The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14 (HCSB)

 

 

 

The prophecies of the coming Messiah in the Old Testament were fulfilled with the miraculous birth of Jesus. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (HCSB). Jesus, the Word, became flesh. Jesus, God’s Son, has all the glory, grace, truth, and holiness of God. He came to earth and took up residence among us. In Hebrew, those words translate as He “set up a tent.” Jesus, the Messiah, is here!

Jesus in his holiness was both God and man. It is inconceivable to think God would become man and reside with us. Remember the Israelites feared His amazing glory at the base of the mountain when Moses presented the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20)? Remember that God allowed only the High priest to enter the Holy of Holies of the Temple where Yahweh resided? And only on certain holy days? And now God comes in the form of man? How can this be?

Our hearts are sinful (Romans 3:10-12) and yet God’s willingness to come to us demonstrates His love and grace to the fullest. 1 John 4:9 says, “God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (HCSB). Philippians 2:7-8 describes Jesus in this way, “Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross” (HCSB). Scripture is clear that God sent Jesus as the promised Messiah so we can have eternal life. John 1:11-12 reveals that God’s own people didn’t see that Jesus was the Messiah but that all those who believe in His name will become children of God. Jesus, the Messiah, is here! And He came for everyone!

Do you see that Jesus is the Messiah?  Your Messiah? If you don’t, ask yourself why. Could it be that you do not feel good enough for Him? None of us is really good enough and that is the essence of God’s unconditional love. God loves you just as you are. Oh, how He loves you! You are so special to Him and He wants you to live with Him forever in eternity. Don’t you? By accepting Christ Jesus as your Savior you can and will.

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame, for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13 (HCSB)

By Carol Jones


When I heard these words, I sat down and wept. I mourned for a number of days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

Please, Lord, let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and to that of Your servants who delight to revere Your name. Give Your servant success today, and have compassion on him in the presence of this man.

At the time, I was the king’s cupbearer. Nehemiah 1:4, 11 HCSB

Some days seem like we have too much to do. The pressures of life squeeze us into uncomfortable places and shape our priorities. Nehemiah was a man with many life pressures. What was the first thing he did when burdened by the disarray of the city of his people, Jerusalem? He fasted and prayed to God. He wept and confessed that he along with his people had sinned against the Lord and deserved the trouble they were encountering. He asked the Lord to move powerfully and lead King Artaxerxes to do something about the broken down walls of Jerusalem.

When Artaxerxes asked about Nehemiah’s sad countenance, he first prayed before uttering a word. Then, he offered Artaxerxes his petition and the king answered favorably, giving Nehemiah the supplies and the commission to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem. Suddenly, Nehemiah was the answer to his prayer! Soon he traveled to Jerusalem with supplies and a vision, relying on God.

Opposition came against the returned exiles as they rebuilt the walls so Nehemiah again prayed (4:4-5) and encouraged the people. As a result, God frustrated the plots of the opposition. In each crisis, Nehemiah led the exiles to pray together for God’s assistance and, each time, God protected them and the building proceeded. As a man of prayer, Nehemiah wrote: “But out of reverence to God … I devoted myself to the work on this wall.” Because he led with prayer and kept his eye on the goal of rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem, the job was finished in just 52 days! The people of Jerusalem began their celebration of the new walls with the devout prophet and scribe Ezra reading God’s Word—they feasted on God’s Truth before enjoying a celebration of choice food and drink!

The exiles experienced a revival under Nehemiah’s prayerful leadership. As a politically powerful person, Nehemiah humbled himself before God and repeatedly came in prayer, asking for God’s help.  At every stage of his life—cupbearer, builder, governor—we find Nehemiah in prayer. What is the first thing you do when you feel pressured by the demands of life, the troubles in our world, the hard places where you find yourself? Do you fret and worry or do you bend your knees in prayer, asking God to act mightily by His awesome power to accomplish His good work in your life? Lead on your knees! Like Nehemiah, come first to God in prayer allowing Him to provide the assistance and guidance you need in the midst of life’s pressures.

