Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Robe Instead Of Rags

Isaiah 61:10 - 62:3

Do you enjoy getting new clothes, perhaps a brand new suit or nice dress?  It would be especially nice if someone invites you to the store, saying they want you to pick out the best there is, and they will purchase it for you.  You look around the store and then you find the most gorgeous and stunning garment you’ve ever seen.  How fortunate you feel when you find that it comes in the exact color you wish, and in your exact size!  No matter how costly it is, your friend has stated they will completely cover the cost.

As we read our Scripture passage for today from the Book of Isaiah, we see that this is what God has done for us.  Isaiah is not talking about a brand new physical suit of clothes, though it is from the Lord God that we receive everything, including our clothes and food.  As we read in verse 10, God clothes us with His righteousness.  On our own, we can never have enough righteousness to be able to stand before an all-holy God.  As Isaiah states a little later in his book, all of our righteousness are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The best that our good works can do is clothe us in filthy, dirty, and stained rags, before our Lord God.

Can you imagine being presented to the Queen dressed in filthy, stained, torn and stinking clothes?  Yet that is how we are spiritually, coming to God in our own righteousness.  God sees us naked in our sins, just like Adam and Eve, clumsily trying to cover ourselves with our own righteousness, which is no better than fig leaves.  Does God leave us that way?  Does He cast us out of His divine presence?  No! He offers us His own righteousness as a robe.  This is the righteousness of Christ that He gives us, which we urged to put on (Galatians 3:26-27).

What God gives us here is imputed righteousness, that is, all of the righteousness and goodness of Jesus Christ is treated as if it were our own. When I accept the Lord Jesus as my Savior, then that garment of salvation, that robe of righteousness is put upon me, in place of the filthy rags that I had of my own.  Instead of the stained, filthy, stinking clothes I had before, now I have something fit for royalty, given to me from the Most High God, Himself!  It is a perfect fit, decked with ornaments, and adorned with jewels.

Imputed righteousness is the heart of the New Covenant.  It is when a repentant sinner realizes that he cannot achieve his own righteousness by his own works, he repents and calls upon God for His mercy.  Then the Lord covers him with His own, divine righteousness by grace through faith.  It is for this reason that Isaiah sings out that he greatly rejoices in the Lord, and that his soul is joyful in his God.  It is indeed a reason to praise the Lord, for I now wear a robe fit for royalty!

One other thought that Isaiah says in this passage is found in Chapter 62 and verse 1.  Here, God is saying He wants to make Jerusalem a beacon for Him, for His truth to the rest of the world. This is what He wants His children, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, to be.  As we can all see, this world is in the darkness of sin and evil.  Jesus told His believers that they are to be the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16).  We are to be like a city set on a hill, whose light is to shine forth throughout the world.  Our lives, our actions, words, and works are to shine like a light, pointing others to the Lord and the truth of His Word.  How well are we doing?  A lighthouse that is shut off is of no use to anyone, and can even bring danger to the sailors.  We are to be a bright and burning lamp.

As this year ends, have we accepted the Lord Jesus as our Savior, and put on the robes of His righteousness that He offers us?  If so, are we shining as a bright lamp, a lighthouse for the Lord, so others will be drawn to Him, and find their robe of righteousness, as well?

Friday, December 29, 2017

Washed By God And Made An Heir

Titus 3:3-7

This week our New Testament reading brings us to the Epistle, or letter, that the Apostle Paul wrote to Titus.  Titus was a Gentile convert of Paul’s.  Later he was appointed by Paul to become the bishop of the church on the island of Crete.  Paul's letter to Titus was an encouragement and help to him as he led and ministered to the church there.  Let's look at this brief portion of Paul's letter to Titus.

Before any of us were saved, our life was characterized by sin (vs. 3). We did what we wanted, when we wanted to. That was the case for each of us. If it wasn't for God's grace to His own children, we would all still be in such wickedness as Paul describes here.  If it wasn’t for Jesus's forgiveness and the Holy Spirit indwelling us, we would still be bound by our sins.

What did God do, then?  Did He wash His hands of us, and leave us in this condition?  Hallelujah, no He didn't!  God showed us love, and kindness (vs. 4). In this verse, Paul is speaking of Jesus, the Son of God who came to live on earth, and who is kindness and love incarnate.  Kindness is what makes God loving, yet righteous.  It is what makes God’s goodness accessible to us. Kindness is the patient love of God that allowed Him to humble Himself, leave heaven, and come to us, sharing His love with us.  The fruit of kindness in us will show itself in loving others who are unloving to us, and by putting the needs of others ahead of our own.

The Scriptures make it very clear all throughout that there is nothing we can ever do to earn our salvation (vs. 5).  Good works do not save us.  They are a sign that we love the Lord and are grateful to Him for what He’s done for us. God offers salvation through His grace, displayed on the cross.  God cleanses us, He gives us a new nature, and He gives us eternal life.  God has done all of this because of His love for us.

Before becoming saved, the sins that Paul mentioned at the opening of our passage, and all other sins we may have been involved in, have left us dirty and stained.  When we’ve become dirty from any physical activity, we need a good bath.  The same is true spiritually. It is God who washes and cleanses us from sin.  When He does this, He does it head to toe, not just a spotty “bird-bath”. Born again believers are washed, cleansed, and renewed.  God not only cleans born again believers, He dwells within them through the Holy Spirit (vs. 6).  He puts His power within us.  We are given a new Spirit-generated, Spirit-empowered, and Spirit-protected life as God’s children.   When we give our life to Him, the Holy Spirit leads us from a life of sin.  All of our sins are washed away.  We receive eternal life and the treasures of heaven.  The more we yield to the Lord God, the more our heart is renewed.

The central truth of salvation is justification by faith alone.  When we repent and place our faith and trust in Jesus, God declares us just, and He imputes the righteousness of Christ to us (vs. 7).  God gives us eternal life because Jesus died in our place, paying the penalty of our sins.  That is justification, and because of that we become heirs of God, His adopted children.  Many of us were never a part of a wealthy family who left us a big inheritance, never an heir to a multi-millionaire, but here we see that we have something even better! We are heirs of God!  We are joint-heirs with Jesus!

