God said it, it was!

God has given us His word as a manual for life. Psalm 119:105 says that His word is a lamp for our feet and a light to help us to see our path. It helps us to see the way in which we should walk so that we don’t get lost and we don’t stumble.

The word of God is also a powerful weapon. When we are faced with temptation or when we are under attack from the enemy, our best defense, our best plan for overcoming, is to use the word of God. But, for it to be truly effective, it must be in our hearts. We need to read it and allow it to live in us. We need to do what it says. And, we need to cling to it.

Jesus used the parable of the sower (Luke 8:1-15) to explain that the word of God must take root in us so that the Kingdom of God can grow. The key for us here is allowing it to take root. When we simply hear the word, but don’t allow it to take root in our hearts, the enemy can come in and just take it from us. If the word is not deeply rooted in our hearts, it also makes it easy for temptation to cause us to fall away. If we don’t cling to His word, the cares and pleasures of life will try to crowd it out and keep us from maturing in our faith. But, when we hear God’s word and cling to it, when we allow it to take root in us, our lives can be used to produce a great harvest for God’s Kingdom.

Scripture tells us that God’s word is alive and powerful (Hebrews 4:12). He has provided it to us so that we can grow in our faith, stand firm when adversity comes, and be molded more and more into His image.

How Much Am I Worth?

How much am I worth? What is my value as a person? I have some talents, I am fairly intelligent, I have a nice house and car, a beautiful wife and family. But none of these things reflect my true value. My value is not in things, in people, or in possessions. So, what is my value and what determines it?

I once read in a devotion that there are two things that determine value in life. The first is the price someone is willing to pay for something. The second is who has owned something in the past. God’s word tells me that I have been bought and paid for by Jesus Christ, which means I belong to Him (1 Corinthians 7:23). So, my value is determined by the fact that I belong to Him. He paid for my life with His own.

When I consider what I cost Him, when I think about the price He paid, how can I not feel valued? Jesus is the Son of God, a part of the Trinity, He is King of Kings and Lord of lords, and yet He was willing to pay the greatest price for me. So that I could belong to Him, He paid for me with His life.

Lord, I thank You for what You did for me. You paid for me with Your life. You gave me value by dying for me. I belong to You, Lord. I am Yours. Amen!

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

During our worship time this morning, my wife, Linda, and I sang a few Christmas carols, one of which was “Joy To the World.” I thought about the lyrics we were singing, particularly “let every heart prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing,” and I was led to read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth. After reading them, I sat and meditated on what I had read. Now I’ve read these passages in Matthew and Luke many times before, but something really stood out to me as I read them today–the reactions or, I should say, the response of the people involved in the story.

First, there were the angels. After the angel messenger appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of the Savior, Jesus, the sky suddenly filled with a whole army of angels, a heavenly choir, who began lifting their voices in praise (Luke 2:13-14). The hearts of the angels were filled with excitement over the coming of the Savior. That excitement just poured out of their hearts as they sang their praises to God.

Then, after hearing the words spoken to them by the angel messenger and witnessing this heavenly worship service, the hearts of the shepherds were so filled with joy and wonder that they just dropped everything, left their flocks, and hurried (they didn’t take a leisurely stroll, they ran!) to Bethlehem so they could actually see what the angel had told them was happening there (Luke 2:15-16). After seeing Jesus, their hearts were filled to overflowing and they told everyone they knew about it and returned to their flocks praising God (Luke 2:17-18, 20).

Mary had the response that only a mother could have. After witnessing the visit of the shepherds and their response to Jesus, Mary quietly tucked all of these things that happened into the scrapbook of her heart, where she treasured them and thought about them in years to come (Luke 2:19).

And, of course, there were also the wise men, the Magi from the east. These men of great wealth and knowledge had studied the prophecies and read the signs in the heavens. Their hearts were filled with the desire to see the child born to be king of the Jews, so they packed up their things and followed the star which led them on their long journey to see Jesus. When they reached Bethlehem and saw the child, they recognized who He was and their hearts filled with reverence. They bowed down and worshiped Him, then presented Him with gifts worthy of a king (Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11).

The Christmas season is a time to reflect on the wonderful gift that God has given us in sending His Son, this tiny baby born in a manger, who would grow up to sacrifice His own life so that we could have eternal life. My prayer, not just for myself, but for us all, is that the joy of Christmas will fill our hearts and that we will open our hearts to prepare Him room. Let our hearts never be like the inn at Bethlehem and have no room for Him.

Desire

The Lord has been speaking to me today about desire. When God created man, He placed in him the ability to experience feelings and emotions. He enables us to give and receive love, to feel joy, happiness. He even enabled us to feel sadness and anger. God also placed within us the ability to feel desire. I believe that His intent was for us to desire Him, to want to be close to Him and to live in a relationship with Him. But, like so many other things, desire became corrupted by the fall of man.