By Carol McLaren


“The final glory of this house will be greater than the first,” says the Lord of Hosts. “I will provide peace in this place”—this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts.  Haggai 2:9 (HCSB)

 

 

In our prophetic readings this week, we see Old Testament prophets looking forward to the promised Messiah who would bring peace, lasting peace, to a hurting world. That sounds like such a faraway concept to believers who live indwelt with the Holy Spirit; however, to these prophets and to us today, it was and is an amazing promise.

The temple the returning Israelites were rebuilding in Jerusalem was no substitute for the great temple of Solomon. Haggai was an old man who remembered Solomon’s grand temple and realized this new temple was but a shadow of the former one. However, God encouraged him and the others to keep building this new temple. Opposition from outside and the task itself were overwhelming and sometimes discouraging, but the Lord promised to be with them. The most amazing promise of all, however, was that the Lord spoke of an even greater and more glorious temple where He would grant peace. That greater temple is you and I! We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. God Himself promises to give peace to this place.

What kind of peace are we talking about here? Let’s start with a look at some of the last words Jesus spoke with His disciples. John 14:27: Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.”

We tend to consider the peace “the world gives” as an absence of hostility and strife among countries and people groups. A quick review of history, though, shows us that form of peace usually comes only after some terrible conflict and is always temporary. The peace “the world gives” can also be our daily personal attempts towards getting along with each other. We try to be peaceful and cordial and respectful in our responses to others, thinking we are making an individual contribution to a more peaceful world–but how often are these efforts in our own power and not God working through us? No, the peace “the world gives” is transitory and we cannot build our lives on it.

However, God repeatedly promises His people the gift of His peace, rest in His presence. The promised Messiah the prophets longed for, Jesus, promises this gift of peace. And, He says to you and me, “Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid.” Whatever you face today is not so big nor so scary that God’s peace cannot take care of it. The bills that keep coming, the troubles at work, the conflicts with family—whatever opposition you are facing today is nothing compared to this offer of divine peace from the heart of a loving God who knows just what you need no matter the situation. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit who indwells us, bringing us peace in every situation.

Won’t you take time today to trust Him for the peace you are promised in the Holy Spirit? Rest in His presence, knowing that He has already provided for all your needs.

By Carol McLaren


 “Then these men went as a group and found Daniel petitioning and imploring his God.

Daniel 6:11 (HCSB)

 

Expected to eat the king’s food, caught up in the midst of the king’s bizarre dreams, threatened with a fiery inferno and thrown into a lair of famished lions, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found themselves in a new and different world compelling them to make choices between compromise or faithfulness to God, even facing life or death. We’ve read this familiar story time and time again. We know what choices they made. But what about you and me? We too are in a world that’s not our own, faced with situations compelling us to make choices. Where will this world find us in the midst of tough decisions?

When people are looking for answers to the meaning of life and there is no one to provide them with any, where will you be found? Will you be found empty-handed–lacking answers found in God’s Word because you spent too much time filling your heart and mind with worry, doubt, and fear about the circumstances of life? Or will you be empty-handed because you were too busy chasing after the worthless and meaningless things the world has to offer?

When faced with a choice to live according to God’s Word or succumb to political correctness, will you be found compromising the truth for the sake of peace? Will you be found making high-pressured concessions for your loved ones or for the sake of your job?

When those who oppose you, whoever they may be, are hot on your trail, plotting against and trying to silence you because of your stance for Christ, will they find you hiding with a lowered voice? Or will you stop serving God out of fear for what might happen to you? When they try to trap you or find fault with you, where will you be found?

When the world is feeding you a daily portion of its world view full of corruption, subtle lies, and blatant immorality, where will you be found? Will you be found in line with your plate in one hand and fork in the other ready to devour whatever the world offers, growing weaker in your faith with every mouthful?

