Blog Archive

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sweeter than Honey

He will speak to this people,
To whom He said,
"This is the rest with which
You may cause the weary to rest,"
And, "This is the refreshing";
Yet they would not hear.
But the word of the LORD was to them,
"Precept upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line,
Here a little, there a little."
Isaiah 28:11-13 (NKJV)

How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through Your precepts I get understanding.
Psalms 119:103-104 (NKJV)

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
For your love is better than wine...
Your lips, O my spouse,
Drip as the honeycomb;
Honey and milk are under your tongue.
Song of Solomon 1:2; 4:11 (NKJV)

Two of my children delight in Mommy kisses. Two still tolerate them fairly nicely. The youngest, nearly four, usually loves my kisses, but has moments when he pushes away. Then there are kisses between my husband and me. "Sweeter than honey" only begins to describe those.

To receive God's Word is to receive kisses from One who passionately loves us. I have a confession: when I hit the keyboard combo to open my computer Bible, or turn the cover of my study Bible, my heart beats faster with anticipation. I easily get lost, amazed later at how much time has gone by. The Lord's kisses are more than refreshing, and way sweeter than honey.

Others see a Bible and think, "precept upon precept, line upon line, blah, blah, blah." To them I say, you really don't know what you're missing. Give God's Word a closer, slower read.

Word of God made flesh, Your love is intoxicating—better than wine, better than the finest delicacies, better than anything this life offers. Please give us hearts that long for Your words, gladly receive Your words, and continually think of Your words.

Feedback invited. Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2008, Anne Lang Bundy

Monday, December 29, 2008

Rest for the People of God

LORD, You will establish peace for us,
For You have also done all our works in us...
We have, as it were, brought forth wind;
We have not accomplished any deliverance in the earth.
Isaiah 26:12,18 (NKJV)

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.
~ Hebrews 4:9-11 (NKJV)

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will ..." You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."
~ James 4:13-15 (NKJV)

For most people, this week of rest nestled between Christmas and Routine is uniquely quiet, and usually a time of reflection on plans and pledges for the new year. The most serious consideration is this: do we make our plans or seek out God's plan?

There is neither peace nor rest in figuring out how to bring our plans to pass, and striving with circumstances that hinder us. In God's plan is complete peace and soul's rest for the people of God, for He does all the thinking and orchestrating. We simply hold His hand and follow.

The best part is that His plan is always bigger and better than ours.

Father, You've done so much more in our lives than we might have ever accomplished. You lay out the perfect path, however challenging it sometimes looks. Please teach us to enter the rest found in gladly following You.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

I Have Desired You

O LORD, we have waited for You;
The desire of our soul is for Your name
And for the remembrance of You.
With my soul I have desired You in the night,
Yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early.
Isaiah 26:8-9 (NKJV)

Look upon me and be merciful to me,
As Your custom is toward those who love Your name.

Psalm 119:132 (NKJV)

"Behold, I have sworn by My great name," says YHWH, "that My name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, 'The Lord YHWH lives.' " ~ Jeremiah 44:26 (author)

A name can change everything. A newborn's identity begins with a name. The familiar receptionist, cashier or usher is a body with a function until a name is known and function becomes person. The one who would be friend, spouse and lover began to be mine in the moment I possessed the name that became sweet upon my lips and made my heart beat faster.

No one has more names than God. A few are Living Word, Creator, Light, I Am, Lamb, Judge, King, Friend, Rock, Shepherd, and Savior. Yet these are also attributes—names for other people and things. Even Hebrew names in an exclusively divine form such as Shaddai (Almighty) and Adonai (Lord) have origin in the common (shad, adon).

A single name is exclusive to God: YHWH (and its poetic emphatic form, YAH). Translated Yahweh, Jehovah, or LORD (with small caps), it's pronunciation and exact meaning were lost with its Hebrew vowels when the Jews stopped speaking the name YHWH for fear of violating it.

Interestingly, if the Hebrew consonants for YHWH are spoken ("yad he vav he"), the meaning is "behold hand, behold nail"—not unfitting until the day YHWH is fully known.

YAH, You are my Strength and Song and have become my Salvation. Your names are sweet upon my lips and make my heart beat faster. All my desire will be utterly fulfilled in the day I behold the hands which took the nails for me and I speak Your name.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Broad is the Way

He humbles those who dwell on high,
he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust...
The path of the righteous is level;
O upright One, you make the way of the righteous smooth.
Isaiah 26:5,7 (NIV)

"Enter in by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter in by it. How narrow is the gate, and restricted is the way that leads to life! Few are those who find it." ~ Matthew 7:13-14 (HNV)

I have seen an end to all perfection;
Your command is exceedingly broad.
Oh how I love Your Law!
It is my meditation all the day.
Psalms 119:96-97 (LITV)

Contrasts bring the Bible alive! Isaiah describes the proud as being laid low—leveled—and humbled. Yet the way of the one who is righteous (because he humbles himself) is also level, for the Lord makes his way smooth.

Jesus warned that broad is the way which leads to destruction—a highway with many travelers headed to hell fast and casually—while the gate to enter life is narrow and the way restricted—restricted to Jesus and Him alone. No one comes to the Father except through Christ.

Then one enters life, and discovers that the once restrictive commandment is liberal and broad. "Thou shall not" is now promise fulfilled and describes the condition of my heart. Perfection itself has limits, but the commandment is exceedingly liberating by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

Who but our God of wonders could say "broad is the way of destruction," and then perfect His commandment in broad liberty? What an awe-inspiring God we have!