In this short little passage Paul packed so much in for his beloved “son” in the faith, Titus, to pass on to the Christians in Crete.  God pulling us out of the filth of sin, washing us clean, offering salvation to us, and making us His children and heirs.  Have you allowed God to cleanse you from your sins, and accepted His gift of salvation?  If not, please call upon the Lord Jesus as your Savior before we see the end of this year.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Love The Lord And Hate Evil

Psalm 97

Lightning, storm clouds, fire, earthquakes.  These are occurrences in nature that often frighten people, which is understandable, as we need to have a proper fear and respect for the power of nature. These occurrences also show the great and terribly awesome power and might of God, as our psalmist tells in our Psalm for this week.

As our unknown psalmist opens, he is calling upon everyone throughout the earth to sing praises to God (vs. 1).  Everyone, everywhere should rejoice, because Yahweh reigns!  God dwells in majesty and in unapproachable holiness (vs. 2 - 6).  Sometimes we forget just how holy God really is, but this psalm should give us a picture.  We cannot come to Him or find Him on our own. God’s holiness and glory are so brilliant no one can stand in His presence. Only thru the Blood of Jesus are we able to approach Him.

People worship all kinds of idols - both the literal idols of false religions, and the idols of our own materialistic desires and ambitions (vs. 7).  What has our highest loyalty?  Those who go after false idols are ignoring or rejecting Jesus. Remember, we will all stand before God one day.  At that time we will see Him in all of His glory and power, just as described in the previous verses.  How foolish to be found on that day worshipping false idols and false gods of any sort!  Jesus Christ will give perfectly righteous judgment on all of the peoples of the word (vs. 8-9).

When one becomes saved, and draws closer to the Lord, loving Him and being filled with His Holy Spirit, our distaste for anything that dishonors Him or displeases Him should grow (vs. 10).  What we need to do is to align our desires with God’s desires.   Do we love what He loves and hate what He hates?  If we are devoted to the Lord, that should be the case.  Those who love God will hate evil.  A believer and follower of Jesus should never admire those whose lives do not please God.  We are not trying to please Him if we do.  We need to hate evil in every form, not just the obvious sins, but also the socially acceptable sins as well.

Verse 10 also states the eternal security of the saved children of God. He preserves our souls, and what He preserves is safe and secure. Once we have given our soul to the Lord, we are safe and secure.  He will not lose a single one.  The Lord guards us just surely as any animal or human parent guards and protects their young.

As our psalmist states throughout his psalm, our God is an awesome, righteous and just God.  As his closing verse (vs. 12) states, “Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.”

Monday, December 25, 2017

For Unto Us A Son Is Given

Isaiah 9:1-7

Our Old Testament reading from the Christmas Lectionary takes a passage from the Prophet Isaiah that should be familiar to those who love Handel’s Oratorio, The Messiah.  One of the most beautiful parts of that oratorio is the singing of verse 6.

As our passage opens, Isaiah speaks of how the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali, both territories in the far northern part of Israel, in the area known as Galilee, are in spiritual darkness (vs. 1-2).  They are also the first to be attacked from enemy nations from the north. Isaiah prophesies that to these Galilean tribes a great light will come, and they will no longer be in darkness.  This would happen when God’s Son, the Lord Jesus would come to these people.  Many of the people of Judah, southern Israel, in Jesus’s day, looked down on Galileans, considering them more backwards, less sophisticated. But it was to them that most of the light of Jesus’s ministry was focused. Jesus is the Light, as we read in John 1:9 and John 8:12.

Galilee certainly was not the only place that was in great darkness. The whole world is in darkness.  It was back in the time of Isaiah, also at the time of Jesus, and certainly is today at the close of 2017. This darkness caused by sin and rejection of God goes down deep into the souls of all mankind.  God, though, has not left us in this darkness.  He sent His Son to redeem us from the darkness of sin, and bring us into His Light.

We read about this Son of God in verses 6 and 7 of our passage. Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, came to earth, born as a baby.  He is God incarnate - taking on flesh and blood as a human. Verse 6 gives us some of the names that Isaiah prophesied of Him. The first is “wonderful”.  The coming of God, incarnate, to redeem mankind is something wonderful and marvelous.  It is a miracle of God’s love for us.

The second name given is “Counsellor”, which means an advisor, someone who gives us good guidance and direction.  Jesus does that for us believers today through the Holy Spirit.  Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit, as One who comes alongside of us to give us aid, counsel, and help. (John 14:16-18; 15:26; and 16:7-15).  We can trust that God will always give us the right advice and guidance, and lead us in the right direction.

The next name is “Mighty God”.  This verse proclaims that Jesus wasn’t just a good man who lived a good life and gave philosophical advice.  No, He was God Himself.  The angel Gabriel told Mary that the son she would bear is Emmanuel, meaning “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).   Jesus told His disciples that He and the Father are one.  To see Him was to see the Father (John 14:9). We read in Hebrews that Jesus is the brightness of God’s glory and the image of His person (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Another name that Isaiah gives the Messiah Jesus is “Everlasting Father”. Again, another statement in Scripture that Jesus and the Father are one.  Jesus was not a created being, but was eternal, everlasting, one with the Father (Colossians 1:15-19).  He was there as God in the beginning of all creation, and will remain God for all eternity.

The final name Isaiah gives is “Prince of Peace”.  One of the last things Jesus said to His disciples the night before He died was that He gives us, His believers, peace (John 14:27).  If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, follow and obey Him, and turn all of our cares and troubles over to Him, Jesus gives us peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

When Jesus returns, He will rule the world, and His government and dominion will be one of justice and peace (vs. 7).  Physically, Jesus was a descendant of King David, and as such, He has a right to his throne, from which He will rule.