The definition of desire is “to long or hope for.” Desire can be good or bad, depending on the motivation of the person experiencing the desire and what is being desired. So, what does God’s word say about desire?

For one thing, desire is a heart issue. In Matthew 6:21, Jesus said that our heart’s desires are dictated by what we treasure. If we treasure earthly things, then that is what our hearts will desire, but if we treasure the things of God, our desire will be for them. This doesn’t mean that all earthly things are bad. God does want us to have our heart’s desires, but He wants us to desire Him first. Psalm 37:4 says that those who delight in Him will be given their heart’s desires.

The Lord wants us to produce fruit for His Kingdom. In the parable of the seed in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, the seed represents God’s word, His message of Good News. This parable tells us that if we allow worries, wealth, or the desire for other things (seeking the things of the world over the things of the kingdom) crowd out the word of God in our lives, then we will bear no fruit (Mark 4:19).

So, what should we desire? We should desire God. We should desire a relationship with Him, desire to spend time with Him, desire to worship Him and praise Him. We should also desire the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:31). We should desire to do what pleases God (Philippians 2:13). And, of course, we should have a desire for the word and the ways of God.

My prayer today is that I will always desire to seek the Lord and His righteousness above all else.

"Why Do You Praise Me?"

God asked me today, “Why do you praise Me?

As I reflected on this question, the first thought that I had was, “Because You are worthy to be praised.” Now, if I were a contestant on Family Feud, I would probably be hearing, “Good answer! Good answer!” But my heart was telling me there is more to it than that. Searching God’s word, I found some answers to the question of why we praise God.
We praise Him because Scripture commands us to. There are numerous verses that say this, such as Psalm 150:1, which begins with the words, “Praise the Lord!” Those words appear over and over again in the book of Psalms. So, God’s word clearly tells us that praising Him is something we are supposed to do.
We praise Him because we have been created to do so. In Isaiah 43:21, God tells us that the people He created (that would be all of us!) were created so that they may proclaim His praise. God created us and breathed life into us. We should use that breath to praise Him.
We praise Him because it is good to do so. We see this in Psalm 92:1, which tells us that it is good to both thank Him and praise Him.
We praise Him because He is enthroned in our praise. He inhabits the praises of His people. Psalm 22 says that God is enthroned in the praise of Israel. As children of the living God, we desire to meet with and spend time with our heavenly Father. Praise allows us to do that because, when we praise Him, He is there.
And, of course, my initial answer is most definitely one of many reasons as to why we praise Him–He is worthy to be praised! There are many references to this in His word, but the one that stood out to me was Psalm 48:1, which says that God is great and worthy of praise.
Lord, thank You for creating me to praise You. Thank You for giving me the breath that allows me to sing and shout Your praise. Help me to praise You always, no matter what circumstances I find myself in. You are holy, Lord, and worthy to be praised. I praise You with all that I have, Lord, and I pray that my praise is acceptable to You, Father. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

God So Loved…

In preparation for Christmas, I have been reading some Advent and Christmas devotionals. This morning, as I was reading one, I heard a voice in my head saying, “God so love the world.” That phrase kept repeating and it got me thinking. That is the reason for Christmas. God loved us so much the He sent His Son to earth in the form of a tiny baby.

As I reflected on this, scenes from the life of Jesus on earth starting playing in my head. It hit me that, throughout that time, our enemy Satan tried very hard to prevent Jesus from accomplishing His mission–to free us from the bondage of our sin and restore our relationship with God. Satan knew that this was Jesus’ mission and could see the writing on the wall. If Jesus fulfilled what God sent Him to do, not only would we be freed from sin, but he would be defeated. So, the enemy of our souls tried his best to prevent it from happening.

First, he tried to create scandal by preventing Joseph from taking Mary as his wife because she was with child. Joseph planned to quietly divorce Mary. But, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to calm his fears and explain that the child Mary was carrying was the Son of God. In obedience to God, Joseph took Mary as his wife (Luke 1:18-25). Scandal prevented, Satan thwarted,

When Jesus was born, Satan tried using King Herod to end Jesus’ mission. Herod had learned of Jesus’ birth and knew that the prophecies spoke of a new King who would be born. Realizing that Jesus was that King, Herod tried to preserve his own reign by having the child killed. But, once again, an angel of the Lord spoke to Joseph in a dream, warning him about Herod’s plot. Joseph took Jesus and Mary and fled to Egypt (Luke 2:13-18). Catastrophe averted, Satan thwarted again.