God of Wonders, You are holy and good. We readily declare Your majesty and might. We are awed that You have chosen us for life and led us there and given us the gift of faith. Please help us yield to the power of Your Spirit, and perfect in us the good work You have begun.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages

You will preserve in absolute peace
The mind resting on You,
Because he trusts in You.
Trust in YHWH as far as forever,
For YAH YHWH is Rock of Ages.
Isaiah 26:3-4 (author)

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." ~ John 14:27 (NKJV)

The two remarkable verses of Isaiah 26:3-4 contain four double emphases in the original Hebrew—peace, trust, forever, YHWH—all inextricably connected.

"Absolute peace" or "perfect peace" is originally shalom shalom. To have shalom is to be safe, prosperous and whole in mind and body, soul and estate.

"Trust" is stated twice, as both present condition and exhorted imperative for the future. The Hebrew batach is a verb indicating "to trust, to be confident, expressing the feeling of safety and security that is felt when one can rely on someone or something else" (from Strong's).

"As far as forever" is originally 'ad 'ad. Like olam in the following line (there translated "ages" or "everlasting"), it denotes so far away in time or distance that neither beginning nor end may be seen.

YHWH (usually translated "the LORD," "Yahweh," or "Jehovah") is combined here with its poetic emphatic form YAH in a manner described thus by Albert Barnes: "The union of these two forms seems designed to express, in the highest sense possible, the majesty, glory, and holiness of God; to excite the highest possible reverence where language fails of completely conveying the idea."

Such is our God. Such is His peace. Such may we trust—for our past, present, future.

Rock of Ages, language indeed fails to convey all Your majesty, glory and holiness. Cleft of the Rock, let us hide ourselves in Thee amid storms. Wherever Your children are troubled or anxious, please teach and remind us to fully rest in Your absolute peace and security, available through Jesus.

"No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus, know peace." ~ Unknown

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Friday Freelance: RESPITE

Friday Freelance: RESPITE

What a wonderful Christmas! I spent little time shopping-decorating-baking, and much time at various celebrations and church family activities.

Though the big day is now past I'm not quite finished. Half my holiday cards went out last week (into church mailboxes), and half go out in today or tomorrow's postal mail. Joining a big church doubled the quantity to well over two hundred! I've tried to trim that list, but there's too many people whom we genuinely love to send any fewer.

Next week's respite from Christmas activities is nothing compared to the respite of Isaiah chapter 26. I've read Isaiah numerous times, but never before tried to share messages from this book. WHEW! Time spent on these posts has tripled and quadrupled as I've tackled prophecy.

The Gospels, epistles, Old Testament history and Psalms easily lend themselves to inspirational messages. But chapter after chapter of prophecy warning of punishment? Are all of you as weary of fire and brimstone as me? What a delight to hit Isaiah 26. I plan to camp here for a bit before moving on.

Back in the days when I climbed mountains, respites were always short. Steep trails and forty-plus-pound frame backpacks quickly weary a body. The flat places in the trail were few and far between, and actual rest stops along ascents were necessarily brief before muscles were allowed to freeze up. Shedding camping gear for a day pack to climb a peak changed the challenge to life or death. Once above timberline, one must reach the peak and dodge back into trees by noon or so, or risk being caught in a fast rising lightning storm and being the tallest target for large bolts of electricity.

The late Rich Mullins sang, "And on this road to righteousness, sometimes the climb can be so steep; I may falter in my steps, but never beyond Your reach."

Our Christian walk is arduous. Yet the good Lord can be relied upon to provide perfectly timed respites. They may come as encouraging words in the exact hour needed, as a Bible verse that speaks so loudly our soul finds release, or as the tangible presence of God when we bow broken and bleeding from the heart.

Never lose heart. The climatic view from atop a 14,000' peak is nothing compared to the climax awaiting at the end of life's climb. There will be no hurry to retreat to safety then, for our respite will become permanent—and much more precious because of the climb to reach it.

Lyrics of SOMETIMES BY STEP by Rich Mullins, Beaker © 1992 BMG Songs, Inc. (ASCAP)

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Lift Up Your Hands

O YHWH, You are my God.
I will exalt You,
I will with uplifted hands praise Your name,
For You have accomplished wonders,

Things prescribed from afar,
Trustworthiness, constancy.
Isaiah 25:1 (author)

A Song of Ascents.
Behold, bless the LORD,
All you servants of the LORD,
Who by night stand in the house of the LORD!
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary,
And bless the LORD.
The LORD who made heaven and earth
Bless you from Zion!
Psalm 134 (NKJV)

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
James 4:10 (NKJV)

Numerous Hebrew words are translated praise. Isaiah 25:1 uses the word yadah, derived from the word yad, "hand." More than once, Scripture exhorts us to lift up our hands in praise. The word for exalt, rum, literally means to lift or raise up.

It is a curious concept to think of lifting up God, who is already exalted to the highest place. How does one glorify Him who is already perfect in glory? Yet in our praise and uplifted hands, we indeed lift up God before witnesses of heaven and earth. We magnify His glory. He is enthroned in our praise.

And in a wonderful twist, the Lord delights to look upon the humble and lift them up. In Jesus we find the perfect example of One who became humble that He might be raised from the dead to the highest place. By setting aside the pride that can only bring us down, we are raised to life—and lifted up.

Almighty God, You are worthy of our most excellent praise, given with ALL our heart, mind, soul and strength. However else we falter, may we never fail to exalt and bless Your glorious name. Our pride-filled hearts are utterly undeserving of Your notice. Please humble us gently, that You might indeed lift us up.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Awesome God

And in that day the Lord GOD of hosts
Called for weeping and for mourning ...
But instead, joy and gladness ...
"Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!"
Then it was revealed in my hearing by the LORD of hosts,
"Surely for this iniquity there will be no atonement for you,
Even to your death," says the Lord GOD of hosts.
Isaiah 22:12-14 (NKJV)

"Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men ... either in this age or in the age to come." ~ Matthew 12:31-32 (NKJV)

Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? ... It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. ~ Hebrews 10:29,31 (NKJV)

Those holding power expect to be taken seriously. When a man is face to face with a judge who has found him guilty of murder and is about to pronounce sentence, it will not help to crack open a beer and pretzels in the courtroom and say, "if I'm going down, I'll go down partying."