This was the special gift that God gave to us many years ago on that first Christmas day.  Have you personally accepted that gift, and asked Jesus to come into your heart as your Savior?  If not, I urge you to accept that Christmas gift from God to you.  That Child, who is the Son of God, was sent for you!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Nativity

Luke 2:1-20

Today’s Bible reading for Christmas Eve is the Nativity narrative found in the Gospel of Luke.  With this very familiar passage I thought I would focus on several of the main people who played a part in this narrative of the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

The first person I would like to look at from the Nativity is Mary. When we first see her in this passage she and her new husband, Joseph are traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem because a census is being taken, and Bethlehem is the family home of Joseph.  The distance between these towns is over 70 miles. Remember, though, Mary was 9 months pregnant!  I don’t know too many women who would want to make that trip, walking or on the back of a donkey, in that condition!  There was also the risk of brigands ambushing people along the way.  When they arrived in Bethlehem, I’m sure Mary was looking forward to a nice, comfortable room where she could have her baby.  That was not to be the case.  She ends up in what was probably a cave used to house farm animals, giving birth on the ground with only animal straw to cushion her, and those animals all right nearby.  Mary didn’t go into a rant at God, complaining that since this was His idea, why isn’t He providing better!  No, through it all, Mary trusted God to protect her and the baby.

Our next person to take a look at is Joseph.  He is just getting over the shock of finding out that his intended bride is pregnant, and says the child has been conceived by the Holy Spirit.  God revealed to him that this was, indeed, the truth (Matthew 1:20-24).  Now by Caesar’s order, he must make the trip to Bethlehem for the census.  The care, comfort, and safety of his wife would be a stressful burden all along the several days journey.  I can imagine the panic and stress he must have felt when he finally gets to Bethlehem, and there isn’t a room to be found anywhere, only a smelly, cold animal stable!  His wife is going into labor, and there is no midwife around!  Just himself to help!  It has only been in the last several decades that men have been typically present at a birth.  In those days men usually were not around during labor and birth. That’s what midwives were for!  That night it was just Joseph, a few sheep, his donkey, and perhaps a cow or so!  We don’t read of Joseph losing his head.  No, like his wife, he trusted in the Lord, knowing that God would do what He had said He would do.

Another group to look at are the shepherds.  The night of the Savior’s birth they were outside the city walls, watching the flocks of sheep in the open fields. Shepherds were the bottom of the social caste of the day, only one step above lepers.  The religious leaders treated them as outcasts, as well.  Shepherds lived, night and day, with their animals, and it was a hard, sometimes dangerous life.  With such magnificent news to bring, who would be the first that you would tell?  God did not choose to bring it to all the Jewish religious leaders of the day, neither the Pharisees, Sadducees, or Sanhedrin.  God did not choose to reveal this to any political leader, either.  It was to these uneducated and poor men that God chose to bring the first news of the birth of the Messiah.  Unlike many people, God is not a respecter of people’s wealth, rank, or education (Acts 10:34).  It was to lowly shepherds God chose to break the news of the birth of one who would be one day be known as the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-15).

The final group are the angels.  They had enjoyed the presence of Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity, in heaven since their creation at the dawn of time. Now Jesus has left heaven to live among mankind, be rejected and killed by them for their salvation, and they would have to wait about 33 years for His return.  In spite of this, they are rejoicing and singing praises to God!

Each of these people - Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and the angels, in spite of whatever they faced, trusted and praised God for the birth of the Savior.  What are you facing today?  Whatever hardship you may find today, look to the Babe in the manger, who came to redeem all of mankind!
I pray that you have enjoyed and benefited from these Bible meditations that I have written for this blog.   I hope you will prayerfully consider donating as the Lord might lead you.  This blog is not run through a large ministry with a wide funding base.  I am an individual with limited financial resources.  Thank you and God bless.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Jesus Must Increase And I Must Decrease

John 3:23-30

Our Gospel reading to close out this 3rd week of Advent, tells the brief account of some rivalry between the disciples of John the Baptist and those of Jesus, and some jealousy the former group had when they saw that their mentor, John the Baptist’s ministry was winding down.  Let’s take a closer look at this story.

John the Baptist conducted his ministry of baptism and preaching of repentance in and around the Jordan River (Mark 1:4-5), and as our passage opens John is in Aenon, which many scholars believe was along the Jordan River, opposite Samaria, north of Judea and Jerusalem.  The first dispute we read about was between the religious leaders of the day and John’s disciples about John’s baptism and the religious leaders purification rituals. This then extended over to the disciples of John becoming jealous of Jesus and those who went to be baptized by His disciples (vs. 25-26).   Jesus never baptized anyone, but His disciples initially did (John 4:1-2). The two ministries were initially nearby each other, close to the Jordan River, and the followers of John the Baptist felt his ministry was threatened and in competition with Jesus.  They were disturbed, and frankly quite jealous, due to the fact that so many were turning to Jesus now, instead of John the Baptist.  They were jealous of His popularity, which had once been John’s.

How did John react when his disciples came to him with their jealous complaints about Jesus and His disciples?  Did he get angry as well, and plan ways to sabotage Jesus’s ministry and bring it down?  No!  Rather than sowing seeds of discord and discontent with his disciples, John the Baptist ended the arguments by focusing them on what he had always said his ministry was about - preparing the way for the Messiah (vs. 27 - 30).  John repeated again that he was not the Messiah.  He knew his purpose was to point people to Jesus. Though he knew his ministry was winding down and Jesus’s was starting, he could still point people to Him.

There are some religious leaders today who are quite wrapped up in themselves.  Like John the Baptist’s disciples, when they see some other ministry starting to do good in their neighborhood, instead of rejoicing that the Lord’s work is being done, they get all jealous and feel threatened.  Their focus is on themselves.  Instead, as with the example of John the Baptist, we need to keep our focus on Jesus, not on our self.  Our mission is to lead people to follow Jesus, not follow us.  Are our Christian leaders wanting the spotlight shining down on themselves or wanting to point to Jesus?  John knew who was more important.  He guided men to look not to himself, but to look to Jesus.

John the Baptist represents the transition from the Old Testament age to Jesus’s ministry. After Jesus’s resurrection and at the time of Pentecost, the Church age would begin.  John the Baptist acknowledged the decreasing of his ministry, and also his support of Jesus’s ministry and person.

In verse 29, John the Baptist compares himself with the friend of the bridegroom, or as we typically call him, the best man.  The role of the best man or groomsman is to try to make everything go smoothly for the groom.  As John plainly stated, he was not the bridegroom, Jesus is the Bridegroom.  Jesus has one Bride, which is the Church.  John the Baptist knew his job was to prepare the way for Jesus, just as a best man prepares things for the groom.  Then when He arrived, John turned everything over to Him.

