Seeing Jesus Only

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. — Matthew 17:1-8

We live in troubled times – very troubled times. As Christians, we should heed the words of the Messiah to His disciples in John 14:1. He told them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”

As the disciples walked the dusty roads of Judea and Galilee, I wonder how much time they wasted pondering the times of trouble. They lived in a difficult time and were even under the heavy-handed rule of Rome. The disciples lived under a time of occupation by enemy forces.

Yet, at no time, did Jesus act the part of a revolutionary as some fraudulently claim. Not only did He submit to the will of His Father, but He also obeyed the laws that were in force both from the perspective of Jewish and Roman law.

In many ways, the Jewish people served as slaves to Rome, yet not one single verse ever encouraged true believers to revolt, start a revolution, or to try and overthrow the government. Instead, the Scriptures commanded slaves to be obedient to their masters as unto the Lord, and masters were to be honorable in their dealings with those who served them again as unto the Lord.

While walking those roads, I am sure there must have been many times that hushed voices from men like Simon the Zealot pondered aloud what needed to be done to get rid of Rome. But, not once did Christ encourage this. On the contrary, He reminded them and others who listened that this world is not where His kingdom was to be found. It was not a physical kingdom and He never had any plans to become a new and improved rebel leader who would do finally accomplish what the Maccabees could not.

Despite all the talks and parables used, the disciples held a skewed perspective about how they saw Jesus. Even in the event known as “The Transfiguration”, we can see that the wrong focus brought the inner-most circle of disciples to a point where they spoke from their emotions instead of being led by the renewing of their mind.

The reality is that they were not focused on Jesus only.

It is an intimate setting as Jesus and only three disciples go for a walk. Away from the other disciples and the crowds that always clamored for the Messiah’s attention, He leads them up to the top of a mountain. It has been just six days since the conversation where Peter gives his startling admission that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of the living God.

The Lord Jesus Christ shares that He would build His Church and that He would soon have to suffer. Peter then rebukes the Rabbi, but in turn is called to account as Jesus tells the impetuous disciple that he is only savoring the things of man, and not the things of God.

Jesus then gives a short discourse on the importance of dying to self, and that to fulfill the will of God that each person who is a true believer must take up their own cross and deny themselves.

Now, six days later, they have climbed a mountain and Jesus is transfigured before their very eyes. The word used is where we get our word metamorphosis. He changes and they see His divine glory. His face becomes like the sun and His garments are white as the light.

As they watch, Moses and Elijah appear. Moses represents the law and the commandments, while Elijah represents the prophets. Peter, always the spokesman, announces that it is good to be in the presence of the law and the prophets and the Messiah. He then states that maybe they should honor these three men by building a tent or a tabernacle. This would have been a skin-covered dwelling place such as the Ark of God rested during the years when there was no Temple in Jerusalem.

A cloud comes down upon them and they hear a voice from heaven. The voice does not address the presence of the law and the prophets. Moses and Elijah were only forerunners to point to the One Who stood glowing in their midst. They were present for a time, but now a New Covenant was about to be brought into place.

This is my beloved Son, HEAR HIM!

The voice spoke out of the bright, glowing cloud and forced them to do what any person would do when they come into contact with the divine glory of Christ and are in the presence of a Holy God.

They fall to the ground with their faces in the lowest place they can find. They know they are in the very presence of God. The disciples know the accounts of what took place when God showed up and they are afraid. This is not a mere phobia. The two words indicate they were violently or vehemently afraid. These grown men are scared to death and shaking.

“But Jesus…”

The Master comes up to them, touches them, soothes their troubled thoughts, tells them not to fear, and raises them to their feet.

Their quaking subsides and as they stand to their feet again, their eyes see Jesus only. The law and the prophets held people captive until the Son of God came and took on human flesh. As they see Jesus, it will be a few days yet before He is delivered to death. But, after His death and resurrection, they will understand the words that He said to them. The disciples will know the significance of what occurred on top of that high mountain.

All the rules, words of the prophets, laws, statutes, and commandments could never restore full fellowship with God. These things were meant to show how wide the gap was between a holy, righteous God and depraved humanity.

The hearts of the disciples were troubled and instead of focusing just on the Lord Jesus Christ, they were concerned about building a tent or tabernacle in order to give continued honor to the law and the prophets. But Jesus Christ shares His glory with no other.

