The Secret Place

IMG_20141229_103733There’s a place where the Lord longs to fellowship with us. A place where we can escape every other thing vying for our attention. A place where our circumstances fade in the peace of His comfort. A place where my flesh is rendered powerless.  A place where the enemy cannot reach me. The place where the Lord dwells.

The secret place is the place where quietness and stillness of mind meet the whispers of the Lord. Through God’s Holy Spirit working within the souls of His followers Jesus quiets our hearts with the soothing calmness of His love. And the Holy Spirit leans in to still our hearts and speak truth to our souls.

I need to be in the secret place so desperately. It’s the only place where anxiety has no room. Where worry has no room. Where temptation has no power. Where sin holds no condemnation. It’s the place of access with us and the Father, made possible through Christ as it says in Ephesians 2:18.

What a comfort this is for my soul that in the midst of being overwhelmed with so many things around me there’s always immediate access to a place where I am free. Especially since I can get so overwhelmed sometimes with pressures of life. And it can be easy to get stuck focusing on everything that’s burdensome. But there’s a better way to live our lives. There is peace beyond what we face.

When I imagine a secret place, I think of the story of The Secret Garden. I always loved the story growing up. It’s a story about a little girl who goes to live at her uncle’s estate after the loss of her parents, and stumbles upon a mysterious key, soon discovering what awaits just beyond its moss-covered door. Beyond are flowers and foliage galore… draping the velvet grass with what once were bright tulips and roses and daisies. Light shines through the willow trees warming her face. Something new has  been discovered. And it gives her hope. She finds a secret place…a place where she can escape the burdens of life. A place that she sneaks away to every chance she gets. And as she continues to steal away to the garden she starts to restore the garden back to its original beauty and splendor, cultivating the natural radiance of the flowers.

I find this so picturesque of the secret place we have access to with our God.

A secret place of refuge. A secret place of refreshment and sweetness. A secret place of fellowship with our God. A place that’s worth sneaking off to and remaining just as long as possible. A place that’s worth cultivating. A place that’s worth devoting time and energy to.

This is the place God longs to draw us to. He has invited us in to a secret place of union with Him through His Spirit. The secret place where we experience the presence of the Lord through the Holy Spirit working within us. A place that frees ours hearts and minds.

But we have to make room for Him to enter. We have to invite Him in to the everyday details of our lives. We have to make time to be with the Lord.

For each person the secret place looks different.

For the secret place resides in the souls believers. It’s not a physical location. It’s not a ritualistic effort. It’s not a requirement to check off our list of to-do’s. Rather it’s the gift of being in constant communion with God, letting Him have access to our lives as we seek access to His Holy throne. It’s a mutual effort, just like any other relationship. And with time, we get to know Him better and His ways and His heart and His passions…and through this, God is able to direct our hearts.

Psalm 139:7-10 says,

” Where can I go to escape Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?
If I go up to heaven, You are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there.
If I live at the eastern horizon
or settle at the western limits,
10 even there Your hand will lead me;
Your right hand will hold on to me.”

No matter where you are, God’s presence envelops you. It surrounds you. It never leaves you.

We have this access to God forevermore…but we must reciprocate this initiation by accepting His invitation. The invitation to join Him in the secret place. Just as the little girl found the key to the secret garden and so journeyed to find its door, we’ve been given a key to unlock the treasures of relationship with our God, if we would seek Him out and let Him take us beyond what we can see. Communing with God in the secret place has the power to reinvigorate our lives… giving us purpose, excitement and joy.

For you…spending time in the secret place may be talking to God in your car without any inhibitions, driving through a busy thoroughfare just conversing with God about your day. Just you and Him, ever aware of counsel to guide you. Maybe it’s getting away from all distractions to be alone and saturate yourself with the Word and prayer, ever aware of His sufficiency to be enough. Maybe it’s listening to music that connects you to God, tuning out the noise around you, walking through the crowds of people, ever aware of the Lord’s presence in that moment. Maybe its waiting in line at the grocery store, meditating on the name of Jesus and dwelling on His goodness, ever aware of His sovereignty in all things.

It may seem difficult to find time with God going about your day, but when we discover that we have immediate access to God wherever we’re at, it will change the perspective of our relationship with Him.

We can seek Him out. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all of your heart.” We must be intentional about seeking Him in everything and every place.

Every place has potential to be converted into a secret place when you accept the invitation of God to be with Him in that moment.

We need to accept this invitation. We need to run to the secret place when life gets overwhelming. We need to run to the secret place when spiritual attacks render us weak and discouraged. We need to run to the secret place when we don’t know what to do or how to respond to life situations. We must run. Not walk. Not stumble upon. Not get there when we get there. We immediately must run to that place if we want to be renewed and refreshed. We have to be intentional in our pursuit of the secret place with God.

I know that in my own life, when I fail to spend time the secret place I start to crumble. When I forget that He is with me everywhere I go, I’m tempted to rely on myself. I can get irritable under the confusion of what I don’t understand or what I feel is too much to handle. I can forget the truth of the Word. Or I can just be blind to the peace of God surrounding me, waiting for me to let go of unnecessary pressure. And this is just not where I want to be. I want to be in the place where God’s glory meets my inadequacy. I want to my mind to be ever aware of Him.

We can learn a lot from Jesus, who was ever aware of the Father and took time to accept His invitation of communion. Jesus spent time in the secret place. In John 7:59-8:1, after many in the crowd debated over Jesus’ claims, it says that “each one went to his own house. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. (emphasis mine)”

I love any sentence that starts out with a “But Jesus…” It illustrates how Jesus is different from all the rest. He’s so much more than all. The rest of the people went their separate ways but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to be alone with God. Jesus went to commune with His Father. He knew that the crowd had been talking about Him. He was aware of the controversy. But He didn’t bother with the conflict. Rather, He went to the secret place, or the Mount of Olives in particular. The place where He knew He could hear the Father’s voice the best and fellowship with Him there. Jesus knew His priorities. And for Him, the secret place was supreme. It’s where He drew His strength.