In the final verse in our passage, John the Baptist states a great nugget of truth. He was truly a humble man.  After having a successful ministry, he was very willing to decrease in importance when Jesus came on the scene.  This is the mindset that we should maintain as well, where Jesus increases in our life, and our human, carnal nature decreases.  If there was a spiritual mirror I could look into, my goal and desire would be to see more of Jesus reflected back to me, and much, much less of Sarah.   John the Baptist had the right idea - “He must increase, but I must decrease”.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Rejoice, Pray, And Give Thanks

I Thessalonians 5:12-28

Our New Testament reading for this 3rd week of Advent contains some short and concise statements from the Apostle Paul, to help fellow believers live a godly and successful Christian life.  Just like following a recipe’s directions can lead to a better meal, if we followed each of these exhortations, our Christian spiritual life would be much stronger.  With approximately a dozen or so instructions in these verses, I want to focus on just a few, primarily those found in verses 16, 17, and 18, which call us to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. These three are critical steps to spiritual success.

Rejoicing or having joy in one’s life is not necessarily the same thing as being “happy” (vs. 16).  There are many circumstances we can find ourselves in that do not make us happy, such as chronic illness, loss of a job, death of a loved one, etc.  In the midst of each of these, though, we can still rejoice in the Lord, and have His joy in our hearts.  Happiness is dependent on our outward circumstances, but joy is dependent on our inner relationship with the Lord.

The second of our three is prayer.  Paul exhorts us in verse 17 to “pray without ceasing”.  When God tells us to pray continually this doesn’t mean that we have to be continually, 24 hours a day, on our knees praying.  Instead, we should have a prayerful attitude at all times.  Throughout our day we can pray frequent, spontaneous, short prayers, just like having an ongoing conversation with God all day long.  Being in frequent prayer acknowledges our dependence on God.  There is nothing either too big or too small to bring to Him in prayer. When God tells us to pray continually, we can rest assured that He hears and answers our prayers.  Of course we need to be sure that we are in a right relationship with God by trusting in Jesus as our Savior.

Our third exhortation to live a strong, Christian life is to give thanks to God in everything (vs. 18).  We should be grateful to God even in trying and difficult times.  He  knows and is closely involved in what we go through.  God has promised to work everything out for our good if we have faith and trust Him (Romans 8:28).  He can use the worst things we go through for our good.  This verse isn’t saying that we necessarily have to be thankful for everything.  Some things that happen to us are evil - an assault, a murder in our family, etc. However, God tells us to be thankful in everything.  When evil strikes we can be thankful that God is with us, walking with us, and be thankful for the good He will bring from these circumstances.

Thankfulness and gratitude keeps us aware of God’s presence.  That will strengthen our trust and our witness to others. When we show thankfulness in difficult circumstances, people pay attention.  There are many times we might not feel thankful.  It is then that we give thanks to God as an act of faith and obedience.  Trust Him that He will walk with us through the darkness and through what lies ahead.

Our joy, prayers and thankfulness should not fluctuate with our circumstances or feelings.  Doing God’s will makes it easier to rejoice and give thanks.  God can release great power when we give Him thanks and praise.  Praise to God puts Satan and the demons to flight.  Have a heart full of thankfulness and keep praising Him.

Just a few more thoughts on some of the remaining verses.  We need to be sure that we do not give evil a foothold in our life (vs. 22).  If Satan can get a toe in the door of our life, he will kick the door down, come in, and ravage our life and soul.  A Christian should avoid tempting situations and concentrate on obeying God.

Finally, whatever God tells us to do, He is faithful to bring it to pass (vs. 24). He doesn’t give us a task, and then abandon us.  God will provide for our needs, and bring success to the task He assigned us if we obey Him.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bringing In The Sheaves

Psalm 126

Our psalm for today is one of fifteen psalms (Psalms 120-134) which are called the Songs of Ascent, or Songs of Degrees in many versions of the Bible.  It is believed by many scholars they were given this title because they were often sung by pilgrim worshippers as they ascended the road into Jerusalem for major holy day festivals.  Each of these psalms are short, all but one being under 10 verses.

The first half of this psalm is a song of joy and praise to the Lord God for bringing the people of Israel back again out from captivity.  Many years earlier, the Babylonian Empire had conquered their land and taken the people into captivity.  God had allowed this to happen to the people of Israel because of their sins, particularly in turning away from Him and worshipping false gods. Now, many years later, the people were allowed to return to their homeland, and their response was clearly one of joy and rejoicing.  As our psalm records, it was like a dream come true (vs. 1)!    They were laughing from sheer overwhelming happiness, and singing out the praises of God to whoever would listen (vs. 2-3).

It is probably safe to say that most of us have never been in forced servitude to another, but there are many other ways we can be held captive.  We can be under the bondage of addictions or bad habits. We can be held captive from fears, anxiety, worry, or depression. Sin is a terrible taskmaster, holding us under its power like a slave in chains.  When we put our faith in the Lord Jesus, and trust His redeeming power, He can set us free from all that holds us in captivity, just as surely as He brought forth the children of Israel from their enforced captivity to the Babylonians.  On that day we can sing and rejoice, proclaiming that “The Lord has done great things for us.” (vs. 3).

The deeper our troubles, the more we should thank the Lord for bringing us through them.  The people of Israel had seen their homes and land destroyed, countless numbers of their family and friends killed, and then were forcefully removed to a foreign country hundreds of miles away.  That was deep trouble, but God brought them through, and now their dreams were realized.  A remnant was restored to their homeland.  Likewise the Lord God can bring us through whatever deep and terrible trouble we are facing.  Don’t keep our eyes on the dark side.  Look instead at how God has, or will, bring us through the trouble.  The people in our psalm weren’t singing a sad and mournful song of what had been, as terrible and traumatic as that was for them.  Instead, they were singing about the great and wonderful things He had done for them, and would continue to do.  There would still be difficult times ahead for them as they would rebuild their homes and cities, and the many enemies they would face, but nonetheless, their song was a joyful one of praise to God.