Because Daniel was found uncompromising at the King’s table, he was also found in the King’s court imparting wisdom from God (Daniel 1:8-16). God blessed him. Because Daniel was found ready with a word from the Lord, He was also found as ruler over the entire province of Babylon. God elevated him. Because Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were found choosing not to bow to an idol, they were also found unharmed by the fiery furnace. God preserved them. Because Daniel was found on his knees before the Lord, he was also found lying peaceably alive and well with the lions in their den. God protected him.

Faithful one, may the world find you uncompromising for His sake, standing boldly with the Lord, seeking and doing the will of God, no matter the cost! For, just as He was with Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, He is right there with you.

By Abigail George


Then I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they went. Therefore, say to the house of Israel: This is what the Lord God says: It is not for your sake that I will act, house of Israel, but for My holy name, which you profaned among the nations where you went.” Ezekiel 36:21-22 (HCSB)

 

Torn from the Promised Land, once beautifully flowing with milk and honey and now defiled by their own sin and disobedience, the children of Israel spent their days exiled in the land of the Babylonians. If there were cries of repentance and help to God, they could not be heard over the echoes of the nations’ scorn of the people, disdain for their land, and mockery of God’s Holy name. Loud and clear, over and over, God heard His name profaned among the nations and among His people. God was concerned about His name. Dare the nations say that it was by their own hands they captured Israel, thinking God to be puny and callous; that He had abandoned His own people? Dare His people say that He was forgetful, unrelenting, unjust, and had left them for dead? No! God would not have it!

Don’t be mistaken, God’s concern for His name is not a sign of weakness showing Him to be a petty God who is wounded by the latest gossip about who He is. God wants to protect His name, for in His name is His reputation, His character.

• His name is Holy. He will not let sin prevail in His presence (Ezekiel 36; 43:7-9).
• His name is Yahweh. He is the Covenant God. He has kept and will continue to keep the covenant He made with Abraham (Exodus 3:15).
• His name is Sovereign. He is sovereign over all–even Israel’s enemies (Ezekiel 25-32).
• His name is El Qanna. He is jealous for His people (Ezekiel 8:3; 23:25).
• His name is El Roi. He sees the condition of His beloved (Ezekiel 34:12).
• His name is Jehovah-jireh. He provides for His people even while in exile.
• His name is Jehovah-shalom. He brings peace (Ezekiel 34:25).
• His name is Jehovah-raah. The Good Shepherd (Ezekiel 34).
• His name is Jehovah-shammah. He is always there (Ezekiel 48:35).
• His name is Jehovah-rapha. The One who heals (Ezekiel 34:16)
• In His name is the Hope of Restoration. He will restore to His people what once was Ezekiel 33-48; 36:35).
• His Name is Love. He acts and moves in love–deeply and passionately to restore man back to Himself (John 3:16).

God could not allow His name to be profaned and so for His name’s sake, He responded to the plight of His people. He told them that He would bring them back to their land and restore it. He would cleanse and give them a new heart for His name’s sake. He would give them His Spirit and they would be His people and He would be their God. He would rebuild what was once destroyed and they would no longer be a reproach to the nations. It would not be because of any good and righteous thing they have done, but He would do this for His name’s sake (Ezekiel 36:24-38).

My friend, God loves you. He wants to heal and restore. He wants to rebuild that broken relationship, bring you back to that place of sweet fellowship with Him, soften that hardened heart, cleanse that area of sin in your life, and plant something brand new in you. He wants to destroy those strongholds and provide nourishment for your spiritual famine, for His name’s sake.

If it were for our names’ sake, our tough days would seem endless and filled with sleepless nights like never-ending storms; our difficult circumstances would look hopeless and the thought of joy restored merely a pipedream. If it were for our names’ sake, we would have died in our sin and be eternally cut off from the presence of God–never having the gift of salvation. Praise the Lord that for His Holy name’s sake, in the midst of our sin, He extended grace and mercy to us, through Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:8) For His name’s sake we are set free!