The Transfiguration would forever be engrained in the hearts and minds of these disciples. They had been given a privilege that the other disciples were not provided. Yet, years later, the same disciple who tried to rebuke Jesus and then denied Him three times would write the following:

2 Peter 1:16-18 — For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

When Jesus took the three men up to the top of the high mountain, He removed them from all of the distractions of the world. Once He was transfigured, He also removed from their hearts and minds the distraction of what He came to fulfill in its entirety. Christ did not discount the law or the prophets, but He wanted them to understand that ALL the glory belongs to Him. He was sent by the Father to do the will of the Father so that we might have eternal life.

Despite his miserable failings and his sins, Peter and his two fellow disciples never forgot that they had seen the majesty of Jesus Christ.

Friends, in today’s world, we live in a time of trouble and it will only get worse. Whatever your position may be in the area of eschatology (study of end times), there is no true believer who can look at the current state of the world and believe that it is getting better and better.

For all who are true believers by placing their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, it would be a blessing if we could catch such a glimpse of the majesty of God. However, after His resurrection, Christ told Thomas that those who believe and have not seen are blessed.

One day, these Shadowlands will disappear. We shall behold Him in all of His splendor, in all of His glory, in all of His power, and in all of His majesty.

Today, I beg you to put aside earthly affections and once again set your affections on things above. Focus on the Author and Finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before Him ENDURED the cross.

Are we better than our own Master? God forbid!

No matter what we may face, our God is greater. No matter the trials or tribulations, in the light of eternity, they will be but light afflictions.

How Should a King Come?

Today starts the remembrance of Passion Week. This week we remember when King Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and He came for the sole purpose of dying. The people did not know this when the Triumphal Entry took place, but in just a matter of days the hearts of the people were revealed in all their depravity.

Yet, despite the fact that He did not come to defeat the Romans riding on a white horse, He still came. He defeated sin, hell, and death. Glory be to God!

The New Jerusalem and More on the Temple of God

The New Jerusalem

There are many who have been taught that when Jesus comes back on the clouds of glory that He will establish a new Jerusalem; a literal, physical city, at a location somewhere on this earth.  Some people believe that it will be at the location of the old Jerusalem, while others, particularly those in the LDS (Mormon) church, believe that it will be located in the United States, and, more specifically, in Independence, Missouri.  Let’s see what the Bible has to say regarding this issue.

With regard to the possibility that this earth will even exist beyond Jesus’s second coming (Judgment Day), In 2 Peter 3:7, we read, “But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”  Further on in verse 10, we read, “But the day of the LORD will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”  God reiterates this point in verse 12 and finally in verse 13 we read, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

In Revelation 21:1, it reads, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”

Regarding the new Jerusalem, however, in the very next verse we read, “and I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”  Later, at the end of verse 9, one of the seven angels told John, ” Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”  And in verse 10, “and he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain and shewed me that great city, holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”  We can readily see that the city, the new Jerusalem is not some literal, physical, city, but rather the kingdom of God encompassing the body of all true believing Christians, the true eternal Church, which God looks upon as the bride of Christ!

To see that the new Jerusalem is a spiritual representation of the kingdom of God that is made up of the body of believers, we just have to turn to Revelation 3:12, where we read, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall no more go out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalemwhich cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches.”  This truth is also evident in Galatians 4, verses 25 and 26 which contrasts the earthly Jerusalem and her children (the Jews of national Israel), described as being in bondage (to the works of the law), with the heavenly spiritual “Jerusalem which is above is free (through the grace of God), which is the mother of us all (all true believing Christians).”

Additional support is found in Hebrews 12:22-23 , where we read, “But ye are come unto Mount Sion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,”.

As to the timing of the fulfillment of the coming of the new Jerusalem we are told in Matthew 24:29-31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”

The Holy Temple of God, Where is it Now?

This brings us to another problem.  There are those in various religions today who claim to have access to a literal, physical, earthly holy temple of God.  As was indicated above, the holy temple of God is a spiritual structure made up of true believing Christians (described as pillars in the temple) coincident with the new Jerusalem in heaven.  This is entirely consistent with what we read in 1 Peter 2:5-8, where God equates the true believers to “lively stones” that are part of the spiritual temple of God of which Jesus Christ is the “Chief Cornerstone.”  “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.  Wherefore also it is contained in scripture, (Found in Isaiah 28:16 and Psalm 118:22) behold I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.  Unto you therefore which believe he (The Lord Jesus Christ) is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (See also Isaiah 8:14, Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, and Romans 9:53)