This encourages my heart to learn from the One who existed as God in all fullness but still sought out the secret place with God the Father. This reveals how important it is to take any moment we can to steal away with the Lord. Wherever you’re at. In whatever capacity you can. Even when you don’t feel like it. As a result of your obedience and posture of humility, the Lord will honor your time with Him and refresh you by His Spirit. And this refreshment is always so worth it.

As I look back, the moments where I’m the least anxious and worrisome are when I spend time with the Lord in the secret place. Those are the moments when my faith cannot be shaken and nothing else matters except His presence meeting me in that moment.

I’m finding more and more that there’s power in the secret place. The place where the Lord dwells.

For in the presence of Jesus His glory eclipses my entire being, all cares and burdens included.

His importance, His radiance, and His awe totally outweighs it all and I am left speechless just resting in wonder. It’s where I long to be. And where I long remain. It’s the place I strive to be. Without it I grow weak. We all do, if we’re honest. If we’re going to make through life in step with our God, growing in Christlikeness, and letting God conform us to the image of His Son as it says in Romans 8:29, we need to prioritize spending time with Him in the secret place.

2 Corinthians 3:18 also says “We all, with unveiled faces are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” As we spend time with the Lord in the secret place, we are transformed…our old self no longer has the power it once did. For we are being renewed in the very image of Christ, who empowers us to follow in His ways.

Jesus waits for you in the secret place. He longs to speak a Word to your heart. He longs to settle you down. To calm you. To love you. To let you know He’s near to You. To let You know He’s aware of what you’re facing. Jesus says, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” in Matthew 11:29. Every moment spent with Him is a moment that benefits our souls. It’s never a waste. May we be ever aware of our unlimited access to our God and King, converting seemingly ordinary moments into sweet moments of meeting with God in the secret place.

“Lord, I love the house where you dwell, the place where your glory resides.” – Psalm 26:8-

Questions for Today:

  • What is the secret place?
  • Why is it significant that Jesus took time to go to the Mount of Olives?
  • Do I accept God’s invitations to meet with Him in the secret place?
  • How can I convert ordinary moments into moments of meeting with God?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

Elevation Worship, “The King is Among Us”

Getting to Know Jesus: Luke 2

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It’s the story of Christmas. The story of Jesus in a manger that we talk about every December. The one we sing about. The one we read about. The story that fuels the holidays and seasonal cheer. The story that initiated our salvation. The one story that matters the most.

But sometimes, we can become susceptible to not really hearing the story amidst the white noise of Christmas merriment. There are moments when we just don’t internalize it. The story meets our ears but not our hearts…it goes through one ear and out the other,  leaving behind the residue of Christianese idiom and misplaced worship in tidings of good cheer.

What if the idea of Christmas has managed to cement itself in our minds as a momentary, seasonal celebration but failed to effect real meaning and reflection on the all surpassing glory of our King? Have we missed the real story? The real point of it all?

I’m afraid of becoming desensitized to the majesty of who Jesus actually is. I’m afraid of my own attraction to the happiness of Christmas that Jesus becomes normal and boring. I don’t want Him to be a mascot of a fleeting holiday or a character in a Christmas play. I want Him to be more. To be all.

Reading this passage in Luke 2, I became ever aware of human nature’s propensity to see Jesus as ordinary, forgetting His identity as God. My heart was challenged in recognizing the interaction between Jesus and his earthly parents after he stayed behind at the temple complex. In this passage Jesus couldn’t help Himself but to remain in His Father’s house, the holy temple of Jerusalem. His parents had already left to return to Nazareth but Jesus remained in the temple for days, talking to the teachers and asking them questions. Though the passage doesn’t say this, I like to imagine that Jesus felt some kind of gravitational pull drawing Him to the house of God where he would finally be in the holy temple with His Father, communing together with Him and with others who had devoted their lives to His service, especially since this chapter tells us that His family only went to Jerusalem once a year for the Passover Festival. It makes sense that Jesus as a young boy would want to spend as much time in the temple complex as possible.

But towards the end of the passage when His parents realized that He had remained behind in Jerusalem, they just didn’t understand. They didn’t get it. They blamed Jesus for causing them anxiety, not recognizing how significant it was for Jesus who is fully God to spend time in the holy temple of God and His people. They just saw Jesus as an ordinary 12 year-old kid, disappearing from his parents. Doing what kids do.

They forgot in that moment who He was.

This challenged my heart because I realize I do this to Jesus too. And all too often at Christmas. Sometimes I can forget who Jesus is in the busyness of my own plans and in the activities of the holiday season.

Sometimes I can treat Jesus as too normal, forgetting who He is. I can forget that He is Lord and not just a baby in a manger in a Christmas play…my King and not just a good person who brought hope to the earth…my all-consuming sufficiency and not a slice of happiness in the modernist movement of religious universalism.

When we get complacent or routinely comfortable in our relationship with God we see Him as anything but God. He becomes ordinary in our minds. We start to assume He’s powerless. Or just a figure-head. Like the British monarchy…powerful and prestigious in name but incapable of actually doing anything. These lies permeate our minds when we fail to see Christ as King.

I’ve observed that Christmas can have the unfortunate potential to desensitize us to the glory of Jesus, making Him normal and routine…the usual object of the holiday season instead of the One true King of the universe. Jesus is the LORD and He deserves to be honored as such. He deserves our affection, our time, our trust, and our devotion.