The second part of the psalm, verses 4 and 5, tell of sowing and reaping.  The psalmist tells of one sowing seed in sorrow, with tears and weeping, but how later he will bring in a harvest with rejoicing. I am reminded of the parable of the sower that Jesus told in Matthew 13:1-23.  Jesus explained that the seed that the sower was casting out onto the ground was the Word of God.  Today we are to be spreading the Word of God to the lost, as well.  Sometimes we may be weeping, either inwardly, or sometimes outwardly, as we think of our lost loved ones, friends, or neighbors.  Knowing that if they do not accept the Lord Jesus as their Savior they will spend eternity lost and separated from God can and should cause us sadness.  However, through our faithfulness in sowing the seed of God’s Word and prayer, there are times when we see a lost one call upon Jesus and come into the fold.  How wonderful it is to rejoice when we bring in those “sheaves” to the Lord Jesus!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

God's Coming Kingdom

Isaiah 65:17-25

Most people would agree that this world is often a very difficult place, with sorrow and many tears, and premature death.  We sometimes find our belongings being stolen and taken away, and even nature sometimes seems to be against us.   It would be wonderful if none of these ever happened.  Believers in the Lord Jesus have that hope and promise which we see in our passage today from Isaiah.  Our verses describe some of what the world will be like during the reign of Jesus, after He returns to earth.  This future kingdom Jesus will set up will include an earthly kingdom of a thousand years, and then He will have an eternal kingdom with God’s new creation.  We read about both in Revelation 20 - 21.  Let’s take a look at what Isaiah prophesied about this time.

One thing believers can look forward to is that God promises there will be no more crying or weeping (vs. 19).  There is so much pain and sadness in this world, and there has been ever since Adam and Eve listened to the serpent and disobeyed God.  Sickness and death bring sadness and tears.  So does unfairness and wrong treatment from others.  In the new kingdom that Jesus will set up here on earth there will be no crying.  Jesus promises that we won’t ever even hear the sound of weeping or crying.  We have the precious promise that God will wipe away all of our tears given twice in the Book of Revelation, in Revelation 7:17 and again in Revelation 21:4.

Many of us have had the experience of something that was rightfully ours unjustly taken away from us.  Often there was nothing we could do to retrieve it, either.  In God’s new kingdom no enemy will be able to deprive us of what is rightfully ours (vs. 21-23).   Whether it be a house, property, a paycheck, etc., we will be able to enjoy it, not have it snatched away from us.

Another thing that we read in this passage about God’s new kingdom is that animals that we know and fear as wild will be no longer dangerous to us or to each other (vs. 25).  This is something that I will look forward to.  I live quite close to a very large zoo in the Chicago area, and one thing I love to see when we visit are the large cats, the lions, tigers, etc.  How nice it will be to snuggle up with a tiger!  I also love bears and wolves, and I look forward to walking along side them without fear for my safety!  God promises that the day is coming when a lamb, wolf, and lion can be safely side by side.

There is one verse in this passage that I believe we can claim, both now in this day, and also in God’s future kingdom, and that is verse 24.  Sometimes in this life God feels very distant.  God has promised us, though, that if we have put our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus, and are His children, then He will hear and answer our prayers.  At these times when He feels distant we need to exercise our faith, and show we do believe Him, regardless of how we feel (Hebrews 11:6). God is not distant.  He is closer than we can ever imagine.  God will answer even before we pray.  Jesus affirms this in Matthew 6:8, and we can rejoice that this relationship will be even closer in His Kingdom.

Knowing about and anticipating this coming kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ should give us great gladness and rejoicing (vs. 18).  We can have joy in this life, knowing we have such a wonderful future with Jesus!

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Voice Of One Crying In The Wilderness

Mark 1:1-8

Advent is a time of preparation, awaiting the arrival of Christmas, the day when we honor the birth of Jesus, the Messiah.  In today’s reading we meet someone who was also preparing the way for the coming Messiah, John the Baptist.  He is the first person we meet as we open the Gospel of Mark.  Mark wrote his gospel for Christians in Rome.  In the capital of the Roman Empire many false gods were worshipped, and Mark wanted his readers to know that Jesus was the one, true Son of God (vs 1).

Appropriate for this Advent season of preparing for Christ, Mark starts right off with two quotes from the Old Testament that point to the ministry of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, the first from Malachi 3:1, and the second from Isaiah 40:3.  Both verses speak about the coming of the Messiah, Jesus, and the man who would announce His coming, John the Baptist (vs. 2-3).   At this time in history in many parts of the world, especially in the Roman Empire, an important leader or official were always preceded by a herald announcing his imminent arrival.   John the Baptist was just such a herald, announcing the imminent arrival of the most important one in all history.

John the Baptist had lived many years in the desert, and then conducted his ministry there, and by the Jordan River, at the edge of the wilderness.  He chose to live in the desert to get away from the distractions of the world and to better hear God.  That lifestyle was a sharp contrast to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and other religious leaders of the day in Judea, with their luxurious homes and fine clothes (Mark 12:38).  His dress and lifestyle was reminiscent of the prophet Elijah (II Kings 1:8).

The ministry of John the Baptist was a strong and straightforward one.  He never minced his words or message, telling his audience that they need to give up their selfish lifestyle, renounce sins, and ask for God’s forgiveness (vs. 4). He preached that the people should seek a relationship with God, believe Him, and obey His Word.  John knew the Messiah was coming, and in preparation people needed to repent and turn to God.  He sought to prepare the people to accept Jesus Christ as God’s Son, and to do so, they needed to repent, turn around, and denounce their sins.

Baptism does not produce repentance, but instead it shows it. Repentance is more than just a change of one’s mind.  It is a complete turning away from sin and turning to God.  It brings the result of righteous living.  Genuine repentance is a work of God in one’s heart.  John the Baptist’s baptism was an outward confession of repentance, it did not produce forgiveness of sins.  It was an illustration of true repentance, which will result in forgiveness.

John the Baptist’s baptism was to show that the person being baptized had decided to change there life, giving up their sins and turning to God.  Christian baptism goes a step further, associating it with Jesus’s death and resurrection. John’s baptism with water prepared one for the coming message of Jesus.  It would show repentance, humility, and turning from sin in the life of the person. Jesus’s baptism with the Holy Spirit, though, would transform the person with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus offers both forgiveness of sins and the power to live for Him (vs. 8).

