As we ring in the New Year, our hearts turn to expectant hope because of the infinite possibilities that lie ahead. There’s something about the word “new” that causes us to consider that this year might be different in limitless good ways. After all, God has given us the ability to discern the times and the seasons (Mark 13:28).
What’s especially significant about this New Year is the purposeful alignment with the number “8.” In the Hebrew calendar, the year 5778 began on September 20, 2017. The number “7” represents completion. As 5777 came to a close, the Lord brought completion to lots of chapters and seasons in so many lives, and urged us to not be afraid to “turn the page” to the new chapter. (We can get very comfortable with where we are, even if it’s not an ideal place—at least we know what we’re dealing with.) After all, He is the one writing our stories, so why would we fear the unknown? With the Hebrew year 5778 in full swing, coupled with the ushering in of 2018, how great is our anticipation when we understand that “8” represents “new beginnings” or a “new era.” Consider that God spoke eight times to create the world and everything in it before He commissioned man to rule over His creation. He chose the eighth day to mark the beginning of the new week. He saved eight people in the ark to usher in a fresh start for mankind. God commanded Moses to circumcise newborn male children on the eighth day after their birth (Leviticus 12:3), a sign of His covenant with them. Jesus was circumcised at eight days old. Eight is the personal number of Jesus. Eight signifies resurrection and regeneration. And, Pentecost took place on the eighth day of the seventh week.
According to God’s intention for this year of “eight,” we delight in declaring that 2018 is a year full of the earthly manifestation of the Lord’s many promises to us. We thank Him that He is always in the process of making everything new, including us (Revelation 21:5). During the recent past, He has been perfecting and refining our individual and corporate relationship with Him, bringing us into a greater one-ness with Him so that we can be trusted to carry the fullness of His Holy Presence. We have sought the power of His Holy Spirit to create in us clean hands and a pure heart. We have delighted to linger in the light of His perfect love. We have been brought into agreement with Him regarding our deepest hearts’ desires (Psalm 37:4). In 2018, the Lord will take great delight in bringing those heart desires into reality in the earth, so that we might see a new and greater degree of manifestation of His Kingdom for our good and His eternal glory!
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen! (Ephesians 3:20-21)
By God’s design and desire, man was made to walk and talk and fellowship with the Creator in His garden. God delighted in His fellowship with Adam and Eve. His desire from the beginning was for an intimate relationship with His creation. On that history-changing night in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, an angel appeared with the Heavenly Host to announce good news and the cause of great joy amidst the darkness; that God had invaded earth with His manifest presence once again in the form of an innocent babe—our Savior.
When the Kingdom of Heaven is made manifest on the earth, the glory of God’s presence overtakes every shadow, and history makes note of the event. Today, because Jesus shed His blood on the cross to forgive our sins and then deposited the Holy Spirit in each one of His saints, His Kingdom is abundantly present on earth every place we go. So, as we remember the miracle of Jesus’ birth, may our joy be inspired by the beauty of God’s enduring holy presence and His brilliant plan to cause His glory to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. May the whole earth know not only that we celebrate history (or better yet, “HIS-story”) during this season, but also that we delight in the blessing of God’s presence because Jesus made a way!
May the peace, joy, hope, promise and presence of Jesus’ birth rule and reign in your heart today and always! How blessed are we to be a significant part of HIS-story as it unfolds!
John the Baptist and Jesus both declared, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” They understood that holiness is a requirement for entering into the Kingdom. We are to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. Jesus taught about His Father’s Kingdom more than any other topic. The Kingdom of Heaven is real—more real than the ground under our feet. It is a Kingdom of light. The Kingdom of Heaven is now, yesterday, and tomorrow, not just for when we “get to heaven.” It will never end. It has a King – Jesus—who rules with a scepter of justice. And Jesus taught His disciples to pray that his Father’s Kingdom would come to earth, so that earth could be like Heaven. He has given us the keys to His Kingdom, made us to be His Kingdom, and has called us as priests to serve God and to reign on the earth.
So how do we operate in and cooperate with God’s Kingdom? Jesus sent His disciples out to proclaim the Kingdom in tandem with healing the sick and driving out demons, for the Kingdom of God is not a Kingdom of words but of power. It is not our power, but rather, the power of Jesus indwelling each one of us that enables us to accomplish the “greater things” of His Kingdom. We are to encourage, comfort, and urge others to live lives worthy of God who has called us all into His Kingdom and glory.
How do we discern the presence of God’s Kingdom all around us? The Kingdom is ever present in our midst. But Jesus said that we could not see the Kingdom of God unless we are born again, and that we could not enter into it unless we are born of water and the Spirit. He declared that we must enter into it as little children—humble, unassuming, trusting.
Lord, help us to hear and understand, and to perceive and to see the glory of Your Kingdom all around us! May Your Kingdom come and Your will be done!
Merriam-Webster provides layers of definitions for the word “faithful.” Faithful means steadfast in allegiance, loyal, firm in adherence to promises, conscientious, given with strong assurance, and true to the facts, a standard, or to an original.
The Scriptures are replete with references to how abundantly faithful our God is. So when He promises to supply all our needs (Philippians 4:19), to work all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28), to stand by us and give us strength (1 Timothy 4:17), or to never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5) we can trust that the One who promises is truly faithful. If we learn to weigh God’s faithfulness against any trial that would threaten to overtake us, we begin to understand how it is possible to “consider it pure joy” when we face trials of many kinds. Each and every trial presents a fresh opportunity for us to see the Lord glorify Himself, provides us with a new testimony about our faithful God to share with others, and builds our enduring faith for the next day and the next.