The amazing grace and mercy of God are not without limit. The Lord did not appreciate ancient Israel flouting imminent punishment. Jesus clearly demonstrated the power and authority of God Himself and warned of no forgiveness for those who snubbed God's Spirit as satanic.

Before he was promoted to heaven, Rich Mullins sang thus of our Awesome God:
"When He rolls up His sleeves He ain't just 'puttin' on the Ritz' ...
There's thunder in his footsteps and lightning in His fists ...
And the Lord wasn't jokin' when He kicked 'em out of Eden,
It wasn't for no reason that He shed His blood,
His return is very soon and so you'd better be believin' that
Our God is an Awesome God."

Jesus arrived on earth as a humble babe just over two thousand years ago. His next arrival will be in power.

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

AWESOME GOD by Rich Mullins, from the album Winds of Heaven...Stuff of Earth / © 1988 BMG Songs, Inc. (ASCAP)

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

All Nations

Then the LORD will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the LORD in that day ... In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria—a blessing in the midst of the land, whom the LORD of hosts shall bless, saying, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance."
Isaiah 19:21,24-25 (NKJV)

"Also the sons of the foreigner
Who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him,
And to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants ...
Even them I will bring to My holy mountain,
And make them joyful in My house of prayer...
For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations."
Isaiah 56:6-7 (NKJV)

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands. ~ Revelation 7:9 (NKJV)

On Israel's southwest, fickle Egypt at various times either attacked or aided Israel. Egypt made treaty with Solomon but sheltered his enemies, and provided uneasy refuge in dire times to everyone from Abraham to Jesus.

On Israel's northeast, vicious Assyria displayed unrivaled barbarism. The prophet Jonah fled his call to tell Ninevah "repent," preferring the Assyrians' destruction. A generation later (c.722BC), Assyria destroyed northern Israel's kingdom. After another hundred years of Assyrian oppression, King Josiah (of Judah) died attempting to block alliance between Assyria and Egypt.

Unlike America's melting pot, Isaiah's segregated audience likely thought it absurd that God could ever declare Egypt and Assyria, "blessed ... My people ... one of three with Israel." But in Christ all are made new. Even now, all nations are being united by His blood, to one day stand together before His throne.

Prince of Peace, our world longs for You to bring us Your perfect peace. Please unite our hearts to one another. Please help us to put aside rivalry and jealousy, prejudice and arrogant attitudes of supremacy. Lord of the Harvest, please send laborers to the fields white for harvest.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Look to the Lord

In that day a man will look to his Maker,
And his eyes will have respect for the Holy One of Israel.
He will not look to the altars, The work of his hands;
He will not respect what his fingers have made,
Nor the wooden images nor the incense altars.
Isaiah 17:7-8 (NKJV)

Unto You I lift up my eyes,
O You who dwell in the heavens.
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the LORD our God,
Until He has mercy on us.
Psalms 123:1-2 (NKJV)

Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." ~ John 6:67-68 (NKJV)

Isaiah envisions a time of devastation when people would turn their eyes from idols fashioned by the hand of man, and finally look to the Lord. The psalmist commits to look to the Lord and wait for mercy. Once you click off this screen, my prayer is that you will likewise look to the Lord.

These messages are intended to be inspirational, thought-provoking, and challenging. They are also fashioned by a fallible human author. Any power and truth in them comes from the Word of God upon which they are based, and from the Holy Spirit who inspires and enables me, not from me.

Thank you for reading my blog, and for the wonderful comments and e-mails which encourage me to persist with this challenging commitment. But please also dig into the Word and seek the Holy Spirit for yourself. If you don't have the time, better to skip my posts and look to the Lord alone for words of life.

Living Word of God, thank You for becoming flesh and living among us. Thank You for making Yourself and the Father known to us. Thank You for filling us with Your holy and powerful Spirit. Please draw us to look to You as readily as we look upon everything else which surrounds us.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mercy and Truth

"In mercy the throne will be established;
And One will sit on it in truth, in the tabernacle of David,
Judging and seeking justice and hastening righteousness."
Isaiah 16:5 (NKJV)

Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
Proverbs 3:3 (NKJV)

"Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little."
Luke 7:47 (NKJV)

Our tendency is to exalt either mercy or truth at the expense of the other. Without mercy, truth loses its credibility. Without truth, mercy lacks genuine or lasting comfort. And the greater the depth of truth, the greater the appreciation for mercy.

The "sinful woman" was despised for her sin and knew its weight. Some sins—pride, lust, and greed for example—don't carry the same stigma that her sin did, and may not even feel like a burden. The truth is that we have all sinned much.

The sinner who believes he has sinned little does not require less mercy than the sinner who knows he has sinned much. Sin brings death, and death is absolute, not a matter of degrees. Every sinner has been forgiven much, has received great mercy, and ought to love much.

Until sin's weight is truthfully faced, mercy will seem light, gratitude will be thin, and love will be little.

Holy One, I have sinned much and offended You deeply, requiring a sacrifice with high cost. You have shown me great mercy, and my debt of gratitude is too enormous to ever love You enough. I gladly bow my face at Your pierced feet to kiss them and pour out upon them whatever I have.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

What Have You Done?

The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying,
"Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass,
And as I have purposed, so it shall stand...
For the LORD of hosts has purposed,
And who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
And who will turn it back?"
Isaiah 14:24,27 (NKJV)

"All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;
He does according to His will ...
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, 'What have You done?' "
Daniel 4:35 (NKJV)

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
"Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? ...
Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him?
He who rebukes God, let him answer it."
Job 38:1-4; 40:2 (NKJV)

Job was described as a man who "was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil." When his integrity was put to the test, Job faltered in this: Job contended with God, asking Him to give an accounting for why Job suffered.