Many of those who came to hear John preach wondered if he might be the Messiah.  John was quick to point out that he was not, and how insignificant he really was in comparison to the One who was coming - Jesus (vs. 7).  John said he wasn’t even worthy to unfasten His sandal.

As we read over this passage, which closes out the second week of Advent, we should ask ourselves are we ready for Jesus?  He came the first time, 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, but He is coming back soon, though we don’t know when.  It could be any day, and are we ready?  John the Baptist strongly preached that the people of his day be ready for Jesus to appear on the scene, and He did.  He could burst through the clouds and appear again, at any time. Are we prepared?  Do we need to repent and turn from our sinful ways? Let’s be sure, as John preached, our hearts and lives are ready for Him.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Be Patient, Yet Active

II Peter 3:8-18

As we watch news broadcasts on television, and see the headlines in the newspapers, it is obvious the problems in the world seem overwhelming and often terrible.  In many places around the world Christians are persecuted, and in so many other places they are taunted, mocked and ridiculed for their faith by neighbors, coworkers, and even relatives.  This leads many of us to cry out to the Lord, asking Him to hasten His return, wondering why He is delaying, and to bring judgment on those who mock Him.

The believers to whom the Apostle Peter was writing were suffering strong persecution.  They felt God was taking too long in returning as He promised, and they longed to be delivered (vs. 8-9).  Peter told these suffering ones that there was a reason God was seemingly taking His time.  One reason Peter gives is one that should be welcomed, which is that Jesus is waiting so more people can be saved.  God has tremendous patience before He breaks forth in judgment.  He endures the breaking of all His laws, while He waits patiently, calling and saving the lost.  God does not act rashly, nor does he act to exact vengeance or prove His power.  But one day God will judge those who reject Him.  Those who end up in hell do so because they reject the only remedy - faith in Jesus Christ.  They have a non-repentant heart, rejecting the person and provision of the Savior.  Jesus delays His coming because He is patient, and desires time for more people to repent.

Peter continues in this passage describing how the earth will be burned up (vs. 10-13).  Knowing this we should put our trust and confidence in what is lasting, not in this world, which will be destroyed.  In light of this coming judgment and eternity, our lives should conform to God’s standards.  Our conduct should be holy, living separate from sin, and filled with godliness, a spirit of reverence in our attitude.  Verse 13 promises that God will destroy heaven and earth with fire, and then create new ones.  It will be a new universe, new in quality because righteousness has taken up residence.

In the remainder of our passage today, Peter warns about false teachers who will appear, twisting and distorting Scriptures (vs. 14-18).  We need to be on our guard.  To avoid the mistakes of wicked teachers we need to grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus.  The better we know Jesus, growing in knowledge and spiritual maturity, the less we will be lead astray by false teachers.  This sinful world will challenge our faith.  We should never feel that we have come to a point where we can’t grow anymore spiritually.  We need to always be growing, and never be satisfied with where we are spiritually, and thus become complacent.  As we draw closer to Jesus, we will be prepared to stand for truth in all circumstances.

True believers should strive to be spotless and blameless.  This is a graphic contrast to the false teachers that Peter warns us to look out for.  One way to be that way is to live with the end in view.  This requires spiritual vigilance and self-control.

What would you like to be found doing when Jesus returns?  That is what you should be doing right now, today.  We do not know when He will return. During this time of God’s patience, Christians should be actively engaging in seeking the salvation of souls, as we remember verse 9.   The time is short.  We aren’t to just be sitting around waiting.  There is work to be done for the Lord today.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Revive Us Again!

Psalm 85

Our psalm this week is one that was written by the Sons of Korah.  These Sons of Korah were Levites, descended from the tribe of Levi through his son, Kohath.  The Levites were set apart to carry out special religious duties with the Tabernacle and Ark of the Covenant, and later in the Temple, and it was from this tribe that the priests and High Priest came.  The duties of the Kohathites were gatekeepers in the Tabernacle, and later the Temple.  They were also musicians, particularly the Sons of Korah.  There are eleven psalms attributed to the Sons of Korah in the Book of Psalms - Psalm 42, 44 - 49, 84, 85, 87, and 88.

This psalm is a prayer for God to bring about a national revival, and for Him to display His mercy on His people.  In their prayer to God, the Sons of Korah remind Him of all of His past favors and blessings that He had bestowed on them (vs. 1-3).  When we come to God in prayer it is always good to remember His past answers to our prayers, and the blessings He has given us.  This helps us to remember and be thankful for all He has done for us.  Specifically remembering and vocalizing God’s answers to our prayers will also help boost our faith, knowing that if He answered us in the past, He can and will now, as well.

In verse 6 our psalmists pray that God will bring revival to the people.  That is a prayer that we urgently need today, as well.  So many believers today have let the fire that they once had for the Lord die down to a barely discernible ember. They have strayed away from Him and His Word, and become too much a part of the world.  Christians need to pray that God would send a new outpouring of His Holy Spirit, and breathe new life into His children, stirring up those flickering embers into a fire again.  Revival is restoring a right relationship with God, and returning to a place where we delight and joy in Him.  We, individually, need to have spiritual revival in our lives, which will then spread to our churches.  From there it will spread around our communities, and throughout the nation.  It starts with each one of us, though.

One positive by-product of a great revival in the lives of Christians and our churches is that it spreads into the hearts of the lost in our neighborhoods, and many souls come to Christ, accepting Him as their Savior.  The lost cannot be “revived”, as they are spiritually dead, just as a physically dead body cannot be revived.  They need to be born-again themselves.  When the spiritual fire in our souls gets revived, and we are “on fire” for the Lord, actively living for Him, obeying and following His Word, the Holy Spirit starts to move in the hearts of the lost around us.  In many of the great revivals of past ages, one of the signs was great and large numbers of the lost coming to accept Jesus as their Savior.

The psalmists in verse 8 advise us to listen to what God is saying to us.  How do we do that?  God speaks to us today through His Word, the Bible, so to hear His message, we need to be in that Holy Book, reading from it every day.  God also uses godly men and women to bring us a message from Him.  Their words are not inspired, as the Bible is, but He can still use their words to give us counsel and guidance.  He warns us, though, that as we listen for His Word, we are not to turn back again to folly or the foolishness that we have been involved in previously.  If we are praying for and seeking a spiritual revival in our life, we need to be listening to God and abandoning sin and folly.