So that there can be absolutely no doubt that the holy temple of God could never, ever, again be defined by physical stones and mortar (whether in Jerusalem; Salt Lake City, Utah; Independence, Missouri; or anywhere else for that matter), we read in Ephesians 2:19-22, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God: And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone: In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

Finally, in 2 Corinthians 6:16, we read, “…Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said (see Ezekiel 37:26&27), I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

To more clearly understand why there could never again be any need for an earthly, physical temple of God following the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, we have only to search the scriptures to review what happened at the precise moment of His death.  We read in Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, and Luke 23:45 that, at that very moment, the veil of the temple was rent in twain (torn in two) from top to bottom. 

The result was that the “Holiest of all,” (see Hebrews 9:3) the tabernacle altar of God (where only the high priest, alone, could venture once a year to make an atoning sacrifice of blood on the Day of Atonement) which had heretofore always been hidden from outside view by the veil, had now been fully exposed by God to show that the sign or figure that the “Holiest of all” of the temple represented had been perfectly fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; as He was both the sacrificial Lamb of God and the High Priest that offered the perfect atoning blood sacrifice.  God was showing that the function of the earthly temple had come to an end! (Read all of Hebrews chapter 9 to see that this is so).   Although the Jewish high priest (Caiaphas) no doubt rushed in to repair the torn veil, so that he, and the other Jewish high priests that followed him, could continue the yearly atonement sacrificial rite until the physical temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., the priestly action would have been pure vanity and rebellion against God.  Those efforts could not have had any effect or substance so far as God’s plan of salvation was concerned.  In fact, (according to Isaiah 66:1-4) they would have only been an abomination in God’s sight (because by carrying out those rites, the Jews were continuing to deny that Jesus Christ had come to fulfill the law of sacrifice, which had all along been the sole focal point of the blood sacrifices that were carried out in the temple before Christ died). 

This is the most likely reason why God finally allowed the physical temple in Jerusalem to be destroyed for the third (and last) time (as prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24:1-2), and why he scattered National Israel, the Jews (until our day).  Additionally, because God also subsequently allowed the Islamic Dome of the Rock to be built on the temple site in Jerusalem, the Jews have been prevented from rebuilding the temple ever again (despite the fact that the Jews in National Israel have had political sovereignty over Jerusalem since 1967).

A Dimmed Vision

In a previous post entitled, “Spiritual Vertigo”, I addressed three reasons why true believers, particularly in western evangelicalism, have entered a state where they have become disorientated. They struggle from week to week and from one Sunday morning worship to the next. The church has lost its balance and people are sick.

But, why or how does this happen?

Here are the reasons that I gave.

First, we fail to keep sight of the holiness, majesty, and glory of the almighty God. (Part 1)

Second, our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

Third, we become disorientated when we work harder to make the church appealing to unbelievers than we do in making the church a place for the sheep to come and find quiet waters and pastures where they can feed without the fear of wolves. (Part 3 – tbd)

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Today, nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population has myopia, or nearsightedness, and it’s only expected to grow. By 2050, 50 percent of the world’s population, a total of nearly 5 billion, will be myopic, according to a new review study published in the journal Opthalmology.

I fall into this category of humanity. Thankfully, there are remedies to assist those with myopia. Some choose the more radical approach like Lasik surgery, while others simply go to a local eye doctor and obtain a prescription for glasses. Personally, I have worn glasses since I was about three or four. Today, if I take my glasses off, I cannot even read the computer screen on my laptop from more than about 8-9” away.

Our family has been blessed to see and enjoy some of the beautiful places in America. Some we have lived in and others were simply enjoyed on a trip for vacation or for ministry purposes. We are blessed in that we have literally been from sea to shining sea. We have touched the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, and have traveled from the Gulf of Mexico up north to the Dakotas near Canada and walked on frozen lakes.

It would be sad to have visited all those places though and not been able to see them clearly. Now that we live in Wyoming, we are close to some of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen. Alpine lakes dot the Rockies, and there is a feeling of sereneness that comes from standing at 10-12,000 feet (3050-3700 meters) above sea level. It feels like you can see into tomorrow.

But ONLY with my glasses.

Over the years, my eyesight has grown worse though and every so often I have to get a stronger prescription. If I did not, my ability to see long-distances would grow exceptionally dim. Yet, the warning signs do show up to remind me that it is time for another check-up. These can include: blinking to try and clear the vision, headaches, and tiredness.