God is ... God. He created everything. He owns everything. He defines the rules, determines the circumstances, dictates the final outcome. He owes no man an account of why He does what He does. Of all the questions we might ask Him, "What have You done?" isn't one.

Our Creator graciously allows us to know Him, to speak to Him, to seek His wisdom. He allows us to cry out to Him in anguish with our deepest hurts, fears, even anger. Such privilege should always remember that although our Abba may hold us close, the throne is His alone.

Almighty God, Most High King, Your judgments are unsearchable and Your ways are past finding out. The depth of the riches of Your wisdom and knowledge are beyond our appreciation. Please forgive us if we whine. Please increase our faith and help us trust in You.

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Friday, December 19, 2008


And in that day you will say:
"O LORD, I will praise You;
Though You were angry with me,
Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.
Behold, God is my salvation,
I will trust and not be afraid;
'For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song;
He also has become my salvation.' "
Therefore with joy you will draw water
From the wells of salvation.
Isaiah 12:1-3 (NKJV)

"Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him."
Job 13:15 (NIV)

God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NRSV)

Isaiah's prophecies described sin, called for repentance, and foretold destruction—a recipe sure to make both hearer and messenger feel bad. Yet the God who loved both His prophet and His people interspersed such unwelcome messages with frequent words of comfort.

The Lord still speaks difficult things. Is it just me, or is one of the surest indicators of a message being from God that it compels me to do what stretches me UNcomfortably, prompts me to forego one of my pet comforts, or presents a test, trial or temptation beyond my human strength?

Isaiah's psalm of praise and comfort appears in the dark hour of northern Israel's defeat by the horrifically cruel Assyrians. It is a reminder of the good things to follow, the cloud's silver lining, the light at the end of the tunnel. It is a reminder that YAH is strength and song and salvation.

I praise You my God that You are my Strength. I praise You my God that You are the Song ever in my heart. I praise You my God that You are my Salvation in every test, trial and temptation. I praise You my God that Your love always has words of comfort waiting for me.

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2008's winter solstice occurs at 7:04 a.m. EST this Sunday, December 21, when the North Pole is at its furthest point of tilt away from the sun.

If you prefer poetic over scientific ...

At dawn this Lord's day, light will increase and darkness will retreat as days grow longer and nights become shorter.

Numerous pagan religions celebrate the date when darkness climaxes in the Northern Hemisphere. It is noteworthy that while pagans celebrate darkness, Jewish and Christian holidays both celebrate light.

Sunday evening marks the beginning of the Festival of Lights. Jews celebrate Hanukkah (or Chanukah, also called the Feast of Dedication in John 10:22) on the 25th of Kislev (about four days before a December new moon), which this year occurs in Israel within a scant couple of hours of the solstice—an extremely rare concurrence.

Hanukkah commemorates when the Jews in 165 BC successfully rebelled against the Greek empire for its prohibition to practice Judaism and desecration of the Jerusalem temple. When ancient Jews rededicated the cleansed temple, they had one day's oil for the temple lamp, but the lamp miraculously burned for eight days until they obtained more oil.

On Wednesday evening, across the globe life and business as usual will screech to a halt while Christians and non-Christians alike commemorate the birth of Christ. Jesus' birth date is unknown, but was not likely a winter month, when shepherds didn't sleep in open fields. Many think Jesus was born at the Feast of Sukkoth, or Booths, in early autumn. A December date for the Christmas holiday is the Roman church's alternative to (or consolidation with) pagan celebration of the solstice.

Regardless of any argument against Christmas for inaccurate date or pagan correlation, God's gift of Jesus is certainly cause for celebration of light. Matthew highlights Jesus' appearance as fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy: "The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Matthew 4:16 NIV) When the apostle John in his Gospel describes God becoming flesh to dwell with us, he speaks of Jesus as "the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world." (John 1:9 NKJV) And Jesus says of Himself, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." (John 8:12 NKJV)

The time when darkness reigns is well suited to celebrating both Jesus coming as Light, and the temple light which once burned miraculously in Jerusalem. Hanukkah and Christmas will even be celebrated together on December 25th, 2016—a treat (or for some, conflict) happening about three times a century.

These two celebrations also converge every year, every day. Jesus tells us we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Victorious over the oppressive enemy through bloodshed, we are now the temples of His Holy Spirit, the place where God's presence and light dwell, miraculously illuminating a very dark world.

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Spirit of Truth

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
Isaiah 11:1-2 (ESV)

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." John 14:16-17 (NIV)

"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock ... But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
Matthew 7:24,26-27 (NKJV)

Common excuses for failing to live by God's Word are that it is difficult to understand or is interpreted too differently by various people. The Spirit upon Jesus, the Branch, is the same Spirit in us. Having become Christ's, we have His Spirit of Truth to rely upon for wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, fear of the Lord.

The Spirit of Truth speaks with a firm yet gentle voice. It is not the voice of emotion or human reasoning. While the Spirit is fluid like fire, air and water—readily flowing and filling with diverse messages and gifts—He is also a reliable Counselor, stable and unyielding to human will or the winds of change.

In our age of relativism the world says truth is not absolute, but rather whatever you need it to be. Such shifting sands collapse in storms, resulting in great destruction. God's Word is a sure foundation. But unless we implement it by the Spirit of Truth, we do not build our lives upon it.