And this is not to condemn Christmas completely. I myself love it the most of any holiday! But lately I’ve wondered if the holiday festivities contribute towards replacing the glory of Jesus. And I just don’t want that to happen in my heart. I don’t want the glamour of Christmas to eclipse the glory of the One due my affection. I want Jesus to remain glorified. Supreme. Majestic. More radiant than all.

So as we enjoy this season of Christmas and rest with our families, may we recognize Jesus for who He is. Not who we assume Him to be. Not who culture says He is. Not who the Christmas movies and songs say He is. Let us look at His word and get to know Him. Let us spend time with Him. Let us frame our Christmas around the glory of our King and not our King around the festivities of our Christmas celebration. May we discover who He truly is in the midst of this Christmas season.

And as as we get to know Jesus, we will find that where He is, is actually the place where we need to be also. Mary and Joseph found their son, Jesus, in exactly the place where they needed to be all along…in the presence of God learning His ways and meditating on His truth. Verse 51 of Luke 2 tells us that “Mary treasured all these things in her heart.” In that moment, I think Mary finally realized what was most important. May we do the same and treasure these things in our hearts as well.

May we seek Jesus this Christmas. For as we seek Him, we will find Him in the place that’s most important…the place where we need to be. With Him. Treasuring Him in our hearts. Discovering that He indeed is the most beautiful One and the true glory of Christmas.

Summary of Luke 2

Caesar Augustus sends out a decree to register the Roman Empire; Joseph returns to his hometown of Bethlehem in Judea along with Mary to be registered; Joseph is of the family line of David; Mary is pregnant; Mary and Joseph are engaged; Mary gives birth while they are in Bethlehem; Mary wraps her son in a snuggly cloth and lays him in a feeding trough, as there are no vacant rooms at the inn in Bethlehem; in the same region, an angel of the Lord appears to a group of shepherds who are out watching their flock; the angel tells the shepherds that the Messiah has just been born and then tells them where they can find Him; all the sudden there is a large group of heavenly hosts joining the angel singing praises and glory to God and proclaiming peace on earth to those He favors; the angel leaves and the shepherds decide to go and look for this Messiah; they go and find Mary and Joseph with the baby in a feeding trough; the shepherds tell them the message they were told by the angel; Mary treasures all these things in her heart and meditates on them; the shepherds return glorifying God about all that they saw and heard; the baby is named Jesus – this name was given to Mary by an angel before he was conceived; He is brought to Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord; while in the temple complex at Jerusalem, a man named Simeon finally gets to see the Messiah, just as it was revealed to Him that he would, by the Holy Spirit; Mary and Joseph are amazed at all that is spoken about Him; Simeon prophecies about Jesus; at this time a temple prophetess named Anna, a widow who never leaves the temple complex, begins to speak to everyone regarding the redemption of Jerusalem; Mary and Joseph return to Nazareth in Galilee; when Jesus is 12 years old, His family goes to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival and then leaves not realizing that Jesus is still in the temple; Jesus tells them He must be in His Father’s house but they don’t understand Him; Jesus is obedient and goes to Nazareth with them; Mary keeps all these things in her heart; Jesus increases in wisdom, stature and favor with God and people.

 

Jesus in Luke 2

Jesus was born in a day where Jews were subject to Roman rule (v. 1)

Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, was a descendent of David (v. 4)

Jesus is a descendent of David (v. 4)

Jesus’ mother was pregnant while unmarried (v. 5)

Jesus existed as a fetus in Mary’s womb (v. 5)

Jesus’ parents were engaged at the time of his birth (v. 6)

Jesus was born in Bethlehem (v. 6)

Jesus was Mary’s firstborn son (v. 7)

Jesus was wrapped in snuggly cloth once He was born (v. 7)

Jesus existed as a baby (v. 7)

Jesus came into the world vulnerable and needy for human care (v. 7)

Jesus was placed in an animal feeding trough (v. 7)

Jesus was born into lowly and borderline-unsafe conditions (v. 7)

Jesus’ parents were ignored by the folks at the inn (v. 7)

Jesus was born without glory or splendor (v. 7)

Jesus came into the world quietly and without attention (v. 7)

Jesus didn’t come into the world mighty and powerful although He is God (v. 7)

Jesus emulates humility and servanthood in the way God chose for Him to enter the world (v. 7)

Jesus’ birth was proclaimed by angels to shepherds (v. 9-12)

Jesus is the Savior (v. 11)

Jesus is the Messiah (v. 11)

Jesus is the Lord (v. 11)

Jesus was born for us (v. 11)

Jesus was born in the city of David (v. 11)

Jesus’ location was given to a group of faithful, on-the-clock shepherds (v. 12)

Jesus’ birth was proclaimed not to worthy or rich people but to ones considered lowly (v. 12)

Jesus was told to be found wrapped in snugly clothes lying in a feeding trough (v. 12)

Jesus’ birth was celebrated by the angels (v. 13-14)

Jesus’ birth was celebrated by heavenly hosts (v. 13-14)

Jesus’ birth brought glory to God (v. 14)

Jesus’ birth initiated peace on earth to the people God favors (v. 14)

Jesus’ birth announcement from the angel instigated interest and curiosity in the shepherds (v. 15)

Jesus was sought out by the shepherds (v. 15-16)

Jesus was worth the shepherds’ travel (v. 16)

Jesus was found by the shepherds (v. 16)

Jesus’ birth and message was reported by the shepherds to all who would listen (v. 17-18)

Jesus gave hope to the shepherds (v. 17-18)

Jesus’ birth was a message that amazed all who heard it (v. 18)

Jesus was treasured by His mother, Mary (v. 19)

Jesus caused the shepherds to glorify God as they returned home (v. 20)

Jesus’ name was given to Mary by the angel that appeared to her, before he was conceived by the Holy Spirit (v. 21)

Jesus was presented to the Lord in Jerusalem as per the Law of the Lord given to Jews (v. 22-23)