I will be one of the first to admit that I hate wearing glasses. For a time, I tried contact lenses but the high winds in Wyoming make them quickly uncomfortable. So, until it is time for me to go to my eternal home, I have to keep wearing a weight on my nose and ears.

The only other alternative would be to stop wear glasses. Would such an action stop me from living? No, it would not. Many around the world live without glasses, especially in poor Third World countries. However, it would keep me from doing a lot of things. I could not drive. Visiting the beautiful mountains and lakes would mean nothing for I would not be able to see them.

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Years ago while living in England, I remember seeing a poster advertising for help to get glasses to Nepal and Bhutan. This charitable organization was requesting old or second-hand glasses that they could take to help out those less fortunate. The top picture showed a blurry picture of the Himalayas with a question like: “What if this was how you saw the Himalayas?” It was followed by a second picture from the same perspective but was crystal clear with the words “Instead of like this!”

Every day that I am able to leave my home, I always look across the plains to see the mountains. However, some people are so focused on what is immediately around them that the far-off objects tend to lose their value. People know the mountains are there just like they know the sun rises and sets every day. However, many fail to see the beautiful myriad of colors that grace the skies every single day.

They live their lives in such a way that the majesty of God’s creation has become dulled. Whether it is the humdrum of everyday life, or job, or family commitments, something keeps them enjoying seeing those things that are in the distance.

And this is what brings us to the second point for true believers. Let me repeat it here.

Our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

Every true believer should remember that this world is NOT our home. The writer of Hebrews and the apostle Peter put it quite succinctly.

Hebrews 11:13-14 – These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

1 Peter 2:11 – Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.

Reread the words from Hebrews in this perspective. “These who are true believers died in their faith in Jesus Christ. They had not received the heavenly blessings and inheritance which was promised to them with the Holy Spirit given as a downpayment. However, they kept looking into eternity realizing it was coming. However, because of that FAR-sight, they had to recognize that they were but strangers AND exiles while living on earth. And by the way, people who know how to talk in this kind of language are really telling everyone around them that they are looking for the heaven which is to come. The reason is simply because HEAVEN IS THEIR HOMELAND!”

Peter was just as straightforward when he addressed the true believers who had been forced out of Judea during the Diaspora.

Here are Peter’s words again from an expanded perspective. “Beloved, dear ones, those whom I love with all my heart, family, I beg you to remember that you are sojourners AND exiles. This world is NOT your home, you are just passing through. That which is of heaven should be your focus instead of what is in the world. Therefore, be so heavenly minded that the passions of the flesh will lose their appeal. The passions the world has to offer only wages mortal combat against every part of your being.”

Now listen to the words of the apostle John as he wrote some of the last words in his book “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” Dear reader, this precious book is NOT about the revelation about John or to John or even from John. The aged apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, makes it clear in the very first verse that this “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” This book is ALL about revealing more of Jesus Christ to us.

Read these beautiful words from Revelation 21:1-4.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Maybe like the Jews of the Old Testament, it would benefit us to have these words written and carried on our arms and on our foreheads. What if we printed these off and pasted them on every wall of our homes and doors and work cubicles? I believe the reminder of these verses every day would give us the prescription we need to refocus on that which cannot be seen with human eyes.

ALL that the world can offer only brings dullness to the heart, the mind, and the soul of every true believer. It may bring pleasure for a short time, but those pleasures will dry up and blow away like dry leaves on an autumn wind.

Yes, it will be wonderful to live in a new heaven and a new earth. What an incredible experience it will be to see the New Jerusalem radiating like a bride adorned for her husband. But oh, the words that really amaze me are these –

The dwelling place of God is WITH MAN! God will dwell WITH THEM! They will be HIS PEOPLE! God Himself will be WITH THEM as their God.

Dear readers, there is NO religion in the world that can offer such a promise. NO denomination with all of its traditions, creeds, and man-made teachings can offer such an inheritance. This can only come from the One who loved us and gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice so that we can know we have eternal life.

And the next words are no less a blessing and an encouragement.

NO more tears. NO more death. NO more mourning. NO more crying. NO more pain. The poignancy of these words though to me is not because there will be no more tears. This God of all creation will personally WIPE the tears from our eyes. We will know Him in all His glory and we will sing His praises from fully glorified bodies.

What an amazing day that will never end!

If the wonder of eternity remains dulled to us because we prefer to believe that the world holds more allure to us, then we will become a miserable failure because of a dimmed vision.