His faithfulness is our shield (Psalm 91:4). Knowing that the Father’s faithfulness is absolutely perfect, how can we possibly make room for fear, doubt, lack, or despair in our lives? Whoever trusts in the Lord is safe (Proverbs 29:25)! As His beloved, our response to His unfailing faithfulness must be saturated with incredible joy, deep peace, unwavering hope, tremendous thanksgiving, and confident trust that we are well protected from all harm by His faithfulness. Let nothing hold you back from hiding your every care in His heart and stepping back to see what He will do in response if you will allow Him to. How great is His faithfulness!
As we approach Saturday, September 23rd, may our hearts be turned towards the heavenlies! This Saturday is punctuated by Yom Kippur, or the “Day of Atonement” on the Jewish calendar. It is considered the holiest day of the year. In Old Testament tradition, Yom Kippur was the only time when the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies to offer the blood sacrifice of animals on behalf of the people’s sins. Yom Kippur is the culmination of ten days of repentance—intended in Jewish tradition to ensure that people’s names were written in the Book of Life.
What a beautiful picture of the finished work of Jesus’ death on the cross! He became the ultimate blood sacrifice for all time so that the names of all people who call Him Lord can be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life! Jesus overwhelmingly did His part so that the Father’s heart’s desire could be fulfilled….that mankind would once again have access to at-one-ment with Him. The Yom Kippur tradition ought to remind us of our part—repentance. May we enter into a significant time of prayer before the Lord so that He might allow us to agree with Him about our sins, give us His power to turn away from them, and cancel their effects for all time. May there be no distance between us and Him because of hidden, unrepented sin!! (He sees it anyway . . . . . )
How we praise you this day for your eternal sacrifice on behalf of all mankind! We thank you that you give us godly sorrow that leads us to repentance through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We ask today that you would search our hearts and minds, and give us Your power to change them with regards to every sinful act, ungodly thought, and unruly emotion. We ask that You cover our sins with the power of your blood so that they would be separated from us as far as the east is from the west. And thank you for making us more than conquerors over the sins that endeavor to ensnare us so that we might be holy as You are holy—washed clean and made new in Your presence! Thank you for the resulting joy we feel, knowing that You have made a way for us, your beloved. Keep us in your constant care, and by Your Holy Spirit, cause us to live a lifestyle of repentance, coming before You to be washed clean each day, renewed, refreshed, and recharged with Your grace, peace, and hope, so that the world might know that You are King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
The word “covenant” can be understood to mean an agreement, contract, commitment, guarantee, pledge, promise, pact, deal, arrangement or understanding. Throughout the Scriptures, we see Our God as both a covenant-making and covenant-keeping Father. God has entered into agreements with Adam, Noah, Moses, David, and the people of Israel, and throughout history He reminds His beloved of that agreement. God’s Word is clear that He will never forget (Deuteronomy 4:31; Psalm 105:9) or break His covenant (Psalm 89:34), and His covenant is everlasting (2 Samuel 23:5; 1 Chronicles 16:15)! He even set the rainbow as a permanent sign in the sky to remind us that He keeps His promises (Genesis 9:13)!
How stunning that the LORD does all of the “heavy lifting” to create, fulfill, and remind us of His covenant promises! What is our part? Obedience!! For example, Abram had to be circumcised—separated from his own fleshly nature—in order to enter into God’s Covenant. In exchange, the LORD added to both Abraham and Sarah the letter “h” in their names. In Hebrew, that letter stands for “the breath of God!” What a beautiful picture of God breathing His abundant life once again into mankind! We obey God because we love Him (John 15:10) and fear Him (Revelation 15:4). And understanding the weakness of our flesh, He gave us Jesus as the guarantor of the New Covenant (Hebrews 7:22) and the power of the Holy Spirit living on the inside (Galatians 5:22) to empower us to be able to keep our part of His Covenant with us! His Covenants from the beginning of the ages until today are like a rose, unfolding into its fullness.
The fruits of walking in Covenant with Almighty God are abundant—peace, blessing and security (Ezekiel 34:25), Covenant with our children and their children (Isaiah 59:21), and cleansing, anointing, and adorning (Ezekiel 34:25-27), just to name a few. Under the New Covenant, all of God’s promises find their “Yes” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). The Good News is SO much better than fire insurance! It’s a brilliant plan for the redemption of all creation (Revelation 21:5)! Our only response must be to praise, thank, and worship Our God who loves us enough to enter into Covenant with us for our good and His Glory!
1 Peter 4:11 says, “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.” God’s words create (Genesis 1:3), give life (Matthew 4:4), sustain all things (Hebrews 1:3), rebuke evil (Mark 4:39), and demonstrate His authority (Luke 4:36). Every word of God is flawless (Proverbs 30:5) and he is watching over His word to see that it is fulfilled (Jeremiah 1:12). Jesus is the Word (John 1:1). Words matter to our God—they are the essence of His Kingdom! We relate to God and to men through our use of words.
How often do we use our words to gossip, slander, argue, and complain, even though God’s Word is clear that out of the same mouth, blessing and cursing should not emerge (James 3:10)?! Jesus gave us authority over all power of the enemy (Luke 10:19) and yet we empower the devil by using our breath to curse our fellow men, to complain about our circumstances, and to judge negatively according to our own understanding. Matthew 12:36 says, “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty [careless, idle, thoughtless, unhelpful] word they have spoken.” An idle word is like an idling car—It is not engaged in advancing the Kingdom of God against the darkness of this world.
In order to be ambassadors of the “greater things” of God’s Kingdom, we must start by minding every syllable uttered! Take time today to repent and to cancel the effects of your careless words in the heavenlies. Then ask the LORD to purify your heart, for out of the heart, the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Surrender your every word to the Holy Spirit’s power of self-control, asking the LORD to set a guard over your mouth and to keep watch over the door of your lips (Psalm 141:3). Speak Kingdom life!