Jesus’ family followed Jewish law (v. 23)

Jesus’ family honored God (v. 22-23)

Jesus was dedicated to the Lord as the firstborn son (v. 23)

Jesus’ family offered a sacrifice according to the law of the Lord of 2 turtledoves, or 2 young pigeons (v. 24)

Jesus’ family’s sacrifice (for their firstborn’s dedication) of 2 turtledoves or 2 young pigeons distinguished them as a poorer family (v. 24)

Jesus’ family was not elite in status or wealthy in means (v. 24)

Jesus’ coming into the world as the Messiah was revealed to Simeon to occur in his lifetime (v. 25-26)

Jesus’ birth was anticipated (v. 26)

Jesus is brought to the temple complex by His parents to perform for Him what was customary under the law (v. 27)

Jesus’ dedication at the temple was typical Jewish practice (v. 27)

Jesus is noticed by Simeon (v. 28)

Jesus as a baby is held and celebrated by Simeon (v. 28)

Jesus causes Simeon to praise God (v. 28)

Jesus is the promised Messiah Simeon had been waiting for (v. 29)

Jesus gives Simeon peace and assurance (v. 29-30)

Jesus is God’s salvation (v. 30)

Jesus was prepared by God in the presence of all people (v. 31)

Jesus is a light (v. 31)

Jesus illuminates revelation to the Gentiles (v. 32)

Jesus is the glory of Israel (v. 32)

Jesus’ parents were amazed at all that was spoken of Him (v. 33)

Jesus and His parents were blessed by Simeon (v. 34)

Jesus is prophesied over by Simeon (v. 34-35)

Jesus would cause the rise and fall of many in Israel (v. 34)

Jesus would be opposed (v. 34)

Jesus’ mother would be pierced with sorrow so that many might be given hope (v. 35)

Jesus’ destiny is made clear from infancy (v. 34-35)

Jesus’ coming into the world coincides with Anna, a widow in the temple complex, declaring the redemption of Jerusalem in the temple (v. 36-38)

Jesus’ parents return with Him to Nazareth, their hometown (v. 39)

Jesus grows (v. 40)

Jesus functions like any other human (v. 40)

Jesus becomes strong (v. 40)

Jesus is filled with wisdom (v. 40)

Jesus experienced the grace of God upon Him (v. 40)

Jesus’ family traveled to Jerusalem every year for the Passover Festival (v. 41)

Jesus’ family faithfully practiced Jewish religion and customs (v. 42)

Jesus stayed in the temple complex for a few days after the Passover Festival when He was 12 years old (v. 43-50)

Jesus’ parents accidentally started to journey back without Him (v. 43-44)

Jesus’ parents didn’t notice that He was missing (v. 43-44)

Jesus’ parents come back to Jerusalem to look for Him (v. 45)

Jesus remained in the temple complex listening to the teachers (v. 46)

Jesus asked the teachers questions (v. 46)

Jesus astounded everyone around Him with His understanding (v. 47)

Jesus astounded everyone around Him with His answers (v. 47)

Jesus is brilliant (v. 47)

Jesus is wise (v. 47)

Jesus is an articulate communicator (v. 47)

Jesus is bold (v. 47)

Jesus spoke with authority (v. 47)

Jesus is not intimidated (v. 47)

Jesus is confident (v. 47)

Jesus’ parents were astonished when they found Him in the temple complex (v. 48)

Jesus was misunderstood by His parents (v. 48)

Jesus was treated like a normal youth by his parents (v. 48)

Jesus’ disappearance (in the minds of His parents) worried them (v. 48)

Jesus caused His parents anxiety because they didn’t yet understand what was most important (v. 48)

Jesus desired to be in His Father’s House above all else (v. 49)

Jesus belongs to God first and His parents second (v. 49)

Jesus reminded his parents that He had to be in His Father’s house (v. 49)

Jesus desires to commune with the Father (v. 50)

Jesus’ parents still didn’t understand what He was saying to them (v. 50)

Jesus was obedient to His earthly parents (v. 51)

Jesus shows obedience out of respect (v. 51)

Jesus shows honor, though He ultimately is due more honor than anyone (v. 51)

Jesus’ mother treasures all these things in her heart (v. 51)

Jesus’ mother finally begins to understand (v. 51)

Jesus increased in wisdom (v. 52)

Jesus increased in stature (v. 52)

Jesus wasn’t born with all fullness but grew into it (v. 52)

Jesus was human (v. 52)

Jesus increased in favor with God (v. 52)

Jesus increased in favor with people (v. 52)

“Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David.” – Matthew 2:11 –

Questions for Today:

  • How am I navigating through the busyness of this Christmas season?
  • Why should I be intentional to elevate Jesus as my King?
  • What can I do to illuminate the glory of Jesus Christ to others this Christmas season?
  • Why is it so important to seek Jesus where He is at?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

“Peace Has Come” by Hillsong Worship

Getting to Know Jesus: Revelation 3

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In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, revealed to John on the island of Patmos, Jesus spends chapter 2-3 verbalizing what John is to write to the seven churches in Asia Minor. Scattered across the Anatolia Peninsula (or present day Western Turkey) these seven churches include Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, originating in part because of the influence of Paul’s missionary journeys within the region. As Jesus speaks to these churches specifically in this book, these churches ultimately typify the large swath of churches that have existed since the time of the early church and still remain today. Christ’s appraisal, instruction and affirmation of these churches extends to all churches for all time and should be considered seriously when evaluating the livelihood of a congregation or body of faith.