May our hearts be encouraged with a fresh look at the Savior today. May we be blessed with the recollection of all the heavenly benefits that belong to us.

A Miserable Failure

In a previous post entitled, “Spiritual Vertigo”, I addressed three reasons why true believers, particularly in western evangelicalism, have entered a state where they have become disorientated. They struggle from week to week and from one Sunday morning worship to the next. The church has lost its balance and people are sick.

Sadly, for some believers, the change has been so gradual that they missed the warning signs. Now that their balance is off or their lives have become disorientated, they have become like the person born with sight in just one eye or with hearing in just one ear. Such individuals do not know what they are missing because they have never known the privilege of seeing with two eyes or hearing with two ears.

Many believers now live thinking that their view of God, eternity, or sound Biblical doctrine is crystal clear. Life continues each day as though that focus is on that which is heavenly, but they have become partially mute and blind to the wonders of the One whose name we claim as our own before the world.

Sometimes, true believers do not know why they are worshipping, but they make the effort. While the prophet Jeremiah reminded his listeners that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, we still refer to our heart as the seat of our emotions and particularly where we say we have our love for God. It is our heart that gets us in trouble and what we actually need is to follow the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2,

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

During His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ quoted from Isaiah 29:13. Both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew record His words as He addressed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the scribes. These were individuals who seemed to have all the answers, but something was missing.

Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

But, why or how does this happen?

Here are the three reasons that I gave, and in the balance of this post, it is my intention to focus just on the first point. Lord willing, in the near future, I will address the other two in greater length.

First, we fail to keep sight of the holiness, majesty, and glory of the almighty God.

Second, our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

Third, we become disorientated when we work harder to make the church appealing to unbelievers than we do in making the church a place for the sheep to come and find quiet waters and pastures where they can feed without the fear of wolves.

In my previous post, I gave a few quotes and I continue with three of those now.

A.W. Pink – Happy the soul that has been awed by a view of God’s majesty.

King David – Psalm 93:1, The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Jude – half-brother of Jesus Christ in his little book – Jude 25, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

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Almost thirty-five years ago, I was touring London, England with a group of USAF servicemen. I had my film camera at the ready and we were making the rounds of the locations all tourists stop. One of the stops included Buckingham Palace. Walking ahead of the group, I noticed that the Royal Standard was being lowered, but gave it no more thought. Approaching a side gate, I stood alone and watched as a few very expensive cars pulled out of an archway and headed directly toward the gate that was in front of me.

To my amazement, the gate swung open and I watched dumbfounded as the entire Royal family passed no more than three feet from where I stood on the curbside. A couple of them waved as they passed. I was too shocked to remember that my camera was around my neck until they swept quickly out of view.

Yes, I can say that in that moment, I had not just seen the Royal family, but I had also seen Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She had no idea who I was, but I had seen her and she had seen me. It was a thrilling moment as we looked at each other ever so briefly through the tinted windows of her luxury vehicle.

A couple of years later, I have a Scottish uncle who had a career working on submarines in conjunction with the Royal Navy. For his work, he was invited to Buckingham Palace to receive a special medal and be knighted. The ceremony took place with great pomp and fanfare. Each recipient of an award had to be dressed in very formal attire and each person invited was expected to behave in a very dignified manner. I was privileged to see some of the pictures of the event in which my uncle had the privilege of being recognized for his work by none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

After the person receives their award, Her Majesty takes a few moments to interact with the recipient on a personal basis and by name. Many have commented that this personal touch often means more than the award itself.

The difference between my encounter with the Queen and that of my uncle was worlds apart.

I stood OUTSIDE the gates of the palace. The queen never knew who I was. And, I was dressed in jeans and wearing a dark brown leather jacket. There was nothing significant that took place that day. I had done nothing to warrant a personal meeting with Her Majesty.

On my uncle’s part, he went INSIDE the palace. He was part of a garden party after. He personally met and spoke with the Queen and she spoke with him. My uncle was dressed in formal attire and his wife was dressed like a proper lady complete with fancy hat. It was a significant event because his work had warranted the personal meeting. He was there because his presence was requested by the government and the Palace.

Everything about the meeting is choreographed except for the personal interaction with the Queen who maintains the prerogative to say or ask whatever she wishes to each individual recipient. However, the invitation, the travel to and into the Palace, the meeting with the General Lord Chamberlain as he gives final directions, and even the walk through the halls of the Palace – there is nothing flippant or untoward as each person prepares (and is prepared) to come face to face with the monarch of the United Kingdom.