I will honor the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations–the name you have profaned among them. The nations will know that I am Yahweh”–the declaration of the Lord God–”when I demonstrate My holiness through you in their sight.” Ezekiel 36:23 (HCSB)

By Abigail George


“Thus I will establish My Covenant with you and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
Ezekiel 16:62 (NASB)

Grabbed by the locks of his hair, Ezekiel was taken up in a vision and brought to the seat of the idol of jealousy just outside the north altar gate of the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8:3). It was from there the Lord showed Ezekiel how Israel’s idols provoked Him to jealousy for Israel. As Ezekiel passed through the entrance of the gate, he noticed carvings of the animals the Israelites worshipped. He smelled the burning incense in the Temple and heard the men proclaiming God turned His back on them. He heard the women weeping for the god of Tammuz. He spied the men prostrating themselves in honor of the sun (Ezekiel 8:10-16). Because of all this and more, God kept his Presence far from the Temple. The idolatry kindled God’s jealousy and He sent messages through Ezekiel that He would destroy their idols and the Temple. His purpose was clear: “… you shall know that I am the Lord.”

God recounted to Ezekiel how He made Israel His bride and He was her Husband. How he adorned her with jewelry and made her beautiful. When she became prideful she went after other lovers. He reminisced how Jehovah perused His bride and set His mind to destroy her lovers. He disciplined her with redemption in mind:  “… you shall know that I am the Lord.”

Jehovah told of how He would destroy the city of Jerusalem and judge the inhabitants by what they had done. Each one would suffer for their sin. Nothing could stay the hand of judgment that was looming over them. The army was marching towards Israel and the famine was fierce inside the city walls. His goal was clear: “… you shall know that I am the Lord.”

Have you ever been jealous of someone? Felt that raw emotion of being tossed aside for someone new and exciting? Felt the sting of someone being selected for a position you thought you would be selected for? It is hurtful and makes one angry; being jealous of someone is a very human emotion but God is not jealous of anyone. He is only jealous for someone.

Have you let anything or anyone take the place of the Lord God in your life? Are you looking to man to provide instead of your Provider? Perhaps your career? Perhaps the prestige of a beautiful home in a beautiful neighborhood with a beautiful car parked out front have become the adornment in your life rather than the beauty of your spirit and your relationship with the Lord? Are you dwelling on something that is worthless in light of God’s provision for you? Are you trusting in anything that causes you to break the heart of God and incite Him to jealousy? God, through Jesus Christ, made a New Covenant to bring us to Himself. God is jealous for you and He will do whatever it takes to remind you that He is Lord.

By Karen Aker


“Am I a God who is only in one place?” asks the LORD. “Do they think I cannot see what they are doing? Can anyone hide from me? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?” asks the LORD.”
Jeremiah 23:23-24 (NLT)

 

God is omnipresent which means He is in all places at all times. He is both near (immanent) and far away (transcendent). How awesome and powerful He is! This attribute of God presents us with a sense of security that we are not alone.  This is also a warning to those who are not following faithfully that He knows all and sees all that they do. We cannot hide from Him.

In Jeremiah 23:23-24, God warns false prophets that He sees them and knows their ways. He did not send false prophets to proclaim His Word and yet they “ran” to tell a message to the people. He condemns them for not standing in His presence and council; if they had, their message would have been one calling the people to repentance (Jeremiah 23:21-22). These false prophets included leaders of the temple whom the people trusted to speak truth from God. As we know from the first chapters in the book of Jeremiah, he was called by God to be a true prophet. Jeremiah speaks against these false prophets many times and makes it clear their lives are corrupt.

Do we have false teaching today? Do we need to be careful what we listen to and believe? Yes, we do! Jeremiah’s prophecy in chapter 23, verses 5-6 proclaims that God would raise up a “righteous branch of David” to save the people – and He did! Jesus Christ, the Lord Our Righteous Savior, did come!  He was crucified for us, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, indwelling all who believe in Him with the Holy Spirit to guide us (Acts 1:2). Praise the Lord!