Similarly, these exhortations should be considered individually as well. As we get to know Jesus in Revelation chapter 3, it is clear that Jesus remains aware of our spiritual condition. Just as he spoke to these churches in Asia Minor, who possessed strengths and weaknesses regarding their faith, so Jesus also speaks into our lives regarding where we are at in our relationship with Him. Through His Holy Spirit, we are made aware of the true contents of our hearts. Sometimes this can be a rather ugly picture, just as the church in Laodicea was reprimanded for being “lukewarm” or indifferent in their faith. But this can also inspire change in us if we obediently respond to the call to pursue Jesus.

Reading this passage in Revelation chapter 3, I can see various areas in my own life where my faith is either frail or flourishing. Because of this, I’m finding it is extremely important to be open to reprimand and consultation for the sake of spiritual growth. As we desire to grow more like Christ, we must recognize our own tendencies to fail spiritually while asking God to help us, but also recognize the areas where we are flourishing spiritually while giving thanks to God for His grace to do so and His grace to sustain us.

When we consider that Jesus does indeed notice our faith it should compel us to pursue Christlikeness passionately and purposefully.

Revelation 3 reveals Jesus as the One who sees all but still cares enough to admonish His followers out of love. He alone possesses knowledge regarding the deepest parts of our hearts. And He longs to cleanse us. But we must be attentive to Him. His words of matter. Only His words. His opinion regarding where we are at in our faith matters. His opinion regarding our spiritual lives matter. Everything He has to say to us matters. Letting Him expose us to our own sinful tendencies so that we may confront them is imperative in growing more Christlike.

Without this refining we are susceptible to grow complacent, or even lukewarm like the church in Laodicea. And that is just not a good place to be. Let us elevate our view of Jesus Christ so that we may receive His words with honor and anticipation of His glorious beauty revealed. Jesus has a word He wants to speak to our hearts today. May we have ears to hear and hearts receptive.

Summary of Revelation 3

Jesus speaks to John, who is exiled on the island of Patmos and receives a vision from the Lord about the last days; Jesus instructs John to write a letter to the angel of the church in Sardis; Jesus tells them that He knows their activity and reputation, yet he exposes them as being dead, not alive in the faith; Jesus tells them they must repent; Jesus acknowledges that there are a few at the church in Sardis who have not soiled their garments with dead faith; Jesus instructs John to write a letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia; Jesus tells them He has given them an open door that remains open and no one can shut; Jesus notices their faith and endurance despite their weakness; Jesus reminds them that He is coming soon; Jesus instructs John to write a letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea; Jesus rebukes them for being lukewarm; Jesus says He will spit them out of His mouth if they remain this way; Jesus offers them gold refined by fire, white garments to cleanse themselves, and eye salve so they may see; Jesus tells them He disciplines those whom He loves; Jesus says that He waits at the door knocking and will come to whoever opens the door to Him; Jesus will allow the one who conquers to sit on His throne with Him just as His Father allowed Him to sit with Him on His throne; Jesus extols them to listen.

 

Jesus in Revelation 3

Jesus instructs the church in Sardis (v. 1-6)

Jesus speaks with authority (v. 1)

Jesus knows their works (v. 1)

Jesus is aware of their reputation among the community (v. 1)

Jesus sees beneath reputation (v. 1)

Jesus sees them for what they truly are (v. 1)

Jesus is aware of their spiritual condition (v. 1)

Jesus points out the discrepancy between what others perceive of them and who they truly are (v. 1)

Jesus always perceives our hearts (v. 1)

Jesus exhorts them to wake up (v. 2)

Jesus exhorts them to strengthen what remains (v. 2)

Jesus warns them that what remains is about to die unless it is dealt with (v. 2)

Jesus does not find their works complete in the sight of God (v. 2)

Jesus admonishes for the sake of their renewal (v. 2)

Jesus rebukes because He cares (v. 2)

Jesus reminds them to remember what they have heard and been taught (v. 3)

Jesus urges them to repent (v. 3)

Jesus wants to forgive them (v. 3)

Jesus will come against the unresponsive (v. 3)

Jesus will come like a thief at an unknown hour (v. 3)

Jesus recognizes those in Sardis who have remained faithful (v. 4)

Jesus will walk with the faithful ones in white (v. 4)

Jesus calls these few ones worthy (v. 4)

Jesus bestows honor (v. 4)

Jesus will cloth the one who conquers in white garments (v. 5)

Jesus cleanses (v. 5)

Jesus will never blot out the names of the one who conquer in the book of life (v. 5)

Jesus’ love is unconditional (v. 5)

Jesus will confess their names before the Father and His angels (v. 5)

Jesus urges them to listen to these words (v. 6)

Jesus acknowledges the Holy Spirit as the one who is inspiring these words to the churches (v. 6)

Jesus works in tandem with the Holy Spirit (v. 6)

Jesus display the interrelation of the trinity (v. 6)

Jesus instructs the church in Philadelphia (v. 7-13)

Jesus is the holy One (v. 7)

Jesus holds the key of David (v. 7)

Jesus controls the access into the kingdom (v. 7)

Jesus authority cannot be overridden by anybody (v. 7)

Jesus is powerful (v. 7)

Jesus knows their works (v. 8)

Jesus gives them an open door (v. 8)

Jesus knows that they have little power (v. 8)

Jesus is aware of their weaknesses (v. 8)

Jesus notices they have kept His word (v. 8)

Jesus notices they have not denied His name (v. 8)

Jesus recognizes them for their faithfulness (v. 8)

Jesus sees all (v. 8)

Jesus perceives all (v. 8)

Jesus will condemn those who lie about who they are (v. 9)

Jesus does not tolerate deceitfulness (v. 9)

Jesus will display His love toward His own (v. 9)

Jesus affirms those He loves (v. 89

Jesus notices they have endured patiently (v. 10)

Jesus will spare them from the hour of trail coming to the world (v. 10)

Jesus will try those who dwell on the earth (v. 10)

Jesus will bring justice (v. 10)

Jesus is coming soon (v. 11)

Jesus’ return is a literal expectation (v. 11)