As I look around this world today, I see how desperately we need revival, how desperately we need God’s Holy Spirit to come down upon us with His power, like He did at various points in time in previous centuries.  Let our prayer be that of the old 19th century hymn writer William MacKay, “Revive us again, fill each heart with Thy love; May each soul be rekindled with fire from above. Hallelujah, Thine the glory! Revive us again.”

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Comfort My People

Isaiah 40:1-11

Whenever our parents had to discipline us as children, it was always good to know that their anger did not signify a loss of their love.  It was good to know that that their discipline didn’t mean that they had turned their back on us, or cast us out.  In our passage today from the Prophet Isaiah, God is letting His people know that though He has had to discipline and punish them for their sins and rebellion against Him, His love and forgiveness is always there if only they will return to Him.

The people of Judah, whom the prophet Isaiah was speaking to, had fallen away from God, disobeying His laws, and worshipping false idols, and God was going to bring the people into foreign captivity.  That wasn’t going to be the end of the story, though, as Isaiah’s words today convey (vs. 1-2).  Even though God brings judgment on both His people, and the world, He has planned for the salvation of all mankind.  God brings hope in the midst of suffering.  God can bring us comfort when our lives are falling apart.  In the midst of adversity, God bring comfort and encouragement from His Word and Presence.  God had good plans for the people of Judah in their future even though things looked bad then.  He has good plans for us believers, too, despite how things may look for us right now.

Isaiah addressed the people, telling them they needed to remove all obstacles, both in their individual lives and in the nation as a whole, from the path of the coming Messiah (vs. 3 - 5).  That would entail repenting of their sins.  Both John the Baptist and Jesus said the same thing (Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:14-15). To prepare the way and make a straight highway is to remove any obstacles and welcoming Jesus’s coming.  The desert is life’s trials and suffering.  Our life will have trials, but they should not hinder our faith.

All of life is transitory - here today and gone tomorrow (vs. 6 - 8).  In the New Testament the Apostle James echoes the same words as Isaiah does here.  He warns us to not trust in wealth, as it is just as fleeting as the grass (James 1:10-11).  The Apostle Peter says the same thing in his epistle, as well (I Peter 1:24-25).  In spite of the fact that everything we have, and our life itself is brief and fleeting, we can have hope and encouragement knowing that there is one thing that is permanent, and that is the Word of God (vs. 8).  The Bible is eternal, unfailing, and constant.  People and their philosophies change and are unreliable, but God’s Word is permanent.  What He promises will happen. Despite attacks for years, the Bible still stands.  We can depend on its trustworthiness.

Isaiah closes out this passage with a favorite Biblical reference of God as a shepherd (vs. 11).  All throughout Scripture God refers to Himself as such.  Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd in John 10:11-16.  Peter also called Jesus the Chief Shepherd in his epistle (I Peter 5:4).  The author of Hebrews called Jesus the Great Shepherd of the sheep (Hebrews 13:20).   Like a shepherd, God is gentle and caring.  He guides His flock with love, and is powerful to keep us safe from the enemy.

All of this is good news to hear.  This is not something that we should keep secret from those who do not know.  This is something that we need to proclaim loud and strong, for all to hear (vs. 9).  Just as Isaiah told to people of Judah to lift up their voices and tell others about God, so we need to as well.  We have good tidings to bring.  As Isaiah says, "Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid." Let our lives and testimony, as well as our words, proclaim to the world, "Behold your God!"

Are We Ready For Jesus?

Mark 13:24-37

This past year saw many natural disasters that brought major devastation to many people around the world, with destructive hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes.  Imagine how shook up people would be if in addition to these events, the cataclysmic events that Jesus described in Mark 13 were occuring.  In our Gospel reading for today Jesus is describing the events that will happen just prior to His return at His second coming (vs. 24-27).  Jesus and His disciples were seated on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem and the Temple when they were asking Him about end time events, and this whole chapter, including verses that precede the passage for today, give Jesus’s answer.

We, like the disciples at the time of Jesus, would like to know when all of these things would happen, and when He will come back again.  Jesus gave us the example from nature of the trees at the beginning of spring.  Observe the leaf buds beginning to develop.  When you see those, you know that spring is on its way.  I am one who really hates winter and the cold, so I am avidly looking for the leaf buds on the trees.  I keep a close look-out for that first robin, too.  Jesus says that when we see these we know spring and warmer weather is coming.  The same way when we see the events of chapter 13 coming in quick succession, we will know His return is near (vs. 28-29).

Even though this world will pass away, God’s Word will never pass away (vs. 31).  It will always remain true and unchanged.  It is impossible for God’s Word to be negated, destroyed, or altered in any way.  This should give us great hope, as we can know that we are able to trust everything He tells us.  Whatever Jesus says, whatever He has promised us, it is true and sure.  Even though the world is falling apart at the seams, we have something sure and solid that we can cling to and trust.  God’s Word, the Bible, is the only thing stable in an unstable world.  

Over the years there have been a number of false teachers who have tried to set specific dates of when the Rapture will happen and when Jesus will return. They are all wrong, as Jesus, Himself, stated that no one knows that date (vs. 32 - 33).  Jesus said even He didn’t know, only the Father.  Since Jesus is God, how is that?  When Jesus became a man, born as a baby, He voluntarily gave up the unlimited use of His divine attributes.  Jesus did not manifest His divine attributes unless directed to by the Father.

What we need in these days is preparation, not calculation of dates. Jesus tells us to watch and pray.  Watch - be awake and alert.  Be looking for danger from the enemies of our Savior.  Pray - we need constant assistance from God, especially as the days of His return approach.

Jesus informs us in this passage that His return will be like a man departing for a time, leaving his business in the hands of workers.  They would not know when the master would return, so Jesus warns that they should be alert and ready at any time (vs. 34 - 37).  I remember as a child in grade school that once in a while the teacher had to leave the room for a few minutes.  Some of the children would start to act up, others would diligently do the work assigned. No one knew exactly when she would return, and the goof-ups would inevitably get caught and punished.  We do not know when He will return, but we need to be awake and alert, busy doing His work.  