Those who believe need to listen to the Spirit to help discern when there is false teaching and to examine the Scriptures for the truth – God’s truth. Scripture is clear on recognizing false teachings. 2 Peter 2:11-17 is also a good passage to study on this subject.

Are you educating yourself in studying the Scriptures so you are aware of false teaching? How about what you are teaching? Are you careful to teach and live out the Scriptures correctly?  Are you aware, really aware, that God is omnipresent and sees your heart and all you do? Would this change some things you do in secret?

Psalms 139:1-3 states, “Lord, You have searched me and known me.  You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away.  You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways.”

Pray this verse to the Lord today and ask Him to help you.

By Carol Jones

 


“You, indeed, have made my days short in length, and my life span as nothing in Your sight. Yes, every mortal man is only a vapor.” Psalm 39:5 (HCSB)

Have you ever felt nameless among the giants of faith around you – a vapor? You look at women of God who are doing great things for the Lord and every time you turn around you’re hearing their names mentioned for doing this or that in ministry. Their lights seem to shine brighter than all others – than yours. When they experience adversity, you watch them overcome insurmountable obstacles. The favor of the Lord is truly on their lives. It’s as if you can hear God loudly calling their names.

I can’t help but wonder if there were those during David’s time who felt the same way. I think about those unnamed mighty men of valor who fought alongside David or those family members who were never mentioned but impacted his life in ways he himself didn’t even realize. But God knew them and He called their names.

David had three nephews who were spoken of – Joab, Abishai and Asahel (1 Chronicles 2:19-23; 1 Chronicles 3:26-27). They were warriors fighting at his side. These three nephews were the sons of Zeruiah, David’s sister. That’s the only description we find of Zeruiah in Scripture. We can, however, surmise that she raised three courageous sons who became brave and loyal soldiers. We don’t know if she spent many nights praying for them while they were at war, uncertain of how much danger they were in or if she would ever see them again. We don’t know if she had an influence on David’s life growing up. We just don’t know. But God knew her and He called her name.

We then see a random name mentioned right in the middle of a long list of Judah’s relatives – Jabez. We know that he “was more honorable than his brothers” (1 Chronicles 4:9,10). We also know that he called out to God and God answered his prayer. We are not quite sure who Jabez was and where or if he fits in with this extensive list of relatives. But God knew him and He called his name.

It’s very tempting to skip over the genealogies cited in 1 Chronicles 1-6. By the time you reach the third cousin’s nephew who has the same name as his great uncle, you have forgotten who you were reading about in the first place! I agree the genealogies can be very tedious reading. But don’t miss the beauty in the mention of these names. Each name is a person and each person is so very important to God’s story; every bit as important as the names you’re familiar with. They were fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers of people whom God used to do great (and sometimes seemingly small) things to accomplish His Grand Purpose. God knew each one of them – all their hurts, pains, gifts, talents, and purpose – and He called their names.

Even David sometimes felt nameless among the crowd – like a vapor. But God called David’s name and chose him from the sheepfold (Psalms 78:70-71). He has called your name, too, and written it in the Book of Life to spend eternity with Him. He has also called your name so that your life can inspire and make an eternal impact on others – maybe several; maybe just one special person. You are significant. Know it. Believe it. Yes, you, too, my sister in Christ, can say “He knows me and has called my name!”