Jesus urges them to hold fast to what they have that no one may seize their crown (v. 11)

Jesus will make the one who conquers a pillar in the temple of God (v. 12)

Jesus will write on the one who conquers the name of His God (v. 12)

Jesus will write on the one who conquers the name of the city of His God (v. 12)

Jesus bestows one’s identity (v. 12)

Jesus calls the city of His God the new Jerusalem (v. 12)

Jesus describes the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven (v. 12)

Jesus will write on the one who conquers His own new Name (v. 12)

Jesus urges them to listen to these words (v. 13)

Jesus instructs the church in Laodicea (v. 14-22)

Jesus is the Amen (v. 14)

Jesus is the faithful witness (v. 14)

Jesus is the true witness (v. 14)

Jesus is the beginning of God’s creation (v. 14)

Jesus knows their works (v. 15)

Jesus observes they are neither cold nor hot (v. 15)

Jesus wishes they would at least be either cold or hot, not lukewarm (v. 15-16)

Jesus will spit them out of his mouth (v. 16)

Jesus despises halfhearted faith (v. 16)

Jesus wants all or nothing (v. 16)

Jesus knows they think they have enough without Him (v. 17)

Jesus exposes their frailty and false sense of security (v. 17)

Jesus counsels so that they might find life (v. 18)

Jesus offers gold and white garments (v. 18)

Jesus offers salve to anoint their eyes so they will see (v. 18)

Jesus wants them to be made whole (v. 18)

Jesus reproves and disciplines those whom He loves (v. 19)

Jesus possesses parental concern (v. 19)

Jesus cares about our spiritual condition (v. 19)

Jesus exhorts them to be zealous and repent (v. 19)

Jesus desires for them to be saved through Him (v. 19)

Jesus stands at the door and knocks (v. 20)

Jesus will come to anyone who opens the door to Him (v. 20)

Jesus is available (v. 20)

Jesus is accessible (v. 20)

Jesus will grant the one who conquers to sit with Him on His throne (v. 21)

Jesus has conquered and sat down with His Father at His throne (v. 21)

Jesus bestows royal privileges (v. 21)

Jesus bestows honor (v. 21)

Jesus urges them to listen to these words (v. 22)

Jesus is persistent (v. 22)

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” –Revelation 3:20 –

Questions for Today:

  • How often do I evaluate my heart?
  • Am I confronting spiritual weaknesses in my life that need to be dealt with?
  • How do I respond to Jesus when He reveals things in my heart that need to be dealt with?
  • Why is it significant that Jesus disciplines those He loves?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

“Anchor” by Hillsong Worship

What Do You Desire Most?

Desire Most(You can listen to my message on this same topic at http://fbcbf.com/sermons/what-do-you-desire-most)

As human beings, we are so needy for love and respect. God knows this full well. He designed us to be that way. One might think it’s rather cruel for God to create us with such unquenchable desire, but ironically this exists as a product of His own deep desire to be the one who provides love to us. Yes, God does have desires. And how unthinkable it is that His desire burns for us, such messy people in whom He longs to demonstrate His love, grace and glorious Name (1 Jn 4:9-11, Zeph 3:17, Eph 2:4-5, Rom 8:37-39). And in such a lavish portion!

Jeremiah 31:1 says, “The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.” Yes, God desires to meet our desires with the only desire in the whole universe that trumps every other thing: Himself.

The past four months God has been working on my heart and soul in this area. The Lord has been asking me this burning question: Natalie, what do you desire most? The Lord knows how susceptible I am to things that do not satisfy. He knows that I am tempted to abandon my first love, just as He told the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:4. And I really want to desire God. I want him to see that I love Him. I want him to be pleased with me. But He asks me again. And again. And it’s not some kind of audible voice. I don’t hear God speak to me. But it is a whispering from the Holy Spirit, convicting my heart of all the things that rival Him.

As I wrestle with this in my heart, I answer surely I desire You, Lord. Surely I desire only you. And at times, even for weeks, I can say this with confidence. And I really do desire God above anything else or anyone else around me. But then almost suddenly I can get distracted and find myself tempted by other desires. Quickly I’m aware of how much I fail to desire God faithfully with consistency, as misdirected desires start to rival the One person who deserves my all.

In an earlier blog, I wrote about brokenness serving as a haven for Jesus to meet me in the torrent of my desire. And how choosing Jesus elevates my perspective. And it does. How helpful that truth has become in my own life.

But as life happens and temptations come, I’m now traversing this season of learning how to return to that broken place when my pride won’t let me.

I tell God that I’m fine and that I’m strong enough to suppress what I want. I tell Him that I’m choosing Him and I’m forgetting about it, just like I told Him I would. But I feel so stretched and torn and pressed…and I’m fighting for control, fighting for perfectionism in my ability to deny myself, forgetting that I’m supposed to just let go and be broken.

Through these moments, God’s bringing me back to the place where I have nothing left but Him. And my awareness of this remains ever clear. The only thing I know to do is to be broken and let the Lord increase my desire for God. And He always satisfies in those moments.

God’s teaching me that what I desire the most has the potential to determine the quality and trajectory of my life.

My desires determine the quality of my life because what I desire the most will determine what I do…what I think about…how I spend my time…what I spend my money on…what I expect out of life… and who I trust in. All of these things can cause me intense anxiety and distress if misdirected. In other words, if I put my desire in things that do not last and do not satisfy, I will not be fulfilled long-term. It’s a daily struggle but one that deserves time and attention as we strive to evaluate our hearts to line up with our identity in Christ.

2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

My desires will determine the trajectory of my life because what I want will determine where I walk. My desires guide me even when I do not realize it, which can really be a very dangerous thing. But also a very powerful thing if directed toward the right things, or ultimately, God.