What an amazing honor it would be to receive an invitation!

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Yet, as a true believer, we have been granted a much higher honor.

No longer clothed in the filthy rags of our own self-importance and failed attempts in attaining righteousness, the holy God of all creation has brought us into the Palace and counts us as His children. We are no longer children of the evil one. Taking away the stench of our wickedness, He has clothed us with the impeccable, white garments of His own Son, Jesus Christ.

Christ invites us to dine with Him as He supplies all of our needs, and at times, He even gives us some of the desires of our heart.

Like the account of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel, our Heavenly Father also outfits us with all the trappings that reflect our parentage. Weapons and armor are freely provided in order to protect us against the attacks of the evil one. This includes the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of the Spirit.

My uncle received an invitation one time, but our King has written the most beautiful love letter to us. Through this love letter, the Bible, He converses with us at any time we come before His presence. Even when we take the time to memorize portions of this letter, His Word promises that He is there.

A trip to Buckingham Palace is normally a once-in-a-lifetime honor and experience. Yet, dear readers, our King has NOT left us comfortless. The Holy Spirit remains with us forever as a down-payment on our inheritance. Further, we need no appointments or invitations to visit the throne room of heaven. It is ours to go to anytime, any day, and for any reason.

When we arrive, we get to walk right by the angels who can never know the joy of salvation. Approaching the throne itself, we have the right and the privilege of walking up and addressing the King as “Abba” or “Father.”

And, He takes the time and deigns to hear our petitions!

How was all of this possible? Because He gave His only begotten Son.

To whom is this available? That whosoever believes in Him may come and drink freely.

Investiture is defined as the action of formally investing a person with honors or rank.

What is the investiture to those who believe? We shall not perish. We now have eternal life. The justice and wrath we deserved was poured out on Jesus Christ. Because of His blood that He shed, we have been granted all of these wonders.

This and more should cause us to rejoice that our names have been written for time and eternity in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Why?

Jude 25, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Now ask yourself this –

1. Does our worship retain this kind of sight of the Almighty God?
2. What has caused our vision to fail?
3. Is our collective worship a reflection of this kind of God?
4. Is our worship dulled because of man-made traditions that take the focus off of Christ and put it on self-centered man?
5. Does every aspect of our worship point to this kind of God?
6. Pastors and teachers, do those who hear us have this view of God when they leave? Or, do they only remember the illustrations, pithy little stories, and the lightheartedness designed to make the world feel better about themselves?
7. When we come before the Communion Table, what is our attitude and focus?

It does not take much for our sight to become dull and our lives to become disorientated. When this occurs, our delight is no longer in God, but in what we think we must have in order for life to work for us. Even what we consider collective worship can leave us disorientated if we are not vigilant and striving to constantly be reminded of Who we serve.

May our hearts be encouraged with a fresh look at the Savior today. May we be blessed with the recollection of all the heavenly benefits that belong to us.

You Are…

You are my Glory and my Hope
Perfect in all Your ways
You are the One in Whom I rest
You are my Hope and Stay

You are my Wisdom and my Rock
The Blesser of my soul
The Hearer of my painful cries
You’re holy and faithful

You are the One in whom I trust
The Strength’ner of my heart
You are my Shield and Protection
You’ll never more depart

You uphold all your righteous ones
You are my Hiding Place
You are the One Who gives me food
My Light, my Truth, my Grace

You are Alpha and Omega
You are the First and Last
When You come back to take me home
My sin will all be past.

Words by Violet Escalera – January 2017
(Can be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace)

An Encouraging Thanksgiving

Dear Reader,

With all the hubbub about the recent US Presidential election still not over, I felt it would be appropriate to go a different direction with this post. May it be an encouragement to you as we enter a very special season.

In the UK, a special day reminds us to be thankful and is often called Harvest Sunday or Harvest Thanksgiving Sunday. Many churches gather together and have a large display of crops from the surrounding farming lands. They give thanks to God that stomachs are not empty, pantries are stocked, and another year of working in the fields has come to a productive end.

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In the USA, schoolchildren are taught that Thanksgiving came about as a way to thank the Lord for bringing the Pilgrims through a bleak winter where many of them died. Proclamations were made for a Thanksgiving remembrance by various officials until,

“As President of the United States, George Washington proclaimed the first nationwide thanksgiving celebration in America marking November 26, 1789, ‘as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favours of Almighty God.’”