By Abigail George


God's PresenceYet I am always with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me up in glory. Who do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strengthof my heart, my portion forever. But as for me, God’s presence is my good. I have made the Lord God my refuge, so I can tell about all You do. Psalm 73:23-26, 28 (HCSB)

As Asaph begins this psalm, he reminds himself that God is good to Israel. That was his logical side. At the time, Israel was living in captivity in Babylon, that magnificent and powerful ancient world power. As he looks around at the prosperity and power in this adopted godless nation, his heart begins to fail him. He asks the question that has plagued believers for centuries, “Why do the wicked seem to do so well?” It seems like the most prosperous, healthiest, wealthiest people are the most godless. They don’t figure God into their lives. They live carefree lives with no worries about sickness or trouble. Asaph’s heart begins to lead him astray, and he begins to envy the arrogance of the wicked as they oppress other people. Just as he begins to lose his perspective, Asaph enters the sanctuary of the Lord and his perspective changes. He understands that the wicked are not better off. These prosperous wicked people think they can live without God, but it is only an illusion of prosperity and well-being, not permanent. Their chosen path is easy to find, easy to travel, but Jesus says it leads to destruction. In fact, He says the way to the abundant life is narrow and only a few find it. Asaph understands that to live God’s way is to live differently from the world. He doesn’t need the world’s prosperity when he has the best—God’s presence.

Jesus tells a story of two builders. One builds on sand. His beautiful house goes up quickly, but when trouble comes and the storms of life beat against that house, it quickly collapses, totally destroyed. In contrast, the godly man builds his house on solid rock. No matter what storms come, the house stands firm because it is anchored in Jesus Christ. In faith, Asaph says, “Yes, I am always with you, you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel and afterward you will take me into glory.”

Which way is more secure, relying on the world’s promises or on God’s truth? Of course, relying on God is much more secure. On whom are you relying today? Does the seeming prosperity of the wicked keep your eyes off Jesus? Come away and spend time with Him and gain His perspective. When the world seems to careen out of control, Jesus is the only safe refuge. You can say with Asaph that even when “my flesh and my heart fail…God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever….God’s presence is my good.” Will you join Asaph in this praise today?

By Carol McLaren

For extra reading: Matthew 7:24-26


New yearThe boy Samuel served the Lord in Eli’s presence. In those days the word of the Lord was rare and prophetic visions were not widespread. 1 Samuel 3:1
The Lord continued to appear in Shiloh, because there He revealed Himself to Samuel by His word. 1 Samuel 3:21 (HCSB)

During the days of the judges, hearing from the Lord was rare. There were not many visions. Moses and Joshua had clearly communicated that God would bless the people if they continued to walk in obedience. However, if they disobeyed they would no longer enjoy the benefits and blessings of God and His covenant promises. The people lived in disobedience and God was largely silent. Things begin to change as God’s word comes to Israel through a godly priest named Samuel. God appears to Samuel, talking with him and revealing Himself through His word. The name of God in these verses is the covenant name, Yahweh.

What a contrast we see here between the chaos and anarchy of the era of the judges and the beginning of the monarchy period! Remember the cycle: disobedience, oppression, followed by their rescue by a God-appointed judge, followed by revival and peace, before complacency set in and the cycle repeated itself. That same cycle repeated over and over again. However, with the godly priest Samuel, God is “welcomed” back into the lives of the Israelites. I keep remembering the verses in Exodus 19:4-6 where God reminds the Israelites of what He did to Egypt with the plagues and how He “carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me.” God promises they they can be a treasured possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, but only if they keep His covenant and obey him fully.

Now with Samuel, Israel begins to see hope. As Samuel ministers before the Lord in Shiloh, the covenant God, Yahweh, continues to appear to him, talking to him, revealing Himself and His truth. Samuel had to be yielded and listen. God revealed Himself through his word.

Where do you stand as this new year begins? Will you sit quietly and listen to the Lord? Will you patiently wait to hear from the Lord? Join me in this prayer: “Lord, as I meet with you each day, may I wait patiently, not running ahead just hoping you will catch up with my agenda.”

In the days of the judges the phrase “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” keeps ringing in our ears. We do not want the chaos of the judges in this New Year. May we wait patiently to hear from the Lord by the Holy Spirit through His Word, the Bible.

By Carol McLaren

(For further reading: Exodus 19:1-21)