So, yes, what I desire most will determine the quality and trajectory of my life.

But when my desires become misdirected…in success, money, love, attention, hopes for the future, relationships and so on, what a letdown it is realizing how truly unfulfilling they can be.

Misdirected desires meet their match eventually. When we are faced with the object of our desire and find it not enough, how devastated we are in the wake of recognizing its inability to do what we hoped it would do for us. For me, it opens my eyes to my own neglect of the One who can truly satisfy and that is Jesus.

John MacArthur says this, “Holiness is never formed in those conformed to their unredeemed desires.” Wow. How important it is to surrender our desires to the Lord, asking Him to redeem them and direct them towards the One who truly is the desire of our souls. Jesus. When my desire is for Jesus, misdirected desires have no power.

The psalmist knew the power of desiring God all too well.

Psalm 84 speaks of the psalmist’s deep desire for the courts of the Lord and the joy of pilgrimage to the Holy City of Jerusalem, despite the difficult journey along the way. I like to think of our lives as one on pilgrimage to the holy city of the Lord, awaiting His return to take us home to be with Him forever.

This psalm encourages me as I read these words of passionate longing for God. He truly desires God with his whole being. His heart is content just thinking about being at God’s door. And I long so desperately to emulate that.

In Psalm 84:1-2 it says,

“How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.”

I love that the “soul” is identified here as the part of him that longs and yearns for the courts of the Lord. Not the heart. But the soul. The soul is the eternal part of who we are. The soul is redeemed by Jesus. The soul connects us to God. The soul will determine our eternal destiny. So for the psalmist to say that his soul, or the very deepest and most crucial part of his essence, longs for God is so revealing about what he truly desires. The deepest part of him longs for God. How inspiring this should be for us. To long for God with the very deepest emotion we can possibly possess, deep down in our souls.

The psalmist goes on to talk about how the natural parts of him, his heart and flesh, cry out for the living God. It’s a natural inclination. He can’t help but cry out to God. His instincts cause him to seek the Lord first. I pray this for my heart and yours. That even our fleshly hearts, which can be so carnally destructive, would ever naturally cry out to God in longing and desperation.

Studying this psalm, I see why the writer longs for God so much. He expresses total comfort and blessing on account of his desire. His desire for God. Yes, his desire causes his own life to flourish because of his surpassing contentment in God. Verse by verse from Psalm 84:1-12, this is what I have found to be true about our desiring God:

When we desire God…

  1. …where God is matters to us. (v. 1 )
  2. …our soul is aware of its neediness of Him. (v. 2)
  3. …we naturally sing to Him in delight. (v. 2 & 4)
  4. …we see God not just as God but as King. (v. 3)
  5. …we know where our real strength comes from. (v. 5)
  6. …seasons of turmoil become seasons of fruitfulness. (v. 6)
  7. …our perspective on everything changes. (v. 6)
  8. …He makes even our weakest steps our strength. (v. 7)
  9. …we long for Him to acknowledge us. (v.8- 9)
  10. …we seek His affirmation (v. 9)
  11. …honoring Him with our lives is more important than getting what we want from Him. (v. 10)
  12. …we are able to trust Him with confidence. (v. 12)

Oh the benefits of desiring God! How this helps me so drastically in my pursuit of desiring God. To be inspired by the psalmist who longed for the courts of the Lord with such zeal, even in a day where the Bible was not available in the form it is today, is such an encouragement. The psalmist had not met Jesus or read His gospels. Jesus had not yet come. But He still desired God with such a passion that so many of us drift from too quickly.

May we take hold of this posture that the psalmist so readily demonstrates. May we emulate this pursuit of our Lord and King!

John Piper says it best→ “God is most satisfied in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” I just love that. Not that I always get it right. Quite frankly, I fail a lot. But I strive to get it right. I hope to. Maybe one day I will know how it feels to completely desire God and to find Him completely all I need.

So, practically, how do we make steps forward in our pursuit of desiring God most?

Ultimately, we must have a relationship with Jesus. Then we must recognize who the source of life is, affirming that God truly is the One through whom every single thing was created. Then we must look through our desires to see that the root of our desire is something that only God can fulfill…success, love, affirmation, attention, approval, self-worth, companionship, joy…all these things must be found in God first before all other desires can flourish. And as we see God as the root of our desires, our mind starts to shift and we can ask God to increase our awareness of Him as our true desire. Learning from those who wrote with desire for God in the Bible will also help us to in our pursuit of desiring God. Then we can truly get to know Him as the one we truly long for.

God desires to be the One who meets those deep longings of our heart…to be known, to be cherished, to be noticed, to be admired. If only we could learned how to see past our surface desires and see that underneath, God is to be found…and found sufficient…found satisfactory…found enough.

May we never end up calloused and blinded by our own selfish desires that we drift so far from God. Romans 1:24 says, “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…” Wow, that is just not something I wish for myself. Even in my darkest, most selfish moments I pray that God would not give me over to my sinful desires. Sure it will always be difficult in the process of relinquishing certain things in our lives… but as we ask God to help us to lose our lives for Christ’s sake, we will surely find it as it says in Matthew 16:25.

I pray that God would graciously redirect my heart towards Him and show me Himself, whose beauty and glory are unmatched. For it is only until we find our ultimate desire in God that all other desires can flourish.

I pray this for you as well. That God would protect your heart, soul and mind from the temptations that war against you, battling for your affections and attempting to dominate your mind.

May God lavish us with His grace and increase our awareness of Him as the true desire of our souls, that we may be most satisfied in Him and in turn, find God most satisfied in us.