Oh, how is it that we have fallen so far from such a proclamation about what we should be doing. This year though there will be no prayer to Almighty God. Our nation has become a nation where the vast majority prefers to live in a way that emulates the Book of Judges. “Every man (and woman) does that which is right in their own eyes.”

The apostle Paul could have easily been seeing the future when he wrote Romans 3:18, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” This once great nation, established as one nation under God, has crumbled. It has gone from being a moral and upright democracy to a nation that has no morals. We are not an immoral society but have gone far beyond that point.

Even a vast majority of those who claim the name of Christ have determined that, in the words of Doris Day, “Que sera, sera.” Whatever will be, will be. The world and the church glibly sings, “The future is not ours to see. Live for the moment. Eat, drink, and be merry.”

Yet, the future is there to behold to the eye of the saint who is watching, waiting, and working for the return of her Beloved Bridegroom. The future holds so much hope and promise knowing that one day we will no longer have to remain living in a human shell that still craves at times what was paid for on the Cross of Calvary.

One day, we will no longer have to deal with even a single vestige of the old man. We will no longer have to cry bitterly with Paul as we both proclaim, “O wretched man, who will deliver us from the body of this death?”

This last week, I read more than one person who thinks a large percentage of Americans are true Christians. Several have expressed hope in the new US President-Elect, yet within days of having won the election is already waffling on his promises.

Many think that we should just wear safety pins to show everybody they are loved and accepted just as they are with no change required. What a travesty that all of this has so permeated the church to the point that believers look almost identical to the world.

The church-at-large has failed. Let me reiterate that – THE CHURCH-AT-LARGE HAS FAILED. Miserably. Conclusively. Totally.

However….

Elijah was reminded that there were 7,000 who had still not bowed the knee to Baal. In like manner, I want to remind those who are true believers that there are others who have not bowed their knees to the Baals of this world. My hope is not found in politics. It is not found in a bank account. It is not built on failed promises that will never be kept by mortal men.

This Thanksgiving season is one that I choose to remember the glory of the Risen Christ. It is a season that I choose to remember the price that was paid so that I can reign with Him on high. This year, I will again bow the knee and heart and give thanks with a grateful heart. A true heart of Thanksgiving will not be destroyed by the depravity of the world around us. We will and MUST remain grateful and keep our eyes looking up to the prize that is set before us.

Our Lord went to the cross and despised the shame. It is from that Cross that He calls us to TAKE UP our cross and follow Him. As strangers and pilgrims, we are not called to bind ourselves to this world that C.S. Lewis rightly called, “The Shadowlands.”

Lord willing, a few of us will be writing and sharing words of Biblical encouragement during this season. Yes, there will still be a depraved world to live in, but we can encourage one other with these words as Paul was eager to remind the Thessalonian believers.

My desire is not to point out the fallacy of all that is transpiring in the world. I do not want to get to the point where I say, “See, I told you so.” My heart is to share with you and encourage you to such a point of thankfulness that when we close our eyes on this earth and wake up in the arms of our Blessed Redeemer that we will be able to say, “The half has never been told!”

Happy Thanksgiving!

His Robes For Mine

The glorious work of what Christ has done for me can overwhelm the heart and soul. That God was estranged from God cannot be truly comprehended. Just as great is the truth that this beggar had Somebody to die in my stead so that I would be able to stand faultless before the Father.

All because of Christ and Christ alone!

 

“Homeschooling From a Biblical Worldview” with Israel Wayne

20130829-084823.jpgOn August 25, 2013, I had the privilege to interview noted homeschool speaker and author, Israel Wayne. He is an outspoken proponent for the homeschool movement and teaches Christians that home education should be considered an extension of our God given parental duties. Mr. Wayne also states that homeschooling should not be done so that we can produce smarter and more conservative minded children than their government school counterparts. Rather, homeschooling should be done for the express purpose of cultivating a biblical worldview in our children, leading them to the blood stained cross of Jesus Christ and bringing God the glory He is due. Our interview was aired during the Cross Encounters Radio program and can also be heard at Sermon Audio by clicking on the link below. I pray you take the time to listen to this interview. Whether you are just considering homeschooling or you are an experienced pro, I believe Israel Wayne’s insights will be a blessing to you.

http://www.sermonaudio.com/playpopup.asp?SID=827131237287