Beautiful Jesus, You are Truth and Wisdom and the Word of God personified. Your Spirit is good and gracious and too easy for us to push aside in the din of other voices. Please help us seek out the quiet place, and push aside will, emotion, and preconceptions so we hear Your Spirit clearly. Please give us courage to do as You challenge.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

We Will Rebuild

The Lord has sent a message against Jacob; it will fall on Israel ...
who say with pride and arrogance of heart,
"The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone;
the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars."
Isaiah 9:8-10 (NIV)

Everything is dependent not on man's will or endeavour, but upon God who has mercy. For the Scripture said to Pharaoh, "It is for this very purpose that I have lifted you so high—that I may make manifest in you my power, and that my name may be proclaimed far and wide in all the earth."
~ Romans 9:16-17 (WNT)

You may ask me, "Then why does God still find fault with anybody? For who can resist his will?" On the contrary, who are you—mere man that you are—to talk back to God? Can an object that was molded say to the one who molded it, "Why did you make me like this?" A potter has the right to do what he wants to with his clay, doesn't he?

Romans 9:19-21 (ISV)

Suppose for a moment that God has allowed the present economic distress for His own purpose. Suppose bailout efforts resist His will, defiantly retorting, "The bricks have fallen ... trees have been felled [but] ... we will rebuild ... we will replace."

If there's bitter medicine to swallow, why not get it over with and move on. Why resist the inevitable? Why draw out consequences? Why repeat painful lessons? When a mistake is made—and absent repentance—it seems downright impudent to even think, "We will rebuild" unless God so blesses.

We need frequent reminders that we neither belong to ourselves nor control our circumstances. We are created—owned by Another who loves us more than we can comprehend, and who is in control.

Whether we are lifted up or brought low, our first purpose is to glorify Him; to make His name known and His power manifest.

Almighty God, You alone are God. You alone are exalted. Please help us know Your will and cooperate with it. Please help us accept the trials and tests You use to refine us and make us more desirable to You. Please give us wisdom to respond as glorifies and pleases You.

"Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' ... For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." ~ Jesus

Feedback invited. Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2008, Anne Lang Bundy

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fear of the Lord

The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow;
Let Him be your fear, And let Him be your dread.
Isaiah 8:12-13 (NKJV)

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence,
And His children will have a place of refuge...
The fear of the LORD leads to life,
And he who has it will abide in satisfaction;
He will not be visited with evil...
By humility and the fear of the LORD
Are riches and honor and life.
Proverbs 14:26; 22:4; 19:23 (NKJV)

The LORD is with me as a mighty, awesome [terrifying] One.
Therefore my persecutors will stumble, and will not prevail...
O LORD of hosts, You who test the righteous,
And see the mind and heart ...
I have pleaded my cause before You.
Jeremiah 20:11-12 (NKJV, amplified)

My husband is a police officer—a civil warrior. As confident as our children are of his love for them, they fear his anger, for it brings unpleasant consequences to their wrong behavior. Criminals run from him in fear, but those seeking his protection call him to run to their side.

The Lord of Hosts—Commander of the powerful hosts of angelic warriors—is to be feared by His children. Our nature is to please ourselves rather than Him, and then reap the consequences of such folly. Fear of His loving discipline encourages us to humbly trust His way is best and to walk in it, and to thereby grow in confidence, satisfaction, riches and honor and life.

To walk in His way is to abide with Him. With the mighty, terrifying God of the universe at our side, we need fear NOTHING else. Neither physical nor spiritual enemy can touch us apart from His will to work all things for good.

Father in Heaven, You are mighty, awesome and terrifying. Your perfect and complete goodness—Your holiness—is without limit. Thank You for calling us to Your side. Your Word says that perfect love casts out fear. Please perfect Your children in both fear and love.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

How Long?

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple... Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." And He said, "Go, and tell this people: 'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.' ... Then I said, "Lord, how long?"
Isaiah 6:1,8-11 (NKJV)

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. (James 5:7 NRSV)

Inspired by the glorious vision of God asking for a servant, Isaiah boldly responded "Here am I! Send me!" As the prophet understood the burden of ministry laid upon him, he did not shrink back. But he did ask, "Lord, how long?"

Isaiah survived four kings before dying a martyr, sawn in two by King Manasseh. He would come to well understand the renewed strength in "waiting upon"—Hebrew qavah—the Lord. Qavah denotes both to intertwine and to wait with hope. It might be described as lying in wait together.

Waiting undergirds birth, dying, and all the trials in between as the Lord accomplishes His purposes in our brief lifetimes. We wait through many trials: sickness and healing, economic hardship, bad marriages and broken relationships, sanctification from sin through the ever-popular character building.

We are told to be patient until the coming of the Lord. Meanwhile, both
the Lord and His people wait—together.

Lord, how long shall You and Your people wait? How long before Your plans and purposes are accomplished and Your promises are fulfilled? Our spirits groan together with Your Spirit. Please teach us to qavah with You. Please renew our strength as we trust Your perfect timing.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Song of Love

Now let me sing for my most Beloved
My song of love about His vineyard:
My Beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill.
He dug around it and cleared out its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
He built a tower in the middle of it,
And also made a winepress in it.
Then He looked for it to bring forth good grapes,
But it brought forth worthless grapes.
Isaiah 5:1-2 (author)

I love you, O YHWH my Strength.
YHWH is my Cleft of the Rock, my Stronghold,
My Deliverer, my God,
My Rock of Refuge, my Shield,
The Power of my Salvation, my Lofty Tower.
Psalm 18:1-2 (author)

[Jesus] said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep." (John 21:17 NKJV)

Scripture admonishes and even commands us above all else to love God. Devotion is expressed in many actions throughout the Bible. But I find only three instances of love for God specifically declared to Him.

If love is demonstrated, is it even important to tell God, "I love you" or sing Him a song of love?

Words have power. When romance blooms, the declaration "I love you" marks a defining moment. Casual relationship is no longer an option. Surrender and ownership have begun. I must either have you or you will break my heart. I cannot define life without you affecting it, for better or worse.

Religion is easy. God gives me heaven and I give Him duty. When my duty is done I'm off the clock. A love relationship demands all, even life itself. My acts of devotion may be faith and duty, or perhaps they rise to love.