Questions for Today:

  • What do I really desire?
  • Do I recognize that underneath my desires, God is ultimately who I want?
  • Why is it crucial that I increase my desire for God?
  • What are the benefits of desiring God?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

“Worthy, Worthy” by Vertical Church Band

Getting to Know Jesus: Romans 5

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Written by the apostle Paul, Romans possesses an abundance of rich theology regarding Christ, grace, righteousness, sin, and resurrected life in Christ, among other things. Romans was written out of Paul’s desire to visit the church at Rome and encourage the Roman Christians’ journey in the faith. Ever since Paul was met by Jesus on the road to Damascus, his passion for the Lord and commitment to missionary evangelism served as the catalyst for spreading Christianity to the Roman Empire and much of Asia Minor. His letters and epistles, like this one, make up a majority of the New Testament and have contributed to our understanding of many fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

Particularly in Romans chapter 5, Paul discusses the significance of Christ as the one man through whom righteousness entered the world for all who would receive it. Despite sin entering the world through the one man, Adam, Jesus has come to reverse this curse of sin. And He has won. No question about it. At the point of Jesus’ death and resurrection, there existed a monumental shift in the trajectory of the human race, setting us on the path of righteousness so that we may now have relationship with God. We can receive this gift if we so choose. Paul reminds us in this passage that it is a free gift of grace. That’s right. Free. All we have to do is say… yes…I need Jesus to cover me with His perfect life and erase all my sin.

It can be easy to think that God just tolerates us as we live our lives on earth… or that He’s just enduring all of our mistakes with resentment and frustration until He takes us home to heaven. But this isn’t true whatsoever. Romans 5 declares this truth that we have peace with God. Through our faith with Christ. Not strife. Not tension. There is no animosity between us and God. No resentment. No pressure. No separation. Only peace. Because of Jesus. Only grace. Permanent and irrevocable. What a comfort!

We should be so utterly thankful for Jesus that He has selflessly died for us and was raised to life, making it possible for us to have a right relationship with God. What great news. Through Christ, we have access to this peace. Let us take hold of it and never take it for granted for one second.

And as we get to know Jesus through Romans chapter 5, may we fall more in love with the Savior who has given His very life away so that we might be given life. So that we may partake of this undeserved peace with God. So that we might be made righteous in His sight. What a gift.

Summary of Romans 5

Paul informs the audience that they have been justified by faith and thus have peace with God; Paul goes on to explain how Jesus grants us access to grace; Paul implores the audience to rejoice in their sufferings, as these sufferings will produce endurance, character, and hope, which will not disappoint; Paul declares that God’s love has been poured out already by the Holy Spirit to all believers; Paul goes on to discuss how Jesus Christ died for not just good men, but sinful men, and contrasts this kind of selfless love to the ordinary human being who might only lay down his life for another who is worthy of such; Paul describes God’s extravagant love for us in sending Jesus to die for the ungodly; Paul talks about the reconciliation that we now have received because of Jesus’ own life being given up for us on the cross; Paul starts to compare the sin of Adam, coming from the one man who allowed sin to enter the world as opposed to Jesus who now has enabled righteousness to enter the world because of his perfect life, death and resurrection; Paul proclaims that this grace abounds to whoever will receive it; Paul declares that this grace reigns in the righteous life of Christ who grants eternal life to all those who will believe.

Jesus in Romans 5

Jesus grants us peace with God (v. 1)

Jesus Christ is Lord (v. 1)

Jesus grants us access to grace by faith (v. 2)

Jesus prompts us to rejoice in hope (v. 2)

Jesus prompts us to hope in the glory of God (v. 2)

Jesus prompts us to rejoice in sufferings (v. 3)

Jesus died for the ungodly (v. 6)

Jesus died for us while we were still weak (v. 6)

Jesus died at just the right time (v. 6)

Jesus died for sinners (v. 7-8)

Jesus’ death for sinners demonstrates God’s love for us (v. 8)

Jesus justifies us by His blood (v. 9)

Jesus saves us from the wrath of God (v. 9)

Jesus reconciles us to God by his death (v. 10)

Jesus reconciled us to God while we were still enemies of God (v. 10)

Jesus saves us by His own life (v. 10)

Jesus enables us to rejoice in God (v. 11)

Jesus makes it possible for us to receive this reconciliation with God (v. 11)

Jesus is the one man through whom grace now enters the world (v. 12-15)

Jesus was foreshadowed by Adam as a type of one to come (v. 14)

Jesus reverses the sin curse initiated by Adam (v. 15)

Jesus’ gift of grace is free (v. 15)

Jesus’ gift of grace is more powerful than the trespass (v. 15)

Jesus’ gift of grace abounds to many (v. 15)

Jesus’ gift of grace obliterates condemnation (v. 16)

Jesus’ gift of grace brings justification (v. 16)

Jesus’ gift of grace makes us guiltless before God (v. 16)

Jesus is the one man who reigns with righteousness for all who will receive it (v. 17)

Jesus is the perfect Adam (v. 17)

Jesus lived the perfect, sin-free life we could never live on our own (v. 17)

Jesus’ one act of righteousness leads to justification for all who would receive it (v. 18)

Jesus’ one act of righteousness leads to life for all who would receive it (v. 18)

Jesus’ one act of righteousness replaces Adam’s one act of sin (v. 18-19)

Jesus’ one act of obedience will make many men righteous (v. 19)

Jesus’ grace abounds even more than the trespasses of the law (v. 20)

Jesus’ grace reigns through righteousness (v. 21)

Jesus’ grace leads to eternal life (v. 21)

Jesus Christ is the only one who can impart eternal life to us (v. 19 & 21)

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Chris died for the ungodly.”

–Romans 5:8 –

Questions for Today:

  • How can I trust that I have peace with God through Jesus Christ?
  • Why is it important for me to know that I have peace with God?
  • What is significant about Jesus Christ dying for me while I was still sinful?
  • Do I honor Jesus as the only one who has power to redeem my sin and my life?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

“Forever” by Kari Jobe