Do we place the same importance on preparing for Jesus’s return as we do on buying a car or house, a career change, etc.?  What is ultimately more important?  That car, house, or job will each pass away and be no more, but our eternal destiny is just that - eternal. Are we ready for Jesus Christ’s return?  As believers we are to remain vigilant and watch for His return.  And when Jesus does return, will we welcome Him, or will our soul’s condition cause us to dread His coming?

Sanctified And Set Apart For God

I Corinthians 1:1-9

Our New Testament reading for this first week of Advent brings us to the first chapter in the First Letter that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth.  Paul had started this church in the bustling harbor city of Corinth several years prior to the writing of this letter, and already there were some major problems going on among that group of believers.  There was sectarianism and disunity, lawsuits between fellow believers, and gross sexual immorality going on, just to name a few of their problems.

Even though there are these major transgressions occuring in Corinth, Paul calls the believers there “saints” (vs. 2).   Shouldn't he have called them hypocrites?  We, like the Corinthians, fail God and frequently fall in the mud.  Yet when we confess and repent, God forgives us and sees us as sanctified in His Son.  The Lord is continually moulding us into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29; II Corinthians 3:18).  The more we yield ourselves to God, the more He is slowly chipping away our old nature, making us more like Jesus.  The Corinthian believers were a work in progress, though at this time it might not have looked like it.

When we become believers and followers of the Lord Jesus we are sanctified, which means set apart for God’s use (vs. 2).  We are not set apart for the devil’s use or the world’s use, but for God’s use.  We need to watch out that we aren’t letting either the devil or the world control our actions and behavior.  We belong to God.  We are called to be saints.  God calls or invites us to be His children, to be a part of His family.  It is only through God’s Son, Jesus Christ, that we can be brought into His Kingdom and family.  Jesus is the only One who can remove our sins and sanctify us.

In verse 3 we read that God has given us both grace and peace.  Grace is God’s free gift of salvation, given to us through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve.  We do not deserve salvation.  We deserve eternal damnation. Yet God, in His grace, has given salvation to everyone who accepts the Lord Jesus as Savior.  By receiving His grace, He will bring us peace.  Everyone is searching for peace, both peace among nations, between people, and also inner peace within themselves.  True peace, though, can only be found in Jesus, which He gives us when we become His children (John 14:27; Philippians 4:7).

When we are saved, we receive all that we need to live the Christian life (vs. 5 - 7).  The Corinthian church did not lack any spiritual gifts. However, they were not using those gifts, nor were they living for the Lord.  What gifts and abilities has the Lord given you to help spread His Good News and to help build up His Church, both locally and worldwide?  We need to use our gifts to live for Jesus, to witness for Him, and to stand against sin and the devil.

As Paul concludes this passage for today, he reminds us that God is faithful (vs. 9).  This is something that I need to frequently remind myself of.  Believers are called into faith in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and we can trust Him.  When problems arise in your life, your finances are so tight, almost nonexistent, and the devil whispers in your ear that you might soon be out on the street, remember that God is faithful.  When sickness and pain comes, and you don’t think you’ll ever get better, remember that God is faithful.   When the marriage is crumbling, the children are out of control, the job is a mess, remember that God is faithful.   God is not a liar, nor does He ever change.  What He has promised, He will do, and He is 100% reliable.  God didn’t wash His hands of the Corinthian Church, and He won’t with us, either.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Lord, Shine Your Face On Us

Psalm 80

Don’t we love it when we get a bright, shining smile from someone, especially if it is from someone we love?  A bright smile can light up the room and warm the heart, just like a ray of sunshine.  The look on one’s face can indicate so much.  Sometimes children will observe the look of their father’s face when he comes home from work to see what kind of mood he is in.  Is it safe to ask him a favor, or should I run and hide in my room?  The look on his face can determine which to do.  If his look is scowling, then run, but if it is shining and happy, all is okay.  How about the look on the teacher’s face when she’s passing out the grades?  If she gives you a shining smile, then you know all is good.  A young man in love, hopes for a shining look of love and acceptance from the girl across the room he has set his heart on.  Asaph, the writer of today’s psalm, was praying for such a look from God.

Times were very difficult for the nation of Israel, mainly because so many of the people continued to keep straying from God, disobeying His laws, and worshipping the false gods of the surrounding nations.  Asaph was praying that the people and his fallen kingdom would be restored.  They had suffered afflictions and destruction, and he was praying for a spiritual revival in the hearts of the people, and for their restoration.  Asaph knew that God was the only hope for their salvation and restoration.  Right now God was certainly not smiling on His people, but Asaph was praying that would change.

This is not something that was unique to the people of Israel some 2,700+ years ago.  This is a condition of so many around the world today.  There are times we all need to be restored to God.  This restoration calls for prayer, confession, and repentance.  Before there can be any restoration there must be repentance and a turning away from sin.  We must be humble, and ask God for His forgiveness.  This was the prayer that Asaph was making, not only in his own behalf, but also for the people of his country.

Verses 3, 7, and 19 are similar to each other.  Each is a plea to God for His intervention.  Each a plea that He would turn a shining and smiling face upon His people, and they would be forgiven, restored, and saved.  With each one of these pleas, though, Asaph shows an increase in urgency to God.  In verse 3, he addresses his prayer to “God”.  Then in verse 7, Asaph specifies one of God’s attributes, and addresses his prayer to “God of hosts”.  The word “host” refers to “armies”.  He is praying to the God of armies, particularly the God of angel armies, which would be mightier than any earthly army.  Asaph prays that the God of angel armies would come, show His smiling face upon the people, and bring deliverance and restoration.  

Then, in one more heartfelt plea, Asaph prays the same prayer in verse 19, only with more increased urgency.  This time he cries out to God, using His proper Name.  In the King James, or New King James version, when the word LORD is used, in all capital letters, it is referring to God’s proper Name, of YHWH.  Please, Lord God Yahweh, please, give a smile of love and forgiveness to Your people!  Forgive us!  Revive us!  Restore us!  Help us!

That was Asaph’s prayer in this psalm, and can be our prayer, as well.  I know that I wish and pray that God will always be showing me is shining and smiling face.  Each of us throughout the world needs that.  Our world desperately needs a revival, and for all mankind to turn back to Him in prayer, confession and restoration.  Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!