It is good to declare where one stands.

LORD God, I'm crazy in love with You. I cannot live without You. I'll do anything for You, and when I don't would You please trip me up so I come to my senses. You own me completely, and You can do with my life as pleases You. I ask that You let me see Your face, hear Your voice, taste Your goodness, experience the fragrance of Jesus, and know Your touch of peace. Every day.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

No Shame

"The look on their faces testifies against them;
they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it.
Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.
Tell the righteous it will be well with them,
for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.
Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them!
They will be paid back for what their hands have done."
(Isaiah 3:9-11 NIV)

"From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain;
prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.
They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious.
'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.
Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct?
No, they have no shame at all;
they do not even know how to blush.
So they will fall among the fallen;
they will be brought down when I punish them," says the LORD.
Jeremiah 6:13-15 (NIV)

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil.
Isaiah 5:20 (NKJV)

A common quote says grace is getting what you don't deserve and mercy is not getting what you do deserve. Despite God's grace and mercy, most people consider this life unfair.

The Lord's grace and mercy have limits. He patiently tolerates sin for a while, but is particularly provoked when sin is paraded with pride. When there is no shame for sin—when evil is called good and good is seen as evil—the Lord doesn't even need to initiate punishment. If He simply withholds grace and mercy, sin reaps its own evil consequences. Life becomes "fair."

America paraded heroism after driving back evil in WWII. Parades now exhibit gay sex live, cell phones transmit the owner's nudity as readily as voice, sex slavery and pedophilia thrive, infants and infirm are slaughtered for economic convenience, idols are worshiped in every media, bailout rewards greed and gluttony, bling decorates recession, and closing WalMart on Black Friday is a bigger outrage to shoppers than the death of the man they trampled.

Can you hear the deafening scream of no shame?

Is our nation ready for "fair"?

Almighty God, how sickened I feel to dwell for a moment on what You look upon continually. How are You yet patient with a nation that still labels itself "Christian"? Thank You for grace and mercy to Your children. Thank You for comforting the righteous with assurance it will be well with them.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Sinful Nation

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth!
For the LORD has spoken:
"I have nourished and brought up children,
And they have rebelled against Me...
Alas, sinful nation,
A people laden with iniquity,
A brood of evildoers,
Children who are corrupters!
They have forsaken the LORD...
If you are willing and obedient,
You shall eat the good of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,
You shall be devoured by the sword."
Isaiah 1:2,4,19-20 NKJV

"If you do not carefully observe all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, THE LORD YOUR GOD ... it shall be, that just as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good and multiply you, so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you and bring you to nothing" (Deuteronomy 28:58,63 NKJV)

And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. (Luke 12:47-48 NKJV)

Throughout history, God's people have repeated a cycle with certainty. God blesses. People are enamored with blessings, forget the Blessor, and fall into depravity. God warns to repent and is not heeded. God withholds blessing and His people suffer. God's people repent and cry out to God for mercy. God blesses.

A sinful nation should not be surprised if it lacks provision of resources or protection from enemies. Warfare and economic distress are clear warning to repent, individually and collectively. They usually result in mere whining until things are desperate and people finally seek God earnestly.

God does not change. New Testament grace grants eternal life but does not nullify Old Testament principles of blessing or curse in the face of obedience or sin.

And we who have received the Word of God's will are held to a higher standard.

Oh Lord our God, King of the Universe, Your goodness and holiness shall stand and not falter in the face of our sin. Please do not let the suffering of our nation be in vain, but turn hearts to repent, especially in these last hours. Please give Your people the will and strength to stand firm.

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Friday Freelance: FASCINATING

These daily posts are based on Bible readings which work through, by turns, a Gospel, an Old Testament book of history, an epistle, then a series of 25 Psalms. Mark was completed yesterday, and Leviticus was up next. But we'll instead add prophecy to the mix before being beckoned by Levitical pictures of the heavenly tabernacle.

Evangelist Ray Comfort has said that reading through the meat of Leviticus can fill one with longing for a light and fluffy Psalm. But to everything there is a season—a time for Psalms, and a time for Leviticus. If a verse seems tough, perhaps it simply requires being chewed on a bit before desert. We may find a verse uninteresting at the moment, but there's not a single boring verse in the Bible. Each one has a purpose to be discovered.

When searching out roots and family connections, genealogies are indispensable. If you take into account the great significance placed on the meaning of a name, and practices of giving a newborn a name based on the circumstances of birth or amending a name due to life-changing events, genealogies become downright fascinating.

The poetry of Psalms or Job may seem aimless at times. Words poured out from the heart sometimes meander, but they're also an invitation to encounter and experience the emotions of heroes from thousands of years ago.

Prophecies can be difficult to understand, but they actually put everything in perspective—God's perspective. What could be more fascinating than a peek into the mind of God?

And the profound lies in the brevity of the shortest verses, such as "Jesus wept" or "rejoice always."

I started this blog thinking it would be a simple journal of my morning Bible time. It's become far more challenging. No more days of skipped Scripture, no matter how busy days get or how early an appointment is scheduled. I try to post a morning ahead of time (this morning's reading is tomorrow's midnight post), but some days find me still trying to post well after midnight.

Often the morning does get too busy too fast. But many days I simply became too fascinated with the text to quickly jot down the way it inspired or encouraged or pressed me. Most challenging about this blog is allowing the living Word time to capture me and transport me into another realm—and then concisely articulate into a couple of minutes what might have been traveled in a couple of hours.