Years later, when Jesus began His ministry, Satan decided that he would take it into his own hands to destroy Jesus’ mission. When Jesus had spent forty days and nights fasting in the wilderness, Satan appeared to Him. Knowing that Jesus would be weak and hungry, Satan tried to tempt Him. Temptation had worked with Adam and Eve in the garden, so Satan, the father of lies, must have figured it was worth another shot. But Jesus leaned on God’s word and resisted Satan’s attempts (Matthew 4:1-11). Temptation avoided, Satan thwarted yet again.

Then came the day of the cross. Satan likely rejoiced, watching with glee as Jesus was tried, beaten, scorned, and then nailed to a cross to die. When Jesus gave up His last breath, Satan probably thought he had won. After all, Jesus was dead. But, the enemy’s celebration was cut short three days later when Jesus, the Son of God, our Savior and Deliverer, rose from the grave. We were freed from the bondage of our sin. Mission accomplished, Satan defeated!

Thank You, Lord, for this reminder that the joyous event we celebrate on Christmas, the birth of Your Son, is ultimately about the cross. It’s about Your great love for us that was shown by giving Jesus to die for us while we were sinners and totally undeserving of it. In Jesus’ name. Amen!
 

Let Freedom Ring!

Let freedom ring! Freedom is a word that we hear in many songs, especially patriotic ones. We cherish our freedom. In our nation, we enjoy many freedoms. But, are we truly free?

True freedom–freedom from the bondage of sin–comes from God and it is given to us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Freedom was the goal in Jesus’ coming to earth as a man. In Luke 4:18, Jesus proclaims that He came to set the captive free, to give freedom to the oppressed. Throughout His ministry, He set many people free from infirmities.

But the greatest freedom He gave was freedom from sin. Through Him, anyone who believes is set free from the bondage of sin (Acts 13:39). He gave His own life as a ransom, paying the price for our sins. For that, we should be truly thankful. It is a freedom that we should cherish above all other freedoms because it allows us to have access to God’s presence, now and for eternity.

We should never take our freedom for granted. For one thing, we must not use our freedom as an excuse to sin (Galatians 5:13). We need to live righteously, standing firm against sin so that we don’t become slaves to it again (Galatians 5:1). We need to remain in Jesus’ word. His word is truth and He has told us that truth will set us free (John 8:31-32).

Jesus is the way, He is the truth, and He is the life. Our freedom is found in Him and, if we abide in Him and in His word, we will remain truly free.

Does God Answer Prayer?

Does God Answer Prayer?
Does God answer prayer? The answer to this question is a resounding “yes!” There are numerous verses in the Bible that confirm this. His answer may be “yes”, it may be “no”, or it may be “not now.” He may answer in a way we didn’t expect because He knows what is best for us. But, no matter what the answer looks like, the fact is that God does answer prayer.
While searching God’s word about prayer, a couple of things stood out to me. First, when we pray, we should seek God’s will, not our own. Jesus told us that God knows the things we need and we will receive them when we seek His Kingdom first (Matthew 6:32-33). In Matthew 6:9-13, when Jesus taught us how to pray, part of that prayer was to seek God’s kingdom and His will (“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done”). Jesus also told us that if we ask, we receive; if we seek, we find; and if we knock, the door will be opened. I believe that when we ask for God’s will, we will receive what we ask for; when we seek His will, we will find it. The result is that the door will be opened for His will to be done.
The next thing that stood out to me is that God’s answer to prayer requires action on our part. First of all, it requires persistence. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us that we need to pray continually. In Luke 18:1-8, Jesus told the story of the persistent widow who went before the judge for justice against an adversary. She kept on going to the judge, never giving up until at last she received what she asked for. The same is true for our prayers. We must cry out to God day and night and never lose heart.
The next thing required of us is faith. Jesus tells us, in Matthew 21:22, that we will receive an answer to prayer if we believe. And, in James 5, we read that a prayer offered in faith obtains the result that it seeks. God’s answer to prayer also requires obedience. We must abide in Christ and His words must abide in us (John 15:7). This doesn’t mean that we just need to memorize His words. It means we must live by them and be obedient to them.
Finally, God’s answer to prayer requires that we are not harboring unforgiveness. In the Lord’s prayer, we ask God to forgive us as we forgive others. Since Jesus gave us this prayer, forgiveness must be important. In Mark 11:24-25, Jesus tells us that, if we believe, we will receive what we ask for in prayer. But, He goes on to say that, if we hold a grudge against someone, we must forgive that person, so that God will forgive us. It is only when we do that we will receive the answer to our prayer.
Thank You, Lord, that You do answer our prayers. Help us always to believe, to forgive, to abide in Your word, and to seek Your will in everything. In Jesus’ name. Amen!

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