That challenge can be an agony or an ecstasy or both. But it's always, endlessly fascinating.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nothing Restrains the Lord

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him... And they said among themselves, "Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?" (Mark 16:1,3 NKJV)

And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance. (Luke 8:1-3 NKJV)

Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the LORD will work for us. For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few." So his armorbearer said to him, "Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart."
(1 Samuel 14:6-7 NKJV)

Jonathan and one man stood no chance against an entire Philistine garrison, but they battled and prevailed, driven by faith. The women who traveled about with a homeless group of disciples might have raised eyebrows, but they cared for Jesus, obligated by devotion. Women had three nights to sleep on the problem of moving the tomb's stone without finding a solution, but they went to the grave at dawn anyway, compelled by love.

A Dayak proverb says, "Where the heart is willing it will find a thousand ways, but where it is unwilling it will find a thousand excuses." The Bible and history are filled with stories of heroes willing to serve the Lord without asking Him to first lay out the logistics of impossible situations.

If we are willing to know God's will for our lives, we need not know the how. We need only obey.

Oh Lord, You ask of us difficult things—impossible things! Yet You are the God of the impossible, and nothing restrains You. Please still us when doubt or puny reasoning interferes with Your purposes. Please give us the courage to walk blindly over cliffs holding only Your hand.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Behind the Veil

Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him... Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour... And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. (Mark 15:25,33,37-38 NKJV)

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil. (Hebrews 6:19 NKJV)

"I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore ... when I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die!' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand... Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord GOD, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.' " (Ezekiel 33:7-8,11 NKJV)

Most Christians have heard that the presence of God lay behind the veil of the Most Holy Place, bringing death to the high priest who entered if not purified by blood—and that when Jesus Christ shed His blood the torn veil represented the removal of that separation from God.

But danger still dwells behind the veil. To those who have not been covered by the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His blood, one day entering the presence of God will mean eternal death for their sin. They may not plead innocent by reason of ignorance.

Those of us covered by our Lord's blood are no longer separated from God and have access to His presence—but not for ourselves only. Ezekiel was sent to the house of Israel. To whomever we each may be sent, we have a most serious responsibility to both warn of the danger and invite access to life behind the veil, lest the blood of the wicked be upon our hands.

Almighty God, access to Your holy presence is a precious privilege. Thank You for restoring Yourself to us. Please take away the flesh from our ears so we may clearly hear when You would have us share the warning and the invitation to others of Your presence behind the veil.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sinning Willfully

And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and began to salute Him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him. (Mark 15:17-19 NKJV)

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins ... How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean [not holy, common] the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26,29 NASB, amplified)

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
(Psalms 55:12-13 ESV)

The Greek words for repentance occur some 60 times in the New Testament. Repentance is too directly tied to salvation to refute that the two are mutually dependent. Jesus goes so far as to say, "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3 NKJV)

Salvation is a free gift because its cost is so high we have no ability to purchase it, with good works or otherwise. Repentance is not a work by which one earns salvation, but the fruit which proves salvation.

If we claim we have received salvation from sin and sin's death penalty, we cannot sin willfully without mocking salvation, and the blood with which it was purchased. Such mockery is no different than those who put upon Jesus a crown of thorns, struck Him, spit upon Him—then bowed the knee in feigned worship.

Sinning willfully is no option for those who claim to be Christ's.

Lord Jesus, thank You for Your holy covenant blood of forgiveness from sin. The spirit repents of sin, but the flesh remains weak. Please give us the desire and strength to turn away from every thought, feeling, word, or action which is offensive to Your great Spirit of grace.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

The Son of Man

Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "... You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?" And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. (Mark 14:61-64 NKJV)

See to it that no one enslaves you through philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of God lives in bodily form. (Colossians 2:8-9 ISV)

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"—which means, "God with us." (Matthew 1:20-23 NIV)

We are human, and distinguish Jesus with the title, "Son of God." He is God, and distinguishes Himself with the title, "The Son of Man." Were He not first God, He would not need to make such distinction. It is as if the fullness of God is so evident that Jesus convinces us of His humanity.

The celebration of Jesus' birth (whatever month it actually occurred) is acknowledgment of Him as Immanuel—God with us, as Son of Man—to do what no man had any hope to do: save His people from their sins. If we believe He is anything less than the eternal God come to earth clothed in human flesh, we are enslaved to empty deceit.

When Jesus stood on trial before the high priest, He was condemned to death that the circumstances of His birth might be refuted. The crux of the case against Him was His claim to deity. Each of us must likewise judge: Is The Son of Man indeed "my Lord and my God"?

Almighty Infinite Father, Wonderful Merciful Savior, Counselor-Comforter-Keeper: You are the One we worship; You are the One who alone satisfies our human hearts; You are the One who alone gives the healing and grace we cannot live without. You alone are Lord and God.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Bitter and the Sweet

And He said to them, This is My blood of the New Covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I say to you, I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God. (Mark 14:24-25 MKJV)

So says your Lord Jehovah and your God,
He strives for His people.
Behold, I have taken the cup of reeling out of your hand,
the bowl of the cup of My fury;
you shall not yet again drink it.
(Isaiah 51:22 LITV)

For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
(2 Corinthians 11:2 NKJV)

In ancient Israel, a man and woman drank one cup of wine to seal their betrothal covenant, and another at their wedding. Wine symbolized covenant, prosperity, and joy—but also sorrow, and the reeling of wrath. The drink of the fermented blood of the grape was both bitter and sweet.

In our modern celebration of communion, most of us use juice rather than wine, consuming only the sweetness of the grape and exempting ourselves from any bite. Little wonder that we expect only sweetness in the Christian life, rather than to share Jesus' cup of suffering.

We look forward to sharing the Bridegroom's cup in the kingdom of God, when it is new and sweet, the best wine saved until the last, when it shall have no bite, but contain only joy. In the meantime, each commUnion cup is a reminder of both the bitter and the sweet.

Lord Jesus, what a high bride price You paid to betroth us to Yourself, Your life poured out in very human blood. Thank You for sharing Your life with us. Please give us grace and strength to share Your suffering. Please unite our hearts to Yours and to one another in true communion.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Children Have Light

"But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars of heaven will fall, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven."
(Mark 13:24-27 NKJV)

For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night... You, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. (1 Thessalonians 5:2,4-5 NKJV)

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt." So ... there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt ... But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
(Exodus 10:21-23 NKJV)

Thoughts on light, darkness, and the Lord's return.

Christmas reminds us that the beauty of light is most evident amid darkness.

We don't usually think of light being necessary to life. Yet without light, photosynthesis ceases, botanical life collapses, and the rest of physical life will fall. Spiritual life is likewise dependent on Light. The Light of truth in Scripture must permeate our lives to sustain spiritual life.

The date of the Lord's return remains shrouded in darkness. God gives His children all the illumination we need, and wisely chose to withhold a detail that might make us complacent.

More Christians have been martyred in the last century than in the previous two millenia. As Christ's return draws near, we have no way of knowing we will never be among them. The day of a test isn't the time to wish we'd prepared for it.

No matter how much darkness surrounds the children of God, we need not fear it, for it cannot dispel the Light within us.

Oh great Light of the world, in You is no darkness at all. You alone possess the Light which gives eternal life. When You are close, we need not stumble. Lord, when darkness creeps into the corners of our lives, please help us seek You out, and fill us with the peace of Your light.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Freelance: FISHING

Fishing can be big business, and dangerous business. Consider this true story.

Jack got into the fishing business, and was a phenomenal success. He was a natural around water, and had a God-given gift for knowing what the fish would bite on and bringing them in.

Jack helped his younger cousin Josh break into the business, and Josh did even better at it than Jack—though both bachelors poured everything back into the business and lived little better than vagrants. Jack was an orphan and Josh was somewhat of a family outcast. Although the two didn't spend a great deal of time together, a strong bond existed between them. In matters of the soul, they had only each other.

Jack's competition didn't take kindly to a little guy showing them up, and their friend Conlan happened to be a judge connected to organized crime that had infiltrated the local officials. It somehow became known to Conlan that Jack made some unflattering remarks about him. Jack soon found himself arrested on false charges, and wound up getting killed while he was in jail.

The death devastated Josh. He took a day off work when he heard about Jack, but his successful business wouldn't wait for his grief so he found himself called back on the job before the day was out—his grief pushed aside.

Josh's coworkers were the only friends he had, and they didn't share Josh's knowledge that the same mob people involved in Jack's death had also taken a strong dislike to Josh. He soon found himself dodging the local officials. When he tried to explain the situation to his closest coworkers, they didn't understand the seriousness of the situation, not even when they saw Josh narrowly sidestep attempted hits on his life.

In the end, the mob got to Josh by paying off one of the men he considered a friend. When the mob came after him, Josh protected his coworkers by surrendering, alone, without a fight. He didn't die quickly like Jack had, but was tortured by the mob pretty gruesomely before they finally killed him.

Jack and Josh both lived hard lives, alone, and both died alone. But before they left this world, they both managed to inspire the men they worked with to excel as fishermen—or fishers of men.

Of course, Jack was better known as John, as in John the Baptist. And Josh is known as either Yeshua or Jesus in the 21st century. Conlan means "hero," as does the name Herod. He was indeed a hero of the rich and powerful, who to this day oppose Josh and His fishing business.

Whether or not one makes fishing for men a full time occupation, life can be incredibly dangerous, lonely, or fraught with distress. Jesus understands our hardships, because He experienced them, on a magnitude we'll never know.

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Not Far From the Kingdom

So the scribe said to Him, "Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." (Mark 12:32-34 NKJV)

My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory...
O God, You are my God.
(Psalms 63:1-2 NKJV)

"This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." (John 15:12 NKJV)

My marriage began as a long distance relationship. I remember that time as consumed with thoughts of my beloved, staggering phone-bills (no unlimited long-distance in those days), embarrassingly effusive love-letters—and agony in separation.

To love God with all the heart is to be consumed with thoughts of Him, incessantly chattering with Him about anything and everything in the heart, writing effusively of Him and reveling in His love letter—and agony in separation. It is a life in two worlds, on the threshold between heaven and earth, in a mysterious place not far from the kingdom, yet where the kingdom is within.

To be in love with God is to be rendered helpless to do anything less than love neighbor as self. And the greatest gift one might share with neighbor is a glimpse of the kingdom, a beckoning to come stand on the threshold.

Lord, how can one not help but be in love with You? Your holiness is beautiful. Your goodness has no limit. Your wisdom is unfathomable. Your power is terrifyingly awesome. Your promises are sure. Your mercy exceeds Your great justice. Your grace is amazing. Your love defies the power of words.

Feedback invited. Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2008, Anne Lang Bundy

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Food and Clothing

And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar's." And Jesus answered and said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." And they marveled at Him. (Mark 12:16-17 NKJV)

And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:8-10 NKJV)

Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, "Who is the LORD?"
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
(Proverbs 30:8-9 NKJV)

Few things cause us more stress than money, whether we possess it in abundance or poverty. Money of itself is not evil, nor is it an ends, but merely a means—a means to obtain necessities of food and clothing, a means to foolish and harmful lusts.

Are we wise enough to ask for neither poverty nor riches? The phenomenally successful Christian singer Rich Mullins (1955-1997) chose to receive only $24,000 a year from his accountant. He died as he lived, while driving his own jeep on the way to perform a benefit concert.

"Wealth consists not in the abundance of our possessions, but in the fewness of our wants." (Author unknown, and forgive me for repeating it.) Whatever our economic condition through recession, we can be content with adequate food and clothing. Everything more is gravy.

Lord, You have blessed us abundantly, perhaps too much so if our wealth distracts us from You. It is difficult to see so many people in financial distress right now. Please give us words and deeds of compassion even as we search out the simpler lifestyle to which You call us.

Feedback invited. Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2008, Anne Lang Bundy